Showing posts with label Composer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Composer. Show all posts

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Richard WAGNER - Titan of Opera

Richard Wagner - Photo Wikipedia (CC)
Because of the lack of discrimination in ascertaining how the composers used t motives, we can understand Massenet's et Cie. ambivalence about Wagner's influence. The Wagner system was not only about motives but also in how they were employed and what kinds of things they were meant to symbolize, that was all part of the "system." Other composers broke with that system by using motives entirely differently, Verdi, for example, used them extremely sparingly and kept them intact, to him they were used as recontextualized reminiscence.

Massenet followed that path as well, his theme usage in Manon and Werther are sparse. They highlight just a few issues and moments within the work. Though their job was to see these discrete techniques and artistic conceptions, critics at the time became partisans and polemicists and Wagner's breakthroughs led to a decade of deep creative frustration and ambivalence.

A look at Manon and Carmen shows how "Mademoiselle Wagner" was as much an inheritor of Bizet and of traditional opera as he was an acolyte of Wagner. Though published at a time when operas had firmly become "Music Drama" Manon is comfortably within the same family as its famous predecessor.

Some of the scenes in both operas are startlingly parallel. They open with huge tableaux showing us all these slices of life scenes, the changing of the guard and the cigarette girls in Carmen and the Inn at Amiens were the townspeople chatter and gossip waiting for Guillot and De Bretigny to arrive. The music here is boisterous festive and self-referential. Both composers here are concerned with evincing extended local colors and flavors, hardly a Wagnerian concern.

In the first act, we already see Bizet employing the limited use of motive that in 1874 already got tarred as Wagnerism. The use of Carmen's fate theme, which is one of the devices that allows Bizet to connect his opera between the individual "numbers" is much in the same vein that Massenet uses his themes. It's true that in Bizet these themes are not employed as subtly as in Manon but a decade separates these works and innovation and aesthetic temperament grow and change.

Both these operas concern themselves with a heroine too morally ambivalent to serve as a Wagnerian philosophical prop. The story of their journeys from the desire to defiance to death is firmly in the traditional school of operatic stories and despite hysterical criticism that the orchestras in each of these operas dominated the singers (!) these works show no great leap from that last international opera composed for Paris, Verdi's Don Carlos in 1867.

That Wagner's influence is tremendous is obvious. I have not even gone through the changes he made in the theater such as the hidden pit and the completely unlit performance hall. It is hard to believe that before him orchestra pits were public affairs and those operatic spectacles were viewed with the house lights on. This does not mention his advocacy for chromatic horns, the invention of the Wagner horns, and the standardization of the orchestra as we know it nor his role in the primacy of the conductor. His idiom is still the idiom of popular classical music to this day, in television, films and video games, the scores are composed with Wagner in mind. To have to deal with that influence, particularly at its first great plateau must have been an enormous preoccupation. The terror that Brahms and Schubert had of Beethoven even pales in comparison. For classical music, particularly opera, this age was the birth of the anxiety of influence, and the French composers of that time must have realized that they would not live long enough to see themselves understood or appreciated for their personal contributions.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

VIVALDI - Son of Venice

Antonio Vivaldi by François Morellon la Cave; 1725
Antonio Vivaldi by François Morellon la Cave; 1725
 (Photo credit: 
Venice, Italy, is a popular and fascinating travel destination visited by thousands every year. In addition to the canals and other famous attractions, a visit to Venice can be a great experience for classical music lovers, especially fans of Antonio Vivaldi.

Antonio Vivaldi was trained as a priest, but learned violin at an early age from his father and is best known today for his innovative, flamboyant compositions. His most famous work, the Four Seasons, is one of the earliest tone poems, or a musical piece that captures specific moods and elements of a scene being depicted. His work heavily influences Bach, though many of his works disappeared into obscurity after his death. The Four Seasons, in fact, remained unknown through Vivaldi's lifetime. He also composed several operas, which were popular at the time and much in demand from royal sponsors.

Born in Venice in 1678, Vivaldi spent many years in the city as the master of violin at the Ospedale della Pieta, an orphanage. Today, a small Vivaldi-centric museum exists at this site, featuring items relevant both to Vivaldi and to the orphanage itself. Some items displayed in the museum include instruments that were played by the orphanage's inhabitants during Vivaldi's time. These instruments might even have been played by Vivaldi himself. The church where his formal baptism took place, the Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, also still stands in Venice, an additional must-see destination for Vivaldi fans.

