Monday, November 23, 2020

"Porcelain Unicorn"

Repeat Tales post from 2010 of a very moving and powerful award winning short film directed by American director, Keegan Wilcox, entitled "Porcelain Unicorn."

This short film of only about 3 minutes in length is very emotional as it tells the tale of how an encounter between a young German boy and a Jewish girl hiding in a closet during the Holocaust affects the boy in later life. 

You wouldn't think a film of such short length could bring tears to your eyes, but this just might.  Thanks for this video from director Wilcox' You Tube page.

Porcelain Unicorn by Keegan Wilcox, 2010:

I can see why this won the grand prize for the competition it was in. 

Bravo, Keegan Wilcox!  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Epic Tone Poem, Scheherazade

 Repeat post from the week of Thanksgiving three years ago:
Three 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, AndrĂ©s 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."
From Britannica Scheherazade: "Scheherazade, also spelled Sheherazade, orchestral suite by Russian composer Nicolay Rimsky-Korsakov that was inspired by the collection of largely Middle Eastern and Indian tales known as The Thousand and One Nights (or The Arabian Nights). Exemplary of the late 19th-century taste for program music—or, music with a story to tell—the piece evokes an image of Scheherazade (Shahrazad), the young wife of the sultan Schahriar (Shahryar), telling tales to her husband to forestall his plan to kill her. Colourful and highly varied in mood, the work has a recurring violin solo that represents Scheherazade herself and a deep, ponderous theme that corresponds to the sultan.  The composition was completed in 1888, and it premiered on November 3 of that year, in Saint Petersburg, with the composer himself conducting."
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, play in full screen, and enjoy this epic tone poem, Scheherazade.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade:

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Interpretation Is In The Ear of the Conductor

One of the things that is great about going to classical music concerts is that even when you have heard the same piece of music many times, you almost always hear something new each time you hear it.  You may hear the staccato in a phrase of a certain section of the orchestra that you hadn't noticed before or you may hear the importance of a certain instrument in a phrase of the piece that for some reason you are just hearing for the first time.

Also, when you hear a piece you have heard many times by a certain conductor performed by a new conductor, the piece may sound different.   How is that you may ask?  It is the same piece with the same notes by the same composer and played by the same symphony orchestra and all that is different is the conductor, so why wouldn't the music be played the same way and sound exactly the same?

Maestro Andres Orosco-Estrada, conductor of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, I love his interpretations  
That is because each conductor, who conducts a piece by a famous composer, is interpreting the piece the way that they feel that the composer wants the music to be played.  All the great conductors study the composers and their music to try and get a feel of how that great composer wants their music to be interpreted.  There is no wrong or right way to interpret the piece of music as it is all in the "ear" of the conductor.  When you hear a piece played a little different than you have heard before, it is not because the conductor is doing it for changes sake or just to make himself unique, rather it is his understanding of how the composer wanted that music to be played.

How can a piece sound different when the orchestra is playing the exact same notes every time?  There may be a phrase that the conductor thinks should be shaped a certain way, or the dynamics might be interpreted different.  For example, a certain part of the music might be marked "f " for forte or loud...but how loud is loud...that is up to each conductor to determine.  Also, the tempo or speed of the piece can be interpreted differently by different composers.  Yes, the composer might mark a movement of a piece he has composed as "Allegro" which means to be played fast.  But how fast?  Different composers determine in their mind [from their understanding] of how fast the composer means the piece to be played.

There is one piece of music that I have heard many times, on recordings and at the concert hall, and I have almost never heard it played the exact same way.  This piece maybe the most recognized and it certainly one of the most beloved pieces of classical music, Beethoven's 5th Symphony [the opening movement].  The opening 8 note motif is probably the most well known opening of a classical music piece by even non classical music aficionados.

L.V. Beethoven - there have been many interpretations of his 5th symphony
The opening movement of this greatness may be the starkest example of how different conductors can interpret the same piece of music a different way.  And none of them are wrong.  

Here is an example of four legendary conductors, Herbert Van Karajan, Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa, and their different interpretations of the opening of the first movement, Allegro con brio, of the Beethoven 5th Symphony:

Now here is the full symphony #5 by the great Ludwig Van Beethoven.  This masterpiece may be played as much as any other piece in concert halls around the world.  It was scored in C minor and has four movements:  1. Allegro con brio,  2. Andante con moto,  3. Scherzo - Allegro,  4. Allegro.  This stirring piece ends with one of the most exciting sustained climaxes in the symphonic genre.  

In this video, I love this interpretation of the Beethoven 5th by the great Maestro Gustavo Dudamel.  This is a great performance of Beethoven's 5th symphony.  Thanks for this video on You Tube from EmbavenezCanada

Please turn up the volume, play in full screen, and enjoy this genius masterpiece by Beethoven.

L.V. Beethoven: Symphony #5 in C minor: