Haydn’s Symphony No. 29: Humor, Surprise, Ingenuity

Richard Atkinson, a Boston-based composer and forensic pathologist, offers a fascinating analysis of the wild rhythmic ingenuity found in some of Franz Joseph Haydn’s lesser-known symphonies. Atkinson’s YouTube channel is filled with insightful videos which take a look “under the hood” at music from Bach and Bruckner to Shostakovich. In this installment, Atkinson begins with the Finale of Haydn’s Symphony No. 29 in E Major, detailing the way the music continuously throws off our perception of phrase and meter. …

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Remembering Sanford Sylvan

The renowned American baritone Sanford Sylvan passed away suddenly last week. He was 65. Sylvan’s career on the opera stage included premieres of works by John Adams, Philip Glass, Peter Maxwell Davies and Christopher Rouse. He was the first to perform the role of Chou En-lai in Nixon in China (1987) and Leon Klinghoffer in The Death of Klinghoffer (1991). In addition, he premiered Adams’ haunting setting of Walt Whitman’s poem, The Wound Dresser. He was an …

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The Tesla Quartet Plays Haydn

Last month, we explored excerpts from the Tesla Quartet’s newly-released debut album. In addition to music by Ravel and Stravinsky, the recording includes Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major Op 54 No.2. Written in 1788, this piece is so daring and adventurous that it fits in perfectly on an album otherwise made up of twentieth century music. You’ll hear this spirit of adventure immediately in the Quartet’s opening bars. The home …

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Radek Baborák Plays Mozart

“You’ve got to hear this horn player named Radek Baborák,” urged one of my Richmond Symphony colleagues during a recent conversation. To hear the extent of Baborák’s technical finesse and musicianship, one only needs to listen to his performance of the famous horn call from Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel. Born in Czechoslovakia, Radek Baborák began playing the horn at age eight, was winning competitions by twelve, and became principal horn of the Czech Philharmonic at eighteen. He …

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Haydn’s Symphony No. 88: Seeds of Romanticism?

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 in G Major, completed in 1787, is undeniably firmly rooted in the classical tradition. Set in the standard four movements, it offers all of the courtly elegance, charm, and witty good humor we would expect from this innovative and prolific “father of the symphony.” At the same time, this Symphony, written two years before the outbreak of the French Revolution, contains some fascinating foreshadowings of music to come. …

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Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony: Iván Fischer and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Wagner called Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony “the apotheosis of dance.” This quality is evident in Iván Fischer’s spectacular January, 2014 performance with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. It isn’t that we hear “dance music” in this sunny, spirited, A major romp of a Symphony. Instead, it’s the instrumental voices of the orchestra which seem to enter into a sublime “dance.” One by one, they come to life and weave together in between the celebratory chords of the opening …

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Three Pieces from Schubert’s “Miracle Year”

1815 stands out as one of Franz Schubert’s most productive years. In fact, it has been called Schubert’s “miracle year.” The eighteen-year-old composer wrote more than 20,000 bars of music, completing two symphonies (Nos. 2 and 3), two Masses, a string quartet, two piano sonatas, and 145 songs (including the ghostly Erlkönig) , among other works. On one October day, alone, Schubert completed eight songs. That’s way too much music for one blog post! But …

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