Music to Honor the Centennial of Armistice Day

One hundred years ago today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, guns across Europe fell silent—an armistice had finally ended the Great War.  Germany, Austria, France and England agreed to stop the killing, which had become untenable for all the great countries of Europe.  In the aftermath, everyone began the difficult work of taking stock of what happened… and how much had changed.

Here in the United States, World War I doesn’t have the same resonance of World War II—the US only became involved toward the end of the conflict, and American soil had not come under direct attack.  But on the other side of the pond, the war was an epochal event.  Horrific casualties seemed to have wiped out an entire generation.  Venerable cities lay in ruins. Several empires collapsed, and even those that survived intact were swept by profound social changes.

Many classical composers fought in the war, and their works were instrumental in describing the horrors of the war, reminding us what was lost, and facilitating the process by which the world sought to understand what happened and move on from the calamity.

In light of Armistice Day, I’d like to share a classical playlist highlighting composers who fought in the war, died in the war, and struggled to explain it to their audiences.

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Classical Witches for Halloween

Halloween is once again here… and to celebrate, I wanted to put forth another playlist of appropriate classical music.  In years past, I’ve presented classical playlists of music depicting vampires, works based on the writings of Edgar Allen Poe, or even a collection of horror operas.

This year, let me feature one of the most archetypal images of Halloween: the witch.

Witches have long been depicted in classical music, and they continue to fascinate composers today. Sometimes these powerful women spark terror, but in other times witches inspire sympathy, or even admiration.

Enjoy, and Happy Halloween!

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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