Friday, September 20, 2019

Alban Berg, early piano prelude in C# minor, very tonal

Here is a little early piano piece in C# minor, composed 1907-1908, played by Simona Hrananoiva, piano, 3 minutes.

The tonality is a bit ambiguous at the beginning, but the piece settles into a ternary form with a harmonic style that sounds post Brahms, very tonal (1907). The ending is very declamatory.

How often did Berg write in a tonal style early in his creative life.  

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Arnold Schoenberg's "Erwartung": is this what the afterlife promises?

Here is a presentation of the score of Arnold Schoenberg’s “Erwartung” (“Expectation”), 1909, a one-act monodrama or opera for solo soprano and large orchestra, with German libretto by Marie Pappenheim.

A woman is lost in the forest looking for her lover.  First she mistakes a tree trunk for him, then she finds that he is expiring, and she wonders what to do with her life.  It’s as if the rest of her life would go into suspended animation and waiting for what is not hers to have.

Stumbling on to thinking about this piece is like a step in a Pokemon Go treasure hunt (in front of the Angelika Mosaic Theater in Fairfax VA in 2016).

The music style is atonal, but Schoenberg would not develop his full twelve-tone system until the 1920s.  The music is also said to be athematic, and it is hard to grasp what that means.  I thought I detected fragments of a theme being developed.  There are many chromatic scale passages and glissandi, especially near the end.  There are a few places where the music resembles some passages in the first movement of the Mahler Ninth (written also in 1909).

He was a “bad soldier” during World War I, foreshadowing moral controversies about conscription to occur in later decades.
The work is often paired with Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle” for performance, and I saw it that way in Washington in the 1990s.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Beethoven Piano Sonata #4, where the paradoxes in his early style become manifest

I thought I would share something simple today, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #4 in E-flat, Op. 7.

I played this work a lot (from a Chandos CD) in the 1990s when I was working on my first DADT book. The video above is an understated performance by Artur Schnabel from the 50s.

The rhythmic and harmonic inventions of early Beethoven already show. The Largo, in ¾, is truly a meditation with internal complexities.  The idea of a finale was an “Allegretto Gracioso” seems understated, but the finale goes on all kinds of little adventures, constantly giving itself permission.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

The music of Daryl Davis (boogie woogie), who deradicalized members of the KKK

Since Daryl Davis spoke at the Minds conference in Philadelphia, it seems appropriate to present some of his music, the Boogie Woogie.

NPR has a typical account (2017) of how he deradicalized 200 Ku Klux Klan members. 
He also has a band that has played on the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Jazz has always had to fight off racism

I usually don’t encounter politics on this “media review” blog concerning the arts, but Truthout (far Left) has a provocative article by Anton Woronczuk “White Supremacy Tried to Kill Jazz; The Music Triumphed”.
Woronczuk interviews Gerald Horne, author of “Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of Music”.  The author makes the point that being a (black) jazz musician was indeed very dangerous in the first half of the 20th Century in the US.  But then it was exported by media moguls for profit.

It is true that jazz caught on as a sub-idiom in classical music.  That’s not just George Gershwin.  It’s some of the music in Alban Berg’s expressionistic twelve-tone opera “Lulu”.

When I worked as a civilian for the Navy in 1971-1972, I had a co-worker friend who played jazz piano and explained that it was all about improvisation.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Is opera in trouble? How about classical music as a whole?

I wanted to share an op-ed by Olivia Giovetti in the Washington Post today, “To save opera, we have to let it die.” 

The article is critical of the inertia of the way classical operas are presented, with the box office appeal of established stars, in a winner-take-all world, even in the arts, even for marketing companies that sell season tickets to the general public (as opposed to other musicians).  Indeed, some people with music degrees wind up selling this for a living.

The article describes a recomposition of “Madame Butterfly” that I am not familiar with.
The article also paints a dismal picture for the future of classical music, since younger composers seem to feel they need to remain experimental to get commissions.  This is a sensitive issue, and if I somehow pull off completing my two big sonatas, I could challenge the system, maybe.