The Museo della Musica, or Museum of Music, also features information and displays about the life and works of Vivaldi. This small museum is also housed in a church, and entry is free of charge. The museum features a collection of baroque period instruments and a display that discusses how violins are made. The church itself provides a beautiful display of neoclassical architecture, as well.

With careful planning, it is even possible to attend concerts to hear Vivaldi's works performed live in the city of his birth. Be sure to ask for information at the Venice hotels of choice to find current available performances or concerts. Since these performances vary from season to season, a schedule specific to the time of year will be important.

Staying at hotels in Venice can help contribute to a detailed, informative and enjoyable exploration of the city as well as Vivaldi's history and early years. Many Venice hotels are located within easy reach of these Vivaldi landmarks. Staff at hotels in Venice will likely be able to help provide guidance on where the best Vivaldi-themed locations in Venice can be found.

    By Roo Sadegi

    Roo Sadegi is a travel writer based in London's East End, although he spends much of his time traveling around Europe's travel hotspots.

    Article Source: EzineArticles

Sunday, September 24, 2017


George Frederic Handel (1685 - 1759)

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Felix Mendelssohn - Bartholdy
(3.2.1809 - 4.11.1847)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Thanksgiving Piano Music - Simple Gifts Enjoyed by American Composer, AARON COPLAND

The beautiful melody, Simple Gifts, is from a book of songs published in the 1840s by the Shakers, a religious group who settled in areas from New England to Kentucky. The melody for Simple Gifts was used in American composer, Aaron Copland's ballet, Appalachian Spring. It's theme of simplicity, freedom, and humility are appropriate for a ballet, but for celebrating the spirit of our National Thanksgiving Holiday.

English: Aaron Copland
Aaron Copland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free, 'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be, And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 'Twill be in the valley of love and delight. When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed, To turn, turn will be our delight, 'Till by turning, turning we come round right.

This year at your family's Thanksgiving table take a moment to count the simplest of your blessings and feel the peace. We can spend so much time focused on the future and forget to celebrate each day and to make the most of every moment with our loved ones. Achievements are important, but without the people, we love the most to share them with, they mean little to us. Relaxing piano music is a lovely way to bring a little extra peace into your home during the busy holiday season. Make your first purchase a piano CD of this musical part of our Thanksgiving heritage - Simple Gifts. Who knows, it might turn out to be one of your family's favorite traditions at Thanksgiving.

To learn the best way to share the gift of music with children visit for my Piano Bears Musical Stories for Children The exciting Piano Bears Musical Stories for children ages 5 to 11 feature the loveable characters, Mrs. Treble Beary and her new piano student, Albeart Littlebud. Children love following along with Albeart to Mrs. Treble Beary's piano studio in Musical Acres Forest. Here they learn what piano lessons are all about in a fun way that kids readily understand and appreciate! Piano students laugh and giggle while reading "Little Bear's Musical Garden" and "Little Bear's Piano Goals."

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Life & Music of GEORGE GERSHWIN

Even though George Gershwin's life was sadly cut short by a brain tumor when he was only 38 years old, his music still lives on in the hearts and minds of the world today. Some of his most famous works included "Rhapsody in Blue" and "They Can't Take That Away From Me." His storied career includes many other notable highlights and achievements over the course of his brief life.

George Gershwin
Photo  by cliff1066™ 
George Gershwin was born in Brooklyn, New York to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants on September 26, 1898. He was named Jacob Gershowitz at birth. The family name was later Americanized by George to facilitate his show business career. Many of his other family members followed suit and changed their names accordingly. Gershwin had three siblings in his family.

George Gershwin revealed his talent for music at an early age. At the tender age of 10, Gershwin attended his friend Max Rosen's violin recital. He was absolutely fascinated by the passion behind the performance. He loved the sound of the instrument and the skilled nuance with which Rosen performed.

The Gershwin parents had bought a piano for George's older brother, Ira. George came home from the violin recital and was determined to learn to play an instrument, so he began tinkering around with Ira's piano at home. He learned the instrument quickly, so his parents were happy to help him find a suitable professional for a piano teacher.

The search for a piano teacher for young George Gershwin took nearly two years. He finally settled on Charles Hambitzer, who influenced Gershwin's musical life immensely. He taught Gershwin formal techniques and formal European music. Gershwin would attend classical music performances with Hambitzer, and he was often able to reproduce the melodies on the piano when he would return home. Hambitzer acted as Gershwin's mentor until the time of his death in 1918.

