The holiday season is already upon us, on the air and in the concert halls. And throughout our region, the sounds of Christmas – ancient, nostalgic, ethnic, modern, and thoroughly international – will resound only weeks from now, in venues ranging from small community halls and churches to Benaroya Hall.
Watching the faces of listeners emerging from a seraphic Northwest Boychoir performance, or an uproariously rousing Seattle Men’s Chorus show, is a lesson in that well-worn dictum: “There’s something for everyone.” From highly professional to enthusiastically amateur, and all points in between, our region offers something for every taste and every budget.
This also is a wonderful time to remember your favorite musical organizations in holiday gifting. All the hard and expensive work that goes into the operations of a great classical radio station with a worldwide impact, as well as the devoted efforts of the local choruses and orchestras that inspire us anew every season, need the financial support of appreciative listeners. Now is no time to be a “music Scrooge”!
And while the holidays are a time to celebrate tradition, you also can count on Seattle’s music community for something entirely new. The entire holiday concert lineup is far too large to list here in full, but here are some highlights that are particularly worth your notice. (For more from the region’s cornucopia of seasonal choral concerts, consult www.seattlesings.org.)
Seattle Men’s Chorus “Silver and Soul”: For the first time since 1979, this enormously popular chorus has a new director: Paul Caldwell, who will preside over a three-week span of holiday concerts. On tap for “Seattle’s biggest holiday extravaganza” is everything from carols and gospel to karaoke and a “disco Santa.” Benaroya Hall (Dec. 4-22, including a performance in Everett and one in Tacoma).
Seattle Symphony Holiday Pops: It’s the second year for this well-received Holiday Pops program, with the Symphony and the University of Washington Chorale led by conductor Stuart Chafetz (plus singer/comedienne Nicole Parker). They’ll provide holiday classics, humor, and good cheer. Benaroya Hall; Dec. 9-11.
Seattle Symphony Presents Handel’s “Messiah”: British conductor Stephen Layton (founding director of the chorus Polyphony; conductor of the City of London Sinfonia, Music Director of Holst Singers) conducts the orchestra and soloists (Eleanor Dennis, Helen Charlston, Gwilym Bowen, and Robert Davies) in the holiday classic. Benaroya Hall, 8 p.m. Dec. 16 and 17; also 1 p.m. matinee Dec. 17; 2 p.m. matinee Dec. 18.
Northwest Boychoir, “Festival of Lessons and Carols”: The capstone of several NW Boychoir performances of this traditional English holiday observance, this performance of readings and carols features the Boychoir with Vocalpoint! Seattle, with a total of 90 voices all under the direction of Joseph Crnko. Benaroya Hall, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23.
Northwest Girlchoir: This concert of combined choirs, “December Moon, December Stars,” presents winter-themed classics and a new work, “Ave Maris Stella,” by Jessica French. Sara Boos is the group’s artistic director. 7 p.m. December 3, Seattle First Free Methodist Church.
Seattle Pro Musica: This year’s “Star of Wonder” program presents selections from a thousand years of choral music, from medieval chant to music of Ēriks Ešenvalds, Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre, Judith Weir, John Rutter, and Gabriel Jackson. Karen P. Thomas conducts; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 in Seattle First Baptist Church, and 3 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 in Bastyr University Chapel in Kenmore.
Choral Arts Northwest: Last year, they presented their holiday program at the White House before the President and First Lady. Robert Bode’s virtuoso chorus, which recently added the “Northwest” back to the former “Choral Arts” title, will sing two performances of their favorite holiday observance – a seamless, contemplative program with guitarist Bob McCaffery-Lent. 8 p.m. Dec. 10, St. Joseph Parish on Capitol Hill; 3 p.m. Dec. 11, Plymouth Church downtown.
Medieval Women’s Choir: And now for something completely different: Music from the Middle Ages in celebration of the winter feasts of St. Nicholas, St. Thomas Becket, the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity, and Three Kings (the 12th day of Christmas). Eric Mentzel conducts; 8 p.m. Dec. 3, St. James Cathedral.
Seattle Choral Company: The ensemble Ancora joins the SCC for “Wintertide,” a winter-themed program featuring the premiere of a new Donald Skirvin work and Ola Gjeilo’s popular “Sunrise Mass,” with Freddie Coleman conducting. The program includes an audience sing-along to the Flentrop organ. 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10, St. Mark’s Cathedral.
Northwest Chamber Chorus: Peace-themed works included in this holiday program include music of Joan Szymko, Herbert Howells, Alberto Grau, and Morten Lauridsen. Mark Kloepper, the chorus’ music director, conducts. 3 p.m. Dec. 4, Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, Seattle.
Opus 7: It’s the 25th season for this resident ensemble at St. James Cathedral, where Loren Pontén will lead the chorus in holiday-themed works spanning Howells, Britten, Rautavaara — and three composers with Seattle backgrounds: John Muehleisen, Bern Herbolsheimer, and Robert Scandrett. 8 p.m. Dec. 17, at St. James Cathedral.
Pacific MusicWorks: Music from new and old Spain, retelling the Christmas story through plucked instruments and a quartet of voices. The program includes the US premieres of works by Guatemalan composer Rafael Castellanos (ca. 1721-1791) and Spanish composer Fabián Garcia Pacheco (1725-1808). Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m. in Edmonds United Methodist Church (828 Caspers St, Edmonds); Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m. in Emmanuel Episcopal Church of Mercer Island; and Dec. 11, 2 p.m. in Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall.
Northwest Baroque Masterworks: J.S. Bach’s Christmas “Magnificat,” with Alexander Weimann leading the new Northwest Baroque Masterworks ensemble (a collaboration of the Early Music Guild and its counterparts in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C.) of five internationally renowned soloists and baroque orchestra, in the original version of J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in E flat major (written for Christmas Vespers in 1723). 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14, Town Hall Seattle (1119 8th Ave); Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m., Bastyr University in Kenmore.
Seattle Chamber Singers: Together with this organization’s Orchestra Seattle, they’ll present two performances of their holiday signature piece – Handel’s “Messiah” – with Clayton Smith conducting. Soloists are Amanda Opuszynski, Margaret Gawrysiak, Brad Benoit, and José Rubio. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17, Seattle First Free Methodist Church; 3 p.m. Dec. 18, Everett First Presbyterian Church.
Colonial Latin America’s unique melting pot of Italian, Spanish, African, Portuguese, and native traditions led to the creation of the Christmas Villancico. This vivacious, rhythmic, and rustic form retells the Christmas story through the characteristic sounds of guitar, harp, harpsichord and strings with a quartet of voices. Experience a rich tapestry of works from Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Bolivia, and Spain in this unique holiday program. The program includes the US premieres of works by Guatemalan composer Rafael Castellanos (ca. 1721-1791) and Spanish composer Fabián Garcia Pacheco (1725-1808). This unique program will feature Tess Altiveros and Danielle Reutter-Harrah, sopranos, Marjorie Bundy, alto, Ross Hauck, tenor, Tekla Cunningham and Corentin Pokorny, baroque violins, Henry Lebedinsky, harpsichord, and Maxine Eilander, baroque harp.
This Thanksgiving, we at KING FM are giving thanks for the music that offers us a refuge from the challenges of our lives. Here are some thoughts on the music our hosts are most thankful for this holiday.
Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
In stressful times we give thanks for peaceful music. But music isn’t a narcotic and this piece not only evokes the peace and tranquility of nature and the countryside, it soars. Literally. As the violin gives voice to the bird, we are lifted above the rolling hills and into a place of profound beauty and stillness. Programmatic music at its very, very best.
Compline Service from Saint Marks Cathedral
9:30pm Sundays on Classical KING FM
A profound thanks to the Bullitt family who, over 50 years ago, believed that this beautiful service belonged on the radio. No matter one’s faith or beliefs, the Compline service is a destination for many of us at the end of the weekend. A first-rate choir, thoughtful programming and a message of inclusion and respect – that’s what makes this a weekly ritual for me.
Franz Schubert: Fantasy in F minor (for piano four-hands), Op. 103
I am thankful for Schubert’s voice. It speaks to us through time, as though he were sitting close by, with gentle breath and beating heart. His songs by the hundreds reach deeply into our hearts; his symphonies, chamber music and solo works inspire us, and even entertain us in unexpected ways. But his Fantasy in F minor for piano four-hands is for me sublime. The musical intimacy of this work weaves his voice through the four hands of the pianists who share one keyboard and one score, in itself an intimate act. With each contact with this work I find myself haunted for days by its depth and its beauty.
Aaron Copland: Quiet City
On this Thanksgiving Day, a Holiday that originated in America, I’m thankful to be able to share music that was made in America. Quiet City by Aaron Copland takes me back to performing it for the first time with my talented friends in the Seattle Youth Symphony in the late 1970s. It reminds me of my gratitude for my teachers, and coaches and conductors in SYSO and other institutions who first introduced me to this and other extraordinary pieces. The music reminds me of the gratitude I have for distinguished scholars of American music I’ve had the honor of studying with, helping me appreciate what a rich musical heritage we have, so beautifully represented here by Copland. And this music itself, through its quiet dignity, beauty and poignancy, reminds me of the strength, resilience and goodness of the American character – particularly in times when faith in our institutions and government wavers.
I was asked which pieces I’m thankful for today, during my on-air time (5pm-7pm). Honestly – all of it! Starting 5 for the Drive at 5pm is Turkey in the Straw – a slice of Americana. The ‘Enjoy Your Life’ waltz by Johann Strauss followed by Holst’s ‘Venus, Bringer of Peace’ – two resonant sentiments for Thanksgiving Day. And Liberace’s splashy rendition of Chopsticks at 6:00… who doesn’t love that?? I listen to all kinds of music, not just classical! I’m thankful that music is a safe, non-judgmental place to experience and express emotions from sheer, laugh-out-loud fun to plunging sorrow and heartbreak. It’s also a good place to look for common ground – something that seems more important than ever. I am simply thankful for music.
Bern Herbolsheimer (1948 – 2016): Thanksgiving Day, 1861: One Vacant Chair
I am grateful to the composers who enrich Seattle’s cultural capital. This year, we lost Bern Herbolsheimer, a true and nuanced composer, who never recycled sentimental tropes. I’ve chosen Thanksgiving Day, 1861: One Vacant Chair (from Ozark Folksongs) to honor the vacancy left with Bern’s passing. Also, I feel personally connected through so many people involved in the making of this recording. First of all, to John Muehleisen, whose music I heard sung by Opus 7 vocal ensemble when I moved to Seattle in 2005. His music, and Loren Pontén’s direction, were so beautiful that I knew I’d found my people. As composer in residence of Opus 7, John later arranged for Loren to conduct a piece of mine. It was an exquisite and humbling gift to hear my music performed at such a high level in Seattle. The piece I’ve chosen here is from a CD given to me by Loren Pontén. Bill Levey, KING FM’s affable engineer of all our Seattle Chamber Music Society and Nutcracker broadcasts, was engineer. Roger Sherman, who produces Sunday night’s The Organ Loft on KING FM, was the executive producer. What a fine family of ears involved! And all people who have made my life richer. I also give thanks to the dream-perfect acoustic of St. James Cathedral you’ll hear in this recording. The piece speaks of a family on Thanksgiving Day, honoring a son who was taken by war. Here’s the story of the original.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No.4 in G, Op.58
I am thankful for the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, in all its forms: noble, tender, joyful, tragic, philosophical, and triumphant. It’s incredible to think that Beethoven was able to create music as joyous and hopeful as the fourth piano concerto, even as his life was filling with frustration and despair. I’m thankful for this work’s sparkling virtuosity, the serious philosophical dialogue of the second movement, and the feelings of peace and happiness that this music ultimately brings.
I am grateful to Antonín Dvořák, who as a visitor to this country, saw unity and beauty in the music of our many faces. Through his Symphony No. 9 “From The New World” came a profound yet simple gift (reference intended) to understand that there is beauty and harmony in each of us. Let’s follow Dvorak’s lead and remember that it’s the harmonious combination of those voices that creates the spirit we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day.
As KING FM’s 5-year anniversary comes to a close, KING FM proudly renews its commitment to providing a voice for classical music and the arts here in our beautiful region. We’re pleased to share a marvelous musical moment, illustrating how – beyond the hundreds of thousands who tune in to KING FM for daily enrichment through classical music – KING FM’s programming runs deep into our community of musicians and music-lovers.
Please enjoy two young, talented musicians, cellist Julian Schwarz and pianist Marika Bournaki, performing on NW Focus Live in the KING FM Studio in a video produced by Sean MacLean. You made this possible.
Thanks to your support:
More than 10,000 listeners tuned in to enjoy this beautiful performance; that’s more than any concert hall in our region!
Their upcoming concert with the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, a local volunteer ensemble, was highlighted, providing them with an opportunity to boost their ticket sales.
Young musicians were given a chance to be heard and to share their talent and musical inspiration with thousands of people.
This professional video was created for all to enjoy, and for the musicians to share with other professionals and a new audience.
Connections were forged with the next generation of classical music listeners with on-demand content that they can listen to on their mobile devices and computers.
Listener support has made the broadcast of more than 45 performances like this one possible every year, with more than 90 additional live concerts featuring local ensembles and up-and-coming artists. Thank you for your commitment to classical music in our region.
Reviewers and fans have compared Seattle’s Byron Schenkman to everyone from Vladimir Horowitz to Jimi Hendrix. Schenkman is equally at home with a world premiere and an obscure work for early keyboards, but everything he plays has a common denominator: it has to be something he loves.
