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Samuel Barber

Friday, September 22, 2017


The Well-Tempered Ear

August 7

Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS — the slow movement of the Violin Concerto by Gerald Finzi

The Well-Tempered EarBy Jacob Stockinger The Ear has long had a fondness for the works of the 20th-century British composer Gerald Finzi (below). His work may be relatively tweedy and conservative, but it is unmistakably modern. It is very poignant and appealing, with accessible harmonies and beautiful melodies. He seems much like a British Samuel Barber. Ever since he first heard it maybe 20 years ago, The Ear has loved Finzi’s pastoral Eclogue for Piano and String Orchestra , which was meant to be the slow movement of a piano concerto but ended up being an independent work. And, judging by how increasingly often it gets played on Wisconsin Public Radio , the Eclogue seems to be a favorite among a growing number of fans. But there are other works. There is the Romance for Violin and Small Orchestra. There is the Romance for String Orchestra. There is the Concerto for Cello. There is his Romance for Clarinet and String Orchestra as well as the Five Bagatelles for Clarinet and Orchestra. And now The Ear has discovered the slow movement — appropriately marked “very serene” — of the Violin Concerto by Finzi, which you can hear in the YouTube video at the bottom. It is performed by British violinist Tasmin Little (below, in a photo by Melanie Winning), who four seasons years ago turned in wonderful performances in Madison with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra under Andrew Sewell. She played Finzi’s rarely heard “Introit.” If you want to hear the whole concerto, it is available for free on YouTube from a couple of different performers. And you can find many other works by Finzi on YouTube. In any case, The Ear hopes the Violin Concerto gets programmed at a local concert. This past summer, the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society featured a song cycle by Finzi. Even so, we need to hear more music by Gerald Finzi in live performances. Finzi was a modest and retiring man, publicity shy and not given to self-aggrandizement or self-promotion, who went underperformed and under appreciated during his lifetime. But he is an extremely welcoming and moving modern composer. The Ear thinks he deserves a better place among other modern British composers who have become more popular, including Ralph Vaughan Williams (shown, below right, with Finzi), Benjamin Britten , Frank Bridge , William Walton and others. Are there other Gerald Finizi fans out there? What do you think about him? And what is your favorite work by Gerald Finzi? The Ear wants to hear. Tagged: accessible , Andrew Sewell , Arts , Bach , Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society , bagatelle , Barber , Baroque , beautiful , Benjamin Britten , British , Britten , Cello , Chamber music , clarinet , Classical music , composer , concerto , conservative , cycle , dance , dynamite , Eclogue , England , English , Frank Bridge , Gerald Finzi , Great Britain , harmony , introit , Jacob Stockinger , live , Madison , melody , modern , movement , Music , Orchestra , pastoral , performance , Piano , promotion , publicity , Ralph Vaughan Williams , recording , Romance , Samuel Barber , self-aggrandizement , self-promotion , serene , singer , Slow movement , society , song , String Orchestra , summer , symphony , Tasmin Little , tweed , U.K. , UK , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Viola , Violin , William Walton , Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra , wisconsin public radio , work , YouTube

The Well-Tempered Ear

August 4

Classical music: The Ancora String Quartet will go on a 10-day tour of Germany next August, then tour Wisconsin the follwing month