At 15, Gershwin dropped out of school to become a song plugger for Jerome H. Remick and Company, a firm from New York City's famed Tin Pan Alley. The position earned him $15 a week, but more importantly, it positioned him well in the music industry.

By 1916, Gershwin published his first song, entitled, "When You Want 'Em, You Can't Get 'Em, When You've Got 'Em, You Don't Want Em." He was 17 years old.

He followed up his release in 1916 with a 1917 release of "Rialto Ripples," which was a commercial success. In 1918, he released "Swanee." In 1924, Gershwin began his foray into musicals, a pursuit that would make him forever famous. He penned "Lady Be Good" and "Fascinating Rhythm" that year.

Follow-up musicals in subsequent years included "Oh Kay," "Funny Face," "Strike Up the Band," "Show Girl," "Girl Crazy," "I Got Rhythm," "Porgy and Bess" and "Of Thee I Sing." The latter of the group won the esteemed Pulitzer Prize.

Gershwin's success on Broadway eventually led to calls from Hollywood movie studios. He moved out to California to do some film work. While out in Hollywood, he began complaining of headaches in early 1937. Sadly, during his work on a film entitled "The Goldwyn Follies," George Gershwin collapsed due to a malignant brain tumor. He later died following a surgery to remove the tumor on July 11, 1937.

Although his life was tragically cut short, George Gershwin's legacy will always live on through his music. From timeless hits to musicals, his melodies still resonate in popular culture. His influence will be felt for decades to come.

Sunday, September 3, 2017


English: Johann van Beethoven
Johann van Beethoven (Father of Ludwig)
(Photo credit: 
Beethoven was among the most famous classical and romantic music composers. He was born in December 1770, in a place known as Bonn, the capital of Electorate of Cologne and a part of Roman Empire. Ludwig was born in a family deeply involved in classical music. His first music teacher was his father Johan Van Beethoven.

By the age of 14, he started to work as an assistant organist in a court. While he was working for Christian Gottlob Neefe who was a member of Order of the Illuminati, Beethoven got influenced by the ideas of Freemasonry. A secret society criticized for working for devils and worshipping occults.

In 1787 Ludwig's mother got sick and then died, following which his father went deep into alcoholism. Having no one to care for his younger siblings he had to stay in Bonn for next five years. In 1792, Beethoven left Bonn for Vienna where he learned playing music from Joseph Haydn and Leopold Mozart.

In Vienna, Beethoven had to strive hard to conceive notable reputation in the musical industry. For the premiere of his first symphony, he hired the Burgtheater and presented his Septet, the First Symphony and Piano Concertos, along with some works of Haydn and Mozart. Soon after these achievements, Beethoven started to gain fame and eminence.

In 1799, when Beethoven was teaching music lessons to Hungarian Countess's daughters, he started an affair with the youngest daughter, Josephine. But as soon as the Countess Anna Brunswick discerned this, she married her daughter Josephine with Josef Deym. The love between them didn't diminish and was accentuated again after the sudden death of Deym.

English: Picture representing Ludwig van Beeth...
Picture representing Ludwig van Beethoven in 1823
 (Photo credit: 
Beethoven's hearing ability started to deteriorate by the age of 26, it is said that he suffered from a severe form of tinnitus, typhus or some sort of auto immune disorder. He was used to writing letters to his friends and doctors, in which he wrote about the pain and agony he was facing but nothing would help. His ability to hear gradually decreased until 1814 when he completely became deaf.

Although Beethoven had lost his hearing ability, he didn't quit playing music. One of the famous incidents is when he blatantly started to cry before the audience due to his inability to hear the applause after his ninth symphony. He continued to have public concerts until the 24th of May 1824 when the concert was attended by few and nothing went well.

Josephine had already married another commoner and Beethoven was left alone. After a long sickness and bed rest of two months, he died in March 1827. The autopsy revealed that he died of liver damage and auditory dilation due to excessive intake of alcohol. His name as one of the best classical music composers will never be forgotten in the world of classical music.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Composer Illustrated: Leonard Bernstein - 25. 8. 1918 - 14. 10. 1990

Leonard Bernstein - 25.8.1918 - 14.10.1990

Masters of the Podium: A Brief Biography of LEONARD BERNSTEIN

American Leonard Bernstein [1918-1990] could just as easily fall into the category "Composers' Corner," since he was as much a giant with the pen as he was with the baton. He was known primarily as the face of the New York Philharmonic and was on the podium for the American premiere of many important musical works throughout his career, including Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes, plus the world premiere of Symphony No. 2 by Charles Ives. Bernstein's association with the New York Philharmonic ran from 1943 all the way until the late 1980s, and he was officially the ensemble's principal conductor from 1958 through 1969.

