Vive la France! A Classical Playlist for Bastille Day

Vive le France!

Today is Bastille Day for our good friends in France, and I thought I’d celebrate here on my blog with a collection of great French works.  But upon further reflection, I thought I’d take slightly different approach.  It is, of course, easy to assemble a collection of French favorites: slap together some Debussy and Ravel, throw in a dash of Berlioz, and tack on Fauré’s Requiem for good measure.  But ultimately I decided to focus the list more, and provide 10 of my favorite music that celebrates Paris itself—works that seek to depict its boulevards, cafés, architecture, its people… or simply life in the City of Lights.

Please note that I’ve deliberately sidestepped opera here, although Puccini’s La bohème, Verdi’s La traviata, and Massenet’s Manon certainly fit the bill!

Enjoy!

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A Perfect Fourth: A Classical Playlist for Independence Day

It’s Independence Day!  The Fourth of July remains one of America’s favorite holidays—a time for patriotic celebration, cookouts with families and friends, and plenty of fireworks.  In almost all of these events, music is an absolute must, ranging from military bands and John Philip Sousa to Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

In keeping with my blog’s overall theme, I’d like to share a list of classical works to help my fellow Americans get into spirit.  And while everyone seems to love having Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as background music for their firework displays, I bet I can find a few more honestly American-themed pieces for you to enjoy….

So grab a sparkler and have a listen!

And as long as we’re on the subject, for a great patriotic concert experience, check out PBS’s annual concert, A Capitol Fourth, which is broadcast live on July 4th from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. It’s always a big hit, with performers this year ranging from Chita Rivera and Renée Flemming to Jimmy Buffet—click here for more info. Continue reading

America’s Immigrant Composers: A Playlist

Over the last few days (and really, the last year), the issue of immigration (legal or otherwise) has made headlines across the United States, and provoked deep, emotional discussions.

For me, immigrants are central to the American experience, and have played a vital role in shaping nearly all aspects of our country’s development since the first days of the Republic—in politics, the economy, medical breakthroughs, scientific discovery, and in the success of its armed forces. America has been profoundly enriched by the contributions of immigrants for centuries.

The contributions of immigrants are particularly noteworthy in music and the arts. Again and again, artists from distant shores have relocated to the United States and found shelter, found new opportunities, and created astonishing new works that have shaped and re-shaped how we view the world.

Don’t believe me? Here is a partial playlist of great composers who immigrated to the United States, along with some of their most noteworthy works… many of which that speak to their experiences as immigrants or their connections to their new homeland. Enjoy! Continue reading

A Classical Spring!

Happy Spring!

With today’s equinox, spring is officially underway.  This is particularly good news for those of us in Minnesota—we are, as I write this, it is currently snowing outside, with a proper snowstorm possible this weekend.

Anyway, I wanted to celebrate the new season with a classical playlist of spring-themed music. It’s a diverse collection that captures the many moods of spring… enjoy! Continue reading

A Classical St. Patrick’s Day

We’re fast approaching St. Patrick’s Day—a time when everyone celebrates their Irish heritage, whether they’re Irish or not.

Ireland is justly famous for its music, and in the spirit of this festive holiday I thought I’d share a playlist of classical works with a tie to the Emerald Isle.  So, grab a pint of green beer (or better yet, some fine Irish whiskey) and enjoy! Continue reading

Winter: A Classical Music Playlist

Winter is here, and with it the longest night of the year.  As a season, winter often gets a bum rap—while spring is a season of new beginnings, winter too often gets written off as a season of death and bleak desolation. And indeed, many people start feeling a bit stir crazy this time of year.  So, let me break the seasonal doldrums with a playlist of winter-themed classical music.  Some of the following selections are delicate, some melancholy, some dramatic… but all take winter, ice, or snow as their point of departure.  Note that I have deliberately avoided Christmas or holiday music here… Christmas music deserves its own post.

Cheers! Continue reading

Classical Music’s Vampires: An October Playlist

Classical music has always had a fondness for the supernatural. In earlier centuries, composers had incorporated Christian miracles or classical myths into their works. But by the nineteenth century composers had expanded the repertoire to include mermaids, witches, phantoms… and vampires.

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Vampires have been a staple in classical music since the early 1800s. The vampire craze really took off in 1819, when John William Polidori’s short story “The Vampire” became an international sensation. Soon, vampires were showing up everywhere, in fiction, poetry, and religious treatises. Naturally, composers took advantage of the new-found popularity and brought vampires to the opera house and concert hall, too. Sometimes the resulting works were dramatic, making them precursors to modern horror films. At other times, composers used the vampire story for comedic effect, giving their bloodsuckers an ironic wink.

As October gets underway, I thought I’d share a collection of 10 vampire-themed classical works from the last 200 years. Enjoy!

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