Bach’s Jubilant Christmas Cantata, “Unser Mund sei voll Lachens,” BWV 110

Let’s travel back in time to Christmas Day, 1725. Entering St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, we would experience the first performance of J.S. Bach’s cantata, Unser Mund sei voll Lachens (“May our mouth be full of laughter”). We would witness Bach, three years into his tenure as the Lutheran church’s music director, leading the newly written work. By the end of his life, Bach produced five annual cycles of these dramatic religious …

Read moreBach’s Jubilant Christmas Cantata, “Unser Mund sei voll Lachens,” BWV 110

Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, The Netherlands Bach Society

“This Suite laughs, dances, swings,” says Danish harpsichordist and conductor Lars Ulrik Mortensen in his brief but fascinating overview of J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, BWV 1069. Indeed, this infectious collection of contrasting baroque dances, composed sometime around 1730, is some of the most joyful and exhilarating music ever imagined. As Mortensen points out, Bach must have associated this music with “laughter, joy, and rapture,” because he used the opening …

Read moreBach’s Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D Major, The Netherlands Bach Society

Remembering Mariss Jansons: Five Great Recordings

The internationally renowned Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons passed away on Saturday. He was 76. For years, he had dealt with a long-term heart condition. Jansons will be remembered for his tireless energy and personal warmth, his legacy as an orchestra builder, and his powerful interpretations of the music of Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Strauss, and Shostakovich, among other composers. He was born in Riga, Latvia amid the German occupation of the Second World War. His …

Read moreRemembering Mariss Jansons: Five Great Recordings

Mahler’s “Urlicht” (“Primal Light”), Jessye Norman

Urlicht (“Primal Light”) forms the fourth movement of Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony. It occupies a striking position in the five-movement work’s progression towards ultimate and lasting transcendence. Suddenly, for the first time in this “Resurrection Symphony,” we hear the solitary human voice—a darkly veiled alto imbued with human tragedy and lament. In a symphony rooted in C minor and E-flat major, suddenly we find ourselves in the remote, ethereal world of D-flat …

Read moreMahler’s “Urlicht” (“Primal Light”), Jessye Norman

Charles Ives’ “Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day”

Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day is the final movement of Charles Ives’ Holiday Symphony, a work the composer conceived as much as a collection of four stand-alone, atmospheric tone poems as a unified symphony. Completed in 1904, Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day grew out of an organ prelude and postlude Ives composed and performed for a Thanksgiving service at Center Church in New Haven, Connecticut. We can only imagine how the congregation might have reacted to Ives’ adventurous …

Read moreCharles Ives’ “Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day”

Brahms’ String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor: “Free But Lonely”

Embedded in the four note motif which opens the first movement of Brahms’ String Quartet in A minor, Op. 51, No. 2 are the pitches F-A-E. These pitches form a musical cryptogram which corresponds to the phrase, “frei aber einsam,” (“free but lonely”), the personal motto of Brahms’ friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. Brahms offered his own twist on this motto with the phrase, “Frei aber froh” (“Free but happy”). This is another motif (F-A-F) which …

Read moreBrahms’ String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor: “Free But Lonely”

Maurice Duruflé’s Requiem: Two Celestial Excerpts from the Houston Chamber Choir’s New Recording

Among the 2020 Grammy Nominees, released earlier this week, is a spectacular new album featuring music of the twentieth century French composer and organist Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986). The Houston Chamber Choir, led by its artistic director and founder Robert Simpson, released Duruflé: Complete Choral Works in April on the Signum Records label. The professional chamber ensemble is joined on the recording by Canadian organist Ken Cowan. Maurice Duruflé completed the Requiem pour soli, choeurs et …

Read moreMaurice Duruflé’s Requiem: Two Celestial Excerpts from the Houston Chamber Choir’s New Recording

Send this to a friend