The Personal Website of Mark W. Dawson

Containing His Articles, Observations, Thoughts, Meanderings,
and some would say Wisdom (and some would say not).

Classical Music Chirps

An ongoing chirps of paragraph sized, succinct comments, and recommendations for listening to some of the most  understandable and enjoyable Classical Music by all who listen to it, even those who are not all that interested in Classical Music.

For more on Classic Music please refer to my articles Classical Music Appreciation, Classical Music Lists, and Classical Music Recommendations.
(Please note that clicking the composers last name in the title will take you to my list of the recommended compositions of the composer, while clicking the composers full name in the body will take you to the Wikipedia article on the composer. Clicking the composition name will take you to a YouTube video of a performance of the composition.)

Bach, Johann Sebastian - Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049

A Mighty Fortress is Bach, a Baroque composer who defined the musical art of the Baroque. Other Baroque composers wrote great compositions, but Johann Sebastian Bach (German: 31 March 1685 – 28 July 1750) wrote many more great compositions and influenced all Classical Music composers. The Brandenburg Concertos are a collection of six instrumental works presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt in 1721 (though probably composed earlier). They were presented in hopes of obtaining a musical position with the Margrave, a hope that was not realized (which says much more about the musical talents of the Margrave than Bach’s talents). They are widely regarded as some of the best orchestral compositions of the Baroque era. The Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049 is my favorite, but I love all of them.

Beethoven - Overture to "Egmont", Op. 84

Ludwig van Beethoven (German: baptized 17 December 1770 – 26 March 1827) is, in my opinion, the greatest composer that ever lived. Beethoven reaches into the center of a person's soul and demands that you listen to what he has to say. Mozart, Brahms, and Bach come close to this, but not always, and only when performed greatly. Beethoven performed both well and greatly demands that it be listened to. Beethoven always reaches for your soul and always grasps your soul.

Beethoven, however, requires hearing and hearing skills for the audience to be fully appreciated. Until you have this skill level, it can be difficult to fully appreciate Beethoven. My love of Beethoven came later in my Classical Music appreciation life, but it was well worth the wait. I would, therefore, suggest you wait until you develop this hearing skill before delving into Beethoven’s music. However, there is some Beethoven that can be appreciated with less hearing skills. I would, therefore, recommend you sample Beethoven by enjoying the Overture to Egmont, which encapsulates the musical style of Beethoven’s compositions.

Bizet - L'Arlésienne Suite No.1 & No. 2

Georges Bizet (French: 25 October 1838 – 3 June 1875) was a composer of the Romantic era, best known for his operas, a career cut short by his early death. Bizet achieved few successes before his final work, Carmen, which has become one of the most popular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertoire. He died young and mostly unappreciated. But he changed the course of opera with “Carmen”. Much of Carmen’s music is recognizable to the general public, although they would have difficulty identifying it.

Rather than listening to Carmen, I would recommend another of Bizet’s compositions - L'Arlésienne Suite No.1 & No.2. Bizet composed L'Arlésienne as incidental music to Alphonse Daudet's play of the same name, usually translated as The Girl from Arles. Unlike the play, the incidental music has survived and flourished. It is most often heard in the form of two suites for orchestra, but the entire score has also been recorded. I would recommend the L'Arlésienne Suite No. 1 & No. 2 performance of this music.

Brahms - Academic Festival Overture

Johannes Brahms (German: 7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) is often thought of as a serious and somber composer, which he often was. Brahms, like Beethoven, requires hearing skills to be fully appreciated, and until you have this skill, it can be difficult to fully appreciate Brahms. My love of Brahms, like Beethoven, came later in my Classical Music appreciation life, but it was well worth the wait. I would, therefore, suggest you wait until you develop these hearing skills before delving into Brahms’s music.

However, there is a lively and festive piece of music, the Academic Festival Overture, that is not as serious nor somber as usual by Brahms but is clearly a work of Brahms. Brahms composed this work during the summer of 1880 as a tribute to the University of Breslau, which had notified him that it would award him an honorary doctorate in philosophy. I, therefore, relisten to this piece by Brahms every year during college graduation season.

