On January 4 in Music History

 

National Spaghetti Day on January 4 recognizes that long, thin cylindrical pasta of Italian and Sicilian origin.

Who can forget

 

OCMS 1710 ~ Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Italian Composer
More information about Pergolesi

. 1720 ~ Johann Friedrich Agricola, German organist and composer

. 1809 ~ Louis Braille, Inventor of the Braille system which enables the blind to read words and music. When he was only 3, Louise Braille, was permanently blinded in an accident with a leatherworking awl in his father’s saddlemaking shop in Coupvray, France. Several years later, he was admitted to a school for the blind, the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles. Later, as a teacher at the school, he worked at adapting Charles Barbier’s system of writing with points. Ironically, his method centered around using an awl-like stylus to punch marks in paper that could be felt and interpreted by the blind, allowing them to “read” with their fingertips. Braille’s work went unnoticed until after his death, in poverty, in 1852.

. 1874 ~ Josef Suk, Czech violinist and composer
More information about Suk

. 1924 ~ Alfred Grünfeld, Austrian pianist and composer, died

. 1928 ~ NBC radio debuted one of radio’s first variety shows. “The Dodge Victory Hour” starred Will Rogers, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and singer Al Jolson. The cost to produce this one show was $67,600.

. 1932 ~ NBC Red presented “The Carnation Contented Hour”. The show continued on network radio for 19 years as a showcase for top singers and musicians.

. 1933 ~ Ray Starling, Arranger for Stan Kenton

. 1935 ~ Bert Ambrose and his orchestra recorded the song that became the group’s theme song. It was titled Hors-d’oeuvres and was cut in London for Decca Records.

. 1935 ~ Bob Hope was first heard on network radio as part of “The Intimate Revue” with Jane Froman, James Melton and the Al Goodman Orchestra.

. 1936 ~ The first pop music chart based on national sales was published by “Billboard” magazine this day. Joe Venuti, jazz violinist, was at the top of the chart with a little ditty called Stop! Look! Listen!.

. 1937 ~ Grace Bumbry, American mezzo-soprano
More information about Bumbry

. 1942 ~ John McLaughlin, Rock guitarist

. 1944 ~ Arthur Conley, Singer

. 1950 ~ RCA Victor announced that it would manufacture long-playing (LP) records. This news came two years after Columbia Records debuted the ‘album’.

. 1954 ~ Elvis Presley strolled into the Memphis Recording Service and put $4 on the counter. He recorded Casual Love and I’ll Never Stand in Your Way, two songs that so impressed record executive Sam Phillips that he had Elvis record his first professional sides for Sun Records the following August.

. 1956 ~ Barney Sumner (Bernie Albrecht) (Dicken), Guitarist, singer

. 1960 ~ Michael Stipe, Grammy Award-winning singer

. 1964 ~Bobby Vinton topped the pop charts with the last #1 single of the pre-Beatles era – “There! I’ve Said Again”

. 1965 ~ The Fender Guitar Company was sold to CBS for $13 million.

. 1979 ~ With a new interest in Beatles music on this day, the Star Club reopened in Hamburg, Germany. None of The Beatles returned to their beginnings to attend the gala opening.

. 2000 ~ Fantasia 2000 Hit Imax Record

. 2001 ~ Les Brown, whose Band of Renown scored a No. 1 hit with Sentimental Journey during America’s big band era of the 1930s and ’40s, died of lung cancer at the age of 88. A conductor-clarinetist whose smooth arrangements of swing melodies transcended changes in musical tastes, Brown was cited in 1996 by the Guinness Book of Records recognized him as the leader of the longest lasting musical organization in pop music history. He started his professional career in 1936, and his Band of Renown was still performing about 60 dates a year as recently as five months ago, often conducted by son Les Brown Jr. Brown formed his Band of Renown in 1936. In the 1940s heyday of swing, Brown never achieved the greatness of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman. But the band scored two hit records – Sentimental Journey, with Doris Day as vocalist, and the instrumental I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. Sentimental Journey, co-written with Ben Homer and Bud Green, became a theme for soldiers returning home from World War II. “The happiest times in my life were the days when I was traveling with Les and his band,” Day said. “I loved Les very much, I am going to miss his phone calls.” Brown’s career included a close association with Bob Hope. In 1950, he joined Hope for the first of 18 Christmas tours to entertain American troops at military bases around the world. Day also participated. “The world has lost a great musician,” Hope said. “I have lost my music man, my sideman, my straight man and a special friend.” As the first president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Brown helped make the Grammy Awards a televised event. He convinced Hope, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to participate in the first telecast.

