Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Sounds of Silence

This Simon & Garfunkel masterpiece of the late 60s was used in a film, 'The Graduate' to a nicety. Christopher Nolan has missed out by not using this great song in his film 'Inception'. Those who have seen and really understood this film will know what I mean. Superb lyrics and a superb composition.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Eine Alpensinfonie

Richard Strauss wrote this symphony for a hundred strings, thirty wind instruments, twenty french horns,six trumpets,six trombones, pipe organ, wind machine, thunder machine, heckelphone, four timpani, celesta, contrabassoon, four tenor tubas, two tubas, glockenspiel, tam tam - in all 180 players.
This is Richard Strauss' statement of Alpine nature and life to the Almighty Divine Architect of the Universe. It was written between 1911 and 1915. It had its premiere in Berlin on 28th October, 1915. Strauss is at the peak of his powers of orchestration. It is one of the most eloquent expressions of his musico-philosophical views. It is actually a symphonic poem in the garb of a symphony.It is played without pause but its various sections have been given titles - Night, Sunrise, the Ascent, Hunting Horns, Entrance into the Forest, Wandering by the Brook, At the Waterfall, Apparition, On Flowery Meadows, On a Mountain Pasture ( with the cowbells sequence), Lost in the Thicket and Brush, On the Glacier, Perilous Moments,On the Summit,Vision, The Fog Rises, The Sun is Clouded Over, Elegy, Calm before the Storm, Thunderstorm, Descent, Sunset, Epilogue and Night again.
Richard Strauss was one of music's greatest individualists.He created an aura around him.His concerts were attended not because of his compositions or his conducting but because he was Richard Strauss. He was an innovator and he lived during the cross-over point in the movements of art that is from romanticism to neo-romanticism and impressionism.
Richard Strauss owes much to Franz Liszt, the creator of the symphonic poem. Strauss considered himself an 'Ausdrucksmusiker'(Musician of Expression); if there ever was an 'Expressionism' as a movement in art or music, he belonged to it. The symphonic poem was an ideal medium for his romantic musical gifts. He musically describes not only what man does, but man's inner state of mind. Strauss saw man as a heroic figure. Critics had mixed reactions to some of his innovations. People did not adapt to change fast. When Berlioz and Franck used the English Horn in their symphonies, the critics said it was vulgar because Haydn and Beethoven did not use an English Horn in their symphonies. Meyerbeer and Bizet were criticized for using saxophones. Berlioz was also criticized for using an exceptionally large orchestra.
Strauss used some naturalistic sounds in this symphony such as cowbells and machines to create the sounds of wind and thunder. Mahler used cowbells before in his Tragic Symphony and his Seventh Symphony. Strauss' score was branded by some critics as a movie score. Some wrote, "this is really throwing the baby out with the bath water." When Strauss completed this symphony, he said, "Finally, I have learnt to orchestrate." The critics were arseholes who did not appreciate music. They only wanted convention that they could comfortably describe.
I say that it is a joy to discover so rich a musical masterpiece as this symphony that is Strauss' finest work.A great performance comes from Zubin Mehta and the Berliner Philharmoniker followed by Rudolf Kempe and the Royal Philharmonic succeeded by Strauss' own performance with the Bayerischen Rundfunks in his 1941 recording.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Robert Schumann Piano Quartet E Flat Major. Op. 47.

As the earlier piano quintet, this E Flat major quartet was also finished in the same year 1842 in the month of October.The quintet was finished a few weeks before this. Like the quintet, there are thematic links between movements.
The first movement - Sostenuto Assai - Allegro Ma Non Troppo:

The Scherzo has two trio sections:

Andante Cantabile is in ternary form. A moving rendition by the Meadowmount Quartet:

The Finale is in sonata form. After an introductory outburst, the viola states the lively theme. In a free rondo form, the finale has a lengthy closing coda section:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Schumann's Lively Piano Quintet in E Flat Major

This work was composed in October 1842. This is Op.44. Schumann was the first romantic composer to pair the pianoforte with the string quartet. In my earlier post, I have shared how Mahler wrote a single movement in his sixteenth year in A Minor.
This is the Allegro Brillante:

In Modo D'Una Marcia- Un Poco Largamente - A funeral march in C Minor:

Scherzo - Molto Vivace - ascending and descending scales;two trios; a lyrical canon for violin and viola and the second one an accented perpetual motion:

Allegro Ma Non Troppo begins in C Minor and not the tonic E Flat Major. At the conclusion, this main theme is combined with the Allegro Brillante theme with a double fugue:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mahler's A Minor Piano Quartet - The Shutter Island

A spacious performance by the Quarto Quartet from Sofia

This movement has been beautifully used in the latest Scorsese's masterpiece 'The Shutter Island.'

Gustav Mahler: Piano Quartet in A Minor - Single Movement

This movement in A Minor for Piano, Violin, Viola and Cello was written in Mahler's sixteenth year and it is mature beyond his years. Only this movement has survived as he destroyed the remaining movements. Mahler was studying in his first year at the Wiener Conservatory. When Mahler sent this work to his publishers, they rejected it. What arseholes! That led to Mahler destroying the other movements. This survived. This movement got its first performance in Wiener with Mahler on the piano on 12th September 1876 and it was laid to sleep until it got its next performance on 12th January 1964 in New York by Peter Serkin playing the piano with the Galimir Quartet. This piece was found among the effects of his widow Alma after her death in 1964 in a folder labelled 'early compositions.'

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Death Knoll

Sergei Rachmaninov
Prelude C Sharp Minor Op.3 No.2
The Bells of Death
Vladimir Ashkenazy

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Star Trek

Since its creation by Gene Roddenberry, this series have become a legend. No denying the fact that it is a fantastic science fiction effort made for television and cinema.
Here is a peek at the original with the theme by Alexander Courage:

Then came the great movie with Shatner, Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and Persis Khambatta with an additional superb work done by Jerry Goldsmith:

Then last year the movie on Star Trek is actually the one to be seen even before you see the television series because it gives you a peak at the prequel of how Captain James Kirk and Spock came about to the Enterprise. The music by Michael Gioacchino is magnificent and I will give the rating AA: