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Cellist and singer-songwriter Ben Sollee (from bensollee.com)

Creating New Sounds: Ben Sollee’s “Steeples Part One”

  Forget about the guitar or the banjo. The music of Kentucky-born singer-songwriter Ben Sollee (b. 1983) centers around an unlikely instrument: the cello. Sollee’s songs are an eclectic mix of bluegrass, folk, rhythm and blues and more. He approaches the cello as if there are no limitations. Listen to the colorful array of sounds he […]

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Celebrating Tax Day with Burlesque Bach

If you’ve been griping about taxes recently, you may sympathize with the characters in J.S. Bach’s secular Peasant Cantata, BWV 212, first performed in 1742. Bach referred to this popular, comic work as “Cantate burlesque.” Listen to the entire work here. In this excerpt, Ach, Herr Schösser, geht gar nicht zu schlimm, the farmer decries the unfair burden of […]

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Hilary Hahn’s New Album: Mozart and Vieuxtemps

Hilary Hahn released an excellent new recording on March 31. The album pairs Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 in A major, K. 219 with the Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 31 by Belgian virtuoso violinist Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881). In the recording’s official trailer, Hahn mentions that she first learned both pieces around the age of 10 as she was […]

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violinist Frank Huang

Frank Huang Headed to New York

On Wednesday, the New York Philharmonic announced that violinist Frank Huang will become its new concertmaster, succeeding Glenn Dicterow who stepped down last June after 34 seasons. The 36-year-old Huang is currently concertmaster of the Houston Symphony. He has held that position since 2010. Before joining the Houston Symphony, he briefly served as first violinist of […]

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The Brahms Violin Concerto: 8 Great Recordings

Johannes Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 77 stands with Beethoven’s Concerto at the pinnacle of the violin repertoire. No concerto unleashes the soaring, heroic power and poetic potential of the violin more profoundly than Brahms’. It’s music that runs the gamut between smoldering ferocity and tranquil introspection, encompassing a universe of expression. Brahms’ forty-plus year […]

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American composer Walter Piston (1894-1976)

Walter Piston’s Second Symphony: A Neglected Mid-Century Gem

Walter Piston’s Second Symphony, written in 1943, is one of those mid-twentieth century American musical gems that deserves to be heard more often. Following its National Symphony Orchestra premiere in March, 1944, conductor Hans Kindler declared that the symphony, is without even the shadow of a doubt one of the half dozen great works written during […]

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Nature in the Key of F

The key of F major has long associations with nature and calm pastoral scenes. As flowers bloom and the pollen count soars, let’s finish out the week with four pieces in F major which evoke images of a springtime pasture: Bach’s Pastorale in F Major Historians believe that bagpipes may have predated ancient Rome. On […]

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violinist Oleh Krysa

Paganini Meets Szymanowski

  Niccolò Paganini’s Twenty-four Caprices were written for solo violin between 1802 and 1817. Each features one or two distinct technical challenges for the violin. In 1918 the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) radically transformed the 20th, 21st and 24th caprices by adding piano accompaniment. Listen to the original Caprice No. 20, which opens with a simple melody accompanied by a […]

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