Archive for October, 2014

Milhaud, La Création du monde, Op. 81b

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)

La Création du monde, Op. 81b (1923)

Darius Milhaud was a remarkably prolific 20th Century French composer who established his reputation in the 1920’s along with a generation of young avant-garde composers, artists and writers in the modernist ferment of Paris. Some of Milhaud’s most enduring work reflects “foreign”, exotic influences he acquired during his travels: popular Brazilian dance music for Carnival and early American Jazz. He first heard Jazz in Paris and then, in New York, where Milhaud went out of his way to Harlem seeking out the nascent art in its most ideal context. Milhaud wrote that he was intoxicated by Jazz, particularly with some early female blues vocalists, where he sensed a deep, more primal aesthetic legacy from Africa. Back in Paris, Milhaud teamed up with a designer and writer on a production for the Swedish Ballet about the creation of the world based on African folklore featuring exotic deities with supernatural powers. Milhaud found it a perfect vehicle to express his Jazz affinities and the result was the successful ballet la Création du monde which debuted in 1923, the year a young Louis Armstrong made his very first recording and one year before the debut of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. (more…)

Ensemble San Francisco, Fall – 2014

Friday, October 24th, 2014

The Ensemble San Francisco has assembled a unique program of musical treasures destined to join into a singular tantalizing experience with a prominent theme: the passionate romance of Latin music emphasizing Spain and the guitar. The Latin spirit arises out of Italy (Paganini) and Spain (da Falla, Turina, and Granero), giving and taking inspiration with the French (Bizet), and migrates to the new world forming hybrids in the Caribbean and the Americas (Piazzolla, Corea, Wineglass and Granero). The color, rhythm and passion of Latin music have traveled the world inspiring musicians and composers everywhere including Eastern Europe and Hungry (Kovács). One cultural element that underlies, connects and literally embodies this migratory influence is the music of the Romani people, otherwise known as Gypsies, “Bohemians”, and the masters of Flamenco, extending from Pakistan to Portugal and beyond. Here is a timeless icon of the wild, romantic spirit dancing throughout these pieces, whether Spanish jota, Italian tarantella, Cuban habanera, Afro-Cuban rumba, or Argentine tango. At its very core run the exotic scales, rhythms and characteristic figurations of the similarly iconic Spanish guitar, whether literally or through imitation by the voice, the piano, the bowed stringed instruments or even the clarinet. This is the lifeblood that infuses the diversity of this program, joining it together into a single and singular deeply related song. (more…)

Prokofiev, Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Overture on Hebrew Themes, Op. 34, 1919

Sergei Prokofiev has proven to be one of the great 20th century composers with outstanding masterworks in nearly every genre from opera, ballet and symphonies to chamber works, music for children (e.g. Peter and the Wolf) and numerous virtuosic works featuring the piano highlighting his own abilities as a concert pianist. Spending most of his life in Russia and the Soviet Union, Prokofiev spent nearly two decades living aboard beginning with a short, financially and professional unsuccessful sojourn in the United States from August 1918 through April 1920. While living in America, Prokofiev was commissioned by an ensemble of Russian Jewish immigrants called Zimro for some new music to be based on themes from a notebook of Jewish folksongs and scored for their specific ensemble: clarinet, string quartet and piano. At first resisting, Prokofiev accepted the commission and quickly completed a ten-minute overture that he debuted as pianist with Zimro in 1920. While Prokofiev remained rather unimpressed with the work (which he later orchestrated), the Overture on Hebrew Themes has remained one of his most cherished chamber compositions. (more…)

Haydn, String Quartet in D major, Op. 71/2, “Apponyi”

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Joseph Haydn, 1732-1809

String Quartet in D major, Op. 71, No. 2, 1793

Music appears to be an infinitely renewable resource in that the human capability for ever-new musical expression seems inexhaustible. This property is seemingly demonstrable even within the work of certain prodigious composers like Bach or Haydn where, within even a single genre, we are presented with an endless variety of riches. Haydn is famous not only for essentially inventing the string quartet but also for turning out a large number of masterworks in the form, each a unique individual example novel in its own way. Most knowledgeable enthusiasts will agree that Haydn wrote around 30 “great” quartets and yet, without any particularly radical changes, they comfortably fit within a relatively modest range of style and expression. Still, they are testament to Haydn’s endless powers of invention and musical entertainment as he gradually evolved the string quartet from the intimate chamber salon to the public concert hall. (more…)