My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 13

Happy Monday!

Today I will share one piece of music only.

The Skaters’ Waltz

From Wikipedia:

“Les Patineurs Valse or The Skaters’ Waltz or Die Schlittschuhläufer-Walzer (German), Op. 183, is a waltz by Émile Waldteufel.

Known in English as The Skaters’ Waltz, it was composed in 1882 and was inspired by the Cercle des Patineurs or ‘Rink of Skaters’ at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. His introduction to the waltz can be likened to the poise of a skater and the glissando notes invoke scenes of a wintry atmosphere. The other themes that follow are graceful and swirling, as if to depict a ring of skaters in their glory.[citation needed] Bells were also added for good measure to complete the winter scenery. It was published by Hopwood & Crew and was dedicated to Ernest Coquelin who was the younger brother of two celebrated actor brothers of the Comédie Française.”

It has all of the traits I like in music: sweet melodies and airy sounds.

Also, due to this piece depicting ice skating it makes me want to go ice skating.

I first discovered this piece through a Mickey Mouse cartoon called On Ice.  It was played at the beginning.  Very fitting.  It also features in another Disney cartoon called Winter.

 

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 12

Happy Monday!

Here are more pieces of classical music to share today.  I will share two pieces by Johann Strauss:  Tales from the Vienna Woods and  The Blue Danube

These pieces have a film connection with me.  The first time I heard them was probably when I was a child, and I first saw a Warner Bros. cartoon called A Corny Concerto.  It was a parody of Fantasia, and it featured Elmer Fudd introducing two pieces of music: Tales from Vienna Woods and The Blue Danube.  The first segment featured Porky Pig and a a hunting dog, pursuing Bugs Bunny; the second focused on a young Daffy Duck being wanting to be accepted by a family of swans, but all of attempts fail.

 

In addition both pieces inspired two separate MGM cartoons.

This one is about deer interacting with the faun known as Pan.

This one is a sweet fantasy taking place in the forest.

And here are the pieces in their original contexts.

Tales from Vienna Woods

Blue Danube

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 11: Fantasia 2000

I’m sorry to post this a day late, but I felt rather tired, as I did not get much sleep on Sunday night, and I could not focus on completing it; I decided not to skip this post because I figured, “better late than never.”

I talked about the original Fantasia before, but today I will talk about its sequel, which was 60 years in the making.

As the original Fantasia was being developed, Walt Disney intended for it to be a perpetual entertainment experience.  In other words, people it would be regularly rereleased with new segments replacing some of the old ones.  According to Wikipedia: “Disney had wanted Fantasia to be an ongoing project, with a new edition being released every few years.[145] His plan was to substitute one of the original segments with a new one as it was complete, so the viewer would always see a new version of the film.[71] From January to August 1941, story material was developed based on additional pieces, including Ride of the Valkyries by Richard WagnerThe Swan of Tuonela by Jean SibeliusInvitation to the Dance by Carl Maria von WeberFlight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,[13][71].”

However, that would never happen.  There were many reasons.  First, Disney wanted to release Fantasia as part of a roadshow exhibition.  However, his distributor, RKO Radio Pictures, refused to handle the film because of its length (124 minutes) and because money, materials, and time required to install the new Fantasound sound system in the theaters.  RKO allowed Disney to distribute the film himself.  However, due to the limited release (Fantasia played in only thirteen different roadshow engagements), the fact that the film couldn’t be released in Europe because of World War II, and high costs, the film failed to turn a profit.  The plans to update Fantasia were cancelled.  Disney did make two films consisting of musical segments, Make Mine Music (1946) and Melody Time (1948), but they were not true updates to Fantasia, and were different in style.

Disney’s nephew, Roy E. Disney, however, belatedly fulfilled his uncle’s dream by producing Fantasia 2000, which opened in IMAX theaters on January 1, 2000 (mirroring the special road hshow release of the original).  The film featured 7  new segments plus the return of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice; instead of having one host, each segment had a different host or hosts.

The film begins with a compilation of scenes from the original Fantasia with Deems Taylor’s introduction heard in voice-over, and then the first number is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which acompanies a story of abstract butterflies fleeing their more sinister counterparts; this segment mirrors the abstract animation of the Tocatta and Fugue from the original.

The second segment uses the music of Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome to tell the story of a pod of humpback whales who can fly.  Steve Martin formally welcomes the audience to the film, and then the film changes its focus to violinist Itzhak Perlman who introduces the segment.

The third segements features the jazzy Rhapsody in Blue, the signature piece of George Gershwin, which tells the story of four New Yorkers (drawn in the style of caracaturist Al Hirschfeld) during the Great Depression who all have different dreams: Duke, a construction worker who longs to be a drummer for a jazz band; Jobless Joe, who wants a job; Rachel; a little girl who wants nothing more than to spend more time with her busy parents; and John, who wants to leave his overly demanding wife.  It is introduced by music producer and mogul Quincy Jones who is accompanied by the piece’s pianist.

Next, Bette Midler gives the viewer information on several pieces and concepts that were considered for a new Fantasia, but they never made it to the screen.  Eventually, the Disney animators chose to Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, but struggled to find the right music for it, finally settling on Dmitri Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto.  First composed in 1957, it is the newest piece in any of the Fantasia films.

Next, James Earl Jones introduces the Finale of The Carnival of Animals by Camille Saint-Saens.  This piece answers the age-old question “What happens if you give a yo-yo to a flock of flamingos?”  It’s definitely the funniest piece in the film.

Next, Penn and Teller introduce The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the only returning piece from the original Fantasia.

Next, James Levine introduces a piece featuring Donald Duck, The first four Marches of Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance set to the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, featuring Donald as Noah’s assistance.

Finally Angela Lansbury introduces, Igor Stravinky’s Firebird Suite.  This segments features a wood sprite bringing a forest back to life after the winter, but then she awakens the Firebird, who lives in a volcano…

While, I don’t think that Fantasia 2000 matches the original, I still feel it’s a worthy feat, with the right amount of diversity, style, and tone.  I wish that Disney would make another one, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon.

 

 

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 10

Happy Monday!

Today, I will share pieces that I discovered from the fifth volume of the Victoria’s Secret Classics by Request  album that my mom owned on cassette tape.

First, is the Intermezzo from the Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascgani.  Slow, airy, romantic, it makes the listener feel relaxed and as if they are lying on clouds floating throughout the sky.

Next, is the Minuet String Quintet in E Major by Luigi Boccherini.  You may be familiar with this piece.  It’s often associated with stuffy high society situations.  But when it is listened outside of that situation, it can be enjoyed for the slow, airy, and romantic qualities of so many other pieces.

Third, is Handel’s Symphonie Pastorale from The Messiah.  It has what tends to be my favorite traits in classical music: lightness, airiness, but above all, a smooth and calm melody.

Fourth is Haydn’s String Quartet in F, Op. 3 No. 2 (Note: most music scholars nowadays tend to be believe that it was written by  Romanus Hoffstetter).  This album seems to have a theme of pieces that are short, light, airy, and sweet.  To that end, the music takes the listener on a journey that is calm and relaxing.

Fifth is Mendelssohn’s Nocturne from A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  This piece has an interesting quality to it.  Continuing with the album’s theme of slow and calm pieces, it achieves those feelings with its instrumentation and melodies.

Sixth, is Bach’s Chorale from his Little Suite.  It has a somber mood.  It sounds like it would be suitable for a funeral.  It seems to express the emotion of mourning.

Seventh is Grieg’s Sarabande from his Holberg Suite Op. 40.  Moody and romantic-sounding, I remember how much I was entranced by this piece as a pre-teen boy, and the images of beautiful abstract colors going through my mind.

Eighth is the Dance of the Little Swans from Tchaikovksy’s Swan Lake.  Fast, elegant, and delicate, it’s not hard to understand why the ballet is very popular even today.

Ninth is the Andante movement from Mendelssohnn’s Fifth Symphony.  Another ominous and dark piece.  But the mood is perfectly set.  Very deep and introspective.

Tenth is the Interlude from Act I of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.  I can’t seem to find the interlude as it is presented on the album.  So instead, I will share videos of the full performance of the opera.

Eleventh is the Adagio Movement from Mozart‘s Clarinet Concerto.  This is interesting because most concertos tend to be piano concertos or violin concertos.  This piece is a favorite of mine because it is slow and sweet.

Twelfth is Bach’s Sleepers Awake.  This is one of the many church cantatas Bach wrote.  It has a calming sound to it, and to that end, it’s a nice way to end this album.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 9

Happy Monday!

