The 5 Browns are rising stars in the music world, appealing not only to Classical Music fans but also to other music lovers as well. The group is made up of five siblings, all of which attended Julliard. On their latest CD, Browns in Blue, we get a chance to hear them in music ranging from classical to jazz. There's even a track with The 5 Browns playing along through the magic of technology with Dean Martin singing Everybody Loves Somebody.
Yet my favorite tracks on this CD remain the ones with solo performances by the Browns. This includes a beautiful interpretation of Brahms' most famous Intermezzo by Melody and a wonderful performance of Chopin's Nocturne in C minor by Gregory.
While the tracks that contain all 5 Browns playing are typically exciting and fresh, the Classical purist may be a bit offended. For instance, in the opening 18th Variation from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff, the addition of glissandi and other excessive notes at times seems to obscure the beautiful melody that has made the work so famous. However, the excerpt of An American in Paris by Gershwin with Chris Botti on trumpet is not to be missed and one of the standout tracks on the disc. All in all, I fully recommend this CD as I quite enjoyed listening to it and I'm sure you will as well.
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Friday, November 23, 2007
Friday, February 02, 2007
As someone who has had the privilege of recently enjoying the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, I figured I would write a little about Gian Carlo Menotti who passed away yesterday.
Gian Carlo Menotti was born in Cadegliano-Viconago, Italy on July 7th, 1911. Menotti began writing songs when he was only 7 years old. He wrote a full opera, The Death of Pierrot, including the libretto, when he was only 11! He began formal training in 1923 at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan.
After his father died, Menotti came to America with his mother where he enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia alongside fellow students such as Leonard Bernstein and his future partner, Samuel Barber. Menotti would later go on to teach at Curtis, also.
While at Curtis, Menotti wrote his first mature opera among the many to follow called Amelia goes to the Ball to his own text. He wrote the libretti for all his operas. His first full-length opera, The Consul, was premiered in 1950. For this work, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in music.
In 1951, he wrote his most popular work today, Ahmal and the Night Visitors. It is still a tradition at Christmastime. It was the first opera written specifically for television.
Menotti founded the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy in 1958. He would later go on to found its counterpart here in the United States, Spoleto Festival USA, in Charleston, SC in 1977. In 1993, Menotti took the top post at the Rome Opera. He passed away Thursday, February 1st, 2007, in Monte Carlo with family at his side.
Thursday, January 12, 2006
Ok. I know. I've been posting way too much about Mozart lately! I just can't help it. I'm sorry.
This is certainly worthy of a post, though!!!
I just found out that Mozart's "Verzeichnis aller meiner Werke" is now available in a super high-tech format to browse for free at the British Library's website.
This is a journal that Mozart himself kept with a chronology of his composed works and a short thematic example for each. However, only Kochel Nos. 459 - 623 are contained within its pages.
The presentation of the catalogue is simply remarkable. A job well done by the British Library! A Macromedia Shockwave application, you can turn the pages yourself, zoom in with a magnifying glass, listen to the audio excerpt, read a text description of each page and listen to audio commentary on each entry as well. Probably the coolest feature of all is when you have a section of text magnified with the magnifying glass, you can hit a button called "transcription" and by sheer magic, Mozart's flowery handwriting turns into something much, much more legible. Brilliance!!!
Monday, January 02, 2006
Well, I'm back from a long break. First off, I want to wish everyone a very happy new year!! Not only is it a new year, but it is a "Mozartean" new year. That's right, in case you haven't heard, 2006 will mark Mozart's 250th birthday. So be prepared to hear about Mozart quite a lot.
Speaking of Mozart, I just came across the results from a poll conducted by Classic FM asking users what they felt was Mozart's greatest work. About 103,000 users responded and their top choice: the Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622. This was followed by the Requiem, the Ave Verum Corpus, the Piano Concerto No. 21, and The Marriage of Figaro.
Mozart wrote the Clarinet Concerto, his last instrumental work, in October of 1791, only two months before his untimely death. Indeed, Mozart was a major factor in helping to establish a solid place for the clarinet in the orchestra. Mozart's love of the clarinet developed during the time he spent in Mannheim in 1777 and 1778. His admiration of the instrument grew even more when he met the brothers Anton and Johann Stadler in Vienna who were both virtuoso clarinetists.
Mozart was so impressed with Anton's playing that he wrote not only the Clarinet Concerto for him, but also the Piano and Wind Quintet, K. 452, the Clarinet Trio, K. 498, and the Clarinet Quintet, K. 581.
The concerto has only a quiet orchestral background allowing the clarinet to truly shine. Instead of oboes, Mozart decided to score the work with flutes along with 2 bassoons, 2 horns and strings. However, an interesting aspect of the concerto is that Mozart gave the bass line primarily to the cellos without the support of the double basses. This increases further the serenity of the work.
