Tag Archives: Mozart

Passport Austria – Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf

Willkommen in Österreich! Welcome to Austria – home of great skiing, Lippizaner Stallions, and a huge variety of music which is so diverse, from yodeling (yes, I like “The Lonely Goatherd,” too!) to Alpine Punk to Death Metal (Belphegor, anyone?) to the Vienna Boys Choir (which sings on Sundays at the Habsburg Palace) to the Vienna Philharmonic.

Throughout its centuries-long history, music has always been a center point of Austria’s culture. Its capital city, Vienna, catapulted to an arts and cultural center beginning in the 1600s thanks to traffic brought on by trade along the Danube and an influx of travelers from near and far. It is in the 1800s however, that Austria had made itself known as the premier city in Europe for the highest caliber of music.

If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere

A couple of centuries earlier and Frank Sinatra would have sung those lyrics about Vienna.

Salzburg, Austria

Hohensalzburg Castle – Salzburg, Austria

Perhaps a lesser-known composer (at least to those of us who never actually studied music in school) is Vienna native, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf. I first heard his music a few months ago on my local classical music station, Classical 101. I also have to admit, I had fun just saying his name. (Go ahead and say it out loud. See? Told you!)

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf (1739-1799)

Hometown: Vienna, Austria

Played: Violin

Known for: Some of everything – concertos, symphonies, operas, chamber music and sacred music.

He was also a silvologist! Don’t worry if you had to look that up – I did, too. That just means that in addition to composing and playing the violin, Carl Ditters was also an environmentalist. He was a student of nature, forests and their ecosystems. Can you imagine a nicer setting for some of his music?

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Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, courtesy Google Images

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf composed a little bit of everything, but he also did a lot of performing. He spent several occasions playing in a string quartet with one of his composition students, Johann Baptist Wanhal, Franz Josef Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hayden played 2nd violin, Ditters played 1st, Mozart played the viola and Wanhal the cello. How’s that for an impressive quartet?!

Unfortunately I don’t remember the pieces of his I heard on the radio, but I do remember that I enjoyed them all.

Keep in mind he wrote a little of everything, such as this beautiful Harp concerto, played by Jana Bouskova with the Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim, Vladislav Czarnecki conducting. It’s great fun to listen to, though I’d love to hear Jude Mollenhauer play it live with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra (hint hint!)

How about his String Quartet No. 1 in D-Major. Can’t you just imagine seeing him with Haydn, Mozart and Wanhal? Wow!

Or Symphony No. 4 in F-Major – also known as “Die Rettung der Andromeda durch Perseus” (The Rescuing of Andromeda by Perseus).

He composed some rather wonderful music, don’t you agree? I hope you took a moment to listen to them – especially the harp concerto! My next profile will be later this month when we travel to Monaco!

 

 

 

 

ProMusica Chamber Orchestra

My Dad and I had fun at the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra concert this past weekend. Thanks to my Peace Corps friend, Dorothy – who also happens to serve on the Sustaining Board with ProMusica, we were treated to a pair of complimentary tickets to last Saturday’s performance at the Southern Theatre.

Here’s what was on the program.

AUERBACH Eterniday (Homage to W.A .Mozart) for Bass Drum, Celesta, and Strings

MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20

BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 1

Under the direction of Maestro David Danzmayr – who is a fun and animated conductor to watch – the program started with an introduction to Ms. Lera Auerbach herself who was both the composer of the first piece and the soloist for the Mozart Piano concerto.

Eterniday

I don’t know of much music that’s been composed by women, so it was cool to hear her music. She seemed quite likable. I’m almost sorry I didn’t like her music at all. Auerbach and Maestro Danzmayr took a few minutes to discuss the first piece with the audience, called Eterniday, which was written as an homage to Mozart.

There was nothing in it – even after the explanation of the piece itself – that made me think of Mozart. It was a bunch of hard, dissonent, glissando-filled music that – according to a friend of mine who was also there on Saturday – just sounded angry. She couldn’t figure out how it was an homage to Mozart either.

That said, the concertmaster, Katherin McLin, was absolutely incredible and did an amazing job with the many solos throughout the piece. The principal double bass, cello and viola did some impressive playing, too, but the violin! Wow! I swear that piece had her playing the absolute full range of the instrument.

