Saturday, July 11, 2020

Rubato: The Delay That is Welcome in Romantic Music

To procrastinate is not a very good trait to portray.  That is, unless you are talking about the delaying technique in Romantic Music called rubato.  I did an early post on rubato and would like to review it.  Rubato is the technique, applied a lot in the Romantic era of music, of purposely delaying the time a note is played from that which is written on the sheet of music.  This technique would be frowned upon in the Baroque Era.  In the Romantic era, however, this technique is not only welcomed but it is encouraged.  This delay of a note [a lot of times at the end of a phrase] adds to the feeling and mood of the piece.  By delaying the playing of a note, it just emphasizes more that note to the listener when it is finally played.  Rubato means "to rob" [time].  I remember my daughter's piano teacher saying when you rob you must also give back [to catch up with the time of the piece].  

Rubato is not indicated by the composer on the score of a piece of music.  The soloist in a concerto or the conductor leading the orchestra [tutti] uses that technique as the feeling moves them.  That is why you can see the same piece of music played by a different performer and it may seem it is not played exactly the same.  While we are talking about only a fraction of a second, that delay, sometimes subtle and sometimes pronounced, really adds to the beauty of the music.  It is especially present in a slower Romantic movement of a Romantic era concerto.

Frederic Chopin [1810-


There is no better choice to display the rubato technique than when played in a piece by the quintessential Romantic composer, Frederic Chopin. This Polish composer's music [almost all piano] cries out romanticism. If you aren't moved by a romantic piece of music by Chopin, than you better check your pulse.

Chopin composed two piano concertos, both with beautiful Romantic second movements.  Listen and see if you can detect the rubato [delay of a note played] in these two movements.  

Sometimes the delay is so subtle that at first hearing you might not be able to pick it up, but you will still be able to pick up the feeling generated from the pianist [aided by the rubato].  

Enjoy two beautiful pieces of piano music [aided by the rubato technique] from Mr. piano, Frederic Chopin, in his piano concertos.  For just a couple of examples of rubato, listen to the delay between 1:39-1:40 and 4:40-4:41 in the first video. There are many more examples in this piece that I think you can hear for yourself and many obvious examples I think you will see/hear in the second Chopin piano concerto.  

Also, listen to the rubato technique [some subtle] used by the soloist in the beautiful adagio movement of Mendelssohn's 2nd Piano Concerto in D minor.

Then, see if you can find examples of rubato in the beautiful Andante movement of Brahms Piano concerto #2.  

And please enjoy this final piece conducted by the maestro, Jun Markl, who I believe [I could be wrong] inserts some subtle rubato for the strings to create this moving and beautiful moderato movement in Camille Saint-Saens amazing Organ Symphony. Even if I am wrong about the rubato, this is such a beautiful and moving Romantic piece of music I want you to enjoy.   

Note: Unlike the soloist in a concerto [like a piano concerto] where the pianist will use the rubato technique as it moves him, when there is rubato used by the orchestra [tuti], it must be directed by the maestro, because all the orchestra members have to be on the same page.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy how rubato in Romantic music enhances the beauty of the music.

Frederic Chopin: Piano Concerto #1 in E minor, Movement 2, Romance, Larghetto:

Frederic Chopin: Piano Concerto #2 in F minor, Movement 2, Larghetto:

Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Concerto #2 in D minor, Movement 2 Adagio:

Johannes Brahms: Piano concerto #2 in B flat minor, Movement 3, Andante:

Camille Saint-Saens: Symphony #3 in C minor, "Organ", Movement 2, moderato:

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: