Grieg, Lyric Pieces and Songs

Posted in Uncategorized on May 15th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Edvard Grieg was a Norwegian composer who studied at the Leipzig Conservatory. He studied with E.F. Wenzel who instilled a great love of Robert Schumann in Grieg. By 1863 Grieg made his way to Copenhagen, then the cultural center of both Norway and Denmark, and fell in with the Norwegian nationalists there. He then dedicated himself to writing music that would reflect and represent the beauty of the Norwegian folk idiom. Grieg’s Lyric Pieces is a collection of 66 short solo piano pieces and is a great example of Grieg incorporating Norwegian fol song into his works. They were composed and published over 34 years, 1867-1901, and  are published in 10 volumes.

I really enjoyed listening to the Lyric Pieces and was pleasantly surprised to hear some strictly beautiful piano music. Each of the titles for each piece correlates wonderfully with the manner and personality of the piece. I also really enjoyed all the beautiful melodies that Grieg imbedded in his music. It seems Grieg also loved his beautiful melodies because the theme from the first piece in the set, Arietta, was one of his favorite melodies and was used again in the closing piece, Remembrances, this time as a humorous waltz. I also really enjoyed listening to Butterfly op. 43, no.1. The way Grieg composed this piece I can picture a butterfly flying through a beautiful spring day .

Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition

Posted in Uncategorized on May 1st, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Pictures at an Exhibition is a famous ten movement suite  composed for piano in 1874 by Modest Mussorgsky. It is Mussorgsky’s most famous piano composition and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists. The piece has also become well known through various orchestrations most notably by Maurice Ravel. Ravel’s orchestration, composed in 1922, is the most performed and recorded. When searching Naxos for recordings to listen to I came across both the original piano version and Ravel’s version for full orchestra. This work is a perfect example of program music. It is a series of pieces that describes seeing a series of friends paintings and drawings in an art gallery. The ten pieces are said to correspond to eleven pictures by Hartmann.

I enjoyed listening to how Mussorgsky envisioned his work and Ravel’s take on the famous piano suite.  To me Mussorgsky’s original seems to be a vehicle more or less for a virtuoso pianist. On the other hand Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s work  is very grand and elaborate. Both are clearly programmatic works however the large scale and grandiose nature of Ravel’s orchestration seems more programmatic to me.  It is hard to believe that Mussorgsky had no formal training as a composer. I cannot imagine composing a work as beautiful and grand as this without any musical training. I also enjoyed the interjecting promenade melody throughout the entire suite. Ravel seemed to use it to bring me the listener back, to the art gallery that this whole piece is supposed to be taking place in.

Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss which translates to The Knight of the Rose is a three act comedic opera. The opera’s german libretto was written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.It premiered in 1911 in Dresden and was an instant success with the public. Tickets at the time of the premiere sold out immediately. The critics also had a primarily positive response to the opera however some criticized Strauss for using waltzes, which was an unfashionable musical form at the time. Internationally the opera was also an immediate success with its premiere at La Scala in Italy occurring less than two months after its original premiere. It was one of his more famous works during his lifetime and is a part of the standard opera repertory. The soprano role of Marschallin has made the careers of many famous sopranos and has been labeled as the equivalent to Wagner’s Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

I really enjoyed listening to the first act of this opera. The plot consists of Octavian and Sophie trying to figure out how to be with each other after they fall in love when Octavian gave Sophie the silver rose, a traditional symbol of courtship, on behalf of Baron Ochs. I particularly enjoyed listening to Marschallin’s “Da geht er hin”. I can tell by the music alone that this opera is a comedic one. The orchestration is much lighter in texture and the vocal line is very legato. However I can also tell that it is a late romantic work with strong influence from Wagner. The opera seems to flow more naturally and organically versus the calcified traditions of italian bel canto composers. I also enjoyed the “Presentation of the Rose” scene and watched a great interpretation of it with Barbara Bonney and Anne Sophie von Otter.