. 2004 ~ Jake Hess, a four-time Grammy winner who sang with some of the premier quartets in gospel music and influenced the career of Elvis Presley, died. He was 76. Hess, whose career spanned more than 60 years, is best known to contemporary audiences as a regular member of Bill Gaither’s Homecoming Friends, on various Christian and country music cable channels, including TBN and TNN. Hess joined The John Daniel Quartet in 1943 and reached stardom with The Statesmen Quartet. He was founder of The Imperials and sang with The Masters V. Each of these groups is enshrined in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, as is Hess. He is also a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. As a teen, Elvis Presley was a regular at Statesmen concerts. Later, Hess was a backup singer on several of Presley’s Grammy-winning albums. When Presley died in 1977, Hess sang at his funeral, as he had at the funeral of country legend Hank Williams in 1953. Peter Guralnick, author of a two-volume biography of Presley, said the rock star always wanted to emulate the voices of Hess and crooner Roy Hamilton.

Just in Time for Halloween: Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky

bald-mountain

Night on Bald Mountain refers to 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 on the theme of a witches’ sabbath occurring on St. John’s Eve, which he completed on that very night, June 23, in 1867.

Get a free copy of the sheet music at IMSLP or buy it on amazon.com.

From Disney’s Fantasia

 

Piano version transcribed for solo piano by Konstantin Chernov (1865-1937).

 

The Ludwig Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Thomas Ludwig

June 3 ~ Daily Listening Assignment

 

Today we’re going to listen and learn about the opera Carmen.

I chose this for today since it’s the anniversary of French composer Georges Bizet‘s death.

Georges Bizet was born in Paris, France. Both his parents were musicians, and they actually wanted their son to become a composer when he grew up! Bizet loved music, but he also loved to read books. His parents wound up hiding his books so that he would spend more time on his music.

When Georges was 10 years old, his father enrolled him in the Paris Conservatory. While he was there, he wrote his only symphony, but it wasn’t performed until many years after he died. Bizet graduated from the Conservatory with awards in both composition and piano.

Bizet also composed operas. His most famous opera is Carmen. When Carmen first opened in Paris, the reviews were terrible. Many critics said there were no good tunes in it, so audiences stayed away.

In the middle of the night during the first round of Carmen performances, Bizet died. He was only 36. Four months later, Carmen opened in Vienna, Austria, and was a smash hit. It is now one of the most popular operas ever written. Bizet never knew that audiences would come to consider it his masterpiece.

 

Vladimir Horowitz made Carmen his own by turning it into a fantasy (or the more musical spelling – fantasie).

The fantasia (Italian; also English: fantasy, fancy, fantazy, phantasy, German: Fantasie, Phantasie, French: fantaisie) is a musical composition with its roots in the art of improvisation. Because of this, like the impromptu, it seldom approximates the textbook rules of any strict musical form.

When you play wrong notes for an audience, just tell the audience it’s a “Fantasie”, not the original work!

As you can see, Carmen is a popular work. Here it is for two pianos, played by Anderson and Roe.

The Canadian Brass tell the story of Carmen in their own humorous words.

If you want to learn this, just let me know!

Happy Birthday to Franz Schubert!

Franz Peter SchubertFranz Peter Schubert lived between 1797 and 1828. He is considered to be a romantic composer. He was an Austrian composer who was one of the greatest creators of melody and foremost writer of ‘lieder’ (German songs).

Although he only lived for 31 years, Schubert composed more than 600 songs, 22 piano sonatas and many short piano pieces. This melodic output has never been equaled either in quantity of quality. He was one of the first musicians to earn a living from the sale of his music.

Schubert’s Ave Maria was featured in the Walt Disney movie Fantasia.


This is from Amazon.com’s Get Started in Classical.

Schubert’s musical genius went well beyond his incomparable gift for melody

During Beethoven’s funeral in 1827, one of the torchbearers was a young composer who would himself die the following year. There’s a poignant irony in this image of Franz Schubert (1797-1828) paying homage to the master, for the extent of Schubert’s own accomplishment was to remain one of music’s best-kept secrets for decades after his death. He had indeed struck out on a uniquely personal creative path, however intense his hero worship of Beethoven was. As often happens in such periods of transition–in this case, the evolution in style and attitude from classical balance toward romantic experimentation–Schubert simply slipped through the cracks, not easily fitting into his contemporaries’ sense of the direction music was taking.

