Happy Musical Halloween

“HALLOWEEN: a magical and mysterious holiday all full of surprises in which, amongst treats and tricks, fear and horror turn into joy and play.” –Jean Paul Malfatti

Last October, 2013, the Quarter Notes Blog shared some typical classics often associated with Halloween. Since Halloween is only a few weeks away, I’d like to suggest a few more well-known pieces to share with your children and grandchildren as well as reminding you of the ones you must be familiar with from my last Halloween post. All of them have either a spooky, macabre, mysterious or scary feel to them, often ‘full of surprises’ which young people enjoy. They are standards in classical music and played often, something that would help familiarize one’s ear to ‘popular’ classical works. As always, I’ve made them links so you can find them easily in your library or order them from other local libraries:

Bernard Herrmann’s Suite from Psycho (yes, the 1960 film!), Gyorgy Ligeti’s Requiem (used in the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey“) as well as the favorites Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, Saint-Saens’ Danse Macabre, Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique – Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath and March to the Scaffold, Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (Adagio – Stanley Kubrick used it in the soundtrack to his horror film The Shining), Liszt’s Totentanz (“Dance of the Dead”),  Rachmaninov’s The Isle of the Dead,  J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in d minor, Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Orff’s Carmina Burana. View this excerpt of a huge production of Carmina Burana with Andre Rieu; maybe it’ll wet your appetite to check out the full length DVD we have at the Library.

Our Did You Know? for today is about Franz Liszt, (born 9 days before Halloween!), October 22, 1811 – July 31,  1886. Although Liszt was born in Hungary, and considered himself an ardent Hungarian nationalist, he grew up speaking German and was unable to speak much Hungarian. His eventual preferred language was French. Liszt was a superstar during his day, revolutionizing the art of piano playing, and was also known for inventing the art of interpretive conducting.  Liszt’s talents were noticed by the age of 6 by his musician father; he was giving public concerts by 9 years old. One of his children, Cosima, became the wife of composer Richard Wagner. Liszt transcribed Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique for piano 11 years before the full orchestral score was published.

Hope to see you at the Long Island Flute Club Professional Flute Choir Concert on October 26, 2014, at the Patchogue Medford Library at 2:30 pm.

Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman, October, 2014

An Anniversary!

           “God Bless America……land that I love.”  —from the song, God Bless America, written by Irving Berlin, 1918. Originally God Bless America almost became our national anthem, over the Star Spangled Banner. It is our unofficial secondary national anthem.

This month marks the 200th anniversary of the writing of our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. What better place to honor it, than in a music blog? For those of you unaware of U.S. history during the time of the Star Spangled Banner,  here is a little bit of background. The U.S. declared war on Britain (War of 1812) in June 1812 after a series of trade disagreements. British troops invaded Washington, D.C. in August 1814, burning the White House, Capitol Building and the Library of Congress. Their next target was Baltimore, Maryland. The British bombarded Fort McHenry, MD., but were unable to destroy the fort and gave up. Francis Scott Key (1779-1843), a lawyer in Maryland and Washington, D.C., who later was appointed U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, was so relieved to see the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry on September 14, 1814, he wrote a few lines in tribute to what he had seen. The poem was set to the music of a popular English drinking tune called “To Anacreon in Heaven” by composer John Stafford Smith. President Woodrow Wilson announced in 1916 that it should be played at all official events. It was adopted as the national anthem on March 3, 1931.

Your Library has much more for you to read and listen to concerning our national anthem:

Oscar Sonneck, the first Chief of the Division of Music of the Library of Congress, wrote the book Report on the Star-Spangled Banner, Hail Columbia, America & Yankee Doodle in 1909. Your Library’s copy is a reprint of this very interesting, yet brief, book and might just answer all your questions about our national anthem. If this wets your appetite, you might also like to read: The Flag, the Poet and the Song: the Story of the Star-Spangled Banner by Irvin Molotsky, Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks That Saved the Nation by Steve Vogel, The Star-Spangled Banner by Oscar Sonneck, or A Patriot’s Handbook: Songs, Poems, Stories, and Speeches Celebrating the Land We Love, compiled by Caroline Kennedy. National Anthems of the World is a collection of songs in their original language as well as with a transliterated phonetic version. Historical notes are also included. Along with the book, you might enjoy listening to these CDS:, World Anthems, performed by the English Chamber Orchestra and Enduring Freedom: America’s Greatest Hits performed by various well known orchestras and U.S. military groups. For those instrumentalists among us, we have the sheet music for you to practice: National Anthems from Around the World: the Official National Anthems, Flags, and Anthem Histories from 56 Countries and a documentary DVD by the History Channel which will help make our country’s history even clearer: The War of 1812.

