Remembering Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Andrew Davis, the renowned conductor, passed away on April 20 following a brief battle with leukemia. He was 80. Davis served as music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1975 to 1988, and later as chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (2013–2019). From 1989 until 2000, he led the BBC Symphony Orchestra, becoming the longest-serving chief conductor of that ensemble since Adrian Boult. As an opera conductor, Davis led …

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Mozart’s Symphony No. 27 in G Major: Salzburg Sunshine

Symphony No. 27 in G Major, K. 199 is sunny, youthful music of the 17-year-old Mozart. Completed in April of 1773, it is among a group of four symphonies Mozart wrote after returning home to Salzburg following his second trip to Italy. (His opera, Lucio Silla, was being performed in Milan). Two months later, Mozart and his father would set out for the imperial capital of Vienna. Scored for two flutes, two …

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Stravinsky’s Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks”: A Sparkling Neoclassical Dialogue

The riot-inducing 1913 premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s primal ballet score, The Rite of Spring, changed the course of 20th century music. Yet, ultimately, it was an artistic one-off. The final, cacophonous notes of the Sacrificial Dance faded away, and soon, with the 1920 ballet score for Pulcinella, Stravinsky’s style took another sharp and unexpected turn. Austere, witty, and pared down, the new neoclassicism returned to the balance, form, and symmetry of Bach and …

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Brahms’ Trio in E-flat Major for Horn, Violin, and Piano: Music of Nature

In May of 1865, following the death of his beloved mother Christiane three months earlier, Johannes Brahms retreated to the picturesque seclusion of Baden-Baden in Germany’s Black Forest. It was here that Brahms composed his Trio in E-flat Major for Horn, Violin, and Piano, Op. 40. He worked in a room which, in his words, “looks out on three sides at the dark, wooded mountains, the roads winding up and down them, …

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Michael Torke’s “Unseen” (No. 5): A Shifting Kaleidoscope

Last month, we listened to the first single from Unseen, the newest work of American composer Michael Torke. The piece, scored for orchestra, unfolds in nine brief movements, and continues in the direction of Torke’s recent groove-based chamber works, Being (2020), Psalms and Canticles (2021), and Time (2022). The complete album for Unseen will be released on May 10. Unseen, No. 5, which came out yesterday, emerges from a single pulsating rhythmic pattern in the strings. The piece develops …

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Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture: A Witty Musical “Thank You”

In 1879, the University of Breslau in Prussia (now Wrocław, Poland) awarded Johannes Brahms an honorary doctorate in philosophy. The acclaimed composer, who never attended college, had little use for academic titles. When Cambridge University attempted to bestow a similar honor three years earlier, Brahms declined, forgoing lionization and sea travel—both of which he despised—for the quiet comfort of his home. His postcard response to the faculty in Breslau was met with …

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Handel’s Sonata in D Major, HWV 371: Music Ripe for Reuse

After 300 years, the music of Handel continues to draw us in with richly expressive melodies and a vivid sense of drama. Both are apparent in the Sonata in D Major, HWV 371 for violin and basso continuo. In the opening of the first movement (Affettuoso), the violin line appears to outline an ascending D major triad, only to arrive on an E, one pitch too far. The next phrase extends even …

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