“Nänie”: Brahms’ Choral Lamentation

Death is an inevitable part of life. This is the theme of Johannes Brahms’ 1881 lamentation for chorus and orchestra, Nänie, Op. 82. The work was composed in memory of the painter, Anselm Feuerbach, a close friend of Brahms. It’s a setting of a poem by Friedrich Schiller which opens with the line, “Even the beautiful must perish!” “Nänie” is the German form of the Latin “nenia” which translates as, “a funeral song.” An opening statement in the …

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New Release: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, John Eliot Gardiner

Each time we explore Bach’s music we feel as if we have traveled great distances to, and through, a remote but entrancing soundscape. -Sir John Eliot Gardiner An exciting new recording of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion was released last Friday. Sir John Eliot Gardiner leads the Monteverdi Choir (an ensemble he founded in 1964), the Trinity Boys Choir, the English Baroque Soloists, and a cast which includes James Gilchrist as the Evangelist and Stephan Loges as Jesus. The …

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Symphonie Fantastique: Berlioz’s Musical Hallucination

Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, first heard in 1830, shares some surprising similarities with a teenager’s rock music: It’s shocking, rebellious, and at least partially drug-induced (Berlioz was under the influence of opium). It may have been written to impress a girl (Harriet Smithson, an Irish actress whom Berlioz saw in a production of Hamlet in 1827, leading to an infatuation and ultimately short-lived marriage). It deals with the pain of unrequited love, yet this …

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Beethoven’s “Eroica”, Part 2

Monday’s post featured the first movement of Beethoven’s revolutionary Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major (“Eroica”) Op. 55. This music, which helped plant the seeds of Romanticism, introduced shocking new sounds and an expansive, heroic form. Let’s continue and listen to the other three movements: [typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Marcia funebre. Adagio assai[/typography] Beethoven’s second movement is a solemn funeral march. Paying attention to the rhythm, consider what aspects of the music suggest a …

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