I did see the real performance of Puccini’s Turandot in 1980 in Dallas, right after Reagan won the election.  We accept the idea that this work was completed by another composer, Franco Alfano, as was the Mozart Requiem, yet we resist accepting the much less radical completions of the finale of the Bruckner Ninth. The completed ending of Turandot aims to outdo Mahler, with the final chorus (in D), with a melody that recalls the Schubert “Great” opening,  as one of the most colossal in the literature.

Monday, August 19, 2019

More Mendelssohn organ music, and some Jean Berger; what is a "covenant"?

Yesterday, Lawrence Schreiber played the Andante Con Moto from the Organ Sonata, Op. 65 #5 in D Major by Felix Mendelssohn, as offertory.

The work starts at about one hour into this video.

The tempo is more like an Allegretto than a slow movement. He took it fast, Toscanini-like.

I’ll come back to some of these again. Numbers 1 and 6 look interesting.

He also played the Prelude and Figure in G, Op. 37 #2, which I had covered March 18, 2017 here. 

But his performance of the finale seemed louder and more dissonant-sounding than the YouTube performances. But organ playing, especially fugal counterpoint, is often more about “levels of sound” than continuously nuanced dynamics as in piano. I remember that from organ lessons at KU back in 1966.

The anthem was Jean Berger’s “This Is the Covenant”, the subject of David Gushee’s (visiting) sermon and Sunday school.  I can’t find the anthem on YouTube, but the piece is mentioned in a pdf inventory (from the University of Colorado) of his compositions, dated 1972.

I note that I had called Part 1 of my unpublished 1969 novel (handwritten in the Army) "The Proles", "The Covenant".  Like everyone was obligated to serve, or else....  The chapters of the novel were like movements of a music requiem. 
Picture: sketch of me in Sunday School 

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Jim Crean's "Broken" as filmed by Ford Fischer

Ford Fischer has directed a short film “Broken” comprising Jim Crean’s rock music skit. (5 minutes) from Visionary Noise Records (2019) and Double Trouble Productions. It is published on Crean's YouTube channel. 

It’s good to see Ford presenting himself to the indie film industry as a short film director and producer.
I’m not as familiar with this genre of music or visual style as others are, although it reminds me of Timo Descamps “Like It Rough.” 

Monday, August 12, 2019

Church Sunday school history presentation presents early Washington DC as a lawless place with blatant racism

On Sunday morning, I attended a series of Sunday breakfasts at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, with the Sunday school program one with several speakers giving the nineteenth century of the Church, which was founded around 1802 as I recall.

Washington DC was a brutal place before the War Between the States (and would be attacked during the War of 1812, giving rise to a musically uninteresting national anthem).

The near the rivers was swampy and prone to flooding and the area (which included Arlington and Alexandria) was broken up by rivers.

There were relatively few police, and those that we had tended to become corrupt and sell blacks into slavery for income.

This all led to considerable controversy in the early church and the founding of black churches that are common in the city today.

The anthem Sunday was the medley (transcribed) by Ralph Vaughn Williams, “O How Amiable”.
The last hymn is “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” which used to be Hymn #1 in the older Baptist hymnal, with the original tune by Isaac Watts. In Dr. Pruden’s day it was always sung the first Sunday of the New Year in January (which included January 1, 1956, when the modern sanctuary had opened Christmas Day 1955, when I was in Seventh Grade).  I would be baptized there with my mother in late January 1956.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Hermann Schroeder, "Six Preludes and Intermezzi"

Sunday, August 4, 2019, guest organist Kevin Biggins Jr. played three of the “Six Preludes and Intermezzi” for Organ, Op. 9 (1931) by German organist and composer Hermann Schroeder (1904-1984).

The six movements are (1) Maestoso, C (2) Andante Sostenuto, b min (3) Allegro moderato, d min (4) Allegretto, G (5) Andantino, c min (6) Poco vivace, C..  Biggins played (1) as the prelude  (4) as the offertory, and the finale after the postlude.   The entire suite, which sounds coherent if played in entirety, takes about eleven minutes.

Stylistically, the pieces are like Bach inventions, with harmonies generated by the polyphony that generate a lot of chromaticism with adventures into adjacent tonalities (sometimes sounding modal, more French than German). There is effective use of time signature changes to create odd rhythmic compression effects.  The Allegretto is the one piece that may sound familiar.
The composer would have lived through WWII in Germany and it is not clear what he did then.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Bruckner piano music: Sonata in G Minor

So Anton Bruckner wrote piano music!

