Music Appreciation Essay
The concert was at the Thayer Hall, a beautiful state of the art facility that is home for the school’s concerts, recitals, and other events. It holds up to 200 people, theater row seating, and the stage is set up fairly close to the first row seats which gives the performance a more personable feel to the audience. The wooden floor stage had a beautiful grand Steinway and Sons Piano set off to the side, that was moved later in the middle for the performance of Clarinet Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 167.
The first piece on the program was Ricochet, composed by Kerry Turner. It was one of Turner’s chamber music ensemble, performed by a brass quintet; two trumpets, horn, trombone, and tuba. The composition was energetic, skillfully played by the quintet in a manner that depicts life journey fast paced to get to the desired place and upon reaching it there is a slowing down pace of life either in peace or dismay.
The second piece was Clarinet Sonata in E-flat Major, Op. 167 by Camille Saint-Saens. This piece was performed with two instruments namely clarinet and piano. It had a slow movement, opening with tender, melodies that seemed effortless, up and down tempo, whispering softly. This was a short piece compared to other pieces in the program. It had a romantic voice and more consonance, harmonious, and cantabile movement.
Camille Saint-Saens was born in Paris on October 9, 1835. His father died when he was a baby, after only having been married to his mother, Clemence a year and a day. His great aunt, Charlotte Mason, who was a learned person, also became a widow. The two ladies reared and provided for Camille Saint-Saens. He received his introduction to keyboarding from his great aunt at the age of two and a half. He was playing sonatas by the age of five years old. He was writing dance music at the age of 15. According to his auto biography (p.7) “ Liszt had to show by his Galop Chromatique the distinction that genius can give to the most commonplace themes My waltzes were better. As has always been the case with me I was already composing the music directly on paper with working it out on the piano.” http://books.google.com/books?id=MOcPAAAAYAAJ&dq=camille%20saint-saens&pg=PA8#v=onepage&q=camille%20saint-saens&f=false As Camille later in his life looked over his composition, there was no error in it technically, which is quite significant considering he did not have the basic knowledge of the “science of harmony.” Camille Saint-Saens, by the age of ten, gave concert played Beethoven’s Concerto in C minor and also Mozart’s concertos in B flat.
He became the organist at the Church of Madeleine, which was a highly regarded post. He was well known in Paris. A virtuoso who had won prizes for his compositions; Introduction et rondo capriccioso (1863) as well as the Second Piano Concerto (1868). He held a post at Ecole Niedermayer during 1861 and 1865 as a piano professor. He had built life-long friendship with one of his students Gabriel Faure, one of the great composers of the 19th century and early 20th century. He would be what we would call a renaissance man, for his many gifts and interests. He was interested in Science and also a mathematician. During his later years, an avid traveler and writer wrote about his travels, poetry, and philosophical work. His work continued to be inspired by Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, composed symphonic poems including Danse Macabre in 1874. He is also known for his opera Samson et Dalila. He died in 1921, in Algeria. https://www.sfcv.org/learn/composer-gallery/saint-saëns-camille Sources: The following websites retrieved on November 29, 2014.
The third piece was composed by Giacomo Miluccio, Rhapsody for Clarinet (ca. 1979). This beautiful and technically difficult piece was a solo for clarinet. This piece started off slow, with low pitch then increased in tempo with increasing pitch as well, that continues to a call and response type music, transitioning to dissonance, to slow – low melancholy notes, then picks up to a livelier mood. This piece evoked an uncomfortable feeling inside me, sort of giving a music background to my emotions when I am uneasy, frantic, loosing my sense of direction. I personally would not select this music to unwind after a long day at work.
The fourth was selections from Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (1927) composed by Erwin Schulhoff, three movements were played. The Charleston: Allegro began with a brigh tone, upbeat rhythm, producing dance to the beat of the music. The second movement, Romancero: Andantino sounded playful, with the individual instruments playing consecutively in the introduction playing the same note. The tempo is more andantino, relaxed and mezzo forte. The last movement was the Rondo-Finale: Molto Allegro con fuoco, it featured a lively theme, faster tempo (prestissimo), many repeated tones playful notes with all instruments, and concluded fortissimo rushing at the end.
The fifth piece was Suite d’aprés Corrette, by Darius Milhaud. This had four movements included in the program, Entree et Rondeau, Tambourin, Musette and Le Coucou. Each of the four movements had very playful melody.
Darius Milhaud, One of France’s leading composer of the 20th century. He was born to a Jewish family in Aix-en-Provence. His parents’ Jewish family line came from the Comtadin sect that has been well established in France for hundreds of years and the Italian Sephardim. http://www.anb.org/articles/18/18-03766.html
Both of his parents had musical talents and had been playing music with his parents from his early childhood. He learned to play the violin at age 4. At the age of 17, Milhaud went to school at Paris Conservatoire where he ended up focusing on piano and composition, having the musical influence of top French composers like Paul Dukas, Charles Marie Widor (fugue), Andre Gedalge (counterpoint, composition, and orchestration) Nadia Boulanger, Maurice Ravel, George Enesco, Jacques Ibert were his students. http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/milhaud.php
Milhaud and poet, Paul Claudel established a long collaborative relationship where Milhaud would compose incidental music, while Claudel will produce libretti for Milhaud’s works. Their friendship began when he served as a French attache in Rio de Janeiro in the First World War. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/darius-milhaud-mn0001175393/biography
He became part of “Les Six”, a group of popular French composers under the supervision of Jean Cocteau. The group did not last very long, and had only been able to put together some piano pieces together as a whole group namely, L’Album des Six. http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/3012.html#tvf=tracks&tv=about http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Six
During his tours to foreign countries such as the U.S.A., Brazil, Vienna, London and the U.S.S.R., where he had quickly absorbed the various musical influences of these regions like jazz and Brazilian music.
