Pictures at an Exhibition

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

The thing that I always forget when listening to Modest Mussorgsky is that he had no real training like almost every other composer that has made it into our canon. It seems impossible to me that he would be able to create something so beautiful and fantastic without having stepped foot in a conservatory. But alas, what I believe seems to have no importance because Mussorgsky did in fact compose his famous “Pictures at an Exhibition” without any sort of instruction and the final product is remarkable.
I was able to listen to two different versions of this work. The first version that I came across was an orchestral version arranged by Maurice Ravel in the 1922. This arrangement is the best one out there. Ravel does a great job of making the piece sound very grandiose and makes it have a “larger than life” attitude. I later read that audiences loved Ravel’s orchestration so much that they banned any other version of the work for years because they believed it would not match Ravel’s superior work. Also, fun fact: The first recording of Ravel’s version was recorded with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I’m from the Boston area so that was kind of cool for me!
After having listened to the orchestral version, I listened to the piece the way Mussorgsky intended: for solo piano. This immediately gave the work a completely different feel. Although it no longer had a grandiose sound, the use of the solo piano does in fact show the high level of technique that the pianist must have to be able to play it. After doing some reading, I discovered that this piece is typically played by virtuoso pianists because of the level of difficulty…I can definitely hear that just from a first listen of the piece.
All in all, I absolutely loved “Pictures at an Exhibition”. Of all the movements in this programmatic work, I must say that I really enjoyed the Promenade sequences throughout the piece even though they technically aren’t numbered. They are solely meant as transition music and I feel like they do their job well. Each different promenade brings back the same theme, allowing the audience to feel connected to the music. Absolutely stunning.

If Mussorgsky could do it without training, maybe I can too….hm.

Just kidding. That would be a disaster.

Der Rosenkavalier

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25th, 2011 by Elaine Daiber – Be the first to comment

I must admit that  I have not had the privilege of hearing much of Strauss’ music. But if this is a prime example of what his music sounds like then I will definitely start adding him to my playlists because I LOVED THIS. After hearing the introduction, I became so obsessed with the music that I decided to do some background research: The first thing I discovered is that it is a COMIC opera in 3 acts….this must be why I was so attracted to the music. The texture was extremely light and but at the same time the themes are very simple and absolutely stunning. This is definitely a work of the Romantic era, no question about that. Also reading up about the four main characters, The Marschallin, Octavian, Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau, and Sophie, I realized that many sopranos make their operatic debuts singing the role of Marschallin. The first act concentrates on the very strong love between Marschallin and Octavian, who is much younger than the princess. And although it is obvious that this relationship will not survive for multiple reasons the music that Strauss composes has so much passion that it has the power to convince the audience that it will work. That’s some seriously good music if you ask me….

That being said, my favorite piece to listen to in act 1 is probably “Ach, du bist wieder da” which is a duet sung between Marschallin and Octavian. The main theme expressed throughout is so passionate and beautiful, it makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. But the great thing about it is that although the music is incredibly passionate, the texture still remains light in most parts and sweet. Although Strauss definitely has some of the same styles as Wagner, I don’t feel emotionally drained and overwhelmed when listening to his music like I do with Wagner. Here’s a video of the duet. It really is stunning:

Wagner’s Parsifal

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16th, 2011 by Elaine Daiber – Be the first to comment

Wagner’s Parsifal, and opera in 3 acts, has been said to be loosely based  on an epic poem written in the 13th century about the Arthurian knight Percival and his quest for the Holy Grail. Wagner first conceived the work in 1857 but did not complete until 25 years later….finally having it premiered in 1882.

The plot is, well, extremely complicated. To be perfectly honest, I needed to read the synopsis 3 times before I actually understood exactly how it all came together. But then again, what music drama by Wagner isn’t incredibly confusing? Why is it then that we spend so much money and time seeing Wagner’s works performed if the plots are this complicated? Oh yes, that’s right, the music. Personally when I listen to Wagner’s music I feel completely surrounded by sound. I love his use of the leitmotif in every one of his works. Although I didn’t specifically notice any in the third act of his Parsifal, I can guarantee that they exist because as far as I can tell this opera is a very clear example of a music drama. The orchestra alone is an obvious sign. The orchestration in this opera is such an important part of the work. It is thick, and complex and meant to stand on it’s own, not to only support the singers. This is very different from say, Bellini’s idea about opera. To him, the orchestra was meant to accompany the singer: The singer was the STAR. For Wagner, everyone must work together to create this masterpiece.

I know that we are supposed to comment on the opera, and therefore maybe the vocal parts(?) but for me, I enjoyed the Good Friday Music the most….even though it was completely instrumental. The piece was so beautiful and complex and imaginative. I loved it.

