Brahms’ “Tiny” Second Piano Concerto

I have written a tiny little piano concerto with a tiny little wisp of a scherzo. This is what Johannes Brahms wrote, jokingly, following the completion of his Second Piano Concerto in B-flat Major. In reality, he had composed one of the most monumental piano concertos ever imagined- a concerto set in four movements rather than the customary three, which unfolds as a virtual symphony for piano and orchestra instead of the …

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Five Great Perlman Recordings

This weekend, Itzhak Perlman will join the Richmond Symphony for our season-opening Masterworks program. The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is on the program for this already-sold-out concert. And unlike this recent BNY Mellon TV commercial, it’s safe to assume Rhea Perlman will not be attempting to fill in. (That’s the introduction of the Mendelssohn in the background of the commercial). Perlman is one of a handful of musicians who has achieved genuine celebrity status …

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Three B’s for the First Day of School

 The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, passion. To study music, we must learn the rules. To create music, we must break them. Without discipline, there can be no freedom. Music was not invented by the composer, but found. -Nadia Boulanger It’s that time of year again. As students of all ages head back to school, let’s listen to education-related pieces by the three B’s…Brahms, Boulanger, and Barber. …

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Oistrakh Plays Brahms

Here is a soulful performance of Johannes Brahms’ final violin sonata, the Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108. This classic live concert performance was taken from a March 18, 1970 recital at New York’s Alice Tully Hall featuring the legendary Soviet violinist David Oistrakh and pianist Sviatoslav Richter. The audio quality is less than perfect and the camera angle frequently provides the page turner’s perspective. Yet Oistrakh’s sumptuous, golden tone and noble …

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3 Musical Allusions to Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”

And He shall reign forever and ever… It’s one of the most recognizable passages in all of music…ten downward-stepping pitches which somehow evoke the ultimate sense of joy and triumph. The Hallelujah Chorus closes Part II of Messiah, Handel’s most famous oratorio, with a burst of D major combined with trumpets and drums. George II was so moved when he heard the opening introduction that he rose to his feet and remained standing for the …

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Remembering Kurt Masur: Five Great Recordings

Conductor Kurt Masur passed away on December 19, following a battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 88. Masur will be remembered for his 26-year association (beginning in 1970) with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, a storied ensemble once led by Felix Mendelssohn. Kurt Masur brought powerful political, as well as musical, leadership to Leipzig. In 1981, following the destruction of the previous Gewandhaus in the fire-bombings of the Second World War forty years earlier, he …

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The Mercurial Romanticism of Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73

Listening to Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73 forces us to live in and enjoy the moment. The three short “Fantasy Pieces,” written in just over two days in February, 1849, are filled with abrupt, slightly schizophrenic, changes in mood. Moments of deep introspection, followed by bursts of euphoria, remind us of Florestan and Eusebius, the split personalities which inhabit much of Schumann’s music. In the Fantasy Pieces, each delightful and unexpected harmonic shift whisks …

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