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Welcome to Classical Connect - the free classical music site!

If you like classical music, you’ve come to the right place! Classical Connect is your virtual concert hall, featuring thousands of recordings of classical music. If you love piano music, just go to the Browse by Instruments section and access the thousand-plus piano recordings available in our library. If you prefer the violin or the flute, you won’t be disappointed either – in fact, we have music for practically every instrument! If, on the other hand, you’re interested in a particular composer, you can Browse by Composer and select your favorite.

Where do we get our music? Our site allows independent musicians to upload their own recordings, or we may do it on their behalf. Musicians value the special opportunity Classical Connect offers because it allows for their music to be heard around the world. Several hundred musicians have already joined our site. We also have arrangements with several labels, festivals, programs and orchestras, allowing us to use some of their material.

As a visitor to our site you can listen to the first three minutes of any recording. However, by joining our site you’ll have access to all full-length performances. Joining is easy and has many great benefits. You’ll be able to create playlists, comment and vote on recordings, share music with friends, listen to our special programs, and more.

The music you hear upon entry was randomly selected from our library - what we call our Serendipity list. You can always pause it or jump to the next piece. You’ll be able to change the content of these initial selections once you’ve signed in.

To help you navigate the site and use its features, we’ve also created a Help page.

In the meantime, enjoy the music!

The Classical Connect team

March 2, 2015.  Plentiful week.  This is one of those weeks when we feel somewhat overwhelmed: Bedřich Smetana, Antonio Vivaldi, Maurice Ravel, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Carlo Gesualdo were all born this week.  Plus, Frédéric Chopin’s birthday was yesterday, March 1st.  We have about 400 recordings of Chopin’s works, so it’s almost impossible to pick just one.  Here’s the recording of Chopin’s Ballade no. 4 in f minor, Op. 52 that our listeners seem like.  It’s performed live, by the still young Russian-American pianist Elena Baksht.

Carlo GesualdoThe lives of these composers span four centuries; we’ve written about all five of them in the past, so we’ll just play some of their music.  Carlo Gesualdo, the Prince of Venosa, a late Renaissance composer, lutenist and murderer (he famously stabbed his wife and her lover after discovering them in bed), was born on March 8th of 1560.  He wrote a large number of madrigals, many of which display amazing chromatic modulations that are centuries ahead of their time.  Here’s an example, Omnes amici mei dereliquerunt me (All my friends abandoned me), a section from his Tenebrae Responsoria on the text from the Passion.

Antonio Vivaldi was born on March 4th of 1678, more than 100 years later.  If Gesualdo belonged to the late Renaissance period, Vivaldi is the epitome of the late Baroque.  Vivaldi is so popular these days that it’s hard to imagine that up till the 1930s he was practically unknown.  It took the diligent work of Olga Rudge, the violinist more known as the lover of Ezra Pound, and Pound himself, working under the auspices of the Mussolini regime, to uncover hundreds of Vivaldi’s manuscripts.  Vivaldi wrote hundreds of violin concertos.  Here’s his Concerto for Four Violinsin B minor RV 580.  It’s performed by the ensemble I Solisti Italiani.  Johann Sebastian Bach liked it so much that he arranged it for four clavichords.  We know it as Bach’s Concerto BWV1065.

One year ago we celebrated the tricentennial of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, who was born on March 8th of 1714 in Weimar, the fifth child of Johann Sebastian and Maria Barbara Bach, Johann Sebastian’s first wife.  Three of his older siblings died in infancy, so he became the second-oldest surviving son.  A major figure of the transitional period between the Baroque and what became known as the “Classical” period, he was influenced by the music of his father, his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann and George Frideric Handel.  He wrote a number of symphonies, and many works for the keyboard, both concertos and sonatas.  Here’s CPE Bach’s Symphony in E minor, Wq. 178, written in Berlin in 1756, the year Mozart was born.  It’s performed by the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin.

Bedřich Smetana was born on March 2nd of 1824.  Considered the father of Czech music, he was one of the first “nationalist” composers with aspirations and sensibilities shared by the Russian “Mighty Five” and his younger countryman Antonin DvořákHere’s one of Smetana’s  most popular works, Vltava, from his set of symphonic poems Má vlast.

