Jón Leifs' Organ Concerto (jump to 21:30) was played tonight as part of the BBC Proms classical music program by organist Stephen Farr and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo. Farr recounts the work's strange story, first performed by the Berlin Philharmonic in 1941 to walk-outs and booing. Jón Leifs' own story is strange enough. After gaining prominence in post-WWI Germany, he was popular in Nazi circles for a few years, but became a persona non grata. Nonetheless, he, his Jewish wife and their two daughters received permission to leave for Sweden in 1944. After his death in 1968, he seemed headed for obscurity but some pieces became popular, such as the Requiem for his daughter. In recent years he's gained some ardent fans, such as Alex Ross of The New Yorker. For more, read this collection of reviews of recordings Leifs' work.
Gustavo Dudamel conducts the La Scala Orchestra in Felix Mendelssohn's Fourth Symphony. Second movement. Third movement. Fourth movement. The Los Angeles Philharmonic's program notes on the piece. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's extended video about the piece's composition, "Why Italy?" [more inside]
Carlos Kleiber conducts the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Second movement. Third movement. Fourth movement. Christopher H. Gibbs of the Philadelphia Orchestra writes about the piece for NPR. Classical Notes discusses the piece in detail. [more inside]
Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in Mozart's 40th Symphony. Second movement. Third movement. Fourth movement. The famous chromatic bit at the start of the development of the fourth movement. Program notes written for a performance of the piece by Redwood Symphony. [more inside]
Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in Johannes Brahms's First Symphony. Second movement. Third movement. Fourth movement. Listening guide to a Bernstein performance with the Vienna Philharmonic from 1983, two years after this one. Tom Service writes about the piece in The Guardian. [more inside]
Leonard Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic in Antonin Dvorak's Ninth Symphony ("From the New World"). Second movement. Third movement. Fourth movement. Bernstein talks about the piece for a Book of the Month Club "appreciation record." Tom Service writes about it in the Guardian. [more inside]
Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in Mahler's Fifth Symphony. Starting from the second, third, fourth, and fifth movements. [more inside]
In December, grad student and occasional NYT music writer Will Robin asked on Twitter, "What are the best large-scale orchestral works of this century?" He Storified the responses, with links for listening, and then on Tuesday, streamed the result: Symphomania, a 24-hour marathon of sixty 21st-century orchestral works by sixty different composers, on Q2 Music at WQXR in New York. Starting tonight at midnight, WQXR is repeating the stream. [more inside]
The New York Youth Symphony has been accused of censorship after canceling a piece that quotes the Horst Wessel Song. The youth orchestra said on Tuesday it was canceling the premiere of Marsh u Nebuttya, a nine-minute work by Jonas Tarm, after the organization realized the piece contains a 45-second snippet of the “Horst Wessel” song, the Nazi anthem. Tarm is a third-year composition student at the New England Conservatory of Music; the piece is said to pay tribute to victims of totalitarianism and war by incorporating brief historical themes from the Soviet era and Nazi Germany. The New York Times also reports.
Bach on the A train. Every year on March 21, Johann Sebastian Bach’s birthday, musicians around the world celebrate Bach in the Subways Day by offering free performances in subways and other public spaces. Performances are planned in Bonn, Berkeley, Seoul, Portland, Amherst, (which doesn't have a subway so the performance will be at a Subway), Singapore, and Budapest, among many others.
In 2010 Garrick Ohlsson, the first American to win The International Chopin Piano Competition (in 1970), delivered an insightful 80-minute lecture (plus Q&A) at UC Berkeley about what exactly makes Chopin's music so great. Highly recommended for anyone that likes seeing people who are really passionate about something explain their passion.
"[P]eople who read staff notation ... were middle-class; and those who used alternative notation systems, such as the Tonic Sol-fa method, which was widely used for choral singing in the nineteenth century ... were predominantly working-class." Sociologist Anna Bull on how classical music, and the way it is taught, reproduces class inequality.
Beethoven's bad influence - Alex Ross ponders if veneration of him stifled his successors.
In 1930, a 29-year-old composer named Ruth Crawford (wiki) became the first woman to ever receive a Guggenheim fellowship—despite the chairman of the awards wondering, of women composers, "Is there any such beast?" The next year she wrote her modernist masterpiece String Quartet. [more inside]
Cameron Carpenter is a classical organist who takes his instrument very seriously. If you want to hear him play, check out his versions of Schubert's Erlkönig, Chopin's Revolutionary Étude, and his mostly Bach program at the 2012 BBC Proms (Toccata and Fugue in D minor excerpted here). For more background, see this NYT interview. But please watch that first video at least once -- you won't regret it.
