Monday, February 22, 2021

Classical Music's Athletic Composers

by Andy Ellis

“Calming”, “relaxing”, “music for your soul”.

While all of these are true when it comes to classical music, have you ever listened to a rockin’ piece while working out or going for a run?

Better yet, did you know that there have been composers who were just as athletic as they were musically talented?

Benjamin Britten loved cricket and croquet, but nothing beat racquet sports in his opinion. "When you were beaten by him at squash or tennis," said one competitor, "you literally felt that he'd been 'beating' you."

Percy Grainger used to go on 50, 60 mile hikes through the Australian Outback as a young man!

Charles Ives (a Football and Baseball captain) enjoyed sports at Yale and played on the varsity football team. Michael C. Murphy, his coach, once remarked that it was a "crying shame" that he spent so much time at music as otherwise he could have been a champion sprinter!

Igor Stravinsky had a morning routine that included 15 minutes of Hungarian gymnastics.

Felix Mendelssohn too was known for his athletic prowess too. According to the composer's godson Ignaz Moscheles, "Mendelssohn could throw my ball farther than anybody else; and he could run faster too."

And of course there was Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges… A champion fencer and amazing all-around athlete! According to the son of the Master at his school: "At 15 his progress was so rapid, that he was already beating the best swordsmen, and at 17 he developed the greatest speed imaginable."

I can only imagine what it would be like to hear the first draft of Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra then head to the tennis courts and try to return his serve! Or better yet, trying to parry Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ combined attack on the piste, then head to the Paris Opera to hear one of his creations!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Sisters Born of the Same Muse

by Elaine Diehl

The Knights

“Sisters Born of the Same Muse” – That’s how Gil Shaham describes the Beethoven and Brahms Violin Concertos that he recorded along with The Knights for a new album coming in March.

Here’s my preview:

Monday, February 8, 2021

Love and Romance in Music

Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Musical genius across the ages has given lovers a soundtrack for romance, as well as examples of the inspiration that love can provide.

Composers whose works were inspired by love include Edward Elgar, who wrote Love Greetings as a musical response to his fiancé’s poem Love’s Grace, and Richard Wagner, who composed the Siegfried Idyll as a birthday present to his second wife, Cosima, after the birth of their son Siegfried.

Music brought Robert and Clara Schumann together, forging a unique union among complementary artists. In the first year of their marriage, Clara wrote three songs for Robert as a Christmas present. For his birthday, she composed music to a poem by Friedrich Rückert that expressed exactly how she felt about him. Robert also used music to express his deep love for Clara, composing more than 130 songs inspired by their courtship and life together.

With one of the greatest love stories of all time, Romeo and Juliet have inspired many composers including Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Gounod and Rota.

Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique was the product of his unrequited enchantment with Irish actress Harriet Smithson. In his memoir, Berlioz described the piece as portraying the dreams of a young man who, after a failed love affair, overdoses on opium. Although the young man in the music does not unite with his love, Berlioz’s dream was eventually fulfilled several years later when he and Smithson did marry. Alas, the marriage was not a happy one and lasted less than a decade. Fortunately, the music inspired by Berlioz’s desire has endured for us today.

Even music that was not written with love in mind can inspire romance. Here are a few beloved examples:

  • Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, “Elvira Madigan,”
  • Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2
  • Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1
  • Mascagni’s Intermezzo, from Cavalleria Rusticana

What music would you add to this list? You can check out more beautiful music to set the mood for a romantic Valentine’s Day. Listen to Love Greetings at 8 o’clock that evening on 90.9 WGUC.

As Shakespeare famously wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Common Time

Common time, also known as 4/4 time, is a meter with four quarter-note beats per measure. It’s often symbolized by the common-time symbol. Around here, we like to look at common time as four parts of our daily lives: Family, Sleep, Work, Recreation. Each one is important to a well-rounded existence and we think each can be enhanced by listening to classical music on WGUC.

Family: when you spend time together, perhaps at the dinner table, enjoy each other’s company and stories from the day with classical music providing the perfect soundtrack.

Sleep: these days are especially stressful, and it can be hard to wind our brains down to fall asleep. The music you hear on WGUC can allow for peaceful thoughts, opportunities to breathe deeply and allow the day’s struggles to melt away.

Work: whether you are working in an office, from home, or a neighborhood coffee shop, you have to focus even with all the world’s events swirling around you. Your earbuds and WGUC will allow your brain to block out the noise and zero in on the work you need to do.

Recreation: during days like these, where isolation is forced upon us, taking care of our physical well-being has never been more important. Whether you walk or run, use a stationary bike or do yoga, find the classical music that inspires or relaxes you so you get the most from your exercise.

WGUC has been around for over 60 years, providing our listeners the very best classical music ever written, but it’s as important as it’s ever been in 2021.

For all your common time, we are here for you.

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