Saturday, January 19, 2019

Exciting Finishes In Classical Music

Repeat post from a couple of years ago.

Hans Graf, HSO previous director
In Houston we are lucky when we go to a concert to see and hear our great Houston Symphony Orchestra in Jones Hall to have this pre-concert talk called prelude about 45 minutes before the beginning of the concert.  

The fetching Mrs. B and I always look forward to those informative and many times humorous presentations of the composers and or pieces we are about to hear.  I remember this one prelude a little over a year ago when Hans Graff, the director at that time of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, who was in his final year with HSO, gave the talk.  He asked for questions at the end and someone asked why he chose this certain piece on the program.  Maestro Graff, said humorously, that "we conductors are human.  We like the pieces that have the big exciting finishes to bring the crowd to their feet with a big ovation." 

As we soon [in March] will be into the NCAA Basketball Tournament with its so many great exciting finishes, I thought about Hans Graff response in doing this post on exciting finishes also. Not on the basketball court but in the concert hall.  While there are many, many pieces that I could have chosen, I decided on these five: a piano concerto, a violin concerto and three epic symphonies.  Every piece has a stirring, exciting finish that I think you will agree would have you give a big ovation with shouts of Bravo, if you were in the concert hall.  In giving these five pieces, I am not trying to say these are the pieces that have the most exciting finishes or even the most exciting finishes in their genre. In fact, I bet if I had wrote this post on another day, five other pieces would have come to my mind. These just happened to immediately come to mind on this day.

The piano concerto I chose is from the early 20th century Russian/Soviet Union composer Dmitri Shostakovich.  Shostakovich' piano concerto #1 has a very exciting finish [in the final of this short four movement concerto] using the trumpet to go along with the piano in a rousing flourish. As in some of Shostakovich pieces, this concerto does not have a lot of beautiful melodies, but it is still a wonderful piece, very satisfying with the excitement exuded in the climax.

Also, from Shostakovich I included his popular, energetic 5th Symphony in D minor with it's loud timpani pounding climax.

The violin concerto I chose is from the great Russian Romantic composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.  It is one of the greatest violin concertos ever written in my opinion.  It is certainly one of the top four concertos, to go along with the violin concerti by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Beethoven.  This concerto is unique as it not only has an exciting finish at the end of the final third movement, but it has an exciting end to the first movement.  In fact, we saw the great Joshua Bell perform this concerto a few months back at Jones Hall and for the first time in our years of concert going, we saw the audience at Jones Hall give Joshua Bell a "standing ovation" after the first movement.  As this post is called exciting finishes, I will have the third movement's exciting finish that ends the concerto.

My favorite composer, the classical/Romantic German composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven, had many of selections I could have chosen for exciting finishes.  I chose the finale to his Symphony #5.  While some say that Beethoven's 9th symphony may be the greatest symphony ever composed, I believe his 5th symphony may be his most well known, and ranks right up there with the ninth as beloved by the world.  This symphony certainly has one of the greatest stirring, triumphant, exciting finishes that will bring concert goers to their feet in a loud ovation.  I remember after seeing a great performance of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, the conductor [I cannot remember who] would signal for certain sections of the orchestra to stand for the applause, then for the whole orchestra to stand, and then he picked up the score of music from Beethoven and pointed at it.  When he did that and to hear the thunderous ovation from the patrons, it gave me goose bumps. 

One of the giants in composing epic symphonies is the late Romantic Austrian composer and conductor, Gustav Mahler.  Listen to the rousing climax of Mahler's "Titan" symphony #1 in D-Major. If you were in attendance at a concert featuring this symphony it would bring you to your feet in applause at this greatness. 

Please turn up the volume and enjoy just a few of the many exciting finishes in classical music.

Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Concerto #1 in C-minor, movement 4, Allegro con brio:

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Violin concerto in D-Major, Movement 3, Allegro vivacissimo:

Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony #5 in C-minor, Movement 4, Allegro:

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #1 in D-Major, Movement 4, "agitated - energetic":

Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony #5 in D minor, Movement 4, Allegro non troppo:

Bonus Update:  Jan. 15, 2016The fetching Mrs. B and I just arrived home from a free concert given by the Houston Symphony Orchestra at Houston Baptist University.  It was really a great concert and the final piece was the Tchaikovsky 4th Symphony which the Houston Symphony played brilliantly.  Also, talk about an exciting finish.  Once I heard the climax of this great symphony I knew when I got home I would have to add this to my exciting finishes in Classical music post.  

