My favorite piece of music is Stravinsky's "Petrouchka." (Scroll down to the 2002-2003 Season for mp3s.) Today, I was blown away by this recording (CD for purchase, alas) of parts of the piece played on accordion. (If you're a Stravinsky fan, please do yourself a favor and acquire this CD!). I've always associated accordions with polkas (and Ennio Morricone music ... and, of course, the Doctor Who theme). I never knew they were rich enough to stand in for a whole orchestra! And I didn't know much about accordions used in classical music. Anyway, back to Petrouchka: here are videos of the ballet: bit, I II, III, IV.
To me, he embodies The classical guitarist with all the clichés attached. But he can also make any material his own, or use forms with humor. He's got good compositions too.
Rachmaninoff had big hands. (More from Igudesman and Joo (flash), former students of Yehudi Menuhin). [more inside]
Interesting discussion on classical and pop music, and two related older articles on the Pulitzer nomination process from Greg Sandow.
Classical hits on the Theremin: Thomas Grillo performs Rachmaninoff's Vocalise, and the inimitable Clara Rockmore plays Cassado's Requiebros and Saint-Saëns The Swan.
Explore a thousand years of classical music in 30 fifteen-minute programmes on BBC Radio 4.
Dante's The Divine Comedy (trailer/text) has inspired an opera by the Vatican's music administrator, the choirmaster of St John Lateran, Monsignor Marco Frisina. The premiere is scheduled for fall of 2007. Although traditional orchestral music predominates, Monsignor Frisina says that he is using punk, rock and jazz to represent the Devil because its "violent and rebellious tones help create a hellish atmosphere" (The Clash, Straight To Hell YouTube).
Jazz dispute is billed as a heated exchange between Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Jazz not your thing? Classical music can provoke a range of emotions too. (YouTube alert)
The International Music Score Library Project. PDF downloads of public domain classical music scores. From solo piano to full symphony orchestra. 2,762 works and counting.
The six string quartets of Béla Bartók: A guide for performers and listeners, by the Emerson Quartet...
Make a mixtape highlighting a young artist, have that artist proclaim his delight about the project on the CD, reignite that artist's career, repeat, then, the RIAA has you arrested for counterfieting. The RIAA continues its vain struggle to understand the new music economy. In the meantime, at least one company gets it, offering DRM-free CD downloads of obscure titles.
What's the most difficult piano piece? Opinions vary. Is it La Campanella, written by Liszt to show off what only he could do? (performance, score) Is it Balakirev's Islamey, which even Balakirev struggled to play? (performance, score) Or Ravel's Gaspard de la Nuit, written to top Islamey? (performance, score) Does Godowsky double his points by reconfiguring the already-difficult Chopin for the left hand? (performance) And if someone plays all four hours of Sorabji's Opus Clavicembalisticum, written across four staves to fit the extra notes, will anyone listen? (perfomance excerpts, score excerpts)
Mr. Frank J. Stola (flash): a self-described professional musician who mangles any and all genres he attempts. Don't miss his take on instrumental fusion rock classical jazz, revolutionary country n western traditional, or heavy metal instrumental on CD Baby. Equally marvelous are his strange, minimal videos. And don't forget to pick up Mr. Stola's myriad products at his Cafepress store. Is he serious?
Explore Beethoven's Eroica Symphony [note: flash, sound]
The Music Animation Machine is a way to visualize complex music - fugues and sonatas and all that. Other tools, such as those mentioned previously here and here, accomplish a similar task in a way, but this is still very, very cool. Watch and download all the videos you can. Bach, Chopin, Scarlatti... if only there were more! Of course, you could buy the DVD.
Austria's AEIOU has bar-by-bar analyses of major classical works (of composers associated with Austria): audio, annotations, scores, and performance/score animations in various video formats, together with biographical essays on the composers. Some possible points of departure: 1, 2, 3.
