Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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More Free Mozart from the Motor City

Today, Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3:00PM EST (GMT -5) you can see another free live webcast from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s MozartFest.  You can watch it here.  Here’s the program:

Overture to Cosi fan Tutte

Bassoon Concerto

Horn Concerto No. 4

Symphony No. 40

The pre-concert talk (2:00PM) will be “Mozart, Wind Players, and Concertos.”

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Free Live Concert Webcast Today: Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and More

Mozart

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra continues its Mozartfest with another free live concert webcast, today at 8:00 PM EST (GMT -5).  You can watch it at http://dso.org/live.  The concert is preceded by a lecture on Mozart in Vienna and Prague, which begins at 7:00 PM.  Other lectures, Mozart as a Citizen of Europe and Mozart’s Overtures can be seen on YouTube.

Here’s the program:

Overture to La Clemenza di Tito
Concertone
Horn Concerto No. 3
Clarinet Concerto

Here you can see a cute little promotional video for the MozartFest.  The Brahmsfest red hedgehogs (and other mascots) make cameo appearances.

And here is the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, conducted by Leonard Slatkin wearing a Mozart wig.

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Image attribution: Detail of Mozart portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce (1736–1819), [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACroce-Mozart-Detail.jpg


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Haiku Wednesday: Gabriel Fauré

Gabriel Faure

Luminous music,
Tender, calm, and so peaceful:
Gabriel Fauré

A requiem that dwells on
Eternal rest and light, peace,
Mercy and welcome.

Grace and elegance,
Music that soothes and comforts:
Gabriel Fauré.

The more I have read about Gabriel Fauré, the more I have wanted to read.  And the more I have listened to his music, the more I have wanted to hear.  What a fascinating fellow!

He was drawn to music at an early age, and was sent to study at a music school in Paris, which in time was headed by Camille Saint-Saëns.  At first, Saint-Saëns was Fauré’s teacher, but the two became close friends.

After graduation, Fauré worked as a church organist…until he showed up one Sunday morning in his evening clothes after partying all night.  Thereafter, he became the organist at a different church.1

He fought in the Siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War and was awarded the Croix de Guerre. 1

After the war, he was choirmaster at Saint-Sulpice, where Charles-Marie Widor was organist.  The church had two organs, and the two would improvise together, trying to trick each other with unexpected key changes.  Saint-Saëns described Fauré as “a first-class organist when he wanted to be.” 1

As a professor at the Paris Conservatory, Fauré taught Maurice Ravel and Nadia Boulanger, among others.  He later became the school’s director, and modernized procedures and updated the curriculum to include works by Debussy and Wagner.  Old-timers were not amused by the inclusion of this newfangled music.  However, the group of contemporary composers known as Les Six adored him. 1

Fauré’s music spanned the period between Romanticism and 20th century music.  His later music hints at the changes that were occurring at the time, away from a fixed tonality and traditional chord progressions, and toward more amorphous harmonies.  His last work was his first string quartet, finished less than two months before he died. 1

An example of Fauré embracing the modern is now a great treasure.  He recorded a number of piano rolls, and through them, we can hear him playing his own music.  At the links you can hear Fauré play his Pavane (Op. 50), a Valse Caprise from Op. 38, a Valse Caprice from Op. 59, and Nocturne No. 7 (Op. 74).

I would be remiss to omit Fauré’s Requiem.  I could write an entire post on it—and I will, because I am currently learning to sing it.  But I need to immerse myself in it more first to be able to adequately describe it to you.  It is a towering work, a giant, but one that whispers.  A deeply emotional work, yet one that Fauré said that he wrote “for nothing—for fun, if I may say so!”2   The Requiem departs from the traditional requiem text, and focuses on eternal rest and perpetual light.  In a way, it is reminiscent of the Brahms German Requiem in its comforting tone.   It is beautiful, and I look forward to singing it and telling you more about it soon.

It is hard to know what to highlight, there are so many works I could present for you.  I’ll pick two.  First, his lovely song Aprés Un Rêve, sung here by Pumeza Matshikiza with pianist Simon Lepper.

And, for now, I leave you with Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine (Op. 11) for orchestra and choir.  Fauré wrote this when he was 19 years old, and it took first prize in a composition competition (imagine his competitors!).

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel_Faur%C3%A9
  2. Letter from Fauré to composer Maurice Emmanuel, quoted in Nectoux, Jean-Michel, Gabriel Fauré – A Musical Life, trans. Roger Nichols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p 116.
  3. http://www.classicfm.com/composers/faure/guides/howard-goodall-gabriel-faure/

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Image attribution:  Photograph of Gabriel Fauré by De Jongh, Lausanne, 1907 [Public domain in US], original held by the Bibliothèque nationale de Francehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Faure1907.jpg


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A Resource for Piano Students: University of Iowa’s Piano Pedagogy Project

piano keys

I started out looking for a Schubert waltz for you today.

In the process, I found the University of Iowa’s Piano Pedagogy Project on YouTube (note: there is a spoken-word video that plays automatically on this page).

Their goal is to provide videos of pretty much the entire beginning and intermediate piano teaching repertoire, eventually reaching around 9,000 videos.  That’s right, 9,000.

What will you see?  Each piece performed neatly and accurately, perhaps a little slower than what you’d see in a performance, with pedaling clearly visible.   Perfect for learning the pieces.

What won’t you see? Overly dramatic renditions of the pieces, played exceedingly fast.  There are no overhead or close-up views of the hands (so you can see the pedaling).  No histrionics, just straight-up piano playing.  Perfect for learning the pieces.

