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The Infinite Variety Of Symphonic Form . Part Two .
   After the revolutionary symphonies of Beethoven ,  the symphony was a form continued to evolve throughout the 19th and 20th centuries .  Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn , Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms et al were strongly influenced by Beethoven but wrote symphonies showing their own unique personal stamp . Franz Schubert (1897-1928 ) , was a younger contemporary of Beethoven and a native of Vienna unlike the German born Beethoven . He is best known for his so-called "Unfinished "symphony  which consists only of two completed movements .  Why he left only two is a mystery which will probably never be solved .  But it is a  hauntingly beautiful work on its own terms .  Were the last two movement lost ? Did the composer decide he could not write anything matching the first two, or did he simply never get around to finishing it  in his tragically short life ?  The Unfinished is his 8th symphony , and he completed six before it , with several other unfinished ones which never became well known .  The 9th , is the longest and most grandiose of his symphonies ,  and  possibly the greatest work Schubert wrote .
   Mendelssohn wrote five symphonies , and Schumann four .  Johannes Brahms , four .  Mendelssohn's third was inspired  by a visit to Scotland  , and the fourth , the so-called "Italian ", by a  visit to that country .  Schumann's first os known as the "Spring " symphony , and attempts , quite successfully , to portray the joyous arrival of that season .  The third, called the "Rhenish " , was written  when Schumann moved from his native Saxony to the Rhineland .  Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897 ) , was so intimidated by the greatness of  Beethoven's symphonies  that he did not produce his first until he had passed the age of forty .  But his first is a  work of  elemental power and grandeur .  The other three, which are also  beloved staples of the repertoire , followed fairly quickly .  
    As the 19th century progressed ,  composers began to use larger and larger orchestras , and such instruments as the trombones and now the tuba , which was not invented until some years after the death of Beethoven in 1827 ,  also entered the orchestra .  Four horns became the norm instead of two, which were standard  in the 18th century .  String sections were enlarged , percussion instruments other than the usual tympani were used more often  etc .  Some composers , such as  Anton Bruckner (1824-1896 ) and Mahler (1860- 1911 ) began to use larger and larger orchestras ,  now using up to eight horns , four trumpets , etc .  The symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler  are unusually long, often lasting more than an hour .  Bruckner was a devout Austrian Catholic and organist who wrote massive , grandiose symphonies  in which the orchestra  often sounds like an organ .  These are lofty, profound and  even mystical works .  Bruckner left nine numbered symphonies , two early unnumbered ones including one called the "symphony number zero ! "   The  finale of the ninth , dedicated to "Almighty God " was left almost finished at the time of his death , and has been traditionally performed with only the first three completed movements,.  But in recent years , a number of musicologists have been able to make completions of the finale based n the sketches, and these are occasionally performed and recorded .
   His younger contemporary Gustav Mahler wrote  nine massive symphonies , with an unfinished tenth which has also been completed based on sketches .  Only the first was left complete, and this has often been performed .  Mahler uses an even larger orchestra than Bruckner, whom he admired and befriended .  Quadruple woodwinds , with piccolo, English horn , bass clarinet ,contrabassoon , six to eight horns, sometimes four or more trumpets ,  etc , with  extra percussion including  cowbells  ! ,  as well as on occasion , an organ  etc. Talk about the proverbial kitchen  sink !  Mahler's symphonies are biographical, and evoke his childhood in Bohemia as the son of  Jewish parents ,  his love of nature , the marching bands he heard in his youth etc .  The second is known as the "Resurrection" symphony , and features a chorus and female vocalists in its finale , set to a German poem  affirming g that death is not an end .  His third , also featuring a huge orchestra , boy's chorus and an alto soloist , is in sic movements and is the longest symphony in the repertoire at an hour and a half !   The massive eighth , nicknamed "symphony of a thousand  " for its enormous forces , features a chorus, children's  chorus and no fewer than eight vocal soloists ,  and is in two parts ; a setting of the medieval Latin hymn "Veni, creator spiritus ) (come, creator spirit ) , and a longer second part which is a setting of  the end of the famous Goethe play "Faust " in which  the  philosopher Faust finally enters heaven after having been tempted by the devil, Mephistopheles .  
