Pictures at an Exhibition

This piece has definitely not been neglected. I’m sure most everyone has heard it, at least the Promenade, by the time they finished elementary school, and now, during my freshman year, I have heard the trumpet majors playing it in practice rooms many many times.

Though it is performed so much, it is still a great piece, hence why it is heard so often. I was not aware that it was originally for piano, but I like the orchestrated version by Ravel more, purely for the different textures and colors that the piano alone cannot do. Nonetheless it is still a beautiful piece on the piano (I especially like the second movement “Il Vecchio Castello” on piano).  The piece is very familiar but I never knew very much about it. Now that I have read and learned a little about the Russian music scene, the nationalism is quite evident. I don’t know any Russian folk songs, but it is not hard to hear the folk-like characteristics of the piece. There is also a great deal of cohesion and cyclic nature, the main theme from the Promenade used in other movements but not as recognizable. Mussorgsky didn’t get very creative. He used his main theme many times. It kind of reminds me of Schubert and his mono-thematic characteristic. Definitely something memorable that you can whistle on the street. It has a very majestic feeling to me (especially “The Great Gate of Kiev”) and is a very moving piece.

(I also really like the titles of the movements e.g. “Ballet of the Chickens in their Shells” )

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Monday, May 2nd, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Der Rosenkavalier

The introduction to this opera very much reminds me of a Broadway musical of some sort, perhaps West Side Story. When the soprano starts singing, this somewhat disappears. In relation to other composers, I would relate Strauss more to the Italians, like Rossini, rather than to Wagner. Without listening to the language and the words, the music seems less dense and more sweet and full of memorable melodies. The parts that remind me more of Wagner, are when the melodic vocal line does not seem to “match up” with the orchestra as well. They do not create a memorable melody but are more interesting and have more depth. Perhaps “sublime” could describe this.

Overall I enjoyed the Act (1) very much. I’m not sure it is safe to assume that I enjoy Strauss more than Wagner quite yet, but in comparing Wagner’s Act 3 of Parsifal and Strauss’s Act 1 of Der Rosenkavalier, I would listen to Strauss over Wagner. But my last word would never be to put down Wagner, as I do enjoy his preludes in his operas very much and many of his other works.

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Monday, April 25th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Wagner’s Parsifal

I love the preludes Wagner writes. I first listened to the prelude to the first act and then to the third and enjoyed them both very much. They are very moving though they seem to never resolve. For this reason the rest of the third act was not as enjoyable. It was incredibly emotional and meaningful but there was no real high point of resolution to carry it. “Heil mir, dass ich dich wiederfinde!”is a bit of an exception I think, because it possessed more direction and was more capturing though the length may have caused it to need more of a driving force.

I think I’ve come to a conclusion about myself and Wagner. We get along for a short period of time, especially during instrumental music, but during this third act, we were not agreeing. I’m not the biggest fan of the bass voice, as I have mentioned before, nor of the recitative, which I have also mentioned, and this act felt to me like the mixture of two things I dislike. Plus the lack of resolution leaves my stomach in a knot.

I think I’ll just listen to the prelude again afterword and that might settle things. Or some Beethoven. That might be better.

Sunday, April 17th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Verdi’s Don Carlos

I am not to fond of Don Carlos Act IV. The prelude was very beautiful, but I was not necessarily moved by the scenes that followed.

First, the bass voice is not very appealing to me, so that did not help, and from there, the melodies did not cause any emotion in me. Granted, I did not read the libretto before I listened to the scene (I read it during/after), which may have led me to understand the music more, but the music alone should have caused those feelings, and it did not.

The music of the second scene was much “better,” though I still do not see it as a work I enjoyed. It’s not all Verdi though, because I did enjoy his opera La Traviata very much. Perhaps it is just how I experienced Don Carlos. Without knowing the plot very well, jumping right into the fourth act not hearing the preceding acts, and also without a visual, which often adds an important aspect to operas.

Sunday, April 10th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel and Clara Schumann

Trio for Piano and Strings in D Minor, op.11 by Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel.

First movement: The opening few minutes were not my very impressive to me. It was not very interesting, the string parts especially but towards the middle of the movement the cello enters with the melody as a solo that is continued and brought back until the end of the piece. That melody was very beautiful and changed my impression of the movement although many of the other sections I did not enjoy. Only for the melody did I enjoy this movement.

Second movement: I loved the opening, but it seems as though my general problem is the arrangement of the melodies between the three instruments.It was uncomfortable.

Third movement: The slow ending of the second movement to the slow beginning of the third was especially odd to me. They were too similar and the third seems to be the movement that does not need to exist, or that needs to be elaborated upon. In my opinion of course.

Fourth movement: Three slow openings in a row. At least this movement begins with piano solo in quite a different character. Like a Tango. The string entrance ruined that idea. Ah but it returns. A bit bipolar. This is my favorite movement however.

Overall Fanny did not seem to be expert at layering of instrumentation, but she had very musical ideas and melodies.

Three Romances for Violin and Piano, op. 22 by Clara Schumann

Clara’s musical ideas and portrayal of romantic emotions is beautiful in this piece especially the violin part ironically because she was a very well known pianist in her time.

The opening of the Violin in the first movement has the most romantic emotion. It is so gorgeous and definitely my favorite of all the movements. The second movement is beautiful but not compared to the first and the third movements. In the third movement, the piano accompaniment is so perfect for the violin part, and the switch of rolls when the piano has the melody and the violin plucks chords is delightful.

Between Fanny and Clara, I choose Clara, but have a lot of respect for Fanny and her musical ideas.