Mahler performances were rare in Vienna in those days because Mahler's city had already been contaminated by the acolytes of Adolf Hitler. By their reckoning, Mahler's music was loathsome — a product of "Jewish decadence." To put Mahler's music on the program was therefore a political act. It was to protest and deny the hateful faith that blazed across the border from Germany. That much I understood quite clearly, even as a boy. The New Yorker's Alex Ross reprints Hans Fantel's New York Times 1989 essay on Bruno Walter's 1938 performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony -- the last performance of the Vienna Philharmonic before Hitler invaded Austria.
For all the hoo-ha about Callas first bringing real acting to the operatic stage, one has only to view the footage of Risë Stevens legendary 1952 “Carmen” to see what kind of Method she brought to the Met. Stevens was the definitive gypsy wanton, and her performance has it all— fire, ice, and that impossible balance between elegance and sluttiness. Her technique is superb—licking her fingers before extinguishing the candles in what will be her death chamber, then flicking off the wax; flinging her unwanted lover’s ring at him, spitting out a contemptuous “Tiens!”. The Metropolitan Opera Guild honors the Bronx-born singer, now 92. More inside.
So, most people know that Friday was the 250th birthday of some musical dude you might've heard of. But! Did you realise that this year also marks the 100th birthday of Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich? Debate over whether Shostakovich was a tortured artist, rebelling against Stalinist Russia, or a Soviet Sympathiser continues, but the fact remains he was a brilliant composer who left a lasting impression on film music, and composed complex works from 2 cello concertos, 15 string quartets, 15 symphonies Warning!: Last four links are direct to the BBC "Discovering Music" Real player streams.
Mozart's musical diary - kept between 1784 and 1791 - goes online today courtesy of the British Library. There is a helpful audio commentary if you can't decipher his handwriting, plus excerpts from some of his music. The same site also has works by artists and authors such as Jane Austen, Leonardo da Vinci and Lewis Carroll.
Perhaps one of the most accessible classical works is Ravel's Boléro. In a piece in Wired, Michael Chorost decribes his journey of getting a cochlear implant since going totally deaf. He wanted to experience Ravel and his magic again. This is a very compelling and very emotional read. (via BoingBoing)
Music is nothing. Sound could become music. The end must be in the beginning, and the beginning in the end. I am here because I am not here. Music lives in the eternal now. Music is the now becoming now. What I learned from Sergiu Celibidache, by Markand Thakar. More inside.
'A novel contained in a single sigh' On Sept. 15, 1945, Anton Webern stepped out to smoke a cigar. An American soldier, seeing the glow of the cigar, panicked and shot Webern three times. Webern, along with Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, is credited with -- or blamed for -- ushering in an era of composition emphasizing strict, mathematical order over all elements of music, a reaction against the suicidal excess of Romanticism. On the anniversary of his death, BBC Radio 3 hosts Webern Day, during which Webern's complete works will be broadcast. The total time to perform his 31 works is about three hours. (Links grabbed mostly from ArtsJournal.)
ITC Sangeet Research Academy - a guide and resource of Hindustani classical music
RealPlayer and Flash recommended
RealPlayer and Flash recommended
Arnold Schönberg Web Radio - a rotating program of documentaries, lectures, history, the composer's own words, and recordings of nearly all his works. The Schönberg center also has some beautiful manuscript pages scanned.
The Unheard Beethoven - This website endeavors to make all of Beethoven's unrecorded music readily accessible to the public. These never-before-heard works are now available to anyone with a computer, a modem and a soundcard, in the form of MIDI files. At present, over twelve hours of Beethoven's music is available on this website and in no other listenable format.
As a follow up to this earlier thread, the BBC has just posted the final installment of their Beethoven Experience, free mp3s of Beethoven's symphonies 6 through 9. Get them while you can, they're only up for a week (Number 6 goes down on Monday).
