Showing posts with label Composer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Composer. Show all posts

Monday, July 9, 2018

Great Moments In OPERA, Works Of MOZART: "La Ci Darem La Mano"

La Ci Darem La Mano

„Max Slevogt Don Giovannis Begegnung mit dem steinernen Gast“ von Max Slevogt - Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin.
Quelle: Wikipedia

Don Giovanni’s aria of seduction “La Ci Darem La Mano” from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni”.

About the aria “La Ci Darem La Mano” is taken from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” which is based on Seville’s famous seducer “Don Juan”.

It being “Don Juan” or “Don Giovanni” who makes it his life’s goal to seduce as many ladies as possible regardless of any factor other than that they be of the opposite gender. It is in the first act of this two-act opera that Don Giovanni spots a lovely peasant girl by the name of Zerlina, whom his taste dictates he must introduce to the acts of sexuality.

This in spite of the fact, or perhaps motivated further by it that she is engaged to be married to a man by the name of Masetto. Don Giovanni, however, being one who is not deterred by such factors approaches the group in which Zerlina finds herself in at the time and offers the hospitality of his home so Masetto and her friends might take refreshment in his generosity; naturally while Don Giovanni himself keeps Zerlina in the private delight of his charm.


Masetto, however, is cautious of Don Giovanni and mentions that Zerlina cannot remain at a distance from his society; only to be told by Leporello that she is in the hands of a gentleman who will take over his role of protector of her in the most gallant of ways. This precisely what Masetto feared leads him to protest further yet only to be told by Don Giovanni that if she does not leave without further reply; his actions he will repent. It is then that Masetto accepts Zerlina’s decision to remain in the exclusive company of Don Giovanni and declares he has understood how his love for Zerlina will be his ruin.


 Once alone Don Giovanni declares that though Masetto is a man of gallantry, he is not appropriate for Zerlina, for she deserves more than the mere life of a peasant; as he himself wishes to take her to wife. This being that which captures Zerlina by surprise as she in confusion repeats his offer to which Don Giovanni confirms what her ears have taken in by offering his castle and all that is to be found in it in the ways of joy. Zerlina for her part is still wondering as to the sincerity of his offer as Don Giovanni begins his aria of seduction with the words “La Ci Darem La Mano”.

This meaning “let me take your hand” as he continues by adding that she will say yes. Zerlina still not sure converts this aria into a duet with thoughts expressed as “I want to but I do not want to, my heart shakes a little, I know I will be happy but I feel sorry for Masetto”. Don Giovanni, however, being of the ways of gentle persuasion continues his seduction by telling her he will change her lot in life. Zerlina at this point influenced not only by Don Giovanni’s words as well as caress becomes unsure as she claims again she wants to but does not want to, only to have Don Giovanni repeat he will change her lot as he urges her tenderly to go with him. Zerlina at this point no longer feels capable of refusing as she claims “non sono pui forte” (I am no longer strong) and joins Don Giovanni in a common cry of “andiam andiam a veri, a ristorar di veri, un inocente amor” (let’s go and consummate this innocent love).

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Don Giovanni has been successful at his attempt of seduction and sure that theirs will end in the ecstasy of passion takes Zerlina into his arms and kisses. Zerlina being more than willing to allow him to go on to her body as he will; for she will do likewise on to him. It, however, is as all was ready for Don Giovanni’s and Zerlina’s carnality that Dona Elvira (one of the many in Don Giovanni’s love life) appears and warns Zerlina not to give in to her seducer. This being advice which unfortunately for Don Giovanni, Zerlina heeds to as she and Dona Elvira take their leave of Don Giovanni and his ways.

 I, however for what concerns me would love to seduce the worship of my opera life, Angela Gheorghiu in the same fashion and though I can not sing; I most assuredly can create fantasy of delight that she might wish for ours to end in sexuality yet I, however, would not like for ours to be interrupted; as was the case with Don Giovanni and Zerlina.



Wednesday, June 27, 2018

GEORGE GERSHWIN: An American Original

"George Gershwin 1937" by Carl Van Vechten Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
Composer George Gershwin is among the best-known composers. His style was uniquely American: Big, boisterous, and an energetic fusion of old and new. He typified the “melting pot” that was the America of his day.

Born Jacob Gershovitz in 1898 to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, the boy who later became George Gershwin was no Mozart-like child prodigy. He was inspired to begin music lessons after attending the violin recital of a young friend of his – at the ripe old age of 10.

So much for the idea that you can’t amount to much, musically, unless you start piano before your feet can reach the pedals.

George’s parents had bought a piano for his older brother Ira, and at his request, allowed the younger boy to begin lessons. Five years later, George Gershwin was ready to quit school and begin playing piano professionally.

