Thursday, July 31, 2014

Schubert symphony no. 2 in Bb, D. 125

performed by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields under Sir Neville Marriner



In honor of the late Maestro Lorin Maazel, the above video is a recording he did with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. I haven't listened to the whole thing, but the first movement is crisp and clean, at at a much brisker pace than Marriner's version with the ASMF, which I quite adore. 
Lorin Maazel (March 6, 1930 - July 13, 2014)

I am pleased and surprised at how much I have begun to enjoy the more traditionally classical, less Romantic (or extremely early ‘pre-Romantic) symphonies. This one has been in my rotation for quite some time. In fact, a few weeks ago in Hong Kong, I had it going while I walked into the Peninsula hotel for their famous afternoon tea. Turns out I was way early for afternoon tea, so I had lunch, then an afternoon cocktail then afternoon tea. And it also turns out they had a quintet or something playing in a balcony upstairs, so I did away with the headphones and enjoyed the live music. Arrangements of Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, and then other stuff I didn't recognize. It was quite pleasant, but I associate the entire affair with music like this. It is proper, clean, well-arranged, and just downright enjoyable. 
Just the other day I listened to the last symphony Mozart left to the world, which he himself

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Completed: A month of compositional efforts

I tweeted about this a few weeks ago. I decided that for the month of June, I would write SOMETHING on a staff every day. 
The idea behind it was the idea behind my early attempts at photography (I’m colorblind, so there’s that) : if I take 30 photographs of this one thing/person/place/event, and then another 30 from a different angle, etc., there’s BOUND to be a good (or even usable) one in the bunch. Cast a wide net. 
Some days I only got two bars of the treble staff on the piano done, and poorly. Other days, I managed to get down fifteen or twenty bars of really quite usable music (in my opinion; someone said a good composer doesn’t like his own work, so I shouldn’t say I like it I guess, but I was pleasantly pleased with the result in a few cases). 
It's nothing to be proud of at this point, and the only thing I feel accomplished about is that I stuck to my plan and got some results. At this point, the goal was quantity, not quality. And not even really quantity, just consistency. I tried different things and when they clearly didn't work, I tried to hash out why, and fix them, or make adjustments, or learn what adjustments could be made. It was a fantastic learning process. 
I've talked before about my thoughts on different people's ideas of composing: how Tchaikovsky was such a lyricist but had issues with the concept of a symphony, how Beethoven was a master of developing such small motifs, how Shostakovich claimed that composing should be done and completed as a mental process before setting pen to paper, but how Ravel described it as "75% an intellectual activity." 
So... Taking that all into consideration, at least from my position as an aspiring amateur,

Monday, July 28, 2014

On this day: Week of July 28, 2014

Another week of dates and numbers here. While the process of preparing this is quite interesting and educational, it is also tedious, and I will be glad when we get around to early next year and I won't be redoing these anymore...
Also, lots of famous deaths this week... kind of sad.

July 28 
Births:
1893 – Rued Langgaard, Danish composer and organist (d. 1952) 
1914 – Carmen Dragon, American conductor and composer (d. 1984) You may understand why I was a bit incredulous at this name, and then somewhat also surprised to see it was a man. 
Deaths:
1741 – Antonio Vivaldi, Italian violinist and composer (b. 1678). Only like, super important. 
1750 – Johann Sebastian Bach, German organist and composer (b. 1685). Ditto... Would it be too much to call him like, the father of the traditions of classical music?
2012 – Colin Horsley, New Zealand-English pianist (b. 1920)

July 29
Births:
1646 – Johann Theile, German composer (d. 1724)
1817 – Martin K├Ârber, Baltic German pastor, composer, and conductor (d. 1893)
1846 – Sophie Menter, German pianist and composer (d. 1918)
1887 – Sigmund Romberg, Hungarian-American pianist and composer (d. 1951)
Deaths:
1844 – Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart, Austrian pianist, composer, and conductor (b. 1791)
1856 – Robert Schumann, German composer (b. 1810)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ives Symphony no. 2

performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta

below recording of Leonard Bernstein with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra:

(please note that these parts are not arranged in any relation to the movements, just 15 minute cuts)

We've never done Ives before. I'm excited about this one, and although... I have not listened to many of Ives's other compositions aside from his symphonies 3 and 4, I feel at least in comparison to his fourth, this piece is probably more... approachable. In fact, at this website, which we will be referring to a bit later as well, Scott Mortensen says that this symphony is
the pinnacle of Ives' success as a respectable composer. By "respectable," I mean that in this symphony Ives was working within the confines of a clearly defined formal tradition. More broadly speaking, by "respectable" I also mean that this work sounds more acceptable to folks regularly listen to Romantic composers like Brahms, Dvorak, and Tchaikovsky. In fact, people who usually don't like Three Places in New England--much less the Fourth Symphony--often point to the Second and hold it up as something a bit more palatable--Ives without the cranky eccentricities.
There are certainly modern things about it, but it is also clearly the endeavor of a very

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Ensemble: the viola

An interview with Jessica Wyatt

Photo courtesy Gillian Gamble

I'm so glad to have our second interview for our (roughly) monthly series on the members and sections of the orchestra. 

Part of the reason I am always beyond thrilled and giddy to prepare and read these is that I just love people who know what they're talking about. It is so exciting to me to hear people speak on what they are passionate about and know intimately, and our guest today, Ms. Wyatt, has wonderfully insightful answers to my questions about the viola.  You can have a look at her website here

While the viola has been described as "the Cinderella of the strings," Ms. Wyatt assures us that it is an exciting, challenging and beautiful part of the orchestra, and I was thrilled to have a chance to hear her insight on her instrument of choice. 

I'm so glad to have you with us here today, Jess. Let's get started! 

1.  What is your first memory of the viola? Is it what you started on? Tell us about that decision.
My first memory of the viola is when my violin teacher asked me, aged 10, whether I would like to play the viola and explained to me what it was – that it was like a bigger and deeper version of a violin. She must have played something to me on her viola, but oddly I don’t remember that very clearly... I remember asking my parents, and them agreeing