Jaren Hinckley

Composer / Clarinetist

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Erik Satie

December 7, 2017

 

(1866-1925)

 

I recently researched the life and works of Erik Satie.  He was a fascinating, confusing, whimsical, serious man.  Satie was fairly famous in his lifetime. He had numbers of devoted fans and followers. Even Claude Debussy, one of the most influential composers at the time, orchestrated Satie’s most famous work, adding to his popularity. After Satie’s death, his fame waned for over twenty years. It was not until the late 1940’s, when a new biography about his life and music revived interest in his works, particularly in the UK and the USA. In the 1950’s and 60’s, his works influenced popular music and film scores. He is best known for the piece I’m focusing on in this blog post.  Even if the title doesn’t ring any bells to you, I’d be willing to be that you have heard this piece before.

 

TITLE: Gymnopedie #1

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE: This is a character piece, or in other words, a relatively short piece for solo piano.  As with other works by Satie, the title of this piece may very well be a made-up word.  Satie did not seem to imply that this work is programmatic at all.  He simply liked the sound of the word “gymnopedie.”

Here it is:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CUhakq1q-I&index=1&list=PLm-T8aAINJXpDkuEel7fOExkN9XUqR0Ak

 

One of the things I love about this work is the unexpected forte.  Here’s the first few lines of the piece:

 

gymnopedie

Note the “f” indication on the 2nd line (it stands for forte which means LOUD).  Here’s how most people perform it:

 

 

Quite a subtle difference.

 

And here’s how it should be performed:

Now that’s a forte!

 

As mentioned earlier, Debussy orchestrated this work because he was so impressed with Satie’s skill.  In fact, this and one other Gymnopedie are the ONLY works by another composer that Debussy orchestrated.  Here is Debussy’s orchestration of Satie’s simple piano work. I really think it is interesting to hear which instruments Debussy used, particularly his addition of the cymbal within the first few seconds and the use of the horn to provide the fortes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUlZylqILKI&pbjreload=10
As a side note, the rock group Blood, Sweat and Tears won the Album of the Year Grammy Award in 1970 for their self-titled album on which was a single that won the Best Contemporary Instrumental Performance Grammy award.  The name of that single?  Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie.  Here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6f_uj6qCFM

 

Nice, but I much prefer the original.

 

HIGHLIGHT: For me, the highlight is the simplicity of this work.  The haunting melody over an extremely simple bass line.  It almost sounds like a ground bass, but it is not.  It changes pitches enough over the course of the piece that it can’t be considered a true ground bass.

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY SATIE?: Not as much as you would assume.  He actually wrote relatively little.  I may have already listened to his complete oeuvre, but I’ll not consider myself “done” until I’ve created blog posts for each of his works.

I’m Listening to Everything by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

March 14, 2016

(1934-2016)

 

When I was an undergraduate student, I was fortunate enough to be asked to play clarinet in a remarkable avant-garde chamber composition called “Eight Songs for a Mad King” by Scottish composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. It was one of the highlights of my undergraduate life.  We performed it a number of times for a standing-room only audience.  Truly an amazing composition by an amazing composer.  I always felt a kinship to him for a few reasons—1-music, and 2-he lived and worked in the far north of Scotland.  From February of 1988 to January of 1990, I lived in Scotland. I grew to love that country and even to this day, if I hear “O Flower of Scotland” sung with feeling or “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes, I get a bit emotional.  For five months, I lived in the Caithness region of Scotland (on a small farm named “Sibmister” located between the small cities of Thurso and Wick).  I have a particular fondness for the northern regions of Scotland.  Sir Peter Maxwell Davies co-founded a yearly music festival—the St. Magnus Festival—in the Orkney Islands where he lived (the Orkney Islands are just a short ferry ride away from Thurso). It was always a dream of mine to perform at that festival. Perhaps it will still happen someday, but one part of that dream was to meet Sir Max. But today that dream has been altered…

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies died today.  Leukemia.  I went to teach my Music 101 (Music History for non-majors) shortly after I found out about this.  I put this picture of him up on the screen

Sir-Peter-Maxwell-Davies--001 (1)

and told the students why his picture was up there (yes, I got choked up—could hardly talk) and played the last few minutes of his simple, beautiful, heartbreaking piano piece “Farewell to Stromness.”