     The Czech composer Antonin Dvorak ( 1841-1904 ) wrote nine symphonies , the best known being the so-called "New World " symphony , his last work in this form .  He wrote while living in America during the 1890s ,  and he  seeks to evoke the spirit of America , the  spirituals of the African Americans , the music of the native Americans etc .  But the themes are all Dvorak's own and not borrowed from any American traditional songs . Of the others, only the seventh and eight are played often, but the first six  are undeservedly neglected and well worth hearing .  
   In Russia ,  PYotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893 ) produced six symphonies , but only four, five and six are  played often , and they are among the most popular of all symphonies with audiences .  The last the so-called "Pathetique ") , was written shortly before Tchaikovsky's untimely and mysterious death from  drinking infected water during a cholera epidemic .  This is a dark, brooding  , often  harrowing work which appears to portray the  severe depression  , which had  dogged him for so long .  The title does not mean {pathetic " in the  derogatory sense of the English word,  but  is a French word   meaning a state of intense emotion .  
     In the 20th century , numerous great composers wrote  important symphonies ,  and the form of symphony because less  cut and dried  , and  composers experimented with  unorthodox structure  departing from the  textbook  symphonies of Haydn and Mozart .  The very definition of a symphony became more vague , as composers  experimented .   Many composers abandoned traditional sonata form, although many still  used it, albeit in   modified form .  Some wrote very long symphonies , and others short ones  lasting under 20 minutes .  Some wrote symphonies in only one continuous movement .   Among the best known 20th century symphonies are those of Finland's Jean Sibelius (7) , Sergei Prokofiev (7)   Dmitri Shostakovich  (1906-1975 (15) ,  
    England's Sir Edward Elgar (2) ,  nine by his  compatriot Ralph Vaughan Williams (9) ,  America's Charles Ives (4) , Czech   Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959 ) ,  Swiss Arthur Honegger (5) ,  Denmark's Carl Nielsen (6) ,  to name only a handful .  
         Each of these  put his own  individual  stamp on the form of the symphony .  In the early 21st symphony ,  the symphony is far from a dead art form .  For example, the  Finnish composer Leif Segerstam (1944 - )  , better known as a world famous conductor , has beaten Haydn  in  his enormous output of more than 300 ! symphonies .   So far , I have only discussed a tiny handful of  all the countless symphonies which have been written since the 18th century .  There are  wonderful symphonies by  Cesar Franck ,  Camille Saint-Saens ,  George Bizet ,  Albert Roussel of France , Franck being Belgian  but belonging to the French tradition ,  American composers such as Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber , William Schuman,  Roger Sessions,  Howard Hanson ,  Paul Hindemith , Igor Stravinsky ,  Arnold Bax , Havergal Brian , Arthur Bliss, William Walton , and Michael Tippett of England ,  and so many others of  many different nationalities .  
          There are countless recordings of  who  knows how many different symphonies , including ones hardly anyone has ever heard of ,  and  there are many sets of the complete symphonies of composers  such as Beethoven, Brahms , Tchaikovsky , Bruckner , Mahler and others in boxed sets by  many eminent  conductors such as Bernstein, Toscanini,  Herbert von Karajan , Bruno Walter,  Otto Klemperer ,  Sir Georg Solti, Claudio Abbado , Sir Colin Davis ,  Lorin Maazel and others , or you can get  individual recordings from  these sets and  countless others not part of complete sets .  
      The symphony is an art form of infinite variety  , and  you can spend your entire life without  coming remotely close  to  learning all there is to know about it .  But this is a pursuit which is  incredibly rewarding .  
Posted: May 12 2017, 06:02 PM by the horn | with no comments
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The Infinite Variety Of Symphonic Form . Part One .
