Jaren Hinckley

Composer / Clarinetist

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by…

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Jake Heggie

December 1, 2013

(b. 1961)

 

Heggie is best known for his opera “Dead Man Walking” (based on the book of the same name).  However, since we are now in the month of December, I chose to listen to Heggie’s chamber opera “3 Decembers.”  As you may have guessed by now, the theme of the month is “music about December.”

 

TITLE: 3 Decembers

 

The opera (in a nutshell) is about a dysfunctional family (spoiler alert!)—the mother, a famous actress, and her two adult children with various tribulations and a highly idealized view of their father who died when they were young. If you do not enjoy theatrical productions that deal with topics such as suicide, alcoholism, and AIDS (the adult son has a partner who is dying), this may not be the show for you.  However, if you can look past the sad themes, you may just find some themes that resonate with you. I found the final scene particularly poignant as the mother (from beyond the grave) recognizes her shortcomings and validates her childrens’ feelings. I also found it quite realistic in the way parents think they’re doing (or did) the right things for their children and how adult children often disagree with the decisions their parents made (whether right or wrong).

 

Heggie’s musical style is quite lovely.  He has a way with lovely melodies and harmonies. I’m a fan.  Here’s the prelude to the opera; you’ll hear that it has a jauntiness that is reminiscent of musical theatre:

 

 

HIGHLIGHT: For me, the highlight of this opera is the lullaby the father used to sing the children when they were young.  Whether this is a false memory or part of their idealized view of their father is immaterial—this is beautiful music.  Here’s the first part, sung by the mother, with the text below so you can follow along:

 

 

The moon sings a song for you every night,
Which you only can hear when your eyes are shut tight.
Can you hear it? Note by note it grows clear.
Carried by moonbeams right to your heart.
Hush now. Listen. It appears.
No troubles. No fears.
The moon smiles above you, and Daddy is near.

 

And here’s another verse a few minutes later in the opera, sung by all three main characters (again, text below):

 

 

Let it go. Let the day fade softly into the mist.
The moon’s lullaby no dream can resist.
Let it take you away.
Moonbeams are heartstrings the night gently strums.
Hush now. Listen. Here it comes.
No worries.No troubles. No more fears.
The moon smiles above you, and Daddy is near.

If you like what you hear, I would definitely recommend seeking this out.  This particular recording is available through naxos.com or amazon.com and features the marvelous Frederica von Stade as the mother.  There are also a few excerpts on YouTube worth a listen.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDLNFYbAqCQ

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY HEGGIE?: a few more operas, a LOT of vocal music, and some chamber music. Since I am a clarinetist, I was sad to see that he hadn’t written any solo music for my instrument.  Perhaps I’ll have to commission something by him someday!  He’s a great composer and I will definitely be seeking out and listening to more music by him.

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Charles Ives

November 25, 2013

(1874-1954)

 

As I mentioned in a blog post a few months ago (Sept. 22, 2013), Ives is one of my favorite composers. For the month of November, and particularly for the week of Thanksgiving, I want to look at the final movement of Ives’ “Holidays Symphony” titled “Thanksgiving and Forefathers Day”

 

As usual, Ives quotes/borrows a number of pre-existing tunes within this movement.  As you listen, you will most certainly hear simple lovely melodies that sound like hymns (and that’s because they are).  Here are two of the hymns most prominently quoted in this piece.  First, “The Shining Shore” performed by an amateur (but sweet) singing group:

 

Next is “Duke Street,” better known as “Jesus Shall Reign.”  Here it is performed on the organ:

 

 

And here’s the music in case you want to sing along with the organ.

 

Duke Street

 

In a number of cases, Ives will feature one to three instruments playing a familiar hymn tune at a very soft dynamic level.  He wanted you to barely perceive the melodies as though you heard them from a far off distance.  I found one—Nettleton (Come Thou Fount)—in the orchestral score played by one flute at the pianissimo dynamic level, while the rest of the orchestra was playing at a forte level, including trombones and French horns.  On my recording, I couldn’t hear the flute at all.  Nevertheless, it’s a cool idea and perhaps his intent was that it be almost a subliminal effect.

