One-Hit-Wonder

June 29, 2016 at 10:30 am

I occasionally play organ music to accompany silent films (and did so at a concert yesterday evening). When I do this, I like to steal borrow melodies from other composers. One of the pieces I used last night was Csárdás – though I admit that I knew nothing about the piece or its composer. (I’ll never forget the first time I heard it, though, under a funny circumstance***).

So here it is: Vittorio Monti‘s only lasting contribution to the Art Music world – but it’s a good one!

*** The funny circumstance: I was teaching at a university, and giving a final exam in Music Theory. The students were silent, hard at work, concentrating deeply. Suddenly, music broke out from the practice room next door – it was a marimba playing the fast section of Csárdás. The music can be a bit silly to begin with, and having it break the solemn silence of an exam made all the students’ heads pop up, eyes wide open – and then we all had a good laugh. I guess you had to be there.

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Well, That Escalated Quickly

January 29, 2016 at 8:30 am

zigeunerthat-escalated-quickly-will-ferrell

Talk about a bold opening. Pablo de Sarasate belongs to a group of composers who wrote showcase pieces primarily to show off their instrumental skills (perhaps the most well-known of these composers is Paganini). Zigeunerweisen (“Gypsy airs”) is his most famous work, and invokes the music of the Romani people. You can hear some more Romani-styled compositions in some of my previous posts.

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A Non-Bohemian Rhapsody

January 8, 2016 at 10:30 am

Franz Liszt was a romantic’s romantic. He was raised in Hungary, which was considered exotic in Western Europe during his lifetime. He was the first musical superstar – a virtuoso pianist, prolific composer, playboy and priest (though not at the same time.)

The Hungarian Rhapsody #2 in C# gets a lot of used, recently in a popular video game. I just love this piece: its ridiculously over-dramatic Romani beginning; the little slow dance which is both fiery and sensual at the same time; the wild jumping at the end. It’s 19th-century heavy metal.

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