Friday, April 21, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 048 - Flower Box

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

048. Flower Box

The flower box was a particularly easy toy to build -- and one that I think might have actually been played with. The crosspieces at the bottom of the legs made the whole assembly quite stable. 

And although it wouldn't support much weight, you could fill the box with paper cut outs or Cracker Jack prizes -- but not marbles.  


Thursday, April 20, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth recap: Part 3 - The Romantic Period

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. The idea’s pretty simple: post a link to a classical work, and – in the body of the tweet – provide a little info about it. For March 2017, some of the participants decided to include a theme.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we would only post links to works by women composers. We used an additional hashtag #WomensHistoryMonth to ensure a wider audience. It seemed to work. I received many comments on my March #ClassicsaDay posts.

And I believe we helped make the case that the concept of “women composers” is hardly a late-20th-century phenomenon. Women have been writing music as long as there has been a notation for it. Here’s the list of women composers and their works I shared during #WomensHistoryMonth 

Part 2: The Romantic (1827-1910)

Sophia Maria Westenholz (1759–1838) - Morgenlied
- Composer and educator Sophia Westenholz entered the German court at an early age. Her husband was Kapellmeister at Ludwiglust, and after his death, she was appointed Kapellmeisterin. Her works were often performed at court and many of her compositions were published.




Cecilia Maria Barthélemon (c. 1769–after 1840) Piano Sonata Op. 1, No. 3
 - Cecilia Barthélemon was an English opera singer and composer. Both her parents were professional musicians and composers as well.

Marie Bigot (1786–1820) - Suite d'Etudes
- Marie Bigot earned her living as a piano teacher. All of her compositions are for solo piano, written primarily for her students.

Maria Agata Szymanowska (1789–1831) - Nocturne in B-flat major
 - Maria Szymanowska was one of the first piano virtuosos -- of either sex -- to be a professional touring artist. Clara Schumann would follow the same career path. Like many touring artists of the 19th century, most of her compositions were written primarily for herself to perform in concert.


Fredrica von Stedingk (1799–1868) - Noturno
- Little is known of Maria Fredrica von Stedingk, save that she was a maid of honor for the Queen of Sweden, Désirée Clary. Her music survives in manuscript.

Marianna Bottini (1802–1858) - Requiem Mass
 - Bottini wrote a wide variety of works. She was admitted to the Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna as an 'honorary master composer'. As if. The quality of her compositions renders the qualifier "honorary" completely unnecessary.



Louise Farrenc (1804–1875) - Symphony No. 3
- Louise Farrenc was one of the most prominent Parisian composers. During her lifetime her music was frequently performed, though her fame virtually disappeared after her death. Happily, her music has enjoyed renewed interest in the 21st Century.

Louise-Angélique Bertin (1805–1877) - Highlights from Esmeralda
- French composer Louise-Angélique Bertin wrote a number of operas, including "Esmeralda." The opera was based on Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and she collaborated with the author (Hugo wrote the libretto) in the creation of the work.

Clara Schumann (1819-1896) - Piano Concerto
- Clara Schumann is one of the best-known women composers. She was a piano virtuoso and wife of Robert Schumann. Her compositions are mostly piano-centric.



Teresa Milanollo (1827–1904) - Lamento, Op. 7
- Teresa Milanollo was a violin virtuoso and a child prodigy. She enjoying a successful career as a touring performer and composer.

Tekla Badarzewska-Baranowska (1834–1861) - A Maiden's Prayer, Op. 4
- Polish composer Tekla Badarzewska-Baranowska specialized in piano miniatures. She wrote and published 35 works, her career cut short by an early death.

Laura Valborg Aulin (1860–1928) - Piano Sonata in F minor Op. 14
- Swedish composer Laura Aulin wrote mostly lieder and works for solo piano. She did, however, write two exceptionally fine string quartets.



