Leonard Bernstein: What Does Music Mean?

On January 18, 1958 Leonard Bernstein began presenting his television series What does music mean?  The series ran for 53 programs.  Some of the episodes can be found below:

Part 1 What is Classical Music?

Plot: Bernstein conducts Handel’s Water Music and cites it as an indisputable example of classical music. “Exact” is the word that best defines classical music, Bernstein says and he demonstrates with musical illustrations from Bach’s Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C Major and The Marriage of Figaro, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 102.

The decline of classical music at the end of the eighteenth century is tied to Beethoven’s innovations and the Romantic movement, and Bernstein conducts Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.


Part 2 What is Melody?

Plot: Bernstein discusses the different forms melody can take, including tune, theme, motive, melodic line and musical phrase. He illustrates by conducting the orchestra in excerpts from Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Hindemith, and Brahms.


Part 3 What is a Mode?

Plot: Bernstein discusses scales, intervals, and tones, and analyzes several pieces, including Debussy’s Fêtes, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, and music from the Kinks and the Beatles, to illustrate different modes.

An excerpt from Bernstein’s ballet Fancy Free is also performed.

 

Halloween Music: Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath from Symphonie fantastique by Hector Berlioz

berlioz-symphony-fantastique
The final movement is the best known part of the symphony, thanks to its use in the Julia Roberts movie, Sleeping With The Enemy. It features a four-part structure, which Berlioz described in his own program notes from 1845 as follows:

“He sees himself at a witches’ Sabbath, in the midst of a hideous gathering of shades, sorcerers and monsters of every kind who have come together for his funeral. Strange sounds, groans, outbursts of laughter; distant shouts which seem to be answered by more shouts. The beloved melody appears once more, but has now lost its noble and shy character; it is now no more than a vulgar dance tune, trivial and grotesque: it is she who is coming to the Sabbath… Roar of delight at her arrival… She joins the diabolical orgy… The funeral knell tolls, burlesque parody of the Dies irae, the dance of the witches. The dance of the witches combined with the Dies irae.”

The Dies irae melody is one of the most-quoted in musical literature, appearing in the works of many diverse composers.

The traditional Gregorian melody has also been used as a theme or musical quotation in a number of  classical compositions, notable among them:

Free sheet music from IMSLP for the basic Dies irae

Free sheet music from IMSLP for the basic Symphonie fantastique (look under Arrangements and Transcriptions)

The basic Gregorian Chant

An animated version of the  Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath from Symphonie fantastique.  Can you hear the Dies irae in this?  It starts around 3:18.

Leonard Bernstein conducts the “Orchestre National de France” in Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique
5th Movement

October 16 ~ This Day in Music History

today

1855 ~ William Barclay Squire, British musicologist

• 1893 ~ On this day a song called “Goodmorning to All” was copyrighted by two teachers who wrote it for their kindergarten pupils. The title was later changed to “Happy Birthday to You”.  The copyright was claimed illegal in September, 2015.

• 1923 ~ Bert Kaempfert, Musician

• 1941 ~ Fry Me Cookie, with a Can of Lard was recorded by the Will Bradley Orchestra on Columbia. Ray McKinley was featured.

• 1942 ~ Dave Lovelady, Drummer with The Fourmost

• 1943 ~ C.F. (Fred) Turner, Musician with Bachman~Turner Overdrive

• 1947 ~ Bob Weir (Hall), American rock guitarist and singer with The Grateful Dead

• 1953 ~ Tony Carey, Keyboards with Rainbow

• 1959 ~ Gary Kemp, Guitarist with Spandau Ballet, brother of musician Martin Kemp

• 1969 ~ Wendy Wilson, Singer with Wilson Phillips, daughter of Beach Boys singer, Brian Wilson

• 1972 ~ John C. Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival called it a career … and the group disbanded. Fogerty continued in a solo career with big hits including, Centerfield and The Old Man Down the Road.

• 1976 ~ Memphis, TN disc jockey Rick Dees and his ‘Cast of Idiots’ made it all the way to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with the immortal Disco Duck (Part 1). Dees is still around, but not as a recording artist. He’s a DJ in Los Angeles and is hosting several varieties of the Weekly Top 40 show, syndicated around the world.

