Monday, December 31, 2018

Spam Roundup, December 2018

Even with spam filters, some comments manage to make it through. Some of it's so oddly written, that it's oddly amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

Rave-ish reviews

- I'm not that much of a online reader to be honest but your blog's really nice keep it up! [High praise from an indifferent reader.]

- Dear, are you actually visiting this website daily, if so then you will absolutely obtain pleasant know-how. [It's easy, darling, if you have the know how.]

 - It's going to be finish of mine day, except before finish I am reading this wonderful piece of writing to improve my experience. [Take your time. We'll still be here when you finish your cereal.]

- Excellent goods from you, man. I've take into account your stuff prior to and you are just too excellent. [From "excellent" to "too excellent" all in one comment. Sometimes I just don't know my own strength!]

"Lumbering along" remains an internet fav

Would you pay money to read more about this toy?
A favorite target for spam comment is The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along. It's just a 300-word description of a vintage Japanese friction vehicle from the late 1950s. But somehow this little lithographed tin truck resonated with the spammers.

 - For the latest news you have to pay a visit web and on the web I found this website as the best web site for the most recent updates. [So you're saying this should be a pay site? Really?]

 -  Fabulous, what a weblog it is! This blog provides useful data to us, keep it up. [Useful in what way?]

  - Attractive section of content. [Yes, it is a cute little toy, isn't it?]

   - I am not positive where you are getting your info, however good topic.[Oh, I make everything up.]

Fastidious Families

And finally, there was this:

 - I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I'm not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble.

The blog post that plumed the depths of his soul? Fastidious Spam

Next month: a new year, and (hopefully) some new spam!

Friday, December 28, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalChristmas Weeks 4 and 5

This is the second year the #ClassicsaDay team went with a Classical Christmas theme. And that's fine. If you think about it, composers have been writing works for the season as long as there's been notation to preserve them.



For my contributions, I tried to avoid the obvious choices. In the process, I discovered some wonderful works that I'll be returning to again and again.

Here are my posts for the last full week of #ClassicalChristmas, plus the last day of December.

Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel (1690-1749) Christmas Oratorio: Ach, dass die Hülfe aus Zion über Israel käme.

Like Bach, Stölzel wrote an oratorio that was a set of six cantatas. Each cantata corresponded to one of the feast days of Christmas. "Ach, dass die Hülfe" is for the first day of Christmas, 1720.



Kevin Oldham - Silent Night

A beautiful reimagining of this familiar carol.



Louis-Claude Daquin: Noel X

Daquin was a virtuoso organ and harpsichord player. In 1757 he published Nouveau livre de noëls, a collection of 12 traditional French carols with new settings.



Max Reger - Weihnachten, Op. 145 No. 3

"Weihnachten" was originally part of a set of seven organ pieces in 1915. In its orchestrated form, the work has become a mainstay for holiday orchestra concerts.



Joan Szymko - The Peace of Wild Things

I first heard this work on the album Raunächte - The Twelve Nights after Christmas. I love it.



PDQ Bach - Good King Kong Looked Out

"Good King Kong" was part of PDQ's "Consort of Choral Christmas Carols." Why end the year with a PDQ Bach selection? Because he never fails to disappoint.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A seasonal treat from Kujken and La Petite Bande

This release presents Christmas cantatas from three German Baroque masters: Dieterich Buxtehude, Georg Philipp Telemann, and Johann Sebastian Bach. All three wrote cantatas for each Sunday of the Liturgical calendar.

Buxtehude was of the generation before Telemann and Bach and was a model to the younger composers. His cantata Das neugeborne Kindelein opens the program. It's a short, joyous work that's actually a choral cantata. All four voices sing continually throughout.

His setting of In dulci Jubilo closes the album. While the overall shape of the melody is familiar, it's rhythms are somewhat different than the modern version.

Telemann's 1720 Missa sopra “Ein Kindelein so löbelich” uses the tune as a cantus firmus. Over this foundation, Telemann weaves four-part counterpoint that pays homage to Palestrina and other late-Renaissance masters.

His other cantata, O Jesu Christ, Dein Kripplein ist mein Paradie was written 18 years later. Here the form follows the then-standard alternation between solo aria and chorale.

That's also true of Bach's Ich freue mich in dir, which is at the center of the program. The difference is style. Telemann's late cantata is written in more of an Italian style, and has a lightness to it.

Bach's cantata, though only using four singers, seems weightier. The harmonies sound thicker, and of course, the counterpoint more complex.

La Petite Bande and Sigiswald Kuijken are past masters of this repertoire. They adjust their performances to match the composers' style, further highlighting the differences between the three.

If you're looking for a great example of German Baroque Christmas music, I strongly recommend "Das neugeborne Kindelein."

Das neugeborne Kindelein
Christmas Cantatas
La Petite Bande
Sigiswald Kujken, director
Accent ACC 24348

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Exceptional performances of Graupner cantatas

This release features three cantatas and two overtures by Christoph Graupner. Graupner was a contemporary of Bach, Handel, and Telemann, and their near-equal in talent. He spent most of his career at the court of Hesse-Darmstadt, composing over 1,400 works.

The three cantatas on this release are early works, written between 1714 and 1725. Graupner masterfully sets the text for maximum effect. "Reiner Geist, lass doch mein Herz" (Pure spirit, let my heart become the temple of your dwelling.) has melodies that are as pure and simple as the text suggests.

"Verleih, dass ich aus Herzensgrund" (Provide that I, for reasons of the heart may be able to forgive my enemies.), has a somewhat darker theme, and the music reflects the cloudiness of the narrator's feelings.

"Ach, Gott, wie manches Herzeleid" (Ah! God, how many a heartache I encounter at this time) suggest faith can help one rise above troubles. The voice seems to float serenely over the ensemble, with a closing aria that ends triumphantly.

Dorothee Mields sings with a warm, pure tone. Even at its most emotive, her voice is never out of control. Every note seems perfectly formed, and beautifully supported. I think these performances are exceptional and go a long way to towards bringing Graupner back from obscurity.

Christoph Graupner: Lass mein Herz
Cantatas and Overtures
Dorothee Mields, soprano
Harmonie Universelle; Florian Deuter and Mónica Waisman, directors
Accent

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Monday, December 24, 2018

Diabelli Project 218 - Piece for Piano, Part 4

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.

I decided to try writing another complete piece in 10-minute weekly installments. It's definitely exercising a different set of creative muscles than my daily work requires.

This week's installment of the Piece for Piano begins in the fourth system. I don't really have much to say about this one. The music continues to push to a new climax, but we're not there yet. I will say that the odd meters were a bit of a surprise. I just didn't feel the need to fill out 4/4 bars with superfluous notes, I guess.





When I ran out of time, the left hand seemed to be in a holding pattern. But holding for what?
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, December 21, 2018

#ClassicasDay #ClassicalChristmas Week 3

This is the second year the #ClassicsaDay team went with a Classical Christmas theme. And that's fine. If you think about it, composers have been writing works for the season as long as there's been notation to preserve them.



For my contributions, I tried to avoid the obvious choices. In the process, I discovered some wonderful works that I'll be returning to again and again.

Here are my posts for the third week of #ClassicalChristmas

Giovanni Gabrieli - Magnificat a 14

Gabrieli was principal organist and composer for St. Mark's Basilica in Venice. His setting of the Magnificat was written with the acoustics of the basilica in mind.



Michael Torke - Winter's Tale for Cello and Orchestra

According to Torkie, his 2014 work "Winter's Tale" isn't based on Shakespeare's play. Rather, it's an expression of the mood winter evokes.




Christoph Graupner - Cantata - Wer da glaubet dass Jesus sei der Christ, GWV 1103/40

A cantata for the 3rd week of Advent. Graupner was the second choice for the Thomaskirche Leipzig music director's position. Telemann was the first. Leipzig settled for J.S. Bach when Graupner turned it down.



Thomas Tallis - Missa Puer Natus in Bethlehem

Tallis' mass was premiered Christmas, 1554. The text (a child is born in Bethlehem) was chosen to obliquely celebrate the pregnancy of Queen Mary I (which turned out not to be).



Charles Ives - Christmas Carol

Ives wrote this carol in 1894 before he began his studies with Horatio Parker (and gained a reputation as a musical rebel).

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Telemann Christmas Oratorios - stellar performances from the Kölner Akademie

For Telemann, 1730-31 was the "year of oratorios." Given the rich musical resources of Hamburg, he wrote a series of oratorios for the liturgical year. Michael Alexander Willens and the Kölner Akademie perform three of these recently rediscovered works, all centered around Christmas.

