Chopin’s Nocturnes, Op. 27: Enharmonic Dreamscapes

Frédéric Chopin’s Op. 27 Nocturnes inhabit a serene, sensuous, and melancholy dreamscape. The two pieces for solo piano, composed in 1836, are among twenty-one surviving Nocturnes written by Chopin. The form originated a generation earlier with the English composer-pianist, John Field (1782-1837). Chopin’s Nocturnes become magical and atmospheric “songs of the night.” They are bel canto arias without words, in which the piano is transformed into a singing instrument. They are harmonically …

Read more

Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”: Celebratory Contrapuntal Fireworks

Mozart’s final symphony stands as a triumphant apotheosis. Symphony No. 41 in C Major concluded the monumental symphonic trilogy (Nos. 39, 40, and 41) that Mozart wrote over the course of two months during the summer of 1788. For the 32-year-old composer, it was a time of personal and professional loss. In Vienna, Mozart’s popularity was in decline as the city’s notoriously fickle audiences turned their attention elsewhere. Funding from aristocratic patrons evaporated …

Read more

Jule Styne’s “I Fall in Love Too Easily,” The Keith Jarrett Trio

Today marks the 116th anniversary of the birth of the great American songwriter, Jule Styne (1905-1994). Born in London, Styne grew up in Chicago, the son of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants. He was a child prodigy pianist, performing with the orchestras of Chicago and Detroit before age ten. Later, he played jazz, withdrawing from the concert stage because of the limitations of his small hands. He created the scores for some of the Broadway theater’s …

Read more

All Aboard! Five Pieces Inspired by Trains

Music reflects the sounds of the time. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, music was centered around the human voice and the motion of the body through dance. Music of the eighteenth century emerged from the pastoral sounds of nature, hunting horns, and the bugle calls of the battlefield. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, music got louder and more discordant amid the mechanized roar of the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps electricity and computers inform …

Read more

1963 Telecast: Hindemith Leads the CSO in Music of Hindemith, Bruckner, Brahms

In 1963, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was in transition. The French conductor, Jean Martinon, was beginning his five-year tenure as music director following the death of the legendary Fritz Reiner. Over the preceding ten years, the fierce and autocratic Reiner had turned the CSO into what Igor Stravinsky called, “the most precise and flexible orchestra in the world.” We hear the ensemble Reiner built in all of its glory in this April 7, …

Read more

The Bells of Ulm Minster

Today, we pay homage to the German-American musicologist Karl Haas, who hosted the nationally syndicated  radio program, Adventures in Good Music, between 1970 and 2007. One of the show’s most popular episodes, The Story of the Bells, was broadcast at Christmastime. It documented the distinct sounds of church bells throughout Europe, from the mighty cacophony of Zurich, to the pastoral serenity of the Alpine village of Arosa, to the highly ordered change ringing of Westminster Abbey. …

Read more

Lutoslawski’s Twenty Polish Christmas Carols: Festive Colors and Cradle Songs

During the 1930s and 40s, war-ravaged Poland suffered first under the occupation of the Nazis and then the Soviets. In 1946, as the ominous clouds of totalitarianism and cultural censorship gathered, the Polish composer Witold Lutosławski (1913–1994) compiled a collection of nineteenth century Christmas carols from his homeland. Originally written for voice and piano, the Twenty Polish Christmas Carols were premiered by the soprano Aniela Szleminska and pianist Jan Hoffman in Kraków in January, 1947. The piece …

Read more

Send this to a friend