One interesting tidbit about this piece is that it was written twice. Auerbach had written it and was traveling when an electrical fire started in her music studio burning down everything from the piano to her newly-written manuscript. I don’t care if you like something or not. That’s just the worst thing that could happen to a composer. Imagine how much music has been lost throughout history because of fires or floods or other such disasters. It’s just heartbreaking.

Speaking of Mozart

The Mozart piece was nice – Piano Concerto #20. The soloist (also the composer of the 1st piece) had a rather heavy touch on the keys – like I do when I play that same piece, though quite honestly, I only play the second movement. The heavy touch is one thing I don’t really like about my own playing! I don’t know – maybe I’m pickier on this piece even knowing that she still played it better than I ever could, but it just didn’t seem like her performance was polished. It was as if playing the piano solo were an afterthought, a side gig to the performing of her own music that was played that same evening.

As for the cadenzas – bleck. I absolutely did not care for them. We were playing Mozart now – she already had a chance to show her 21st century tastes. They don’t belong in 18th century music.

We were in a concert hall, not an SCA event, so they didn’t fit. I did not like them one bit. It’s as if we were listening to this lovely 18th century music and then BAM! We were yanked right out of it for no reason. When I go to a concert to hear a piano concerto by Mozart, I expect to hear a piano concerto by Mozart. I know that traditionally, pianists can create their own cadenzas, but this was billed as Mozart, not Mozart with a twist of Boulez or Lindberg.

She did say that she added that cadenza, which had originally been written for another pianist, to be more introspective and meditative so she could give it a 21st century perspective.

My line of thinking is this: Please save the 21st century perspective for 21st century music.

Maybe I’m a purist – I like original Hershey’s chocolate and I think our National Anthem should be sung as written, but I also love classical era music. So – don’t mess with Mozart!

Which leads me to the Beethoven

This was the absolute best piece of the evening – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 1! ProMusica musicians – you outdid yourselves. OMG – WOW!

Obviously his earliest symphony as it’s Symphony No 1, it wasn’t as obviously recognizable as Beethoven. It was kind of Beethoven before he was Beethoven. You could definitely pick out parts here and there that were reminiscent, as it were, of his later works, but this was music of a man perhaps still figuring out his own style and it was just gorgeous.

This symphony was the greatest part of the entire concert and Maestro Danzmayr had to have been having so much fun. He was bouncing around and dancing the whole time – totally getting into it. His enjoyment was infectious. I would love to have seen his face while he conducted! For my part, THIS piece deserved the standing ovation it received from a very enthusiastic audience!

WELL DONE ProMusica! Thank you for an evening of great music!

What’s a Libretto?

Back in January, I gave my readers a quick lesson in Italian because so many musical terms are indeed Italian. For some reason, Italy got the jump on everyone and ended up with a monopoly in musical lingo. Totally fine – it all sounds good, Italy has produced some fabulous music and the country itself is gorgeous.

I thought I’d go a little more specific with you today. Here in Columbus, our classical music station, Classical 101, broadcasts a complete opera each and every Saturday afternoon. Likewise we can view opera performances at the Met on the large screen at area movie theaters.

What goes into making an opera? Who makes up the story? Where does it all come from? Well like a good movie, many operas come from existing stories or plays.

Like any large production, there are many people involved in the making of an opera. With movies, we have directors, actors, crew, editors, you name it. With operas, there are composers, instrumental musicians, crew, costume designers, and the actors / singers on stage. All that goes without saying, but who writes it? We know where the music comes from, but who writes the opera’s story itself?

The best way I could describe a story on which an opera is based is to equate it to an adapted screen play.

In this year’s Oscars, John Ridley won the award for best adapted screenplay.  He took the book 12 Years a Slave, originally written by Solomon Northrup, and converted it to a screen play for a movie.

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Twelve Years a Slave

He’s the librettist of modern-day movie productions. That’s what a librettist does: converts an already-existing story into a production that can be performed on stage. The composer, then sets all that to music.

In classical music, in particular with operas, one often hears the word “libretto.” Think of this as the script.

li·bret·to - noun \lə-ˈbre-(ˌ)tō\  : the words of an opera or musical

According to Merriam Webster, a libretto is defined as follows.

