One of the earliest influences on Puccini’s writing, as previously alluded to, was the great opera tradition in Italy spanning hundreds of years, dating back to the early 1600s with Claudio Monteverdi and L’Orfeo in 1607. The parts of the great history of Italian opera relevant to La Bohème’s compositional background come in two parts, the first being that of Bel Canto opera¹ of the Italian variety most prominent at the opening of the 19th century (Jander, 2001).

Contrary to popular views of opera that remain prevalent today, opera was not an art for the elite at the time in…


Amongst the lesser discussed products of the boiling pot of culture and art in the latter parts of the 19th century lies the music of the renowned opera composer, Giacomo Puccini. …


In a recent article exploring unsavoury aspects of historical legacy, itself a response to the question “What is the best way to handle those aspects of the legacy of history which we deeply regret?”, Jiang poses an interesting thesis: instilling beneficial conception of co-existence works as the best solution in response to historical legacy.

While reasonable in principle, and presenting an elegant solution to the scenarios in which modern society is commonly pushed up against, his solution is not without its numerous faults. At the core of his exploration of solving historical legacy is the premise that an individual is…


The next section of my journey into notation software for composition came in the form of a delving into the open-source options, having been endlessly frustrated by the more commercial choices of Sibelius and Finale.

LilyPond: Old-school, but done well


As a student who has occasionally delved into the world of composition, one fact that has always frustrated me is the lack of an adequate industry standard for music notation that has both accessibility for users not capable of paying hefty software subscriptions and consistent capability. Whether it is the free version of Sibelius and Finale, with impaired functionality and endless idiosyncrasies, or Musescore with its great aspirations but quirky interface, I have yet to find a composition software I am truly happy with. …


Amongst one of his lesser known works, Beethoven’s only violin concerto is certainly unusual, incredibly exposed solo lines and thinly woven melody hallmarks of a style always seen in Beethoven’s more tentative ventures into new forms. While Beethoven was definitely comfortable with the violin, one only needs to look at his violin sonatas to hear a composer in true mastery of an instrument, the mixture of violin and orchestra certainly seems to have posed an issue for the composer. The result does reflect this to an extent, quite uncomfortable passages for the solo violin and sparse orchestral tuttis marking for…


Unique in its status as a non-liturgical Requiem, following adapted Lutheran writings instead of the traditional Latin Catholic text for a death mass, Ein Deutsches Requiem takes its place in the few religious works of music composed by the Romantic Period master Johannes Brahms. Choosing an approach that harkened back to traditional German melodies, alongside the composition style of Bach and Beethoven, he created a work noticeably different from his other pieces for orchestra, yet holding many of the stylistic hallmarks of his typical writing.

The first recording under consideration is a live performance with Claudio Abbado directing the…


The tastes and conventions with which music has been performed have changed dramatically, even within the last hundred years, pivoting from one extreme of the spectrum to another. To understand where music performance styles have come from, one must examine where the world of performance has been, where the traditions and practices that performers hold dear today originate from, and the ideologies from whence they come.

Where better to start then, in terms of performance tradition, with the great expansion that was performing convention in the late 19th century. With the advent of ever larger orchestral works, in the symphonies…


Today, while listening to the Lunchtime Concert on BBC Radio 3, I was taken quite by surprise, pleasantly so, upon hearing a rendition of the Brahms F Minor Sonata (Op. 120, No. 1) being played by clarinet and piano. Before this afternoon, I had only ever performed or even heard it played on the viola (with some adjustments for double-stops and range of course) and was struck by how different it sounded on the clarinet, not only in tone and timbre, but in the very fabric of the piece and how it came across to the listener.


While Tchaikovsky is often better known for his ballet music and programmatic works, his symphonies, in particular the 5th, keep the mystical allure and distinct taste of Russia that is so cherished by listeners of his work. The 5th symphony carries with it a brilliant amalgamation of Russian and German symphonic style, mixing traditional thematic treatment through texture, the hallmark of the Russian style, with a more architectural form, that of the German romantic composers. …

Jao-Yong Tsai

Academic writer, conductor, performer & composer. Compositional work here: https://bit.ly/3tfKzFH

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