Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 63: Passionate Romantic Currents

From the opening bars of Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 1, we are swept into a drama filled with soaring passion and turbulence. An expansive and restless melody emerges in the violin’s darkest register. It rises and falls, propelled by swift, ever-changing arpeggiating currents in the piano. Downbeats and phrase endings vanish amid swirling canonic counterpoint between the violin and the piano’s bass register. After reaching heroic and euphoric heights, the music …

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Remembering Dale Clevenger

Dale Clevenger, the legendary principal horn player for the Chicago Symphony from 1966 to 2013, passed away on January 5. He was 81. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Clevenger began playing the horn at the age of 13. Before joining the Chicago Symphony, he was a member of Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra and the Symphony of the Air. His discography included the Grammy-winning 1968 album, The Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli, featuring the brass sections …

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Remembering Nelson Freire

Nelson Freire, the acclaimed Brazilian pianist, passed away earlier this week at his home in Rio de Janeiro. He was 77. Born in Boa Esperança, Freire began playing the piano around the age of four. One of his earliest teachers, Lucia Branco, studied with a student of Franz Liszt. At the age of 12, Freire performed Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and was a prizewinner at the Rio de Janeiro International Piano Competition. Shortly thereafter, he …

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Schumann’s “Nachtlied,” Op. 108: The Gentle Approach of Sleep

Robert Schumann’s Nachtlied, Op. 108 for eight-part chorus and orchestra drifts into the serene, magical world of sleep. Schumann composed this autumnal choral song over the course of a week in November, 1849. It is a setting of a poem by Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863) in which death is met first with fear and then with acceptance. The song begins with a sense of haunting mystery, with the obsessive repetition of a short, disjointed motif. There …

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Remembering Lynn Harrell

The American cellist Lynn Harrell passed away unexpectedly on Monday. He was 76. Years ago when I was a student one summer at the Chautauqua Institution, I attended Harrell’s masterclass and recital. His down-to-earth, irreverent sense of humor, powerful, singing tone, and profound musicianship are etched in my memory. During a career that spanned six decades, Lynn Harrell appeared regularly with the world’s top orchestras. He will be remembered also as an accomplished …

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Remembering Peter Schreier: Three Transcendent Recordings

The German opera singer and conductor Peter Schreier passed away in Dresden on Christmas Day. He was 84. Schreier will be remembered as one of the twentieth century’s greatest lyric tenors. In addition to appearances at the world’s leading opera houses, he specialized in German Lieder (songs) and other concert repertoire. He drew acclaim for his numerous performances of the Evangelist roles in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Passion. A common thread runs through …

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Maurice Duruflé’s “Four Motets on Gregorian Themes”: An Excerpt from the Houston Chamber Choir’s New Recording

Here is another brief excerpt from a Grammy nominated recording we sampled last month. It comes from the album, Duruflé: Complete Choral Works, released last April. The Houston Chamber Choir is led by its artistic director and founder Robert Simpson. The serene, timeless sounds of Gregorian chant emerge throughout the music of the twentieth century French composer and organist Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986). In Quatre Motets sur des thèmes grégoriens (“Four motets on Gregorian themes”), written in 1960, echoes …

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