Category Archives: Music

Leonore Overture #3

Opera was not Beethoven’s forte. He devoted a decade (1804-14) to tinkering with his only opera – Fidelio. Even its name changed. It was initially called Leonore; she’s the opera’s heroine and its focal point. The composer was an idealist who fervently believed in the triumph of justice over tyranny and and love over oppression….


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Julius Reubke

Frederich Julius Reubke (1834-58) is one of music’s saddest tales. Born in Hausneindorf, Germany, he was the son of an organ and piano builder. After the conclusion of his initial musical training, he moved to Berlin and the entered its conservatory. On the recommendation of conductor Hans von Bülow, Liszt agreed to teach the 21…


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Melody-2

Ask any professor of musical composition about what can be taught and he’ll tell you anything, with the notable exception of melody. The ability to consistently write great melodies is a gift capriciously bestowed that cannot be shared. Even defining what makes a melody great defies analysis. The brain seems hardwired to respond to melodies…


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Victoria de los Ángeles

Victoria de los Ángeles (1923-2005) was a Catalan soprano who had a voice of haunting beauty. Though most of her roles were the mainstays of the Italian soprano repertory, she had a rich middle and lower register that allowed her to sing mezzo roles such as Rosina in Rossini Barber and the title role of…


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Marches

The third month? No. The region on the Adriatic coast of Italy? No. The kind with music and soldiers. Though the form is typically brisk and commonly associated with parades and halftime shows, it is pliable and is often connected with less than happy events. Here are a bunch of them, in no particular order…


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Melody

The universe is not only stranger than you think, it’s stranger than you can imagine – Richard Feynman Well, a great melody is more mysterious than the universe. John Stuart Mill was said to worry that the number of great melodies was finite and that we would soon exhaust the supply. When I first heard…


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More Operatic Lunacy

The brilliant commentator Heather MacDonald has written an article detailing the latest bit of operatic and musical lunacy – Making Beethoven Woke. In it she details the the production of Fidelio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s right – the museum not the opera house. You can read all the antic details in her…


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Schumann Piano Quartet – Andante Cantabile

The third movement of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E flat has one of the greatest melodies found in music of any variety. It’s comparable to the best of Bellini or Verdi. His opus 47 was written in 1842. It closely followed his Piano Quintet (opus 44) in the same key. Both works influenced Brahms…


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Drums

The beat of a drum stirs some ancient center deep in our psyches. Opera presents numerous opportunities for percussionists. Alas, anemic conductors often fail to realize their impact. Here are a few excerpts in which the drum(s) plays an important part. First, three by Verdi. Everybody knows the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore. The struck…


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The Greatest Musical Composition Ever – V

This one is beyond great. The subject is JS Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C min BWV 582. The autograph manuscript for the piece is lost. The date of its composition is also unknown. Bach was likely in his early to mid 20s when he wrote colossal masterpiece. No one previously had written a variations…


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