For Ald Lang Syne

>> Thursday, December 31, 2009



HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Hoping that your 2010 will be filled with beautiful music!

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Hark the Herald Angels Sing

>> Friday, December 25, 2009


 
Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
 
 
St. Paul's Cathedral, London

Merry Christmas to all!





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Once in Royal David's City

>> Thursday, December 24, 2009




Sung by the Choir of St. George's Chapel, Windsor


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The Coventry Carol: Herod's Wrath

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009


This 16th Century English Carol is Mary's lament over the impending demise of  her infant son after Herod declared that all infant boys in the region should be killed.

Featured here is the Robert Shaw Chorale.


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Joys Seven: Anglican Carol

>> Monday, December 21, 2009


I first heard this carol only a few years ago when I had the privilege of soloing in a Christmas Eve service at St. Andrews Episcopal, here in Stillwater. I was quite taken with it. This particular performance is by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge.


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O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion, from Messiah

>> Sunday, December 20, 2009


I've sung this aria on several occasions, and it has always been among my favorites. This particular performance features a countertenor and is one of the finest performances of the aria that I've ever heard.

Jay Carter, countertenor, Choir of Trinity Church Wall Street, Rebel Baroque Orchestra, Owen Burdick, Conductor




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In the Bleak Midwinter: The Gloucester Cathedral Choir

>> Saturday, December 19, 2009




 
This is quite possibly one of my favorite performances of this beautiful carol. A simple, yet beautiful setting.



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Adeste Fideles: O Come All Ye Faithful

>> Monday, December 14, 2009






King's College Cambridge 2008 O Come, All Ye Faithful arr. Stephen Cleobury  



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Second Sunday of Advent: Comfort Ye My People & Every Valley from Messiah

>> Sunday, December 13, 2009






The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.



Christopher Hogwood: Conductor
Paul Elliott: Tenor
The Academy of Ancient Music
Messiah "Comfort ye, Comfort ye My people" & "Every valley shall be exalted"



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A favorite English Carol: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

>> Saturday, December 12, 2009





The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I'm weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.



Sung by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge




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First Sunday of Advent: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

>> Sunday, December 6, 2009




O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lowly exile, here,
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee,
O Israel!


Performance by the Robert Shaw Chorale


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The World's most beautiful music: Franz Schubert's "Du bist die Ruh"

>> Saturday, November 28, 2009




You are peace,
The mild peace,
You are longing
And what stills it.

I consecrate to you
Full of pleasure and pain
As a dwelling here
My eyes and heart.

Come live with me,
And close
quietly behind you
the gates.

Drive other pain
Out of this breast
May my heart be full
With your pleasure.

The tabernacle of my eyes
by your radiance
alone is illumined,
O fill it completely!


Sung by Renee Fleming.




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Mozart Fantasie in F minor for Organ, K. 608

>> Monday, November 23, 2009


Commissioned in March of the last year of Mozart's life (1791), this piece has been described as "one of the most perfect works in Mozart's inexhaustible genius", and "with its triple trills and dense textures, is impossible for a single organist to play as notated. Its superhuman virtuosity is that of a machine..."



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The World's most beautiful music: Vivaldi's Gloria: Domine Deus

>> Sunday, November 22, 2009


Featuring a graceful performance by the great Italian mezzo-soprano, Cecilia Bartoli.





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J.S. Bach: Toccata & Fugue in E major, BWV 566

>> Sunday, November 15, 2009



Jürgen Marcussen (1781–1860) founded the organ-building company in 1806. They used the name Marcussen & Reuter from 1826 to 1848, when the name became Marcussen & Søn after the founder's son, Jürgen Andreas Marcussen, joined the firm. The company has been based in a house in the small town of Åbenrå, in southern Jutland, since 1830. Several organs built in Scandinavia and North Germany in their first decades are still in use today, the oldest dating from 1820.

Johannes Lassen Zachariassen (1864–1922), a grandson of the founder's daughter, took over the firm from 1902 to 1922. The firm's work was still based at this stage on the Baroque organ-building tradition, but from about 1900, in common with nearly all other organ-builders, they began making use of pneumatics, electricity, and other innovations popular at the time, typified by the organs of Cavaillé-Coll.

This new development did not last long. They were one of the first organ builders, following the 1925 organ conference in Hamburg and Lübeck, to recognize the superiority of the sonic, structural, and technical principles of the North-European Baroque organ; they returned to these principles from about 1930.

The guiding figure behind the change was Sybrand Zachariassen (1900-1960), who took over management of the firm in 1922 at the age of 21. Within a few decades, Marcussen organs began to gain an international reputation, particularly as fine models of the mechanical organ, which again became the preeminent basis of organ-building practice in the second half of the twentieth century.