There’s a lot of music Schenkman loves, and Seattle listeners will get to hear a surprising variety of it as his brand-new series, “Byron Schenkman & Friends,” continues its run at the Nordstrom Recital Hall in Benaroya Hall. The opening program on October 6 had all the hallmarks of Schenkman’s chamber music: fresh and vital performances, solid ensemble playing, and a sense of spontaneity that fit well with the early and little-known Beethoven quartets on the program.
“My starting point is really picking my favorite music,” Schenkman reflected after the opening concert. “I’m most excited about finding players who will make it come to life. I want them to share my aesthetic sensibilities – and a sense of fun. After all, as the saying goes, we don’t work the piano, we play the piano.”
The pianist (who also is a harpsichordist and fortepianist) was delighted when two friends who are not regular concertgoers showed up for the October 6 series opener, and expressed their surprise that the concert was so much fun.
“There’s still this concept that classical music is supposed to be serious,” muses Schenkman. “I think of it as music I am on this planet to play.”
The opening concert, which included violinist Liza Zurlinden, violist Jason Fisher, and cellist Nathan Whittaker (all excellent), offered buoyant performances of three early Beethoven piano quartets, plus sonatas of Haydn (for solo piano) and Boccherini (for piano and strings). Up next: a November 24 program of Bach sonatas with Schenkman’s longtime duo partner Ingrid Matthews, a violinist whose wholehearted, richly nuanced performance style meshes particularly well with his.
Woodwinds will join in for the December 29 concert of Vivaldi concertos, also featuring works of Boismortier and Telemann.
In March, Schenkman and friends present a program of mostly Rameau works; the finale, on June 15, leaps more than a century forward with Schubert’s beloved “Trout” Quintet and “Arpeggione” Sonata.
What’s up for the second season? Schenkman hasn’t finalized his plans yet (check his website for future details), but he’s thinking about an evening of Robert and Clara Schumann, perhaps a program of Bach harpsichord concertos (and a Brandenburg). And a double-harpsichord concert whose intriguing title might be “Harpsichord Follies.” Hold onto your hats.
ORISON: Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts – Christe Redemptor, Sarum Plainsong, Mode I
PSALM 46 – Peter R. Hallock (1924-2014)
HYMN: The Lord Will Come and Not Be Slow (Tune: York – melody from The CL Psalmes of David, 1615) – harm. John Milton, Sr. (cir. 1563-1647)
NUNC DIMITTIS: Plainsong, Tonus Peregrinus; harm. William Byrd (1543-1623)
ANTHEM: Great Lord of Lords – Charles Wood (1866-1926)
Jeremy Matheis, director • William Turnipseed, reader • Cameron Mousighi, cantor
Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre opens their season with ‘Man of La Mancha,’ followed by Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid.’ Marta Zekan talks with the 5th Avenue’s David Armstrong and Albert Evans about the shows and about the exciting physical changes at this historic Seattle theatre.
Richard Strauss completed his Four Last Songs (first referred to as such by his friend Ernst Roth) in 1948, the year before his death at 85. One critic referred to the songs as “the most consciously and most beautifully delivered Abschied (farewell) in all music.” It’s no secret: many of us are moved in a special way by this work. Multiple KING FM staff selected it for our Classical Bucket List, with station manager Bryan Lowe adding: “it is rare for me not to tear up as I listen… The older I get, the more this piece means to me.” Strauss’ summation of his thoughts and experience at the end of life offers a deeply emotional look at the soul of this great composer, and tells us a lot about ourselves as well.
The songs are unified by their valedictory quality and the frankness and honesty with which they address death, but each song also stands alone. They were not specifically intended to be performed together, and though Im Abendrot (At Sunset) takes the final place in performances, it was actually composed first.
Frühling (Spring) is commonly performed first, and the opening music immediately thrusts us into Strauss’ lush sound-world. The string section here is generally (and ideally) huge, and it’s impossible not to be immediately swept into the brooding and darkness of their playing as the soprano begins with “In dämmrigen Grüften träumte ich lang” (In shadowy crypts I long dreamt). It is the sense of release and rapturous joy that follows that defines this first song; the soprano soars over the orchestra in magnificent phrases that seem to portray a liberated composer. He was acquitted of Nazi sympathizing charges in June 1948, the month before completing this song, and we get the sense that he now is free to live out the twilight of his life in peace.
