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

 

Summer time and the living should include Music and Reading!

“I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.”   –George Eliot (1819-1880)

The Quarter Notes has officially passed its one year anniversary. I hope you all have enjoyed our little sessions together as much as I enjoy writing them for you. Thank you to all my followers and also thank you to those of you who have sent in your lovely comments. I really love hearing from you and so appreciate the support. The Quarter Notes Blog has been visited by over 30 countries.  I’m honored to be read by classical music fans from Israel to Finland, from New Zealand to Germany and Bangladesh! Please continue to share and spread the love of classical music via The Quarter Notes Blog with your friends and family. Thank you, thank you!!!

As the summer is upon us, please remember what a gold mine you have here on Long Island by way of free, outdoor summer concerts. There is one coming up on June 14, 2014 at the beautiful Northport Harbor Park. Come down to hear (at 1 p.m.) the Northport Symphony Orchestra play Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and more as you stroll among the art exhibits for this En Plein Air Painting Event, sponsored by the Northport Arts Coalition. The Northport Harbor is also the venue for the Northport Community Band which begins its first season without it’s beloved founder and musical director, Robert W. Krueger (Bob), whom we lost last fall. Our new director, former associate musical director, Don Sherman, has planned a summer of tributes and remembrances to honor Bob. Concerts begin July 3, 2014, at 8:30 p.m. and continue through July 31. That’s every Thursday in July, so count on no rain those nights, and bring your chairs and picnic dinners. Mark your calendars in July then for Thursdays in Northport and Wednesdays in Huntington, when the Huntington Community Band performs on the stage at Hecksher Park. Check out Great River’s  Bayard Cutting Arboretum for free chamber music concerts on their grounds; arrive early to stroll through the beautiful gardens and relax in their garden café. The Atlantic Wind Symphony will be playing a free concert at the Heckscher State Park in East Islip, usually followed by Grucci fireworks, on July 12, 2014.

I’m sure a lot of you have been working hard on getting your gardens and patios in shape for a summer of relaxing. I’m excited to share some reading and listening suggestions with you that should accompany you when you’ve earned a rest from your  yard work, or take them along to enjoy on that summer vacation. Come in to your Library for:

The Complete Mozart Symphonies – we’ve just added this collection of CDs which would be perfect for your summer listening pleasure. Here’s an interesting point which I, as a music major, should have known. As I looked over this collection, I noticed the list of symphonies didn’t include Mozart’s No. 2 or No. 3. I was disappointed that contrary to the title, it was not the complete symphonies. However, being the reference librarian that I am, I had to investigate this omission. Well, guess I missed this fact in my music history course in college: Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, KV 17, is considered to possibly be by Mozart’s his father, Leopold Mozart. The Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, K.18, also once attributed to W.A. Mozart, is now considered to be the work of Carl Friedrich Abel, a German composer of the earlier classical period.

The following novels may not have been best sellers, but certainly look like fun reads, especially for all of us classical music lovers:

His Secret Little Wife by Fredrica Wagman  twists and turns a quick story of a renowned orchestra conductor and his shocking affair with his pre-teen neighbor who is a budding cellist.

The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas says it’s “a novel of love, loss, and survival.” The story follows a priceless violin across generations, from World War II to Stalinist Russia and to the concert halls of today. An orchestra conductor, inspired by a young violin virtuoso, learns the boy’s family once owned a precious violin that was lost and so the story goes on….

La’s Orchestra Saves the World is by Alexander McCall Smith, the best-selling author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. It’s a tender tale of a divorcee in 1939 who flees the German bombs in London to settle in a small town and organize an amateur orchestra.

Murder Duet: A Musical Case by Batya Gur is about the Israeli classical music world and a murder investigation with sheet music as the only clue to the motive. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Sight Reading by Daphne Kalotay explores family, art and music in daily life. The story of the characters, a violinist, a composer and an artist weaves from Europe to America and from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. This is also available as an eBook.

Lastly, here’s our “Did You Know?” selection for today:  Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), one of the most popular Romantic composers, is often considered the successor to Beethoven. Brahms was shy, reserved and never married. He was famous for his large beard which he didn’t grow until he was 45 years old. He loved cigars but hated duties on tobacco. He was once caught smuggling it, stuffed into stockings in his luggage!

Hope you all have a very musical and relaxing summer. Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman, June 5, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Mom

“Opera is where a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of dying, he  sings.”   

—Robert Benchley,  American Humorist

Mother’s Day is coming up this Sunday. Everyone has or has had a Mom. That is a given in life. How the relationship is and how long it lasts is unique to each of us. I was lucky enough to have both parents who loved classical music. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, it was part of our home, our lives, our upbringing. We were blessed to be able to go to concerts throughout our childhood. We even attended full opera performances, at a very early age. I must say, as a young child, I didn’t appreciate opera then as much as I do now. The music, costumes, acting and stage design did fascinate me though. Having attended the Indiana University School of Music where opera is huge and full operatic productions take place all year, I began appreciating it more and more. Then one day, my Mom said something that has always stuck with me each time I hear someone singing an aria: “Isn’t it amazing that such a sound is being produced by a human?” It IS magical. Think about it: Luciano Pavarotti, Elizabeth SchwarzkopfLeontyne Price, Joan Sutherland, Maria Callas, Marion Anderson, Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo, Richard Tucker, Renee Fleming, Cecilia Bartolli and on and on. They sing and it is breathtaking. You don’t have to understand or know the words or story to fall in love with the sound.   I was recently driving to a concert listening to arias by Pavarotti on the radio and found myself moved to tears with the passion and beauty of his singing. I just couldn’t get enough of it!

On WSHU, classical 91.1 FM,  they were highlighting the 50th anniversary of Pavarotti signing on with the Decca label. He remained solely with Decca throughout his career. Decca has recently released a collection of his performances to commemorate this anniversary in the form of a 2-CD set. Some of the performances have been issued on this new set for the first time since his wife discovered them after his death. It is also the 50th anniversary of Pavarotti’s debut at the Royal Opera House in La Boheme. Your Library has ordered this CD set: Pavarotti The 50 Greatest Tracks“.  Be the first to put a reserve in for this or get it for your Mom for Mother’s Day!

Here’s another suggestion for your enjoyment: the Library has an extensive collection of full length opera recordings on CD or collections of opera arias on CD. As you have your Mom over for a Mother’s Day dinner, take some of these home and play them while you spend quality time together:

Italian Opera Arias, Opera: Great Love Duets of the 20th Century,  or Opera Choruses

Or, check out our  DVDs of opera performances to share together;  these are just a few: Don GiovanniOtello Tosca, and Carmen or try this DVD of a sampling of celebrated opera stars, Great Stars of Opera.

Our “Did You Know?” section for today is on Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), who wrote two of the all-time-greatest Italian opera hits: Lucia di Lammermoor and L’Elisir D’Amore and was an important influence on Verdi. Donizetti composed close to 70 operas in his brief 50 years of life. He was known as a workaholic and was very financially successful as a composer, despite his working-class parents discouraging his musical talents as a child!

Hope you all have a memorable and musical Mother’s Day. Stay tuned to the Quarter Notes Blog and in tune with all the music in your life!

E. Susman

May 6, 2014

 

Holocaust Remembrance Day

“Today, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am taking a moment to think of all those who suffered, fought and died during the Holocaust. Please join me in remembering.”–Birthright Israel

Today on this important day of remembrance (which actually started last night, April 27), I want to share with you some of the resources we have at the Library. All formats are included. It is so hard to pick and choose, since we have so many excellent books, DVDs, CDs, and eBooks that would help to remember. Each of those I’ve listed below deal with music, art, or culture and their relationship to survival during history’s bleakest years. Some of them you may be familiar with from my previous posts, but I’ve included them again since they warrant repeating.

Partisans of Vilna (sound recording CD): the songs of World War II Jewish Resistance

A Yiddish World Remembered (DVD), narrated by Elliott Gould

Wagner & Me (DVD)

A Century of Wisdom (downloadable eBook): Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer

BOOKS:  Hiding in the Spotlight: a Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival, 1941-1946  by Greg Dawson

Forbidden Music: the Jewish Composers Banned by the Nazis by Michael Haas

A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer  by Caroline Stoessinger

The Girls of Room 28: Friendship, Hope, and Survival in Theresienstadt by Hannelore Brenner-Wonschick

And You Shall Know Us By the Trail of Our Vinyl: the Jewish Past as Told by the Records We Have Loved and Lost by Roger Bennett

Art, Music and Education as Strategies for Survival:  Theresientadt 1941-45  edited by Anne D. Dutlinger

The Inextinguishable Symphony: a True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany by Martin Goldsmith

It seems especially important to acknowledge this day, as a recent article in our  local Long Island newspaper, Newsday, appeared with the heading: “Anti-Semitism Up In Europe.” Take a look at the website of  Birthright Israel;  just click on the link above after the opening quote. If you’re not familiar with the organization, Birthright, you’ll find it very informative.  Both our daughters were lucky enough to visit Israel through Birthright and get to know the country where my parents met, my brother and I were born and my husband and I spent our honeymoon! It was an experience of a life time for them.

Along those lines,  here are a few suggestions so we end on a positive note on this day, for items with connections to Israel and music:

Eternal Echoes (sound recording CD):  Songs and Dances for the Soul performed by Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman

Orchestra of Exiles (DVD) the history of the formation of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra

Happy You’re Alive (DVD) a documentary telling the story of two veterans of combat in the West Bank and how one dealt with it by turning to music, the other by turning to therapy

Zubin Mehta: the Score of My Life the autobiography of the Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra

Sentir (sound recording CD) hear Flamenco and Klezmer music performed by Israeli singer-songwriter of Judeo-Spanish music, Yasmin Levy

Our regular feature “Did You Know?” will continue in the next post of the Quarter Notes Blog.

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

E. Susman

April 28, 2014