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Wieck Spot

For all her infamous name recognition, performances of Clara Wieck Schumann’s works are still puzzlingly rare. For decades I never questioned this; I bought the industry-wide indoctrination of “low quality.” But when I began to objectively look and listen, I realized Wieck’s compositions were filled with innovative tonal relationships, thematically unified structures, advanced motivic developments, […]

Posted inEssay

Necessary Shadows

Who invented black metal, that hateful, unholy, visionary genre? Potential candidates include bands Venom, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, or, most likely, the revolutionary Bathory. But exactly 100 years before Venom’s 1982 album “Black Metal” codified the term, the world saw a work similarly infused with perverted religiosity, hatred, mutilation, darkness, extreme ideological stances, blood, racist […]

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The Intelligence of Bodies

When VAN asked me to do a review of an artificial-intelligence-created realization of Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony called “Beethoven X: The AI Project,” which is based on the skimpy sketches he left when he died, I more or less groaned in my reply. “Not for me,” I said. “I know pretty much what I’ll think about […]

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An Old, New Song

During this pandemic year, distanced from the world, I’ve taken solace in Schubert’s 1827 song cycle “Winterreise,” which plumbs a man’s anguish as he travels through a wintry night away from the woman who has rejected him. The desolation of solitude, darkness and ice, and the lilting or storming interplay of piano and voice, have […]

Posted inI Know, But

I Know, But: The “1812 Overture”

When Tolstoy began working on what would become War and Peace, his 1869 opus that moves fluidly between historical novel and philosophical treatise, he initially had a completely different story in mind. Rather than craft a constellation of parallel and intersecting histories between 1805 and 1820 (with a particular focus on Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of […]