Tag Archives: Ludwig van Beethoven

Bugs, Sports, Napalm, Schroeder and a Few Pigs

It’s amazing where we hear some of our classical music, don’t you think? Monday’s post gave us a start to think about some classical music that we know, but don’t know we know. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – Mozart.  Lone Ranger – Rossini. Bruce Willis – Beethoven. Stanley Kubrick – Strauss. Today we’re a little all over the place – napalm and Bugs Bunny – yeah. Thankfully, they’re not actually together, but they both showcase some fantastic music.

Which of these do you already know?

Be vewy vewy qwiet! (Rossini’s The Barber of Seville)

Here’s some more Rossini – made famous for my generation (and hopefully also the next few generations) thanks to Warner Brother’s favorite character, Bugs Bunny. Rossini’s opera is based on a play by a French playwright that was set in Spain. Very multi-cultural. It was part of a set of three plays of which one was originally banned (The Marriage of Figaro – think Mozart) for being overly licentious. Scandal!

Rossini’s opera was deemed the Opera Buffa of all Opera Buffes. Not a language buff? Just refer to it as the epitome of comedic operas and you’ll be fine. I’ve never seen it myself, but that’s OK. I love the opening overture, the melody of which is what you’ll recognize. Remember, it’s very versatile as it helped to feed Rossini’s laziness. How can you call a guy who wrote 39 different operas by his 30s lazy? Well – he recycled the opening overture to the Barber of Seville for two other operas. I can see it now – “Meh – Queen Elizabeth is nice and all, but I don’t feel like writing another overture, so I’ll just reuse this overture again. It went over well the first time.” Rossini actually used a comedic overture for two serious operas. Come on – that’s a little lazy, don’t you think?

CBS Sports (Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man)

A fantastic, powerful brass piece, Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man was originally written in 1942 for the Cincinnati orchestra, but became more popular (dare I say…popular with the common man) in the 1970s/80s when CBS picked it up for their theme song for sports broadcasts.

OK fine – that’s quite an influx of 70s, isn’t it? Here’s the real version!

I love it! This is at the Dublin Airport and like other flash mob or impromptu concerts, I love it when people just stop what they’re doing to watch. At first, they’re always a little confused because seeing symphony musicians at an airport is seeing symphony musicians a little bit out of context. But given a moment, they then break out into big, goofy grins – and then they pull out their cameras for a quick picture. Inevitably, they stay and listen to the entire performance because they like it. So whether you originally heard this tune when watching sports back in the 70s or early 80s or heard this in Dublin, you’ve heard it. It’s a wonderful piece of music.

Napalm in the morning (Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries)

Fair to say I’ve never smelled napalm before and I prefer Martin Sheen in his role of President Bartlet on the West Wing TV series, (he looks so young in this movie!) but you can’t deny the effect the music has on this scene. Apocalypse Now is a movie that my dad pretty much never wants to see again, but he had no problem answering when I asked him what classical music was featured in this movie: Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner.

Perhaps we should lighten things up a bit after that. Wagner does seem rather heavy, don’t you think?

Peanuts (Beethoven’s Für Elise)

Who doesn’t recognize a little of Beethoven’s piano music thanks to Schroeder on the Peanuts cartoons?

Better known as “Für Elise,” the Bagatelle No. 25 in A Minor is probably one of the first pieces anyone taking lessons learns to play on the piano. I played it. Did you?

He huffed and he puffed and he… (Brahms’ Hungarian Dance)

Brahms’ Hungarian Dances – I heard these last January at a Columbus Symphony concert just after New Year’s last year and didn’t know a single one of these – or so I originally thought. Once they were played, I recognized them all, but just hadn’t known what they were called. Take a listen…and heck- watch the whole thing. You may want to remodel your own brick home after seeing this!

Wow – that is one amazing house pig #3 built, don’t you think?

We’ve learned so much from our cartoons growing up, didn’t we?! So which ones did you recognize?

Beethoven, Elgar and Montague

Last weekend I had the pleasure of hearing yet another fabulous performance by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, only this time – I had five other people with me! So instead of just writing about the performance, I thought I’d ask my friends and family to share their thoughts on the concert.

On last weekend’s program were:

Invictus – by OSU alumnus, Stephen Montague.

Violin Concerto by Edward Elgar with Ilya Gringolts on Violin (OMG he was so good!)

Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5

Maestro Thomas Wilkins was on the podium.

