4/5/05

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4/5/05

Joaquin Turina, La Oracion del Torero, Op. 34

Think of luscious romance in Spain. Hear the dancing girls dance their dance. Feel the cold spring breeze slowly contributing to the inevitable heat death of the universe. It is ¡The prayer of the bullfighter! Will he die tonight? Maybe not in the original and impractical scoring for lute quartet, but with string orchestra... anything goes.

Paul Hindemith, Five Pieces for String Orchestra

Written for "advanced players in the first position," this masterwork of German automotive engineering combines Baroque and Renaissance forms with rather unconventional banging. At a band camp in 1999 this piece almost caused a duel over Hindemith's legacy (i.e. bowings) between two BSCP violists-to-be. Hindemith was an attractive German viola virtuoso who here demonstrates the range of his vocabulary (from langsam to lebhaft). He also liked Bach.

Johann Sebastian Bach, the Bach Double

We all know this piece from our childhood. It is good. Francesca and Alison like the colour purple. Our hope is to explore the subtle shades of violet in the beautiful slow movement, a deeply moving pastoral effusion. Did somebody say more cowbell? Beware the dark bubble: two fugues of terrifying intensity awash with hidden notes and microlyricism.

Brad Balliett, California Counterpoint

"California Counterpoint, composed on Miami Beach in February 2005, is based on the opening progression of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 2002 song By the Way. This material is then developed in the manner of Steve Reich. The music attempts to capture the breezy yet driving atmosphere and attention to textural detail which characterise much of the band's music. This piece is dedicated to Kimberly Kanada, who taught me how awesome California really is." (Brad Balliett)

Josef Suk, Serenade for Strings, Op. 6

The Dvorak... no, no, no... the Suk Serenade for Strings is redolent of freshly scrubbed linen and Bohemian meadows where gypsy children gambol with gay abandon. High on the hill was a lonely goatherd looking down at market towns rife with carefree festivities, the lively dances of itinerant peasant troupes, and folk carousing in beerhalls amidst steaming plates of potato dumplings. The requisite yearning melodies, nubile accompaniments and floral freshness warm the cockles of our collective heart. The third movement is really nice.

Note: No illegal substances were consumed in BSCP rehearsals or in the making of this program.

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11/5/05

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11/5/05

Heitor Villa-Lobos, Bachianas Brasileiras number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9...

There was a composer from Rio,
Who wrote lots of music con brio.
His prelude and fugue
Would be worthy of Moog,
If only we could make out the damned 11/8 section.
...We can, however, make out with the viola section:
 a little bit of Angela in my life 
a little bit of Rebecca by my side 
 a little bit of Katie is all I need
but a little bit of Johann is what I see. 
 Ladies and Gents, this is Mambo #9!

Derrick Wang ’06, To My Grandfather

floating amongst synthetic threes 
 toll monstrosities of broken rhyme,
a heaving, marcato ring, un-donne.
plastic fortuna bows unto (us),
 whence the mind dances wildly,
wherefore escape the feet of time
no... no( no) (((no))) (nononon)(o yes (((yes))(s)yes)ye(sy)))e(sye))s

Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Serenade for String Orchestra Op. 48

 Scene 1:Rehearsal.Peripatetic minstrels strum chords of ecstasy.
Lover #1(askew):Dearest lover, how do I love thee?
Lover #2 (among brambles, golden):Like a flock of flightless cormorants floundering, 
prone, flummoxed.Mysteriously, I lack the will to commit, yet I partake of sonata 
form in my elaborate musical constructions.My love is like a sonatine, a jilted 
staccato.What does it all mean?
Lover #1:Hark!Pause and enjoy this moment of unendurable Italianate beauty.
 ~Pause~
 A vision from the future, Derrick Wang (’06) clothed in Burberry.
Derrick (muddled, hauntingly clear):Sometimes... it be... like damn!
Lover #2 (awestruck):A vision from the heavens has confirmed my belief in the 
 fundamental continuity of humanity across all cultures and times.It is almost as if 
 one musical motif underlies all the movements that constitute existence only to be 
 restated in the dramatic moment of closure.Oh, death!Death!Be not proud!
Lover #1 (suddenly inconsolable):The profundity of that statement has convinced me 
 that fear is a postmodern social construction.
 The lovers and future-Derrick collapse in a heap of cathartic joy.
Scene 2: (Peace in the form of a Sonnet)
When Tchaik sat down to write his serenade	
 Funeral marches made his music leaner;			
Yet in romantic manner ’twould be played		
 In form severe, though, like a sonatina.			
 “I think that big bold themes will hold the stage,	
 I like my crotchets strummed sempre fortissimi;		
 Waltzes, they say, are simply all the rage,		
 And Italian melodies are carissimi.				
But right deep down my heart is truly Russian,	
 And so my theme is folksy and repetitive;			
The strings gyrate round poles, though without blushin’,
 There’s rustic dances, blinis, thick borscht additive.”	
 Well, that’s enough of trite and senseless prattle, 
 Let’s hear the fourteen wastrels nicknamed Brattle.	

Note: A reception will be held after the concert in the Loker Coffeehouse. Please join us. Pleasure will be served.

