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Performers Edition Articles

Articles, analysis, and more on classical music.

  • Obscure Music Monday: Dukas' Villanelle

    Paul Abraham Dukas (Oct. 1, 1865 - May 17, 1935)  was a French composer, professor, and critic, born in to a Jewish family. The second of three children, Dukas didn't show any extraordinary musical talent, despite taking piano from a young age, until his teenage years, when he started to compose while recovering from an illness. When he was 16 years old, he entered the Paris Conservatory, studying piano with George Mathias, harmony with Théodore Dubois, and composition with Ernest Guiraud. While he was there, he won several prizes, including second place for the coveted award Prix De Rome. He was upset he didn't win the top prize however, and left the university in 1889. After compulsory military service, he devoted himself to composing and has a career as a critic as well. He later on became Professor of Composition at the Paris Conservatory and also taught at the École Normale de Musique.  Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Bottesini's Fantasia on "La Sonnambula"

    Giovanno Bottesini (Dec. 22, 1821 - July 7, 1889) was born in Crema, Italy, and began his early musical education with his father, an accomplished clarinetist and composer. Later on in his life, Bottesini wanted to enter the Milan Conservatory on violin, but lacked the funds. The school only had two scholarships available, for bassoon and double bass. Within a matter of weeks, Bottesini prepared a successful audition on the double bass, and four years later began touring as a soloist, known as "The Paganini of the double bass". Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Bax's Sleepy Head

    Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax (Nov. 8, 1883 - Oct. 3, 1953) was an English poet, author, and composer. His output was prolific, and spanned several genres, from choral works to chamber pieces to orchestral music. His music was for a while neglected, and then revived, though predominantly as recordings; we still don't see his work programmed very often in concert halls. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Galos' Le Lac de Côme

    Giselle Galos (commonly known as C. Galos) was an obscure 19th century pianist and composer, born in France.  Very little is known about her; she didn't perform in public, and mainly published her works under the name "C. Galos" and no one knew if they were a woman or man. Some earlier works were found however, with the name "Madmoiselle Giselle Galos" or "Giselle Galos", therefore confirming they were written by a woman.  The majority of her works are salon pieces for piano, such as Le Lac de Côme.

    This piece is a very typical salon piece; it starts with an arpeggiated line in the left hand, before a pleasing and sentimental melody comes in. It makes no grand musical statements, nor does it have any innovative harmonic work, but is pleasing nonetheless. The work lays well on the piano, and is short and sweet. It makes for a fun piece to enjoy yourself, or perhaps in the company of friends.

    Sadly, we can't find any recordings of this work. Hopefully that changes soon!

  • Obscure Music Monday: Beach's Bal Masqué

    Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (Sept. 5, 1867 - December 27, 1944) was an American composer and pianist.  Extremely gifted from a young age, Beach's talents seemed to run in the family, with various members playing instruments or singing, and showing great aptitude for music. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Bowen's Viola Sonata No. 1

    Edwin York Bowen (Feb. 22, 1884 - Nov. 23, 1961) was an English composer and conductor who played several instruments, including viola, horn, organ, and piano. He started piano lessons with his mother when he was very young, and his talent was recognized immediately. His musical education continued at the North Metropolitan College of Music, and then Blackheath Conservatoire of Music, and at 14 he attended the Royal Academy of Music, and studied composition with Frederick Corder. He went on to win several composition awards, and was later a Professor at the Royal Academy. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Szymanowska's Fantaisie in F

    Maria Szymanowska (Dec. 14, 1789 - July 25, 1831) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. Born in Warsaw, the history of her musical studies is largely unknown, but we know that she gave her first public recitals in Paris and Warsaw in 1810. Just five years after her first public recital, her professional career began, with tours all throughout Europe, with a few performances in private for royalty. One of the first virtuosos of the 19th century, her playing was well received. She was also one of the first pianists to play performances from memory, far ahead of Liszt and Clara Schumann. After touring for a while, she relocated to Moscow, and then St. Petersburg, where she was court pianist to the tsarina.

    Szymanowska mainly wrote music for piano, thought she also wrote a few songs and chamber pieces. Her work is usually stylistically described as stile brilliante and of Polish Sentimentalism, and many scholars have debated her influence on Chopin. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Boulanger's Two Pieces for Violin and Piano

    Marie-Juliette Olga "Lili" Boulanger (Aug. 21, 1893 - March 15, 1918) was a French composer, and  the younger sister of the famed composition teacher/composer Nadia Boulanger. Born in Paris, Lili Boulanger was a child prodigy; at the age of two, it was discovered that she had perfect pitch. Her parents, both musicians, encouraged her musical education, and she would accompany her sister Nadia to classes at the Paris Conservatory, studying music theory and organ. Her sister Nadia was one of her teachers, and later on studied with Paul Vidal, George Caussade, and Gabriel Faure, who was particularly impressed by her abilities. Lili would go on to win the Prix de Rome at the age of 19; she was the first woman to ever win the composition prize. Tragically, she died at the young age of 24. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Elgar's A Song of Autumn

    Sir Edward Elgar, 1st Baronet (June 2, 1857 - February 23, 1934) was an English composer, born to musically inclined parents Edward's father, William, was a piano tuner, and apprenticed at a music publishing house, in addition to being a violinist, and organist at a church. Edward was given piano and violin lessons growing up, but didn't have any real formal training; the most formal training he got was some advanced violin lessons in London, but he never attended a conservatory or anything similar. In addition to playing violin professionally, Elgar also conducted a group at an asylum, where he wrote and arranged music for their irregular instrumentation, which helped him gain a better understanding of writing for particular instruments, and was an important piece of his musical development.  Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Schumann's Piano Trio

    Clara Schumann (Sept. 13, 1819 - May 20, 1896) was a German composer and pianist, born to musical parents in Leipzig. Her father was well-known throughout Leipzig, where he sold and repaired pianos, and gave piano lessons. She took lessons from him, and he also made sure she was educated in music theory, counterpoint, harmony, and composition. She had her first recital at age 10, and had a wildly successful career as a pianist from that point onward, receiving praise from audiences and critics alike. The day before she turned 21 she married composer Robert Schumann. Continue reading

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