Sybrand Jürgen Zachariassen (b Flensburg, 22 Oct 1931) became director in 1960. In 1994/1995 the firm became a family-owned limited company, when Claudia Zachariassen (born 26 May 1969 in Sønderborg, the 7th generation of the Marcussen/Zachariassen family) joined the firm; she became president in 2002.

Marie-Claire Alain, Marcussen organ (Nicolai Kirke, Kolding, Denmark)


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The World's most beautiful music: Mary Queen of Scots, "Think on Me" Arr. by James Mullholland

>> Saturday, November 14, 2009


Last night the semi-professional choral group in which I sing, The Stillwater Chamber Singers, performed in Tulsa at the First Presbyterian Church's Bersen Center. One of the pieces that we sang was a touching arrangement set to a song that was written and originally composed by Mary Queen of Scots, entitled Think on Me. It is said that she wrote the text and tune while she sat at Fotheringhay Castle, awaiting her execution in February of 1587 at the order of her first cousin, Queen Elizabeth I of England.  I was so moved by the text and music that I decided to feature it here.

Mary's original text and tune has been set and arranged by James Mullholland, and in our concert last night was sung by the women of the Stillwater Chamber Singers. In this particular performance at the 2008 Pennsylvania MEA (Music Educator's Association) conference, it is sung by a men's chorus.

When I no more behold thee, think on me.
By all thine eyes have told me, think on me.
When hearts are lightest, when eyes are brightest, when griefs are slightest,
Think on me.

In all thine hours of gladness, think on me.
If e’er I soothed thy sadness, think on me.
When foes are by thee, when woes are nigh thee, when friends all fly thee,
Think on me.

When thou hast none to cheer thee, think on me.
When no fond heart is near thee, think on me.
When lonely sighing o’er pleasure flying,
When hope is dying,
Think on me.




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The Washington Cathedral Pipe Organ: Grand Choeur Dialogué by Gigout

>> Thursday, November 12, 2009


I apologize for failing to post this yesterday as I intended this to be in honor of Veteran's Day.  But better a day late than never!

Eugène Gigout (23 March 1844 – 9 December 1925) was a French organist and a composer of European late-romantic music for organ.

A pupil of Camille Saint-Saëns, he served as the organist of Saint-Augustin Church in Paris for 62 years. He became widely known as a teacher and his output as a composer was considerable. Renowned as an expert improviser, he also founded his own music school. (His nephew-by-marriage, Leon Boëllmann, became another fine organist and composer for the organ, whose death at the very young age of 35 was a severe loss to French music.)

The 10 pièces pour orgue (composed 1890) are Gigout's most celebrated compositions. They include the Toccata in B minor, his best-known creation, which turns up as a frequent encore at organ recitals. Also fairly often played, and to be found in the same collection, is a Scherzo in E major. Other notable pieces by Gigout are Grand Choeur Dialogué and Marche Religieuse. Gigout's works are now available on several commercial recordings.


The Grand Choeur Dialogué was recorded in 1976, just after this magnificent instrument was enlarged to its present 189 ranks. Paul Callaway was organist/choirmaster at the cathedral from 1939 to 1976.  This LINK will take you to a 2008 Washington Post article that describes the organ.

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So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace and Wolfgang Mozart on Lulu.com

>> Sunday, November 8, 2009


My novel, So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart is published and available for purchase on Lulu.com!  Go HERE to purchase your copy!

For twenty-six years Nancy Storace kept Wolfgang Mozart's love letters locked away inside her desk. They were all she had left of him after his unexpected death, all that history would require as proof of the love they'd shared.
So Faithful A Heart is a story of intrigue and passion, of joy and despair, of courage and hope, and it is a story of how great love often exacts a great price.


The following is the concert aria, Ch'io mi scordi di te...Non temer amato bene, K. 505 that Mozart composed for Nancy as a farewell gift to sing at her final Viennese concert in February of 1787. Mozart composed an obbligato piano part, which he played, and he entered in his thematic catalog, Für Mlle. Storace und Mich. The text was taken from an aria in his opera, Idomeneo.

 Mozart's manuscript copy of Ch'io mi scordi di te is dated December 26, 1786, and the text is from an addition to Idomeneo, Act II, Scene 1, by Abate Giambattista Varesco. The piece includes an obbligato part for keyboard, which Mozart no doubt played at the premiere sometime in February 1787. Most interestingly, the obbligato contains no Alberti figures; what few of these appear in the aria are given to the strings.

The recitative of K. 505 was originally part of another scene and aria, "Non più, tutto ascoltai," K. 490, which was replaced the original opening number of Act II of Idomeneo for a private performance in March 1786. In the scene and aria for Storace, Mozart leaves out much of the recitative text and creates a more concentrated setting with characteristics more common to his chamber music. For instance, the modulation from the G minor of the recitative to the E flat major of the aria begins very early in the recitative.

