Mozart acknowledged how difficult writing for string quartet could be when he dedicated a set to the father of the nascent genre, Joseph Haydn, saying “They are…the fruit of a long and laborious study.” Haydn had created the “string quartet” about 30 years before Mozart’s work in the genre, and others (including Ignaz Pleyel in 1784) had paid similar homage to Papa Haydn.
Our Featured Album this week is Cuarteto Casals playing three of the six quartets dedicated to Haydn, by Mozart. Sample some of Cuarteto Casals’ earlier recordings of Mozart here:
The visual arts have always inspired composers to create music. Remember Nat King Cole singing “Mona Lisa”? The classical music world is full of works inspired by paintings and drawings. Perhaps the most famous classical piece of this nature is “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Modest Mussorgsky.
German composer Paul Hindemith wrote an opera inspired by a religious altarpiece painted by Matthias Grünewald. Called the “Isenheim Altarpiece,” the Grünewald piece is a series of folding panels that reveal many different scenes. Hindemith took three of the scenes and created a symphony for orchestra from the opera. The title, “Mathis der Maler,” translates as Matthias the Painter.
The first movement is called “Angelic Concert.” The music depicts a concert of angels singing the news of the Christ child’s birth at the nativity. The second movement, “Entombment” is a musical depiction of the bottom panel which remains always visible at the base of the altarpiece below the wings.The third and final movement, “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” shows strange creatures reminiscent of the work of Hieronymus Bosch.
Classical 90.5′s live music program, Lunchtime Classics, is on summer hiatus. In the meantime, we’ll look back at some notable past performers.
Sixteen-year-old cellist Anne Richardson is a veteran performer on WUOL’s Lunchtime Classics and a past winner of the Classical 90.5 Young Artist Competition. Anne made her solo debut at age ten with the Louisville Orchestra and has gone on to perform with the Blue Ash Montgomery Symphony Orchestra, Bryan Symphony Orchestra, and Massapequa Philharmonic.
Anne is currently enrolled in the Juilliard School Pre-College Division as a student of Richard Aaron. She recently won the Juilliard Pre-College Cello Concerto Competition and then she made her solo debut at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater with the Pre-College Symphony.
Enjoy this past performance from Lunchtime Classics:
And here’s a video from Ms. Richardson playing the first concerto by Saint-Saens.
Have you ever created something unique? That’s what Mozart did when he wrote his quintet for piano and woodwinds. It was the first ever quintet that featured those instruments in a group. It became so popular that Ludwig van Beethoven wrote one of his own, with the same instruments, same number of movements and even similar tempos in each movement. (Watch a full performance below)
Mozart himself knew it was something special. In a letter to his father Mozart wrote, ” I have written…a quintet which has been exceptionally well received; – I myself consider it the best thing I have ever written in my life.” Strong words from a master composer!
Tchaikovsky was a Shakespeare fan. If you don’t believe it, just consider the number of his works inspired by the Bard: Romeo and Juliet Overture-Fantasia, Hamlet Overture-Fantasia, Incidental music to Hamlet, and The TempestFantasia.
Shakespeare has always inspired composers, including Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Britten and Thomas Adès.
Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest was suggested by Vladimir Stassov. He gave Tchaikovsky an outline of the play, that served as the musical narrative. Tchaikovsky’s music evokes a stormy sea, the love between Miranda and Ferdinand, and the magic of Ariel.
Watch Gustavo Dudamel talk about his recording project featuring the Shakespearean works of Tchaikovsky, and don’t miss Kentucky Shakespeare’s performances this summer!