Composers on Holiday: Five Pieces Written on Summer Vacation

Summer is here. For professional orchestral musicians, that means a brief respite from the weekly routine of the main concert season. Soon it will be time for summer seasons and music festivals, many featuring outdoor concerts in such idyllic locations as Chautauqua, Vail, and the Tetons. Summer has typically been a productive time for composers. Gustav Mahler, one of the most prominent conductors of his time, retreated to isolated rural settings in …

Read more

The Pastoral Sounds of Brahms’ Second

When it came to the symphony, Johannes Brahms was haunted by a ghost. Approaching the age of 40, Brahms declared, “I shall never write a symphony! You can’t have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you!” That giant was Beethoven, who elevated the symphony to new, and previously unimaginable, dramatic heights. As a result, it took Brahms fifteen years to complete his First Symphony. Set in the …

Read more

The Tetzlaff Trio Plays Brahms

Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8 is a piece that bookended the compositional career of Johannes Brahms. In 1854, it became the 21-year-old composer’s first published chamber music composition. As Brahms prepared for retirement over thirty years later in 1890, he returned to this early work for minor revisions. He said, “I didn’t provide it with a new wig, just combed and arranged its hair a little.” The revised version (featured below) is …

Read more

The Lonely Introspection of Brahms’ Op. 116, No. 4

  Let’s finish the week with Johannes Brahms’ Intermezzo in E major, No. 4 from the Seven Fantasies, Op. 116 for piano. Written in 1892 in the final years of Brahms’ life, this is music infused with a deep sense of lonely introspection. It draws us into a dreamlike world where every chord and hesitating pause seem to have something important to say. There are moments when the rhythmic feel changes in interesting ways, obliterating our …

Read more

Roman Totenberg’s Lost Strad Resurfaces

  An incredible violin-related news story broke yesterday. The 1734 Ames Stradivarius, stolen in 1980 from legendary Polish-American violinist Roman Totenberg, has been recovered by the FBI. The violin, valued at $250,000 when it was stolen and now estimated to be worth upwards of $5 million, was snatched from Totenberg’s office at the Longy School of Music as the violinist greeted well-wishers following a concert. Fine instruments commonly disappear into a private collection …

Read more

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 …

Read more

Brahms’s Waltz in A-Flat Major

Here is a great 2011 concert performance of Brahms’s Waltz No. 15 in A-Flat Major, Op. 39. The pianist is Leopoldo Lipstein. Listen to Richter Haaser play the complete set of sixteen waltzes here. Did you notice the way the melody reaches higher with each phrase, climaxing at 1:01 only to fall back? There are also some fun harmonic surprises as Brahms shifts briefly into minor (around 0:30) and sequences in the “B” section (0:52-1:06). It’s …

Read more

Send this to a friend