“Pretty Women”: The Marian McPartland Trio Meets Sondheim

“Pretty Women” comes near the end of the first act of Stephen Sondheim’s 1979 musical thriller, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. On the surface, the song appears to capture an amiable barbershop conversation—as Craig Zadan writes, “a seemingly innocent yet passionate anthem to the virtues of womanhood.” Its comfortably gliding melody soars and then falls back into contentment. In context, it becomes spine chilling. It is Sweeney Todd’s calculating way of distracting Judge …

Read more“Pretty Women”: The Marian McPartland Trio Meets Sondheim

Remembering Jessye Norman: Eight Extraordinary Recordings

Jessye Norman, the legendary American opera singer and recitalist, passed away on Monday. She was 74. Norman was born in the segregated south in Augusta, Georgia. She was surrounded by music at an early age, listening to radio broadcasts of operas and singing in church as a child. At the age of 16, she was offered a full scholarship to Howard University where she studied voice with Carolyn Grant. She went on …

Read moreRemembering Jessye Norman: Eight Extraordinary Recordings

Melodic Siblings: Mozart’s “Dove Sono” and the “Coronation Mass”

It’s one of Mozart’s most serenely beautiful melodies, evoking quiet dignity, nostalgia, and underlying sadness. “Dove sono i bei momenti” is sung by the Countess in Act III of Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). Amid all of the craziness, scheming, and entanglements of this whirlwind “day of madness,” she pauses to lament her circumstances—loneliness, betrayal, and humiliation as a result of her husband’s serial infidelity. In the shifting stream of consciousness …

Read moreMelodic Siblings: Mozart’s “Dove Sono” and the “Coronation Mass”

Inmo Yang Plays Paganini

Last weekend, the Richmond Symphony’s season opened with concerts led by Marin Alsop. The program, perhaps one of the most memorable of my career in the RSO, included a performance of Paganini’s First Violin Concerto by the young Korean violinist, Inmo Yang. Yang, who was awarded First Prize at the 2015 Paganini Competition, brought more than stunning technique and poise. The Concerto was infused with the elegance and bel canto warmth of Italian opera. …

Read moreInmo Yang Plays Paganini

Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto: Khatia Buniatishvili in Concert

Franz Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto begins with a hauntingly romantic melody. We hear it first in the solo clarinet, accompanied by a woodwind chorale. For a composer whose music is often filled with larger-than-life virtuoso bravura, these quiet opening bars seem surprisingly unassuming, perhaps even lamenting. They open the door to the magic and mystery of the piano’s entrance a moment later, in which the melody is outlined in arpeggios which seem …

Read moreLiszt’s Second Piano Concerto: Khatia Buniatishvili in Concert

Remembering Christopher Rouse

Christopher Rouse, the American Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, passed away on Saturday at a hospice center in Towson, Maryland. He was 70. The orchestra, with its dramatic power and rich color palette, was central to Rouse’s work. Pieces such as Gorgon (1984), Concerto for Orchestra (2008), and Prospero’s Rooms (2012), unleash a terrifying, raw, titanic energy. In a previous post, we explored the equally haunting sonic landscape of Rouse’s Symphony No. 1 (1986), in which the spirts of Bruckner and …

Read moreRemembering Christopher Rouse

Louis Andriessen’s “De Snelheid”: Bending Perceptions of Speed and Time

On Monday, we listened to Handel’s beautiful and haunting aria, Tu del Ciel ministro eletto (“You, elected minister of Heaven”), music in which an unrelenting, hypnotic rhythmic heartbeat evokes the continuous flow of time, melting into the vast ocean of eternity. It occurred to me later that the twentieth century counterpart to this piece might be Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age from Gustav Holst’s astrological orchestral suite, The Planets, Op.32. In Holst’s Saturn, the eternal flow …

Read moreLouis Andriessen’s “De Snelheid”: Bending Perceptions of Speed and Time

Send this to a friend