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An Oberlin course blog

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Grieg Lyric Pieces

May 8th, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

I will be writing about three particular Lyric Pieces by Grieg. These are his Waltzes from his first and second books, and third, the Valse Impromptu from his fourth book. The performer is Norwegian pianist, Einar Steen-Nøkleberg. The first waltz is played very elegantly and gracefully, the pianist using rubato to embellish and make the performance more lyrical and expressive. The little piece is short sweet and to the point. The second waltz is more expressive, I feel. It is very longing and has a melancholy tone. It is also much more technically challenging, though Steen-Nøkleberg manages to play each note with poise and all the passages are very clear and clean. The Valse Impromptu is a lot longer, and is full of harmonic changes. The harmonic rhythm is very short, with changes occurring throughout the piece. It is much more of a classic waltz, in terms of the rhythmic set up. There a number of runs which are played brilliantly by Steen-Nøkleberg, to the extent that they seem to sparkle. All three of these waltzes are lyrical and expressive in nature, played beautifully by the performer and are very entertaining and enjoyable to listen to.

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Strauss – Rosenkavalier (Act I)

April 24th, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

I watched a Swiss performance of the beginning of Act I of Rosenkavalier with the roles of Marschallin and Octavian played by Tina Kiberg and Angelika Kirchshlager, respectively. The opera opens with woodwind ornaments and then characters enter. Marschallin and Octavian are confessing their love for each other and are very passionate in their words. The use of a mezzo to play Octavian is especially useful, in terms of characterization. Meant to be a younger character, the character of Octavian, when played by a mezzo allows the character to hit higher notes which can be more heart-wrenching than a bass or a tenor. Both singers accurately portray the characters that they are playing. In this staging, the two are lying on stage together in a state of heart-wrenching adoration. Both singers sound amazing and the orchestral accompaniment is extremely well balanced with the singing of the two women. This was a wonderful performance and I hope to see Der Rosenkavalier live sometime soon!

Der Rosenkavalier Act I

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Wagner’s Parsifal (Act III)

April 16th, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

Wagner’s Parsifal was begun in 1857 but was not finished until the year 1882.I listening to an excerpt from the third Act of Parsifal conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli in Bayreuth. The orchestral accompaniment is very vivid, but not overpowering for the singers. The brass’ sharp attacks provide a tension-filled build up for the continuation of the scene. The Mittag is a beautiful interlude in between the first and final scenes of the third act of Wagner’s Parsifal. The lower strings provide an excellent base for more delicate string parts in the violins and for small solo passages within the woodwind section. The use of diminished seven chords throughout the interlude also provides a sense of alarm and terror which is an excellent foreshadowing of the scene to come. The orchestra is very precise with their harmonic rhythm and movement. There is a brief section of C Major, but as the knights begin to enter the stage, the solemn orchestral accompaniment returns. I have not seen enough opera in my day, but just imagining being at this performance would be incredible.

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Don Carlos (Act IV) – Verdi

April 11th, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

I watched a performance of the Met Opera performing the fourth act, specifically the confrontation between Elizabeth and Eboli with “O Don Fatale”. The performance is from 1980 with Renata Scotto and Tatiana Troyanos. Troyanos, playing Eboli is confessing that she stole jewelry from the queen. The orchestra does a very good job in maintaining a sense of suspense and urgency but also coming down and becoming a small accompaniment when the mood changes. The Met Orchestra has been as versatile as it is now for at least thirty years! The confrontation begins with the confession of Eboli, and continues with Elizabeth’s unfazed request for her jewelry back, as well as the banishment of Eboli. Scotto and Troyanos play their roles perfectly, with intense and amplified acting, ensuring the validity of the text even without subtitles. The harmony then changes between a conversation with the oboe and horn, going upwards sequencially.

The scene continues with an exit by Elizabeth and guilt by Eboli, singing about how she regrets much of what she did. She feels extremely guilty, but promptly resolves to save Don Carlos. The Met Opera Company does an extremely good job with this scene, especially Troyanos’ interpretation of the role of Eboli. She really gets into character and provides the audience with an exceptionally good experience.

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Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, Trio for Piano and Strings; Clara Schumann, Three Romances for Violin and Piano

March 20th, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

I first listened to Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s Trio. I listened to a recording done by the Atlantis Trio This beautiful piece is in four-movement form. The first movement begins with heavy piano accompaniment, with lots of moving notes, in a rocking manner. There are brief string interruptions. I especially liked the third movement, marked Leid: Allegretto. It is an extremely accurate tempo marking. The movement is extremely replicative of a german Leid, such as those we have studied in class. I think it is remarkable, the way that she was able to incorporate the art of song into a piano trio. This piece is extremely beautiful, and I think it is sad that the work is not more well known. This is the first time I had ever listened to it. The final movement begins with a beautiful piano cadenza, setting the mood for the movement in the key of d minor. The piece ends in the tonic key of D Major. Clara Schumann’s Romances for violin are similar, in that the two pieces were written by the female “shadows” of their more famous male counterparts. Fanny Mendelssohn was Felix Mendelssohn’s sister, while Clara Schumann was Robert Schumann’s wife. I listened to a recording of the three romances by Bruno Monteiro on violin and Joao Paolo Santos on piano. The first romance is a beautiful romantic melody which reminds me slightly of Robert Schumann’s Adagio from his Adagio and Allegro for horn and piano. Monteiro’s and Santos’ playing is extremely poignant, with Monteiro’s violin getting a huge sound. The second romance, has a more dancelike quality, and has a more folkstyle approach. I think the third romance really is the most beautiful one. Each interval is caressed by the players and there is an amazingly beautiful line for the melody. Both of these pieces were extremely beautiful, and it is sad they have not both received the attention that they deserve.

