Elgar’s “Chanson de Matin”: Sunshine and Flowers

This week, we have explored music of the English composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934), from the blazing orchestral virtuosity of In the South, to the youthful charm of the Serenade for Strings. We’ll finish the week with a brief and breezy aubade—music which suggests the cheerful innocence of pastoral flowers catching the first light of dawn. Chanson de Matin (“Morning Song”) is the sunny companion to the more melancholy Chanson de Nuit. Published as Op. 15, No. 1 and …

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Elgar’s Serenade for Strings: Music of Youth

Composed in March of 1892, the Serenade for Strings is one of the earliest works of Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934). It may have been a reworking of a previously written suite. It is the music of spring, filled with youthful vitality and charm. By definition, the title “serenade” suggests music played in the evening, outdoors amid the beauty and abundance of nature. As depicted in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it also conjures up images …

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Elgar’s “In the South (Alassio)”: Music from “The Garden of the World”

From Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky to Richard Strauss, the sunny climate of Italy has been a source of inspiration for numerous composers on holiday. One of the most significant examples is Sir Edward Elgar’s blazing 1904 orchestral tone poem, In the South (Alassio), Op. 50. In November, 1903 Elgar and his wife traveled to the Italian Riviera where they planned to spend the winter. The composer was exhausted and needed to recuperate after …

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Handel’s Oboe Sonata in F Major, Héloïse Gaillard and Ensemble Amarillis

Handel’s Oboe Sonata in F Major, HWV 363a unfolds as a vibrant musical dialogue between the solo voice and the accompanying basso continuo. Its five movements alternate in tempo between slow and fast, suggesting the Italian church sonatas of Arcangelo Corelli. The opening movement (Adagio) is both majestic and lamenting. Its expansive, singing melody might remind you of an aria from one of Handel’s operas or oratorios. The second movement (Allegro) erupts with …

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Miklós Rózsa: Seven Great Film Scores

Beginning in the 1930s and 40s, the soaring, majestic sound we associate with the golden age of Hollywood films was created largely by Eastern European emigres—composers such as Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman and Max Steiner. Another significant name from this list is the Hungarian-born Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995), who wrote scores for nearly 100 films between 1937 and 1982, earning 17 Oscar nominations. Rózsa’s introduction to film scoring came in 1934 during a …

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Heifetz in Hollywood: Miklós Rózsa’s Violin Concerto

Miklós Rózsa’s career as a composer was built on a fascinating dichotomy. Beginning in 1937, Rózsa produced some of the twentieth century’s most memorable and spacious film scores, including the Arabian fantasy The Thief of Bagdad (1940), the Alfred Hitchcock film noir psychological thriller Spellbound (1945), and the epic historical drama Ben-Hur (1959). The composer, who emigrated to the United States from his native Hungary in 1940, also created numerous enduring concert works, infused with …

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Fauré and Debussy: Two Charming Settings of Paul Verlaine’s “Mandoline”

Gabriel Fauré’s 1891 song cycle, Cinq mélodies “de Venise”, Op. 58, begins with music which is as charming and infectious as it is brief. Mandoline is a setting of a poem from the 1869 collection, Fêtes galantes, by the French Symbolist, Paul Verlaine. The poem was inspired by a series of paintings by Jean-Antoine Watteau depicting (as Robert Gartside writes) “18th century nobility in their fêtes champètres, those elegant picnics redolent of a mixture of gaiety, …

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