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.

 

January 16 in Music History

 

. 1864 ~ Anton Schindler, German violinist and Beethoven’s biographer, died at the age of 68

. 1875 ~ First American performance of Johannes Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances”

. 1886 ~ Death of Italian opera composer Amilcare Ponchielli, in Milan

. 1891 ~ French Composer Leo Delibes died in Paris

. 1905 ~ Ernesto Halffter, Spanish composer and conductor

. 1908 ~ Ethel Merman (Zimmerman), American singer of popular music, Tony Award-winning actress (musical), Musical Theater Hall of Fame. She is most famous for Call Me Madam in 1951, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, There’s No Business Like Show Business and Alexander’s Ragtime Band

. 1929 ~ Marilyn Horne, American mezzo-soprano

. 1929 ~ G.T. (Granville) Hogan, Jazz drummer who played with Elmo Hope, Earl Bostic

. 1934 ~ Bob Bogle (Robert Lenard Bogle), Guitarist, bass with The Ventures

. 1938 ~ Béla Bartók and his wife, Ditta performed their first public concert featuring his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion

. 1938 ~ Benny Goodman and his band, plus a quartet, brought the sound of jazz to Carnegie Hall in New York City. When asked how long an intermission he wanted, he quipped, “I don’t know. How much does Toscanini get?”

. 1942 ~ Bill Francis, Keyboard, singer with Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show

. 1942 ~ Kay Kyser and the band recorded A Zoot Suit for Columbia Records. The tune is about the problems associated with wearing this garish, exaggerated ‘hep’ fashion.

. 1946 ~ Katia Ricciarelli, Italian soprano

. 1946 ~ Ronnie Milsap, Grammy Award-winning singer in 1976, CMA Male Vocalist of the Year (1974, 1976, 1977), CMA Entertainer of the Year (1977), blind since birth, he learned to play several instruments by age 12

. 1950 ~ Debbie Allen, Dancer, actress, choreographer, sister of actress Phylicia Rashad

. 1957 ~ Conductor Arturo Toscanini died in New York

. 1957 ~ The Cavern Club opened for business in Liverpool, England. The rock club was just a hangout for commoners. Then, things changed — big time. It all started in the early 1960s when four kids from the neighborhood popped in to jam. They, of course, turned out to be The Beatles.

. 1962 ~ Paul Webb, Bass with Talk Talk

. 1964 ~ “Hello Dolly!” opened at the St. James Theatre in New York City. Carol Channing starred in the role of Mrs. Dolly Levi. The musical was an adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s play, “The Matchmaker”. The show, with an unforgettable title song, was hailed by critics as the “…possible hit of the season.” It was possible, all right. “Hello Dolly!” played for 2,844 performances. And, it returned to Broadway in the 1990s, again starring Carol Channing.

. 1972 ~ David Seville died on this day in Beverly Hills, CA. Born Ross Bagdasarian, the musician was the force, and artist, behind the Alvin and the Chipmunks novelty songs of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

. 1973 ~ Clara Ward passed away. Ward was an American gospel artist who achieved great artistic and commercial success in the 1940s and 1950s.

. 1976 ~ The album, “Frampton Comes Alive”, was released by Herb Alpert’s A&M Records. The double LP soon reached the top spot of the album charts and stayed perched there for 17 weeks. It sold 19 million copies in its first year.

. 1980 ~ Lin Manuel Miranda, American actor, composer, lyricist (Hamilton)

. 1984 ~ Michael Jackson received eight awards at the 11th annual American Music Awards this night.

. 2001 ~ Eleanor Lawrence, a flutist who played often in chamber music performances and with several orchestras in New York City, died of brain cancer at the age of 64. She is credited with transforming a simple newsletter into an important source for flutists. Lawrence studied the flute at the New England Conservatory with the principal flutist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Pappoutsakis. She later studied with flutists from the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. She joined the American Symphony Orchestra and the Brooklyn Philharmonic after moving to New York in the 1960s. She played periodically with the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. Besides performing, Lawrence taught at the Manhattan School of Music. She served three times as the president of the New York Flute Club. She edited The National Flute Association Newsletter, now The Flutist Quarterly, from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, expanding it from a brief information sheet to a publication with regular interviews.