 

So for this blog entry, I’m not going to say much except, please listen to his (perhaps) most accessible piece and one that will forevermore make me weep as I listen.

 

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Olivier Messiaen

March 7, 2016

(1908 – 1992)

 

This is a photo I took recently of Mt. Messiaen in Parowan, Utah.

Snapshot 1 (3-7-2016 2-24 PM)

It is the only mountain (that I know of) in the entire world named after a composer.  Why would there be a mountain in the middle of Utah named after an avant-garde French composer?  In 1971, Alice Tully, an opera singer and wealthy patron of the arts (there’s a concert hall at Lincoln Center in New York named after her) commissioned a work by French composer Olivier Messiaen to be premiered as part of the United States of America bicentennial celebration.  The only stipulation about the commission was that it be “about” the United States in some way.  Messiaen researched the United States in advance to get inspiration for his work and was particularly taken with southern Utah, particularly Bryce Canyon. He and wife, pianist Yvonne Loriod, traveled to Utah in 1973 to explore the amazing views and hikes found in Utah’s state and national parks.  The resulting composition refers specifically to Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park and Cedar Breaks.  A few years later, the city of Parowan decided to honor Messiaen’s visit and composition by naming a mountain after him.  If you want to visit Mt. Messiaen, I have included detailed instructions in a YouTube video! Check it out!

 

Before telling you more about the piece I’ve chosen to look at, you need to understand one of Messiaen’s main compositional elements.  Messiaen was fascinated by bird calls and incorporated them into most of his compositions in some way.  Check out this delightful YouTube video of Messiaen himself explaining and imitating some birdcalls followed by his wife playing his interpretation of them on the piano.  Truly delightful.

 

TITLE: Des Canyons aux Étoiles for Piano, Horn, and Orchestra

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE: The work is divided into three sections with twelve movements total.

Fair warning.  I don’t think this piece is to everyone’s taste, but I encourage you to give it a chance.  Keep in mind his fascination with birdsong and the way he translates that to the piano and other orchestral instruments.  Read on and you’ll discover more.

Part ONE:

  1. Le désert (“The desert”)

The 1st movement sets the stage for the journey through southern Utah with a solo horn followed by various birdcalls as reproduced by the orchestra and the solo piano.  You can watch a performance of the first movement here:

 

 

There is also the sound of the wind (provided by percussion instrument) at 1:48 in the video.

 

  1. Les orioles (“The orioles”)

The 2nd movement, unsurprisingly, is about birds.

 

3. Ce qui est écrit sur les étoiles (“What is written in the stars”)

The 3rd movement demonstrates another fascination of Messiaen, namely religion.  Messiaen was a devout Catholic his entire life.  This movement is inspired by a reference from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament

The title of this movement also reminds me of a quote from Messiaen, recalling what he and his wife felt at they hiked out of the depths of Bryce Canyon:  “I had to raise myself from the depth of the canyons to the beauty of the stars. Having left the canyons to climb to the stars, I had only to keep going in the same direction to raise myself up to God.”

 

  1. Le cossyphe d’Heuglin (“The white-browed robin-chat”)

This movement is for piano alone.  If you listen to just the first 30 seconds, you’ll hear nothing but Messiaen’s bird-call imitations.

 

  1. Cedar Breaks et le don de crainte (“Cedar Breaks and the gift of awe”)

If you skip to the :30 second spot in this video you’ll hear the trumpet mouthpiece used in an unusual way.  But then at 1:02 you’ll hear the awe of the beauty of nature (particularly the awe of looking down into Cedar Breaks).

