Arvo Pärt’s “Summa”: Renaud Capuçon and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne

In 1994, the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) said, I have developed a highly formalised compositional system, which I have been using to write my music for twenty years. Summa is the most strict and enigmatic work in this series. Beginning in the 1970s, Pärt’s music represented a radical departure from the atonal modernism that was prolific during much of the twentieth century. Instead, what emerged was music which was simultaneously …

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Norman Bailey Sings Wagner

Norman Bailey, the internationally renowned British operatic bass-baritone, passed away on September 15 at the age of 88. Bailey made his debut in 1959 at the Vienna Chamber Opera, performing the role of Tobias Mill in Rossini’s one-act opera, La cambiale di matrimonio. His association with the Sadler’s Wells Theatre (later the English National Opera) beginning in 1967, launched a major career. He was particularly associated with the operas of Wagner, including the title role …

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Brahms’ String Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36, Harriet Krijgh and Friends

The British musicologist Sir Donald Tovey called the String Sextet No. 2 in G Major “the most ethereal of Brahms’ larger works.” Indeed, there is a sense of mystery and haunting celestial beauty underlying this music. Who could have imagined that G major can feel this melancholy and unsettled? Brahms was 31 years old when he wrote this music in 1864. In contrast to the warm, songlike Sextet No. 1, completed four years earlier, …

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Nino Rota’s First Symphony: Sweeping Cinematic Grandeur

Nino Rota is remembered as one of the great film composers of the twentieth century. Born in Milan, Rota lived in Rome for most of his life. From 1933 until his death in 1979, he wrote scores for more than 150 films, including Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954), Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1968), and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather (1972). Fellini, who worked with Rota for decades said, The most precious collaborator I have ever had, I say it straightaway …

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Debussy’s “L’Isle Joyeuse,” Pascal Rogé

The 1717 painting L’embarquement pour Cythère by Jean-Antoine Watteau depicts a merry party of lovers arriving on (or departing from) the Mediterranean island of Cythère. In ancient mythology, Cythère was known as the birthplace of Venus, the goddess of erotic love. The version of the painting which hangs in the Louvre shows the revelers flanked by bright dancing cupids and a serenely gazing statue of Venus. Watteau’s painting served as an inspiration for Claude Debussy’s …

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Berlioz’ “King Lear” Overture: At the Intersection of Truth and Delusion

When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools. -William Shakespeare, “King Lear” King Lear, Shakespeare’s 1606 tragedy in five acts, takes us to the intersection of truth and delusion. The aging King Lear decides to divide his realm amongst his three daughters. He determines that the shares will be allocated in proportion to the eloquence of each daughter’s declaration of love. The insincere and …

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Takemitsu’s “Toward the Sea”: Entering the Spiritual Domain

Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries – stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water…Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever. -Herman Melville, “Moby-Dick” The ocean took on metaphysical significance not only for Herman Melville but also for the twentieth century Japanese composer, Tōru Takemitsu (1930-1996). Takemitsu, whose music is filled with evocations …

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