Miklós Rózsa: Seven Great Film Scores

Beginning in the 1930s and 40s, the soaring, majestic sound we associate with the golden age of Hollywood films was created largely by Eastern European emigres—composers such as Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Franz Waxman and Max Steiner. Another significant name from this list is the Hungarian-born Miklós Rózsa (1907-1995), who wrote scores for nearly 100 films between 1937 and 1982, earning 17 Oscar nominations. Rózsa’s introduction to film scoring came in 1934 during a …

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Heifetz in Hollywood: Miklós Rózsa’s Violin Concerto

Miklós Rózsa’s career as a composer was built on a fascinating dichotomy. Beginning in 1937, Rózsa produced some of the twentieth century’s most memorable and spacious film scores, including the Arabian fantasy The Thief of Bagdad (1940), the Alfred Hitchcock film noir psychological thriller Spellbound (1945), and the epic historical drama Ben-Hur (1959). The composer, who emigrated to the United States from his native Hungary in 1940, also created numerous enduring concert works, infused with …

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Fauré and Debussy: Two Charming Settings of Paul Verlaine’s “Mandoline”

Gabriel Fauré’s 1891 song cycle, Cinq mélodies “de Venise”, Op. 58, begins with music which is as charming and infectious as it is brief. Mandoline is a setting of a poem from the 1869 collection, Fêtes galantes, by the French Symbolist, Paul Verlaine. The poem was inspired by a series of paintings by Jean-Antoine Watteau depicting (as Robert Gartside writes) “18th century nobility in their fêtes champètres, those elegant picnics redolent of a mixture of gaiety, …

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Fauré’s Second Piano Quintet: “Youth and Serenity”

The Piano Quintet No. 2 in C minor, Op. 115 was one of Gabriel Fauré’s final pieces. Completed in 1921, three years before the composer’s death, it retreats into the lengthening shadows of late afternoon. It’s filled with the subtle and inexplicable sense of mystery and revelation we hear often in the late works of the most canonical composers. Dedicated to Paul Dukas, it was written in secret, seemingly for posterity, at a …

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Wagner’s “Die Walküre”: Five Key Excerpts

Die Walküre (“The Valkyrie”) is the second of four operas that make up Wagner’s Ring cycle. The story, based on Norse mythology, involves the Volsung twins Sieglinde and Siegmund, who are separated at childhood. When they meet and fall in love, the gods are angry and demand that Siegmund must die. Wotan’s daughter Brünnhilde faces the retribution of the gods after valiantly saving Sieglinde and the couple’s unborn child, Siegfried. Prelude to …

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J.S. Bach: Three Adventures in B Minor

On Wednesday, we explored J.S Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2, a festive and celebratory collection of Baroque dances that is nonetheless shrouded in veiled, mysterious B minor. (It’s the only one of Bach’s four Orchestral Suites to be  set in a minor key). The nineteenth century Austrian pianist, composer, and educator Ernst Pauer believed that each musical key embodies a distinct atmosphere. He called B minor “that very melancholy key” which “tells …

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Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B Minor, The Netherlands Bach Society

Coffee and culture mixed in Leipzig in the late 1730s. Café Zimmermann provided a venue for the first performances of many of J.S. Bach’s secular cantatas and instrumental works. Between 1729 and 1739, Bach was the director of Collegium Musicum, a society founded by Georg Philipp Telemann which presented concerts at the coffeehouse. The cafe’s owner, Gottfried Zimmermann, offered the concerts to the public free of charge, making up his expenses in …

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