Clémence de Grandval (1828–1907) - Oboe Concerto, Op. 7
- Clémence de Grandval was a well-known French composer, but her fame diminished after her death. She wrote extensively for the oboe, and also composed several operas as well as other major works.

Alice Tegnér (1864–1943)- Ave Maria
 - Alice Tegnér rose to prominence in the late 19th century as a composer of children's songs. Virtually all of her works are vocal or choral.



Margaret Ruthven Lang (1867–1972) - Three Piano Pieces
- Margaret Lang was part of the Second New England School of American composers. She and Amy Beach were the first two women to have their works performed by American orchestras.

Signe Lund (1868–1950) - Prelude for piano
- Norwegian composer Signer Lund came from an artistic family. Her mother Birgitte Charlotte Carlsen was a pianist and a composer, and her brother was artist Henrik Lund. Over 60 of her compositions have been published.

Joséphine Boulay (1869–1925) - Prelude for organ
- Boulay was a French organist and composer of considerable talent. She studied with Cesar Franck and Jules Massenet.

Henriette Renié (1875–1956) - Harp Concerto
- Harp virtuoso Henriette Renié composed music primarily for her instrument. Her works have become part of the core repertoire for the harp.

Hélène Fleury-Roy (1876–1957) - Fantasie for violin and piano, Op. 18
- Hélène Fleury-Roy was a French composer of some reputation. She holds the distinction of being the first woman to win the prestigious Prix du Rome composition competition.



Jeanne Beijerman-Walraven (1878–1969) - Concert Overture
- Dutch composer Jeanne Beijerman-Walraven wrote an extensive amount of choral and orchestral music. When the romantic style of composition fell out of favor in the 1920s, performances of her works declined.

Johanna Müller-Hermann (1878–1941) - String Quartet in E flat major, Op. 6
- Johanna Müller-Hermann studied with Alexander von Zemlinsky and was renowned for her chamber and orchestral music.




Next week: The Modern Era

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Parisian Inspirations - Dionne Jackson's love letter


Parisian Inspirations is the kind of recital recording I like -- one where the artist has a personal connection with every work.

In the liner notes Dionne Jackson writes, "I feel a direct lineage to every composer chosen for this CD, many of my Professors at the Conservatoire had either known or studied with these composers or their pupils and proteges."

That personal connection makes every work on Jackon's CD worthy of attention -- even the oft-recorded pieces. Dionne Jackson's rich warm tone is ideally suited to the French repertoire that she studied so intimately. Even in the extreme upper register, the notes are well-rounded and beautiful.

Standard flute works such as Debussy's Syrinx and Poulenc's Sonata for flute and piano sound fresh in these performances. Even conservatory test pieces, such as Taffanel's Andante Pastoral et Scherzettino and Gaubert's Nocturne et Allegro Scherzando seem to come alive rather than sound like technical challenges.

Some recital discs are ideal for aspiring artists to study and learn from. Dionne Jackson's "Parisian Inspirations" is beyond that -- this is inspired music-making everyone can appreciate and enjoy.

Dionne Jackson, flute; Marija Stroke, piano
Flute music by Dutilleux, Taffanel, Gaubert, Bozza, Roussel, Ferroud, Debussy, Poulenc
Bridge Records 9482

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Take a Top 40 Mind Trip - The Journey

The community radio station I volunteer for, WTJU recently finished their spring fund drive. I hosted a special three-hour program featuring psychedelic-inspired Top 40 hits from 1966-1969. In my previous post, I outlined the criteria for selecting the tracks and some historical background. As promised in that post, here are the actual sets I aired.