This week I will share some of my favorite pieces of classical music, but this time, I will share them in their entirety.

Many pieces of classical music are written in several parts.  The parts are called movements.  They are usually self-contained, and can be enjoyed with or without the others, and often, one movement is more famous than the other.  For example, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is most known for the first movement, which I’m sure you all would recognize.

Next, is Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.  Mozart was just a musical genius.  His work spanned a variety of forms and genres within the classical music world, but nonetheless, his talents always shown through, leaving him to be one of the greatest composers of all time.

 

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 8

Happy Monday!

Today, is of course the day where I share more favorite pieces of classical music. This time I will share two pieces each from different composers.

First is Rhapsody in Blue, the most popular piece by George Gershwin.  Thought written to musically depict America as a whole, it’s often interpreted as a musical portrait of New York City.  Regardless, it has withstood the test of time for 90 years this year, and it shows no signs of losing its wonder, with its memorable melodies and its mixture of classical and jazz.

Another Gershwin piece is the second of his Three Preludes.  These are typical of much of Gershwin’s work in that it is classical music influenced by jazz.  The Second Prelude is my favorite because of its slow melodies and mellow mood.

Now is two pieces by Chopin.  The first is his Prelude, Op. 28, No. 15 in D-Flat Major (Raindrop) and his Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 1 in C-Sharp Minor.  Both are different in their own ways, but what draws me to them are their slow buildups to intense melodies, harmonies, and rhythms.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Part 7

Happy Monday!

First up is the An American in Paris by George Gershwin.  A tone poem, depicting a trip Gershwin took to Paris, the listener experiences the highs, lows, and everything in between of great city of Paris.

Next is the Rondeau by Jean-Joseph Mouret, a lovely piece so happy with its alternating trumpet and organ solos.

Finally, is an eerie and ominous song: The Elfking from a poem by  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe with music by Franz Schubert.  It tells the story of a father rushing home on horseback with his young son, but the son claims to be terrorized by visions of an evil supernatural creature known in  some translations as the Elfking, but more accurately the Erl King.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Part 6

Happy Monday!

The first piece for this week is Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum.  This piano piece is romantic, evokes the nighttime in my mind, and is just moving.   I discovered it when I watched the film All About Eve.  During the party scene, Margo Channing as the pianist to repeatedly play the piece because of her depression as she begins to realized that Eve Harrington is trying steal her career.

Second is the first of the Duex Arabesques by Claude Debussy.  Arabesques are pieces meant to evoke Middle Eastern music.  While, these pieces actually had no real influence of Middle Eastern music, they can still be enjoyable.  I like this one because of its light and airy qualities and its emotion throughout.  So fun, free, and fanciful.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 5

Happy Monday!

Here are some more of my favorite pieces of classical music.

First is a piece by Felix Mendelssohn. It is Fingal’s Cave Overture, also known as The Hebrides.  I’d heard it many times since childhood, and never knew what is was called.  Now that I have discovered it again , known its name, and heard it in its entirety, I am moved by its dark and ominous mood and melody.  It’s the perfect musical depiction of a cave.  Of course, most caves would be dark and ominous and mysterious.

Second is the Valse (Waltz) from Tchaikovksy’s Swan Lake.  A favorite of mine since discovering it on iTunes Radio, I fell in love with its airy quality, and danceable melodies.

Finally is a piece of opera music.  I tend to prefer instrumental classical music, but there are some pieces that I consider to be favorites.  One such favorite is Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour (also known as the Barcarolle) by Jacques Offenbach, from his final opera (he died before it was first performed) Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann).  It has a tender feeling and its lyrics in French tell the story of being with one’s lover during a romantic nighttime, and experience everyone should have.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 4: Walt Disney’s Fantasia

Hello, All.

Happy Monday.

This is a special day for me because it is my 23rd birthday.

To that end, I will do special blog post, and I will talk about some of my favorite pieces of classical in my absolute favorite film: Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

In the late 1930’s Walt Disney planned to make a special Mickey Mouse cartoon accompanied by the the musical piece, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, composed by Paul Dukas.  The intention was to increase the popularity of Mickey Mouse who was beginning to lose fame to other cartoon characters of the time.  One night at restaurant called Chasen’s Southern Pit, Disney had a chance encounter with Leopold Stokowski, the most famous conductor of the time.  Both men were fans of the other, and Disney asked him to conduct the music for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, to which Stokowski agreed.  However, as production began, Disney realized that the expenses of the short film were growing too much.  He and Stokowski decided to make entire feature based around animated images accompanied by classical music pieces.  They hired Deems Taylor, a composer and music critic, to act as the film’s host, and they created a film version of a classical music concert.

I first discovered the film in late 1999 when I began seeing previews of Fantasia 2000, the sequel to the original film.  I would see that film at the IMAX theater (Fantasia 2000 was screened exclusively in IMAX theaters from January 1, 2000 until April 30, 2000, and it opened in standard theaters on June 16 of that year.) the following February 2000, and I enjoyed it.  Later that summer, I rented the original Fantasia on VHS from Blockbuster, and I greatly enjoyed that as well.

To me, Fantasia is very mystical, mysterious, rich, diverse, and complex.  It has 8 different segments, each dedicated to a specific classical piece.

The first is the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, though in recent years, many music scholars and musicologists have questioned whether or not he actually wrote it, since the styles and techniques within it are atypical of him and more consistent with music composed after the Baroque era.  It was originally composed for organ, but Stokowski created an orchestra arrangement for it.  Since the piece was aboslute muisc, music that is not meant to tell a story or depict something concrete, Disney and his animators decided to use abstract animation to go with the music.  Taylor states in his introduction that if one were to go to a concert all and hear this piece, abstract images might go through one’s head.

Second, the The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky.  Rather than retell the story of the Nutcracker, Disney interpreted the music as a ballet of the personification of nature.  Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is about sprites and fairies putting dew all over a forest during the nighttime.  The Chinese Dance shows a group of mushrroms, made to look Chinese, doing a Chince dance.  Dance of the Reed Flutes depicts ballerina flowers dancing.  The Arab Dance, depicts sexy, sultry goldfish dancing.  The Russian Dance shows lilies and thistles doing a Russian folk dance.  And finally, the Waltz of the Flowers shows fairies changing the seasons from summer to fall and from fall to winter.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice features Mickey Mouse as the apprentice of a sorcerer.  He decides, without permission of supervision, to use the Sorcerer’s magic hat to bring a broomstick to life to fill a cauldron with water.  However, Mickey could not get the broomstick to stop…

The Rite of Spring is different from the first three pieces in that its story is from science rather than fantasy.  It shows the history of the world from when the world was nothing but volcanoes to the evolution of life to the age of the dinosaurs and their extinction.  The composer, Igor Stravinksy was the only Fantasia composer alive at the time.  He enjoyed a work in progress version of the segment, and after the final film was released, he gave the studio the rights to use three of his other works in future films; however, Stravinsky later went on record saying that he hated that a third of the music was omitted and that much of what was kept was reordered.

Next, is “Meet the Soundtrack” where an animated line demonstrates the sounds that the orchestra is capable of making.  The animators certainly embued a lot of personality into the line, making it seem as real  and as memorable as any human or animal character they have created.

Next, is the Pastoral Symphony.  Disney chose to depict the music as depicting Greek mythological creatures including, flying horses, centaurs, fauns, and unicorns.  They originally chose the piece Cydalise by Gabriel Pierne, but the music was not complementary enough to the animation, and so they chose Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. In three sections, the segments depicts, the creatures living around Mount Olympus, the centaurs and centaurettes near a river, a huge party interrupted by Zeus and Vulcan creating a thunderstorm, and then the end of the storm and nightfall.

Then, the film moves on to Amilcare Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours, depicting ostriches hippos, elephants, and alligators doing ballet.  The film was meant as a parody of ballet, but it still pays tribute to ballet at the same time.

Finally, is a double segment, Modest Mussorgsky A Night on Bald Mountain and Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria.  This was designed as a battle of the profane and the sacred.  The first shows the black god, Chernabog coming to life and summoning all sorts of evil beings.  However, when church bells ring, all the evil goes back into hiding and we see a group of the faithful walking through the woods carrying torches as the sun rises.

So diverse, yet so cohesive, Fantasia is a wonderful cinematic journey.  While it was not appreciated much when it was first released, it eventually got its due, and is heralded as a classic.  And now many people around the world appreciate for the work of art that it is.