Happy Birthday, Alfred Brendel

brendel
Alfred Brendel was born in 1931 in Wiesenberg, Czech Republic.

After World War II, Brendel composed music, as well as continuing to play the piano, to write and to paint. However, he never had more formal piano lessons and, although he attended master classes with Edwin Fischer and Eduard Steuermann, he was largely self-taught after the age of six.

He made his debut in Graz (1948), and has since performed widely throughout Austria, where he lives.

He is known for his interpretations of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, and Schoenberg. He tours internationally, and has written many essays on music.

A short insight from Alfred Brendel on his recording career:

Happy Birthday, Victor Borge!

Victor BorgeVictor Borge was born in 1909 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was an entertainer and pianist – a deliciously funny performer. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, Copenhagen, and in Vienna and Berlin.

He made his debut as a pianist in 1926, and as a revue actor in 1933. From 1940 until his death in 2000 he worked in the USA for radio, television, and theatre, and has performed with leading symphony orchestras on worldwide tours since 1956.

He was best known for his comedy sketches combining music and narrative. He used his classical training to skew serious music and performers.

From his obituary:

Pianist Victor Borge, died in his sleep Dec 23, 2000 at his Greenwich, Connecticut home, was known as the unmelancholy Dane of international show business. He would have turned 92 on Jan. 3, 2001.

“The cause of death was heart failure,” his daughter, Sanna Feirstein, told Reuters.

“He had just returned from a wonderfully successful trip to Copenhagen … and it was really heartwarming to see the love he experienced in his home country,” she said.

Borge was one of five performers selected for the Kennedy Center Honors in 1999.

“He went to sleep, and they went to wake him up this morning, and he was gone,” said his agent, Bernard Gurtman.

“He had so much on the table, and to the day he died he was creative, and practicing piano several hours a day,” Gurtman told Reuters. “He was just a great inspiration.”

Funeral services will be private, his daughter said.

Borge made a career of falling off piano stools, missing the keys with his hands and getting tangled up in the sheet music.

One of his inspirations was a pianist who played the first notes of the Grieg A Minor Concerto and then fell on the keys dead.

He said that the only time he got nervous on stage was when he had to play seriously and adds that if it had not been for Adolf Hitler he probably would never have pursued a career as a concert-hall comedian.

Until he was forced to flee Denmark in 1940 he was a stage and screen idol in his native country.

Lampooned Hitler

But as a Jew who had lampooned Hitler, Borge — his real name was Boerge Rosenbaum — was in danger and fled first to Sweden and then to the United States, where he arrived penniless and unknown and by a fluke got booked on the Bing Crosby radio show. He was an instant success.

He became an American citizen in 1948, but thought of himself as Danish. It was obvious from the numerous affectionate tributes and standing ovations at his 80th birthday concert in Copenhagen in 1989 that Danes felt the same way.

In the concert at Copenhagen’s Tivoli gardens, Borge played variations on the theme of “Happy Birthday to You” in the styles of Mozart, BrahmsWagner and Beethoven — all executed with such wit that the orchestra was convulsed with laughter that a woman performing a piccolo solo was unable to draw breath to play.

“Playing music and making jokes are as natural to me as breathing,” Borge told Reuters in an interview after that concert.

“That’s why I’ve never thought of retiring because I do it all the time whether on the stage or off. I found that in a precarious situation, a smile is the shortest distance between people. When one needs to reach out for sympathy or a link with people, what better way is there?

“If I have to play something straight, without deviation in any respect, I still get very nervous. It’s the fact that you want to do your best, but you are not at your best because you are nervous and knowing that makes you even more nervous.”