San Francisco 1
- The Summer of Love started in San Francisco, which spawned the first round of psychedelic hits.
  • San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) - Scott MacKinzie
  • San Francisco Nights - The Animals
  • Fantasy Fair radio ad (a three-day open-air SF music festival. 20 bands, including the Doors, Grass Roots, Jefferson Airplane, and the Sunshine Company for $3.00!)
  • Neon Rainbow - The Boxtops
Colors
- Bright colors were an integral part of psychedelic posters, fashion, and imagery in lyrics.
  • Green Tamborine - The Lemon Pipers
  • Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles
  • The Happening Night Club radio ad (This 1967 Seattle club ad touted a visiting SF band, and local fave Merilee and Persuasions. Merilee Rush would later chart with "Angel of the Morning.")
  • Crystal Blue Persuasion - Tommy James and the Shondells
Light Psych 
- There were many gatekeepers to ensure only appropriate songs got airplay. In this set, the drug references are oblique, but quite obvious if you were hip.
  • Good Vibrations - Beach Boys
  • Along Comes Mary" - The Association
  • Vox WaWa w/the Electric Prunes radio ad
  • I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night - The Electric Prunes
Heavy Psych 
- The songs in this set were heavier in their sound, and the psychedelic imagery really took flight.
  • Time Has Come Today - The Chamber Brothers
  • Pictures of Matchstick Men - The Status Quo
  • 7 UP Uncola Underground - radio ad (The Uncola Underground was a commercial co-op of the underground radical movements sprouting up on college campuses. The Uncola Underground would break into a 7 Up commercial with a subversive broadcast of their own.)
  • In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida - Iron Butterfly (this was the radio edit version)


Psych Out 
- The reports of LSD users inspired psychedelic imagery. The drug culture also had to be coded to get past AM radio music directors.
  • Eight Miles High - The Byrds
  • Kicks - Paul Revere and the Raiders
  • Psych-Out radio ad (Dick Clark's exploitation movie was filmed on location in Haight-Ashbury and featured music by the Seeds and the Strawberry Alarm Clock.)
  • Incense and Peppermint - Strawberry Alarm Clock
The Trip 
- Another drug-inspired set
  • Itchycoo Park - The Small Faces
  • Cloud Nine - The Temptations
  • Levis Jeans/Jefferson Airplane radio ad (a truly psychedelic radio experience)
  • White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane


Sunshine Classics
 - The hippie movement grew out of the early psychedelic scene, and the sun was an important motif. Musically, it formed a sub-genre of light psych called sunshine pop.
  • Come to the Sunshine - Harpers Bizarre
  • Sunshine Girl - Parade
  • Falstaff Beer with Cream radio ad (Cream sings their own Falstaff jingle)
  • Sunshine of Your Love - Cream
More Light Psych
  • Morning Dew - Lulu (Though well-known to Grateful Dead fans, and recorded by Love, Lulu's version was the only one that charted)
  • Naturally Stoned - Avante-Garde
  • Crimson and Clover - Tommy James and the Shondells
Hippy Chick
 - The concept of the free-spirited flower child was another Top 40 favorite
  • Windy - The Association
  • Georgy Girl - The Seekers
  • Clairol Psssssst radio ad
  • The Rain, The Park, and Other Things - The Cowsills
Feeling Groovy
 - "Groovy" part of the early psych vocabulary. By the time it was used by Cheerios in 1969, it was old hat.
  • Groovy Kind of Love - Wayne Fontane and the Mindbenders
  • The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) - Harpers Bizarre
  • Cheerios Feelin' Groovy radio ad
  • Groovin' - The Young Rascals
The Bad Trip
 - LSD trips weren't always just bright colors and sounds.
  • 19th Nervous Breakdown - The Rolling Stones
  • Psychotic Reaction - Count Five
  • The Trip radio ad (This exploitation film purportedly duplicated an authentic LSD trip for the audience.)
  • Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - The Beatles
Hair, the Musical
 - You know a trend is over when it reaches Broadway. "Hair" was indeed a product of its time, Although the cast album sold briskly, the tunes only charted when covered by others.
Hair - The Cowsills
Good Morning Starshine - Oliver
Easy to be Hard - Three Dog Night
Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In - The Fifth Dimension

Friday, April 14, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 047 - Candelabrum

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

047. Candelabrum

Put it down to artistic license. The illustration for this toy shows the "candles" merrily burning away. I had no desire to ignite the dowel rods just to more closely emulate the image! 