Command performances for the royalty of Europe? Um, no. Again, in contrast to Mozart, Gershwin began his professional career as a lowly “song plugger” – a pianist hired by a music company to demonstrate the latest songs available on sheet music. In this way, perhaps, he developed an ear for popular music that would serve him well later.

In 1916, when he was just 17 years old, Gershwin published his first song for the princely fee of $5. Also in 1916, Gershwin began work for the Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York City, making recordings, arranging, and composing under his own and assumed names.

By 1920, Gershwin had begun to see commercial success for his compositions. In 1924, he collaborated with older brother Ira on a musical called Lady Be Good, the first of many productive collaborations between the two brothers. George handled the musical composition, while Ira wrote the dialogue and lyrics (the “book”).

Also in 1924, George Gershwin wrote what is perhaps his most famous major piano work, the Rhapsody in Blue. It is an American composition: A 15-minute concerto for piano and full orchestra – containing clear elements of jazz, popular, and folk music are woven into the very fabric of the piece. Gershwin himself thought of it as “a kaleidoscope of America.”

Gershwin wrote this amazing piece in only 5 weeks, and only reluctantly at that. His friend, bandleader Paul Whiteman, had requested a concerto-like jazz piano piece for a concert he wanted to put on called An Experiment in Modern Music. The concert was held on February 12, 1924.

Initially, Gershwin refused, thinking that he couldn’t produce such a major work in the short amount of time allotted. But after seeing a report in the newspaper that quoted Whiteman as saying, “George Gershwin is at work on a jazz concerto,” he felt he had to deliver. And deliver he did.

1924 was a busy year for young George. This was also the year in which he traveled to Paris, seeking to study under master composers of the day. Maurice Ravel, an admirer, famously refused to take him on as a student, fearing it would ruin the jazz influence that made Gershwin so unique. While in Paris, Gershwin wrote another piece that has proved enduringly popular, the symphonic work An American In Paris.


In 1935, Gershwin produced his most ambitious work, which he called a “folk opera,” Porgy and Bess. This was based on the novel Porgy, by DuBose Heyward. Heyward, with his wife, had previously adapted the novel to play form and collaborated with Ira Gershwin to adapt the play to the operatic form.

In 1937, Gershwin, then only 38 years old, began to experience blinding headaches. Later in the year, he was diagnosed as having brain cancer, although the diagnosis of the exact kind of cancer since been questioned. Following surgery for his tumor, George Gershwin died on July 11, 1937.

Here Gershwin finally comes to resemble Mozart. Not a child prodigy, not a performer for royalty. Yet still a prolific composer of wildly popular music — and Gershwin, like Mozart, died too young.

This article is written by Yoke Wong -  Article Directory: Article Dashboard


Monday, June 11, 2018

BEETHOVEN

The painting is described thus: "Ludwig v...
The painting is described thus: "Ludwig van Beethoven was recognized as a child prodigy. He worked at the age of 13 as organist, pianist/harpsichordist, and violist at the court in Bonn, and had published three early piano sonatas. This portrait in oils is the earliest authenticated likeness of Beethoven." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Born in 1770, Ludvig van Beethoven was one of only three of his parents’ seven offspring children to survive infancy. Yet the world of music owes this chance event an immeasurable amount because he would go on to be one of a handful of composers to grace the art form with a style and quality that is truly unique. His father was his first music teacher, a proficient tenor, and his grandfather on the paternal side had been Kappelmeister at the court of Clemens August of Bavaria. Music was in his blood, and he started playing viola and organ at a very early age, although he was not a prodigy in the Mozart mold – despite his father’s attempts to declare that Ludwig was seven for an early performance when he was in fact nine. However, he was certainly a talented youngster and published his first three piano sonatas in 1783. He died in 1827 and it is said that as many as 30,000 people attended his funeral procession.

How Beethoven’s deafness has helped interpreters

Beethoven’s genius is merely underlined by the fact that he started to lose his hearing in his late twenties, yet continued through intense frustration and anguish to compose some of music’s most complex and beautiful pieces. For the historian and student of his music, however, the composer’s deafness created a unique opportunity to appreciate the composer. Because he could not take part in an oral conversation, he would carry with him notebooks and have conversations with people in writing. These people could be performers, conductors, students or masters, and the notes survive today to give a unique insight into not only the man, but his art, too – among his notes are specific instructions on how to play many of his compositions and descriptions of his emotional state and day-to-day life, all of which are priceless to the modern interpreter.

