“Songs My Mother Taught Me”: From Dvořák to Ives

Songs My Mother Taught Me is the fourth and most famous of Antonín Dvořák’s seven-song cycle, Gypsy Songs, Op. 55. Composed in 1880 at the request of the Viennese tenor, Gustav Walter, the texts are from a collection of poems by Adolf Heyduk. Songs My Mother Taught Me highlights the timelessness of music, and enduring truths, passed lovingly through generations: Songs my mother taught me in the days long vanished, Seldom from her eyelids were …

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Remembering Jodie Devos

Jodie Devos, the celebrated Belgian soprano, passed away last Sunday, June 16, as a result of rapidly-progressing breast cancer. She was 35. At the time of her death in Paris, she was surrounded by family. In a social media post, soprano Barbara Hannigan remembered Devos as “a beautiful artist, vibrant and radiant of sound and presence.” In a statement to Belgian news channel VRT, conductor Dirk Brossé said, “We have lost one …

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Finzi’s “Farewell to Arms”: An Ode to the Aging Warrior

English composer Gerald Finzi (1901–1956) was too young to fight in the First World War, but he experienced personally the results of the carnage. Within a span of two weeks in 1918, combat claimed the life of his only remaining brother, as well as his teacher, the composer and pianist Ernest Farrar. Finzi’s Farewell to Arms, Op. 9, a song in two parts for tenor and small orchestra, evokes melancholy remembrances of these …

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The Words of King, and a Spiritual Performed by Marian Anderson

…I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted and every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go …

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Schumann’s “Widmung”: A Love Song Adapted by Liszt

In September of 1840, Robert Schumann presented a collection of 26 songs, composed the previous spring, to his beloved Clara as a wedding gift. The cycle, Myrthen, Op. 25, contains intimate musical ciphers and codes which had personal meaning to the couple. Myrtle flowers, referenced in the title, are associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Based on a poem by Friedrich Rückert, the opening song, Widmung (“Dedication”), begins with the lines, …

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Mahler’s “Erinnerung”: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Leonard Bernstein

Composed in the 1880s, prior to the First Symphony, Erinnerung (“Remembrance”) is one of the early songs of Gustav Mahler. It is the second in a collection of fourteen Lieder und Gesänge (“Songs and Airs”) published in 1892. The text, by the German poet, Richard Leander (1830-1889), reflects on the intermingling of love and song. Mahler’s setting is shrouded in dreamy melancholy and quiet anguish. The lamenting melody drifts over a hypnotic stream of …

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Galina Vishnevskaya Sings Tchaikovsky: “Iolanta’s Aria” and “Lullaby”

Composed in 1891, Iolanta, Op. 69 was Tchaikovsky’s eleventh and last completed opera. On the evening of December 18, 1892, it shared a double premiere with the ballet, The Nutcracker, at Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre. Mahler conducted the Vienna premiere in 1900. Then, the work fell into relative obscurity. Set in one act, Iolanta is based on a story by the Danish writer, Henrik Hertz (1798–1870). Iolanta is a fifteenth century French …

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