Antonin Leopold Dvořák, according to Virginia Tech, was born in the village of Nelahozeves in Bohemian, which now is in the Czech Republic. Here is the beginning of the bio at ClassicalNet:
Contrary to legend, Antonín Dvořák (September 8, 1841 – May 1, 1904) was not born in poverty. His father was an innkeeper and butcher, as well as an amateur musician. The father not only put no obstacles in the way of his son’s pursuit of a musical career, he and his wife positively encouraged the boy. He learned the violin and finally was sent to the Prague Organ School, from which he emerged at age 18 as a trained organist and immediately plunged into the life of a working musician. He played in various dance bands, usually as a violist. One of his groups became the core of the Provisional Theater orchestra, the first Czech-language theater in Prague, and Dvořák was appointed principal violist. Around this time, he also began giving private piano lessons, eventually marrying one of his students. (Continue Reading…)
Above is the Slavonic Dance No. 2 in E Minor Op. 72 performed by an all star lineup: Violinist Itzhak Perlman and cellist Yo-Yo Ma are conducted by Seiji Ozawa. The only information on the Largo video that I can understand is that it is being played by the New York Philharmonic.
[Editor's note: I cross-post The Daily Music Break at Daily Kos. A commentor there was kind enough to provide more information. He wrote that this presentation of the Largo movement--from Dvorak's New World Symphony--is from the New York Philharmonic's visit to Pyongyang, North Korea, 26 February 2008. The conductor is Lorin Maazel.]by
Both the music and the text of Peter and the Wolf, which was an effort to teach children about orchestras and instill a love of music, were written by Sergei Prokofiev. It was released in the Soviet Union in 1936. This version, narrated by actor Sterling Holloway, is perhaps the most famous of many because it was produced and released as a Disney cartoon. It was part of the 1946 animated feature Make Mine Music.
Here is more on Prokofiev:
In breathing new life into the symphony, sonata, and concerto, Sergey Prokofiev emerged as one of the truly original musical voices of the twentieth century. Bridging the worlds of pre-revolutionary Russia and the Stalinist Soviet Union, Prokofiev enjoyed a successful worldwide career as composer and pianist. As in the case of most other Soviet-era composers, his creative life and his music came to suffer under the duress of official Party strictures. Still, despite the detrimental personal and professional effects of such outside influences, Prokofiev continued until the end of his career to produce music marked by a singular skill, inventiveness, and élan. (Continue Reading…)
Prokofiev died on March 5, 1953 — the same day as Josef Stalin. Part I of Peter and the Wolf is above and part II is below.by
Charles Ives, one of the most acknowledged of American composers, was demanding on performers because of his reliance on a wide variety of genres:
Charles Ives’ song legacy presents a unique set of challenges to its interpreters. Ives’ songs derive from an enormously wide variety of musical traditions, from the German lied tradition (and European art song in general), to American parlor songs, hymns, and folk tunes. In addition, Ives’ own relentless experimentation, which often bore little resemblance to anything that preceded him, led to a body of works that still presents formidable obstacles to any performer, regardless of their background. In short, how many singers are capable of singing like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau one moment and an authentic Texas cowboy the next? What’s even more difficult: Ives’ greatest songs typically don’t come from any clearly defined performance tradition, so the performer must internalize them and come up with something new, a kind of Ivesian cultural synthesis encompassing almost everything: high and low, new and old, secular and sacred, comical and serious, American and Universal.(Continue Reading…)
This site — which is a compilation of top ten lists — points to The Unanswered Question as one of Ives’ great works. Wikipedia discusses the piece:
Ives had composed two symphonies, but it is with The Unanswered Question (1906), written for the highly unusual combination of trumpet, four flutes, and string orchestra, that he established the mature sonic world that became his signature style. The strings (located offstage) play very slow, chorale-like music throughout the piece while on several occasions the trumpet (positioned behind the audience) plays a short motif that Ives described as “the eternal question of existence”. Each time the trumpet is answered with increasingly shrill outbursts from the flutes (onstage) — apart from the last: the unanswered question. The piece is typical Ives — it juxtaposes various disparate elements, it appears to be driven by a narrative never fully revealed to the audience, and it is tremendously mysterious. It has become one of his more popular works. Leonard Bernstein borrowed its title for his Charles Eliot Norton Lectures in 1973, noting that he always thought of the piece as a musical question, not a metaphysical one. (Continue Reading…)
The Unanswered Question is above. Another noted work is The Fourth Symphony. The piece–or at least the prelude–is below.by
Van Cliburn, July 12, 1934 – February 27, 2013
Pianist Van Cliburn won the inaugural 1958 Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow. An American win at the height of the Cold War was a stunning upset.
