Welcome to Germany for my 4th composer profile: Composer and pianist, Clara Schumann.
Germany has provided the world with just tons of amazing composers such as Johann Sebastien Bach, Ludwig von Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Johannes Brahms, among many others. For this profile, I opted for Clara Schumann because I pretty much knew nothing about her. I knew she played the piano and was married to Robert Schumann who wrote a great Concert Piece for Four Horns, among much more wonderful music.
What I learned is that she was an amazingly talented woman who was known for being an incredible solo pianist and composer.
(née Clara Josephine Wieck; 13 September 1819 – 20 May 1896)
Hometown: Leipzig, Germany
Known primarily for piano pieces
It’s only truly been since WWII that many careers opened up as possibilities for women. And even then, it started because we got a taste for the outside-the-home working world while the men were off fighting the war.
So what about Clara herself? What about a contemporary of Mozart, composer and violinist Maddalena Laura Lombardini Sirmen? Even in today’s world, we don’t hear that much about women composers. Although, the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra will perform Jennifer Higdon‘s Violin Concerto next season, something which has an additional “coolness” factor. It’s music by a female composer being performed by a female concertmaster in an orchestra led by a female conductor.
Traditionally, women were not a part of the musician rosters of orchestras. They’ve not traditionally led orchestras. They’ve not traditionally written the music played by orchestras. Fortunately, this is changing, but for now, hats off to Composer Jennifer Higdon, Concertmaster Holly Mulcahy and Music Director, Maestro Kayoko Dan, for performing this music.
About composing, Clara Schumann said,
Composing gives me great pleasure… there is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound.
Clara Schumann was quite a progressive woman. She juggled it all. She was very well-established as a soloist on the piano, already touring extensively around Europe before she married Robert Schumann. Even after their marriage, she continued touring and teaching – all while giving birth to eight children, of whom she outlived four.
Of his wife, Robert Schumann said this:
Clara has composed a series of small pieces, which show a musical and tender ingenuity such as she has never attained before. But to have children, and a husband who is always living in the realm of imagination, does not go together with composing. She cannot work at it regularly, and I am often disturbed to think how many profound ideas are lost because she cannot work them out.
Last weekend I was the Columbus Symphony Orchestra play Robert Schumann’s 2nd Symphony. At the pre-concert chat, we learned that Clara worked as a second breadwinner in her family, still performing while raising their children. A big reason for that is that Robert Schumann could write some beautiful music for the piano, but he wasn’t that great of a pianist himself. Clara – was a virtuoso so she performed them. She also assisted him in some of his composing, helping him to fine tune some things. Her husband also spent many years in and out of mental institutions including his final two-plus year stay after a suicide attempt before dying at the young age of only 46.
With six other mouths to feed, Clara continued composing, performing and teaching. She did rather well at it – working off her husband’s debts and raising her children well. We learned last weekend that she did so well that she “played herself into a happy grave.”
Listen to this piano concerto. It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
In an era where women either stayed at home or else worked in boarding houses, as teachers or as nurses, Clara Schumann definitely stood a world apart from other women creating beautiful music along the way.
Thanks for reading this today! Coming in March will be two composers from Switzerland and Italy: Heinrich Sutermeister (1910-1995) and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736). I hope to see you then!
Welcome to the 3rd in my Passport series about composers around the world. I first traveled to France for my senior year in college (I’ll leave out the year!), so my latest composer is a French baroque composer named Jean-Féry Rebel. I first discovered his music last year at a concert with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra titled “In Nature’s Realm” at which Rossini’s William Tell Overture and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony were also being played. Yeah – I bought my ticket for the William Tell, but was pleasantly surprised by the Rebel piece. So much so, that I went back the next day to watch the entire concert again. Yeah – it was that awesome!
Everyone: meet Maestro Rebel!
Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747) was considered a prodigy on the violin. He was the son of Jean Rébel, a tenor in the choir of the Louis XIV’s private chapel. He eventually came to study under the Royal Composer, Jean-Baptiste Lully, who had been working as Court Composer for instrumental music under the king.
Considered quite a prestigious ensemble, Jean-Féry earned a spot in the Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy, the 24 Violins of the King, where he played until becoming the Chamber Composer to Louis XIV. Eventually, he wrote a tribute to his teacher called, Le Tombeau de Lully (The Tribute to Lully).
One of Rébel’s most famous works is a piece called Les Elemens, or The Elements. Check out the super funky (i.e. dissonant) chord at the beginning of this piece from the first movement of this work called “Le Cahos,” or the aptly named “Chaos.”
This kind of chord was the first of its kind – something not really heard again until the Romantic era by (I think) Shostakovich because it was so unusual. In my humble opinion, part of the beauty of baroque and classical era music is that it resolves and is symmetrical in sound, but in his day, Rebel was ahead of his time.
Principal bassoonist, Betsy Sturdevant, went into more detail about this piece in her blog before the Columbus Symphony Orchestra performed it last season.
Thanks for reading about Maestro Rebel! Next up will be Clara Schumann, a composer who is certainly not unknown, but her composing is typically overshadowed by that of her husband. I’m looking forward to learning more about her and hope you are as well!
A week ago Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending another concert with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra only this time, I had a lot of company with me. Coming along with me this time were a dozen or so of my friends from my Peace Corps alumni group, or CORVA (Central Ohio Returned Volunteers Association).
Peace Corps volunteers spend two years of their lives working in a developing nation somewhere around the world. This is just a few of the dozen or so of us who attended the concert, but pictured below are Returned Peace Corps volunteers who served in Tanzania, India, Brazil and Bulgaria. 5 people, 4 continents. We were later joined by volunteers who served in the Dominican Republic, Panama and even Iran. And we thought selling watermelon at Comm Fest was fun! Our service is something we’re always happy to talk about, so if you want to hear stories, just yell. We never get tired of telling them!
Not surprisingly, it’s always a Peace Corps friend that I run into at concerts – whether that be at the CSO or ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. Speaking of ProMusica, I also learned that a couple of my friends are on their sustaining board. That’s fantastic, don’t you think? Of course at tonight’s free Happy Hour Concert, I’m sure to run into some other Peace Corps friends like I did the last time.
As usual, we started our concert with Christopher Purdy’s pre-concert chat where he told us that a lot of the music being played was written by composers influenced by the music of Wagner.
On the program were:
Jacques Lacombe, conductor
Zuill Bailey, cello
Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No. 1
Dvořák: Cello Concerto
Franck: Symphony in D minor
We were told that basically, it’s a lot of music you don’t know you know.
Under the direction of Quebec native, Maestro Jacques Lacombe, the concert started with Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. This suite began with the Morning Mood which includes the quintessential, calm, relaxing-in-a-meadow kind of melody played by principal flautist Randall Hester. From there it worked its way to the really fun part: In the Hall of the Mountain King. Not sure you know that? Well, I assure you, you do. Last fall I found a great version of this played on, of all things, tesla coils! It was pretty awesome! I’d never seen it performed live and couldn’t help being excited over this version which the CSO played just wonderfully. Some songs are fun to play and others well – as a musician you play them because whoever chose the music chose it. Pas de choix. No choice. For this performance, it sounded like they were having a ton of fun playing it for us!
Moving on to the highlight of the evening, we had the pleasure of hearing Antonin Dvořák’s Concerto in B Minor for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 104, amazingly played by cellist, Zuill Bailey. I had the pleasure of interviewing him earlier that day and learned he was battling the flu the weekend of this performance. You certainly wouldn’t know that because he was just incredible. Wow! He definitely deserved the enthusiastic standing ovation he received!
Mr. Purdy told us that the cello was his favorite instrument. He called it cerebral and thoughtful. It’s a beautiful instrument with such a rich and full sound. As for Dvorak’s cello concerto, I suggest listening to Mr. Bailey’s own words about this wonderful music.
While Mr. Bailey refers to Dvorak’s cello concerto as a “cellist’s most celebrated concerto,” Dvorak himself refers to it altogether differently.
The cello is a beautiful instrument, but its place is in the orchestra and in chamber music. As a solo instrument, it isn’t much good….I have…written a cello concerto, but am sorry to this day that I did so, and I never intend to write another.
Whatever Dvorak thinks of his own creation, it sure sounded terrific!
The second half of the concert was dedicated to composer Cesar Franck, a composer influenced by Wagner – perhaps in a time it wasn’t overly popular to be influenced by a German composer. That said, Mr. Purdy told us that Franck
…is a composer well worth knowing better.
We learned that Franck tried some new things with regard to symphonic compositions. He helped bring the symphony back to the concert halls in Paris, as opposed to only operas. He tried new things and while some people, particularly the younger, newer musicians, thought it was exciting and wonderful, the older generation thought of it as weird and overbearing, to the point where they would walk out of concerts in anger! Wow! My own budget-minded brain would take the line of thinking that if I paid for a ticket, I should see it through – like it or not. But such thinking was not the case when socially acceptable music wasn’t being performed! Imagine what the musicians thought!
At the end of our pre-concert chat we were jokingly told this:
If you’re a Wagnerian, you’ll have a marvelous time. If not, you’ll get mad!
Well fortunately, I didn’t get mad. This symphony was played well, of course, but the jury’s still out on whether or not I actually liked it. It was nice, but it wasn’t overly memorable to me. There were parts of it I liked – such as the first movement, the Lento-Allegro non troppo, but the melody didn’t stick with me after that. But if Franck is a composer well worth knowing better, then I’m thinking a trip to youtube might be in order to hear some of his other works.
Heck – I didn’t like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring when I first heard it, but it’s grown on me. That means anything’s possible, right?!
Please watch for my interview with Zuill Bailey to be posted later this month.
I started writing this during the opening ceremonies on Friday, February 7, but then got caught up in the excitement, so yes – I’m a bit late. Guess I won’t be a medal contender for blog writing, huh?
In the interest of international good will, thanks to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games starting today in Sochi, Russia, I thought I’d share a little bit of music to celebrate. I’ve chosen four pieces of great music from my home country of the USA, from my two adopted countries of France and Bulgaria (i.e. I lived in each of them) and also from the host nation of Russia. Enjoy and GO TEAM USA!
USA – Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. We’re talking about sports, people. This is important!
France – Maurice Ravel’s Bolero. Love this!
Bulgaria – Svatba by Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares – a women’s choral group out of Bulgaria. Listen. It’s beautiful.
Russia – Stravinsky – Because they played it during the opening ceremonies, I just HAD to include the Rite of Spring! – complete with dancers!
So this post is my multicultural moment for the week. Think about it. Fanfare for the Common man was written by an American, but performed above in the UK. Bolero was a piece of music commissioned by a Russian but written by a Frenchman about a Spanish dance. Plus, in the above video, it was performed in Denmark. Bulgaria’s all Bulgaria, but it’s a country that maintains close ties with Russia (Look up the Battle of Pleven and you’ll understand why) and Stravinsky is Russian, whose Rite of Spring was premiered in Paris, but is performed above by a ballet company out of Chicago.
The Olympics are meant to bring people together. This is just one way of doing that. Enjoy!
Not even a county-wide Level 2 Emergency will keep people away from good music!
Last Sunday, after getting about 4 – 5 – 17″ of snow (I might be exaggerating on the totals, but it was a lot, regardless!), and before the plows really had a chance to salt and plow the roads, a couple hundred classical music fans were treated to a delightful concert at the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington.
In its second performance of the season, the McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra (MACCO), played to an enthusiastic audience in the Bronwynn Theatre in the McConnell Arts Center in Worthington. I say enthusiastic because the weather and roads really were crappy, but we all came out for great music anyway. The performance included some lovely music by great romantic and 20th century composers such as Bartok, Grieg, Strauss and Respighi. Here’s what was on the program.
Bartok – Romanian Folk Dances
Grieg – Holberg Suite in G, Op. 40
Strauss – Serenade in Eb, Op. 7
Respighi – Ancient Aires & Dances: Suite No. 1
Under the direction of Maestro Antoine T. Clark the program started out with Béla Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 68. Bartok wrote a lot of music based on folk tunes around the region of his native Hungary, then-Yugoslavia, and Romania. He even went as far as Turkey and Algeria for musical influences. This piece is no exception in that it’s based on folk music of his neighboring Romania. I especially enjoyed the Brâul – Allegro with the lovely clarinet and piccolo played by Nancy Gamso and Erin Helgeson Torres as well as the Pe Loc – Andante with the beautiful violin beautifully played by Concertmaster Juan Carlos Ortega. According to the program notes, these dances were actually re-orchestrated for the piano and violin after the original orchestral premier in Budapest in 1918.
Listening to these dances reminded me of Timisoara, Romania. It’s a beautiful city in northwestern Romania with a huge Hungarian influence – much like these dances – Romanian as interpreted by a Hungarian.
Next on the program was Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite in the ‘olden style’ for string orchestra, Op 40. Written to honor one of Scandinavia’s great literary figures, Ludvig Holberg, this set of 5 movements is almost the opposite of the Bartok piece in that this was first written for the piano and then orchestrated for the orchestra. The last movement, Rigaudon: Allegro con brio, was my favorite because of the play between the solo parts of the violin and viola, played again by Ortega and principal violist, Deborah Price.
After intermission we were treated to a smaller ensemble of winds – plus one double bass – for Richard Strauss’ Serenade for 13 Wind Instruments, Op. 7. It was an absolutely beautiful piece and I was just taken aback at the gorgeous tone of the oboe, performed by principal Bradley Walsh. It was amazing. He stood out in the Respighi as well.
The final piece of the concert was one that I just loved loved loved! Ottorino Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1, P.109. Instruments such as the lute and harpsichord, as originally written in 16th and 17th century France and Italy, served as the original inspiration for this piece. The addition of a harpsichord, skillfully played by Suzanne Newcomb, was probably my favorite aspect of these dances because I felt they added much more depth to the music. But then again, as a pianist, my opinion is biased!
This really was my favorite part of the concert, but my favorite eras of music are classical, baroque and early. Respighi loved the baroque era, so his music naturally takes on some of that older, more symmetrical, musical form. In my mind, his love of the baroque serves as a bridge to help bring us into the 20th century classical music era without playing something that would be deemed as overly strange or hard on the ears. I heard his Trittico Botticelliano last fall with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and of that concert, the Respighi was again my favorite.
All in all, this is just what the doctor ordered on a weekend of horrible winter weather. I’m so glad that so many people were able to get out and enjoy this music.
The McConnell Arts Center Chamber Orchestra has its next concert on Sunday, April 27 at 3pm in Bronwynn Theatre at the Peggy R. McConnell Arts Center. Tickets range in price from $12 for students, to $25 at the door (less, if ordered in advance online). I encourage you to go hear them play. It’s a small, intimate setting and you don’t even have to dress up if you don’t want to. Across the hall from the theatre is also an art gallery which you can enjoy at no charge before and after the concert.
Ever since starting this blog, people in and out of the industry have been super nice to help me along the way – either sharing their thoughts on music, suggesting new music or composers to try or even offering recommendations on blogs to follow so I can learn more about the classical music industry. It’s all been appreciated more than you can imagine. I’ve learned a lot so far and have met some wonderful people – be that online or in person.
One recommended blog to follow is that of Lisa Hirsch: Iron Tongue of Midnight. Based in San Francisco, she critiques opera performances and writes about all aspects of the classical music world. She also has a lot of good things to say about website maintenance in the arts world.
Well last week, she asked me for my mailing address, which made me think she wanted to send a copy of something, maybe a mix-CD? A photocopy of something? I had no idea. We’ve never met so who knows? Well this week, I had quite the surprise show up on my doorstep: Alex Ross’ book The Rest is Noise and four music CDs. WOW!
It’s all about 20th century music. Alex Ross’ book puts all this 20th century music into historical context which is perfect for me since I love history. I’m only 30-40 pages into it so far, but it’s very well-written and I look forward to sitting down at a cafe this afternoon to delve further into it. As for the music, it’s all new to me. I’d heard of Pierre Boulez (as a conductor) and I’d just heard my first music by Messiaen a couple of weeks ago thanks to a concert with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, but otherwise, I had know idea who these people were or what this music was.
I was floored – I told her I didn’t know what to say since this was such a generous gift. We’d only just connected on Facebook, so I doubt she knew this, but today’s my birthday, so this turned out to be a fantastic birthday present! :-)
Here’s what she sent:
Pierre Boulez: Sur Incises – Messagesquisse – Anthèmes 2
Esa-Pekka Salonen: out of Nowhere
Magnus Lindberg: Clarinet Concerto / Gran Duo / Chorale
Messiaen: Quatuor Pour La Fin du Temps
Knowing of my preference for Early, Baroque and Classical music, Christopher Blair of Akustiks called this some challenging listening for me! He’s right!
I’ll be honest – I probably grabbed my chair out of sheer panic the first time I heard some of the clarinet concerto. And while I’ve not at all listened to all of this yet, I did listen to some of the Messagesquisse while at work this week. These are a few of my first impressions that I jotted down while listening to it:
- Oh man – a violin piece just started. Sounds like it’s either tuning or just hitting random notes.
- It would be great in the context of a scary movie – like a crazy, European, messed up, truly disturbing, mind **** of a movie, e.g. A Serbian Film or something of that ilk.
