sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
sigmastolen ([personal profile] sigmastolen) wrote2011-11-15 10:31 pm

30 Days of Classical Music meme bonanza: Days 19-30

So I realized I didn't cross-post the last twelve days of the 30 Days of Classical Music meme, because I am the worst. So! Here we go!

Day 19 - A classical music piece from your favorite album
This is…. a weird question, given the way classical music albums generally work?  I mean -- the vast majority of albums are "a specific work by x composer" or "several works by y and z composers" and occasionally "x soloist/group performs works by y composer and/or fitting z category" if you're a big enough deal to do a performer-driven album.  So it's a little weird to have a favorite classical album the way people have favorite pop albums, I think?  Like, I don't think it's bizarre to say, '"In Rainbows" kept me from falling apart that one terrible summer,' or, 'I know all the words to all the songs on "Spice,"' but I do think it would be strange to say, "My favorite album is Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain, by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra!"  That is a weird thing to say.  "My favorite recording of x piece is by y performer from z year," is reasonable to say, but not "My favorite album is y performer's x piece(s)!"

So instead, have a general "piece that I like a lot":

Proverb | Steve Reich
(video above: Steve Reich Ensemble and Theatre of Voices, conducted by Paul Hillier)

Proverb is at once atypical of Reich and recognizably his, I think -- the way the piece is constructed to me seems very Reichian, even though the material is a far cry from the rest of his output.  It is dedicated to Paul Hillier and is clearly influenced by early music, paying homage to Perotin.  The text is: "How small a thought it takes to fill a whole life!"

My first contact with Proverb was on a Reich Remixed CD I checked out from the university library, but I didn't pay very much attention to it; I listened properly to Proverb, proper, when a friend wanted to perform it as part of our contemporary chamber music class.  We couldn't make the instrumentation and rehearsal times work, which was too bad -- I would still love to sing this (I think my meagre skills are up to this, if not to opera or artsong), if the opportunity ever arises again.

Day 20 - A classical music piece that you listen to when you're angry

Étude in c minor, Op. 10, No. 12 "Revolutionary" | Frédéric Chopin
(video above: André Watts, in a 1987 episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  Classical music + public television!  My adulthood + my childhood!  WORLDS COLLIDE)

The Revolutionary Étude is fiery and tempestuous and it helps me channel my rage.  I also associate it strongly with Crime and Punishment's Raskolnikov?  idek.  I think I fell in love with this piece at roughly the same time as I was reading C&P in English and had a giant crush on Raskolnikov.  Welcome to TMI Tuesday.

Day 21 - A classical music piece that you listen to when you're happy

John's Book of Alleged Dances | John Adams
(video above: I. Judah to the Ocean, performed by the Sinfonietta Riga String Quartet.  That channel features the group playing quite a few of the other movements, as well.  I personally favor the Kronos Quartet's recording, but then I tend to favor the Kronos Quartet at all times.)

There are a lot of pieces I listen to when I'm happy, including pieces I've already featured on previous days of the meme, but John's Book of Alleged Dances stood out to me because it's a lot of fun, and this movement in particular is toe-tappingly jaunty.

Other things I listen to when I'm happy: nearly anything by John Adams or Benjamin Britten, Jonathan Dove's Flight, the Bach Cello Suites, nearly anything that comes up on shuffle in my iTunes.
(short post is short because late post is late)

Day 22 - A classical music piece that you listen to when you're sad

Knoxville, Summer of 1915 | Samuel Barber, text by James Agee
(video above: Leontyne Price, soprano; New Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Thomas Schippers)
part two 

There are different things I listen to when I am different kinds of sad -- when I want to wallow, when I want catharsis, when I want to be cheered up… Knoxville is something I listen to for catharsis, to really feel all of the sadness and then let it fall away.  It is not… a sad song, exactly?  But knowing the backstory of Agee's father's death in 1916, and deteriorating health of Barber's father while he was composing this piece, the reminiscence becomes quite heartbreaking.

Full text (Barber used excerpts):
(We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in that time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.)

...It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds' hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt; a loud auto; a quiet auto; people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber.

A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter, fainting, lifting, lifts, faints foregone: forgotten. Now is the night one blue dew.

Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.

Low on the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes....

Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.

The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.

On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there....They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine,...with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.

-- James Agee

Cantata BWV 82 "Ich Habe Genug" | Johann Sebastian Bach (first link is to Thomas Quasthoff, second is to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, because I can't choose between them.  Also worth a listen is Ian Bostridge's rendition, although it becomes very very different in a tenor voice with obbligato recorder instead of oboe.  But who am I but a giant Ian Bostridge fanatic, so of course I am providing the link.)
Requiem Mass in D Minor, K. 626 | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (I love it.  I could play this piece every day for the rest of my life and still love it.  But when I'm in the right mood it also makes me cry my eyes out.)
And of course, the winner of the make-sigma-cry contest: Britten's War Requiem

Day 23 - A classical music piece that you want to play at your wedding
So.  I have honestly never contemplated my hypothetical wedding, much less thought about what music I would want to use in it?  And I don't really want to start thinking about this in a serious way right now, because (a) my best friend is getting married in a couple months and I am on wedding overload, and (b) I literally cannot imagine myself marrying anyone.  No, really, I actually cannot.  tbh I can't even imagine myself having a stable, long-term relationship with anyone.  and it's also not something I am interested in pursuing atm so.  yeah.  Have some stuff I just thought of that I think would be funny/fun/random.

Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome | Richard Strauss
Because how hilarious and inappropriate would that be, amirite?

Libertango | Astor Piazzolla
I would definitely want to tango to this at my wedding.

Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine | Eric Whitacre
Okay, I probably wouldn't include this in my hypothetical wedding but I think this is the best thing Eric Whitacre has ever done and I want to feature it in the meme but it doesn't fit anywhere.

Day 24 - A classical music piece that you want to play at your funeral

Irish Tune from County Derry ('O Danny Boy') | Percy Grainger
(video above: the group is unidentified by the poster but I assume it's the Eastman Wind Ensemble, the North Texas Wind Symphony, or the Cincinnati Wind Symphony as this is the wind band arrangement and they are the most-recorded wind ensembles.  This was also the only video on the first page when I searched it on YouTube that was not, in fact, someone's parents' video of their high school band.  Yay!)

Also from the music-that-makes-me-cry file: O Danny Boy.  It wouldn't necessarily have to be the wind band arrangement -- I would also accept renditions by small chamber groups, instrumental soloists, or singers.  I've always preferred the father-singing-to-his-son interpretation of O Danny Boy, which I think is the most touching and sad, but also reassuring.
Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling
'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide.
But come ye back when summer's in the meadow
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow
'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy, I love you so.

And if you come, when all the flowers are dying
And I am dead, as dead I well may be
You'll come and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an "Ave" there for me.
And I shall hear, tho' soft you tread above me
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be
For you will bend and tell me that you love me
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.

Day 25 - A classical music piece that makes you laugh
OH THANK GOD ANOTHER EASY ONE.  I have two categories here: things that are definitely supposed to be funny, and things that are probably not supposed to be funny.  Let's do the second one first. 

Things that are probably not supposed to be funny (but maybe, it's difficult to tell with oratorios):

"Their land brought forth frogs" from Israel in Egypt | Georg Friedrich Händel 
Oh, text painting, you are always delightful.  Actually, most of the plagues are pretty entertaining, but this one is definitely the best, especially if the soloist doesn't hold the notes too long. 

"And God made the firmament" from The Creation
This mostly entertains me because the English translation of Die Schöpfung is the worst thing ever and every single time the stress on "firmament" is on the last syllable, instead of the first where it belongs.  Lots of other things from The Creation are funny, particularly the surprising contrabassoon and the phrase "In sudden leaps, the flexible Tiger appears."  These are, again, probably not as hilarious in the original German.

Things That Are Definitely Supposed to be Funny:
  • any number of moments in comic(-ish) operas I have seen/played: Il nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Falstaff, Gianni Schicchi, Ariadne auf Naxos, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Flight
  • any work by P.D.Q. Bach, provided you get the jokes (note that Schickele's works under his own name are generally meant to be taken seriously)
  • Madam Mao's "Let's show these motherfuckers how to dance!" in the final act of Nixon in China. (also many of Kissinger's lines.) (and the best moment (and supertitle) ever: PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG PIG)
  • actually, a lot of things that happen in contrabassoon parts, now that I think of it.

Day 26 - A classical music piece that you can play on an instrument

Sonata for Bassoon and Piano | Paul Hindemith
(video above: Knut Sønstevold, bassoon; Eva Knardahl, piano)

So, uh.  This is far from the most impressive~~ piece I can play, but it's one of the ones I love the most.

Other pieces I wanted to put on this day of the meme but couldn't find legit/full recordings of to link to and/or imbed:

And, you know, I didn't want to be a tool and re-use the Mozart concerto.  Even though I'm pretty pleased about that one.  Or at least as pleased as anyone can ever be by their own level of proficiency at Mozart.

Day 27 - A classical music piece that you wish you could play

Nixon in China | John Adams, libretto by Alice Goodman
(video above: Act II, Scene 2,"I am the wife of Mao Tse-Tung;" Kathleen Kim, soprano, in this February's Metropolitan Opera premiere production (presumably from the "Live in HD" broadcast, 12 February 2011), directed by Peter Sellers and conducted by John Adams.  I SAW THIS PRODUCTION YOU GUYS IT WAS FABULOUS.)

I love this opera so much, you guys.  I love everything about it.  Every single thing.  But even if I get my dream job playing in a totally awesome opera orchestra, I will never play Nixon.  Because it has a saxophone section instead of a bassoon section.  SIGH.

But enough of my pity party.  Here is my other favorite aria: "This is prophetic," Act II, Scene 1 (original production: Carolann Page, soprano; Houston Grand Opera, directed by Peter Sellars, choreographed by Mark Morris, conducted by John DeMain, 1987)

Or watch the whole thing!  Part 1 is here (go to 4:25 if you wish to skip Walter Cronkite's intro), and the rest should follow in the related features.

Day 28 - A classical music piece that makes you feel guilty

I…. What?  I.  Don't think I have guilty feelings that are triggered by classical music?  (this is one of the days that makes me think this meme was haphazardly adapted from a popular music meme.)

So.  Um.  Have another random thing I like.

Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique" | Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky
(video above: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Fritz Reiner)

This is my favorite of the Tchaikovsky symphonies, but I've never had the pleasure of playing… any of them, really.  I probably know No. 4 the best because one of the orchestras played it while I was student teaching, so I spent a lot of rehearsals making notes in the score.  I know No. 5 from excerpts galore, and I know No. 6 from thousands of repeated listenings.  Yay! 

Day 29 - A classical music piece from your childhood

The Nutcracker | Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky
(video above: Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, December 2008)

My dad loves Tchaikovsky, so between daily doses of soul, funk, and the Beatles, I got me some overblown Russian Romantic culture.  We listened to The Nutcracker every year around Christmastime -- as you do -- and to this day it is the only ballet I have actually been to.  I listened to The Nutcracker a lot more than just during the holidays, though -- I have really vivid memories of dancing around the living room to the first few numbers, particularly.  I took ballet when I was five and six, which I think is about when these memories are from, so the dancing included a lot of pointed toes and dramatic leaps.  It was great.

Full disclosure time: I still do this, nearly twenty years later.  Fuck yeah.

Day 30 - Your favorite classical music piece at this time last year

Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008, I. Prelude | Johann Sebastian Bach
(video above: Anner Bylsma, cello)

I honestly don't remember what I considered my "favorite" piece last summer; knowing me it was probably something Britten, but I don't really keep track of things like that I guess?  So I decided to feature on this, the last entry of the meme, J.S. Bach, because without Bach we would all be nowhere.  The prelude of the second cello suite was one of my very favourite pieces to learn and perform last year.  I played it for auditions, and when I was sick and tired of my audition rep I tried to learn the other movements of the suite, as well.  (They have a lot of double-and-more stops, so that was pretty rough on bassoon, but I love the music so much that I went for it anyway…)  That summer was the first in years that I didn't have specific assignments to work on over the summer, and the first that I didn't have any festivals or gigs to occupy me, so I mostly puttered around with the cello suites, and especially this movement, which I had polished to a high sheen.

So!  This has been a meme!  I feel… very liberated, now that it's over.  It's a weirdly heavy obligation, posting a specific thing every day.  Next time I do one of these, I'm going to plan it out beforehand, instead of jumping in with both feet and winging it.  Then again, the next time I do one of these, it will probably involve essays and/or picspams, because that's supposed to be the point of these memes, right?  …. I think I'll take a while off.