Jessica Futran's Blog

An Oberlin course blog

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Fanny and Clara- (sounds like an apparel store for old ladies.)

March 21st, 2011 by Jessica Futran · Uncategorized

Fanny first-

I like this piece. But. there is no excitement. There is no rising action to a musical climax… I feel like Romantic music needs that. Don’t get me wrong, this piece is beautiful, which lovely melodic lines in both the strings and the piano- but, unfortunately, I don’t get much more than that. I see how the trio fits into the Romantic vein, but, it doesn’t take the listener “away” as most romantic pieces aim to do. There is nothing particular sublime about the composition. Dissonances resolve without questions. I suppose it would be completely different to be the musicians playing the piece or even seeing this piece performed live. But for me, right now, the form and contour of the whole piece is a little too musically static for my taste. I feel that this music would do much better in a Balletic setting. I could just see this music providing a lovely accompaniment for a Ballet. Perhaps, it has been done already? I don’t know..

Continuing with Clara….

Breathtaking from the start. This piece moves me immediately. The way the violin and the piano play off each other is a gorgeous musical collaboration: supporting one another, then seeming to almost chase after one another, and then eventually catching up again. There is little competition as neither party is concerned with virtuosic distractions, simply beautiful music. Upon listening the piece, I see why so many composers felt that text would never do justice to a piece. They must have been thinking about pieces such as Clara’s “Three Romances”. The music tells it’s own story…words would interfere with the natural and inherent dialogue between violin and piano, a language in which a vocalist cannot participate. I do adore this second section, with a cutesy call and response and fluttery embellishments in both instrumentations. The final section is a little less interesting and dynamic, but a nice way to tie everything together. I have no complaints. I have now listened to this piece for the third time. :)

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Rossini, “La Cenerentola” (Act I)

March 5th, 2011 by Jessica Futran · Uncategorized

Well, yes, Rossini does indeed love crescendos that is quite apparent in the overture, to say the very least. I personally am a huge advocate for these incredible crescendos- if this isn’t exciting music, I really don’t know what is!

And so we begin Act I. The most striking aspect about the opera thus far is that La Cenerentola is a Mezzo-soprano. I simply didn’t expect that. But, it is a wonderful contrast to the step sister’s crazy coloratura.

It is absolutely mind boggling the speed at which these singers can sing. Their agility in both the melodic line and the diction is astounding. One of the wordiest operas I have heard. My vocal chords sympathetically ache.

Just a side note- I am fascinated by Rossini’s various uses of coloratura in this opera thus far, express frivolity and extreme vanity as in the case of the stepsisters, desperation and desolation in the case of Cenerentola, and egocentricity and arrogance in the case of the prince.

What a generally fun opera! Quite a wonderful theatrical and musical spectacle. It sounds like it requires an inordinate amount of stamina and energy. I am convinced Rossini had positively no sympathy for singers, like he believed breathing was an optional luxury when singing. But, can’t blame him- part of what must make this opera such a marvel.

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“Die Forelle” und “Die Forelle”

February 25th, 2011 by Jessica Futran · Uncategorized

“Die Forelle”

I personally love Schubert’s classic Lied “Die Forelle”. It’s a fairly cutesy type of poem set to appropriately cutesy accompaniment. The rapid arpeggio repetitions of the left hand evoke this sense of rolling waves, an ever-continuous flow of water- literally setting the stage for this happy-go-lucky trout.

In the second verse, the accompaniment becomes slightly more staccato and agitated mirroring the all-too-strained relationship between the fisherman and the trout, foreshadowing the trout’s impending doom.

Sure enough, the third verse modulates to the relative minor, which automatically sets the stage for an unfortunate happenstance as the fisherman, whom the narrator has spotted, devises a perfect plan to capture the trout by muddying the waters with his fishing rod. The plan works and the trout is caught, as the songs modulates back to its tonic key. In my opinion, this return to the original key suggests “the circle of life” idea, the trout would inevitably be caught, and though possibly heartbreaking for a minute or two, the narrator spends little time dwelling- as Vonnegut is fond of saying “so it goes”.

Piano Quintet in A Major (Trout , D 667)

Similarly, the Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A Major starts out in A major- the Allegro vivace, rapid, light, and playfully airy feel mirrors the easy-going yet briskly- paced lifestyle of a trout who goes merrily on his way.

The andante section invites the audience to experience another aspect of the trout’s life, a more lackadaisical side. One can imagine a trout merely floating on the waves being slowly pushed around with occasional staccato breaks in the music and slightly more violent crests in the water. But, in the end of the section, all is calm and peaceful.

The Scherzo takes on more the Allegro vivace characteristics with slightly more “minor problems” which are quickly resolved as the piece modulates back to major once more.

Well, well, well, look what we have here, in the theme and variations section. Not only an allusion to Schubert’s Lied “Die Forelle” but, rather an exact thematic repetition. The orchestration perfectly corresponds to the verses of the poem, temporarily diving into a minor mode when the fisherman finally snags the poor trout. And just as in the Lied, the piece returns to its home key and “so it goes”.

The Allegro giusto section, with its upbeat carefree nature, reminds us that there are literally “other fish in the sea”, who one day, too, will face this dreadful fate, but for now, they “just keep swimming”.

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Missa Solemnis op. 123

February 22nd, 2011 by Jessica Futran · Uncategorized

Honestly, at first Missa Solemnis seems incredibly boring. It is a shame that the “Kyrie” section is as slow as it is. The sluggish tempo immediately put me in this daze where I was just letting the music float around me instead of allowing me to actively engage in it.

The subsequent “Gloria” section was a breath of fresh air, jumping in with Beethoven’s iconic triumphant band of brass, soaring-like contour of strings, and a full choir singing at a brisk fortissimo. But after a while, this heroic style starts to wear on my ears and eat away at my tolerance for such excessive and constant excitement.

I do, however, appreciate the beginning of the “Credo” section, with a traditional round-like introduction, first with the bassi, the tenore, the mezzi, and finally the soprani repeating the basic theme. The unique part of the “Credo” is the contrast from the initial excitement the beginning of the section with round-like style to an earlier responsorial chant-like style which smoothly transitions back to the repetition of another theme by each voice. I particularly like the syncopated rhythm towards the end of the section as well as the descending sequence of fifths which adds exciting dissonances and musical surprises.

As the fourth section, the Sanctus/Benedictus is introduced at a sweet largo tempo, which is now much desired, after an overwhelming amount of orchestral rapidity. But, quickly the Sanctus/Benedictus crescendos and the choir once again demonstrates a wealth of volume and jubilee, thankfully not for long, as the tempo slows once more and settles into a delightful lull of gorgeous vocal duets and trios.

The fifth section, “Agnus Dei” begins with a unique bass solo with a responsorial call in the tenor, which is perfectly haunting and intensifies as the mezzo soprano joins in the call and response. And soon enough, the orchestra is once again in a comfortable home key accompanied by angelic soprani and an equally angelic choir. I like the fact that Beethoven didn’t try to make this ending terribly heroic and epic in its presentation. He stepped off his triumphant high horse and ended the mass in a relatively realistic and humanizing fashion. I appreciate the simplicity- nothing too cliche or cheesy- a traditional dominant to tonic perfect authentic cadence that provides for a calm yet and inspirational finale.

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uhh…well hey there

February 16th, 2011 by Jessica Futran · Uncategorized

It is GORGEOUS outside. I mean, it’s a tad dreary. But it’s going to be 58 degrees, so I ain’t complaining.

Songs for a New World at Oberlin!! This Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 8m in Wilder Main! BE THERE

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