 

Here’s that moment:

 

 

Couldn’t hear “Nettleton,” could you?

 

Later, just a tad before the halfway point (around six and half minutes in) the oboe, flute and violins present (in turn) The Shining Shore, this time, in a highly obvious way.  If you need to, go back up to the top of this post and re-listen to the vocal version of it to get the melody stuck in your head. Here is Ives’ use of the melody:

 

 

As you have heard with these few examples, the entire piece alternates between 1) highly dissonant moments with tons of layered melodies and harsh chords and 2) incredibly beautiful, simply-stated hymn tunes.

 

HIGHLIGHT: When Ives quotes the hymn Duke Street (Jesus Shall Reign). If you need to, go back up to the top of this post and re-listen to the organ version to get the melody stuck in your head.  In Ives’ version of it, it shows up right near the end with full unison choir.  Ives loved unison choirs and I have to admit there’s nothing quite like it.  Keep in mind, however, Ives used different words, penned by a New Haven minister years before.  Here they are so you can sing along if you like:

 

God! Beneath Thy guiding hand,

Our exiled fathers crossed the sea,

And as they trod the wintry strand,

With prayer and praised they worshipped Thee.

 

 

The movement ends as though a (in Ives’ words) “Puritan band were marching out of view and hearing.”  To achieve this effect, Ives indicated that certain instruments on stage should stop playing and duplicate instruments off stage would continue the line.  I’m not sure that will come across on a recording, but here goes:

 

 

To truly get the full effect of this piece, you really need to listen to the entire thing.  If I listen to the entire piece, I can easily be brought to tears, especially when the chorus comes in.  Goosebumps, even.  There are a few recordings of this movement on YouTube.  Here’s the link to one of them:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsFbWuHO6Q

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY IVES?: Lots.

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Max d’Ollone

November 17, 2013

(1875-1959)

 

It’s going to be a short blog post this week because I’m really tired today (I was up most of last night composing…)

 

In any event, sticking with the theme of the month, I found this gem:

 

TITLE: Novembre

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:  Short French art song for voice and piano.

 

HIGHLIGHT:  The beautiful simple lyricism of this piece and the French language (sadly, I cannot find a translation of the text…).  It’s only three minutes long, so sit back and even though you may not speak French, the emotion and mood certainly come through.

Any of my readers out there speak French who’d want to try to translate this piece?

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY D’OLLONE?:  An amount that appears to be quite do-able, however, because he is a less-known composer, he is also less recorded than most, so that may prove a challenge.  But after hearing this, I’ll certainly try.

 

OVER THE PAST TWO WEEKS, I ALSO LISTENED TO:

 

Bruch, Max: Violin Concerto No. 2

Dvorák, Antonin: Slavonic Dance Op 46/3

Grainger, Percy: Molly on the Shore (for piano)

Moscheles, Ignaz & Giuliani: Grand Duo Concertant pour Pianoforte et Guitare, Op.20

Ollone, Max d’: Fantaisie Orientale (for clarinet and piano)

Ollone, Max d’: Nocturne (for flute and piano)

among others…

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Arnold Bax

November 3, 2013

 

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Arnold Bax (1883-1953)

 

I decided to go with a theme this month.  The theme?  November.  So today I’ll look at a piece that has “November” in the title AND it just so happens that the composer, Arnold Bax, was born on November 8, 1883!  Happy birthweek, Bax!

 

TITLE: November Woods

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE: This is a highly programmatic tone poem; in other words, it is intended to evoke specific imagery in the minds of the listeners.  In this case, I can easily sit back and listen to this piece and see various images I associate with November—leaves covering the ground, scarves and gloves, increasingly inclement weather, etc.  Do yourself a favor and sit back in a comfortable chair, click on the link below, close your eyes and imagine your fondest memories of November as you listen.

