An Exciting New Vaughan Williams CD

British conductor Christopher Seaman and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra have released an exciting new CD featuring music of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). The disk includes A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2) and Serenade to Music, performed by RPO Concertmaster Juliana Athayde and singers from Mercury Opera Rochester. Music director of the RPO for 13 years, currently Seaman holds the title of Conductor Laureate. Written in 1914, A London Symphony musically captures the varied moods …

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Three Lullabies by Gershwin

The lazy days of summer are here in the Northern Hemisphere. For many of us this is a time to rest and recharge, whether in the cool shade of a back yard hammock or the sun and sand of the beach. What music could be more appropriately relaxing and soothing than a lullaby, with its gentle rocking rhythm and simple repetitive melody? [typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Lullaby [/typography] Barely out of his teenage …

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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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