Monday, June 18, 2018

Why did Stenhammar "withdraw" his F-Major Symphony #1? It is literally Brahms plus Bruckner-Wagner, combined in one style



Swedish composer-piano Wilhelm Stenhammar would turn his back on his own Symphony #1 in F Major (1903), written at the age of 32.  He called it “idealized Bruckner” but later in life as he sought a more personalized idiom (which I have said reminds me of Amy Beach) he came to think of this as a “trivial piece” for all its 55 minutes.  Wikipedia lists it as “withdrawn”.  I guess Stenhammar did perceive his entire compositional output as one continuous process piece gradually getting “less bad”.  I don’t think Stenhammar wanted to give up on German romanticism. He wanted to fuse it into an indivisible whole. (Note: he composed his first piano sonata when he was nine years old.)

Yet, I have a Records International CD somewhere with the Gothenberg Sympnony under Jarvi – and I see I discussed it a little on Oct 7, 2007 here.

The YouTube version seems to be a different performance, with some elaborations of the codas.


Does this sound more like Brahms than Bruckner?  Most of the time it does.  It frankly reminds me of the Brahms Third, in the same key – F Major is the most pastoral of keys. But the orchestration uses the horns and other brass in a manner similar to Bruckner and Wagner, sometimes even Mahler, which produces an odd effect when combined with Brahms-like syncopated triple time a lot. The first movement starts out oh so gently, finally reaching a second subject, but manages to work itself up for a triumphant coda.  The second movement in A Minor will remind you of the Allegretto of the Beethoven Seventh at first, and then the A Minor slow movement of the Schubert Great (the same rhythmic figures), before it quotes a 3-note rising theme that does come from Bruckner (forget which symphony) in the horns.  The gentleness continues in the scherzo in B-flat.

The finale seems to return to the first movement material, but with faster tempi and fugal treatment, yet sometimes sounding Schubertian. (That’s all right; a lot of the completed finale of the Bruckner Ninth has Schubert-“Great” passagework.) The modulations to remote keys get daring.  After the full sonata form, the finale seems to be dying to a quiet coda, like the Brahms third – but then the sun rises again, with the water-music theme from Wagner’s Das Rheingold (often in the background) taking over as the music grows for one last shout, as the Universe is reborn.
  
I wanted to hear this today.  I’ll look at my own “process piece” and try to compose the final transitions very soon before trying to package it into performable shape.  That’s a Sonata #3, started at the end of 1961, and now definitely “less bad”.  It, too, has the grandest of all codas at the end (in C).

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Stenhammar's Piano Concerto #2: An obscure work sounds so familiar




Here’s another piano concerto masterpiece (no “Cakeshop”) that everyone misses.  Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar started out as the Swedish Bruckner (in the Symphony #1) and became more like the Swedish Brahms and sometimes Sibelius.

The Piano Concerto #2 in D Minor, Op. 23, is quite a remarkable work.  I see that I mentioned it at the end of a review of #1 on May 9, 2012; but it really deserves a detailed look.  It bears a certain resemblance to the Piano Concerto of Amy Beach.


Above, Greta Ericksson, piano, plays with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra with Evgeny Svetlanov.

The work comprises four movements without pause, although there is quite a lot of structure within each.

The work begins modestly in triple time, with a descending figure of half-steps in the accompanying orchestra that is common to this compose. The orchestra suddenly modulates to C# minor to what sounds like a main theme, but the rest of the movement has a compressed sonata form as it tends to explore the introductory motive more.  But violence returns to close out the movement (as in the Beach, which, by comparison, has a very expanded first movement). The scherzo starts with a tarantella but has an extensive middle section with a waltz theme that will sound familiar.

The 4/4 Adagio will remind the listener of late Chopin with harmonic schemes out of Op 61 – and the theme will sound familiar (Hollywood loves to take themes from obscure classical works)  The orchestra will develop another motive that resembles a similar descending figure in the slow movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #3.  The D Major Finale is a concluding romp in compound 9/8 time, with a dance theme (a bizarre kind of Polonaise-Fantasy) that will sound suspiciously familiar (Hollywood, again). 
  
The work has many sudden key modulations, especially between D Minor and C# Minor, and sometimes uses some ideas that sound like they come from the Chopin Op. 61.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Vivaldi Gloria excerpt highlights Pentecost service at Dallas Cathedral of Hope



Today, I attended a service at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, TX.

