Monday, July 18, 2011

More on Chopin, in the "summer"

On Sunday, July 17, there was a performance of the Berceuse in D-flat Major (Op. 57)  by Frederic Chopin, played by graduated high school senior and entering college student Claire Bobst, at a summer service at the Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA.

Chopin is probably known as the pianist-composer who discovered that it’s easier to plat music on black keys (many sharps or many flats) than on the ivory.

A Berceuse is a lullaby. This work, like the Barcarolle, tends to sound a bit repetitious (it runs over a triplet-based ground bass) and, to my ear, even trite, compared to Chopin’s “big” piano works – the sonatas, ballades, and “scherzos”.    Chopin was actually very effective with large sonata forms.  The etudes work for me, too.  But – a lullaby is supposed to lull one to sleep, maybe.  It’s "summer in the city". 

In high school, I did have a Columbia recording of Istomin playing the Nocturnes, and the best of those to my ear was the unusually-formatted G Minor.  I remember listening to them during chess games “in the basement.”

Jeffrey Lee plays the work on YouTube here

Something else I noticed about summer services:  In summer, people come to the “contemporary” services in gymnasiums and fill them up. This one was low key, in a sanctuary, so not so well attended. Next week will probably be a different matter. 

Picture: "Summer" on Mt. Washington, NH (60 degrees F, actually, July 11). 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Josh Groban dazzles Capitol Fourth with "The War at Home"

I attended the Capitol Fourth on the West Lawn Monday night, Independence Day.

Jimmy Smits hosted the concert. I sat on the south side. This year, a reserved paid section had the best seats in the center front.

The National Anthem was harmonized in an unusual and creative way. I’ve always thought that the “Star Spangled Banner” is a little dull and can use some polytonality.

The highlight of the evening for me was the three songs by sung (and played at piano) by Josh Groban, with his own original “The War at Home” particularly passionate and “postromantic”, as well as two other numbers.

Josh Groban Corner Pubs offers this YouTube video:

Matthew Morrison (Glee) sung an “aria” from the “The Light in the Piazza” (a big movie soon?)
Just before the fireworks show, the Million Dollar Quartet from the famous 1956 jam session in Memphis performed.

Steve Martin (“The Spanish Prisoner”) headed up a country and western sing along worthy of the old Magnolia’s TP (that’s not toilet paper) in Dallas (now called the Round-Up).

As usual, the concert ends with the closing pages of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, sung here with Russian Cossacks. It’s always sounded a little anti-patriotic to me.

The best PBS link is here

Afterwards, I picked up the end of the New York City Macy’s  concert (on the East River) at Remington’s on PA Ave.  Here is the basic link  Although the article says the barges were located around 42nd St, at appeared that the cauliflower or jellyfish-shaped fireworks lined up all the way down to Battery Park and out to the Statue of Liberty (in NJ).  Did people watch this from “Bargemusic” (off the Brookly Heights Promenade, under the Brooklyn Bridge)?   It ended with “God Bless America”, without Kate Smith.