Beethoven’s major piano works<

Portrait Ludwig van Beethoven when composing t...
Portrait of Ludwig van Beethoven when composing the Missa Solemnis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
During Beethoven’s life, the piano as an instrument became much more accepted as an instrument, partly due to technological enhancements that meant a piano could hold its own with a full orchestra whilst retain its warmth, tone, sustain and power in the chamber setting. The harpsichords, spinets, and clavichords of the past would eventually lose popularity among composers and audiences. The timing could not have been more perfect for Beethoven; he would become a master at both performing on and composing for the piano. He is usually regarded as having composed five piano concertos, although his piano arrangement of his Violin Concerto in D Major is sometimes referred to as his Piano Concerto No. 6. Beethoven was a prolific composer of piano sonatas; altogether there are 32 of them, and many are well known, even among people with no interest in classical music. His best-known piano sonatas are “Moonlight”, “Waldstein”, “Pathétique” and “Pastoral” (not to be confused with his Pastoral Symphony). He also left copious amounts of chamber music, much of which had a piano (or more than one piano) as an integral part, along with his string quartets, duos, and quintets.


Monday, May 14, 2018

MOZART Concertos

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91) by Barbara Krafft (1764–1825), 1819
W. A. Mozart - Photo by Royal Opera House Covent Garden 
Mozart is recognized for completing twenty-seven concertos over the span of his career. He began composing his materials when he was four years old. He was able to play the same things over and over again from memory. Realizing his son had an extraordinary gift, his father began writing down the notes of the music when Mozart was only five years old. Some of these concertos that Mozart wrote are considered to be the best musical compositions of all time.

The first works of Mozart were all written for the piano. This is the instrument he learned how to play at the young age of three. As he got older he challenged himself to write them for complete orchestras of instruments as well. Mozart always took pride in playing music that he composed on his own. He wasn’t willing to accept the boundaries in place for classical music at the time either.

The most well-known concerto written by Mozart was composed in 1784. It is called KV 449 and is played in E flat. Over the next two years, he wrote ten more concertos. Some of them appear to be a continuation of the ones before it. This is similar to how some movies become sequels and even trilogies. When these various concertos are played consecutively you can hear an introduction, body, climax, and finale.

While not everyone took immediately to the various concertos of Mozart, even the most difficult of critics had to agree he had talent. Mozart seemed to have a vision with his concertos that others could only imagine. Each piece seems to be more complicated and detailed than the one before it. At the same time though he continued to strive for something different than what was already being done in the area of classical music.

Today many performances of classical music include pieces of concertos from Mozart. It is considered a tremendous honour to be a part of an orchestra that plays such pieces of music. It is a tribute to Mozart for his donation to classical music. While he always loved music and composing, the legacy he left behind is something that will always be a vital piece of history.



Wednesday, May 9, 2018

PARRY - PIANO CONCERTO in F-Sharp Major

Hubert Parry circa 1916
Hubert Parry circa 1916 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hubert Parry (1848 -1918) was an English composer, teacher, and music historian. Some of his contemporaries thought that he was the finest English composer since Purcell, but his academic duties left him little time to compose. He came from an upper-middle-class family and as such went to school at Eton. Although he excelled in music while at Eton (as well as sports) his father demanded that he study for a different career, so when he went to Oxford he didn't study music but law and history.

He worked as an insurance underwriter at Lloyd's of London from 1870 to 1877, all the while continuing his studies in music. He tried to obtain lessons from Brahms, but he was not available. Parry ended up taking lessons from Edward Dannreuther, a pianist, and writer. Parry's compositions began to be known by the public and he was also hired on as a music scholar in 1875 by George Grove as an assistant editor for the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians to which he contributed 123 articles. He was appointed a professor of composition and musical history at the Royal College of Music in 1883. He became director of the College in 1900 and worked in that capacity until his death.

The Piano Concerto in F-sharp Major was one of Parry's first major works. He began the work in 1878 and completed it in 1879. It was premiered in 1880 with his own teacher Dannreuther as soloist. It got rave reviews but some considered it avant-garde. Parry went on to write much vocal music, five symphonies, and other pieces, plus books on music and music history.


Parry thought that German music and traditions to be the standard, so with the oncoming World War, he felt confident that the English and Germans would not fight each other. Of course, he was sadly wrong and had to watch his musical world become yet another victim of the war. Parry had suffered from heart disease for many years and when he contracted the Spanish flu during the 1918 pandemic, it took his life.

Parry wrote only one piano concerto. It is an interesting piece, not least of all because to think that it was at one time considered avant-garde. It is very well written, with a piano part that calls for the skill of a virtuoso. It is one of the many neglected pieces in the repertoire that could use an occasional hearing.



Sunday, April 8, 2018

Who Was MOZART?

Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint, made by Dora...
Drawing of Mozart in silverpoint, made by Dora Stock during Mozart's visit to Dresden, April 1789 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mozarts Early Life
Mozart was famous as a child performer. His father was a renown musician and used to take Mozart around Europe performing. Aside from being a cute child performer, Mozart was also a great composer. He is famous for writing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" at the age of five.
Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria but spent a lot of time traveling around Europe as part of his dad's way to display his son's prodigal talents.