Wagner’s Parsifal Act III

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Parsifal was Wagner’s last completed opera. It took him almost twenty five years to complete the opera. The plot is loosely based on the 13th century poem by Wolfram von Eschenbach, Parzifal, which is about the Arthurian knight Percival and his quest for the holy grail. This opera was also his only work composed exclusively for his Festspielhaus in Bayreuth. It is a very controversial opera due to its eroticism, treatment of christianity and its ideas of German nationalism which can also be seen as anti-semitism. Musically however it is a perfect example of Wagner’s style and genius.

I had never seen or heard a full Wagner opera and really enjoyed listening to the third act of this opera. The music for the most part was melancholy and dark. This opera also seems to epitomize Wagner’s new genre of music drama by fusing together the orchestra, vocal line and words into one organic work. This opera is also an example of Wagner’s fascination with using myth and legend as the basis of his operas. While listening to this act I wish I had had a score in order to find and recognize the various leitmotives. It was also great to hear the works of Verdi and Wagner in quick succession. Their musical styles are so different however both render beautiful operas.

Verdi’s Act IV of Don Carlos

Posted in Uncategorized on April 11th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Verdi’s Don Carlos is a five act opera with a ballet portion and was premiered on March 11, 1867. The original version that Verdi composed was set to a french libretto however it was translated into Italian almost immediately after the French premiere in 1867.  As a result Don Carlos has most often been performed in Italian. Verdi made many revisions and cuts after he finished composing the opera but before the ballet portion because of the length. The plot of the opera comes from the dramatic play by Friedrich Schiller.

I enjoyed listening to this opera very much. Overall I found the act to be very dramatic and dark in contrast to the operas of the bel canto era. The orchestral prelude into act 4 was extremely emotional and dark to me. After the bel canto composers Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti the opera genre was becoming a bit stale because of the calcified traditions however this opera shows how Verdi worked hard to make his operas original and exciting. Verdi does this by making his orchestrations thicker and more involved than previous Italian opera composers. The vocal lines are also much more lyrical and vocally demanding, resulting in a more powerful sound. Eboli’s aria “O don fatale” is a perfect example of these things. I listened to a few recordings of the aria and enjoyed one of Maria Callas singing. To me she really understood the drama of the aria resulting in a very powerful, moving performance. I really enjoyed listening to this opera and hope to see it performed one day!

Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Given the fact that music in the 19th century was dominated by male composers I was very pleased to get to listen to some works by women! The Three Romances for Violin and Piano by Clara Schumann sounds like the epitome of romantic music to me. It is such a beautiful piece and was such a pleasure to listen to. I had the time to listen to all three of them and loved the way the piano and violin worked together. Schumann gave the violin beautiful soaring melodies. The second movement is much more serious to me and pensive than the other two. During her life Clara was known more for her skill as a concert pianist and spent much of her time promoting her husband Robert Schumann’s music. However I think she deserves more credit for the wonderful compositions she produced!

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel was allowed to pursue music but only as a hobby. Her father did not believe a life as a musician was suitable for a woman. Her brother Felix however supported her composing and had many of her compositions published under his own name. Recently her works have become better known due to concerts and recordings of her music. I found it very difficult to find a recording of her Trio for Piano and Strings in D minor, however once I found it I loved it. The piece which compared to Clara Schumann’s Romances also has a cello part resulting in a richer sound. Like Clara Fanny also gave the violin beautiful legato melodies. The piano in this piece tends to be the instrument that creates the drama and darkness permeating the work. I would have loved to have heard more solo lines from the cello. This Trio, like Clara’s Romances, are the embodiment of romantic music to me and I wish that they had been encouraged to compose more in their lives. Who knows what other beautiful works they would have composed!

Rossini La Cenerentola

Posted in Uncategorized on March 5th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Rossini composed La Cenerentola when he was only 25 years old right after the success of his previous opera The Barber of Seville. It is said that he composed it in only three weeks. Rossini used both the overture from La Gazzetta and part of an aria from The Barber of Seville to create the overture from La Cenerentola. This overture is very light and happy befitting the comic opera that is to follow it. Rossini definitely uses his famed crescendo technique. The piece starts out slow and pretty serious but gains momentum with the introduction of the main theme.

