The World's most beautiful music: Franz Schubert's "Du bist die Ruh"

>> Saturday, November 28, 2009

You are peace,
The mild peace,
You are longing
And what stills it.

I consecrate to you
Full of pleasure and pain
As a dwelling here
My eyes and heart.

Come live with me,
And close
quietly behind you
the gates.

Drive other pain
Out of this breast
May my heart be full
With your pleasure.

The tabernacle of my eyes
by your radiance
alone is illumined,
O fill it completely!

Sung by Renee Fleming.


Mozart Fantasie in F minor for Organ, K. 608

>> Monday, November 23, 2009

Commissioned in March of the last year of Mozart's life (1791), this piece has been described as "one of the most perfect works in Mozart's inexhaustible genius", and "with its triple trills and dense textures, is impossible for a single organist to play as notated. Its superhuman virtuosity is that of a machine..."


The World's most beautiful music: Vivaldi's Gloria: Domine Deus

>> Sunday, November 22, 2009

Featuring a graceful performance by the great Italian mezzo-soprano, Cecilia Bartoli.


J.S. Bach: Toccata & Fugue in E major, BWV 566

>> Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jürgen Marcussen (1781–1860) founded the organ-building company in 1806. They used the name Marcussen & Reuter from 1826 to 1848, when the name became Marcussen & Søn after the founder's son, Jürgen Andreas Marcussen, joined the firm. The company has been based in a house in the small town of Åbenrå, in southern Jutland, since 1830. Several organs built in Scandinavia and North Germany in their first decades are still in use today, the oldest dating from 1820.

Johannes Lassen Zachariassen (1864–1922), a grandson of the founder's daughter, took over the firm from 1902 to 1922. The firm's work was still based at this stage on the Baroque organ-building tradition, but from about 1900, in common with nearly all other organ-builders, they began making use of pneumatics, electricity, and other innovations popular at the time, typified by the organs of Cavaillé-Coll.

This new development did not last long. They were one of the first organ builders, following the 1925 organ conference in Hamburg and Lübeck, to recognize the superiority of the sonic, structural, and technical principles of the North-European Baroque organ; they returned to these principles from about 1930.

The guiding figure behind the change was Sybrand Zachariassen (1900-1960), who took over management of the firm in 1922 at the age of 21. Within a few decades, Marcussen organs began to gain an international reputation, particularly as fine models of the mechanical organ, which again became the preeminent basis of organ-building practice in the second half of the twentieth century.

Sybrand Jürgen Zachariassen (b Flensburg, 22 Oct 1931) became director in 1960. In 1994/1995 the firm became a family-owned limited company, when Claudia Zachariassen (born 26 May 1969 in Sønderborg, the 7th generation of the Marcussen/Zachariassen family) joined the firm; she became president in 2002.

Marie-Claire Alain, Marcussen organ (Nicolai Kirke, Kolding, Denmark)


The World's most beautiful music: Mary Queen of Scots, "Think on Me" Arr. by James Mullholland

>> Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last night the semi-professional choral group in which I sing, The Stillwater Chamber Singers, performed in Tulsa at the First Presbyterian Church's Bersen Center. One of the pieces that we sang was a touching arrangement set to a song that was written and originally composed by Mary Queen of Scots, entitled Think on Me. It is said that she wrote the text and tune while she sat at Fotheringhay Castle, awaiting her execution in February of 1587 at the order of her first cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England.  I was so moved by the text and music that I decided to feature it here.

Mary's original text and tune has been set and arranged by James Mullholland, and in our concert last night was sung by the women of the Stillwater Chamber Singers. In this particular performance at the 2008 Pennsylvania MEA (Music Educator's Association) conference, it is sung by a men's chorus.

When I no more behold thee, think on me.
By all thine eyes have told me, think on me.
When hearts are lightest, when eyes are brightest, when griefs are slightest,
Think on me.

In all thine hours of gladness, think on me.
If e’er I soothed thy sadness, think on me.
When foes are by thee, when woes are nigh thee, when friends all fly thee,
Think on me.

When thou hast none to cheer thee, think on me.
When no fond heart is near thee, think on me.
When lonely sighing o’er pleasure flying,
When hope is dying,
Think on me.


The Washington Cathedral Pipe Organ: Grand Choeur Dialogué by Gigout

>> Thursday, November 12, 2009

I apologize for failing to post this yesterday as I intended this to be in honor of Veteran's Day.  But better a day late than never!

Eugène Gigout (23 March 1844 – 9 December 1925) was a French organist and a composer of European late-romantic music for organ.

A pupil of Camille Saint-Saëns, he served as the organist of Saint-Augustin Church in Paris for 62 years. He became widely known as a teacher and his output as a composer was considerable. Renowned as an expert improviser, he also founded his own music school. (His nephew-by-marriage, Leon Boëllmann, became another fine organist and composer for the organ, whose death at the very young age of 35 was a severe loss to French music.)