Mozart's adulthood
Mozart died at the age of 35. He lived during what is termed as the "Classical Period" in music. Mozart lived at the height of this period during the late 1700's. He did die due to multiple illnesses which at the time were hard to pinpoint as the precise cause of death. He didn't die because of contemporary composer Salieri poising him. In fact, their rivalry was greatly exaggerated to sell movies.

Mozart could not secure long-term work throughout much of his adult life. When he moved to Vienna he especially had a hard time finding work. He was also paid poorly for his masterpieces.The location of his grave is unknown to this day because he died poor and had a poor mans burial.

He did live at the time of Beethoven and was older than Beethoven. However, historical records never confirmed if they met or not. Regardless, Beethoven looked upon Mozart's music in high regard and was greatly influenced by his works.

Mozart did get married and although he had 6 children, only 2 survived. One child became a composer, and the other child worked for the government.

The society and times of Mozart
During Mozart's life "public music" was just becoming allowed. It may be hard to believe, but in the era's gone by, music was reserved for the Church and nobility. However, musicians like Mozart still aspired to hold a "court position" preferably working for a royal family. This would enable them to hold a steady income.

Mozart worked at Salzburg court in his late teens the to early twenties but resigned in search of greater fame and travel. After a while of rejecting court position offers in his youth, he didn't get offered anything steady in his later years.

Mozart's social life
Mozart was a generous and social person. Despite his various illnesses and small appearance, he held great attention in social settings. There are rumors that his wife didn't take good care of Mozart during his illnesses and didn't help him manage his money which was something he needed help with. Mozart also owed many friends money at the time of his death.

Listening to Mozart's music
There have been recent studies suggesting that listening to Mozart's music increases a child's intelligence. In fact, any complex classical music has the ability to increase the intelligence of a child and I believe that all children have multiple intelligences anyway. Some kids just love the sport and won't really want to sit around listening to Mozart for long periods of time. Other kids, love music and love to listen to music. Some kids are inclined to do both. Scientific research cannot represent the whole population.



In terms of adult listeners, it is my goal that readers of this article appreciate the vast array of works that Mozart wrote in his short life and feel how these works encompass a variety of emotions and aspects of the Classical music style which Mozart contributed to. I hope you will be inspired to listen to Mozart's music via iTunes, CD's or YouTube and just let it flow over you. Then, to understand his music you must research about when that piece of music was written and what Mozart was going through in his life at the time he wrote that piece. At the time he wrote the piece of music Was he working for a court under luxury, or freelancing? Had he just experienced the death of another child or his parents? Was he in love or lonely? This is the KEY to feeling the expression and meaning beyond the sounds and understanding why certain Mozart pieces touch your soul the way they do.




Monday, March 12, 2018

BEETHOVEN and the Illuminati: How the secret order influenced the great composer

English: Photograph of bust statue of Ludwig v...

In 1779, a composer, writer, teacher, and dreamer named Christian Neefe arrived in Bonn, Germany, to work for the Electoral Court. Neefe (pronounced nay-fuh) was the definition of what Germans call a Schwärmer, a person swarming with rapturous enthusiasms. In particular, he was inflamed with visions of endless human potentials that the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment promised to unleash.

Like many progressives of the time, Neefe believed that humanity was finally coming of age. So he had picked the right place to get a job. Bonn was one of the most cultured and enlightened cities in Germany; the court supported a splendid musical and theatrical establishment. Before long in his new post, Neefe found himself mentoring a genius. Meanwhile, in his spare time, he signed on with a plan to, as it were, rule the world.

One of Neefe’s first students was a sullen, grubby, taciturn 10-year-old keyboard player named Ludwig van Beethoven. He was the son of an alcoholic singer who had more or less beat music into him. The kid seemed more like a charity case than a budding musician, but Neefe soon discovered that his talent could put him in the league of the musical phenomenon of the age, a child of freakish gifts named Mozart.




Monday, February 12, 2018

JOHN PHILIP SOUSA - From Marching Band Composer To American Hero

English: was appointed as the 17th leader of t...
Sousa was appointed as the 17th leader of the Marine Corps Band on
1 October 1880, serving in this position until 30 July 1892.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sarasota is a city located on the central west coast of Florida. In 1962, the Sarasota Mobile Home Park Auditorium was built as a meeting place for mobile home park residents. The auditorium is now used mostly as a leased facility by the public for dances, band concerts, meetings and private parties. The room has a well maintained three thousand square foot wood floor suitable for dances and meetings, and there is a large well-lit stage for bands or performances.

The Sarasota Mobile Home Band is one of the best established marching bands in the area and frequently performs at the auditorium. In 1993, they earned national acclaim as they were presented with the Sudler Silver Scroll - an award which recognises and honours those community bands that have demonstrated particularly high standards of excellence in concert activities over a period of several years; and which have played a significant and leading role in the cultural and musical environment in their respective communities, by the John Philip Sousa Foundation.

