Thursday, January 12, 2017

Debussy’s Mythical Cathedral

Got to mention at once: this is one of the most gorgeous piano pieces by Claude Debussy that create for me that sense of infinite space and time. One of the favourites!

Known as “La Cath├ędrale Engloutie”, the piece was published in 1910 as part of the two-volume piano set consisting of twelve lovely compositions in the style of what is called musical symbolism. “La Cath├ędrale Engloutie” (which translates as ‘submerged cathedral’) is the tenth prelude in the set.

I always got chills when listening to this amazing work. But when I learnt its story, the image became even more vivid. The piece is based on the so-called “legend of Ys”, Ys being a mythical city off the coast of French Brittany. The legend goes that on early clear mornings, when the water is most transparent, a beautiful cathedral would rise amongst the water and the people would hear its organ playing and the priests singing to it, bells chiming lively all around.

In his prelude, Debussy made sure we experience the imagery of the legend in all its beauty, from the slow rise of the mythical cathedral to its going back under water. With the help of the harmonies and a number of musical impressionism techniques that Debussy was so good at, the composer reflects all of the legend’s images one by one in a very realistic manner. Just close your eyes and watch the marvellous myth Live!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Shostakovich & Psycho

What do we know about Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No.3? Yes, it’s beautiful, emotionally charged and enigmatic. What else?

Dmitry Shostakovich
Dedicated to Beethoven Quartet, it was premiered by it in 1946. It was a difficult time for all artists, including composers, as the Soviet censorship machine was especially severe in the post-war years when the cold war in full play. Thus Shostakovich’s 9th Symphony that preceded the quartet was badly censored and banned too, just like the numerous work pf art in that period. The quartet, too, was banned from public stage shortly after its premiere.

In order to avoid the formalism, Shostakovich gave different names to the non-traditional 5 movements of the work on its premiere. They carried a war-descriptive character and made a little ‘story’ of the war time. The names were withdrawn soon in fear of the above-mentioned censorship, which still didn’t help the work ‘to survive’ the rules of the regime.

The String Quartet was perhaps the only composition among his works that fascinated Shostakovich so much. On attending the private rehearsal of Beethoven’s Quartet a few years after, composer was supposed to make remarks concerning the performance. The Third Quartet was the only work that he didn’t stop but asked to keep playing, listening to it defenceless, with tears in his eyes.

Another interesting fact has popped up recently and that one was a bit unexpected to me.  The famous horror sounds from Hitchcock’s “Psycho” soundtrack are believed to be a reworked version of the seven notes from the Third Quartet. Bernard Herrmann decided that Shostakovich’s creation would convey the necessary spirit in the best way. Well, that’s rather a theory than a fact, but still, sounds kinda convincing, have a listen:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ludovico Einaudi, the 12 “Elements”

Einaudi’s music, already known for its emotional and moving nature seems to be evolving further in its beauty.

Composer’s latest album titled “Elements” has shown another side of the author’s talent. One might be surprised to find out that that the title does not come only from the literal elements like water, fire, air and earth, but is a more complex vision of the world’s essence. According to Ludovico, the idea was to walk on the bridge of the known and the unknown to him, so a great part of the music explores the unexpected sources of inspiration like the myths of creation, Kandinsky’s work, the periodic table, the geometry of the landscape, sound, colour and what not.

The ethereal texture of some of the 12 Elements pieces is changed by the powerful music force of the others. Thus the title track of the album, “Elements” that embodies the ‘organic growth’ is supported by the explosive accompaniment of the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, making it even more invigorating.
The critics agree that the new album is quite experimental for Einaudi, compared to his previous piano writing, with more emphasis made on the genre of piano-based electronica (check out the pieces “Numbers” and “Four Dimension” to feel the change of style). However, while listening to the new poignant tracks like “Drop” or “Mountains”, we realise that what Einaudi became recognised and loved for at the very beginning – is still there.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Psychedelic Orchestra

Sometimes even the most serious musicians are a little bit tired of being serious and way too responsible. Everyday rehearsals and lots, lots of work on themselves is tiresome and can make one need some way to release the accumulated stress. Symphonic music is a hard work so why not have fun from time to time?

I do love it when the industry monsters like BBC can make fun of the things that are considered to be a ‘serious matter’. So here’s a great thingy I found on the web that made me sincerely laugh aloud and praise BBC for the little fun post compilation. The called it "Orchestral Disturbance No 1 in E flat Major" and it really is something psychedelic yet very entertaining.

To very musically sensitive souls: don’t get mad at the creators, no feelings were intended to be hurt!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Recorder Is Back!

The instrument that has been neglected for dozens of years seems to cause a splash of interest among contemporary musicians. They say that fashion, be it clothing, music, art or even lifestyle in general, comes and goes in rounds, so the long-forgotten things are highly likely to come back to fashion one day. It seems to me that this is exactly what’s happening to the Recorder at the moment. We might be at the start of the 3rd wave of its popularity right now (1st – Renaissance, 2nd – 20th century).

Traditionally associated with the natural soothing sounds of singing birds, recorder has been known for its wide range of articulations. The effects that can be produced with the help of this unsophisticated musical stick are surprisingly diverse. Modern recorder music thus is quite varied too. Although it is still being widely used in educational purposes, being perfect for starting kids’ musical journey, the recorder has also become interesting to the alternative musicians for all sorts of experiments. I’ve found this adorable video (below) of a guy playing some mind-blowing beatbox on the seemingly classical-only recorder. I believe the true capabilities of this tiny shepherd’s instrument are only being discovered now.