129: Franz Schubert, ‘Death and the Maiden’

In Renaissance art, the Death and the Maiden allegory depicted irresistible Death seducing a hot virgin without any clothes—think of a slasher movie directed by Ingmar Bergman. In young Franz Schubert’s string quartet, this motif becomes a hyper-energized meditation on his impending demise.

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280: Charles Ives, ‘The Unanswered Question’

Founder of a successful insurance company. on weekends he composed modernist music that lay unheard for 50 years and “responded to negligence with contempt”.
My new role model.

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278: The Danish String Quartet, ‘Sønderho Bridal Trilogy – Part II’/Dreamers’ Circus, ‘Kitchen Stories’

A classical string quartet and a roots trio. Six (sic) shaggy, hunky young Danish musicians exploring their roots with such panache and skill and joy that you can’t not love it. I guarantee you.

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086: ‘Different Trains’, Steve Reich (Kronos Quartet)

SoTW takes a look at Minimalism and composer Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’, a three-movement piece for string quartet and tape (1988).
Reich uses recorded spoken phrases of his governess, a retired Pullman porter, and various Holocaust survivors interlaid with the astounding Kronos Quartet to contrast his childhood memories of train journeys between New York and California in 1939–1941 (he traveled between his separated parents) with the very different trains being used to transport contemporaneous European children to their deaths under Nazi rule.
This is difficult, challenging music, but is said to have “earned Reich a place among the great composers of the 20th century”.

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084: Dmitri Shostakovich, Prelude & Fugue No 16 in B-flat Minor (Tatiana Nikolaeva)

My personal journey from “Petula Clark sings Robert Johnson” to J.S. Bach to Dmitri Shostakovich.
Searching? Bad Navigation? Simple twist of fate?

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077: J.S. Bach, ‘The Art of The Fugue’ (The Emerson Quartet, ‘Contrapunctus 9’)

My knowledge of classical music is patchier than an Iowa quilt. But my wife still harbors delusions that I’ll grow up some day, and in her mind listening to Bach is a more dignified and mature activity than listening to The Beach Boys. Well, a lot of people with highly-refined musical sensibilities don’t really understand Brian Wilson, but the opposite is the opposite, I believe. Anyone – even a corner-boy drug dealer from West Baltimore, who takes a moment to pause and listen to “The Art of the Fugue” by Johann Sebastian Bach – must grasp that he is standing before a grandeur and beauty rare in the course of our ordinary lives. Like standing on the lip of the Grand Canyon. Like gazing at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Like hearing your grandchild say “I love you, Poppa.” Those moments in which we transcend the traffic-jam that is our life.

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097: Mstislav Rostropovich, ‘Cello Concerto Opus 43, Adagio’ (Mieczyslaw Weinberg)

Holocaust Day just ended, and here’s the stranger-than-fiction story of a Jewish composer, Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919–1996), whose personal odyssey is emblematic of that of the Jewish people in the 20th century, not only for the trials and tribulations he underwent (although there were more of them than can be grasped), but because of the wholly bizarre, tortuous and miraculous course of events.

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055: Miles Davis/Gil Evans, ‘Concierto de Aranjuez’

In which a jazz recasting of classical favorite trumps the original. Gil Evans and a taste of heaven.

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