Bruckner – Symphony No. 4

Anton Bruckner (German: 4 September 1824 – 11 October 1896) was a contemporary of Johannes Brahms, and the Classical Music world of the time often split into the Brahms and Brickner camps, as each composer had a distinct style in the composition of their music. Today, this is not an issue, as both composers are considered great composers in their style of music.

Brucker, however, is an acquired taste and requires thoughtful consideration when listening to his music. The most accessible of his music is his 4th Symphony, in which the 3rd movement is particularly noteworthy. I would, therefore, recommend that you start your listening of Brucker with his Symphony No.4, 3rd movement.

Britten - Variations on A Theme of Purcell

This composition, also known as “The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra”, when accompanied by spoken words. It is a 1945 musical composition by Benjamin Britten (English: 22 November 1913 – 4 December 1976) that is based on the second movement, "Rondeau", of the Abdelazer suite from Henry Purcell's incidental music to Aphra Behn's play “Abdelazer”. It was originally commissioned for the British educational documentary film called Instruments of the Orchestra, released on 29 November 1946. It is structured, in accordance with the plan of the original documentary film, as a way of showing off the tone colors and capacities of the various sections of the orchestra.

The work is one of the best-known pieces by the composer and is often associated with two other works in the context of children's music education: Saint-Saëns' “The Carnival of the Animals” and Prokofiev's “Peter and the Wolf”. I would direct you to the orchestral performance of the “Variations on A Theme of Purcell” or the spoken word performance of The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (Part IPart II). I would suggest that both the spoken and orchestral performances are worthy of the short time it would take to listen to both.

Chopin - Nocturne in C Sharp Minor

Frederic Chopin (Polish: 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for solo piano. Many of his compositions were composed in France, where he took up residence in his short adult life. He has maintained worldwide renown as a leading musician of his era, one whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation.” The many piano works of Chopin are masterpieces, and some of these works have been transcribed for other instruments. It is these transcriptions that show the full genius of Chopin. I would, therefore, recommend you listen to all of these transcriptions of Nocturne No. 20 in C Sharp Minor: (Piano) (Violin) (Cello) that spotlights Chopin’s genius. Some other examples of Chopin’s genius are:

Copland - An Outdoor Overture

Aaron Copland (American: 14 November 1900 – 2 December 1990) was a composer, composition teacher, writer, and later a conductor of his own and other American music. The spirit of America runs throughout his music. His pieces A Lincoln Portrait and Fanfare for the Common Man have become patriotic standards. No other American composer has better expressed the American spirit than Aaron Copland.

Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day are the perfect opportunity to listen to his music. With so many compositions to choose from, I have decided to highlight a lesser-known composition of his. An Outdoor Overture encapsulates and expresses his style of music. I hope that you will take the time to listen to and enjoy his music.

Debussy - La Mer (The Sea)

Claude Debussy (French: 22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918) is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer, although he vigorously rejected the term. He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Impressionism in music was a movement among various composers in Western classical music (mainly during the late 19th and early 20th centuries) whose music focuses on mood and atmosphere, "conveying the moods and emotions aroused by the subject rather than a detailed tone‐picture".

One the finest example of Impressionism is Debussy’s La Mer, a piece that, if you sit back, close your eyes, and imagine sitting on a beach or boardwalk gazing at the ocean or sea, you will magically be transported to your imaginary location.

Dvorak - Scherzo Capriccioso

Antonin Dvorak (Czech: September 1841 – 1 May 1904) was a beloved Czech composer, one of the first Czech composers to achieve worldwide recognition. Following the Romantic-era nationalist example of his predecessor Bedřich Smetana, Dvorak frequently employed rhythms and other aspects of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia. Dvorak's own style has been described in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians as "the fullest recreation of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding effective ways of using them".

In 1892, Dvorak moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. While in the United States, Dvorak wrote his two most successful orchestral works: The Symphony from the New World, which spread his reputation worldwide, and his Cello Concerto, one of the most highly regarded of all cello concerti. He also wrote his most appreciated piece of chamber music, the American String Quartet, during this time. But shortfalls in payment of his salary, along with increasing recognition in Europe and an onset of homesickness, led him to leave the United States and return to Bohemia in 1895.

The “Scherzo Capriccioso” is one of the finest examples of Dvorak's style. Happy and exuberant, this piece of music is a joy to listen to from start to finish.

Gershwin - An American In Paris

Jazz music meets Classical music in the compositions of George Gershwin (American: 26 September 1898 – 11 July 1937). Among his best-known works are the orchestral compositions Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and An American in Paris (1928), the songs "Swanee" (1919) and "Fascinating Rhythm" (1924), the jazz standard "I Got Rhythm" (1930), and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935) which spawned the hit "Summertime".

The An American in Paris symphonic performance perfectly synthesizes the merging of Jazz and Classical music. The An American In Paris movie contains the most famous ballet performance of this music. Although this movie is not fully faithful to the music, it is an exhilarating performance that highlights a move to exhilarating ballet performances. A movie well worth your time to watch.

Grieg - Peer Gynt

Peer Gynt, Op. 23, is the incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's 1867 play of the same name, written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg (Norwegian: 15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907) in 1875. It premiered along with the play on 24 February 1876 in Christiania (now Oslo). Peer Gynt chronicles the journey of its titular character from the Norwegian mountains to the North African desert. According to Klaus Van Den Berg, "its origins are romantic, but the play also anticipates the fragmentations of emerging modernism", and the "cinematic script blends poetry with social satire and realistic scenes with surreal ones". Peer Gynt has also been described as the story of a life based on procrastination and avoidance. The music fully realizes the storyline and is eclectic in its composition.

Over a decade after composing the full incidental music for Peer Gynt, Grieg extracted eight movements to make two four-movement suites. The Peer Gynt suites are among his best-known works; however, they initially began as incidental compositions. Suite No. 1, Op. 46, was published in 1888, and Suite No. 2, Op. 55, was published in 1891.

A typical rendition of both suites lasts approximately 35 minutes, as in the following recommended video; Peer Gynt Suites No. 1 & No. 2.

Liszt – Great Piano Music

Franz Liszt (Hungarian: (22 October 1811 – 31 July 1886) was a composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, and organist of the Romantic era. He was also a writer, philanthropist, Hungarian nationalist, and Franciscan tertiary. He was also notoriously anti-Semitic, but recent scholarship cast doubts as to the intensity of his anti-Semitism.

Some of the most expressive romantic piano music was composed (and performed) by Liszt. He had a great impact on the composers and performers of his era and afterward. The range of his compositions is so great that it is impossible to peg one composition that delineates his style. I, therefore, have created a small list of his compositions that gives justice to his genius.

Mahler – Symphony No.5 (Adagietto)

Gustav Mahler (German: 7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer, he acted as a bridge between the 19th-century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. The musical compositions of Gustav Mahler are almost exclusively in the genres of song and symphony.

Mahler is one of those composers for which you either love or do not care for him. My classical music opinion of him is of the latter. However, there is one composition of Mahler’s, which I love, the Adagietto from Symphony No. 5, which is unlike many of the other compositions of Mahler. Perhaps you will enjoy Mahler’s other compositions that I have listed in my Classical Music Recommendations.

Mendelssohn - A Midsummer Night's Dream

WilliamShakespeares’ A Midsummer Night's Dream play has inspired many artists. The play portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta (the former queen of the Amazons). These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors (the mechanicals) who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. The play is one of Shakespeare's most popular works for the stage and is widely performed across the world.

One of the composers who was inspired by this play is Felix Mendelssohn (German: 3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847). His music for this play is delightful and captures the spirit of the play. Mendelssohn’s music has also been set to ballet, and it is this performance, “Midsummer Night's Dream Excerpts”, that I would recommend.

Mozart – Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Austrian: 27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791) was one of the most prolific and greatest Classical Music composers. Some consider him the greatest, but my personal opinion is he is the second greatest, somewhat behind Beethoven and slightly ahead of Bach. The greatness of Mozart was that he was versatile in all aspects of Classical Music – Symphonies, Concertos, Operas, Chamber, solo pieces, etc., as well as compositions highlighting all the musical instruments of the orchestra.

I have often thought that Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, “Jupiter”, is the highest expression of the classical era of Classical Music. After this Symphony was composed, Classical Music had to evolve into another form – the form of the Romantic era as led by Ludwig von Beethoven.

Given the scope of Mozart’s music, it is difficult to choose one piece to highlight. However, the Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, KV 525 (Serenade No. 13 for strings in G major), K. 525, is a 1787 composition for a chamber ensemble. The German title means "a little serenade", though it is often rendered more literally but less accurately as "a little night music". It wonderfully encapsulates Mozart’s talents as a composer.

Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition

When Modest Mussorgsky’s (Russian: 21 March 1839 – 28 March 1881) good friend Viktor Hartmann died in 1873 at the age of only 39, an exhibition of over 400 of his paintings was displayed in the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg in February and March 1874. This inspired Mussorgsky to compose his Pictures at an Exhibition, a suite of ten pieces (plus a recurring, varied Promenade) for piano. The suite is Mussorgsky's most famous piano composition and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. It has become further known through various orchestrations and arrangements produced by other musicians and composers, with Maurice Ravel's 1922 version for full symphony orchestra being by far the most recorded and performed.

Alas, the paintings utilized for the music did not survive the Russian Revolution of 1917. The music of Mussorgsky, however, has survived and thrived, being one of the most performed, listened to, and loved pieces of Classical Music. I would recommend you take the time and enjoy the two versions of Pictures at an Exhibition (Ravel Orchestration & Piano version).

Offenbach - Orpheus in the Underworld Overture

Jacques Offenbach (German: 20 June 1819 – 5 October 1880) was a German-born composer who spent much of his adult life in France as a composer, cellist, and impresario of the Romantic period. His compositions have a distinctly French flavor, and most listeners assume that he is French. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas from the 1850s to the 1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss Jr. and Arthur Sullivan. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st century. His Orpheus in the Underworld Overture is a perfect example of his music and a pure delight to listen to.

Prokofiev – Lieutenant Kijé suite

Sergei Prokofiev (Russian: 27 April 1891 – 5 March 1953) composed his Lieutenant Kijé Suite based on a fictional story of Lieutenant Kijé, which is a satire on the stupidity of royalty and the particularly Russian terror of displeasing one's superior. The five movements of the suite are organized and titled; Birth of Kijé, Romance, Kijé's Wedding, Troika, and The Burial of Kijé. The music is delightful and fully enjoyable for all. Knowing the story makes the music even more pleasurable, as the music perfectly encapsulates and accentuates the story.

Rachmaninoff - Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini

Sergei Rachmaninoff (Russian: 1 April 1873 – 28 March 1943) was a romantic composer in the era of modern composers. But it is beautiful romantic music. Primarily known for solo piano music and piano performances, he was nevertheless a composer of many forms of music. His Symphony No. 2 and Piano Concerto No. 2 are beloved by all lovers of Classical Music.

Niccolo Paganini was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer from the early Romantic period. He wrote several violin pieces that are considered very beautiful but difficult to play. However, these pieces have inspired many Classical Music composers to write variations of this music. One of the most famous variations is Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini. The eighteenth variation is considered one of the most romantic compositions ever written. The other variations are beautiful and stirring as well. I would recommend you take the time to enjoy this composition.

Ravel– La Valse

Maurice Ravel (French: 7 March 1875 – 28 December 1937) was a composer, pianist, and conductor. He is often associated with Impressionism along with his elder contemporary Claude Debussy, although both composers rejected the term. In the 1920s and 1930s, Ravel was internationally regarded as France's greatest living composer. For all Ravel's orchestral mastery, only four of his works were conceived as concert works for symphony orchestra: Rapsodie Espagnole, La Valse, and the two piano concertos. All the other orchestral works were written either for the stage, as in Daphnis et Chloé, or as a reworking of piano pieces.

La Valse is one of his orchestral pieces that hold a special memory for me. I first listened to this piece of music after a hard day’s work. I sat back in my easy chair, closed my eyes, and was very relaxed when I began listening to this composition. I instantly imagined that I was in a misty room in which music was beginning to be performed. The mist slowly dissolved to reveal a late 19th-century ballroom where the people in the room were dancing a waltz. This went on for many minutes, and when the music came to a climatic end, the room disappeared, and I was sitting in my easy chair. Upon reading the liner notes for this composition, I discovered that this was exactly what Ravel was trying to achieve with this composition. I would, therefore, recommend that this composition be listened to in your easy chair with your eyes closed, where you can be transported back to a 19th-century ballroom in your imagination.

