“Der Rosenkavalier,” Renée Fleming, and the Passing of Time

Time is a strange thing. While one is living one’s life away, it is absolutely nothing. Then, suddenly, one is aware of nothing else. It is all around us – inside us, even! It shifts in our faces, swirls in the mirror, flows in my temples. It courses between you and me – silent, as in an hourglass. Oh, often I hear it flowing, irrevocably. Often I get up in the middle of …

Read more“Der Rosenkavalier,” Renée Fleming, and the Passing of Time

Lou Harrison at 100: The “Elegiac” Symphony

Sunday marks the centennial of the birth of American composer Lou Harrison (1917-2003). Harrison, who was born in Portland, Oregon and spent most of his life on the West Coast, was a maverick who quietly defied the mainstream. His music reflects the adventurous American experimental tradition of his mentor, Henry Cowell, as well as Charles Ives and John Cage, both of whom he knew. A vast melting pot of influences emerges in …

Read moreLou Harrison at 100: The “Elegiac” Symphony

The Hollywood String Quartet: Five Classic Recordings

The Hollywood String Quartet, formed in 1939 and active until 1961, is regarded as the first American-born chamber music group to rise to international prominence. Their fame was due, in large part, to their numerous and exceptional recordings. The members were all studio musicians who created the lush, glowing soundtracks of Hollywood’s “golden age.” First violinist Felix Slatkin, concertmaster of the 20th Century Fox Orchestra, and his wife Eleanor Aller, principal cellist …

Read moreThe Hollywood String Quartet: Five Classic Recordings

Brahms’ First Symphony: Walking in the Footsteps of a Giant

I shall never write a symphony! You can’t have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you! Johannes Brahms was nearing 40 when, in 1872, he wrote these words in a letter to the conductor Herman Levi. The “giant” was Beethoven, whose nine game-changing symphonies loomed like a dauntingly impassible mountain range in front of every nineteenth century composer who followed. By this time, Brahms was already …

Read moreBrahms’ First Symphony: Walking in the Footsteps of a Giant

“Kinah”: Leonard Slatkin’s Musical Elegy to his Parents

Elegies are, by nature, solemn, reflective, and reverent. They function as musical or poetic tombstones. Leonard Slatkin’s Kinah, premiered by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in December, 2015, is all of these things. It’s also music filled with ghosts and faint echoes of distant, haunting voices. Leonard Slatkin grew up in Los Angeles in a prominent musical family. His father, Felix Slatkin, was concertmaster of the Twentieth Century Fox studio orchestra and a frequent …

Read more“Kinah”: Leonard Slatkin’s Musical Elegy to his Parents

Prokofiev’s First Violin Concerto: Music in Technicolor

Consider that iconic moment in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, when black and white, tornado-swept Kansas dissolves into the technicolor brilliance of Oz. With the help of a magical cinematographic slight of hand, Dorothy steps into a luscious dreamscape in which every tree and flower seems to be coated in an extra-glossy sheen. The film’s colorfully surreal middle section is bookended by the “real world” of black and white, which returns in the …

Read moreProkofiev’s First Violin Concerto: Music in Technicolor

New Release: The Emerson’s “Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell”

The Emerson String Quartet’s newest album spans three hundred years of English music. Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell balances twentieth century composer Benjamin Britten’s Second and Third String Quartets with Chaconnes and Fantasias by baroque composer Henry Purcell (1659-1695). This year marks the Emerson Quartet’s 40th anniversary. This latest recording is the first to included British cellist Paul Watkins, who joined the group in 2013. The Emerson Quartet approaches Purcell’s Fantasias (probably all …

Read moreNew Release: The Emerson’s “Chaconnes and Fantasias: Music of Britten and Purcell”

Send this to a friend