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2/6/06

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2/6/06

Golijov, Last Round

[Scene: a dramatic vista. The camera pans over the rolling plains of the Argentine Pampas. Morgan Freeman appears on a cloud and intones:]

 The best of times. The worst of times.
 The age of wisdom. The age of foolishness.
 Louts and Ruffians Scoundrels and Hooligans
 Lancastrians Yorkists				
 Harvard Yale

[Cut: A West-Side-Storyesque High School Gymnasium Ice Cream Social: "the metaphor for an imaginary chance for Piazzolla’s spirit to fight one more time." (A note from the composer)]

Unison: Let's Rumble!

[Baptized in fluorescence, the Ghost of Tangos Past shimmies a mambo rumba. Time slows in a cyclone haze of dreamy love-colors. Space breathes breaths in tolls of nine. Does silence, perchance, give life to stormy death? Yet, no boxing ring: rather, the semisphere of strings, standing because they can’t stand to sit. Above, suspended, the spirit of Piazzolla appears “transforming hot passion into pure pattern.” Thus in beauty there is peace. Peace, the essence of sleep. Sleep, the essence of wetness.]

W.A. Mozart, Adagio & Fugue

2006 marks an important anniversary for lovers of music. 100 years ago, a genius brilliant beyond the scope of even the wildest imaginations entered our humble world. We perform this masterwork in his honor. It features an ebullient entrée in the “Freedom” Overture style allied to a tendentious fugal main course. And the mystery composer? Dmitri Shostakovich, here represented by his friend, former lover, and confidante W. A. “Wolfie” Mozart. Fresh from the KGB archives, the story of this secret love was not, nor will it ever be, featured in Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus about Wolfie’s older brother Stuart, the renowned mime and heiress to the Hilton Hotel fortune. Revealed to Solomon Volkov in a series of clay tablets sprinkled o'er the slopes of Mt. Sinai by the spirit of Shostakovich’s dowager mother, it will, however, form a forthcoming sequel to the completely truthful memoir Testimony. When Lorne Michaels approached us with the idea of turning Testimony II: Immortal Wolfie, Beloved Shosty into a seven-part made-for-TV comedy miniseries, we hired Ken Burns instead. Mission accomplished.

Julia Carey '08, String Intermezzo (revised: Impromptu, revised: "Impetus")

REUTERS: The Harvard Janitorial Staff have recently discovered a revision to this influential work in a dustbin in Pforzheimer House. Mikiko K. Fujiwara '07, who is not a Crimson editor, but is renowned as a world expert on the music of the reclusive composer Julia S. Carey '08, commented from Eliot House that "This is a groundbreaking find which has already shaken the foundations of Holmes Living Room. The repercussions will be academic fodder for years." It turns out that the piece is actually called "Impetus," as opposed to "Impromptu" or "Intermezzo." The significance of the working title "Impromptu," generally accepted through the work's entire existence, had been construed by one philologist, Zachary H. Taxin '09, also not a Crimson editor, as "I’m a prom tutu," which he derived from Korean research based on the existence of a secret ceremony involving ballerinas and taking place in the wilderness of Switzerland. The work's essential attributes remain unchanged, however: the orgasmic wall of sound, the wholesome dissonances trundled out like fake Rolexes in a Bangkok market, the driving 5/8 section, the melting melodies. That said, all three versions of this schizophrenic work will receive simultaneous world premieres in Paine at 8.

Grieg '63, Suite aus Holbergs Zeit

The über-frigid sound world of the Norwegian sub-Arctic formed the tranquil backdrop out of which Grieg wove his proto-neo-Classical tapestry, the Holberg Suite. He chose wooden instruments to represent the triumphant pine forests of his native land and their rustic heritage of itinerant peasant fiddling. The sensuous f-holes of the violoncello also captured, with fitting passion and drama, the presence (absence?) of f in fjord. As more immediate inspiration, Grieg turned to the spiritual essence of Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), the first great Norwegian dramatist and Jarlsberg conoisseur. Grieg hoped that this piece of musical propaganda would reclaim Holberg from the clutches of evil Danes who considered Holberg's lifelong residence in Copenhagen evidence of a ‘Danish’ disposition. Quite similar, one might say, to the epic malapropism Ich bin ein Berliner, but uttered centuries before Kennedy ever wrapped his lips around an éclair. The success of Grieg’s speech-act, however, is questionable. In the spirit of poststructuralism, we present a continuum of results for your judgment.

Note: No animals were harmed in rehearsal, though we came close to wringing each others’ necks.

Comment

5/7/07

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5/7/07

Handel-Halvorsen - Passacaglia for Violin and Cello in G Minor

Johan Halvorsen was a prominent figure in Norwegian musical life at the end of the 19th century. While most of us are unaware that Norway might have a strong musical scene, let alone one that might create a “prominent figure,” this duo by Halversen, one of his best known works, certainly shows that Norway was doing something right. Based on a theme of Handel, this piece was originally written for violin and viola (Halvorsen was a wise man and knew what instruments to feature in compositions). Some less intelligent souls decided that violists couldn’t handel the pressure of the Passacaglia and arranged it for violin and cello. It still sounds pretty good.

As a side note, one of Halvorsen’s other well known pieces is called Bergensiana; it is a set of variations for orchestra on the popular Bergen melody "I Took Up My Newly Tuned Zither." Really, Halvorsen?