I recently read a very disturbing article from The Telegraph, a UK publication, published in November 2013, quoting the Queen’s official composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, at the time, concerning children, their education and the lack of classical music in it. It’s not just in our educational system where learning classical music instruction is sparse. I share this with you, my fellow classical music lovers, since the school year has just started. Students will (hopefully) continue to play in their school music groups, or, will be just starting to learn an instrument. I’ve highlighted local music groups in The Quarter Notes Blog in the past where concerts are often free. Please take advantage of these and expose your children and grandchildren to these events. Ask them to play their instrument for you, play classical music in your home when they are there or in the car. We must keep it alive. The quality of our culture depends on it.

Our Do You Know? of today’s post is about “The Dean of American Composers” according to the San Francisco Classical Voice, Aaron Copland (1900-1990). I chose Copland since we’ve been learning about our national anthem and the War of 1812 in this post. Copland was born in Brooklyn, NY and died in North Tarrytown, NY. He wrote a number of works which are staples of the orchestra repertoire including: Fanfare for the Common Man, A Lincoln Portrait and his Symphony No. 3. He included American folk music in his well known ballets: Billy the Kid, Rodeo and Appalachian Spring. Although he kept his private life to himself, he never hid his homosexuality, and lived on and off with the photographer Victor Kraft in the 1930s.

Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman, September, 2014

 

 

 

We’re Back!

“Mozart is not the greatest, he is the only musician in the world.”—Gioachino Rossini  (1792-1868)

Hope you all had a wonderful summer. The title of this post, “We’re Back!” refers to a number of things I’d like to highlight. With fall, comes a new season of concerts throughout our area:  thank goodness the Metropolitan Opera is back with it’s opening night performance on September 22, 2014 of The Marriage of Figaro.  After following the news of possibly having to shut down this icon of opera due to costs and labor issues, I was so relieved to learn they will be back. I’ve attended their performances of live HD re-broadcasts at the SUNY Stony Brook’s Staller Center for the Arts and loved every minute of it.  If going into New York City is not your cup of tea, you can get very reasonably priced tickets to performances at the Staller Center or at local movie theatres. This year’s Metropolitan Opera Season includes performances of Verdi’s Aida, Un Ballo in Maschera, La Traviata, Don Carlo,  Puccini’s La Boheme, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. Don’t forget that your Library has quite a few of these recordings, either to watch as a  DVD or to listen to as a CD. We also have numerous libretti to follow along while you listen to the opera.

Thanks to a friend and fellow classical music lover, I’ve learned of the passing on September 8, 2014, of opera soprano,  Magda Olivero at the age of 104. Having made her Met debut at the age of 65, she also sang at La Scala in Milan, in Paris, London and at Carnegie Hall. Click on her link and read the New York Times Obituary of her fascinating life.

The Metropolitan Opera is back but so are a number of your favorite local community groups, with free classical concerts. The price is right and parking is of course always free:

the Northport Symphony Orchestra begins its eighth season, performing free local concerts. The repertoire will include Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture, Mozart’s Don Giovanni Overture and more.

the Long Island Flute Club’s Professional Flute Choir is already working hard on preparing its fall flute choir concert for Sunday, October 26, 2014, 2 p.m., at the Patchogue Medford Library.  An honors student flute choir will also be performing pieces and then join together with the professional flute choir. Bass flutes, alto flutes, piccolos and regular flutes will entertain you.

You may remember last fall, the Quarter Notes paid tribute to Robert W. Krueger, who passed away in September, 2013. Robert Krueger was the founder and musical director of Long Island’s Northport Community Band, which just finished its first very successful summer season under the direction of their new musical director, Donald Sherman. I have had the honor of playing flute/piccolo under Bob for 27 years and now, under Don, look forward to continuing the tradition with this wonderful group of musicians. I’m reminding you of this because the Board of Education of the Northport-East Northport UFSD Schools just voted unanimously to rededicate their newly renovated  Northport High School auditorium in Bob Krueger’s name. It will now be called The Robert W. Krueger Center for the Performing Arts. I am including the link below to the text of the resolution passed by the Board of Education , which gives you a very good idea why the honor has rightfully been bestowed on Bob Krueger:

Krueger Performing Arts Ctr. Board Resolution 9.8.14

Since the Metropolitan Opera season is opening with a Mozart opera soon, our  Did You Know for this post is on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), one of the most popular classical composers of all time. Mozart composed more than 625 works. According to the publication the San Francisco Classical Voice: The ‘Haffner’ Symphony, No. 35, was completed in about two weeks. The ‘Linz’ Symphony, No., 36, was finished in less than five days.  Mozart and his wife, Constanze Weber, whom he married on August 4, 1782, had six children; four died in infancy.

Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman, September, 2014

 

More Traveling Music from Your Easy Chair!

“The physical impact of taiko music, along with the sheer visual poetry of a choreographed ensemble presenting its music in perfect synchrony, is so powerful and inviting that taiko is beginning to catch on as Japan’s most influential and lasting gift to world music.”

–Gil Asakawa, writer, editor, artist, online content and community-building public speaker

With the summer nearing its end, I’d like to give you one more installment of “traveling music”. On a recent edition of the CBS Sunday Morning show, we watched a very interesting story about  Taiko drummers in Japan. I had never heard of them, but when I watched them perform, I was so impressed, I immediately wanted to book a trip to  Sado Island where they perform. Their training is intense, making their performances amazing. Watch the video clip and appreciate their talents; notice the flute in their ensemble too! Taiko has a long history: instruments similar to ceramic drums have been found from as far back as about 2500 B.C. in Japan. There are about 5,000 taiko groups in Japan currently, with about 100,000 drummers at least. Traditional taiko is far more popular now than at any time in its history. One of the first uses of taiko was as a battlefield instrument  to intimidate and scatter the enemy and to issue commands and coordinate movements. Taiko has also been used in cultural and religious settings, since the taiko drums have long been associated with the gods. The reknowned taiko group, Kodo, travels the world giving performances, as well as on Sado Island, where they have sponsored an international  music festival since 1988,Earth Celebration“, attended by many from around the world. Check out the CDs from your library listed below: they include Japanese melodies and percussion pieces:

Best of Kodo (percussion ensemble);  Japanese Album (traditional Japanese melodies including flute, violin, cello and traditional Japanese instruments, with Jean-Pierre Rampal, Isaac Stern and Yo-Yo Ma); Sakura: Japanese Melodies for Flute and Harp (with Jean-Pierre Rampal); Caribbean Steeldrums: 20 Famous Tropical Melodies (featuring steeldrums and percussion); The Perilous Chapel (percussion ensembles with guitar)

Our Did You Know for today is about Bela Bartok (1881-1945), one of the most celebrated early 20th-century composers who collected and extensively studied East European folk music. He incorporated many Hungarian folk songs into his compositions. I’m especially featuring him in this blog post because of his well known composition Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (1936) which follows our theme for today of percussion and drums. Because of his work with folk melodies, Bartok is often considered the founding father of ethnomusicology, or the anthropological study of music. As a native of Hungary, he was a full-time ethnomusicology professor at the Budapest Academy. Apparently Bartok didn’t enjoy teaching, but must have been quite good at it: among his students were several famous pianists, including Georg Solti.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your summer and may it be filled with lots of music. Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman, August 19, 2014

 

 

A LITTLE TRAVELING MUSIC FROM YOUR EASY CHAIR!

Alpine horn photo  Hofbrauhaus Restaurant, Las Vegas, Nevada: the Alpine Horn

“One of the greatest pleasures of music is to make other people listen to it; to feel, for just a moment, a tiny part of an ideal world in which everything is good, beautiful, harmony, love.     

          –Raphael Sommer (1937-2001), cellist, son of pianist Alice Herz-Sommer  (1903-2014), see previous Quarter Note Blog posts of October 22, 2013 and March 3, 2014

Since we’re still in summer mode, it being almost August, I’d like to share more from my trip to Las Vegas last month, as well as some other interesting music-related tid bits! After attending sessions at the library conference all day, my husband and I treated ourselves to a dinner at the Hofbrauhaus in the heart of Las Vegas. Coming from two German-born parents, I grew up loving German food and appreciated the folksy history of Germany, especially when we travelled to Germany in 1981 and spent time at the Oktoberfest in Munich. The Hofbrauhaus in Vegas had delicious original German food, but more importantly, they had a 3-person German band playing throughout the evening, dressed in their Landler outfits. The instrumentation included accordion, guitar and Alpine horn. Click and learn how the Alpine horns are made. What did they play? You guessed it: German dances, songs and Landler tunes. According to the website Naxos.com, “the Landler is an Austrian country dance in a slow triple metre, a precursor of the waltz.” They further define the German dance: “generally the triple metre dances of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, found in the Landler and the Waltz. There are examples of this dance in the work of Beethoven and of Schubert.” Every 20 minutes or so, just like the Oktoberfest in Germany, the band at the restaurant would play the song,  “Ein Prositand expect all the restaurant guests to stand up with beer in hand, sway along to the tune, toast with everyone at the table and chime in in song, followed by a chug of their beer of course.  For a few brief moments, I felt part of ‘an ideal world’ full of music and harmony. It was a wonderfully fun and delicious evening, especially after a stein of good German beer!