What can you hear?  You can hear Bach preludes and inventions (no fugues—they’re not exactly beginner material), Beethoven dances and sonatinas, some easy Chopin, a host of works by Clementi and Diabelli, Albums for the Young (Schumann and Tchaikovsky), Kabalevsky’s 24 Pieces for Children, Bartok’s Mikrokosmos…you get the idea.  If you’re a piano student (or teacher) you’ll find some familiar contemporary names too, folks who write music for learners, including Vandall, Mier, Alexander, and more.

Why is this resource so cool?  Because when you’re figuring out a new piece of music, you want to hear what it sounds like.  And while you might hear your teacher play it in a lesson, you might not have a recording at home.  Or you might not have access to a teacher at all.

There are plenty of videos and recordings of the complicated stuff.  But for beginning and intermediate level works, they can be harder to find.  And sometimes, amateur recordings by amateur players are…less than optimal.  The performers’ mistakes may become yours.  Bad idea.  That’s why this particular project is a very good idea.

There are playlists on the YouTube page for multi-piece works and some repertoire books, and you can always use the page’s search function to find what’s available.

So if you’re a piano student or teacher, or if there’s a piano student in your family, check it out!

Oh, and here’s that Schubert waltz I promised you, from Sentimental Waltzes, Op. 50, No. 13.

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Image attribution:  Piano keys by Truls (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3APiano_Keys.JPG


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Free Live Webcast This Morning: Mozart!

Mozart wearing cool sunglasses

This morning at 10:45 AM EST (GMT -5) the Detroit Symphony Orchestra presents program 1 of its MozartFest.  You can watch it for free at http://dso.org/live.  Here’s what you will enjoy:

MOZART Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
MOZART Oboe Concerto
MOZART Horn Concerto No. 1
MOZART Sinfonia Concertante


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Discovery of New Chopin Photograph Announced

Newly discovered photograph of Chopin

The Institut Polonais in Paris has announced that a new previously unknown photograph of Frédéric Chopin has been discovered.  The photograph. which was found by Swiss physicist and Chopin enthusiast Alain Kohler in collaboration with Gilles Bencimon of Radio France Internationale, is in the possession of a private collector.  Kohler is also known for locating Chopin’s Pleyel piano.  The Institut Polonais press release (in French) can be found here.

It is stated that the newly found daguerreotype was created in the studio of Louis-Auguste Bisson in or around 1847 (Chopin died in 1849).  The photograph was compared against other known photographs and portraits to evaluate its authenticity, and the circumstantial evidence appears to support the claim.  This would be only the third known photograph of Chopin.  Another was taken by Bisson in 1849 (below, left), and this is the most widely known image.  Another image, poorer in quality, dates from around 1847 (below, right).   Questions have been raised about another photograph, a post-mortem photograph that is said to depict Chopin.

Frederic ChopinFrederic Chopin, c. 1847

References

  1. http://www.institutpolonais.fr/#/event/1731/2
  2. http://slippedisc.com/2017/01/swiss-physicist-finds-new-chopin-photograph/

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Image attribution:  Newly found photograph said to be of Frédéric Chopin, assumed photographer Louis-Auguste Bisson (1847), [Public domain], via http://slippedisc.com/2017/01/swiss-physicist-finds-new-chopin-photograph/ ; 1849 Chopin photograph by Louis-Auguste Bisson, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Frederic_Chopin_photo.jpeg; previously known 1847 image of Chopin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chopin1847_R_SW.jpg .


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Haiku Wednesday: Johann Nepomuk Hummel

Johann Nepomuk Hummel

Let’s all get to know
Johann Nepomuk Hummel—
Best you’ve never heard.

Piano, trumpet,
Viola, bassoon, and flute—
He composed for all.

Enjoy music from
Johann Nepomuk Hummel.
Then go spread the word.

If you don’t know Johann Nepomuk Hummel, here’s a little of what you’ve been missing.  Listen to the third movement of his Trumpet Concerto.

Wow, that’s better than caffeine!  It’s the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and the trumpet soloist is Elmer Churampi.  I love seeing the performers smiling.  Music should be fun!

If you would like to see the entire concerto (different orchestra and soloist), you can see it here.

Hummel was a virtuoso pianist as well as a composer.  As a child, he caught the attention of Mozart, who was so impressed with his ability that he took him into his home and provided him with free lessons for two years, after which he studied with Muzio Clementi in London, and Haydn and Salieri in Vienna.  Hummel was friends with Beethoven and Schubert.  He worked with Haydn at Prince Esterházy’s court.1

Hummel was surrounded by greatness—and that perhaps is part of his anonymity problem.  A star may be bright, but you will never see it when the sun is shining.  Over time, his more stellar contemporaries got more attention, and his works were nearly forgotten.

Hummel’s music is not performed very often, and it is a pity, because he wrote some very enjoyable music.  Here is his Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano (Op. 78).  Bassoon fan?  Here is Hummel’s Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra.  Here is the compelling (and fast fingering-intense) Return to London for piano and orchestra (Op. 127) (oh, did I forget to mention that Carl Czerny was Hummel’s student?).  Finally, I think you will enjoy the charming Rondò brillante in B Minor for piano (Op. 109).

For a detailed account of Hummel’s life and links to videos, performances, and scores, see The Hummel Project webpage.  You can also find more of Hummel’s music on YouTube.  Those who read German may want to visit the website of the Hummel Gesellschaft Weimar.

I hope you have a Hummel-ful day!

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Nepomuk_Hummel
  2. The Hummel Project webpage, http://www.jnhummel.info/en/index.php

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Image attribution:  Engraving of Johann Nepomuk Hummel by Pierre-Roch Vigneron, based on a portrait by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820, [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Nepomuk_Hummel#/media/File:JNHummel_2.jpg . Also viewable at http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b84212189 .