Gershwin and Ravel Share the Blues

Maurice Ravel and George Gershwin came face to face in New York on the evening of March 7, 1928. The occasion was a soirée hosted by the mezzo-soprano Éva Gauthier in celebration of Ravel’s fifty-third birthday. This was Ravel’s first and only trip to the United States. During a four month, twenty city tour which included an appearance at Carnegie Hall, the French composer introduced American audiences to Rapsodie espagnole, the Daphnis et Chloe Suite No. 2, and La valse. He …

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Trio Rafale Plays Ravel

Some pieces grab you by the throat and demand that you listen, thrusting you into an exhilarating, pulse-quickening ride from the first note. Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor isn’t one of those pieces, at least in its opening bars. Instead, it’s music which seduces, wafting over you with a dreamy palette of impressionist color. It’s both sensuous and suave. It draws you in and lulls you with luxurious serenity. At the same time, …

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The Bells of Notre Dame

“Hello everyone…” That’s how the German-American musicologist Karl Haas used to begin his Peabody Award-winning radio show, Adventures in Good Music just after the fade-out of the show’s theme music (the second movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, played by Haas, himself). Adventures in Good Music aired on radio stations across the United States from 1970 to 2007. Growing up, one of my favorite episodes was The Story of the Bells, broadcast on Christmas Eve. It featured the distinct sounds …

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Angela Hewitt Plays Ravel

Many of Maurice Ravel’s shimmeringly colorful orchestral compositions were written originally for solo piano. One example is Le Tombeau de Couperin, which we explored in an earlier post. This six-movement suite, written between 1914 and 1917, pays homage to the elegant, dance-like keyboard music of François Couperin (1668–1733) and other baroque composers. Ravel dedicated each movement to the memory of a friend or relative who died fighting the First World War. But the music doesn’t …

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A Ravel Snapshot with the Lydian String Quartet

The Boston-based Lydian String Quartet has a new first violinist. Andrea Segar recently succeeded Daniel Stepner, who served as the Quartet’s first violinist for 29 years. Segar was a student of Donald Weilerstein (former first violinist of the Cleveland Quartet) at New England Conservatory, and Philip Setzer (a founding member of the Emerson String Quartet) and Soovin Kim at SUNY Stony Brook. Last week, the Lydian Quartet posted this informal rehearsal clip featuring the …

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Meet Nikki Chooi, the Met’s New Concertmaster

Last week, the Metropolitan Opera announced the appointment of a new concertmaster: 27-year-old Canadian violinist Nikki Chooi. Chooi, who grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, began studying the violin at the age of four through the Suzuki method, later attending Curtis and Juilliard. Last season he performed as a member of the innovative, genre-defying string trio, Time for Three. (Here is the group’s cover of Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off). Here’s an excerpt from Chooi’s …

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Helene Grimaud’s New Album: “Water”

Here is a taste of Water, a new album by French pianist Hélène Grimaud which came out at the end of January on the Deutsche Grammophon label. The recording showcases water-inspired solo piano music, mostly from the twentieth century, including Luciano Berio’s haunting Wasserklavier from 6 Encores for Piano, Toru Takemitsu’s atmospheric Rain Tree Sketch II, and Debussy’s  La cathédrale engloutie. Beyond assembling a great collection of music, Grimaud wanted to draw attention to the fragility of this fundamental and …

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