Leonard Rose: Five Great Recordings

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Rose (1918-1984), one of the greatest cellists of the twentieth century. Born in Washington, D.C. into a family of Ukrainian immigrants, Rose joined Arturo Toscanini’s NBC Symphony Orchestra as associate principal cellist at the age of 20. At 21 he became principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra. In 1943, at age 26, he accepted the same position with the New York Philharmonic. In 1951 …

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New Release: Rachel Barton Pine and Jory Vinikour Play Bach Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour have released a new album featuring J.S. Bach’s Six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1014-1019. This marks the duo’s first recording collaboration. Barton Pine uses a baroque bow and plays a 1770 Nicola Gagliano violin which is in its “original, unaltered condition.” Also included on the album is the Cantabile, BWV 1019a which Bach originally wrote for the Sonata, BWV 1019. Likely composed between 1717 and 1723 during Bach’s Köthen period, these …

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Bach’s “Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor” and the Power of Repetition

A simple idea or statement, persistently repeated, can take on a unique power. The idea seems to come alive, gradually seeping into our consciousness and demanding our attention and respect. Perhaps this is part of the profound magic of J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582, written sometime between 1706 and 1713 when the composer was in his early twenties. It begins with that simple, repeating statement- a quietly unassuming, stepping passacaglia …

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Bach’s “Easter Oratorio”: A Celebratory Retrofit

J.S. Bach’s Easter Oratorio was first performed at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig on Easter Sunday, 1725. But most of this music was not written with Easter in mind. Instead, it was recycled from the now lost secular “Shepherd Cantata,” written a month earlier to celebrate the thirty-first birthday of Bach’s patron, Christian, Duke of Saxe-Weissenfels. A year later, Bach recycled the cantata again for the birthday of Count Joachim Friedrich von Flemming. The Easter Oratorio opens with an …

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Mendelssohn Meets Bach: The Second Cello Sonata

Visit the eastern German city of Leipzig and you’ll find yourself walking in the footsteps of countless great composers. Two prominent examples are J.S. Bach and Felix Mendelssohn. Bach was Kapellmeister at Leipzig’s St. Thomas Church from 1723 until his death in 1750. A hundred years later, Mendelssohn led the Gewandhaus Orchestra from 1835 to 1847. Mendelssohn was instrumental in bringing about a renewed interest in the music of J.S. Bach. Amid the elegant simplicity of the …

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Four Nations Plays Bach

The Hudson Valley, New York-based Four Nations Ensemble has released an exciting Bach recording as part of a new education initiative I detailed last month (Harpsichordist Andrew Appel on J.C.F Fischer’s Passacaglia). Here is the last of J.S. Bach’s six Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord, (the Sonata in G major BWV 1019), performed by Quebec violinist Olivier Brault and harpsichordist Andrew Appel. The duo intends to record the other five sonatas in coming months. Bach frequently …

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The “Philadelphia Sound” in Five Historic Recordings

These days, the professional orchestra world is characterized by unparalleled technical skill, dutiful attention to historically-informed performance practice, and a general homogenization of sound and style. Musicians are expected to transition, instantly and seamlessly, from the lush Romanticism of Tchaikovsky to the lean purity of Mozart, with the mixed meters of Stravinsky and John Adams thrown in for good measure. In many ways, it’s the best of times. Perhaps what has been …

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