Yet the fact that the only recognition that came his way was mostly confined to a tight-knit circle of musical friends didn’t deter Schubert from pursuing his inspiration. Even though an astonishing number of compositions were never performed during his short lifetime, the prolific composer produced a wide body of material, all with a seemingly effortless swiftness reminiscent of Mozart (another of the composer’s idols). His style is most frequently associated with an uncanny gift for melody, but that’s a shortsighted view of the true nature of Schubert’s genius.

The selections on our featured disc represent two key but divergent aspects of his music: the gemlike miniaturism of his songwriting and his preoccupation with large-scale forms from the classical period. “Die Forelle” (“The Trout”)–sung here with a silvery, seductive grace by Barbara Bonney–is an example of how Schubert elevated the art of song to an opera in miniature, rich in evocative scene-painting. Pay attention not just to the beguiling melody but to how perfectly Schubert mirrors the text’s images in the details of the burbling piano accompaniment.

The cheerful quintet that takes its name from the song makes an excellent introduction to the composer’s longer works. Most of these belong to the realm of “chamber music”; that is, pieces written for small groups of musicians to be performed in people’s homes. From the high-spirited interplay of the ensemble gathered here–all virtuosos on their respective instruments but clearly merging their voices into a common goal–it’s easy to imagine a typical evening of Schubert making music with his friends. There’s a flowing sense of conversation in the music, and just as you think you’ve heard one untoppable melody, Schubert obliges with another, taking it down an unexpected course with a sudden harmonic surprise–another of the composer’s trademarks–and spinning it out as it suits his fancy. Schumann once characterized the composer’s tendency to make us want the music to last, following its multiple digressions, as Schubert’s “heavenly lengths.”

Much of the pleasure here can also be heard in the way Schubert plays sonorities off each other, above all in the fourth movement. It offers a set of variations on the melody from the “Trout” song, presaging how Mahler would later incorporate material from his own songs into vast symphonic structures. You can notice this both in the interwoven yet contrasting timbres from the keyboard against four strings and in the opposition between double bass and sparkling passages high in the register. And within the spontaneity of the moment, there’s something else: emerging within all the joie de vivre are ambivalent shadows hinting at Schubert’s darker side, particularly in the intensity of the slow movement’s middle core. This is also apparent in the opening of the “Arpeggione” Sonata (nicknamed after a short-lived invention that was a sort of cross between a guitar and a cello), which unfolds a kind of aching, spun-out lyricism that could belong to no one but Schubert.

In his final decade, when intense poverty and a debilitating case of syphilis began to take their toll, Schubert would mine this vein of profound self-expression. His last quartets and piano sonatas, the String Quintet, and his despairing song cycle Winterreise, he touches in his own way on the inwardness probed by Beethoven’s late-period creations. Thomas May, Classical Editor

More Schubert can be found in Musical Information and Recommendations for Adults.

Schubert’s birthday

Schubert’s works were played in an Grammy Winning performance, Forty-Second Annual Awards

Listen to Schubert’s music.

     Read quotes by and about Schubert

     Guess what my li’l Chopin played today

     Information about Schubert’s Symphony in D

     Schubert MIDI Section

     Read Amazon.com’s Get Started in Classical feature

January 4 in Music History

 

National Spaghetti Day on January 4 recognizes that long, thin cylindrical pasta of Italian and Sicilian origin.

Who can forget

 

OCMS 1710 ~ Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Italian Composer
More information about Pergolesi

. 1720 ~ Johann Friedrich Agricola, German organist and composer

. 1809 ~ Louis Braille, Inventor of the Braille system which enables the blind to read words and music. When he was only 3, Louise Braille, was permanently blinded in an accident with a leatherworking awl in his father’s saddlemaking shop in Coupvray, France. Several years later, he was admitted to a school for the blind, the Institution Nationale des Jeunes Aveugles. Later, as a teacher at the school, he worked at adapting Charles Barbier’s system of writing with points. Ironically, his method centered around using an awl-like stylus to punch marks in paper that could be felt and interpreted by the blind, allowing them to “read” with their fingertips. Braille’s work went unnoticed until after his death, in poverty, in 1852.

. 1874 ~ Josef Suk, Czech violinist and composer
More information about Suk

. 1928 ~ NBC radio debuted one of radio’s first variety shows. “The Dodge Victory Hour” starred Will Rogers, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra and singer Al Jolson. The cost to produce this one show was $67,600.

. 1932 ~ NBC Red presented “The Carnation Contented Hour”. The show continued on network radio for 19 years as a showcase for top singers and musicians.

