1938 Recording: Manuel de Falla’s “Spanish Dance No. 1,” Fritz Kreisler

Manuel de Falla’s 1913 two act opera, La vida breve (“Life is Short”), is rarely performed today. Set in Granada, it tells the story of a young gypsy girl, Salud, who falls in love with the wealthy and seductive Paco. Despite their vow of eternal love, Paco abandons Salud to marry a woman of his own social class to whom he was already engaged. At the end of Paco’s wedding reception, he denies knowing Salud …

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Manuel de Falla’s “The Three-Cornered Hat” Dances, Alicia de Larrocha

Manuel de Falla’s ballet score, El sombrero de tres picos (“The Three-Cornered Hat”) bathes in the bright colors of a searing Iberian sun. Filled with the infectious rhythms of Spanish dance, it is music which is sultry, exotic, and at times tantalizingly mysterious. The Three-Cornered Hat was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev in 1919 and premiered the same year in London by the Ballets Russes. It expanded on de Falla’s two-scene pantomime, The Magistrate and the …

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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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Bright Blue Music

As a followup to last Wednesday’s post, here is another exuberant slice of musical postmodernism by American composer Michael Torke (b. 1961). Bright Blue Music (1985) is a celebration of one of the most basic and fundamental building blocks of tonal music: the pull of the V chord (the dominant) back home to I (tonic). Throughout the twentieth century many composers avoided tonal relationships altogether, which makes the opening of Bright Blue Music, with its conventional …

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Happy Birthday, Carl Flesch

Yesterday marked the anniversary of the birth of influential Hungarian-born violinist and pedagogue Carl Flesch (1873-1944). As a teacher, Flesch produced some of the twentieth century’s most notable violinists, including Henryk Szeryng, Ginette Neveu, Josef Hassid, Ivry Gitlis, and Ida Haendel. His book, Art of Violin Playing and his Scale System are still used today. Boris Schwartz, a student of Flesch and the author of Great Masters of the Violin, writes: His dominant quality seemed …

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