Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Beethoven's Fourth Symphony - B Flat Major

Robert Schumann described the fourth symphony in B Flat Major of Beethoven as a 'slender Greek maiden between two Norse giants' -Fasolt and Fafner being 'Eroica' and 'Fate' This is the struggling Titan that fate ascribed obscurity to.
It is happy in mood in the first movement. The Adagio expresses a tenderness unique in these symphonies. The Menuetto-Scherzo is bustling with a figurate theme. The finale is dismembered and slowed down as if in slow motion after which the rapid ending has the effect of a burst of laughter from the good-humoured master at his bewildered listeners.
The first performance of the Fourth was on 15th March 1807 at the Wien Palace of Prince Lobkowitz.
The notable recordings are by Andre Cluytens/Berliner Philharmoniker, Yevgeny Mravinsky/Leningrad Philharmonic (featured here), Pablo Casals/Barcelona Symphony, Otto Klemperer/Philharmonia and Herbert Von Karajan/Berliner.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Das Rheingold: Wiener Philharmoniker - Sir Georg Solti- Prelude

The Lawrence of Arabia Suite

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Maurice Jarre

I learnt today that Maurice Jarre passed away on 29th March 2009 at Los Angeles.
The world has lost a brilliant musician. I considered him as the greatest film music composer after John Williams.
Maurice Alexis Jarre was born in Lyon, Rhone, France on 13th September 1924. He was 84. He enrolled at the Conservatoire du Paris against his father's will and studied composition, harmony and percussion. He studied under Joseph Martenot, the inventor of Martenot Waves, an electronic keyboard that was the predecessor of the modern synthesizer. In 1950, he wrote his first film score for Jean Vilar's 'The Princess of Hamburg'. Jarre's career took a spectacular turn in 1961 when producer Sam Spiegel asked him to work on David Lean's 'Lawrence of Arabia'. And what a score that was! He won his first oscar. It was haunting music. This was the beginning of a great partnership between him and David Lean. His second collaboration with Lean was on Doctor Zhivago in 1965 that earned him another oscar. This music attained a level of success that is rarely achieved by a film score. He worked with Lean again on Ryan's Daughter in 1970 and A Passage to India in 1984. He received his third oscar for A Passage to India. His other works are The Collector for William Wyler in 1965.He wrote ethereal music for Peter Weir in The Witness and The Mosquito Coast. Another brilliant score is for Franco Zefferelli's 'Jesus of Nazareth' in 1977. He also wrote film music for 'The Longest Day' and 'The Man Who Would be King' with use of Indian sarangi, tanpura and santoor. He also incorporated synthetic sounds in his music writing his first entirely electronic score for 'The Year of Living Dangerously' in 1982. He leaves behind two sons and a daughter. One son, Jean Michel Jarre, is another outstanding musician in his own right with works like 'Apocalypse des Animaux' and 'Oxygene'. His brother is Kevin Jarre and his sister is Stefanie Jarre. The perfect tribute to Maurice Jarre is to listen to 'Yuri's Mother's Funeral' in the Doctor Zhivago score where the music includes a balalaika.
One of the great musicians of the Twentieth Century crosses over. May God grant peace to his soul. Amen!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Greatest Opera Ever Written - Der Ring Des Nibelungen Cycle by Richard Wagner

Der Ring Des Nibelungen is a cycle of four epic Musik Dramas by Richard Wagner. The operas are based on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied. The works are referred to as the 'Ring Cycle.' Wagner wrote the libretto and the music over a period of 26 years from 1848 to 1874. The Ring begins with a Prelude known as Das Rheingold, followed by Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. Two other works that are a by-product of the Ring are the Siegfried Idyll for chamber orchestra and Kinderkatechismus for boys' choir and chamber orchestra. Although these operas are performed individually in their own right, Wagner intended the audience to attend the full performance of all four operas spanning four evenings and nineteen hours. This is a mammoth creation by a genius and believe me it deserves each second of your intense concentration. The Nibelung of the title is the elf 'Alberich.' Das Rheingold received its premiere at the National Theatre in Munchen on 22nd September 1869. It was much to the disgust of Wagner because he wanted the Ring operas to be viewed as a cycle in four evenings but he was not ready with Die Walkure yet. The complete cycle, as per the dream of Wagner, received its premiere performance at the Bayreuther Festpielhaus on 13th August 1876. Das Rheingold begins with a 136 bar unmodulating prelude based on the E Flat Major chord that is meant to represent the eternal motions of the River Rhine. It is considered the best known drone piece in the concert repertoire lasting a full four minutes. Another brilliant brushwork by Wagner is in the orchestral interlude from Scene 2 to Scene 3 where Wagner paints the descent of Loge and Wotan into Nibelheim. As the orchestra fades, it gives rise to a choir of 18 tuned anvils indicated in the score with specific size, quantity and pitch. These anvils are beating out the dotted rhythm of the Nibelung theme to give a stark depiction to the toiling of the enslaved dwarves. The definitive interpretation of this work has been given by Sir Georg Solti with the Wiener Philharmoniker. The other conductors who perform with spirit and fervour are Wilhelm Furtwangler, Herbert Von Karajan and Pierre Boulez.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Definitive Version of the Prelude to the Ring

There have been many recordings of the Ring in the last fifty years and this is the defintive one. The Ring is about fifteen hours long of demanding and intense music. It is Solti's conducting that provides the difference when compared with others. It is extremely extrovert and dramatic. The opening prelude, describing the dawn on River Rhine with the basses, rippling strings and the brass announcing the sun, is so emphatic; no recording before and after has brought this out with such an effect. Solti's handling of the climaxes is peerless. I cannot begin to describe the entire story of Das Rheingold (the first part of Der Ring Des Nibelungen) but the brief synopsis is that the Rhinemaidens are guarding the Rheingold for their father Wotan and one of the Nibelung elfs , Alberich, renounces the love and lust for rhinemaidens or any other maiden forever and that gives him the power to wield a ring from the gold. That Ring gives him the power to rule the world. The Ring is about the tribulations that Wotan faces and the sacrifices he has to make to redeem the power and justice in the world again. The magic of Richard Wagner's orchestration in the Rainbow and Valhalla music has rarely been brought out so masterfully. Gustav Neidlinger is superb as Alberich. George London as Wotan is dark and regal bass-baritone. The sound effects are excellent. For example, the clang of the anvils, Donner's hammerblow and the thunderclap in the final scene have never been matched.