Summer Potpourri

There is much to catch up on for your summer listening pleasure. Faithful readers will recall how often I choose the Classical period for musical refreshment. And so it is again with the Symphonies Op. 3, Nos. 1-4 of Franz Ignaz Beck (1734-1809) on a new budget Naxos release (8.570799). I seemed to recall an [...]

Hidden Melodies

When the history of 20th-century music is written in the next several hundred years, will it bear much resemblance to how we think of it now? I have long suspected that there is a hidden history of classical music during this period that would one day surface. I tried to write part of it in [...]

‘Glee’ and the Search for Postmodern Innocence

The musical comedy-drama Glee debuted on Fox just over a year ago. The story of a high school Spanish teacher's attempts to resurrect the Lima, Ohio, high school glee club surprised critics by ending its first season ranked at 33 in the Nielsen ratings. Now in its second season, the show's ratings have only gone [...]

Merry May Music

I was recently in "old Europe" for a conference on Islam and to promote my new book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind (alas, not a work about music). However, what's the point of being in old Europe without music? The very stones cry out for it. Therefore, I snuck in an opera in Vienna, [...]

Signs of Spring

Spring quickens one's sense of delight and lifts one's spirits as the world awakens. Many puzzle over how the world began; I am still in wonder at how spring happens. With a child's appetite for repetition, I am always ready to say: Do it again! This is my inspiration for focusing mostly on delightful music [...]

Listening to Music in the Digital Age

I recently stumbled across a most interesting piece from a website called PopMatters that occasionally happens across my radar. The article, entitled "Mental Machine Music: The Musical Mind in the Digital Age," is a bit long, but the questions is raises have been haunting me for some time now: I want to discern how, precisely, [...]

Music for the Via Dolorosa

   A friend in a nursing home left me this phone message at the beginning of Holy Week: "God came to us and we murdered Him, tortured Him to death, spat on Him. And now, all He asks of us is that we let Him forgive us. Some people won't even do that. Isn't that [...]

From Classical to No-Later-than-Late Romantic

   As is happily the norm, I am inundated with CD releases that demand your attention. The music spans the 18th to the 20th centuries, so I shall proceed chronologically, having no other principle of organization at hand. This way you can simply skip the centuries you deplore and get to the good stuff. (That [...]

Music Redivivus

  This month I will focus on contemporary music, by which I mean music of the 20th and 21st centuries. Music from this period has been my preoccupation: When discussions began about the possible content of my Morley Institute book, Surprised by Beauty (2002), it turned out that the majority of my columns from the [...]

2009: A Good Year for Music

As 2009 expires, music journalists and magazines rush to anoint their recordings of the year. I have no such list, but I did take note of the British Gramophone's December selection of the Quatuor Ébène's CD of the Ravel, Debussy, and Fauré String Quartets on Virgin Classics (519045-2) as the recording of the year. I [...]

Carl Rütti’s Requiem

With his new Requiem, Swiss composer Carl Rütti has made a major contribution to the repertory. Naxos has issued a stunning recording of it with the Bach Choir, the Southern Sinfonia, soprano Olivia Robinson, and baritone Edward Price, under conductor David Hill (Naxos 8.572317). I first interviewed Rütti for crisis Magazine in May 1999, at [...]

Fall Amble

I shall meander this beautiful fall month, hoping to take you with me to Great Britain as I cover concerts and recordings that I particularly liked -- no more important reason than that. When last reporting on my musical adventures, I gave account of several concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London in late [...]

Autumn Treats

  Due to my recent columns celebrating the Haydn and Mendelssohn anniversaries, I have fallen woefully behind on months of new releases that beg for attention. This is a catch-up effort.   I begin with music of the soufflé from the Classical era. Giovanni Paisiello (1740-1816) wrote eight keyboard concertos that brim with felicitous melody. [...]

A Lot of Sound, No Music

Recently my family and I watched The Sound of Music for perhaps the twelfth time -- probably the last great musical that Hollywood ever produced. It made me wonder if I could list the reasons why such a movie could not now be made. These reasons I offer below; but it seems to me that [...]

Shine On, Mendelssohn

I recently heard a charming quote from novelist Edith Wharton to the effect that there are two roles in life -- either that of a candle or of a mirror. I'm a mirror. Even when I thought I was a candle -- years ago as an actor -- I was really a mirror, trying my [...]

Is Music Sacred?

As the most immaterial art, music is often thought to be the most spiritual. By its nature, is music sacred? If so, what is sacred about it? These might seem strange questions to ask in a secular age, but the presumption that there is something special about music pervades even our culture.Consider the poster on [...]

The BBC Proms

  While it is still the bicentenary year of Mendelssohn's birth in 1809, I thought I should find a way to observe it. A trip to London in late July gave me the opportunity. At the Proms, a series of summer concerts held at the Royal Albert Hall in London, I had the rare chance [...]

Long Live Haydn

May 31 was the 200th anniversary of Franz Joseph Haydn's death in 1809 at the age of 77. He was so revered that an honor guard was posted outside of his Vienna residence during his last days. The great good news is that this commemoration has generated a flood of Haydn releases and re-releases of [...]

Summer Listening List

  This month's column is more of a list than a series of reviews. I mean to arm you with unassailable enjoyment for the lazy, sunny season. If only I can control my logorrhea!   Faithful readers may recall that I was somewhat put off by Charles Mackerras's unrelenting breakneck speeds in his traversal of [...]

Susan Boyle, the Whimsy of God, and Heaven

If you are one of the very few people left who has not viewed the video of Susan Boyle singing "I Dreamed a Dream" on Britain's Got Talent, then you must do so immediately, or nothing I have to say will stick to your soul. If you are one of the tens of millions who [...]