By Jacob Stockinger If you went to the Ancora String Quartet ’s summer concert last Saturday night, you not only heard some outstanding performances of music by Dmitri Shostakovich and Ludwig van Beethoven – along with some rarely heard music by Danish composer Niels Gade . In case you missed it, here is a review: https://welltempered.wordpress.com/2017/07/31/classical-music-the-ancora-string-quartet-turns-in-outstanding-performances-of-beethoven-and-shostakovich-and-revives-a-neglected-quartet-by-danish-composer-niels-gade/ You also got the lowdown on some big news for the chamber music group that just finished its 16th season. Members (below from right in a photo by Barry Lewis) are violinists Wes Luke and Robin Ryan; violist Marika Fischer Hoyt; and cellist Benjamin Whitcomb. (You can hear an earlier membership of the quartet performing music by Grieg in the YouTube video at the bottom.) In August of 2018, the Ancora String Quartet will go on a 10-day tour of Germany. (They could have been gone for longer, a quartet member explained, but the time is limited by some of the day jobs that some members have.) They will perform concerts in Frankfurt, Wiesbaden and Kassel and in some castles along the Rhine River . The string quartet will perform with Melinda Paulsen (below), a mezzo-soprano who is based in Frankfurt, where she also teaches. Born in America, she studied music at Swarthmore College and has made a name for herself in Germany singing and recording operas as well as cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach . The quartet and Paulsen are deciding on suitable repertoire for that combination of voice and string quartet, which includes works by Richard Wagner, Ottorino Respighi and Samuel Barber. Then in September, the singer will come to Wisconsin and tour the state with the Ancora String Quartet. The stops in both countries are still being finalized, but Madison and the UW-Whitewater , where the cellist teaches, seem to be sure bets, according to a quartet member. In other news, according to the quartet’s spokesperson, the Ancora will also soon announce its new season, and there will be some special fundraising concerts during the coming season. The Ancora, with help from Audio for the Arts, will also soon post some recent concerts on YouTube. The Ear sends his congratulations and thinks the quartet has been working hard, and turning in many outstanding performances, for many years in order to deserve and get this kind of honor. Bravo! Tagged: America , Ancora String Quartet , Arts , Audio for the Arts , August , Bach , Baroque , Beethoven , Cantata , castle , Cello , Chamber music , Classical music , Concert , Frankfurt , fundraiser , Germany , Grieg , Jacob Stockinger , Johann Sebastian Bach , Kassel , Ludwig van Beethoven , Madison , Mezzo-soprano , Music , Niels Gade , opera , recording , Respighi , Rhine River , Richard Wagner , Samuel Barber , Season , September , Shostakovich , sing , singer , Singing , String quartet , Swarthmore Colllege , tour , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , UW-Whitewater , Viola , Violin , vocal music , Wiesbaden , Wisconsin , YouTube




The Well-Tempered Ear

July 4

Classical music: What is your favorite Sousa march for the Fourth of July? What other classical music celebrates the holiday?

By Jacob Stockinger Today is the Fourth of July , Independence Day, when we mark the day and the Declaration of Independence when the U.S officially separated from Great Britain to become not a colony but its own country. Over the past decade The Ear has chosen music from many American composers to mark the event – music by Edward MacDowell , Charles Ives, William Grant Still, George Gershwin , Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, William Schuman, Joan Tower, John Adams and so many others. And of course also featured around the nation will be the “1812 Overture” by Peter Tchaikovsky . You will probably hear a lot of that music today on Wisconsin Public Radio and other stations, including WFMT in Chicago and WQXR in New York City. Here is a link to nine suggestions with audiovisual performances: http://www.classical-music.com/article/nine-best-works-independence-day But The Ear got to thinking. It is certainly a major achievement when a composer’s name becomes synonymous with a genre of music. Like Strauss waltzes . Bach cantatas and Bach fugues. Chopin mazurkas and Chopin polonaises. The Ear thinks that John Philip Sousa is to marches what Johann Strauss is to waltzes. Others have done them, but none as well. So on Independence Day, he asks: Which of Sousa’s many marches is your favorite to mark the occasion? The “Stars and Stripes Forever” — no officially our national march — seems the most appropriate one, judging by titles. “The Washington Post” March is not far behind. But lately The Ear has taken to “The Liberty Bell” March. Here it is a YouTube video with the same Marine Band that Sousa, The March King, once led and composed for: And if you want music fireworks in the concert hall to match the real thing, you cant beat the bravura pyrotechnical display that pianist Vladimir Horowitz, a Russian who became an American citizen and contributed mightily to the war effort during World War II. Horowitz wowed the crowds – including fellow virtuoso pianists – with his transcription of “The Stars and Stripes Forever ” in which it sounds like three or four hands are playing. Judge for yourself. Here it is: Of course, you can also leave the names of other American composers and works to celebrate the Fourth. Just leave a word and a link in the COMMENT section. The Ear wants to hear! Tagged: 1812 Overture , Aaron Copland , America , Arts , audiovisual , Bach , band , Baroque , brass , Cantata , Chamber music , Charles Ives , Classical music , colony , composer , concert hall , country , Edward MacDowell , England , Fireworks , Fourth of July , freedom , fugue , genre , George Gershwin , Great Britain , Holiday , Horowitz , independence , Independence Day , Jacob Stockinger , Joan Tower , John Adams , John Philip Sousa , July 4 , Leonard Bernstein , Liberty Bell , Madison , march , Marine , mazurka , Music , National Public Radio , NPR , Orchestra , Piano , polonaise , pyrotechnics , Radio , Russia , Samuel Barber , Sousa , Stars and Stripes Forever , Strauss , Tchaikovsky , U.S. , UK , United Kingdom , United States , United States Declaration of Independence , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Viola , Violin , virtuoso , Vladimir Horowitz , Waltz , Washington D.C. , Washington Post , WFMT , William Schuman , Willian Grant Still , wisconsin public radio , World War II , WQXR , WW II , YouTube

