Sibelius’ Sixth Symphony: “Pure Spring Water”

The Sixth may be Jean Sibelius’ most enigmatic symphony. It doesn’t offer the kind of heroic and triumphant journey we experience in the Second and Fifth Symphonies, or the strange, brooding darkness of the Fourth. Instead, it drifts through a soundscape which is shimmering, austere, and mysterious. “The Sixth Symphony always reminds me of the scent of the first snow,” said Sibelius in 1943. On another occasion, the composer spoke of the …

Read moreSibelius’ Sixth Symphony: “Pure Spring Water”

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s “Autumn Gardens”: A Radiant Orchestral Soundscape

Autumn is a season of shimmering, radiant colors. Long shadows fall amid fading sunlight and a crisp chill seeps into the air. All of this can be felt in Autumn Gardens, a vibrant orchestral soundscape in three movements, written in 1999 by the Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016). The title refers to a passage from the libretto of Rautavaara’s 1990 chamber opera, The House of the Sun, “…like a butterfly in the garden of black …

Read moreEinojuhani Rautavaara’s “Autumn Gardens”: A Radiant Orchestral Soundscape

Joyful Sounds of Praise: Five Musical Settings of Psalm 150

Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in the firmament of His power. Praise Him for His mighty acts; praise Him according to His abundant greatness. Praise Him with the blast of the horn; praise Him with the psaltery and harp. Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and the pipe. Praise Him with the loud-sounding cymbals; praise Him with the clanging cymbals. Let every thing that …

Read moreJoyful Sounds of Praise: Five Musical Settings of Psalm 150

The “Happy Ever After” Finale of Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos”

Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos is an opera within an opera. The 1916 work opens with a Prologue. At the home of the richest man in Vienna, preparations are underway for the premiere staging of the Composer’s new opera seria, Ariadne auf Naxos. Meanwhile, Zerbinetta and her burlesque comedy troupe are also on the evening’s program. Arguments break out over which performance should be presented first. Then, an unexpected announcement throws everything into chaos. The …

Read moreThe “Happy Ever After” Finale of Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos”

Remembering Jessye Norman: Eight Extraordinary Recordings

Jessye Norman, the legendary American opera singer and recitalist, passed away on Monday. She was 74. Norman was born in the segregated south in Augusta, Georgia. She was surrounded by music at an early age, listening to radio broadcasts of operas and singing in church as a child. At the age of 16, she was offered a full scholarship to Howard University where she studied voice with Carolyn Grant. She went on …

Read moreRemembering Jessye Norman: Eight Extraordinary Recordings

Remembering Christopher Rouse

Christopher Rouse, the American Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, passed away on Saturday at a hospice center in Towson, Maryland. He was 70. The orchestra, with its dramatic power and rich color palette, was central to Rouse’s work. Pieces such as Gorgon (1984), Concerto for Orchestra (2008), and Prospero’s Rooms (2012), unleash a terrifying, raw, titanic energy. In a previous post, we explored the equally haunting sonic landscape of Rouse’s Symphony No. 1 (1986), in which the spirts of Bruckner and …

Read moreRemembering Christopher Rouse

Louis Andriessen’s “De Snelheid”: Bending Perceptions of Speed and Time

On Monday, we listened to Handel’s beautiful and haunting aria, Tu del Ciel ministro eletto (“You, elected minister of Heaven”), music in which an unrelenting, hypnotic rhythmic heartbeat evokes the continuous flow of time, melting into the vast ocean of eternity. It occurred to me later that the twentieth century counterpart to this piece might be Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age from Gustav Holst’s astrological orchestral suite, The Planets, Op.32. In Holst’s Saturn, the eternal flow …

Read moreLouis Andriessen’s “De Snelheid”: Bending Perceptions of Speed and Time

Send this to a friend