The Baroque oratorio was closely related to opera, and Telemann wrote accordingly. The soloists are giving arias, duets, and ensemble pieces that use the full range of vocal expression.

Schmecket und sehet (O taste and see) was written for the first day of Christmas. The text is an allegorical call to Bethlehem. Telemann's use of winds gives the oratorio a pastoral feel, suggesting the call to the shepherds. Telemann names the choral passages the "Choir the Joyful Souls." As performed by the Kölner Akademie, that joy is palpable.

For the third day of Christmas, Telemann wrote Im hellen Glanz der Glaubenssonnen (In the bright glow of the sun of faith). The text contemplates the enormity of God's gift. Here Telemann names the ensemble the "Choir of the faithfully observing souls." Their chorals are somber and introspective.

Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Lord God, we praise you), the oratorio for New Year's Day, has a formal quality to it. The counterpoint is dense and complex, the solo passages somewhat restrained in their contours.

Und das Wort ward Fleisch (The Word Made Flesh) from the 1741 Musicalisches Lob Gottes rounds out the program. It quotes Martin Luther's Christmas carol, Gelobet seist du Jesu Christ and In ducli jubilo. It's a light, airy work with plenty of opportunities for the soloists to display their skills.

Whether you prefer the Christmas cantatas of Bach, or Handel's "Messiah," you'll find lots to enjoy in this recording. Kölner Akademie and Michael Alexander Willens bring out the unique character of each oratorio. And the soloists -- especially soprano Monka Mauch -- sing with beauty and sensitivity.

Georg Philipp Telemann: Christmas Oratorios
Schmecket und sehet, TVWV 1:1251*; Im hellen Glanz der Glaubenssonnen, TVWV 1:926*; Herr Gott, dich loben wir, TVWV1:745*; Und das Wort ward Fleisch, TVWV1:1431
Monka Mauch, soprano; Nicole Pieper, alto; Georg Poplutz, tenor; Klaus Mertens, Raimonds Spogis, Manfred Brul, Joel Urch, bass
Kölner Akademie; Michael Alexander Willens, director
CPO 555 254-2
*World premiere recordings

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Vaughan Williams Christmas -- a Refreshing Return to Basics

I tire easily of Christmas music -- especially the traditional carols. Part of the reason is that I've heard the same overblown arrangements (and variations thereof) over and over. That's what made this new Albion release so refreshing. It gets back to basics, and let me hear these pieces as Ralph Vaughan Williams intended when he set them.

Vaughan Williams was one of the music editors for the 1928 Oxford Book of Carols. The intent was to provide well-written four-part settings of English carols for church choirs and congregations to use. The settings may be simple, but they're not simplistic.

That same aesthetic applied when Vaughan Williams contributed TTBB carol settings for British troops to sing in 1941. And it's also true of his 1919 settings for eight traditional English carols.

Some of these carols are quite familiar as seasonal songs, others as English folk tunes. The stripped-down versions heard in this recording reconnects them with their humble origins. Like stripping layers of paint off an old chair can reveal the beauty of the wood, the Chapel Choir under William Vann's direction reveal the naked beauty of these tunes.

I recommend this recording not only to those who love English choral music but for anyone who appreciates fine choral writing. Vaughan Williams settings may sound simple, but they reveal the heart of their material. And that's no simple task.

A Vaughan Williams Christmas
Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea
Hugh Rowlands, organ
William Vann, director
Albion Records ALBCD035

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Collecting - and Collecting Information 34

A recent offering on eBay caught my eye -- and perhaps added to the Straco Express mystery. The offering consisted of a tank car, a box car, and a caboose. The locomotive and track were missing.

The original eBay posting. Three cars, branded Alps.

The brand ALPS was visible on the boxcar, so I know who made these pieces. Alps Shoji Ltd. was based in Tokyo. From 1948 through the early 1970s they made toys for the American market. Most of them were battery operated (as this train presumably was).

What struck me was the similarity of the caboose to other examples I had.

Top: Unknown manufacture; middle: MRK; bottom: ALPS
The design is the same with all three cabooses. The ALPS piece has the railings at either end punched out. The railings on the other two pieces are only embossed. There are no markings on the two pieces I have. I know that my original Straco Express was made by "MRK," but there is no information at all about that firm -- or even other examples of toys they produced.

Could ALPS be MRK? 



