Dvořák’s Sixth Symphony: Sunny Bohemian Pastures

Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6 is the music of sunny Bohemian pastures. Warm, effortlessly flowing melodies meet the fiery, exuberant rhythms of a Czech folk dance. A sense of blissful, bucolic grandeur permeates the entire Symphony. As the biographer Otakar Sourek noted, “it breathes the sweet fragrance and unspoiled beauty of Czech woods and meadows.” Dvořák’s first five symphonies can be heard as exercises in the mastery of the form. In the …

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Asmik Grigorian Sings Tchaikovsky

On April 14, the Lithuanian soprano, Asmik Grigorian, performed a live-streamed recital at Congress Hall in Vilnius. Although no audience could be admitted, Grigorian’s mother, Irena Milkevičiūtė was in attendance. Milkevičiūtė, a famous opera singer in her own right, celebrated her birthday on the same day. Asmik’s father was the Armenian tenor, Gegham Grigorian. Three Romances The program included three of Tchaikovsky’s Romances for voice and piano. All three songs are tinged with …

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Scriabin’s “Prometheus, The Poem of Fire”: Revelations of the “Mystic Chord”

In Greek mythology, the Titan and “supreme trickster” Prometheus steals fire from the gods and brings it to humanity in defiance of Zeus. For the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), Prometheus’ fire symbolized searing creative energy and an ecstatic expansion of human consciousness. Influenced by mysticism, Theosophy, and the theories of Nietzsche, Scriabin believed that the highest calling of humanity was to escape the physical world and enter a vast “oneness” with the …

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Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp in C Major: A Parisian Sojourn

In April of 1778, the 22-year-old Mozart traveled to Paris in an attempt to broaden his horizons and further his career. The trip was less than successful and in letters home Mozart complained about the city’s dirty streets and residents, whom he found “rude and obnoxious, filled with arrogance and obsessed with self-importance.” One of the pieces that resulted from Mozart’s Parisian sojourn was the Concerto for Flute and Harp in C …

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Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No. 10: “The Sun’s Kisses”

The Russian composer Alexander Scriabin once said, My Tenth Sonata is a sonata of insects. Insects are born from the sun…they are the sun’s kisses…How unified world-understanding is when you look at things this way. In science all is dis-unified, not made into one. It is analysis, not synthesis. For the deeply mystical Scriabin, the circle of fifths became a vibrant color wheel in which musical keys were experienced through synesthesia. Influenced …

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Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings: Nocturnal Melodies

The word serenade brings to mind serene music of the evening. In the Middle Ages, the serenade was a musical greeting performed for a friend or lover. Later, it evolved into a divertimento with a series of contrasting movements. Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik may be the most famous example of this kind of light party music. Brahms’ two serenades were more weighty. They served as stepping stones for a composer who was dedicated to perfecting his …

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Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto: Youthful Charm

Of Beethoven’s five piano concertos, No. 2 in B-flat major is the least well known. Written primarily between 1787 and 1789, it is some of the composer’s most youthful and vibrant music. In terms of scoring and structure, it follows the model of Mozart. As with Mozart’s concertos, the solo piano and orchestral lines blend together into a sublime musical conversation. The premiere took place in March of 1795 at a charity …

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