Remembering Ornette Coleman, "Free Jazz" Pioneer

American jazz saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman passed away yesterday in Manhattan at the age of 85. In the 1960s Coleman was at the forefront of free jazz, a movement which liberated jazz from its traditional harmonic and formal rules. This 1961 album and the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning Sound Grammar will give you a sense of the adventurous nature and rhythmic sophistication of Coleman’s music. Traditional jazz was often built on melodies from the American …

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New Release: Frédéric Bednarz Plays Franck, Lekeu, Boulanger

Canadian violinist Frédéric Bednarz and pianist Natsuki Hiratsuka have released an exciting new recording of French violin music. The centerpiece of the recording is César Franck’s famous Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano. This is a beautifully colorful and passionate performance with a seamless and cohesive sense of ensemble between violin and piano. The seldom heard music of Belgian composer Guillaume Lekeu (1870-1894) opens the CD. Lekeu’s G major Violin Sonata was commissioned by …

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Rachmaninov and the "Philadelphia Sound"

Above: Rachmaninov and conductor Eugene Ormandy during a rehearsal at the Academy of Music in 1938. (from the Philadelphia Orchestra’s website). Great orchestras develop an institutional collective memory. As conductors and players come and go, they often leave a subtle mark on the sound, style, and soul of the ensemble. New players are assimilated into a dynamic, ever-evolving team. The esteemed history of the Philadelphia Orchestra is a case in point. For years the …

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Schumann’s Dichterliebe: On a Radiant Summer Morning

Let’s finish out the week and follow up on Wednesday’s post with more music for summer. Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen is the twelfth song in Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe, Op. 48 (“A Poet’s Love”), written in 1840. The song contains some interesting harmonic surprises. The first hint of strangeness comes at 0:33. Then, we get an even bigger surprise around the 1:00 mark. The conflict of the opening chords returns unexpectedly at 1:45. Schumann’s music evokes the kind of mystery you …

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Three Pieces for the Beginning of Summer

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,  And often is his gold complexion dimm’d; And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d; But thy eternal summer shall not fade  Nor lose possession …

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June is National Accordion Awareness Month

  As unbelievable as it sounds, June has been designated National Accordion Awareness Month. It began in 1989 “to help spread the word about the resurgence in popularity of the accordion” and to promote education about the instrument, which originated in Berlin in 1822. When you think of the accordion, Polish polka bands, Lawrence Welk, or the tango music of Astor Piazzolla may come to mind. Additionally, if you’ve ever wondered what the accordion would sound …

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