 

Part TWO

  1. Appel interstellaire (“Interstellar call”)

Messiaen said that this movement was inspired by two scripture references:

 

Psalm 147: 3-4 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

 

and

 

Job 16:18 – O earth, cover not my blood, and let my cry have no place.

 

This is a movement for unaccompanied horn and has become a standard solo recital piece for horn players all over the world.  Here’s an artsy video I found on YouTube featuring this movement:

 

  1. Bryce Canyon et les rochers rouge-orange (“Bryce Canyon and the red-orange rocks”)

And here’s a YouTube video of this movement.

 

See if you can imagine the red-orange rocks of Bryce Canyon conveyed through this music.  Keep in mind, Messiaen had a condition that one out of 10 people have on some level or other, called synaesthesia.  Here’s the rather confusing definition from Merriam-Webster: “a subjective sensation or image of a sense (as of color) other than the one (as of sound) being stimulated.”  In other words, when one sense is occurring, you experience another—you smell sound or you taste images or in Messiaen’s case, when he heard sound, he saw or sensed or felt a specific color that was attached to the sound.  This affected the way he composed as well.  Some of the dissonance that you hear in this movement could very well be the way he was seeing the colors of Bryce Canyon.

 

Part THREE:

  1. Les ressucités et le chant de l’étoile Aldebaran (“The resurrected and the song of the star Aldebaran”)

 

  1. Le moqueur polyglotte (“The mockingbird”)

 

  1. La grive des bois (“The wood thrush”)

 

  1. Omao, leiothrix, elepaio, shama (“Omao, leiothrix, ʻelepaio, shama”)

 

  1. Zion Park et la cité céleste (“Zion Park and the celestial city”)

In this final movement, Messiaen was inspired by Zion National Park.

 

HIGHLIGHT:

For me, the highlight is the seventh movement, the one about Bryce Canyon (scroll up a ways).  Maybe it is because we visited it so recently, or perhaps it’s because it starts out with Messiaen’s treatment of the bird calls in the piano and orchestra at the beginning of the movement.  Or perhaps it is because after all the dissonance, Messiaen inserts triumphant, quite tonal chords that occur near the one-minute mark.  In fact, if you listen starting 1:00 you’ll hear a tonal chord followed by a series of dissonant chords that resolve at 1:18 in a really pleasing way.

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY MESSIAEN?:  A lot, but I’ll keep working at it.

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Elizabeth Poston

December 10, 2015

(1905-1987)

 

Since it is December and Christmas is nearing, I thought I’d do a post on one of my favorite Christmas carols.  I was introduced to this piece by a good friend of mine, who was then the director of our church congregation’s choir.  It was tricky for a volunteer choir, filled with amateur singers (including myself) to navigate some of the close harmonies of this piece but we managed and I’ve loved it ever since.

 

TITLE:  Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:  The text was written in the 1700’s by an unknown poet.  The comparison of Christ to an apple tree is not the most common analogy we hear, but may come from the Song of Solomon.  In any event, it is a comparison that I now love.  Here is the text:

 

The tree of life my soul hath seen,

Laden with fruit and always green:

The tree of life my soul hath seen,

Laden with fruit and always green:

The trees of nature fruitless be

Compared with Christ the apple tree.

 

His beauty doth all things excel:

By faith I know, but ne’er can tell,

His beauty doth all things excel:

By faith I know, but ne’er can tell

The glory which I now can see

In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 

For happiness I long have sought,

And pleasure dearly I have bought:

For happiness I long have sought,

And pleasure dearly I have bought:

I missed of all; but now I see

’Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

 

I’m weary with my former toil,

Here I will sit and rest a while:

I’m weary with my former toil,

Here I will sit and rest a while:

Under the shadow I will be,

Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,

It keeps my dying faith alive:

This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,

It keeps my dying faith alive:

Which makes my soul in haste to be

With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 

And here is a link to a YouTube video of a very talented choir performing it:

 

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cm3fZDZxiko

 

 

HIGHLIGHT:   It’s such a short piece, I guess the highlight for me is the effectiveness of beginning and ending the piece with monophonic texture.  So simple, so pure, and it really bookends the amazing close harmonies of the middle verses.

