Remembering Barbara Cook

Barbara Cook, the Tony Award-winning lyric soprano who came to prominence during Broadway’s Golden Age and later re-emerged as a star of cabaret and concert hall, passed away yesterday. She was 89. Cook was known for her wide vocal range and her magical ability to color musical phrases and shape lyrics. In her later years, her voice darkened and she performed to great acclaim into her eighties. In 1956, she played the …

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Candide at 60

Last Thursday marked the 60th anniversary of the Broadway opening of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, a work based on the novella by Voltaire, which falls somewhere between musical theater and operetta. It isn’t often that an overture stops the show, but that’s one of the details Barbara Cook, who played the role of Cunégonde, remembers from the night of December 1, 1956. I am extremely proud to have been part of the original cast of Leonard …

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Five Pieces Inspired by the Olympics

The Olympics are a wonderful metaphor for world cooperation, the kind of international competition that’s wholesome and healthy, an interplay between countries that represents the best in all of us.  -John Williams Music has served as a celebratory backdrop for the Olympics since the first modern games in Athens in 1896. As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games unfold in Rio, let’s listen to five pieces which form an Olympic soundtrack: Josef Suk: …

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Bill Evans: Some Other Time

To finish the week, let’s step into the jazzy, dreamlike serenity of Bill Evans’ Some Other Time. The melody is by Leonard Bernstein. It comes from the end of the second act of On the Town. The 1944 musical, which offers its own touch of dreamy surrealism, follows three American sailors on a 24-hour shore leave in wartime New York City. In its original form, the song flirts with the blues with its surprise lowered seventh. …

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The Scariest Chord in Mahler’s Second

Remembering Gilbert Kaplan Gilbert Kaplan, the American millionaire business man, publisher, amateur conductor, and Mahler scholar passed away on New Year’s Day following a battle with cancer. He was 74. In 1967, at the age of 26, Kaplan founded the inside Wall Street magazine, Institutional Investor. Around the same time, he became obsessed with the music of Gustav Mahler, particularly Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” (featured in this past Listeners’ Club post). Kaplan described his first encounter with …

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Beethoven’s Seventh: Five Historic New York Phil Recordings

The music of Beethoven is opening orchestra seasons on both coasts this month. Next week, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will offer an all-Beethoven concert gala. It’s the first in a series of concerts called Immortal Beethoven, in which all nine Beethoven symphonies will be performed between September 29 and October 11, along with chamber music and children’s programs. The LA Phil has even launched this virtual reality tour experience, cleverly called “Van Beethoven,” which …

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Das Lied von der Erde: Mahler’s Farewell

As late summer fades into fall, this seems like a good time to listen to the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (“The Song of the Earth”). The text, based on ancient Chinese poetry, evokes seasonal cycles…a sense of death, separation, and resignation, followed by rebirth, loss of the ego, and ultimate immorality. In this music, completed in 1909 near the end of Mahler’s life, the endless forward drive of …

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