Fauré: Requiem in D minor, Op. 48

Fauré’s Requiem is of special note, since it is unlike any of the compositions that may be considered its peers. The Requiems of Verdi and Berlioz are spectacular works that address the notions of death, resurrection, and final judgment in grand, even theatrical, tones. Smaller in scale, Mozart’s Requiem is filled with great poignancy. Fauré, by contrast, composed a hymn of solace and supplication, music to comfort mourners rather than impress upon them the enormity of death.

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Luke Smith
Poulenc: Sinfonietta

Sinfonietta is Poulenc’s only symphonic work, and it is as close as he ever got to writing a symphony. Full of Poulenc’s trademark charm and wit, this gem of mid-century French music truly deserves every appreciation it can be afforded.

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Luke Smith
Chabrier: España

Although you may not recognize the composer of this work, many concert goers who listen to classical music radio will undoubtedly recognize the tune. Emmanuel Chabrier’s España is not only a crowd favorite, but also a wonderful opening concert work, especially for a concert of late Romantic French music such as this.

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Luke Smith
Chen: Tomorrow's Promise

At only 24 years of age, and with no formal musical education, Jia Jie Chen has composed works already performed by community and school orchestras around the United States. Tomorrow’s Promise explores the idea that although contemporary events may be uncertain or even chaotic, hope endures.

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Luke Smith
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor"), Op. 73

The Fifth Piano Concerto, written between 1809 and 1811, was composed during the most trying period of Beethoven’s life. At 39 years of age, Beethoven had almost completely lost his hearing, had experienced two devastating failed marriage proposals, often suffered from severe headaches and fevers, and openly contemplated suicide. Despite the traumatic conditions, Beethoven continued to compose – and ultimately produced one of the most popular piano concertos ever written.

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Luke Smith
Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28

Till Eulenspiegel, the man, is something of a mystery. Did he, in fact, ever live? It is no surprise that Richard Strauss’s tone poem Till Eulenspiegel has become such an audience favorite. It is one of those magical pieces of music in which everything—form, content, technique, and color—seems to mesh perfectly.

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Luke Smith
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring does not fit the traditional, semi-predictable mold of melodic and harmonic development. The work demands from its audience an entirely new way of listening to music. There is a requirement of auditory finesse with no shortage of mental agility to understand the piece. Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was to the 20th century: the single most influential piece of music composed in its time, the game changer, the one work of its century no later composer could avoid.

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Luke Smith
Mozart: Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, K. 191/186e

Mozart’s first documented concerto for a wind instrument, the Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, is the only surviving bassoon concerto of the five concertos that he wrote. It is a sad truth that many works from well-known and revered composers simply did not survive, for various reasons. We should be eternally grateful that this beautiful work featuring the often-overlooked member of the wind section did survive.

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Luke Smith
Mozart: Overture to The Magic Flute

Although, by any standard, Mozart was one of the most successful composers in Europe at just 34 years of age, he found himself in serious debt. So when Emanuel Schickaneder, a well-known theater entrepreneur, suggested that they collaborate on a new opera that was sure to be a hit, Mozart jumped at the chance.

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Luke Smith
Dvořák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor, "From the New World"

Composed between January 10 and May 24, 1893 in New York City, “New World” was the first of Dvořák’s so called “American works.” With its references to Negro spirituals, the plantation songs of Stephen Foster, and Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” it has also been called the first great American symphony.

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Luke Smith
Dvořák: Violin Concerto in A minor

Dvořák intended to submit the work for publication by the end of the year, but as is so often the case in artistic endeavors – especially with respect to collaborations – the finale version, as we know it today, would take more than four years to complete. Indeed, the musical journey for this work was prolonged and drawn out for not only personal reasons, but also due to an artistic conflict of vision between the composer and the violinist to whom the work is dedicated.

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Luke Smith
Mendelssohn: The Hebrides Overture (Fingal's Cave)

Not even Mozart started composing genuine masterworks until he was 18, and as we all know, Mozart was a musical freak. This brings us to the extraordinary case of Felix Mendelssohn. Simply put, when it came to child prodigies, Mendelssohn left them all in the dust, including the original boy wonder, Wolfgang Mozart.

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Luke Smith
Bizet: Farandole from L’Arlésienne

Farandole is the finale of Georges Bizet’s L'Arlésienne Suite No. 2, composed as incidental music to Alphonse Daudet’s play of the same name (“The Girl from Arles”). The play, a tragicomedy, is set in a small village in southeastern France and focuses on Fréderi, a young peasant who is driven to suicide after discovering the infidelity of his bride to be (L'Arlésienne).

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Luke Smith
Seuss: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has been a holiday classic since its publication in 1957. Written in rhymed verse and illustrated by Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel (1904-1991), the story follows the Grinch, a grouchy, solitary creature who attempts to put an end to Christmas by stealing Christmas-themed items from the homes of the nearby town Whoville on Christmas Eve.

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Luke Smith
Anderson: A Christmas Festival

Famous for his “concert music with a pop quality” (his own words), Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) possessed not merely a skill in technique and a rich melodic gift, but also an engaging sense of humor.

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Luke Smith
Matthews: Pluto, The Renewer

Although I might have had a passing annoyance for Pluto’s unjust omission, it seemed to really irk Kent Nagano, who commissioned Colin Matthews to write a movement to append to The Planets.

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Luke Smith
Holst: The Planets, Op. 32

The Planets’ popularity lies within its expressive punch. Dramatic power lies on its surface and can be understood viscerally after but a single hearing. The Planets is direct.

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Luke Smith