(Mar 21, 2019)
Carnival of the Animals…
Saint-Saëns did not want this published in his lifetime – with the exception of “The Swan” – but allowed publication after his death. He was afraid that his reputation as a serious composer would be diminished. I would put this decision on my top 10 list of really stupid decisions by famous composers.
This has pictures of the animals, which may help you remember which animal is being represented by each selection. The second version is the one I prefer, because I always want to see the musicians playing. Which do you prefer?
Now live, where you can see things…
(Mar 19, 2019)
Perhaps the greatest interpreter of Beethoven…
This is one of the massive Beethoven Sonatas, the “Appassionata”, played by Claudio Arrau. I was fortunate to hear him live when I was around 14 or 15. He was 58 at the time, and for a performing pianist that is around the physical peak.
I don’t know his age here, but I’m guessing he was in his 60s. The important thing is that he played at such a high level consistently throughout his life, still playing incredibly well in his 80s. No mugging. No agonized looks, no “acting”. Just pure quality, and he was more faithful to the score than anyone else I’ve ever heard.
He was a musician’s musician, a pianist’s pianist.
(Mar 18, 2019)
Another famous piece by Saint Saëns…
Once again the Youth Orchestra of Venezuela under Dudamel. This makes what is happening now in Venezuala especially troubling.
(Mar 15, 2019)
Popular for 60 years…
This modal jazz composition by Miles Davis, first recorded in 1959, is one of the most famous and popular pieces ever written. After a complicated intro, he settles into D Dorian, stays there for around 16 measures, modulates up 1/2 step to Eb Dorian, then comes back down again. That’s not the whole story, but it’s the most important part.
And if you do not understand the theory, just listen to the music.
I wrote out the score just a bit…
View or Download So What
(Mar 14, 2019)
Bruno Bozetto again…
This is another cut from his “Allegro non Troppo”, which by the way means “fast but not too fast”.
What’s the ending about? Apparently “the masses” finally stand up to a tyrant, but I’m open to other interpretations.
Here is the whole set of dances.
These pieces were incredibly popular and perhaps were the greatest step in making Dvorak world famous.
(Mar 14, 2019)
One of the most famous pieces by Chopin…
The performance is unusual in that the middle section is usually played with more pedal. Horowitz starts it with almost no pedal, and in a couple other places uses half pedal.
The very steely sound comes from his piano, which was always adjusted by his technician to be extremely bright (by adjusting the felts on the hammers.)
I don’t teach this much. It’s very easy to play badly but insanely difficult to play musically. Most people play it in a very monotonous way, and in the hands of a poor student it can be excruciating.
(Mar 7, 2019)
Here is something very different from Saint-Saëns.
I think this may be one of the saddest pieces of music ever written, and the animation by Bruno Bozzeto is amazing. The horrors of war are seen through the eyes of a house cat. Bozzeto goes places that the “happy, shiny” Disney franchise never went near.
(Mar 6, 2019)
Who is Dvorak?
And how do you really pronounce his name? Does this music sound familiar? It is very famous and is another “old popular” composition.
It turns out the correct spelling is “Dvořák”, which most of us can’t type it because we don’t have the right characters for his name – Antonín Leopold Dvořák.
First of all, watch this to find out how to pronounce the name, but you have to be a bit OCD to get through it. I made it maybe halfway, and I’m stubborn. This is the kind of guy who will give you a two hour lecture on anything if you ask him a simple question. Also, the name is the same as what we call a keyboard that has letters all in the “wrong” place – the Dvorak keyboard.
Did you get this far?
The music is a lot more fun than pronouncing the name.
Dvorak was born in Bohemia, which today is part of the country know as the Czech Republic. Movement two of his 9th Symphony may be his most famous composition, so it is likely you have heard this without knowing who wrote it, or when, or where it was composed.
Here is the last movement. Dudamel is an incredibly dynamic and still young conductor who first became famous for his amazing work with the youth orchestra players in Venezuela. Dudamel is very dramatic, and some think his conducting is excessive. But no one who works with kids gets away with sloppy movements, and his conducting is incredibly precise because he started out working with very young people.
There are many fine recordings of the whole symphony, which has four movements. Just check YouTube.