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This tag is associated with 18 posts

Composer Cagematch!: Grieg vs. Sibelius

Ouch. I mean… ouch.

Team Nikolai pretty much creamed Team Modest, practically from the beginning. No back and forth, no nothing. I don’t even know what to say about it, except perhaps that you guys don’t seem to be very tolerant of those who dissipate their talents with alcohol. I’ll thank you to remember that when Mozart shows up.

So, Rimsky-Korsakov into the winners pile, Mussourgsky into the losers. Now let’s head even further north to ferret out some of the few Scandinavians anyone’s heard of. (I kid, I kid. Mostly.) You know the boys I mean.

In this corner, he once studied with a man whose name really was Ole Bull! It’s


And in this corner, he vants to be alone! It’s


On the one hand, Peer Gynt. The piano concerto. On the other hand, Finlandia. The violin concerto. But then, let us not discount the fact the Edvard is rockin’ the Einstein moptop. Of course, that’s a pretty sweet bouffant, Jean.

Composer Cagematch!: Rimsky-Korsakov vs. Mussourgsky

The Eric made you do it, I think.

Yes, while at the beginning of the Holst-Britten match up we were looking at a tie, by the end of the match Britten had gained a solid lead and Team Benjamin took the victory, sending Team Gustav off to a lonely corner that is forever England. I’m not saying reader Eric’s campaigning swung the vote, but he’ll probably tell you it did. Don’t worry, Gustav, I like you.

Next — infighting in The Mighty Handful! In this corner, he’s so good at orchestration his texts on the subject are still read today! It’s


And in this corner, he’s so good at composition he gets others to orchestrate his work for him while he drinks vodka! It’s


(Okay, in terms of sheer syllabic size Rimsky-Korsakov wins. So don’t let that sway you.)

This is an hard one, no? I mean, Russian Easter Overture. Freakin’ Scheherazade. But then again, Night on Bare Mountain. Freakin’ Pictures at an Exhibition. And between the two of them, Khovanschina. A mighty handful, indeed, so you’ve gotta drop somebody — who’ll it be?

As always, Twitter and Facebook will give fair warning as to the voting deadline, and use the comments to try to sway voters into your composer camp.

Somebody up there loves me

The new BSO season came out on March 1. Well send me to Austria and call me Maria von Trapp, because I must have done something good to deserve this — there are a full thirteen concerts I want to attend, AFTER removing a few because the list was getting out of hand. And just WAIT until you see how the season ends!

My ticket wishlist:

And finally, the piece of resistance, the season closer,

  • TCHAIKOVSKY’S VIOLIN CONCERTO – WITH NADJA SALERNO-SONNENBERG AND THEN STRAVINSKY’S RITE OF SPRING!!!!! EEEEEE!!!!111!!!!111! I will be planning my entire life around this, believe.

Uh, yeah. Someone loves me.

Updated to add: This week’s BSO concert is “Music of the Emerald Isle.” Couldn’t really stretch that into a full post; I don’t know much about Celtic music. But go see it and report back.

Adventures in hashtaggery

Yesterday evening I made an amazing discovery by way of the lovely @NaxosUSA: the Twitter hashtag #budgetclassical. These tweets are all terrible puns and mockery of classical music titles as they might have been had they been composed on the cheap. Since I spent something like two hours addicted to making and reading these, I’m tossing out the usual LOL Friday image format to bring you all the ones I made up myself. The hashtag is still happening; read ’em here and submit your own! (And when you do, make sure you add @aintbaroque so I can see.)

And now, in reverse posting order, one of my greatest strengths: horrible, horrible puns!

  1. Dies Felinae
  2. Flesh Wound on Tenth Avenue
  3. The Ambivalent Widow
  4. Transgendered Night
  5. Stars and Stripes for a Pretty Long Time
  6. Serenade for String
  7. Escape from the Questionable Massage Parlor
  8. The Wiccans’ Sabbath
  9. About Halfway Down the Steps of Central Asia
  10. March to the Lethal Injection from Symphonie Just Okay
  11. West Side Tweet
  12. Nopetha
  13. Music for the Sparklers in the Backyard
  14. Rhapsody in Teal
  15. What the Wildflowers Refuse to Tell Me
  16. Doctor Subatomic
  17. Saunter of the Valkyries
  18. The Beggar’s Opera (oh, wait…)
  19. Snapping Music
  20. Haydn’s Very Little Warning Symphony
  21. Three Little Swans and a Duck
  22. Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2: the “Embryonic Russian”
  23. Ives’ Chuck Rutlage
  24. Khachaturian’s Shuffle of the Rose Maidens
  25. Saint-Saen’s Petting Zoo of the Animals
  26. Mendelssohn’s Sicilian Symphony
  27. The Love for Three Clementines
  28. Polevtsian Marking the Steps
  29. Crash Landing of the Bumblebee
  30. Officer Cadet Kije
  31. Thus Whispered Zarathrustra
  32. Pete & Pete Grimes
  33. The Civil Ceremony of Figaro
  34. Pavane for a Princess Who’s Feeling Under the Weather
  35. Madama Caterpillar
  36. 4’33” of White Noise
  37. Smetana’s The Loaned-Out Bride
  38. Mozart’s The Regular Old Flute
  39. Appalachian Puddle
  40. The Bach Single
  41. The Brandenburg Concerto
  42. Gilbert and Sullivan present Lady-in-Waiting Ida
  43. Die Maus
  44. Die Bieberflote

Wow, I had no idea I did so many. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed.


