Wednesday, August 10, 2016

'Jupiter' ascending

I had too much fun the other night watching this new video on the finale of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony.

This is a symphony I have listened to my entire life but I have never looked at the score. As a rule I do not like looking at scores. I am afraid I am going to picture the score whenever I hear the music and for some reason I do not like that.

However. Comes a time, you know? I reasoned with myself that I had studied scores of Beethoven quartets and they did not ruin the quartets for me.

So, the "Jupiter." I know every note of it. I can hear it in my head, I mean, I can just mentally press "Play" and there it is. But watching this video I saw there were things that were going on that I had not noticed. It is a thrill just to see the logic of the thing.

And it's fun, how this guy's robotic voice just informs you what to listen for. He does not call attention to himself. He doesn't try to be charming or steal the spotlight at all from this magnificent work of art we are contemplating.

Richard Atkinson, is his name. I keep wanting to say Rowan Atkinson. That is Mr. Bean! That is someone else entirely.

Imagine Mr. Bean narrating Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony. No. Do not go there.

Anyway, Mozart's "Jupiter" finale, annotated. Find time in your day for it.


Sunday, May 8, 2016

A haunting performance

At Kleinhans Music Hall yesterday we had the violinist Mayuko Kamio playing Mozart's "Turkish" Violin Concerto. As an encore she did this unbelievable piece, Schubert's "Erlkoenig" arranged for violin.

The concert went late and I didn't have time to Google around to find out whose arrangement it was. I wrote my whole review in 25 minutes, yikes! But now I am looking it up and it appears to be by Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst.

That was my grandmother's last name, Ernst!

But anyway. Here is Hilary Hahn playing it.

The description says it is one of the most difficult pieces for solo violin because of all the voices. I did touch on that in the review. I did kind of sense how challenging it was. How could you not?

Listening to this piece last night I found myself regretting it was not 150 years ago because then more people would know the song. I doubt that a lot of people in the hall knew the song because, even though it is one of Schubert's most famous songs -- probably the most famous -- people just don't know Schubert songs.

And even if you had heard the song before and recognized it, you would have to know the lyrics from verse to verse to follow what is going on. When Kamio got to the line where the little demon Erl King tells the child, "I love you," it was really cool and creepy.

My sister Katie who teaches German sent me this cool video. Now seems like a good time to share it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The book of Liszt

Yikes, I should just let this Web log go. I never write in it any more. I have been so busy and then often when I try to write the computer messes up on me and I end up walking away.

Maybe I should make a last stand. So often through the week I walk around with something on my mind I want to write about.

Today it is Schubert songs arranged by Liszt.

I have been working on a few of them in my spare time. I am doing "Das Wandern" and "Der Muller und der Bach" from "Die Schoene Mullerin." I also have "Wohin" lying around and that will be next.

The challenge with these pieces of course is that you have to keep them flowing smoothly at the same time that Liszt is bending and stretching your hand in all these different directions.

Listen to how Rachmaninoff pulls it off.

What a romantic he must have been, you know? The way he plays the Serenade. His hands are not always together which ordinarily would bug me but in this case you have to forgive it,.

And I like how he does "Das Wandern." A few other pianists I listened to were too clinical with it. Too staccato, too, with the introduction. I have listened to that song cycle millions of times and that intro does not have to be choppy.

Anyway we are back to the idea of David Dubal, play the piano daily and stay sane. I get my little half hour with these pieces as long as I have gotten in my other work. It is a kind of reward. It is funny because you walk over to the piano with a glass of wine and an hour later the wine is still sitting there. That does not happen too often!

You heard the man.

Play the piano daily and stay sane!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sing it, Monsieur Souzay

Yesterday after church I stopped by Amvets and I bought one (1) record. It was 17 songs by Richard Strauss sung by Gerard Souzay. Gerard Souzay has made one appearance on this Web log before. But I really knew very little about him. I just know I love Strauss songs.

End result, as we say here in Buffalo, I have listened to the record twice. I just liked it.

Souzay does not have the passionate approach I love to certain songs, I found myself thinking as I listened. He is too... French. I read today that Souzay specialized in French melodie... the French answer to German lieder, which to be honest, I do not get the appeal of melodie too much.

But coming from this background he brings a certain something to the Strauss songs. If he does not "get" the raw sensuality of some of them he gets the wit of others. And...

Oh my goodness me.

Here I go looking on YouTube for some example of what I mean. And I find these films of Monsieur Souzay in what looks like the 1950s, singing this stuff.

This changes everything.

This guy is something! I listened to him singing "Zeuignung" -- it means "Dedication" -- and he's insanely good. Handsome devil, too. All this passion comes through that did not on this record I have, or else maybe I did not hear it. I will have to listen to it again.

Here he is with "Serenade." If you do not know this song, it is a very sexy song. He is inviting you to slip away with him in the dark, to be quiet so nobody hears, etc....

