Jascha Heifetz in Concert: Five Amazing Clips

There is no top. There are always farther heights to reach. If one thought himself at the pinnacle, he would slide back toward mediocrity by that very belief in his success. -Jascha Heifetz Watch performance clips of Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987), and you may get a vague sense of the supernatural. Is Heifetz playing the violin or is some much larger force at work, playing through him? A searing, highly-controlled energy and a fearless …

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Vitali’s Chaconne: Five Classic Recordings

The origin of the famous Chaconne in G minor, attributed to Italian baroque composer Tomaso Antonio Vitali (1663-1745), remains something of an enigma. The score was discovered and published by the German violinist Ferdinand David in 1867. David premiered Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and his version of the Chaconne includes a quote of the Concerto in the piano accompaniment. There was speculation that David wrote the Chaconne, mainly because its far-reaching harmonic modulations seem so foreign to the baroque language …

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Zaha Hadid’s Frozen Music

Zaha Hadid, the visionary and sometimes controversial Iraqi-born British architect, passed away suddenly on Thursday. She was 65. Her uncompromising, sculptural designs unequivocally embraced the ethos of “architecture as art” in a way reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. Fellow architect Rem Koolhaas called her “a planet in her own inimitable orbit.” There’s a geological quality to Hadid’s Wanjing Soho towers in Beijing, completed in 2014. They rise on the landscape like three giant pebbles. Horizontal …

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Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler

  Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler, the American Masters documentary which aired last week on PBS, offers an inside look at the life of one of the twentieth century’s most influential violinists. The program includes rare film and audio clips and features interviews with prominent contemporary violinists and former Heifetz students. It follows Heifetz from child prodigy roots in Russia, where he was a student of Leopold Auer at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, to his immigration …

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Joshua Bell’s Bach Album

Joshua Bell released his newest album yesterday. The CD, simply titled “Bach”, is Bell’s first recording collaboration with the London-based Academy of St. Martin in the Fields since becoming the orchestra’s music director in 2011. If you’re expecting another predictable round of Bach concertos, you may be surprised. This album includes the monumental Chaconne from Partita No. 2 with Mendelssohn’s rare piano accompaniment (adapted for orchestra), as well as Schumann’s accompaniment of the Gavotte en Rondeau from Partita No. …

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The Chaconne Across 300 Years

My last post featured music constructed around a repeating bass line, or ostinato. We listened to Johann Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D as well as passacaglias by Handel and Bach.  Now, let’s return to the ostinato  with another type of musical composition that was popular in the Baroque period, the chaconne. Like the passacaglia, the repeating bass line of the chaconne gave Baroque composers a great opportunity to write endlessly inventive variations. …

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