Alexander Boyd's Blog

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Rossini’s La Cenerentola

March 6th, 2011 by Alexander Boyd · Uncategorized

The only other Rossini opera I am familiar with is the Barber of Seville. Cenerentola has the same playful music, appropriate for a comedy. It has a sense of mischief that I hear in a lot of the opera buffas that I enjoy. I don’t find the music all that exciting in terms of virtuosic composition, but the music is generally very lively and attention grabbing, with cool bel canto vocal lines full of impressive coloratura and patter passages.

Like most operas, the plot is a little different from the original story, but the sentiments remain largely the same. The comedy of it is not too intense, there is still real emotion displayed for Cenerentola’s sadness and miserable position, even if the rhetoric, both musical and dramatic, is a little archetypal compared to the more modern operas I am used to hearing.

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Beethoven Missa Solemnis

February 16th, 2011 by Alexander Boyd · Uncategorized

The Kyrie movement comes across as very grand, somewhat heroic even, with brief moments of darker, sadder textures that almost immediately return to the strong, major, declamatory themes in the beginning, but the sadder more pleading gestures grow in length and intensity as the movement goes on. The choral sections shows this the best, ending sections with typical 5 to 1 chords, but you can hear the pleading for mercy, starting quietly and growing more intense (in what I consider a very stereotypical Beethoven fashion). The soloists voices mix together at times, creating an overlapping plea for mercy, going into some of the more interesting musical areas of the piece.

The Gloria opens with, of course, glorious brass ringing, and jubilant choruses singing in higher registers. The music is much more bombastic than any masses by Mozart, jumping between extreme dynamic and color changes. Beethoven’s work clearly demonstrates the effusive emotion that separates it from the Classical masses. Even though the text is happily praising God, I hear some of the “sturm und drang,” almost ominous tones in quieter sections that make me think of some kind of intensely fervent zealotry; sections are the very opposite of relaxing, the tension is heavy in stormier passages. The ending sounds like sunlight breaking through the clouds, after the murky tension preceding it.

The first lines of the Credo sound to me like an opera chorus, as if people had just come on stage to introduce a plot or moral. It has a boisterous self-assurance, reflecting the strong faith it proclaims. Like the previous movements, it has large contrasts between sections, dynamics dropping and tempi slowing for what come across as more tender sections, especially the solo quartet sections. I am not generally a fan of masses, and I feel that this one does go on a little too long, but interestingly fills in the gap between the Mozart and Verdi religious musics I am already familiar with; longer and more extreme in its changes than Mozart, but not as long winded or quite as emotionally draining as Verdi.

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