Remembering Gennady Rozhdestvensky

The esteemed Russian conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky passed away last Saturday. He was 87. Following studies at the Moscow Conservatory, Rozhdestvensky made his conducting debut at the age of 20 at the Bolshoi Theatre with Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. He went on to lead the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1978-1981), the USSR Ministry of Culture Orchestra (1983-1991) and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic (1992-1995), among other ensembles. Rozhdestvensky will be remembered for his associations with some of the …

Read moreRemembering Gennady Rozhdestvensky

Charles Gounod at 200

Yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Gounod (1818-1893). The French composer is best known for his operas such as Faust and Roméo et Juliette, and the famous Ave Maria, which embellishes J.S. Bach’s C Major Prelude from The Well-Tempered Clavier.  Gounod’s tender 1857 song, Sérénade, is a gently-rocking barcarolle. The text by Victor Hugo evokes the warmth of a parent speaking softly to a young child cradled in his or her arms. Here is …

Read moreCharles Gounod at 200

Three Excerpts from “The Band’s Visit”

At last Sunday’s 72nd annual Tony Awards, The Band’s Visit came away with a special distinction. In addition to sweeping the Tonys by winning ten awards, it was one of only four musicals in the history of Broadway to win these six big awards: Best Musical, Best Book (Itamar Moses), Best Score (David Yazbek wrote both music and lyrics), Best Actor in a Musical (Tony Shalhoub), Best Actress in a Musical (Katrina Lenk), and Best Direction of …

Read moreThree Excerpts from “The Band’s Visit”

Britten’s “Peter Grimes”: The Individual Against the Crowd

Benjamin Britten’s 1945 tragic opera, Peter Grimes, is a dark story of isolation and alienation- the solitary social outcast set against the collective insanity and “mob rule” of the crowd. For the composer, a homosexual, staunch pacifist, and conscientious objector during the Second World War, it was a subject very close to my heart — the struggle of the individual against the masses. The more vicious the society, the more vicious the individual. The …

Read moreBritten’s “Peter Grimes”: The Individual Against the Crowd

Ned Rorem’s “Early in the Morning”

Arguably, no artist grows up: If he sheds the perceptions of childhood, he ceases being an artist. -Ned Rorem Early in the Morning, an art song by American composer Ned Rorem (b. 1923), is filled with wistful nostalgia. The text, by the poet Robert Hillyer, offers a distant memory of a far-off summer morning. Both the words and the music are shrouded in a dreamlike haze. We’re presented with the ephemeral- sights and smells of the morning- …

Read moreNed Rorem’s “Early in the Morning”

Happy Birthday, Robert Schumann

Today marks the 208th anniversary of the birth of Robert Schumann (1810-1856). On Monday, we considered the relationship between Anton Webern’s youthful 1907 Piano Quintet and the music of Brahms. Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor, completed during the summer of 1864, was greatly influenced by Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat major, Op. 44. With this work, written in 1842 during his “year of chamber music,” Schumann practically invented the heroic and often symphonic pairing of string quartet and piano. Notice how …

Read moreHappy Birthday, Robert Schumann

A Sublime Moment from Khachaturian’s “Spartacus”

Today marks the 115th anniversary of the birth of the Soviet Armenian composer, Aram Khachaturian (1903–1978). In celebration, let’s listen to a lushly beautiful excerpt from the second act of Khachaturian’s 1954 ballet, Spartacus. This soaring adagio occurs at the moment when the Thracian king, Spartacus, and his wife, Phrygia, celebrate their newfound freedom from captivity. This music is filled with the “exotic” modal scales of Armenian folk music. For example, listen to the clarinet’s statement around …

Read moreA Sublime Moment from Khachaturian’s “Spartacus”

Send this to a friend