The text of a work (as an opera) for the musical theater

Pierre Beaumarchais

Pierre Beaumarchais, who, in addition to being a playwright, was also an inventor, spy and arms dealer, wrote a series of plays featuring the character Figaro. Though controversial, these plays were picked up by composers who worked with librettists to turn them into operas for the stage. Two main examples are by Rossini and Mozart.

The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini -  libretto by Cesare Sterbini

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Lorenzo da Ponte

The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte

Rossini and Mozart were great at the music part of it, but needed some help with story itself. That’s where Sterbini and da Ponte came in.

In more modern times, the great American composer, George Gershwin collaborated with his brother, Ira Gershwin, on writing such great songs as “I Got Rhythm”, “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Embraceable You.”  And while George wrote the music, Ira was the librettist for the opera Porgy and Bess – considered one of the most important 20th century operas written.

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Ira Gershwin

Unsung Heroes

These operas would not have been possible without the script –  made possible by the talented librettists. Sure the composer gets all the credit, but until he has a story, he has nothing to set to music. Just like with modern-day movies, the actors and the directors are those who get noticed and who are therefore well-known.

Every performance – symphony, movie or opera – is a collaborative effort with an incredible amount of work put in both in advance and behind the scenes during a performance. As patrons we typically just see the finished product, but there’s definitely far more to the creative process! Try to think of that the next time you head out to a concert or movie.

Trust Me, You’ve Heard These!

Also Sprach Zarathustra – Ah! Vous Dirai-je Maman! – Fanfare for the Common Man

William Tell – Ode to Joy

Don’t know these? Well – ten bucks says you do! I’ll even venture to say you’ve been singing at least one of these your entire life. Don’t believe me? That’s OK. Classical music is ubiquitous and we just don’t know it. It’s everywhere we look, even if we’re not aware of it. And as for intimidation, well, classical music might seem to have a bit because of its overriding formal nature – people in tuxedos on stage, everyone dressing up in suits and dresses, etc. Well – if it helps, only the musicians wear tuxedos. We in the audience don’t have to. Remember – our job at a concert is only to listen. How hard can that be? (If you’re a parent and you’re picturing your kids with that question, feel free to take it as rhetorical!)

Even if you don’t ever go to concerts and think you don’t know any classical music, I’m going to show you that I’m pretty sure you do know some. It’s definitely not stuffy or boring or prim and proper or just plain ol’ “bleck” kind of music – especially in the context in which I’m going to present it – which is where you probably already know it. I’m pretty sure you know more than you might think AND that you probably like a fair amount of it!

Thanks to some help of my friends in Facebook, I’ve put together a nice collection of classical music that I’ll share with you this week. My suggestion to you? Take a moment each day to look up at least one of the five examples in its original form. In other words, go to YouTube and look up an original version of these – just to try it out. If you never go back, that’s OK, but at least you can say you tried it. Kind of like actually trying a funky food BEFORE you tell folks you don’t like it. It’s OK if you end up making that same kind of funny face. You’ll at least get an A for effort!

So with that in mind, check these out and let me know which of these you never knew you knew!

Hi Yo Silver! (Rossini’s William Tell Overture) 

Everyone knows this as the theme to the hit 1950s TV Show, The Lone Ranger, but did you know this was actually an overture to an opera, William Tell, that originally premiered in 1829 as one of Gioachino Rossini?

It was the last of his 39 operas that he wrote prior to “retiring” in his 30s. While we may not know the opera itself, we will forever know it as the Lone Ranger and as my personal favorite, what sports broadcaster, Billy Packer, called “The Greatest Timeout in College Basketball,” the favorite song of the Indiana University basketball pep band played in the second half of every game.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Mozart’s Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman)

Did you know that every time you sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you’re actually singing Mozart? It’s true!  It’s called Ah! Vous dirai-je, Maman. (trans: Ahh – you, I will call, Mother) and it’s a basic, yet lovely melody he wrote for the piano.

Though Mozart is pretty much credited with the whole thing, he just came up with the melody itself.  An Italian composer though, Antonio Siloti, put together a whole slew of variations that becomes this piano piece that is a ton of fun to play! Not sure about Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? OK. That’s fine. Sing the alphabet song. The what? The Alphabet song: A-B-C-D-E-F-G… it’s the same melody. (at least with what we sing here in America. In Bulgaria, their alphabet song is sung to Old to Joy!) Speaking of which…

Yippee Ki Yay, Mother ** (Family friendly blog. Expletives deleted!) (Beethoven’s Ode to Joy)

If you’re not accustomed to singing the Bulgarian alphabet, then you’ll definitely know this classical music great if you’ve ever watched any of the Die Hard movies. It’s from the 4th movement of Ludwig von Beethoven’s 9th and final symphony where he brings in a full chorus – something normally not seen in a symphony in his day.