Don Carlos Act IV

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

If there was any doubt that Giuseppe Verdi wasn’t a musical genius, that doubt can definitely be crushed after listening to his Don Carlos. This glorious opera in five acts with a ballet was first premiered on March 11, 1867. This opera is based on the dramatic play, Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien, which centers around the life of Carlos, who is the Prince of Asturias after his betrothed, Elisabeth of Valois is instead married to his father, King Philip II of Spain, as part of the peace treaty that ended the Italian War of 1551-1559. It was originally composed with a French language libretto but then, in 1866, during one of the many versions of this opera that Verdi worked on he decided to have it translated into Italian but insisted that the opera be kept with the ballet.

Although it is incredibly difficult to pick a favorite aria or scene from this act, I would have to say that I LOVE Eboli’s aria “O don fatale” in the first scene of the fourth act. Just before this, the Princess Eboli reveals to Elisabeth of Valois that she did has wronged the entire royal family because she loved Don Carlos even though he rejected her. She also tells Elisabeth that she is the King’s mistress. This does not sit well with Elisabeth who tells Eboli that she must either go into exile or spend the rest of her life in a convent. In the aria, “O don fatale”, Eboli curses her beauty for all the problems it has caused her and decides to spend her life in the convent. In the second, and very dramatic second part of the aria, she decides to spend her last few hours of freedom trying to save Don Carlos from the Inquisition.

That being said, this aria is incredibly dramatic. It really takes a great actress to be able to portray the different emotions that Eboli is feeling throughout the aria: Here is a clip of Maria Callas performing Eboli’s aria in Hamburg in 1962. Her acting is truly amazing: it is evident that she really threw herself into the role.

Women Composers in the 19th Century

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

To be completely honest, I realized today as I was listening to both Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s and Clara Schumann’s music for this assignment that I had really been missing out on some fantastic music. Before this class, I had heard about Clara Schumann and knew a few of her pieces but for the most part I knew of her for her piano playing that was praised all over Europe in the 19th century. I did not, however know anything about Fanny Mendelssohn, which I really regret because I absolutely loved her Trio for Piano and Strings in D minor. After I listened to the work I was so interested in the composer that I did a little bit of research and found out that she composed around 466 pieces, all without any proper instruction. Her brother, the great Felix Mendelssohn, got the opportunity to work with the best tutors and composers while his older sister Fanny was forced to learn everything on her own.

Of all of the movements of Mendelssohn’s trio, I liked the Finale best. It is very apparent in listening to the piece that Mendelssohn had a true love of the piano. Although the entire piece is gorgeous and has a truly beautiful theme that is played in the strings, the piano part seems like it would be a lot of fun to play. In fact, the whole first minute of the movement is played with solo piano, it is not until later that the strings come in to move the tempo along and move onto a B section. I really love the main themes that are expressed in this movement. They are all very rich and beautiful and seem as though they required a lot of time to incorporate them into such complex movements. After listening to this work, it isn’t at all surprising that Felix Mendelssohn put his name on many of his sister’s pieces and claimed them as his own.

As for Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, op.22, no.2 I thought it was also wonderful although I was a little surprised at how little of importance the piano did in the movement.  I guess I was expecting it to to have a prominent piano part, much like the Mendelssohn piece, and instead it is the violin that dominates the movement. With this being said, although I do like both pieces, I am more drawn to Fanny Mendelssohn’s piece because in the whole work I feel like there is a lot more intensity that is not really seen in C. Schumann’s Three Romances. I also would have liked to have seen a bit more solo in the Romances because it’s the solos that add a certain color and I feel like that is lacking in the Three Romances.

Rossini’s La Cenerentola

Posted in Uncategorized on March 6th, 2011 by Elaine Daiber – Be the first to comment

I must admit, I was extremely excited to read that our listening for this blog was Rossini’s La Cenerentola because Cinderella was my favorite fairy tale as a kid and I used to make my Dad read the story to me about 5 times a day…but anyways, in the opera I not only love the story but I also love the music. At least from what I heard from the first act, there is a lot of comedic relief written in the string and wind parts to describe the step sisters or the awkward first meeting between the Prince and Cinderella.