The aria is marked Rondo, a form that was fashionable at the time in vocal composition. The beginning Andante segment is actually in ternary form and is introduced by the orchestra. The central, contrasting section begins at "Tu sospiri?" and modulates to the dominant. After the return of the soprano's opening lines, Mozart prepares for the shift to the faster, second part of the aria in an unusual and imaginative way. Virtually unaccompanied outbursts from the soprano ("sempre il cuorsaria," "Stella barbare," and "stella spietate!") alternate with rapid flourishes on the piano, creating an atmosphere of expectancy that allows for the most startling change in rhythm. The ensuing Allegretto is a serial rondo (ABACADA Coda). In the coda, Mozart produces the opposite of the effect he achieved in the transition when sixteenth-note scale passages in the soprano slow to eighth and then to half notes. 

The following recording features the wonderful mezzo-soprano, Cecilia Bartoli.




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"So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart" publishes this weekend

>> Friday, November 6, 2009


The day has finally arrived! My historical fiction novel, So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart publishes this weekend and will see release within the coming week! As soon as it is released I will have a banner posted on this blog linking to the marketing website where the book can be purchased either directly from the publisher, Lulu.com, or from Amazon.com.

Anna Selina Storace (known as Nancy by her closest friends), was born in London on October 27th, 1765 and began her stage career at the age of eight. She traveled with her parents to Italy when she was twelve and performed in some of Italy's most prestigious opera houses before being hired by the Emperor, Joseph II of Austria, to serve as the prima buffa of his newly-formed Italian opera company in 1783. In 1786 she starred as Mozart's original Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro and left Vienna in 1787 to become one of England's premiere stage actresses, starring primarily in her brother's Stephen Storace's, productions.


So Faithful a Heart is based upon the research I did for my master's thesis on the life and career of Nancy Storace, as well as her relationship with Mozart. Nine more years of research, in addition to the year I put in for my thesis, went into this story, and an additional nine months to write.

In celebration of the publishing, I'm featuring this 1985 Metropolitan Opera performance of Kathleen Battle singing Susanna in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro. This is Susanna's Act Four aria, Deh vieni non tardar, which is featured prominently in the novel.




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Dieterich Buxtehude - Ciacona in C minor

>> Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637 – 9 May 1707) was a German-Danish organist and a highly regarded composer of the Baroque period. His organ works comprise a central part of the standard organ repertoire and are frequently performed at recitals and church services. He wrote in a wide variety of vocal and instrumental idioms, and his style strongly influenced many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach. Buxtehude, along with Heinrich Schütz, is considered today to be one the most important German composers of the mid-Baroque.

He is thought to have been born with the name Diderich Buxtehude. Scholars dispute both the year and country of his birth, although most now accept it taking place in 1637 in Helsingborg, Skåne, at the time part of Denmark (but now part of Sweden). His obituary stated that "he recognized Denmark as his native country, whence he came to our region; he lived about 70 years". Others, however, claim that he was born at Oldesloe in the Duchy of Holstein, which at that time was a part of the Danish Monarchy (but is now in Germany). Later in his life he Germanized his name and began signing documents Dieterich Buxtehude.

The bulk of Buxtehude's oeuvre consists of vocal music, which covers a wide variety of styles, and organ works, which concentrate mostly on chorale settings and large-scale sectional forms. Chamber music constitutes a minor part of the surviving output, although the only works Buxtehude published during his lifetime were fourteen chamber sonatas. Unfortunately, many of Buxtehude's compositions have been lost. The librettos for his oratorios, for example, survive; but none of the scores does, which is particularly unfortunate, because his German oratorios seem to be the model for later works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Philipp Telemann. Further evidence of lost works by Buxtehude and his contemporaries can be found in the recently discovered catalogue of a 1695 music-auction in Lübeck.

Information Source: Wikipedia


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The Pipe Organ, Queen of Instruments!

>> Monday, November 2, 2009


The late Mozart biographer, Wolfgang Hildescheimer, claimed that Mozart hated the pipe organ, most likely due to the fact that when Mozart was young, one of his primary duties while he was in service to Salzburg's Archbishop Colloredo was that of Cahthedral Organist. This duty required that he be at the Cathedral several times a day for an hour or two each time to play for morning, noon, and evening services, cutting into the young composer's day and interrupting any and every activity in which he might be engaged. However it was Mozart himself who wrote to a friend that the pipe organ was "die Königin der Instrumente" (the Queen of instruments), indicating that it wasn't the organ that Mozart despised so much as the schedule that was imposed upon him to play it.

Today I begin a series of posts entitled, The Queen of Instruments, featuring the world's most famous composers for the organ from Bach & Buxtehude to Saint Saens & Durufle, starting off with the final movement from Charles-Marie Widor's Toccata from Symphony No 5 Op.42 on the Klais organ in Wurzburg Cathedral, played by German organist, Hans Musch.

