Mendelssohn’s Octet: Youth Meets Maturity

If you’re beyond your teenage years, take a moment and try to remember what you were doing when you were 16 years old. Then listen to Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20 and consider that this is the music of a 16-year-old. It brims with youthful joy, virtuosity, vitality and a playful sense of delight in showing off. At the same time, there isn’t a hint of immaturity in this music. …

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Viktoria Mullova Goes for Baroque

It’s rare for violin soloists to drastically rethink their approach to a composer, leaving behind two contrasting recordings of the same music. But that’s exactly what happened over the course of 15 years with Viktoria Mullova’s interpretation of J.S. Bach’s Six Solo Sonatas and Partitas for Violin. Following the release of a spectacular 1994 Philips recording featuring a modern interpretation, Mullova re-recorded solo Bach in 2009 on the Onyx label, this time with …

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Grumiaux’s Cosmic Bach

When NASA launched the unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977, it included a Golden Record featuring a sampling of music from Earth. One of the recording’s excerpts is J.S. Bach’s Gavotte en rondeaux from Partita No. 3 in E Major, performed by legendary Franco-Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux (1921-1986). Regarding the record, astronomer Carl Sagan said: [quote]The spacecraft will be encountered and the record played only if there are advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space. But the launching of this …

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Musical Beginnings

Think about the way your favorite piece begins. From the ferocious opening four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which form the DNA for the entire symphony that follows, to the quiet, mysterious tremolos of Bruckner’s symphonies, to the attention grabbing (and audience quieting) opening fanfares of Rossini’s opera overtures, the way a piece starts tells us a lot about what will follow. As you jump, grudgingly tip toe or stride boldly into 2014, listen …

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“Spheres” by Daniel Hope

Musica universalis, or the “music of the spheres” is the ancient philosophical concept that the movements of the sun, moon and planets generate celestial vibrations. Pythagoras accidentally discovered that a musical pitch sounds in direct proportion to the length of the string which produces it. He was interested in the concept of universal harmony rooted in mathematical ratios-a unifying cosmic “music.” Violinist Daniel Hope’s new CD, Spheres finds inspiration in these big ideas. Spheres puts …

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Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins

Last month I recommended an exciting new recording of Bach violin concertos, just released by Anne Akiko Meyers.  Now, let’s listen to a much older performance of the Bach Double Concerto featuring two of the twentieth century’s greatest violinists, Yehudi Menuhin and David Oistrakh. This music was written around 1730 when Bach was working in Leipzig.  Bach’s main instrument was the organ, but he was also a fine violinist and he was …

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