Thursday, February 26, 2015

Centenniel Music Post: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3 in Dm, op. 30

performed by the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin under Riccardo Chailly; Martha Argerich, piano

This is intimidating. I guess everything about this piece is except for listening to it, and sometimes even that. 
There’s so. much. to. say. about this piece that I almost don’t want to try. There are so many theses, recordings, liner notes, program notes, concert talks and everything else about this piece that it would be ludicrous for me to think I have anything else to add but my own opinion and feelings of the piece, so that's pretty much all I'm going to share, aside from some basics. For the technical bits (as technical as we'll get), please watch Nikolai Lugansky's introduction above about the main themes in the piece and how all three movements are really quite unified in their use and treatment of the basic ideas in the work. If you read nothing else below, watch the above introduction a few times, and listen to the concerto as a scavenger hunt of sorts for the themes Lugansky presented in all their various appearances and forms.
Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto was used to commemorate our one-year anniversary back in October. This piece marks our 100th music post, and I figured this piece was as good as any for a centennial. In short, my real concerted study of music began with piano lessons and an effort to come to understand and be familiar with as much of the piano repertoire as possible. On the (one of my first if not the very) first piano lesson, I asked my piano teacher for some recommendations for what I should begin to be familiar with, what every music student or aficionado knows and loves and should be familiar with. I'd already started listening to lots of Chopin's works for piano. She wrote down "Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos 2 and 3" but emphasized especially the third. I went home and checked it out. All 40-plus minutes of it washed over me a few times, and it felt like homework the first few go-rounds, but I was kind of just blown away by the magnitude of the work, not necessarily in its length, but its content. 
Lugansky above talks about some of the main themes that show up, the things you should listen for and identify in the piece, but each of them struck me as so beautiful that it seemed like this one piece of music in three movements covered so much ground... only with more listenings do you

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

100 pieces of music and filling in the gaps

This post was going to be some really detailed information about the cadenza for Thursday's centennial piece, but then I decided I didn't know enough about it, and that I'd like to leave Thursday's centennial piece as it is.
It was then going to be some reflections on the idea of the centennial itself, and then I thought that's a bit silly. I've already had some "reflect on milestone" posts, and I'm getting the idea I'm the only one reading this thing anyway.
Then I thought about not thinking about what it's going to be about, and here we are.
I've been doing lots of thinking lately about the blog, and planning WAY in advance what it is I'm going to talk about, but that's been at the expense of a few things:

  1. Last minute concerts and pieces that will be performed there. 
  2. My revisits
  3. Other little minor things I may want to cover, like itsy bitsy Satie pieces or something. 
I am debating what to do about this... We've already reached music post number 100, which is in a few days. Our On this Day series has now become a monthly post (I'm re-posting the content from the previous weekly posts, and from here on out [as in next year] won't repost those posts, only refer to them or have them catalogued for easy reference. It would get messy otherwise). 
So that means we don't have a Monday series any longer. I may use Monday to resist the few dozen old pieces I did a really poor job of back when the blog started. I may also do like, a series

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Frank Bridge: piano sonata

performed by Ashley Wass (?) (per the YouTube video info)

(Hexameron has apparently not uploaded the second movement...)
(There was another fantastic performance of this piece in its entirety up on YouTube, but apparently has since been taken down. That's very unfortunate.)