And lastly, chronologically but certainly not in terms of either talent or popularity, Maurice Ravel, who was born on March 7th of 1875.  Here’s his Alborada del Cracioso, from Mirroirs. It’s performed by the Italian pianist Igor Cognolato.

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Welcome to our Virtual Concert Hall

We started Classical Connect with a mission to provide independent musicians with a new venue for their performances. Hundreds of classical musicians have taken advantage of this opportunity, sharing their music with listeners across the world.

We encourage you to join and upload your performances. Once signed in, you’ll be able to create a personal page with your bio, photo and other promotional materials. Since all the recordings on our site are streamed, your performance cannot be downloaded without your permission. In the future, you may also benefit from our plan to introduce fees for certain downloads. These fees will be shared with you, the musician.  If you have a video of your performance on YouTube, you can link it to your personal page: go to Upload or Link Your Performance and paste the YouTube URL in the appropriate field.  Your video will play on Classical Connect alongside your audio recordings.

Also, we have created a new feature called Concert Schedules, which allows you to enter your future concerts. Once your event has been entered, two things should happen. First, the concert is displayed on your personal page, below the bio. Second, the concert appears on the combined front-page Concerts Calendar. Moreover, for two days – the day before the concert and the day of the concert itself – there will be a message announcing your concert on the front-page News and Updates tab. This is the very first tab presented to all logged-on users.

On the technical side: our site accepts MP3 and MP4 files, so if you have a CD recording, you can rip and upload it in this format. For better quality, we recommend using a bit rate of 128 kbps, an audio sample rate of 44 kHz, and a two-channel (stereo) format.

To upload, enter the complete title of the piece, including its key, number, opus, etc. For example, the title of Beethoven's Sonata No. 21 would be identified as Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53. "Waldstein" is optional.  Also, we encourage you to leave comments about your performance or the composition.

If your performance was recorded on several tracks, then upload each one with a different title. For example, Sonata No. 21, part 1, Sonata No. 21, part 2 and so on. Please let us know and we’ll merge these different movements into one complete performance with the appropriate title.

Please do not upload parts of a composition. Think of Classical Connect as your virtual concert hall: only upload the things you would play in a real one.

If you have any questions, please contact us by clicking here and sending us an e-mail. We'll make every effort to respond as quickly as possible.

The Classical Connect team

Benefits of Joining Classical Connect

There are many advantages to joining Classical Connect. The first, and most obvious, is the ability to listen to complete performances. We have more than 2,000 different pieces of classical music, some of them as long as an hour and 50 minutes (yes, that’s how long Mahler’s Third Symphony is!). Once you’re logged in, you can listen to every one of them from start to finish – that’s if you like the performance, of course.

You can also create personal playlists. There’s no limit to how many pieces each playlist can include. You can read more about playlists here. In addition, you can comment and vote on any piece of music in our library. The grades / rankings go from 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), but please only reserve 10s for the truly great performances and use 1s sparingly!

Another advantage includes sharing performances with your friends. Click the Share button on the Player and send a message to your friend on Classical Connect, or simply copy/paste the link into an e-mail. Your friends don’t even need to be members of Classical Connect; they can simply click on the link and listen to the complete performance the same way you do.

Also, you can actively participate in Forums only if you’ve joined the site.

Finally, as you set up your profile, you can select the content of the initial musical selection or omit it entirely.

Joining is easy. Just click here and follow the instructions.

Enjoy!

