I was very impressed with the holiday/Fantasia orchestra concert and enjoyed it very much. Because my freshman year roommate, Julia Ruane, and two of her friends are in orchestra, I went to the holiday concert last year and felt this year’s concert was far superior. I loved how they incorporated the video clips from the Fantasia video with the orchestral music. They matched the music with the video clips perfectly. While I was watching the screen, I forgot that it was a live orchestra playing; It sounded like the original music from the movie because it was choreographed so well with the clips.
Before they played The Sorcerer’s Apprentice the conductor first explained that the music for this work was heavily modified for Fantasia and was extremely difficult to play. Apparently many notes were added and taken out of multiple measures in the piece to help it fit with the video. Because of this, he apologized if the orchestra was slightly off with the video clip. However they played the piece perfectly and ended exactly when the video ended. It was perfect.
I really enjoy watching the UMW Philharmonic Orchestra and think it is very interesting how it is a mixture of UMW students and Fredericksburg residents. I also thought the singer who sang Ave Maria did an excellent job and was surprised how such a big, beautiful voice could come out of such a tiny (thin) person.
In class, we talked a lot about some of the themes, ideas, and events in Carmen and watched many video clips of the opera, but we did not seem to spend a lot of time on the biography of composer Georges Bizet. When we discussed other works in class, we spent a lot of time discussing the composers almost more than their music. However, it seems that his work, Carmen, is almost more famous than the composer himself (and one of the most famous operas ever written) so it makes more sense that we spent almost all the time discussing the opera.
However, I wanted to learn a little more about Bizet and did some research on him. I soon realized why the composer himself was not a hot discussion topic in class. Unlike Mozart who had a short yet interesting career and odd personality, or Bach who had a long life and career full of facts and events, Bizet had a short and seemingly uninteresting life and career. He grew up in a musical family where he began playing and composing at a young age. Eventually he did win the Prix de Rome, like many other composers we’ve discussed in class, and like many others did not complete much while in Rome.
His main claim to fame is Carmen. However, because it contained such controversial topics such as promiscuous sex, morality issues, and murder, it was highly criticized at first. This was a hard blow to Bizet, whose health was already poor. He died of a heart attack about three months after he finished Carmen.
Now you can see why Bizet the person was not highly discussed in class. Although maybe it could be that he just simply is not as popular as Beethoven or Mozart and because some of us had not even heard his name before this class, we simply do not know enough about him to really discuss him.
Two interesting facts about Bizet however, are that he had a son with his family’s maid Marie Reiter and that although it is not a well known fact, he was an excellent piano player.
I have been listening to Mozart’s music since I was very young. We had The Magic Flute on tape and my brother and I would listen to it in the car. Other times when we were in the car and my mom was listening to NPR, a piece by Mozart would come on the radio. I liked his music and thought that he was just a normal composer with average social skills. It was not until I watched Amadeus and did the readings in class that I discovered what a strange demeanor and personality he had. After listening to his music, I never thought he would be so uncensored, unpredictable, and socially awkward. After reading more about his intense and difficult life and his relationship with his father, it made complete sense why Mozart acted the way he did.
In class we talked about the possibility of Mozart having many mental disorders such as Autism or Tourette’s syndrome. I somewhat agree and think that there is a possibility that he did have some sort of disorder. However, if you look carefully at the kind of life he lived, the intense pressure he was under beginning at an extremely young age, the isolation from his peers that he experienced, and the fact that everything was about him (and to that extent he was somewhat spoiled or made to feel he was the center of everything) it may very well be that he did not have any disorders. It might simply have been that multiple components in his life attributed to the odd personality of Mozart.
I believe this because while I have never met anyone who has lived as intense and difficult a life as Mozart, I have met and been friends with people whose lives differ from the majority of the population. Some are either home schooled or are athletes who do not attend high school and are privately tutored and constantly training. While their personalities are in no way as extreme as Mozart, I see many similarities. Some of them are very self-centered and do not have filters when they talk. They will blurt out comments that are totally inappropriate and do not seem to realize that the comment was inappropriate at all. Around people their own age, they are sometimes awkward and do not fit in. Their views on society are often different that they too may have funny laughs or make funny noises.
Although Mozart’s personality quirks are way more extreme than the ones I mentioned above, his live was also way more intense and extreme than the people I mentioned earlier. Because of this, I feel that his life had a lot to do with his quirky personality rather than simply mental disorders (although he probably had some). It is interesting how hindering or altering a person’s development can create problems when they are older.
When I was younger, I often listened to a book on tape during car trips about Bach. (It was similar to Beethoven Lives Upstairs, but it was about J.S. Bach’s life.) In this tape, I remembered that it mentioned something about how Bach would write and put together compilations of music for this children and one wife. I thought it was very interesting because I had never heard of composers putting together books of music for the use of others that were similar to the music books today. They obviously would write down pieces of music they had written, but never compile them into booklets of music for people to learn or play from.