The John Philip Sousa Foundation is a non-profit making organization dedicated to the promotion of marching band music across the globe. The foundation administers a number of projects and awards supporting high-quality band performance, conducting, and composition.

The foundation takes its name from John Philip Sousa, a prominent composer of American band music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John Philip Sousa was born in Washington, D. C. on November 6, 1854. At age 13, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Band as a "boy" (apprentice) musician, but he also continued his private music studies, where he learned violin, harmony, and composition. After being discharged from the marines, he performed as a violinist and conductor in various theatre orchestras in Washington and Philadelphia.

By 1880, his fame as a conductor, composer, and arranger had been established and he was appointed the leader of the U.S. Marine Band and held this position for 12 years, eventually molding the band into the finest military band in the world. He resigned from the Marine Corps in 1892 to form his own civilian band, who in a matter of months had assumed a position of equality with the finest symphony orchestras of the day.

The Sousa band traveled the world in 1910 and 1911, made four additional tours of Europe, and annual tours of America. Although Sousa is stereotyped as a march composer, he composed music of many forms, including fifteen operettas. He was an indefatigable worker, proclaiming "when you hear of Sousa retiring, you will hear of Sousa dead". This prediction came true when he died suddenly following a band rehearsal in Reading, Pennsylvania on March 6, 1932.

"The Stars And Stripes Forever" is widely regarded to be Sousa's magnum opus, and following an act of Congress, it became the national march of the United States.

There are many hotels in Sarasota available for anyone wishing to catch the Sudler Silver Scroll winning Sarasota Mobile Home Band in concert.


    By Andrew Regan
    Andrew Regan is an online, freelance author from Scotland. He is a keen rugby player and enjoys traveling.

    Article Source: EzineArticles



Saturday, February 3, 2018

GIACOMO PUCCINI - Musical Unifier

Puccini standing, facing slightly left; wearin...
Puccini  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Giacomo Puccini was born on December 22, 1958. His hometown was Lucca, Italy, a charming town in Tuscany surrounded by Roman walls. His family had a long lineage of musicians and he soon became an organist at a local church. He was inspired to write opera after seeing a production of Aida. He had to walk almost twenty miles to Pisa to see it. It is fitting that Aida was his inspiration. Written by the current reigning king of Italian opera, Giuseppe Verdi, it marked a turning point in that composer's musical language in which he started broadening his horizons eastwards- towards German specifically and Richard Wagner. Puccini would continue to both embrace Italian style but expose himself to the musical language of the Germans, French and new sounds that were coming out of the Orient.

It is also very fitting that his first successful opera, Manon Lescaut, was written in 1893. That happened to be the same year that Verdi wrote his last opera, Falstaff. Although Falstaff is unquestionably a masterpiece, listeners of the day must have found it to be somewhat old-fashioned after hearing Manon Lescaut. Puccini takes the story of the courtesan and creates voluptuous sonorities. He employs new instruments and chords not to mention a compelling sense of drama.

Manon Lescaut now behind him, he turned to a story by Murger about a bunch of bohemians. Written in 1896, La Boheme would become one of the most popular opera ever. It was revolutionary in its day for the naturalness in which the characters spoke. Instead of gods and goddesses, these characters dealt with banal issues such as paying the rent. In other words real life. This was a part of a movement in Italian literature called verissmo. (I pagliacci and Cavalleria rusticana are other examples.) Boheme was lauded for its musical language and its gripping theater. The story is about a seamstress who meets a young poet and embarks on a love affair despite knowing that she is dying of consumption. Although many find the Broadway musical Rent to be a bastardization of this opera, it is an effect updating because T.B. was a very stigmatized disease in its day much like AIDS was in the 80s.

in 1900 Puccini wrote Tosca a bloody opera about corruption and abuse of power. The opera comes from a play by Victorien Sardou written specifically for the legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt. The character of Tosca seems a good fit for any prima donna because, in part, it is about a prima donna. Puccini at this point was becoming interested in the new sounds that came were coming out of France at the time, notably orientalism. In an opera that takes place in Rome, he had almost no opportunity to use it in a credible way. The did manage to insert a whole tone scale, a sequence of notes that is now a cliche for Chinese music.

He had no trouble incorporating orientalism in his next opera, Madama Butterfly. Written in 1904 the premiere was one of those legendary disasters that can only happen in opera. The public didn't seem to want to give it a chance. It may be apocryphal, but the story goes that Arturo Toscanini was both conducting the premiere and having an affair with the soprano. In act II when Butterfly brings out the illegitimate son she had by Pinkerton, the American soldier, a heckler screamed out "It's Toscanini's." Needless to say, there was no way to restore order after that. Puccini went on to revive it twice in the ensuing months and its final version has become a beloved favorite. Hearing the original version it is plain to see that it is flawed. It is a testament to Puccini's humility that he would take that disaster and try to examine how he may have failed as a composer and try to improve his work.

