Remembering Stanley Drucker

The legendary clarinetist Stanley Drucker passed away on December 19. He was 93. Born in Brooklyn, Drucker entered the Curtis Institute of Music at the age of 15, but left after a year to accept a position with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He went on to become principal clarinetist of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1948, Drucker joined the New York Philharmonic. His nearly five-decade-long tenure as principal clarinetist of the New York …

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Bartók’s Viola Concerto: An Unfinished Epilogue

Béla Bartók was destitute and suffering from the terminal stages of leukemia when, in the winter of 1944, he was commissioned by William Primrose to write a Viola Concerto. Primrose, one of the twentieth century’s greatest violists, insisted that Bartók should not “feel in any way proscribed by the apparent technical limitations of the instrument.” Dividing his time between a summer cabin in Saranac Lake in New York’s Adirondack region and a small …

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Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto: From Rejection to Triumph

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor opens with one of the most powerful and iconic introductions in music history. A mighty four-note descending line, stated three times in the horns, is punctuated by orchestral thunderbolts. A soaring and expansive theme emerges in the strings, accompanied by colossal ascending chords in the solo piano. Defying convention, this majestic and memorable theme opens the Concerto, yet never returns. Additionally, it sets up the wrong key—not …

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Remembering Lars Vogt

Lars Vogt, the renowned German pianist and conductor, passed away on Monday, September 5. He was 51. In March of 2021, Vogt was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer in his throat and liver. Born in the town of Düren in the North Rhine-Westphalia region, Vogt rose to prominence after winning second prize at the 1990 Leeds International Piano Competition. He went on to perform as a soloist with the world’s greatest orchestras. He …

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Vivaldi’s Oboe Concerto in A Minor, RV 461: Alfredo Bernardini and Bremer Barockorchester

In addition to being a prolific composer, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) was a virtuoso violinist, teacher, opera impresario, and musical innovator. Based primarily in Venice, Vivaldi was renowned throughout Europe. His music influenced J.S. Bach. In his final years, Vivaldi moved to Vienna with the intention of gaining employment at the court of Emperor Charles VI. Soon after, the Emperor died. Vivaldi was left without a source of income; he died in poverty. …

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Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto: Brilliance, Structure and Symmetry

Regarding his first two piano concertos, Béla Bartók wrote, I consider my First Piano Concerto a good composition, although its structure is a bit – indeed one might say very — difficult for both audience and orchestra. That is why a few years later…I composed the Piano Concerto No. 2 with fewer difficulties for the orchestra and more pleasing in its thematic material…Most of the themes in the piece are more popular and …

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Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major: Steven Isserlis in Frankfurt

The British cellist, Steven Isserlis, has called Franz Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, “the greatest Classical cello concerto. It’s full of joy, of joyous virtuosity. It’s perfect.” Haydn wrote this music in the early 1760s, around the time that he began employment as music director at the court of Prince Nikolaus Esterházy. During the same time period, Haydn produced his first symphonies, while he expanded and refined the Esterházy Orchestra. The …

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