The Klais organ was built in 1969 and was completely new, since the last Klais organ (built in 1937) was destroyed in 1945 when the cathedral sustained heavy damage. The choir and transcepts were rebuilt to their baroque splendour but the nave was rebuilt into a more Romanesque style with a flat wooden ceiling. As you can see from a few photos in the video, the console is a five manual beast modelled on Cavaille-Coll's great examples in Notre Dame and St Sulpice but totally finished in black, even to having black naturals on the keyboard with white sharps. It contains 6,654 pipes and 86 speaking stops. There is a small 'swallows nest' choir organ of 20 stops, but this is to be joined by another choir organ of 52 stops to be built by Steinmeyer in 2010! To me it has a characteristic Klais sound, although nowhere near as overbearing as its organ in Cologne Cathedral with its unusual mixtures and recent bombastic reeds.



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The World's most beautiful music: Mendlssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, 1st movement

>> Sunday, November 1, 2009


So we start November off with a passionate offering. My new blog friend, Jasper suggested that I watch this performance of the Mendlssohn E minor Violin Concerto and I liked it so much that I deemed it worthy of sharing with you.  I've always loved this concerto, and this particular performance by Russian/Israeli violinist, Shlomo Mintz now ranks among my favorites!

Critics, colleagues and audiences regard Shlomo Mintz as one of the foremost violinists of our time, esteemed for his impeccable musicianship, stylistic versatility and commanding technique alike.

Mr. Mintz regularly appears with the most celebrated orchestras and conductors on the international scene and is heard in recitals and chamber music concerts all around the world. He also frequently performs as a violist with leading chamber ensembles as well as in recitals.

Mintz is the recipient of several prestigious music prizes including the Premio Accademia Musicale Chigiana, the Diapason D’Or, the Grand Prix du Disque, the Gramophone Award and the Edison Award. Since 2004 he is recording for AVIE Records, London.

Born in Moscow in 1957, he emigrated with his family two years later to Israel, where he studied with the renowned Ilona Feher. At age eleven, he made his concerto debut with the Israel Philharmonic. He made his Carnegie Hall debut at age sixteen in a concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and subsequently began his studies with Dorothy DeLay at the Juilliard School of Music. At age eighteen, he added the role of conductor to his artistic endeavours; since then he has conducted acclaimed orchestras worldwide, and became Music Advisor of the Israel Chamber Orchestra and Artistic Advisor and Principal Guest Conductor of the Maastricht Symphony.

Shlomo Mintz has been appointed as Principal Guest Conductor of the Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra. He will take this role beside his busy soloist schedule from the season 2008/2009 on for 4 years. He is patron and one of the founders of the Keshet Eilon International Violin Mastercourse in Israel, and gives master classes worldwide.

He has been a jury member of several important international competitions including the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and the Queen Elisabeth International Music Competition in Brussels. He was President of the Jury of the International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition in Poznan, Poland, and is since 2002 President of the Jury of the Sion Valais International Violin Competition in Switzerland.



 

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J.S. Bach: Toccata und Fuge in B moll

>> Saturday, October 31, 2009


I saved this one for last because of all the pieces I have chosen in this series, this piece has come to typify Halloween for most people.  I hardly think that Bach would have ever dreamed that his masterful toccata and fugue, which was meant to be played in the church, would become the American musical Halloween icon.  So now I present the J.S. Bach - Toccata und Fuge BWV 565 played by Hans-Andre Stamm. 

Thus ends my Thirty-one days of Halloween music series. This one was a challenge, but I had a great time searching and researching all of the pieces that I have presented, and I hope that you have enjoyed them as well!

Have a very happy and safe Halloween!



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Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung, Siegfried's Funeral March

>> Friday, October 30, 2009


Act 3 Siegfried rejoins the hunters, who include Gunther and Hagen. While resting, he tells them about the adventures of his youth. Hagen gives him another potion, which restores his memory, and he tells of discovering the sleeping Brünnhilde and awakening her with a kiss. Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear. The others look on in horror, and Hagen explains in three words ("Meineid rächt sich!" - Perjury avenges itself) that since Siegfried admitted loving Brunnhilde, the oath he swore on Hagen's spear was obviously false, therefore it was Hagen's duty to kill him with it. Hagen calmly walks away into the wood. Siegfried recollects his awakening of Brünnhilde and dies. His body is carried away in a solemn funeral procession (Siegfried's funeral march) that forms the interlude as the scene is changed and recapitulates much of the music associated with Siegfried and the Walsungs.


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Karl Jenkins' Requiem: Dies Irae

>> Thursday, October 29, 2009


Released in 2005, Requiem is an album by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins. In this work, Jenkins interjects movements featuring Japanese death poems in the form of a haiku with those traditionally encountered in a Requiem Mass. At times, the Latin text is sung below the text of the haiku.


