Category Archives: Music

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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The Greatest Musical Composition Ever – IV

This one is so good that it could justify the title. Schubert’s String Quintet in C Maj was written during the last two months of his achingly short life. The composer died in 1828. Schubert’s once in a millenium genius was not widely recognized until well after his death. The quintet was not performed until…


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The Greatest Musical Composition Ever – III

My exercise in hyperbolic analysis continues with Beethoven’s Missa solemnis (Op 123), specifically the Benedictus. Written between 1819-23, the mass was first performed in Saint Petersburg, Russia in 1824. It’s part of the composer’s late period that produced a series of stupendous masterpieces such as the 9th Symphony, the Diabelli Variations. the Hammerklavier Sonata, and…


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Chamber Music Kings

Three composers who though they wrote in many forms are particularly remembered for their chamber music. First up is George Onslow (1784-1853). He was born to an English father and a French mother. His grandfather was the first Earl of Onslow. Born to wealth he never lacked for money and was able to self-subsidize his…


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On Musical Performance

For a long time I thought that the role of the performer was simply to play (or sing) the notes exactly as they were written in the score. It gradually dawned on me that this literal approach to musical performance was rather simple minded. During my come scritto period I thought Toscanini the prince of…


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