MMmusing

June 28

flotsam and jetsam...and covfefe

One of the inevitable byproducts of my peculiar way of being on social media is that I end up with all sorts of multimedia fragments produced in response to this or that. Many of them find their way here to the blog (such as this Bach Suite Boys bit now featured on Classic FM), but some don't seem quite postworthy - unless, I introduce them this way in a post about the unpostworthy! A couple of weeks back, when the Trump covfefe tweet was having its fifteen seconds, I kept seeing musicians link to a little "covfefe" aria that ends with the famous Rite of Spring chord - which was fine and cute. But, I couldn't help speculating that the ambiguity of Trump's neologism deserved a similarly ambiguous musical context, so I suggested that Wagner's Tristan chord would be more appropriate. Even though the story had long since blown over, I couldn't resist the challenge and decided I'd transition to Wagner from the much more conventional and comic Rossini - specifically, the opening of Almaviva's aria "Ecco ridente in cielo." One could make a case that this tenor aria is much too elegant and lyrical for this character, but I couldn't come up with a good transition from Figaro or Don Basilio, buffo characters more in the spirit of Don Trump. And I think the raspy synth voice makes up for it. Plus, the one bar of Rossini I quote is quite pedestrian, so it's more like Don Trump begins by trying to be profound and quickly finds himself completely lost. Anyway, what we have here is a two-bar micro-composition. It's fragmentary for sure, though I think it can also stand on its own as a Tweetstück. (A German piano piece is often titled "Klavierstück.") There's not really an original note here as all I've done is segue from one work to another, though I still think I deserve a finder's fee for showing how nicely this transition works. A quick history of 19th century opera in two bars. Short as it is, a Trump opera should have at least one tweet aria, so I've included it in my quirky Il trumpatore playlist. And since I promised both flotsam and jetsam, here is something even briefer, which is nothing like a complete composition. Just a little proof of concept. In a Facebook discussion that had sprouted off from my Bach Suite Boys example, it occurred to me that one of the discussants is a big non-fan of The Who and Samuel Barber's Violin Concerto. So, just for T.B., I proposed a "Barber O'Riley" mashup that would combine Baba O'Riley and...well, you know. Because it's easy to do and because it's fun to do, I offered up only four bars, and here they are: Your browser does not support the audio element. If there's anything valuable about this kind of exercise, it's showing how easily gestures from very different genres can cross over and work together. Sometimes ten seconds of audio are worth a thousand words - or at least a few dozen.



The Well-Tempered Ear

June 21

Classical music: What classical music best celebrates the solstice and the arrival of summer?