There's a significant difference between the MRK boxcars and the ALPS version. The ALPS boxcar has a rounded roof, It also has smooth sides, as opposed to the embossed sides of the MRK boxcars. The frame is different as well.

Top: unknown; middle: MRK; bottom: ALPS

The photo of the tank car best shows the coupler system for the ALPS rolling stock. There's a pin at one end, and an open, squarish hole at the other. The pin is a two-part construction. That's a relatively expensive assembly compared to the MRK couplers.


Although they also have a hook and loop system, both parts are made from a single piece of tin that's stamped and bent to shape. Simple and cheap (and less durable than the ALPS couplers).

I'd like to find the locomotive for this set. It might provide more answers (or not).




Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain - An Irish-Appalachian Celebration

In 2015 Apollo's Fire released "Sugarloaf Mountain: An Appalachian Gathering." This Classical Crossover chart-topper celebrated the connection between Scotch-Irish mountain music and early Celtic and British music. "Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain" revisits the premise with a fresh batch of tunes.

Rest assured these are no delicate forays into folk music by classical practitioners. Director Jeannette Sorrell grew up in Appalachia, and she knows how this music should sound. Apollo's Fire performed with a rough-hewn enthusiasm that's infectious (especially on the tracks where you can hear them flat footing).

At the same time, there's a coherent, well-documented program behind it all. The album starts with traditional music of Ireland, and gradually progresses through immigrant songs to Appalachian mainstays.

And understand, this is not bluegrass music. Mountain music sticks to the traditional instruments of Ireland, as does Apollo's Fire. You won't hear banjos and guitars. But you will hear fiddles, wooden flutes, hammered dulcimers, and Scottish small pipes.

The ballads, such as "Joseph and Mary" and "Christ Child's Lullaby" are beautifully arranged. Soprano Amanda Powell finely balances between traditional Irish balladry and the nasal, high lonesome sound of Appalachian singing.

This one's going on my short list of favorite holiday albums.

Christmas on Sugarloaf Mountain
An Irish-Appalachian Celebration
Apollo's Fire
Jennette Sorrell, director
AVIE Av 2396

Friday, December 14, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalChristmas Week 2

This is the second year the #ClassicsaDay team went with a Classical Christmas theme. And that's fine. If you think about it, composers have been writing works for the season as long as there's been notation to preserve them.



For my contributions, I tried to avoid the obvious choices. In the process, I discovered some wonderful works that I'll be returning to again and again.

Here are my posts for the first week of #ClassicalChristmas

Heinrich Schutz - Rorate Caeli, SWV 322

A traditional Latin text, it was frequently used by the early Protestant churches during Advent.



Victor Hely-Hutchinson - Carol Symphony

Hely-Hutchinson completed the Carol Symphony in 1927. It's a set of four movements, each based on a different carol, and each imitating the style of a different composer.



Jean Mouton - Nesciens Mater Virgo Virum

The Latin text celebrates the Virgin Mary as a mother, nurturing the baby Jesus at her breast. Mouton's 1555 setting is a masterpiece of strict 8-part counterpoint.



John Rutter - Magnificat

This is the first of three settings of the Magnificat I'll be sharing. Rutter's 1990 work mixes contemporary classical and pop music idioms in a performer-friendly setting.



Arvo Pärt - Magnificat

Pärt's 1989 setting of the Magnificat is a model of his tintinnabulation technique. Equally important to the sounds is the silence between the sounds.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Margaretha Consort Delivers Authentic 17th C. German Christmas

Marit Broekroelofs and the Margretha Consort present a fascinating program of seasonal music. There are plenty of early Baroque Christmas albums to choose from, in just about every flavor. What makes this recording stand out is the consistency of the artistic vision.

Broekroelofs has taken the seasonal repertoire of the early Protestant church and presents it as it was most likely performed. The program presents the members of the ensemble in a variety of combinations.

The recording opens, for example, with an organ prelude by Franz Tundar. It then moves to Praetorius' "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland" for strings, chamber choir, and organ. From there, a hymn for solo voice and ensemble, then one for choir, strings, and brass.

The music is as varied as the lineups. Familiar hymns such as the "In dulci jubilo" and "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" are here, taken back to their original 17th Century versions. There are also some unfamiliar gems, too. "Illibata ter beata" by Basque theologian Pedro Hurtado de Mendoza is one. The beautiful "Nobilissime Jesu" by Czech composer Alberich Mazak is another. Mazak wrote over 300 sacred works -- this is the first one I've heard.