I found a cache of it on YouTube played by Francesco Pasqualotto, on Brilliant Classics.

Right now, I’ll talk about one piece, the Sonata in G Minor, WAB 245.  One movement is presented (although there are other short pieces in the collection that might have been intended as movements).

The music is a bit perfunctory and mechanical.  The second theme is a sweet but Haydn-like tune in the odd key of F Major, which would be the dominant key if the movement were in B-flat rather than G minor. This isn’t done often. The exposition is repeated.  The development is interesting but the recapitulation and ending is straightforward (back to G Minor after the second theme in G Major).
Stylistically, the music resembles my own (3 movement, 28-minute) Sonata in D Minor (1960), composed for a contest when I was 16.  Bruckner makes the harmonies more interesting by often modulating one half-step at a time in the development section.  In my own work, the harmonies in the Development section sound a bit trite and could use some innovation like this, but I have the device of repeating an ascending cadenza-like passage from the first movement twice, to introduce the finale and then to introduce a grandioso coda. Some new product from AVID Sibelius (Ultimate) may well enable me to make this work performable, because the piece actually would work with a virtuoso pianist.

I should respect the European Union and probably buy the CD before embedding and reviewing the other pieces.  All in good time.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Afghan pianist thankful to US troops

On July 31, 2019, NBC Nightly News presented a moving story about pianist Elham Fanous, who grew up in Afghanistan where music is forbidden (as idolatry) by radical Taliban fundamentalism.  There were only 25 pianos in the country.

On the NBC video he plays the opening of the Chopin #2 Scherzo in B-flat Minor, Op. 31.  (I’ve always thought that the ending in the relative D-flat major instead of Picardy B-flat sounds trite; this scherzo is not Chopin's best.)
Elham enters graduate school in September at the Manhattan School of Music and says he is thankful to US troops who gave music back to the Afghan people. A Military Times video of his interview is shown here. 

Hunter College has a review of one of his concerts.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Autistic and blind teen piano prodigy performs at Madison Square Garden

Blind and autistic piano prodigy Logan Riman, 14, dazzled everyone as he performed with “piano man” Billy Joel at NYC’s Madison Square Garden, July 24, 2019.

Music definitely is somehow therapeutic and gives some people whole lives.  My own history was more moderated.

CBS News account is here

Thursday, July 25, 2019

"The Privilege of Escape": art exhibit puts people into teams with disadvantages they can't control

Jillian Steinhauer has a review of an art exhibit Oassis USA in Manhattan, called “The Privilege of Escape”, by artist Risa Puno, described in NYTimes Arts Section Wednesday July 23. 
People collect into teams and are given about 45 minutes to solve a succession of puzzles to escape.  Some teams do better than others because of luck-based elements they cannot control.
So you aren’t “better” than other people just because you proved you could escape.  Is this an argument against meritocracy?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

David Bennett explains the usefulness of 5/4 time or extra beats in popular music

David Bennett Piano, a British piano instructor and YouTuber, explains rhythm and syncopation and the use of occasional 5/4 in popular music, as with “Don’t let me down”.

It is common for modern composers to change meters often, particularly with quintuple meters.  An extra beat gives a melody or passage a sense of additional pulse. But Bennett explains that it is really 4/4 + ¼.  I don’t know if Sibelius allows a unary measure.  I think the Shostakovich Symphony #8 scherzo has an example of that.

5/4 wasn’t well known until Tchaikovsky showed how effective and natural it can sound with the second movement of his Pathetique Symhony #6,

Bennett then discusses 5/8 time in coordination with 4/4 in a song mocking nuclear war.
I remember some of these songs from the car radio in my coming of ages days in the 1970s.

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. 

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Berlin Philharmonic performance by Rattle of completed 4-movement Bruckner Ninth (relate to previous video as a "part 2")

The concert that I had originally intended was the 2018 concert, showing a video of the Berlin Philharmonic’s playing the entire Bruckner Symphony 9 in D Minor, all four movements, with a final 2011 completion version by Samale-Phillips-Cohrs-Mazzuca.