• 1983 ~ George Liberace passed away.  He was an American musician and television performer. Born in Menasha, Wisconsin, he was the elder brother and business partner of famed U.S. pianist Liberace.

• 1990 ~ Art Blakey passed away.  He was an American jazz drummer and bandleader.

• 2000 ~ David Golub, American pianist and chamber music conductor, passed away at the age of 50. Born in Chicago, Golub grew up in Dallas, where he began learning the piano. In 1969 he moved to New York and spent his student years honing his technique at New York’s Juilliard School of Music. He also began conducting during summer breaks at Vermont’s Marlboro festival. In 1979, he accompanied violinist Isaac Stern on a tour of China. A film about the tour, “From Mao to Mozart,” won the 1980 Academy Award for Best Documentary. As a performer, Golub was perhaps best known for his work with violinist Mark Kaplan and cellist Colin Carr in the trio they formed in 1982. In the late 1990s, Golub began cultivating his interest in opera. Under his leadership, the Padua Chamber Orchestra recorded some of Haydn’s least-known work for opera. An acclaimed chamber ensemble performer – most notably with the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio – Golub led the Padua Chamber Orchestra during the 1994-95 season and took it on tour in the United States in 1999. He is survived by his wife, Maria Majno.

• 2001 ~ Oscar-winning composer and lyricist Jay Livingston, whose collaboration with Ray Evans led to such hits as Silver Bells, Que Sera, Sera and Mona Lisa, died of pneumonia. He was 86. Livingston’s songwriting partnership with Evans spanned 64 years. Often called the last of the great songwriters, Livingston and Evans had seven Academy Award nominations and won three – in 1948 for Buttons and Bows in the film The Paleface, in 1950 for Mona Lisa in Captain Carey, USA, and in 1956 for Que Sera, Sera in The Man Who Knew Too Much. They wrote the television theme songs for Bonanza and Mr. Ed, and were honored by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for the most performed music for film and TV for 1996. Livingston was born on March 28, 1915, in the Pittsburgh suburb of McDonald. He met Evans in 1937 at the University of Pennsylvania, where they were both students. The team’s final project was the recording, Michael Feinstein Sings the Livingston and Evans Song Book, due for 2002 release.

Piano Puzzlers!

puzzlers

 

The Piano Puzzlers book is available in the O’Connor Music Studio library if you’d like to give any a try.  Piano Puzzlers as heard on American Public Media’s “Performance Today.” Includes 32 tunes with songs by Gershwin, Berlin, Arlen, Porter, Rodgers, Fats Waller, Lennon & McCartney, and others disguised in the styles of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Janacek, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Copland.

Includes an introduction by Fred Child, host of “Performance Today” as well as background info by Bruce Adolphe. “Bruce Adolphe has taken a common musician’s party game and elevated it to high art and truly funny musical slapsticks. The Piano Puzzlers are a unique combination of extraordinary insight into the styles of many composers subtle, expert workmanship and great, great fun!”

From http://jasonmorris.blogsome.com/2008/08/08/piano-puzzlers/

If you’re a music geek (like me), I have a program for you. Now, let me be clear, to fully qualify as a music geek…you must have a fond appreciation for classical music (no, Poison, Quiet Riot, and Zepplin do not count as classical music). So, if you’re a “music geek” without an appreciation for classical music…well, I hate to burst your bubble…but, you’re not truly a music geek. Instead, you’re a music appreciator, but not a geek. So, if you just listen to indie music and scowl at anything on a label larger than Matador…don’t bother following the link I’ll provide…the fun will be lost on you…And, you probably won’t have a chance.

Every Wednesday night, on my way home from WNL, I turn on my local NPR station to listen to Piano Puzzlers on Performance Today. It’s absolutely incredible. A pianist/composer (Bruce Adolphe) takes a familiar folk or pop tune and sets it inside a classical masterpiece (or in the style of a particular composer). Sometimes it’s easy…sometimes it’s ridiculously difficult. There are days when I say, “got it” on the first pass. Then there are days when I say, “what the heck?” And, more often than not, I’m able to get either the popular/folk tune or the composer.

