Category archive


We Are Going Adagio

I was driving my four-year-old daughter Mia Sarah a few days ago. We hit traffic, and Mia Sarah said “We are adagio.” I said, “What do you mean?” She said, “We are going adagio, we are going slow.” I was shocked – my four-year-old is struggling with her Russian but now she speaks Italian? Then… Keep Reading

Má Vlast

Today I would like to share with you Má Vlast by Bedrich Smetana (1824–1864). My daughter Hannah and I were listening to this piece a few days ago in the car when she said, “Dad, this sounds just like the national anthem of Israel.” We looked it up, and Hannah was absolutely right. The intertwined… Keep Reading

Tosca – Te Deum

Today I want to share with you an aria from the opera Tosca, composed by Giacomo Puccini. The aria I am sharing, “Te Deum,” is not the most popular one, but it is one of my favorites. In addition to the music of the orchestra and the remarkable baritone voice of the character Scarpia, Puccini… Keep Reading


We went to the Austin Symphony to hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and Leonard Bernstein’s Serenade. 2018 is the 100-year celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s birthday, and so before the orchestra performed Beethoven’s 5th we were shown a short excerpt from Bernstein’s TV lecture on this symphony (watch here). Leonard Bernstein will go down in history as a… Keep Reading

Rentaro Taki – Kojo No Tsuki

Today I am going to share with you a very short piece, “Kojo No Tsuki” (“Moon Over Ruined Castle”) by Japanese composer Rentaro Taki, who lived a tragically short life. Taki graduated music school in Tokyo in 1901, moved to the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany to continue his music studies. He contracted tuberculosis, moved back to Japan, and… Keep Reading

Bach – Cello Suite No. 1

If the word Bach instantly puts you to sleep; if you relate Baroque music to the word boring, I can relate to your sentiment, as I used to feel the same way. But Bach’s Piano Concerto in D minor was the piece that really changed my perception of this musical genius. However, I promise you that after you… Keep Reading

Mozart’s Piano Concerto Number 21

“You have to listen to Mozart’s Piano Concerto Number 21, part 2.” Those were my father’s words. He just heard it on the radio and could not wait to tell me about it. This was over twenty-five years ago, but I still remember this moment as though it were today. I could hear the excitement in his voice and… Keep Reading

Sibelius Symphony No. 5 (part 3)

I’ve been forcing myself to listen to 20th-century classical music composers. My parents mostly listened to music of the Classical era (1750-1820 – Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven) and of the Romantic era (1820-1910 – think Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Rachmaninoff (late romantic). “Classical music” is an umbrella term that encompasses half a dozen “eras,” the Classical era among them. Composers of… Keep Reading

Dvorak Piano Concerto

Today I want to share with you Piano Concerto in G minor by Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904), a Czech composer.  This is the only piano concerto Dvorak composed.  According to Dvorak, in this concerto he was unable to create a battle between the piano and the orchestra.  There is very little drama here; the piano is… Keep Reading

Shostakovich Fantasia

Last time I talked about Shostakovich I said, “His music tells stories. We just don’t know what those stories are. Each of his symphonies could have been turned into a Fantasia type of movie.”  Well, my lovely wife and I were listening to the first movement of Piano Concerto Number 2, and she said “Isn’t… Keep Reading

Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2

I was doing my usual thing: reading and listening to Spotify playing random classical music in the background. Suddenly my attention was captured by a soft, light, bright, incredibly romantic piano, accompanied by the gentle strains of an orchestra. I stopped everything. I couldn’t read anymore; I had to find out what it was. To… Keep Reading

Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D Minor

I have to admit that a love for Bach’s music is fairly new to me. I felt Baroque music lacked emotion and was somewhat boring. Then one day I was perusing YouTube and stumbled on a video of Glenn Gould playing Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in D Minor. I don’t know if it was Gould… Keep Reading

The Two Sides of Chopin

Today I am going to share with you etudes by Frederic Chopin. But I cannot talk about Chopin and not mention Schubert and Liszt. This discussion is a follow-up to previous articles I wrote about two Franzes – Franz Schubert and Franz Liszt. Schubert lived a very short life: When he was 25 he contracted… Keep Reading

Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2.

Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2. If I had to use one phrase to describe this wonderful masterpiece, I’d say it is a “concert of contrast.” Everything in this concerto has an opposite. If part of it sounds soft and lyrical, just wait and you’ll be treated to a forceful, military march-like section. If it’s quiet, don’t… Keep Reading

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 2

I fell in love with Tchaikovsky’s music when I was well into my thirties. I am not talking about his ballets or even his first piano concerto. (I feel I consumed that concerto in tandem with my mother’s milk.) But I feel that I had to mature as an adult to be able to relate… Keep Reading

Franz Schubert – Fantasie in F Minor

Today I wanted to share Fantasie in F Minor by Austrian composer Franz Schubert.  Schubert lived a very short life: when he was 25 he contracted syphilis, and at the time syphilis was a treacherous, painful death sentence (just like AIDS 20 years ago).  He died at the tender age of 32. Just imagine a… Keep Reading

Tchaikovsky’s Suicide Note?

Today I wanted to share with you Tchaikovsky’s Symphony Number 6, called “Pathetique” (which translates from Russian as “passionate”). It was Tchaikovsky’s last symphony. He conducted its premier just nine days before his death in 1893. He was 53 years old. To understand this symphony, we have to understand the dark period in Tchaikovsky’s life.… Keep Reading

Danse Macabre

In today’s musical note I want to share with you Danse Macabre (“Dance of Death”) by French composer Camille Saint-Saens. In this symphonic poem (music that literally tells a story) Death summons the dead from their graves to dance at midnight on Halloween.  To signify midnight, this piece starts with twelve repeated notes from the… Keep Reading

Why do I torture my kids … with classical music?

Lately I’ve been pondering on this question. At first, it was a subconscious decision. Somewhat by inertia, I was following in the footsteps of my parents. That’s what they did, and that’s what I’m supposed to do. However, I realized recently that I am re-gifting a gift. Instilling a love of classical music is one of the best… Keep Reading

Life is Beautiful

This weekend I watched Life is Beautiful with my wife and older kids (15-year-old Jonah and 10-year-old Hannah). Two-year-old Mia Sarah hung around, too, but didn’t really watch it.  Life is Beautiful is an Oscar-winning Italian movie, written and directed by Roberto Benigni.  Benigni also won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role… Keep Reading

Liebestraum No. 3

Today I wanted to share with you a short solo piano piece by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, called “Liebestraum No. 3” (“Dream of Love”).  I almost (almost) want to issue a personal guarantee that this piece will grab your soul, squeeze it, turn it inside out, and put it back together.  This is probably one of… Keep Reading

Death and the Maiden

“Think of a man whose health can never be restored, and who from sheer despair makes matters worse instead of better. Think, I say, of a man whose brightest hopes have come to nothing, to whom love and friendship are but torture, and whose enthusiasm for the beautiful is fast vanishing; and ask yourself if… Keep Reading

Swan Lake Suite

Today I wanted to share with you the “Swan Lake Suite” (an excerpt from the ballet of the same name). Swan Lake is Tchaikovsky’s version of Romeo and Juliet. Though today the ballet is considered to be the pinnacle of Tchaikovsky’s genius, its premier in 1877 was not well-received. The story line of the ballet you see in your… Keep Reading

Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1

I want to share with you Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1.  As one of my favorite childhood memories, I remember walking home with my father on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  I was maybe nine years old.   There was the sound of classical music coming from the fourth-floor window of our apartment building.  Our neighbor was listening… Keep Reading

Side by Side

Today I wanted to share with you a composition from “Side by Side” a 1994 recording of Oscar Peterson (piano) playing together with one and only Itzhak Perlman (violin). I think I owned this CD recording for twenty years (for all young fellows out there reading this, it is a great CD to impress girls,… Keep Reading

Saint-Saens Piano Concertos 1-5

A few weeks ago I shared with my readers Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 1. To my surprise, I received a lot more emails about this piano concerto than any other piece of music. However, most of them said something along the lines of “I love No. 2”, or “No. 3 is the best” or “What the 1st is… Keep Reading

Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No. 1

Today I want to share with you Camille Saint–Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 1.  This is not Saint–Saens’ most popular concerto – his concerto No. 2 (which I’ll share with you next week) is by far the best-known of his piano concertos. I had a hard time finding a recording of the first concerto on YouTube. Saint–Saens’… Keep Reading

Allegro de Concert

I am really excited to share with you “Allegro de Concert,” by Frederic Chopin. Chopin wrote only two concertos, and both were published in 1830. He started working on a third concerto soon thereafter, but never finished. He published just the first movement of that unfinished concerto and called it “Allegro de Concert.” A concerto… Keep Reading

Casta Diva

Norma premiered in La Scala (the Mecca of opera in Millan Italy) in 1831. Casta Diva is one of the most challenging arias ever written for soprano. During the rehearsals before the premier Italian soprano Giuditta Pasta refused to sign it she said it was “ill adapted to her vocal abilities”. Keep Reading

Santa Fe Revisited

Last year I wrote about (what has become) our annual trip to Santa Fe. The first two years it was grandfather, father, and son (my oldest, Jonah, who is 14). This year, the “boys” trip was turned into a “boys +1” adventure as we were joined by my nine-year-old daughter, Hannah. Below, I have added… Keep Reading

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9

I wanted to share with you Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. It is not a traditional symphony, because it uses voices in addition to instruments; thus it is called a choral symphony. Beethoven composed it when he was completely deaf. Keep Reading

Cavalleria Rusticana

I wanted to share with you music that you may have heard in the movie Godfather. No, not Godfather 1 (though you can listen to that here), but Godfather 3. It is an opera by Pietro Mascagni called Cavalleria Rusticana (loosely translated: Peasant’s Honor). Keep Reading

The Return of the Violin

Over the weekend I watched the documentary The Return of the Violin, and it had a tremendous impact on me. Watch it, even if you don’t care for classical music – this movie is so much more than its title implies. Keep Reading

Great Conductors

On Saturday I was browsing TED talks and stumbled on this incredible talk by Itay Talgam, “Lead like the great conductors.” Even if you’re not a big fan of classical music, watch it to learn a lot about different management styles (I watched it five times!). I am a civilian when it comes to classical… Keep Reading

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

Today I want to share with you Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.” Niccolo Paganini, Italian violin virtuoso and composer, wrote 24 capriccios for violin – 24 very short but extremely difficult pieces to play. I feel like they were written for the performers, not the listeners – they are as difficult to listen… Keep Reading


Today I wanted to share with you aria from Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth. I saw this opera for the first (and only) time with my wife on one of our first dates. Now she cannot say that she wasn’t warned about my extracurricular opera excursions. Macbeth was Verdi’s tenth opera. It was first performed in 1847.… Keep Reading

Netrebko & Garanca

I wanted to share with you an aria from opera Lakme by French composer Leo Delibes. Ironically it is known as British Airways’ theme song. It is sung by two of my favorite sopranos Anna Netrebko from Russia and Elina Garanca from Latvia. I have to be honest, I am not sure I am very… Keep Reading

Just a Gigolo

This improvisation by Oscar Peterson, “Just a Gigolo”, is very special to me. I used to listen to it together with my son Jonah as I drove him to daycare on my way to work. It was our song. We had our favorite part (at the 1:54 mark). We loved it so much, we’d turn… Keep Reading

Warsaw Concerto

Today I wanted to share with you the Warsaw Concerto, a piano concerto in one movement written by British composer Richard Addinsell for the 1941 film Dangerous Moonlight. When I heard it the first time, it felt like it had a Russian soul behind it. Today, when I looked it up on the most trustworthy source… Keep Reading

Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6

A good friend asked me if I thought Tchaikovsky was overrated or underappreciated. A few years ago I probably would have said overrated; now I say both. music has been overpopularized in America. The Nutcracker has turned into a Christmas ballet, which is so popular that for some ballet companies it accounts for almost half… Keep Reading