 

Schoenberg - Transfigured Night, Op. 4.

Transfigured Night (Verklärte Nacht) is considered Schoenberg’s earliest important composition. Don’t recoil at the idea of hearing an atonal mess, however – Transfigured Night is a beautiful work that often surprises listeners with its accessibility (unlike Schoenberg’s later works which are noted for their impenetrability). Though often making the piece more enjoyable for audience members, it can be troubling to players who find that they can no longer hide their mistakes behind the thin veil of atonality (“It doesn’t even sound right when I play it right so no one will notice….right??”). We play every note right. Always.

This sextet is based on a poem of the same name by Richard Dehmel (translation below). Schoenberg divides the single-movement piece into five sections which correspond to the five stanzas of the poem: a cold, barren forest with two figures, the self-loathing words of a woman speaking to her lover, a brief return to the forest, comforting words of the man, and, finally, a return to the wood, transfiguration complete. Note the length and frequency of mute use: very angsty.

Two People are walking through the bare, cold grove;

the moon accompanies them, they gaze at it. The moon courses above the

high oaks; not a cloud obscures the light of heaven, into which the black

treetops reach. A woman’s voice speaks:

I am carrying a child, and not of yours;

I walk in sin beside you.

I have deeply transgressed against myself.

I no longer believed in happiness

and yet had a great yearning

for purposeful life, for the happiness

and responsibility of motherhood; so I dared

and, shuddering, let my body

be embraced by a strange man,

and have become pregnant from it.

Now life has taken its revenge,

now that I have met you.

She walks with awkward step.

She looks up: the moon accompanies them.

Her dark glance is inundated with light.

A man's voice speaks:

Let the child you have conceived

be no burden to your soul.

see, how brightly the universe gleams!

There is a radiance on everything;

you drift with me on a cold sea,

but a special warmth flickers

from you to me, from me to you.

This will transfigure the other’s child;

you will bear it for me, from me;

you have brought radiance on me,

you have made me a child myself.

He clasps her round her strong hips.

Their breath mingles in the breeze.

Two people go through the tall, clear night.

(Translation:1992 Lionel Salter)

W.A. Mozart - String Quartet in D major, K. 155

Once more, Brattle takes you back in time when Mozart was 16 years old composing music in the key of D (see Brattle 11/12/06 program notes). As one of Mozart’s early quartets and clocking in at a whopping nine and a half minutes, there is not too much independent information on this quartet. However, we do know that Mozart wrote this quartet in October 1772, possibly while staying at the Sun Inn in Bolanzo, Italy. Thank you, European Mozart Ways Member Guide (and Google.com, future employer of Jenn Chang) for providing this kernel of knowledge!! A typical (but it’s Mozart, so, really, what is typical?) early Mozartian foray into the quartet genre, jazzed up by replacing the cello part with bass – our idea, not Mozart’s. Have fun.

Mendelssohn Octet

Yet another composition by a 16-year-old prodigy. And yet another piece that, at one point, had double basses inserted into it (courtesy of Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra in 1947). This octet, written for double string quartet, evokes an almost symphonic sound within a chamber setting. Given the number of instruments, there are always enough players to have a melody, one or two countermelodies or supporting lines, with plenty of room left over for orchestral rhythmic figures or colorings.

Mendelssohn considered this piece one of his favorite works and was quoted as saying that he had a “lovely time writing it.” This is an immensely popular chamber work. Because of the size of the ensemble and the breadth of love for this rollicking composition, it is particularly popular for musicians to get together and sight-read the piece on occasions where eight or more string players happen to be gathered. As a result, many a butchered, ridiculous rendition of this piece occurs. This is not one of them.

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11/7/07

Brandenburg:

It was during the reign of Frederick William I, who dismissed all musicians from royal service once he ascended the throne, that Bach visited Christian Ludwig, the margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, to pay him 130 Thalers for a harpsichord. Bach was relieved to find someone still interested in music and wrote a set of concerti for the great margrave, hoping to win his patronage. While most margraves and their margravines were presented with two or three concerti, Bach presented Christian Ludwig with six entire concerti. Unfortunately for Bach, Christian Ludwig lacked sufficient musicians to perform any of the works and was unable to accept Bach’s offer. It probably didn’t help that Frederick William I preferred the music of George Frederick Handel…

The third concerto is unique from the other Brandenburg Concerti in its balanced, blended soundscape and the distinct voices in each of the three string groupings. As Germans always do, they’ve created a wonderfully long word specifically to describe this kind of ‘communal music making’ – Gemeinschaftsspielmusik. There’s nothing like some good old Gemeinschaftsspielmusik to start off a concert! Pay special attention to the trading off of figures between the different instrument groupings, and try to keep track of how many times the violas make Alex Shiozaki laugh during the infamous ‘waggle dance’ movement. Also, look out for the second movement – it’s only one measure containing two chords of a Phrygian mode cadence; what better chance for Jenny Li to bust out the Baroque freestyle? Oh hell yes.

