Music Beyond the Holocaust

  Yesterday was the seventieth anniversary of the allied liberation of Auschwitz at the end of the Second World War. Orchestras around the world, including the Richmond Symphony, commemorated the event by playing often neglected music by Jewish composers who were affected by Nazi atrocities. Music was performed frequently in the concentration camps. At Terezin, near Prague, prisoners defiantly performed Verdi’s Requiem sixteen times as a veiled condemnation of the Nazis. The conductor Raphael Schächter taught his …

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Schubert’s “Great” Ninth Symphony

Symphony No. 9…Throughout music history, this title has occupied a mythic place in the collective imagination. The symphonic output of Beethoven, Schubert, Bruckner, Dvořák, and Mahler culminated with a ninth symphony. In one way or another, all of these works, written in the final years of their composers’ lives, move beyond the ordinary into strange, mysterious and transcendent territory. They stand as awe-inspiring musical revelations. To be fair, some of these composers …

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Remembering Lorin Maazel

Conductor Lorin Maazel passed away yesterday at the age of 84. He will be remembered for his long, distinguished career and dramatic and idiosyncratic interpretations. Maazel debuted as a conductor at the age of 9, after starting violin lessons at 5. As an 11-year-old, he received an invitation from Arturo Toscanini to conduct the NBC Symphony. His music director posts included the Cleveland Orchestra (1972-1982), Vienna State Opera (1982-1984), Pittsburgh Symphony (1988-1996), Bavarian Radio Symphony …

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Song to the Moon

Four-time Grammy Award winning opera singer Renee Fleming will be singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl this coming weekend. You may remember her singing (yes, singing) David Letterman’s Top Ten list on The Late Show last year. She also appeared at the Obama Inaugural Celebration in 2009 and at Ground Zero after the September 11th attacks. I performed with the Virginia Symphony when Fleming came to Norfolk about ten years ago and …

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Music on the Tarmac

Last week, musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra made news when they turned a three hour delay on the tarmac at the Beijing airport into an impromptu concert. You can watch the now viral video of their performance of the last movement of Antonin Dvorak’s “American” String Quartet. Let’s listen to the Cleveland Quartet perform all four movements of this amazing piece. Pay attention to the way the four voices interact and trade around …

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Remembering Janos Starker

            Cellist Janos Starker died yesterday in Bloomington, Indiana at the age of 88. You can read about his extraordinary career as a performer and teacher here and here. You may also be interested in this documentary. Here is his recording of the opening movement of Bach’s Suite for Solo Cello, No. 1 in G Major: This 1956 recording of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra …

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Great Violinists on Video

Here are some inspiring violin videos from Youtube.  As a violinist, I always enjoy soaking up the musicianship of a variety of players, as well as analyzing the way each player uniquely approaches the instrument. We’ll start with Humoresque in G-Flat Major by the Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904).  This is a piece that Suzuki students know from Book 3.  Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma are accompanied by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, …

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