Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Papa's Piano

repeat post from August 24, 2013

Franz Joseph Haydn, the great Austrian Classical Era composer, is known as Papa Haydn because he is considered the father of the classical symphony.  Haydn composed 104 classical symphonies.  A characteristic of a Haydn symphony is its bright, happy, playful nature. In fact, so many times did Haydn put in his symphony a surprising moment [for example a surprising forzando in the middle of a soft passage] that the audience looked forward to them in anticipation.  In fact, that anticipation at one of the premiers of a Haydn symphony, conducted by the maestro himself, led to his miracle symphony [which legend says literally saved lives].  Audiences of the time loved their Papa Haydn because of the good feeling when listening to a Haydn symphony. 

Franz Joseph Haydn [1732 - 1809]

It wasn't just symphonies that Haydn wrote.  Papa Haydn wrote many great works for the piano.  The best of those concerti [and the most popular] is his D Major Concerto.  This concerto brings back memories for me as the first time I heard it was in a piano concerto competition when my daughter was just beginning her classical piano lessons with a great Russian American teacher, Mrs Kurinets.  One of her students was performing this concerto-it happened to be one of the girls of the famous 5 Browns [2 boys and 3 girls], and if memory serves me correct she was only twelve when performing the first movement of the Haydn D Major concerto. She performed it flawlessly and she won first place in her division.  I still remember how my daughter's piano lessons came after the youngest of the Brown girls' lesson. 

This D Major concerto is just like a typical Haydn symphony with its light, playful nature. I really love this piano concerto. The first movement, Vivace, has a very happy, bright quality.  The second movement, Poco Adagio, which begins at the 8:15 mark, is a pleasant slow movement that switches to the A Major key. The second movement is unusual as it also contains a cadenza.  The third movment, Rondo all'Ungarese-Allegro assai, returns to the home key of D Major and this is a very fun "Haydn" playful movement.  It begins at the 15:04 mark.

Yes, while Papa Haydn is known for his many symphonies, I think you will enjoy this Papa's piano.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy "the Papa's" piano concerto in D Major.

F. J.Haydn: Piano Concerto in D Major:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It's An Enigma

Edward Elgar was an English composer during the late Romantic era of music.  As a youngster in Worcester, England Edward learned how to play the violin and piano.  His development in music led him into composition.  He was a great composer who is probably most well known for his Pomp and Circumstances Marches.  His beloved Enigma Variations is probably a close second.  Elgar was knighted at Buckingham Palace on 5 July 1904.  Ever since that time he became known as Sir Edward Elgar.
Sir Edward Elgar [1857-1934]
When Sir Edward Elgar released his beautiful Enigma Variations, musicologists all over have been trying to figure out why did Sir Edward Elgar name this the enigma?  What is the puzzle [enigma] in the music?  Some have said there must be some hidden theme [melody] in the music which answers the enigma, but to my knowledge, while many have come up with their theories, there has been no definitive conclusive answer to what is the enigma of this theme and variations.

Sir Edward Elgar wrote himself in a program note for concert goers in a performance in 1911, "
This work, commenced in a spirit of humour & continued in deep seriousness, contains sketches of the composer’s friends.  It may be understood that these personages comment or reflect on the original theme & each one attempts a solution of the Enigma, for so the theme is called.  The sketches are not ‘portraits’ but each variation contains a distinct idea founded on some particular personality or perhaps on some incident known only to two people.  This is the basis of the composition, but the work may be listened to as a ‘piece of music’ apart from any extraneous consideration."

I think when anyone listens to this, they don't care why Sir Edward Elgar named this as he did, they just love the grand music.  I am probably alone in this, but to me, when I hear the first four notes of the original theme [and all throughout the music] I keep hearing in my head: 'you don't know me' .... and I can't get that out of my head.  When you listen to the theme, see if you can also hear 'you don't know me' coming from the music like I do.

There are 15 movements in the enigma variations.  Movement one, Andante, has the original "enigma' theme and then 14 variations of that theme follow in movements two through 15In movement 10, Adagio, is the 9th variation known as the "Nimrod."   The Nimrod variation is one of the most beautiful pieces of orchestral music you will hear.  That is why I have played this before on the Tales classical music weekends. 

The exciting final movement #15 with the 14th variation is scored finale, allegro. 

