Category Archives: Music

Amazing (dis)Grace

An amazing thing happened in the 2016 election. Donald Trump’s victory was, in large part, the result of overwhelming support from the Religious Right. Trump won 81 percent of the white evangelical vote, higher than George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. An article in the April 2017 issue of New Republic magazine asks: “How did a thrice-married biblical illiterate like Trump hijack the Religious Right?” The article, titled “Amazing Disgrace,” quotes Russell Moore, a leader of the Read more [...]

The Nightmare Song

I love Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. The music is fun, and the lyrics are always amusing, sometimes downright hilarious, especially the “patter songs.” The patter songs from HMS Pinafore, The Mikado and Pirates of Penzance are widely known, but a less well-known G&S work, Iolanthe, has a good one called “The Nightmare Song.” The subject, as it often is in G&S works, is unrequited love, and the tortured fantasies of a lovesick Lord Chancellor. If you hear this performed, you Read more [...]

Classical, Romantic and Bombastic

Composers have written Requiems for hundreds of years, encompassing the full range of musical composition styles, from Renaissance to contemporary and everything in between. Three that stand out for me were written by Mozart, Brahms and Verdi. I call them classical, romantic and bombastic. Now calling Verdi’s “Manzoni” Requiem bombastic is not meant to be derogatory. It’s a stunning piece of music. Verdi was an opera composer, and he liked grandiose gestures (Think “Aida”). So it is Read more [...]

The Gracious Twenty Ninth

Mozart's Symphony No. 29 in A Major, that is.   I was listening to a nice recording of it on KUSC this evening, and I was reminded of how much I like this symphony.  It's so...gracious.  Sunny and exuberant, but most of all, it has this wonderful, grace about it.  Most of Mozart's late symphonies seem pretty intense to me, but the 29th seems a bit more relaxed.   In contrast, Symphony No. 25 in G minor...the so-called "little G minor"...is dark and brooding, all sturm und drang.  That's Read more [...]

Some Interesting Music Quotes

“He’d be better off shoveling show.” --Richard Strauss on Arnold Schoenberg’s conducting. When told that a soloist would need six fingers to perform his concerto, Arnold Schoenberg replied, “I can wait.” “I would like to hear Elliot Carter’s Fourth String Quartet, if only to discover what a cranky prostate does to one’s polyphony.” --James Sellars “Exit in case of Brahms.” --Philip Hale’s proposed inscription over the doors of Boston Symphony Hall “Why is Read more [...]

Fin de Siecle

I am reading Alex Ross’s excellent book "The Rest is Noise" (subtitle: Listening to the Twentieth Century).  The book is mostly about contemporary music, but Ross gives the discussion a historical framework to give it contextual significance.  The early chapters deal with the period around the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, and that is where I encountered the phrase that is the title of this essay. It is French, of course, and the literal meaning is “end Read more [...]

Are We The Last of the Classical Mohicans?

Foreword In James Fenimore Cooper's novel, "The Last of the Mohicans," the last members of an Indian tribe are killed in a  battle during the French and Indian wars of the late 1700's.  Since then, the title of Cooper's book has been used to describe any vanishing cultural or social group.  Here, I apply it to the diminishing group of classical music lovers in the world. I was talking today with an old friend, someone I have known for many years.  He's a very intelligent guy, college educated, Read more [...]

Musical Conversations

Music is often like conversation.  Sometimes the soloist is a “speaker” telling a story.  Other times, it is a dialogue between members of an ensemble.  I am speaking mainly about classical chamber music here.  Orchestral music occasionally has “speeches”…more on that later…but chamber music is full of conversations.  In fact, most chamber music seems to me to consist mainly of conversations among the players.  It is that interaction and communication during performances that has Read more [...]

Messiah

Last night, I turned on the radio, and my favorite classical music station was playing Handel’s Messiah.  For the next two hours, I sat, reading a little, but mostly listening to this masterpiece. I have been a Messiah fan since childhood.  I know the words to many of the pieces, and often sing along…in the privacy of my home, of course!  My singing voice is abominable.  I would never display it in public. Those who know me might find this strange, that a confirmed nonbeliever would Read more [...]