During the offertory, there was a performance of “Domine Deus” from the Gloria in D by Antonio Vivaldi. The soprano was Coretta Smith, the oboeist was Quince Holman, the organist David Moldenhauer. It was sung in Latin with the translation, “Lord God, Ruler of Heaven, God the Father almighty.
 
 
  
The whole work appears above.  I guess if the Metropolis Ensemble asks us to enjoy Charpentier, we should enjoy big Vivaldi choral works.
  
The communion included the Benedictine Plainsong Mode V (13th Century), then “Holy Spirit” by Bryan and Kate Torwall, “Sure the Presence” by Lanny Wolfe, and “Holy Ground” by Geron Davis.  

The recessional was a setting of the Sibelius Finlandia, which I will return to later. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Scott Paddock Jazz Quartet performs on Pentecost Sunday at First Baptist Church, Washington DC



The Scott Paddock Jazz Quartet performed the prelude, offertory and postlude today at the First Baptist Church of Washington DC for Pentecost Sunday.  The quartet includes piano. 
  
  
The materials included folk spirituals and some improvisations with a little more modern dissonance.
  
Here is the second sample video.
  
The Ascension would have been quite a miracle for anyone who witnessed it in person. Your life is, what it is.


Saturday, May 05, 2018

Diemer's Piano Sonata #3





Jeong in-Kim plays the Piano Sonata #3 in C by Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927 in Kansas City MO, the Midwest).  I don’t have a time of composition, might have been the 1950s.


The first movement (7 minutes) is marked Serenade/Toccata but the Toccata like theme, a rising figure, seems to open the work.  The serenade is a lyrical second subject in what seems like a compressed sonata form. The movements on a loud dissonance.

The second movement is called the Interlude, seems to be in A minor, but soon presents a jazz theme that might have come from Gershwin.

The expansive finale, Tango Fantastique, is very demanding, seems almost like perpetual motion, and ends on an impressive climax in E.  (My own preference is that works end in the tonality in which they start, but progressive tonality for cyclic works came into vogue with Mahler and Nielsen.) 
   
The overall style is tonal but dissonant, with heavy syncopated rhythms associated with dance.  Some of the harmonies sound a but impressionistic. 

This seems like an extremely difficult work (23 minutes) to play.

Emma Lou Diemer’s output is quite varied as to form and should be heard more often.  It compares well to Amy Beach.  She has often performed her own organ works.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Church presents some music by Emma Lou Diemer



Today, at the First Baptist Church of the City of Wahington DC, Lou Schreiber played an extended Postlude, “Contrasts,” a rather dissonant march which seemed to resolve to  D Major, by Emma Lou Diemer.


A quick review of YouTube shows a larger repertoire of works by her (including piano sonatas), comparable to the output of ASmy Beach.

The anthem “Christ, whose Glory Fills the Skies” was also performed.
  
On April 15, the MCC Nova Music Ministry in Fairfax VA performed “Camina Pueblo de Dios” (“Go Forth People of God”) in Spanish. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Easter Service: Scott's "Joy to the Heart"


This year, Easter sunrise for me was an Easter Saturday drive to Shrinemont (Orkney Springs VA) and then Wolf Gap (Big Scloss), near Wardensville W Va.

The First Baptist Church of Washington DC had the usual celebratory Easter service at 11 AM.
  
Everybody stands for the Hallelujah Chorus in D Major (Part 2), which actually depicts the ascension. But I’ve always liked the Amen Chorus (Worthy of the Lamb, followed by a great fugue), which raises to pre-Mahler (Resurrection Symphony 2) thrills at the very end, of Part III.  It sounds “greater” as a music concept to my ear.


Above is Hogwood’s performance. The Amen chorus represents to resurrection of the dead and the glorification of Christ in Heaven.  This is not to promote one religious interpretation of the Afterlife, and I have my own ideas about that.
  
Earlier, the Choir and orchestra had played K. Lee Scott’s “Joy to the Heart”, a great paean in D-Flat Major. 

A guest organist concluded the service with the Toccata finale from Widor’s Organ Symphony 5.
   
I missed the preludes, but here are the works. 

The famous excerpt from Telemann’s “Musique Heroique”;  "Rejoice” by Healey Willan;  a Prelude in C (from a Sonata) by Corelli, and a Paraphrase and Variations on a Theme of Handel by Alexander Guilmant.


