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.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Claire de Lune On Marimbas? Why not!

Claire de Lune, how famous has this piece become since 1905! So many arrangements and recordings of Suite Bergamasque have since fought for becoming the most popular and successful. Many have heard the versions by Cailliet, Stokowski, Caplet, Tiomkin – and those are amazing works!

However, some of the interpretations remained aside and did not spread as broadly as the mentioned above. This fact does not make them any less intriguing and ear-pleasing. I have found a couple of really interesting arrangements of Claire de Lune for the most unexpected instruments like marimbas, recorder, vibraphone. And all are equally unique and noteworthy.

I have also learnt that Debussy’ close friend, French composer AndrĂ© Caplet, made his own orchestral version of the piece. And I must say it impressed me!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Per aspera ad... Astor", dedication to Astor Piazzolla

The name of Astor Piazzolla is one of the first associations with the tango music. Hardly was there any composer who has done to this genre more than Astor. A revolutionary approach took tango as it was to an absolutely different level.

Astor Piazzolla playing bandoneon
Astor Piazzolla is known for adding to the traditional sound of tango the elements of Jazz and Classical Music. What appeared as a result of that fusion is often called ‘nuevo tango’ (‘new tango’), and it really did become something new. Moreover, the composer was also an extremely talented bandoneon player and he performed most of his works on that instrument, which made them even more exotic for that time.

I have come across a really beautiful dedication to the great tango composer. It is played in a duo of violin and piano (with piano obviously in the lead) and it’s got a perfect title – "Per aspera ad... Astor", highlighting the distance it takes to come at little a bit closer to the level of the virtuoso genius.