Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Epic Tone Poem, Scheherazade

Two years ago, just after Thanksgiving, the Houston Symphony Orchestra had a great concert in Jones Hall that featured the Russian Romantic composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's captivating tone poem masterpiece, "Scheherazade", led by HSO's great conductor, Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov [1844-1908]
From the Houston Symphony Orchestra web page: "This Thanksgiving, Andrés conducts Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Inspired by 1001 Nights, this sumptuously orchestrated tone poem takes listeners along on the voyages of Sinbad and ends with an electrifying festival at Baghdad."

Scheherazade is a symphonic suite in 4 [program] movements: 1. The Sea and Sinbad's ship, 2.The Kalandar Prince, 3. The Young Prince and Young Princess, and 4. Festival at Baghdad.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy this beautiful epic piece by Rimsky-Korsakov. 

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade:

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Case For a Six Team College Football Playoff

I made this call for a six [not 4 or not 8 as some are suggesting] team NCAA playoff system for the national championship of college football exactly a year ago today.  With again another year of almost a certainty that there is a dispute on who should be the #4 team in the playoffs, when  the playoff selection committee's final results come out in one week, [because there are so many good teams with only one loss and/or other teams who will win their conference championship who will almost surely be left out]  I am repeating this post from one year ago:


The last couple of years it seems like there has been controversy over the final #4 seed selected in the NCAA College Football Playoff.  This year, 2018, there were 3 teams who had legitimate claims to be chosen as the 4th team: Oklahoma, Georgia, and Ohio State, with Oklahoma being the team selected by the selection committee.  That was a good choice, as would have been Georgia or Ohio State.  But doesn't that mean that all three of those teams deserved to be in the playoffs.

Because of that many college football fans would like to see the playoffs expanded to more teams.  The instant reaction is to expand it to eight teams where you would just add another week to the playoff schedule.   

There are four reasons why, I believe, 8 teams would be a bad idea:  

1. It would water down the field too much where you could actually have one or two weak teams at the bottom.  That is the beauty of not having too many teams, as the 4 playoff has now, as it ensures, for most seasons, only good teams with an actual chance to win the championship are in the playoffs.

2. It would possibly make for really bad match ups in the first round as you would have #1 playing #8 and #2 playing #7, with the strong possibilities of blowouts in those games.  The great thing about the playoffs as they are now is how exciting they are.

3. It wouldn't be fair to the top 2 teams, after having gone through a grueling season and maybe a championship game in their conference, to have to play 3 games to win the championship.  I do think the top one or two teams in the country should only have to play at most two games to win the championship.

4. It would almost completely take away all the suspense and interest in the college football playoff selection show.  There has been real intrigue and anticipation, especially when it comes down to the last one or two teams, in the playoff selection show.  If you have 8 teams, I don't think you will have people turning in, in droves to find out whose number eight.

Okay.  But if it comes to a time when there is a consensus that the field needs to be expanded and eight teams wouldn't be a good idea, what would work.  My idea is a six team playoff.  Yes, you may still get a few complaints from some teams that their team didn't get selected, for the most part you would have the top teams who would have a legitimate chance at winning the championship and at the same time [in my set up] the top 2 teams would still only have to win two games to win the championship, as it is now.

How would a 6 team playoff field work?:

1.  The top two seeded teams would get a bye in the first round.

2.  Two weeks after the selection committee makes the announcement, team #6 would play at the home of team #3; and team #5 would play at the home of team #4.

3.  Then you will have the same exact playoff situation as you do now with the number one seeded team playing the winner of number 4 and 5; and the number two seeded team playing the winner of 3 and 6 with the games taking place right around New Years Day [or before] in the major bowl sites determined. 

Then you would continue to have excitement in the bowl selection committee announcement as seeding would be critical to find out who has the number one and two seeds and the byes in the first round and also to find out who would have home field advantage for round one.  It would be fair to the number five and six teams who may have been deserved to be in the playoffs, but would have missed out in today's four team set up.  The top two teams would still only have to play two games to win the championship.  And the four team semifinals could still take place close to New Years Day as it does now with the championship game one week after that.

My idea....take it for what it's worth. :-)

Friday, November 29, 2019

Tales Classical Music Thanksgiving Weekend Special

On this weekend after Thanksgiving I was trying to find some appropriate classical music giving thanks for all the blessings we have received.  

I found this great web post from WQXR in New York entitled:  "Top Five Expressions of Thanks in Classical Music".  They have come up with five great pieces expressing thanks and appropriate for Thanksgiving:  1. Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15, Op. 132 Adagio;  2. Ives' Holiday Symphony;  3. Bach's Cantata "He who offers thanks praises me";  4. Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel - Chorus of Thanksgiving and 5. Monteverdi’s Mass for Thanksgiving.

Tales would like to concentrate on three of those pieces for this Tales classical music Thanksgiving Weekend special: Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15;  Bach's Cantata "He who offers thanks praises me."; and Charles Ives' "Holidays Symphony". 

L.V. Beethoven [1770-1827]
From the WQXR website"Beethoven’s works are often examined through highly biographical perspectives, and the Adagio from String Quartet No. 15, also under the title “A Sacred Hymn of Thanksgiving from a Convalescent to a Deity, in the Lydian Mode,” provides one such example.  While composing the quartet, Beethoven fell gravely ill from intestinal distress. He nursed himself back to health on a restrictive diet, though he would die two years later.  The slow movement manifests his return to health, starting in minor and miraculously shifting to major."

J.S. Bach [1685-1750]
Also from the website "It’s no surprise that J.S. Bach makes our list with Cantata BWV 17 “He who offers thanks praises me.”  The work begins with a glorious fugue sung by a chorus.  The voices and instruments continually grow in strength and complexity with each repetition of the title phrase, weaving together a spiritually uplifting and sincere message."  The article goes on to say, "The work was intended for the 14th Sunday after the Trinity, but it would be a welcome accompaniment for any Thanksgiving table".

Charles Ives [1874 - 1954]
Also from the web site: "The culmination of Charles Ives’ Holidays Symphony is the Thanksgiving and Forefather’s Day movement, which describes the Pilgrims' fraught adventure across the Atlantic Ocean, their struggle in settling in New World, and their fortitude of character in surviving. It then segues into a New England celebration with a round of traditional hymns." 

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some beautiful music expressing thanks on this Tales Classical Music Weekend Special. 

L.V. Beethoven:  String Quartet #15 in A-minor, movement 3, "Heiliger Dankgesang", Molto Adagio-Andante:

J.S. Bach: Cantata, BWV 17, "He who offers thanks, praises me":  

Charles Ives: Holidays Symphony, Movement 4, "Thanksgiving and Forefather's Day":

Wishing All a Happy Thanksgiving Week

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing a Happy and a Blessed Thanksgiving to all!

Dennis Prager
In the Thanksgiving season of 2009 Dennis Prager [talk show host and founder of  Prager University] wrote this great piece on Thanksgiving in The Jewish Daily Forward called :  An American Yom Tov

Dennis Prager:  "Thanksgiving has always been my favorite national holiday.  In fact, although I am a religious Jew (or rather, because I am a religious Jew), it rivals my favorite Jewish holidays for my affection.

It does so because it is quintessentially American, it is deeply religious without being denominational and it is based entirely on one of the most important, and noble, traits a human being can have — gratitude."

Dennis Prager writes at the end of his article:
"I recall with pride that in my Orthodox parents’ home on Thanksgiving we ritually washed our hands before the Thanksgiving meal and sang the Birkat Hamazon — the grace after meals — afterward as if it were a yom tov meal.

Indeed, Thanksgiving is literally a yom tov, a good day.  The best there is."

Please read the entire article of this wonderful sense of Thanksgiving by Dennis Prager here.