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Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo isn’t the first opera. But it’s remarkably close.
“I dedicate my last work to the majesty of all majesties, the beloved God, and hope that he will give me so much time to complete the same,” he is alleged to have said.
Certain facts speak for themselves when it comes to the premiere...
Full of Christmas cheer, Brahms wrote to Clara Schumann in December 1857:
“As obscure as it is strange,” was how Mozart’s first biographer, Franz Xaver Niemetschek, described the story of his Requiem in 1798.
“We must at least keep the fee secret,” wrote Verdi in June 1870, about his latest project: Aida.
Classical music has such a long, storied history, that it can be difficult to know where to start. Each week, we’ll be...
Strauss’s opera Salome scandalized the musical world in 1905—and again in May 1906, when, as Ross vividly describes, the Austrian premiere in Graz drew together an astonishing array of musical luminaries, from Mahler to Schoenberg to Puccini. “Like a flash of lightning,” Ross writes, “it illuminated a musical world on the verge of traumatic change. Past and future were colliding; centuries were passing in the night.”
Hugely renowned in his native Europe, the young Béla Bartók can hardly have imagined that he would receive perhaps the most important commission of his life while languishing with an unknown disease on a hospital bed in New York, after several barren years. But the final chapter in Bartók’s life story was full of surprises.
Early critics of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony reacted differently to the different movements, but the finale repeatedly came in for criticism. Tchaikovsky even started to believe some of the more negative assessments himself: “I concluded that this symphony is unsuccessful,” he wrote after conducting it in Prague. “There is something repulsive about it.”
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