“A transcendent feeling of harmonious belonging”

Here are our latest classical music books and CDs — featuring the correspondance of Leonard Bernstein, as well as performances of works by composers Vaughan Williams and Richard Strauss, and — cornerstones of the Russian repertoire — Mussorgsky and Prokofiev. Plus, Stacy Horn traces the evolution of ensemble singing, from monks chanting in the Middle Ages and the blossoming of church music in the Renaissance, through to the golden age of the 19th century in her book, “Imperfect harmony : finding happiness singing with others“. We love how she puts the experience of ensemble singing: “a transcendent feeling of harmonious belonging” 🙂


Syndetics book coverThe birth of an opera : fifteen masterpieces from Poppea to Wozzeck / Michael Rose.
“Rose (Berlioz Remembered) draws from a series of BBC radio programs he co-created with Hanns Hammelmann, which aired from 1955 to 1971 and focused on the genesis of 15 operas from the 17th to the 20th centuries. He excerpts contemporary sources such as letters from composers to librettists, as well as the views of conductors, opera house managers, critics, and other luminaries, while filling in the historical context… Accompanying engravings and photographs are illuminating and the bibliography is a useful blend of historic and recent titles.” (Adapted from Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverThe Leonard Bernstein letters / edited by Nigel Simeone.
“This book boasts an impressive assortment of 650 letters to and from the maestro, spanning the years 1932, when Bernstein was a precocious teenager studying piano, and 1990, the year of his death…Bernstein was one of the most articulate and witty writers on the contemporary music scene, and his posthumous prose collection Findings contains ample evidence of his literary prowess. This talent is very much on display in this volume. Simeone has chosen letters that highlight Bernstein’s musical activities rather than strictly personal ones, and the list of correspondents forms a who’s who of musical, literary, artistic, and political luminaries in the second half of the 20th century.” (Adapted from Library Journal)

Syndetics book coverImperfect harmony : finding happiness singing with others / Stacy Horn.
“Horn (Cyberville), in her reflective memoir of her decades-long participation in the Choral Society of Grace Church in lower Manhattan, delves into works the choir and others like it have sung over the centuries… Horn eloquently traces the evolution of ensemble singing, from monks chanting in the Middle Ages and the blossoming of church music in the Renaissance through the golden age of the 19th century. She also discusses many of the works that endure today, such as those by Purcell, Handel, Bach, Haydn, and Mozart…She writes movingly about how singing about death and simply breathing together bring a transcendent feeling of harmonious belonging.” (Adapted from Publisher Weekly)

Syndetics book coverHow to hear classical music / Davinia Caddy.
“Ever wondered why most classical music concerts are such stuffy affairs? Had to bluff your way through classical music conversations? Trying to get a handle on music by modern composers? Failed to convince teenagers of the merits of Beethoven or Bach? Or just want an absorbing read about music? This book is an illuminating guide that will be a hit with classical music lovers and those keen to discover more about the subject, written by an accomplished musician, historian, and music writer. Devoid of snobbery, with an engaging, informal feel, How to Hear Classical Music will open readers’ eyes—and ears!—to exciting new sensations.” (Summary courtesy of amazon.com)


musorgMusorgsky, Prokofiev (CD)
Steven Osborne has become one of the most valuable pianists recording today…Now he turns to further cornerstones of the Russian repertoire in this recording of Musorgsky’s ‘Pictures from an Exhibition’ (a work which has been in Osborne’s concert repertoire for many years), and two sets of Prokofiev’s miniatures. Musorgsky’s masterpiece is one of the most popular programmatic works of the 19th century. Yet it is also a great pianistic challenge, with the spectacular textures of the climactic movement ‘The Great Gate of Kiev’ requiring the highest technical accomplishments. (summary courtesy of amazon.co.uk)

vaughnwilliamsSymphony no. 5 ; Symphony no. 8 / Vaughan Williams. (CD)
“[This] release combines two highly contrasting works to provide a disc which is both moving and uplifting. Symphony No.5 is a generally tranquil work with music influenced by Ravel, with whom Vaughan Williams had studied, and is scored for very traditional forces. Symphony No.8 is dedicated to Sir John Barbirolli and was premièred by the HallĂ© in 1956.” (Summary courtesy of amazon.co.uk)

alsosprachzarathustraAlso sprach Zarathustra / Richard Strauss. (CD)
“This masterful live recording of Strauss’s ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ is sure to please. The Berlin Philharmonic, as always, play to an exceptionally high standard under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel (a young conductor proving he is growing exponentially in his abilities). This popular piece is moody, atmospheric, and rich – well worth a listen.” (Summary by Emily)