Modest Mussorgsky composed this multi-movement work in memory of his friend, artist Viktor Hartmann. Each movement corresponds to a picture in Hartmann’s gallery, with one pairing with Hartmann’s Paris catacombs. The painting depicts Hartmann and two other men walking through the labyrinthine catacombs, illuminated only by lamplight.
The movement is in two distinct parts. Its two sections consist of a nearly static Largo consisting of a sequence of block chords with elegiac lines adding a touch of melancholy and a more flowing, gloomy Andante that introduces the Promenade theme into the scene.
The first section’s alternating loud and soft chords evoke the grandeur, stillness, and echo of the catacombs. The second section suggests a merging of observer and scene as the observer descends into the catacombs. Mussorgsky’s manuscript of “Catacombs” (shown right) displays two pencilled notes, in Russian: “NB – Latin text: With the dead in a dead language” and, along the right margin, “Well may it be in Latin! The creative spirit of the dead Hartmann leads me towards the skulls, invokes them; the skulls begin to glow softly.”
• 1820 ~ Jenny (Johanna) Lind, Swedish coloratura soprano, “The Swedish Nightengale”
• 1882 ~ Karol Szymanowski, Polish composer
• 1917 ~ A new word cropped up in the American lexicon: Jazz. The Literary Digest described jazz as music that caused people to, “shake, jump and writhe in ways to suggest a return to the medieval jumping mania.”
• 1927 ~ Paul Badura-Skoda, Austrian pianist and music editor
• 1927 ~ “Mammy, how I love you, how I love you, my dear old mammy!” It was Al Jolson in blackface, singing in the first full-length talking picture, The Jazz Singer, as it opened in New York City. In reality, The Jazz Singer was not a true talkie. There were only 291 spoken words in the landmark film; however, it was the first to integrate sound and this small amount of dialogue into a story through the Vitaphone disk process; and the first to entertain a large audience. The talking part was mostly singing, and it was Al Jolson who made the flick a success, proving to the critics that an all-talking film could work. (Because he didn’t think the pioneer of talkies would be all the rage, George Jessel actually turned down the starring role; as did Eddie Cantor.) A silent version of the film was released to movie theaters who had not yet popped for the $20,000 or so that it cost to rewire their venue. The audience was thrilled with Jolson’s sound performance as a cantor’s son, Jake Rabinowitz, rejecting the world he came from to become a singer of popular music, changing his name to Jack Robin in the process. Although not jazz as we know it, the songs Jolson sang became part of American music culture: Toot Toot Tootsie (Goodbye), Blue Skies, Waiting for the RobertE. Lee and, of course, My Mammy. For those truly with a need to know, Neil Diamond did not audition for Jolson’s part when finding out that Jessel had turned it down. Diamond performed in a remake of The Jazz Singer in 1980. As Jolson said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” Maybe, through the wonders of modern technology, we could hear Jolson and Diamond together, in concert. That would be the Mammy of all jazz singin’.
• 1941 ~ Claude Thornhill and his orchestra recorded Autumn Serenade on Columbia Records.
• 1946 ~ Millie Small (Smith), Singer, known as ‘The Blue Beat Girl’ in her native Jamaica
• 1949 ~ Bobby Farrell, Singer
• 1950 ~ Thomas McClary, Guitarist with The Commodores
• 1951 ~ Kevin Cronin, Singer with REO Speedwagon
• 1960 ~ Steve Lawrence and partner, Eydie Gorme, starred at the new Lotus Club in Washington, DC.
• 1962 ~ Robert Goulet stepped out of the role of Sir Lancelot after singing/acting the part since 1960. The fabulously successful Broadway musical, Camelot, also starred Richard Burton as King Arthur and Julie Andrews as Queen Guenevere.
• 1964 ~ Matthew Sweet, Guitarist, singer, songwriter
• 1969 ~ George Harrison‘s song ‘Something’ was released as the “A” side of a Beatles’ 45, a first for Harrison. Along with Lennon and McCartney’s ‘Come Together’, the single went on reach No.1 on the US chart the following month. Both tracks were lifted from the Abbey Road album.
• 1973 ~ Gene Krupa (1909) passed away. He was an American jazz drummer, bandleader, actor, and composer known for his energetic style and showmanship. His drum solo on “Sing, Sing, Sing” (1937) elevated the role of the drummer as a frequently used solo voice in the band.
• 1974 ~ “Mack & Mabel” opened at Majestic Theater NYC for 66 performances
• 1985 ~ Nelson Riddle, Grammy Award-winning orchestra leader passed away
• 2001 ~ Blues singer Mamie “Galore” Davis died of a stroke. She was 61. Davis was born Sept. 24, 1940, in Erwin, where she started singing the blues. She graduated from O’Bannon High School and joined a local band. She performed with such musicians as Little Johnny Burton, Buddy Hicks, Little Milton and the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Her first solo recording, Special Agent 34-24-38, was recorded on the St. Lawrence label in 1965. Under her first producer, Monk Higgins, she recorded two more singles for St. Lawrence, including her biggest hit, It Ain’t Necessary, in 1966.
• 2003 ~ Victor Buelow, who made it into the record books as the longest-serving community band director, died os an apparent heart attack. He was 94. Buelow directed the Jefferson American Legion Band for 72 years, from 1931 through the 2002 band season. Guinness World Records declared him the longest-serving director anywhere after he retired. Buelow stayed with the band even in retirement, playing the alto horn this summer
• 2007 ~ Queen’s groundbreaking promo for their 1975 hit Bohemian Rhapsody was named the UK’s best music video in a survey of music fans. Out of 1,051 adults polled by O2, 30% named the six-minute video, (which took only three hours to shoot and cost a mere £3,500 to make), their favorite.