The 10 pièces pour orgue (composed 1890) are Gigout's most celebrated compositions. They include the Toccata in B minor, his best-known creation, which turns up as a frequent encore at organ recitals. Also fairly often played, and to be found in the same collection, is a Scherzo in E major. Other notable pieces by Gigout are Grand Choeur Dialogué and Marche Religieuse. Gigout's works are now available on several commercial recordings.

The Grand Choeur Dialogué was recorded in 1976, just after this magnificent instrument was enlarged to its present 189 ranks. Paul Callaway was organist/choirmaster at the cathedral from 1939 to 1976.  This LINK will take you to a 2008 Washington Post article that describes the organ.


So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace and Wolfgang Mozart on

>> Sunday, November 8, 2009

My novel, So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart is published and available for purchase on!  Go HERE to purchase your copy!

For twenty-six years Nancy Storace kept Wolfgang Mozart's love letters locked away inside her desk. They were all she had left of him after his unexpected death, all that history would require as proof of the love they'd shared.
So Faithful A Heart is a story of intrigue and passion, of joy and despair, of courage and hope, and it is a story of how great love often exacts a great price.

The following is the concert aria, Ch'io mi scordi di te...Non temer amato bene, K. 505 that Mozart composed for Nancy as a farewell gift to sing at her final Viennese concert in February of 1787. Mozart composed an obbligato piano part, which he played, and he entered in his thematic catalog, Für Mlle. Storace und Mich. The text was taken from an aria in his opera, Idomeneo.

 Mozart's manuscript copy of Ch'io mi scordi di te is dated December 26, 1786, and the text is from an addition to Idomeneo, Act II, Scene 1, by Abate Giambattista Varesco. The piece includes an obbligato part for keyboard, which Mozart no doubt played at the premiere sometime in February 1787. Most interestingly, the obbligato contains no Alberti figures; what few of these appear in the aria are given to the strings.

The recitative of K. 505 was originally part of another scene and aria, "Non più, tutto ascoltai," K. 490, which was replaced the original opening number of Act II of Idomeneo for a private performance in March 1786. In the scene and aria for Storace, Mozart leaves out much of the recitative text and creates a more concentrated setting with characteristics more common to his chamber music. For instance, the modulation from the G minor of the recitative to the E flat major of the aria begins very early in the recitative.

The aria is marked Rondo, a form that was fashionable at the time in vocal composition. The beginning Andante segment is actually in ternary form and is introduced by the orchestra. The central, contrasting section begins at "Tu sospiri?" and modulates to the dominant. After the return of the soprano's opening lines, Mozart prepares for the shift to the faster, second part of the aria in an unusual and imaginative way. Virtually unaccompanied outbursts from the soprano ("sempre il cuorsaria," "Stella barbare," and "stella spietate!") alternate with rapid flourishes on the piano, creating an atmosphere of expectancy that allows for the most startling change in rhythm. The ensuing Allegretto is a serial rondo (ABACADA Coda). In the coda, Mozart produces the opposite of the effect he achieved in the transition when sixteenth-note scale passages in the soprano slow to eighth and then to half notes. 

The following recording features the wonderful mezzo-soprano, Cecilia Bartoli.


"So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart" publishes this weekend

>> Friday, November 6, 2009

The day has finally arrived! My historical fiction novel, So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart publishes this weekend and will see release within the coming week! As soon as it is released I will have a banner posted on this blog linking to the marketing website where the book can be purchased either directly from the publisher,, or from

Anna Selina Storace (known as Nancy by her closest friends), was born in London on October 27th, 1765 and began her stage career at the age of eight. She traveled with her parents to Italy when she was twelve and performed in some of Italy's most prestigious opera houses before being hired by the Emperor, Joseph II of Austria, to serve as the prima buffa of his newly-formed Italian opera company in 1783. In 1786 she starred as Mozart's original Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and left Vienna in 1787 to become one of England's premiere stage actresses, starring primarily in her brother's Stephen Storace's, productions.

So Faithful a Heart is based upon the research I did for my master's thesis on the life and career of Nancy Storace, as well as her relationship with Mozart. Nine more years of research, in addition to the year I put in for my thesis, went into this story, and an additional nine months to write.

In celebration of the publishing, I'm featuring this 1985 Metropolitan Opera performance of Kathleen Battle singing Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. This is Susanna's Act Four aria, Deh vieni non tardar, which is featured prominently in the novel.


Dieterich Buxtehude - Ciacona in C minor

>> Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637 – 9 May 1707) was a German-Danish organist and a highly regarded composer of the Baroque period. His organ works comprise a central part of the standard organ repertoire and are frequently performed at recitals and church services. He wrote in a wide variety of vocal and instrumental idioms, and his style strongly influenced many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Buxtehude, along with Heinrich Schütz, is considered today to be one the most important German composers of the mid-Baroque.

He is thought to have been born with the name Diderich Buxtehude. Scholars dispute both the year and country of his birth, although most now accept it taking place in 1637 in Helsingborg, Skåne, at the time part of Denmark (but now part of Sweden). His obituary stated that "he recognized Denmark as his native country, whence he came to our region; he lived about 70 years". Others, however, claim that he was born at Oldesloe in the Duchy of Holstein, which at that time was a part of the Danish Monarchy (but is now in Germany). Later in his life he Germanized his name and began signing documents Dieterich Buxtehude.

The bulk of Buxtehude's oeuvre consists of vocal music, which covers a wide variety of styles, and organ works, which concentrate mostly on chorale settings and large-scale sectional forms. Chamber music constitutes a minor part of the surviving output, although the only works Buxtehude published during his lifetime were fourteen chamber sonatas. Unfortunately, many of Buxtehude's compositions have been lost. The librettos for his oratorios, for example, survive; but none of the scores does, which is particularly unfortunate, because his German oratorios seem to be the model for later works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann. Further evidence of lost works by Buxtehude and his contemporaries can be found in the recently discovered catalogue of a 1695 music-auction in Lübeck.

Information Source: Wikipedia


The Pipe Organ, Queen of Instruments!

>> Monday, November 2, 2009

The late Mozart biographer, Wolfgang Hildescheimer, claimed that Mozart hated the pipe organ, most likely due to the fact that when Mozart was young, one of his primary duties while he was in service to Salzburg's Archbishop Colloredo was that of Cahthedral Organist. This duty required that he be at the Cathedral several times a day for an hour or two each time to play for morning, noon, and evening services, cutting into the young composer's day and interrupting any and every activity in which he might be engaged. However it was Mozart himself who wrote to a friend that the pipe organ was "die Königin der Instrumente" (the Queen of instruments), indicating that it wasn't the organ that Mozart despised so much as the schedule that was imposed upon him to play it.

Today I begin a series of posts entitled, The Queen of Instruments, featuring the world's most famous composers for the organ from Bach & Buxtehude to Saint Saens & Durufle, starting off with the final movement from Charles-Marie Widor's Toccata from Symphony No 5 Op.42 on the Klais organ in Wurzburg Cathedral, played by German organist, Hans Musch.

The Klais organ was built in 1969 and was completely new, since the last Klais organ (built in 1937) was destroyed in 1945 when the cathedral sustained heavy damage. The choir and transcepts were rebuilt to their baroque splendour but the nave was rebuilt into a more Romanesque style with a flat wooden ceiling. As you can see from a few photos in the video, the console is a five manual beast modelled on Cavaille-Coll's great examples in Notre Dame and St Sulpice but totally finished in black, even to having black naturals on the keyboard with white sharps. It contains 6,654 pipes and 86 speaking stops. There is a small 'swallows nest' choir organ of 20 stops, but this is to be joined by another choir organ of 52 stops to be built by Steinmeyer in 2010! To me it has a characteristic Klais sound, although nowhere near as overbearing as its organ in Cologne Cathedral with its unusual mixtures and recent bombastic reeds.


The World's most beautiful music: Mendlssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, 1st movement

>> Sunday, November 1, 2009

So we start November off with a passionate offering. My new blog friend, Jasper suggested that I watch this performance of the Mendlssohn E minor Violin Concerto and I liked it so much that I deemed it worthy of sharing with you.  I've always loved this concerto, and this particular performance by Russian/Israeli violinist, Shlomo Mintz now ranks among my favorites!

Critics, colleagues and audiences regard Shlomo Mintz as one of the foremost violinists of our time, esteemed for his impeccable musicianship, stylistic versatility and commanding technique alike.

Mr. Mintz regularly appears with the most celebrated orchestras and conductors on the international scene and is heard in recitals and chamber music concerts all around the world. He also frequently performs as a violist with leading chamber ensembles as well as in recitals.

Mintz is the recipient of several prestigious music prizes including the Premio Accademia Musicale Chigiana, the Diapason D’Or, the Grand Prix du Disque, the Gramophone Award and the Edison Award. Since 2004 he is recording for AVIE Records, London.

Born in Moscow in 1957, he emigrated with his family two years later to Israel, where he studied with the renowned Ilona Feher. At age eleven, he made his concerto debut with the Israel Philharmonic. He made his Carnegie Hall debut at age sixteen in a concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and subsequently began his studies with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School of Music. At age eighteen, he added the role of conductor to his artistic endeavours; since then he has conducted acclaimed orchestras worldwide, and became Music Advisor of the Israel Chamber Orchestra and Artistic Advisor and Principal Guest Conductor of the Maastricht Symphony.

Shlomo Mintz has been appointed as Principal Guest Conductor of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. He will take this role beside his busy soloist schedule from the season 2008/2009 on for 4 years. He is patron and one of the founders of the Keshet Eilon International Violin Mastercourse in Israel, and gives master classes worldwide.

He has been a jury member of several important international competitions including the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Brussels. He was President of the Jury of the International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznan, Poland, and is since 2002 President of the Jury of the Sion Valais International Violin Competition in Switzerland.



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