Halle Davis's Blog

An Oberlin course blog

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Grieg: Lyric Pieces and Songs

May 9th, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

I’ve noticed lately that I keep coming across music I’ve played in the past without realizing it by the title. It’s not until the piece begins that I have that “Aha, I think I know you”, moment. I was surprised this week to find out that I knew more of the Lyric Piecesthan I had thought- especially since I am not a pianist. When I was eleven or twelve, the string orchestra I was in at the time played an arrangement of Grieg’s Wedding-Day at Troldhaugen. Even though I already knew it, after listening to several of the other pieces in this collection I wouldn’t pick that as one of my favorites of the bunch. I really enjoyed listening to To the Spring, March of the Trolls, and the Nocturne. All of the pieces were lovely, I love how they maintained this simplicity that let the melodies flow with ease. It was also interesting to see the folk themes woven throughout the various pieces.

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Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

May 2nd, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

Looking back, I feel as though the classical music I loved while growing up was-for the most part- all by Russian composers. Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was no exception. I feel like I’ve gotten to know different sketches in this piece at various points in my childhood. When I was younger, I remember hearing the section about the witch, Baba Yaga and her house with the chicken feet around Halloween while in elementary school.

By the time I got to 6th grade, they made us use the World Book program on the school computers to help us become more “tech savy”. I remember everyone exploring the music section in the computer lab where I heard the Promenade section played more times than I’d like to remember.

Finally, sometime during high school I was at a concert where I actually got to hear the work in its entirety and was impressed with the overall cohesiveness and idea behind the work. I love how it tells a story interspersed with Russian folk-lore, like so many other works of Russian composers, and really manages to make that story come to life. Granted, I don’t love the piece but I really do enjoy the concept. It was interesting to learn that it was originally a piano piece that was brought to it’s modern fame with Ravel’s orchestration. Out of all the movements, for nostalgia’s sake, I’m definitely going to say that the Baba Yaga movement is my favorite.

Baba Yaga's Hut

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Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

April 24th, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

I was first introduced to this opera through my youth orchestra at home. As the youth program of the local symphony, we had several perks including a subscription to one of the concert series the orchestra put on. Since we were an educational outreach program, we got the Sunday series where the conductor would give a talk about what was to be performed beforehand.

Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier suite was on one of the concert programs and had one of the more memorable talks of the concerts I attended. The conductor was definitely a little uncomfortable broaching the subject of the opening scene, however, after gaining the context of the story there’s no way I can ever associate the music with anything else. It was interesting to go back to other points in the opera and find familiar motives that I had remembered from the suite-specifically the silver rose motive.

For the most part (although maybe not with the excerpt from Salome that we watched in class), I hear a hint of Old Hollywood-style glamour in Strauss’s works, especially in Don Juan and Der Rosenkavalier. I really enjoyed revisiting this opera.

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Wagner’s Parsifal

April 18th, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

While listening to the third act of Wagner’s last complete opera, I felt as though I was listening to a movie score at times. To me, this was mostly applicable during the finale:

Wagner’s progressive push to present the audience with a “unified work of art” truly shines through in all of his music bringing the orchestra fully up to par with the vocalists. Parsifal in particular comes across rather strongly in terms of orchestration. While I was a bit confused with the plot-except for the general ’search for the holy grail’ concept-I was unable to pick out particular motives that I’m sure were abundant throughout the act, especially with the heavy religious undertones.

I’m not sure how I feel over Wagner’s music at the moment. From what I can understand now, it’s something that will grow in time. I definitely find it intriguing however I am not sure if I could listen to it for an extended period of time, I feel like I might need a bit of a break.

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Verdi’s Don Carlos

April 11th, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

As I listened to excerpts from the fourth act of Verdi’s longest opera, I was struck by how somber and reflective the musical atmosphere was. The opening prelude includes a tragic-sounding cello solo before the music fades into the aria, “Elle ne m’aime pas”. Reading over the plot line of the opera and the individual act helped to put some perspective on what was going on however, I found it a little difficult to jump this far into an opera with a storyline that is already quite complex to begin with. Overall, I feel as though Don Carlos has a mature quality about it that certainly expands upon the Italian opera tradition. I also felt as though the music itself had a thicker quality to it than previous works by fellow Italian composers such as Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini. I enjoyed the excerpts from Don Carlos that I listened to but I definitely feel that I like some of his other compositions better.

