The 2018 Classical Grammys

We’ll finish the week with an overview of last Sunday’s 60th Annual Grammy Awards in the classical categories. As you’ll see below, it was a good night for Second Viennese twentieth century composer, Alban Berg. Best Orchestral Performance This album was recorded live in June (Shostakovich) and October (Barber) of 2013. It’s the second Pittsburgh Symphony album to be honored with a Grammy. (The first came in 1992). The album was also a …

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Old and Lost Rivers: A Soundscape of Texas Bayou Country

The marshy topography of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast is dotted with bayous- meandering, slow-moving streams which can suddenly spring to life and transform into raging torrents. This dynamic process was on display over the weekend amid the catastrophic flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. As we keep our friends in Houston in our thoughts, let’s listen to a piece which was inspired by this unique Texas topography. American composer Tobias …

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Berg’s “Wozzeck”: Hans Graf and the Houston Symphony

It’s considered, by some, to be the greatest opera of the twentieth century. Alban Berg’s expressionist tragedy, Wozzeck, inhabits a darkly surreal world of alienation, dispossession, and mental and emotional breakdown. Written between 1914 and 1922, it’s based on a play by the German dramatist, Georg Büchner (1813-1837) -a work left incomplete at the time of Büchner’s death at the age of 23. Berg assembled the libretto from fifteen of Büchner’s scenes, retaining “the essential character of the …

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Dvořák in Houston

No, Antonín Dvořák never made it to Houston. When the famous Czech composer ventured onto the Iowa prairie during the summer of 1893, his “New World” Symphony just completed, the sprawling metropolis-to-be was only in its infancy. But Dvořák’s music has taken center stage over the past few years with a series of live-concert recordings by conductor Andrés Orozco-Estrada and the Houston Symphony on the Dutch Pentatone label. In this brief video, Orozco-Estrada talks about the …

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“Francesca da Rimini”: Tchaikovsky’s Turbulent, Dante-Inspired Tone Poem

Francesca da Rimini, Tchaikovsky’s turbulent orchestral tone poem, begins at the entrance of Hell. Following a ferocious flash in the low strings and the haunting overtones of the tamtam, a grim, quietly grating brass statement almost seems to intone the ominous words from Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” In these opening bars, which Tchaikovsky marks, Andante lugubre, there are subtle, fleeting hints of the tritone, historically nicknamed the “Devil’s interval” because of its dissonance. …

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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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