Lauren Kelleher's Blog

An Oberlin course blog

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Pictures at an Exhibition, Mussorgsky

May 1st, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

Pictures at an Exhibition was composed by the brilliant Modest Mussorgsky. A composer with no known musical training. The piece was inspired by the death of a dear friend of Mussorgsky, Viktor Hartmann, a Russian artist and architect. The sudden loss of Hartmann at the young age of 39 was tragic to many involved in the art scene in Russia. Artist and friends collected his pieces and displayed an art show of nearly 400 pieces. Mussorgksy so moved by the display of his works need another outlet to express his feelings. He then turned to music. Pictures at an Exhibition was a ten movement suite for piano. It became further known through other orchestrations and arrangements by other composers. Ravel’s arrangement became the most popular. This piece is very interesting to me, you can actually hear the characteristics of each piece of artwork in the music.

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Act One Der Rosenkavalier

April 25th, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

Der Rosenkavalier is a comedic opera in three acts by the brilliant Richard Strauss. This lushly scored music of Strauss brings to life the story of the Marschallin, an elegant noble woman neglected by her husband. She finds companionship with an attractive, young lover, Octavian, the role of Octavian is interestingly sung by a mezzo-soprano. The Marschallin’s cousin Baron Ochs auf Lerchenau wishes to marry the lovely Sophie von Faninal, the daughter of a rich Viennese bourgeois. He asks the Marschallin to choose a young man to deliver the traditional silver engagement rose. The Marschallin chooses Octavian. Octavian delivers the rose to Sophie and they instantly fall in love. It is here that the plot thickens a forbidden love for Octavian and Sophie and a love lost for the Marschallin. The light and dark themes mingle in this masterpiece of love and loss. Der Rosenkavalier is one of the most popular masterpieces of all time. I enjoyed not only listening to act one of this opera but I found a clip on youtube that showed all of act one. Act one sets up the plot of the entire opera. The music represents the comedic aspect of this piece. The music is also a celebration of the waltz, which is featured greatly in this work.

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Wagner’s last Opera, Parsifal Act III

April 16th, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

Richard Wagner’s masterpiece Parsifal is an opera in three acts based on the thirteenth century epic poem Parzival written by Wolfram von Eschenbach. This was Wagner’s final opera which took him nearly twenty-five years to finish! The story is of the knight Parsifal who is on a quest to find the Holy Grail. This story has many religious and mythical elements. Reading about this opera I found an article that I found very interesting. It talks about the Vorspiel to Parsifal and how it has three deeply religious motives in the whole work. It opens with the Motive of the Sacrament. Through this motive we gain insight into the office of the Knights of the Grail, who from time to time strengthen themselves for their spiritual duties by partaking of the communion, on which occasions the Grail itself is uncovered. This motive leads us to the next motive, the Grail Motive. This motive swells to forte and then dies out in eerie harmonies. This signifies the grail illuminating the hall where the knights worship. The final motive is the Motive of Faith. This is brought in by the trumpets portraying the strength of faith. These motives set the tone of the opera and play a key role throughout Parsifal. Like in all of Wagner’s works the orchestra is a vital part of his operas. While listening to Act III I picked up on the full and rich sounds of the orchestra. However there is a wonderful harmony of both the orchestration and the singers. Neither one over powers the other.

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Don Carlos and “O Don Fatale”

April 11th, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

Verdi’s masterpiece Don Carlos is a five act opera that provides the audience with gorgeous music and thrilling drama. Originally the opera was a french libretto but was later translated into Italian, however Verdi insisted the ballet remain in the opera.The story is based on a Schiller play, Don Carlos, Infant von Spanien. It is the 16th century; France and Spain have been at war, and are conducting peace negotiations. Don Carlo, the son of King Philip II of Spain, is to be pledged in marriage to Elizabeth de Valois of France. The two meet and fall in love, only to have their happiness destroyed when Philip decides that he will marry Elizabeth himself.

In Act IV Eboli confesses not only that she stole the casket because she loved Carlos and he rejected her, but, worse, she has also been the mistress of the King. Elisabeth tells her that she must go into exile or enter a convent, and exits. Eboli, alone, curses the fatal pride that her beauty has bestowed on her, chooses the convent over exile, and resolves to try to save Carlos from the Inquisition. The intense recitative sets us into the aria. This aria is so full of grief it transcends us to another place where we can feel the emotions she is singing about. This aria is exemplary of the dramatic music with heightened emotions of Don Carlos.