The build for the candle holder wasn't too difficult. The illustration shows a longer dowel attached to the base. I used the longest dowel provided, but in order for it to balance anything, I had to push it through both metal base pieces. That made it look substantially shorter than it does in the illustration. 

Of course, the candle holder assembly weighted a fair amount (relatively speaking). But the challenge there was to make sure that the cross pieces intersected at exactly 90 degrees to keep the load balanced. The most difficult part of the process was making sure each "candle" pointed straight up.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth recap: Part 2 - The Baroque

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. The idea’s pretty simple: post a link to a classical work, and – in the body of the tweet – provide a little info about it. For March 2017, some of the participants decided to include a theme.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we would only post links to works by women composers. We used an additional hashtag #WomensHistoryMonth to ensure a wider audience. It seemed to work. I received many comments on my March #ClassicsaDay posts.

And I believe we helped make the case that the concept of “women composers” is hardly a late-20th-century phenomenon. Women have been writing music as long as there has been a notation for it. Here’s the list of women composers and their works I shared during #WomensHistoryMonth 

Part 2: The Baroque Period (1600-1750)

Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana (1590–1662) - O invictissima Christi Martir
 - Vizzana was a Camaldolese nun. She was a singer, organist, and composer, all of which was done inside (and for) her convent. Her collection of sacred motets, published in 1623, reflected the stile moderne -- the "new style" of the Baroque.

Claudia Sessa (c. 1570–between 1613 and 1619) Vattene pur
 - Sessa was another Italian composer who spent her musical life in a nunnery. Two of her works were published in 1613.




Claudia Rusca (1593–1676) - Jubilate Deo
 - Rusca was an Umiliate nun, and her music was written for performance in monasteries. The only contemporary copy of her 1530 collection, Sacri concerti was destroyed in WWII.

Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602–1678) - Messa Paschale
 - Cozzolani was a Benedictine nun, as well as a singer, organist and composer. She was a prolific composer, and had several works published in her lifetime.

Leonora Duarte (1610–1678) - Sinfonia No. 1
 - Duarte was a Flemish composer and string player. Most of her surviving works are for viol consort.



Sulpitia Cesis (fl. 1619) - Stabat mater
 - Cesis was a talented lutenist and composer. She became an Augustinian nun, and her only surviving work is a collection of sacred music published in 1619.

Barbara Strozzi (1619–1677) - Sino alla morte
 - Daughter of poet Guilio Strozzi, Barabara was one of the most prolific composers in Venice. Eight collections of her music were published in her lifetime. Strozzi also hosted intellectual and artistic gatherings in the family home, and led musical performances.



Antonia Bembo (c. 1640–1720) - Lamento della Vergine
 - Bembo was a renowned singer as well as a composer. She sang for Louis XIV, and dedicated several of her compositions to him. Bembo composed both sacred music, and secular works -- including operas.

Elisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre (1665–1729)  - Cantata: L'Isle de Delos
 - Elisabeth was child prodigy at the harpsichord, and soon caught the attention of the French court. She composed a large quantity of instrumental and vocal works, all of which were published in her lifetime. Elisabeth was well-known in Paris, and was considered on par with Lully.

Rosanna Scalfi Marcello (1704 or 1705–after 1742) - Clori ho sempre nel core
 - Rosanna was married to Venetian composer Benedetto Marcello. She was an accomplished singer, and composed twelve cantatas, mostly set to her own texts.

Camilla de Rossi (fl. 1707–1710) - Sinfonia from "Il Sacrifizio di Abramo" 
 - Little is known of de Rossi. Her four surviving oratorios were commissioned by Emperor Joseph I of Austria, and performed for him.



Julie Pinel (fl.1710-1737) - Air for Violin
 - Pinel was a French harpsichord teacher as well as a composer. A collection of her music was published in 1737.