His last major premiere was Turandot. Taking place in mythical China this was the perfect opportunity for him to explore new sounds and create atmosphere. The story centers around an icy princess who has a penchant for decapitating her suitors. One eventually wins her over and they live happily ever after. Dramatically the work is flawed but in terms of glitzy theatrical spectacles, there is nothing better. It includes the great tenor opera "Nessun Dorma." Puccini never completely the opera. The task went to Franco Alfano. Toscanini was disappointed with it and revised his version giving us what we recognize today.

Puccini dies in 1924. A chronic chain smoker, it was throat cancer that did him in. It is ironic that someone so devoted to the human voice should die such a way. The passage of time has not diminished the immediacy and timelessness of his operas.




Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Great Composers: JOSEF HAYDN (1732 - 1809)

Josef HAYDN /1732-1809)



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Composers Corner: A Brief Biography of FRANZ SCHUBERT

English: Oil painting of Franz Schubert, after...
Oil painting of Franz Schubert, after an 1825 watercolor
(Photo credit: 
Wikipedia)
Franz Schubert [1797-1828] lived a short but amazingly prolific life, leaving behind a legacy of seven symphonies (plus one that remained famously unfinished upon his death), some 30 chamber music pieces, and more than 600 songs. He was born in a suburb of Vienna to middle-class parents -- his father was a teacher and his mother had been a housekeeper prior to marriage -- and was one of five children to survive infancy (nine others died). 

As with many composers of his era, Schubert showed an early affinity for music and was taking formal lessons as early as age six. A year later his vocal promise attracted the notice of composer Antonio Salieri, who was the most prominent musical figure in all of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until supplanted by a young W.A. Mozart. Although Schubert trained as a teacher to follow in his father's footsteps, his remarkable facility to write vocal music set him on the path to living out his life as an impoverished composer rather than a more financially secure educator.

Schubert made friends with a cadre of young intellectuals who frequented Vienna's coffeehouses, the site in those days of deep thought but also revolutionary concepts. Among his steady companions were several poets, whose written material provided significant fodder for the vast numbers of lieder (art songs) he wrote. Johann Vogl, a prominent Viennese singer, took the younger Schubert under his wing and subsequently enjoyed the fruits of much of the composer's resulting songwriting. Vogl's influence is the primary reason that a number of Schubert's song cycles were written for the baritone voice.

In addition to lieder, Schubert tried his hand at composing operas. However, the public's fascination with the Italianate style as embodied by Rossini -- in direct contrast to Schubert's methodology, which was decidedly Germanic in tone and characterization -- offered the composer no success whatsoever. Of the eight operas Schubert wrote, only his three-act heroic opera Fierrabras is performed with any sort of frequency today. Interestingly, it did not receive its official premiere until 1897, nearly 70 years after the composer's death. A 1988 production staged in Vienna -- conducted by Claudio Abbado -- is reportedly the first time the opera was performed in its entirety, surpassing the more commonly produced 1897 version noted for its multiple deleted scenes. However, the piece exhibits the same flaws common to his other seven operatic efforts -- a weak libretto whose only saving grace is the music. Schubert composed half a dozen other works for the stage, although they are more accurately defined as singspiels in the Mozartean tradition.

Schubert died after several years of deteriorating health. The officially cited diagnosis was typhoid fever, but today historians agree his demise was due instead to mercury poisoning, which was a common "cure" in those days to combat the effects of syphilis. He apparently contracted the disease in 1822, although its remission for several years allowed him to continue composing. During that period he wrote some of his best-known and most compelling music, including the Winterreise song cycle and the "Great" C major Symphony.

Throughout the early 1830s, Ferdinand Schubert, Franz's elder brother by three years (and a composer as well), worked diligently to have his younger sibling's works published, but it took the budding influence of Robert Schumann -- a noted music critic who only later became known for his compositions -- to bring Schubert's collection of works to a broader audience. A complete edition of Schubert's compositions was published in the 1884-to-1897 time frame. Because so few pieces were published during Schubert's lifetime, most are missing the "opus" numbers generally associated with classical music and oftentimes used to determine the order in which works were composed.

The first video clip that accompanies this article features baritone Dietrich Fischer-Diskau (with pianist Murray Perahia) singing "Dream of Spring" from Schubert's song cycle, "Die Winterreise." The second clip is the closing movement ("Agnus Dei") from Schubert's Mass in G, from a 2009 performance by CityCleveland & Quire Cleveland, a northern Ohio music ensemble.


    Paul Siegel has been writing about opera and classical music for more than 20 years. In addition to being a regular contributor to various Internet sites, he also writes concert reviews and feature stories on these topics for a monthly music magazine published in his hometown of Denver, Colorado. These articles are found at http://coloradomusicbuzz.blogspot.com.

