Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Brahms Handel Variations and Fugue, an old favorite of mine




The Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, Op. 24, by Johannes Brahms, was one of my favorite piano compositions when I was a teen.  Could I really play it? 

  
The work is known for its very formal structure, with its observation of repeats. Wikipedia offers one of the largest and detailed formal analytic writeups of the work for anything in piano literature, with the full score. The entire score will display on a Google search!  This is an example of “orchestral” piano writing.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Humpback whales compose music!


Jackie Lay (and producer Ed Young) demonstrated in a short video on Vox how humpback whales can compose music, here .

Musical elements merge into phrases and themes, just as in human music.


In the late 60s, scientists started tracing evolution of whale music mixes around Australia.

The video also shows some primate culture.

It's pretty obvious you can make a video about bird songs. But the whales seem capable of collective or collaborative composition. 

Wikipedia attribution link, photo by Wwelles, CCSA 3.0 
  
Whale watching songs link

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Reger's overwhelming piano variations and fugue on Bach


Schiff plays the 34-minute work, “Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Bach”, Op. 81, by Max Reger.


The original melody is Bach’s Cantata #128, “Auf Christi Himmelfahrt Allein”.

The music is somewhat like Brahms’s big piano variation works, but here the scale is extraordinary.
  
 At the end the piano strives to mimic an entire orchestra.  Reger sometimes ventured into extreme chromaticism, but the entire work is in B minor with triumphant B Major close. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Some selections from Brahms' Choral Preludes for Organ, Op 122, his last opus


On Sunday, January 28, 2018 organist Lon Schreiber performed at least two of the eleven choral preludes for organ that constitute Johannes Brahms’s last opus, 122.


The prelude was #7, in A Minor, “Oh God, Thou Faithful God”.  The postlude was #1, “My Jesus Leadeth Me”, in E Minor.

The style is intricate and reminds one of Bach, as perhaps some of the style of the Fourth Symphony.

The offertory was “Blessed Ye Who Live in Faith Understanding”, which I could not find as a prelude of the set.  The anthem was “O Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”, which I could not match online.
  

Schreiber also composes modern harmonizations to hymns, sometimes with a Sowerby flavor.  

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Partita on Toulon by Gerhard Krapf, and then some "controversy"


Sunday morning, at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA, organist Carol feather Martin played the Partita on Toulon by professor Gerhard Krapf.

I couldn’t find it on YouTube, but there is a performance by Krapf of a Reger Fugue, performed at the University of Iowa, supposedly the only University tracker organ in the U.S.


The work comprised a Toccata, Siciliano, Cavatina, Fanfare, and Finale, in the key of F Major. The music has polyphony like Bach but with more modern dissonances. It sounds more like a full blooded organ symphony than a “suite”.

There was also an anthem with piano, “Psalm 139” by Allen Pote.




Both the children’s sermon and later the full sermon by Judith Fukp-Eickstaedt focused on “Cultivating Gratitude: For Life, For the Wonder of the Human Body”. There were slides that show the complexity of organ systems (as if from Shaun Murphy’s savant visions on “The Good Doctor”), with some statistics on neurons and synapses in the human brain that still dwarf any computer (it is speculated that a quantum computer running in a cold environment like on Titan, a moon of Saturn, might some day recreate human intelligence artificially). She also said that people cannot always be held responsible for their own physical issues, and seemed to point specifically at fat-shaming, such as we have heard from Donald Trump and especially MiloYiannopoulos (she barely escaped naming names). This particular congregation has outstanding young people (high school to college), that does international missions, and that is quite well-informed in the culture wars (it found another sponsor than World Vision for its 30 Hour fast).  

Sunday, January 14, 2018

New York Philharmonic will play Bruckner Ninth in April with Eschenbach, but it appears to be the three movement version


The New York Philharmonic is performing Bruckner’s Symphony #9 on late April (from 20 to 24) with Christoph Eschenbach, along with Mozart’s 22nd Piano Concerto. 

The notes online (along with the two-hour concert time including intermission for the entire program) tend to suggest that this is “only” the three-movement version.  
I don’t know yet whether I will go or buy tickets in advance.  But in this day, why not make the effort to play the complete work?  Bruckner nearly completed it.  The completions (essentially added codas) of Samale et a (2011) and Letocart are the two best (and offer different concepts of what Bruckner intended, but both concepts work artistically and emotionally and are argued for reasonably well in detailed notes by the composers). 
  

I do agree that symphony orchestras now ought to present a complete work.  (But that really can be done with Schubert’s Unfinished).  

Friday, January 05, 2018

Andy Borowitz and "The End of Trump" monologue


Andy Borowitz and his eight-minute stage monologue play, “The End of Trump” (from “The New Yorker”). 

Borowitz proposes his own mass-movement, “Elitism”.


“Our country used to be smart”.  But we did it with the help of a Nazi, he said.   

Then we discovered Sarah Palin ("Game Change" on HBO). 

House Puerto Rican refugees in Mar a Lago? Hosting?
  
He wants to send Mike Pence to women’s prison (hang ‘em all).  He wants Trump guarded by transgender troops and sharing a prison sell with El Chapo.