Friday, March 30, 2018

Player pianos; making a performing version of a difficult work with Sibelius



I saw a story in USA Today about a Steinway player piano that looks like it should be shared. ‘

I am considering setting up one of the largest compositions from my youth so it could be performed with the most difficult parts being played on Sibelius (from a connected Yahama or Casio) simultaneously, according to prearranged software.  (Or they could be played from iTunes, which is probably easier to pre-program).  For the planned militant coda, it would be possible to add other instruments. 
  
One question would be whether the Casio would be tuned exactly the same as a concert piano.  The Casio seems very close to most modern concern recordings on YouTube.  However, digital pianos (since the frequencies are precise) may be slightly flatter in higher notes and slightly sharper in the deepest bass (assuming a full 88 keys).

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Music by Julian Wachner, Patrick Doyle, on Palm Sunday



At First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC on Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018, the choir performed the Sanctus from the Messe Ancienne by Julian Wachner.


The YouTube videos are from Trinity Wall Street in Manhattan. 

As far as I can determine from Wikipedia, this may be the same work as the Missa Brevis (1987).

The music is almost a cappella, and the style is modal, somewhat like Renaissance music.

Later, for the offertory, the choir performed Non Nobis Domine ("Not Unto Us Lord"), by Patrick Doyle which seems to be same music that concludes the powerful 1996 film of “Hamlet”, for Columbia Pictures, by Kenneth Branagh. 
  
The postlude was a Sinfonia based on the Cantata #29 by JS, Bach, as played by Charles Pugh.
  
See also the Stoneman Douglas remembrance group picture Palm Sunday morning. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Young cellist was killed by one of the Austin TX bombs



One of the victims of the Austin, TX pipe bombs was a young cellist.  A Facebook friend shared this post with photo. 
  
His name was Draylen Mason. 


I’m not sure I can identify the solo cello piece in the video.  The Bach Unaccompanied Cello Suites is a good place to start.

Unfortunately Mason was targeted by a slur from a closed-captioning company in the DFW area. I lived in that area in the 1980s, and sometimes there were problems then. 

I did attend the March for our Lives to End Gun Violence in Washington DC.  Of course, the Austin incident wasn't caused by guns, but it was caused by homemade weapons. 
      
We lost a violinist (Tyler Clementi) to suicide after anti-gay bullying in 2010.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Amy Beach: Prelude and Fugue in A Minor for Piano, a massive late work



Having heard a small organ piece by Amy Beach Sunday, I looked into one of her large solo piano works, the Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, Op. 81, composed around 1917.


The work is hyper-chromatic, recalling Liszt and Scriabin, even in the fugue.  Beach is America’s best known post-romantic classical composer, with a style that sometimes resembles Brahms (the Piano Concerto), Dvorak (the E Minor Symphony) and then becomes more modern and dissonant – Scriabin is a good comparison.  She had command of harmony and counterpoint and piano technique equal to all the familiar great (male) composers of her time.

The fugal subject reminds me of a similar subject that generates the cadenza-fugue of Eugen D'Albert's Piano Concerto #1 (itself inspired by Liszt).
     
This Beach work would be a crowd pleaser.  I wonder if it has ever been transcribed for organ.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Faure Cantique, unusual organ prelude by Amy Beach played at First Baptist DC today




Today, the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC offered the “Cantique de Jaen Racine” (Op. 11) by Gabriel Faure, with harp (Rebecca Smith), organ and choir. 


The gentle main theme, in D-flat major, will sound familiar, with its arching melodic line which transposes itself.

Lon Schreber had played the quiet Prelude on an Irish FolkTune, “The Fair Hills of Eire O”.  Later, Beach, America’s most prominent female composer in the late romantic era, would use some Irish folk melodies in her Symphony in E Minor (the “Gaelic”), which has some stylistic reminders of Dvorak.  
  
Later there was a rather modal Sarabande from the Suite for Harp by Lynne W. Palmer  The Postlude was “Paean” by Percy W. Whitlock.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My self-interest in Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion



Joseph Kalicksen and Joyce Yang, pianos, and Markus Rhoten (tympani) and Steven Schick (percussion) perform Bela Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion at La Jolla Music Society’s Summerfest (CA).


I present it here because I am contemplating preparing a version of my own Third Sonata where the coda of the finale, which is loud, will add percussion.
The original work, composed in 1937, as was also prepared as a concerto for two pianos, percussion and orchestra.  There is a version here with the Royal Concertgeobouw Orchestra conducted by David Zinma, with score shown. 

