FINAL DAY OF THE 2017 TGB DONATION DRIVE
At last, you have reached the final day of the 2017 TGB donation drive. If you don't know what that is, you can find out details in last Monday's post. If you have donated, a great big thank you. If you would like to donate, use the button below or in the right sidebar.
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This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Continuing this series of columns (originally named by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist) to highlight lesser known composers who are seldom heard on radio or in concert, although some of the music today may be familiar to many of you.
JOHANN GEORG KNECHTEL was a horn player (what we call the French horn these days) in Dresden in the mid 1700s. Jo doesn't seem to have had his photo taken, so no picture for him.
He was principal horn player in the court of Dresden at the time and he wrote many works for the instrument. Alas, few remain as many of his manuscripts were destroyed during the egregious firebombing of the city during the war.
Here is the first movement of his Concerto for horn in D major, with the best French horn player from the last 50 years, BARRY TUCKWELL, doing the honors on the instrument.
Felix always contended that his sister FANNY MENDELSSOHN was a better musician and composer than he was (and that's a big call).
Alas, given the mores of the time, it wasn't the done thing for a woman to earn a living doing that sort of thing. However, with the love and support of both her brother and husband, the artist Wilhelm Hensel, Fanny managed to play (a little) and compose (a lot of) music, and even had some published in her lifetime (under Felix's name mostly).
She did manage to get some out under her own name at the time (a lot more now). There are 460 compositions of hers that are known, and are increasingly becoming part of the musical performing repertoire. She and Felix both died of complications due to massive strokes only six months apart. They were both too young.
Her string quartets are far in advance of any at the time, including her brother's, and even today are somewhat challenging. I had one pencilled in, but sorry, I changed my mind and have gone instead for the third movement of the Piano Trio in D Minor Opus 11.
LOUIS SPOHR was a German composer, violinist and conductor.
Besides that, all the violinists since his time are indebted to him because he invented the violin chin rest. It seems such an obvious thing but nobody came up with it until Louis did so.
Aside from that, he was a really prolific composer and his compositions are really worth listening to. One of those is the sixth movement of the Nocturne for Winds and Turkish Band in C-major, Op.34. Turkish themes were all the rage back then, even Mozart did some in that vein.
Many of you, perhaps most, would know the name BERNARD HERRMANN, especially the film buffs amongst us.
Bernie was a major writer of film scores, most notably for those of Alfred Hitchcock. Not just Hitch's films, he also wrote the music for Orson Welles' films likeCitizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and so on. Lots of others, more than 50 in total.
However, he's here today because he also wrote what those inclined in that direction like to call serious music – a symphony, concerto, sonatas etc. One of his compositions was called The Fantasticks, not to be confused with the musical with the same name (he did it first).
This was a piece of music that charted the months of the year. Unfortunately, he only got as far as May and the rest didn't see light of day. That's okay as April is really good (I'm sure April birthday people would applaud that, particularly Ronni, my sister and the A.M.).
Here it is with GILLIAN HUMPHREYS singing the part.
There's a theme to the remaining tracks, and theme is a singularly appropriate word as you'll see and hear.
ARAM KHACHATURIAN was born in Armenia in 1903. Thus for much of his life he was a citizen of the U.S.S.R.
He held high positions in the Union of Soviet Composers. Then he was officially denounced as a "formalist" (whatever that is – "anti-people" was the official reason) along with Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Later he was reinstated. A bit of a yoyo existence being a Russian composer of that time.
Anyway, he wrote music for a ballet called Spartacus. I assume Kirk Douglas wasn't in that one. The movement called Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia may be familiar to people who are long time watchers of BBC TV drama programs, and I'm thinking specifically of The Onedin Line.
Australian readers will need no introduction to the next piece by RONALD HANMER. It's called Pastorale.
The rest of the world probably does though. However, I can hear the Oz readers saying, "What are you talking about?" When I say this was the theme to "Blue Hills, I can already hear them going dar dar dar dar dar dar dar dar dar dum dum dum dum.
For the rest of the world, Blue Hills was a long-running radio serial that was broadcast from 1949 to 1976.
Ron was an English composer who eventually settled in Oz in 1975 and he really had no idea the impact his composition had on my country before then.
CHARLES-FRANÇOIS GOUNOD is probably mostly remembered these days for his opera Faust.
However, there was a lot more to Charlie than that. He wrote more than a dozen other operas, motets, masses, ballets, lots of songs and the usual symphonies, concertos and so on.
One of the "so on" is a piece called Funeral March of a Marionette. I probably only have to say the words Alfred Hitchcock and you'll know this piece of music.
FRANCISCO TÁRREGA was a Spanish composer and guitarist of the 19th century.
As a guitarist, he probably did more than anyone to bring the instrument into the classical canon. He also wrote music for it.
Probably his most famous work is Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Memories of the Alhambra). Today it's played by Eduardo Fernández.
Although not its theme, it was included in the film Sideways, which managed to bump up the price of pinot noir and reduce the price of merlot. Swings and roundabouts, I suppose.
SERGEI RACHMANINOV (or Rachmaninoff) was a Russian composer who left the country when the Bolsheviks came to power. He spent the rest of his life in America.
He was an excellent pianist and many of his compositions feature that instrument. People who have seen the film Shine will remember the "Rach 3", that is, his piano concerto no 3. That's not one I like at all, but his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor is a particular favorite.
Here is the second movement. For lovers of old films, this was used extensively in Brief Encounter.