The shimmering, twinkling textures that start September are pure magic, evoking stars in the night sky or golden drops of water at sunset. Parts of this song sound wistful and nostalgic, especially the winding soprano line on the words “Sommer lächelt erstaunt und matt in den sterbenden Gartentraum.” (Summer smiles, astonished and feeble, at his dying dream of a garden.) The soprano lingers at the end of the final verse (“Slowly he closes
his weary eyes”), feeling fullness and contentment, but still not wanting to let go. The horn solo that Strauss pens here as a codetta is pretty much as gorgeous as it gets. The French horn could be considered Strauss’ favorite orchestral instrument, used prominently in so many heroic and tender moments throughout the composers’ oeuvre, and this is certainly one of the most breathtaking beautiful moments that he ever gave it. The instrumentation of these four soprano songs is a personal statement: Strauss’ wife Pauline de Ahna was an accomplished soprano, and his father played horn in Munich Court Opera for 49 years. Of course there had to be a horn solo, a solo for his other favorite orchestral instrument (violin, in the third song), and of course the songs must be scored for large orchestra, the characteristic forces of Strauss’ greatest orchestral masterpieces.
Strauss’ weariness with the Second World War and the destruction of German culture, so apparent in his elegiac Metamorphosen composed three years earlier, can be felt at the beginning of Beim Schlafengehen (Going to Sleep), before the soprano’s first words (“Now that I am wearied of the day…”). The two pieces even start in a similar fashion, with a mournful rising melody in the low strings. However, when we reach “Alle meine Sinne nun
wollen sich in Schlummer senken” (“All my senses now yearn to sink into slumber”), we are treated to an extended violin solo that is content to remain tonally simple, full of calm and acceptance. The song’s progression its ultimate resting point, a sweeping major chord of such finality, is equally blissful. If the Kleenex weren’t already out, it’s time to get the box.
Im Abendrot is the most like a tone poem of the four, with extended orchestral passages and a soprano line that is masterfully incorporated even as the full orchestra plays. It is a magisterial work of text depiction, balanced orchestration, harmonic invention, and gut-wrenching melody, a sort of valedictory piece of music that Strauss must have known would be heard as the swan song of his career. It even refers back to the tone poem Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration) composed in Strauss’ 20s, with the “idealism” theme quoted following the final verse: “Is this perhaps death?” Its extended postlude is transcendent – words no longer seem necessary.
Though there are many great performances of this work, one recording seems to stand apart: Jessye Norman’s deeply insightful rendition, recorded in 1982 with Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Kurt Masur conducting.
98 Pieces Everyone Should Hear in Their Lifetime Edited by Geoffrey Larson
The idea of compiling a “Bucket List” of things to see and do before you “kick the bucket” is nothing new. But what are the must-hear works of classical music? We asked some Seattle music personalities in the classical field, along with Classical KING FM announcers and staff, which pieces you absolutely need to check out, and compiled a list of 98 incredible works. Have you experienced them all? Listen to Classical KING FM as we share legendary recordings of these great works all through October – check the Music Schedule here.
2. Bach, Johann Sebastian: Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major (Adam Stern)
3. Bach, Johann Sebastian: Goldberg Variations
4. Bach, Johann Sebastian: Mass in B minor (Karen P. Thomas)
>>Karen says: “Some people call this ‘the best piece ever written by the best composer who ever lived.’ I agree! This amazing work was compiled by Bach near the end of his life, possibly as a testimony to his life’s work. Comprised of arias for all voice types (often with instrumental solos) and complex choral movements, this is an absolute tour de force for the singers and instrumentalists – like ascending to the highest mountaintop!”
5. Bach, Johann Sebastian: St. Matthew Passion (Karen P. Thomas) (Ludovic Morlot)
>>Karen says: “Bach wrote his St. Matthew Passion to present the Passion story in music at Good Friday vesper services in Leipzig. Considered one of the pillars of Western sacred music, it is at once monumental and intimate, deeply sorrowful and powerful. Bach’s Passion tells the compelling story of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, with gripping drama. The chorus sings three large movements which frame the story, and they also function as “the crowd” – telling the story along with the narrator, known as The Evangelist. The soloists turn the story to its internal context, providing personal meditations on the elements of the story.”
6. Bartók, Béla: Bluebeard’s Castle
7. Beethoven, Ludwig van: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major (Adam Stern)
8. Beethoven, Ludwig van: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat “Emperor”
9. Beethoven, Ludwig van: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor “Quasi una fantasia” (“Moonlight” Sonata)
10. Beethoven, Ludwig van: Symphony No. 3 in E flat “Eroica” (Emil de Cou) (Ludovic Morlot)
11. Beethoven, Ludwig van: Symphony No. 6 in F major “Pastoral” (Bryan Lowe)
>>Bryan says: “I’ve included a few very heavy pieces in my list, but this is anything but. I defy you to be in a bad mood listening to this, especially the first movement.”