This is sad to admit, but there are nights when I’ll slow down on the drive home or sit in the car in the driveway to finish an episode. In fact, I get a little worked up if someone stops me after WNL…as I might miss the beginning of Piano Puzzlers (it usually hits around 8:20pm on our local station).

Take a listen to some of the archives and see if you can figure it out! It’s really cool…but probably only appreciated by music geeks (the kind of people that listen to NPR for their musical programs and not just the snipets of cool indie rock between segments on All Things Considered…which is a great show too).

Play Piano Puzzlers HERE!

Archduke Trio: Beethoven

beethoven

Beethoven’s first published works—his Opus No.1—were three trios for piano, violin and cello and already they show a marked advance on Haydn’s trios in the comparative interdependence of the three parts. Their freedom from Haydn’s oppressive formality looks forward to the first mature trios, the pair that comprises Opus 70, displaying all sorts of harmonic twists, thematic innovations and structural idiosyncrasies, these trios make much of the piano part and contain plenty of dramatic outbursts that are typical of Beethoven’s middle period.

Even more arresting is the first of the Opus 70 trios (1808) nicknamed ”The Ghost” because of its mysterious and haunting Largo. Its sibling boasts a cheerful bombastic finale that is the most entertaining music that Beethoven composed for this combination of instruments.

The “Archduke” Trio Opus 97 (1811) was Beethoven’s last full-scale work for piano trio and is typically conclusive. The third movement is its center of gravity, a highly moving set of variations with the cello dominating the thematic content. It opens with a hymn-like theme and progresses to a coda which magnificently sums up the movements ideas. The finale might be less powerful than that of Opus 70 No. 2, but it nevertheless has a sweeping rhythmic power. Again, it is beyond the shadow of a doubt that Beethoven defined the piano trio form that it retained throughout the 19th century by allowing the string instruments the status of genuinely equal partners in this superlative performance.

Read more at Ludwig Van Beethoven Piano Trios Opus 70 No. 2, Opus 97 “Archduke” | World Music Report.

Daily Listening Assignment ~ June 8

 

Joseph Haydn’s music contains many jokes, and the Surprise Symphony includes probably the most famous of all: a sudden very loud (fortissimo chord) at the end of the otherwise soft (piano) opening theme in the variation-form second movement. The music then returns to its original quiet dynamic, as if nothing had happened, and the ensuing variations do not repeat the joke. (In German it is commonly referred to as the Symphony “mit dem Paukenschlag”—”with the kettledrum stroke”).

In Haydn’s old age, his biographer George August Griesinger asked him whether he wrote this “surprise” to awaken the audience. Haydn replied:

No, but I was interested in surprising the public with something new, and in making a brilliant debut, so that my student Pleyel, who was at that time engaged by an orchestra in London (in 1792) and whose concerts had opened a week before mine, should not outdo me. The first Allegro of my symphony had already met with countless Bravos, but the enthusiasm reached its highest peak at the Andante with the Drum Stroke. Encore! Encore! sounded in every throat, and Pleyel himself complimented me on my idea.

The first time I saw this video during a piano lesson, both my students and I were surprised, too!

 

The melody is pretty basic and sometimes used to teach skips. I remember having it in one of my first books with words similar to See the Happy Little Frog, Hopping now from Log to Log.

Here’s a piano version.

Can you find the “surprise” indicated by the sforzando?  Hint.  It looks like this: Sforzando is one of those Italian words you get to learn in music and means a strong, sudden accent on a note or chord. Sforzando literally means subito forzando (fz), which translates to “suddenly with force.”

 

There’s some information about Haydn and this symphony in this video.

and this one

Beethoven’s Wig added some words

For 2 pianos, 8 hands.  They’ve added their own surprise around minute 3.

 

Have a surprisingly nice day!

