Previously heard at Salon97′s “Living Composers in the Dead of Winter” and “Terrible Twos” events, Arvo Pärt is a truly one of a kind and amazing composer, and he’s our Composer of the Week!
b. September 11, 1935 in Paide, Estonia
Arvo Pärt began studying music at an early age and had already worked as a recording engineer, film composer, and stage composer by the time he completed his conservatory studies in 1963.
Due to the Soviet Union’s occupation of Estonia, Pärt had very little access to Western culture in the 60s and for the duration of time he spent living in Estonia. Despite this setback, he found himself working with serialism and collage techniques — keeping Estonia musically current. Pärt’s first two symphonies and his work Perpetuum Mobile are examples of his serialist phase, and the jarring Collage uber BACH is an excellent example of his work with the collage composition technique.
Pärt has taken several periods of secluded silence in which he studies a specific musical genre from the 14th, 15th, or 16th centuries. After breaking his silence, Pärt generates beautiful works in homage to the art in which he’d recently been immersed.
Where to start:
-You may have heard Pärt’s music without even knowing it! Annum per Annum was featured in the film Thin Red Line and Fratres for Cello and Piano was highlighted in There Will Be Blood.
-Download Missa brevis for 12 cellos and vocal works such as Magnificat and Summa. (all are available on iTunes)
-Take a look at the videos below!
Collage uber BACH. Brilliantly disturbing!
Fratres for Cello and Piano. Featured in There Will Be Blood.
The New York Philharmonic recently presented an innovative production of Ligeti‘s Le Grand Macabre. To accompany this brilliant show, the NY Phil’s marketing department put together a series of behind-the-scenes flip cam videos. So many times we wonder what it takes to put together the wonderful concerts we attend, and thankfully, the New York Phil has given us a backstage pass via YouTube.
They say the show will be back in 2012, and I can’t wait to see it.
Here are a few highlights from the flip cam series, along with a couple videos from the Alan Gilbert + Death set.
Alan Gilbert and Death play Guitar Hero. Hilarious!
Maybe they’ll create another riot?
Set and prop building — very entertaining!
So…what is this show about?
Music Director Alan Gilbert speaks on what it’s like to rehearse “Le Grand Macabre.”
Venus on stilts:
…and where does all that great choreography come from?
Modest Mussorgsky wrote some wonderfully iconic additions to the classical repertoire, and that is why he is our Composer of the Week!
b. March 21, 1839 in Karevo, Russia
d. March 28, 1881 in St. Petersburg, Russia
Modest Mussorgsky began studying piano with his mother at age six and went on to become one of “The Five” nationalist Russian composers. He worked as a civil servant for much of his life and led his life as a composer in tandem. Though raised as a part of a wealthy family, his wealth slowly disappeared during the Great Reform. Mussorgsky later became an alcoholic — an addiction that ultimately ended his life.
Mussorgsky’s most famous works include Pictures at an Exhibition –actually inspired by a friend’s gallery exhibition– and St. John’s Night on the Bare Mountain, which was later revised by Mussorgsky and fellow “Five” member Rimsky-Korsakov to become Night on Bald Mountain. We all know and love this wonderful work as a result of the large roll it played in Disney’s Fantasia.
Where to start:
-start with the famous stuff! Pictures at an Exhibition was originally written for piano. Maurice Ravel later orchestrated the work for full orchestra. Listen to both to hear the difference! It’s fascinating to hear how Ravel chose to orchestrate the piece.
-watch our videos below!
Pictures at an Exhibition (piano version):
Pictures at an Exhibition (orchestral version):
Night on Bald Mountain in Fantasia (even creepier than I remember!):
He wrote the groundbreaking scores for King Kong and A Summer Place, which means Max Steiner is more than awesome enough to be a Composer of the Week!
b. May 10, 1888 in Vienna
d. December 28, 1971 in Beverley Hills
When he composed his first song at age 11, it was immediately apparent that music came naturally to Max Steiner. Being influenced by his father and grandfather — both theater producers and managers, respectively — it’s no surprise that Steiner was later deemed “The Father of Film Music.” Steiner’s years spent studying with Brahms and Mahler likely contributed to his prolificacy and success. Throughout his career, Max Steiner’s composition style embodied the 20th century film score idiom.
Among the numerous film scores he composed, Steiner’s prominent works include soundtracks to King Kong, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, and A Summer Place, the theme of which became a 1960s pop sensation.
Where to start:
-Watch the 1933 original release of King Kong. Steiner’s score for this film was the first in history to predominantly contribute to the drama evoked by the images on screen.
-Go to Max Steiner’s IMDb page and start watching his movies. You’ll see how much his music contributed to the advancement of film production in the 20th century.
This medley of Steiner scores is a good place to start.
Theme from “A Summer Place” is a must. You’ve probably heard this on the radio!
Claude Debussy, a composer at the forefront of French Impressionism, wrote some awesome preludes and many other great Composer of the Week-worthy pieces!
b. August 22, 1862
d. March 25, 1918
A prominent and very talented French composer at the turn of the 20th century, Claude Debussy’s iconic compositions bridged Late Romantic Era music with 20th Century Modernism. His experiments with chord structure were demonstrated in numerous orchestral works, piano works, and even in four ballets.
Debussy had many tumultuous and sometimes overlapping romantic relationships in his lifetime. One of his famous works, Children’s Corner, was dedicated to his only child — daughter Claude-Emma.
Debussy’s work shimmers like a lake on a sunny day, and pieces such as Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Children’s Corner are absolutely enchanting. In addition to being influenced Wagner and prominent Russian composers such as Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov, Debussy also studied non-western composition techniques and was particularly intrigued by Javanese gamelan music. Literary and visual arts also played an important role in Debussy’s compositional development.
Where to start:
-Debussy’s Preludes are fantastic, as are Children’s Corner, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, and the famous La Mer.
-Some great samples of Debussy’s work are available in the “Media” section of his Wikipedia page.
Below is a YouTube video of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun:
And here is a link to Prelude No. 10, La Cathédrale Engloutie:
Jean Sibelius rocks!! And that, my friends, is why he is our composer of the week.
b. December 8, 1865
d. September 20, 1957
A national hero in Finland, Jean Sibelius (click here for pronunciation) was a late Romantic Era composer. He was most known for his seven symphonies, each one marking a new stage in his compositional maturation. Sibelius also wrote over 100 songs, music for 13 plays, an opera, various chamber works, and masonic ritual music.
Encompassing romanticism, impressionism, and nationalism, Sibelius created an artistic category of his own — always introspective and often ethereal. His music is truly a pleasurable and thought-provoking aural experience.
Sibelius speaks in a tonal language that is the voice of Finland itself: Aloof, solitary, and cold. Paradoxically, it also speaks for the aspirations of the Finnish people – proudly, triumphantly, rebelliously. It is impossible to enter the bleak, yet fascinating, landscape of Sibelius’ music and then leave.
Where to start:
-Sibelius wrote many famous works including Finlandia, Valse Trieste, Karelia Suite, his violin concerto, and his seventh symphony. They are all uniquely fabulous. And honestly, I highly recommend all of Sibelius’ symphonies.
-Check out last.fm for some sound clips of his work.
Below is a video of Sibelius’ nationalistic Finlandia:
Here’s the first movement Sibelius’ fifth symphony. A really fantastic piece.