 

HIGHLIGHT:  For me it’s the opening few notes, mainly because it is so instantly evocative, so immediately intriguing.  Also, as an FYI to those of you out there who are unfamiliar with tone poems, I think you’ll see almost instantly how much modern-day film composers owe to the late Romantic/early Modern-era composers of tone poems.

 

Enjoy!  Here’s the link:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abuEGBa-C4Y

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY BAX?:  A ton. But, based on this piece, I’m certainly going to try!

 

ALSO LISTENED TO THIS WEEK?:

 

“November” by Ib Nørholm (b. 1931) – a short choral work on the edge of dissonance

“November 1962” by Alfred Janson (b. 1937) – a piano composition with almost constant dissonance.  I’m assuming, because the composer is Norwegian, that the piece was inspired by a coal-mining disaster in which 21 people were killed, resulting in the Norwegian government stepping down.  I suppose it could have been inspired by the assassination of JFK, but that seems a tad less likely.

I’m Listening to Everything that Quotes the “Dies Irae”

October 28, 2013

AND

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

Well, I’ve spent the past three weeks sharing music that quotes the “Dies Irae” (in honor of Halloween) and so today, I’m going to share a few non-classical examples and then one of the most famous classical pieces that uses it.

 

First off, from the world of musical theatre, the opening number in Stephen Sondheim’s amazing work “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”  Here it is (you’ll need to skip ahead on the video to 2:24):

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUH3z3eBQxE

 

Now, you may wonder where the Dies Irae was.  I’ll tell you.  Sondheim wanted this opening piece (and indeed, the entire musical) to have a feeling of dread and doom.  So he fragmented and “hid” the Dies Irae in the opening number.  Here’s how it works:

 

Dies Irae (Sondheim leaves off the first syllable and quotes just the “-es irae, Dies illa”).  The notes used for “-es irae, Dies illa” are then used for the words “the tale of Sweeney Todd” in “Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd.”  Here it is back and forth between the two of them:

 

In addition to these three notes, Sondheim continues to use similar intervals to reinforce the connection.

 

Now from the world of rap music, here is an excerpt from Nelly’s “Air Force Ones.”  It’s essentially a rap song all about the kind of shoes he wants to buy.  Even if you can’t catch all the words, you’ll probably recognize the first four notes of the Dies Irae.  It’s when they sing “Give me two pair, I need two pair” (pronounced “per”) that you’ll hear the Dies Irae.

 

 

And here it is, juxtaposed with the plainchant back to forth.

 

 

Next, we move to the world of film music with a song from Tim Burton’s (Disney’s) “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (music by Danny Elfman).  It’s called “Making Christmas” and I don’t even need to show you where the Dies Irae is in this one—you’ll recognize the first four notes of the Dies Irae occur constantly throughout the song.  Enjoy!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyeHlZ_kPtU

 

Finally, our classical example of the week…

 

Since you’ve now had a full month on the “Dies Irae” I don’t really need to give any intro or prep for Franz Liszt’s masterwork for piano and orchestra, “Totentanz” (Death Dance).  Enjoy!  And have a great Halloween full of dread and the “Dies Irae!”  (The video quality is not great, but it’s an excellent performance.)

 

Part one:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqCEhmqsSnY

Part two:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bqmWU7SSJM

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Eugène Ysaÿe

October 21, 2013

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)

New Picture

It’s the third week of October and this is the third piece I discuss this month that uses the Dies Irae (if you don’t know what the Dies Irae is, please refer to the previous two posts).

 

TITLE: Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 27, No. 2 “Jacques Thibaud”

by Eugène Ysaÿe (Jacques Thibaud—the dedicatee—was one of Ysaÿe’s good friends who was also a professional violinist).

