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.
Here is some more music that has taken my fancy in recent times. Some I heard on the radio, others I played for my own enjoyment and thought I’d share it with you.
JOHANN FASCH was a German violinist and composer.
Jo’s dad died when he was about 12 and the family moved in with his mother’s brother who was a clergyman. It was through him that young Jo became a choir boy and made the acquaintance of several composers who put him on the path to becoming a composer himself.
He wrote cantatas, concertos, symphonies and chamber music. Surprisingly, nothing he wrote was published during his lifetime. One such is his Concerto for two Oboes da caccia, two Violas, two Bassoons and Continuo in G major. The oboe da caccia was a hunting oboe.
I didn’t know that there was such a thing. It’s a bit deeper than the regular oboe and looks like this.
I’ll play the whole concerto as it’s quite short as was the way of things back then before Vivaldi, Telemann and Bach came along and changed all that.
The music of PHILIP GLASS tends to polarise people.
Nobody seems to be ho hum about it – you usually love it or hate it. You can tell where I stand as I’m including him today. I especially like his piano music and I’ve included a piece today, his Etude No. 2. Listen with an open mind.
Continuing with contemporary music, ELENA KATS-CHERNIN is easily Australia’s finest living composer.
It might not induce you to listen to this when I say that the text of the piece is made up of mostly nonsense syllables sourced from Russian words to do with sea creatures; those words are then split up and used in reverse.
The composition was first heard at the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. It’s performed today by Sally Whitwell playing piano and the Gondwana Voices, a Sydney young people’s choir. Here is Deep Sea Dreaming.
For a complete change of pace, I give you MAX BRUCH.
Max was a German composer who has a couple of hundred compositions to his name, but is best known for his violin concertos which have become a staple on the concert circuit. That is especially so of his Violin Concerto No 1 in G Minor. Here is the third movement.
MAURICE RAVEL is best known (and quite often only known) for Bolero.
Like every composer, there’s more to him than a single composition. In 1904, the French musicologist Pierre Aubry was preparing a lecture on Greek folksongs. He enlisted the help of Greek-born fellow musicologist and critic Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi to provide some examples. He, in turn, asked his friend Maurice to orchestrate some of the chosen songs.
One of those is
NICOLA FRANCESCO HAYM was an Italian jack of all trades.
He went to London when he was in his early twenties and stayed there for the rest of his life. He took a job as a theatre manager and also wrote the words for operas by various composers, including Mr Handel.
Besides that he composed music of his own, was an artist and a literary editor who wrote about linguists, art, politics, poetry, geography, mathematics and astronomy.
Nic is the only composer I’ve come across who was a numismatist, being an expert on early Greek and Roman coins. He wrote several trio sonatas, one of which is the Trio Sonata No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 1. This is the fourth movement.
PYOTR TCHAIKOVSKY has a suite called “The Seasons”, a bit like Haydn, Vivaldi and others.
This is a misnomer as it’s really just the months of the year. These are twelve solo piano compositions and are quite lovely, gentle pieces; a million miles away from his bombastic works. The one I’ve included is June. It’s played by Vladimir Ashkenazy.
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS was a French composer, organist and pianist.
He was a child prodigy and performed major works in concert before he was a teenager. He was a bit of a polymath as he excelled in philosophy, literature, Greek and Latin, mathematics, astronomy and archaeology.
Camille is probably best known for rather over the top works like the Organ Symphony (No. 3) and Danse Macabre.
His Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33 is not in that mold; it’s a lot quieter than those. This is the second movement with Ha-Na Chang playing the cello.
There is an oratorio that GEORG HANDEL wrote three times.
Well, he revised it twice would be more accurate. The first time he wrote it in Italy and called it Il trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (The Triumph of Time and Disillusion). The next time was when he had moved to London and he called it Il trionfo del Tempo e della Verità (The Triumph of Time and Truth).
The third version was in English and just called The Triumph of Time and Truth. An aria from that is called “One Band Of Pleasures Keeps Watch Over My Thoughts”.
I’ll end with FRANZ DANZI whose name might give away his origins. He was born in Germany to an Italian cello player.
Franz took after his dad and took up the cello himself. He also wrote music and was a conductor of some note at the time. His compositions tended to favour chamber music – duos, quartets, quintets, septets and the like.
What we have today, however, is a bigger work. It’s the Concertante in B-flat major for flute, clarinet & orchestra, Op. 41, the first movement.