Rachmaninov’s Trio élégiaque in D Minor: “To the Memory of a Great Artist”

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky died suddenly at the age of 53 on October 25, 1893, nine days after the premiere of the “Pathétique” Symphony. He had been an important ally and mentor to the young Sergei Rachmaninov, helping to get the 20-year-old composer’s first opera, Aleko, performed at the Bolshoi Theatre, and expressing interest in conducting his symphonic poem, The Rock. Rachmaninov began composing the Trio élégiaque No. 2 in D minor after receiving word …

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Tchaikovsky’s “Un poco di Chopin”: A Mysterious Homage

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky seems to have had a strangely conflicted opinion of the music of Frédéric Chopin. There are accounts of the young Tchaikovsky, nine at the time of the great Polish composer’s death in 1849, giving a spectacular performance of two Chopin mazurkas as a child. In the 1860s, Nikolay Kashkin observed that Tchaikovsky “did not particularly like Chopin, as he found in him a certain sickliness of expression, as well as …

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J.S. Bach and the Joy of G Major

Throughout the music of J.S. Bach, G major seems to be associated with a distinct sense of joy and deep-rooted contentment. For example, consider the Fantasia in G Major for Organ, BWV 572, which opens in the instrument’s highest and most sparkling register with figures that skip along with an infectious, playful exuberance. This amazing piece, which we explored in a previous post, proceeds on into a massive five-voice chorale which concludes with a mighty …

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Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in G Minor, RV 317: Julien Chauvin and Le Concert de la Loge

If you have forgotten how exciting the music of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) can be, take a moment and listen to this concert performance of the Violin Concerto in G minor, RV 317, featuring French violinist Julien Chauvin and Le Concert de la Loge. As this clip demonstrates, brilliant, crackling virtuosity and searing drama lie at the heart of Vivaldi’s music. In addition to composing more than five hundred concertos, ninety solo sonatas, and dozens …

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Beethoven’s Second Symphony: Unleashing a Force of Nature

1802 was not a good year for Ludwig van Beethoven. It was around this time that the 31-year-old Beethoven disclosed the persistent deterioration of his hearing to a childhood friend. In a letter to Franz Wegeler, a physician, he wrote of his fear and humiliation: For almost two years I have ceased to attend any social functions, just because I find it impossible to say to people: I am deaf. In October …

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Music of Oscar-Winning Composer, Hildur Guðnadóttir

At the recent Oscars, the Academy Award for Best Original Score went to the 2019 psychological thriller, Joker. The score’s composer is the Icelandic cellist, Hildur Guðnadóttir (b. 1982). She has a growing list of film and television score credits, including Stefano Sollima’s Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018), Trapped (an Icelandic television mystery series), and Chernobyl, a series produced by HBO and Sky TV. After listening to some of the film music, I was inspired to investigate a few excerpts …

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Henri Vieuxtemps at 200: Historic Recordings of Heifetz and Nadien

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Belgian violinist and composer, Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881). A student of Charles Auguste de Bériot, Vieuxtemps toured Europe as a young prodigy, attracting the attention of Louis Spohr, Schumann, Berlioz, and Paganini. At the age of 14, he learned Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in two weeks and performed it in Vienna. As unimaginable as it may seem now, this cornerstone of the violin repertoire was a …

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