Category Archives: Friday Classical Music

Ceres by Mark-Anthony Turnage

Friday Classical Music: Ceres by Mark-Anthony Turnage

This is perhaps the only piece of music inspired by the horrific destruction of humanity by an enormous piece of rock. I saw this performed live last weekend, along with two related pieces he composer wrote later, and so I quote from the program notes for that performance:

I was inspired to write Ceres after reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Ceres was one of the first asteroids to be discovered. I took the idea of asteroids being rocky objects, all of which are capable of colliding with the earth and all of which are moving at slightly different courses through the sky at different rates. There are possibly two thousand asteroids big enough to imperil civilized existence. Even a small asteroid the size of a house could destroy a city (paraphrased from pages 241-43 of Bill Bryson’s book).

The idea of the piece is that different blocks of material (the first two a tune with florid clarinet accompaniment and then a syncopated trombone idea) gradually collide into a dense climactic section, then split apart. I was very attracted to the doomsday aspect of asteroids and the idea that the earth could be destroyed by one any day. Maybe this was affected by my strict religious upbringing that in the book of Revelation warned of Armageddon and the destruction of an evil world.

There is no recording of Ceres as I heard last weekend, that is, as part of the complete set of three. Ceres can be purchased as part of a disk headlined by Holst’s The Planets. This disk includes an additional composition for Pluto (unknown during Holst’s time, and, ironically, now no longer a planet) and others for different astrological phenomena.

Friday Classical Music: Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, the “Eroica”

Here ya go–the first movement of the symphony that got the Romantic age of music started.

Friday Classical Music: Shostakovich’s 13th String Quartet

Ahh, one of Shostakovich’s late quartets. If you like it, you like it, if you don’t, it goes on for another 18 minutes.

Toward the end of this excerpt you can hear the start of the so-called jazz portion of this quartet. (It lasts about 3 minutes, and it does sound somewhat like jazz.)

Friday Classical Music: Stockhausen

Karlheinz Stockhausen died a couple months ago. If you’re not acquainted with the extreme oddity that was this man, then have a look at the above video. He revolutionized compositional music, he thought he was from the star Sirius, and The Beatles liked him so much that they put him on the cover of their album. His music is definitely an acquired taste, but if you’re inclined to the strange . . .

Friday Classical Music: Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians

I’m a little late to this story, but this is the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble, a group of undergrate musicians, doing a great performance Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, of one of recent classical music’s most difficult pieces. This group’s performance has won wide priase (including ending up on Alex Ross’s year-end list of favorite 2007 recordings).

For a little background read this in the NYT.

Friday Classical Music: Magma by Erik-Sven Tuur

I wanted to put up Magma, the fourth symphony by the Estonian composer Erik-Sven Tuur, but I can’t find a performance in the public domain, so I’ll give you this piece of his. Tuur’s music is a bit different, but give it a chance. He’s one of m favorite composers at the moment.

Friday Classical Music: On Leave

I´m going to have to put Friday Classical Music on leave for a bit. Hope to return it soon.

Classical Music Friday: Ravel's Tzigane

Here’s a link to the audio. (If Windows doesn’t default to Windows Media Player, then be aware that you can play this on Windows Media Player, or whatever else supports mp3s.)

This is a fun piece. It begins with a beautiful violin cadenza that lasts a few minutes. Then the orchestra joins in and things get crazy. At times it seems like Ravel is just trying out idea after idea–they all sound incredible.

As to recordings, I’ve heard that Maxim Vengerov’s is to die for, but I think they stopped producing that disc about a decade ago. Good luck.

Friday Classical Music: Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto

There’s something about strings that just seems to bring out the badass in Shostakovich. Some of my favorite passages from Shostakovich are played on either a cello or violin–they’re complex, emotional, fast, wicked, like riding on a roller coaster. The cadenza to Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto (with which the above clip opens) is a perfect example. It’s simply amazing, raw and beautiful at once.

This clip plays through to the end of the concerto, and the rest is not hard to find on YouTube.

As for recordings, I have to turn to the playing of the awesome Maxim Vengerov.

Classical Music Friday: Manuel de Falla's Homage de Debussy

Well, virtually anyone who knows anoything about classical music has heard of Claude Debussy. Still quite famous, but lesser-known is the Spaniard Manuel de Falla. As this piece shows, stylistically, de Falla and Debussy had some things in common. Both wrote during the period between World Wars I and II, and both wrote what has been called "impressionistic" music. De Falla, being a native of Spain, however, infused his pieces with many kinds of sound that are not to be found in Debussy. Nights in the Gardens of Spain and El Amor Brujo (Love the Magician) are two excellent places to start discovering his music. This 2-disk set contains excellent recordings of both, plus more.

The Latin American Mixtape

5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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