Rossini- Overture to La Gazza Ladra “The Thieving Magpie”

Gioachino Rossini (Italian: 29 February 1792 – 13 November 1868) was a composer who gained fame for his 39 operas, although he also wrote many songs, some chamber music and piano pieces, and also some sacred music. He set new standards for both comic and serious opera before retiring from large-scale composition while still in his thirties, at the height of his popularity. Rossini is, of course, most famous with the general public for his William Tell Overture (at least for the last third of the overture). However, the Overture to La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) is one of his finest compositions that I would recommend.

I believe that Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra are the best performances of Rossini Overtures that I have ever listened to, which are as follows:

I believe that you will enjoy all these performances, and it is well worth your time to listen to these recordings.

Sibelius – Karelia Suite

Jean Sibelius (Finnish: 8 December 1865 – 20 September 1957) was a composer of the late Romantic and early-modern periods. He is widely regarded as his country's greatest composer, and his music is often credited with having helped Finland develop a national identity during its struggle for independence from Russia.

The Karelia is the land of the Karelian people, an area in Northern Europe of historical significance for Russia (including the Soviet era), Finland, and Sweden. The Karelia Music, one of the composer's earlier works, written for the Vyborg Students' Association, was first performed on 13 November 1893 to a noisy audience. The "Suite" emerged from a concert on 23 November consisting of the overture and the three movements, which were published as Op. 11, the Karelia Suite. It remains one of Sibelius's most popular pieces.

Smetana – The Moldau

The Vltava (Moldau) river is 267.4 miles long and drains an area of 10,850 square miles in size, over half of Bohemia and about a third of the Czech Republic's entire territory. The river rises in southwestern Bohemia from two headstreams in the Bohemian Forest, the Teplá Vltava and the Studená Vltava. It flows first southeast, then north across Bohemia as it runs through Prague and empties into the Elbe River at Melník, 18 miles north of Prague.

Bedrich Smetana (Czech: 2 March 1824 – 12 May 1884) wrote a piece of music, “The Moldau”, that takes you on an emotional journey on the river from its headwaters to its estuary. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful pieces of classical music ever written. It is a relaxing piece of music that is understandable and enjoyable by all who listen to it, even those who are not all that interested in Classical Music Appreciation. Approximately fifteen minutes long, it is well worth the time to listen to and enjoy. I hope that you will take this time and enjoy this music.

Strauss, Richard - Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks

Richard Strauss (German: 11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a German composer and conductor best known for his tone poems and operas. Considered a leading composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras, he has been described as a successor of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. Along with Gustav Mahler, he represents the late flowering of German Romanticism, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

While most of his compositions were of a “heavy” nature, as they dealt with weighty subject matters and were musically complex, he did compose a tone poem that was of a “lighter” nature. Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks is a tone poem written in 1894–95, that chronicles the misadventures and pranks of the German peasant folk hero Till Eulenspiegel. Eulenspiegel is a native of the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg whose picaresque career takes him to many places throughout the Holy Roman Empire. He plays practical jokes on his contemporaries, at every turn exposing vices. His life is set in the first half of the 14th century, and the final chapters of the chapbook describe his death from the plague of 1350.

Stravinsky – The Firebird and The Rite of Spring

Igor Stravinsky (Russian: 17 June 1882 – 6 April 1971) was a composer, pianist, and conductor. He is widely considered one of the most important and influential composers of the 20th century. His ballet, The Firebird, catapulted him to international fame. His other great composition, The Rite of Spring, was highly controversial during its premiere due to the music's unusual nature. However, it is now considered one of the most remarkable pieces of music in the classical repertoire.

A synopsis of The Firebird Ballet and The Rite of Spring is somewhat elaborate and need not be reiterated here, and I would refer you to the Wikipedia articles on these ballets. The final scene of The Firebird is, in my opinion, one of the most majestic pieces of classical music ever composed. It celebrates a victory for the people over oppression, a celebration that I hope we will be able to have once the Coronavirus Pandemic is abated. The Rite of Spring music is so intricate that I discover additional complexities every time I listen to this composition. Both of these compositions require that you Listen and to Hear to appreciate the music fully.

Tchaikovsky - Romeo and Juliet Overture

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky (Russian: 7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893) is one of the most beloved composers of the Romantic Classical period. His beautiful melodic music has thrilled audiences for over one hundred years. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States. He was honored in 1884 by Tsar Alexander III and was awarded a lifetime pension.

