Purcell’s “Hear My Prayer, O Lord”: VOCES8

Westminster Abbey was a prominent fixture in the life of Henry Purcell. Purcell was born in 1659 in a notorious slum known as The Devil’s Acre, which fell in the shadow of the soaring Gothic edifice. At the age of twenty, he succeeded the composer John Blow to become Organist and Master of the Choristers for Westminster Abbey. Purcell’s grave lies in the Abbey’s north aisle near the historic location of the organ. …

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Remembering Alex DePue

A fatal car accident in Mexico claimed the life of the accomplished fiddler Alex DePue on Thursday morning. He was 49. Alex and his violin-playing brothers formed the popular DePue Brothers Band which specializes in “a vivid blend of bluegrass, classical, and rock genres.” Alex DePue’s rock star virtuosity is evident in this clip, which blends Paganini with Yes’ Owner of a Lonely Heart and Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal: Featured Image: Photograph by Amy E. Voigt

Berg’s “Altenberg Lieder”: Five Orchestral Songs on Postcard Texts

The year 1913 was infamous for riotous musical premieres. The May 29, 1913 premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in Paris remains the most famous example. Yet, an equally scandalous event occurred two months earlier on March 31 at Vienna’s Musikverein. The program, conducted by Arnold Schoenberg, included Webern’s Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6, Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No. 1, Op. 9, and two of Alban Berg’s Five Orchestral Songs after Postcards …

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Schumann’s Third Symphony, “Rhenish”: A Majestic Musical Portrait

In 1850, Robert Schumann moved with his family to Düsseldorf to accept a position as music director of the city’s orchestra and chorus. The composer, who from birth had lived in Saxony, reveled in a new, picturesque landscape dominated by the majestic Rhine River. In her diary, Clara Schumann described a cruise down the river which revealed the Gothic splendor of the still unfinished Cologne Cathedral. She wrote, “We were enchanted…by the …

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Purcell’s Trio Sonata in G Minor, Z 807: A Monumental Chaconne

Henry Purcell (1659-1695), the most significant English composer of the Baroque period, left behind dramatic works such as Dido and Aeneas and The Fairy Queen, as well as sacred music and instrumental fantasias. Equally rich, yet perhaps less well known, are Purcell’s Trio Sonatas. Composed around 1680, these include the Twelve Sonatas in Three Parts (Z 790-801) and the Ten Sonatas in Four Parts (Z 802-811). The second collection was published posthumously in 1697 at a time when …

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Samuel Barber’s Nocturne, Op. 33: Aftertones of Chopin

Samuel Barber gave his Nocturne, Op. 33 for solo piano the subtitle, “Homage to John Field.” Field (1782-1837) was the Irish pianist and composer who is credited with inventing the nocturne. Barber’s piece, written in 1959, is as much a dreamy reflection on the Romantic nocturne itself, with all of its atmospheric allusions to the poetry of the night. Perhaps it is the spirit of Frédéric Chopin, whose twenty-one nocturnes pushed the …

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Clara Andrada de la Calle Plays Ibert

The twentieth century French composer, Jacques Ibert (1890-1962), did not adhere to a single stylistic “school.” Instead, famously he declared that “all systems are valid so long as one derives music from them.” Ibert’s Flute Concerto, written in 1932 for Marcel Moyse, is filled with sparkling, effervescent humor and a jazzy, midcentury Parisian elegance. Set in three movements (fast-slow-fast), it is a work of cheerful, frolicking Neoclassicism. The first movement (Allegro) begins with …

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