Remembering Julian Bream

Julian Bream, the English classical guitarist and lutenist has passed away. He was 87. Bream played a significant role in promoting the classical guitar as a solo instrument. He expanded the repertoire, inspiring new works by numerous twentieth century composers, including Benjamin Britten, Sir William Walton, Sir Michael Tippett, Peter Maxwell Davies, and Toru Takemitsu. One of the most influential works written for Bream is Benjamin Britten’s 1963 Nocturnal After John Dowland, Op. …

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Henry Eccles’ Violin Sonata in G Minor: Two Contrasting Recordings

The enigmatic English baroque composer Henry Eccles (1670–1742) is most remembered for his Violin Sonata in G minor. It’s the eleventh in a set of twelve sonatas, published in 1720. Musicologists have discovered that large swaths of the collection were borrowed from the work of the innovative Italian composer and violinist, Giuseppe Valentini, specifically his Op. 8 from 1714. Most of the G minor Sonata appears to have been written by Eccles, …

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Sibelius’ Third Symphony: Classical and Austere

Jean Sibelius’ music is filled with the magic and mystery of ancient northern woods. It can be simultaneously icy, brusk, brooding, austere, and eternally soulful. Often, it unfolds in a way which feels static and circular, seemingly influenced by Finland’s land of the midnight sun, where the cycle of day and night is replaced by extended periods of light alternating with darkness and gloom. Similar circular, repeating phrases can be found throughout Finnish folk …

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“If Ye Love Me”: Thomas Tallis’ Timeless Motet

Politics and dogma leave their temporary mark on the shifting sands of history, while music remains eternal. The life of the great English composer Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) is a testament to this idea. While Tallis remained an “unreformed Roman Catholic” throughout his life, he adapted professionally to serve the monarch of the time. He wrote for the Latin Catholic Mass until Henry VIII’s break with Rome. After writing Anglican music, he …

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Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are,” Leon Fleisher

In January we explored Jerome Kern’s extraordinary 1939 ballad, All the Things You Are. It’s one of the most beautiful and harmonically sophisticated songs to come out of the Broadway theater. Allusive and dreamy, it’s a melody which floats from one key to another, taking a magical journey part way around the circle of fifths through a series of continuous modulations. The late Leon Fleisher included his version of All the Things You Are on a 2014 Grammy nominated …

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Remembering Leon Fleisher: Three Legendary Recordings

Leon Fleisher, the eminent American pianist, passed away last Sunday in Baltimore following a battle with cancer. He was 92. Born in San Francisco, Fleisher made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 16 with Pierre Monteux and the New York Philharmonic. He performed Brahms’ First Piano Concerto, a work which would later become a signature part of his repertoire. At 23, he became the first American to win the Queen Elisabeth …

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Beethoven’s Violin Concerto: Perlman, Barenboim, and the Berlin Philharmonic (1992 Live Performance)

It’s one of the great monuments of the violin repertoire—the Concerto that set the standard for all others that followed. Yet, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major was not received particularly well when it was premiered at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on December 23, 1806. It’s believed that Beethoven finished parts of the score so late that the soloist, Franz Clement, may have been sight-reading some passages in the concert. Additionally, …

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