His varied career included acting, composing for films and plays and writing but he was best known for his comic sketches based on musical quirks and oddities.

Unpredictable Routine

His routines were unpredictable, often improvised on stage as his quick wit responded to an unplanned event — a noise, a latecomer in the audience — or fixed on an unlikely prop — a fly, a shaky piano stool.

Borge was born in Denmark on January 3, 1909, son of a violinist in the Danish Royal Orchestra.

His parents encouraged him to become a concert pianist, arranging his first public recital when he was 10. In 1927 he made his official debut at the Tivoli Gardens.

Borge’s mischievous sense of humor was manifest from an early age. Asked as a child to play for his parent’s friends he would announce “a piece by the 85-year-old Mozart” and improvise something himself.

When his mother was dying in Denmark during the occupation, Borge visited her, disguised as a sailor.

“Churchill and I were the only ones who saw what was happening,” he said in later years. “He saved Europe and I saved myself.”

From 1953 to 1956, he appeared in New York in his own production “Comedy in Music,” a prelude to world tours that often took him to his native Scandinavia.

On radio and television, Borge developed the comedy techniques of the bungling pianist that won him worldwide fame.

Many of his skits were based on real-life events. One of his classics evolved from seeing a pianist playing a Tchaikovsky concerto fall off his seat.

Borge’s dog joined the show after it wandered on stage while he was at the keyboard — an entrance nobody would believe had been unplanned.

One incident could not be repeated. A large fly flew on to Borge’s nose while he was playing. “How did you get that fly to come on at the right time?” people asked. “Well, we train them,” Borge explained.

Borge’s book, “My Favorite Intervals”, published in 1974, detailed little-known facts of the private lives of composers describing Wagner’s pink underwear and the time Borodin left home in full military regalia but forgot his trousers.

In 1975, Borge was honored in recognition of the 35th anniversary of his arrival in the United States and his work as unofficial goodwill ambassador from Denmark to the United States. He celebrated his 75th birthday in 1984 with a series of concerts at Carnegie Hall and in Copenhagen.

Borge received a host of honors from all four Scandinavian countries for his contributions to music, humor and worthy causes.

Borge, who had lived in Greenwich since 1964, is survived by five children, nine grandchildren, and one great grandchild. His wife of many years, Sanna, died earlier that year.

Borge’s birthday

Anniversary of Borge’s death

 

December 16 ~ This Day in Music History

hanukkah

Hanukkah
Hanukkah Music
Hanukkah Music Lyrics

 

Hanukkah 2017 began at sunset (4:48 at the O’Connor Music Studio) on Tuesday, December 12 and ends on Wednesday, December 20.

Christmas Music: We Three Kings

OCMS 1770 ~ Ludwig van Beethoven, Composer Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony was featured in the Walt Disney movie Fantasia and his Symphony Number 5 in Fantasia 2000
Listen to Beethoven’s music
More information on Beethoven
Grammy winner
If composers had Facebook: Beethoven’s profile

OCMS 1882 ~ Zoltán Kodály, Hungarian composer and collector of folk songs
More information on Kodály

• 1893 ~ Antonin Dvorák attended the first performance of his New World Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

• 1899 ~ Sir Noel Coward, British composer of musical comedies, actor and producer

• 1905 ~ Sime Silverman published the first issue of Variety, the weekly showbiz magazine. The first issue was 16 pages in length and sold for a nickel. Variety and Daily Variety are still going strong.

• 1907 ~ Eugene H. Farrar became the first singer to broadcast on radio. He sang from the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. The song was Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

• 1940 ~ Bob Crosby and his Bobcats backed up brother Bing as San Antonio Rose was recorded on Decca Records.

• 1960 ~ Lucille Ball took a respite from her weekly TV series to star in the Broadway production of Wildcat, which opened at the Alvin Theatre in New York City. The show ran for 171 performances.