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Beethoven: Funeral March from Symphony No 3 in E flat major, "Eroica"

>> Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Beethoven had originally conceived of dedicating the symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte. The biographer Maynard Solomon relates that Beethoven admired the ideals of the French Revolution, and Napoleon as their embodiment. In the autumn the composer began to have second thoughts about that dedication. It would have deprived him of a fee that he would receive if he instead dedicated the symphony to Prince Franz Joseph Maximillian Lobkowitz. Nevertheless, he still considered giving the work the title of Bonaparte.

When Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor of France in May 1804, Beethoven became disgusted and went to the table where the completed score lay. He took hold of the title-page and scratched the name Bonaparte out so violently with a knife that he created a hole in the paper. He later changed the title to Sinfonia eroica, composta per festeggiare il sovvenire d'un grand'uomo ("heroic symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man").



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Mozart: Piano Concerto 23 in A-major K. 488, Adagio

>> Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I chose this piece because of it's melancholy, almost mournful feel, and the fact that it was composed and performed around the time that Le Nozze di Figaro was being rehearsed, just before it's May 1, 1786 premiere.  Being that today is the 244th anniversary of Nancy Storace's (the original Susanna in Figaro), birth, I like to think that perhaps Mozart was longing for her, when he composed this.

The Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488) is a musical composition written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was finished, according to Mozart's own catalogue, on March 2, 1786, around the time of the premiere of his opera, The Marriage of Figaro. It was one of three subscription concerts given that spring and was probably played by Mozart himself at one of these. The concerto is scored for flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns and strings.

It has three movements: 1. Allegro in A major and common time
2. Adagio in F-sharp minor and 6/8 time
3. Allegro assai in A and crossed common time.


The second movement, in ternary form, is impassioned and somewhat operatic in tone. The piano begins alone with a theme characterized by unusually wide leaps. This is the only movement by Mozart in F sharp minor.



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Dies Irae: Day of Wrath from Verdi's Requiem

>> Monday, October 26, 2009


The Messa da Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral Mass (called the Requiem from the first word of the text, which begins Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, meaning, "Grant them eternal rest, O Lord"—see the entry at "Dies Irae"). It was first performed on 22 May 1874 to mark the first anniversary of the death of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist much admired by Verdi. The piece is also sometimes referred to as the Manzoni Requiem.



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Verdi's MacBeth: Witches' Chorus "Tre volte miagola la gatta in fregola"

>> Sunday, October 25, 2009


Macbeth is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi, with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and additions by Andrea Maffei, based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. It was Verdi's tenth opera and also the first of Shakespeare's plays which he adapted for the operatic stage.

Written after the success of Atilla in 1846 by which time the composer had become well established, it was before the great successes of 1850 to 1853, Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata which propelled him into universal fame. As sources, Shakespeare's plays provided Verdi with lifelong inspiration: some, such as King Lear were never realized but he wrote his two final operas using Othello as the basis for Otello (1887) and The Merry Wives of Windsor as the basis for Falstaff (1893).

The first version of Macbeth was completed during the middle of what Verdi was to describe as his "galley years". Ranging from 1842 to 1850, this period saw the composer produce 14 operas, but by the standards of the subject matter of almost all Italian operas during the first fifty years of the 19th century, Macbeth was highly unusual. The 1847 version was very successful and it was presented widely. Pleased with his opera and with its reception, Verdi wrote to Antonio Barezzi, his former father-in-law and long-time supporter, on 25 March 1847 just about two weeks after the premiere: "I have long intended to dedicate an opera to you, who have been father, benefactor, and friend to me. It was a duty I should have fulfilled sooner if imperious circumstances had not prevented me. Now, I send you Macbeth which I prize above all my other operas, and therefore deem worthier to present to you"

The 1865 revision, produced for Paris in a French translation and with several additions, was less successful and the opera largely faded from public view until the mid-20th century revivals.

2005, Gran Teatre del Liceu
Conductor - Bruno Campanella
Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of the Gran Teatre del Liceu

Act III, Scene 1
Chorus "Tre volte miagola la gatta in fregola"
Setting: The witches' cave



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Mozart Requiem: Lacrimosa (Weeping)

>> Saturday, October 24, 2009




Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

That day of tears and mourning,
when from the ashes shall arise,
all humanity to be judged.
Spare us by your mercy, Lord,
gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest. Amen.

 

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Frederic Chopin: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op. 35, Marche funèbre: Lento

>> Friday, October 23, 2009


While the term "funeral march" is perhaps a fitting description of the 3rd movement, complete with the Lento interlude in D flat major, "Chopin's Funeral March" is used commonly to describe only the funeral march proper (in B flat minor). The "funeral march" has become well known in popular culture. It was also used at the state funerals of John F. Kennedy and those of Soviet leaders, including Leonid Brezhnev. It was transcribed for full orchestra by the English composer Sir Edward Elgar in 1933 and its first performance was at his own memorial concert the next year. It was played at the graveside during Chopin's own burial at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.