So, please, once again turn up the volume and enjoy another exciting finish in classical music that would bring you to your feet if you were in attendance.

P.I. Tchaikovsky:  Symphony #4 in F-minor, movement 4, Allegro con fuoco:

Friday, January 18, 2019

Boyz II Men Soulful Sound Joins HSO Virtuosos To Make Some Beautiful Music

On Friday, January 18, 2019, the fetching Mrs. B and I once again trek to one of homes away from home [along with Minute Maid Park during the Houston Astros season] -Jones Hall- to hear the great virtuosos of our Grammy winning Houston Symphony Orchestra.  But this time, unlike usual to hear a great classical music concert, our HSO will be joining forces with Boyz II Men to make some soulful music.

This from the Houston Symphony Orchestra website: "Renowned for their smooth style and soulful hits, four-time GRAMMY award winning trio Boyz II Men joins the Houston Symphony for one night of musical magnitude. Redefining the genre of R&B by combining elements of a cappella and new jack swing, their expressive harmonies continue to captivate audiences decades later. From Motownphilly to End of the Road, relive the rhythms that dominated airwaves in the 90s."

Enjoy some wonderful Boyz II Men sound:

End of the Road

The Color of Love:


Welcome to Houston Boyz II Men 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mister Piano

This is a repeat Tales Classical music post.

Frederic Chopin [1810 - 1849]
I think I would be in pretty good company saying that the great Romantic era composer from Poland, Frederic Chopin, is the greatest composer of piano music ever.  This virtuoso of the piano was a master at composing beautiful romantic piano melodies.  While most of the masters were virtuosos in more than one instrument, that is not true with Chopin.  Piano was his instrument.  For that reason Chopin did not compose many pieces that contain orchestral music or even any other instruments.  From Wikipedia on the list of Chopin's compositions, I believe Chopin composed only 10 pieces that contained other instruments with the piano.  He composed two beautiful piano concertos; 3 pieces for cello and piano; a trio for violin, cello and piano; "Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante" for orchestra and piano; a "Fantasy on Polish Airs" for piano and orchestra; "Rondo a la Krakowiak" for piano and orchestra; and "Variations of 'La ci darem la mano'" [an aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni] for orchestra and piano.  

Other than those ten pieces, every other composition of Chopin was for solo piano.  

He was prolific in his solo piano compositions with Etudes, Nocturnes, Polonaises, Sonatas, Preludes, Impromptus, Scherzos, Ballades, Mazurkas, and Waltzes.

Yes, it is true that most of the other great masters had many more great orchestral works and chamber pieces than Chopin, but not many of the other masters can come close to the so many beautiful solo piano compositions of Frederic Chopin.  

That is why I say that Frederic Chopin is indeed, Mister piano.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some beautiful music for the piano from "Mister piano", Frederic Chopin.

F. Chopin: Nocturne #20 in C-sharp minor:

F. Chopin: Polonaise, op. 53 in A-flat Major, "Heroic":

F. Chopin: Grande Polonaise Brilliante in E Flat Major for piano and orchestra:

F. Chopin: Waltz in D-Flat Major, "Minute Waltz":

F. Chopin: Prelude #20 in C minor:

F. Chopin: Waltz #2 in C-sharp minor:

F. Chopin: Piano Concerto #1 in E minor:

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King  on this Jan 15, 2019 - his 90th Birthday! 

Happy Birthday to a great American leader, a great man

From the  Biography web site of Martin Luther King, Jr.:  Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King, both a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist, had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Among many efforts, King headed the SCLC.  Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors.  King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, "I Have a Dream."

From the Bio page on You Tube this Mini Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

On August 28, 1963 there was a huge civil rights "March on Washington for jobs and freedom", which culminated in Martin Luther King's iconic "I have a dream speech" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, before hundreds of thousands [some estimate 250,000] of Americans.

Excerpt from Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech in Washington, D.C. August 28, 1963

Tales salutes this great American and wishes everyone a Happy MLK Day-2019!