Monday, March 30, 2009

Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

As I noted (possibly on the other blog), I missed St. David's Day, March 1. But I want to extend belated greetings to all of Welsh extraction and invite all to enjoy some versions of the Welsh national anthem.

Here's a version with lyrics and nice pics, sung by the Welsh baritone Bryn Terfel. See the wiki article for other translations and info about its composition.

And here it is at a rugby match. I especially like the face painting and the fan with the sheep! (At least I think that's what it is.)


I'm not planning any other anthems anytime soon.

Danny Boy

 Following up on Amhrán na bhFiann, here is the Danny Boy to end all Danny Boy's.

Friday, March 27, 2009

18 Year Old Cellist

This evening I went to a concert at the Harvard Musical Association. The performer was Tavi Ungerleider, the person referred to in the title of this post. He is the latest winner of the Association's High School Achievement Award.

The announcement of the concert said, "A freshman in the Columbia-Juilliard School of Music joint degree program, Tavi Ungerleider has won numerous accolades, including First Prize, New England Conservatory Concerto Competition, and First Prize, National Federation of the Music Clubs Award. He will present Beethoven’s Sonata No. 4 for Piano and Cello in C Major, op. 102, no. 1; Britten’s Cello Suite No. 1, op. 72; and Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne (from Pulcinella), for cello and piano. Mr. Ungerleider’s recital partner will be pianist, Sayuri Miyamoto."

He played the second piece from memory, and he did very well on all three. Seemed as if he was having the most fun with the last one.

His identical twin brother, Oren, who plays violin and is also studying at Julliard was runner-up in the competition for this award; and they have an older brother who plays piano.

I think we'll be hearing his name a lot once he embarks on a full-time career. So remember, you heard it here first.

BSO — 2009/03/26-28

Again I'm late with the announcement of this week's BSO concert.

They're giving
Ravel's Mother Goose Suite
Prokofiev's Second Violin Concerto, with Lisa Batiashvili as the soloist
and after intermission
Stravinsky's ballet Petrushka (1911 version).

The conductor is Charles Dutoit.

I was there Thursday evening (only because it was part of my subscription series — none of it excites me) and I thought it was well played. But what do I know?

The Boston Globe's reviewer liked it.

The WGBH stream will begin in less than an hour and a half from the time I post this, and on Saturday at 8:00 Eastern Daylight Time, WCRB will stream it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Amhrán na bhFiann: Edited

Now for something completely different.

A couple of years ago I got fascinated with the national anthems of the Celtic peoples. I missed St. David's Day for the Welsh, and I'll try to get to it soon. But here, in honor of St. Patrick's Day is the Irish National Anthem, in several versions.


despite what it says about never singing it in English, the words were first written in English and later translated into Irish.

Here it is in English

A complete version, followed by instrumental renditions

The wiki article, including a complete translationán_na_bhFiann

You can also hear it being sung at sporting events on some of the related videos on YouTube

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Edited to give correct url for wiki article. Thanks to TRiG for pointing out error in original post.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Going Again

I'm going to hear the Ives symphony again this evening. The Boston Symphony gives some of its concerts on Tuesday evenings following the week when they first present them. Out of about 28 programs this season, 11 are being given on the following Tuesday, and one such is last week's Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, and Ives program. I enjoyed the Ives so much that I wanted to hear it again. Unlike the Rachmaninoff, it isn't played much on the radio. I'm also looking forward to the Sibelius. So I got a ticket for the same seat I had last Thursday when I heard it the first time. It's my regular subscription seat.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Comment on BSO — 2009/03/05

You gotta listen to this! The first part was really good. But after the intermission, the Ives symphony was spectacular. He has two different rhythms going in different parts of the orchestra at times, so that they need a second conductor. He takes familiar (to him at least) tunes and weaves them into this symphonic structure. The second movement is wild. The third and fourth are sublime. When it was over, the conductor held up his hand for a long time to prolong the silence into which the music had brought us. When he lowered his hand and one or two people had begun to clap, I shouted "bravo!" over the general quiet. Enthusiastic applause ensued, and eventually a standing ovation.

I urge everybody to get the program notes from and listen to either or both of the streamed broadcasts. And then if you're within striking distance of Symphony Hall, try to get a ticket for the final performance on next Tuesday, March 10.

I'll edit this to add the Boston Globe's review in the morning.

The Sibelius was pleasant, and the Rachmaninoff familiar and well done. But if you can only take time for the Ives, it will begin shortly after 2:45 on Friday, and 9:15 on Saturday.

Edited to add Boston Globe review:

Gilbert leads BSO in Ives's epic Fourth Symphony
By Jeremy Eichler
Globe Staff / March 6, 2009
Next fall the young conductor Alan Gilbert will be taking up the reins of the New York Philharmonic as its 25th music director and there are high hopes that he will bring that magnificent yet artistically staid orchestra a sense of freshness and new life. Focused yet unflashy on the podium, he is unquestionably a thoughtful musician with engaging ideas about the music of today and how it connects to the great masterpieces of the past. It should be fascinating to see if and how he can turn around the huge orchestral ship.