   What, exactly, is a symphony ?  n classical music , there are a variety of different  musical genres , such as  sonatas ,  chamber music , art songs , oratorios , cantatas , etc .  The symphony is one of them , but not the same thing as a symphony orchestra , a collection of musicians playing string, woodwind, brass and percussion instruments .  
     The origin of the word "symphony" comes from the Greek , meaning a coming together of sounds . "Sym " plus "phonos " or sound .  In the operas of the 16th and 17th century ,  what we usually call an overture is known as a "Sinfonia ", the    Italian for "Symphony ."   Later , composers began to write independent orchestral works called "Sinfonia " not intended as overtures to  operas , but similar in structure .  Usually a  brisk opening section, or movement , with a slower middle movement and an equally brisk last one, or finale .  Sometimes the sinfonia would begin with a stately slow introduction .  
    Of the numerous composers of symphonies in the 18th century ,  the only ones who are well known today are Mozart and his friend  Joseph Haydn . Haydn wrote no fewer than 104  of them, and there are 41 numbered ones by Mozart and some without numbers , and only a small number of these are still widely performed . All have  been recorded numerous times .  In the 18th century , a typical symphony by Haydn or Mozart has four movements , occasionally only three .  The first is usually rather lively and sometimes preceded by a slow introduction .  The first movement uses what is known as sonata form :  an exposition with a principal  theme plus a subsidiary theme in another key . The subsidiary theme is usually in what is called the "dominant " of the key of the symphony . In C major,  the dominant is the key of G major, in D major ,  A major .  In minor key symphonies , if the main key is C minor, the subsidiary theme will be in E flat major .  
   The exposition ends in the key of the subsidiary theme .  The next section is called the development -  the themes are  altered considerably  and  appear in keys which were not in the exposition .  The  main theme reappears in its original form in the final part, the recapitulation .   But there is still some development of the themes and there is not an exact repetition of the exposition .  In many symphonies, the  composer calls for the exposition to be repeated , but not all conductors do this .  This is their decision .  
      The second movement is slower and more relaxed in character , and more lyrical .   The third movement is  a minuet  in tripartite form :  the minuet plus a contrasting middle section called the trio , which uses a different theme .  The minuet is repeated  , but the composer does not have to write the whole thing  out and puts the sign "Dal Sego ", an  Italian term which indicates repetition of the first part .  The finale  is usually at  east as lively as the first movement and is usually also in sonata form .  
   With the arrival of Beethoven came  revolutionary new developments in the symphony , and the form would  never be exactly the same again with later composers .  Beethoven's first two symphonies are  similar to those of Haydn and Mozart , but the third , called "Eroica " by the composer is much longer and more complex than any previous symphony .  And it was inspired by extra musical events , specifically ,  the exploits of Napoleon , which Beethoven first admired  , even though he was enraged when  the Corsican general declared himself emperor of France .   Beethoven wanted to convey the idea of heroism ; no longer was  he writing sparkling, light-hearted  works for the delectation of  the aristocracy  , which   Haydn and Mozart had done .   The so -called Eroica is long, complex, rugged ,  and it was not nearly as easy for audiences to digest .  The slow movement s a sombre funeral march  , and the re is no longer a minuet , but a new kind of movement called a "Scherzo ",Italian for a joke .  
      The middle section called the Trio is still there , as well as the repeat of the first part .  The finale  is a kind of theme and variations  based on a melody  Beethoven had used for his only ballet score "The Creatures of Prometheus ."  Some critics were baffled by this strange new work .      
  Beethoven's world famous fifth symphony contains the famous   "Da Da Da Daaah notes , and is in C minor .  This movement is truly  revolutionary -  angry , rugged and intense .  Some have said that these  opening notes represent "Fate knocking at the door " but this claim is dubious .  The last movement  is unusual in that it  uses instruments not used before in symphonies : a piccolo,   three trombones ,  and  a contra bassoon .  The finale is  fiercely exultant and triumphant .  