Wikipedia notes that the four movement version was played at Carnegie Hall in New York on Feb. 24, 2012.  I barely missed finding out about this and going.  This performance is the only other live performance I could find (but I would presume he has performed it in Seattle and other places). So in a sense I have achieved a personal goal of “attending” a performance of the complete Bruckner 9.

The concert started with the 11-minute “Three Pieces for Orchestra” by Hans Abrahamsen, which was quite dissonant and workmanlike, gebrachmusik.

Visitors should play the 16-minute commentary at the end of the link.    Rattle presents overwhelming evidence that Bruckner had almost completed the work.  Bruckner had played an intended sketch of the coda on an organ to friends.

For a video on this post, I’ll show “Simon Rattle: The Making of a Maestro”, a one hour documentary.  I’ve embedded the finale here before.

One question I had was, why did Samale take out the finale pianissimo before the coda, and remain fortissimo through the end.  The answer seems to be that Bruckner had laid out all the measures first, so musical reverse engineering seem to demand the cut of the final pianissimo launching point.

Rattle does mention the "Hallelujah" theme embedded in the trio of the Scherzo, but it is less important to his version than to Letocart's.  After my own William and Mary expulsion at the end of 1961, I did get Bruno Walter's Columbia recording (mono) of the 3-movement work for Christmas.  That theme was on the inner grooves of the split side.  The old mono cartridge failed on this record (probably an electrical short, not just the stylus) and that was quite disturbing at the time. It seems ironic now. 
Rattle also points out that visitors to Bruckner’s body took away pieces handwritten sheet music as souvenirs.

The music of the Ninth is more radical (and frankly expressionistic) than other symphonies, even the Eighth (which Shostakovich quoted in the Leningrad). There are placed that approach outright atonality and resemble early Schoenberg.

Rattle notes that other music had been censored by publishers because of shocking dissonances, including Schubert’s Unfinished. I wasn’t aware I had grown up with that version.
Here’s another (unidentified) completion that YouTube just published. 

Monday, June 03, 2019

Berlin Philharmonic concerts on "Digital Concert Hall", part 1

I joined the “Digital Concert Hall” which offers video of Berlin Philharmonic concerts for various prices (in British pounds, to be converted) .
I watched two concerts today.  I had intended to watch the May 26, 2018 concert of the complete Bruckner Ninth but misread the site and wound up watching the May 25, 2019 concert performing Bruckner’s Second Symphony, second version, 1877.  I’ll make some more remarks about the Bruckner 9 concert in a separate posting soon.

In the 2019 concert, Paavo Jarvi conducts three works. 

The first one is the closing Ricacare (8 min) from Bach’s “A Musical Offering”, BWV 1079, scored for chamber orchestra by Anton Webern.  This is an enormously chromatic piece (in C) because of its dense fugal polyphony.  It sounds “modern”.

The second work was of “Seven Early Songs” which Alban Berg composed at age 22 but published much later in life (19 min). The soloist was Mojca Erdmann.  The music is lush if atonal and sounds a bit like lake Mahler.  I say atonal, but the songs have key signatures.

The main course was the Bruckner Symphony #2.  After the performance, Gunar Upatnieks interviews the conductor, who explains that this is an early work and doesn’t have the “ceremonial, ritualistic gestures” of the middle and late Symphonies (starting with #4).  I didn’t know that the first version had put the scherzo first.
The music sometimes sounds a little but perfunctory, yet the violence at the end of the first movement is captivating.  I remember hearing this work in my car radio in Minneapolis in 1998 the day after a very important dinner with a friend regarding my book.  The slow movement does sound reflective and looks back to earlier times.  The C Major coda of the finale sounds rather toccata-like, and later symphonies would be more daring.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Media reports on blind children who become piano prodigies

The mainstream media has reported at least two blind children who have become piano prodigies, a four year old girl and a six-year-old boy.

For example CBS video reports on a boy playing “Bohemian Rhapsody” songs.

How early kids with musical ability should start with lessons, and how focused they should be, remains controversial.

It’s hard with some things, like piano practice and chess, to become good enough to make a living on it as a future adult.

But piano skills can contribute to other things, like skills in math in science, or in other directions like stagecraft and film.

I’ve heard gifted teens play odd things on piano by ear, like, in one case, a theme by ear from an Arvo Part piece similar to this

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Tchaikovsky's "Marche Slave" is a convincing potboiler; the Soviets censored it for "political" motives

Time to talk about Tchaikovsky again, this time his 10-minute potboiler, the “Marche Slave”, Op. 31, published in 1876.

