Sunday, February 28, 2021

Happy Birthday, Chopin

From the Chopin bio web site:  "Frédéric Chopin was born Fryderyk Franciszek Szopen on March 1, 1810, in the small village of Zelazowa Wola, Duchy of Warsaw (now Poland)."

Happy 211th Birthday Frederic, "Mr. Piano",  Chopin!

Chopin, a child prodigy, was a great virtuoso pianist and composer for the piano during the Romantic era of music.  Born in Poland he moved to Paris, France as an adult [at age 21] and lived their for the rest of his short adult life.  Like many of the great composers, Chopin died at a very young age, 39.

Frederic Chopin [March 1, 1810 - Oct. 17, 1849]
From the Tales piece entitled Mister Piano : "While most of the masters were virtuoso's 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.  Chopin, I believe, composed only 6 pieces that contained instruments other than the piano.  He composed two beautiful piano concertos, and 4 chamber music pieces, 3 for cello and piano and a trio for violin, cello and piano.  Other than those 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.  Chopin is known for some of the most beautiful melodies for piano ever composed.  Frederic Chopin is the quintessential romantic composer.  I remember when my daughter took classical piano lessons, Chopin's piano music was introduced at a later age because of the challenging nature with Chopin's use of very large chords [especially difficult for a child with small hands].  While it was challenging, it was some of the most pleasing to play with its ultra beautiful romanticism.

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 that Frederic Chopin gave the world.   Frederic Chopin is indeed, mister piano."

So, today Tales celebrates Frederic Chopin's birthday with six of his well known pieces:  The Fantasie Impromptu [that includes the melody that has become known as "I'm always chasing rainbows" at the 1:19 mark]; his short exciting "Minute" Waltz [with Valentina Lisitsa in a brilliant performance at the piano]; the first of his two great piano concertos in E-minor. This beautifully melodic Piano Concerto #1 has 3 movements: 1. Allegro Maestoso, 2. Romance, Larghetto, and 3. Rondo, Vivace; also, the well known third movement, Lento, of his Piano Sonata #2, known as the "funeral march." And finally pianist, Valentina Lisitsa, performs Chopin's soothing
Nocturne, Op. 9, #2 in E Flat Major.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some beautiful music from Mister Piano, Frederic Chopin on this Sunday, the day of his birth in 1810.

Frederic Chopin: Impromptu #4 in C# minor, "Fantasie Impromptu":

Frederic Chopin:  Waltz in D-Flat Major, Opus 64, #1, "Minute Waltz":

Frederic Chopin:  Piano Concerto #1 in E-minor 
Frederic Chopin: Piano Sonata #2 in B-Flat minor, Movement 3, Lento, "Funeral March":

Frederic Chopin: Nocturne, op. 9, no. 2 in E Flat Major:

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Key Is The Key To The Mood

Repeat post from Oct of 2013 with a couple of changes

I remember when my daughter Ebony had her classical piano music lessons her teacher, Yelena Kurinets [a great classical music piano teacher], when introducing a new piece, would first play part or the entire piece to my daughter.  The first thing she would ask Ebony was to give a description of the piece, i.e., the mood of the piece.  She would ask my daughter to state if the piece was happy, playful, fun, exciting, sad, dramatic, scary, or some other descriptive word.  She wanted her to learn the mood of the piece in order to know how to play the piece.  What later became obvious was that pieces had a certain flavor according to the key of the piecePieces that were in a major key, like C-Major, E-Major, etc. were almost always bright happy pieces.  
Pieces that were in a minor key, like D-minor, E flat-minor, etc., were almost always more dramatic and sometimes darker pieces than those with a major key.

The great composers of classical music would put a piece in a certain key to portray the mood they wanted. So, for the most part, if they would want the piece to give a bright, happy feeling to it, they would use a Major key.   And for the most part if they wanted a piece to portray a darker and or dramatic mood, they would use a minor key. 

Note: while a classical music piece is scored in a certain key, sometimes it would change during the piece or in the middle movement of a piece, but almost always the piece will start in the key noted and will end in the key noted.

I will give you examples from three of my favorite composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, and Antonin Dvorak, to show how the key of the piece of music helps determine the mood of the piece. 

W.A. Mozart [1756-1791]
The quintessential classical composer W. A. Mozart, composed 27 piano concertos, most of then truly great piano concertos.  You will hear how a Mozart piano concerto in the key of C-Major and one in the key of C-minor have two different moods.

