Saturday, February 23, 2019

Mahler's Epic Eighth - Symphony Of A Thousand

A repeat post from May 10, 2014 when the fetching Mrs. B and I were in attendance at Houston's Jones Hall for a once in a thousand concert by our great Houston Symphony Orchestra.  Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand, that is. 

Mahler's Epic Eighth - Symphony of a Thousand

Gustav Mahler [1860 - 1911]
Gustav Mahler was an Austrian, late Romantic composer and conductor.  His Eighth Symphony in E-flat Major is truly a giant among the great symphonic giants.  This from Wikipedia: "The Symphony No. 8 in E-flat major by Gustav Mahler is one of the largest-scale choral works in the classical concert repertoire.  Because it requires huge instrumental and vocal forces it is frequently called the "Symphony of a Thousand", although the work is often performed with fewer than a thousand, and Mahler himself did not sanction the name."

From the Houston Symphony Orchestra website: "Former Music Director Christoph Eschenbach returns to conduct two spectacular evenings of music by one of his favorite composers. Mahler’s Eighth Symphony is commonly referred to as the “Symphony of a Thousand” due to the huge number of performers required on stage. Watch in awe as more than 400 musicians, chorus members and vocal soloists join together – complete with a special stage extension – for a once-in-a-lifetime, powerful experience of music."

From Christopher Gibbs of the American Symphony Orchestra web site: "According to conventional definitions, the Eighth is more a cantata or oratorio than a symphony. Multiple choruses and vocal soloists are used throughout, unlike Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or Mahler’s own Second that withhold vocalists until the end. Mahler recognized this as a revolutionary feature, telling his biographer Richard Specht, “Its form is something altogether new. Can you imagine a symphony that is sung throughout, from beginning to end?"

From Wikipedia: "Mahler replaced the last three movements with a single section,, essentially a dramatic cantata based on the closing scene of Geothe's Faust, part II."  So, the 8th symphony, rather than the usual four movements has two parts:  Part 1: Veni, Creator Spiritus -Allegro impetuoso,  Part 2: Final scene from Faust - Poco Adagio.  

James Denton - Cellist for the HSO
On twitter, Houston Symphony Orchestra cellist, James R Denton, known on twitter as @cellojames tweeted this: "try to make it to Mahler 8 this weekend [at Jones Hall in Houston] - it will absolutely blow you away!!!"

Please turn up the volume and enjoy Mahler's epic 8th "Symphony of a Thousand". The Maestro is the legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein leading the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Vienna Boys Choir.  

This is a very long symphony, with the extended second movement, "Final Scene From Goethe's 'Faust' beginning at the 26:43 mark; and if you don't have time to listen to this entire symphony, please at least listen to the final part of the second movement, "Chorus Mysticus", which ends with a stirring triumphant climax. This part begins at 1:17:50.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #8 in E-Flat Major, "Symphony of a Thousand":

Update:  May 11, 2014:  Oh, my!  My wife and I attended the Houston Symphony Orchestra's performance [along with an almost 400 member choir and soloists] led by former director of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Christoph Eschenbach, last night of the Mahler 8th Symphony.  We were blown away.  This was not just a symphony, this was an awesome epic event that we had just witnessed and heard. First, just the setting of the big symphony orchestra that required and extended stage, and the huge choir, including men, women and kids [in the upper two rows], and the soloists, 3 female and on one side of the conductor and 3 male on the other side of the conductor, and a surprise soprano during one part of the symphony that appeared from the balcony--this was like a grand Las Vegas production. Then the music, oh, the music.  What stirring, at times dramatic, always moving beautiful music.  The symphony starts out with a dramatic chord from the organ that grabs you right from the start.  Then also right from the beginning you get this magnificent sound from an equally magnificent choir.

You could tell the love that Maestro Eschenbach has for the Mahler 8th, that was so exhibited by orchestra and choir.  I actually saw orchestra members smiling during the performance, and when their part was quiet, I saw more than once a member of the orchestra look over at another sitting next to him and give a smile at the music they were hearing.  Yes, former Houston Symphony Orchestra director, Christoph Eschenbach was the perfect choice to lead the Mahler 8th. 

The finale of the symphony was so awesome, first coming from this huge moving sound from the choir and concluding with a confident, triumphant stirring explosion from the orchestra that had the patrons in Jones Hall leaping to their feet and shouts of Bravo after the final definitive chord played by our great orchestra.   I don't think I am exaggerating to say there had to be a 15 minute standing ovation that forced bows over and over and over by each section of the orchestra and the soloist singers and the choir and for Maestro Eschenbach. 

