This month I chose Dvorak's String Quartet No. 12 in F, Opus 96 for the listening assignment because what holiday is more American than Thanksgiving? Dvorak was said to be inspired by the Minnehaha Falls as well as parts of Iowa when he moved to the US. See if you can can hear the inspiration of the Midwestern landscape in this piece.
Also of note, the melody is first played by the viola! String quartets are some of the best (and most fun!) repertoire to play, but especially for the viola. Dvorak utilized all four musicians quite well in this piece.
Listen and enjoy, and feel free to leave any comments or questions below :)
To celebrate the spirit of this holiday I'm sharing with you a piece by my favorite composer, Franz Schubert. Schubert wrote little for solo violin or cello, his symphonies are not his crowning jewel. In the string world he is best known for his string quartets - one of which was briefly featured in The Avengers! Overall, Schubert is truly known for his Lieder (German meaning "songs." The singular is "Lied.")
The Elf King represents Schubert's ability to write programmatic music. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote the poem in 1782. Schubert began composing music set to Goethe's words in 1815, but revised it several times, leaving us with the most recent version from 1821.
Originally for tenor and piano, Erlkonig takes us on a journey with a father and son who have gone on a horse ride late at night. For those of you who feel your children will sleep at night after hearing the story feel free to share the translated version (or the German version if you're feeling really bold!) found in the description of the first youtube video below. The piece is challenging vocally because the singer must portray four characters: the narrator, the father, the son, and the Elf King. The pianist also has a difficult job, you'll understand once you hear it!
Why am I sharing a piece that isn't written for a string instrument? Because there are transcriptions! A transcription is a piece of music that has been rewritten for a different instrumentation than the original version. Below the original version you will find two recordings of cellists and one of a violinist. I chose the video with the notes so, even if you aren't reading music yet, you can see there is a lot that just one violinist is doing!
Enjoy the music and happy Halloween!
Transcriptions for cello
Transcription for violin
Beethoven is widely regarded as one of the best composers of all time. I read an interesting passage in Leonard Bernstein's The Joy of Music where he breaks apart Beethoven's use of melody, harmony, rhythm, counterpoint, and orchestration and concludes that their either complete garbage or simply average. But Bernstein argues that what truly sets Beethoven apart from all other composers is his use of form, "the inexplicable ability to know what the next note has to be."
This symphony is also known as "Eroica," the heroic symphony. During the time it was written we find Beethoven in the depths of despair. Beethoven had written this masterwork with the (then) honorable Napoleon Bonaparte in mind. In fact, the piece was originally titled "Symphony No. 3, 'Bonaparte.'" But when Napoleon declared himself Emperor of France in 1804 Beethoven famously tore up the title page to his symphony and renamed it "Eroica" after the unnamed hero.
Eroica was completed not long after Beethoven wrote the Heiligenstadt Testament, which was a very revealing non-musical work about his worsening deafness. Can you imagine dedicating your life to music only to realize that you are slowly losing the ability to hear? Nevertheless, Beethoven had many more important musical contributions yet to come.
I personally like this symphony because of how it sounds, but I also like that some key facts about it are easy to remember because of the rule of 3:
Though written in 1803, the first public performance was on April 7, 1805 in Vienna. Today it is often performed and recorded by orchestras, giving you ample opportunity to find a favorite recording!
Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major, Opus 55 - "Eroica"
I: Allegro con brio
II: Marcia funabre-Adagio assai
III: Allegro vivace
IV: Allegro molto