Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major, “The Trout”: Music of Sunshine and Youth

In the summer of 1819, the 22 year old Franz Schubert went on vacation to the idyllic Upper Austrian city of Steyr. He was joined by the noted baritone, Johann Michael Vogl, a close friend and a tireless champion of the young composer’s songs. In elated letters, Schubert described the picturesque, bucolic landscape and the presence of eight lovely young women, “nearly all of them pretty.” This was the youthful, carefree environment in which the Piano …

Read moreSchubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major, “The Trout”: Music of Sunshine and Youth

Martinů’s Nonet No. 2: Sunny, Exuberant Neoclassicism

Bohuslav Martinů (1890-1959) was one of the most significant and prolific Czech composers of the twentieth century. As a young man, Martinů performed as a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic and studied composition briefly with Josef Suk. He left Prague in 1923 and relocated to Paris. There he was drawn to new musical currents which included jazz, neoclassicism, and surrealism. During this time, the French composer Albert Roussel served as his chief mentor. With …

Read moreMartinů’s Nonet No. 2: Sunny, Exuberant Neoclassicism

Saint-Saëns’ First Violin Sonata: The Hippogriff Takes Flight

Turbulent, expansive, heroic, and boldly virtuosic, Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Sonata No. 1 in D minor seems to take flight, like a mythical creature. Completed in 1885, the Sonata is set in four movements which are grouped in two sections. The first two and the last two movements flow together, attacca, with the only break coming in the middle of the work. This sets up the same kind of continuous musical journey we …

Read moreSaint-Saëns’ First Violin Sonata: The Hippogriff Takes Flight

Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor: An Escape to a Better World

Maurice Ravel composed his Piano Trio in the spring and summer of 1914 as Europe descended into the First World War. Swept up in the fervor of the moment, Ravel rushed to complete the work in order to enlist, “working with the sureness and lucidity of a madman,” as he wrote to a friend. In a letter to Igor Stravinsky, Ravel wrote, “The idea that I should be leaving at once made …

Read moreRavel’s Piano Trio in A Minor: An Escape to a Better World

Three English Phantasies: Music of Vaughan Williams, Purcell, and Britten

The fantasia is a genre which spans more than four hundred years of English music. It flowered in the Renaissance and Baroque periods, with the viol consort music of composers such as William Byrd, John Jenkins, and Henry Purcell. Emerging from the word fancy, these compositions are free in form and feature an intricate, polyphonic dialogue between instruments. A predecessor to sonata form, the fantasia grew out of madrigals and vocal motets. Twentieth …

Read moreThree English Phantasies: Music of Vaughan Williams, Purcell, and Britten

Mozart’s Violin Sonata No. 18 in G Major, Arthur Grumiaux and Clara Haskil

In 1778, Mozart and his mother, Maria Anna, left Salzburg and set out on a long journey which culminated in Paris. The 22-year-old composer was searching for new employment. He had become restless in his post as Konzertmeister to the Salzburg Court, a title that he had held since age 13. Mozart found his native Salzburg to be provincial and artistically stifling. He was paid a low yearly salary of 150 florins, and …

Read moreMozart’s Violin Sonata No. 18 in G Major, Arthur Grumiaux and Clara Haskil

Chick Corea’s “Children’s Songs”: Simplicity as Beauty

The late jazz pianist Chick Corea began writing the solo piano collection, Children’s Songs, in 1971. The set of twenty short songs follows the model of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos. In the preface, Corea wrote that the music was intended “to convey simplicity as beauty, as represented in the Spirit of a child.”  Each of the twenty songs opens up a magical new vignette, each with its distinct atmosphere. At the same time, a sense of motivic …

Read moreChick Corea’s “Children’s Songs”: Simplicity as Beauty

Send this to a friend