• 2018 ~ Montserrat Caballé, Spanish soprano, died at the age of 85
• 2020 ~ Eddie Van Halen (Edward Lodewijk Van Halen) died at the age of 65. was a Dutch-American musician, songwriter, producer, and inventor.
• 2020 ~ John Lester Nash Jr. was an American singer-songwriter, best known in the United States for his 1972 hit “I Can See Clearly Now”. Primarily a reggae and pop singer, he was one of the first non-Jamaican artists to record reggae music in Kingston.
I have purchased a set of Shades of Sound Listening & Coloring Book: Halloween for the studio.
Each week, I will print out some of the pages for your student and put them in his/her notebook. They are also available in your Parent/Student Portal. After listening to the music on YouTube, the student may color the pages.
After they are colored, please return them to the notebook so that there will be a complete book when finished.
If you are an adult and want to listen and color, too, just let me know and I’ll print you a set.
The Shades of Sound Listening and Coloring Books are a great way to encourage students to listen to great piano and orchestral repertoire. Students of all ages will love coloring the fun pictures while listening to and learning from the music of the great composers.
This Shades of Sound Halloween edition includes 13 spooky pieces of piano and orchestral literature, ranging from the Baroque to the Modern period. By spending just 5-10 minutes per day listening for just a few days per week, students can listen to and complete the whole book in a few weeks.
Aspiring pianists need to know the literature, hear the greats perform, and be inspired and excited by the great music that is available! Just as writers need to read, read, read, pianists need to listen! Through this fun curriculum, students will learn about the musical periods and the great composers and their works. Listening repertoire selected includes selections from the standard solo piano literature, as well as solo piano and orchestra literature and orchestral works.
My hope is that students can add just 5-10 minutes of listening per day to their normal practicing. Listening to great music will change their understanding of music and will vastly increase their music history knowledge. It will excite and inspire them, encourage further study and listening, give them new pieces to add to their own repertoire wish list, infuse more great music into their lives, homes and families, and will boost their musicianship and expression to the next level.
The Halloween Shades of Sound book includes 13 different pieces, including:
Totentanz by Liszt
Le Cimetiere, from Clairs de Lune by Abel Decaux
Graceful Ghost Rag by William Bolcom
Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky/Rimsky-Korsakov
Tarantelle, from Music for Children Op. 65 No. 4 by Prokofiev
Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka
In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 by Bach
Funeral March, from Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor by Chopin
Danse Macabre by Saint-Saens
The Banshee by Henry Cowell
Scarbo, from Gaspard de la nuit by Ravel
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas
Students may use The Playful Piano – Halloween Listening YouTube playlist to listen along with their book using quality recordings. The playlist is ordered to go right along with the book, and also includes 5 extra pieces (some pages include optional “Further Listening” examples students may listen to).
Today, we’ll listen to the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, of Ludwig van Beethoven. It was written between 1804–1808. It is one of the best-known compositions in classical music, and one of the most frequently played symphonies. As is typical of symphonies in the classical period, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is in four movements.
I’m sure you’ve heard the first 8 notes before…
Since it was written for orchestra, each instrument has its own line:
A piano version, transcribed by Liszt
From Disney’s Fantasia 2000:
Pink learns to play the violin, and interrupts a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the Pink Panther theme played on various instruments.
Arrangements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony can be found in Piano Maestro and lots of books including Piano Pronto’s Movement 2, Movement 5 (Victory Theme) and Beethoven: Exploring His Life and Music.
Humoresques Op. 101 (B. 187), is a piano cycle by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák, written during the summer of 1894. One writer says “the seventh Humoresque is probably the most famous small piano work ever written after Beethoven’s Für Elise.
Yo Yo Ma (cello) and Itzhak Perlman (violin)
Jazz with Wynton Marsalis on trumpet
Zez Confrey gave this a makeover and included Way Down Upon the Swanee River:
Find the original Humoresque on IMSLP. The O’Connor Music Studio Lending Library has versions of Humoresque available at several levels and Confey’s Humorestless played in the video above.
Today, we’ll be listening to the end of the William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini. This piece, originally the overture to an opera, has been arranged for piano and is in several method books, including Piano Pronto Movements 1 and 2. It’s also in Bastien Book 4 and Piano Maestro.
The original story
Maybe your grandparents watched the original Lone Ranger
Or you saw the newer Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp
Here’s the entire William Tell Overture played by an orchestra
Franz Liszt made a really hard version for piano solo. See if you can follow along!
Piano Duet (1 piano, 4 hands)
Piano Duet arranged by Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Piano Duo (2 pianos, 8 hands)
Piano Quartet (4 pianos, 16 hands)
For pipe organ
And then things get nuts with cartoons. Lots of cartoons used this music. Here are Mickey Mouse and friends
And Spike Jones
Poor Rossini – I think he’d have a fit if he knew how is music was being used.
What can I say about John Cage’s 4′33″? Pretty much anyone can play this anytime.
It consists of the pianist going to the piano, and not hitting any keys for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. (He uses a stopwatch to time this.) In other words, the entire piece consists of silence or rests.
On the one hand, as a musical piece, 4’33” leaves almost no room for the pianist’s interpretation: as long as he watches the stopwatch, he can’t play it too fast or too slow; he can’t hit the wrong keys; he can’t play it too loud, or too melodramatically, or too subduedly.
On the other hand, what you hear when you listen to 4’33” is more a matter of chance than with any other piece of music — nothing of what you hear is anything the composer wrote.
With orchestra and soloist
Next time you come to a lesson and haven’t practiced, just tell me you’re playing Cage’s 4’33”!