Toch:

Ernst Toch, born in Vienna in 1887, was considered one of the great avant-garde composers in the pre-Nazi era. His works often express a rather humorous aspect and invented the concept of “Gesprochene Musik,” or the idiom of the “spoken chorus.” In addition to traditional classical compositions for symphonies and chamber music, Toch was also a prolific film composer. Not much is known about this piece for three violins. Watch out for the unison E on the G string in the three violins. Hot.

Britten:

Frank Bridge was a British violist and composer, who’s most famous pupil was Benjamin Britten. Britten adored his teacher’s work and paid homage to him in this piece, using the theme from the second of Bridge’s Three Idylls for String Quartet. Unbeknownst to both Frank Bridge and Britten himself, there lies within this work a tragic tale of love, loss, and redemption: The Bee Wars.

 

• Introduction: The Bee is born, entering into a world which is both wondrous and terrifying. The sustained lines in the solo instruments indicate the Bee’s fragile, newborn state, while the pizzicati propel him from his larval state. At the end of the movement, the rising figure in the lower viola, upper cello, and bass indicate his curious emergence into the world.

• Adagio: A direct continuation of the Introduction, the Bee contemplates his newfound life. Everything moves in slow motion as the Bee is overwhelmed by his senses, the beauty and pain of everyday existence. By the end of the movement, the Bee, in his innocence, believes the world to be a safe and loving place, where bees roam freely.

• March: The Bee’s notion of the world comes crashing down as, for the first time, he encounters the evil Bee Gestapo, led by the Sting, the Dark Lord of the Yellow Jackets. Hiding in a roadside flower, the Bee watches in horror as thousands of bees march in form behind Sting. Sting makes a speech before the mass, and throws a young Bee-ess out of his transport vehicle; the crowd cheers wildly, and the Gestapo continues onwards, leaving the poor Bee-ess behind in the dust. The Bee vows to fight against Sting and his Gestapo.

• Romance: The title is rather self-explanatory. Begin Montage: the Bee cautiously approaches the Bee-ess; he takes her in his arms and nurses her back to health; they fall in love and swear to destroy the agents of evil that have infested the lives of the Bees.

• Aria Italiana: The Bee and Bee-ess go to Italy to have a party! It’s pretty rollicking. Pizzicato quasi guiterra!!

• Bourree Classique: Sting makes a proclamation to his followers. Down with the good Bees! Gestapo forever!!

• Wiener Waltz: Preparation for the ultimate battle. Military training, hilarity ensues. A final love duet between the Bee and the Bee-ess as they hope to live to see a life without Sting, a life filled only with their love for one another.

• Moto Perpetuo: BEE WARS. At last. Just picture a really epic battle in your head. The most epic – like 300 meets every Star Wars battle, or maybe a combination of Gladiator and D-Day. Either way: so epic.

• Funeral March: Everyone dies. This is what happens in epic battles. Sad. But where is the Bee?

• Chant: The Bee emerges from the rubble. He is mildly wounded, but alive. His thoughts are only for the Bee-ess and he searches the wreckage of the battle for her. He has found his Bee-ess! She is wounded and the Bee holds her tightly, willing her to recover; even if Sting were defeated, life would not be worth living with out her love.

• Fugue and Finale: Just when all hope seems to be lost, the Bee-ess begins to stir. The Bee’s followers emerge from the ashes. What ashes? Doesn’t matter. But they emerge from them. The good Bee forces are insurmountable! They will never fall! But alas, Sting’s followers begin popping out of the ground like daisies; a muted swarming occurs and Sting and the Bee, represented by the solo instruments, prepare for one final battle. Sting mortally wounds the Bee! All hope is lost. The bees mourn as they face the prospect of life governed by the Gestapo. The Bee-ess, holding the Bee in her arms, sheds a tear. Divine intervention (it’s all in the harmonics) and the Bee stirs. He rises from the ground and vanquishes Sting. Nothing like a good deus ex macchina to bring about a happy, albeit improbable, ending. The Bee and the Bee-ess live happily ever after.

Comment

4/10/10

Comment

4/10/10

Vivaldi – Concerto in D Minor, RV 128


From the scholarly archives of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra:

The Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi

Born March 4 1678 in Venice, Italy

Died July 27 or 28, 1741 in Vienna, Austria

Prolific violinist/composer

Vivaldi spent most of his career as musical director and violin teacher at a Venetian conservatory and orphanage for girls, the Seminario Musicale dell’Ospedale della Pietà. During his lifetime, he achieved more renown as a violinist than as a composer. His propensity for violin is clear, given the astonishing number of solo concertos he wrote for the instrument: more than 230 of his 500-odd surviving works.

Baroque contest: technique vs. imagination

The Four Seasons constitutes the first four of a large cycle of 12 concertos that Vivaldi gathered under the fanciful title Il Cimento dell’Armonia e dell’Invenzione (“The Contest Between Harmony and Invention”). The idea was the contrast of rational technique (harmony and the theory of composition) and free imagination (invention). Il Cimento was published in 1725 as Vivaldi’s Op. 8. The Amsterdam publisher Le Cène issued the concertos with a sonnet at the head of each “season,” explaining its program. Excerpts from the poems also appeared in the printed music, pinpointing places where a specific event was being illustrated. Such illustrative text painting was particularly popular in France, where these concertos were performed regularly at the Concert Spirituel. It is a measure of Vivaldi’s fame that by 1725, he was published in the faraway Netherlands and performed throughout Europe.