I did a little research and discovered that he put together a book called “ Little Organ Book” for his son Wilhelm Friedemann. He also put together two notebooks, referred to as “Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach” for his second wife. The first notebook was a compilation of pieces that were all written by Bach himself, while the second notebook contained pieces written by Bach as well as other composers.
During this research I also found out that Bach’s Inventions and Sinofonias were also written and compiled as exercises and easy pieces for his piano students. I thought this was particularly interesting because I played many of his Inventions when I played the piano and never realized what they were intended for. I thought they were simply a group of simple piano pieces his composed. Now that I know the reason for these pieces, it makes sense, as they are perfect warm-up pieces for piano students. They are also fairly simple pieces that help prepare students for more complex piano pieces.
Not only was Bach a composer and performer, but also a kind of inventor and author as well. As far as I could discover, he was one of the first composers to actually compile written works of his pieces for others and publish works for the public. (I did some research and could not find any other composers or composers before Bach who did this.) In this sense, I feel that he kind of invented the modern piano book or music book that we buy and play from toda
After the question “Berlioz or Beethoven?” was posed in class today, I began thinking. In class, I was favoring Beethoven for many reasons. One was because I did not like Symphonie Fantastique as much as Beethoven’s symphonies and sonatas. Another reason was because I really enjoy the emotions of anger and sadness that can be felt while listening to Beethoven’s music. It has an intensity that cannot be felt from any other composer’s music.
However, I felt that because I had only listened to one piece by Berlioz and multiple pieces by Beethoven, I needed to listen to a few more pieces by Berlioz before I could make a fair decision. I listened to Berlioz’s Requiem and La damnation de Faust. Here is what I thought of them:
I did not like Berlioz’s Requiem and ended up only listening to about 3 minutes of it before turning it off. To me, it seemed to drone on. As requiems go, it seemed ordinary and there was nothing about it that caught my attention or interest. It had a kind of monotonic tone and melody. The chanting was dull (although that may have been the performance, not Berlioz’s fault). I much preferred Mozart’s Requiem, which contains more interesting dynamics and more passion or feeling than Berlioz’s Requiem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi8vJ_lMxQI
I liked La damnation de Faust better than the Requiem. It had a nice moderate to fast pace and was light and upbeat. I like how the piece was constantly ascending and descending. The movement of it was very nice and I like the accents that the percussion added to the piece. I liked the conversation between the brass and the strings in some parts of this piece as well. Even though it is common in most pieces, I though Berlioz executed it well. The singing fit very well with the music also. The male singer had a deep and strong voice and the light music complemented it well. I liked the contrast because if the music had been deeper it would have just clashed with the singer’s voice.
I thought listening to a few more pieces by Berlioz would change my opinion, but my opinion still remains the same. I enjoy Beethoven’s music more than Berlioz’s. His music is simply one of kind. The emotions he conveys through his pieces cannot be felt through any other composer’s works.
That being said, I love the romantic aspects of Berlioz. I love how he was a hopeless romantic, fond of Shakespeare and his tragic stories of love. This is evident in his music, especially Symphonie Fantastique. While alive, he quoted “Love cannot express the idea of music, while music may give an idea of love” and I think it sums up his feelings and his music.
So I’ll start off my first blog post with a little information about me and my musical background. I am Clair Maher and am a sophomore here at Mary Washington. I have been playing the piano since I was in second grade. My mom wanted my brother and I to be able to play a musical instrument and signed us up for piano lessons when we reached second grade. I played mostly classical, contemporary, and baroque music consistently until senior year in high school, when I got too busy to play. In middle school, I played the flute in the school band, but stopped because I liked piano better.
When I think of Beethoven, I am reminded of the tape ‘Beethoven Lives Upstairs’. As a child, I listened to this tape in the car on my way to school, running errands, or on road trips. What struck me most about this tape was how it touched on a softer side of Beethoven. Narrated by a young boy whose family rented out their attic to Beethoven, it gives an insightful view into the temperament of the great composer and how it inspired and influenced his music. While many associate Beethoven with a short, angry temper, the boy in this story sees past this and tries to find the source for this pain.
What struck me was the narrator’s idea that Beethoven’s anger came from loneliness and frustration. It makes sense because as his hearing and vision began to fade, it became hard to interact and connect with people and especially to compose music. One memorable quote was “and I realized what a lonely life this man must have lived.” He was a man with conflicting emotions: sadness and frustration that grew into anger and sometimes violence.
The boy talks about how he notices that these conflicted emotions are evident in Beethoven’s pieces. Many of his sonatas contain flowing and seemingly sad parts played by strings and woodwinds, that are immediately followed by sharp, almost angry parts containing brass and percussion. Sadness is particularly evident in his piano sonatas, which are mostly in the minor key. Here is a link to one of his more famous (and my favorite) piano sonatas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2LcJTqwVug
I also liked that this story contained small facts about Beethoven life and the way he lived. For example it talks about how he took off all of the legs of his piano so he could feel the vibrations of the music through the floor (because he could not hear) and how would take walks alone. It also mentions that after conducting his 9th and final symphony, he had to be turned to face the audience and told to bow because he could neither hear nor see the audience well.
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