Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Listening

Back by popular demand!  This month is inspired by Prof. Daly (horn instructor if you haven't met her).  The inspiration is the upcoming change in seasons.  Therefore we bring you Copland's Appalachian Spring (premiered in 1944).  It's about 25 minutes and some decent stuff can be found, broken up, on uTube.  I recommend finding better recordings on Naxos.

The orchestral suite is divided into eight sections. Copland describes each scene thus:
  1. Very slowly. Introduction of the characters, one by one, in a suffused light.
  2. Fast/Allegro. Sudden burst of unison strings in A major arpeggios starts the action. A sentiment both elated and religious gives the keynote to this scene.
  3. Moderate/Moderato. Duo for the Bride and her Intended – scene of tenderness and passion.
  4. Quite fast. The Revivalist and his flock. Folksy feeling – suggestions of square dances and country fiddlers.
  5. Still faster/Subito Allegro. Solo dance of the Bride – presentiment of motherhood. Extremes of joy and fear and wonder.
  6. Very slowly (as at first). Transition scene to music reminiscent of the introduction.
  7. Calm and flowing/Doppio Movimento. Scenes of daily activity for the Bride and her Farmer husband. There are five variations on a Shaker theme. The theme, sung by a solo clarinet, was taken from a collection of Shaker melodies compiled by Edward D. Andrews, and published under the title "The Gift to Be Simple." The melody most borrowed and used almost literally is called "Simple Gifts."
  8. Moderate. Coda/Moderato - Coda. The Bride takes her place among her neighbors. At the end the couple are left "quiet and strong in their new house." Muted strings intone a hushed prayerlike chorale passage. The close is reminiscent of the opening music.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November Listening

At the behest of Dr. Kreiling, I have decided to present Samuel Barber's Excursions, Op. 20 for solo piano.  A piece that I am only vaguely familiar with.  The piece is in four movements inspired by:

1. Boogie woogie
2. Blues
3. Streets of Loredo
4. A barn dance

Good information can actually be found on wikipedia:

And YouTube has Horowitz playing three of the movements:

Enjoy - I will

Monday, October 3, 2011

October Listening

This month's Spooky Halloween listening example is Camille Saint-Saens' Danse macabre, Op. 40.  Written in 1874 - it is a tone poem for violin soloist and orchestra.

Some background:

According to legend, "Death" appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to dance their dance of death for him while he plays his fiddle represented by a solo violin with its E-string tuned to an E-flat in an example of scordatura tuning. His skeletons dance for him until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.

The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, D, twelve times (the twelve strokes of midnight) which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section. This then leads to the E flat and A chords also known as a tritone or the "Devil's chord", and the solo violin's E string is tuned a half step lower to create this effect played by a solo violinist, which represents death. After which the main theme is heard on a solo flute and is followed by a descending scale on the solo violin which is accompanied by soft chords from the string section, particularly the lower instruments of the string section, followed by the full orchestra who then joins in on the descending scale. The main theme and the scale is then heard throughout the various sections of the orchestra until it breaks to the solo violin and the harp playing the scale. The piece becomes more energetic and climaxes with the full orchestra playing very strong dynamics. Towards the end of the piece, there is another violin solo, now in modulation, which is then joined by the rest of the orchestra. The final section represents the dawn breaking (a rooster's crow, represented by the oboe) and the skeletons returning to their graves.
The piece makes particular use of the xylophone to imitate the sounds of rattling bones.
Played by:National Philharmonic Orchestra,
conductor:Leopold Stokowski.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September Listening

This months listening is a combination of several musical timbres.  Joseph Schwantner's Sparrows is written for winds (flute, clarinet), strings (solo violin, viola, cello), piano, harp, lots of percussion, and solo soprano.  It is a wind piece, chamber music, and vocal piece with a text based upon Issa (1763-1828).

The first reaction will probably be 'oh great - weird 20th century stuff.'  But the piece has surprisingly tender and beautiful moments throughout.  And Schwantner is stunningly brilliant when it comes to tonal color.

At about 16 minutes long, it shouldn't be too taxing and can be found easily on campus through Naxos.

Enjoy and I am looking forward to your comments.  I will leave a copy of the score in the library for those interested in a more detailed listening of the piece.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Welcome the the Listening List

Dear students and colleagues,

This blog is all about getting us to listen to new music and relisten to music that we haven't considered in a long time.  Each month, I intent to offer a new piece of classical music for any interest to listen to and comment on.  Hopefully we can expand our musical tastes and knowledge of literature.  I will do my best to include pieces from orchestra, chorus, wind band, chamber ensembles, and solo repertoire from a wide range of style periods.  And I am also happy to take requests from someone with something to share.

Lets all learn and share together!!