Part 1 - The Middle Ages and Renaissance

Part 2 - The Baroque Period

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Ensemberlino Vocale debuts with Kiel Requiem


Friedrich Kiel (1821-1885) is hardly a household name -- although he should be, based on the quality of his music. In his lifetime, his works were known, but mainly by fellow musicians. The self-effacing Keil preferred to quietly teach the next generation of composers (including Paderewski and Stanford) rather than promote his own works.

It's always good to have more Kiel available through recordings. Especially a major work like this.

Kiel's Requiem in F minor predates Brahms' German Requiem by five years. Kiel's work stretches the boundaries of the form, while Brahms' bursts them. Still, there's a lot of superb music in Kiel's composition, and it holds up well in comparison with Brahms. Kiel was a masterful composer, and his choral writing moves from one beautifully turned phrase to the next.

For their initial recording, the Ensemberlino Vocale opted for the chamber rather than the orchestral version of this work. Kiel's chamber music garnered the greatest respect from his colleagues, and I can hear why. The piano accompaniment doesn't sound like an orchestral reduction. Instead, it's a fully-realised idiomatically-written part that seamlessly blends into the whole.

The Ensemberlino Vocale have a rich, full ensemble sound with laser-precise articulation. I do have a couple of quibbles. Some of the soloists sound a little weak and don't fully support their high notes.

And there are a few places where the sopranos sound a little too bright -- but that may be the fault of the recording. Despite these hiccups, the ensemble's performance won me over and drew me into the work.

It's an ambitious first recording and one that well serves Kiel's music.

Friedrich Kiel: Requiem in F minor op. 20
Ensemberlino Vocale; Sua Baek, piano; Matthias Stoffels, director
Rondeau Production ROP6141

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Take a Top 40 Mind Trip

The community radio station I volunteer for, WTJU is in the throws of a fund drive this week. Each quarter one of the four music genres we air takes over the station for a week and dives deep into its repertoire. This week, it's rock. And this time, I'm hosting a program that should appeal to listeners of a certain age.

When San Francisco Conquered the Charts

The 1967 Summer of Love brought nationwide attention to what would become the counter-culture. LSD users reported seeing vibrant colors, swirling shapes, and sounds that faded in and out. They used surrealistic imagery and stream-of-consciousness narrative to describe their trips.



The sights and sounds of psychedelia permeated the graphics arts, fashion, and music.

A Special Psych-Out

Wednesday, April 10, 2017, I'll be taking three hours to explore the top 40 hits from 1966-1969 that were inspired by the psychedelic vibes flowing from Haight-Ashbury. In addition to the grooviest Top 40 hits ever released, I'll also be mixing in vintage radio ads products and movies such as "Psych-Out" and "The Trip."

Authentic artists

Some of the charting artists were legit members of the scene. Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" really wasn't about a Victorian children's classic. "Incense and Peppermints" by the Strawberry Alarm Clock was considered authentic enough to feature in the 1968 movie "Psych-Out.




Many of the mainstays of the San Francisco scene (like the Grateful Dead) didn't chart, but Jimi Hendrix did with "Purple Haze." While straight-arrow Ted Nugent might not have understood what he was singing "Journey to the Center of the Mind," the songwriters in the Amboy Dukes certainly did.

And the others

Some of the charting artists got their experiences second- or even third-hand. The Avante Garde (with a very young Chuck Woolery) suggested one didn't need drugs for enlightenment with their chart hit "Naturally Stoned."




The psychedelic scene was picked up in other ways by popular culture. The quintessential hippy chick, a free spirit with free-flowing hair was the subject of the Cowsills "The Rain, the Park, and Other Things." She's found in the Association's "Windy, " and an early version in the song "Georgy Girl" by the Seekers.



Fitting 6 hours into 3


Once I started looking for the characteristics of the psychedelic scene, the question turned from "what to include?" to "how much will I have to cut?"

I could easily have done a program twice as long and still only including Top 40 hits.

