Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, “La Passione”

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 49 in F minor is shrouded in ominous, gray clouds. It’s filled with the dark drama and turbulence of Sturm und Drang (“storm and stress”), a movement that swept through German literature and music from the late 1760s to the early 1780s as a precursor to Romanticism. Beginning with a solemn Adagio, the Symphony’s four movements follow the structure of the church sonata (slow-fast-slow-fast), a baroque form that was already …

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Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21: Fazıl Say and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony

The Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467 is one of Mozart’s most famous and often performed pieces. Yet, this is easy to forget as you listen to the performance below from April, 2017, featuring the Turkish pianist and composer Fazıl Say with Peter Oundjian and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. The music comes alive with joy, spontaneity, and sparkle. The cadenzas (heard at the end of the first and third …

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Mozart’s Oboe Concerto: François Leleux and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony

Mozart wrote the Oboe Concerto in C Major for Giuseppe Ferlendis, an Italian oboist who was appointed to the Salzburg Court Orchestra in April, 1777. A few months after the work’s completion, the 21-year-old composer was pressed for time to fulfill a commission in Mannheim from the Dutch flutist, Ferdinand De Jean. He adapted the Oboe Concerto for flute, and the recycled piece became his Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major. After …

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Haydn’s Symphony No. 97 in C Major: Celebratory Trumpets and Drums

Symphony No. 97 in C Major was the last of the six initial “London” symphonies Franz Joseph Haydn composed. It was first performed at London’s Hanover Square Rooms on the third or fourth of May, 1792. The young Beethoven used this music as the model for a C major symphony which he never completed. Boisterous and festive, Symphony No. 97 is filled with the celebratory sounds of trumpets and drums. A single, emphatic …

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New Release: Paul Merkelo’s “The Enlightened Trumpet” (Haydn, Telemann, Mozart, Hummel)

Paul Merkelo’s new album, The Enlightened Trumpet, features the Trumpet Concertos of Haydn, Telemann, Leopold Mozart, and Hummel. The album showcases the technological development of the instrument during the Age of Enlightenment, with the introduction of the keyed trumpet. Unlike the earlier, valveless natural trumpet, the keyed trumpet could play all of the notes of the chromatic scale. This allowed the trumpet to come into its own as a solo instrument. Paul Merkelo …

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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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Rossini’s William Tell Overture: Toscanini and the NBC Symphony

Guillaume Tell, which premiered in 1829, was the last of Gioachino Rossini’s 39 operas. Its four acts tell the story of the revolutionary folk hero William Tell who, with the expert use of his bow and arrow, launched the struggle for Swiss independence from Austria. Donizetti once proclaimed that the opera’s second act was so sublime that it had been composed not by Rossini but by God. The complete opera is rarely performed now. …

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