It was very innovative and very gorgeous and very moving – the kind of music that will send chills up and down your spine. We know this song because we hear it in our heads every time we see Bruce Willis, but the original symphony itself is amazing!  Try it out – even if only the  truncated version of it recorded for the movie soundtrack, Immortal Beloved. (Gary Oldman was Beethoven. WOW! VERY intense!)

Good morning, Dave. (Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra)

Remember the scene in the 1996 movie, Independence Day, where jeff Goldblum and Will Smith are in the alien spaceship inside the bit mothership? Jeff Goldblum opens up his laptop (Which can conveniently interface with an alien computer) and it says “Good morning, Dave”? Well – that line is originally from 2001: A Space Odyssey, a funky Stanley Kubrick film from 1968 that everyone should watch at least once. OK fine, so all of Kubrick’s films were a tad on the funky side, but this one was pretty cool. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the music – - – by Richard Strauss.

Yes, this is the opening theme called Also Sprach Zarathustra – the title of which I’d never heard of until a few months ago when someone else posted it. I listened to it and though – oh yeah…2001, etc etc etc. Naturally I had to share it on my knitting blog because it’s something every knitter would want to play upon completion (finally) of a big huge knitting project. (If you’ve ever worn anything made by hand, call – email – text the person who made it for you – RIGHT NOW – and thank them again)

On a side note, Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz is also featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Don’t know that one? Yes, you do. Look it up. :-)

The Nutcracker Ballet

Not sure you know this? You know you do. Here’s a great, non-traditional version of the music from the Nutcracker by Brian Setzer and his Orchestra. (Brian Setzer – of the 80s group, Stray Cats. I’ve seen him and his orchestra in concert and MAN are they good!) This one, you should play to the end!

Though you can easily find the entire ballet on youtube, I recommend you go out and see it in person – especially since just about every orchestra and ballet company right now are performing it nearly every day and twice on Sundays!

So tell me. How many of these did you learn you already knew? :-) Let me know – I’m going to have five more for you on Wednesday!

The Show Must Go On

Last weekend for the first time since moving to Ohio, I had the pleasure of seeing a performance  by the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. Originally on the program were a handful of pieces ranging from Mozart to Mendelssohn: Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183; Klein’s Partita for Strings; Mysliveček’s Octet (parthia) for Winds No. 3 in B-flat Major and Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor featuring ProMusica’s Creative Guest Partner and Principal Artist, Vadim Gluzman.

I heard Mr. Gluzman perform a violin concerto by Alban Berg last May with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.  He’s incredibly good and has an album of Partitas out that I especially enjoy.  You should check it out!

Unfortunately, because of a sudden family emergency, Mr. Gluzman had to fly back home to Israel at the last minute. That was announced last Tuesday.  The concerts were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday!  Fortunately, Mr. Gluzman’s good friend and amazing violinist, Mr. Philippe Quint (American violinist, Russian by birth) was able to stand in.  Plus, Maestro Danzmayr was able to change his schedule around to conduct the ensemble as Mr. Gluzman was  originally going to be on the podium as well.

The show must go on, right?

Finally!

Mr. Quint arrived in Columbus on Friday and performed on Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately, Mendelssohn’s violin is standard repertoire for him and he already had it memorized because he only had about one rehearsal with the orchestra prior to performing it for us.

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Violinist Philippe Quint

Wow.  He was so good and while I only have my CD recording for comparison, he definitely topped that!  The recording I have is of the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Maestro Leonard Bernstein with Pinchas Zuckerman on the violin.  I couldn’t help but grin during the cadenza in the middle of the first movement.  I didn’t know fingers could move that fast.  He really did an excellent job playing that for us.

After listening to Mendelssohn’s violin concerto a million times in my car or on headphones, I finally got to hear it live!  Oh wow – it was so beautiful and apparently the rest of the sizable audience agreed with me because we all gave him a standing ovation with a couple extra curtain calls!

We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed it. Check out Jennifer Hambrick’s concert review!

