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!
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.
On our last day in Paris back in 2005, Mom and I were walking around the Left Bank before hopping back over the Seine for one last walk around the Notre Dame. As we passed Eglise St. Séverin, we heard music – some really fun music!
This is Borsalino, the jazzy band we heard that day in Paris. They played some fun music with a good beat that made you want to just tap your foot and stick around for a while, so we did. They reminded me a bit of some of the music played in the movie Chocolat. After buying one of their albums, A Little Taste of Paris, I understood why: Minor Swing, one of the songs they played and was also included on the film.
I found a handful of tourist videos of Borsalino and include a couple here. It looks like they have a rotation of musicians, but some are still the same. On a happy note, one of their albums, Metropolitain, is available on iTunes now. Like everyone else, they’re on Facebook, too.
Here are some pictures of Eglise St. Séverin where we heard them playing. They were outside on the far corner, just across from the green awning in the lower left. Behind those buildings is the Seine River and then the Ile de la Cité where we were treated to more fun music – of another jazz band – which I’ll save for another day!
France has known no shortage of talented artisans. Just look at some of the stained glass inside St. Séverin. Amazing, isn’t it?
It’s been eight years since my last trip to Paris. I miss it terribly! I miss the beauty, the history, the culture, the people, the food…and I especially miss the music!
I love running into musicians playing on street corners or metro stations when I travel. I also try to at least drop something into their hats or cases as I inevitably stand there listening for a while. Here’s one who happily consented to having his picture taken. He was playing traditional French music behind the Notre Dame de Paris on the Ile de la Cité.
Ahh – que j’adore Paris!