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Franz Liszt: Trauervorspiel und Trauermarsch (Mourning-play & Mourning March)

>> Thursday, October 22, 2009


Franz Liszt (Hungarian: Ferencz Liszt, in modern usage also Ferenc Liszt, from 1859 to 1865 officially Franz Ritter von Liszt) (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist and teacher.

Liszt became renowned throughout Europe during the 19th century for his great skill as a performer. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age and perhaps the greatest pianist of all time. He was also an important and influential composer, a notable piano teacher, a conductor who contributed significantly to the modern development of the art, and a benefactor to other composers and performers, notably Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz, Camille Saint-Saëns, Edvard Grieg and Alexander Borodin.
As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the "Neudeutsche Schule" ("New German School"). He left behind a huge and diverse body of work, in which he influenced his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated some 20th-century ideas and trends. Some of his most notable contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form and making radical departures in harmony.


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Gustav Mahler: Kindertotenlieder (Children's Death Songs)

>> Wednesday, October 21, 2009




III. "Wenn dein Mutterlein

When your mother
steps in through the door
and I turn my head
to see at her,
falling on her face
my gaze does not first fall,
but at the place
nearer the doorstep,
there, where your
dear little face would be,
when you with bright joy
step inside,
as you used to, my little daughter.
When your mother
steps in through the door
with the glowing candle,
it seems to me, always
you came in too,
hurrying behind her,
as you used to come into the room.
Oh you, a father's cell,
ah too quickly
bright joy lost too soon!



 

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Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Third Mvt. "Funeral March"

>> Tuesday, October 20, 2009


This is Mahler's famous funeral march written in the form of a canon and based upon the children's song, Frère Jacques, played in the minor. It is also famous for opening with a contrabass solo.

Michael Tilson Thomas; San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.




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Jean Sibelius: Valse Triste, The Waltz of Death

>> Monday, October 19, 2009


Sibelius achieved his greatest popularity with Valse triste, a sad waltz which he composed for a play called Death, written by his brother-in-law Arvid Järnefelt. But Sibelius’s immediate circle feared that he was dancing a real Waltz of Death because of his way of living. "Janne, you must give up alcohol. You must," his brother Christian wrote to him on 19th November 1903.


  

Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - Herbert von Karajan, 1983





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Mozart: Die Zauberflöte: Der Hölle Rache (The Wrath of Hell)

>> Sunday, October 18, 2009


This is probably the most magnificent performance ever of The Queen of the Night's most famous aria I've ever heard.  The German soprano, Diana Damrau sings with conviction, expression, and confidence.  A most chilling and terrifying experience!

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Purcell: Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary: March

>> Saturday, October 17, 2009

Purcell is among the Baroque composers who has had a direct influence on modern rock and roll; according to Pete Townshend of The Who, Purcell was among his influences, particularly evident in the opening bars of The Who's "Pinball Wizard". The song "Procession" by British rock band Queen is obviously inspired by the processional section from Purcell's "Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary," which was also adapted for the synthesizer by Wendy Carlos to serve as the theme music for the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange. Meanwhile, noted cult New Wave artist Klaus Nomi regularly performed "The Cold Song" from King Arthur during his career, including a version on his debut self-titled album, Klaus Nomi, from 1981; his last public performance before his untimely death was an interpretation of the piece done with a full orchestra in December 1982 in Munich. Purcell wrote the song for a bass, but numerous countertenors have performed the piece in homage to Nomi. In the 21st century, the soundtrack to the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice features a dance titled "A Postcard to Henry Purcell," which is a version by composer Dario Marianelli of the Abdelazar theme.









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Gabriel Fauré: Requiem: Libera Me

>> Friday, October 16, 2009







Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna
in die illa tremenda
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra,
dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.

Tremens factus sum ego et timeo,
dum discussion venerit atque venture ira:
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra.



Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death
on that awful day
when the heavens and earth shall be shaken
and you shall come to judge the world by fire.

I am seized with fear and trembling
until the trial is at hand and the wrath to come:
when the heavens and earth shall be shaken.





Featured soloist: Baritone, James Morris
Atlanta Symphony and Chorus





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Dido's Lament from Purcell's "Dido & Aeneas"

>> Thursday, October 15, 2009


Act III   Dido and Belinda enter, shocked at Aeneas’ disappearance. Dido is distraught and Belinda comforts her. Suddenly Aeneas returns, but Dido is full of fear before Aeneas speaks, and his words only serve to confirm her suspicions. She derides his reasons for leaving, and even when Aeneas says he will defy the gods and not leave Carthage, Dido rejects him for having once thought of leaving her. After Dido forces Aeneas to leave, she states that "Death must come when he is gone." The opera and Dido's life both slowly come to a conclusion, as the Queen of Carthage sings her last aria, "When I am laid in Earth", also known as "Dido's Lament." The chorus and orchestra then conclude the opera once Dido is dead by ordering the "cupids to scatter roses on her tomb, soft and gentle as her heart. Keep here your watch, and never never never part."