The recording is excellent. This was music for the (Protestant) church, and a church is where the ensemble recorded. The decay adds resonance without overwhelming the sound. And for works using double choirs and echo ensembles, I could actually hear the spacial relationships between the performers.

I'll be adding this to my holiday rotation.

A German Christmas
17th Century Music for the Time of Advent and Christmas
Margaretha Consort; Marit Broekroelofs, director
Naxos 8.551398

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mutts 3-Panel Meta

Patrick McDonnell, the creator of Mutts, has played with comic strip conventions before. The week of December 3-8, 2018 he riffed on a core concept of the art.

Daily humor strips usually have three panels. The first sets up the premise. The middle establishes the pattern. The third upends the pattern with the punchline.

In the sequence below, note how each daily strip plays with a different aspect of this convention.


In the first strip, McDonnell brings to our attention that, while each panel may look identical, each represents a different moment in time. The characters move from the second to the third panel because time has passed.

In the second sequence, McDonnell further explores this concept. The background to all three panels is identical, each representing the same scene in a different moment. Mooch refuses to leave the first panel, so he's absent from the second. Earl does the same in the second, so the third panel is empty. The humor derives from characters willing themselves out of the sequence.

The third sequence further develops the concept. Here, Earl remains in all three panels. Mooch however, disappears from the sequence.

The fourth sequence presents another variant. First neither characters stayed in the timeline through all three panels. Then Earl stayed. Now both appear in the last panel. But Mooch still opted out of the timeline in the second panel. So where did he go?

Note the changes in the fifth sequence. Here the landscape spans all three panels. So each panel still represents a different moment, but now also a different location. McDonnell places Mooth and Earl's word balloon across panels one and two. And Earl isn't in the second panel -- he's calling from the third. Here, the humor plays on the function of that last panel.

The final sequence also plays on the role of the last panel. The bear (the punchline) arrives too soon.

For those interested in the art of sequential art, this week entertained on several levels.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Gothenburg Youth Choir Delights with "A Christmas Wish"

I have to admit, when I first played this album I was quite surprised. The voices sounded fuller and lower than I expected for a youth choir.

But the members of the Gothenburg Youth Choir are all between the ages of 16 to 25. This is no children's choir -- and therein lies the difference.

Director Anne Johansson presents a wonderfully varied program. There are traditional carols from France, Sweden, and Germany. Benjamin Britten, John Rutter, Max Reger, and Jean Sibelius are represented.

And there's a healthy sampling of Swedish composers, such as Sven Körling, Ivar Widèen, and Gustaf Nordqvist.

The end result is a delightful blend of familiar and unusual works, all impeccably sung by the choir. I especially enjoyed the selects from Britten's Ceremony of Carols. Britten's score calls for a three-part treble chorus. I find it wearying to listen to.

Not so here. the Gothenburg Youth Choir brings the music down an octave, and it sounds great. For the first time, I could clearly hear the structure of the music. And the performances were easy on the ears!

Yes, I was surprised by the sound of this release. Pleasantly so.

A Christmas Wish
Gothenburg Youth Choir
Anne Johansson, conductor
Footprint Records FR 102

Friday, December 07, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalChristmas Week 1

This is the second year the #ClassicsaDay team went with a Classical Christmas theme. And that's fine. If you think about it, composers have been writing works for the season as long as there's been notation to preserve them.



For my contributions, I tried to avoid the obvious choices. In the process, I discovered some wonderful works that I'll be returning to again and again.

Here are my posts for the first week of #ClassicalChristmas.

Georg Philipp Telemann - Cantata - Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, TWV 1:1174

Composed for the first week of Advent, 1717.



Samuel Coleridge-Taylor - Christmas Overture

Originally this overture was part of some incidental music to a children's play, "The Forest of Wild Tyme." It was extracted, orchestrated, and -- with its many quoted carols -- become a holiday favorite for orchestras.



William Billings - Judea - A virgin unspotted

Billings was the first major American choral composer. Though self-taught, his choral collections were popular, and his music was in widespread use during the Colonial and Federal Periods. Judua was first published in his "Singing Master's Assistant" of 1778.



Frederick Delius - Sleigh Ride

This work was completed in 1899, and is sometimes known by its original title, "Winter's Night."