 

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:

Here’s the full title and the movement titles

 

Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 27, No. 2

I. Prelude, “Obsession”: Poco vivace

II. Malinconia: Poco lento

III. Sarabande, “Danse des ombres”: Lento

IV. Les furies: Allegro furioso

 

I. Prelude, “Obsession”: Poco vivace

The first movement is only two and a half minutes long. It begins with a direct quote from Bach’s Partita No. 3 (the Prelude). It is also LITERALLY littered with the first few notes of the “Dies Irae.” Listen to the Bach here:

 

 

And here’s a reminder of what the “Dies Irae” sounds like:

 

 

Now listen to the entire first movement.  Again, it is only two and a half minutes.  That’s shorter than most pop songs. Listen to it here:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrtjq1ASpk4

 

The first really obvious statement of the Dies Irae is at about the :30 mark, but seriously, after that, you hear the Dies Irae either in its entirety or in fragments from then on for the duration of the movement.

 

II. Malinconia: Poco lento

A slow, melancholy, beautiful movement. Right at the end of this movement the Dies Irae is played quite slowly. On the video, it occurs at the 2:10 mark. Listen to the entire movement here (it is less than three minutes). I’ve also included a close up of the score at the moment the Dies Irae occurs:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9QbXVhpMYo

New Picture (1)

 

 

 

III. Sarabande, “Danse des ombres”: Lento

The very first melody you hear in the opening pizzicato section is the Dies Irae.  The remainder of the movement is a set of six variations on the Dies Irae.  Listen to it here:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJy01pKvIwY

 

HIGHLIGHT:

 

Movement FOUR

 

IV. Les furies: Allegro furioso

As you may have guessed by now, this movement also quotes the Dies Irae quite frequently throughout.  The coolest moment is at 1:44 in the video (link below) when she plays it sul ponticello (bowing really close to the bridge of the violin) which gives it a creepy eerie scratchy feeling.  This is really perfect music for the Halloween season!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqBDi_ZVI3I

 

I really hope you listen to all four movements. In total, it’s about twelve minutes of your day. That’s really not that much time to give yourself some culture and a LOT of “Dies Irae” moments!

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY YSAŸE?: Perhaps a 100 or so works—not impossible, but no small feat.  However, this piece has me intrigued enough to keep going!

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Hector Berlioz

October 14, 2013

As mentioned in last week’s post, I am focusing each blog post in the month of October on pieces that use the “Dies Irae”—the medieval chant for the dead—to inspire dread in the hearts of the listeners. This week’s piece?…

 

TITLE: Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14

 

This is a program symphony (a multi-movement work that tells a story through music [no words]) with a pretty insane origin. Here we go: Hector Berlioz attended the theater one night to see a production of Romeo & Juliet, which starred Irish actress Harriet Smithson. Berlioz fell madly in love and began to write fan letters to her. She responded at first, but soon realized that his letters were getting a bit too forward and perhaps even a bit creepy (“how I long for the day when we live in our mountain chateau and hear the pitter-patter of feet as our children play…”). She quit opening his letters and when she had a nice big bundle of them, sent them back to him in a package. She hoped he would get the message. He took this rejection hard. To him, it was as though they had years of a relationship; the worst break-up ever. He was heartsick and decided to kill himself. He took an overdose of opium (the trendy drug in that day), but instead of killing him, the drug plunged him into a deep sleep in which he had terrible vivid nightmares. When he awoke, he decided life was worth living after all AND that his nightmares would be a great inspiration for a program symphony.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE: I am including Berlioz’ own “program” here so you can read what each movement is about:

 

1st mvt. “The author imagines that a young vibrant musician, afflicted by the sickness of spirit which a famous writer has called the wave of passions, sees for the first time a woman who unites all the charms of the ideal person his imagination was dreaming of, and falls desperately in love with her. By a strange anomaly, the beloved image never presents itself to the artist’s mind without being associated with a musical idea, in which he recognises a certain quality of passion, but endowed with the nobility and shyness which he credits to the object of his love. This melodic image and its model keep haunting him ceaselessly like an idée fixe (obsession). This explains the constant recurrence in all the movements of the symphony of the melody which launches the first allegro. The transitions from this state of dreamy melancholy, interrupted by occasional upsurges of aimless joy, to delirious passion, with its outbursts of fury and jealousy, its returns of tenderness, its tears, its religious consolations – all this forms the subject of the first movement.”