English: Leonard Bernstein seated at piano, ma...
Leonard Bernstein seated at piano, making annotations to musical score Azərbaycan: Leonard Bernstein pianinoda oturub, partiturada yazır. Español: Leonard Bernstein sentado a la piano, anotando una partitura Esperanto: Leonard Bernstein sidas ĉe piano kaj prilaboras partituron.
(Photo credit: 

Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. He learned to play the piano at the age of 10 and attended Boston Latin School, where he met his lifelong music mentor, Helen Coates. Thanks to her careful management of his educational opportunities, Bernstein studied composition and music theory at Harvard University, following that with a year of training as a conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Due to his asthma, Bernstein was ineligible for WWII service and therefore benefited from the lack of stateside talent the draft had caused. As a result, this relatively untested young man-he was 25 in 1943-was named assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He led them semi-regularly while also conducting the New York City Center Orchestra, plus appearing as a guest conductor in the immediate post-war period with various ensembles throughout the United States and Western Europe, as well as in Israel.

Bernstein's fame grew exponentially thanks to broadcasts of the series Young People's Concerts on the CBS television network. American viewers were treated to entertaining discussions of classical music, with Bernstein either at the piano or leading his orchestra through such masterpieces as Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Gustav Holst's The Planets. In all, Bernstein recorded 53 such programs that aired from 1962 to 1972 and enjoyed syndication in no fewer than 40 foreign countries. This series not only proved to be the most popular music appreciation program ever, but it gave rise to the modern-day equivalent where conductors routinely offer pre- or post-concert lectures for audience members. Bernstein was also known for making some of the first stereo records of important classical music. He led the Philharmonic in recording all nine complete Mahler symphonies, and later conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in complete sets of symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann.

No article on Bernstein would be complete without mentioning his compositions, which remain extremely popular and an important part of late 20th century American music. While his best-known work is the Broadway musical West Side Story [1957] (with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim), he wrote a great deal of other material for the stage that includes the musicals On the Town [1944] and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue [1976], the ballet Dybbuk [1975], the one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti [1952] and its three-act sequel A Quiet Place [1983], and the operetta Candide [1956]. He composed numerous orchestral works, including three symphonies, several orchestral suites, and a Concerto for Orchestra, subtitled Jubilee Games [1989]. His most popular choral work is Chichester Psalms [1965], a Hebrew text set to music for boy soprano, chorus and orchestra. He also composed several chamber pieces, including a piano trio and a sonata for clarinet and piano.

Bernstein enjoyed the acclaim of his peers and the music world in general. The London Symphony Orchestra named him its honorary president in 1987. He won 11 Emmy Awards throughout his career, as well as a Tony Award in 1969. He was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1985 and Kennedy Center Honors in 1980. He was an inaugural supporter of Amnesty International and, in keeping with his lifetime interest in music as a force for peace in the world, memorably led concerts on both sides of the dismantled Berlin Wall in late 1989, titled the "Berlin Celebration Concerts."

    By Paul Siegel
    The video clip that accompanies this article is Part 1 of "What is Classical Music" from his Young People's Concerts series. The original air date of this television program was January 24, 1959.
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MOZART’s Music

Statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by Ludwig Mi...
Statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
 by Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler
 at Mozart-Mozartplatz Salzburg.
(Photo credit: 
The music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is perhaps the most well-known of any composer the world has ever seen. Almost everyone has heard of how Mozart was composing music by the age of five (some urban legends even claim it was at age two) and performing before kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, before he was seven years old. He created more than 600 compositions, from operas to sonatas to full symphonies, and died tragically, mysteriously, before his 36th birthday in 1791. Some of his more famous pieces of music include Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music, 1787) and the operas Don Giovanni (1787) and Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute, 1791).

The movie Amadeus (1984) put into popular parlance the idea of Mozart as an immature and spoiled musical prodigy, given to fast living and obnoxious, braying laughter. It also portrays him as having been tormented by a brooding, jealous rival composer named Salieri, who may or may not have killed him. History paints only a slightly less dramatic picture. Born in 1756 in Salzburg, Austria, Mozart was the only son of a professional musician who very early on recognized the boy’s extraordinary musical talent. Today’s critical and politically correct eyes may look with disfavor on the way that Leopold Mozart exploited his son’s musical genius, but at the time it was neither uncommon nor unacceptable to parade child prodigies through the courts of Europe. The young Mozart spent his boyhood at the feet of kings and queens, performing and composing and perfecting his unique musical vision.

