The Missa Solemnis has five sections, and I wanted to pick one for listening today. There is no point in trying to elevate one movement above the others in this work, which is a supreme masterpiece. So it might as well be at random that I select the transcendent Sanctus, which has lots of the best things that Beethoven can offer: a triumphant choir, dramatic passages for the vocal soloists, warm music for the ensemble of woodwinds, an angelic solo violin, and more. If you feel compelled to hear the entire work (as you might probably do), this video can oblige you.
Performed by Krassimira Stoyanova (soprano), Elīna Garanča (mezzo), Michael Schade (tenor), Franz-Josef Selig (bass), the Dresden State Opera Chorus, and Staatskapelle Dresden, conducted by Christian Thielemann (17 minutes)
Tunes by composers from Mali, recorded in 2010:
Performed by Regina Carter (violin), Yacouba Sissoko (kora), and Will Holshauser (accordion) (13 minutes)
Recording sessions have a unique vibe. They require a mindset different from concerts and different from rehearsals. Recording takes as much mental focus as playing a concert, but it doesn’t usually summon the adrenaline like a concert does. It also takes stamina; musicians want to give their best to every take, but they can’t afford to exhaust themselves too soon. The special demands of recording mean that studio musicians tend to be some of the best, most experienced musicians in the world. And when you watch a fine orchestra in a recording session you often see the things that distinguish professionals: their confidence, their quickness, their ability to relax while focusing on the work.
This video shows part of a recording session by the Ulster Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta. They are playing The Tempest, a symphonic poem by John Knowles Paine, inspired by Shakespeare’s play. Though this video does not include the complete piece, it’s worth watching because JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra make a strong case for the music. (If you’d like to hear the entire piece you can find a complete but somewhat inferior recording here.)
Paine was the first American to make a strong mark as a composer of concert music. The Tempest dates from 1877. Paine got his musical education in Germany, and his music sounds thoroughly nineteenth-century German. Placed alongside European composers of the period, he would rank in the second tier–not quite distinctive enough to rise definitively above the rest, but a fine craftsman sparked by interesting ideas. The Tempest has some of his best music.
Performed by the Ulster Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta (13 minutes)
Nino Rota, the great composer of film music, also wrote a huge amount of music for the concert hall. Here is the last movement of his Double Bass Concerto, from 1973, in a performance at the 2016 ARD International Music Competition in Munich.
Performed by Dominik Wagner (double bass) and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (5 minutes)
Two of the most spectacular arias in Italian opera make a showcase for one of the most perfect operatic voices, the Swedish tenor Jussi Björling.
Verdi: “La donna è mobile,” from Rigoletto
Click the image for a link to the music.
Puccini: “Nessun dorma,” from Turandot