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY POSTON?:  I don’t know.  The problem with lesser-known composers is that there isn’t a lot of information about them on the various music databases I use in my research.  I know she composed music for television, radio and film productions, but finding recordings may be difficult.  In any event, I think she’s worth seeking out.

 

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Mahler

November 19, 2015

(1860-1911)

 

When anyone asks me who my favorite composer is, I can never answer definitively, because it is constantly changing and shifting as I learn and listen and discover more.  BUT, fairly consistently for over ten years now, Gustav Mahler is always in my top three.

 

For most of his career, Mahler was a conductor at various opera houses, including the Staatsoper in Vienna, Austria.  As a conductor, there are many demands on one’s time.  Mahler was constantly studying scores and prepping for each new production.  But he still wanted to compose.  Mahler realized that staying in town during breaks in the music season and trying to compose was impossible because people would constantly call upon him for some reason or other.  To find the time to compose, he simply left town each summer to avoid any distractions.  He and his sister Justi went to a place called Steinbach-am-Attersee in Austria.  They stayed in a nice hotel where he could work without distraction.

 

This hotel was near a beautiful Alpine lake called Attersee. In fact, the main picture here on my website is me sitting on a pier at this very lake. It remains one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. Mahler decided that the hotel wasn’t quite without distractions, so he had a composition hut built right next to the lake.

 

Here’s me with the key to the hut.Jane's Camera 2-week excursion Italy and Salzburg part two 401

 

And the directions to the hut:

Jane's Camera 2-week excursion Italy and Salzburg part two 402

 

 

 

 

 

 

And me standing in the doorway of the hut:

Jane's Camera 2-week excursion Italy and Salzburg part two 417

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my cute youngest daughter running around the hut.

 

 

Janny and hut

This is where he composed his 2nd and 3rd symphonies.

In fact, the background image of this website is me sitting on a pier in the lake near the composition hut.

TITLE:  Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:

 

Here’s  a brief run-down on what this symphony is “about,” roughly in the words of Mahler himself.

 

1st mvt:  “What is life and what is death? Will we live on eternally? Is it all an empty dream or do our life and death have a meaning?”

2nd mvt: A blissful moment in the dear departed’s life and a sad recollection of his youth and lost innocence.

3rd mvt:  the bustle and turmoil of daily life—life goes on even if you are troubled

Here’s a clip.  Watch from where it starts for just a few minutes and you’ll get the idea.

4th mvt:  An angel shows up (in the form of a mezzo-soprano) and sings “you came from God and you will return to God!”

5th mvt: The actual Resurrection.  The voice of God calling us forth from our graves. After a lot of turmoil in the orchestra, in Mahler’s words:  In the eerie silence that follows, we can just barely make out a distant nightingale, a last tremulous echo of earthly life. The gentle sound of a chorus of saints and heavenly hosts is then heard: “Rise again!” Then God in all His glory comes into sight. A wondrous light strikes us to the heart. A feeling of overwhelming love fills us with blissful knowledge and illuminates our existence.”

HIGHLIGHT:  For me, the highlight of this symphony is undoubtedly the 5th mvt.  Just take a listen and read the subtitles and I dare you not to get chills and/or weepy.

Here’s a six or seven minute clip that will change your life (I hope): (It should start right at 1:26:00 and you should pretty much watch it until the end).

Of his first two symphonies (Symphony #1 was discussed in an earlier blog post), Mahler said: My whole life is contained in them:  I have set down in them my experience and suffering…to anyone who knows how to listen, my whole life will become clear, for my creative works and my existence are so closely interwoven that, if my life flowed as peacefully as a stream through a meadow, I believe I would no longer be able to compose anything.