May 31 ~ This Day in Music History

today

• 1656 ~ Marin Marias, Composer

• 1674 ~ Friedrich Erhard Niedt, Composer

• 1696 ~ Heinrich Schwemmer, Composer, died at the age of 75

• 1802 ~ Cesare Pugni, Composer

• 1804 ~ Jeanne-Louise Farrenc, Composer

• 1809 ~ Franz Joseph Haydn passed away

• 1817 ~ Edouard Deldevez, Composer

• 1854 ~ Vatroslav Lisinski, Composer, died at the age of 34

• 1866 ~ Vladimir Ivanovich Rebikov, Composer

• 1875 ~ Italo Montemezzi, Composer

• 1879 ~ Mark Hambourg, Composer

• 1892 ~ Louis Fourestier, Composer

• 1892 ~ Willem Ravelli, baritone singer

• 1898 ~ Johan Brouwer, Dutch pianist, writer and resistance fighter

• 1902 ~ Billy Mayerl, Composer

• 1902 ~ Ralph Walter Wood, Composer

• 1912 ~ Alfred Deller, British countertenor

• 1914 ~ Akira Ifukube, Composer

• 1917 ~ First jazz record released (Dark Town Strutters Ball)

• 1919 ~ Chet Gierlach, Music publisher and composer

• 1919 ~ Emmanual Tettey Mensah, Musician

• 1923 ~ Wolfgang Lesser, Composer

• 1928 ~ Jacob Lateiner, Cuban pianist and professor at Juilliard

• 1929 ~ Aladar Zoltan, Composer

• 1933 ~ Shirley Verrett, American mezzo-soprano, New York Met

• 1934 ~ Karl-Erik Welin, Composer

• 1938 ~ Peter Yarrow, American folk singer and guitarist
More information on Yarrow

• 1939 ~ Charles Drain, singer

• 1940 ~ Augie Meyers, Keyboardist with Texas Tornados

• 1941 ~ Johnny Paycheck (Don Lytle), Country singer
More information about Paycheck

• 1944 ~ Mick Ralphs, Guitarist with Mott the Hoople

• 1947 ~ Henri G Casadesus, French alto violist (viola d’amour) and composer, died at the age of 66

• 1948 ~ Jose Vianna da Motta, Composer, died at the age of 80

• 1955 ~ Raoul Gunsbourg, Composer, died at the age of 95

• 1961 ~ Rock ’n’ roll fans were ready for a good old-fashioned summertime as Chuck Berry’s amusement park, Berryland, opened near St. Louis, MO.

• 1962 ~ Eduardo Toldra, Composer, died at the age of 67

• 1969 ~ Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour was released by Tamla Records. The song made it to number four on the pop music charts on July 26 and stayed on the nation’s radios for eleven weeks.

• 1969 ~ John Lennon, Yoko Ono recorded Give Peace a Chance

• 1974 ~ William DeVaughn, a soul singer, songwriter and guitarist from Washington, DC, received a gold record for his only hit, Be Thankful for What You Got.

• 1976 ~ Ear doctors didn’t have to drum up business this day. There were plenty of walk-ins as The Who put out a total of 76,000 watts of power at 120 decibels. They played the loudest concert anyone had ever heard, making it into “The Guinness Book of World Records”.

• 1977 ~ “Beatlemania” opened at Winter Garden Theater NYC for 920 performances

• 1979 ~ Radio City Music Hall (NYC) reopened

• 1989 ~ First presentation of rock n roll Elvis awards

• 1994 ~ Herva Nelli, Soprano, died at the age of 85

• 1997 ~ “Once Upon a Matress,” closed at Broadhurst Theater NYC after 187 performances.

• 2002 ~ Mario Lago, an influential composer, actor and political dissident, died of lung failure. He was 90. Throughout a multifaceted career, Lago wrote more than 200 popular songs and appeared in 20 films and more than 30 telenovelas, Brazil’s version of television soap operas. He was also an active member of Brazil’s Communist Party, and was imprisoned six times during Brazil’s 1964-86 military regime. One of Lago’s most successful songs, Amelia, sang the praises of a woman happy with very little from her husband. The name came to signify a submissive woman in Brazilian slang. Lago continued acting until January, 2002 when he was hospitalized for a month with emphysema.