I found a performance on Youtube that was done at the Met in January 2010. Off the bat the opening scene is quite difficult to sing. It is also very exciting! I was surprised to learn that Cinderella is a mezzo-soprano role, however she is contrasted by the two evil step sisters. They both sing a good amount of coloratura and Clorinda is a soprano while Tisbe is the mezzo soprano. I was surprised at how much coloratura Rossini uses in the vocal lines! All three women sing many runs and  malismas. The first scene also involves Rossini’s use of crescendo creating a very exciting setting. Rossini also uses the evil stepsisters vanity to create humor.  Prince Ramiro’s part is also very vocally taxing! His first entrance and aria is also laden with many high passages and fast runs.

I really enjoyed listening and watching the first act of La Cenerentola. With the use of ridiculous characters and difficult exciting vocal lines Rossini creates a thrilling and interesting opera. Rossini contrasts the ridiculous with the normalcy and good nature, shown in the characters of Cinderella and the Prince.

Schubert Die Forelle and his Piano Quintet in A major

Posted in Uncategorized on February 27th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Being a vocalist I am a big fan of Schubert lieder. His lied “Die Forelle” is a lively song and the words are taken from the first three stanzas of a poem by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart. The song is also composed in varied strophic form. The song depicts a man watching a trout enjoying itself in a brook and how a fisher traps the trout. The piano accompaniment is very animated and makes me think of the bubbling brook with the happy fish swimming in it. The vocal line is also very lively and crisp allowing for the story in the lyrics to show through.

Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A major, commonly known as the Trout Quintet, was composed for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass. It is known as the Trout Quintet because the fourth movement is a variation on his earlier lied “Die Forelle”. I had never heard this quintet before and really enjoyed listening to it. I particularly loved the piano part throughout the work. It has very beautiful melodic lines and in the recording I listened to, the pianist played with great legato.

The movement I was most interested in was the fourth movement. As I listened to it I realized how similar Schubert’s original song “Die Forelle” and the movement are.  He uses the same melodic line as in the song in this movement. To me it seems that Schubert wanted to expand on a beautiful song he had already composed. This movement paints the story of the poem from the original lied more expressively than the song. This could just do with the length of the movement compared to the 2 minute song version. An 8 minute movement really allows Schubert to grow and create a musical mood and story. Around 4:00 minutes I really enjoyed the dramatic turn the music takes with the pervading melody. I adds some drama to a relatively happy  movement.

Beethoven Missa Solemnis in D major

Posted in Uncategorized on February 20th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

I really enjoyed listening to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in D major. Musically and vocally this is a very taxing piece and I can see why it is not a commonly performed work. I enjoyed how he used the soloists throughout the entire work, they’re parts were intertwined with the chorus and orchestra. The kyrie felt reserved to me and the chorus and orchestra never seemed to get above mezzo forte. This movement is in ABA form. It overall felt to me as an introduction for what was to come in the rest of the work.

The Gloria begins as a much more lively and grandiose movement. Beethoven uses sudden changes in the  dynamics and tempo to create a drama filled movement. It starts off loud and bombastic and in the middle becomes much prettier and sweeter. The soloists introduce the sweeter and more legato material.  It becomes lively again towards the last third of the movement. This movement also uses a good amount of melismatic material. I especially loved around thirteen and a half minutes when the chorus began their canon and the orchestra, mainly the horns, began to come in at louder and louder dynamics. Beethoven seems to be building back up to the beginning dynamic and tone of the movement.

The credo begins as a lighter and sweeter movement. The credo also uses the changing of dynamics and tempos just as in the gloria. I particularly enjoyed around 3 and a half minutes in which the men had their own soli. It was minimally accompanied and quite stunning. This movement also seemed to have a much somber tone compared to the last two movements. Around nine minutes the movement becomes much happier and jovial.  The movement ends very sweetly with only the soloists singing amen and light orchestration underneath.

Overall this mass seemed much more complex and experimental than most masses I’ve heard by Mozart. This, to me, can be attributed to the time Beethoven was living in. He was able to take much more musical liberties than those who came before him.

Thursday Blogging

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17th, 2011 by Abigail Clyne – Be the first to comment

Today is thursday I’m in the language lab and its warm outside. I’m excited for Friday.