Classical Tyro

A Beginner's Guide to Great Music

Mozart, Rondo in C for Violin and Orchestra (1781)


"Music washes away from the soul the dust of every day life." – Berthold Auerbach


Pinchas Zuckerman, violin
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Ubiquitous American Music

As a supplement to my presentation at Rice University on classical music in the United States, I have embedded three pieces of music by American composers that are ubiquitous in concert halls around the world. For those not attending my presentation, I simply ask that you take time to enjoy the music. By any measure, these are three masterworks.

George Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue (1924)

Maxim Eshkenazy conducting the Symphony Orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio,
Andrew Armstrong (piano)

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings (1938)

Leonard Slatkin conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring (1944)

Seikyo Kim conducting Symfonieorkest Vlaanderen

As a bonus, here’s a piece not heard often in concert halls but discussed at length in my presentation. In brief, it’s a piece that celebrates the democratic ideal — the uniqueness of the individual, as well as the responsibility of the individual to contribute to the community. (Keep in mind that Carter composed music designed to challenge the intellect rather than evoke emotion.)

Elliot Carter, Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano (1961)
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Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, First Movement (c. 1721)

Concertos normally feature a cadenza in which the orchestra quits playing and the soloist demonstrates virtuosity with an extended solo passage. This video of one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos features a three minute cadenza by the harpsichordist beginning at 6:38. Although I enjoy the cadenza and find it impressive, I can't erase from my mind what the English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham said about harpsichords: “Sounds like two skeletons copulating on a corrugated tin roof.” (Once you see some things, you can't unsee them.)


Paul Begala, harpsichord / Otto Büchner, violin / Paul Meisen, flute 
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Haydn, Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major, Third Movement (1796)

Musicians playing the valveless trumpets of the eighteenth century were limited to playing notes from a harmonic series and were generally unable, except in higher registers, to provide satisfying melodic lines. However, new developments in the construction of trumpets during the late 1700s allowed the instruments to deliver satisfying melodies in all registers. Anton Weidinger, a trumpet virtuoso in the Vienna Court Orchestra, played a significant role in developing a five-keyed trumpet and then asked Joseph Haydn to compose a concerto for the new instrument. The Concerto in E-flat Major came from that request.

A lesson for Tyros — a “concerto” provides audiences with a solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra. In the video below Haydn’s orchestral accompaniment has been scored for piano.



Markus Würsch, keyed trumpet; Peter Solomon, fortepiano
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Mozart, Clarinet Concerto, Second Movement (1791)

This clarinet concerto was the last significant work Mozart finished before his death in December 1791. London’s Classic FM audience recently ranked the concerto at #8 in it’s 2015 Hall of Fame poll for favorite pieces of classical music.


Martin Fröst, clarinet (Christoph Poppen conducting the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra)
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