Friday, November 27, 2015

The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours

Looking for a great gift for that classical music-loving friend or relative? You need not look any longer. Deutsche Grammophon just released The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours. This 24-disc set (yes, 24!) walks avid music lovers through the history of classical music from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, providing top-notch performances and online liner notes to accompany the listening experience. If you enjoy learning the history of music on Clef Notes, then this is the perfect CD set for you! For more information, check out this link or stay tuned as we may just be offering this great set in an upcoming fund drive!

Courtesy of

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving from 90.9!

90.9 WGUC offers you a variety of special programming this week that will provide the perfect backdrop to your Thanksgiving holiday. Here’s a schedule of what you can expect:

Wednesday, November 25, 6:00 PM
Thanksgiving with Cantus: Cantus is one of the premiere men’s vocal ensembles, and with Alison Young, they talk about the holiday, music and food.

Thursday, November 26, 10:00 AM
Feast for the Ears: Traditional music and American composers take center stage as host Mark Perzel presents a warm, heartfelt celebration of the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s the perfect accompaniment for your Thanksgiving morning activities.

Thursday, November 26, 6:00 PM
Giving Thanks 2015: With music and stories for Thanksgiving, host John Birge creates a thoughtful, contemporary reflection on the meaning of the holiday.

Remember, no matter where you’ll be for Thanksgiving, you can always enjoy these beautiful specials. Listen on-air at 90.9 WGUC, streaming on our website, or download our free mobile app to your smart phone or tablet so you never miss a note!

From all of your friends at 90.9, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Liszt's "Un Sospiro"

Last time we looked at Franz Liszt as a virtuosic pianist. Did you know he was equally gifted as a composer? Known for his innovations in form and harmony, Liszt wrote a variety of works and even invented the symphonic poem! For today’s purposes, let’s take a look at one of his virtuosic piano works: Un Sospiro “A Sigh.”

Un Sospiro was composed in 1848 as part of “Trois etudes de concert.” Being a virtuoso himself, it makes sense that Liszt would incorporate challenging techniques in order for the pianist to essentially show off for his/her audience. Below you can watch a video clip of Lang Lang performing this work. Notice how the piece calls for hand crossing in such a way that the audience would never know just to listen. He also writes the melody surrounded by arpeggios in a way where nearly no two successive notes are played by the same hand!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stars on the Stage: Franz Liszt

We cannot discuss virtuosos this month without mentioning Franz Liszt (1811–1886). Liszt could be considered the most well-known virtuoso of his time, beginning studies with his father at age six. Once apparent that the young boy had great talent, he went on to study piano and theory with other prominent musicians including Carl Czerny and Antonio Salieri.

Courtesy of
The picture above depicts Liszt’s “star” status during his day. His ability to stretch boundaries and develop new techniques made him stand out among his contemporaries and the public loved him. Liszt spent much of his life as a touring pianist, pioneering the idea of a solo recital that has remained popular to this day. He also memorized his music and played a wide repertoire from various eras—methods common today but revolutionary during the nineteenth century. When he first moved to Paris as a youth, Liszt was given a new seven-octave double escapement action piano that allowed quicker repetition of notes. He became one of the first pianists to master this virtuosic technique.

Liszt stopped performing in 1848 and decided to devote the rest of his days to teaching, conducting, and composing. Next time, we’ll look at one of his virtuosic piano compositions! 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Paganini's 24 Caprices

Last time we looked at violin virtuoso Nicolò Paganini and his rise to stardom. Today, let’s focus in on Paganini as a composer. Did you know that he was known to write challenging works that he could then learn to play for his own concerts?

Paganini’s famous 24 Caprices is for solo violin and acts as a set of etudes, each displaying a different skill. The works are quite challenging and have influenced many violin students since their completion. Several composers have even used the 24th Caprice as inspiration for their own works. Below, you can listen to Paganini’s original, followed by a Brahms’ and Rachmaninoff’s variations.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Stars on the Stage: Nicolò Paganini

There are quite a few classical music “stars” throughout history—men and women who not only mastered the art of composition but were known as virtuosos of their time. Nicolò Paganini (1782–1840) is one man whose virtuosity paved the way for generations of performing artists who followed.

Courtesy of
 Considered by some to be the greatest violin virtuoso in history, Paganini began his music studies on mandolin at five years old and switched over to violin two years later. He first studied under his father, who was quite strict, threatening to take away the young boy’s food if he didn’t practice enough! At twelve, Paganini went to study with the great Alessandro Rolla. After hearing the boy play, Rolla sent him away, explaining that there was nothing more to teach, encouraging him to pursue additional musical avenues including composition.

Paganini was technically superb and became known for ricocheting his bow (bouncing notes on one bow stroke), using left-hand pizzicato (plucking the strings with the fingers or thumb), and playing double-stop harmonics (multiple notes at the same time). Paganini was also known for his skill at sight-reading. Often times he would sight-read any piece placed in front of him at the end of a concert.

The virtuosic Paganini became quite skilled as a composer in addition to performing the violin. Sometimes he would write a challenging work that he could learn to play for his own concerts. Next time, join me as we look at Paganini’s famous 24 Caprices, and learn how they inspired composers in later generations. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488

Last time we looked at W. A. Mozart as a child prodigy. As you know, Mozart had a large output of compositions, many written for the piano so that he could perform them in his own concerts! Today, we’ll look at one of these: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K 488.

Mozart wrote in a style that pleases the average listener and impresses the experienced critic. His K 488 was written in 1786 and one of many that uses the concertos of J. C. Bach as a model. This concerto was one of fifteen written between 1782 and 1785 while Mozart was living in Vienna. This particular piece was written during an especially fruitful season in which he also worked on two other concertos and his famous opera The Marriage of Figaro. Did you know that the three concertos written during this season were his first to incorporate the clarinet? You can listen below:

Next time, we’ll look at virtuoso violinist and composer Nicolò Paganini!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Stars on the Stage: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

There are many composers throughout music history who were equally famous as virtuosos during their lifetime. This month, Clef Notes takes a closer look at a few notable stars who found success through both composition and performance! We’ll get things started with the ever-famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791).

Did you know that Mozart was a child prodigy? His father, Leopold Mozart, was a celebrated violinist for the archbishop of Salzburg during his day but ended up sacrificing advancement in his own career when he discovered that his children, Wolfgang and Maria Anna (also nicknamed Nannerl), possessed great musical talent.

Courtesy of
Leopold toured Western Europe with his children during the 1760s, exposing them to a variety of cultures and music. Both children were keyboard virtuosos and Wolfgang also quite proficient on the violin. The musical experiences during this time period effected Wolfgang’s compositional style, creating a universal approach to his writing. One composer whose style influenced the young prodigy was that of J. C. Bach, whom Wolfgang met in London. By listening to both men’s concertos, you can note that they follow a similar approach. Wolfgang even arranged three of Bach’s sonatas as piano concertos!

Next time, join me as I look at a piece Mozart composed to perform himself at a concert during the 1780s!