Schubert’s Fifth Symphony: In Search of “Magic Tones”

On June 13, 1816 the 19-year-old Franz Schubert wrote in his diary, This day will haunt me for the rest of my life as a bright, clear, and lovely one. Gently, and as from a distance, the magic tones of Mozart’s music sound in my ears. With what alternate force and tenderness, with what masterly power did Schlesinger’s playing of that music impress it deep, deep in my heart! Thus do these …

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Mahler’s Seventh Symphony: A Journey Through the Night

The Seventh may be the most strange and enigmatic of Gustav Mahler’s nine completed symphonies. Its five symmetrically arranged movements take us on a mysterious and haunting journey into the night. This is music that attracted the young Arnold Schoenberg, who heard the crumbling of romanticism in the Seventh Symphony’s daring and sometimes disquieting modernism. Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony, completed in 1906—a year after Mahler completed the Seventh Symphony—contains many themes built …

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Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony: Iván Fischer and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra

Wagner called Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony “the apotheosis of dance.” This quality is evident in Iván Fischer’s spectacular January, 2014 performance with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. It isn’t that we hear “dance music” in this sunny, spirited, A major romp of a Symphony. Instead, it’s the instrumental voices of the orchestra which seem to enter into a sublime “dance.” One by one, they come to life and weave together in between the celebratory chords of the opening …

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Shostakovich’s Tenth Symphony

It’s impossible to separate the music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) from the horrors and repression of Soviet life under Stalin. In a brutal society glued together by coercive thought control, constant fear, and the execution of between eight and 20 million people, art had the capacity to articulate truths otherwise unspeakable. This made Shostakovich’s music dangerous, as this quote by the composer suggests: Music illuminates a person and provides him with his …

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