 

As you read his words, you can see that this program symphony is quite autobiographical. The idée fixe he mentions is a lengthy melody that represents the beloved woman. Here is the idée fixe in its entirety (around the five minute mark):

 

New Picture

From this point on, whenever you hear that idée fixe melody whether in its entirety or fragmented, it will always be representative of “the beloved” woman.

Here’s Berlioz’ description of the 2nd movement, subtitled “Un bal” (a ball):

“The artist finds himself in the most diverse situations in life, in the tumult of a festive party, in the peaceful contemplation of the beautiful sights of nature, yet everywhere, whether in town or in the countryside, the beloved image keeps haunting him and throws his spirit into confusion.”

 

The idée fixe shows up twice in this movement. Once about midway through, when he is at a ball. I like to imagine that he sees her across the room, but she is unaware of him. Here’s the first occurrence of the idée fixe in this movement, and, since he is at a ball, the idée fixe has been re-written in a triple meter pattern to make it sound like a dance. While you listen to it, look at the music (above) to see how the note pattern remains the same, despite the change in meter.

 

 

It occurs again near the end of the 2nd movement in a fragmented form:

 

Third movement: “Scène aux champs” (Scene in the Fields)

 

“One evening in the countryside he hears two shepherds in the distance dialoguing with their alpen horns; this pastoral duet, the setting, the gentle rustling of the trees in the wind, some causes for hope that he has recently conceived, all conspire to restore to his heart an unaccustomed feeling of calm and to give to his thoughts a happier colouring. He broods on his loneliness, and hopes that soon he will no longer be on his own … But what if she betrayed him! … This mingled hope and fear, these ideas of happiness, disturbed by dark premonitions, form the subject of the adagio. At the end one of the shepherds resumes his alpen horn tune; the other one no longer answers. Distant sound of thunder … solitude … silence …”

 

The idée fixe appears in this movement at a moment when he is thinking of his beloved and is beset with doubts about her fidelity.

 

 

Fourth movement: “Marche au supplice” (March to the Scaffold)

“Convinced that his love is unappreciated, the artist poisons himself with opium. The dose of narcotic, while too weak to cause his death, plunges him into a heavy sleep accompanied by the strangest of visions. He dreams that he has killed his beloved, that he is condemned, led to the scaffold and is witnessing his own execution. As he cries for forgiveness the effects of the narcotic set in. He wants to hide but he cannot so he watches as an onlooker as he dies. The procession advances to the sound of a march that is sometimes sombre and wild, and sometimes brilliant and solemn, in which a dull sound of heavy footsteps follows without transition the loudest outbursts. At the end of the march, the first four bars of the idée fixe reappear like a final thought of love interrupted by the fatal blow.”

 

Here is the fragmented idée fixe just before the axe falls (the last minute or so of the movement). Incidentally, Berlioz’ description is not quite specific enough for my taste, so let me be even more specific—you’ll hear the first few notes of the idée fixe, then you’ll hear the axe fall, then the head falling and bouncing at least once, and finally the “Hurrah”s of the assembled crowd.

 

 

Fifth movement: “Songe d’une nuit de sabbat” (Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath)

 

“He sees himself at a witches’ sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more shouts. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque: it is she who is coming to the sabbath … Roar of delight at her arrival … She joins the diabolical revelry … The funeral knell tolls, burlesque parody of the Dies irae, the dance of the witches. The dance of the witches combined with the Dies irae.”

