On a Roll: Music Inspired by the Pianola

“The main business of humanity is to do a good job of being human beings,” said Paul, “not to serve as appendages to machines, institutions, and systems.” -Kurt Vonnegut, Player Piano I foresee a marked deterioration in American music and musical taste, an interruption in the musical development of the country, and a host of other injuries to music in its artistic manifestations, by virtue -or rather by vice -of the multiplication …

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Lost and Found: The Rediscovery of Stravinsky’s Funeral Song, Op. 5

It isn’t every day that a score by a major composer disappears for 108 years and then, miraculously, resurfaces. But that’s what has happened with one of Igor Stravinsky’s earliest works. The manuscript of the long-lost Funeral Song, Op. 5 was found at the St Petersburg Conservatoire last year. It was written as a tribute to Stravinsky’s teacher, Rimsky-Korsakov, and was performed only once in 1909. That is, until last Friday when Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra …

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Leonidas Kavakos’ New “Virtuoso” Album

Greek violinist Leonidas Kavakos’ newest album, Virtuoso, was released on the Decca Classics label on April 1. It’s a fascinating collection of short violin showpieces. Some are well known favorites: Sarasate’s Caprice Basque, Op.24  and Romanza andaluza, Op. 22, No.1, Paganini’s Introduction And Variations On “Nel Cor Piu Non Mi Sento” and Variations on God Save the King. But there are also some fascinating surprises. One of the recording’s seldom-heard gems is the haunting Reveille, a piece written in 1937 by a 24-year-old …

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Kleinhans Music Hall Turns 75

  Today marks the 75th anniversary of the opening of Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York. Home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Kleinhans is considered one of the world’s most acoustically perfect concert halls. It’s also one of Buffalo’s most significant architectural landmarks. Located in a leafy residential neighborhood just north of the city’s downtown, it anchors majestic Symphony Circle, part of Frederick Law Olmsted’s extensive parkway system which runs throughout …

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Stravinsky’s Illegal "Star Spangled Banner" Arrangement

Did the Boston Police really arrest Igor Stravinsky in 1943 for adding a dominant seventh chord to the Star Spangled Banner? The unlikely mug shot, above, seems to back up the story…until you look carefully at the date. The tale is an enticing urban legend of twentieth century music history, rooted in a few grains of truth. The “mug shot” was actually taken for a 1940 visa application. Stravinsky emigrated to the United …

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Bring on the Wascally Wabbit

The Richmond Symphony season is winding down. But this weekend we’ll be busy performing the popular touring show, Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II with conductor George Daugherty. The show is a tribute to the music of classic Warner Brothers’ cartoons. Generations of viewers gained an exposure to classical music through these zany cartoons, which included: Schoenberg Meets Looney Tunes Cartoons had an interesting influence on John Adams’ Chamber Symphony, written in 1992. Here is an excerpt …

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Washington’s Birthday

Washington’s Birthday, the first movement of Charles Ives’ Holiday Symphony, emerges out of the desolate, snowy gloom of a midwinter night in rural New England. The music feels strangely amorphous, as if we’ve suddenly slipped into a dream. As we enter this sonic dreamscape, it’s easy to get the sense that we’re joining music already in progress. Who knows where or when it began? Drifting from one hazy moment to the next, we …

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