The Rite of Spring Turns 100

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the premier of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, one of the twentieth century’s most important and influential pieces. It was written as a ballet score for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris and originally choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. The Rite of Spring was revolutionary. Its dissonant sounds, complex rhythms and ferocious musical primitivism had never been imagined. The first audience, expecting the elegant classical ballet of the …

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Oblivion

Take a moment and listen to this hauntingly atmospheric music by twentieth century Argentine tango composer, Astor Piazzolla. Oblivion was written in 1982 and used in the soundtrack of Mario Bellocchio’s film, Enricho IV. There are many versions of this piece for different combinations of instruments. This performance features Latvian violinist, Gidon Kremer and comes from his CD, Hommage a Piazzolla. Like all great music, Oblivion conjures up a complex mix of emotions which …

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Lincoln Portrait

In honor of Presidents’ Day, here is Lincoln Portrait by twentieth century American composer Aaron Copland. Listen to the way Copland combines music and Lincoln’s eloquent words to create a monument to the 16th president. Besides the use of popular early American songs like Camptown Races and Springfield Mountain, do you hear anything else in the music that seems distinctly American? Listen to Copland talk about Lincoln Portrait and get some background on the piece here. You …

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A Charles Ives Thanksgiving

In the early decades of the twentieth century, American composer Charles Ives was stretching musical boundaries. Ives created exciting collages of sound by layering fragments of folk songs, hymn tunes and other music, often simultaneously in different keys and tempos.  The result was a musical melting pot that was uniquely American and anticipated compositional techniques used later by The Beatles, John Cage and others. Thanksgiving and Forefathers’ Day from Ives’s Holidays Symphony musically evokes memories …

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Ravel’s Bolero

French impressionist composer Maurice Ravel might have been surprised to know that Bolero, which premiered as a ballet score in 1928, would endure as one of the most popular pieces of twentieth century music.  Ravel was a master of orchestration and he considered this piece to be “an experiment in a very special and limited direction” and “orchestral tissue without music.”  Orchestration refers to the combination of instruments that a composer chooses to …

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The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires

My last post featured two contrasting performances of the Winter and Spring concertos from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.  Now, here is music written around 1965 by the great Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla. The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires was originally written for Piazzolla’s quintet (bandoneon, piano, violin, electric guitar and electric base).  Violinist Gidon Kremer commissioned the Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov to create this version for solo violin and string orchestra. You might hear …

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Wagner’s Musical Kaleidoscope

Javelin…Michael Torke (b. 1961) Find on iTunes Find on Amazon In my last post we explored a fun, eight minute piece called Javelin by contemporary American composer, Michael Torke.  I asked you to pay attention to the rich orchestral colors in the music. Now go back and listen a few more times to pick up some new details.  Do you hear bright, shimmering colors?  Do you feel swept along by the music’s motion?  Maybe …

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