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The ladies of Romantic music!

March 20th, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

Fanny Mendelssohns Trio for piano and strings in D minor is a lovely representation of a romantic era trio with many new and fresh ideas. It is strange that during her lifetime, Franny’s family forbid her to publish any of her works while she was alive. However, after she died, her family brought this work to publishers. Franny began composing this piece in 1846 and finished right before her death in 1847. The piece is four movements the first being the allegro molto vivace. It begins with an elegant accompaniment in the piano over a beautiful melody in the strings. The next movement Andante espressivo is very expressive and romantic. The third movement is titled Lied like the title says, it sounds like a song without words. The finale Allegro moderato begins with a long piano introduction and then the strings come in. It has a very head sad theme to it. It is a good thing that eventually the work was published, however a shame that it didn’t receive the audience that it deserves in her lifetime.
I have found it fascinating to learn about Robert and Clara Schumann’s love story. It was very clear that they were madly in love with each other and went against their families just to be together. I think that this passion shows certainly through Schumann’s music but also through Clara’s three Romances for violin and piano. This is a gorgeous piece that represents the characteristics of romantic music. The first romance is a gorgeous romantic melody. The second romance has a dancelike melody but yet a more serious tone. All in all, I give a ton of credit to both of these women. In their time being a female composer must have been very challenging.

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La Cenerentola (Cinderella) by Rossini

March 5th, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

La Cenerentola is based on the wonderful story of Cinderella. This happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales. This is a slightly altered version of the story I grew up with. Instead of an evil stepmother there is an evil step father. However it tells the same story of how Cinderella’s pure heart will win her happiness in the end. Although she does not have the frivolous gowns like her step sisters she wins the prince’s heart with her kindness and beauty on the inside and out. This was one of Rossini’s most successful operas. This seems like such a fun opera to be in. The two step sisters are coloratura sopranos, Rossini composed the music perfectly for them. They are able to show off their vain personalities with this type of music. Cenerentola is a mezzo soprano. I think this timbre is good for playing Cenerentola, because it shows off the sadness that she feels.

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February 28th, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

Die Forelle is one of many lieder written by Franz Schubert. This piece reflects the naturalistic theme of the romantic era and shows Schubert’s great ability to make a piece come to life with text painting. The text in this lied was written by Christian Schubart. In the text, the narrator watches a trout in the water who is caught by unfair means by the fisherman. Schubert puts music to this text wonderfully. In the phrases it actually sounds like fish swimming and flopping about. The vocal melody is very light until the fisherman is scrambling to catch the fish. The music begins to sound more panicked as well as darker once the fish is caught.

In high school I sung this piece as part of a Schubert set for my senior voice recital. I really enjoyed singing it because it was fun to act out. I sang this piece as if I was the trout. I think that the audience can really enjoy this piece knowing the translation and watching the expression of the performer.

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Missa Solemnis in D major 0p 123

February 19th, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

I really enjoyed listening to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. I found this work to be very inspiring and profound. Beethoven began composing this piece in 1818 for the Archduke Rudolf hoping that it would be completed in time to celebrate him becoming Cardinal, however Beethoven did not complete this piece until 1823. The orchestration of the piece features a quartet of vocal soloists, a large chorus, and a full orchestra. Beethoven is a magnificent composer at all types of pieces, although his true talent was writing instrumental music. It is apparent in this work that Beethoven did not take into consideration the vocalist. The vocal music is quite difficult to sing, with large leaps and difficult rhythms. The entire piece is in fact difficult for the performer with his choices of sudden changes in tempo and dynamic. I found the Kyrie section to be strong and triumphant. It is in ABA’ format. The Gloria was much more exciting! The thematic material was constantly shifting. Of the three I found the Credo to be the most expressive. Although this was not Beethoven’s most popular work, it still shows how much of a genius he was at creating fantastic music.

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Hello world!

February 16th, 2011 by Lauren Kelleher · Uncategorized

This is the first post of Music history.

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