New Release: Rachel Barton Pine Plays Elgar and Bruch

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine just released her 36th album in January. It features Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto in B minor alongside the First Violin Concerto of Max Bruch. Barton Pine is accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, led by Andrew Litton. She talks about the recording in this recent interview with Richmond Public Radio’s Mike Goldberg. Rachel Barton Pine dedicated the album to “the memory of a musical hero and generous friend, Sir Neville …

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Elgar’s “Nimrod”: Sir Colin Davis and the LSO

Sir Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations, completed in 1899, are the musical embodiment of the idea that our lives are all shaped by a close circle of friends and acquaintances. Elgar offered the following description in 1911: This work, commenced in a spirit of humour and continued in deep seriousness, contains sketches of the composer’s friends. It may be understood that these personages comment or reflect on the original theme and each one attempts …

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New Release: Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé’s “For the Fallen” Features Elgar, Bax

I can still remember, vividly, Mark Elder’s concerts with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra back in the 90s. I was a teenager at the time, and Elder was a young, up-and-coming British conductor who had risen to prominence as music director of the English National Opera. With a reputation as an “orchestra builder,” Elder succeeded David Zinman in Rochester. His programming was innovative (including concert performances of operas) and well constructed. He spoke eloquently …

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Elgar’s Cello Concerto: Elegy for a Vanishing World

The music of Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) is often characterized as stately and regal- the musical embodiment of everything British. You can hear this in the majestically celebratory final moments of the Enigma Variations or the Imperial March, Op. 32, music written for the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Both pieces propelled Elgar to fame. The stirring Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches provide a glimpse of the self assurance, order, and security of the British …

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Composers on Holiday: Five Pieces Written on Summer Vacation

Summer is here. For professional orchestral musicians, that means a brief respite from the weekly routine of the main concert season. Soon it will be time for summer seasons and music festivals, many featuring outdoor concerts in such idyllic locations as Chautauqua, Vail, and the Tetons. Summer has typically been a productive time for composers. Gustav Mahler, one of the most prominent conductors of his time, retreated to isolated rural settings in …

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Elgar’s Second Symphony at the 2015 Proms

The BBC Proms are in full swing in London. The annual summer series, featuring over 70 concerts at Royal Albert Hall, has been a magnet for music lovers since 1895 when the British Empire stretched across the globe. It’s a joyful and inclusive cultural event that wipes away any hint of pretension. In addition to reserved seating, inexpensive standing-room tickets are sold, inspiring one conductor to describe the Proms as, “the world’s …

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The Triumph of Inner Voices

No, this post isn’t about following your intuition…today we’re talking about musical inner voices, those sometimes inconspicuous lines between the melody and the bass, which are often the essence of a piece’s drama. If you have any doubts about the importance of these lines, often played by violas and second violins in orchestral and string quartet repertoire, watch this short but funny clip of conductor Sergiu Celibidache rehearsing the Adagio from Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7.  Ensemble …

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