REMINDER: Today is the fifth annual citywide Make Music Madison that celebrates the coming of summer with FREE, PUBLIC and LOCAL performances. For more information, go to: https://welltempered.wordpress.com By Jacob Stockinger Summer arrived late last night – at 11:20 p.m. — in the Midwest. To mark and celebrate the welcome event, here are three pieces of well-known summer-related music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” or a “A Short Night Music” (or “A Little Night Music”: Summer from Astor Piazzolla’s “Four Seasons in Buenos Aires”: And Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville, Summer of 1914” with soprano Dawn Upshaw. But there is so much more to choose from. Here is a link to five other pieces by different composers –- Antonio Vivaldi, Felix Mendelssohn, Frank Bridge, Alexander Glazunov, Frederick Delius and George Gershwin. http://www.classical-music.com/article/six-best-pieces-classical-music-summer Which music would you choose to mark the summer solstice and the coming of summer? Leave word and a YouTube link, if possible, in the COMMENT section. The Ear wants to hear. Tagged: Argentina , Arts , Baroque , Buenos Aires , Cello , Chamber music , Classical music , concerto , Dawn Upshaw , Delius , Early music , Eine Kleine Nachtmusik , Feix Mendelssohn , Four Seasons of Buenos Aires , Frank Bridge , free , Gershwin , Glazunov , Jacob Stockinger , Knoxville Summer 1915 , local , Madison , Make Music Madison , Midwest , Mozart , Music , Orchestra , Piazzolla , public , Samuel Barber , solstice , soprano , summer , Summer solstice , tango , The Four Seasons , United States , University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music , University of Wisconsin–Madison , Viola , Violin , Vivaldi , vocal music , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , YouTube

Meeting in Music

May 31

Felicity Lott - Call Me Flott

01. Geoffrey Bush: It was a lover and his lass [1'52] 02. Francis Poulenc: Fancy [1'48] 03. Benjamin Britten: Fancie [0'58] 04. Mervyn Horder: Under the greenwood tree [1'37] 05. Charles Gounod: The fountains mingle with the river [1'37] 06. Reynaldo Hahn: The swing [1'44] 07. Camille Saint-Saens: Cherry Tree Farm [2'23] 08. Frank Bridge: O that it were so [2'13] 09. Antony Hopkins: A melancholy song [0'54] 10. Noel Coward: If love were all [5'44] 11. Jerome Kern: You cant make love by wireless [3'13] 12. Madeleine Dring: Song of a nightclub proprietress [2'49] 13. Samuel Barber: Solitary hotel [2'35] 14. Irving Berlin: What'll I do [3'32] 15. Cole Porter: Miss Otis regrets [2'48] 16. John Musto: Litany [3'50] 17. Harriet Ware: The boy in the gallery [2'42] 18. Noel Coward: Mad about the boy [4'55] 19. Arthur Bliss: The return from town [2'05] 20. Cole Porter: The physician [4'49] 21. Lord Berners: Come on Algernon [3'04] 22. Flanders & Swann: A word on my ear [4'35] 23. Irving Berlin: I love a piano [3'22] 24. Jerome Kern: Call me Flo'(tt) [1'34] 25. Ivor Novello: Bees are buzzin' [3'13] 26. Jack Hupfield: Let's put out the lights [2'14] 27. Noel Coward: The party's over [1'40] Felicity Lott- soprano and Graham Johnson- piano  Champs Hill CHRCD003 (recorded and issued in 2009) (digital download - flacs, booklet and cover) Recording venue: Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex Recording engineer: Julian Millard; Producer: Mark Brown This recording of mostly popular repertoire was made quite late in Flott's career when the voice was not quite what it had been but it is still very beautifully clear and warm. It's a programme that she frequently performed to her devoted audiences around the British Isles. She delightfully points up the comedic songs - especially the slightly risque Come on Algernon by Lord Berners (a.k.a Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson) and Cole Porter's The Physician. The four French composers are represented by relatively rare settings of English texts. She is very ably supported by her long-term collaborator, Graham Johnson, with real chemistry between them and the engineer and producer provide a fine sound recording in the lovely acoustic at Champs Hill. Graham Johnson also provides the excellent booklet notes but unfortunately there are no song tets provided..

Samuel Barber
(1910 – 1981)

Samuel Barber (March 9, 1910 - January 23, 1981) was an American composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music. His Adagio for Strings is his most popular composition and widely considered a masterpiece of modern classical music. He was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music, for his opera Vanessa and his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. His Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a work for soprano and orchestra, was an acclaimed setting of prose by James Agee.



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