Arthur Sullivan - All this night bright angels sung

Sullivan was best known as the musical part of "Gilbert and Sullivan." He also composed many other types of music, included a small number of Christmas carols. "All this night" was first published in 1916.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Halsam American Brick Build - City Hall

In the mid-1950s' Halsam offered interlocking brick building toys made from pressed wood. I'm assembling each of the models shown in the instruction booklet for their 60/1 and 60/2 building sets. I'm calling it the Halsam American Brick Build.



The thirteenth build is City Hall -- or rather, a city hall.

In some ways, this resembles the tower building. Note that the yellow accents in the back of the building have two functions. They add visual interest, and they also provide support for the roof.



On the whole, this was a pretty simple build. This is a very small City Hall -- but I've been in some townships where this would be all the room the town council would need!

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Harbison Requiem - A Contemporary Choral Masterwork

What impressed me most listening to the Requiem was how well it all hung together. Harbison started sketching parts of it back in 1985.

A version of the "Sanctus" was written in 1991 for a commission. In 1995, what would become the "Introit" was written for Harbison's contribution to the multi-composer work, Requiem of Reconciliation. The "Hostias" section was quickly composed in 1999. But the work didn't all come together until 2001 when the Boston Symphony commissioned it.

Despite this history, the work seems to flow organically from one movement to the next. There's no "Kyrie Eleison" or  "Pie Jesu," but otherwise Harbison follows the traditional outline of a requiem mass.

Requiem is clearly a product of its time. The music, though primarily tonal, uses chromatic motion and dissonance in a contemporary fashion. And yet there's something timeless in it. The choral writing especially reminded me of Brahms. Not so much in its actual sound, but in the fullness of the ensemble and the richness of the harmonies (albeit with a modern edge).

Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero masterfully guides his forces through this work. Harbison says that "this piece is not coercively about how you should feel, but rather an offer of a place to be true to your own thoughts." Guerrero achieves that, I think. The orchestra and chorus have a warm, rich sound. The soloists also seem to be a part -- rather than apart -- from the ensemble.

Requiem is one of those works that I think should be experienced in its totality -- not in isolated movements. Only by taking the sonic journey from start to finish can one get the experience that Harbison was striving for -- a journey with your own thoughts.

John Harbison: Requiem
Jessica Rivera, soprano; Michaela Martens, mezzo-soprano;
Nicholas Phan, tenor; Kelly Markgraf, baritone
Nashville Symphony Chorus and Orchestra; Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor
Naxos 8.559841
World Premier Recording

Monday, December 03, 2018

Diabelli Project 217 - Piece for Piano, Part 3

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.

I decided to try writing another complete piece in 10-minute weekly installments. It's definitely exercising a different set of creative muscles than my daily work requires.

This week's installment of my Piece for Piano continues developing the opening material. The right-hand note clusters become thicker as it builds to the climax. The single note in the left hand suggested a return to the opening melody but instead went in a different direction.

When I ran out of time, the left hand seemed to be in a holding pattern. But holding for what?



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.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Spam Roundup, November 2018

Even with spam filters, some comments manage to make it through. Some of it's so oddly written, that it's oddly amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.


Not to change the subject, but...

 -  Taking off from this, let your ex-girlfriend know that you are still interested in her. When you have been dumped, it can be hard to see straight, let alone think straight. [Jeez, lighten up! I was writing about holiday music.]

- The supplies virtually anyplace, charms, beads, dangles, peculiar clasps advantageous more than statesmen. [In the current political climate, there may be times when it would be better to have a peculiar clasp than a statesman -- especially a statesman with a peculiar clasp.]

 - Tired of all the people running around with mishmash emblems of skulls and fire and wings? [Oh, if you only knew....]

"Lumbering along" keeps the comments coming

I guess you could say I wrote the guide on this little vehicle.
The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along remains a favorite post for spam comments. This month everyone (or at least their AI representatives) LOVED this post about an inexpensive vintage Japanese tin toy.

-You appear to grasp a lot approximately this like you wrote the guide in it or something. [Or something.]

- Hurrah, that's what I was looking for, what an information present here at this webpage. [Consider this information present our free gift to you.]

- It's actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I'm happy that you just shared this helpful info with us. [So... helpful. Got it.]

- I think that everything composed made a ton of sense. But what about this? suppose you added a little content? [If what's already there is a ton of sense, won't adding more make it collapse under its own intellectual weight?]