This piece...
Do you ever have music that you love so much, or that's so deeply touching, that you can only listen to it on rare occasions? Something so powerful, or so emotional (hard-hitting or sorrowful or beautiful or whatever way) that you can't take it more than once every now-and-then, and any attempts to explain or voice or vocalize your feelings toward the piece seem futile?
This is why it's taken me until now to write about this piece, and why, despite how much I love it, it will probably still be a short post.
Another reason is that there's just not a whole lot of information available on this piece, AND the fact that it's a 30-plus minute work that I have NOT taken the time to analyze in any form or fashion. I am not really going to be able to tell you about structure, key changes, modulation, motifs, or anything like that, even less so than in our 'normal' posts.
I feel like... I understand this piece on a level or in a way that isn't musical, if that makes sense. In listening to some of the pieces I'm preparing for March and April (and beyond), it is very apparent that they're very musical. Their ideas and their beauty rest in gorgeous (either simple or very rich) harmonies, lyricism, contrast, cleanliness, and a sort of musical propriety and politeness (some of them), while others are the exact opposite, but the expression, I feel the agenda of some of the pieces, is largely musical.
That is not to say that what I hear in this sole piano sonata from Frank Bridge isn't musical. The man was a genius. I know very little about him, but he seems to have just oozed with talent in all areas of music. To be honest, this is the only piece of his I've heard in its entirety. Let's talk a teeny bit about him first, to try to put the work in context.
First, you may want to listen to this wonderful hour-long presentation of the man and his work, from the BBC. I was hoping for something more specifically related to this work, but it does a good job of putting this one piece in the context of what came before and after it. It's a great listen.
The obvious other resource is Wikipedia. Perhaps the most significant highlights or reference points in his career are that he studied under Charles Villiers Stanford, and that he privately tutored Benjamin Britten, who apparently (as I suppose he should have) spoke very highly of him. He also received support (or "patronage") of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Those seem to be the only names from his article that would make a big standout impression.
Wikipedia describes his earlier output (perhaps that of his twenties, from 1900 or so?) as "Edwardian," and it gained the greatest attention from most people. Britten was born in 1879, and was an Englishman. For some reason or other, I think of him as the English Hindemith, but hopefully not just because they were both violists. Bridge also played the violin, and held posts

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Concert Review: 葉孟儒 2015 Recital

I wouldn't necessarily describe it as rare, per se, that one sees works of Alexander Scriabin on a recital program. I'd heard his piano works on at least two other occasions before this one, and was excited then, so when I saw the program for this recital months ago with three of Scriabin's sonatas on the program, I immediately bought a ticket.

Andrei Yeh is the same gentleman that so exquisitely played Rachmaninoff's Paganini Variations back in December with the Taipei Philharmonic. I was blown away by that performance. It was one of those few times when something feels at once passionate and effortless. It was perfection. Aside from the foot-tapping. Concert halls are made for good acoustics, and the sound of hard-soled shoes tapping (in time, of course) on hardwood floors tends to make it around the auditorium. 
In any case, I recognized the gentleman's name and was excited to go. 
I had perhaps one of the best seats in the house, aside from the young man to my left and his problems with sweaty palms and flatulence. That aside, it was the best place to be. Front row of the balcony, just slightly stage right of center. Awesome seat. 
It seems Mr. Yeh studied in the 1990s in Russia under Lev Naumov, quite a famous classical pianist with quite an impressive list of students who are also quite impressive themselves. We were greeted on the stage that evening with two easels, one holding a large

Monday, February 16, 2015

On this day: Week of February 16, 2015

... and all the rest of February. 
So it marks actually more than a year now that we've been doing these weekly posts, and so I've decided that I'll just be posting them monthly. Here's how it'll go. 
I started on February 11, 2014. I was NOT going to spend my weekend a few weeks ago (1/31) preparing two weeks of this stuff, so starting today (from the first weekly post of last year), they'll be monthly: on the first day of the month for the entire month, divided up by week. That's how it's going to go now. I may change it later. So here we go: February 16-28, 2015.

Feb 17: 
1653 – Arcangelo Corelli, Italian violinist and composer
1820 – Henri Vieuxtemps, Belgian violinist and composer
1887 – Leevi Madetoja, Finnish composer (I like the Finns. Should check this guy out)
1925 – Ron Goodwin, English composer and conductor
1652 – Gregorio Allegri, Italian composer 
1732 – Louis Marchand, French organist and composer
1841 – Ferdinando Carulli, Italian guitarist and composer
1943 – Armand J. Piron, American violinist and composer
1962 – Bruno Walter, German-American conductor. Mahler's right hand man for a while. 
1970 – Alfred Newman, American composer and conductor
1982 – Thelonious Monk, American pianist and composer (Not so classical, but it’s Thelonius Monk)

Feb 18:
1632 – Giovanni Battista Vitali, Italian composer and violinist
1732 – Johann Christian Kittel, German organist and composer 
1850 – George Henschel, German-English opera singer, conductor, and composer
1902 – Walter Herbert, German-American conductor
1921 – Oscar Feltsman, Ukrainian-Russian composer
1939 – Marek Janowski, Polish-German conductor