Philippe Quint seems to be quite prolific in terms of recorded music.  He’s been nominated for several Grammy awards and has even recorded the Mendelssohn concerto we heard at this concert.  Visit  his website so you can learn more about him. Be sure to check out his recordings, while you’re there.

On a side note, Philippe Quint was also in a movie last year about a Russian violinist working in New York.  Take a look at this trailer. At least here we certainly don’t have to worry about the lead actor’s merely playing the “air violin!”

Chamber music

The beauty of ProMusica Chamber orchestra is that it allows for chamber music to be played. It’s smaller than a full-fledged symphony orchestra and can still play symphonies that call for a full orchestra, (though you probably won’t see something like Mahler or Stravinsky in this setting) but it also has the ability to just send out a handful of musicians as it did with its opening piece: Mysliveček’s Octet (Parthia) for Winds in B-flat Major. The concert started with eight musicians: two clarinets, two oboes, two bassoons and two french horns – played by CSO hornists Principal Gene Standley and Adam Koch.

What they played was a beautiful piece by someone I’d never even heard of before: Czech composer, Josef Mysliveček, a contemporary and friend of Wolfgang A. Mozart. (though I saw somewhere they eventually had a falling out over an opera commission or something. I’ll have to look into that!).  The clarinet parts were especially good and it was all extremely well-played.

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Our revised program!

Speaking of Mozart

The second half of the program was devoted to Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. Maestro David Danzmayr commented on how they just exchanged one G-minor symphony for another.  (The program was originally going to perform Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G-minor, K. 183. If you’ve seen the movie Amadeus, you’ll recognize it as the opening music being played after Maestro Salieri makes his entrance.)

I’ve been hearing so much Romantic and 20th Century era music lately that hearing this symphony was like I had a chance to go home and spend time relaxing in a familiar and comfortable setting.  It was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Of course – I like Mozart so much that I’m already planning a road trip down to Chattanooga, TN to hear this very piece performed again by the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra as part of its chamber series. I’m really looking forward to hearing them play in February!

Coda

KUDOS to ProMusica Chamber Orchestra for an added piece of entertainment: Coda. After their concerts, they allow the audience to meet and ask questions of some of the musicians from that evening’s concert. In this case, we had the opportunity to hear Maestro Danzmayr and soloist Philippe Quint afterwards. And while sure, that was cool and all, I also got to finally meet Classical 101′s own morning host, Boyce Lancaster! Yea!

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Maestro David Danzmayr – Philippe Quint – Boyce Lancaster

Mr. Lancaster started things off (once someone found batteries for the microphones! D’oh!) asking them about the changes and such for this concert. From there they went all over the place and seemed to really enjoy answering questions from the audience. I loved having the opportunity to get to know the musicians a little bit in a more informal – and approachable – setting.

Upon meeting Mr. Lancaster, he asked me, “Isn’t this a wonderful way to spend an evening?”

Absolutely! Well done, ProMusica!

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Want more violins? Come back on Monday for part I of an exclusive interview with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster, Jean-Sébastien Roy.  OK – I still don’t know how exclusive it really is, but it’s pretty cool all the same!  He’s very talented – you’ll want to meet him! 

 

My Favorite Concert

Oh my gosh – this was going to be so great – Rossini’s overture to the Barber of Seville, horn concerti by both Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart and a symphony by the father of symphonies himself, Haydn. Like a kid in a candy shop, I was grinning from ear to ear from the moment I sat down in my seat Saturday night at the Southern Theatre until I exited to walk to my car.  Except perhaps Billy Joel’s Piano Man, the best music in the world (in this writer’s humble opinion) comes from classical and baroque-era composers and this concert was going to give us at least three major pieces out of the classical era. Awesome!

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Playing a duel-role of both conductor and soloist was James Sommerville, principal horn player with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

When talking to the Columbus Symphony Orchestra horn players earlier this fall, I learned that our own Erin Lano had studied under James Sommerville at the New England Conservatory of Music. How fun to now play for her former teacher.

The concert was so enjoyable to me that I was on the edge of my seat – somehow trying to get closer to the source of the great music! Of course, part of that was out of necessity. It’s true that in the Southern Theatre upper balcony, short people (like me) can’t sit back in our seats if we want to be able to see the entire orchestra. I’m 5’3″ with shoes on – a benefit lost once I actually sit. Because of the high back of the seat in front of me, sitting back in my seat cuts off my view of the closest row of musicians, i.e. the concertmaster, the principal cello and the music director, so I lean forward. Totally OK with this – especially for this concert because it was so enjoyable!

Honestly, except for perhaps the performance of Mozart’s Requiem, this is my favorite concert of the year.  The CSO packed a lot of really great music into one concert.  Wow!

The concert started with a fun rendition of Rossini’s thrice-used overture to the opera, The Barber of Seville – something Mr. Sommerville commented would sound familiar to opera goers everywhere – as well as fans of Bugs Bunny. (upon hearing that the crowd laughed and the retired gentleman sitting next to me commented to his wife “I don’t get it.”  I didn’t explain it, but I’m sure his kids and grandkids would have understood the reference!)  Something I learned at last year’s concert at which Rossini’s William Tell overture was performed, was that Rossini was lazy.  Crazy talented, but lazy just the same.  The overture to The Barber of Seville was an overture to a comedic opera, i.e. a funny opera.  The overture itself is fun.  It’s lively.  It’s happy.  It’s energetic.

In an act that would make all environmentalists proud, Rossini recycled his overture for two other – dramatic – operas, including one written for the Queen of England called “Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra” (Elizabeth, Queen of England).  Hers was a serious, dramatic opera, but it had an oddly familiar, happy and bouncy overture to it.  Hmm.

Keep that serious nature in mind as you watch this video of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd!

Next up was a lovely piece by a Ukrainian composer, Valentin Silvestrov.  It was the brand new music for me of this concert.  Overall, it was pretty mellow in nature, but I especially liked the second movement, the Abendserenade, because of the texture added with the plucking of the strings.  It was very pretty, but if it were the last number of the evening, we all would have NEEDED that Surprise in Haydn’s Surprise symphony!

Next up was the start of some really terrific classical music candy for me: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 3.  And with this, I learned how the soloist also conducted the Symphony.  He got them started and then they all pretty much kept up by ear.  The beauty of being an ensemble of such incredibly talented musicians is that they can do that!

James Sommerville was exciting to watch and a real treat to hear.  No wonder CSO’s Associate Principal horn player, Julia Rose, was looking forward to hearing him! When I asked her to which concert she was most looking forward to playing, she told me this one!  About Mr. Sommerville, she told me,

“He’s one of the best horn players out there.  I’ve been a fan of his since college.  An amazing musician!”

She’s definitely right about that! He had such a beautiful, warm sound. His tone was fantastic – I can’t imagine the control needed to maintain the same quality of tone throughout the entire piece whether he was playing piano or forte– both being volumes we could easily hear even way up in the upper balcony.

Time for Dad

After the intermission came time for Mozart’s dad, Leopold Mozart.  He composed the second horn concerto of the evening, again beautifully played by Mr. Sommerville.  I’d heard a part of this one before – a movement or so, but not the whole thing.  It was a lovely piece as well, but a bit more subdued.  Bear in mind that that’s due to the composition itself, not the performance.

In the day, the music was primarily written for the patron for whom a composer worked. He didn’t write for himself, he wrote for money and that was usually when someone requested the music. It’s not like they could really go out and sell their music on the open market though some tried and a few probably succeeded.  No, music was typically written only at the request of the nobility.  In Herr Mozart’s case, he wrote for the Archbishop of Salzburg. The music was nice, pleasant on the ears, predictable, nothing out of the ordinary.  Subdued.

During the pre-concert chat, we learned from Christopher Purdy that the French horns of Mozarts’ day were more like something like a formal hunting horn – a brass look, but with one loop and no valves, meaning that notes had to be changed with the embouchure.  Try playing a clarinet without any keys!  That’s essentially what they did with the classical-era French horns.  Crazy, huh?

WAKE UP!

Last up on Saturday’s program was a great symphony written by the father of the symphony, Franz Josef Haydn himself!  Symphony No 94 “Surprise.”  Don’t know what the surprise is?  You will when you hear the second movement!  Back in the day, according to what Mr. Purdy told us, Haydn would compose and conduct music that was well-received all around Europe – England, Austria, etc. During some of his regular performances in London he knew that at a certain point in the music, some people would drift off to sleep, apparently not caring that they’re in a public place.  Well – Haydn had a sense of humor and decided to kind of get back at those sleepyheads the best way he knew how: with music.