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

RODGERS and HAMMERSTEIN II, the Greatest Musicals Partnership of all Time

Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Oscar Hammerst...
Richard Rodgers, Irving Berlin, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Helen Tamiris (back), watching hopefuls who are being auditioned on stage of the St. James Theatre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Over the weekend, I drifted to my nearest local EZY video shop. While waiting to be served, I drifted to the comedy, musicals, and the crime sections. It was the musicals that greatly attracted my interest. I've always loved musicals, something amiss nowadays, replaced by films with much violence, sexual overtones, political, science fiction and other action-packed Hollywood offerings. Slowly, my thoughts lingered to refreshing movies with music - The Sound of Music, Carousel, South Pacific, Camelot, My Fair Lady, and Mary Poppins among others. Yes, I particularly mean movie musicals!

Soon enough my memories wafted to the greatest musical collaboration of all time, that of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the most successful legendary songwriting team in musical theatre history. Rodgers wrote the music, and Hammerstein wrote the lyrics. Most of the stage musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein were made into movies, also with phenomenal success, in particular, The Sound of Music.  

At 16, Richard Rodgers (1902-1979) initially wrote a number of successful songs with Lorenz Hart, a partnership that lasted for over twenty years. Hart died in 1943. The same year Rodgers and Hammerstein (1895-1960) teamed up and started their first musical collaboration with Oklahoma! based on a play called 'Green Grow the Lilacs' by Lynn Riggs. Oklahoma! is very different from most musicals written up to that time where they were mainly songs and comedy, with little plot. Usually, the songs had little to do with the story. Oklahoma! has a plot. The songs either help move the plot along or help the audience understand the characters. The story is partly fun and has a serious side too. This is because Rodgers's background was mostly in the old-style, "fun" musicals, while Hammerstein's background was in opera and operetta--more "serious" types of music. When Rodgers worked with Hart, he wrote the music first, and then Hart wrote the lyrics. But in this new team, Hammerstein wrote the lyrics first and Rodgers created the music to fit.

Audiences loved Oklahoma!. It played on Broadway for 2,248 performances, breaking all Broadway box office records for shows until that time. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 1944, which changed the face of stage musicals - an emotional story told through music, dance and lyrics as never before. After Oklahoma! Rodgers and Hammerstein went on to create Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. The impact on these shows for Broadway and amateur stage, both in terms of popular appeal and their influence on other writers, was overwhelming.

Carousel, the duo's next big hit in 1945, had an even more dramatic plot than Oklahoma!. Instead of the usual overture before the show begins, the show opens with the whole cast performing a ballet as the orchestra plays.
South Pacific, written in 1949, and based on 'Tales from the South Pacific' by novelist James A. Michener, is set during World War II. It has the most serious plot of any Rodgers and Hammerstein show because it confronts both war and racism. South Pacific also won the Pulitzer Prize.

The King and I is about conflicts between cultures. It is based on a true story about Anna Leonowens, a British governess who went to Siam (now Thailand) to teach the king's children. Anna finds life in Siam very different from what she is accustomed to, but she and the king come to like each other despite their differences.


Rodgers and Hammerstein's final collaboration was The Sound of Music, in 1959. It is also based on a true story, about a young novice nun who becomes the governess for seven children of a widower, Captain Von Trapp. This musical also has a serious side--it is set in the days of Nazi Germany, and the Von Trapp family's freedom is at stake. The beautiful song "Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music was the last song Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote together. Hammerstein died of cancer on August 23, 1960. After Hammerstein's death, Rodgers wrote other shows with other lyricists, including Stephen Sondheim, but none reached the heights of his work with Hammerstein.

For always, I will relish the most beautiful and poignant legacy of their partnership. How can I forget such immortal, refreshing, and most wonderful hit songs on stage and film history as these:

Oklahoma! - "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," "People Will Say We're in Love," "Many a New Day," "I Can't Say No," and the final rousing chorus of "Oklahoma!" itself.
Carousel - "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "If I loved You."
South Pacific - "There is Nothin' Like a Dame," "This Nearly Was Mine," "Younger Than Springtime" and "Some Enchanted Evening."
The King and I - "Getting to Know You," "I Whistle a Happy Tune," "Something Wonderful" and "Hello, Young Lovers."
The Sound of Music - "Edelweiss," "My Favorite Things", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," "The Lonely Goatherd", as well as the title song.

Who knows, we might yet have another Rodgers and Hammerstein in the making, an anodyne to all these turbulence and disarray in our world today. As I write this, nearby, my sound system is playing Carousel, softly beckoning me to join in. That I never cease listening to their music and at times singing their songs is a privilege. I'm at it now, " ... how I loved you... if I loved you."




Friday, December 29, 2017

The Personality of BEETHOVEN

English: Picture representing Ludwig van Beeth...
Ludwig van Beethoven in 1823 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For the world today, the two most famous classical composers are surely Mozart and Beethoven. In this article, we're going to take a close look at the personality of one of those composers - Beethoven. His life story, trials, and tribulations make for very interesting reading and backed by the soundtrack of his music shows him to be a true and rare genius.

It is widely known that Beethoven had a strong personality and by the first-hand accounts of many of his peers, was rather difficult to get along with or indeed understand. No doubt the great man's deafness and his obsession with hiding the fact contributed to his seemingly strange and obstinate behavior.

Through his music, it is clear for all the world to see that he was a man of high and noble thoughts and ideals although his personal treatment of many of his peers especially critics and moralists was scathing, to say the least. Noted for being a stubborn man his time spent living at the house of Prince Lichnowski's house enabled a select group of people to know him more intimately than most had before.

He would frequently go against protocol and arrive late for dinner, not caring for time or the etiquette of punctuality. Many accounts also take note of his clothes and how he often would appear unkempt and unshaven. For Beethoven, being born a noble was of no real value whatsoever and should entitle you to little automatic respect, those were things a person had to earn through their conduct in life.

The fact that his hearing had started to disappear while still young and with a bright future as a performing pianist ahead of him cannot be underestimated. In his efforts to hide his infirmity it no doubt gave rise to peoples opinion of him as being strange, awkward and a recluse. This fact above all else is responsible for so much of Beethoven's behavior in his later years especially from 1801 onwards when he finally accepted that his condition was incurable.


    Payo Perry is a well recognized online author.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

COLE PORTER - Composer Extraordinaire

Most people know Cole Porter for 1948's Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "Kiss Me Kate." Based on William Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," this was neither Cole Porter's first or last work.

A very accomplished musician, Cole Porter was born to a wealthy pharmacist and his wife on June 9, 1891, in Peru, Indiana. Cole was the only surviving child of three. His siblings died in infancy. His mother doted on him, and she began his musical training at the early age of six with the violin. He began piano at eight, and with the help of his mother wrote his first song, "Song of the Birds," by age ten.

Coleporter.jpg
Cole Porter - Photo: Wikipedia
Even though his talent as a musician was evident at an early age, it was his father's wish for Cole to become a lawyer. Cole went on Yale and Harvard. Cole was never to become a lawyer, however, and at a dean's suggestion, he switched his major to arts and sciences.

Cole wrote his first hit song in 1916, entitled "Esmeralda." This was quickly followed with a taste of failure, however, when his first Broadway production, "See America First," based on a book by Larrason Riggs, ran for only two weeks before closing as a complete flop.

Cole then moved to Paris, France, where he lived on an allowance provided by his mother and grandmother. It was there he met and married Linda Lee Thomas, a wealthy Kentucky born divorcee. The marriage was rumored to be a business arrangement, as he was known throughout his career to have had many male lovers. Many of his hit songs were supposedly written for several of these men.
Although still writing songs, Porter sat out most of the 1920's. Reportedly, he helped with war efforts throughout Europe. He has even joined the French Foreign Legion, and his uniform can still be seen on display today.

Cole Porter reintroduced himself onto Broadway in 1928 with his musical, "Paris." The score included the hit song, "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love."

Continuing to work on Broadway, Porter introduced Ethel Merman in 1935 with "Jubilee," after which he included her in five more of his productions because he loved her brassy voice and wrote songs to showcase this trait. Cole then wrote several musical productions which included Fred Astaire's last stage show, "Gay Divorce," in 1932. Over these years he also worked with Bob Hope and Jimmy Durante.

In 1937, tragedy struck. Cole Porter's legs were crushed during a riding accident. While awaiting rescue, Porter wrote the song "At Long Last Love." Cole was hospitalized for two years and restricted to a wheelchair for five. Over the remainder of his life, this talented musician endured over thirty surgeries to his legs.
During the next twenty years, Cole Porter was nominated for four Oscars. In 1961, he finally won a Grammy for best soundtrack album from a motion picture for 1960's "Can-Can."


"Can-Can" was Cole Porter's last major production. He lived out the rest of his 73 years in relative seclusion, refusing even to attend events held in his honor. Cole Porter followed his wife in death. She died in 1954 from emphysema. He died on October 15, 1964, in Santa Monica, California. He was returned to Peru to be buried at Mount Hope Cemetery between his wife and his father. His mother preceded him in death from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1952. Upon his death, Cole Porter left his 350-acre estate, known as Buxton Hill, to William's College.

Remembered for his sophisticated, sometimes ribald lyrics, clever rhymes and complex forms, Porter was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. His estate continues to bring in revenue in excess of three million dollars per year, which is dispersed among several family members.