August 5, Birthday of Betsy Jolas (b. 1928)

Born in Paris between WWI and WWII, Betsy Jolas grew up in an enviable milieu. Her mother was a well-known translator and her father founded the literary magazine, “transition,” which published James Joyce’ Finnegan’s Wake as a “Work in Progress.” Her studies at the Paris Conservatory were interrupted by WWII and she and her family decamped to the US, where she completed her studies at Bennington. After the War, in 1946, her family returned to Paris, where Jolas continued her studies at the conservatoire with Darius Milhaud, Simone Plé-Caussade and Olivier Messiaen. She replaced Olivier Messiaen at the conservatory and has been on the faculty there since 1975. She has won many prizes and is both a Chevalier in the French Légion d’Honneurand and is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Points d’aube


String Quartet No. 3



D’un opéra de voyage (1967)


Quatuor II for soprano, violin, viola & cello


Enfantillages


POINTS D`OR concerto for saxophone(s) & 15 instruments

April 25, Birthday of Szőnyi Erzsébet (b. 1924)

There is scant information on Wikipedia about Hungarian composer, Szőnyi Erzsébet except to say she has composed a lot including 8 operas. More information can be found on the website for the International (Zoltán Kodály) Society. Many of her works appear on Youtube, however, and maybe her music represents the evolution of classical music that Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók. This ranges from transcriptions of folk melodies into quite complex chamber music. Enjoy.

Hárfás kvintett
Zeneiskola koncertje
Trio Concertino
koncert II. rész

June 20 birthday of compser, Infernal Galop.

I’m sure everyone has heard this piece, which is often referred to as Can-Can. It comes from Offenbach’s melodrama/operetta, “Orpheus in the Underworld.” It’s based on the ancient Greek myth in which Pluto, god of the underworld, captures Eurydice and takes her down to Hades. When she realizes she is dead, she sings “La mort m’apparaît souriante,” which roughly translated means, considering the context, “Death ain’t so bad when you’re married to a god.” The Galop is a dance conducted for the God, Jupiter, who’s bored at a party, and it succeeds in livening things up.

In 7th grade, my best friend and partner in comedy, Kerry Wade, sang a parody of the Galop to its melody. It went:

“Can-can, yes I can, I can-can, yes I can, I can-can, yes I can,
I know I really can, can-can, yes I can.” Repeat until laughter overwhelms you.

Here’s the full overture.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Offenbach

June 17. Stravinsky and Gounod’s Birthday

Today is the birthday of the French composer Charles Gounod, (1818 – 1893) and Igor Stravinsky ( June 17, 1882 – April 6, 1971.)

The Funeral March is probably one of the first pieces of classical music I ever heard.  In the 1960s, when I grew up, the US was in still in the midst of the Golden Age of television.   It was still a fairly new medium, and it brought a whole world of art and culture into small, backwater towns like my own, Mishawaka, Indiana.  Shows like The Man From Uncle, The Ernie Kovacs Show, The Invaders, I-Spy, Westinghouse Theatre, Saturday Night at the Theatre, The Jackie Gleason Show, and The Twilight Zone let us experience, in our own living room, drama, comedy, music, dance,the supernatural and life in the old west and modern Manhattan.  Every night after dinner we gathered around the TV as a family and watched our favorite program chosen from only one of the three channels we received.  I remember sitting with my parents, watching Sing Along With Mitch (Miller), which commanded us to sing the lyrics that appeared on the screen in time to a white ball that hopped from syllable to syllable along with the music. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic now for that.  What family sings together any more?

One program we loved was “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” whose short murder mysteries were introduced by the director himself.  He performed his plummy, congested monologues in a perfect deadpan British accent while acting out absurd and macabre skits.  The theme music to the show was Gounod’s Funeral March of a Marionette.  We only knew it as the “Funeral March,” and as soon as we heard it, we’d come running to the living room to watch.  I still think of the pudgy director whenever i hear it.

Here’s his wikipedia entry.

Igor Stravinsky’s fascinates me more than just about any other composer.  I’ve written about him a lot on this blog, here, here, and here for example.  He wrote Tango for piano in 1940 and later participated in turning it into a chamber piece.

June 15. Edvard Grieg’s Birthday: Holberg Suite

Today is the birthday of the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg (15 June 1843 – 4 September 1907). Most people know his Piano Concerto in A and Peer Gynt Suite. I had heard snippets of the Holberg from time to time on the local classical channel over the years, not knowing what it was. It wasn’t until about 20 years ago when my daughter was studying violin that at a concert of the National Symphony Orchestra that I heard it in its full for the first time. A late Romantic and contemporary of Dvorak and Tchaikowski, Grieg’s Holberg reminds me of their Serenades for Strings. It’s lush and warm at times it has a classical feel and at others reminds me of Britten’s Simple Symphony based on English folksongs.

Here’s his wikipedia entry.

Music For Easter

Happy Easter. Even if you aren’t a believer, there is something wonderful and redemptive and renewing about the spring.


Bach: Easter, Mass in B minor



Bach’s Easter Oratorio: Christ lag in Todes Banden, BWV 4



Mahler – Symphony No 2, Resurrection



Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus–Beethoven
Oratorio: Christ on the Mount of Olives–Hallelujah


Moondog (Louis Hardin): Invocation followed by Pastoral

Something rousing and reminiscent of a Roman costume drama followed by sublime sweetness.  

 

Invocation





Pastoral


 

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