The New York Times’ obit describes the reactions:
When Mr. Cliburn returned to New York, he was given a ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan, which offered the sight of about 100,000 people lining the streets and cheering a classical musician. In a ceremony at City Hall, Mayor Robert F. Wagner proclaimed that Mr. Cliburn’s accomplishment was “a dramatic testimonial to American culture” and that “with his two hands, Van Cliburn struck a chord which has resounded around the world, raising our prestige with artists and music lovers everywhere.”
That was just over 50 years ago. It’s not hard to imagine a ticker tape parade down Broadway today for somebody winning a classical piano competition. It’s impossible.
The clip above is Van Cliburn’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 during the competition. I am not familiar with how concert audiences react in general, but the applause and Van Cliburn’s reaction seem overwhelming.by
Here is the beginning of Claude Debussy’s profile at Encyclopedia Britannica:
Claude Debussy, in full Achille-Claude Debussy (born August 22, 1862, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France—died March 25, 1918, Paris), French composer whose works were a seminal force in the music of the 20th century. He developed a highly original system of harmony and musical structure that expressed in many respects the ideals to which the Impressionist and Symbolist painters and writers of his time aspired. His major works include Clair de lune(“Moonlight,” in Suite bergamasque, 1890–1905), Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894; Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), the opera Pelléas et Mélisande (1902), and La Mer (1905; “The Sea”). (Continue Reading…)
Above is a beautiful 1962 performance of Debussy’s Clair de Lune by violinist David Oistrakh and pianist Frida Bauer. Late last year, New York Times critic Michael Tommasini devoted one of his “musical moment” video blogs to a single note late in the piece.
Below, the Ensemble de l’Orquestra de Cadaqués performs Prélude à l’Apres-midi d’un Faune (Prelude to The Afternoon of a Faun) under the direction of Vasily Petrenko. The back story:
Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was one of the greatest innovators in the history of French poetry. His works, which abound in complex symbols and images, seek to represent states of mind rather than ideas, express moods rather than tell stories. Mallarmé tried to capture that elusive line between dream and awakening that most of us who are not poets are well aware of but are unable to put into words.
Mallarmé’s eclogue L’Après-midi d’un Faune (“The Afternoon of a Faun”) was published in 1876.Debussy first set a poem by Mallarmé to music in 1884, at the age of 22. Three years later, the young composer joined the circle of poets and artists who met at Mallarmé’s house every Tuesday night for discussions and companionship.Thus he was thoroughly familiar with the poet’s style before he began work on his prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun” in 1892. (Continue Reading…)
The Messiah, above — also known as The Hallelujah Chorus — is Handel’s best known composition and, indeed, one of the most popular classical pieces ever. Here is the start of its story:
George Frideric Handel’s Messiah was originally an Easter offering. It burst onto the stage of Musick Hall in Dublin on April 13, 1742. The audience swelled to a record 700, as ladies had heeded pleas by management to wear dresses “without Hoops” in order to make “Room for more company.” Handel’s superstar status was not the only draw; many also came to glimpse the contralto, Susannah Cibber, then embroiled in a scandalous divorce. (Continue Reading…)
Handel himself is profiled at GFHanel.com:
Born on 23 February 1685 in Halle, Germany, Handel grew up under the watchful eyes of his parents; while his mother nurtured his musical gifts, his father tried to dissuade him from pursuing the dubious occupation of a musician. Following brief law studies at the local university, Handel travelled to Hamburg, where he scraped a living as a back-desk violinst at the opera house and composed his first opera Almira. By late 1706 he decided to travel independently to Italy, where he composed church, secular and theatre music for illustrious patrons in Florence, Rome, Naples and Venice; he also met numerous Italian composers who significantly influenced his work, such as Arcangelo Corelli, Alessandro Scarlatti, his son Domenico Scarlatti, Giacomo Perti, Bernardo Pasquini, Francesco Gasparini, Antonio Caldara and many others. (Continue Reading…)
Acis and Galatea is not as well known as The Messiah but is said by afficionados to be a major work:
Acis and Galatea (HWV 49) is a musical work by George Frideric Handel with an English text by John Gay. The work has been variously described as a serenata, a masque, a pastoral or pastoral opera, a “little opera” (in a letter by the composer while it was being written), an entertainment and in the New Grove Dictionary of Music an oratorio. The work was originally devised as a one act masque which premiered in 1718. Handel later adapted the piece into a three act serenata for the Italian opera troupe in London in 1732, which incorporated a number of songs (still in Italian) from Aci, Galatea e Polifemo, his 1708 setting of the same story to different music. He later adapted the original English work into a two act work in 1739. (Continue Reading…)