If you're of a certain age (or which you had been), be sure to tune in. The program will be available for two weeks following the broadcast on the WTJU website.

Be sure to wear flowers in your hair, and have bread in your hand. After all, this is a fund drive for the station.

Next week, I'll publish the full set list.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Duet for B-flat Clarinet and Bass Clarinet - Part 1

As part of my Diabelli Project flash composition series, I wrote four sketches for a B-flat clarinet and bass clarinet duet. Even when I was sketching them out, I knew they were part of the same four movement work.

I usually don't start a multi-movement work from the beginning. In this case, I started with a slow middle movement. I didn't intend it at the time, but when I looked at the original Diabelli sketch, it occurred to me that could be a ground with variations. And so that's what happened.




I admit that the very end isn't quite finished. It was either publish this week, or miss having anything for Monday. But it's mostly finished. You can see the note I wrote to myself to finish in thirds. I also need to add the articulation for the last half of the movement. But I'll have all that finished within the next few days. 


Friday, April 07, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 046 - High Tension Pole

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

046. High Tension Pole

This toy was a little easier to build than the past few using joined dowel rods. Having that crosspiece to stabilize the collars helped tremendously. The high tension pole was also the first toy in a while that actually resembled its illustration. The dowels were all depicted at their proper lengths. 
 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

#ClassicsaDay #WomensHistoryMonth recap: Part 1 - Early Music

One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. The idea’s pretty simple: post a link to a classical work, and – in the body of the tweet – provide a little info about it. For March 2017, some of the participants decided to include a theme.



In honor of Women’s History Month, we would only post links to works by women composers. We used an additional hashtag #WomensHistoryMonth to ensure a wider audience. It seemed to work. I received many comments on my March #ClassicsaDay posts. 

And I believe we helped make the case that the concept of “women composers” is hardly a late-20th-century phenomenon. Women have been writing music as long as there has been a notation for it. Here’s the list of women composers and their works I shared during #WomensHistoryMonth 

Part 1: Early music

The Medieval Period (c.1100 – 1400)

Herrad of Landsberg (c. 1130-1195) - Veri floris sub figure
- Herrad was the abbess of Hoenburg Abbey in France. Her encyclopedia Hortus deliciarum is a classic medieval work.

Beatritz de Dia (fl. late 12th/early 13th centuries) - A chantar m'er de so q"ieu no voldria
- Beatritz was a trabaritiz (female troubadour), one of the first women to compose secular music (that we know of).



I didn’t post anything by Hildegard von Bingen – her music was well-represented by other participants.

The Renaissance (1400-1600)

Maddalena Casulana (c.1540–c.1590) – Hor che la vaga auror.
- Casulana was not only a composer but a lutenist and singer as well. She was the first female composer to have her music printed and published

Vittoria Aleotti (c.1575–after 1620) -Io v'amo vita mia
- Aleotti was an Augustinian nun. She was an organist as well as a composer. Many women composers and performers of the renaissance were in orders. Since men were forbidden in nunneries, women took on musical roles for worship that were done by men in the greater world -- singing, playing instruments and composing music.


Caterina Assandra (1580–1632) - O Quam Suavis
- Assandra was a Benedictine nun and organist (see above). Some of her works were published in her lifetime.

Francesca Caccini (1587–1640?) – Ciaccona
- One of the daughters of opera composer Giulio Caccini, Francesca wrote vocal and instrumental compositions. She’s also credited with composing the oldest known opera by a woman.




Settimia Caccini (1591–1638?) - Si miei tormenti
- Settimia was Francesca’s sister, and renowned in her lifetime as a singer. After her death, some of her works were published, showing that skilled musical composition was indeed a family trait.

Part 1 - The Middle Ages and Renaissance

Part 2 - The Baroque Period

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Respighi: Complete Piano Music

Ottorino Respighi's reputation is based on his masterful orchestrations. So I was very curious to hear this release of his solo piano music. Would Respighi's music hold up without any brilliant orchestrations to distract the ear?