12. Beethoven, Ludwig van: Symphony No. 9 in C minor “Choral” (“Ode to Joy”) (Christophe Chagnard)
>>Christophe says: “The greatest symphony ever composed! Its universal message of brotherly love seems more relevant than ever. We need to listen better…”
13. Berlioz, Hector: Symphonie fantastique
14. Bernstein, Leonard: Overture to Candide
15. Biber, Heinrich Ignaz von: Passacaglia for unaccompanied violin (from “Mystery Sonatas”) (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “Biber’s Passacaglia is a model for Bach’s unaccompanied violin music and one of the most beautiful instrumental works of the 17th century.”
16. Bizet, Georges: Carmen
17. Brahms, Johannes: German Requiem (Karen P. Thomas)
>>Karen says: “Many composers have written their most expressive and touching music for settings of the Requiem. Brahms’ setting is a masterwork of great humanity with melting moments of compassion, written to a text which the composer chose himself. Rather than using the traditional Latin Requiem mass, Brahms chose scriptural texts which provide comfort to those who have lost loved ones, and set the text in German so that it would be immediately meaningful for his German audiences. After completing his monumental work Brahms wrote: ‘Now I have surmounted obstacles I thought I could never overcome, and I feel like an eagle, soaring ever higher and higher.'”
18. Brahms, Johannes: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor (Adam Stern)
19. Brahms, Johannes: Piano Quartet in G minor
20. Brahms, Johannes: Symphony No. 3 in F major
21. Britten, Benjamin: The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34
22. Britten, Benjamin: War Requiem (Karen P. Thomas)
>>Karen says: “This gripping 90-minute work is one of the most searing anti-war pieces ever written. Britten composed it in 1961 for the re-consecration of Coventry Cathedral, which had been destroyed by bombing in WWII. The composer chose to juxtapose the traditional Latin Requiem text with poems written by Wilfrid Owen, a soldier who was killed in WWI. In so doing, he allows the sacred and the secular to co-exist in unresolved tension. The Latin Requiem text is sung by a large chorus and soprano soloist, representing society mourning for the fallen soldiers, as well as a children’s choir performing from a distance, as if a chorus of angels. Tenor and baritone soloists sing the Wilfrid Owen poetry (in English), portraying common soldiers who face death every day. Britten intended for the first performance to be sung by soloists from three different countries that had fought in WWII – England, Germany and Russia – making a strong statement for reconciliation and peace.”
23. Chopin, Frederic: Etude Op. 10/3 in E major “Tristesse” (Bryan Lowe)
24. Chopin, Frederic: Nocturne, Op. 27/2 (Christophe Chagnard)
>>Christophe says: “Until Chopin, the piano was still a percussive instrument. Chopin gave it its sustained cantabile voice like no other pianist before him. And then, the piano sang…”
25. Chopin: Prelude Op. 28/15 “Raindrop”
26. Copland, Aaron: Appalachian Spring (Emil de Cou)
>>Emil says: “Along with Rodeo, Billy the Kid, and Lincoln Portrait these are my favorite works of American music. Copland, the son of Russian emigrants growing up in Brooklyn gave voice to a new sort of American music. The end of Appalachian Spring is particularly touching as the new couple walk into their new home to being their lives together (the Graham ballet is one of the most beautiful and least known ballets in the repertoire). The music hearkens back to a sound that resonates with all Americans – an archetype of Americana that only really exists in our collective imagination of how we imagine our past and the future of our country.”
27. Copland, Aaron: Rodeo
28. Couperin, Francois: Les Nations
29. de Falla, Manuel: Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor, Brujo (Bryan Lowe)
>>Bryan says: “There’s something about this piece that I love. Maybe it’s how effectively it paints a picture, or the cool pizzicato section and the contrasts. Great piece.”
30. Debussy, Claude: Clair de lune (orch. Caplet or Stokowski) (Emil de Cou)
>>Emil says: “I have performed this work a number of times and also played on piano as well. It is an early piece by Debussy from his Suite Bergamasque and a piece that he kept in his desk drawer his entire life. It is one of those perfectly composed pieces with great simplicity and almost a hymn-like purity. The hardest sort of music to write, in my mind.”
31. Debussy, Claude: La Mer
32. Debussy, Claude: Pelléas and Mélisande (Ludovic Morlot)
33. Debussy, Claude: Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun
>>Christophe says: “A completely new concept of orchestration and rhythm that created and blended tonal colors in a way that produced a sonic universe heralding the revolutionary “impressionist” movement in painting. It’s music liberated from the German dominance in the 18th and 19th Centuries. A new musical language was born…”
34. Debussy, Claude: Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp
37. Dvořák, Antonín: Piano Quintet No. 2 (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “A perfect mix of Classical form, Romantic expression, and irresistible folk-like melodies make this justifiably one of the most popular chamber works of all time.”
