Philip Glass’ “Mad Rush”: Time is Relative

A happy birthday to the American composer, Philip Glass, who turns 83 today. In the meditative minimalism of Glass’ 1979 keyboard work, Mad Rush, time becomes relative. The piece was originally conceived as being of “indefinite length.” It was performed on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s first public address in North America at New York’s Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Later, it was used to accompany a ballet by Lucinda Childs. The …

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Henry Purcell’s “Fantasia Upon One Note” and its Twentieth Century Aftertones

How many ways can you harmonize three notes? You might find this question especially pertinent after listening to an extraordinary passage from the second movement of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Fourth Piano Concerto. Three descending notes (E, D, C) are repeated throughout this melody, filled with nostalgia and quiet lament, each time wrapped in new harmonic garb. Fantasia Upon One Note for 5 viols in F major, Z. 745, written around 1680 by the English baroque …

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The 2020 Classical Grammys

The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony took place in Los Angeles Sunday evening. Here are excerpts from the winning albums in the classical categories: Best Orchestral Performance Sustain, a haunting orchestral soundscape by American composer Andrew Norman (b. 1979), was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the opening of its centennial season. This concert recording documents the piece’s October, 2018 world premiere. Sustain was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Music. We …

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Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are”: A Celebration of Modulation

Jerome Kern, one of the greatest composers of the American musical theater, was born on this date 135 years ago on January 27, 1885. Kern wrote over 700 songs, including Ol’ Man River and Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) from the landmark 1927 musical, Show Boat, Long Ago (And Far Away) (lyrics by Ira Gershwin), A Fine Romance (lyrics by Dorothy Fields), and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (lyrics by Otto …

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“The Fairy’s Kiss”: Stravinsky’s Musical Homage to Tchaikovsky

In 1893, while attending a performance at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, the 11-year-old Igor Stravinsky caught a fleeting glimpse of Tchaikovsky. The occasion was the 50th anniversary production of Glinka’s opera, Ruslan and Ludmila, in which Stravinsky’s father, Fyodor, an acclaimed bass, was singing. Tchaikovsky would die two weeks later. Stravinsky recalled, I looked and saw a man with white hair, large shoulders, a corpulent back, and this image has remained in the retina of …

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Classic Recording: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A Minor, The Eastman Trio

Why have you not written a single trio? I regret this every day because every day they play me a trio, and I always sigh because you have not composed a single one. This rueful complaint was addressed to Tchaikovsky in a letter written in the autumn of 1880 by Nadezhda von Meck, the Russian business woman who was one of his most dedicated and long-lasting patrons. (She also gave financial support …

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Remembering Barry Tuckwell

Barry Tuckwell, the renowned Australian horn player, passed away last week. He was 88. Born into a musical family, Tuckwell began playing the horn at age 13. By 15 he was playing professionally as third horn of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. A year later, he joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Eugene Goossens. He soon moved on to perform in Britain’s Hallé Orchestra under Sir John Barbirolli. At age 24, he was principal …

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