Personally, I think you should go back to the YouTube clips I provided and watch from 00:00 to the end.  But that’s just my opinion…

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY MAHLER?:  Quite a lot.  But I’ll do it, because I just love Mahler so much!

I’m Listening to Everything by Respighi

April 30, 2015

I already did a post about Respighi’s “The Fountains of Rome” a few years ago after returning from a brief trip to Rome.  But now that I have re-visited Rome, I was able to ACTUALLY visit two of the fountains that I have never seen previously.  This is the one that inspired the first movement–it is located just a short walk from the front of the Galleria Borghese in the Villa Borghese park. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6P0GgIyEJQ&feature=youtu.be

And here’s a link to a video of the fountain that inspired the 2nd movement–Triton Fountain on the Piazza Barberini.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcY3pSB34cM&feature=youtu.be

As for the third movement, well, the Trevi Fountain is surrounded by scaffolding due to a restoration project.  But I took a short video of it anyway.  Probably NOT what inspired Respighi.

 

watch?v=bu0LmBiBp_4&feature=youtu.be

And here’s an awkward selfie of me with the fountain that inspired the fourth movement.  It’s not much to look at, but imagine it at dusk (which, as you can sort of tell in the photo, is just starting to occur), ignore the sounds of traffic and the calls of vendors from the nearby Spanish Steps…and it comes to life in the way Respighi intended.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Kurt Weill

March 23, 2015

(1900-1950)

 

TITLE:  Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny)

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:

This is a nihilistic opera.  In a nutshell, it is about some people who decide to build a new city (sort of like Las Vegas) where people can drink and party and gamble.  It grows in popularity and becomes quite the city, then, when a natural disaster threatens it, some of the citizens pray and others state that there is no God.  When the threat is over, most of the people decide that life is short and there is no God, so they should just party even more.  (Note: to any purists reading this very haphazard summary, I realize I may be a bit off, but that’s the gist of it.)

 

Despite the storyline, it’s got some great music and when I was in Vienna a few years ago, I went to see numerous productions at the Staatsoper but this was my favorite one (in terms of theatrical interest/quality of production/overall effect); a number of our students also went and one of them listed it as his favorite as well.

 

My favorite elements within this opera are the unique instruments included in the orchestra, such as the banjo.  Here is a cool moment in the opening number in which the banjo first becomes apparent:

 

 

And continuing on from that, jazzy trumpets join in:

 

 

HIGHLIGHT:  The Alabama Song—This is sung by a madame of sorts and her fellow prostitutes as they express their life goals—drinking, money, and men.  It is one of two songs in the opera that are sung in English while the rest is in German.

Here’s the beginning of it, as performed by one opera company:

 

 

And here’s the second verse, performed by a different opera company:

 

 

Here’s a YouTube link of the whole song:

 

 

When I first saw this opera, the Alabama Song was my instant favorite.  In fact, when I got back to our apartment (in Vienna) I got online to find other versions of it and discovered that it has become a favorite of cabaret singers and pop singers.

 

Here’s a brief excerpt from a version by Marianne Faithful

 

 

And here’s a YouTube link to the best cover of this tune (in my opinion).  It’s a cover by The Doors.

 

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY WEILL?: A bunch.  I had seen his best-known theatre piece—“The Three-Penny Opera”—when I was an undergrad, but I hadn’t heard a lot of his classical works until I saw “Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny.”

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Francis Poulenc

February 12, 2015

(1899-1963)

 

Listen to this sound:

 

 

There is something so chilling about that sound…  the sound of the guillotine.

 

This is from a certain recording of one of my favorite pieces of music.  Poulenc is one of those composers who is almost always in my “top ten favorite composers” list.  Part of the reason for that is the final scene of his best-known opera “Dialogues des Carmélites.”  I’ve never seen this opera live, but I just listened to it from start to finish (over the course of several days) and I loved it.  Loved it, loved it, loved it.

