The Hollywood String Quartet: Five Classic Recordings

The Hollywood String Quartet, formed in 1939 and active until 1961, is regarded as the first American-born chamber music group to rise to international prominence. Their fame was due, in large part, to their numerous and exceptional recordings. The members were all studio musicians who created the lush, glowing soundtracks of Hollywood’s “golden age.” First violinist Felix Slatkin, concertmaster of the 20th Century Fox Orchestra, and his wife Eleanor Aller, principal cellist …

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Semyon Bychkov on “The Tchaikovsky Project”

This weekend, Russian conductor Semyon Bychkov leads the New York Philharmonic in a festival called Beloved Friend: Tchaikovsky and His World. It’s a small piece of The Tchaikovsky Project, which includes a cycle of recordings, released on the Decca label, featuring Bychkov and the Czech Philharmonic. In a recent interview, Bychkov talked about the project with Richmond Public Radio’s Mike Goldberg. Released in October, The Tchaikovsky Project’s first recording begins at the end of the composer’s output with …

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New Release: Lisa Batiashvili plays Tchaikovsky, Sibelius

Georgian-born violinist Lisa Batiashvili’s newest album offers a surprisingly fresh take on two standard pillars of the violin repertoire- the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius Concertos. Batiashvili is joined by conductor Daniel Barenboim and the Staatskapelle Berlin on this Deutsche Grammophon recording. Batiashvili’s interpretation of the Tchaikovsky is full of fluid tempo changes. It’s generally more contemplative than the classic performances of Heifetz and Oistrakh. (For example, listen to the burning intensity just below the surface of the second movement’s hushed stillness or …

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The Letter Scene from Eugene Onegin

Forget about emails and text messages. When it comes to opera, it’s the handwritten letter, with all of its tactile emotional significance, which emerges occasionally as a dramatic device. There’s the famous “Letter Duet” from the third act of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, in which Countess Almaviva dictates to Susanna, who repeats the lines as she writes. The Countess’ written invitation is part of a plot to expose her husband’s infidelity. Then there’s O mon cher …

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Yannick Nézet-Séguin Heads to the Met

Last week, it was announced that the 41-year-old Canadian conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will succeed James Levine as music director of the Metropolitan Opera. The jet set Nézet-Séguin is currently music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain. In 2018, he will complete his tenure as principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Yannick Nézet-Séguin has brought innovative programming to Philadelphia. Last season, he premiered One Land, One River, One People, a work by American jazz …

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Tchaikovsky for the First Day of June

Vivaldi and Glazunov were not the only composers to depict the seasons musically. In 1875, Tchaikovsky was commissioned to write a set of twelve short character pieces for piano, The Seasons, Op. 37 a. Each piece is related to a month of the year. You might expect June to depict sunny optimism, but Tchaikovsky’s music is a melancholy barcarolle. The score contains this epigraph by nineteenth century Russian poet, Alexey Nikolayevich Plescheev: Let us go to the …

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Spivakov Plays Tchaikovsky

Here is a rare gem which deserves more recognition. It’s a slightly grainy archival recording of Russian violinist Vladimir Spivakov performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory in 1975. Spivakov is accompanied by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Israel Gusman. In June of the same year, Spivakov made his Vienna debut performing the rarely-heard Haydn Violin Concerto in C major. You can hear his recording of the Haydn here. …

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