Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Burney Sonatas for Piano Four Hands: Birth of a Genre

I learned three things from this release.
  1. Charles Burney was a composer
  2. Charles Burney was a pretty good composer
  3. Charles Burney pioneered and popularized a musical genre
Charles Burney is best remembered today as a music journalist and musicologist. He wrote in great detail of his European tours. Those volumes provide invaluable documentation about late 18th-Century performance practices.

Burney also seemed to visit just about every major and minor composer on the continent. His writing provides insightful impressions of their personalities and their music.

What's not remembered is that Burney was also a prolific composer himself. In fact, recordings of his music are practically non-existent.

In 1777 Burney self-financed the publication of four sonatas for piano four hands. He might not have been the first composer to write for this combination, but he made it popular.

Before Burney's publication, music for two keyboard players meant two instruments. After Burney, other composers, such as J.C. Bach, Clementi, and Mozart wrote for piano four hands.

The eight sonatas on this release are played on an English square piano. This early pianoforte is the instrument Burney had in mind, but it's a far cry from a modern piano. The action is noisy, and the attacks can be harsh-sounding.

And yet, as I listened, I eventually became used to the sound and could appreciate it for its own merits. Burney wrote with the capabilities of the square piano in mind. Thus, the instrument's well-suited for the music.

Anna Clemente and Susanna Piolanti perform with a lightness of touch I didn't think possible on a square piano. They bring out all the dynamics and expressive shading of the works. And they use the rough sound of the square piano to good advantage. Dissonances sound almost contemporary with their edginess and loud passage ring with authority.

If authentic instruments aren't for you, then you might want to give this a pass. But if you'd like to enjoy some fine music-making from the early Classical era, give this release a listen. I found it enlightening.

Charles Burney: Sonatas for piano four hands
Anna Clemente, Susanna Piolanti, piano four hands
Brilliant Classics


Monday, September 18, 2017

Diabelli Project 162 - Woodwind Quintet

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

Things are a little disjointed right now. This summer I fell behind on making the fair copies of my Diabelli Project sketches (the one below's dated 6/23/17). And as I write this in September 2017 I'm working on a legitimate full-size woodwind quintet composition.

This rash of woodwind quintet flash compositions represents the germ of my inspiration.  But I'm currently much further along in the process than these posts suggest. Really.

In today's offering, the French horn has the melody, punctuated by the ensemble in eighth notes. If I were to use this sketch, I'd probably make the second measure 4/4 and change the last two beats from eighth notes to 16th notes. It makes more sense with what follows.

And had I not run out of time, I would have had all five instruments playing a descending pattern in stacked thirds and landing on a new tonal center (to be determined later).





As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Line Mar Match Box Construction 066 - Crane Car

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

066. Crane Car

The fifth car in the train shown on the construction set's box art is labelled a crane car. It's not a bad model, but it promises more play value than it can deliver.

If you look at the illustration carefully, you'll see a knob sticking out of the cab. The implication is that it will turn the dowel, and thus raise or lower the hook at the end of the string.

Well, that knob is actually a wooden collar, and it doesn't grip the dowel very tightly. The "hook" appears to be four fiberboard washers around a small dowel. All of that is extremely light-weight. I think only a single strand of sewing thread would be thin enough to actually stay within the guides of the crane arm and move up and down.

If the crank worked. Which it doesn't. And how would you secure the thread to the dowel and washer assembly?

I'm using florist wire as a string/thread substitute for this project. I substituted a wooden collar for the washers, and secured it by bending the end of the wire after threading it through.

For a static shot, I think it worked just fine.


The Line Mar Train