. 1933 ~ Ray Starling, Arranger for Stan Kenton

. 1935 ~ Bert Ambrose and his orchestra recorded the song that became the group’s theme song. It was titled Hors d’oeuvres and was cut in London for Decca Records.

. 1935 ~ Bob Hope was first heard on network radio as part of “The Intimate Revue” with Jane Froman, James Melton and the Al Goodman Orchestra.

. 1936 ~ The first pop music chart based on national sales was published by “Billboard” magazine this day. Joe Venuti, jazz violinist, was at the top of the chart with a little ditty called Stop! Look! Listen!.

1937 ~ Grace Bumbry, American mezzo-soprano
More information about Bumbry

. 1942 ~ John McLaughlin, Rock guitarist

. 1944 ~ Arthur Conley, Singer
More information about Conley

. 1950 ~ RCA Victor announced that it would manufacture long-playing (LP) records. This news came two years after Columbia Records debuted the ‘album’.

. 1954 ~ Elvis Presley strolled into the Memphis Recording Service and put $4 on the counter. He recorded Casual Love and I’ll Never Stand in Your Way, two songs that so impressed record executive Sam Phillips that he had Elvis record his first professional sides for Sun Records the following August.

. 1956 ~ Barney Sumner (Bernie Albrecht) (Dicken), Guitarist, singer

. 1960 ~ Michael Stipe, Grammy Award-winning singer

. 1964 ~Bobby Vinton topped the pop charts with the last #1 single of the pre-Beatles era – “There! I’ve Said Again”

. 1965 ~ The Fender Guitar Company was sold to CBS for $13 million.

. 1979 ~ With a new interest in Beatles music on this day, the Star Club reopened in Hamburg, Germany. None of The Beatles returned to their beginnings to attend the gala opening.

. 2000 ~ Fantasia 2000 Hit Imax Record

. 2001 ~ Les Brown, whose Band of Renown scored a No. 1 hit with Sentimental Journey during America’s big band era of the 1930s and ’40s, died of lung cancer at the age of 88. A conductor-clarinetist whose smooth arrangements of swing melodies transcended changes in musical tastes, Brown was cited in 1996 by the Guinness Book of Records recognized him as the leader of the longest lasting musical organization in pop music history. He started his professional career in 1936, and his Band of Renown was still performing about 60 dates a year as recently as five months ago, often conducted by son Les Brown Jr. Brown formed his Band of Renown in 1936. In the 1940s heyday of swing, Brown never achieved the greatness of Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman. But the band scored two hit records – Sentimental Journey, with Doris Day as vocalist, and the instrumental I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. Sentimental Journey, co-written with Ben Homer and Bud Green, became a theme for soldiers returning home from World War II. “The happiest times in my life were the days when I was traveling with Les and his band,” Day said. “I loved Les very much, I am going to miss his phone calls.” Brown’s career included a close association with Bob Hope. In 1950, he joined Hope for the first of 18 Christmas tours to entertain American troops at military bases around the world. Day also participated. “The world has lost a great musician,” Hope said. “I have lost my music man, my sideman, my straight man and a special friend.” As the first president of the Los Angeles chapter of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Brown helped make the Grammy Awards a televised event. He convinced Hope, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby to participate in the first telecast.

. 2004 ~ Jake Hess, a four-time Grammy winner who sang with some of the premier quartets in gospel music and influenced the career of Elvis Presley, died. He was 76. Hess, whose career spanned more than 60 years, is best known to contemporary audiences as a regular member of Bill Gaither’s Homecoming Friends, on various Christian and country music cable channels, including TBN and TNN. Hess joined The John Daniel Quartet in 1943 and reached stardom with The Statesmen Quartet. He was founder of The Imperials and sang with The Masters V. Each of these groups is enshrined in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame, as is Hess. He is also a member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. As a teen, Elvis Presley was a regular at Statesmen concerts. Later, Hess was a backup singer on several of Presley’s Grammy-winning albums. When Presley died in 1977, Hess sang at his funeral, as he had at the funeral of country legend Hank Williams in 1953. Peter Guralnick, author of a two-volume biography of Presley, said the rock star always wanted to emulate the voices of Hess and crooner Roy Hamilton.

Halloween Music: Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky

bald-mountain

Night on Bald Mountain refers to 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 on the theme of a witches’ sabbath occurring on St. John’s Eve, which he completed on that very night, June 23, in 1867.

Get a free copy of the sheet music at IMSLP or buy it on amazon.com.

From Disney’s Fantasia

 

Piano version transcribed for solo piano by Konstantin Chernov (1865-1937).

 

The Ludwig Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Thomas Ludwig