      Beethoven's sixth symphony is unusual in that it  both tells a story and describes nature . This is the so-called "Pastoral " symphony , and is unusual in having five rather than four movements .  The first movement is described as  "Cheerful feelings upon arriving in the country . The  second and lower movement  is called "Scene at the brook " , and  portrays  peaceful relaxation  next to a brook, complete with portrayal of  its quiet  murmuring and  chirping birds , a cuckoo  and a quail .  
      The third movement is entitled "Merry gathering of the country folk  and is a  lively  dance complete with  imitations of bagpipes etc .  Then, without a pause  , a   storm breaks loose  , leading also without a pause to  the country folk  giving thanks for the end to the  storm as a shepherd plays his pipes .  
     The ninth symphony is the longest , most complex and  grandiose symphony which had ever been written and was the last of his nine symphonies .  The famous final movement features  a chorus and  four solo singers, soprano, alto tenor and bass , using    Friedrich Schiller's  "Ode To Joy ".  This was unprecedented in a symphony .  The first movement is in D minor and is  craggy and agitated  .  The second , instead of being slow , is now the scherzo , and as  old cliche goes, is "fast and furious ,
     with pounding  a pounding solo tympani , or kettle drum .   The third movement is the slow one ,  and is almost  ecstatic in its mystical  lyricism  .  The orchestra is also larger than normal, with piccolo as well as flutes ,  a contrabassoon along with the  bassoons,  three trombones and even percussion instruments in the finale .  On to part two .  

Posted: May 11 2017, 03:39 PM by the horn | with no comments
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Is There Enough Diversity In Classical Music Today ?
  This is a complex issue .  Many people think that classical music is  dominated by white males ,  especially dead ones . To some extent this is true .   For example, there have been many women composers over the centuries ,  yet not one of them is as well known as  Beethoven, Bach ,  Brahms, Tchaikovsky ,  Mozart , Wagner  and other world famous composers .    Why ?  Sexism, obviously .  In past centuries , being a composer was not thought to be a proper occupation for women  , and  so many gifted women were discouraged from attempting to become professional composers .  
    Felix Mendelssohn , for example had a sister , Fanny  , who was  just about as gifted musically as her famous brother .  She was an accomplished  pianist and composer like her famous brother , but was discouraged by her family from  composing , and  several of her works were actually published under her brother's name .  
     Felix Mendelssohn's contemporary Robert Schumann was married to a highly gifted pianist who was born Clara Wieck, daughter of a well known German piano teacher .  She married Robert , and they had about eight children .  She became famous as a pianist and outlived her husband by forty years .  She also composed a fair amount of music , including songs and a piano concerto .  Yet she never achieved as much fame as a composer as a pianist .  In our time, there have been a fair number of recordings of her music .  
   These are  0only two of the many gifted women composers from the past who never achieved  fame as composers .  However , within the past thirty years  or so,  things have been changing  a great deal for women composers , and there more of them active today and being performed than ever before .  Now It's not even news when an orchestra plays a work by a contemporary woman composer .  Among them are Jennifer Higdon of America ,  Kaaia Saariaho of Finland ,  Sofia Gubaidullina od Russia ,  Judith Weir of England ,  to name only a few .  All of these have been regularly performed by orchestras  all over America and Europe , and their music has been recorded by some of the  world's leading record labels .  
    The Metropolitan opera recently performed an internationally acclaimed opera by Kaaia Saariaho ( 1952 -)  , "L'Amour De Lointain " (Love from afar ) to considerable acclaim .  The opera features a libretto in French and deals with a medieval legend of a French nobleman who longs to  meet his beloved  in north Africa, whom he has never seen .  This was only the second opera  by a woman composer the Met reptilian opera has performed , but it was  enthusiastically received by critics and audiences .  
    The only previous one by a woman composer at the Met was  around 1903 , when a long forgotten opera by  the English composer Dame Ethyl Smyth  , who  was actually  widely performed in   the late 19th and early 20th centuries .
In addition, the conductor  was only the fourth woman conductor to appear at the Met , the rising  Finnish conductor Susanna Malkki , who has recently become music director of the Helsinki Philharmonic and has appeared with leading orchestras and opera companies all over Europe and America .  
