Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit”: Three Devilish Sonic Fantasies

Sometimes the notation of a musical score becomes a work of art in its own right. Such is the case with a vast mural painted in the early 1970s on the exposed brick wall of the Schmitt Music Company building in downtown Minneapolis (pictured above). The mural was created after Minneapolis Star columnist Barbara Flanagan called out the blank wall’s unsightliness. “You need to make that wall sing,” she wrote. The three-story-tall …

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Fauré’s “Ballade in F-Sharp Major”: Bending Harmony

Gabriel Fauré’s Ballade in F-sharp Major, Op. 19 is filled with harmony-bending moments. For example, listen to the opening of the piece. The first phrase follows a graceful and beautifully consonant arc. Then at the 0:26 mark, we get a sudden, wrenching dissonance. Floating over a serene, hypnotically repeating rhythmic line, this music doesn’t seem far off from Erik Satie’s dreamy Gymnopédies, published ten years later in 1888, or the second movement of …

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Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major, BWV 852, Pieter-Jan Belder

The Dutch harpsichordist Pieter-Jan Belder considers Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E-flat Major (No. 7 from Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier) to be a significant emotional departure from the preceding pieces in the set. “When you get to this Prelude, you’re in another world,” he says. Indeed, from the opening bars a sublime, ever-rising conversation unfolds between two voices—one high, and the other low. This opens the door to an expansive chorale …

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Clara Schumann at 200

Composing gives me great pleasure. There is nothing which surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound. – Clara Schumann (a diary entry from June, 1853) Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Clara Schumann (1819-1896). This week, we have explored Clara’s influence on the music of her husband, Robert Schumann, and close friend, Johannes …

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Schumann and Brahms: Musical Depictions of Clara

This Friday marks the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Clara Schumann (1819-1896). Clara Wieck Schumann looms large in music history. With a concert career spanning 61 years, she was one of the greatest pianists of the Romantic period. She is credited with elevating the repertoire of the piano recital, replacing bravura showpieces with substantial, mature works. She was an influential teacher at Frankfurt’s Hoch Conservatory. As a composer, she contributed piano …

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Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B-flat Minor, BWV 867, Kris Verhelst

It’s time to return to the Netherlands Bach Society for another recently released performance. Every Friday the organization adds a new high quality video recording to its website as part of its All of Bach initiative. The project will conclude with a complete catalogue of J.S. Bach’s works in time for the Netherlands Bach Society’s centenary in 2022. Here, the Belgian harpsichordist Kris Verhelst performs Bach’s Prelude and Fugue No. 22 in B-flat minor, …

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Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in F Minor, BWV 857, Pieter Dirksen

Every Friday the Netherlands Bach Society adds a new high quality video recording to its website as part of its All of Bach initiative. Their goal is to perform all of J.S. Bach’s works in the run-up to the organization’s centenary in 2022. One of the recent additions to their Youtube channel is harpsichordist and musicologist Pieter Dirksen’s performance of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV 857. This is the twelfth …

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