 

I love this movement on so many levels. First of all, it’s creepy in its musical description of hell (or purgatory), plus the use of the idée fixe is fantastic. In this movement, as mentioned above, the idée fixe is mocking the whole concept of the “beloved.” Here it is, first stated in a fragment by the normal clarinet, interrupted by an orchestral outburst, immediately followed by a full version of the idée fixe played by the grating, high, shrill e-flat clarinet:

 

 

HIGHLIGHT: But all this idée fixe business is not why I chose this work for this week’s blog post. I chose it because it also features the use of the “Dies Irae” to help inspire dread in the listener; to help illustrate the plight of the main character in Symphonie Fantastique.” Shortly after the “beloved” appears and we hear the idée fixe in its transformed state, we hear a bell toll followed by the “Dies Irae.” Here’s a reminder of what the original medieval “Dies Irae” sounded like:

 

 

And here it is, the first time it appears in the fifth movement:

 

 

And here it is over and over again, played by different instrument groupings at different tempi in the final movement of Berlioz’ masterwork Symphonie Fantastique.  Enjoy…and tremble in your boots!

 

 

I would, of course, highly recommend that you listen to the entire work–especially since you have the story, in Berlioz’ own words provided for you (above).  Here’s a YouTube link to a complete performance of the work.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK6iAxe0oEc

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY BERLIOZ?:

A lot, including another massive symphony called “Lelio” based on the EXACT SAME idée fixe!

 

HILARIOUS EPILOGUE: After his rejection by Harriet Smithson—and after he got over the break-up by writing Symphonie Fantastique—he got engaged to another woman named Camille, a pianist. Shortly after their engagement, he won the prestigious composition competition—the Prix de Rome—which required that he relocate to Italy for a year. He asked Camille to wait for him, which she agreed to. Off he went to Rome. Shortly after he arrived in Italy, a friend wrote him to inform him that Camille had married a piano-maker. Berlioz hopped on a boat to take him back to France with revenge on his mind. He decided that he would kill Camille, her new husband and her mother (who should have prevented the marriage). Armed with two pistols, a bottle of poison, and a maid’s uniform, his plan was to dress up in the uniform to gain entrance to their home. However, on the boat ride over, he thought better of his plan and decided to kill himself by leaping overboard. When he leapt overboard, the ship was just pulling into the harbor and people on shore jumped in to save him. The dip in the cold water brought him to his senses and he decided to take his revenge another way. He wrote a short story about a loose woman named “Ellimac” (Camille backwards) who used her beauty to get gifts and money from men. As her looks faded, she resorted to prostituting herself. The story ends with her being crushed to death, when the seedy brothel in which she plies her trade collapses.

 

Satisfied by this revenge, and now that he was becoming famous as a composer, he decided to write to Harriet Smithson again. Her fame was on the wane, so she thought, “Hey, maybe if I marry a famous composer, I’ll be famous again” and she accepted his advances. They were married for 11 years before they separated (due to constant fighting), at which point, Berlioz moved in with a mistress, Marie Recio. Berlioz continued to financially support Harriet through the years; when she suffered a series of strokes and became an invalid, Berlioz paid all her medical bills and watched over her with great concern and love. When she passed away in 1854, Berlioz married Marie. She preceded him in death by seven years. All three of them—Hector, Harriet, and Marie—are buried in the Montmartre cemetery in Paris, France. Here are two pictures–one of their tomb (note me and Emma peeking through the headstone) and one of the side of the tomb with the inscription for Harriet and Marie:

2012 April Paris Champion week 225 2012 April Paris Champion week 230

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

September 29, 2013

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was born on September 30 in 1852 in Dublin, Ireland.  Happy Birthday, Sir Charles! He is not quite as famous as some of his students (Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst), but his music is most certainly worth a listen.  I have known of him for years simply because I am a clarinetist and there is a sonata by Stanford that is performed relatively frequently in the clarinet world.  But I wanted to expand my familiarity with his music, so I chose to listen to his Requiem mass.

