Thursday, June 9, 2016

Porz Goret from Yan Tiersen’s Eusa

Even if you haven’t watched the French film Amelie (by the way, you should, it’s a wonderful work!), you have heard its music theme anyway. In case you never wondered who its composer is, here he is – Yann Tiersen.

French composer Yann Tiersen
I was glad to find out that he released a new ‘album’, as I find his piano pieces simply gorgeous, always rich in harmonies and so skillfully crafted into a poignant yet beautiful entity. I mentioned ‘album’, though it’s not quite an album. It’s a project that he called “Eusa”. Eusa is one of the names that can be used for composer’s home, the island of Ushant, or Ouessant, which is located near Brittany. Tiersen did a thorough work to present his favorite island by splitting it into special locations and dedicating a music piece to each of them. Thus, “Eusa” is built of 10 piano pieces each with a strong background. Tiersen not only composed a bright music description but included a GPS coordinate as well as a wonderful photo into each of the composition. This is how ‘the musical map’ of the little-known island was born. “Eusa” was released in form of a sheet music book with all the additional materials published with it.

The first piece Yann Tiersen shared with the public was the piano solo “Porz Goret”. The video of the author playing this composition you can see below, and those who would love to perform it themselves can get the piano sheet music here. “Porz Goret” is a longing and dreamy piece with perfect right-hand melody that drifts you away right away. It does tell a story of a little place, and a story of a man’s soul. According to Tiersen, his Eusa pieces also built a map of who he is.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Flight of the Bumblebee: How Fast a Performer Are You?

There are some music pieces that for one reason or another are picked as the field to set music records or break them. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of The Bumblebee from the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan is definitely one of them. First of all, for its musical structure and the 'record-suitable' rhythmic pattern.

In 2012, a young man called Daniel Himebauch decided to play the piece at the highest speed he was capable of on his guitar. Thus, instead of the original 170 beats per minute that the bumblebee was supposed to ‘fly’, the piece was performed at 1300 BPM! You can imagine what kind of sound is that, right? A piece hardly recognizable. But Daniel thought he could do better, and this year, in 2016, he beat his own record playing the same piece at 2000 BPM. You can see the process (all controlled and properly monitored) on the video below.

My question is – what’s your attitude to music records like that? I mean I can understand perfectly a desire of a human to be “The” in something: the highest, the strongest, the fastest. The curiosity to test one’s capabilities and to prove one can stand out. But somehow I feel sorry for the classical masterpieces. In a way, they lose their aesthetic value becoming some experimental material that’s attractive only because of its historic name and recognizability. What do you think?

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Schubert’s Dream: Music and Prose

We know Franz Schubert as a very prolific composer who unfortunately didn’t live to 32. The author of hundreds of vocal works, 7 symphonies, operas, chamber music and piano compositions is now perhaps one of the most-performed composers, especially when it comes to his chamber music legacy. The other day I ran into the picture below and decided to track the meaning of the dream in Schubert’s works. What would the famous Austrian composer dream of?

Schubert's After-Dinner Dream
It turned out that the DREAM was something more than just the night’s idle pastime. We can meet the notion in at least four compositions by Schubert, both better-known like “Spring Dream” from the cycle Winterreise and the lied for voice and piano “Night and Dreams”, as well as lesser-popular compositions like the secular chorus “Life is a Dream” or the lied “The Dream”.

It is a frequent thing for musicians and composer to use the dream as a musical metaphor, I understand. However, I was surprised to find out about the existence of another work by Schubert that is not music. In 1822, he wrote a tale. It was a short story “My Dream” that, however, told a lot about the musical genius. Franz Schubert was known as a very vivid person, cheerful and open to people. But as the analysis of “My Dream” shows, he had a skeleton hidden deep in the cupboard. In the tale, composer speaks about his fears, about a dream where he had to leave his beloved homeland and forcefully stay far away from it for a certain time without the opportunity to come back. The story does have a happy ending as he makes it back home, happy and delighted. According to the specialists, this work of art brought to light some of the composer’s hidden fears and inner turmoil. He was, in fact, a very lonely person torn by anxiety and despair on the inside. And of that was masterfully masked by the outer outgoing behavior.

Of course, my little research may seem quite superficial but I’m convinced that dreaming did play a special role for the great composer, which got reflected in the nature of his music works in particular. Now on listening to things like Night and Dream, I envision a very different image in my mind...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Waltz "My Sweet and Tender Beast", Eugen Doga

Do you like waltzes?

My favorite part in them is that highest peak of drama when the melody goes from almost complete silence to the incredible storm of sound and emotion. That’s what can easily make my eyes wet for a second or two, and I don’t often cry from music.

This bright description was born mainly due to one composition that keeps inspiring me and warming my souls for quite a few years now. I am talking about the waltz “My Sweet and Tender Beast” composed by Eugen Doga, a popular Moldavian/Romanian composer who used to be very famous at the time of USSR. Well, he is famous now too but the point is that I might have never known about him (and this amazing waltz) if not by chance. And I’m glad that chance came up. During the long 40 years this waltz that was created for the movie “My Sweet and Tender Beast” has been around and people were charmed by its power. But I only learnt about it when UNESCO named this work the fourth musical masterpiece of the 20th century. That’s when Doga’s music opened up to me in all its beauty and near-perfection.

In case you, just like me are one of those rare people who still haven’t heard the work, here’s a chance for you to listen and get swept by it and here’s the piano score for those who would love to get inside the storm.

To me, that’s a piece perfect in times of both form and the emotional charge. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Recorder Nowadays

The flute is something we all know and often hear of, including kids. But what about the recorder, the flute’s forerunner? Did it get somehow neglected because of its more popular ancestor? Let’s see.

Paul McCartney playing recorder
Extremely popular during the Baroque Era (up to the mid-18th century), the recorders could often be heard within the small instrumental groups (consorts). Translated from Italian as ‘sweet flute’, the recorder was King Henry VIII’s favourite instrument (he had 76 in his collection), and Shakespeare played the recorder to make some music to his famous “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Hamlet”. And that’s not mentioning the well-known Baroque composers who used the instrument in their masterpieces (Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto, some of Vivaldi’s concerts). The recorder was perceived as a perfect instrument for imitating birds’ singing.

However, at a certain point, the recorder has almost lost all of its musical fame. And the situated did not change until the 20th century when it was gradually revived, so to say.

Luckily today the number of modern composers who write music for recorder has tangibly grown. It’s been proved that this little stick can be really helpful in practicing coordination, which made the recorder return to schools. Many popular artists are known to play the recorder – Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, James Dean, Dido, among others. Lesser-known composers do not forget to include it into their scores either:

I’m always glad when certain instruments that have almost been forgotten get back to life like that. And I do hope that recorder will still show us its true potential.