He also spent his childhood suffering from various illnesses—tuberculosis, tonsillitis, and typhoid are just some of the many ailments he is said to have suffered. He was a sickly child and each bout of poor health left him reduced in vigor, more frail, and more susceptible to what would, ultimately, kill him. Legend has it that he was poisoned, but recent, more scientific explanation has it that he died of rheumatic fever, even while working to complete one of his greatest musical accomplishments, the Requiem.

Mozart’s music, like his life, defies easy classification. As a product of what historians term the Classical Era (1750-1825), he perfected the prevalent musical forms of symphony, opera, and concerto, and yet he also turned them on their heads. The upper-crust audiences for whom he played were jarred by his complex, mysterious, sometimes raucous music, accustomed as they were to lighter, more frivolous pieces. In 1782, the Emperor Joseph II even told Mozart that his German opera had “too many notes.”

Such a characterization of Mozart’s music may well seem absurd to us today, who have been conditioned to think of Mozart as an unparalleled genius. Even before birth, babies are rocked to sleep by Mozart’s music being piped into their mothers’ wombs. We relax to his music, we grow to it, we learn through it; his music enriches and inspires our lives.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

ANTONIO VIVALDI Composition History

Deutsch: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Vivaldi was a pioneer of the concerto. He is one of the most popular and greatest composers. Early in the 1700's Vivaldi began to write his concertos that were widely spread in manuscript. Vivaldi is known for changing the nature of the concerto. Earlier concertos were relatively different; Vivaldi was able to mark change concertos from what they once were, to what they are now.

He explored new ways of composing solo instrumental passages to be placed in between sections of orchestral music. This created contrasts in the sound and gave the soloist a chance to impress the audience. His most famous concertos aren't especially distinctive. His concertos interested many not just because of the song itself but because of the way the songs were played, how the instruments worked together and how they all became such an amazing and unique work of art. Many of Vivaldi's concertos feature one or more violins.

Many of Vivaldi's works have also included the flute, oboe bassoon and cello. Some include the guitar and mandolin, horns and trumpets and several works included unusual combinations of solo or single instruments. Today, Vivaldi is particularly founded on his 500 concertos.

Vivaldi was the first composer to regularly use the ritornello form in fast movements. He is also known to standardize the movement scheme; fast, slow, fast of the classical concerto. Vivaldi probably had no idea that he was making musical history. He wrote music very quickly and efficiently. He has many concertos that are known today however, there are many more to be discovered.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Composer Illustrated: GUSTAV MAHLER

Gustav Mahler - Photo: Wikimedia

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Richard Rodgers
By Al Aumuller, World Telegram staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, June 16, 2017

MOZART SONATA As Art and Education

Mozart in 1777, the year of the concerto. Pain...
Mozart in 1777, the year of the concerto.
(Photo credit: 
We all know that Mozart was an amazing pianist and composer who started his work at a very tender young age. Most of us also know that the Mozart sonata is a very important piece of musical history. However, do you know very much about these pieces? For example, did you know that these were not all pieces that he wrote specifically to play as a performer but also pieces that he wrote for the purpose of teaching his work to others? Taken as a whole, the sonatas represent a lifetime of creative work from one of the most amazing musical geniuses to have ever lived.

For those who don't know much about Mozart, what you really need to know is that he was a genius and a prodigy. He was a classical composer from the late eighteenth century who played both violin and piano. He began composing music at an age when most children are barely about to enter kindergarten. Although he died young (at the age of 35) his early start allowed him to have a lengthy career. The music that he composed throughout this career is a testament to the talent that this man held within him.

Français : Édition de la Sonate pour piano nº ...
Sonate pour piano nº 6 de Mozart, « 'Durnitz' »,
dans Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts Werke (1878)
(Photo credit: 
The most famous thing that Mozart wrote was the Mozart sonata. This is not a single piece of composition. Instead it is a series of works known as sonatas that are each numbered sequentially. What we can hear when we listen to them is that he developed his musical abilities throughout his brief lifetime, always bringing new twists and turns to the work. Some of them are simple, light and airy whereas others are dark, dramatic and difficult to play. The circumstances that Mozart was experiencing as he went through his life are played out in the different styles that he composed within the pieces.