So in the 2nd movement of his Symphony No 94, he composed a soft, slow, melodic portion of the movement – very soft.  Very tranquil and relaxing…just a few strings…immediately followed by a rather sudden – and rather loud – single note by the entire orchestra.  WAKE UP!!!  I can just picture the old guy in front jumping out of his seat as if he’d just heard what was essentially a sudden musical explosion of sound!

Hee hee!  Love it!

Watch the first minute or so.  It’s a clever trick, I think!

Come on – you have to chuckle at that.  Makes me appreciate and love Haydn all the more!

Ahh – what a great concert.  I absolutely loved it.  Like I said before – I was like a kid in a candy shop.  Give me Baroque or classical and I’m happy as a clam.  Give me Mozart and Haydn and all will be well in the world.

Next up

Well next up is a great and hugely recognized piece of music: Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.  Not sure you know it?  Well trust me – you do.

DA DA DA DAAAAAAAAA!

OK – what melody did you just hear in your head when you read that? Ten bucks says it was Beethoven’s 5th! Want to hear it for real? Well – you’re welcome to join me – and six of my friends (including my 11-year old nephew, Ben) on November 16th when we hear that along with Elgar’s violin concerto and a world premier by Stephen Montague. Beethoven’s 5th – it’s comfort music.  We all know it. We know what to expect and – for my nephew – it will have more “loud parts!” than last year’s Beethoven Symphony No 6.

Seriously – you can’t go wrong!

Mozart: Austria

From my trip there, way back when…this is a statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in a park in Vienna, Austria. I especially love the flowers in front!

Vienna, Austria

And the home in which Mozart was born, his Geburtshaus, in Salzburg, Austria.  I was lucky to be there on the 200th anniversary of his death, so small ensembles were playing everywhere.  I didn’t get to see a full-fledged concert as I was only there a few days and spent my time wandering the city and visiting castles, but what I did hear was wonderful!

IMG_0881

 

Hello!

Hello there!  Just a quick post to say hello and let you know I’m here! I plan to write about a wide variety of topics with regard to classical music.  Why?  Because I grew up playing the piano and clarinet and I credit Mozart, Beethoven, J.S. Bach, Clementi, Kuhlau and well – many others – with my continued existence.  My music and my piano were my healthy outlets growing up.  Well – thanks to Mom, too, but that’s another story!  Seriously though, Mom and Dad loved classical music and it was totally passed down to me.

I plan to talk about music, composers, musical ensembles, references to my crazy marching band days (YES – I can make the connection), festivals, travel venues, what it’s like inside an actual orchestra (which I’ll be learning as I write) and plenty of other things.  I’m sure Bugs Bunny and – if I’m lucky – Monty Python will make appearances as well. Continue reading →

Shall We Dance?

This past Saturday, I had the good fortune to return to the Ohio Theater to hear the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the new year: Vienna Dances.  How exciting!   I hurriedly dressed in my white, sequined jacket and bellbottoms, grabbed my dancing shoes and went out to meet up with John Travolta for a thrilling night of dancing.

To my utter surprise there was no disco ball hanging from the ceiling of the Ohio Theater.

Instead, we were all treated to a night of dances from Romantic-era composers J. Strauss, R. Strauss, Brahms and Mozart that were popular in Vienna.  What a delight!  OK, so Mozart was from the classical era, but I’ll take his music anytime!

The evening started out with a Strauss overture to Die Fledermaus. Don’t know what a Fledermaus is? That’s OK because I don’t either. However the music was a ton of fun!  It was almost bouncy – happy – joyous, even!

The next piece was Strauss’ (another Strauss) Burleske in D Minor for Piano and Orchestra.  Pianist Marc-André Hamelin, another terrific Canadian import, did a wonderful job with this fun piece

Maestro Zeitouni went on to play a few Hungarian dances by Brahms. Don’t recognize them by name? Don’t worry – I didn’t either, but I did recognize them when I heard them, and couldn’t help but clapping my hands off with a huge grin afterwards. Didn’t think I could like waltzes this much.