In B-flat Minor, this program piece seems to quote well-known themes, especially at the opening. The closing theme also occurs in the 1812 Overture (which is in E-flat). But, as stirring as it is, it is based on a hymn “God Save the Tsar”.  The program concerned a now obscure war between Serbia and Turkey. 

In the performance above, Leonard Bernstein conducts the Israel Philharmonic.
I “sketched” a proposed Symphony in E Minor (imagined in 1960 when I was a senior in high school) and the finale has a similar theme, as recorded by Sibelius when I played it on a Casio by ear.


A visitor sent me a link to this "Soviet" version of the Marche where the Tsar theme is censored out because it contradicts Communism.   

Monday, May 13, 2019

German song producer "The Fat Rat" has problems which suggest copyright trolls may trample even original music (under EU "Article 17")

There seems to be a real risk that as the EU’s “Copyright Directive” (especially Article 17, was 13) goes into effect in various countries in Europe (starting with France), composers and song writers will be sabotaged by fake claims from imposters claiming to have written their music.

The recent problems for German video song writer Christian Buettner (“The Fat Rat”), whose (large) channel was temporarily removed Sunday from YouTube for “community standards” violations (it was later restored) may be case in point.

Josh Katzowitz has a significant story from late December 2018 on the Daily Dot. 

Classical music, even my own, which I plan to put up more of soon, sometimes borrows tunes or themes from other music.  (The famous example is the use of the opening theme of Bruckner’s Symphony #8 in the conclusion of the Shostakovich Leningrad Symphony.)
This could gradually become a problem even for younger composers, some of whom I know personally.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Mozart's "A Musical Joke" almost sounds real

Richard Atkinson analyzes “A Musical Joke” (Ein Musikascher Spass) in F Major, K 522, a Divertimento.

The work was intended to make a parody of incompetent composers. For example, the opening has an awkward seven measure theme.  The slow movement has a passage where a horn and also strings tune themselves (Haydn did this in one symphony called “The Distracted”, or “Losing It”, which ironically is a name I gave one of my short pieces, and which has a hidden ritualized meaning in my own life.)

The finale has a lot of false modulations into the mediant, and ends with some bizarre polytonality which is supposed to refer to inadequate instruments.

Atkinson also shows how the counterpoint in the finale is deliberately perfunctory, mechanical and trite yet in some way is curiously effective.

Mozart did have a personality that mocked incompetence (as in the movie “Amadeus”, which was shown in a social studies class when I was a substitute teacher).

I got a present from a friend at William and Mary at the end of 1961, a record of the famous Divertimento in D, with the Cassation in B-flat. 

Timo Andres had somewhat comparable intentions with his recomposition in 2010 of Mozart’s Coronation Concerto (which I saw the score of in a trip to NYC for another work at the end of that year).  The left hand part (left open by Mozart) is composed with deliberate polytonality.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Cellist Eddie Adams at George Mason University

Eddie Adams plays an Intermezzo for solo cello (3 min) in E Minor, which apparently he composed.  I sounds a little like a Shalom, a little taste of “Schindler’s List” in style.

Allsion Klein has a detailed story of the background of this George Mason University (Fairfax VA) student, and of the generosity of others regarding his financially impoverished background with four siblings, and the history of some homeless shelters.  The article leads to an even longer booklet-like biography.

Several patrons at GMU set up and ran a GoFundMe page for him, and the fund raising included buying expensive concert clothes.

I had not heard of this artist, although I sometimes have been to events at GMU and like its political leverage toward libertarianism or the libertarian side of conservatism (compared to so many other campuses today with their Leftist safe spaces). 

Since I do have book, screenplay and music projects, I do pay some attention to Kickstarters or Indiegogo’s where there could be some synergy.  This gets more into setting up an artist’s financial and circumstantial stability.  I could pay more attention to that (which is what GoFundMe is more for).

According to my records, I went to an event at GMU in October 2018, which is worth linking to

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Easter Sunday 2019 at First Baptist, Washington DC

The most important anthem today at the Easter service of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC was “Sing for Joy, Alleluia!” by Johnathan Willcocks.

