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A change of pace, let’s imagine for a minute that Lennon’s Imagine piece was written in the Baroque period. It could sound a little like this.
Love the Angus Dei from this mass, getting the phrasing correct was a challenge but well worth the effort. :)
The Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo, Hob. XXII:7, Novello 8, is a mass in B-flat major by Joseph Haydn. The missa brevis (short mass) was written around 1775 for the order of the Barmherzige Brüder (Brothers Hospitallers) in Eisenstadt, whose patron saint was St. John of God. Scored modestly for soprano, four-part mixed choir, two violins, organ and bass, it is known as the Kleine Orgelsolomesse (Little Organ Mass) due to an extended organ solo in the Benedictus movement.
This Sonata in F sharp minor first appeared in a manuscript of other Scarlatti sonatas and pieces in Venice in 1742. However, virtually all the music in it is believed to have been written during or before 1719, the year the composer departed Italy for Portugal. This particular Sonata is short, even for Scarlatti — typically running about one-and-a-half minutes — and bears stylistic characteristics found in the toccata style of his father, Alessandro Scarlatti. The Sonata, K. 67, is thus almost certainly a very early work, predating the “before 1742” description in the headnote by as many as three decades.
Marked Allegro, the work brims with energy that would normally suggest a Presto marking. Not surprisingly, the piece requires a virtuosic technique to properly execute its difficult demands. The thematic material springs from the opening chord — a chord that spawns rich motivic activity that scampers breathlessly up and down the keyboard. In the latter half of this mini-Sonata there is some limited development of materials, but the kinetic drive of the music remains constant throughout, the busy manner never pausing to catch its breath or to settle into a calmer or sweeter emotional state.
You know this piece, just not the full form. Skip to 2:20 if its still a mystery. :)
Although in his lifetime Ponchielli was very popular and influential, in introducing an enlarged orchestra and more complex orchestration, the only one of his operas regularly performed today is La Gioconda. It contains the great tenor romanza “Cielo e mar”, a superb duet for tenor and baritone “Enzo Grimaldo”, the soprano set-piece “Suicidio!”, and the ballet music “The Dance of the Hours”, known even to the non-musical from its use in Walt Disney’s Fantasia in 1940, Allan Sherman’s novelty song, “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”, and other popular works.
The four orchestral suites (called ouvertures by their author), BWV 1066–1069 are four suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. The name ouverture refers only in part to the opening movement in the style of the French overture, in which a majestic opening section in relatively slow dotted-note rhythm in duple meter is followed by a fast fugal section, then rounded off with a short recapitulation of the opening music. More broadly, the term was used in Baroque Germany for a suite of dance-pieces in French Baroque style preceded by such an ouverture. This genre was extremely popular in Germany during Bach’s day, and he showed far less interest in it than was usual: Robin Stowell writes that “Telemann‘s 135 surviving examples [represent] only a fraction of those he is known to have written”; Christoph Graupner left 85; and Johann Friedrich Fasch left almost 100. Bach did write several other ouverture (suites) for solo instruments, notably the Cello Suite no. 5, BWV 1011, which also exists in the autograph Lute Suite in G minor, BWV 995, the Keyboard Partita no. 4 in D, BWV 828, and the Overture in the French style, BWV 831 for keyboard. The two keyboard works are among the few Bach published, and he prepared the lute suite for a “Monsieur Schouster,” presumably for a fee, so all three may attest to the form’s popularity.
A slightly more modern take on BWV 1067 –
Night on Bald Mountain (Russian: Ночь на лысой горе, Noch′ na lysoy gore), also known as Night on the Bare Mountain, is a series of compositions by Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881). Inspired by Russian literary works and legend, Mussorgsky composed a “musical picture”, St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain (Russian: Иванова ночь на лысой горе, Ivanova noch′ na lysoy gore) on the theme of a witches’ sabbath occurring on St. John’s Eve, which he completed on that very night, June 23, in 1867. Together with Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov‘s Sadko (1867), it is one of the first tone poems by a Russian composer.
Although Mussorgsky was proud of his youthful effort, his mentor, Miliy Balakirev, refused to perform it. To salvage what he considered worthy material, Mussorgsky attempted to insert his Bald Mountain music, recast for vocal soloists, chorus, and orchestra, into two subsequent projects—the collaborative opera-ballet Mlada (1872), and the opera The Fair at Sorochyntsi (1880). However, Night on Bald Mountain was never performed in any form during Mussorgsky’s lifetime.
In 1886, five years after Mussorgsky’s death, Rimsky-Korsakov published an arrangement of the work, described as a “fantasy for orchestra.” Some musical scholars consider this version to be an original composition of Rimsky-Korsakov, albeit one based on Mussorgsky’s last version of the music, for The Fair at Sorochyntsi:
I need hardly remind the reader that the orchestral piece universally known as ‘Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain‘ is an orchestral composition by Rimsky-Korsakov based on the later version of the Bare Mountain music which Mussorgsky prepared for Sorochintsy Fair.— Gerald Abraham, musicologist and an authority on Mussorgsky, 1945
Haydn’s chief biographer, H. C. Robbins Landon, has written that this mass “is arguably Haydn’s greatest single composition”. Written in 1798, it is one of the six late masses by Haydn for the Esterhazy family composed after taking a short hiatus, during which elaborate church music was inhibited by the Josephinian reforms of the 1780s. The late sacred works of Haydn are masterworks, influenced by the experience of his London symphonies. They highlight the soloists and chorus while allowing the orchestra to play a prominent role.
Owing to the political and financial instability of this period in European history, Haydn’s patron Nikolaus II dismissed the Feldharmonie, or wind band octet, shortly before Haydn wrote the Missa in Angustiis for the Princess’s name day. Haydn, therefore, was left with a “dark” orchestra composed of strings, trumpets, timpani, and organ. Later editors and arrangers added what they perceived to be missing woodwind parts, but the original scoring has again become the accepted choice for modern performances.
Though Haydn’s reputation was at its peak in 1798, when he wrote this mass, his world was in turmoil. Napoleon had won four major battles with Austria in less than a year. The previous year, in early 1797, his armies had crossed the Alps and threatened Vienna itself. In May 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt to destroy Britain’s trade routes to the East.
The summer of 1798 was therefore a terrifying time for Austria, and when Haydn finished this mass, his own title, in the catalogue of his works, was Missa in Angustiis (Mass for troubled times). What Haydn did not know when he wrote the mass, but what he and his audience heard (perhaps on September 15, the day of the very first performance), was that on 1 August, Napoleon had been dealt a stunning defeat in the Battle of the Nile by British forces led by Admiral Horatio Nelson. Because of this coincidence, the mass gradually acquired the nickname Lord Nelson Mass. The title became indelible when, in 1800, Lord Nelson himself visited the Palais Esterházy, accompanied by his British mistress, Lady Hamilton, and may have heard the mass performed.
Haydn’s original title may also have come from illness and exhaustion at this time, which followed his supervision of the first performances of The Creation, completed a few months earlier. More simply, it may have sprung from the challenge of composing without the desired instrumentation. The solo parts for two of the vocal quartet are virtuosic: the bass line was perhaps written for the accomplished Christian Specht, and the soprano line, even more demanding, could have been written for Barbara Pilhofer or Therese Gassmann. The piece was premiered 23 September 1798 at the Stadtpfarr church, a last minute venue change from the Bergkirche in Eisenstadt.