A Midsummer Night’s Dream, pars prima

June 22, 2016 at 9:56 am

Midsummer is celebrated various ways by various cultures on various dates throughout the week after the Summer Solstice. This is good news for my blog, because, not surprisingly, this mystical, magical, and religiously important time of year has a lot of significant music written about it.

Before Cheech & Chong, the best acid trip entertainment was undoubtedly Shakespeare‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Gods, goddesses, fairies, and magic potions, there is even a character named Bottom who gets turned into an ass; now that’s top-quality play-writing! Felix Mendelssohn, like many other composers, wrote incidental music for this play. Here is the rollicking scherzo from the suite.

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It’s no laughing matter …

December 11, 2015 at 3:58 pm

… but it’s no matter if you laugh.

The word Scherzo is Italian for “I joke” or “I jest”. It’s also a very common title for the second or third movement of a symphony. (a movement is a complete musical piece that serves as a part of a larger musical work – for example, you might say “The Fellowship of the Ring” is the first movement of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.) Typically, a scherzo is in a very fast triple meter, which gives a musical character of lighthearted skipping. Perhaps it’s this jolly, carefree, dance feeling that gives these movements their name. I’ve also heard a theory that the “joke” of the scherzo is that it’s actually a minuet played so quickly that nobody could actually dance it (minuet movements were popular in symphonies before they were ultimately replaced by the scherzo.)

Joke or not, they are fun to listen to, and yes, they definitely make you want to skip around.

Ludwig van Beethoven needs no introduction. This Scherzo is from one of his most-loved symphonies, no. 7.

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