• 1967 ~ The Lemon Pipers released Green Tambourine on an unsuspecting psychedelic world this day. The tune made #1 on February 3, 1968.

• 1971 ~ Melanie (Safka) received a gold record for the single, Brand New Key, about roller skates and love and stuff like that. This one made it to #1 on Christmas Day, 1971.

• 1971 ~ Don McLean’s eight-minute-plus (8:32) version of American Pie was released. It became one of the longest songs with some of the most confusing (pick your favorite interpretation) lyrics to ever hit the pop charts. American Pie hit #1 on January 15, 1972.

• 1972 ~ Paul McCartney’s single, Hi, Hi, Hi, was released. It peaked at #10 on the top tune tabulation (February 3, 1973).

• 2003 ~ Singer and guitarist Gary Stewart, who had a No. 1 country hit in 1975 with She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles), died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 58. A native of Letcher County, Ky., Stewart was a compelling songwriter and performer of guitar-driven, honky-tonk country. His last album, Live at Billy Bob’s Texas, was released in 2003. Besides the 1975 chart-topper, his hits included Drinkin’ Thing and Out of Hand. He worked with Southern rock greats Dickie Betts and Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band on the 1980 album Cactus and a Rose.

• 2017 ~ Z’ev, a percussionist, performer, composer, instrument builder, visual artist, poet and theorist who explored visceral and mystical dimensions of sound — becoming a pioneer of industrial music along the way — died in Chicago, where he lived. He was 66.

If composers had Facebook: Beethoven

beethoven-birthday

Happy Birthday, Beethoven!

He used the # in unusual places before Twitter… but how would Beethoven have used Facebook? And what would his profile look like? From his likes and dislikes to his friends and love interests, we’ve imagined what the composer might have posted online throughout his life.

beethovens-facebook

via If composers had Facebook: Beethoven’s profile.

December 7 ~ This Day in Music History

today

 

Pearl Harbor Day

 

Christmas Music: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

• 1637 ~ Bernardo Pasquini, Italian composer of operas, oratorios, cantatas and keyboard music.

• 1840 ~ Hermann Goetz, German Composer

• 1842 ~ The Philharmonic Society of New York, the first permanent orchestra in the U.S., held its first concert. Despite uncomfortable seating, the event was a huge success. They performed works of Beethoven.

OCMS 1863 ~ Pietro Mascagni, Italian composer and conductor
More information about Mascagni

• 1879 ~ Rudolf Friml, Musician, composer

• 1887 ~ Ernst Toch, Austrian-born American composer

• 1911 ~ Louis Prima, Trumpeter, bandleader with Louis Prima and His New Orleans Gang, Gleeby Rhythm Orchestra; songwriter, singer, married to Keely Smith

• 1931 ~ Bobby Osborne, Musician, mandolin, singer with the duo – Osborne Brothers

• 1942 ~ Harry Chapin, American folk-rock singer and songwriter, Recipient of Special Congressional Gold Medal, Worldwide Humanitarian for the Hungry, Needy and Homeless

• 1948 ~ NBC presented Horace Heidt’s Youth Opportunity Program for the first time. The talent show earned Dick Contino, an accordionist, the $5,000 prize as the program’s first national winner.

• 1949 ~ Tom Waits, Singer, songwriter, playwright, married to Kathleen Brennan

• 1954 ~ Mike Nolan, Singer with Bucks Fizz

• 1957 ~ Pat Boone was at the top of the pop charts for the first of six weeks withApril Love. His other number one hits included Ain’t That a Shame, I Almost Lost My Mind, Don’t Forbid Me and Love Letters in the Sand.

• 1984 ~ Michael Jackson was in Chicago to testify that the song, The Girl is Mine, was exclusively his and he didn’t swipe the song, Please Love Me Now. It was a copyright infringement case worth five million dollars. He won.

• 1990 ~ Dee (Delectus) Clark passed away