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.

Update:

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.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

"It's a Busy, Magical Life", church play today



The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC presented a 20-minute youth play today during the dinner brunch after communion service. It was called "It's a Busy, Magical Life: A Presentation in Poetry, Art and Illusion".

The kids got practice in reading scripts written in Final Draft.

It comprised six brief parts (like movements of a musical suite).  There was an “Opening” (like in a chess game), then a Poem Recitation (they poems rhymed), a reading of Zephaniah 3.17

It got interesting with a mind reading act with members of the audience (“what’s your favorite board game?”)   It turned out to be Encore (what about Clue, Mr. Ree, Star Reporter, Global Pursuit, Trivial Pursuit (a favorite of game nights)?  Maybe Chess? (4-D)?  Maybe Go?




Mind reading essentially depends on quantum entanglement (John Fish has a science fair video on it from 2015).  But it could be a useful “hacking tool” in a sci-fi movie.  It’s a bit like counting cards in Las Vegas (the movie “21”).

Then there was a magic trick involving a quilt.



Finally there was a gallery of thematic art.

Back in 2011 (May 15) I reviewed a production of “Wise Guys”  at another church, and it still never seems to have been made into a movie (like by a Christian film company maybe like Sony Affirm).

There was also a quite of Matthew 11:28.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Mendelssohn's Prelude and Fugue #1 for Piano (seems to inspire the Atkinson work)




The Atkinson Prelude and Fugue reminds me of the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, Op. 35. #1,in E Minor, by Felix Mendelssohn, which is quite grand.


The piece concludes with a chorale in E Major, a mighty fortress.

I could play this when I was a senior in high school at 17.  It seems like I lost a lot. When I played it.

 I always played the last two measures fortissimo, because the piece seems to demand triumph.

My first piano teacher (who died of colon cancer in my ninth grade at age 57, suddenly) had always called Mendselssohn “happy”.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

Richard Atkinson's own Prelude and Fugue in D Minor, a model of clarity



Richard Atkinson (not on Wikipedia, I think he is a Canadian music professor and composer) offers his own Prelude and Fugue in #1 D Minor for solo piano.


Note the shimmering repeated notes of the Prelude, but it is the formal clarity of the fugue, with clearly marked augmentations and inversions, of the three-voice fugue that is striking.  The performance tends to exaggerate the ritardandos.  The climax at the end, with the touch of dissonance, would be impressive on a large organ.

The picture: I had to share Microsoft’s image of a subway tunnel in Singapore, that reminds me of the “Mobius tunnel” on the space station in my screenplay.  More on that to come.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Mozart's K 590 Quartet and its dissonances


Some of Mozart’s most “shocking” music occurs in his late chamber music, including the String Quartet #23 in F, K. 590.  Modern and dissonant in all its elegance.
Richard Atkinson analyzes the fugue-like and almost monochromatic exposition of the lively 2/4 finale, with its inversions and perturbations.  In the development, the existential dissonance that results, however comical, becomes almost Schoenbergian.
   
The comical finale ends quietly and simply.
   
The Minuet of this quartet is remarkable, too, as I recall. 
    
The slow movement of the D Major Quintet also has a bizarre passage that is almost dodecaphonic.

Friday, February 01, 2019

Letocart offers an organ fugue in Baroque French style



To open February, here is another composition by Sebastian Letocart, a Fugue in D Minor in French in Baroque French Style.


The fugue is very formal with three voices.
  
Letocart as has a Fugue in D Minor for harpsichord on YouTube.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

You will like the music you hear during puberty





Guitarist Adam Neely explains “Why Pop Music Sounds Bad (to You)”


You tend to like the music you are hearing during puberty, about age 13 for girls and 14 for boys. 
   
I can remember that around age 15 I became more used to postromantic music, like the ends of Rachmaninoff, Grieg and Tchaikovsky piano concertos.

The music heard at the time of puberty will often rouse people with Alzheimer's and helps with music therapy in assisted living centers or nursing homes. 
  