Meet my friends and family: Sarah and Bernadette are coworkers of mine. Mom and Dad are…well…Mom and Dad. And Ben, is my 11-year old nephew. Sarah has season tickets with me. This was Bernadette’s first-ever CSO concert. Mom and Dad go at least once or twice per year and Ben went with Sarah and me to his first concert last year for Beethoven’s 6th.

The concert was really great. It truly was. It started out a bit weird, got better with an amazing violinist then ended with the piece we all loved, but hey – don’t take my word for it. Take theirs!

MONTAGUE – INVICTUS

Sarah: “I really liked it”

Bernadette: I’m impressed with the composer…..but I am not too keen with present day composers, you know? I mean…..the piece itself sounded like JAWA and Star Wars or Galactica or something. it was interesting though.

Mom: I liked the idea that it was composed by a “hometown” guy, but I cannot say that I enjoyed it.  Very discordant, which was his point, I guess.  I prefer ‘musical’ music – with a melody.  This, to me, was more like 8 minutes of musicians’ warm-up.

Dad: Interesting, reminded me of Stravinsky.  Not my favorite style of music.  Could not find theme.  However, as a former percussionist, I thought the use of E-drums was kind of exciting touch.    Would not attend just for this style.  Prefer classical.

Ben: Meh. I didn’t like it.

Heather: Funky. Not something I could listen to a lot, but nice to try something new! I especially liked the percussion.

Sarah and Bernie

Sarah and Bernie

ELGAR – VIOLIN CONCERTO / ILYA GRINGOLTS – VIOLIN

Sarah:  I thought he was amazing. It was a little on the longer side but still very good.

Bernadette: OMG!  I never heard this violin concerto before by Elgar…..but my gosh!!!! The violinist was fantastic!!!!!!!  I didn’t hear ANY, ANY slip or slide – no mistake!!!!  And his notes were in tune and of perfect pitch – to the highest note!!!! I love him!

Mom: Loved the first movement. The second and third dragged and seemed unnecessary. The violinist was spectacular. Every note was clear and lovely. Amazing talent. Would love to hear him again.

Dad: He was fantastic. Made Elgar acceptable. Elgar seems to draw themes out too much for my taste.

Ben: It was ok. I got bored.

Heather:  Beautiful! (Bit long in the middle) but man oh man – Ilya Gringolts was absolutely fantastic!  He played exceptionally well and had the most beautiful tone! First and third movements were the best (especially the first).

Mom-Dad-Ben

Mom, Dad and Ben

BEETHOVEN’S 5TH SYMPHONY

Sarah:  I think they did a really good job with the Beethoven too - and that is one of my favs.

Bernadette: Always loved Beethoven….and his story (as well as Chopin’s and Mozart’s) – I’m sure all of them had a colorful life…..but you can hear the passion in his music! That 1st movement (the popular one) was also a piece of mine when I was a teenager – playing the organ!  =)

Mom: Beethoven’s 5th is one of my favorites anyway and the orchestra performed it so very well.  Loved it.

Dad: One of my favorites. Symphony did a superb job. Had me on edge of my seat watching sections play and enjoying.

Ben: I really liked watching the conductor!

Heather: LOVED IT!  Beethoven is awesome to begin with, but the CSO did a great job – especially in the last movement. The first few movements seemed like warm ups to the last one when there was just an explosion of beautiful sound. It sounded like they were really getting into it. I loved it. Love – love – LOVED IT!  I swear I’m not just saying this because I met them – the French horns were awesome!! WOW!

OVERALL THOUGHTS

Sarah: Overall I enjoyed it

Bernadette: I like the conductor…he was very ummm, what’s that word??? Not comedic, but “showy?” He was great! I enjoyed him as well as the orchestra  BRAVO to the whole concert! =)

Mom: So fun to watch the conductor. I do not normally pay so much attention to the conductor as I would not want him/her to be a distraction; but in this case, I made an exception. His entire body language enhanced the music. Some parts of the symphony just called for a nuance of movement, while others brought in all parts of his body.

Dad: (Maestro Wilkins) was really into all three selections. He seemed to immerse himself into Beethoven’s 5th. He added history and relevance in his pre-remarks. Would like to see more of him. Hire him when current one leaves. Overall-concert was great. I don’t have to listen only to favorites.  Kudos to symphony for another great performance.

Ben: (about Maestro Wilkins) He was cool!  Sometimes you didn’t see his arms; then they appeared, seemingly out of nowhere!

