Handel’s “Water Music”: Akademie für alte Musik Berlin

Handel’s festive Water Music springs to life with an infectious sense of joy and celebration in this January, 2016 live performance featuring the Akademie für alte Musik Berlin at Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw. This has to be some of the most enduring and magical party music ever written. As I outlined in a previous post, this collection of three Baroque dance suites was written for King George I’s pleasure excursion up the Thames River on the evening of July …

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An 18th Century Novelty: Music for Mechanical Organ Clock

On Wednesday, I pointed out the persistent “tick-tock” rhythm of the second movement of Haydn’s Symphony No. 101- a detail which earned the piece the nickname, The “Clock” Symphony. That got me thinking about the small collection of music, written by Haydn and other composers, for the mechanical organ clock, a popular eighteenth century luxury item which combined a clock with a small, mechanized organ. It’s a device which epitomized the scientific rationality of …

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Joyce DiDonato’s “In War and Peace”

In the midst of chaos, how do you find peace? This is the question American lyric-coloratura mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato asks with her newest album, prompted by the November 2015 Paris attacks. In War and Peace is a collection of baroque opera and oratorio arias by composers such as Handel, Purcell, and Monteverdi. The album just won a 2017 Gramophone Award. In a Gramophone Magazine interview, DiDonato said, I don’t need to represent reality in this project. …

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Handel’s “Water Music” Turns 300

Today marks the three-hundredth anniversary of the premiere of Handel’s Water Music. The collection of festive orchestral dance movements, published in three suites, was written for King George I’s pleasure excursion up the Thames River on the evening of July 17, 1717. The elaborate summer boating party was intended to lift the King’s flagging poll numbers. As an incoming tide swept the aristocratic party upriver towards Chelsea, around 50 musicians performed on a separate …

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Exploring the Sarabande Over 400 Years

No one seems to be sure, exactly, about the roots of the sarabande as a dance form. It may have originated in Mexico or some other part of Latin America. It was popular in the Spanish colonies during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The zarabanda was first mentioned in a 1593 poem, Vida y tiempo de Maricastaña, written in Panama by Fernando de Guzmán Mejía. As a dance, it was so spicy that it was considered …

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Five Musical Fireworks

It’s ironic that Independence Day in America isn’t complete without Tchaikovsky’s most famous ode to Russian nationalism: the bombastic 1812 Overture, which was written to commemorate the defeat of Napoleon’s invading army. As we head into the July Fourth holiday weekend, here are five more pieces that bring fireworks to mind: Handel: Music for the Royal Fireworks In 1749, England’s King George II employed Handel to write music for a large, outdoor public celebration in …

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Thomas Jefferson: Architect, Musician

Hierarchy is a powerful concept in architecture. Some buildings, such as Frank Gehry’s iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, or the Sydney Opera House, rising out of the harbor with its bright “sails,” grab our attention and dominate the landscape. The majestic, muscular Art Deco City Hall in Buffalo, New York is another, if less obvious, example. It nobly anchors the city’s main public square, telling us, “this place is important.” The building …

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