Thursday, February 4, 2016

Brahms' Advanced "Nänie" for SATB and Orchestra

You won’t hear Brahms’ "Nänie" often. Have you ever heard it performed by a choir at all, by the way? Most of you probably haven’t and there is a simple explanation to that. It is very beautiful music piece, lyrical and deeply emotional, but the level of its difficulty makes it unpopular for choirs and orchestras. "Nänie" is one of the most difficult SATB pieces out there.

German classicist painter Anselm Feuerbach
Brahms composed it in 1881, deeply touched by the demise of his friend and Germany’ leading painter Anselm Feuerbach. Friedrich Schiller’s poem Nänie (‘nenia’ from Latin – ‘funeral song’) seemed to perfectly convey the composer’s emotions so he set it to music. As one of the poem’s sentences goes, ‘even the beauty must die’. Thus, Brahms expresses his lament on the inevitable death of everyone and everything.

Due to the complexity of the composition, there are not too many choirs that are experienced enough to be able to perform this piece brilliantly.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Beethoven's Fifth and 100 Drones

The Guinness World Records Book stores so many cases that would seem impossible if told you as stories by some unknown person. You could become the only one of the kind in basically every sphere of life – you just need to be unique, literally.

Music is also one of the ‘disciplines’ where Guinness Records were set many times already. Among such records you can found out about ‘a piece with most instruments used’ or ‘the fastest piano juggler’ or ‘the largest orchestra’ and many others impressive things in that sphere.

The video below is not exactly from the musical arena, rather from technology, but I still found it quite charming, the delivery I mean. The only musical thing in it is that an orchestra played live Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to accompany the show. Meanwhile, 100 drones flew up above the orchestra and were simultaneously putting up a coordinated show. Together with such a dramatic ‘sound effect’ the performance turned out to be quite bright and mesmerizing!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Big Violin for Little Kid

Do you remember your early-early childhood well?  When I was 3 years old I was playing with my favorite toys in the playground and was a most carefree kid. Those are some lovely yet quite scarce memories, and they are not in any way connected with music. Not at least with classical music and concert performances at high level with renowned musicians.

But for Akim Camara it’s all a different story. At the age of 3 he was at the center of all that. At this video the kid was exactly 3 years old. And see who he’s performing with and what he’s performing. The creator of the Johann Strauss Orchestra, Dutch conductor and violinist André Rieu is introducing the little Akim to the public. They are playing the Ferdinand Küchler’s Concertino in G Major for Violin and Piano, Op.11. And are playing is marvelously.

I have never been a strong supporter of the early-age music stars, for I’m afraid they are somehow deprived of the best childhood years intended for contemplating and absorbing this world without responsibility and concern. But I understand that sometimes their prodigy talent just can’t be hidden, ignored or ‘postponed’. Well, in that case, I’m wishing the best of luck to kids like Akim in their life and music career.

P.S. Today Akim is 16 and his interest in violin and professionalism only grew with years.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Universal La Folia

La Folia is perhaps the oldest and one of the most fundamental music themes created in Europe. Even though a few countries of origin are possible, it is believed that it was created in Spain and was published for the first time in 1672. There are two folias out there – early and later – the former going back to the 16th century. It was the 15th century Iberian quick-paced dance upon which the early folia was based. It is thus much faster compared to the later folia. However, it is the later folia that lies in the basis of many compositions we know. This standard 16-bar chord progression, normally in D minor, can be found in music compositions by 150 famous composers, among which are Bach’s “12 Variations über die Folie d'Espagne”, Liszt’s “Rhapsodie espagnole”, Scarlatti’s “29 Partite sopra l’aria della Folia”, Vivaldi’s “Trio Sonata”, Salieri’s “26 Variations on La Folia di Spagna” and many others.

Some say that after Rachmaninoff’s revival of the theme in his “Variations on a theme by Corelli” as well as Ponce’s use of it in “Variations on "Spanish Folia"” and “Fugue for guitar” in the 1930’s, La Folia slowly left the stage. It’s not true! Many contemporary composers keep using it in their works, experimenting with this historic tune. There are even sites dedicated to La Folia, where old and modern versions are being gathered and analyzed.

La Folia’s interesting feature is that it can be played in most unusual music instruments but sound absolutely natural. Doesn’t matter, whether you play a mandolin, or carillon, or rebab, or ukulele and what not – La Folia can be a good start for your own unique improvisations.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The 'Freed' Happy Birthday Available for Creative Arrangements

I’ve my birthday coming soon so I thought I’d dedicate this post to one of the most famous, if not ‘The’ most famous, birthday songs on the planet – “Happy Birthday To You”.

I bet many people playing and singing these few well-recognized 8 notes to congratulate their loved one rarely took time to think that there was a big company behind them, a company that earned huge sums of money annually on it. Happy Birthday was perceived a ‘people’s song’ already, it seen belong to everyone. But until recently, it wasn’t actually like that. The Warner/Chappell publishing company was charging for the song since 1988 after it bought the successor of the Summy Co. that, in its turn, held the copyright to the song previously given to it by the Hill sisters – Patty and Mildred – who wrote it. Yeah, a chain that long. The original lyrics were meant to greet the kids at the kindergarten and sounded like ‘Good Morning, Dear Children, Good Morning To You’ – this song was published by the Hill sisters as part of the book “Song Stories for the Kindergarten”. That’s when the Hills assigned the copyrights to the above mentioned Summy Co.
The 80-years story behind the song is actually very complex; it dates to as far as 1893 and it’s already hard to track all the copyright twists.

Let’s leave that apart and savor the main news – in September 2015, the court has finally decided to free the Good-Morning/Happy-birthday song from any copyrights. It means that anyone – musicians, filmmakers, artists, etc. – can use it publicly without the fear of having to pay a huge sum for it.

Within this short period since the Happy Birthday song was freed there have appeared lots of music arrangements celebrating the opportunity to create own versions of the century’s birthday symbol. Happy Birthday on guitar, cello, trumpet, oboe, in a jazzy style or in a classical manner - looks like many musicians have been anticipating the moment!