Moving from Las Vegas to New York, I’d like to share a FREE resource with you: the New York Philharmonic Digital Archives may be accessed online. The NY Philharmonic received a grant to complete the digitization of its extensive Archives, beginning with its founding in 1842 through the present day. Once completed the NY Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives will contain close to 3 million pages comprising all documents in the NY Philharmonic Archives – including correspondence, marked scores and parts, contracts, public documents, including press releases and annual reports through the present day. Take a look at what’s there; it’s amazing and I guarantee, as a music lover, you will find it fascinating.

Our  Did You Know for today follows the German theme I started with:  George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) was born in Germany but immigrated to London. He originated the English oratorio, the most famous being his piece, the Messiah. Handel was born the same year as J.S. Bach and Domenico Scarlatti. According to the San Francisco Classical Voice:  “in 1704, Handel and another composer and friend,  Johann Mattheson got into an argument over who had the right to play continuo in the opera pit. A duel ensued, and Mattheson won. Handel’s life was spared only because a button on his coat broke the sword’s near-fatal blow.” Lucky for all of us!

Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman, August 1, 2014

 

 

LIFELONG LEARNING: IT’S A GOOD THING!!

 

When he was 91, Pablo Casals was approached by a student who asked, “Maestro, why do you continue to practice?” Casals replied, “Because I am making progress.”

To make progress is like learning and then learning more. The events of these first few weeks of summer have been like that for me. Let me explain:

Summer  is usually associated with vacations and travel. In 2004, after visiting Alaska, I said to anyone I knew “Every American should visit Alaska at least once in their life.” I’ve said the same thing about New Orleans, where I visited in 1999. Both these places impressed me with their ethnic vitality as well as their very interesting history. I recently returned from Nevada where I took a 4-hour tour of the Hoover Dam. My same thoughts, that every American should visit it and learn about its history, keep floating through my head. The Hoover Dam was built in four years instead of six and completed UNDER budget. Over 100 people died during its construction. The Dam itself is a National Historic Landmark, rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders and is a testament to the foresight of President Hoover and the work ethic of so many. As our tour drove through the desert to the Dam, we marveled at the ability of a work force in the 1930’s to build such a huge structure in the middle of the desert southwest. The volume of concrete used to build it consisted of 3.25 million cubic yards (2.6 million cubic meters). We saw the huge turbines that run the Dam, walked along its uppermost edge and looked down its height of over 700 feet, and walked through underground tunnels that were dug during its construction. The Dam meets the water needs of more than 20 million people in parts of Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico. I learned so much about this amazing structure and highly recommend seeing it.

How does this relate to a blog on classical music you ask? Well, along with gorgeous views in Alaska, spontaneous jazz on the streets of New Orleans, and a huge structure like the Hoover Dam, I find the same feeling of wonder when I think of classical music. How could Beethoven have composed such incredible music after becoming deaf? How could J.S. Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Copland and all the other geniuses have composed so many different pieces during their relatively short lives (compared to our current longevity)?  Just last week I had the honor to meet the daughter of the famous American composer, Morton Gould (1913-1996) and hear her speak. She lives in Plainview, NY and visited our rehearsal of the Northport Community Band. She shared such warm and interesting stories about her well-known and respected composer father and how to this day, each time she hears his music performed, it brings tears to her eyes. The Northport Community Band will be performing some of Morton Gould’s works for band at our concerts this summer.  Expanding one’s knowledge in any way, rejuvenates, refreshes and brings on a feeling of such growth and happiness. The world is full of wonder. See it, marvel at it, listen to it and enjoy it! “Making progress” as Casals said….learning… is a terrific thing.

On July 13, 2014, we lost world-renowned conductor, Lorin Maazel at the age of 84. According to Newsday, Maazel had conducted most of the major American orchestras by the age of 15! He served as conductor or music director of the New York Philharmonic for seven years as well as with the Bayreuth Festival, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Vienna State Opera, and the Pittsburgh Symphony to name a few. Your Library has a number of recordings with him at the helm:

Mahler’s Symphony no. 4 (CD) with Kathleen Battle and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Mozart’s Don Giovanni (DVD) with Kiri Te Kanawa and the Orchestra and Chorus of the Paris Opera, Verdi’s Aida (CD) with Luciano Pavarotti, and a DVD available through interlibrary loan from other Suffolk County libraries: Summer Night Concert 2013 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring the music of Verdi and Wagner in celebration of their bicentennial anniversaries. The concert was held on the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna (I speak from experience that this Palace is just amazing, having toured it in 1981) and was recorded live.

