William Byrd: O Magnum Mysterium

On Monday we listened to Italian baroque composer Arcangelo Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto,” a piece probably performed on Christmas Eve, 1690. Now, let’s go back even earlier to the English Renaissance music of William Byrd (1543-1623). Byrd’s motet O Magnum Mysterium, written in 1607, evokes the mystery and wonderment of the nativity story. It’s music which seems poised somewhere between terror and exultation. Listen to the way the voices imitate one another, gradually unfolding in soaring …

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Corelli’s “Christmas Concerto”: Nicholas McGegan and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Here is music which evokes the hushed reverence and mystery of Christmas Eve: the Concerto grosso in G minor, Op. 6, No. 8 by Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713). Corelli wrote twelve “concerti grossi,” a popular baroque genre which features a dramatic back-and-forth dialogue between the full ensemble and small groups of instruments. This piece is commonly called the “Christmas Concerto” because it may have been performed by Corelli on Christmas Eve, 1690. The title page bears …

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Remembering Soprano Elisabeth Carron

American soprano Elisabeth Carron passed away last Thursday at the age of 94. Born in Newark, New Jersey to Sicilian immigrant parents, Carron performed regularly at New York City Opera in its heyday. She was widely respected for her roles in Puccini operas which included Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, Mimì in La Bohème, and Liu in Turandot. Additionally, she performed prominent roles in contemporary American operas such as Gian-Carlo Menotti’s The Saint of Bleecker Street (1954), Marc Blitzstein’s Regina (1958), and Kurt Weill’s Street …

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Candide at 60

Last Thursday marked the 60th anniversary of the Broadway opening of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, a work based on the novella by Voltaire, which falls somewhere between musical theater and operetta. It isn’t often that an overture stops the show, but that’s one of the details Barbara Cook, who played the role of Cunégonde, remembers from the night of December 1, 1956. I am extremely proud to have been part of the original cast of Leonard …

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Lost and Found: The Rediscovery of Stravinsky’s Funeral Song, Op. 5

It isn’t every day that a score by a major composer disappears for 108 years and then, miraculously, resurfaces. But that’s what has happened with one of Igor Stravinsky’s earliest works. The manuscript of the long-lost Funeral Song, Op. 5 was found at the St Petersburg Conservatoire last year. It was written as a tribute to Stravinsky’s teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, and was performed only once in 1909. That is, until last Friday when Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra …

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Happy Birthday, Maria Callas

Maria Callas, the legendary Greek-American soprano was born on this date in 1923. Callas, who passed away in 1977, is remembered as one of the most influential opera singers of the twentieth century. Leonard Bernstein called her “the Bible of opera.” Her voice was distinctive. It wasn’t always “beautiful,” but it possessed a deep, powerful, and expressive magnetism. In this Guardian piece, Tim Ashley writes that “What she stood for…was truth rather than beauty, …

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