38. Dvořák, Antonín: Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” (Emil de Cou)
>>Emil says: “Dvořák was able to see in our country that the true source of a national musical voice was to come first from the native songs of the African American. This pronouncement was met with fierce outrage by the musical establishment of the time in the US and abroad. His symphony not only encompasses the sights and sounds his time here in the United States (including a sections of his unfinished opera The Song of Hiawatha – native drumming in the scherzo and the funeral of Minnehaha in the slow movement) but is also a love letter to our country – I always thought that the title really was ‘To the New World.’ Not 40 years later we have the first important symphony composed by an American – William Grant Still. Based, as Dvorak said our music would be, on the music of African Americans.”
39. Elgar, Edward: Cello Concerto
40. Fauré, Gabriel: Requiem (Bryan Lowe)
>>Bryan says: “Fauré didn’t write of a god to be feared, and it shows.”
41. Gershwin, George: Rhapsody in Blue
42. Griffes, Charles: Sonata for Piano (Emil de Cou)
>>Emil says: “Our first great American impressionist was cut down in his prime in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1919. This piano sonata is the first great work by an American in a totally original and new style. I feel very close to this piece having known and worked with his biographer Edward Maizel who knew Griffes’s mother, family and friends (he has since passed away). At his recommendation I finished the orchestration that Griffes began to make a new symphony from the sonata – Symphony 1919. I hope to perform it here sometime.”
43. Handel, George Frederick: The Messiah
44. Haydn, Franz Joseph: Symphony No. 103 in E flat major “Drumroll” (Adam Stern)
45. Hildegard von Bingen: Caritas habundat No. 25 from Canticles of Ecstasy
49. Lawes, William: Royal Consort Suite No. 3 in D major
50. Mahler, Gustav: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5
>>Christophe says: “Mahler is a complex genius who can elicit the most extreme reactions within a single movement in his compositions. I find him at his finest when he is at his most intimate and humble such as in this deeply personal love letter to Alma.”
51. Mahler, Gustav: Symphony No. 1 “Titan”
52. Mahler, Gustav: Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”
53. Mahler, Gustav: Symphony No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”)
54. Messaien, Olivier: Praise to the Eternity of Jesus from Quartet for the End of Time (Bryan Lowe)
>>Bryan says: “Honestly, I am quite the fan of Messiaen, though this is one of his few works that would find its way to any “top” list. By way of background it is a part of his Quartet for the End of Time, a work first performed in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Transcendent.”
55. Messaien, Olivier: Turangalîla-Symphony
56. Monteverdi, Claudio: Magnificat from Vespers of 1610 (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “A gorgeous marriage of sacred and secular beauty.”
57. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Clarinet Concerto (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “Mozart’s concertos are like instrumental operas. There are many masterpieces among them and the clarinet concerto is one of the finest.”
58. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Concerto for Flute and Harp
59. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Don Giovanni (Christophe Chagnard)
>>Christophe says: “My favorite opera! It’s perfect and has EVERYTHING going for it: a great plot, drama, humor, intelligence, a deep understanding of the human condition, timeless melodies, exquisite orchestration and genius invention through and through.”
60. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Le nozze di Figaro (Karen P. Thomas)
>>Karen says: “Any bucket list should include Mozart – here represented by one of his most perfect comic operas. The complicated plot tells how the servants Figaro and Susanna succeed in getting married, foiling the efforts of their philandering employer Count Almaviva to seduce Susanna. The music is sparkling and tender by turns, the comic timing is perfection, and the characters finely drawn and completely engaging.”
61. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major (Christophe Chagnard)
>>Christophe says: “I consider the second movement (Andante) to be the most perfect music ever composed, the absolute height of refinement, grace and beauty, a miracle of melodic inspiration and the piece I want to hear while I depart this earth.”
62. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Queen of the Night’s Aria from The Magic Flute (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “What could be more fabulous?”
63. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Requiem
64. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Symphony No. 36 “Linz” (Adam Stern)
65. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus: Symphony No. 40 (Christophe Chagnard)
>>Christophe says: “There are not enough superlatives to describe the astonishing quality and quantity of Mozart’s creative output. Whatever the genre, he always excels and seems to rise even higher when composing in minor such as in the stunning opening movement of this penultimate symphony.”
66. Mussorgsky, Modest: Pictures at an Exhibition
67. Prokofiev, Sergei: Romeo and Juliet
68. Purcell, Henry: Dido and Aeneas (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “One of the few great operas in English and a perfect miniature of all the best characteristics of Baroque opera.”