Heather: Great concert! I especially loved how Maestro Wilkins put everything in historical context prior to playing Beethoven’s 5th.

Oh – and for the record, on the way up to Mom and Dad’s – Dad (completely unsolicited) complimented the horn section, too! “The French horns sounded excellent.  They really did a good job tonight,” is what he told me in the car.

So, about that Schumann Concert Piece for Four Horns for next year…

 

Humor in Music: A Composer’s Influence

On the radio, WOSU’s Boyce Lancaster advertises his morning show with how we think “Mozart makes us smarter. Mozart makes our babies smarter…” but that the real, best reason to listen to classical music is because we enjoy it. So I found these the other day and am happy to say that thanks to some of my musician friends, I get a lot more of these than I would have  a year ago.

These just might be “insider” jokes, but that’s OK.  No real idea if Mozart makes people smarter (I’m sure he does, though) or if John Cage can really instill peace and tranquility in your child, but here are some theories.  Enjoy!

The Mozart Effect: Makes a child smarter and more mathematical along with a higher IQ

The Haydn Effect: Child is witty and quick on his feet, quite often bringing a grin to the faces of those around him. Despite this he exhibits remarkable humility.

The Bach Effect: Child memorizes Scripture and says his prayers every day; may overwhelm listeners with his speech.

The Handel Effect: Much like the Bach Effect; in addition, the child may exhibit dramatic behavior.

The Beethoven Effect: Child develops a superiority complex and is prone to violent tantrums; is a perfectionist.

The Liszt Effect: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never really says anything important

The Bruckner Effect: Child speaks very slowly and repeats himself frequently. Gains a reputation for profundity.

The Grieg Effect: This child is quirky yet cheery. May be prone toward Norwegian folklore.

The Wagner Effect: Child becomes a megalomaniac. Speaks for six hours at a stretch.

The Schoenberg Effect: Child never repeats a word until he has used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talk backwards or upside-down. Eventually people stop listening to him. Child blames them for their inability to understand him.

The Ives Effect: Child develops a remarkable ability to carry on several separate conversations at once.

The Stravinsky Effect: Child is prone to savage, guttural and profane outbursts that lead to fighting and pandemonium in preschool.

The Shostakovich Effect: Child only expresses themselves in parent-approved ways.

The Cage Effect: Childs says exactly nothing for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Preferred by 9 out of 10 classroom teachers.

The Glass Effect: Child repeats one word over, and over, and over, and over….

Want more?  Here’s where I got them!

Emotion Behind the Music

Are you a musician?  Do you sing?  Do you play an instrument?

Why?

What inspires you play or sing or perform? Where does that come from? What is inside you that creates your need, your desire to play music?

My Piano

When I was a kid, I was one of those hyperactive children from you know where – a kid only a mother could love!  (Thanks, Mom!)  Heck – I couldn’t even grasp spelling at first, so Mom and Dad – former teachers both – made it a game and taught me how to spell everything backwards so I could then flip them around and spell them forwards! While I don’t still do that today, I can say that it worked. That lesson stuck!  Growing up, I never really played sports.  And though I loved to read, I was never really a writer – that was my brother’s forte.  I only had music.  I started piano lessons when I was 5.  I played J.S Bach (Who hasn’t played Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring or any of his inventions?) and also some then-popular stuff like Piano Man by Billy Joel or the Entertainer by Scott Joplin then recently made even more popular thanks to The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. (Ahh…Paul Newman!)

Every day after school when I’d be frustrated, I’d go straight to the piano.  That was the only – well, best – thing I had available to me to relieve stress.  The music I played was something that had an appropriate place for me for any emotion.  If I were so angry that my hands were shaking, I would play Rachmaninoff – a great man who gave us lots of quadruple Fs in his Prelude in C-Sharp Minor. Beethoven’s Sonata Pathéthique was good for that as well.

Though if sad, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata would inevitably change my mood for the better by the end.  From there I progressed to the nice, symmetrical, always dependable, always resolving J.S. Bach.  As my mood lightened, I could then move on to some C.P.E. Bach and then some sonatas by Mozart, Clementi and Kuhlau.  Sometimes it took a while and I’d have to play through and relive every emotion on the keys before my mom figured it was OK to walk in and ask me how my day went by which time I’d give a positive account of the events. Though – I’m sure she always knew better.