At the time, “The Twist” and “Long Tall Sally” is what I remember from pop music.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Sebastian Letocart's "Fantasy for Piano"



Here is Sebastian Letocart’s new Fantasy for Piano (or "Fantaisie", 6 min), with score, presumably performed by the composer (whose primary instrument is organ). 


It’s more like a fantasy and fugue, as the fugal part starts at about four minutes.

The work has lots of scales and repeated figures with a toccata-like effect.  There is an informal atonality reminiscent of the late Scriabin sonatas, and there are some loud tone cluster chords that may be similar to the mystic chord.  There is no key signature, but sometimes there is a tonal center around C.  There are many changing unusual time signatures. The very end is loud, after a “die in”.

Letocart also wrote a completion finale for Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony.
  
Let’s see if this new composition gets interest in the United States. On Facebook, he calls himself Abes Tracotel.  He lives in Belgium, not far from Germany.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

"Dear Evan Hansen": "#YouWillBeFound"



Today, at MCC Northern Virginia, there was a performance of the song “#YouWillBeFound” from the Broadway Musical “Dear Evan Hansen”, by Benj Pasik  and Justin Paul, with a book by Steven Levenson. Both composers wrote music and lyrics, and they also wrote lyrics for “La La Land” (Cole Delbyck, Huffington Post).
  

Later the words say “You are not alone.”

It is performing at the Music Box Theater in New York on 45th St, as well as London and Toronto.  This is probably a good reason for an Amtrak ride.
  
Rev. Emma Chattin gave a sermon “Finding Yourself (Right Now)”.  She mentioned the idea of a "Jubilee" (Day of Justice) every 50 years in tribal Israel when debts were wiped clean and all property was redistributed. 

Monday, January 21, 2019

CD "Live from Cuba" from Washington DC Gay Men's Chorus, recorded when US Embassy in Cuba reopened in 2015



At a Christmas concert of the Washington DC Gay Men’s Chorus Dec. 8, 2018, I purchased a $20 CD of the group’s “Live from Cuba” event.

The eleven songs were performed from the Casa de Las Americas on July 17, 2015 (except for #4, “Karma Chameleon, performed by Mano a Mano – Cuba’s Gay Men’s Chorus) which was performed at the Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, Havana.  The concert marked the opening of the US Embassy in Cuba under Obama on July 20, 2015. 
  
  
There are eleven songs.  (1) Proud (with the lines “make us feel Proud”) (2) True Colors (3) Over the Rainbow (4) (above) (5) Beautiful City (6) MLK (with baritone soloist) (7) Impossible Dream (8) Hallelujah (9) If We Only Have Love (10) Que Nos Olgan (“Make Them Hear You”) (11) And So It Goes.

In fact, the choir of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC made a 5-day trip to Cuba in the spring of 2017. 

Here is an article by Mimi Whitefield in the Miami Herald on the Cuban economy as it is now. 
  
It’s well to remember that in the latter part of 1980 (well before the AIDS crisis) the gay community especially in southern states (all the way to Texas, where I lived then) was asked to help house people (often LGBT) who had fled Cuba with the Mariel Boat Lift.  That is prescience of the LGBT asylum seeker issue in more recent years (even before Trump).

First picture, from Wikipedia: By U.S. Department of State from United States - U.S. Flag Flaps Outside U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, Public Domain, Link

Monday, January 14, 2019

Pianist Estrin compares the piano sonatas of Mozart with early Beethoven sonatas




On Living Pianos Videos, pianist Robert Estrin explores the differences between Mozart and early Beethoven piano sonatas.


He compares the Mozart Sonata #10 in C, K. 330, with the Beethoven Sonata #10 in G, Op.14 #2.

The character of each Sonata seems lighthearted at first.  The Mozart seems elegant and “perfect”.  Beethoven, who after started his compositional career about three decades later, keeps surprising you.  Furthermore, Beethoven’s treatment of the sonata development section is much more dramatic and extensive.
  