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Fanny and Clara

March 20th, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

I found the pairing of these two composers to be pretty interesting….You have these two German composers- two female German composers- of the same general time era who despite being slightly overshadowed by their extrordinarily well-known family manage to create a legacy for themselves that stands just as well by itself as it does alongside their famous counterparts.

Though I have heard some of Clara Schumann’s works before, I have never heard anything by Fanny Mendelssohn. From the opening violin line I was instantly reminded of her brother’s infamous violin concerto. In fact, throughout quite a bit of the work I felt like I was hearing familiar themes. Otherwise, the piano was rather dominant throughout the work-especially in the final movement.

While I enjoyed Fanny Mendelssohn’s Trio, I preferred Clara Schumann’s Romances. The opening andante had this soulful quality that had me hooked from the beginning. Oftentimes, I find slow movements can be a bit too fussy at times yet this one maintained a simple elegance that I really enjoyed. The allegretto section wasn’t as memorable to me as the 1st or 3rd Romances except for the frequent trills.

Overall, I really enjoyed both pieces. I’m not used to hearing women composers and am glad we got a chance to explore their work.

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Rossini’s “La Cenerentola”

March 7th, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

I thought it was quite interesting to discover that overtures were Rossini’s least favorite genre as they tend to be what he is most popular for. Out of the sections of the first act of the opera that I listened to, it is definitely what stood out the most to me, but perhaps that’s just because I have a bit of a bias towards orchestra. Either way, I felt the music had a somewhat of a “jolly” sound to it (specifically as the music builds during the crescendo) creating the comical atmosphere Rossini is known for. Besides the overture, I found this video from the opera to be somewhat amusing…..

Also, while I still think the overture we listened to in class was the best of the recordings I have heard, I also enjoyed this one I found online with Gustavo Dudamel!

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Schubert and the Trout

February 28th, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

This might seem a bit off topic but over winter break while I was at home my parents bought a new washer and dryer. Pretty exciting, right? What could this possibly have to do with Schubert? Well, at some point over break I was walking by the laundry room and heard the famous theme in the fourth movement of the Trout Quintet. After looking to see what was going on, I figured out that this was the way the dryer signaled that the clothes were ready. Over break, I can’t count just how many times I heard that melody (played of course in an upbeat-electronic sounding way, kind of like a baby toy). Of course, now whenever I hear of Schubert’s Quintet the first thing that comes to mind is a cheerful reminder that it’s time to take clothes out of the dryer. Lovely.

In all honesty though, I really do like this piece a lot. It has this narrative quality that makes the imagery come to life through the music. The rich texture and detail (especially in the 3rd movement ) makes the piece stand out for the listener and be as interesting to hear as it is to play.

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Beethoven’s Symphonic Mass

February 21st, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

I suppose it would be useful to mention first and foremost that I am not a vocalist and second that I am not terribly familiar with vocal music. Since a piece like Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis is not something I would actively choose to listen to without being in a concert setting, I decided to go over some of the reading on Beethoven while listening. At first, I thought of this mostly as a way to multi-task however it turned out to be very useful to my understanding of Beethoven and the work itself making the reading material seem more realistic and relevant.

I found it interesting from the start that Beethoven called this his favorite work. As a violinist, I have always seen him as a powerhouse composer of solo works, string quartets and as a master of the symphony. Never had I really thought of him as a vocal composer-save for his ninth symphony. However, when thinking about both the symphony and the Missa Solemnis (both of which come from the same period of his life) he seems to treat the orchestra and vocalists as a whole unit more than any composer I have ever heard do so previously. It’s almost as though the vocalists in the Missa are given instrumental qualities making this work strongly resemble a symphony. Beethoven’s ability to transcend this boundary is what struck me most about this work.

While I do like Beethoven, I certainly wouldn’t call this piece my favorite of his, though I can appreciate how it is his. Of all the movements, I enjoyed the Gloria-Qui tollis peccata mundi and the Credo-Et incarnatus best.

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Post Test

February 16th, 2011 by Halle Davis · Uncategorized

My name is Halle Davis. This is a blog created for my music history course. That is all.


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