belabartok

Music Post: Taking the measure of Bartok

When people enumerate the “greatest composers of the 20th century,” most cognoscenti come up with Schoenberg and Stravinsky, and almost as many add a third name, Bartok. The discussion degenerates after that. Schoenberg makes the cut because he developed and evangelized 12-tone composition, a movement that lasted three generations and…

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Music Post: Inside chamber music

Call it an occasional running theme on “Howard’s Day Off,” the “Inside” series, looking at the inner movements of multi-movement works. It started with several programs on inner movements of symphonies, all scherzos one week, and on another occasion the “extra” movements of symphonies with more than the usual four…

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Music Post: Three streams of American classical music

A twentysomething horn player in the Cincinnati Symphony somehow became a key chronicler of the history of jazz. Gunther Schuller wrote two wonderful volumes on jazz history (a third was underway when he died in 2015) using his classical chops to transcribe solos and analyze them the way someone else…

rachmaninoff

Music Post: Inside the concerto

Sergei Rachmaninoff, playing the solo part of one of his own piano concertos. When a classical music program functions mainly as a sampler – individual movements of works, to expose the listener to as many pieces as possible – it is probably inevitable that one will hear a lot of…

pelleas

Music Post: When words inspire music

If you think words can convey information better than music can, you will be interested to know that Felix Mendelssohn, who wrote poetry and whose letters are a joy to read even today, felt that music could convey emotions too complex to be explained using words. Music, he felt, was…

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Music Post: Classical music, big and small

Classical music has evolved such that it is performed on parallel pathways – the big symphonic concert and the small chamber performance. The difference between the two used to be public performance versus party performance, but now we pay good money to hear both symphonies and quartets. Some composers are…

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Music Post: The Music of a Beautiful Woman

Painters throughout history have depicted beautiful women = the subject seems to have fascinated most artists – including those who are gay or who are themselves women, suggesting that this fascination it is not only sexual. Women often inspire classical music as well. In the past when my radio show…

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Music Post: Ludwig Van Ordinaire

At any given moment on classical music history, a few figures dominated, while others worked in their shadows. The most extreme example of this would be the three decades of the 1800s, when everything happened in the shadow of one composer: Beethoven. Beethoven’s First Symphony, five years in the making,…

pankow

Music Post: Rock stars working classical

James Pankow in concert with Chicago. James Pankow, the trombone player with Chicago, has formal training. Jazz fusion star Chick Corea briefly attended Juilliard. Yes keyboard player Rick Wakeman has some classical piano training. Beatles arranger George Martin had schooling in piano and oboe. Keith Emerson, left, and Rick Wakeman,…

dayoffcartoon

Music Post: When classical music is melodious

Some great classical music is built from melodic fragments rather than what Edward Elgar would call “the great tune.” Beethoven’s Fifth grows from the shortest musical motto. Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” grows from sounds that pound. Yet Beethoven and Stravinsky also wrote great tunes, like the slow movement of the…