TMI

And finally I received this:

Cotton underwear is a highly regarded and provides you one of the best choices principally due to its great qualities. It is gentle, breathable, absorbs perspiration and may be very snug to put on.

Ew.

That's all for this month. Until next time, may all your comments be gentle, breathable, and absorbent. 

Friday, November 30, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #ArmisticeClassics Week 4

November 19, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. The #ClassicaDay team asked participants to post classical works related to the conflict. 


For my part, I tried to find examples from both sides of the war, and from as many different countries as possible. Here are my posts from the last week of November.


Rudi Stephan (Germany) - Music for Orchestra (1912)

Stephan's "Music for Orchestra" marked him as one of the most promising composers of the early 1900s. His music pushed past post-romanticism into an early form of Expressionism. He was killed by a sniper at the Russian front in 1915. He had completed only about twenty works.



Benjamin Britten (UK) - Diversions for Piano Left Hand and Orchestra, Op. 21

Pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm while serving in the Germany army during World War I. Determined to carry on after the war, he commissioned left-handed piano works from composers across Europe. Wittgenstein commissioned this work from Britten in 1940. He premiered it in 1942 with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Like all of his commissions, Wittgenstein retained exclusive performance rights during his lifetime.



Arthur Benjamin (Australia) - Viola Sonata

Australian composer Arthur Benjamin was serving in the Royal Flying Corps when he was shot down in 1918. He had lost the dogfight to Herman Goering. Benjamin was sent to the Ruhleben internment camp, where several other professional musicians (mostly enemy civilians) were held. He wrote an unpublished violin sonata for performance at the camp.



Charles Ives - They are There! (1918)

Charles Ives wrote "They Are There!" to stir patriotism for the war effort. It's pure Ives. The music mashes up several patriotic songs. According to the lyrics, "Most wars are made by small stupid selfish bossing groups, while the people have no say. But there'll come a day when they'll smash all dictators to the wall."


John Foulds - A World Requiem, Op. 60

Fould's World Requiem is a memorial to all the casualties of the Great War, regardless of nationality. It required over 1,200 performers. The Requiem premiered in 1921. Initially popular, A World Requiem was seldom performed after 1926, when attitudes towards the conflict changed. Foulds career faded along with the popularity of A World Requiem.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Halsam American Brick Build - Bridge

In the mid-1950s' Halsam offered interlocking brick building toys made from pressed wood. I'm assembling each of the models shown in the instruction booklet for their 60/1 and 60/2 building sets. I'm calling it the Halsam American Brick Build.




The twelfth build is a bridge. This was one of my favorite things to build with this set. The plans call for four pillars spanning the (imaginary) water. But you can make as many as you have bricks to build them, making a much longer footbridge.


The approaches are assembled in halves.


The yellow bricks that form the steps secure the two halves.




The bridge supports are somewhat tricky to build. You have to balance everything on a single column of brick.

Once assembled, it's easy to connect the supports together. And, as I said, with enough bricks, you can build a pretty long bridge.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Dussek Complete Piano Sonatas Volume 4 - Illuminating


This release features sonatas that span Dussek's career. And since they're played on fortepianos of the period, they also provide insight into the development of the piano.

The Sonata in A-flat major, Op. 5 No. 3 and the Sonata in B-flat major, Op. 24 are relatively early works. Written in 1788 and 1793 respectively, Tuija Hakkila performs them on a 1790s 5-octave restored Viennese fortepiano.

The Sonata in A, Op. 43 (1800) and the Sonata in F sharp minor, Op. 61 (1806) are played on a copy of a 1799 Longman Clementi fortepiano. It has a 6-octave range, and three strings per note (vs. two for the Viennese instrument).

The differences are audible. The Viennese instrument is noisier. I could easily hear the sound of the action, and there was a slight buzzing in the upper register. The Longman Clementi had an overall smoother sound across the instrument's range. And it had a stronger sound as well, with action that was almost unnoticeable.

The music reflects the instrument it was written for. The early sonatas on this release sound less expressive, and closer to the Baroque than the later works. Dussek takes full advantage of the newer instrument, expanding the range of the music, and increasing the contrast in dynamics.

Tuija Hakkila is a superb performer, matching her touch to the capabilities of the instruments. The Vienna fortepiano sounded a little fragile, and Hakkila plays it gently (yet expressively).

The Longman Clementi seemed robust enough to handle Dussek's grand gestures. And Hakkila doesn't hold back.