In the meantime, a bit of Gilbert's flair for programming with rich contrasts was on display last night in Symphony Hall, where he led the Boston Symphony Orchestra in three early-20th century works that were all written within 30 years of each other yet seemed to hail from completely different universes. The evening opened with an alluring performance of Sibelius's tone poem "Night Ride and Sunrise," yet the strongest contrast came with the final two works: Rachmaninoff's ubiquitous Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Ives's epic and rarely heard Fourth Symphony.

Rachmaninoff was ultimately a late-Romantic composer marooned in the 20th century. "I understand nothing of the music of today," he commented in 1933, the year before he wrote his Paganini Rhapsody. In some of its structural details you can feel Rachmaninoff working hard to sound innovative but his piece inevitably became best known for its moments of soaring lyricism and old-fashioned keyboard brilliance. The British pianist Stephen Hough last night gave it a supremely poised and thoughtful reading that did not shy away from the work's external glitter but also seemed determined to spotlight its textural subtleties and moments of quiet poetry. He did so extremely well.

Rachmaninoff once wrote that "a composer's music should express the country of his birth, his love affairs, his religion, the books which have influenced him, the pictures he loves. It should be the product of the sum total of a composer's experiences." Ironically, few pieces answer this call more fully than Ives's visionary Fourth Symphony, in which the composer seems to have united all of the disparate musical and biographical threads that run through his other works. It was written mostly between 1909 and 1911 and yet it is still a piece that sounds bracingly modern today.

It calls for chorus and massive orchestral forces which Gilbert managed artfully last night, with the aid of an assistant conductor (Andrew Grams) who helped the musicians navigate the multiple tempos. The work is a giant palimpsest with musical layers piled high on top of each other, at times building to a kind of glorious sonic anarchy. Gilbert chose a spacious pacing and found clarity and structure within the chaos. He drew a beautifully rich tone from the strings in the third movement fugue, and traced the broadest of arcs in the spiritually searching finale. At the very end, the music created just the desired effect: it seemed to evaporate into a clear night sky.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

BSO — 2009/03/05-07

Last week's BSO program booklet had an announcement of this week's program. It includes Sibelius' tone poem "Night Ride and Sunrise," Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," and Charles Ives' "Symphony No. 4." The conductor will be Alan Gilbert, who is to become music director of the New York Philharmonic next season.

This concert is not included in my subscriptions, but I want to hear the Sibelius and Ives pieces. Amazingly, the Sibelius piece has not been performed by the BSO since 1918. I heard it not long ago, possibly during the recent WHRB Sibelius Orgy ®. It's good enough to warrant playing more than once every 90 years. And Ives is "interesting" — combining folk and hymn tunes with dissonant material. This symphony has a chorus taking part. The note says it was completed in 1916 and got its premiere performance in 1965.

So I went on line Monday and got a ticket for Thursday evening. My regular seat for one of my Thursday series was available, so I took it. It's on an aisle in the back row of the left balcony, so I can get out quickly when the applause is over, and get to the espresso stand before the line is too long.

As usual, I expect WGBH to broadcast the Friday matinee. The concert begins at 1:30 and their program begins at 1:00. They usually have pretty good introductory material and intermission features. The announcer is knowledgeable, and the producer conducts good interviews. WCRB will broadcast the Saturday evening performance, beginning at 8:00. They don't have the extras that you get on WGBH, but you get the music. (All times are Eastern.)

Additional info, including downloadable program notes from the program booklet, is available at the BSO website, if you're interested.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Early Years

Music has been part of my life since childhood.

I have a memory of being in the kitchen as my mother was doing the ironing one day. She was listening to the radio and people were talking about Tannhäuser. It must have been a Met broadcast. I was maybe five or six at the time. But I don't recall the Met broadcasts as a normal feature of Saturday afternoons at our house at that time. But when I was maybe twelve, I was a a friend's house, and we turned on the radio and it was the end of Il Trovatore. My friend wasn't interested, but I insisted on listening, at least sporadically, to the end. From then on I was hooked on opera.

There were a few symphonic broadcasts. But also around the time I was twelve, my folks bought a record player with an automatic changer. I began to listen to the records in the 78rpm collection they had. And we began to buy new records.

So during my high school years, I listened faithfully to the Met broadcasts and to other classical music on the radio. At the same time, I enjoyed much of the popular music of the day. In college, my familiarity with the classical broadened, my love of opera continued, I continued to enjoy popular music, and Joan Baez's records awakened real enjoyment of folk music.


Several people I chat with are interested in classical music, and I thought others might share that interest. I decided to start this blog to share some of the good opportunities for listening that I'm aware of, with a wider audience. I'll also post from time to time about musical events I'm attending. This means that I won't be putting my concert info on my other blog anymore.