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Sunday, March 20th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Rossini’s Guillaume Tell

First, I enjoyed very much that the opera is in French. I love the language very much, it is so beautiful.

Second, I still am not a huge fan of the recitative. They do not ever give me very much pleasure, but that is not to say I did not enjoy the arias and times when multiple characters sang together.

Act II:

I especially enjoyed the music during Mathilde’s aria in the beginning of the act concerning her love for Arnold, it is so beautiful and full of emotion.  The interaction between Arnold, Tell, and Walter when Arnold is told of his father’s murder is also, musically another favorite as well as the music when the “Men of the Unterwalden” are “cautiously approaching.”

I understand that, this act especially, is considered Rossini’s best work, but in order to agree with that I had to listen to a few works from the other acts. In each act I listened to the opening scene and to the finale and a few randomly picked scenes. It does not seem to have as much depth. It seems mostly recitative like, and the instrumental music is not very exciting, intricate, or melodically interesting (Sometimes applies to the music when vocalists enter). But the plot in the second act is also the most interesting. Mathilde and Arnold both agree on their love and promise to stay faithful, and Arnold is told of his father’s murder. It makes for more emotional music as opposed to the setting of the scenery in the first scene of Act I when there is not much in the words to bring out in the music. Act III seems to be more of a show off act, at least Mathilde’s aria in the beginning seems that way (ornamentation) compared to her “love” aria in the second act.

I seem to agree with the statement that the second act of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell is his finest. I hope it is not that others more knowledgeable than I have influenced that, but I’m sure in a small sense that is true. But I did listen quite closely and also not so closely to enjoy the great work and formulate an opinion.

Bravo Rossini

Monday, March 14th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Rossini La Cenerentola

The Rossini overtures, notably The Barber of Seville and the focus of this blog La Cenerentola, are very distinctive. They all resemble in their form of slow introduction, themes, the “Rossini crescendo,” cadences, return of themes, and final cadences. But I believe Rossini has a very delightful, happy, delicate, feeling associated with his instrumental works as well as for the vocalists. It seems to me that he likes using thirds very much as well as using the higher pitched instruments more (violin, flute) to create the light texture, and pizzicato in many instances.

I guess all composers have their distinctive traits, but I thing Rossini’s stand out so well, especially in his overture, it would be hard not to recognize.

This is a hysterical video:

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Monday, March 7th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Schubert

Schubert’s Piano Quintet. I enjoyed it. The themes are memorable, though I attribute that to the fact that he uses them many times in the movement before moving on. It is not like the “long-long-long-short” theme of Beethoven’s fifth, but it is the use of a full theme, the melodic line, several times. For example in the second movement, the opening theme is barely not present. This also happens, possibly more obviously, in the fourth movement. It is a theme and variation, but it isn’t elaborated very much, the theme is just passed around as the accompaniment changes. For seven and a half minutes. The theme of this movement is that from Schubert’s lied Die Forelle. The lied is two minutes long. It is one simple melody that tells the story. Short and sweet. It reminded me of a song for children, like Mary Had a Little Lamb, except with a  scary, grousome ending. Why can’t the fourth movement be like that? Or at least be more interesting and be elaborated in the developement?

I am not saying that I do not appreciate and enjoy this quintet. Each movement is very different providing the contrast of themes and emotion.  Just after listening and paying the most attention to the music, it became repetitive within the specific movements.

Oh. One last remark. a.k.a “P.S.”

It could have been the recording I listened to, but I did not here the bass very much, and when I did, it wasn’t something I thought needed to be there. It did not add anything, it just made it chunky. But that is a personal opinion that, again, could have been the fault of the recording.

P.P.S

I also find it funny that our first blog was about Beethoven’s vocal work Missa Solemnis, a genre which is not his strongest (and ironically his favorite work), and this blog is about Schubert’s instrumental music, not his strongest genre.

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Beethoven “The Greatest work I have composed so far”

I found these scores from IMSLP to be very useful in creating my own conclusions and opinions of Missa Solemnis, as well as pages 28-30 in Finson’s Nineteenth-Century Music to gather information about this period of Beethoven’s life.

Beethoven Missa Solemnis Kyrie

Beethoven Missa Solemnis Gloria

Beethoven Missa Solemnis Credo

Beethoven began composing Missa Solemnis in 1818 for the celebration of the Archduke Rudolf becoming Cardinal in 1919 and then archbishop in 1920, but it was not completed until 1823. It is quite a long work, much too long to be performed during an actual mass but it is not because Beethoven strayed from the traditions of form, he only expanded the parts.  The verses are separated into episodes, which I noticed were distinguished not only by the text, but by key, time signature, tempo, or suddenly switching to the opposite dynamic marking (e.g. p to sub.FF). Another characteristic of Beethoven’s late period and of this mass in particular, is the use of fugues. In each mass part (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo) there are fugues throughout and double fugues (two subjects each with their own text presented as individual fugues simultaneously). My last observation is regarding the chorus’ music.  I am not a vocalist, but it seemed especially difficult because of the many skips of large intervals and fast eighth note passages. But Beethoven was chiefly an instrumental composer, therefore his vocal works would resemble instrumental parts, this explains the difficulty of the music.

Missa Solemnis, it is a true masterpiece. I’m not sure many would agree that it is the greatest work Beethoven composed but it is a great composition.  I did enjoy it, and even though it is very long, I listened to it a few times, with and without watching the score, as a sort of background music and as work. I am not usually a fan of choral works with orchestra, but this work was fascinating, especially listening after i had read the score. Sometimes it is easy to zone out during a piece like this (20+ minute long movements), but when I know an outline of what is happening and interesting sections to listen for, it makes a difference in my experience.

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Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments