Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Post number 200!

If you haven't noticed, I enjoy milestones, even the insignificant ones. We've had a few anniversaries here, like the 50th piece I shared, the one-year anniversary (for which was written the About Me post, the one-year-anniversary music post, and the reminiscing post, and we are coming up on the 100th music post, but for now, this is the 200th post in the blog's history. We've had Thoughts posts, resources, the On This Day series, which is soon going to get shaken up a bit, the German(ic) Symphonies Series, which was extremely exciting, as well as concert reviews. There's also been a series I intended to start that has only yet had one installment, and it's the Influential People post, about Ms. Nadia Boulanger, and actually made specifically just to write about her. I've been thinking of who else to write about in that series, but we'll get there eventually.
Not to be neglected is the MYCU (which intentionally looks like a university name, but stands for Music You Can Understand). That title isn't meant to be condescending or belittling, but it contains examples of classical music that I find to be very enjoyable, but also quite straightforward and easy to appreciate. It could just as well have been called Gateway Drugs to Classical Music, but let's not.
So those are the things to look forward to as we continue in our 201st post and after. I already have a ton of stuff in mind, and I would love (more readers and) some feedback and interaction and maybe even some requests or dialogue. That could be fun. I have a few other series in the works like the German(ic) one, but those are tiring and I need to decide when I'm ready to set aside two months (actually more like three and a half) for them.
See you soon!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Concert Etiquette

This is necessary.

as a member of the audience, taken low and against my chest so as not to disturb others
As posted last week, I attended a concert a number of months ago (that I just now got around to talking about) where some fancy nouveau riche family in their gaudy clothes and balcony seats let their little brat children talk through the entire performance. It may not be a special occasion for you, but some of us come to the symphony to enjoy it. It is a special occasion. Speaking 100% realistically, every concert, no matter how bland or awful or plain, is an event that will never again in your lifetime happen again. Even if performances are scheduled back to back, minute differences in not only the performers and their moods and the conductor and his, the temperature and lighting and the weather, but also the onlookers, no one show will ever be repeated, for better or worse, and when I go, I want to be able to enjoy it.
If I wanted to hear you crinkling with something in your purse or chatting with someone, I'd go sit on a bus or in a cafe. I paid money for a ticket, and I want to sit in respectful quiet and enjoy what the ensemble or performer(s) have worked to prepare and perform.
For you first-timers, let's do a quick run down of what you should know and do for your first symphony visit.
  1. Be early- Have plenty of time to get there, find parking, find the entrance, whatever else. You may also be surprised to find a talk before the performance introducing the piece(s) being performed, or just enjoy a walk around the hall. 
  2. Dress respectfully- Unless it's a special occasion, the symphony is generally not a black-tie affair. Wear what you might wear to a nice-ish restaurant, no tie necessary, but certainly not out of the question if you want to dress up. I wear (nice, dark) jeans with a sweater or jacket to the symphony, but that's about as casual as I'll get. No shorts. 
  3. Find your seats early- That doesn't mean you have to sit there for twenty minutes before the program starts. Find them, and then get up and walk around or stand outside for a while before it begins. You'll be sitting for a couple of hours anyway. Get (back) to your seat and

Monday, January 26, 2015

On this day: week of January 26, 2015

You'll notice that February isn't included in this week, even though it should go till Sunday. You'll see what's up with that on Sunday. 
January 26
1595  Antonio Maria Abbatini, Italian composer (d. 1679)
1708  William Hayes, English organist, composer, and conductor (d. 1777)
1900  Karl Ristenpart, German conductor (d. 1967)
1911 – Norbert Schultze, German composer (d. 2002)
1945 – Jacqueline du Pré, English cellist (d. 1987)
1981 – Gustavo Dudamel, Venezuelan violinist, composer, and conductor
1795  Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, German composer (b. 1732)
1998  Shinichi Suzuki, Japanese violinist and educator (b. 1898)

January 27
1756  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Austrian composer (d. 1791)
1806  Juan Crisóstomo Arriaga, Spanish composer (d. 1826)
1823  Édouard Lalo, French composer (d. 1892)
1869  Will Marion Cook, American violinist and composer (d. 1944)
1885 – Eduard Künneke, German composer (d. 1953)
1895  Joseph Rosenstock, Polish conductor (d. 1985)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ravel: Bolero

performed by the London Symphony Orchestra under Claudio Abbado

MYCU: Part 6

In one swift stroke of genius, I wrote a wonderful post about this piece, and then Blogger ate it. I am livid. Thankfully, I have most of it still in mind. Thanks for nothing, technologies. 

From Wikipedia: Ida Rubinstein, the inspiration behind Boléro. Portrait by Valentin Serov.

I had to check with a friend to make sure this wouldn't sound weird, but there's basically two things you need to know about this piece, and they are as follows:
  1. It's a fantastic treatise in orchestration
  2. It's like, the sexiest piece of classical music ever.
Let me explain. 
The piece began as a commission for Ravel from the above scantily-clad ballet dancer Ida Rubinstein. She wanted him to orchestrate at least parts of Isaac Albéniz's Iberia for a ballet. He'd done some ballets before, and was apparently keen on the idea. Turns out a guy named Enrique Arbós had already done that, and there were copyright laws, although Arbós was willing to waive them for
Ravel. Ravel decided against it and turned to picking one of his own already-written pieces to orchestrate and prepare, and then he decided not even to do that. One day on vacation, he played, with one finger, a little melody to his friend and said the following:
Don't you think this theme has an insistent quality? I'm going to try and repeat it a number of times without any development, gradually increasing the orchestra as best I can.
Ravel is a genius. But yeah, that was the idea. And he pretty much stuck to his word. It premiered in 1928 in Paris to overwhelming acclaim. It is one of Ravel's last works before failing health forced him retire. There are only a few pieces published after this, two of which, notably are his two piano concertos. The background, or performance notes for the piece at the premiere were different

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


or the 2014 concert of the music department of the best music school in Taiwan.

I have kind of a tenuous relationship with this university. It's the one that a lot of foreigners attend to study Chinese when they move here, but their music department is generally regarded as the best in the country. I took piano lessons for a few years with a frighteningly talented and very friendly student at this university, and have been able to meet and stay in touch with a few others; it's also like a block away from my office and makes me feel like I know a bit more about what's going on in the musical scene. All part of the community. 
So when I saw they were having their annual concert (perhaps more than one a year?) I was eager to attend. I went the year before and they played Rachmaninoff's second symphony, and it was quite wonderful. I don't remember what else was on the program, but I was eager to attend. This year's program was as follows.