Poetry and music: a pictorial marriage

The Four Seasons have remained Vivaldi’s best-known compositions. The four Italian sonnets, possibly written by Vivaldi himself, provide a vivid narrative for the music, with recurring images of breezes and gusty winds, bird calls, rain, thunderstorms and rustic songs and dances. All are illustrated in the music.

Each concerto is in the three-movement, fast-slow-fast sequence that Vivaldi standardized as concerto form. The orchestral sections are almost exclusively ritornelli (a recurring musical idea for the full ensemble, restated in various keys). Vivaldi takes his virtuosic flights in the solo passages, evoking the seasonal images of each poem. His imaginative writing in the solo sections is characterized by strong rhythmic vitality and highly idiomatic passagework. Nearly three centuries after they were composed, The Four Seasons remain a formidable challenge to the virtuoso violinist.”’

Vivaldi aficionados amongst you will note that the work you are about to hear is not The Four Seasons.

 

Grieg – Suite, “From Holberg’s Time”

Edvard Grieg, a noted Norwegian film composer, is perhaps most famous for this group of pieces written to accompany the popular “Holberg in Space,” a futuristic animé series centered on the exploits of Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), a 24th-century cosmic superhero well-known for his numerous “misadventures”. The opening theme, carried out by the violins and violas, is reminiscent of Ludvig’s trusty space horse, Vjiägrä, on whom Ludvig relies throughout his extensive exploits. The accents underlying the theme in the lower instruments are the musical analog of the legendary long trees of Grieg’s beloved hardwood forests. The second movement is a slow, open dance that features exciting “interplay” between Lucien Werner and Nicholas Bodnar performing the solo “cello” roles. The gently throbbing theme of the third movement, known as the “supernova Gavotte,” was originally programmed for a dance at the court of Scroton, king of the Martians, and features, as contrast to the stately opening material, a lithe musette traditionally construed as the dance of Jan van Køcklestein, a trusty sidekick figure known for his catchphrase “holy laser beam, Holberg!” The fourth movement is a penetrating representation of Holberg’s first encounter with the Lady Hisløp Bjørchestra. Finally, the fifth movement depicts Grieg’s prophetic vision of April 10, 2010’s “Duel of the Charlottes,” an encounter of swollen proportions. Ultimately, this composition embodies Grieg’s artistic credo, “ain’t no thang!”

Comment

11/10/10

Comment

11/10/10

Holst, Saint Paul’s Suite, Op. 29, No. 2

Gustavus Theodore Von Holst’s “St. Paul’s Suite” is one of the towering masterpieces of Western culture. Unbeknownst to most, Holst unwittingly invented the modern jib after writing this piece; in fact, all jigs (and all gigues, for that matter) ever written can trace their roots to the first movement of the work. This movement, nicknamed “jolly jig” by the inspired lyricist, Benjamin Britten, was originally intended as the sound track for the musical “Pirates of Prussia Cove,” starring Keira Daily, a popular English actress of Holst’s day. The following movment, “Ostinato” was composed immediately following Holst’s consumption of a can of Fourbythree Loko. The apparently lyrical title of the “Intermezzo” movement belies the deeply-felt Klezmer music therein, the roots of which can be traced back to the composer’s early years spent with a Swedish Gypsy caravan – incidentally a time during which he first and most memorably encountered Norwegian Übermensch Luvudvigv Holbervg, whose existence is entirely unrelated to the content of these program notes.

For the very curious, the title of the third movement can be found somewhere in this program (extra credit is available – to claim your bonus points, simply inscribe the answer on the back of a twenty-dollar bill or polished silver-plated bathtub and slide it under the door of Dunster House G-52). The finale of the “Suite” (it’s pronounced DARG-ah-sahn), like the first movement, is the great-granddaddy of all works of its type. A few well-known descendants of this inspired finale include Debussy’s “Dargasonne sure La Seine” (1923), Schönberg’s “Verklärte Dargasön” (1939), Elliott Carter’s “Dargason in B-sharp for Flute, Half-empty Champagne Bottle, Kettledrum, and Orchestra” (2009), and Oliver Strand’s “Dargason II” (2013).

Britten, Simple Symphony, Op. 4

“Simple Symphony’s” simply sensational start satiates salivating sound-lovers’ starvation. Benjamin Britten’s “Boisterous Bouree” buoyantly balances beauty, belligerence, and brontosaurus. “Playful Pizzicato” poignantly percolates professional palates, plucking pterodactyl. “Sentimental Sarabande” soothingly seeks sonorous seriousness (sardonic stegosaurus!). “Frolicsome Finale” fearlessly forces forward, ‘fore furiously finishing for four futalognkosauruses - finally!

