“Berceuse Romantique”: Kreisler’s Journey into Impressionism

The legendary violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) composed numerous short pieces “in the style” of earlier composers. Kreisler performed these works as encores at his concerts and successfully passed them off as originals (discovered in some dusty corner of a French monastery) until the hoax was uncovered in 1935. In addition to these clever exercises in pastiche, Kreisler wrote cadenzas for many of the standard violin concertos, four operettas, and popular songs such as Madly …

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Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel”: The Groundbreaking “Bench Scene”

Stephen Sondheim once called the “bench scene” from the first act of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1945 musical, Carousel, “the singular most important moment in the evolution of contemporary musicals.” Indeed, this extraordinary 12-minute-long love scene, anticipated in earlier Hammerstein works such as Show Boat (1927) and Oklahoma! (1943), set the stage for the late twentieth century Broadway of Sondheim. According to the scholar Thomas Hischak, the scene “is considered the most completely integrated piece of music-drama in the American …

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Remembering Jeanne Lamon

Jeanne Lamon, the American-Canadian violinist and early music specialist, passed away on June 20 following a brief battle with cancer. She was 71. Lamon was music director of the Toronto-based Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra from 1981 to 2014. In a recent statement, the ensemble credits Lamon with establishing Tafelmusik’s “enviable reputation as ‘one of the world’s top baroque orchestras’ (Gramophone), growing from its modest beginnings to the cutting-edge period ensemble it is today under …

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Schubert’s “Gesang der Geister über den Wassern”: Song of the Spirits Over the Waters

At the Staubbach Falls, west of the village of Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, an Alpine stream plunges over a jagged cliff and cascades 974 feet to the valley floor below. A visit to this topographical wonder in October of 1779 inspired Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to write Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (“Song of the Spirits over the Waters”). Set in six stanzas, the poem compares the mystical journey of the soul to the cycle of …

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Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra: Aftertones of Mahler

On May 22, 1911, a quiet funeral was held for Gustav Mahler at Vienna’s Grinzing Cemetery. A wreath, laid on the grave by Arnold Schoenberg and a group of his students, included a card which read, “This rich man through whom we have come to know the deepest sorrow—the loss of the saintly Gustav Mahler—has left us, for life, a model we cannot lose: his work and his works.” Nowhere are the aftertones …

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Vivaldi and Piazzolla: Two Visions of Summer

Antonio Vivaldi’s collection of violin concerti, The Four Seasons, composed between 1718 and 1720, remains some of the most famous, virtuosic, and evocative music ever written. Concerto No. 2 in G minor “Summer” begins under a burning summer sun. The opening bars suggest an oppressive, sultry haze. As the music unfolds, nature comes alive with the song of the cuckoo, turtledove, and finch. The sounds of a shepherd herald the approach of a storm. …

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“Blumine”: Mahler’s “Blunder of Youth”

Blumine (“Flower”) was the original Andante second movement of Gustav Mahler’s First Symphony. It was eliminated following the the third performance, conducted by Mahler in Weimar in 1894. With this revision, a sprawling and programmatic five-movement tone poem was refined into a symphony. Years later, Mahler dismissed Blumine as “a blunder of youth.” The manuscript resurfaced in 1959 and it was included in a June 18th, 1967 performance conducted by Benjamin Britten. Although some conductors have reinserted this music, …

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