Mozart's writing for the clarinet proves that he truly understood the instrument fully exploiting it to its true potential without showy cadenzas or virtuosity for its own sake. In the concerto, some of the best cantabile passages ever written for clarinet can be found.
A sense of sorrow is ever present throughout the concerto not only in the Adagio, but also in the other two movements as well suggesting that Mozart may have foreseen his approaching fate. Perhaps H. C. Robbins Landon described the concerto best in his use of a quote from Shakespeare: "The heart dances, but not for joy."
From: [BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Mozart clarinet piece tops poll ]
Thursday, December 15, 2005
|Norman Lebrecht from La Scene Musicale has thoroughly discredited himself and, also, caused an outcry of outrage on message boards and blogs all over with his recent article entitled "Too much Mozart makes you sick."|
Lebrecht shows that he is completely unfamiliar with the works and history of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His article is full of inaccuracies. He goes as far as to state that Mozart's music is "lively, melodic and dissonance free." Has he only listened to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik?!? I'd love to know how few of Mozart's works Mr. Lebrecht has heard to make such a blanket generalization. After all, Mozart wrote a string quartet that is called the "Dissonance quartet!"
Even more outrageous is Mr. Lebrecht's statement that Mozart "failed to take music one step forward." What a preposterous thought! Mozart excelled in every form of music he tried his hand at. For instance, he practically invented the Piano Quintet. His combinations of instruments and expirementation with various forms of music were extremely unique and carried an enormous amount of influence on to future generations of composers.
Mr. Lebrecht appears to hold Haydn in high regard saying that he "invented the sonata form without which music would never have acquired its classical dimension." Well, Mr. Lebrecht, did you know that Haydn himself said that Mozart was the greatest composer known to him and that Mozart had the most profound knowledge of composition. Could Haydn have not known what he was talking about, Mr. Lebrecht?!
Apparently, Mr. Lebrecht has only given the music of Mozart a very shallow, surface listening at best. He claims that "Mozart merely filled the space between staves with chords that he knew would gratify a pampered audience. He was a provider of easy listening, a progenitor of Muzak." Completely false!! Perhaps that is the beauty of Mozart's music. Many times the most simplistic sounding passages hold much more complexity than the listener actually realizes only to be discovered upon closer inspection. If Mr. Lebrecht would have done his research, he would know that much of Mozart's music was considered by audiences who first heard it to be too complex and contain too much dissonance. Mozart did not "pamper" the audience, and felt that it would be a disservice to his art to do so!
Lebrecht mentions Dmitri Shostakovich saying that he is "a composer of true courage and historical significance." Sure, Shostakovich was a true talent, but to say that he has more "historical significance" than Mozart?!? Lebrecht has leaped off the cliff of absurdity and has fallen flat on his face with his crazy assertions.
However, Lebrecht saves his most shocking statements for last saying that "Mozart has nothing to give to mind or spirit in the 21st century. Let him rest." I think you should give it a rest, Mr. Lebrecht! Perhaps you wrote this article with the intention of shocking readers and taking an opposite stance to almost every musicologist, philosopher or previous composer that ever lived. For you would be hard pressed to find any composer that did not regard Mozart as the supreme figure of musical history.
Certainly, you have garnered a lot of attention for yourself. However, I bet this wasn't the kind of attention you wanted. You have discredited yourself in my eyes and in those of pretty much every other reader who knows anything.
Thus, Mr. Lebrecht, my stance is that Mozart will have plenty to give to the mind and spirit in the 21st century whereas you have nothing but nonsense and ignorance to contribute. So perhaps you are the one who should be "left to rest."
Other reactions can be found at:
The Mozart Forum
The Classical Music Guide Forums
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
When I go to the gym, I usually just listen to whatever they are playing no matter how bad it is because I'm too cheap to buy an mp3 player. I do wonder though what I would listen to if I did have one. I love Classical Music, obviously, but I wonder what kind of workout companion it would be.
The Well-Tempered Blog highlights an article about just that.
The article, written by Wayne Lee Gay for the Star-Telegram gives some prime examples for music to listen to while exercising. The focus is on what is good to listen to while doing cardio.
You'll find at the top of the list Rachmaninoff's works for piano and orchestra, a fine suggestion in my book! Other suggestions for cardio include Elgar's Introduction and Allegro for Strings, J.S. Bach's keyboard concertos, Ernest Bloch's Concerto Grosso No. 1 for Piano and Strings, and Howard Hansen's symphonies.
He also gives some fine suggestions for music to listen to while doing meditation-based exercises such as Yoga or Tai-Chi. Once again with Rachmaninoff, he suggests the Preludes for piano. Who knew that Rachmaninoff was so conducive to exercising?! Joplin's Piano rags are his other choice.
These all sound like great ideas to me, but what about those who are weightlifting. Probably something dramatic like a Sturm and Drang symphony would be good. Anyone else have any ideas?
[From The Star-Telegram]