Saturday, September 28, 2019

Alban Berg's post Liszt Piano Sonata Op 1 in B Minor

Maria Yudina plays Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata in B Minor, Op. 1, composed around 1907, 10 minutes.

The work actually has a formal repeat.  It is extremely chromatic with dense inner piano voices and rather Brahmsian triple time rhythms. It may be inspired by the longer work in the same key by Liszt.  It builds up to quadruple fortissimo near the end, then to die away (as does the preferred version of the Liszt).

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Earliest draft of Bruckner's Symphony 8 has some surprises

I found a video of the earliest draft, 1887, of Bruckner’s Symphony #8 in C Minor on Youtube. 
The first movement in this version ends loudly and in the Picardy C Majo (14:20).  All other the versions have the first movement end quietly (the only Bruckner symphony whose first movement does so).
The finale, in the coda after the final Pivot, actually has one dimuendo before building back again to the last blazing C Major chord, and the three notes “E D C” played in octaves now, are not performed.

The tempos in th is recording are faster.
Dmitri Shostakovich based the coda of his Leningrad symphony (#7) on recasting the opening theme of the Bruckner 8, in defiant and martial fashion. 
The Third Symphony also has an earlier alternate ending.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

A visit to an important historical site (about Lincoln) and a mishap

Yesterday, Saturday, I did a foot visit to the Petersen House on 10th St NW Washington DC, where Lincoln died after being shot in the Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865, after being carried to a back bedroom of the house.

You have to get a free ticket across the street (donations voluntary) at the Ford Theater.  This is NPS property.

It was a convenient activity while waiting for a film showcase from Filmfest DC to start at Landmark S Street around the corner.

The back room is furnished in quaint quilts and bedspreads, and that leads to a room with the coffin and pictures of the train tour for burial in Illinois, as well as the legacy controversy of the surgeon in Maryland who treated John Wilkes Booth.

But for me there was another controversy.  There is a book tower in the back part of the museum with a spiral staircase of several floors.  I took a cell phone picture and I fumbled it trying to slide it into a shirt pocket and it disappeared.  Fortunately we found it on the next landing and it wasn’t damaged. It maybe have bounced off the book stack and that could have destabilized it, but it seemed all OK.

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.