Below it is sung by the Laguna Hills Presbyterian Church in Laguna Hills, CA.

There was also a setting of “Lift High the Cross” by Carl Shalk.

The Processional Hymn was a setting of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” by the late Alvin T. Lunde, who had led the FBC’s Bach Orchestra.

There was also an organ introit “Come, Join in Song This Easter Day” by Lawrence P. Schreiber.

A brass chorale played four compositions as an Easter Prelude: “Alleluiah’s” by Robert Lau, the Allegretto from the Music Heroique by Georg Philippe Telemann, a Prelude in C by Archangelo Corelli, and a Paraphrase on a Theme of Handel, somewhat dissonant, by Alexandre Guilmant. 
For the organ postlude, Kevin Biggins, Jr. played the finale of the Symphony V by Charles-Marie Widor, a famous virtuous Toccata in F Major.

This is something we would want to hear in the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and it will be some years before this is possible.

Friday, April 19, 2019

A Michael Jackson CD, "Bad", won at a raffle

I’m not a big fan of aimless socials and raffles at them, but I actually won a Michael Jackson CD based on the song “Bad” on April 5.  The 1987 CD is on the Epic label and is produced by Quincey Jones.  Epic used to be a classical label too, associated with Columbia, back in the 1960s. 

I’ll lay aside all the controversies about his life and the recent HBO film “Leaving Neverland”.

For me, a classical music person, the songs remind me of rental car radio music when I traveled in the 1980s.  The most famous song was “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Tchaikovsky's "Francesca da Rimini", one of his most violent tone poems, based on a disturbing vision of the afterlife for an adulteress

I felt like trotting out one of the most violent of Tchaikovsky’s tone poems, the notorious Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32, composed in 1876.  The most passionate performance of all is said to be Mravinsky’s in 1972.

The tone poem, about 25 minutes, depicts the fate of a countess in Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, where adulterous lovers are condemned to hell and caught up in a fire tornado.

The piece is in E minor and is somewhat of a fantasia in loose sonata form, and is somewhat based on Liszt.  After the violent scales at the end, there is a repetition of about ten occurrences of a dissonant chord before the final E minor octave comes down.
Three years later Tchaikovsky would compose “Eugene Onegin”.

Monday, April 01, 2019

How many people have heard of Bach contemporary Graun?

Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs” by Carl Heinrich Graun (1704-1759), sung a cappella.

The performance above is from the Columbine Chorale at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Denver.
It was performed at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC on March 31.  Technically the music is difficult.

Graun was well-known when J.S. Bach was relatively obscure.

The organist also performed some Brahms chorales from Op. 122.

Friday, March 29, 2019

"Requiem for a Jazz Musician": not exactly Mozart or Verdi

A local church performed a “Jazz Requiem” last Sunday, but I thought I would share something similar.

Here is the “Requiem for a Jazz Musician” by Joe Wazinul (10 min), for saxophone and various instruments, including piano, published on Mendoza’s channel in 2010, played by the Cannonball Adderley Quintet.
This does remind me of New Orleans in the 1940s in the days when smoking was allowed in clubs.  The music is “anti-emotional” and perhaps “anti-fragile”.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Composer Grant Hoechst: a variety of instruments and genres

I wanted to note some additions to the website of composer Grant Hoechst (link given here March 29, 2015, now https, now a game designer for Naughty Dog in Los Angeles, formerly at Harvard.

There are three compositions with scores, two of them with MP3 files that are embedded and playable in the site.

There is an intermezzo for string quartet, 4+ minutes, called “Sparrows of Elysium”, performed by the Parker Quartet.  There are a lot of repeated notes, and a Vaughn Williams style modalism.  The music has no key signature but seems to be in the key of D.

There is a score for a trombone solo “By the Light of a Dusty Streetlamp”, almost evoking images of Charles Dickens’s England.

Then there is the three minute piece “A Swig of Moonlight” for bass clarinet and marimba, which is typical modern jazz.  The title reminds me of Reid Ewing’s “In the Moonlight, Do Me” from “Modern Family” (which compositionally is very interesting in its own right), although the style does not.  