Dido's lament from Purcell's Dido&Aeneas, by the mezzo Xenia Meijer. She teaches Singing in the conservatory of Tilburg, The Netherlands.  



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Dies Irae: Day of Wrath from Mozart's Requiem

>> Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The Requiem Mass in D minor (K. 626) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was composed in Vienna in 1791, during the last year of the composer's life. The requiem was Mozart's last composition and is one of his most popular and respected works, although the question of how much of the music Mozart managed to complete before his death and how much was later composed by Franz Xaver Süssmayr or others is still debated.

The Requiem is scored for 2 basset-horns in F, 2 bassoons, 2 trumpets in D, 3 trombones (alto, tenor & bass), timpani (2 drums), violins, viola and basso continuo (cello, double bass, and organ or harpsichord). The vocal forces include soprano, alto, tenor, and bass soloists and an SATB mixed chorus.


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The Masquerade Waltz by Aram Khachaturyan

>> Tuesday, October 13, 2009


You don't even know how hard I worked to find this one!  When I was a teenager I used to listen to this waltz on the stereo all the time, but I couldn't remember it's name or who composed it.  Then I remembered that out in the garage I had the collection of  33 LP's that it was on, stored in a box.  So I dug through and I found it!  This has always been one of my very favorites, so today I'm featuring it in honor of the 2nd Annual Willow Manor Ball.

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Verdi's "La Traviata": Violetta's Death Scene

>> Monday, October 12, 2009


Dr. Grenvil tells Annina that Violetta will not live long since her tuberculosis has worsened. Alone in her room, Violetta reads a letter from Alfredo’s father telling her that the Baron was only wounded in his duel with Alfredo; that he has informed Alfredo of the sacrifice she has made for him and his sister; and that he is sending his son to see her as quickly as possible to ask for her forgiveness. But Violetta senses it is too late (Violetta: Addio del passato – "So closes my sad story").
Annina rushes in the room to tell Violetta of Alfredo's arrival. The lovers are reunited and Alfredo suggests that they leave Paris (Alfredo, Violetta: Parigi, o cara , noi lasceremo – "Dearest, we’ll leave Paris" ).
But it is too late: she knows her time is up (Alfredo, Violetta: Gran Dio! morir si giovane – "O, God! to die so young"). Alfredo's father enters with the doctor, regretting what he has done. Very quickly, Violetta dies in Alfredo’s arms.

Renée Fleming as Violeta, Rollando Villázon as Alfredo and Renato Bruson as Germont singing the last scene of Verdi's La Traviata. Conductor James Conlon, Los Angeles Opera, 2006 


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The Hungarian Suicide Song: Gloomy Sunday

>> Sunday, October 11, 2009


Gloomy Sunday is a song composed by Hungarian pianist and composer Rezső Seress in 1933 to a Hungarian poem written by László Jávor (original Hungarian title of both song and poem "Szomorú vasárnap") in which the singer mourns the untimely death of a lover and contemplates suicide.

Though recorded and performed by many singers, Gloomy Sunday is closely associated with Billie Holiday, who scored a hit version of the song in 1941. Due to unsubstantiated urban legends about its inspiring hundreds of suicides, "Gloomy Sunday" was dubbed the "Hungarian suicide song" in the United States. Seress did commit suicide in 1968, but most other rumors of the song being banned from radio, or sparking suicides, are unsubstantiated, and were partly propagated as a deliberate marketing campaign. Possibly due to the context of the Second World War, Billie Holiday's version was, however, banned by the BBC.


Gloomy Sunday with a hundred white flowers
I was waiting for you my dearest with a prayer
A Sunday morning, chasing after my dreams
The carriage of my sorrow returned to me without you
It is since then that my Sundays have been forever sad
Tears my only drink, the sorrow my bread...

Gloomy Sunday
 
Information Source: Wikipedia



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Mozart's Don Giovanni: The Commandatore's Ghost

>> Saturday, October 10, 2009


 In one of the darkest scenes in all of opera, Mozart brings forth an apparition to judge the lecherous Don Giovanni and drag from him a confession and repentance or cast him into hell.  Thrilling and terrifying.

Don Giovanni - Rodney Gilfry
Leporello - László Polgár
Commendatore - Matti Salminen






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Der Erlkönig by Franz Schubert

>> Friday, October 9, 2009


Der Erlkönig (often called just Erlkönig) is a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It depicts the death of a child assailed by a supernatural being, the Erlking or "Erlkönig" (suggesting the literal translation "alder king", but see below). It was originally composed by Goethe as part of a 1782 ballad opera entitled Die Fischerin.

The poem has been used as the text for lieder (art songs for voice and piano) by many classical composers, the most famous undoubtedly being that of Franz Schubert, his Opus 1 (D. 328).

