Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Mendelssohn's Piano Excitement

My favorite of all the classical music genres is the piano concerto.  Especially when you have one as exciting as the Mendelssohn concerto in G-minor.  I remember my daughter's classical piano teacher saying that a concerto was like a contest-the soloist vs. the orchestra.  In Mendelssohn's 1st piano concerto there is no doubt, that after a quick fury by the orchestra, the pianist comes in to take charge.  In that way it is like Beethoven's Emperor concerto [probably the greatest piano concerto ever written].  While the orchestra makes numerous attempts to take over, Mendelssohn makes sure it is the pianist who is in control of this concerto. 

Felix Mendelssohn [1809-1847]
This is not a very long concerto but it does not lack in great excitement.  It is one of my favorite piano concertos.  With the excitement comes one of Mendelssohn's wonderful traits-his employing beautiful melodies in his works.  The first movement, Molto Allegro con Fuoco, bursts with excitement from the very start.  There is no break between the first and second movement as it is connected with a bridge. [6:51-7:27] The bridge is a slow tempo giving it an appropriate bridge into the moving and beautiful Andante second movement [which begins at 7:28].  The third movement, Presto-Molto Allegro y Vivace, which begins at 12:18 returns to the dramatic exciting character of the first movement.  

I usually just tell you to turn up the volume and enjoy.  This time I hope you will also play this video in full screen to watch the is brilliant virtuoso performance of this young pianist Yuja Wang.  On twitter she is @YujaWang  

Enjoy some Mendelssohn piano excitement!

Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto #1 in G-minor:

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Happy Birthday Gustav Mahler

On July 7, 1860, the great Romantic conductor and composer, Gustav Mahler, was born in Bohemia [then part of the Austrian Empire] to Jewish parents.  Happy 160th Birthday, Gustav Mahler!
Gustav Mahler [July 7, 1860 - May 18, 1911]
From Mahler-fest Website: "Gustav Mahler was born on July 7, 1860 to a middle-class Jewish family in Kaliste, Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He received his principal musical training at the Vienna Conservatory, beginning in 1875. Mahler’s drive to compose began in his early years, but he found he could make a good living by conducting, which in turn allowed him time to compose."

"As a Jew, Mahler was exposed to anti-Semitism all his life, including an official “Anti-Semitic” press in Vienna. Some music commentators treated Mahler favorably, while others were vitriolically opposed.  To obtain the Vienna State Opera directorship, it was necessary to be a Catholic, so Mahler converted."

In his lifetime, Mahler was "Best known as a leading orchestral and operatic conductor."  He composed 9 large and substantive symphonies, many of which contained choruses [with vocal soloists]  and he also composed an "unfinished" 10th symphony.

Also, from Mahler-fest website: "Mahler also wrote some forty songs, including two song cycles, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (“Songs of a Wayfarer”), and Kindertotenlieder (“Songs on the Death of Children”)."

Mahler's first symphony was a strong and popular start.  Scored in D Major, it was named "The Titan".  From a previous Tales post: "As in all of Mahler's brilliant symphonies this is a large work of just under an hour with a big sound, as Mahler scores this for a huge symphony orchestra.  This epic work has also been described as a symphonic tone poem."  "It contains one of my favorite movements of any symphony as in his third movement Mahler brilliantly uses a variation of the children's song "Frere Jacques" in a slower tempo and D minor key to create a haunting funeral march.  Mahler also inserts a touch of a Jewish Klezmer sound that I love in this movement.  The dramatic "energetic" and long final movement, which brings back some of the earlier themes, begins in F minor before returning to the D Major key for an exhilarating climactic ending."

One of the great Mahler symphonies to view at the concert hall is his epic, Symphony #8 in E Flat Major, known as the "Symphony of a Thousand".  
This from a previous Tales post: "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."

One of Mahler's most popular, if not the most popular of his symphonies is his Symphony #5.  From a previous Tales post when the fetching Mrs Sheralyn and I were going to Jones Hall for a Houston Symphony Concert performance of the Mahler's 5th Symphony:  "The Houston Symphony website says that those in attendance at Jones Hall will "embark on an epic spiritual journey as Andrés conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 5.  From the opening trumpet solo to the tender Adagietto inspired by Mahler’s wife, Alma, this symphony contains some of the most emotionally powerful music ever written.  As legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan once said, “A great performance of the Fifth is a transforming experience.  The fantastic finale almost forces you to hold your breath.”

To celebrate Gustav Mahler's Birthday let us hear a portion of his huge epic symphonies #1, #5, and #8.  Please turn up the volume, play in full screen and enjoy the music of the great Gustav Mahler.

Note: I am proud to say that the first video of Mahler's complete Titan Symphony features our [Houston] very own Houston Symphony Orchestra's young dynamic director, Maestro Andres Orozco-Estrada leading the Frankfurt Radio Symphony.  My favorite movement #3, Funeral March, begins around the 25:23 mark.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #1 in D Major, The Titan:

Gustav Mahler: Symphony #5 in C# minor: Movement 4, Adagietto:

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


Monday, July 6, 2020

Alex Bregman Had Two Of The Craziest Walk-Offs You Will Ever See In 2018

As it looks like we are finally going to start Major League Baseball again soon in the year 2020, to wet your appetite, here is a repeat post from 2018, of two of the craziest walk offs in Major League Baseball you will ever see - the first one against the Padres and the second against the A's and both of them by the Astros' Alex Bregman for the Astros win.  How crazy are these two walk-offs....Bregman doesn't hit the ball 20 feet on both of them combined.

First published in the Tales in July of 2018:

Alex, "Mr. Walk off", Bregman does it again.  The third baseman and 2018 [and now 2019] All Star of the Houston Astros, who has five walk offs since and including his stirring walk off hit in the key 5th game of the 2017 World Series may have come up with the craziest two walk offs you will ever see. 

Alex Bregman, Astros All Star Third Baseman

On April  7, 2018 with no score between the Astros and Padres and a runner on second base in the bottom of the 10th, Alex Bregman got the walk off "hit" by doing this:

While that was a crazy walk off against the Padres-wait until you see this one against the A's that took place on July 10, 2018-this one has to be the craziest walk off you will ever see.

With the Astros just tying the score at 5-5 with the A's in the bottom of the 11th and runners on first and second with one out, Alex Bregman was up and did this with a 1-2 count:

I think I speak for all Major League Baseball fans who love the sport of baseball, that in the year 2020 there will be no finer two words spoken in the English language then when we finally hear:  Play Ball!