Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, The Netherlands Bach Society

Coffee and culture mixed in Leipzig in the late 1730s. Café Zimmermann provided a venue for the first performances of many of J.S. Bach’s secular cantatas and instrumental works. Between 1729 and 1739, Bach was the director of Collegium Musicum, a society founded by Georg Philipp Telemann which presented concerts at the coffeehouse. The cafe’s owner, Gottfried Zimmermann, offered the concerts to the public free of charge, making up his expenses in …

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Remembering Ennio Morricone

The Oscar-winning Italian film composer Ennio Morricone has passed away. He was 91. Morricone scored more than 500 films, including the suspenseful spaghetti Westerns of director Sergio Leone. His scores include The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Days of Heaven (1978), The Mission (1986), The Untouchables (1987), and The Hateful Eight (2015). Almost obsessive repetition, slowly driving rhythm, the deep voice of the contrabassoon, and (in the final moments) a bass line …

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Keith Jarrett: Encore from Tokyo

I cannot say what I think is right about music. I only know the rightness of it. -Keith Jarrett The American pianist and composer Keith Jarrett (b. 1945) began his career performing with Art Blakey, Charles Lloyd, and Miles Davis. He remains firmly rooted in jazz. Yet, when you venture into the magical world of Jarrett’s solo piano improvisations, the shackles of category fall away. Pure music remains, with echoes of Debussy, …

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“I Got Rhythm”: Gershwin in 1931

Even in the midst of the Great Depression, George Gershwin’s 1931 piano performance of I Got Rhythm swings with youthful vitality and optimism. The melody, tossed off with sparkling virtuosity, displays an elegance comparable to the composer’s sleek, finely tailored suit. Gershwin remains eternally young in our collective imagination. Tragically, six years after the recording of this clip, he would succumb to brain cancer at the age of 38. Gershwin wrote I Got Rhythm for …

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Remembering Ida Haendel

The eminent Polish-born violinist Ida Haendel passed away Tuesday at the age of 91. As a student of Carl Flesch and George Enescu, Haendel represented one of the last direct links to the distinctive and personal violin playing of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a child prodigy, she was a top prize winner in the first Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, where she competed against such towering figures as David Oistrakh …

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Roy Harris’ Third Symphony: Sounds of the Rugged American Frontier

Roy Harris (1898-1979) was born in a log cabin on the Oklahoma prairie and grew up as a farmer in the rural San Gabriel Valley of Southern California. He went on to write what the legendary Boston Symphony music director Serge Koussevitzky called “the first great symphony by an American composer.” That work was Harris’ Symphony No. 3, completed in 1938 and premiered the following year by Koussevitzky and the BSO. It’s music …

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Frank Loesser at 110

Today marks the 110th anniversary of the birth of Frank Loesser (1910-1969), the American songwriter who wrote music and lyrics for such legendary Broadway musicals as Guys and Dolls, The Most Happy Fella, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Loesser’s hit songs include Baby, It’s Cold Outside (1944), Luck Be a Lady (1950), Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat (1950), Standing on the Corner (1956), and The Brotherhood of Man (1961). In terms of the integrated musical, Guys …

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