Mahler – Symphony No. 5

In the past I shared with you my conflicted thoughts on anti-Semitic German composer Richard Wagner. To balance things out, today I want to point you to a piece by the Austrian Jewish composer Gustav Mahler, whose music I learned to love only recently. I had tried to listen to him in the past and quite… Keep Reading

Wagner’s Lohengrin

I’ve been conflicted about listening to Wagner’s music for a long time. He was a raging anti-Semite and a horrible human being. Hitler’s love for Wagner’s music made Wagner even less likable. (But of course, by this logic, if Hitler loved Offenbach’s music would it make Offenbach’s music taboo? But then again, if I had… Keep Reading

Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

Last time, I discussed how Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Number 1 was rejected by Tchaikovsky’s mentor, the best pianist in Russia, Nikolai Rubenstein, – who termed this concerto “pathetic,” among other insults. But after the concerto’s successful premier in Boston, Rubenstein changed his mind and actually conducted its premier in Moscow. A similar fate faced Tchaikovsky’s… Keep Reading

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1

There is a great lesson that we all can learn from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Number 1. It was common at the time to dedicate a piece of music to the musician whom you wanted to perform the music, usually a famous performer. Dedication insured that a piece of music would see the light of day… Keep Reading

Tchaikovsky – Eugene Onegin

I’ll dedicate the next few musical notes to Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. I have always had a difficult relationship with his music. My parents loved his first piano concerto, and I’ve listened to it a few thousand times over the years (I love it, too). At the same time, I was forced to listen to his… Keep Reading

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number 5

After I wrote last week about Arthur Rubenstein, the Polish-American-Jewish pianist, a  reader suggested I read Rubenstein’s autobiography, which consists of two books, My Younger Years and My Many Years.  I bought both.  I am halfway through the first one (it is the first “paper” book I’ve read in a few years – a very… Keep Reading

Grieg Piano Concerto

Today I wanted to share with you the Piano Concerto in A Minor by Norwegian composer Edward Grieg, the only piano concerto he wrote. It is one of those concertos that you have to listen to with eyes closed.  (That is why I am including it at the bottom of my article, not above).   I… Keep Reading

Franz Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1

As one of my favorite childhood memories, I remember walking home with my father on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I was maybe nine years old. There was the sound of classical music coming from the fourth-floor window of our apartment building. Keep Reading

Opera and I

When I was young there were a few things I could not understand – probably more than a few, but these stood out: why would anyone drink coffee or beer, since they both tasted awful; and why anyone willingly would listen to opera? My mother had a great voice and sang in a chorus, but I don’t remember my parents listening to opera at home. Keep Reading

Adagio from the ballet Spartacus

Today I want to share with you an unbelievable piece: “Adagio,” from the ballet Spartacus, by Russian-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. Many of you, especially those who have kids, will know this piece from Ice Age 2. Keep Reading

Van Cliburn

I have known about Van Cliburn was since I was very little.  He was about the only American that (Soviet) Russians did not hate but admired (maybe the only other one I can think of off the top of my head is Louis Armstrong).  Van Cliburn won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition.  It was 1958. … Keep Reading

La Traviata – Anna Netrebko

In today’s musical note I want to share with you one of the most popular operas of our time: La Traviata.  It was composed by Giuseppe Verdi in 1852.  I watched this production a few years ago and I thought it was probably the best one I’d ever seen.  Aside from the great performances by… Keep Reading

Eugen D’Albert Piano Concertos

I’ve stumbled on Eugen D’Albert maybe fifteen years ago or so.  I was shocked how good his music was and unknown he was. He is a Scottish-born German composer who was also a pianist (you can still find recording of him playing works of other composers).  Similar to Moszkowits he lived in the Rachmaninoff’s era… Keep Reading

Moszkowski Piano Concerto in E Minor

This week I’ll share with you two undeservedly underrated and underrecorded composers that in my not so humble opinion deserve to be overrated and overrecorded.  Both lived in the golden age of  the late romantic, early modern period of classical music, that is, the late 19th to early 20th century. I want to share with… Keep Reading

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