Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition

May 1st, 2011 § 0

This is one of my all time favorite pieces, especially the first Promenade, Baba Yaga, and The Great Gates of Kiev. The moment that always gets me the most is the transition from Baba Yaga to The Great Gates, where the frantic rush of the sixteenth notes just explodes into relief at the first long, glorious chords of The Great Gates. It sounds like the entrance into heaven after a difficult journey. I’ve only played this piece in Brass Ensemble here at Oberlin, but I can’t wait for the day I get to play it in an orchestra. I love the setting of the piece, too, how it’s about Mussorgsky observing paintings at an art gallery showing, and how he conveys that in the music. It’s a true work of art, and undoubtedly a crowd favorite.

Strauss’s’s’s Rosenkavalier

April 25th, 2011 § 0

I really loved the very strauss-y horn parts at the beginning of the Act. Actually, I loved the instrumental music in general! Especially great was how Strauss used it to highlight the vocal lines, which were also pleasing to the ear. I still prefer Strauss’s non-operatic pieces, but enjoyed listening to this nonetheless.

Wagner’s Parsifal

April 25th, 2011 § 0

One thing I liked about this piece is how dramatic it was, causing the listener (me) to be able to almost feel the plot. It’s easy to tell it’s the backdrop to the last act of an opera, because of the tension and minor qualities in the music. The moaning in “Ach! Ach! Tiefe Nacht!” is a little weird and alarming, in my opinion. A lot of times the music sounds like the score to a black and white film, like you can almost hear it telling a story. I really enjoyed the beautiful major ending with rich chords and arpeggios.

The Ladies of Schumann and Mendelssohn

March 21st, 2011 § 0

My first thought upon seeing the blog assignment for this weekend was “Who the heck is Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel?!” Now after listening to her Trio for Piano and Strings in D Minor, Op. 11, I think it’s a shame that so few people know of her. Her music is simple, yet concrete and beautiful. Fanny definitely knew what she was doing, as shown through the gorgeous interweaving of the strings and piano. Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, op. 22 no.2, was also great. The floating melody in the violin over the bubbling piano accompaniment had a very calming effect on me (good thing too, because of all the midterms coming up this week!).

Rossini’s La Cenerentola – Act I

March 7th, 2011 § 0

I really enjoyed this opera, La Cenerentola, by Rossini. It sounded very traditional in melodic/harmonic structure, form, and style. In fact to me it sounded a bit Classical…so maybe it was in the earlier part of the Romantic Era. Probably one reason I enjoyed this opera was because I could easily follow the plot, and knew a bit about the characters because of Disney’s Cinderella. It was fun seeing the similarities and differences between the two stories. I’m wondering where Rossini’s rendition of “Bibbity Bobbity Boo” is, though =]. The arias and group performances were very well performed. This doesn’t sound like an easy opera to put on, for a couple reasons. One is that it’s a bit long – there are MANY different scenes. Another is that the voice parts sound quite challenging.

Before this, I had never heard any of Rossini’s operas, which now seems to be a shame, because of how much I liked this one.

Schubert’s “Die Forelle”

February 28th, 2011 § 0

In the first half of the Allegro vivace, I really enjoyed this piece. I could easily imagine a trout swimming down a river. The music sounded like tumbling water, and the arpeggios sounded like the rising and falling of waves. The very legato violin melodies sound like flowing water, and the piano sounds like the playful bubble of underwater currents. I could hear the trout flitting back and forth in the stream, through the combination of the violin and piano parts.

I have to admit that after my initial enjoyment, I felt pretty bored, and had trouble paying attention. Maybe it’s because I went to bed super late last night, or maybe it’s because it all sounded too similar for my tastes in the next couple movements. My attention was recaptured in the Theme and Variation section, when there was a sudden roughness to the music.

While I thought the piece was pretty and light, and conveyed the mood of being on the water quite well, it wasn’t my favorite. It could have used a little more contrast.

Beethoven: Missa Solemnis in D Major, Op. 123

February 20th, 2011 § 0

So, Beethoven composed Missa Solemnis over the course of a few years…1819 – 1823. Beethoven had also recently gone deaf, so it was a bit more of a challenge for him. It has a rather large instrumentation, especially in relation to older masses.

The Kyrie has a call and response going on between all the sections of the chorus, and some of the wind instruments. Big brassy orchestra hits emphasize the word “Kyrie”. The overall sound of the orchestra is magnificent, yet also sometimes pastoral. There seems to be a dependable chromatic rising and crescendo that always leads up to the bigger and more voluminous moments. The most common phrase in the call and response is “Lord have mercy upon us”. I grew up in an Episcopalian church, and the exchange of this phrase between priest and congregation was very common. Beethoven must have been echoing that exchange to give his mass an even more sacred feel. The Kyrie also has an entire section where it is in a minor setting, but goes back to major at the very end. This suggests an ABA form.

The Gloria begins with a burst of sound and color, with shimmering strings. The full orchestra and chorus are producing magnificent chords. The Gloria sounds, well, glorious. This section of the mass doesn’t bubble over with excitement the entire time, though, but rather ebbs and flows. The Gloria in general is very expressive and dramatic, so there is much up and down occurring (energy-wise, major v. minor, volume, etc.).

The Credo is in a completely different key than the other two movements, which seems to separate it from the group. The melodic line is relatively simple, as most church songs were at the time. The Credo seems to have rather distinct sections (fast-fast-slow-fast), which is similar to that of a sonata form, or even symphony (fast-slow-fast-fast). This makes me look at it almost as a sort of intermission piece – it’s in a different key, and it has it’s own firm structure. It still sounds extremely churchy/choral as all the other sections of the mass do, though.

I’m rather curious as to what influenced Beethoven to write such a sacred-sounding piece. Considering that when he went deaf, he renounced much of the world and everything that comes with it (such as values, customs, and beliefs), wouldn’t he have renounced the existence of God as well? Was Beethoven as moved by his Missa Solemnis as he hoped his audiences would be?

New Post

February 17th, 2011 § 2

It’s almost Friday! And it’s a beautiful day….

Hello world!

February 16th, 2011 § 2

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