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La Cenerentola

March 7th, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

The recording I listened to of La Cenerentola had been recorded by the SWR Radio Orchestra Kaiserslautern. It was under the direction of Alberto Zedda, with notable soloists, DiDonato, Pratico and Zapata. Though the entire first act is filled with arias and recitatives of a beautiful range of emotion, I will write only of the Overture, the Act I Cavatina, Miei Rampolli femmini, and the Act I recitative, Si, tutto cangera. The overture begins quietly in E flat Major with some exclamatory chords. The beginning of the overture is marked by wind soli sections with strings entering and exiting with discretion. The overture then has some rising action resolving to the original theme. As the overture nears its middle, the clarinet enters with a wonderful solo. In this recording, the tone of the clarinet is beautiful, though slightly bright. The articulation isn’t pristine, but the effect comes off wonderfully, especially in the following section with the conversing between solo clarinet and bassoon. The oboe then enters after a brief interlude, followed by the piccolo and then clarinet in repeating the same solo. The solo sounds extremely European in the oboe, I don’t have knowledge to comment on the other instruments as well! The following section is tutti, and this orchestra builds the appropriate tension and suspense to really make the crescendo used properly. The overture ends in the same key it began in, E flat major.

The cavatina begins with a brief orchestral overture. The range of the soloist is evident from the beginning. There are already octave leaps at the beginning of the cavatina. The cavatina is filled with noises made by the soloist in comic attempt. The cavatina, in G Major is marked by conversation between the soloist and the orchestra. The soloist does a fantastic job of moving between his large singing voice and a stage whisper while still giving off the proper effect. The baritone, Pratico works well with the orchestra building rising action to the climax towards the end of the cavatina which ends in a sort of exalting fanfare, ending in the key of C.

The recitative, sung by Pisaroni and DiDonato, playing Alidoro and Cenerentola respectively, come in one after the other, both with clarity of tone and diction. The recitative is marked by little orchestral playing, but the strings and winds help create the correct atmosphere with brief segues of a few chords or a sequence. Pisaroni sings with great, deep, tone and DiDonato’s mezzo-soprano voice is beautiful on top of the strings.

This recording was a great one of La Cenerentola, I enjoyed listening to it immensely and I hope to be able to see it live one day!

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Schubert’s Trout Quintet

February 28th, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

Schubert’s Die Forelle Quintet, modeled as a theme and variations from his lied, “Die Forelle” is a quintet that was written for violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano. The recording I listened to was of the Amadeus Quartet with Clifford Curzon. Beginning in the key of A-Major, there is one loud chord and the strings continue quietly with the occasional piano arpeggio. The violin continues in a melody on top of an ostinato theme within the rest of the string parts while the piano converses with the violin. The harmonic rhythm is rather abrupt. The piece moves quickly from key to key, notably the dominant, E Major. The Amadeus Quartet plays with such delicateness, making sure to address every color change within the movement and Curzon does an excellent job of tying the string players together with sixteenth runs and chord progressions. Much of the modulation and tonicization occurs within series in all of the playing instruments. The first section of the piece ends in a cadence in the dominant, E Major. The second section begins again in the tonic key of A Major. Much of the thematic material is extremely similar to that seen in the first section of the movement. The middle of the movement is categorized by sixteenth note passages which are articulated extremely clearly by string player and pianist alike. The second part of the movement also ends in a cadence in E Major, at which point a section begins in the key of C moving quickly from key to key through runs of the piano over ostinato in the strings. A spectacular performance by the Amadeus Quartet and Clifford Curzon, I was enraptured the entire time, and though I’ve heard the piece many times before, I enjoyed this performance thoroughly.

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Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, Opus 123

February 21st, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis Op. 123 was composed during the years 1819-1823 and was first performed in April of 1824. Unfortunately, my Naxos wouldn’t load, so I had to resort to youtube to find a recording of this piece. I ended up listening to a performance given by Leonard Bernstein and the Concertgebouw Orchestra with soloists Edda Moser, Hanna Schwarz, Rene Kollo, and Kurt Moll. The first movement, Kyrie, gives the following Latin text. Kyrie eleison! Christe eleison! (Lord, have mercy upon us! Christ have mercy upon us!) The section is sung with such passion by both the chorus and the soloists, with a sort of yearning desire and longing as a mass should be sung, because the original intent and purpose was prayer. The second movement, the Gloria, is an exalting rejoicing, praising God’s name and requesting mercy from the Lord. The movement moves from key to key and changes harmonic material as it progresses. The chorus and soloists do an extremely good job of keeping the mood of this part of the mass, though the orchestral playing is not as smooth or legato as they could have been. The fluidity of the vocalists is farm more evident than that of the orchestra. The tenor, Rene Kollo is especially fluid in terms of his singing and sounds amazing. The Credo, affirming the belief in God is very believable and the chorus and the brass and violins help emphasize this. The harmonic changes are extremely beautiful and I think that Bernstein did an exception job representing the text of the mass with music.

In whole, I feel that the mass was a very good imitation of some of Bach’s or Mozart’s masses or requiems, though there is a distinct “late Beethoven” aesthetic that I find most evident within the orchestral writing, some of which is very similar to his eighth symphony in the string parts. The piece is a beautiful mass and I think that all parties in the recording helped create a wonderful musical experience.

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Test Post

February 16th, 2011 by Gigi · Uncategorized

the weather has gotten rather warm, but it’s still cloudy outside. ∞

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