Maybe someone can help me with this, but there was one minor phrase played a couple of times in the first part of the symphony that sounded like the opening of the music from Schindler's List.  Is this where John Williams got that opening from? 

Bravo, again Houston Symphony Orchestra for an epic event that I will never forget.

Update Aug. 8, 2015:  If you read my question in the next to the last paragraph above, and with a hat/tip to my brother Bradley [as you will notice in the discussion in the comment section] I was correct that the beginning phrase of the John William's Schindler list theme did incorporate one of the short [around 7 notes] phrases that occurs in the Mahler 8th.

Check it out:
Listen in the video above of the Mahler 8th symphony from the 6:53-7:08 and 10:26-10:39 marks of the first video of Mahler's Eighth Symphony, and then listen to second video below from John Williams, "Theme from Schindler's List", beginning at the 23-28 second mark to see if you can hear a similarity.

John Williams: Theme from Schindler's List

Thursday, February 21, 2019

On This Day In 1948 NASCAR Was Founded

This from "On this day in history" - Feb. 21: "On this day in 1948, the National Association for Stock Car Racing–or NASCAR, as it will come to be widely known–is officially incorporated."

"The driving force behind the establishment of NASCAR was William “Bill” France Sr. (1909-1992), a mechanic and auto-repair shop owner from Washington, D.C., who in the mid-1930s moved to Daytona Beach, Florida."

Richard Petty - The King
Further down in the article, "Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500, which was run on February 22 of that year.  The Daytona 500 became NASCAR’s season opener and one of its premiere events. Lee Petty’s son Richard, who began his racing career in 1958, won the Daytona 500 a record seven times and became NASCAR’s first superstar before retiring in 1992.  On February 18, 1979, the first live flag-to-flag coverage of the Daytona 500 was broadcast on television. An end-of-the-race brawl between drivers Cale Yarborough and Donnie and Bobby Allison was a huge publicity generator and helped boost NASCAR’s popularity on a national scale." 

To read the whole article from, please click here.

In this year's race [2019], Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs racing, driving the #11 car, a Toyota, held off Joey Logano and Kyle Busch to win the "great American race". 

Here are some of the greatest finishes in Daytona 500 history

Boogity, boogity, boogity, Let's go racing!    

Happy 71st Birthday NASCAR!


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The 9-11 "Living Memorial" in Jerusalem

repeat post from a couple of years ago on The Tales
Hat Tip: My Aunt Carla's good friend Ellen from St. Louis.
I wonder how many of you know about this Memorial dedicated in the Jerusalem Forest in Israel, which was done in solidarity with America [and in honor of the victims and their families] after the horrific 9-11 [2001] terrorist attacks on America. 
9-11 "Living Memorial" in the Jerusalem Forest, in Jerusalem, Israel

This tribute, from America's good friend Israel, echos the commitment from Jews around the world [that came out of the Holocaust] that this should "never again" be allowed to happen.

Thank you, "US Embassy Tel Aviv" You Tube site for this moving video.  In their caption they state: "U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham and Defense and Air Attache Colonel Richard Burgess took part in the dedication ceremony for a JNF-sponsored September 11 monument and Living Memorial at the entrance to Jerusalem (in the surrounding forest) on Thursday, November 12, 2009"

9-11 "Living Memorial" in the Jerusalem Forest in Israel:

God Bless America!     God Bless Israel!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sonatinas That Warmed A Dad's Heart

Muzio Clementi was an important composer and classical pianist from Italy. He is well known, along with Carl Czerny for his studies [etudes] for the piano.  Many young classical music students will know the name of Clementi for his studies and sonatinas.  

I remember my daughter, Ebony, in her Suzuki classical music classes [started when she was 6 years old], while using the studies of Czerny, played some nice sonatinas by Clementi.  I especially remember these two bright, happy sonatinas Ebony would play at age 6 or 7.  The first piece is a short 3 movement piece, I think you can see how it could warm a Dad's heart with happiness hearing his little girl play this.  While this piece is not extremely difficult, it still was amazing to me how a person so young could memorize all three movements.  

In the Suzuki method the students had to memorize and play without music all their pieces.  The second piece, which is Clementi's sonatina #3 [1st movement], is played by a little girl at about the same age my daughter was when she played this piece.  It brings back great memories to watch this.

I hope you don't mind this personal wonderful remembrance from a proud father, remembering his little girl playing these sweet sonatinas by Muzio Clementi.

Muzio Clementi: Sonatina #1 in C Major:

Muzio Clementi: Sonatina #3 in C Major, Movement 1, Spiritoso:

Now my little girl, is a grown woman who has made me proud and has given me and my wife a precious granddaughter that has warmed my heart once again!

My daughter Ebony and granddaughter Skye Noelle