Archive for October, 2013

Haydn, String Quartet in G Major, Op. 33/5 “How do you Do?”

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

String Quartet in G Major, Op. 33, No. 5, “How do you Do?”, 1781

In 1781, after a lapse of ten years, a 49-year-old Joseph Haydn turned to the string quartet again, composing a set of six that were published the following year as Op. 33. The publication bore a dedication to the “Grand Duke of Russia” and so these quartets are most commonly known as the “Russian” quartets. The alternate nickname, Gli Scherzi (The Jokes), refers to the fact that Haydn replaced the traditional title “Minuet” with the Italian word “Scherzo,” (meaning joke or playfulness). Whether these dance movements were any different than their predecessors is difficult to determine, but the birth of a new movement genre is undeniable, as history would prove. The nickname is apt here because with Op. 33, Haydn did recast the essential character of the string quartet by making it somewhat more lighthearted. Yet he also made it more sophisticated in terms of musical construction resulting in cleverness and, in several places, literal musical jokes based on confounding the expectations of common music forms and devices. (more…)

Fauré, Violin Sonata in A Major, Op. 13

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924)

Violin Sonata in A Major, Op. 13, 1876

Towards the end of his life in 1924, Gabriel Fauré was celebrated as the leading French composer of his time, a central force in the resurgence of French music in the late 19th century that rose from a late romantic style, sought a fresh nationalistic voice and emerged, with the likes of Debussy and Ravel, in 20th century “Impressionism.” Fauré’s music spans this timeline and has been described as a bridge between Brahms and Debussy. Fauré unquestionably established his own, unique musical style with innovations in modal and whole tone melody and a pliant harmony of subtle but constant modulation. It suggests a new kind of extended tonality as a natural extension of tradition without breaking it in the manner of atonality or synthetic serialism. Fauré was the most innovative composer of his generation and, through his teaching and writing, became quite influential on subsequent generations. (more…)

Prokofiev, Sergei Prokofiev Violin Sonata No. 1 in f minor, Op. 80

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Violin Sonata No. 1 in f minor, Op. 80, 1946

Prokofiev is widely considered one of the great 20th century composers with a substantial oeuvre in most important genres dating from the first half of the century before his death in 1953. One of his greatest lifelong attractions was for opera of which he wrote at least ten, including his most successful, The Love For Three Oranges. Naturally for a Russian, Prokofiev composed at least nine ballets of which Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella achieved lasting particularly as orchestral suites. In collaboration with Eisenstein, he wrote epic film scores including Lieutenant Kijé, Ivan the Terrible and Alexander Nevsky. Typical for a Soviet Composer, Prokofiev also contributed to children’s music including the beloved Peter and Wolf. Prokofiev composed seven symphonies, chamber music and numerous important works for his own instrument, the piano: five piano concertos and nine piano sonatas. Broadly speaking, his music is distinctly modern, full of dissonance, abrupt contrasts and driving motoric rhythms, often with great color, humor and verve. He consistently wrote with great melodic appeal and often within traditional forms as one of the first neo-classical composers. (more…)

Arvo Pärt, Spiegel Im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror)

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Arvo Pärt

Spiegel Im Spiegel (Mirror in the Mirror), 1978

Estonia is an independent Baltic state in North-Eastern Europe by Latvia, Lithuanian and Russia, due South of Finland on the sea. For five decades in the latter half of the 20th century, Estonia was part of the Soviet Union. Born there in 1935, Arvo Pärt is a currently living Estonian composer. His spare, haunting music has entranced listeners for decades, his special minimalism as fresh and as exotic as the country of his birth. A composer of much religious choral music, his instrumental works evoke a gentle and sincere spirituality though their shear beauty of tone, space and simplicity. While representing and helping to define a genre of contemporary classical music, Pärt’s music is likewise old, inspired by ancient models and evoking a timeless mood. (more…)

Saint-Saëns, String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 153

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

Camille Saint-Saëns, 1835-1921

String Quartet No. 2 in G major, Op. 153, 1919

The lifespan of Camille Saint-Saëns accompanies an astonishing musical history beginning with the music of Mendelssohn, Chopin and Schumann and ending with the Jazz Age encapsulating Wagner, Debussy and Schoenberg in between. This timeframe spans the classical, romantic and modern periods and also witnesses the rise of French music in the modern canon of the classics. Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy who, at his public debut as a pianist at the age of 10, played a Mozart concerto and, for an encore, offered to play any of the 32 Beethoven sonatas from memory. He was a masterful organist who no less than Franz Liszt considered the greatest, particularly for his improvisations. Saint-Saëns was once considered quite “avant-garde” for championing the music of Liszt and Wagner particularly to his disapproving French countrymen despite his clever prowess in sight-reading their revolutionary orchestral scores at the piano. Yet, over time, Saint-Saëns developed an aversion to the march of historical innovation gradually despising the music of Wagner as well as his own compatriots Franck and Debussy. Eventually, he would be considered conservative, then a reactionary, hopelessly “classical” in his outlook and style. (more…)