 

TITLE:  Dialogues of the Carmelites

 

The basic story line is as follows:

During the French Revolution, an aristocratic young woman decides to become a Carmelite nun (Sister Blanche) because she believes she will be safer there than in her home, despite the fact that the revolutionaries are not only anti-nobility, but are also anti-cleric.  The mother Superior explains to Blanche that she is not necessarily out of danger by joining the holy order.  But Blanche feels that she is in the right place.  As the revolution escalates, the nuns realize that they are indeed in danger and they decide to take a pledge of martyrdom (as opposed to hiding).  They all take the pledge, but Blanche runs away and takes a job as a servant (again, to hide).  The nuns are all arrested and condemned to death.  At the execution, the nuns are executed one by one.  At the last minute, Blanche shows up and takes her place with the nuns.  As she climbs up onto the scaffold, she sings the Catholic hymn traditionally used when taking vows in a religious community and offering her life to God.

 

HIGHLIGHT:  The final scene, of course.  I find the faith of the nuns inspiring, especially in the face of certain death.  And musically, it is amazing.  You hear the nuns begin to sing the “Salve Regina” as they, one by one, climb the scaffold to face the guillotine.  Each time the guillotine falls, one less voice is heard.  The choir gets smaller and smaller until only a few nuns are left, then two, then Blanche.  Depending on the recording, the effect is quite harrowing, especially if they include a convincing “blade” sound.

Here are some links to YouTube videos that are good (for different reasons):

 

In this one I really like the singers voices.  Plus, I think the stylized deaths are effective (but I prefer to see a little more literal interpretations).  Start it at about 2:50.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2ubBODy4N0

 

This one is definitely more literal in its depiction, the sound effect is good, but the light effect is not great.  Start it at 3:24

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mkOK3aXzMpc
There are a few full length versions of the opera, but none had English subtitles.

 

Take a listen!  It’s totally worth it.  (My kids get mad at me when I play it in the car.  Last time I started it, one of them said, “Dad, I don’t want to hear a bunch of nuns get killed!”)

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY POULENC?:  Tons, but, since he’s in my top ten list of favorite composers, I’m sure I’ll succeed at listening to them all.

 

 

I’m Listening to Everything by Gabriel Fauré

November 11, 2014

(1845-1924)

 

TITLE: Pavane, Op. 50

 

I chose the subject for this post for a couple of reasons—one, it’s simply a lovely piece that is emotionally expressive; and, two, it’s an ear bug.  For those of you who may not know what I mean by “ear bug,” I will happily explain.  An ear bug is different from an ear worm.  An ear worm is a melody that you cannot get out of your head.  I invented the term “ear bug” to refer to music that SOUNDS like another piece of music, but there’s likely no real connection between the two pieces (or, in other words, I don’t believe the latter composer copied the former—it’s just happenstance).  Today’s ear bug is the theme music to the Disney Channel animated kids show “Gravity Falls.”  My kids have been obsessed with this show lately so I hear the theme song a lot.  Every time the main melody begins I can’t help thinking of Faure’s Pavane.  Again, I am not making the assertion that the composer of “Gravity Falls” was copying Fauré.  In fact, I’m positive it’s merely coincidence.  Here are some silly examples of how I hear it every time my kids watch the show.  Here’s the beginning of the theme song:

And here’s the part that is the ear bug (repeated four times, so that it really gets stuck in your head!):

Here’s the opening of Faure’s pavane, performed by orchestra (first example is a slow tempo performance, and the second example is a faster tempo):

And here’s a mash-up of “Gravity Falls” and Faure’s “Pavane.”

You’re welcome!

