• Ian Passmore

Music that doesn't suck, No. 48: Modes, ugh...

When I was in college, modes were one of the most difficult musical concepts for me to grasp. Essentially, they are the cousins of the more familiar term, “scales,” and they date all the way back to Ancient Greece. In order, their names are: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. That’s already more than you probably wanted to know — get to the point!

One of the pieces that’s been on my “must-do” list for the past few years is by the German composer Heinrich Kaminski. His Dorian Music was composed in 1934 for orchestra and string trio concertino; and is Kaminski’s tribute to the music of JS Bach, as well as his expression of love and optimism in the face of rising Nazism. I’m also 99% sure there’s an intentional Thomas Tallis quote in the first 3 minutes of the piece — 2:24, to be exact — although I can’t find any textual evidence to back that up.

Kaminski’s career as a composer and teacher looked incredibly promising. Tragically, though, he achieved only moderate success before being classified as a “half-Jew” and later, “quarter-Jew” by the Nazis. He died in Bavaria in 1946.

The (live!) performance features the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Andris Nelsons.

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