This song, like all of Strauss' songs, has a wonderful piano accompaniment. Souzay's pianist was Dalton Baldwin, excellent. Make sure you watch Souzay through the end of the video. The end of the song thrilled me when I was a teenager. "And in the morning, when the rose blooms, it will glow from the bliss of the night." Watch his face.

Wow, what a live one! You never see anyone going for broke the way he does singing these songs. He really feels it! He is thinking of every line of that song. In all my years listening to Lieder I have honestly never seen anything like this.

One person comments on the "Zeuignung" video, "I studied with him three years." How would you study with this guy? You would walk in and not be able to sing. Imagine him looking at you. Imagine him saying, "No, you should sing it like this." That French aspect I was criticizing before, he turned that into a strength, that is for sure.

Anyway. There is a lot out there waiting to be explored. And I will explore it.

Merci, Monsieur Souzay!

Merci, Amvets!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The 'O Holy Night' Smackdown

I have not written in this Web log forever. It is time to get it started again.

Last night Howard and I got listening to "O Holy Night." OK, I got listening to it and I foisted it on him. But Howard likes great tenors and that is who is on the Internet singing "O Holy Night."

Jussi Bjorling ... Like a steam engine.

Franco Corelli, I like the Italian twist he gives to it. Also how he can go forever on a single breath. Thrilling. He does not however sail up to that high note.

 Caruso could sing it standing on his head.

 You know what, Bjorling is this marvel, but I like how Caruso sings it. He has a sensual, laid-back quality that makes me see his appeal. You often do not get that from listening to old scratchy records.

And the second-to-last "Noel, Noel," he has the second answer the first. He has his own operatic concept of the song.

Sometimes it is a good idea to listen to some song you really know to get an idea of the artist.

Reluctantly we turn to living artists. Jonas Kauffmann is a latter-day tenor I love. Listen to how he ends the first verse. Also he takes the melody up at times when you would think he would be taking it down.

That is a powerful voice!

 And a friend loves Juan Diego Florez. I am rather partial toward him myself.

I still give the edge to my old hero, Jussi. That command that he had, I have yet to hear anyone top it. Still ...

Imagine having any of these gentlemen at your Lessons and Carols.

Swoon, swoon!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Finnish line

Last night at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra I got to hear the pianist Juho Pohjonen playing the Grieg Piano Concerto. Look at me, I could type Juho Pohjonen without checking it. And I am pretty sure I am right.

Not only that but last night I could type Eliel and Eero Saarinen without checking it! They are the Finnish architects of Kleinhans Music Hall. You know you are a true Buffalonian when you can type Eliel and Eero Saarinen without checking it.

Juho Pohjonen is also Finnish. Here in Buffalo we are in the middle of a celebration of Finnish culture. I love the Finns, I must say that. You picture them up in the frozen North with their umlauts and their wild language. In Buffalo we had Outokumpu American Brass. I think that is how you spelled it. I remember asking my mother, What is "Outokumpu," is it Indian or something? And she said no, it was Finnish.

My mother always knew everything!

Anyway Mr. Pohjonen, pictured above, played the daylights out of the Grieg Concerto as I wrote in my review. What a wonderful concerto. Writing about Leonard Pennario I think about it a lot because Pennario learned it when he was 12, in a week, and performed it from memory with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. You go, Pennario!

One thing I loved about Juho Pohjonen's performance was that afterwards he played a piece by Grieg called "Bridal Procession." I love these salon pieces. I say bring back these salon pieces by Grieg, by Edward MacDowell, by other composers we do not hear as much now as people used to 100 years ago.

Here is Grieg himself playing "Bridal Procession." It is actually "Norwegian Bridal Procession."

Hit it, Edvard!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Terror in the organ loft

I wrote before about the "Ave Verum Corpus" Gregorian chant that comes up now and then at Mass. This is the Latin text that Mozart famously set to music. But today we sang it as the Gregorian Chant.

What a beautiful chant!

The only trouble was, as I noted before, the women have to sing that one phrase by ourselves. We are always understaffed on days when this happens, I do not know why. Today it was pretty much me and a group of teenage girls. Nobody else was there. We got through it.

O Jesu dulcis
O Jesu pie...

And then the guys come in with us. Whew!

There are just these couple of lines the ladies sing by ourselves and it is tremendously stressful. At the end of the "Ave, Verum Corpus"  I turned to the teenagers and we all smiled and gave each other thumbs up.

"Good job," I whispered. I added: "This always makes me nervous."

That is the truth!

It is one thing to listen to Gregorian chant. It is another thing to sing it in your everyday life. With an entire church listening, I should put that out there too. It is beautiful but frightening to be in the organ loft during a Tridentine Mass. At the start, I always love that moment, all of us standing there waiting, nobody breathing, waiting for the priest to start us all off.

Then sometimes during the mass there is a screw-up. We might do the wrong verse or something and everyone looks at each other afterwards, and there are grimaces and rolling of eyes.

How did we mess that up??

This was the kind of thing I worried about when I was invited to join the choir at church. I know what goes on in organ lofts.

It is not pretty!