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Famous Composers Alive and Just a Click Away
Schostakovich playing his first piano concerto

Schostakovich playing his first piano concerto

That a recording exists of the voice of Tchaikovsky tantalizes the imagination. If there is a Tchaikovsky recording on an Edison cylinder, might there not also be, hidden away in a dusty shoebox in an attic somewhere, another cylinder with Liszt at the piano? It’s not outside the realm of possibility. After all Liszt lived for almost nine years after Edison invented the phonograph. In the absence of that mythical cylinder, however, we can still enjoy some rare footage, both audio and video, of famous 20th-century composers, both on stage and at home. Rachmaninoff charms the audience in one film with his gruff good humor, while Toscanini and Walter commiserate in another.

Hear Sergey Prokofiev play one of the waltzes in his ballet Cinderella and speak about what he was working on at the time of the interview (1946) :

Translation from YT:
Prokofiev is being asked: “Sergei Sergeevich, maybe you will tell our viewers about your work?” He replies: “Well, right now I am working on a symphonic suite of waltzes, which will include three waltzes from Cinderella, two waltzes from War and Peace and one waltz from the movie score Lermontov. The War and Peace has just been brilliantly produced in Leningrad, where the composer Cheshko made an especially noteworthy appearance as a tenor, giving a superb performance in the role of Pierre Bezukhov. Besides this suite, I am working on a sonata for violin and piano [No. 1 in F minor], upon completion of which I will resume work on the Sixth Symphony, which I had started last year. I have just completed thre suites from the Cinderella ballet and I am now turning the score over to copyists for writing the parts, so that most likely the suites will already be performed at the beginning of the fall season.”

Even in silent film excerpts, the power and raw personal magnetism of such personalities as Camille Saint-Saëns and Gabriel Faure are plainly evident. Certain performances of famous works by their composers shatter the myth of “standard performances,” such as Widor’s playing of his famous Toccata at a much slower tempo than expected. These 14 film excerpts listed on cmuse.org are amazing to watch and will give viewers another perspective on 20th-century composers and their music.


/nilsjohan

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Classical Music Everywhere – Interview with Simone Dinnerstein

Simone Dinnerstein is trying to boost awareness and appreciation of classical music in both children and adults in places as different as New York City and Havana, Cuba. On her recent trip to Cuba, she noted how the string players in Cuba’s National Youth Orchestra couldn’t afford strings. Despite the handicap of using telephone wires as a substitute, the young people were playing with great sensitivity and musicianship. She was inspired during her performance of a Mozart concerto with that orchestra, and she seeks to bring that inspiration back to the United States.
Hear NPR’s David Greene speak to Dinnerstein about her trip, her methods for teaching kids about Baroque music, and her past four difficult years:


Even as her excitement and forward thinking support her teaching efforts back at home, personal struggles also affect her and her art. Speaking candidly about multiple miscarriages and other difficulties with having another child, Dinnerstein relates how such tragedies are woven into her musical psyche.

In much the same way as a method actor or actress delves into, and even lives vicariously through, a part, Dinnerstein draws on her experiences to communicate more effectively with the audience. Her close friend, Philip Lasser, composed a piano concerto for her. Coincidentally, the period of time he spent writing it exactly matched the period Dinnerstein endured her fertility challenges. It’s called “The Circle and the Child,” and although it’s not directly related to Dinnerstein’s problems, it signifies the cycle of life and how it affects people in various ways.

Bachpacking to School

Dinnerstein introduces Bach’s Inventions to a room full of schoolchildren:

New album celebrating the transatlantic link

Earlier this year Sony Classical released Dinnerstein’s newest album, Broadway-Lafayette. The music on this album celebrates the time-honored transatlantic link between France and America through the music of George Gershwin, Maurice Ravel, and Philip Lasser

Hear samples from Simone Dinnerstein’s new album “Broadway Lafayette” at amazon.com


/patrick

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The Harpsichord – Old, but Still Relevant

Sir Thomas Beecham once described the harpsichord as sounding like “…two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof”. To harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, the famed British conductor who compared Beethoven’s music to frolicking yaks, couldn’t have been more wrong.

“If you buy only one record of harpsichord music in your life . . . buy this sensational album” wrote Richard Morrison, The Times (London). Although most of us don’t buy records anymore, this recently released album “Time Present and Time Past” including music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Francesco Geminiani, Henryk Górecki, Steve Reich and Alessandro Scarlatti could be worth checking out. Hear samples at deutschegrammophon.com

Esfahani sat down to talk with NPR about the new album. His sparring partner was All Things Considered host Robert Siegel:


/nilsjohan

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No Great Music Without Great Tension

Anthony Tommassini, classical music critic for The New York Times, invites us all to a mini-lecture at the piano on dissonance. With a series of examples by well known composers, Tommassini elaborates on one of the most crucial components in Western music.

Two or more notes sounding together in such a fashion as to create great tension are said to be dissonant. These notes seem to yearn for release. In music theory terms, such release is called resolution. At the beginning of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1 in C-Major, for example, the opening chord is dissonant. The chord that follows it is consonant. The notes in the opening chord that create the tension move to notes that no longer create tension, which is the resolution. Some dissonant chords don’t resolve. The “Dance of the Adolescents” from “The Rite of Spring” pounds along without relief. Some dissonances resolve so grandly that they provoke visceral responses of great joy. The ending of Bach’s massive Passacaglia and Fugue in C-Minor is a case in point. Not only does the dominant seventh chord resolve, but it also moves to the radiance of C-Major on the final chord.


/patrick

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Aimard’s Bach in Lights

Pierre-Laurent Aimard again conquers the iconic keyboard repertoire by Johann Sebastian Bach after his hugely successful The Art of Fugue recording 2008. A recently released double CD includes the entire The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1.

As part of a multimedia project that had never before been attempted, visual artist Alan Warburton created a virtual animation that highlighted not only Bach’s genius but also Warburton’s own creativity. He joined with French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard and a veritable army of computer and music experts to create a stunning visual portrait of one of Bach’s most iconic works. It took more than 10 weeks to bring the project to fruition because every frame of the video had to be perfectly synchronized with Aimard’s playing and also make visual sense. There could be no weird reflections of light that wouldn’t occur in nature, for example, and anything less than visual perfection wouldn’t do justice to the music.

Piano sheet music to download and print:

Hear samples from all tracks on the album and read more:
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/en/cat/4792784

How do you like Aimard’s intrepretation of the Bach Preludes and Fugues? Please post a comment below!


/nilsjohan

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