Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony: A Sunny Bohemian Adventure

Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G major inhabits a sunny, pastoral world filled with Bohemian folk melodies, rustic peasant dances, distant horn calls, and echoes of the birdsongs of the forest. It’s an enchanting world of exuberant celebration and quiet, lamenting nostalgia. Following the restless and stormy Seventh Symphony, Dvořák remarked that the Eighth, completed in the autumn of 1889, was “different from the other symphonies, with individual thoughts worked out …

Read moreDvořák’s Eighth Symphony: A Sunny Bohemian Adventure

Saint-Saëns’ Second Piano Concerto: Fazıl Say in Concert

After hearing the premiere of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2, the pianist and composer Sigmond Stojowski remarked that it “began with Bach and ended with Offenbach.” Indeed, this is music which takes us on a wildly exhilarating and mercurial ride. Its structure shakes up the traditional concerto form with a slow and solemn first movement, a bright scherzo for the second movement, and a concluding presto. In May of 1868, the …

Read moreSaint-Saëns’ Second Piano Concerto: Fazıl Say in Concert

Two Festive Overtures: Shostakovich Meets Glinka

On Wednesday, we explored Dmitri Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony, one of the most haunting and tragic works of the twentieth century. This is the kind of music we often associate with Shostakovich, a composer surrounded, for much of his life, by death, destruction, and grinding political oppression. Yet, there is a more lighthearted side to Shostakovich, perhaps most evident in the sparkling and zany 1927 orchestration of the Vincent Youmans song, Tea for Two, produced …

Read moreTwo Festive Overtures: Shostakovich Meets Glinka

Brahms’ Variations on a Theme (Not) by Joseph Haydn

The “theme and variations” may be the most fun-loving and exuberant of all musical forms. Its attributes include cleverness, virtuosity, and surprise. We can only imagine what it might have been like to hear Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, or Schubert spinning a stream of improvised keyboard variations, each taking the listener on a new and unexpected adventure. There was an element of sport to these popular gatherings. Improvisational duels allowed for a game …

Read moreBrahms’ Variations on a Theme (Not) by Joseph Haydn

Elgar’s “Enigma Variations”: Beyond Sketches and Riddles

“A man is known by the company he keeps,” said the ancient Greek fabulist, Aesop. For Sir Edward Elgar, it was associations with a circle of friends, each with their distinct personalities and quirks, that inspired the orchestral masterwork, Variations on an Original Theme, Op.36, popularly known as the Enigma Variations. According to the story, it began on an October evening in 1898 at Elgar’s home in the Worcestershire countryside. Puffing on a …

Read moreElgar’s “Enigma Variations”: Beyond Sketches and Riddles

Schubert’s Piano Sonata No. 18 in G Major, D. 894: Paul Lewis in Concert

The music of Franz Schubert inhabits a unique and magical world, distinct from any other composer. While Beethoven often grabs us roughly by the collar and throws us onto an exhilarating and ferocious musical rollercoaster ride, Schubert gives us a radically different experience. He invites us into a quiet, sensuous space filled with crystalline melodies, conversing voices, and moments of deep mysticism. Sudden, effortless harmonic shifts and modulations open up new, unexpected dramatic vistas. …

Read moreSchubert’s Piano Sonata No. 18 in G Major, D. 894: Paul Lewis in Concert

Rachmaninov’s Suite No. 1 “Fantaisie-tableaux”: Vivid Musical Pictures

Sergei Rachmaninov’s Fantaisie Tableaux for two pianos, better known as Suite No. 1, Op. 5, was conceived as “a series of musical pictures.” The piece is made up of four vivid and magical soundscapes, each loosely inspired by a poem. It’s music of the young Rachmaninov, written in the summer of 1893, a year after his graduation from the Moscow Conservatory. The score was dedicated to Tchaikovsky, who offered the young composer support. Following …

Read moreRachmaninov’s Suite No. 1 “Fantaisie-tableaux”: Vivid Musical Pictures

Send this to a friend