Happily, it does.

This 2-CD set comprises of two types of music. Works composed for the piano, and piano reductions of orchestral works. The former are early student pieces, composed when Respighi was in his 20s. The latter the composer wrote in his 30s and early 40s.

The early piano pieces are quite charming. Respighi has a facility for melody, that works even when unadorned. Most of these student pieces are quite short.

But there are two fairly substantial piano sonatas. These sonatas show the influence of Chopin on the young composer. While not masterworks, they're nonetheless well-constructed and engaging.

Respighi made piano reductions of his Antiche danze ed aria per liuto, and Tre preludi su melodie gregoriane. Hearing this music with the orchestration stripped away provided new insights. These compositions work as well when played on a piano as they do with an orchestra.

The piano reductions offer a different listening experience than the orchestral versions. They let me hear the underlying structure of the music more clearly, and appreciate Respighi's use of his thematic material.

Michele D’Ambrosio plays with a gentle touch and expressive tone. His sympathetic readings of Respighi's students works help them sound their best. But his performances of Respighi's piano reductions that really shine. I suspect it's because those mature works give D'Ambrosio more to work with. And he takes advantage of the opportunity they offer.

Ottorino Respighi: Complete Solo Piano Music 
Michele D'Ambrosio, piano 
Brilliant Classics 94442

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Neanderthal Funky Winkerbean

The neanderthal Funky Winkerbean

Tom Batick used two comic strip character cameos in successive sequences run September 6 & 7, 2016.And what's interesting about it (to me), is that while the point of the cameos was the same, their usage varied.



In this sequence, Wally, a vet reentering the world after rehab, is challenged by technology. We get that in the final panel where he's depicted as a caveman. But not just any caveman -- it's Alley Oop, the first such character in comics. Alley Oop first appeared in 1932, and originally was set exclusively in the stone age.

By 1939 creator V. T. Hamlin expanded the scope of the strip by adding Dr. Elbert Wonmug and Oscar Boom, two 20th Century scientists who invented a time machine. Their time machine allowed Alley Oop to journey to different times and places for further adventures.

Alley Opp travels to the 20th Century for the first time.

For the uninitiated, Batiks' final panel shows Wally as a caveman, hopelessly confused by technology. But I wonder if the choice wasn't deliberate. While Alley Oop was a caveman, he eventually became comfortable using advanced technology. Perhaps that's in store for Wally, too?



In this sequence, the caveman is Thor from Johnny Hart's BC. BC is a much later creation, appearing first in 1958. Unlike Alley Oop, Thor and his friends remain in a stone age setting with no technology at all. Nevertheless, they're quite articulate and -- curiously -- apparently Christian, although I'm not quite sure how that works for people living in the BC (Before Christ) era.

Alley Oop appeared in the last panel of his sequence, serving as the punchline. In this strip, Thor appears in the middle panel to set up the punchline. The student's high-tech answer in the last panel derives its humor from the stark contrast to the lo- or no-tech caveman of the previous panel.

An effective use of cameos and an interesting variation on a theme (the caveman).

Monday, April 03, 2017

Diabelli Project 148 - Duet for Duet for Clarinet and Bass Clarinet 4

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.


This week's flash composition is another movement of a Duet for B-flat Clarinet and Bass Clarinet. Like the other movements, it's relatively simple. And, I hope, fun to play. I envision all of these sketches to unfold into relatively short movements -- between one and two minutes, tops.

This might make a good finale. I've taken a single line melody and chopped it up between the two instruments. Well, it's mostly melody. As you can see, by the fifth measure the bass clarinet's line is providing a little accompaniment. What happens next? I'm not sure. If I were to continue with this single-line fragmentation, I don't think it would go on much longer. Perhaps a contrasting section with a thicker texture?

Hard to say. But now that I have my four movements, I'll start sketching out the full versions. And move on to something different for next week's Diabelli flash composition sketch.




As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.