Sunday, July 14, 2019

CD of Finnish piano music, most of it (except for the Sibelius Romance) obscure



Saturday I purchased a CD (old fashioned now) of Piano Music from Finland, “Pianomusiikkia Suomesta” played by Craig Randal Johnson, at the Finnish American Heritage Associate museum in Ashtabula, Ohio.

The CD, on the Tonttu label, has 26 tracks.

The first composition was Pelimannit, Op. 1, Einojuhan Rauyavaara (1928-).

The six movements have a lot of modal but decisive harmonies in loud, bell-like chords that work very well on a modern high-end “Piano Forever” like on the teen’s YouTube channel.

Next is Arnas Janefelt (1869-1958), a tender Berceuse.

There follow two pieces by Leevi Madetoja (1887-1947), “An Old Memory”, and another Berceuse.

The most popular composer, Jan Sibelius (1865-1957), follows with “The Spruce Tree”, Op. 75 #5, followed by the famous Romance in Db, Op. 24, #9, which sounds a bit like late Chopin.


There follows the longest work of the CD, “The Melancholy Garden” by Erkki Melerin, Op. 52, five pieces including a middle lullaby.

Then Martl Tuhkl (1919-2002), the first recording of the Romance Fantasy.

Joonas Kollojen is dissonant and Webern-like enough with the Five Bagatelles.
Erik Bergman (1911-) gets rowdy with the dissonance in two movements from “The Voyage of Christopher Columbus”.
  
Selim Palmgren (1878-1951) closes the disc with the quiet “May Night”, Op. 24, #4.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Mahler's "Songs of a Wayfarer" on piano



July 7 was Mahler’s birthday (159). July 10 this year in my own 76th.

Given my upcoming travels, I thought I would present the sheet music piano version of the early song cycle, “Songs of a Wayfarer” (with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau).  In German, it is “Leider eines fahrenden Gesellen”.  There is an orchestral version also.

  
Two of the songs appear in Mahler’s First Symphony (in the slow movement).  Note how the first song oscillates between 2/4 and 3/8.  It’s rather interesting to look at Mahler’s composition on the piano.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

"Why Is Mozart Genius"? Because his music makes sense



Why Is Mozart Genius?


The two-part video comes from “Inside the Score”.

Mozart could start with the simple and make it inevitable, like it had always existed.

Mozart made a living mainly as a pianist and performer.  Most of his composing was freelance. I presume that means commissions, but not from one dependable source. 
     
Salieri and Haydn, on the other hand, made money on the court. Salieri, by comparison, seems trite and mundane most of the time.

The video discusses the play and movie “Amadeus” about a fictitious plot by Salieri.

The second video explains how Mozart combined chromaticism with diatonism.  Yet in a few of the late quarters and quintets, he achieved harmonic density that sounds almost Schoenbergian (like the slow movement of the D Major Quintet, or the Finale of the F Major Quartet).

A friend at that lost semester at William and Mary always said, Mozart “makes sense” and is “the real music.”
  
Mozart stopped making an income in 1789 and died in 1791.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

How does piano music fit in at senior centers?


Here is a story some people find touching


This is “pop” music and I know the video is intended to say something about encouraging social life in senior centers, which I would not fit in very well with.

But would assisted living centers really invite accomplished pianists to perform?

Friday, June 28, 2019

Beethoven's pivotal Piano Concerto #3, with romanticism to follow



I mentioned Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #3 in C Minor, Op 37, in a post yesterday, and it does bring back memory of my own coming of age.

Back in the fall of 1959, I had started eleventh grade and I remember getting a low price record of this work, which took up the whole disc despite its 35-minute length. The program notes said that this work was still in the world of Mozart and Haydn.

Yet the first movement has some melodrama to be sure, with a powerful climax after the cadenza.

But I can remember some interesting play with the interval of the fourth in the second theme, that would stick in my head as I read (for an English class book report) James Fenimore Cooper’s “The Deerslayer” (which had been a movie recently then), the passage about the ark on a hidden pond, and got ready write a term paper about Cooper’s treatment of women later in the academic year.  It wasn’t too progressive or woke by today’s cultural standards.  So I can place getting the record in the fall of 59 with that old RCA Victor record player in the basement.

This was one of the first major piano concertos in a minor key (after Mozart’s D Minor, #20) where the finale ends in the parallel, Picardy major. Yet here the finale doesn’t have the “big tune” idea that we would soon have in romantic piano concerti (Grieg’s would be one of the first to do this.)

The performance about is by Arthur Rubenstein and the Concetgebouw, a staple pianist during my own early days (then on RCA Victor).

The Piano Concerto #3 was composed around 1800, just before Beethoven’s hearing loss became more troublesome.  Four years later would come the triumph of the Symphony #5, but the whole finale is in the major key, not just the coda.
  
The Piano Concerto #3 also reminds me a bit of the Brahms First Concerto.  The slow movement of #3, in the mediant key of E Major, is the most adventurous harmonically, and there is an enharmonic transition back to C Minor for the Rondo theme of the finale.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Chloe Flower mixes classical with popular at Grammy's




Chloe FlowerGet What U Get”, Chopin adaptation, from the “Grammy's”, followed by Beethoven.


Later the end of the First Movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #3 in C Minor comes into play. I’ll do another post on that piece soon as it was important during my own “coming of age” and the first movement has an unusually compelling climax as Beethoven breaks out of his classicism and predicts his future compositions.

I've never been a fan of copying classical music into popular, although now even the opening theme of Bruckner's 5th is in a disco song. 
   
Chloe gave an interview on YouTube here.  Shame on the Today Show for letting its video “expire”. That’s mainstream media.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Bach passed away just before finishing his last fugue, and didn't write his usual inscription to God (his son did it for him)


A friend wrote to me:


“Bach finished each of his manuscripts with the words Soli Deo gloria—“Glory to God alone.” He failed, however, to write these words on his last manuscript, “Contrapunctus 14,” from The Art of Fugue, which abruptly stops mid-measure. His son C.P.E. added these words to the score: “Über dieser Fuge … ist der Verfasser gestorben” (“At this point in the fugue … the composer died”). Bach’s life and work merged with his prayers as he breathed his last breath.”

I am told this comes from Arthur C. Brooks in the Atlantic.  I coukdn't find that, but he does connect Bach to the modern "free market" in music, like Washington Post article here (and how composers work today). 

The piece is in D minor according to my piano.  It ends abruptly, midstream, as the composer died, but before the last quiet chord.
  
Glenn Gould, who was a popular Bach pianist in the early 1960s on Columbia records (he used piano, not harpsichord, especially the five "piano concertos".) 

Bach had many children and composed every week for church services for a living.  In a sense, he had a permanent commission.  Today's composers should be so lucky.