- I feel like I should be sneaking around trying to scare people right now while this is playing.
- Either that or running for my life!
- I feel paranoid, almost frightened, like I should be attempting to move through the office unseen, sneaking from desk to desk until I get to a door to make my escape.
- I think I like this one
- Don’t look now, but…
- I can picture an evil, mad scientist dancing in the room
I think Lisa might have gotten a kick out of my initial reaction!
I’m pretty sure I kept looking over my shoulder for a good couple of hours after listening to that!
I read once that Janet Leigh never again took a shower – only baths – after filming Psycho. Maybe it had nothing to do with Norman Bates and everything to do with Bernard Herrmann’s music score. Something to consider, anyway.
This is four CD’s worth of really funky, weird, discordant music that I would never have bought for myself, but am so thrilled that I now have an opportunity to hear. I feel like I’m conducting an independent study of 20th century classical music. And once I get over my initial shock, I may grow to truly like some of this. Who knows? That said, you have to give a lot of credit to Pierre Boulez – to illicit such an emotional response is testament to the power of music. No words, no threats, no other people did that, only his music did that: generated all sorts of crazy thoughts and (fortunately temporarily) paranoid feelings. Whether I end up “liking” it or not is almost irrelevant. It’s powerful music!
While I’m not sure if I’m going to “lay down the boogie and play that funky music ’til tI die”, I am certainly going to enjoy listening to this funky music, that’s for sure.
Thanks for the great present, Lisa!
Bienvenue and welcome to Canada!
Welcome to my second of 24 composers I’ll be profiling throughout 2014. Not having formally studied music, I’m learning a lot about composers I’d never heard of or whose music I barely knew. This month is no exception as we travel to Canada to learn a little bit about composer, John Estacio.
In preparation for this profile, I wanted to at least name other composers from Canada but quickly learned I just didn’t know any. I really didn’t! Knowing I had my work cut out for me, I reached out to my musician friends and look who I met!
My brief mention here doesn’t do them justice, so please click on their names to learn more these composers from up north: Jocelyn Morlock - Composer-in-residence for Vancouver’s concert series, Music-on-Main. As a pianist, she’s automatically cool in my book. There are also contemporary composers Oskar Morawetz (1917-2007) and Jacques Hétu (1938-2010).
I’ve chosen John Estacio because his music was the first music played of the Masterworks Series of concerts with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. I think that speaks volumes. Sure our Music Director, Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni is Canadian himself (as are our Concertmaster, Jean-Sébastien Roy, Principal 2nd Violin, Alicia Hui, and librarian, Jean-Etienne Lederer!), but to start an entire season with the music of living composers is a wonderful idea and sends out the notion that, despite the thoughts of some Slate.com writers, classical music is NOT dead! It’s still being created today!
Hometown: Newmarket, Ontario Canada
Education: Wilfrid Laurier University, University of British Columbia
My favorite works: Brio
Popular Canadian composer, John Estacio, has worked as the composer-in-residence at a variety of orchestras including the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and Calgary Opera. He’s won numerous awards – including the national Arts Center Award for Composers – and is often played in concert halls throughout the US, Canada and beyond.
Speaking of concert halls, John Estacio’s piece, Brio, is what started the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks concert season this year. Like many of Mr. Estacio’s works, it makes great use of the wind, brass and percussion instruments in the orchestra. I had the impression that they didn’t just back up the strings, but instead, they joined the strings on stage. It’s a wonderful and exciting piece to listen to – especially in a live setting.
Another well-known piece is known as Frenergy, an orchestral piece that was originally written for something else, but ended up standing alone as a great concert-opener.
The bulk of the musical material found in this piece comes from sketches for my Triple Concerto. These sketches were to be part of the proposed final movement for the concerto, a fast-paced scherzo to bring the piece to a wild close. However, for various reasons, this ending did not make it to the final draft. Not one to waste, I decided to mount this music on its own for orchestra.
- John Estacio
Mr. Estacio’s music has been performed by every major orchestra in Canada, many in the US and around the world. From his website:
In the last decade he has composed numerous symphonic and operatic works including Filumena for Calgary Opera/Banff Centre and Lillian Alling for the Vancouver Opera/Banff Centre. Filumena has received several remounts in Canada and was filmed for television and broadcast on PBS.
Mr. Estacio is well-known for his operatic works, something our fellow Ohioans will soon learn in a couple of weeks with a Cincinnati Ballet world premier production of King Arthur’s Camelot. (Which looks to be really good!).