The majority of the reason that Mozart composed his work was because he wanted to perform it. He started performing music at a very young age and was proficient at playing multiple instruments. The music that he created was his art. The purpose of creating it was to find self-expression and then to share that expression with others by playing it on his own musical instruments. He created his music because it was his passion and his life's work to do so. He created it in order to play it. And one can assume that he was driven by an inner need to create this art; he would have probably created it even if no one would listen to it but himself.

However, the Mozart sonata was not only created so that Mozart could perform his art for others. He was also someone who was interested in teaching musical skills to other people who were interested in learning it. There are some that he wrote for the express purpose of using them as teaching tools. It takes different skills to compose a classical masterpiece than it does to compose a piece that you can use to teach music to someone. That he was able to do this so successfully says even more about Mozart's genius than does the fact that he started composing at such a young age.

The Mozart sonata is an important piece of work for a number of different reasons. It shows how much can be done with one type of musical form. The series of sonatas can be viewed together to show us the ups and downs in Mozart's personal and professional lives. And students can use the pieces individually to learn how to play the violin or piano with much of the same skill that Mozart had himself. No other body of work says as much about the artist and still provides so much function to others as do the Mozart pieces.

    By Andy West
    Andy West is a writer on a variety of topics, including music. Mozart was one of the greatest composer's that has ever lived, and he has left us with a large library of unforgettable pieces, including the Mozart sonata.

    Article Source: EzineArticles

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


Antonio Vivaldi is an Italian composer and violinist. He was born March 4, 1678 in Venice, Italy. He is major figure in baroque music and exercised a considerable influence on the development of the concerto. Antonio Vivaldi was the first child of his family. He was born with chest illness and wasn't expected to live long. He survived, but remained very weak throughout his life.

Antonio Vivaldi.jpg
"Antonio Vivaldi" by François Morellon la Cave -
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Antonio grew up in Venice. His father Giovanni realized that his son was very musical and taught him to play the violin at a young age. Antonio Vivaldi was trained in the priesthood in 1693 and was ordained in 1703. His first known performance was in 1696. Within a year after Vivaldi's ordination, he stopped practicing Mass. He claimed this was because of his poor health, while others believed he quit because he was forced into becoming a priest at such a young age.

Six months after he was ordained in 1703, Vivaldi was appointed as the maestro de violin at theOspedale Della Pieta, an orphanage in Venice. Their purpose at the Pieta was to give shelter and to provide education and musical training. The Pieta was famous for its music. During Vivaldi's time many girls were described as the best in Italy. The girls would put on performances to raise money for the Pieta. Vivaldi soon became well-known in Venice as a promising young composer. He spent many years at the Pieta however; in 1709 he was asked to leave. Vivaldi returned to the Pieta as a violin teacher in September of 1711. He worked for the Pieta on and off for the next 40 years.

 Throughout the years he changed positions from a violin teacher, to a church composer and all the way to the director of music. Vivaldi's music was new and exciting. It was also unique in style. He liked to created vigorous rhythms. This gave his work a feeling of freshness and energy. Vivaldi was by now a great virtuoso violinist and admired among many. He began to compose different kinds of music that was becoming more popular in Venice. This music was opera.

When Vivaldi wasn't working at the Pieta, he was composing music for the theater. Vivaldi realized that he could make more money composing operas. He then decided to take a month's leave and start composing one. His first opera produced great success. From then on, Vivaldi became important in the Venetian opera world.

In 1718, Vivaldi was offered a job in the city of Mantua. For three years, Vivaldi worked as one of the Prince Philip's court musicians, composing many secular instrumental works. He left Mantua in 1720, but continued to write music for the prince. During his time in Mantua, he produced more operas. He fame had now spread beyond Venice, and was asked to compose operas for other popular cities such as Milan and Florence. Vivaldi also became popular in Rome for his violin playing and opera. He was invited to the Vatican to perform for the pope. At this time he was still working for the Pieta however; they were upset that there maestro was not there. They agreed that Vivaldi would have to write two works for them each month.

Throughout the next few centuries Vivaldi published many musical works. His goal was to entertain audiences rather than express himself in some deep personal way. However, as time went on, he grew more and more out of touch with Venice. The musical taste had changed and the people focused on other composers. Vivaldi became less popular. He did not write another opera for over four years. Audiences abroad still enjoyed Vivaldi's work, which is why he traveled so much. In 1740, Vivaldi had one final triumph at the Pieta with a grand gala concert. He then decided to leave Venice for good. He began raising money for his last journey.