Mozart's piano concerto #25 in C-Major displays a bright happy character.  The third movement, allegro, displays that mood, aided by it's major key.

Then in the second video, in the opening movement of Mozart's piano concerto #24 in C-minor, you will get a completely different flavor.   Mozart uses the minor key to portray an undeniable dramatic, serious mood in contrast to the concerto you hear in C-Major.

Note:  Those familiar with Mozart's C-minor concerto will notice a different cadenza [that begins just before the 11 minute mark] used by the soloist than is usually played.  I believe Mozart did not actually write a cadenza for this C-minor concerto and the one usually played is the one that was written by his student, Johann Nepomuk Hummel.  I am not sure who wrote the cadenza played in this video. 

So, Mozart uses the keys of C-Major and C-minor in two different piano concertos to give two very different moods to the concertos.
Felix Mendelssohn [1809-1847]
From Felix Mendelssohn, I have two beautiful melodic movements from two of his symphonies, one in a major key and one in a minor key, to demonstrate how the key can help determine the mood of the piece:  Symphony #4 in A-Major, known as the "Italian" and his symphony #3 in A-minor, known as the "Scottish".

You can hear immediately the playful happy character in the first movement, Allegro vivace, of Mendelssohn's Symphony in A-Major.

Then from the first movement, Andante con moto - Allegro un poco agitato, of Mendelssohn's Symphony in A-minor you will notice a complete different mood, one of drama, thoughtfulness and seriousness.  

Both of these symphonies are representative of the beautiful melodic nature that all of Mendelssohn's works contain, but with a different mood that their keys help to develop.  
Antonin Dvorak [1841-1904]
The great Romantic composer from the Czech     Republic, Antonin Dvorak, was known for his stirring pieces and beautiful melodic music. He composed 9 great symphonies and I have chosen the final movements of Symphony #8 [in a Major key] and #9 [in a minor key] to show you how the key of the piece can help determine the different mood of the piece. The final movement of Dvorak's Symphony #8 in G-Major has a very positive and triumphant mood. While in movement 4 of Dvorak's exciting Symphony #9 in E-minor there is a dramatic, tense feeling with some of the softer sections even having a somber pensive mood, in my opinion.
As I say always, please turn up the volume and enjoy this great music from Mozart, Mendelssohn and Dvorak with two of the pieces in major keys and two in minor keys and hear how the keys are the key to the mood.

W.A. Mozart:  Piano Concerto #25 in C-Major, Mov. 3, Allegretto: [bright playful mood]

W.A. Mozart: Piano Concerto #24 in C-minor, Mov. 1, Allegro: [very dramatic]

Felix Mendelssohn:  Symphony #4 in A-Major-"Italian", Movement 1, Allegro Vivace: [bright - positive]

Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony #3 in A-minor-"Scottish", movement 1, Andante con moto - Allegro un poco agitato:  [dramatic - pensive - bold]

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #8 in G-Major, Mov. 4, Allegro ma non troppo: [positive and triumphant]
Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #9 in E-minor, mov. 4, Allegro con fuoco: [dramatic - tense]

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Happy Purim!

On Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, at sundown starts the Jewish Holiday of Purim.  Purim commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire from destruction in the wake of a plot by Haman, a story recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther. Purim lasts one day and ends at sundown on Feb. 26.

From the Jewish Women's Archive"The heroine of the book named for her, Esther is a young Jewish woman living in exile in the Persian diaspora, who through her youth and beauty becomes queen of the Persian Empire, and then by her wits and courage saves the Jewish people from destruction.  The message of the Book of Esther, a work of historical fiction written in the diaspora in the late Persian—early Hellenistic period (fourth century b.c.e.), gives encouragement to the exiled Jews that they, although powerless in the Persian Empire, can, by their resourcefulness and talents, not only survive but prosper, as does Esther." ... "The character of Esther serves as a positive role model for Jewish women and men living in diaspora, both in the time the book was written and down through the centuries to the present day.  The contemporaneity of the message helps to account for the enduring popularity of the book, and Esther herself, in the Jewish community." 

Esther also was named Hadassah.  This from "The name Hadassah (Heb. הדסה) was one of the names of Queen Esther, the heroine of the Purim story" ... "The name is of biblical origin, first cited in the Scroll of Esther (2:7), “And [Mordechai] had raised Hadassah, she is Esther" ... "The name Hadassah represents righteousness."

Here is a fun video description of the Purim story in 4 minutes from Bim Bam - Jewish Videos:

Wishing a Happy, Joyous Purim to all!