In 1939, he left France after the Nazi installed the Vichy Regime and many of his Jewish relatives were murdered by the Nazi Germans. An invitation to conduct at the Chicago Symphony, had given his family a timely exit visa. Through a friend of his, a famous French conductor then at the San Francisco Symphony as a conductor, Pierre Monteux, organized a teaching post for Milhaud at Mills College in Oakland, California. He is “often perceived as the champion of polytonality.”
He may not be the inventor of this technique, he was able to use the technique to its possibilities. He produced at least 440 music pieces, including 12 ballets, nine operas, 12 symphonies, six chamber symphonies, 18 string quartet. He also continued to show his identity with France and the Jewish religion though his music. He later returned to France and kept a similar teaching post at Paris Conservatoire until 1971 along with his post in Mills College. http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/3012.html#tvf=tracks&tv=about He died in 1974.
http://www.milkenarchive.org/people/view/all/574/Darius+Milhaud Sources: All websites retrieved on November 30, 2014
The final piece was Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon by Jean Françaix. The first movement was allegretto assai, it had a fast beat and very playful. This piece had a lot of dissonance. The Elegie had low pitch, the bassoon was setting the tone to a mournful sound, played in harmony by the clarinet and oboe. The Scherzo, was the last movement played, it had a lot of energy, moving very fast. It sounded like a music for dancing, with contrasting tone color.
Jean Françaix was born to a family of musicians on May 23, 1912. His father, Alfred Françaix spent sixteen years as the director for the Le Mans Conservatory of Music. His mother was a teacher and choir director also at the Conservatory. He had an early music influence, started learning piano at four, at ten he was taking music lessons with Isidor Philipp,whose long list of students were significant pianists, composers, and conductors, who was also a long time friend of Claude Debussy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isidor_Philipp Françaix, also studied music with Nadia Boulanger, who was a French composer, conductor, who also had a long list of well known students of musicians and composers of the 20th century. Jean Françaix at ten years old, composed “Pour Jacqueline” in honor of his cousin, and was published after two years. http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/2535.html#tvf=tracks&tv=about
He met Maurice Ravel in 1923, who had encouraged the young Françaix, to pursue his path that he is currently taking. He won the first prize at the Paris Conservatoire when he was 18. In 1932, he successfully gained popularity at the premiere performance of his Concertino for Piano and Orchestra at the Baden-Baden Chamber Music Festival, in Germany. He became sought after after this that he was commissioned to write music for sixteen ballets. He had completed and extensive collection of works including orchestral works, film music, vocal works as well as chamber music. He served at Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris teaching from 1959 to 1962.
According to Schott music website, although Jean Françaix had exposure, influence, and fondness for the French Impressionism and the Neoclassicism, and his close relationship with Francis Pulenc and the “Groupe Des Six,” “Jean Françaix never felt committed to any particular musical ideology.” http://www.schott-music.com/shop/persons/featured/jean-francaix/ Jean Françaix died in 1997, his major work, written in 1939, The Apocalypse of Saint John, first performed in 1942, and was later played at his memorial service at Le Mans Cathedral in 1999. http://www.classicalarchives.com/composer/2535.html#tvf=tracks&tv=about (Sources: all websites retrieved on November 30, 2014)
The center stage’s design seemed very intimate to me in terms of the close proximity of the audience to the performers. From where I was sitting (left side, third row from the stage), I noticed that the instrumentalist were exchanging glances, waiting or taking the lead with each melody. I noticed that the instrumentalist had to tune their instruments before they start their pieces. They also seem to be constantly licking their lips. One striking event that I noticed, that I probably will not notice at a different venue where the stage is at a farther distance to the audience, is that the instrumentalists that played as a group, had a way of communicating with each other by glances and nods, whether to play solo, duo or trio.
They played their musical instruments with such grace and poise. The moment the instrumentalist started performing the audience were very enthralled with the sound of the music. It was quite a life enriching experience. There was certain beauty and somewhat felt spiritual as I watch the instrumentalist play fantastic sounds with each of their instruments. The Colburn Conservatory School director welcomed the audience to the concert and with pride mentioned that most of their students have won the Pasadena Showcase House Instrumental Competition.
Jay, I am hoping if you would be able to help me describe the following. I don’t exactly know how to go about writing description of this final music pieces. If you can, I would really appreciate it.
7. A full description of the final musical piece on the concert – 10 points
Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon by Jean Françaix, 1912-1997 Prelude https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQywosBYkac
Allegretto Assai https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W682MdjDb4o