Vivaldi shortly became a forgotten composer. New composers quickly took his place in the music world. Vivaldi was however, rediscovered later by J.S Bach, who composed numbers of his songs for the keyboard. Vivaldi died of internal inflammation and was buried on July 28, 1741. He suffered all his life with a chest illness. This did not stop him from composing a vast amount of music. He claimed to have written 94 operas. He also wrote secular cantatas and many church works for chorus, soloists, and orchestra. His instrumental, however, is the most admired, nearly 500 concertos. "He is known for fast movements with vigorous, tuneful themes and impassioned, lyrical slow movements."

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Composer Illustrated: ROBERT SCHUMANN

Portrait von By Jean-Joseph Bonaventure Laurens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

DEBUSSY's "Clair De Lune"

The ending scene of Ocean's Eleven is one that is quite well-known indeed, and Claude Debussy's "Clair de Lune" (or, at least, one of the orchestrations of "Clair de Lune" - but we'll get there soon enough) is a piece that is instantly recognizable - not just from this movie, of course, but in just about anything where a feeling of languid reverie is desired. Not too shabby for a man who was never really seen as more than a bizarre little composer by Those That Know More About Music Than You in his time.

Photograph of Claude Debussy
Photograph of Claude Debussy
(Photo credit: 

Claude-Achille Debussy was born in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France, in 1862 to a family who was non-musical but supportive of their son's burgeoning talents. He began taking piano lessons at the age of 7, and enrolled in the Paris Conservatoire at 10. As a student, he was that kid - instead of just sitting back, learning the fundamentals of harmony The Way They Were Always Taught and then futzing with them later, he insisted on adding odd harmonies and dissonances into his exercises. Even so, he did manage to win the Prix de Rome (for those who have forgotten, a competition for young composers in which the first prize was a musical education in Rome) in 1884, and studied there for three years.

In 1888, Debussy traveled to Bayreuth in what appeared to be a rite of passage for young composers by this time, and was floored by what he saw there. Though his music never featured the extreme emotional highs and lows of Wagner, he was still influenced by his unusual harmonic progressions (though in a particularly sassy moment, he did turn the beginning of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde into a big ol' joke - to great effect, no less, even including a bout of the giggles played by the piano accompaniment immediately after the quote). Around this time, he met and became friends with Erik Satie, another French composer who shared Debussy's somewhat iconoclastic musical tastes. He had several tumultuous love affairs, but as a personality, was never particularly well-known during his own lifetime (though he was able to afford a rather comfortable lifestyle). In what he saw as a rather grave insult, he was given the adjective "impressionist" as a way to describe his music; however, the similarities between his music and impressionist art can't be denied (for one, his lack of orthodox harmony leads to a sort of blurred-around-the-edges quality to his music). His music ended up being incredibly important in the grand scheme of music history exactly because of that lack of orthodox harmony - he ran with what Wagner did in terms of breaking away from classical harmonic theory and introducing things like the whole-tone and pentatonic scales, as well as bringing back the medieval modes.

Very quickly: the major and minor scales (the ones used in most music heard on a daily basis) are comprised of a pattern of whole and semitones. For instance, in C major, because there is a note in between C and D (C sharp or D flat, depending on whether your glass is half full or empty), the interval between C and D is a whole tone. There is nothing in between E and F, so that is considered a semitone. For the record, the difference between a minor scale (a natural minor scale, anyway) and a major scale is simply the placement of the semitones - in major scales, the first semitone is between the third and fourth notes and the second is between the seventh and first notes, and in minor scales, the first semitone is between the second and third notes and the second is between the fifth and sixth notes. It's this combination of whole and semitones that makes those lovely major and minor chords that almost every pop song ever uses (with the notable and distinct exception of "Single Ladies" by Beyonce, but that's an entirely different story...). The whole-tone scale, true to its name, has no semitones, and if it started on C, the rest of the scale would follow as D-E-F#-G#-A# (or Bb)-C. It has no tonal center, so to speak, and so is often used in dream sequences in movies as well as underwater scenes.