Goethe's poem begins with a young boy being brought home by his father. The meaning is somewhat ambiguous, as the word "Hof" has the rather generic meaning of "yard" or "court". In this case, however, it is a short form of "farmyard" (though the long form "Bauernhof" is more common for this sense). The ambiguity about the father's social rank is quite acceptable because any father would have similar feelings about a son or daughter so ill and in pain.

The poem begins by giving the impression that the child is simply dying from a vague, unspecified ailment and sees death as a figment of his imagination. As it proceeds, the poem takes an ever darker twist and ends with the child's death.

One story has it that Goethe was visiting a friend when, late one night, a dark figure carrying a bundle in its arms was seen riding past the gate at high speed. The next day Goethe and his friend were told that they had seen a farmer taking his sick son to the doctor. This incident, along with the legend, is said to have been the main inspiration for the poem.

Some readers, visualising the father's embrace of his ailing son, may assume that the child is sick and in need of medical attention. However, the poem's characterisation of the child's condition is ambiguous.

Who rides, so late, through night and wind?
It is the father with his child.
He holds the boy in the crook of his arm
He holds him safe, he keeps him warm.

"My son, why do you hide your face so anxiously?"
"Father, do you not see the Elfking?
The Elfking with crown and tail?"
"My son, it's a wisp of fog."

"You lovely child, come, go with me!
Many a beautiful game I'll play with you;
Some colourful flowers are on the shore,
My mother has many golden robes."

"My father, my father, can't you hear,
What the Elfking quietly promised me?"
"Be calm, stay calm, my child;
The wind rustles through dry leaves."

"Do you want to come with me, dear boy?
My daughters shall wait on you fine;
My daughters lead the nightly dances
And will rock and dance and sing you to sleep."

"My father, my father, can't you see there,
The Elfking's daughters in the gloomy place?"
"My son, my son, I see it well:
The old willows they shimmer so grey."

"I love you, your beautiful form entices me;
And if you're not willing, I shall use force."
"My father, my father, he's grabbing me now!
The Elfking has done me harm!"

The father shudders; he rides swiftly,
He holds the moaning child in his arms.
He can hardly manage to reach his farm;
In his arms, the child was dead.

Franz Schubert : Erlkönig (D328) (from Goethe's Ballade): the incomparable performance of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau 


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Dies Irae: Day of Wrath from the Gregorian Tradition

>> Thursday, October 8, 2009


Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) is a famous thirteenth century Latin hymn thought to be written by Thomas of Celano. It is a medieval Latin poem, differing from classical Latin by its accentual (non-quantitative) stress and its rhymed lines. The meter is trochaic. The poem describes the day of judgment, the last trumpet summoning souls before the throne of God, where the saved will be delivered and the unsaved cast into eternal flames.

The hymn is best known from its use as a sequence in the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. It was removed from the Catholic liturgy in the liturgical reform of 1969-1970, but can still be heard when the older form of the Mass is used. An English version of it is found in various missals used in the Anglican Communion.


Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets' warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth,
when from heaven the Judge descendeth,
on whose sentence all dependeth.

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth;
through earth's sepulchers it ringeth;
all before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,
all creation is awaking,
to its Judge an answer making.

Lo! the book, exactly worded,
wherein all hath been recorded:
thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge his seat attaineth,
and each hidden deed arraigneth,
nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
when the just are mercy needing?

King of Majesty tremendous,
who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!

Think, good Jesus, my salvation
cost thy wondrous Incarnation;
leave me not to reprobation!

Faint and weary, thou hast sought me,
on the cross of suffering bought me.
shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge! for sin's pollution
grant thy gift of absolution,
ere the day of retribution.

Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
all my shame with anguish owning;
spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!

Thou the sinful woman savedst;
thou the dying thief forgavest;
and to me a hope vouchsafest.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
rescue me from fires undying!

With thy favored sheep O place me;
nor among the goats abase me;
but to thy right hand upraise me.

While the wicked are confounded,
doomed to flames of woe unbounded
call me with thy saints surrounded.

Low I kneel, with heart submission,
see, like ashes, my contrition;
help me in my last condition.


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The Lord of the Rings: Symphony: The Black Riders

>> Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I don't know about you, but when I read Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings series when I was a teenager, the mere description of the Ringwraiths or Black Riders sent me hiding under my bed covers, but when I saw the movie, they scared the caa-caa out of me! I'm convinced that a great deal of that terrifying effect came from Howard Shore's amazing film score.  


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Compelled to die for love: Tu che a Dio spiegasti l'ali from Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor"

>> Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Act III  Scene 3: The graveyard of the Ravenswood family
Edgardo is resolved to kill himself on Enrico's sword. He learns that Lucia is dying and then Raimondo comes to tell him that she has already died. Edgardo stabs himself with a dagger, hoping to be re-unified with Lucia in heaven.

This scene features the fabulous Polish tenor, Piotr Beczala, as Edgardo.


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