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’s some more music to tickle your fancy as my fancy has been already tickled.
Let’s start the ball rolling with one of my all time favorites, JOSEPH HAYDN.
If you’re going to play a string quartet, which I am – well, my hands don’t hold any instruments, I’m just the D.J. – Joe is your man as he invented it. One of those is his String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op.71 No.1, the fourth movement.
For a change of pace, and going back quite a few years, we find along the way GIUSEPPE TARTINI.
His name always struck me as being a good name for an Italian ice cream, but that is not the case (as far as I know). No, he was a Baroque composer from the then Republic of Venice, and he was from the part of it that now is Slovenia.
He was most noted as a violin player and composer for that instrument. However, I’m going for something different, his Trumpet Concerto in D major, D. 53, the third movement.
FREDERICK SEPTIMUS KELLY was an Australian composer of the early 20th century.
He won a musical scholarship to Oxford University where he was also on the rowing team. Unfortunately, the first world war (it wasn’t called that at the time) intervened. He took part in the ill-advised Gallipoli campaign, where he was wounded and wrote music during his down time.
He later was part of Battle of the Somme where he died. He was one of a dozen composers who were killed in that battle. What a waste, not just the composers but everyone in that war. It was totally unnecessary.
Now I’ve got that off my chest, here is the fifth movement, a jig, from his Serenade for flute, harp, horn and strings.
ALEXANDER SCRIABIN was one of the first composers to write atonal music, thus it was very improbable that I would include him in one of my columns.
Indeed, it’s improbable that I would bother listening to his music at all. However, early the other morning I was lying in bed when the announcer on the radio said he was going to play some music of his.
I was snug under the covers and didn’t want to get my arm out to switch off the radio or turn it down. Well, knock me over with a feather, or some such expression, I found the piece to be quite enjoyable.
I checked the intertube and found that he was initially influenced by Chopin and wrote music in that style before he switched to what he was most famous for. Here is his Etude Op.2 No 1 played by the inimitable Valdimir Horowitz.
Here is the only violin concerto composed by ROBERT SCHUMANN, and therein lies a tale.
He composed this towards the end of his life for his good friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim. Joe didn’t perform the concerto as he thought that Bob had gone completely bonkers and it was unplayable.
He convinced Clara, Bob’s wife, and his good friend Johannes Brahms (who may have had a bit of a thing for Clara, but we won’t go there) that that was the case.
There was some justification for this as Bob had already (seemingly) attempted suicide and he was subsequently banged up in a sanatorium where he died. It was decided (mostly by Joachim) that the concerto was not to be performed until 100 years after Bob’s death. That would be in 1956.
However, in 1933 his great-nieces, Jelly d'Arányi and Adila Fachiri, who were violinists and also apparently somewhat bonkers themselves, held a séance and decided that it was alright to perform it early, so they did.
Anyway, in spite of all that carry on, the concerto is well worth a listen. Here is Violin Concerto in D minor, WoO 23, the second movement.
J.S. BACH is well known for his cantatas, he wrote scads of them.
Many of those were for particular days on the religious calendar, but his cantata BWV 51 was designated “for general use”, that is they could slot it in any time they liked, just as a filler I suppose.
The cantata was named Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen which is something along the lines of Shout for joy in God in every land. It is his only cantata scored for trumpet and soprano. From that one we have Elizabeth Watts singing the first aria.
VINCENZO BELLINI is most noted as an opera composer and most especially the opera “Norma”, but many others as well.
However, there were more strings to his composing bow than just opera. His focus of study was on the works of Haydn and Mozart and that shows in this work, the Oboe Concerto in E-Flat Major, the second movement.
There are some instruments where it’s problematic for them to be played in a concerto setting. That’s because they are quite soft and the full orchestra tends to drown them out. One of those instruments is the harp.
However, in spite of what I just said, there are harp concertos. One of those is by JOHANN WILHELM HERTEL.
Jo was from a family of composers and musicians, his father and grandfather were both composers of some note. Getting back to the concerto, I notice that when the harp is playing, most of the orchestra stops, there are just a couple of instruments accompanying it.
You can hear that his Harp Concerto in F-major, the first movement.
At one time in Vienna WOLFGANG MOZART had a violin sonata commissioned to be played in a few days.
He had completed the violin part but had only a few rough ideas about the piano section. Comes the day and that was still the status of the work, so he decided to play the piano himself.
He put a blank sheet of paper in front of him and improvised the whole thing. His wife Constanze reported that Emperor Joseph II, who was present, sent for Wolfie and his score (he’d apparently seen the empty sheet through his opera glasses). Joe thought it was a great joke.
Here is the first movement of his Violin Sonata No 32 in B flat major K454.
I’m not a big fan of JOHANNES BRAHMS but every now and then I find a piece of his music that pricks up my ears.
Some people compare Brahms’ symphonies with those of Beethoven. I suggest that some people should have their ears cleared out.
Anyway, enough ranting, and in spite of what I said, I’m going to play part of a Brahms symphony, the third movement of his Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90. This one is pretty good.