Wednesday, September 14, 2016

World's Largest Orchestra (7500 Musicians)

Every year people strive for new records, beating the previous ones or setting new heights. It is within our nature – the desire to compete, win and be called the best in something.

Music is just like all other spheres where records are regularly set, be it in the run for a title or just out of creative curiosity. The list of international music competitions is as diverse as it could possibly be and I would call it a good sign. Bela Bartok, however, would not agree, he used to say that "competitions are for horses, not artists". Whatever it is, I still find it great that people strive to make the most of their lives by reaching new peaks.

The summer of 2016 has been interesting in this regard. On July 9, 7500 classically trained musicians gathered at a football stadium in the German Frankfurt to achieve a new record. By some magic order, the crowd formed a professional orchestra and presented an impressive 45-minute performance. Some of the best pieces of symphonic music by composers like Beethoven, Dvořák, Miles, Webber were united in a beautiful medley under the baton of Wolf Kerschek.

In a regular-sized orchestra, you may have problems watching the conductor’s moves if you have a bad sight. Now imagine what it’s like for the guy in the last row of 7500 people do it? The organizers said it was the most challenging part of the thing. For everyone to start playing at once and not get lost in the middle of the performance, there was a huge screen installed at the stadium. With all of this work done, the guys now officially hold the world record for the biggest orchestra that ever performed.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Four Seasons on Accordion

Not so long ago YouTube welcomed another work in the row of videos viewed more than 100 million times since the moment of the upload. This time, it was not some scandalous footage or a pop song from Korea, nor was it any video filming a natural disaster or the details of some public figure’s private life. This time, it was a music video of a classical composition, one of the legendary masterpieces of all time – Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, the famous group of 4 concerti. And it’s amazing!

As someone commented below the video (it’s actually some visuals laid upon the Budapest recording of the concerts), – “faith in humanity restored!” I am so glad to realize that people do listen to classics extensively, not just in the limited groups but in a viral manner in the highly competitive sphere the digital world is. An even better piece of news is that the interest to classical music is gкowing not only in terms of listening and enjoying, but also as a warmed up desire to TRY it on one own. I am referring to both taking up some instrument (for beginners) and to experiment with the classics in form of music arrangements (for advancing musicians).

Vivaldi’s renowned work features the strings in all of the parts, and I wouldn’t imagine it otherwise. But the imagination of some musicians and the desire to try extends beyond the traditional style sometimes. If I played marimbas, for instance, I think I’d also dream of playing The Four Seasons on them :) I have found this absolutely amazing performance of the “Winter” on the, unexpectedly, accordion. It’s so emotional, so strong that I couldn’t but admire it and share with you.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bach in a Visual Flow

I think that classical music has for years had an image of a very limited sphere of interest meant for and available to just a few (compared to the mass pop music culture, for example).

Excerpt from the music video Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier
However, with a certain approach and a bit of imagination, I’m sure it could become as popular as the Pop itself! Why are people so attracted to the mass culture? It has all the necessary attention-holding elements in it: bright imagery, colours and various contrasts. So why not present the same in a classical music ‘video’, for example?

Of course, the best of classics should be experienced and lived preferably live in a concert hall. But we are talking about the other side, about spreading its influence into the masses. Here is a perfect video example of turning classical music into an exciting visual adventure as well. One of Bach’s popular pieces Well-Tempered Clavier was sort of split into sections, each appearing on the screen in form of real-time notes-playing. The attraction, the brightness, the contrast and colours are all there. I watched the video a few times and caught myself thinking that even if I were much younger and not a classical musicians – I would still go for it!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Down by the Sally Gardens Set to Music

The Irish people like no one else are familiar with and proud of the creative work and achievements of their renowned countryman William Butler Yeats, the holder of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His poetry is not only beautiful lyrically but also presents a great basis for music art.

a willow tree
Thus, Yeats’ poem titled “Down by the Sally Gardens” set to music has turned into an amazing Celtic tune. Perhaps the text fit so nicely into the melody because of the origins of the poem itself. It is believed that William wrote it in an attempt to recover and restyle an old folk ballad “The Rambling Boys of Pleasure” that he heard from an old woman in the County Sligo. The first verse sounds just like the old song:

"Down by yon flowery garden my love and I we first did meet.
I took her in my arms and to her I gave kisses sweet
She bade me take life easy just as the leaves fall from the tree.
But I being young and foolish, with my darling did not agree."
(old ballad)


Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.
(Yeats’ poem)
The Salley Gardens (or ‘Sally’) is a real location where that peasant woman lived, near a village in Sligo. Salley here may have referred to the tree ‘sallow’, which is, in fact, a willow.

The poem has a number of music settings and each of them is special in its own way. Among composers who presented their vision were Herbert Hughes, Rebecca Clarke, John Ireland, Ivor Gurney, Benjamin Britten, John Corigliano. The folk piece has been arranged for various instrumental combinations but I think it works best on anything strings-related. A string quartet arrangement of the Salley might be the perfect set to express the poem’s haunting beauty. Or, a true Celtic violin could make it sound even more authentic:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Einaudi’s Piano Tribute to the Arctic

As the problem of global warming is growing more serious every year, various organizations worldwide are trying to draw people’s attention to this undeniably formidable matter and raise awareness in every way possible.

an Arctic iceberg
Thus, recently the famous Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi (known for music to films like The Intouchables, Black Swan, Doctor Zhivago series, music works like I Giorni, Divenire, Primavera and many others) was asked to become the voice for Greenpeace’s campaign for saving the Arctic.
To make the message to the world leaders more clear and visual, the renowned pianist was taken to the heart of a melting glacier in Norway and performed there on a specially built floating platform with a grand piano installed on it. For the event, Einaudi, the author of hundreds of music scores already, composed a special theme piece titled “Elegy for the Arctic”. As you can see in the video below, the music piece embraces the ambiance perfectly. We can even observe the ice crumbling helplessly behind the pianist’s back.

Of course, it’s only a symbolic campaign in a world where the race for money and natural resources surpasses the needs of the surrounding nature. However, I wish this powerful act in defense of the fragility of this unique ecosystem did have the planned effect on the countries that are most involved in the destruction of the Arctic ocean.