Valentina Lisitsa is a classical pianist who credits her current fame to YouTube, where she has uploaded more than 200 videos of her performances. Were it not for the popularity of these videos (Beethoven "Moonlight" Sonata op 27 # 2 Mov 3 - 7 million views; Beethoven "Für Elise" - 4 million; Liszt "La Campanella" - 3 million), she would be, in her own words, "totally dead" in "the age of child prodigies". Her newest work is not a thousand notes a minute as featured in some of her popular videos, but more minimal, as heard in "The Heart Asks Pleasure First," the first track from her album (Soundcloud snippet preview of all tracks) of music by minimalist composer Michael Nyman. [more inside]
All of Bach: Every week, you will find a new recording here of one Johann Sebastian Bach’s 1080 works, performed by The Netherlands Bach Society and many guest musicians.
"Nobody would believe how difficult it is to be the mother of a Wunderkind. Everything I do is wrong; everything the child does is “for effect”; everything we say is utterly untrue. If Vivien runs up to me and kisses me, I hear it murmured that she is trained to do so. (“Whipped to be affectionate in public!”) So I tell her never to do it again. Immediately people remark how cold I am to the child; how the poor little creature evidently fears me and prefers Fräulein Muller. We take her with her hoop and skipping-rope to play in the park? It is said we make her pretend to be infantine, force her to act the “happy child” when people are looking on! So we take her toys from her and conduct her for prim walks between us. “Poor little unnatural creature!” say our friends: “she has no child-life at all.” The Devourer and the Devoured is a long essay by Emily Hogstad about the intertwined lives of the novelist Annie Vivanti and her daughter Vivien Chartres, a world-famous violin prodigy, at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Górecki's 4th Symphony premiered this past weekend. Left unfinished, but near completion, at his death, it has been now been finished by his son, Mikołaj Górecki, who describes the work as "very different from its immediate predecessor … and is closer to monumental works like Symphony No 2 or Beatus Vir and to later pieces with Tatra folk influences such as the Little Requiem." The immediate predecessor, Symphony No 3, was hugely successful, selling over a million CD copies. The Guardian hosts the video of the performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and tells the story behind the posthumous premiere.
Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known Holocaust survivor and subject of the film "The Lady in Number Six" has died at the age of 110. Before World War II, Alice was a concert pianist who travelled across Europe. During the war, Alice's mother and husband were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered, and Alice and her six year old son were sent to Theresienstadt. Alice performed more than 100 concerts at Theresienstadt, and immigrated to Israel with her son after surviving the camp. [more inside]
World Concert Hall publishes a schedule, seven days out, of live classical concerts and operas scheduled for streaming broadcast on the web.
Last month, the Vine Orchestra held a call for orchestral scores with durations of less than 6 seconds. Over 150 compositions were entered, and 52 compositions were performed and recorded on December 1st. You can find all 52 on their youtube playlist. [more inside]
This poster has written this Metafilter post of music specially to introduce you to the instruments of the orchestra. There are four teams of players; the STRINGS, the WOODWIND, the BRASS, and the PERCUSSION. Each of these four teams uses instruments which have a family likeness. They make roughly the same kind of sound in the same way. The STRINGS are played with a bow or plucked by the fingers. The WOODWIND are blown by the breath. The BRASS are blown too. The PERCUSSION are banged. Now we have taken the whole Orchestra to pieces. We have no intention of putting it together again. [more inside]
The sound of silence - Research by Dr. Chia-Jung Tsay published in PNAS suggests that top musicians are judged as much for the visual aspects of their performances, as much as for the aural ones, regardless of the experience level of the listener or judge
America's Orchestras are in Crisis : How an effort to popularize classical music undermines what makes orchestras great.
Droning around New York's Cooper Union (a free-tuition school since 1859 - until this year) on OpenStreetMap, I discovered that it really ties the room together. Nearby are the offices of Village Voice news, Kristal's CBGB site, the Anthology Film Archives, Washington Square, Union Square and ... Antonin Dvorak?? Why's a Czech composer a site in Lower Manhattan? Lets do the James Burke ... [more inside]
Several members of the Philadelphia Orchestra were on a flight from Bejing to Macao that got stuck on the tarmac for three hours. With nothing better to do, the musicians resorted to doing what they do best...
"Note that Scriabin did not, for his theory, recognize a difference between a major and a minor tonality of the same name (for example: c-minor and C-Major). Indeed, influenced also by the doctrines of theosophy, he developed his system of synesthesia toward what would have been a pioneering multimedia performance: his unrealized magnum opus Mysterium was to have been a grand week-long performance including music, scent, dance, and light in the foothills of the Himalayas Mountains that was somehow to bring about the dissolution of the world in bliss." - From Russian composer Alexander Scriabin's Wikipedia page [more inside]
(SLYT) Not your average flashmob.