Here’s a video the Cincinnati Ballet shared about the making of this new ballet that they’ll be performing the weekend of Valentine’s Day.
I hope you enjoyed some samples of his music. To learn more about John Estacio and his music, I highly recommend that you listen to Frenergy above, visit his website or delve further into his repertoire on youtube. Like the music of composers Dave Sartor and Michael Torke, about whom I wrote earlier this month, you’ll find his music fun to listen to – not the crazy discordant stuff one might imagine when thinking of living composers. Try it – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Photo of Mr. Estacio courtesy of www.johnestacio.com. Photographer, Wade Kelly.
Passport of Composers: This is the second of 24 composer profiles that I’ll be posting throughout the year as part of my Passport of Composers from countries around the world. Combining my love of travel with my love of music, I’ve chosen a composer from each of the countries in which I have either lived or visited. Next month will be France – Jean-Féry Rébel (1666-1747) and Germany – Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
Don’t speak Italian? That’s OK. I don’t really speak it either. But… Did you ever sing in choir? Ever play in the band or orchestra in school? Ever read Angels and Demons or The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown?
If you did, you’ve probably learned some Italian. Even if you only played the recorder in elementary school, I’d venture to say that you probably know at least a few words. (Beyond Pasta, Spaghetti and Prego! And yes – prego means “you’re welcome” in Italian!)
Classical music goes back many years to a variety of countries, but for some reason, the vast majority of musical terms used are all Italian. Here are a handful of examples of some commonly used terms.
CONCERTO - a piece of music for which a soloist is accompanied by an orchestra, such as Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64.
FORTE - strong, loud - like Will Forte…er…something like that. (I really want to see his new movie, Nebraska)
PASSIONATO - passionate. Just imagine anything sung by the late – and definitely great – Luciano Pavarotti.
STACCATO - detached, articulated – like a woodpecker, only less annoying.
TEMPO - time, the speed of the song. “How fast is this song?” = “What’s the tempo?”
They all get more fun as you go along especially when you hear of a movements such as “allegro con fuoco” – the 4th movement of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.
ALLEGRO - fast
CON FUOCO - with fire
So picture a movement that is quick, animated, with a lot of heat and fire behind it. In other words, really intense - and in the case of Dvorak - really awesome!
Even this blog is based on an Italian musical term!
GIOCOSO – playful, fun
There are a few possibilities as to why we stick with Italian for our musical terms. Some say that the arts first found their way back into Italy before other European nations for the Renaissance. Others say that Italians just started it and there was no sense in reinventing the wheel.
Whatever the reason, the Italians have certainly made their mark on the musical world with great composers such as Vivaldi, Corelli, Rossini, Respighi, etc. They had great musical notations that we all still use to this day.
Since I have a lot to learn in the world of music – and of the music itself – I’ll endeavor to delve further into some of these terms in future posts. I love music and I love languages, so maybe we’ll all learn a little bit along the way.
So until next time, Ciao!
Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.
I’m a subscriber to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and by subscriber, I mean I bought a 4-pack of tickets to the Masterworks Concert series, i.e. the classical (non-pops) concerts. When picking out my four tickets, I chose 2-3 concerts and my friend, Sarah, chose 2-3 concerts and fortunately we overlapped on a couple. Our four concerts included Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #2, Beethoven’s 5th, Romeo and Juliet and Mozart’s Requiem. Pretty standard fare in the classical music work, but pretty awesome fare, to be sure! I never once considered the Ravel (bleh) or the Bruckner (I’ve heard icky things about his music). Remember – I bought my tickets before I started really expanding my music appreciation beyond Early, Baroque and Classical. Sure, I’d been mildly converted on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring last year, but that was enough, right?
For this concert, I lucked into a pair of comp tickets to this weekend’s concert thanks to one of the musicians playing. (Thank you!) Here’s what was on the program and may I just say that I was pleasantly surprised! Here’s my view of the stage – much closer than usual!
With Music Director Jean-Marie Zeitouni at the podium, the concert started with a piece by a composer I’d never heard of before, Olivier Messiaen. As a French major studying in Strasbourg way back when, I never really delved into the classical composers, but I have a lot of music of pop singers like Jean-Jacques Goldman and Patricia Kaas. (Love Patricia Kaas – look her up. Great voice!)
