Articles by Sudeep Agarwala
September 11, 2009
At any other time during the miserable history of British music, Gerald Finzi would have been considered one of England’s greatest composers. Just his luck, he was born just as Ralph Vaughan Williams was realizing his full potential and died just in time for Benjamin Britten to be achieving his.
September 4, 2009
My piano teacher used to cringe at the mention of Vladimir Horowitz. The Russian pianist was known for his particularly bad posture: sitting with the keyboard chest-level, Horowitz’s fingers would lie flat on the keys, tips almost pointed upwards as he played. Regardless, it’s hard to imagine another twentieth-century pianist who had such influence on the piano literature and the face of piano performance. Despite his questionable stance at the piano, Horowitz managed startling technical prowess at the keyboard, often performing musical acrobatics that were inaccessible to his contemporaries, premiering works both composers and performers thought impossible and forever changing what was considered par for his medium.
June 12, 2009
Loussier’s Bach is an idiot.
May 12, 2009
Maybe it’s glib to say, but I have a hypothesis that the volume knob has led to the destruction of classical music. The fast-forward and the rewind button too, but the volume knob more than anything else: Music can be painfully loud or imperceptibly soft, but modulating volumes for the sake of homogeneity of the listenable somehow disrupts the ultimate message. Extremity in music makes a very important point, even if it’s uncomfortable to listen to.
April 24, 2009
Sometimes I wish I could write prose like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote music. Maybe that’s a difficult lesson to learn in itself: Mozart’s music isn’t boring; it’s elegant. It’s the sheer simplicity that can be maddening, and Mozart isn’t an exception — the harmonic ease and clarity of melodic lines in Mozart’s music often seem bland or generic, and that, in itself, seems to be the sticking point: it’s not everyone who can write music so cleanly. After one listens to the music repeatedly, it somehow loses its blandness and realizes its — well — elegance.
April 17, 2009
There’s no getting around Tomás Luis de Victoria’s setting of O magnum mysterium text for me, if it isn’t for Francis Poulenc’s setting of the same text. But maybe that’s an asset when it comes to listening to Harbison.
April 10, 2009
One could learn a lot performing with the Oriana Consort. Certainly, one could learn a lot attending one of their concerts. Conductor Walter Chapin’s copious program notes exuded the author’s obvious excitement for both music and ensemble, and his interest was well transmitted — reading Chapin’s notes provided the distinct impression of attending a music history course; an engrossing excursion through the past with bits of history being performed.
April 3, 2009
Who hasn’t played Murray Perahia’s March 28th program? Or at least tried; all of the works performed by Murray Perahia on Sunday afternoon’s Celebrity Series concert are somewhere gathering dust on my piano, multiple recordings litter my CD collection. It’s music that we’ve studied to understand what Western music is, music we’ve scrutinized to hear what Western music is supposed to sound like, and perhaps that’s what was so fundamentally difficult about Sunday’s performance. What can there possibly be to say about music that’s been spoken about for so long?
March 31, 2009
Time seems to get distorted in musical history. Somehow, the past two hundred years of music are still very much with us in many different ways. At the very basic, instrumental level, Mozart’s piano is different from the one we play today, Haydn’s horn is much more curmudgeonly and Bach took on the challenge of writing six suites for the curious new cello. But Bach, Mozart, Haydn, and even Beethoven were writing during the very beginning of the industrial revolution, at the very inception of a period of novel metallurgy and mass-produced instruments. And all of this changed the way instruments were made. The standards provided by the technologies of the industrial revolution made it possible to write for a body of instruments that extends almost through today.
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March 20, 2009
Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, under the leadership of Jameson Marvin in Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, provided an extremely challenging program at Friday night’s concert, rightly entitled “A Concert of Reverence & Reflection.” The evening’s performance began with Frank Martin’s Messe für zwei vierstimmige Chöre, and concluded with two newer works after the intermission: Michael Schachter’s (‘09) Oseh Shalom Bimromav and Paul Moravec’s (‘80) Songs of Love and War.