The best classical performance you've never heard: the remarkable violinist Amandine Beyer plays the Diverse Bizzarrie Sopra La Vecchia Sarabanda Ò Pur Ciaccona, by 17th-century composer Nicola Matteis. Here she discusses trying to recreate Matteis's original violin technique, to understand why the Baroque composer, whose work pre-dates Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote his pieces the way he did. Previously, Beyer and her ensemble Gli Incogniti breathed life into one of classical music's most overplayed masterpieces, Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
It's the turn of the 90s and you're back in the USSR, sitting on the Persian carpet that covers every inch of your Soviet living room and facing the old Rubin-714 set. As the clock strikes nine, you hear those familiar strains… [more inside]
If you were watching the Orioles-A's game from Camden Yards tonight, you saw a guy playing the National Anthem on an electric violin made out of a baseball bat. This is how that looks and sounds. This is the guy talking about and showing off his Louisville Slugger violin. And this is the Washington Post profile of Glenn Donnellan, a violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra and the maker and player of the world's only electric baseball bat violin.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is well-known for having been a child prodigy. A previously unknown composition of his, dated c. 1767, when he would have been 11 years old, (PDF of score) had it's premiere earlier this week. [more inside]
What's it like to play Bach with synaesthesia?
The Music Ngram Viewer from Peachnote tracks appearances of any given note or chord sequence in a corpus of 60,000 optically scanned public-domain classical scores, ranging from the 17th century to the present -- a la what Google Ngram Viewer does for words and phrases. A fuller description with examples. And if you don't like the Google-esque GUI, you can download the raw data and mess with it yourself. (Via Music Hack Day Boston.)
For centuries, Renaissance composer Alessandro Striggio's "Missa sopra Ecco sì beato giorno", an enormous setting of the Mass for 40 and 60 voices, was thought to be lost to the ages. A few years ago, UC Berkeley musicologist Davitt Moroney discovered that a copy of the work, attributed to a non-existent composer, was hiding right under our noses, in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. In an hour-long lecture titled "The Pope, the Emperor and the Grand Duke", Professor Moroney recounts the story of the Mass's disappearance and rediscovery, describes the historical significance of the music, and unravels the intriguing geopolitical landscape of 16th century Italy.
Sir Roger Moore (recently on MeFi) performs recitations to introduce each segment of Saint-Saëns' 1886 suite Le carnaval des animaux ("The Carnival of Animals") [more inside]
The Australian ABC's Limelight magazine has put together a potted history of music, with video examples (40LYTP). [more inside]
Cellist Zoë Keating describes her music as "the fusion of information architecture and classical music," and uses a traditional French cello and a foot-controlled MacBook to create lush, multi-layered cello music. From 2002 to 2006 she was a member of Rasputina, and more recently she played with Amanda Palmer. Keating has prospered online through iTunes and her website; her new album, Into the Trees, is streaming free and can be purchased on her website, and you can watch her perform some older pieces on her Youtube channel. [Via]
Showing Off is a series of videos, audio clips and articles in which noted music journalist and Frankie Goes to Hollywood mastermind Paul Morley explores various facets of music. Each month has a theme, [warning: most links have autoplaying video] Michael Jackson, Kraftwerk, classical music, disco, The Beatles, folk music, The X Factor, the Noughties, the next big thing, UK hip hop, jazz, and dance. Here is some of what's on offer: MeFi faves Dan Le Sac and Scroobius Pip on hip hop, These New Puritans' Jack Barnett, Johnny Marr on folk (parts 1, 2), but isn't all just interviews, there are also a lot of performances, e.g. Michael Nyman and David McAlmont, Badly Drawn Boy, Susanna Wallumrød covers Thin Lizzy's Jailbreak, and Cornershop cover Norwegian Wood.
The Great Empire of China has a fantastic archive of traditional, classical and even modern Chinese music excerpts and several full musical suites, including some pieces from Chinese opera. National Geographic has a short breakdown on regional variations in traditional music in China. Chinese opera is very different than Western opera. Here are some great pictures of singers. [more inside]
Mindaugas Piečaitis has performed his "CATcerto," an original score written to accompany Nora The Piano Cat's piano improvisation. Here's the video of kitty with orchestra. [more inside]
Over the past few years, Eric Whitacre has been taking the composition world by storm. And now he's all over the web. (Most links silent, personal website has an autoplay rainstorm going on.) His choral works range from the mysterious and brooding Water Night to the rambunctious modern madrigal, With a Lily In Your Hand, to the wonderfully lush Sleep (formerly a setting of Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" - tragically halted by copyright infringement, but still available thanks to the magic of YouTube). While his instrumental compositions run the spectrum from silly musical parody (Godzilla Eats Las Vegas) to poignant melancholy (October) with some delicate crossover between vocal and instrumental (Lux Aurumque - first choral, then instrumental!). If you are or think you may be even remotely interested in contemporary classical music, you owe it to yourself to become familiar with the work of Eric Whitacre.
Classical Music at the European Archive. Free and legal lossless downloads of out-of-copyright recordings. Formats include WAV, FLAC, MP3 & Ogg.
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