During intermission, I took it upon myself to change seats and move back a few rows since a very tall man had been sitting in front of me.  On a positive note, there were plenty of empty seats available which allowed me to do that.  On a negative note, there were plenty of empty seats available which allowed me to do that.  Where are you, Columbus?  You have this amazing musical talent at your disposal, super easy and convenient parking (State House Lot – $4 only) yet you stayed home.  Yes – some tickets can be super expensive and like me, you may end up trading off haircuts and highlights in favor of going, but once in a while – that $25 for the ticket just may be what the doctor ordered.  Yes – I sit in the cheap seats – $25 each – and am very high up, but did you know that there’s simply not a bad seat in the house – especially up in the balcony?  The view is good (albeit a tad high) and the sound is wonderful. 

I’m a fan of the balcony for that very reason: the wonderful sound.  Even if given the choice, I wouldn’t sit in the orchestra section.  For starters, I’m short and everybody who sits in front of me is not.  But the more important reason is the sound itself.  Why do I go to the symphony?  To hear music, of course!  I’m not there to gab with someone during the performance, that’s why there’s an intermission.  No, I go for the music and if I’m sitting in the orchestra section, the orchestra itself is potentially higher up than I am which means the sound travels right over me.  Plus, if sitting in the front,  I hear whatever section happens to be right there in front.  I can’t get a full appreciation of the ensemble’s full output at that level.  However, if sitting in the balcony, the sound has a chance to blend quite nicely before working its way up to greet me.  Finally, it’s always nice to be able to see all the musicians. 

Sure, I would love to sit right by the pianist while he’s playing, but if the CSO has yet to take me up on my offer to be a seat filler for the clarinet section they sure as heck aren’t going to let me sit right next to the pianist during a performance. 

OK fine.  I’ll settle for sitting next to the pianist during a rehearsal. 

Can’t blame a girl for trying.

After Intermission we came back to Strauss’ Emperor Waltz and a slightly-out-of-place Classical era piano piece by Mozart, the Concert-Rondo in D Major.  This was my favorite piece of the evening despite its being the least showy of them all, but I’m hopelessly biased when it comes to Classical, Baroque or Early music.  Everything else is too heavy or too funky for me and yes, that pretty much includes all Romantic-era and 20th Century music, though don’t worry – I have plenty of exceptions from those two centuries!

The concert ended with the Strauss Suite from Der Rosenkavalier which resulted in a standing ovation and a bunch of “BRAVO”s being yelled out in the section next to mine!

Mr. Hamelin did a wonderful job on the piano.  He had a very light and happy touch – nothing too heavy or overbearing.  The program stated that he started piano lessons at age 5, too.  Music is so important – not something to ever be denied someone, no matter what age.  Look what he became!  He’s playing concert halls all over the world including, thankfully, right here in Columbus for us all to enjoy.  Bravo, sir!  Bravo!

I really do recommend taking a moment to look at the upcoming schedule and pick out at least one concert to attend.  There are some really good ones coming up, too.  This Saturday, for example, promises a great performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and the first weekend in February will be a great performance of Mozart and Haydn’s music.  The Mozart and Haydn concert is the one to which I’m taking Mom and Dad because that’s their favorite, too.  These two concerts present the music that is probably most popularly known although Rite of Spring is coming up in March.

You can even make these concerts a last-minute idea for an evening’s worth of entertainment.  Last weekend when I was there, my 500-seat section up top was at about 10-15% capacity.

Come on, Columbus!  Help me fill it up and I PROMISE to leave my sequins and bellbottoms at home!

My Love of Music

I grew up playing the piano and eventually the clarinet.  It’s what allowed me, a hyper-active child from you-know-where, to survive childhood.  Mom told me that she and Dad bought me a small 2-octave organ with the color-coded keys and music when I was about 4 or so for Christmas.  So I’d play and have fun and that was that.  Then one day, Mom heard me playing something that wasn’t in the book.  After I turned 5, our family had a new addition: an upright, Courrier piano.  I started taking lessons with Mrs. Geiger who apparently let me get away with playing by ear a lot – until Mom asked her about that.  She stopped playing things for me first after that time which allowed me to better learn to read music.  

Lessons with her lasted about three years because we moved from Pennsylvania to Minnesota.  Lessons there lasted 2-1/2 years because we moved back to Indiana.  Lessons there lasted a couple of years before moving to a different city in Indiana.  Each time we moved, the teachers pulled me back to where I was a year earlier because I was too young to have been where my Mom and I said I was.  I never argued the point, but wonder how good I could have been.  

Continue reading →

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