Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of the Animals”: A Zoological Romp

In February of 1886, Camille Saint-Saëns set aside work on his Third Symphony to engage in a brief burst of compositional frivolity. He admitted to his publishers that it was “such fun” he could not resist. The piece in question was The Carnival of the Animals, a humorous musical suite made up of fourteen short, parody-filled movements. Each movement depicts a specific animal and has inspired numerous texts, which include poetry written by …

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Telemann’s Sonata in D Major, TWV 44:1: Bremer Barockorchester

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was one of the most prolific composers of all time. The German Baroque composer produced 3,000 compositions, half of which have been lost. These include 1,700 cantatas, 600 orchestral suites, and numerous operas and concertos. Telemann was the godfather of J.S. Bach’s son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. Telemann influenced a younger generation of gallant composers such as C.P.E Bach, who would set the stage for the Classical period. Telemann’s …

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Remembering Ned Rorem

Ned Rorem, the American composer and diarist, passed away on November 18 at his home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He was 99. Born in Richmond, Indiana, Rorem composed three symphonies, numerous concertos, and other orchestral works, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Air Music (1974). Additionally, he contributed a host of operas, choral music, and chamber works. Yet, he will be remembered most as the composer of song. The esteemed choral conductor, Robert Shaw, declared …

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Fauré’s “Pelléas et Mélisande” Suite: Incidental Music for a Symbolist Play

Maurice Maeterlinck’s 1898 French symbolist play, Pelléas and Mélisande, centers around a doomed love triangle. Set in an ancient ruined castle and a dense forest, it “expresses a sense that human beings understand neither themselves nor each other nor the world.” (Bettina Knapp) Joan Pataky Kosove writes, Pelléas et Mélisande tells the story of a young and beautiful girl who marries one man, falls in love with another, and dies. But the play …

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Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor: “The Sorrows of Young Werther”

In 1875, Johannes Brahms sent the newly completed score for his C minor Piano Quartet to his publisher, Fritz Simrock, with the following message: On the cover you must have a picture, namely a head with a pistol to it. Now you can form some conception of the music! I’ll send you my photograph for the purpose. Since you seem to like color printing, you can use blue coat, yellow breeches, and …

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Saint-Saëns’ Second Symphony: Adventures in Form

Camille Saint-Saëns was 24 years old when, during the summer of 1859, he composed Symphony No. 2 in A minor. It is a work which is both youthful and convention-defying. Intimate and compact, this music is far removed from the monumental grandeur of the “Organ Symphony,” which Saint-Saëns wrote some thirty years later. It bends symphonic form in surprising and adventurous ways. The first movement (Allegro marcato – Allegro appassionato) begins with …

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Anna Netrebko Sings Rimsky-Korsakov: “Ty, Tsarevich, Moy Spasitel” from “The Tale of Tsar Saltan”

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, is based on a fairy tale poem by Alexander Pushkin.Premiering in November, 1900 in Moscow, it tells the story of three sisters. Tsar Saltan chooses the youngest of the three to be his wife, while he appoints the others to be his royal cook and weaver. Soon after the Tsar goes off to war, the Tsaritsa gives birth to a son, Gvidon. The jealous …

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