I listened to the first book of Grieg’s Lyrical Pieces on Naxos and truthfully I think they were very lyrical! I found myself singing along in my head even though I hadn’t heard any of them before (that I know of). They were also rather short but still very exciting, like little bursts from a water gun on a hot day. As far as things we have discussed in class, I heard the folk-ness of north-eastern European dances and unconventional metric feeling. Overall, this was very enjoyable listening!

I very much enjoyed the performance of this opera that I watched which was the Vienna Philharmonic on the Naxos Video Library. During the overture, I found it particularly enjoyable to watch the conductor and try to find the meter (a slightly difficult task). I also particularly was drawn the the opening motive in the horns. When the curtain raised though, I started to feel a little uncomfortable. It was clear that the vocalist supposed to be playing Octavian was a women, and I found that distracting to watch, knowing she was trying to portray a male character. Upon reading the booklet that went along with the recording, I found that how they staged this very traditional opera caused many disgruntled feelings, so I’m not sure this was a great first experience with this work. Upon just listening to the opera, I was able to enjoy it much more listen to the music more. Overall, an enjoyable opera.

My first experience with Wagner’s music was attending a production of Tristan und Isolde with my parents at the age of 13 or so. As we have discussed in recent classes, this is a rather tragic and serious opera and not necessarily the best way to start off a Wagner education. Because of this experience (and also having an acquaintance who is out-right obsessed with the music and theory of Wagner and who loves to push discussions in the direction of Wagner in any circumstance), I have had an extremely strong dislike for Wagner- his music, his ideas, and just all things Wagner in general. However, upon studying some of his ideas and theories within the context of opera/music drama history and also learning what came before in Germany as we have in class I think I now have more understanding and am able to appreciate the complexity and genius that is Wagner.

Listening to Act III of Parsifal, I was able to pick up on some leitmotifs that I assume were the themes for specific characters or events based on following along with the libretto and seeing what was happening within the drama. I also am able to hear and also feel the tension that the music inflicts upon the listener. I feel the pain of Kundry when she groans in Von dorther kam das Stohnen at the beginning of the act. I also feel the anger that Gurnemanz feels toward Parsifal before he knows who he is. I am also able to appreciate the harmony instead of feeling like it goes nowhere as I had before studying Wagner’s ideas in class.

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I found the first act of this opera to be extremely enjoyable! It was more so than the rest of our required listening, in my opinion. Of course, the Overture was just charming. Like some of our other class mates commented, I found that I recognized the first theme and was able to sing along (unfortunately, I was still singing along a few hours after). I was also able to hear some of the techniques Rossini used that we discussed in class on Thursday. Most of what I noticed had to do with the Overture. Personally, I’m very formally and harmonically-oriented and I found it very helpful to be able to picture the form and key structure archetype for most Rossini Overtures. I was gripped right from the opening even though it was quite soft and not nearly as catchy as the first theme in the quick main section. I was expecting it to pick-up in tempo and intensity because I had in mind the typical structure. It was, I would imagine, similar for audience members in Rossini’s day as they knew what was conventional and were already expecting a certain form.

Though I didn’t watch or listen much into the first act, I really did enjoy the dialogue and other interactions between Cinderella and her two step sisters. I thought the way Rossini used comedy to be very laughable and effective, just simply because the two people that were higher in society were the laughing stock of an entire opera house. I can see the psychological ideas in action, as I found myself snickering at the foolishness of the two step sisters.

Overall, I enjoyed watching and listening to La Cenerentola! It was very comedic yet not too light and fluffy that it was without substance.

Listening to Schubert’s Trout Quintet and song, Die Forelle was very enjoyable. However, it was also thought provoking, not necessarily because of the music but because of the main idea behind the works. For instance, wouldn’t it be wonderful to just “swim through life” in a beautiful stream, your scales glittering with sunlight? Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful life? I think so! But as we know how Die Forelle ends, it really isn’t a good ending for the fish. Perhaps we can take more away from Die Forelle than a slightly depressing tale of a blood-thirsty fisherman murdering a poor innocent fish. Perhaps the moral of the story is that if life is easy, something is wrong. Perhaps it is a matter of balancing “the good life” with things that are not generally happy. Or perhaps it is just a statement of the cold, hard truth that the world is not a kind place.

However, this is about music as well, and in terms of that I have some things to say contrasting the quintet to the song. The quintet, because of it’s longer form, struck me as better at portraying the ending of the poem. It seemed more dramatic and like Schubert was able to build up the tension before finally¬† the fish was “betrayed”. This was most likely due to repetition. However, I was able to visualize a clear, calm stream and a beautiful trout swimming upon hearing Die Forelle and overall enjoyed the song more for this reason.
click for lyrics to Die Forelle

Upon listening to the Kyria, Gloria, and Credo of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, my thoughts were that it is a very powerful work and written very effectively. I didn’t think anything like, Wow, he was deaf! or I can see why this was his favorite of all his pieces, it’s so much better than the rest! or anything like that. It was more of, What made Beethoven like this work more than all the others? and Seems like he was going back to his “roots” and using traditional Mass text and older conventions like Fugue.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I really thought this was a powerful and awesomely written piece, all five movements (even though we only had to listen to three of them)! But I kept thinking about the “Beethoven Myth” and how we normally think of Beethoven as the hero in a fairy tale. Oh, he overcame such difficulties!¬† Oh, he’s so strong in his music! swoon swoon swoon, etc. Some of my thoughts were, What made him add a chorus and turn the work into a “Missa” rather than just write another symphony? Did he have some sort of alternate meaning for the traditional Kyrie, Gloria, and Credo text? Why even use text unless to tell a message in an alternate way than just instruments? I found that the work left me curious, not necessarily awed. Yet it was powerful, I’ll give you that.

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first blog

hope i know what i’m doing…:/ we’ll see…
now for something a bit light and silly…sort of sad, but silly all the same :)

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