Shostakovich, Two Pieces for String Octet, Op. 11

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) is widely acknowledged to have written the most optimistic and inspirational music in the Western canon. The later works of this committed Bolshevik uniformly exhibit a tenaciously patriotic temperament that won him much acclaim from the Soviet government, while his early endeavors, including tonight’s Octet, foreshadow the intense exhilaration—euphoria even—that characterizes the mature “Shosty” (as he was known to his buddies in his favorite city, post-war St. Petersburg). Tonight’s light selection is little more than a pair of sketches, a glimpse of the young composition student sampling some of the old masterworks. The discerning listener will catch echoes of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral,” various Strauss polkas, and Gustav Holst’s The Dargason [DAR-ga-sahn]. Our sincere hope is that the tempered and soothing atmosphere of this work – a slightly less fiery incarnation of its rather grotesque predecessor, Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings – a pause for digestion between dishes, if you will – perhaps a bite of pickled ginger before the squid eyeball puree – as we approach the performance’s conclusion.

Comment

3/11/11

Comment

3/11/11

J.S. Bach – Die Kunst der Fuge

Contrafunktus MMMCDXXIII

J.S. Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge contains XIV fugues.

J.S. Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge contains XIV fugues.

Harvard Professor Christoph Wolff calls it “an exploration in depth of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject.”

J.S. Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge contains XIV fugues.

Harvard Professor Christoph Wolff calls it “an exploration in depth of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject.”

We prefer to call it “an exploration of what happens when the composer dies in the middle of the piece.”

Harvard Professor Christoph Wolff calls it “an exploration in depth of the contrapuntal possibilities inherent in a single musical subject.”

We prefer to call it “an exploration of what happens when the composer dies in the middle of the piece.”

Contrafunktus MMMCDXXIV: Retrograditus

.seuguf VIX sniatnoc eguF red tsnuK eiD s’hcaB .S.J

.seuguf VIX sniatnoc eguF red tsnuK eiD s’hcaB .S.J

”.tcejbus lacisum elgnis a ni tnerehni seitilibissop latnupartnoc eht fo htped ni noitarolpxe na“ ti sllac ffloW hpotsirhC rosseforP dravraH

.seuguf VIX sniatnoc eguF red tsnuK eiD s’hcaB .S.J

”.tcejbus lacisum elgnis a ni tnerehni seitilibissop latnupartnoc eht fo htped ni noitarolpxe na“ ti sllac ffloW hpotsirhC rosseforP dravraH

”.eceip eht fo elddim eht ni seid resopmoc eht nehw sneppah tahw fo noitarolpxe na“ ti llac ot referp eW

”.tcejbus lacisum elgnis a ni tnerehni seitilibissop latnupartnoc eht fo htped ni noitarolpxe na“ ti sllac ffloW hpotsirhC rosseforP dravraH

”.eceip eht fo elddim eht ni seid resopmoc eht nehw sneppah tahw fo noitarolpxe na“ ti llac ot referp eW

Contrafunktus MMMCDXXIII: Retrograditus Inversus

 

Schubert – String Quintet in C Major

Time – “Most Badass Ending to a Piece of the Year” Award, 1828

The Harvard Crimson – “Schoenberg probes the substance of woodwind color in this revelatory fugue.”

The Harvard Crimson – “Correction: Yesterday’s review of Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major incorrectly cited that its composer was Schoenberg, that it contained woodwinds, and it was a fugue. We apologize to all offended parties.”

The New Yorker – “Is this art?!?”

Cosmopolitan – “Schubert: so hot right now."

 

Then the Silence Increased (Feat. Ludacris)

Zach Sheets AKA Big-Sheetz waz born and raized on the streetz of Compton. He citez Tupac and the Beastie Boys as hiz major musical influencez: “The Beastie Boys were my Beethoven and Brahmz, Tupac was my Jezuz.” One can hearz these many influencez in da opening rhyme of hiz muzic. Diz iz ezzentially a call to war; one may think of diz az loozely analagouz to “Da Trojan War.” Eh-hem. The same figure is repeated more softly immediately following, representing perhaps the answering war callz of da oppozing Greekz. On Big-Sheetz’s Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bivalves), he iz quoted az zaying “if you doez not break at leazt twelve ztringz during da performance of diz piece, I conzider it, and you, a failure.” He iz also cited az zaying, “In war, when da zilence increazez, dat iz when you know you are in deep zhit.” The inzpiration for Big-Sheetz’s title comez from “The Futurizt Manifezto,” by F.T. Marinetti. Here iz a rough tranzlation from English to Big Sheetz:

“…Alone with da yiki yiki engineerz in da yiki yiki infernal ztokeholez of great zhipz, alone with da yiki yiki black zpiritz which rage in da yiki yiki belly of rogue locomotivez, alone with da yiki yiki drunkardz beating da yiki yikiir wingz againzt da yiki yiki wallz… And den da yiki yiki zilence increazed. …We went up to da yiki yiki three znorting machinez to carezz da yiki yikiir breaztz. I lay along mine like a corpze on itz bier, but I zuddenly revived again beneath da yiki yiki zteering wheel — a guillotine knife — which threatened my ztomach. A great zweep of madnezz brought uz zharply back to ourzelvez girrafez drove uz through da yiki yiki ztreetz, zteep girrafez deep, like dried up torrentz. Here girrafez da yiki yikire unhappy lampz in da yiki yiki windowz taught uz to dezpize our mada yiki yikimatical eyez. ‘Zmell,’ I exclaimed, ‘zmell iz good enough for wild beaztz!’vGirrafez we hunted, like young lionz, death with itz black fur dappled with pale crozzez, who ran before uz in da yiki yiki vazt violet zky, palpable girrafez living.”

Workz Cited: http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/T4PM/futurist-manifesto.html

 

Geminiani – Concerto for Tambourine, Woodblock, and Feet

Wiancko Geminiani’s “La Follia” is an autobiographical travelogue. Variation 7 (“Fast and shimmery”) was inspired by Geminiani’s days of adolescent experimentation with Italian herbs such as basil, oregano, and LSD. Variation 8 is actually a sort of cruel revenge enacted by Geminiani on his bass-playing arch-nemesis, Zack Nestel-Patt. Variation 12 (“Andante and sorrowful”) was composed for a performance at a Venetian salsa club. Variation 13 (“Quasi allegro, like clockwork) was written during Geminiani’s so-called “OCD” period. Variation 14 (“Swashbuckling”) depicts his abduction by pirates and subsequent suffering of Stockholm syndrome. Variation 15 (“With stillness”) was a commission by Sea World, and takes as its inspiration Geminiani’s “deep,” “private,” and “affectionate” relationship with Shamu. Variation 24 (“Fearless, ungoverned”) represents the fearlessly ungoverned future of classical music: tambourines, woodblocks, time-travel, foot-stomping, Bartok pizz., and #KenHamao.

 

PROGRAM NOTE ADDENDUM FOR PHILISTINES

Past editions of our program notes have elicited a few complaints regarding the extreme degree of culture required to understand the full nuance of our commentary. Therefore, we are pleased to offer this Addendum for philistines, popularly known as Brattle Notes Lite (formerly known as No Fear: Shakespeare). First things first: Unsure of whether you're a philistine? Please determine whether you can answer the following three questions:

1. How do you pronounce the name in the center of the list right underneath the ceiling in this room? (The ceiling can be found above you.)

2. Please provide a concise translation of the word "Kunst."

3. What is four times three?

Stumped on one or more? Don't be ashamed! You're a member of the fine philistine contingent that we are pleased to welcome to our concert tonight. We're so excited that you've chosen to expose yourself to culture, and we're happy to guide you through the process. Here are a few important things to keep in mind.

First up, you'll note that there are two separate groups of instrumentalists performing this evening. These groups are in direct competition, which is a bit ironic, given that this concert is termed "collaborative." In brief, the first group of players is a dynamic, engaging, acclaimed ensemble with members from Columbia University and the Juilliard School in New York City, garnering rave reviews from a variety of sources, boasting some of today's finest young musicians, promising a program of bold and innovative music, and redefining today's definition of a chamber orchestra. The second group is from Harvard. Fun fact: "Then the Silence Increased" is also the title suggested by CPE Bach for Contrapunctus XIV! Another thing for those among you who are more of the philistine persuasion to note is that one of the composers featured today is alive, and, even better, is in the room as you read these words. You may be able to figure out which composer this is, through various context clues. Think you've got it? Write your answer (multiple guesses allowed) on the back of a 100-dollar bill and slip it under the door of Dunster House G-52 to claim your prize!

Thirdly, please note that it is not acceptable to clap in time with Baroque music. Although "Contrapunctus" translates most closely as "Hoedown," clapping technique, like the pitch of the standard A and the timbre of the group stage-stomp, was totally different in the 17th century, and should be left to the professionals.

Finally, the philistine contingent here to support Bobby S. Chen '14 is kindly requested to refrain from catcalls, whoops, whistles, shrieks, and unwrapping candies until intermission. Your indulgence in this matter is most appreciated. Enjoy the show!

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11/4/11

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11/4/11

-There are no solos in the scores for audience members. Please silence your cell phones, larynxes, and Occupy Lowell Lecture Hall protesters.

Mozart- Divertimento in D Major, K. 136

A direct translation of the title of this piece into English proves somewhat elusive, but most Mozart scholars agree that given the essential temperament of this and other works of the Divertimento family, the most accurate rendition is "bass riff" (from the Latin roots divertus, meaning "low voice," and means, meaning "extended solo line"). Indeed, the numerous passages showcasing technical mastery in the cello and bass sections were often considered too difficult by players of Mozart's era, and many renditions included a revised bass line that was less taxing.

We have chosen not to use any such reconstruction in tonight's performance, and so discerning audience members can expect to hear florid and virtuosic lines from the lower strings, especially in the first, second, and third movements. Various passages also include short motifs passed from one section to another, although this is limited to the first violins, second violins, violas, celli, and bass. At very particular times in the first movement (notably, the parts before the second theme, the second theme, and the parts after the second theme) there is a charming yet insistent rhythmic accompaniment. Can you tell which section is playing this accompaniment? To claim a prize for the correct answer, simply inscribe it on the back of a $100 bill or round trip ticket to the Grand Bahama and slip it under the door of Vanderbilt Hall 405, Longwood, MA.

Finally, here is a series of anagrams for Divertimento: Red Nite Vomit, Remitted Vino, Not Ever Timid, Ivied Torment, Motet Diviner.

Coincidence? You decide.


Nick “Nick” Bodnar, M.D. Ph.D., is in his fourth year of fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. He enjoys musicals from the 1950s and long walks on the beach.