Now that I am no longer at the mercy of the cancellations of school officials, I am of the opinion that there are two really good kinds of snow: the extremely heavy frosting kind where everything is buried by a good foot or more and EVERYTHING is closed and the whole area can go right back to bed; and the powdered sugar kind, where everything is just dusted enough that you can easily get to work but there’s a persistent smile on your face because it clearly snowed.

Right now I am enjoying the latter, and since I am in such a good mood (so far) and I’m always happy to indulge in the holiday spirit, I’d like to tell you about something else that pleases me illogically: the brass section.

I say “illogically” because I have been a loyal strings musician since the fourth grade. String instruments are naturally lyrical, expressive, and versatile. They are the backbone of an orchestra, the core from which everything else builds out. And yet a few nights ago I was listening to the WETA classical music station and the deejay played a brass ensemble’s recording of “Deck the Halls.” I loved the warm, mellow, but also somehow sharp sound of it, and it occurred to me: I am a sucker for horns.

Examples: Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Procession of the Nobles.” The glorious, rising and rising finale of Respighi’s The Pines of Rome. Seasonally appropriate: “Chocolate” from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. “Bugler’s Dream.” That frickin’ AMAZING series of just six notes, repeated twice in harmony by two horns, at the end of the last movement of Beethoven’s seventh symphony — I kid you not, I have on more than one occasion rewound and played back those fifteen or twenty seconds just to hear the horn measures again. Love.

I don’t know why. Do you? Which other horn-tastic pieces was I trying to think of but couldn’t just now? And do you harbor illogical love for an instrument?

* Alternate titles: “Getting down to brass tacks,” “Me so horny,” “Handful of brass,” any number of puns along those lines. Feel free to insert your own.

Me against the music (assuming I’m a piano)

Good morning, campers! No BSO concert this week, as you might imagine, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to listen one of my opinions instead.

I was listening to the radio the other day, and the deejay put on the original piano version of Mussourgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It was awesome, of course, because it’s frickin’ Pictures at an Exhibition, but somehow it wasn’t quite the same without the orchestration. I found this especially true during the last movement, the “Gates of Kiev” bit, which has such a sweeping grandiosity in the Ravel orchestration that I found lacking on only a piano.

Which is not to say the piano is inherently inexpressive! Please don’t hurt me! If you want to talk about heartbreak, we can talk about Beethoven’s piano sonatas! All I’m saying here is that I find Ravel’s orchestrated version superior. And it’s not because Ravel (and Rimsky-Korsakov, etc.) is (are) so much better than Mussourgsky that their orchestrations elevate his music (I might even tentatively say the opposite, but let’s not throw another argument out just now). I feel the same way about Gershwin’s orchestrated Rhapsody in Blue over the piano version, for example. The piano version of Petrouchka comes close, but it still can’t edge out the full orchestration if you ask me.

So… what do you think? Am I a horrifically biased strings musician? Is it because the pieces in question have an expansive quality that the piano doesn’t quite capture alone? Am I not listening to the right recordings? Am I just plain insane? Educate me!

Please provide counterpoint

I’d like to preface this post with the observation that a lot of you have been responding to posts via Twitter. I love hearing what you have to say, I love mentions, and I especially love retweets (hint, hint :D), but it occurs to me that for the most part I’m the only one that sees them. A lot of you have really awesome points to make, and I encourage you to comment directly on posts so that other readers can see what you have to say and respond if they so choose. After all, who doesn’t like a friendly argument? Not me!

Which leads me to a query! Yay! I’ve been going on in a lot of posts how musicians and conductors seem to feel a need to play everything, to paraphrase the middle name of Kakofonous A. Dischord, AS FAST AS POSSIBLE. I have been vocal in my displeasure at this mindset. However, there are some pieces that benefit from a super speedy tempo, and I’ve been endeavoring to think of some.

  1. “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from Solomon by Handel
  2. “Flight of the Bumble Bee” by Rimsky-Korsakov
  3. “Sabre Dance” from Gayane by Khachaturian

Uhhh… help me out, guys.

I am pretty sure that you’ll like it okay

This week’s BSO concert is entitled “Symphonic Fairytales,” and features Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, a violin concerto by John Adams (not the president, although John Adams is forever synonymous with William Daniels in my head and that’s a recipe for hilarity right there) and Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite. I have two things to say about this.

1. I was reading through the program notes, and saw this:

The four movements [of Scheherazade] are essentially self-explanatory. In the first, after Scheherazade’s introduction come surging arpeggios in the cellos and violas: we are on the high seas with Sinbad the Sailor. The second movement, “The Story of the Kalander Prince,” is built around an exotic Middle Eastern-style melody introduced by the solo bassoon; kalanders were magicians in Middle Eastern courts. The fourth movement is the most complex: it begins with the riotous color and swirling activity of “The Festival of Baghdad,” and then, at the festival’s height, sends us suddenly back to Sinbad’s seas, as the low strings billow and a fierce storm screams overhead in the woodwinds.

Glad to read that bit about what a kalander was; I remember looking at the title in seventh grade and experiencing a disquieting puzzlement of great magnitude. But more importantly–what’s the third movement about?! I must know!

So I went and looked it up. This article from NPR is coincidentally written by Marin Alsop! Fancy that! It declares that the third movement represents a love story between a young prince and princess, and it should be sentimental but not too sentimental. I think we can all sleep better for knowing this.

2. When I was in second grade, our music teacher taught us a little song to go with the “Infernal Dance” theme of The Firebird. It went like this:

I am the Firebird
Here’s the Infernal Dance
Stravinsky took a chance
But we are pretty sure that you’ll like it okay

Hellish, no?