From what I could hear, the music sounds incredibly challenging, especially for Cinderella’s part. Even though she doesn’t have any real arias in the first Act, which I will talk about in a moment, her part is extremely “all over the place” for lack of a better word. The singer who decides to take on the role really needs to be able to move. Within one piece she could be in the contralto range and the next moment she is singing coloratura in a high soprano register. CRAZY. And as for the fact that she does not have any real arias in the first act, I almost wonder if Rossini did it on purpose. She is after all, considered a nobody and spends her days cleaning for the majority of the first Act. When she finally gets to sing an aria in the Second Act, she is not longer a woman who spends her days cleaning, but a woman who has the Prince’s affections. It is almost as if she finally reaches the status of being important and worthy enough to be able to sing all by herself.
The video that I just inserted above is a recording of the overture from the Swedish TV broadcast at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm. I really, really like this version because the whole first act takes place in a coffee shop in modern day. I have to say that recently I have been getting much more interested in modern interpretations of classic opera. I am always so interested to see what the director has come up with and how the same exact story can be told in so many different settings and still manage to get the same point across.

Schubert and Trout

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

After listening to Schubert’s “Die Forelle”, which I had never heard before, the only word that came to my mind was…adorable. After reading the translation of the poem, written by Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart, it didn’t seem to me that there was really a hidden meaning, or life lesson, in the poem as is often very common in Schubert lieder. The piece remains in major for the majority(hah), with one switch to what I am assuming is the relative minor when he begins to talk about the fisherman’s(or thief as Schubert describes him) trouble catching fish…it is very evident to me that Schubert was on the side of the trout!
I think that Schubert definitely uses the piano accompaniment to portray the jumping trout in the stream in the right hand of the piano part. I really do find it amazing how Schubert uses different accompaniment for each of his lieder even though he composed hundreds of them throughout his lifetime. Each is so perfectly in sync with the vocal line to create a very appropriate atmosphere that just works with the text. Here is a video of Ian Bostridge singing “Die Forelle”. I really, really love how he works with the pianist in this performance:
It became rather obvious to me today just how much Schubert must have loved trout because he used them as an inspiration for not one, but TWO pieces: one was the art song described above and the other is his Piano Quintet in A Major. Although the Quintet does not stay for the most part in major like “Die Forelle”, it does use a lot of the same motivic lines that make it very easy to connect the two. From the beginning of the first movement, even though the strings are playing something completely unrecognizable, the piano starts off with a motive very similar to what was being played in the right hand of the piano accompaniment in “Die Forelle”. That same motive carries through for the entire first movement, moving to all of the instruments at various points in the movement.
But if just using the same motive as “Die Forelle” was not enough, do not fear because in the fourth movement Schubert uses the SAME MELODY as in the lied. Of course, as this quintet was written much later, the piece sounds completely different. Schubert also incorporates a theme and variations in the fourth movement so that alone makes the movement sound completely different from the art song.

…Seriously though, what is it with Schubert and the trout? I guess we’ll never know :/

Beethoven Blogging 2/20

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

I think that the thing that struck me most about the Kyrie in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis was the way that the music trades off between the chorus and the soloists. Although it did create a very different and exciting atmosphere, I found it a bit distracting to listen to. For me, it gave the piece a very choppy sort of sound because it never gave the listener enough time to fully adjust to either the sound of the full chorus or to a soloist before changing back. This being said, I did especially love one particular section of the movement when the soloists are  singing in a quartet but the chorus is still able to be heard,  singing very quietly in the background on a sustained “Kyrie”. Eventually the choir crescendos so much that they become one with the soloists in a big eruption of sound…very cool!

I love the Gloria of this Mass. The beginning is extremely grand and loud, part of that being Beethoven’s use of the brass instruments, which really gives it a victorious and joyous feel. This piece for me is more of what I think of when I think of a Gloria in any mass. It has the bulky choral sections interspersed with the occasional solo/quartet. From listening to this piece I heard a lot more non-chord tones than I have heard in other masses not written by Romantic composers, like say for example, Mozart. But Beethoven, in this movement puts dissonances on the strong beats, which I find especially interesting because that would have been considered a big no-no during that time.

The Credo definitely has a different feel than both the Kyrie and the Gloria. It is much more dramatic than the other 2 movements and I think that is partially due to the absolutely stunning solos in the middle of the movement. The movement is also not as fast as the other 2 movements, which by nature gives it a much more intense feel. My favorite part of the movement was at the very end when the soloists were singing, I’m pretty sure it was specifically the tenor, and the whole chorus behind him was singing straight tone on one very low pitch. It created this mood that I can’t really describe except that it gave me the chills… truly a beautiful movement and work.

I’m Tired. Thursday Blogging.

Posted in Uncategorized on February 17th, 2011 by Elaine Daiber – 3 Comments


Today is Thursday and I’m already exhausted even though I have a rather large coffee in my hand…. I can’t wait for this weekend because my roommate’s 20th birthday is this weekend! Happy Birthday Abbey!!!

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 16th, 2011 by Elaine Daiber – 1 Comment

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