Giora Schmidt’s New Violin

American-Israeli violinist Giora Schmidt challenges the assumption that old Italian violins are superior to modern instruments. In 2011, Schmidt purchased a violin, made in 2000, by Philadelphia-based luthier Hiroshi Iizuka. For about eight years before, he had played fine Italian instruments on loan: a 1753 Milan Guadagnini and a 1743 Guarneri del Gésu. Million dollar-plus price tags often make these violins inaccessible to performers, who rely on generous donors. Schmidt was one of ten violinists who participated in the …

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Ivan Moravec Plays Chopin

  The legendary Czech pianist Ivan Moravec passed away on Monday at the age of 84. He was widely regarded as one of the finest interpreters of the music of Chopin. Mozart and Debussy were also high points of his repertoire. Born in Prague, and initially limited by the constraints of the Iron Curtain, Moravec first became known in the West through his recordings. Listening to Moravec’s extensive discography, it’s easy to …

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Schumann’s Dichterliebe: On a Radiant Summer Morning

Let’s finish out the week and follow up on Wednesday’s post with more music for summer. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen is the twelfth song in Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Op. 48 (“A Poet’s Love”), written in 1840. The song contains some interesting harmonic surprises. The first hint of strangeness comes at 0:33. Then, we get an even bigger surprise around the 1:00 mark. The conflict of the opening chords returns unexpectedly at 1:45. Schumann’s music evokes the kind of mystery you …

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Cellist Zuill Bailey in Williamsburg

It’s always a thrill to perform with top-level guest soloists. They feed the collective soul of the orchestra and often elevate concerts into highly memorable events. American cellist Zuill Bailey brought that kind of electricity to the final concerts of the Williamsburg (Virginia) Symphonia season Monday and Tuesday evening. Bailey performed Robert Schumann’s restless and sometimes thorny Cello Concerto with soulfulness and ease. During rehearsals and performances, I was impressed with the singing tone …

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Schumann’s Piano Quintet, Op. 44

The year was 1842 and Robert Schumann was on a roll. In just over nine months the composer, who up until that point had written mostly piano music and songs, completed the three Op. 41 string quartets, a piano quintet (Op. 44), a piano quartet (Op. 47), and the Fantasiestücke piano trio (Op. 88). It’s no wonder that musicologists refer to 1842 as Schumann’s “chamber music year.” The monumental Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44 brought …

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Schumann’s First Violin Sonata: Passionate, Tempestuous

Last week the exceptionally talented, young conductor, Tito Muñoz led the Richmond Symphony in a memorable concert which included Robert Schumann’s Fourth Symphony. Returning to this symphony, I was reminded of the subtle sense of schizophrenia that often inhabits Schumann’s music. For example, in the first theme of the Fourth Symphony’s opening movement, listen to the way the music develops through obsessive rhythmic repetition. The restless eight-note motive that makes up this theme haunts the entire …

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Exploring the Lullaby

The lullaby is universal and timeless. It’s one of the clearest expressions of the deep bond between mother and young child. Its gentle, repetitive, rocking rhythm lulls infants to sleep. The simple expression of its melody evokes warmth and security. At the same time, many lullabies contain an inexplicable hint of sadness. From Franz Schubert to George Gershwin to U2, music history is full of lullabies. Here are five of my favorites: …

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