There is the 9-minute electroacoustic piece “SOS”, which sounds like the impressions someone might have during a bad NDE or real DE (if you still exist afterward, then there is an afterlife).  He offers a link to the WAV (the same as aiff on Sibelius) which requires log on to Dropbox.

The music in the two short films for which he wrote scores is not the same as these pieces.  

I would think he would want to meet up with the Metropolis Ensemble in New York City.

For YouTube, I embedded Grant’s interpretation of Stravinsky’s setting of J.S. Bach’s “Canonical Variations” from his YouTube channel.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Debussy on a grand piano in Washington Square Park

As I entered Washington Square Park in New York City to meet up with the “March Against Racism and Fascism”. I encountered a pianist playing Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” in D-flat on an open grand piano in the park.

He would also tempt us with a passage from the Chopin C#-minor Scherzo.

He was Colin Huggins, who offers some other piano performances on Bandcamp.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

"Fun Home": a Broadway musical about a young adult lesbian who explores the life of her deceased gay father

The soundtrack for the now Broadway musical “Fun Home” is on PSClassics (69 minutes).

The rather lilting music is by Jeanine Tesori and lyrics by Lisa Kron. The show started off-Broadway in 2013 and moved to Broadway in 2015 (Circle in the Square, I visited the old one in 1964 to see a Greek tragedy) and is now “off-West End” in London. The many awards include the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015.

The Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk (Tidewater area) put on the musical this winter.  I didn’t get down to see it (I made two visits to the Southeast around it), but the performance was supported by QVirginia (note the handsome picture of downtown Richmond from the James River on the website home page; Norfolk is 90 miles to the SE).

The PS CD recording is directed by Chris Fenwick.  Beth Malone is Alison; Sydney Lucas is Small Allison, and Michael Cleavers is her closeted gay dad Bruce.

The story concerns the coming of age of Alison, in two parts, as she comes out as lesbian after learning her dad was closeted as gay shortly before his death.

In the later part of the play she recalls her dad, and the questions as to whether one or more contacts might have been underage (track 17, “A Flair for the Dramatic”).

A couple of the more impressive songs include #9, “Party Dress”, and #14 “Raincoat of Love”, which has some nice counterpoint.

The chamber ensemble includes keyboards, Violin/Viola, cello, woodwinds, guitar, bass, drums and percussion. There is mention of Chopin but the piano passage work is more like Ravel. The story takes place in Pennsylvania and the CD gives a credit to Oberlin College (Ohio).

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

The music of Dr. Lawrence P. Schreiber

Dr. Lawrence P. Schreiber of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC offers a CD, about 40 minutes, titled “Unique and Sacred”, of ten hymns sung by Deborah Miller, lyric soprano, with Dr. Schreiber at the organ (Austin, FVC) or piano (Steinway).

The hymns contain original melodies, or the familiar ones with modern (generally French impressionistic or English pastoral) harmonies and some deviations from the usual stanza lines.

Here they are:

(1)    St. Francis Prayer (organ, original)

(2)    Were You There? (piano, familiar)

(3)    Ah, Holy Jesus (piano, original)

(4)    His Eye Is on the Sparrow (organ, familiar)

(5)    Great Is Thy Faithfulness (piano, familiar)

(6)    Amazing Grace (piano, familiar)

(7)    Draw Us in the Spirit’s Tether (original, piano, although a faint reference to Vaughn Williams and Bax symphonies)

(8)    Alleluia! Sing a Joyful Song (original, organ)

(9)    The Visitation (advent, original, piano)

(10)Hold in Remembrance (communion, original (very modern), organ) The quiet ending is ambiguous, not on a tonic chord. 

Today Dr. Schreiber published (with Sacred Music Press) on YouTube with 3-part organ staff an entity called “Mosaics”.  This comprises two compositions.

 The first is a “Fantasy on St. Annes” (1:46), with some vague reference to the New Year’s Day hymn “O Lord Our Help in Ages Past”, which in Dr. Pruden’s time was always sung the first Sunday of the New Year.

The second piece is a large “Fantasy in African-American Themes” in D Minor.  The music has many key signature and meter changes, and alternates between spirituals (richly harmonized with dissonance) and passage work, especially for the feet. In places the writing will briefly go into atonality and seem almost dodecaphonic, yet remains quite post-romantic in feel (not really necessarily American). The ending seems triumphant but says in D Minor.