Saturday, May 17, 2014

Bernstein and Brubeck

Two of my favorite artists are Leonard Bernstein and Dave Brubeck. I was thrilled to discover this recording that brings the two together!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Sources of Classical Music

I had a conversation recently with a friend who does not know much about classical music. She wants to listen to it, and learn about it, but its hard for her to know "where to start" because there is so much of it. And, she said, she does not have a record or CD collection to pull from as I do.
So here are some tips for finding classical music.
I love Spotify. This is a free service (with some advertisements), and it has an amazing depth of music to offer. They have "introductory" playlists for every type of music, including classical. Within the classical folder are thousands of recordings from just about every composer from every period. As you listen to each selection, they provide a picture of the album it was taken from, the title of the work, the composer and the performer. Keep track of what you like. Use Google to learn more about a composer or work, and you will begin to develop a knowledge base in classical music.One of the playlists I have in my folder is the Sunday Playlist by Deutsche Grammophon. Each week they add music to it, some of which is brand new to me. A few weeks ago they added L'enfant et les sortileges by Maurice Ravel. The 2:43 clip was amazing, so I then went to Google to learn what it was, and then back to Spotify to search for the entire album - 4 versions were available. I also searched it on YouTube and found several concert performances of it. What a treat. I was not familiar with either of Ravel's operas....this being his second.
Pandora is also a nice music streaming service. I started with Pandora, and I do like it. You can also learn a great deal about any type of music here, and it is free, (it also has advertisements). They map your interests and make suggestions about other music you might like to try based on what you have chosen.
As I mentioned above, both Spotify and Pandora are free, but they do have advertisements. Personally, I am OK with that, and I don't find them very intrusive. Someone needs to pay for this service and the corresponding licensing fees for the artists. Both services also have paid subscription options as well.
I love YouTube. There is so much music here as well, although it helps to know what you are looking for before searching. And tonight at dinner, my oldest son Jack showed me a new app he was using called iTube-a combination of iTunes and YouTube.
I'm sure most of you use iTunes and have tried iTunes radio. They are both great resources for classical music too.
In the car I listen to Sirius XM radio. I have the Symphony and Pops channels back-to-back saved on my favorites list. They often play music that I am not familiar with. When this happens, I know I won't be able to remember what I heard later on, so I take a picture of the selection guide and look it up later. For example, the other day I heard a wonderful piano piece....reminded me of Scott Joplin. I took a snapshot and later looked it up:

Now I am very familiar with the music of William Bolcom. See what I mean? Like I keep repeating, there is such a vast amount of classical music to explore...but its never been easier.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Playlist Suggestion - Vaughan Williams

Last night was the Heritage Philharmonic's Spring concert. Our feature piece, in addition to the Young Artists soloists (who were wonderful!) was the Vaughan Williams Symphony #5. This is a wonderful symphony, and I was really blown away playing it. I love how Vaughan Williams brings the songs and melodies from his native England into his own compositions. My favorite is called Rhosymedre, a hymn written in the 1800's by John David Edwards, named for the town of Rhosymedre in Wales. VW used this tune in one of his organ compositions, and it was later scored for orchestra. Both versions are wonderful. Here is the orchestral version. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I Heard Violins

Things changed for me big time in the Spring of 1973. I heard violins....up close. I was in 3rd grade, and a string quartet from the University of Texas String Project came to give a demonstration at Pillow Elementary School. I knew right then and there I wanted to learn to play the violin. And thanks to my parents, I soon began taking lessons....and the rest is history.
I had, of course, "heard" violins on recordings before that fateful day, but it was my fist experience holding one...trying to play one...and most importantly, hearing it right next to my ear as I held it under my chin and scratched the bow across it. I was....and still love.
Violins are every kind of music. Paganini to Charlie Daniels. Brian Eno to Metallica. Sinatra to Stephan Grapellli. You name it.
The versatility of the violin is amazing and very special if you ask me. The best part of the Beethoven Violin Concerto is????.....the violin of course. The best part of Johnny Mathis's classic hit Misty? Well sure, his voice is awesome....but the background strings tie it all together if you ask me. How about the Verve's hit song Bitter Sweet Symphony? Right....the strings steal the show! When Frank Sinatra teamed with the Hollywood String Quartet and arranger Nelson Riddle, they created that amazing sound that became the basis for his legendary Capitol Records recording period.
So I plan to share great examples of violins in all kinds of music as part of this blog. Let's kick things off with Close to You, as recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1943.