Category Archives: Music

Finale 25: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11 in G Minor, Op. 103 “The Year 1905”- 4. The Tocsin

Written and first performed in 1957, Shostakovich’s Symphony #11 was ostensibly about the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905. Everything the composer wrote or said after Stalin squashed him in 1935 because the dictator was offended by Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk has to be decoded. He composed the piece in the wake of the Soviet repression…


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Why Contemporary Music Fails

Look to the boxoffice; the theater was meant to be full. Giuseppe Verdi to a young composer upset about the critics’ reaction to his compositions. The music discussed here is that of Western Europe which is typically called classical music. I’ll include opera and related vocal music under the same rubric. While largely the child…


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Richard Tauber

A reader recently asked why I had not written anything about Richard Tauber. I didn’t have a good answer and said I would; this is it. Tauber (1891-1948) was born in Linz, Austria to an unmarried actress. His father was an actor Richard Anton Tauber who eventually acknowledged him and took over his upbringing. Young…


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Rossini String Sonatas

Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) grew up in a musical and operatic family; his mother was a singer and his father a horn player. He is the only composer to write multiple masterpieces before reaching 25: Tancredi, L’italiana in Algeri, Il turco in Italia, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Otello, ossia Il moro di Venezia, and La Cenerentola….


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Hamilton in HD

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton is the most successful stage musical of the current century. Three performances of the show were recorded in 2016. They were melded into a single version which was intended for to be shown in movie theaters. Miranda sold the distribution rights to Disney for…


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Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans – Book Review

In 1922 Louis Armstrong left his native city and went to Chicago to play second cornet for Joe Oliver’s Band. This book is his story leading up to the move that would bring him fame and riches. The autobiography was first published in 1954 and reissued in 1986. In the introduction to the second edition…


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The Invention of Jazz

The conventional view is that jazz is an American art form that originated in African-American communities of New Orleans. It was a derivative of blues and ragtime. Over time it split into many branches. When one thinks of the original New Orleans version, names like King Oliver (1881-1938), Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1940), and Louis Armstrong…


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Opera Interludes

My subject is the instrumental music that occurs during a scene or between two. Excluded are overtures, preludes, and ballet music. Sometimes the distinction between an interlude or intermezzo and a prelude can be precious, but if the music below is called an interlude, an intermezzo, or in one case a meditation I accepted it…


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Haydn Piano Trios

No great composer wrote as much music as did Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The quality of his music as as great as its amount. So vast is his output that it’s hard to count them. He is famed as the father of both the string quartet and the symphony. He wrote 68 of the former and…


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Chamber Music By Opera Composers

Most opera composers are specialists. There are only four greats who are equally noted for both operatic and instrumental music – Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, and Strauss. Chamber music is defined as: “Instrumental music played by a small ensemble, with one player to a part, the most important form being the string quartet which developed in…


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