Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dvorak, Poulenc, and Prokofiev

One of my first musical memories is listening to a recording of Antonin Dvorak's famous "Symphony from the New World", No. 9 in e minor op. 95, as recorded by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Fritz Reiner.
The anniversary of Dvorak's birth a few days ago reminded me of how much I love his music, a fondness that began with this symphony. My interest in Dvorak grew as I had the opportunity to perform transcriptions of three of the four movements of the Ninth Symphony with my high school band. We also played selections from his Slavonic Dances, melodic pieces whose popularity made Dvorak well-known throughout Europe and America when they were first published. Over the years my interest in Dvorak's music has grown and I have enjoyed listening to a wide range of his music from the other Symphonies to the Quartets, Trios, Concertos and Operas. Russalka has become a favorite of mine with its famous "Song to the Moon" aria. Dvorak is one the best composers of sheer Romantic melodies and it is that aspect that ultimately endears his music to me.

My tastes in music extend beyond the romantic melodies of Dvorak so it was also with joy that I listened to one of the last pieces composed by Francis Poulenc on WFMT yesterday morning. His Sonata for Oboe and Piano is dedicated to the memory of Sergei Prokofiev. It is in three movements: Elégie (Paisiblement, Sans Presser); Scherzo (Très animé); Déploration (Très calme). The movements are in the order slow-fast-slow as opposed to the fast-slow-fast of the traditional sonata yet they demonstrate the modernity and wit for which Poulenc is deservedly famous. My only regret is that as an Oboist in my youth I did not have the opportunity to perform this sonata. Listening to it this week reminded me of the charms of the Oboe literature and the beauty of Poulenc's musical art.

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