The Definition of Musical Snobbery

January 25, 2016 at 10:30 am

Q: What’s the definition of musical snobbery?
A: Hearing the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger.

This is one of those pieces that everybody just knows. You can’t avoid it – it’s in cartoons, commercials, video games. Gioachino Rossini knows how to write ’em; everything is clear and easy to follow – no tricks or games. It begins with a gentle melody that blows up about 2:45.

And go ahead … think of the Lone Ranger, and ride a pretend horse around your house, the office, or even around town. If anybody turns up their nose at you, just “neigh” at them and move on.

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Same Song, Different Day

January 24, 2016 at 10:00 am

A few weeks ago I posted about the “Queen of Chorales”, Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern. The tune has been used by many composers – today we’ll hear from Felix Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn is often praised for championing and reintroducing JS Bach’s music to European audiences. Like Bach, he was an absolutely genius of a composer, and wrote in a conservative style for his time. Mendelssohn wrote a number of fantastic oratorios; when he died at the young age of 38, he left an unfinished oratorio, Christus. This chorus tells part of the story of the birth of Christ. It begins with a traditional-sounding recitative, followed by a short section sung by the Three Wise Men, and closes with a chorus – which ends, like many of Bach’s cantatas, with a chorale. The Queen of Chorales, that is.

Compare the end of the two pieces to get a sense of the chorale, and the stylistic difference between 1730 and 1830.

Bach: chorale starts at 20:45
Mendelssohn: chorale starts at 4:49

 

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As the snow gently falls

January 23, 2016 at 10:00 am

listen to this amazing overture to Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal.

It has nothing to do with winter or snow, but it’s such a great piece, and perfect for watching the weather and contemplating your existence. No other composer can successfully write music that has essentially one chord for five minutes, and then twist you around an amazingly complex harmonic progression that rips your heart right out of your chest. And the horns … so many horns … no, not horns on a Viking helmet, I’m talking about the instrument he invented, the Wagner tuba.

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