Berlioz in Hell: “The Damnation of Faust”

By |2019-04-19T19:45:26-05:00April 18th, 2019|

"You see," Hector Berlioz said to a friend after enumerating his torments. "It's diabolical isn't it? I mean, it's once tragic and grotesque. I said I deserved to go to hell... but I'm there!" Indeed, Hector Berlioz was the archetype of the tortured Romantic soul: a professed atheist who yet felt the pull of his [...]

Mass of Notre Dame

By |2019-04-15T23:17:07-05:00April 15th, 2019|

Editor's Note: Guillaume de Machaut's Messe de Notre Dame (Mass of Our Lady) is the earliest complete setting of the Ordinary of the Mass attributable to a single composer and was written for performance at the great Cathedral of Our Lady of Reims in France. The following description comes from the website of the Boston [...]

Music for Holy Week and Easter

By |2019-04-14T21:54:10-05:00April 14th, 2019|

Today’s offering in our Timeless Essay series affords our readers the opportunity to join Stephen Klugewicz, as he provides musical suggestions for listening during Holy Week and the Easter season. —W. Winston Elliott III, Publisher Though Handel’s Messiah rightly reigns supreme as the king of music for Easter, there are many other seasonal masterpieces [...]

Composers and Wine

By |2019-04-11T22:23:27-05:00April 11th, 2019|

As a wine professional and classically trained musician, I’ve always wanted to know if wine was important in the lives of the great composers. Did Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven enjoy wine daily? Did they keep a cellar? Did they write about the wines they drank? I’ve never been able to find much about the [...]

Paul Hindemith’s “Life of Mary”

By |2019-04-01T11:25:30-05:00March 30th, 2019|

Despite all its intellectual rigor, Paul Hindemith’s Life of Mary is a very approachable piece of twentieth-century vocal music. I can think of no other work that treats the totality of Mary’s life, including episodes that even the most devout rarely think about. A giant among 20th-century composers, Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) went from an [...]

The Glorious Music of Heinrich Biber

By |2019-03-16T21:34:57-05:00March 16th, 2019|

Fifty years ago, most music lovers had not heard of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber (1644-1704), let alone heard any of his works. Now he has claimed his place in the canon of great composers. Upon viewing the complete edition of his music, Paul Hindemith went so far as to call Biber the greatest composer [...]

“Jesus Was An Only Son”

By |2019-03-15T19:02:45-05:00March 15th, 2019|

Editor’s Note: Bruce Springsteen released the song "Jesus Was An Only Son" on his 2005 album, Devils and Dust. Words and music follow below. Well Jesus was an only son As he walked up Calvary Hill His mother Mary walking beside him In the path where his blood spilled Jesus was an only son In [...]

Requiem for Hector Berlioz

By |2019-04-19T00:51:04-05:00March 8th, 2019|

"I feel I am dying," Hector Berlioz wrote in one of his last letters. "I no longer believe in anything." Indeed, by 1869, Berlioz was a frustrated man who had long ago given up his Catholic faith and who had largely given up composing for the previous several years. For many years, the limited and [...]

Carnival Music From “Benvenuto Cellini”

By |2019-03-05T12:10:46-05:00March 5th, 2019|

Editor’s Note: “I swear I shall never again achieve this verve and Cellinian impetuosity nor such variety of ideas,” Hector Berlioz effused about his opera, Benvenuto Cellini, based on the memoirs of the eponymous Renaissance artist who fashioned the great statue of Perseus cutting off the head of Medusa. Premiered in 1838, the opera was [...]

Vivaldi and the Cello

By |2019-03-03T22:22:43-05:00March 3rd, 2019|

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi’s music is timeless. Performed within the orchestral world, period films, and popular culture today, his works and melodies are recognizable, even to a movie crowd. Yet his work was often discredited in his lifetime because he was prolific. Composers and critics alike believed that Vivaldi’s sheer quantity of production outweighed his quality. Vivaldi [...]

Jacques Barzun and Hector Berlioz

By |2019-04-19T00:51:56-05:00February 27th, 2019|

In his two-volume Berlioz and the Romantic Century, historian Jacques Barzun argued that the much-maligned and misunderstood composer was in fact the dominant cultural figure of his day, “who by will and genius stamped his effigy upon the nineteenth century” and brought “kings, ministers, and public institutions, no less than poets and musicians, under his spell.” Publisher's Note: This essay [...]

Mark Hollis, Rest Your Head

By |2019-02-26T16:38:19-05:00February 26th, 2019|

On February 25, 2019, at age sixty-four, Mark David Hollis passed away. Though he had not been active for more than two decades in the music industry, his death is a great loss to the art world. Hollis was the “J.D. Salinger of the rock world” but, frankly, much cooler and much more talented. He [...]

“Green Book” and Chopin’s Stunning Étude

By |2019-02-26T22:37:43-05:00February 23rd, 2019|

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=6&v=QkZxoko_HC0 If you’re a moviegoer who follows the Oscars, you might have seen Green Book, a 2018 movie about an Italian-American bouncer who chauffeurs an African-American pianist on a performing tour through the deep South in the 1960s. It stars actors Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen, and I can’t say enough good things about it. What drew [...]

The Myth of Modernism

By |2019-02-26T14:40:40-05:00February 13th, 2019|

“Should not the unswerving modernists… come to the realization that there is nothing more wearisome or more barren than the most antiquated of all manias: the rage to be modern?” Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) In my visits to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, I generally sidestep the East Building, the portion devoted to [...]