    Until  about forty years ago ,  conducting was a profession almost entirely limited to men , especially white men .  But in recent years , more and more women have been making highly successful careers  as conductors , appearing with the world's leading orchestras and opera companies  with increasing  regularity .  Perhaps the first  one to do this was the late American Sarah Caldwell ,  a  highly enterprising and innovative conductor who was the first woman to conduct at thew Met  in 1977 .  She founded the Boston opera , and  was able to put on many  important  but really performed operas  such as Schoenberg's Moses & Aron "  and others on a limited budget .  
   In New York, Eve Queler , born in 1936 , founded the Opera Orchestra of New York , which was and is devoted to giving concert performances  of  rarely performed operas by many different composers  , including  ones by  Meyerbeer, Massenet , Donizetti., Verdi and Wagner .  She  was able to engage many of the world's moist famous opera singers to perform with her, and also  featured  many talented up and coming ones who later became world famous .  Most of the performances were in Carnegie hall , but she  took her company elsewhere  on occasion .   Her orchestra consisted of  many of New York's finest freelance musicians , and the performances she led   were almost always notable occasions  , and New York opera fans  attended religiously .  
   More recently ,  Marin Alsop, a protege of Leonard Bernstein , became music director of the Baltimore symphony orchestra , first women to hold such a position with one of America's  major orchestras , and she  has  appeared with leading orchestras all over America and Europe , also becoming music director of the Sao Paulo symphony orchestra of Brazil .  She has also made acclaimed recordings of a wide variety of orchestral repertoire in Baltimore, London and Sao Paulo .
    Joann Faletta  has been music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic for many years and  has gained a loyal audience there and elsewhere  ,  and has also been a champion of music by women composers and lesser known works by a wide variety of composers .  Both Faletta and Alsop have made  acclaimed recordings for Naxos records .   Australian born conductor Simone Young  recently stepped down as music director of the prestigious Hamburg  State opera  in Germany after some years , and has also made recordings of the complete symphonies of Anton Bruckner with the  Hamburg State Philharmonic orchestra , which plays both for the opera and also gives a series of orchestral concert s  .   More and more women have been breaking the glass ceiling  in the highly competitive field of conducting .
    Until fairly recently ,  most of the world's leading orchestras were  almost exclusively  made up of white males ,  but this us no longer the case .  Now there are many, many women  in  them , as well as numerous  Asian and Asian American  musicians , as   contours such as Japan, South Korea and China now have a well established  system of orchestras  and music schools .  If you look at  photographs of the New York Philharmonic for example, when Leonard Bernstein was music director there in the 1960s as well as  films taken of them playing, you will see nothing but white males .  But now, there are numerous women in the orchestra , as well as Asian American , Chinese, Japanese and South Koreans .
    This came about years ago, when American orchestras adopted a system of auditions behind a screen  so that the members of the orchestra who sat at auditions could not tell  whether an applicant was  male female or     not white .  Unfortunately , only about one per cent of  American orchestra  members  are African Americans, but this is not due to  discrimination . Very few African Americans have ever  studied orchestral instruments and aimed at careers  in orchestras .    
      The repertoire of orchestras worldwide is still largely by "dead white European  males ",  but   those DWEMs  are responsible for the creation of so much glorious music .  However , programming is still more diverse than ever .  You can hear plenty of music by LIVING white European males  ,  and American composers  are very much   a presence at concerts , both living and dead ones .  Chinese born composer Tan Dun , currently living in New York  , has written  intriguing works mixing  both Chinese and European instruments ,  and he is only one of a variety of  Chinese, Japanese and South Korean composers active today .  
   Argentinian born  composer  Osvaldo Golijov , of Russian Jewish descent ,  is only one of  a  number of Latin American composers  who have been widely performed in out time .  It's anyone guess as to how much diversity should be in classical music , but you can't deny the fact that  this centuries old art form  has  far more more diversity than ever before .  

Posted: May 10 2017, 06:32 PM by the horn | with no comments
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