Happy Birthday, Bernard Hoffer

The Swiss-born American composer Bernard Hoffer turns 81 today. You may not recognize Hoffer’s name, but chances are good that you’ve heard his music, especially if you’re a longtime viewer of the PBS NewsHour. The NewsHour‘s theme music (originally written in 1975 and, at one point, nominated for an Emmy) has undergone several iterations over the years, but Hoffer’s catchy six-note musical branding logo has remained. For years, the broadcast opened with that familiar solo …

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The Yings Play Beethoven

  The finest professional string quartets exhibit an almost scary sense of chemistry. This cohesiveness, almost like a sixth sense, develops when the right combination of people spend hours a day performing together. The Ying Quartet, formed at the Eastman School of Music in 1988, enjoys an additional advantage: the founding members are siblings. Only the first violin position has changed in recent years with the departure of Timothy Ying in 2009. Beginning …

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Frank Huang Headed to New York

On Wednesday, the New York Philharmonic announced that violinist Frank Huang will become its new concertmaster, succeeding Glenn Dicterow who stepped down last June after 34 seasons. The 36-year-old Huang is currently concertmaster of the Houston Symphony. He has held that position since 2010. Before joining the Houston Symphony, he briefly served as first violinist of the Ying Quartet and professor of violin and chamber music at the Eastman School of Music. He …

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Valentine’s Day with Mandolins

  My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite. -William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet In celebration of Valentine’s Day, here is the quirky Dance with Mandolins from Act II of Sergei Prokofiev’s 1935 ballet score, Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64. Given this ballet’s multitude of powerful, dramatic music, this excerpt may seem slightly off the beaten path. But …

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Oleh Krysa Plays Solo Bach

A few days ago, I was excited to run across this rare, old recording of J.S. Bach’s Sonata No. 1 for solo violin, performed by my former teacher, Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa. A student of David Oistrakh, Krysa currently teaches at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He was awarded first prize at the 1963 Paganini Competition. Between 1977 and 1990, he served as first violinist of the Beethoven Quartet, …

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Rita Shane Sings The Queen of the Night

Dramatic coloratura soprano Rita Shane passed away last thursday at the age of 78. Following her 1973 Metropolitan Opera debut as the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, she appeared regularly at the Met in a total of 71 productions. In 1989, Shane joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music. You can get a sense of Rita Shane’s brilliance and extensive vocal range in these short excerpts: Ah! Si j’étais …

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Howard Hanson and the Sounds of the Wide Open Prairie

More than any other composer, Aaron Copland is credited with establishing the virtual soundtrack of the American West. Listening to Copland ballet scores such as Rodeo and Billy the Kid, or his music for the film The Red Pony, instantly evokes images of wide open prairie spaces and the rough and tumble adventure of a mythical frontier. These associations have been re-enforced by countless film scores which generously borrowed Copland’s sound (the opening of Elmer Bernstein’s score for The …

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