 

TITLE: Requiem, op. 63

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:

This is a lengthy Requiem, about an hour and twenty minutes worth of music. After listening to it this week, I’m surprised we don’t know more of Stanford!  This is lovely music!  If you are a fan of sacred choral music, this is for you.  Here’s the title and section titles:

 

Requiem, Op. 63

  1. Introit: Adagio
  2. Kyrie: Allegro tranquillo ed espressivo
  3. Gradual: Larghetto
  4. Sequence – Dies Irae: Allegro moderato ma energico
  5. Offertorium: Allegro
  6. Sanctus: Allegro non troppo
  7. Agnus Dei et Lux Aeterna: Tempo di Marcia funebre

 

Each section is between four and eleven minutes long with the exception of the fourth section—the Sequence – Dies Irae—coming in at a whopping thirty minutes long!

 

HIGHLIGHT:

There are two highlights for me in this lovely Requiem.  The first is the aforementioned really long “Dies Irae” section.  It’s like a mini-oratorio.  It has a lot of drama and utilizes the orchestra, choir, and four vocal soloists (SATB) extremely well. The entire movement is a bit too long for me to include here, but I encourage you to seek this work out.

 

The other highlight is the opening section of the Requiem—the “Introit: Adagio.”  It is absolutely gorgeous.  I have included (below) an excerpt of the first five minutes of the work.  You can read the text and translation here:

LATIN

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.

Et lux perpetua luceat eis.

Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sion,

Et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem

Exaudi orationem meam

Ad te omnis caro veniet.

 

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Eternal rest give unto them, O Lord

And let perpetual light shine upon them

A hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Zion

And a vow shall be paid to thee in Jerusalem

Hear my prayer

All flesh shall come before you.

 

If you’d like to follow along with the score, you can find it here:

 

http://javanese.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/6/6c/IMSLP90211-PMLP184944-Stanford_Requiem.pdf

 

(You might have to click on an “ok” button that says you understand that the score may or may not be in the public domain before you can view the score.)

 

Enjoy!  I really think you’re going to love this one!

 

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY STANFORD?:  A lot! And, since he’s not quite so well-known, a lot of his music has not been recorded.  This’ll be a challenge, but I’ll find a way to listen to it all.

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by Charles Ives

September 22, 2013

Ives is one of my favorite composers.  He is perhaps best-known for “quoting” or “borrowing” familiar hymn-tunes, patriotic songs, and folk tunes and using them within his own compositions to help evoke certain emotions and memories in his listeners. Some find Ives too modern, too dissonant, for their liking.  But I find that his use of dissonance is purposeful and adds to the listener’s emotional experience.  I thought I’d pick something that is season-specific. And I found more than one! Start by listening to this song by Ives titled “Autumn.”  It’s short.  2 ½ minutes long.  Take a listen…

Autumn (Ives)

Here are the words; follow along as you listen!

Earth rests.

Her work is done, her fields lie bare,

and ‘ere the night of winter comes to hush her song

and close her tired eyes,

She turns her face for the sun to smile upon

and radiantly, radiantly,

thro’ Fall’s bright glow,

he smiles

and brings the Peace of God.

A lovely song.  One of the reasons I came to like Ives in the first place was his tuneful and sweet songs.

Next, I found that the first movement of his Violin Sonata No. 2 is titled “Autumn” and in fact, Ives himself said he quoted his song “Autumn” in this first movement but, sadly, I can’t hear it. I found a great YouTube video of the violin sonata which shows you the music AS you listen.  Here’s the link for the first movement, titled, unsurprisingly, as “Autumn”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlrqOVeb6wc

The 2nd movement, “In the Barn” on the other hand quotes LOTS of familiar songs.  So as you listen to the 2nd movement, be on the lookout for the following quotes:

Ives’ quoting

In order, they were “Battle Cry of Freedom” “Sailor’s Hornpipe” “Turkey in the Straw” and “The White Cockade.” The most obvious quotes of these tunes are found in the last minute and a half of the 2nd movement.