As Wikipedia notes, the prevailing key is C. The first movement opens with a slow introduction implicitly in F# (no key signature) and plays with the tritonal relationship between F# and C (one-half octave).  There does not seem to be a lot of polyphony in the opening and the theme lines are straightforward.  But the fast toccata theme tends to become modal and gradually invites fugal treatment.  The slow movement begins with percussion alone.

The work ends quietly on C.  (Mine will end triumphantly and perhaps martially.)

I have a Turnabout (Vox) recording of the soloists' version on a LP vinyl somewhere (in storage). "Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta" is on the back. 
   
The work is said to be very difficult to play.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Paul Basler's Missa Brevis performed by Arlington VA church today



Today, Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington Virginia integrated a performance of the Missa Brevis by Paul Basler (a University of Florida music professor with some emphasis on horn and brass), for choir, small orchestra and organ.  Carol Feather Martin conducted from the organ.
    
I caught a glance of the score after the service, and it appears to be in G Major.
  
  
The Mass has four movements: Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei.  The music sometimes reminds me of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, to which I took a date to the Kennedy Center in 1971 when I was in that phase of my life.  There is a little bit of modality, but less than in, say, the Durufle Mass and that composer’s Requiem, which I heard last night (reviewed on Wordpress).  The music is often loud and jubilant with some fast tempos, even in the Kyrie.  The entire work ends quietly, however.

The music often uses stepwise themes followed by jumps, like at the beginning of the Gloria.  
   
The composer is also better known for the Kenya Mass, which I will take up in the future with another posting.

Carol Feather Martin also played some organ variations on Holy Manna, by Don Hustad (as an “offertorium”) and a Postlude on Llanfair, by Robert Powell.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

New CD from pianist Pandolfi offers an unusual Mozart sonata


At a concert in Alexandria, VA on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, I did hear pianist Thomas Pandolfi perform Mark Wilson’s Piano Concerto, but today I wanted to do a brief write up on his CD “The Space Between”, “Thomas Pandolfi’s Germanic Repertoire”.
  

  
The CD starts with Beethoven’s Pathetique Piano Sonata #8 in C Minor, which I have covered here before.  I’ve always perceived this as a particularly laconic work compared the Beethoven’s later works in this key.
  
There follows a miniature by Robert Schumann, the Romance in D#, Op. 28, #2, and then the Impromptu #4 in A-flat, Op. 90, by France Schubert.  This one is very well known (it was in the Sherwood Music course when I took piano) and it starts out with a long section of arpeggios in A-flat minor, with the C-flat (enharmonic to B natural) entered manually.  Imagine G# Major later!  The circle of key signatures was so easy to learn.
  
  
The most interesting work on the disc is the Piano Sonata #4 in E-flat by Mozart, K. K282, which starts with a slow movement (the only one besides the Turkish as far as I can remember).  As shown on line the Sonata is unusual in ending softly.
  
He then plays the Impromptu #2 in A-flat of Schubert, Op. 142 (opus numbers not in sequence). Then he gives us a Brahms Waltz in A-flat, Op. 39, #15, and concludes with a “Dedication” by Robert Schumann, as transcribed by Franz Liszt. It sounds familiar and fits Pandolfi’s somewhat exhibitionistic style.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Korean folk song "Arirang" at Winter Olympics





A particular Korean folk song called “Arirnag” is getting attention at the Pyeonchang Winter Olympics.

  
Andrew Keh in the New York Times calls it “A Ubiquitous Tunethat United Koreans” (Friday, February 23, 2018, p. B9). 

It is a slow melody in triple time, sung in unison with high female voices.

Does this music have political significance in North Korea really thinks it can force unification on its terms (maybe without nuclear weapons)? But that sounds like expropriation.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. image of Stadium, from Pence’s visit.

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. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Schubert's C Major "The Great" Symphony #9 foreshadows Bruckner just as his "completed symphonies" do


Here’s a score of Schubert’s “Great” C Major Symphony (#9) in C, D. 944.  (It is sometimes listed as #7.)


This sounds like the work that made all of Bruckner’s output possible.   The performance is by Wolfgang Sawallisch.

The magnificent (“Brucknerian”) close of the first movement occurs at 14:17,  Sawasllish slows down.  At the end of the finale, he holds the final crashing octave as a fortissimo, which not all conductors do.

Besides the rapid repeated notes, the work has many unresolved dissonances (as in the second movement) which must have inspired Bruckner.

I had a Decca (with Decca vinyl) record of the work with Furtwangler conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in the early 1960s.  It sounded muffled and constricted.
  
I believe I heard the Minnesota Orchestra play this in 2001.