69. Rachmaninoff, Sergei: Symphony No. 2 in E minor
70. Ravel, Maurice: Daphnis and Chloe (Adam Stern)
71. Ravel, Maurice: Pavane for a Dead Princess
72. Ravel, Maurice: Piano Concerto for the Left Hand (Bryan Lowe)
>>Bryan says: “I’ve loved this piece for decades, but what really sealed the deal for me was an episode of MASH where a pianist loses an arm in battle, and this piece comes to the rescue. There’s a real Phoenix rising from the ashes feel here… such hope and strength.”
73. Ravel, Maurice: String Quartet
74. Ravel, Maurice: The Fairy Garden from Mother Goose (Bryan Lowe)
>>Bryan says: “It just doesn’t get any more beautiful than this… really.”
75. Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 in C minor “Organ”
76. Schoenberg, Arnold: Transfigured Night
77. Schubert, Franz: “Trout” Quintet
78. Schubert, Franz: Ave Maria
79. Schubert, Franz: Du bist die Ruh (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “One could pick from dozens of his wonderful songs but this is a good example of his sublime simplicity.”
80. Schubert, Franz: Winterreise (Adam Stern)
81. Schumann, Clara: Piano Trio (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “A major work by one of the greatest musicians of the 19th century.”
82. Schumann, Robert: Fantasy for piano in C major (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “A good summary of everything you could want from 19th-century Romantic piano music.”
83. Schumann, Robert: Piano Quintet in E flat major (Adam Stern)
84. Sibelius, Jean: Finlandia
85. Sousa, John Philip: The Stars and Stripes Forever (Emil de Cou)
>>Emil says: “Because it is such fun music!”
86. Still, William Grant: Afro-American Symphony (Emil de Cou)
87. Strauss, Richard: Alpine Symphony
88. Strauss, Richard: Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30
89. Strauss, Richard: Im Abendrot from Four Last Songs (Bryan Lowe)
>>Bryan says: “Well, Strauss never called them “Four Last Songs,” as he didn’t know they would be, but he certainly was aware of his mortality as he wrote this song, especially. The lyrics and music tell a tale of a couple, together in love for many decades, holding hands and looking out over the sea, perhaps, pondering what’s to come. The tone has hints of melancholy and even foreboding, but for the most part this is a work built upon a sense of a life of happiness, of acceptance, of calm. Honestly, it is rare for me not to tear up as I listen, in part for the stunning beauty of the music, and at least in some small way from my own sense of happiness for a beautiful life I’ve lived and the love for those that mean so much to me. Melancholy at times, yes, but there is so much love and hope here, as well. The older I get, the more this piece means to me.”
90. Stravinsky, Igor: The Rite of Spring (Emil de Cou) (Christophe Chagnard)
>>Christophe says: “Still unmatched today for its astonishing rhythmic audacity and inventiveness. For three decades, I’ve studied this wondrous score and to this day, still feel bewildered by its supreme mastery and complete originality. It’s powerful music from the earth to our most primal core!”
91. Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich: Orchestral Suite No. 3 in G major (Adam Stern)
>>Adam says: “While not as famous as some of his other works, this is the Tchaikovsky piece that has it all: flawless orchestration, burning and yearning melodies that no-one else could write, exuberant spirits, emotional intimacy, and a theme-and-variations finale that is a testament to Tchaikovsky’s limitless inventiveness. A must.”
92. Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich: Piano Trio (Byron Schenkman)
>>Byron says: “There are a lot of pieces by Tchaikovsky that I would want people to know; this one is a particular favorite which I find devastatingly beautiful!”
93. Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich: Swan Lake Ballet Suite
94. Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich: Symphony No. 5 (Emil de Cou)
>>Emil says: “I put this at the top of my list being one of my absolute favorite pieces by my absolute favorite composer. I think that listening to Tchaikovsky’s music when I was young is what made me want to conduct for dance. It is also the only symphony that does not have percussion of any sort. He was criticized in Germany about his music being not at all like Brahms (who he did not like at all) so this was his response.”
95. Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilyich: Symphony No. 6 in B minor “Pathetique” (Ludovic Morlot)
96. Vaughan Williams, Ralph: Symphony No. 6 in E minor (Adam Stern)
97. Verdi, Giuseppe: Requiem
98. Wagner, Richard: Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde (Christophe Chagnard) (Ludovic Morlot)
>>Christophe says: “Music was never the same after this famous prelude which explored the boundaries of tonality to its zenith. No one but Wagner could push chromaticism to such degree while creating a tribute to love that stands among the most poignant ever rendered.”