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Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Classical Preview

Describing a piece of music that combines Russian folk music and Asian-inflected themes as “the peace-loving songs of the conquered and their conquerors joined in harmony” may be an almost alien thought to our 21st-century ears, but such was the thinking of many composers during the 19th . . .
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Classical Preview

When Johann Sebastian Bach set himself to work on a new composition, it was normally just a matter of days, at most a week or two, before it was finished. Such was certainly not the case with his Mass in B Minor, BWV 232. The fourth part (Sanctus) dates from 1724; the first two parts (Kyrie and Gloria) were completed in 1733; the third part (Credo), as well as the work’s final autograph score, date from 1748, just two years before . . .
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Classical Preview

Countless plays, operas and movies have been based on the works of the great Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare (1564-1616), varying from word-for-word adaptations to loose borrowing of plot or characters. Among those who owe a debt to Shakespeare is Italian opera composer Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35), whose I Capuleti e I Montecchi (The Capulets and Montagues) is based on the Bard’s immortal tale of love and death, Romeo and Juliet (1595), albeit several times removed. The libretto by Felice Romani that Bellini used was a reworking of Shakespeare’s legendary tale as first intended for use as Giulietta e Romeo by the composer Nicola Vaccai; and in doing so, Romani drew upon the 1818 play Giulietta e Romeo by Luigi Scevola!
Classical Music/Dance
Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Classical Preview

This weekend, concertgoers will get a peek into the future with a performance by conductor Edo de Waart, music director designate of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The concert’s first half consists of a work called In Praise of Music by Pennsylvania native Dominick Argento (b. 1927). Typical of many 20th-century composers, his style reflects many influences—tonality, atonality, 12-tone method—but never became “avant-garde,” unlike several of his postwar contemporaries.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Classical Preview

Composers do not live in a vacuum and thus cannot help but be influenced to some degree by their surroundings and even by the works of other composers. Indeed, some composers have deliberately sought out their cohorts to refresh their thinking or find a new approach. New York-born composer John Corigliano’s (b. 1938) music emphasizes musical architecture, color and dramatic effects, and though steeped in the post-Romantic aesthetic nevertheless shows the influence of the Minimalist and Serialist schools as well. The next Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concert opens with Corigliano’s Fantasia on an Ostinato (1986), a work he based on the Allegretto of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92 (1811).
Classical Music/Dance
Monday, March 17, 2008

Classical Preview

Among the composers most well known to classical music lovers are probably not Ferdinando Carulli (1770-1841) or Fernando Sor (1778-1839). The guitar has (as far as Classical Music is concerned) always been something of the ugly stepsister amongst the instruments.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Classical Preview

After reading through the score of a brand-new work by a friend and fellow composer, the semiretired Johannes Brahms remarked: “Why on Earth didn’t I know that one could write a cello concerto like this? Had I known, I would have written one long ago.” High praise, indeed, from a man notoriously parsimonious with praise for his contemporary composers.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

Classical Review

In their latest concerts (Feb. 24 and 26), the Waukesha Symphony Orchestra under Alexander Platt performed two works of Beethoven paired with a relatively unknown American piece and a quite obscure Estonian work, and Beethoven lost! The concert began with his Fidelio Overture, Op. 72b (1814). The sprightly overture— the fourth Beethoven composed for his only opera and the one that, in his perfectionist estimation, finally made the cut—is a fine choice for a concert opener as well. Platt lead a generally good performance of this work, with driving, sharp and crisp string passages, but there was trouble brewing in the brass section: The several horn calls were uneven and off pitch. Decidedly better was Fratres (1976) by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, a work for strings and percussion—something of an Eastern European counterpart to Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Fratres consists . . .
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

Classical Preview

It was not false modesty that prompted Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) to write to thenfamous singer Maria Waldmann, inviting her to participate in the premiere of his 1883 Messa da Requiem. “You would gain neither reputation nor money from it,” he wrote, continuing that the work’s main attribute was simply that it commemorated a great man. It might, Verdi added, “make history,” not due to “the merit of the music but because of the man to whom it is dedicated.” One supposes he had reason to doubt its lasting value, given its difficult birth. The piece had originally been conceived as a requiem mass to be performed on the first anniversary of the death of the Italian opera master Gioacchino Rossini—a work to be contributed to by several different composers. Verdi wrote a “Libera me” portion for this work, but it just never came off.
Classical Music/Dance
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Classical Preview

Perhaps no other composer’s career fell so neatly into two distinct halves as that of Richard Strauss (1864-1949). He began as an almost exclusively orchestral composer, turning out one great tone poem after another until roughly the first decade of the 20th century. Then came his “second act” as a composer of operas. While Strauss’ first two operas remained quite firmly grounded in the same Wagnerian tradition as his many orchestral tone poems, his third opera, Salome, marked the turning point—and what a decidedly revolutionary one it was! Salome burst upon the early-20th-century music scene in 1905, ushering in musical modernism and even the avant-garde. Premiering in Dresden, Germany, Salome was condemned by musically conservative critics for its perceived moral decadence, but the more adventurous found it to be a fresh start for an art form that was becoming somewhat staid and predictable.

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