Category: 19th-century music

  • The Sadness of the New World

    In 1893, Dvorak and his family traveled from New York to Chicago by train to visit the World’s Fair. From Chicago, they went to Spillville, Iowa, a farming community of Czech immigrants. While in Spillville, Dvorak met and heard the music of Native Americans for the first time. As his son described it, they were: […]

  • The DNA of American Classical Music

    While driving to Target to buy a new vacuum on Black Friday (oh, the glamorous life of an adjunct!), I turned on the radio to the classical station, which was in the middle of this piece, in a new arrangement for piano quintet (piano, two violins, viola, and cello). At first I thought it was […]

  • Clara at 200

    A clever student-created animated bio, “The Wild Life of Clara Schumann.” Clara’s beautiful Lied “Beim Abschied.” The poem, by Friederike Serre, translated by Richard Stokes. On departing A purple glow shines from afar,Golden now the bright day sinks,One by one the silver starsAwaken in the skies.And the Queen of the DayBows her head and goes […]

  • To the Distant Beloved

    Read the score here: Translations are here. The cycle performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore. Read the texts and see facsimiles of the “Immortal Beloved” letters here. Canadian composer James K. Wright composed a cycle of three songs based on the letters for voice and piano trio. The piece, Briefe an die unsterbliche Geliebte […]

  • No to Joy

    The fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the “Ode to Joy,” was adopted as the anthem of the European Union in 1985, no doubt as much for the utopian vision of universal brotherhood presented in the text of the poem by Friedrich Schiller as for its rousing tune: Joy, beautiful spark of God,Daughter of Elysium,We […]

  • The DNA of American Folk Music

    Engraving of Pocahontas (1595-1617). In 2018, in response to pushback against her longtime claims of Native American ancestry (including from President Trump, who refers to her mockingly as “Pocahontas”), Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren had her DNA tested, and made the results public. The test indicated that Warren had a Native American ancestor […]

  • Butterfly Resources, part III: Critical Responses

    The Japanese Fan (Gustave de Jonghe, 1880s). Read “Madama Butterfly: A Study in Ambiguity” by Jordan Serchuk. Read “The Heartless GIs Who Inspired Madame Butterfly“ by Rupert Christiansen. Read “Washington National Opera’s Madama Butterfly, Reviewed,” by Mike Paarlberg. Read “Past vs. Present: Puccini’s Madame Butterfly vs. Weezer’s Pinkerton” by Maxime Scraire. Weezer’s “Across the Sea”: Read “What About Yellowface?” […]

  • Butterfly Resources, part II

    The opera in a nutshell. Maestro Antonio Pappano and the cast of the Royal Opera production discuss the rehearsal process. English National Opera presented Butterfly two years ago with a puppet as Trouble, Butterfly’s son. Do you think it works? A short animated film to Butterfly’s Act II aria “Un bel dì vedremo.” Glyndebourne Opera updated the […]

  • Butterfly Resources, part I

    Read the complete libretto in English translation here. Orientalism: “La Japonaise (Mme. Monet in Kimono” (Claude Monet, 1875). Photo from Operation Babylift, Saigon, 1975: a U.S. Naval officer about to take a Vietnamese orphan, one of thousands, onboard a plane to be adopted in America. For more on Operation Babylift, go here: A French […]

  • Ossian in Italy

    How did the poetry of Ossian (really, James MacPherson) influence Italian opera in the nineteenth century? Why was Ossian — later acknowledged to be a fraud — so important to the Romantic generation in Italy? Could it be because these supposedly ancient poems spoke to the longing for a unified culture and community, one based […]