The set of medieval modes is yet another way of creating harmony. Instead of 'major' and 'minor,' there are seven modes (each named after an ethnic group that lived around ancient Greece). The names of the modes are the same now as they were then, but they have been shuffled around a bit so that the Dorian of today was not the Dorian of 300 B.C. The easiest way of visualizing the modes is to - once again - take our trusty C major scale. Conveniently enough, the C major scale is also the first mode, called Ionian. To get the other modes, all you need to do is take the C major scale - C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C - and start it on a different note in that scale. The next mode, Dorian, starts on D (unfortunately, that is the only one whose name matches its starting note), and is then D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D, and it goes on for every note in the scale. For the record, the names of the modes are Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian (a favorite of folk singers and the 1960s in general), Aeolian, and Locrian - in that order.

Hah. "Very quickly," indeed. Hey - it's not my fault that Debussy was into all this weird musical stuff.

"Clair de Lune" itself is, like most pieces featured on this blog, part of a larger work - in this case, the Suite Bergamasque, a piano suite written in 1890 but revised and not published until 1905. A suite of music, for our purposes, is simply a collection of pieces that can each be performed alone but has some sort of unifying theme. In the case of the Suite Bergamasque, each piece is a musical illustration of a poem by Paul Verlaine - sort of like a symphonic poem minus the orchestra. "Clair de Lune" means "moon shine" (without the alcoholic connotation, of course), and the piece does really sound like a moonlit night. Much like our man Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, the piece is most well-known in its orchestrated form - having that dripping harmony played by strings oozing with pathos is much more conducive to big cinematic scenes at the Bellagio, of course - one orchestrator being Leopold Stokowski (among other things, he was the conductor in Fantasia).

So there you have it - a piece that represents quite a lot in the theory world. I hope I didn't get too pedantic with the theory; I know that's really not the most interesting thing in the world to read. But hey, the school year's starting again, and perhaps someone will Google "just how the hell do modes make sense?" and this entry will help them out. Debussy might even be a little proud of that, but then again, he was always a little bizarre.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

HAYDN's "Creation"

No other work has contributed to the fame of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) like his oratorio "The Creation", however, no other expresses the inner wealth of the composer, the greatness of his art, in such an outright manner. To establish Haydn's immortality his symphonies and quartets would have already been enough, however, without "The Creation" we would not able to estimate the whole scope of his talent, because this composition does not only exceed his usual range of instrumental music, but it led the composer to entirely new ways of the musical development of thought and structure.

Haydn was one of the first composers to write ...
Haydn was one of the first composers to write a pitch
change as well as a written out solo for the timpani
in a symphonic movement.
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The poetic voyage in "The Creation" from pole to pole of the visible and invisible world makes it an especially complex oratorio, Haydn has solved the challenging demands he had to face with incomparable confidence and added unexpected and peculiar characteristics to the poetic representation, in which also humour has its place. In Haydn's interpretation the psychic and mysterious character of the act of creation steps back behind the joyous gratitude to the creator. The music unfolds an unsurpassable inventiveness.

The composition is especially admired for its form. Only a composer like Haydn could join the immense plenitude of the subjects and scenes so clearly arranged, comprehensively and, nevertheless, impressively. The artistic freedom and beauty of "The Creation", which have inspired many artists since its first performance, will be continually considered exemplary for music.

As can be proven by his early oratorio "Il ritorno di Tobia", Haydn was mainly influenced by the Italian school, he had already encountered Händel's new art in Vienna, "The Creation" owes, but in London it had effected him with all its splendour. During his second stay, Haydn received the text for "The Creation", which a poet, unknown in the history of literature called Lidley (more recent research claims it was written anonymously) allegedly had written for Händel, who had probably rejected the text because of its length, however, it was composed in the three act order typical to Händel's oratorios. Not until his return to Vienna did Haydn decide on the composition, at the instigation of the well-known Händel-admirer Baron van Swieten, who amateurishly translated the English original himself. The composition took the three years from 1795-98, a strenuous endeavour of which he complained over and over again, both orally and in writing.

The success of the, at first, privately performed oratorio - on the 29th and 30th April at the Schwartzenberg palace, then on the 19th January and 19th March at the Viennese Burgtheater - was unequalled. "The Creation" brought to the composer constant honour, within and outside Germany it was performed over and over again and highly celebrated. Church music took over single choir parts, German "Kurrenden" (boys choirs) sang them until well over the middle of the 19-th century. Another remarkable effect is also of special interest: "The Creation" inspired the founding of many choir clubs and music institutes, among them the "Allgemeine Schweizer Musikgesellschaft". Haydn's composition entailed an increase in the performance of the oratorios by Händel, an independent German oratorio school evolved, which could finally overcome the rule of the Italian style.