With beautiful music like this, is it any wonder why Edward Elgar was given the honor of knighthood in England?  Sir Edward Elgar sure sounds appropriate to me.

From classical vault 1 on You Tube, here is Maestro Temirkanov and the St. Petersburg [Russian] Orchestra for Sir Edward Elgar's entire Enigma Variations.  And then a video of the Nimrod Variation by itself with legendary pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as this is so beautiful I think you will enjoy hearing it again.  :-) 

As I always say on the Tales please turn up the volume and enjoy this beautiful "enigma".  

Sir Edward Elgar: The Enigma Variations

Sir Edward Elgar: The Enigma Variations, Movement #10, "The Nimrod Variation":

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dvorak's Largo For Cello and Piano

During my morning walk on Saturday, I heard this beautiful version of the "going home" theme from the Largo movement of the Czech Romantic composer, Antonin Dvorak's wonderful "From the New World" Symphony #9 played on "All Classical Portland".  The version I heard was for cello and piano.  This is one of my favorite movements of any symphony played by full orchestra, and it translates well to the cello. 

I thought to myself what a soothing, peaceful, and beautiful melody for the Tales Sunday version of the blog's all classical weekends.

Antonin Dvorak [1841 - 1904]
Please turn up the volume and relax and enjoy this beautiful music from one of my favorite composers, transcribed for cello and piano. On this version I found on You Tube, it was arranged by the cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson and pianist, Jon Schmidt.  

Antonin Dvorak: "Going Home" theme from the Largo movement of Symphony #9 in E minor, "From the New World", arranged for Cello and Piano:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

In Classical Music, This Joke is No Joke

Repeat post from August of 2013

In large classical compositions, like symphonies, concerti, chamber music pieces, etc., the compositions are divided into sections that are called movements.  A classical symphony will usually have 4 movements, a classical concerto will have 3 movements, and chamber music pieces have various number of movements-usually three or more.

These movements will be described usually by the tempo of the movement.  You might see for example Symphony #1 in D major, movement #1, allegro. Of course, that means the composers 1st movement of his 1st symphony will be played fast.

Sometimes movements are also given a more descriptive term for the movement, besides the tempo. For example you have movements described as romances [self explanatory], or dances [like minuets, gavottes],  or trios [which means that the first and 3rd section of the movement will be exactly the same, divided by a different second section of the movement].  You have theme and variations and rondos and then there are some movements that are described as scherzos.

Scherzo literally means to jest or joke.   Scherzos in a musical composition or movement usually have a light, fast-moving, and playful character.  A scherzo usually will be the second or third movement of a symphony.  Some scherzos actually bring a smile to your face, like the third movement of Beethoven's Violin Sonata known as the Spring Sonata, which we feature here. 

Two of my favorite scherzos come from the great Ludwig Van Beethoven.  One is from his Sonata for Violin and Piano, called the Spring Sonata [this is one of the shortest scherzos you will hear]; and the other scherzo is the second movement from his famous Symphony #9 [this is one of the longest scherzos you will hear]. 

L.V. Beethoven  -  Dec. 16, 1770 - March 26, 1827
In Beethoven's Spring Sonata, the scherzo is the short third movement. You can see the playful nature of the pianist and violinist and the "joke" of how the instruments don't seem to be playing together [on purpose].  When watching this movement there is no doubt why this movement is scored scherzo.

Then a more vigorous and dramatic scherzo comes from what many call the greatest symphony ever written, Beethoven's majestic Symphony #9, commonly known as the Ode To Joy, for it's glorious, hopeful final choral movement #4.  The Scherzo is the second movement of this masterpiece.  This dramatic scherzo, while having what could be described as a surprise ending, is definitely no joke.

As always, friends, please turn up the volume and enjoy these two scherzos by the master Beethoven, which are no joke.  And then enjoy a bonus third scherzo from the master, Beethoven's scherzo movement in his Eroica Symphony.

L.V. Beethoven: Violin Sonata #5 in F Major ["Spring"], movement 3 Scherzo, allegro molto:

L.V. Beethoven: Symphony #9 in D minor, movement 2, Scherzo, Molto vivace – Presto:

L.V. Beethoven: Symphony #3 in E Flat Major, "Eroica", Movement 3, Scherzo, Allegro Vivace: