Collective Listening Project

Violinist Mark Steinberg Selects

Playlist No. 65

About the Playlist

March 21, 2022
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The Mahler Chamber Orchestra’s concertmaster Mark Steinberg—familiar to many in our audience as a violinist of the Brentano String Quartet, the University’s former ensemble-in-residence—has curated a playlist to share the recordings he has listened to “way more times than I have fingers and toes to count on!”

What a privilege it is to be asked to share some of the music that means the most to me. (And even better that it’s for Princeton, a place that I hold dear and with which I have much history.)  I decided the best way to approach this would be to list some recordings to which I’ve been drawn again and again, ones I’d be particularly impoverished to be without. Welcome to some of my obsessions! This is music that nourishes and sustains me; I hope you will find something here to love, as well. —Mark Steinberg

JEROME KERN “Ol’ Man River” from Showboat, sung by Paul Robeson

My grandfather was friends with Paul Robeson, and apparently, my father, as a little boy, sat on Robeson’s lap as Robeson sang to him. I have no doubt the vibrations of that voice must have contributed toward forming my father into the wonderful man he is. Robeson’s voice reaches deep inside you and touches something so human and essential with artistry that gloriously radiates dignity and sincerity.

JOHANNES BRAHMS Presto non assai from Piano Trio No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 101, performed by Ilona Eibenschütz

Eibenschütz knew Brahms (and studied with Clara Schumann) and, while discussing Brahms in an interview, turned to the piano to play, solo, the opening of a movement of his c minor piano trio. These few brief moments of music have had a profound effect on me. I have listened to this countless times, and each time it is as if she were before me playing it afresh. I’m still, unfathomably, surprised by details in the interpretation and delightfully riveted by the imagination and flexibility with which she plays, utterly natural and guileless. She has so much to teach us. 

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN Adagio ma non tanto e cantabile from String Trio No. 3 in G Major, Op. 9, No. 1, performed by L’Archibudelli Ensemble

This radiant E major movement receives a stunning performance here, every note pregnant with direction and meaning, the interaction between the parts utterly sensitive and tender and alive, a magical chiaroscuro. L’Archibudelli has enriched my life immeasurably.

GUSTAV MAHLER “Oft denk’ ich, sie sind nur ausgegangen” (“I often think that they have just stepped out”) from Kindertotenlieder, sung by Kathleen Ferrier and conducted by Bruno Walter

Kathleen Ferrier’s singing is a heady mix of authority and vulnerability. This is a recording for the ages. If it doesn’t shatter you, open your heart more fully and listen again.

ROBERT SCHUMANN “Auf einer Burg” from the Liederkreis, Op. 39, sung by Matthias Goerne with pianist Eric Schneider

This performance strikes me as something so intimate and true. This song haunts me. 

GUILLAUME DE MACHAUT Kyrie from Messe de Notre Dame, performed by Ensemble Organum

There was a time in my life (I’m ashamed to say) when I thought Bach was the first composer! I am eternally grateful to have been disabused of that notion. I love this performance of this great work; it is music-making of fervent, soul-shaking power.

FRANCESCO MARIA VERACINI Largo from Sonata for Violin in A Major, Op. 2, No. 6, performed by Joseph Szigeti

I hope someday to be asked to make a playlist populated exclusively by great performances by Joseph Szigeti, my violin hero. No player of my instrument touches me more deeply than he. Listen to this short Veracini movement and then please contact me if you are in need of further suggestions; I am a very proud and devoted fan!

BÉLA BARTÓK Romanian Folk Dances, performed by Béla Bartók

A masterclass in rhythmic élan. There is such life in the buoyant lift and lilt of these small gems.

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART “Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden” (“Ah, I can feel it, love’s happiness”) from Magic Flute, sung by Anna Moffo

This is a relatively recent discovery of mine, certainly the newest to me on this list. I went searching for inspiration as I was working on the first violin aria that starts the final movement of Mozart’s g minor viola quintet and listened to recording after recording of this aria, a sibling of the one in the quintet. This performance by Anna Moffo seemed to rearrange every molecule of my being as I listened. If I can play one note in my life that has the tremulous sensuality of her high B-flat, I will go to my grave a fulfilled man.

FRANZ JOSEPH HAYDN “Nun beut die Flur das frische Grün” (“With verdure clad the fields appear delightful” from Creation, sung by Sylvia McNair and conducted by John Eliot Gardiner 

I find this performance infinitely touching, direct, and with no trace of artifice. Purity is a tricky word, but I’m tempted to invoke it here. 

BEETHOVEN Allegretto from Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92, conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt

My favorite recorded Beethoven symphony cycle is undoubtedly the one by Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. The music-making seems beautifully distributed between head and heart, clarity of vision (and sound!) and inner vitality. This movement overwhelms me. 

DITKA “Thank You” from the album Get It Together

I did a sort of deep dive into Icelandic bands while traveling around Iceland on three separate vacations. I love that country, and I love this song.

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