Of the four volumes in this series, I found this installment the most interesting, and the most instructive. And there's some fine music-making going on here, too.

Jan Ladislav Dussek
Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4
Sonatas Op. 5 No. 3; Op. 24; Op. 43, and Op. 61
Tuija Hakkila, piano
Brilliant 95604

Monday, November 26, 2018

Diabelli Project 216 - Piece for Piano, Part 2

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.

I decided to try writing another complete piece in 10-minute weekly installments. It's definitely exercising a different set of creative muscles than my daily work requires.

This week's installment of my Piece for Piano revisits the opening material. After the arrival of the stacked triads, the right-hand returns to its simple rhythmic figure. This time it's even simpler. Rather than a two-note cluster, it's just one repeated note. And the left hand simply repeats its opening note. Obviously, this suspension of motion won't last. Can't wait to see with my subconscious comes up with next week.



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.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Panufnik - Celestial Bird gives the gift of song

"Celestial Bird" is more than an album -- it's a present. In celebration of Panufnik's 50th birthday, this release brings together ten of her previously unrecorded choral works.  The music is all fairly recent, dating from 2013 through 2018. And it shows the wide-ranging interests of the composer.

St. Pancras Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis is a fine example of her sacred choral writing, drawing on -- but not limited by -- choral tradition.  Her Christmas Carol, "A Cradle Song" is a quiet, beautiful lullaby that should appeal to most community and church choirs.

Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra commission two works on the album. "Since We Parted" marks the centenary of the end of World War I. The sparing use of trumpet, harp, cello, and piano add to the poignancy of the music.  The second commission, "Child of Heaven," uses Indian modes to create an undulating line that runs through the work, tying the various motifs together.

The album opens with "Unending Love," a work for choir, Indian violin, percussion, sitar, and Carnatic singer. Panufnik's always been interested in other cultures, and as this work shows, she's no dilettante. The music gives the Western choir and the Indian performers common ground, letting them work together to create something greater than both parts.

It's a wonderful work. My only complaint is that "Unending Love" ends far too soon. Classical Indian music can easily run 30 minutes or longer. "Unending Love" clocks in at 9:14. It's a sonic world I would have enjoyed visiting for another 10 minutes or so.

Happy Birthday to Roxanna Panufnik, and many happy returns. The birthday may be hers, but the present, "Celestial Bird," is ours to enjoy.

Roxanna Panufnik: Celestial Bird
Ex Cathedra
Milapfest
Jeffrey Skidmore conductor
Signum Classics SIGCD543

Friday, November 23, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #ArmisticeClassics Week 3

November 19, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the First World War. The #ClassicaDay team asked participants to post classical works related to the conflict. 


For my part, I tried to find examples from both sides of the war, and from as many different countries as possible. Here are my posts from the third week of November.


Edward Elgar (UK) - The Fringes of the Fleet

Elgar set Rudyard Kipling's poems in 1917. They were performed throughout the UK to boost patriotism. The tenor who premiered the work, Charles Mott, was killed in action in 1918. After the war, attitudes changed, and the song cycle was seldom performed.



Erich Wolfgang Korngold (Austria-Hungary) - Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in C-sharp major, Op. 17

Pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm in World War I. Determined to carry on after Armistice, he commissioned left-handed piano works from composers across Europe. Wittgenstein was so pleased with Korngold's 1924 concerto, that he also commissioned a chamber work from him.



Ernest MacMillan (Canada) - String Quartet in C minor

Canadian conductor/composer MacMillan was attending a Wagner festival at Bayreuth festival when hostilities broke out. He was sent to Ruhleben internment camp, along with Edgar Bainton. His string quartet was written his fellow prisoners, who put on a series of chamber music concerts.



Alban Berg - Wozzeck

Berg began composing "Wozzeck" in 1914 and continued working on it while serving in the Austro-Hungarian Army. The grim story of the hapless private Wozzeck resonated with post-war audiences. "Wozzeck" was frequently performed in Germany until 1933, when it was banned by the Nazis as degenerate.



Ivor Gurney (UK) - War Elegy

Gurney wrote poems and composed music while serving with the Gloucester Regiment. He was wounded in 1917 and gassed in 1918. His promising postwar career was soon derailed by mental illness. He was institutionalized in 1922 and remained so for the remaining 15 years of his life. He completed his War Elegy just two years before his breakdown.

Thursday, November 22, 2018