It would be good to look for a comparison of Haydn and Beethoven.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Living Earth Show performs Dennis Aman's Prelude and Fugue #1



Here’s The Living Earth Show’s performing Dennis Aman’s Prelude and Fugue #1 (for wine box guitar and percussion).

  
Andy Meyerson and Travis Andrews from the group performed Jan. 7-8 at for the Metropolis Ensemble on Rivington St in Soho In New York City.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Not exactly peripeteia




I did take a look at the modernized website for Brooklyn-based composer Timo Andres, this time just the keyboard works. I’ll link to the performance of a short work called “Wise Words”, which was written for the former president of Nonesuch Records. (The title reminds me of the play "Wise Guys", May 15, 2011.)

The work sounds a bit impressionistic but has some alberti arpeggio work that reminds me of how the Schumann Fantasy opens.

I wanted to listen to the "Moving Etudes", a 3-piece set.  The last one is available on the site, and sounds impressionistic to my ear.  But it would be nice to hear the entire set to look at what the concept of the entire set or “suite” is. 
  
I notice that scores (conventional or PDF) are available for sale.  This seems more common now as composers have to make a living, off commissions but now off sales of printed music – but normally that would seem to attract pianists who actually want to play the pieces. 
  
Maybe it would be a good idea for composers to put their larger works (but not yet well known) on Amazon for normal (credit card) purchase like much classical music as MP4 files, especially for Prime members.  I do sometimes purchase music or film this way (on Amazon Prime) for online viewing or listening.
  
I’ll be gearing up to make some of my own music more performable soon, as I have discussed with some friends in NYC this past week. 
  
  
For today’s link, here’s what happens when pianist Henri Herbert plays jazz at a public piano.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Can whales and dolphins compose music worthy of performance? It seems so



Karen Weintraub has a New York Times article describing the songs of whales, especially humpbacks.  These Whales Are Serenaders of theSeas; and It’s Quite a Racket”.
  
It seems whales can compose music of some sophistication.  They get other males to sing in unison with them, but some whales will break off and not conform. The idea is to find females.  That may be true with birds, but the actual music is more complicated and worthy of being studied as music, maybe eve being performed by experimental groups.
  
  
Does this fit the pattern with humans that, for the most part, composers were men until at least the mid nineteenth century, after which female composers gradually got more notice (like Amy Beach). 
    
 Classical music originally reflected religious values but in time may have also served a socializing purpose.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Matthew Schultheis: young composer with interesting chamber music, sometimes recalling Berg



Matthew Schultheis, 21, is listed among Metropolis Ensemble’s composers for a 2019 event called “A Stone’s Throw” (in their new space in NYC in SoHo).  He grew up in northern Virginia.  I’m not sure if he attended the Potomac School (like percussionist Grant Hoechst, who had appeared at Trinity Presbyterian Church in 2012).

Here is a piece for eight players, “The Temptation of St. Anthony”, for eight chamber players.  The historical person appears to be Anthony of Padua.  Is this related to the annual Camino Walk in northern Spain?   The work has four movements and the style seems dodecaphonic. 

  
He conducts his own Chamber Concerto for 15 players (17 min), which has three movements. 
  
The first movement is called “The Party” and has some nice repeated block chords with harmonic effects at about 5:00, on top of the atonality  (a little more like some of my writing in the Third Sonata, first movement development section).    The second movement is “Grave, lyrical”, and it stretches out fragments of a melodic line over a lot of atonal backdrop. The melody indulges some repeated notes and scales.  This leads without pause to the finale, “Inescapable”, as if a (Netflix) horror movie? You get some snippets of jazz themes over top of the clatter below. The work ends abruptly with percussion.  Was this work inspired by Alban Berg’s “Chamber Concerto”?  My ear didn’t pick up any idea that two movements are combined (Ralph Vaughn Williams did something like that in the Eighth Symphony).
  
It’s still before Epiphany, so we see Schultheis playing in piano four hands (with Mark Fleisher) “The Birthday of a King”, here.

I don't know if composers put themselves on Linked In, but Google showed only his namesakes.