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:

Fauré’s Pavane is slow, beautiful, and emotional.  Although Faure originally composed the piece for solo piano, it is much more famous for his orchestrated version. Here’s a link to a Youtube video of an orchestral performance:

 

 

If you search for it on Wikipedia you will see how frequently it has been co-opted by pop culture.  It’s really popular!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavane_(Faur%C3%A9)

 

 

HIGHLIGHT:

 

For me, the highlight is not necessarily the beautiful main melody that repeats many times throughout the piece, but is actually when that melody has harmony added to it.  It heightens the emotion of the melody and pulls the listener into the beauty of it.  And because this piece is so popular, it has been arranged and transcribed for other instrument combinations.  Here are a few brief examples:

First, the original version, for solo piano:

Then an arrangement for cello:

And an arrangement for viola:

And an arrangement for oboe (I am particularly fond of the oboe!):

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY FAURE?:

A huge amount of music, but I’ll get to it!

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by György Ligeti

May 28, 2014

(1923-2006)

 

György Ligeti was born in Transylvania on May 28, 1923.  So…Happy Birthday, Ligeti! If he were alive today, he’d be 91.

 

Ligeti is best known for his unusual effects like this (from a piece called “Lux Aeterna”):

 

 

Of this type of music, he said:  “My idea was that instead of tension-resolution, dissonance-consonance, and other such pairs of opposition in traditional tonal music, I would contrast ‘mistiness’ with passages of ‘clearing up.’”

 

Here’s another example of this type of music, from his piece for orchestra entitled “Atmospheres.”

 

As a woodwind player, I first became acquainted with the music of Ligeti through his most-played wind quintet piece—

TITLE: Six Bagatelles

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:

This piece (composed about ten years before “Atmospheres” and “Lux Aeterna”) does not feature his “mistiness moving towards clearing up;” instead, it’s more traditional in terms of tone color usage.  However, the way he uses the tone colors of the wind quintet is quite interesting. Sometimes you forget that you’re listening to a mere five instruments.

 

Here is a link to a fantastic YouTube video of a group that understands the importance of appearance when performing.  Note, they are standing, they are active, they are not using music stands, they are choreographed—it is extremely engaging and exciting to watch.

I. Allegro con spirito (fast with spirit!)

This movement is fast and virtuosic and JUST about dissonant enough to offend the ear (if you abhor any sense of dissonance) but not quite dissonant enough to turn the average listener away.

II. Rubato. Lamentoso.

2nd movement starts at 1:34 in the video.    Note at the ending we get a hint of what he achieved with his later works when the last dissonant chord “clears up” into a major chord.

III. Allegro grazioso

 

3rd movement starts at 4:34 in video.  Note that the clarinet and bassoon begin by passing off septuplets (seven notes to a beat) while a lovely, almost Celtic-sounding melody floats on top.  The instruments switch roles here and there so that the overall effect is almost orchestral.  One of my favorite movements to listen to (Note: I said “listen to”; I don’t enjoy playing it—those septuplets are deadly).

 

IV. Presto ruvido

 

4th movement begins at 6:54 in the video – fast and very difficult to put together as a group.  Every so often Ligeti changes the meter so that a single sixteenth note will be left out which means everyone has to be superb at changing meters, or very adept at “skipping” a note.

 

V. Adagio. Mesto – Belá Bartók in memoriam

 

5th movement begins at 8:02 in the video – very much like a funeral march.

 

VI. Molto vivace. Capriccioso

 

Final movement begins at 10:24 in the video – another extremely difficult and fast movement for a group to put together.  Overall this is an astounding piece and the group in this video is amazing.

 

HIGHLIGHT:  As I mentioned above, I’m quite fond of the third movement.

 

As you may know about me, I enjoy taking photos of famous composers’ graves, statues, homes, etc.  And usually I like to be seen popping out from behind the tombstone in my photos.  That might sound irreverent or disrespectful, but I prefer to think of it as taking a candid playful photo with a friend.

 

When I first saw Ligeti’s grave in Vienna, Austria, I wasn’t sure how to hide behind the tombstone.  Here it is:

 

Friedhof Vienna 068

 

 

 

 

 

But I think I managed quite nicely.

 

Friedhof Vienna 069WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY LIGETI?:  A lot, but I’ll do it!