Rachmaninov’s Suite No. 1 “Fantaisie-tableaux”: Vivid Musical Pictures

Sergei Rachmaninov’s Fantaisie Tableaux for two pianos, better known as Suite No. 1, Op. 5, was conceived as “a series of musical pictures.” The piece is made up of four vivid and magical soundscapes, each loosely inspired by a poem. It’s music of the young Rachmaninov, written in the summer of 1893, a year after his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory. The score was dedicated to Tchaikovsky, who offered the young composer support. Following …

Read moreRachmaninov’s Suite No. 1 “Fantaisie-tableaux”: Vivid Musical Pictures

Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, “La Passione”

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor is shrouded in ominous, gray clouds. It’s filled with the dark drama and turbulence of Sturm und Drang (“storm and stress”), a movement that swept through German literature and music from the late 1760s to the early 1780s as a precursor to Romanticism. Beginning with a solemn Adagio, the Symphony’s four movements follow the structure of the church sonata (slow-fast-slow-fast), a baroque form that was already …

Read moreHaydn’s Symphony No. 49, “La Passione”

Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”: Fritz Kreisler’s 1927 Recording

Irving Berlin’s timeless 1926 song, Blue Skies, was a last-minute addition to a Rodgers and Hart musical called Betsy, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld. The vaudeville singer and actress, Belle Baker, called up Berlin complaining that the show’s score didn’t contain a “Belle Baker song.” According to Philip Furia and Michael Lasser, Berlin resented the interpolation of songs by other composers into the score of his shows, but he must have been delighted at the …

Read moreIrving Berlin’s “Blue Skies”: Fritz Kreisler’s 1927 Recording

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21: Fazıl Say and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony

The Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467 is one of Mozart’s most famous and often performed pieces. Yet, this is easy to forget as you listen to the performance below from April, 2017, featuring the Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say with Peter Oundjian and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. The music comes alive with joy, spontaneity, and sparkle. The cadenzas (heard at the end of the first and third …

Read moreMozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21: Fazıl Say and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony

Remembering Krzysztof Penderecki

The Polish composer and conductor Krzysztof Penderecki passed away Sunday following what his wife, Elzbieta, described as “a long and serious illness.” He was 86. Penderecki’s early compositions grew out of the modernist tradition associated with composers such as Anton Webern, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Pierre Boulez. Later, his style broadened. Commenting on this evolution, Penderecki said, “I was saved from the avant-garde snare of formalism by a return to tradition.” One of his most …

Read moreRemembering Krzysztof Penderecki

John Adams’ “Shaker Loops”: Riding Ferocious Sonic Waves

John Adams’ 1978 string septet, Shaker Loops, takes us on a ferocious and exhilarating sonic ride. It’s powerful music that is made up of elemental forces—pulse, gradually shifting patterns, and harmonic tension and release. At times, it unfolds with the frightening inevitability of an enormous, infernal, rumbling conveyor belt. At other times, we experience something similar to those mysterious, icy Sibelius tremolo passages which stand on the edge of silence. The title, Shaker Loops is …

Read moreJohn Adams’ “Shaker Loops”: Riding Ferocious Sonic Waves

Purcell’s “Fantasia in Three Parts Upon a Ground,” Tafelmusik

Back in January, we listened to Henry Purcell’s Fantasia Upon One Note for 5 viols in F major, Z. 745, music in which a single pitch is sustained in the tenor voice while the other voices float and weave in seamless polyphony. Purcell’s Fantasia in Three Parts Upon a Ground offers a similar contrast between stability and unbridled adventure. Here, a series of thrilling variations develop over a recurring ostinato bass line. This was a common …

Read morePurcell’s “Fantasia in Three Parts Upon a Ground,” Tafelmusik

Send this to a friend