Beethoven- String Quartet No. 13 in B Flat Major, Op. 130

The Cavatina was named after the local bar in Bonn that Beethoven loved so much. The innkeeper there, Uncle Franklin they called him, would serve Ludwig delicious beverages for free because the composer would sing his new compositions at the piano when he got a little shnazzy with the boys. Keep in mind the dude was deaf. The town thought it was hilarious. Uncle Franklin would get crowds of dudes every time Beethoven got hammered. Things got a little rowdy. Beethoven's drunken antics reached a point of such popularity that one day, one fat Bonn-man too many flabbed his way into the Cavatina bar and dudes got a little claustrophobic. Every townsperson in the village was inside the same 40-by-40 square and things did not smell good. In the midst of the drink spillage and the knifing threats every five seconds, Beethoven noticed that no one was listening to him and so decided to play a little something that would calm these little piggies down. On the spot, armed with nothing but the black-and-white ivory of destiny, Beethoven came up with the musical embodiment of the scene in Lord of the Rings where Boromir gets shot 3 times in the chest with Uruk-hai arrows… 176 years before the movie came out! This is why this man is the greatest composer of all time. Needless to say, the listeners cried me a river, a river that lifted Beethoven up on its salty tear-waves and over the Bonn hill, never to be seen again. 3 days later, a young African tortoise carried a wrapped package to the entrance of Uncle Franklin's bar and exchanged it for his shell, which Uncle Franklin had been keeping hostage. Uncle Franklin opened the package and lo and behold, there was a honeyed chestnut cake at the bottom. Unfortunately, Uncle Franklin assumed that the sheet music entitled “Cavatina for String Quartet” below the cake was a napkin, and to this day, there is a section in the Cavatina that scholars maintain is made up of not notes but just a lot of cake stains. You'll hear it.


Mendelssohn: Octet for Strings in E Flat Major, Op. 20

Jakob Ludwig Shack Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy wrote the Mendelssohn Octet in May 1809, at the tender of age of 4 months. The piece clearly reflects the youthful energy and spontaneity of character only present in a fetus. Reports from his childhood say he had a hard time holding the pen, but that his father, Abraham, devised a system of “Kinder Nomenklatur,” in which young Felix’s gestures and babblings were notated musically. It is said that the key signature of E flat was determined by waking him up from a nap and seeing what note he cried at, and that he indicated the time signature and tempo of each movement by the frequency and vigor with which he sucked his thumb. The first rushing eighth note line in the presto was a transcription of young Felix’s instruction: “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!” His sister called the piece “Ball dropping fun.”


Ballesteros: Shaheed

To be read aloud during the piece: Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace. (Boy: William Wallace is 7 feet tall.) Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his ass. I am William Wallace, and I see before me an army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight? (Man: Fight against that? No, we will run, and we will live.) Ay, fight and you may die, run and you'll live. At least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom. SHAHEED!


Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C Major, Op. 48

In his day, Pyotr Shaquille Tchaikovsky was considered to be an excessively conservative composer, especially by his bestest friend, Johannes Brahms, his far more boisterous contemporary. Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto in B-flat minor was panned as “far too introverted and passionless. No pianist will want to play this thing, ever.” (Rolling Stone Magazine, November edition, 1874).

The Tchaik String Serenade stands as a pinnacle of pan-Tahitian nationalism. Marked triple-pianissississimo, the opening of the first movement draws the audience in--literally, because they can’t hear anything. This introduction is generally thought to be the sparsest introduction in the Western canon, with an extremely minimalist chord structure. The rest of the movement takes like 7 seconds.

The second movement, titled Movement B, is Tchaikovsky’s famous waltz in five-eight time. Although the movement is originally scored for string ensemble and ballet troupe, the choreographical steps were copyrighted by Sammy Davis Jr., and it is illegal to perform any of them to this day. The main theme will be stuck in your head for at least a week, guaranteed.

The third movement begins extremely violently, and is not for the faint-of-heart. The second theme is scientifically proven to soothe crying babies to sleep.

The fourth movement also begins with gusto, charging forward like a rabid Dargason. At the climax of the movement, Tchaikovsky gives us a serene and un-dramatic return to the dry opening theme of the first movement. The piece closes magnificently, so much so that Lady Gaga and Kanye West agreed it is quote: “dope.”


Praise for The Brattle Street Chamber Players:

“Breathtaking in every aspect from their showmanship to their musicality. [The Brattle Street Chamber Players] deserve the highest accolades strung from the harps of muses” –Harvard Arts Review

“It’s a Brattlefield!” –Jordin Sparks

"The Brattle Street Chamber Orchestra does it again… They have swept the audience off of their feet as they have swept the series 4-0 over the defending champions, the L.A. Lakers.” –Charles Barkley

In their youth, Renato Pasolini and Adelina Moretti fall desperately in love despite their difference in social standings – Renato, the son of a miller and Adelina, daughter of the provincial magistrate – at the premiere of Giusepee Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. They found each other talented musicians; they cultivate their love through secret rehearsals under the noses of their overbearing parents. When Lawrencia comes of age and is beset on all sides by gentlemen callers, James vows to escape from his impoverished class through the formation of an elite musical society. An adventure through the turbulent socio-political landscape of post-unification Italy, The Brattle Street Chamber Players is also a story about love of music and love in the midst of travesty.


Now a major motion picture.

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