The Classical Connect team


February 23, 2015.  Handel.  George Frideric Handel was born on this day in 1685, in Halle.  Having spent most of his life in London, he’s considered a British composer, and is famous in our time for his oratorio Messiah, Water Music and other pieces that he wrote for the royalty, as well as his organ concertos.  During his lifetime, though, he was at George Frideric Handelleast as famous for his Italian operas.  Handel wrote 42 operas altogether.  Not just a composer, but also a great manager, he established three opera companies to perform them.  One of these companies found a space at the Covent Garden Theater, which till then was a playhouse.  Now, of course, it’s Britain’s Royal Opera house.  Handel learned the art and craft of the Italian opera mostly while he stayed in the country.  He was 21 when he moved from Germany to Italy, first to Florence and shortly after to Rome.  By then he had already written at least two operas, Almira and Nero.  Very quickly Handel found several patrons, among them the same cardinals Colonna, Pamphili, and Ottoboni who also played important roles in the lives of many other composers, such as Francesco Cavalli, Alessandro Scarlatti and Arcangelo Corelli.  Handel wrote music for the cardinals’ private orchestras and performed with their musicians.  Cardinal Benedetto Pamphili was a noted librettist, and Handel used one of the cardinal’s works to write an oratorio, Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (The Triumph of Time and Truth).  In the city of Rome the performance of operas was banned by a papal decree; to circumvent the prohibition, composers wrote oratorios, many of which are operas in all but the name.  Il trionfo was one of them.  The aria Lascia la spina (Leave the thorn) became famous.  Four years later Handel rewrote it into an even more famous aria Lascia ch'io pianga (Leave me to weep) for his opera Rinaldo.  Here it is, wonderfully sung by Cecilia Bartoli; Christopher Hogwood conducts the Academy of Ancient Music.  In 1707 Handel wrote his first fully Italian opera, Rodrigo. By the early 18th century, opera was a highly developed art, even though it was “invented” just 100 years earlier.  Claudio Monteverdi can be considered the father of Italian opera, but many highly talented composers followed, Francesco Cavalli and Alessandro Scarlatti being among more significant practitioners of the genre.  Opera became very popular all over the country: by the end of the 17th century, Venice, with the population of about 140,000, had 7 opera houses.  Of course most of them were small and they employed tiny orchestras but the number is still very impressive. 

In 1709 Handel wrote his second Italian opera, Agrippina; it was premiered in Venice, in Teatro San Giovanni, and was a great success.  The opera was revived late in the 20th century, and it has since been staged in major opera houses.  The success of Agrippina made Handel famous all over Europe.  That eventually brought him to London, with Queen Anne providing him with a stipend.  Rinaldo was written in 1711, his first opera for the English stage.  Another 34 followed, all premiered in London.  Even though most of them were soon forgotten, several remained popular, and many more we resurrected with the revival of the Baroque opera and the ascent of the period instruments in the second half of the 20th century.  Giulio Cesare is one of the operas that was staged regularly, and so is Orlando.  Here’s the aria Se Pieta, from Giulio Cesare, sung by the French soprano Sandrine Piau with the ensemble Les Talens Lyriques under the baton of Christophe Rousset.  And here’s the aria Vaghe pupille from Orlando. Written for a castrato, it’s sung by the Serbian contralto Marijana Mijanovic.

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February 16, 2015.  Corelli and Kurtág.  Last week we celebrated an unusual pair, an Italian Baroque composer from the 17th century, and a modernist Austrian one, born in the 20th.  This week we have a similar and equally disparate pairing: another Italian, also working in the Baroques style and born in the 17th century, and a Hungarian composer of the 20th century, born in what till 1918 was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Arcangelo Corelli, a fine violinist and important composer, came from a small town of Fusignano, not far from Ravenna.  His birthday is February 17th, 1653.  He studied in the nearby Faenza, and then in Bologna, at that time one of the centers of violin playing.  Arcangelo CorelliAt the age of 17 he was admitted to the local Accademia Filarmonica, Bologna’s conservatory.  By 1675 Corelli was in Rome, playing in an orchestra, but very soon became well known as a virtuoso violinist.  He entered the service of Queen Christina of Sweden, the patron of many composers, from Giacomo Carissimi to Alessandro Stradella and Alessandro Scarlatti (Corelli dedicated his Op. 1, Twelve trio sonatas, to Queen Christina).  He continued to perform around Rome, playing solo and leading small string ensembles.  He played in churches and courts of  the Roman nobility and church hierarchs, such as Cardinal Pamphili, whose Palazzo Doria-Pamphili on Corso was one of the musical centers of Rome. Eventually Cardinal Pamphili hired Corelli, and for the following three years Corelli lived in the palace.  When Pamphili moved to Bologna, Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, also a major patron of music and arts, became Corelli’s main benefactor.  Corelli moved to the cardinal’s palace, the enormous Cancelleria.  Corelli ran the cardinal’s private orchestra, and every Monday presented a concert in which he’d play, along with the most famous musicians in Rome.  He also continued to compose, if sparingly.  Famous not just in Rome but also in most of Europe, he was admitted to the prestigious literary and music society, Accademia degli Arcadi.  Being in the center of musical life of Rome, he met many composers, including the young Handel.  That didn’t go very well, as we wrote on an occasion.  Corelli retired in 1708 but continued to work, mostly editing his earlier compositions.  He died on January 8th, 1713, quite rich and in possession of a fine collection of violins, which he left to his friend, the violinist Matteo Fornari.  Here’s Corelli’s Concerto Grosso op. 6, no 4 in D Major in the performance by I Musici.

The Hungarian composer György Kurtág was born February 19th of 1926 in a small town of Lugoj, Banat.  As we mentioned above, prior to 1918 Banat was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire; many inhabitants were Hungarian-speakers.  It also had a large Jewish population; Kurtág was half-Jewish.  He spoke Hungarian at home and Romanian at school.  As a child, he studied the piano on and off, first with his mother, then with professional teachers.  After WWII, in 1946, the 20-year old Kurtág moved to Budapest and continued taking piano lessons, eventually entering the Franz Liszt Music Academy.  There he met György Ligeti and they became friends for life.  After the Hungarian revolution of 1956, Kurtág moved to Paris (in some ways Hungary was the most liberal of all Soviet-block countries and allowed people to travel).  There he studied with Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud.  He returned to Hungary in 1959 and stayed there for the duration of the Communist regime – the only Hungarian composer of international renown to do so (Ligeti, for example, fled to Vienna right after the failed revolution).  Kurtág resumed traveling after the fall of communism in 1989, staying in Berlin (he was the composer in residence for the Berlin Philharmonic in the mid-90s), Vienna, the Netherlands and Paris, where he worked with Boulez’s Ensemble intercontemporain.  These days Kurtág and his wife live in Bordeaux. 

In our library we have a number of piano pieces from his Kurtág’s Játékok (“Games” in Hungarian), an eight-volume collection of works for solo pianos or piano four hands; we hope you’ll listen to them.  Here, though, we’d like to present a symphonic work from 1994, Stele.  It was commission by Claudio Abbado for the Berlin Philharmonic and is performed by them, live.

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February 9, 2015.  Berg, Cavalli.  Alban Berg was born on this day in 1885 in Vienna.  His father was a well-to-do merchant; in addition to a house in the very center of Vienna, next to the St. Stephen cathedral, the family owned an estate in Carinthia and other property.  Alban was taught piano by one of the governesses, started composing songs at the age of 16, but was just a music-loving amateur when in 1904 he became a student of Arnold Schoenberg.  Berg studied with Schoenberg for seven years.  He admired his teacher, while Schoenberg considered Berg “an extraordinarily gifted composer.”  Berg developed into one of the most influential composers of the 20th century: he, his fellow pupil Anton Webern, and of course their teacher Schoenberg formed what is known as “the Second Viennese School.”   Together, they were enormously important in developing the atonal and later 12-note music.  Berg’s most significant compositions are two operas, Wozzeck and Lulu.  Wozzeck, the first atonal opera of the 20th century, is based on a drama of the playwright Georg Büchner.  Berg composed it between 1914 and 1922.  The music is admittedly difficult but utterly fascinating (and short – it runs for about an hour and 20 minutes); one can still hear Mahlerian influences in much of it.  Here’s part of Act 3 of Wozzeck, in the 1987 live performance from Vienna.  Part of it takes place in a tavern, you can hear a clanking piano.  Franz Grundheber is Wozzeck, a soldier, Hildegard Behrens is Marie, the mother of his child, and Anna Gonda is Margret, their neighbor.  Claudio Abbado conducts the Vienna Philharmonic.