Every Emotion Known to Man

Music encompasses every emotion known to man. It has to!  What inspires people to write music in the first place, but an emotional experience – sometimes a very serious and traumatic experience.  Think about the background of one of Tori Amos’ best albums: Little Earthquakes.  Many of these songs such as “Me and a Gun” or “Silent All These Years” were written to express her emotions over having been raped after a performance she gave.  Beautiful music can come from very dark places and for her, it helped with the healing process, though I imagine no one ever fully heals from something like that.

Adele’s album “21″ was all written starting the day after she broke up with her boyfriend.  On the album “An Innocent Man” Billy Joel wrote the song “This Night” about Elle Macpherson.  On a cool note, no pun intended, he also incorporated Beethoven’s Sonata Pathéthique into that chorus.  Listen for it!

At Last I Can Start Suffering…

In the classic movie, Singin’ in the Rain, Donald O’Connor’s Character, Cosmo Brown, was told by the head of the studio that because of the success of the first Talkie, The Jazz Singer, they were going to turn their next movie into a talking picture.  His response: “At last I can start suffering and write that symphony!” He’s then told that he’ll be the head of the new music department to which he responds, “At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony!”

Sure it’s comedic, but it does make a point – that music can come from anywhere!

Music can express joy and happiness.  Music can vent frustration.  It can express excitement.  It can provide a celebration of happy occasions.  Music can also delve into the deepest, darkest places in our lives and when it emerges, it can sound amazingly beautiful.  Music. It’s always there.

I’m going to close with something I found online thanks to YouTube. We have our America’s Got Talent.  Britain has it.  Australia has it. Germany…so many countries have that kind of show.  Korea has it, too.  Here’s an example from that country, of a talented singer out of nowhere who’s had little or no formal training.  He’s a young man now, but as a kid he lived on the streets through what should have been all his grade school years, yet somehow he found solace and comfort – and inspiration – through music.  Listen to him sing. It’s just beautiful.

Now don’t even tell me you’re not both smiling and crying for joy!

Can you imagine having that much negativity thrown your way yet still managing to find beauty in this world?  I will never be unimpressed with the resilience of the human spirit.

Music did that for him.  Music.

Opus 125

Cue Track 4: Presto, Allegro Assai.

Hit play.

Kick back. Relax. Smile.

According to an article I recently read, the first-ever CDs came out about 30 years ago last week.  I learned that these new forms of recorded music were originally going to be about one hour in length.  During development however, they were extended to 74 minutes in length to accommodate one specific piece of classical music: Beethoven’s Symphony #9 in D Minor, Opus 125, “Choral”, or as everyone knows it: simply, Beethoven’s 9th.  

The article went on to say that they wanted to cater at first to lovers of classical music because it would be they who would be the first ones willing to spend upwards of $700 for this new-fangled machine called a CD-player. 

As a result, the first CDs to market, Billy Joel excepted, were pretty much all classical music.

Personally I just think that more people wanted to be able to better hear the clarinet sections in the orchestras making the recording.  Anyone who knows anything at all about music knows that it’s the clarinet section that carries the whole orchestra.  

Of course, my having played the clarinet all the way through college may have contributed to a slightly biased opinion coming through in that last paragraph.

Cue reality: Columbus Symphony Orchestra Season Opener at the Ohio Theater, October 5, 2012

Wow.

Last Friday, for the first time in what seemed like forever (3-4-5 years at least), I went to the Symphony.  In what was the special, season opening performance of the 2012-2013 season, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Columbus Symphony Chorus performed Handel’s Coronation Anthem No. 1; W.A. Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, K. 618; and, the best part of the night, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 (“Choral”) featuring 4 wonderfully-talented soloists.

In a nutshell: WOW!

This was also my first time seeing our new music director, Jean-Marie Zeitouni, perform and oh how he is so – much – fun – to watch!  I was definitely NOT disappointed in what I heard and saw on Friday. 

What. A. Performance!

As soon as I got home, I made it a point to write down some of the thoughts and impressions that went through my mind during the concert (as best as I could remember, anyway).  In no particular order…

  • Ave Verum Corpus (Mozart. Genius. Gorgeous. Peaceful.)
  • I think Maestro Z is singing along to Handel.
  • Simulcast to Columbus Commons – very cool!
  • Simulcast to Columbus Commons – very smart!
  • Camera jiggled a bit much a time or two
  • No word to the audience.
  • How the heck does he stay on that podium?
  • Chorus: Wonderful. Beautiful. Terrific.
  • Symphony: Incredible. Amazing. Fabulous.
  • Hey – I can see the bassoonist!
  • Um. I’m really high up.
  • So glad I bought season tickets, even if only a 4-pack!
  • Wish the guy about 7 rows in front of me would stop recording the whole concert on his iPhone. Glowing screen is right in my line of sight!
  • Maestro Z is an absolute blast to watch!
  • Trumpet. Oops.
  • I can’t believe I’m tearing up at this.
  • Yes, I can. Anybody have a Kleenex?
  • Totally needed more clarinets.  Just kidding.
  • I love extra curtain calls!
  • Phillip Addis. Whoa. Definitely want to see him perform again.  Road trip à Montréal?

Saturday morning, I went online to check the reviews.  Apparently one had been written at 5-something in the morning.  All the hours of rehearsals – individually, in sections, as individual ensembles, all together – and a fabulous performance Friday night were all summed up in a few paragraphs that amounted to a fairly decent review of the performance.  I like Jennifer Hambrick and enjoy listening to her (when I’m not at work!) on WOSU Classical 101, but I’m not sure she wasn’t writing a review for a final musical performance exam as opposed to a general concert review for the local population-at-large to enjoy.  I’m inclined to think the former. 

I’m not a professional music critic.  I’m just a fan, here, a lover of classical music.  I’m not a professional musician, either. Sure I’ve performed.  With the Marching Hundred, I’ve played in front of thousands of people on a football field (back when our team was good) or in Assembly Hall. Plus I’ve played in a few solo and ensemble contests.  Perhaps I’m just like the Salieri portrayed in the movie Amadeus: mediocrity with the ability to recognize genius.  Who knows?  What I do know, however, is a good performance when I hear one.  And that’s what I heard on Friday night.   

If I get excited at the sound of the brass entering about 5-6 minutes in, then it’s good.  If I get this  huge, uncontrollable, goofy grin on my face when the baritone starts singing away or if my eyes water up when all four soloists sing together for the first time in the 4th movement, then to me, it was a great performance.  Yeah – I did have an emotional moment up there.  I admit to my being a tad sappy, but I love forgetting about everything else in the world and just getting lost in the music and if you’re going to get lost, it might as well be with Beethoven. 

This will sound weird, but I’m a bit envious of the musicians themselves, and not because they’re good enough to play on stage, no. No – I loved playing the piano but I was never of that caliber nor did I ever have the desire to perform. Heck – I didn’t even want my parents in the same room.  The concert itself was simulcast, which meant it came with video – much like you’d see on PBS. While the camera jiggled a bit too much at times (not good considering how high up I was!), it did offer up views we in the audience couldn’t normally see, namely the front side of the conductor.  

Face it, by default, the conductor has no choice but to turn his back to the audience resulting in a 2-hour view of his tails.  The camera though, gave us a sneak peek of what the musicians see every day: his expressions.  What fun he is to watch, let me tell you! The man is amazing.  He sang along with the chorus during the Handel piece and made some super great expressions during the 9th.  Seriously.  You had to be there.  It was great!

Someday if a clarinetist calls in sick for rehearsal, the CSO can call me in to be a seat filler – just like at the Oscars.  Don’t worry.  I promise I won’t play, especially since it’s been since 1996 that even I picked up my old, resonite, Artley clarinet and actually blew through it.  Yes – it’s been that long since I’ve been to homecoming in B’town.  No, no – I just want to be able to watch and experience the whole fun of watching him conduct from that side of stage. Seriously – I won’t make a sound and I’ll even turn pages.  Call me! I’m equal to the task!

While the CSO may never take me up on that offer, (perhaps a guided tour of the Ohio instead?) I will say that Friday night was fabulous.  I am so thrilled that I was finally able to afford a trip to the symphony.  (Being out of work over a year a while back really put a damper on my ability to hear live music!) Since Friday though, I’ve listened to my recording of Beethoven’s 9th (Zubin Mehta NY Philharmonic Orchestra, 1983) a handful of times.  I could happily replace the male voices in that recording (something originally made possible a year earlier thanks to making the change from 60 to 74 minutes) with those of Adam Diegel (tenor) and Phillip Addis (baritone).  

Phillip Addis is performing with I Musici de Montréal, the Canadian Chamber Music Ensemble also conducted by Maestro Z, in May.  

Hmm.  Road trip anyone?

Freude, schöner Götterfunken, tochter aus Elysium, wir betreten feuertrunken, Himmlische dein Heiligtum!  ..Alle Menschen werden Brüder…

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