Thursday, April 17, 2014
I shall never be converted, and I shall remain true to my old religion of the classics until my life’s end. Richard Strauss

Bach - The Art of the Fugue - Contrapunctus V

Performed by the Emerson String Quartet

The early manuscript of The Art of Fugue, as well as the first printed editions, use open scoring, where each voice is written on its own staff. This has led to the assumption that The Art of Fugue was an intellectual exercise, meant to be studied and not heard. Some musicologists today, such as Gustav Leonhardt, argue that The Art of Fugue was probably intended to be played on a keyboard instrument (and specifically the harpsichord). However, opponents of Leonhardt’s theory such as Reinhard Goebel argue that: The Art of Fugue is not completely playable on a keyboard.
The open score probably means that Bach didn’t suggest any preference and that therefore the Art of Fugue can be performed by various ensembles, to personal taste.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy in the latter’s apartment in the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, Paris; photo by Erik Satie, June 1910.


Igor Stravinsky and Claude Debussy in the latter’s apartment in the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, Paris; photo by Erik Satie, June 1910.

Friday, April 11, 2014
I did my work slowly, drop by drop. I tore it out of me by pieces. Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 – December 28, 1937)
Monday, April 7, 2014

Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C sharp minor

Performed by Alfred Brendel

Sunday, April 6, 2014
William Michael Harnett - Still Life—Violin and Music (1888)

William Michael Harnett - Still Life—Violin and Music (1888)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Brahms - “Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht” (“Good evening, good night”), Op. 49, No. 4

Cradle Song is the common name for a number of children’s lullabies with similar lyrics, the original of which was Johannes Brahms’s “Wiegenlied: Guten Abend, gute Nacht” (“Good evening, good night”), Op. 49, No. 4, published in 1868 and widely known as Brahms’s Lullaby.

The lyrics of the first verse are from a collection of German folk poems called Des Knaben Wunderhorn and the second stanza was written by Georg Scherer in 1849. The lullaby’s melody is one of the most famous and recognizable in the world, used by countless parents to sing their babies to sleep. The Lullaby was dedicated to Brahms’s friend, Bertha Faber, on the occasion of the birth of her second son. Brahms had been in love with her in her youth and constructed the melody of the Wiegenlied to suggest, as a hidden counter-melody, a song she used to sing to him. The lullaby was first performed in public on 22 December 1869 in Vienna by Louise Dustmann (singer) and Clara Schumann (piano).

Performed by Maureen Forrester, contralto and John Newmark, piano.

Schumann - Dichterliebe Op. 48, No. 1 - Im wunderschönen Monat Mai


Im wunderschönen Monat Mai,
als alle Knospen sprangen,
da ist in meinem Herzen
die Liebe aufgegangen.

Im wunderschönen Monat Mai,
als alle Vögel sangen,
da hab’ ich ihr gestanden
mein Sehnen und Verlangen.

English Translation:

In the wonderfully fair month of May,
as all the flower-buds burst,
then in my heart
love arose.

In the wonderfully fair month of May,
as all the birds were singing,
then I confessed to her
my yearning and longing.

Performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone and Alfred Brendel, piano. Recorded in July 1985.

And what classical music does best and must always do more, is to show this kind of transformation of moods, to show a very wide psychological voyage. And I think that’s something that we as classical musicians have underestimated. Michael Tilson Thomas
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven by W. Strasser


Ludwig van Beethoven by W. Strasser

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Beethoven - Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97 (“Archduke Trio”) - I. Allegro moderato

Performed by Isaac Stern (violin), Leonard Rose (cello), and Eugene Istomin (piano)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Beethoven - Violin Sonata No. 1, Op. 12 No. 1 - I. Allegro con brio

Performed by Isaac Stern, violin and Eugene Istomin, piano

Monday, March 24, 2014

Rachmaninoff - Isle of the Dead, Op. 29

Isle of the Dead is a symphonic poem composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff. It was inspired by Arnold Böcklin’s painting, Isle of the Dead, which Rachmaninoff saw in Paris in 1907. He concluded the composition while staying in Dresden in 1908.
It is considered a classic example of Russian late-Romanticism of the beginning of the 20th century. The music begins by suggesting the sound of the oars of Charon as they meet the waters of the river Styx. Rachmaninoff then uses a recurring figure in 5/8 time to depict what may be the rowing of the oarsman or the movement of the water, and as in several other of his works, quotes the Dies Irae plainchant, an allusion to death. In contrast to the theme of death, the 5/8 time also depicts breathing, creating a holistic reflection on how life and death are intertwined.

Performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Fritz Reiner

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scriabin - Sonata No. 9, Op. 68 Black Mass

The ninth sonata is a single movement. Like Scriabin’s other late works, the piece is highly chromatic and atonal. The Black Mass Sonata is particularly dissonant because many of its themes are based around an interval of a minor ninth, one of the most unstable sounds. Its marking ‘legendaire’ exactly captures the sense of distant mysterious wailing which grows in force and menace.

The opening theme is constantly transformed, from the early trill arpeggio’s sounding unsettling and then completely shifting, eventually tumbling in rapid cascades into a grotesque march. Scriabin builds a continuous structure of mounting complexity and tension, and pursues the combination of themes with unusual tenacity, eventually reaching a climax as harsh as anything in his music. The piece ends with the original theme reinstated.

Like Scriabin’s other sonatas, it is both technically and musically highly demanding for the pianist, sometimes extending to three staves as opposed to the standard two used in piano music.

Friday, March 21, 2014
[About the Mystic chord:] “This is not a dominant chord, but a basic chord, a consonance. It is true—it sounds soft, like a consonance. Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)