Francesco Cavalli was also an opera composer.  We suspect that neither he nor Berg would recognize each other as such.  Cavalli was born Pietro Francesco Caletti-Bruni in Crema, Lombardy, on February 14, 1602.  He adopted the name of his patron, Frederico Cavalli, later in his life.  Francesco CavalliThe young Pietro had a wonderful voice, and Frederico, who was the Venetian Governor of Crema, noticed the boy.  In 1616 Cavalli brought him to Venice, where Pietro joined the choir of the San Marco. At that time, the great Claudio Monteverdi was the music director of the cathedral.  Documents show that Cavalli helped Monteverdi to edit some of the master’s work.  He left San Marco to become an organist at the church of SS Giovanni e Paolo and worked there till about 1630.  Around that time he adopted the name of his patron and started signing his work as Francesco Cavalli.  Monteverdi is acknowledged as the father of Italian opera but for a quarter of the century following Monteverdi’s death Cavalli was the leading, and most popular practitioner of the art.  Cavalli’s first opera, Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo, was premiered in 1639 in Teatro San Cassiano, the first public opera house in Venice, and by extension in the world (the theater was demolished in 1812).  His last operas were composed in the 1670s.  La Calisto was written in the middle of Cavalli’s career, in 1651.  Here’s the first scene of the second act, with Sara Mingardo, contralto, the Concerto Italiano under the direction of Rinaldo Alessandrini.  In the early 1660s Cavalli spent two years in Paris.  In 1661 Cardinal Mazarin commissioned him an opera to celebrate the marriage of King Luis XIV and Maria Theresa of Spain.  This commission led to Ercole amante (Hercules in love), which had its premier in February of 1662.  Jean-Baptiste Lully was then the superintendent of royal music.  Either he was jealous of the competition or genuinely wanted to improve the opera, but he decided to add several ballet pieces to the opera.  The entire production became a six hours affair; the king, the queen and the court danced to the ballet music, and it received all the praise.  Cavalli left Paris soon after.  Ercole is a fine opera, as you can judge by this aria.  Anna Bonitatibus, an Italian mezzo-soprano, sings Giunone (Juno).  The production is by the Dutch National Opera with Concerto Köln, Ivor Bolton conducting.

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February 2, 2015.  Mendelssohn and Palestrina.  Felix Mendelssohn was born on February 3rd, 1809 in Hamburg into an eminent Jewish family.  We had explored his family history and childhood years in our previous posts.  Mendelssohn continues to be widely performed, especially his ever-popular Felix MendelssohnViolin concerto, the symphonies and the music for A Midsummer Night's Dream.  His Songs Without Words for the piano also used to be performed often, but lately they pretty much disappeared from the concert repertoire.  It’s a pity, as some of them are absolute gems.  Mendelssohn wrote eight volumes (or books) of Songs, each consisting of just six songs.  The first book was written in 1829-1830, and the first songs were written for the album of Felix’s beloved sister Fanny; the last one – in1842-1845, shortly before Mendelssohn’s premature death at the age of 38.  Here are two Songs, both bearing subtitles (only few pieces have them): from Book 2, op. 30, no. 6, Allegretto tranquillo in F-sharp minor ("Venezianisches Gondellied" or Song of the Venetian gondolier), here, and the Spring song, from Book 5, Op. 62, also no. 6 (here).  Both are performed by Daniel Barenboim; the recording was made in 1973.

The music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina represents a pinnacle of the Renaissance.  After about 150 years of development, starting with Guillaume Dufay, the music, the first truly “classical” one in our modern understanding, had reach unprecedented levels of individuality and sophistication.  Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso, and their younger contemporaries Tomás Luis de Victoria and William Byrd – the Italian, the Fleming, the Spaniard and the English – perfected polyphony and thus influenced generations of composers, from Bach to composers of the 20th century.  Palestrina, the oldest of the four, was born around this date in 1525 (as is so often the case with Renaissance composers, the real date is in dispute).  He spent most of his life in Rome.  The Pope Julius III recognized his talent and appointed Palestrina maestro di cappella of the Capella Giulia, the official choir of Saint Peter’s Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrinabasilica.  Later, Palestrina held similar positions in several other churches, including San Giovanni di Laterano, where Orlando served some years earlier, and Santa Maria Maggiore.