San Carlo of the Symphony. Il Maestro Carlo Maria Giulini, orchestra conductor who passed away Tuesday at 91 "had an almost uncanny ability to transform the sound of an orchestra, any orchestra, into a dark and intense glow, which became his trademark over the years". "We have lost one of the greatest musicians of our time," says Esa-Pekka Salonen (.pdf), music director of the LA Philharmonic. Giulini has been called "the last humanist", a gentle man beloved by his orchestras, so humble in his approach to music that, always feeling the necessity to "fathom" each new work, it wasn't until the 1960s that he finally felt ready to conduct Bach, or the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven. This from a man who, at the beginning of his career (as a viola player) had played under Richard Strauss. "I had the great privilege to be a member of an orchestra," Giulini said in 1982. "I still belong to the body of the orchestra. When I hear the phrase, 'The orchestra is an instrument,' I get mad. It's a group of human beings who play instruments." More inside.
"This, as never before, is Beethoven for free - a gift to the world, just as he might have wished." From Sunday, the BBC will broadcast Beethoven's entire musical output over a six-day period, with all nine symphonies offered as free (and DRM-free) MP3 downloads. By doing so, critic Norman Lebrecht argues that the BBC Philharmonic's cycle may become 'the household version to computer-literate millions in China, India or Korea who have never heard of Karajan or Klemperer.' What that might mean for the struggling classical recording industry is anyone's guess.
Forty years ago this week the public was introduced to the works of P.D.Q. Bach at a concert in New York's Town Hall. It's as good a time as any to look at the one-of-a-kind output of Peter Schickele. (A lot more inside)
By a weird coincidence, after reading this interview in New Scientist with three of the engineers who made electronic music possible, I walked by a poster for a documentary film about Bob Moog. One of my earliest memories of electronic music in the 1970s was an elementary school music teacher who was really into Wendy Carlos' and Isao Tomita's early arrangements of classical works for synthesizer. Of course, electronic music history goes back to the 1920s with the theremin developed as a classical instrument. It has its own web portal filled with lots of good stuff. And now for something slightly different, Conlon Nancarrow wrote piano compositions that could not be performed by human hands, demanding the use of a player piano.
From the Top is a weekly radio show broadcast throughout the USA. It originates from Boston's New England Conservatory, but travels all over showcasing young classical musicians. The show can be heard (RealAudio) from the website, and there is an extensive library as well an archive of past shows (photos too)... the kids are very talented, and the show's hosts are great at bringing out their personalities.
Classic Cat describes itself as "the free classical music directory," and offers links to 3rd-party-hosted downloadable recordings, sliced and diced by hits, composer, performer, and more. There are active fora. Given the old-school look of the site, I was surprised not to find it in my repost search.
Peitho's Web: Classic Rhetoric and Persuasion.
9 beet stretch is the act of using digital tools to slow down Beethoven's 9th symphony to the point where the piece takes 24 hours to complete. Next week, a 9 beet stretch will be taking place in San Francisco, at 964 Natoma, from Friday April 23rd to Saturday April 24. Sleepover!
Greek Temple Architecture: They were houses--houses for cult statues, storehouses of treasures given to the gods--they were not churches. Worship consisted, by and large, of sacrificial ritual--animal sacrifice: killing animals and eating them, for the most part--and, hence, it was done out of doors. The Internet Ancient History Sourcebook's Accounts of Hellenic Religious Beliefs and Accounts of Personal Religion give additional flavor and context. Greek religious architecture evolved from wooden structures and was tradition bound--they built in stone as they had in wood according to variations on a traditional canon called the orders, first and foremost, the Doric Order , the Ionic Order and the Corinthian Order. Here are some restorations. I love restorations, on paper or models rather than at the actual sites. The first in a series.
Has there ever been a classical music review this damning? "It's difficult to tell how good they are. If they played a wrong note or lost the rhythm, no one but the composer would notice. Music is dead, and here is the corpse, embalmed on two slices of plastic hell. "