Friday, March 2, 2007

Final or Recital?

I am taking organ lessons at the college this semester. At the beginning of the class, Dr. Carlson, my instructor, informed me that at the end of the school year I would have to give a final in front of a couple of the keyboard faculty. But today, she told me that if I would perform on a mixed student recital, I would be exempt from having to give a final. In other words, I could:

Play five or more scales and two pieces before a two keyboard instructors for a grade or,

Play one piece in front of the instructors and attending music students at a recital for a grade.

The latter option sounds very appealing to me. I have been learning Prelude in a minor by Benedetto Marcello. Played with a full organ sound, it begins with a fast, cascading waterfall of 16th and 32nd notes. The introduction leads into a short hymn that contains some very strong dissonances, e.g. a chord containing c-sharp, e-sharp, g-sharp, b, and d. It is a very impressive piece. I cannot wait to perform it on the school's recital organ.

Brahms's Philosophies

I made a mention about where Brahms believed inspiration came from. There is a nice site that has compiled a number of his insights.

Brahms' Rules to Musical Composition

A great link to check out.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

And In The Next 400 Years...

Baroque: J.S. Bach, G. F. Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Telemann
Classical: Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven
Romantic: Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Richard Strauss, The Lieder Kings (I'm a vocalist, OK)
20-Century: ??????????
(Add nationalists at your own discretion)

OK, my point is this, who will be considered the composers of the masterworks for this last era? Will it be Bartok? Rachmaninoff? Is it Stravinsky? Phillip Glass? Possibly Schoenberg (I hope not)? Worse yet, where is music going now?

One of my favorite stories about how the public view's music is Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. At the debut in 1020's Paris, the ballet was quite a shock with its harsh chords, unusual rhythms, and its burlesque choreography. A brawl followed afterwards to whether it was music or trash. The police were called for. Today Rite of Spring is part of the standard repertoire.

I believe the deciding factor in the end will be genius and inspiration. Brahms's strongly believed that the inspiration for the lasting works came from the divine, although the general character of Wagner could be used to disprove that claim :).

There is something about Bach's chorales, Beethoven's symphonies, Mozart's sonatas, and Strauss's tone poems that make them enduring. No one really knows what it is. We can only sit back, listen, and enjoy.

Feel free to comment on who your pulling for in the 20-Century.

Monday, February 26, 2007

A Great Trombone Recital

Last night (Feb 25), Nolan Hauta gave his senior recital on trombone at the Humanities Fine Arts Center Recital Hall on the University of Minnesota, Morris campus. Accompanied by Emily Carroll on organ and piano, the program was as follows:

  • Concert Rondo K. 371 Mozart
  • Concert Piece No. 5 Blazhevitch
  • Sonata No. 1 in a minor Galliard
  • Reflective Mood Nestico
  • Intermission
  • Solo de Concours Veronge de la Nux
  • Pastorale Frackenpohl
  • Grand Concerto Grafe

After a shaky start on the beginning of the Mozart, the rest of the concert turned out quite well. Mr. Hauta displayed great ingenuity in developing his cadenzas for a few of the pieces (especially the Mozart) and showed great skill in the lower register. His warm vibrato was showcased in the slower pieces. Unfortunately, his pianos did not carry the same strength in tone and sounded with a fuzzy articulation. All in all though, it was a very good recital.

The more noteworthy pieces in my mind included the rondo, Reflective Mood, Pastorale, and the concerto. After he regained control, the Mozart was phenomenal. The piece required an agility and accuracy that was extraordinary. Reflective Mood was my favorite piece on the program, having a big band feel that made it sound as if Tommy Dorsey might have been the original soloist. Pastorale was a light and crisp selection, not to mention the most modern sounding composition on the recital. Grand Concerto was a monster 13 minute long selection, which made one fell exhausted for the soloist after it was finished.

If I may make one plea, check out your local college to see what concerts are being presented by the music department. With student and faculty recitals, not to mention all of the ensembles that also perform, universities offer great performances that generally cost little or nothing to attend. Furthermore, attending these recitals supports young musicians, an excellent reason indeed.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Red Priest's Snowstorm

It has finally stopped snowing here (Morris, MN) and I expect we received a good 7-10". Being snowed in gave me ample time to listen to some music. After listening to Carmina Burana, I put in Red Priest's recording of Vivaldi's Seasons. After listening to L'Inverno, I felt Vivaldi had perfectly captured the feelings of being stuck in your home with a snowstorm surrounding you.

I had the opportunity to hear Red Priest perform a year or two ago at the local college, the University of Minnesota, Morris. They specialize in early music, rearranging pieces to be played by recorder, violin, cello, and harpsichord. The concert was so phenomenal, that afterwards I bought two of their CDs. The name of the group is the nickname given to Vivaldi due to his hair color and occupation.

One of their CDs contains Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and Corelli's Christmas Concerto. With the recorder generally playing the solo violin part, their rendition of The Seasons is quite upbeat and bright. They also take many liberties with their interpretation, such as adding a section at the beginning of the CD that sounds like bird calls in nature (provided by the recorder) before launching into the first movement of The Spring and making the second movement of The Winter sound very different than Vivaldi's score appears. Still, the recording is quite fun to listen to, and the virtuosity of the recorder player is to be marveled at.

The homepage of Red Priest is:

Thanks to the county snow plow that finally went by this afternoon, I am able to go to a trombonist's senior recital at the university tonight. I will post the program and some notes on the performance tomorrow.

Online Showcase of American Composers

Finding interesting websites on music is a hobby of mine. Recently I found a site that has real player files of rarely performed pieces of American composers, along with information about the composers, performers, and works.

Selections come from better known composers such as Barber, Copland, and Cage, but relatively unknown composers, contemporary and romantic, are also represented.

Browsing through their categories of compositions, I came across three selection I found quite appealing.

Incidental Music to Corneille's Cinna for Solo Piano by Lou Harrison

Partita for Wind Quintet by Irving Fine

Flute Concerto by Derek Jacoby

This site is well worth a visit.

Art of the States

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Not Mozart?

Why doesn't everyone listen to classical music?

O.K. Yes, that was a rhetorical question but still the point remains.

Everyone loves classical music even if they do not know it. The old cartoons are filled with the sounds of famous operas and Johann Strauss's waltzes. Everyone can whistle the tune from the "Beef: That's what's for dinner" commercials which is a cutting from Copland's ballet Rodeo. My brother who isn't fond of classical music absolutely loves O Fortuna from Orff's Carmina Burana.

My guess for why a large group of people do not choose to listen to classical music is because there is a vast selection of noise out there that just pacifies the brain. Beethoven captures human emotion. Britney Spears has breasts. German Lieder expresses anguish of lost love. Popular rappers speak of their "bitches" whom they want to "ride like their jeep".

I'm not saying that pop and rap are not forms of aural entertainment, in fact, some selections are quite enjoyable, but I just have a hard time believing that this stuff is art.

Turn on MPR or your local classical station and listen to the music for five minutes. What is it saying? What emotions does it resonate with?

And for all of you who already listen to/perform/enjoy classical music, good for you!