Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday 8-Track

Yet another one I "think" I have done before, but Blogger says otherwise so we shall proceed. This week I ran into one of my former students who is well on her way to becoming a very fine concert flautist, so I thought I might shake it up a bit this Friday and do something a little more highbrow -- orchestral/symphonic music.

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 5 - "Allegro non troppo"

John Williams is often accused of being derivative via claims that he has taken a lot of Romantic classics and sort of mashed them up into his epic film scores (kind of like Puffy). Shostakovich is one composer where you can almost immediately hear where Williams' work came from. This fourth (and final) movement from his fifth symphony is so much fun and you would think, as you listen, that there is a film splashed on a screen somewhere in the background. It is very Russian at times (read: intense, brooding) yet the Romantic backdrop persists throughout as the main theme pops up several times including the end with a lot of tension and majesty. Good stuff.

Hector Berlioz - Symphonie fantastique - "March au supplice"

This piece is very, um, French -- you can hear where a lot of Bizet's inspiration came from, I think. The March to the Scaffold is the fourth of five movements and is about the main character's opiate-induced nightmare where he sees himself being led off for execution. When I say it is very French I mean that for such a harrowing theme, the piece is still somewhat light and fanciful. If it had been Wagner doing it, g-d only knows how terrifying it would have sounded. Anyway, I remember doing a watere-down arrangement of this in 8th grade but the full orchestral arrangement is really cool, and a classic.

George Gershwin - Rhapsody In Blue

I think that this is one of the most "American" pieces of music ever written. The collision of Western European classicism, the proto-pop of Tin Pan Alley, and jazz styles is something that could only have come form the Land of the Free. It moves all over the place, in and out of time and key, but I love that big classic ending the most -- you know it, the one from the airline commercials. I saw a saxophone quartet perform this in odd chapel in Prague once which was really cool but nothing compares to the complete orchestration.

Modest Mussorgsky - Pictures at an Exhibition - "The Great Gate of Kiev"

This is so enjoyable. Composed as a piece for solo piano, it was teh Maruice Ravel arrangement for orchestra that truly displayed the song's potential. As I have mentioned before, my high school band played this and it was one of the most exhilirating performances I have ever been a part of it. Thankfully we had an incredible trumpet section which is so necessary throughout but especially during this final movement about the Bogatyr Gates in Kiev. The movement preceding it is this odd Russina fable known as "The Hut of Baba Yaga" and the end of it crescendos into the first huge chord of "The Great Gate of Kiev." These looooong legato brass chords are so big and so regal...chills. I love it.

Giuseppe Verdi - Requiem - "Dies Irae"

Fucking awesome. Seriously. I can't think of a better way to describe this movement of Verdi's Requiem. It is so terrifying and compelling and loud that you can absolutely get drawn into it. Elements to note are the huge percussive hits that work in a call-and-response with the orchestral hits as well as the frantic high strings (similar to Wagner's darkest and angriest moments) that sound like the heavens are being burned form the sky. I don't know if even a Marshall stack turned up to 11 could compete with these 2 minutes.

Franz Liszt - Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2

OK, not an orchestral work but one helluva piano piece. Of course I like it for the same reason everyone else does, its use in both Rhapsody Rabbit and The Cat Concerto. Essentially the same movies, Bugs Bunny attempts to play the piece while chasing a mouse around inside his grand piano (and in the other film Tom chases arround Jerry). The song is perfect for an animated movie because of its lilting beginnning and subsequently furious moments throughout. Both of these movies still make me laugh.

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No. 10 - "Allegro"

Darker and more sever than his fifth symphony, the tenth has a lot of cool percussive moments. In the "Allegro" the basses and cellos shine with heavy bow strokes in which you can almost visualize the right angles. Syncopated percussion hits against the low-string bow strokes, like in the Verdi Requiem, give this piece the terror of Stalin's high-stepping footsoldiers. Very cool.

Pytor Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture

OK, waaaay obvious. But I love the fact that it was referenced in Calvin & Hobbes strip where Calvin, whose parents own only "classical" records, discovers the great Overture and surpsingly enjoys it.

Calvin: "Interesting percussion."
Hobbes: "Those are cannons."
Calvin: "And they perform this in crowded concert halls?? Gee, I thought classical music was boring!"

Oh, and the bell chimes at the ned kick ass.


At 1/12/2007 4:13 PM, Blogger Momentary Academic said...

You break out the Shostakovich and I suspect that you're the real deal. Nice job.

huh. my word verification is tgfif...

thank girl friend it's friday?
that'll work!

At 1/12/2007 7:59 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Thank you. Were I Leonard Bernstein I would bow at the waist and flip my tuxedo tails.

Those word verifications are like little Rorschach tests.


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