Here’s the link for the second movement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vT1YvJrGsqo

And the 3rd movement, “The Revival,” quotes the familiar tune “Nettleton.”  If you are saying to yourself, “I’ve never heard of ‘Nettleton’ before”—I would simply reply, “Yes, yes, you have” (at least, if you belong to a Judeo-Christian religion).  Take a listen…(if you have still never heard it before, the more familiar title of “Nettleton” is at the bottom*…)

Here’s the link for the third movement:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZScYA7_WXx0

The familiar part is most easily recognized at 1:15 in the video, in the piano part (albeit in a minor mode).

 

HIGHLIGHT: The third movement. My favorite quotation of “Nettleton” is in the violin part at 2:42.  It’s altered a bit rhythmically, but it’s also surprisingly fiery at first and then joyful. And the way Ives ends this sonata (with the quote) is simply perfect (at 3:47).

I hope you enjoy it—even if the dissonance is a bit out of your normal comfort zone.

 

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY IVES?: Hundreds of songs, oodles of chamber music and symphonies.  But because I love him so much anyway, I’m sure I’ll manage to make my way through it all!

 

*Come Thou Fount of Ev’ry Blessing

Watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUhU0HgTq94

or, if you’re a Mumford & Sons fan, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwZ_oFCqfG0

I’m Listening to Everything by Anton Webern

September 15, 2013

webern

On this day (September 15) in 1945, after a stressful day, Anton Webern stepped outside his home in Salzburg to smoke a cigar.  At the time, American forces were occupying the city to keep the peace following the end of WWII.  When Webern stepped out of his home to smoke it was 45 minutes before the evening curfew was to go into effect.  Unfortunately an American soldier mistakenly thought the curfew had already started and shot Webern to death.  Afterwards, the soldier, realizing his mistake, was overcome with grief and less than ten years later, died of alcoholism.  To commemorate Webern’s death, I’d like to look at one of his earlier works.

 

TITLE:  Passacaglia für großes Orchester, op. 1

 

DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:

The title of this piece indicates that it is using a somewhat restrictive Baroque form, that of the passacaglia.  A passacaglia is almost the same thing as a ground bass, but with some more freedom (essentially). Any passacaglia has a bass line that repeats over and over again.  So in this piece, there are eight notes stated at the beginning of the piece, then those eight notes are repeated over and over again throughout the piece. If you listen to the first eight notes a bunch of times before you listen to the rest of the piece, you’ll be able to hear that basic bass line woven into every single variation for the rest of the piece.  Here is a clip of the first eight notes along with the score showing the first eight notes:

first eight notes (Webern)Webern ground

Through all the repetitions in this piece, you should be able to hear those eight notes.  Here’s the second statement of those eight notes.  You can already hear how interesting Webern’s orchestrations are.

2nd statement (Webern)

I find it really awesome that Webern has taken a fairly conventional form (from the Baroque Era) and made it crazily interesting with enough dissonance to make it clearly “Modern” but not enough dissonance to offend listeners!  I love it.

 

HIGHLIGHT:  The last few variations—so inventive and wild, yet still identifiable!

Here’s one of them:

near the end (Webern)

Here’s a YouTube link of the whole piece.  Please listen to it and try to follow along with the numerous repetitions of the bass line.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VMIhkU_XpQ

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY WEBERN?: Not as much as a lot of other composers. Webern tended to bury/hide compositions he didn’t feel were near-perfect, so there are only 31 pieces of his that have opus numbers and less than that that do not have opus numbers. Plus, one of his compositional characteristics for much of his career was brevity.  As a result, a lot of his pieces are extremely short.  It would not take me too long to make my way through his entire compositional output.  And I plan to do it!