Thursday, October 20, 2016

What season is it?

We’re looking at music for summertime here on Clef Notes this week. What are some of your favorites?

Today, let’s listen to Delius’ Summer Night on the River, the second of his Two Pieces for Small Orchestra (the first is his On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring discussed earlier this month). As you listen below, try to picture the view of the Loing River from Delius’ garden in Grez.

What about Hugo Alfven’s most remembered work, the Midsummer Vigil? This piece found inspiration in a Scandinavian summer solstice festival and uses Swedish folk tunes, depicting peasants dancing.

With that, we come to our current season—autumn. Join me next time for a few fall favorites! 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Remembering Summertime with Gershwin and Kodaly

We’re celebrating the summer solstice here on Clef Notes this week for those folks who aren’t quite ready for the chilling temps outside! What summery pieces warm you up inside?

One of my favorites is George Gershwin’s “Summertime” from his 1935 folk opera Porgy and Bess. This opera is based on a novel by DuBose Heyward, and is set on Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. While Ira Gershwin often gets full credit as the lyricist for “Summertime,” George collaborated with Heyward himself on much of this project.

Many performers have done arrangements of “Summertime” over the years. Here’s one by a mandolin ensemble. Do you have a favorite arrangement? 

Zoltan Kodaly’s Summer Evening was written for chamber orchestra in 1906. While the title insinuates a program, Kodaly made it known that any programmatic tie does not go beyond the connection to the composer writing the work on summer evenings. Inspired by his meeting with early ethnomusicologist Bela Bartok, this piece uses Hungarian folk idioms. It was later revised for a performance with Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic in 1930.

We’ll talk more about music for summer next time! 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reflections on Springtime

It may be autumn outside but on Clef Notes this week, it’s springtime!

Jean Sibelius’ Spring Song, originally titled Impromptu for Orchestra, premiered in 1894 and left the composer disappointed. His father-in-law attended the concert, which contained performances by Sibelius and his brother-in-law. When the later received higher praise for his work, Sibelius decided to revise his piece, reworking it and giving it the title we know today. The piece is well-loved today, and often heard in springtime concerts across Finland.

Frederick Delius’ On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring is the epitome of seasonal music. It comes from his two pieces for small orchestra along with Summer Night on the River. In it, he uses the theme from Grieg’s Norwegian Folk Tune, Op. 66, No. 14. Can you hear the cuckoo calls played by the clarinet?

What are some of your favorite pieces for springtime?