Tchaikovsky displayed a wide stylistic, and emotional range, from light salon works to grand symphonies. His melodies are some of the most widely known, even to the general public that does not listen to Classical Music, as they are utilized in movies, television, and other media. One of his most famous and performed compositions is Romeo and Juliet Overture, which encapsulates his musical style. Therefore, sit back and relax and enjoy one of the most beautiful and romantic Classical Music compositions.

Vaughan Williams – English Folk Song Suite and Fantasia on A Theme of Thomas Tallis

Ralph Vaughan Williams (English: 12 October 1872 – 26 August 1958) was a composer whose works included operas, ballets, chamber music, secular and religious vocal pieces, and orchestral compositions, including nine symphonies, written over sixty years. Strongly influenced by Tudor music and English folk song, his output marked a decisive break in British music from its German-dominated style of the 19th century.

His English Folk Song Suite and Fantasia on A Theme of Thomas Tallis are perfect examples of this English style of music. These pieces of music require a quiet and contemplative listening atmosphere while you imagine yourself sitting in the English countryside — a rather inexpensive and enjoyable way to take a short trip to England.

Vivaldi – The Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi (Venetian: 4 March 1678 – 28 July 1741) was a composer, virtuoso violinist, and impresario of Baroque music. Along with Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Frideric Handel, Vivaldi is regarded as one of the greatest Baroque composers, and his influence during his lifetime was widespread across Europe, giving origin to many imitators and admirers. He pioneered many developments in orchestration, violin technique, and programmatic music. He consolidated the emerging concerto form into a widely accepted and followed idiom, which was paramount in the development of Johann Sebastian Bach's instrumental music. Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons is one of his best-known works and one of his most delightful works.

Wagner– Prelude to Act 1 from Die Meistersinger

What is Classical Music to do about the problem of Richard Wagner (German: 22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883)? The problem being, of course, Wagner’s intense anti-Semitism. There is no doubt about Wagner’s anti-Semitism, but it should be noted that there was much anti-Semitism in 19th Century music and society, ranging from indifference to fervent. What made Wagner so much different was his embracement by Hitler and Nazism well after Wagner’s death. While Wagner wanted the Jewish people to leave or be removed from Germany, there was no evidence that he wanted them exterminated. Extermination was Hitler and Nazism, not Wagner. Mosaic Magazine has a good article on “Wagner and the Jews” that examines this issue in more detail than I can.

I, therefore, can conclude that this anti-Semitism was the madness of the crowds. A madness that they paid for dearly in the death, disease, and destruction as a result of World War II. What all of humanity must learn from this is “Never Again”. Never again should we tolerate anti-Semitism, nor any racism or intolerance, against any people or groups.

But does this mean we should ignore or suppress Wagner’s music? I am not in favor of ignoring or suppressing anything, but instead learning from everything, both the good and the bad. So, I will learn from Wagner’s music and enjoy the greatness of his music, but never forget the evilness of anti-Semitism, especially when I am listening to Wagner.

Another lesson to be learned from Wager is encapsulated in his opera Die Meistersinger. The story is set in Nuremberg in the mid-16th century. At the time, Nuremberg was a free imperial city and one of the centers of the Renaissance in Northern Europe. The story revolves around the city's guild of Meistersinger (Master Singers), an association of amateur poets and musicians who were primarily master craftsmen of various trades. The master singers had developed a craftsman-like approach to music-making, with an intricate system of rules for composing and performing songs. The work draws much of its atmosphere from its depiction of the Nuremberg of the era and the traditions of the master-singer guild. The story is about a new singer who wants to do things differently and his travails and tribulations to accomplish his goals. His success opens the Meistersingers to new ideas and ways of creating music. As such, this opera is an artistic biography of Wagner’s struggles in creating new music in the 19th century. The Prelude to Act 1 from Die Meistersinger is Wagner at his grandness and greatness.

There is a YouTube video of “Wagner’s Overture to ‘The Mastersingers of Nuremberg’ with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1942”, in which the Nazi flag and banners are hung behind the orchestra. It sickens me to even watch this video, as it is a reminder of the horror of Nazism and the perversion of the arts to support a perverse political ideology. I do occasionally watch this video to remind myself of this and to say a prayer for all the victims of Nazism.