Palestrina, who composed most of his life, left a treasure trove of music: more than 100 masses, hundreds of madrigals and motets.   He wrote Missa Brevis, a shorter mass, around 1570; at that time his was employed at the Santa Maria Maggiore, and his fame was spreading around Europe.  By then he had received an offer from the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilan II (they ended up being unable to work out the terms) and was in an epistolary exchange with Guglielmo Gonzaga, the Duke of Mantua – they were discussing musical matters.  Here’s the first part of the mass, Kyrie; it’s performed by The Tallis Scholars.  Two years later he wrote a motet Tu Es Petrus.  By then he had returned to the Saint Peter’s basilica and again was put in charge of the Capella Giulia. You can hear it in the performance by the choir of Westminster Abbey.  Almost twenty years later, in 1591, Palestrina wrote several settings of Magnificat (the song of the Blessed Virgin Mary).  Here’s one of them, Magnificat primi toni, performed by the English ensemble Voces8.

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January 26, 2015.  Mozart and Schubert.  Two giants of classical music were born this week: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on January 27th of 1756 and Franz Schubert on January 31st of 1797.  We’ve written about both of them numerous times, so to celebrate Mozart, we’ll just play his wonderful Linz symphony (no. 36).  Vienna Philharmonic orchestra is conducted by Carlos Kleiber in a live 1988 performance.

Franz SchubertOn the other hand, to celebrate Schubert, we’ll publish an article by Joseph DuBose on the song cycle Die schöne Müllerin.  We had a delicious problem trying to select a singer to illustrate the cycle.  There are many great recordings; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore made a classic one half a century ago; another great German, the tenor Peter Schreier, made a wonderful recording in 1982.  A much younger tenor, the current star Jonas Kaufmann, also recorded the cycle.  Hermann Prey, Ian Bostrich, Peter Pears, Thomas Quasthoff – the list is long and distinguished.  Each of these singers recorded the Müllerin with great musicality and probing interpretation, and all of them have magnificent voices.  We do have a favorite recording though, one made by Fritz Wunderlich in May of 1959.  Wunderlich was only 29 (just three years older than Schubert was when he wrote Die schöne Müllerin) and already in a great voice.  It’s impossible not to admire his singing.  Here’s the article. ♫

Not only among Franz Schubert’s most beloved compositions, Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise firmly established the song cycle as a genre rich in possibilities, and it would be taken up by some of the greatest song composers of the following century—Schumann, Brahms and Mahler. They were not the first of their kind, however. Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte predated the composition of both of Schubert’s cycle and laid the groundwork for the importance of musical continuity across the individual songs of the cycle. Yet, it was Schubert’s cycles that were the first to be widely performed and successful.

The earlier of the two cycles, Die schöne Müllerin was largely composed between May and September 1823, while Schubert was also at work on his opera Fierrabras, and was published the following year. Schubert selected twenty poems from Wilhelm Müller’s collection, excluding among others a prologue and epilogue, to use for his cycle, yet the narrative of the cycle is unharmed. The story follows the plight of a young miller that falls hopelessly in love with a miller maid. Blissful and full of life, he takes great joy in his wanderings. His companion in his journeys is a brook, that, whether for good or evil is yet not known, leads him to a mill. While working at the mill, he becomes infatuated with the master’s daughter, and attempts to win her heart. Though he believes he has gained her affections, his hopes of happiness are ruined by the arrival of a hunter, dressed in green. Jealously rises in the young miller and he develops a fatal obsession with the color green. Finally, he loses all hope and finds only rest in the cold embrace of his faithful companion, the brook.

The narrative of Die schöne Müllerin begins with the young man’s blissful wanderings in Das Wandern ("Wanderings," play). As he walks alongside the brook, watching its continuous journey and the ceaseless turning of the wheels of the mill, he muses that all things must move—must wander. Schubert sets Müller’s five-stanza poem in a simple strophic setting in B-flat major. The young man’s blithe approach to life is expressed in the almost folk-like characteristics of the song: a simple, unadorned melody and harmonies that hardly depart from the tonic and dominant of the key. Important, however, is the rippling accompaniment of sixteenth notes that depicts the scenic brook, one of the cycle’s three main characters.  Continue

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