When you come in to choose any of the above,  pick up a copy of a new book the Library just acquired: “The Late Starters Orchestra” by Ari L. Goldman. David Hajdu, music critic for The New Republic, said of this book: “A lovely, moving story of personal rediscovery disguised as a book about cello-playing.”

Our Did You Know for today’s post is a little different from the information about a composer I usually include. I came across a word recently that I’m sure not all of you are familiar with:  theremin. According to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia, it may also be called Thereminvox and is an “electronic musical instrument invented in 1920 in the Soviet Union by Leon Theremin (also called Lev Termen). It consists of a box with radio tubes producing oscillations at two sound-wave frequencies above the range of hearing; together, they produce a lower audible frequency equal to the difference in their rates of vibration. Pitch is controlled by moving the hand or a baton toward or away from an antenna at the right rear of the box….Harmonics, or component tones, of the sound can be filtered out, allowing production of several tone colours over a range of six octaves. The American composer Henry Cowell and the French-American composer Edgard Varese have written for the theremin. The instrument was used in recordings by the American rock group the Beach Boys and in the soundtracks of several science fiction films.” For you Big Bang aficionados, it can also be heard in episodes of the show played by Sheldon!

Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman, July 16, 2014

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Dad.

 “Not every successful man is a good father, but every good father is a successful man.”   –Robert Duvall

We recently celebrated Father’s Day. Since one of my posts recently recognized Moms on Mother’s Day, I feel it’s time to give equal attention to Dads. I have written of my parents often in The Quarter Notes, as most of you know. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of them both and how grateful I am for the home and childhood they gave my brother and me, of which classical music, concerts, operas, and music lessons were a very large part. The picture I have most often of my Dad, is of him practicing piano in our basement. He would often start out practicing a Mozart Fantasy or Brahms Rhapsody. If I was preparing a piece to perform in a concert or competition on my flute, he would move on to practicing the piano part, so he’d be ready to rehearse with me. Music wasn’t just something we did together occasionally; it was part of our lives, our father/daughter bond that will be with me forever. When I was practicing at the far end of the house, whenever I paused or stopped to write notes in the music, I often heard him shout out from the livingroom: “beautiful!” When I was done practicing, he would make a point of telling me how much he enjoyed it when I practiced my flute. Very often when we would ride in the car together, there would be a familiar classical piece on the local radio station. He would always know what it was and I marveled at his ability to correctly identify so many pieces. Thanks to him I have loved classical music all my life. He showed us what it means to have high ethical standards, because he always did, how to work hard and respect everyone. Thanks, Dad.

As a tribute to him, I’m listing some of his favorite pieces which I know you’d also enjoy listening to:

Mozart’s piano fantasyBrahm’s rhapsodies, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Beethoven’s string quartets and Handel’s flute sonatas to name just a very few.

Quite a few musical families throughout history were well known: Mozart‘s father was a musician and of  Bach‘s 20 children, a number of them  were professional musicians and composers,  following in their father’s footsteps. On a more local note, a friend and colleague of mine from the Northport Symphony Orchestra recently shared his daughters’ website with me. I HAVE to share it with you because it is not only a  tribute to their dad, who is an excellent oboist, but because they are still in high school and love playing classical music in their quartet (flute, violin, viola and cello). Take a look and enjoy:  Paderewski Quartet.

New at the Library: we recently acquired the 58 disc CD set of “Brahms Complete Edition“. It was just released in April 2014 and contains ALL of Brahms‘ works! The performers include the top names in the music world such as the London Symphony Orchestra, the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Tokyo String Quartet, Daniel Barenboim,  Yehudi Menuhin and many more.  Each work is listed  separately so that it is easy to choose what you’d like to listen to. There are over 400 works in this set.

Our “Did You Know” selection for today is  Antonin Dvorak, the Czech composer (1841-1904) who wrote the famous and very popular Symphony No. 9, also known as the New World Symphony, note the link to our Library’s copy that I mentioned above. It was commissioned in 1893 by the New York Philharmonic and incorporated both Czech and American folk influences. The composer himself didn’t attend the first performance because he suffered from agoraphobia (afraid to go outdoors alone), but he did attend the second. Dvorak performed as an organist and violist, but was competent in many other instruments also.

I hope all the Dads out there have a year filled with laughter and song. Listen to this one (with a box of tissues) to get you started:  from the Donna Reed show.

Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman, June 17, 2014