Originally from the beautiful city of Avignon, Messiaen composed Les Offrandes Oubliées after completing his studies at the Conservatoire de Paris. The program notes handed to patrons at the concert said that he was influenced by Stravinsky – as I imagine many composers were after Rite of Spring was performed. This is a piece of music with three parts – slow – FAST – slow. The middle / fast part was my favorite. It was the most intense and thanks to the loud parts, my nephew, Ben, would have loved it. (Last year at the concert with Beethoven’s 6th, Ben commented that there weren’t enough loud parts. He was 10 at the time.) Of course, the three parts corresponded to three theological categories, according to the program: the Cross, Sin and the Eucharist.
Is it really a good sign that my favorite part was the part depicting sin? Hmm. Something to ponder.
It was a wonderful piece though, performed by the CSO for the first time at this concert. I’d be interested in hearing more of his works.
Just one hand
I’ve read that roughly 16 million (yes – million) people lost their lives in WWI – about 2/3 – 1/3 soldiers – civilians. Another 20 million people were wounded. Among them was a pianist named Paul Wittgenstein. After the war, he went around commissioning left-handed piano pieces from a variety of composers such as Strauss, Britton, Prokofiev and Ravel.
Hearing of this piece reminded me of an episode of M.A.S.H. way back when, when Charles operated on a wounded soldier and had to make the decision to either save his leg or his hand. After choosing to save the leg, he learned that the soldier was a pianist who had graduated from Juilliard. I couldn’t embed the video, but click this link to see it. Skip ahead to about 19 minutes in to hear Charles Emerson Winchester talk about Paul Wittgenstein and Ravel.
Pianist Benedetto Lupo performed this piece for us and wow was it beautiful. There were so many parts of the piece that made it sound like there were two hands playing. Amazing what you can do with a challenge and a little determination. (or a lot of determination!)
Funny that throughout the piece, I kept thinking - boy, this sure reminds me of Bolero…
I liked the Bruckner!
And then the Bruckner. Bruckner’s last symphony is his unfinished Symphony No 9. Oddly, he actually wrote 11 symphonies, but according to our pre-concert chat with Christopher Purdy, Bruckner apparently didn’t like his first two symphony and numbered them as 0 and 00.
I know a handful of people who have outright said that they do not like Bruckner. I’d never heard his work before, so with each subsequent person who said that, I became more and more frightened to hear his music. Yikes! Something must really be wrong with it.
Sigh. There’s nothing wrong with it. Bruckner is just another Austrian composer – he lived from 1824-1896, so he’s in the romantic era, sure, but that’s not horrible, is it? No. Safe to say, it’s not, but I clearly hadn’t given him a fair shake…until this concert.
I really enjoyed this symphony and can now totally understand why brass players like to play it. My first thought while listening to this piece was
Gosh – sure is nice of the strings to accompany the brass!
That’s a little over the top, I’m sure, but since the brass were featured so prominently throughout the piece, one has to wonder! It was fantastic – the brass parts were excellent and it seemed to revolve around them. I kept thinking how intense it was and also how I’d like to hear more!
As for my nephew, Ben would have loved it – it had lots of loud parts! I noticed while watching it that there were nine (count ‘em 9) French horn players – including all five that I spoke to for French Horn Week. I noticed that the four hornists in the back row were playing something I learned is called a Wagner horn, or a Wagner tuba.
I found this picture thanks to google because I wanted to show you a side by side picture of the French horn and Wagner horn. I read that it’s kind of a cross between a French horn and a trombone. Bruckner used these horns in his later symphonies. In his 9th, the hornists go back and forth between the two horns – something made easier since they share the same kind of mouthpiece and fingerings.
There’s a brass ensemble out of Vermont who made it a goal to play the Wagner horns. (love the Lionel Richie reference)
All in all it was a wonderful concert that I really enjoyed. My friend and I were amazed with the gorgeous stained glass chandelier almost directly above us.
February is going to be a great month for concerts with the CSO: A cello concerto by Dvorak on the 1st (My birthday weekend! I’ll be 29. Again.), Lang Lang on the 6th for Prokofiev’s 3rd and lots of Romeo and Juliet music on the 15th (My nephew’s birthday weekend – he’ll be 12!)
On a side note, while I was there, I picked up my tickets for the Romantic Passions concert featuring cellist Mr. Zuill Bailey for a Dvorak cello concerto. About 14 of us from my Peace Corps alumni group are going to that concert, so in addition to the great music, I’ll have some great company.