Monday, May 25, 2015

Capriccio Espagnol by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

I am so in love with this piece! We played it for orchestra back in February, and I just about died from how awesome it was. XD
Yeah, I know, hyperbole, but it's really quite an experience to hear music this loud and joyful all around you. That was one of the things that first really 'got' me about orchestra! This cacophony of different sounds all encasing you, it's like you're in the music!*

I. Alborada
Our conductor told us that an Alborada is a joyful song welcoming the rising sun, which is such an appropriate name for this piece of music! Very short, but packed full of such feeling! I love the very beginning. It's very loud, and ringing, and it's cool how everything suddenly calms down (a little bit) for the Clarinet solo.
II. Variazioni
Much calmer and more delicate than the previous movement. This song hearkens (to me) a peaceful beach at sunset, with the waves crashing in the background... sigh. This is also the movement where our conductor told us to 'soar like a seal'. :D I like how this movement starts so quiet and tranquil, but then grows very large encompassing. Sort of like low tide giving way to high tide, and the waves getting bigger and crashing against the rocks... [sigh] Who says that slow movements are boring?
III. Alborada (Reprise)
This is basically the same as the first movement. It follows the same structure, but the key is different (we move from A Major to Bb Major), and the instrumentation is different. The violin gets the solo that originally went to the clarinet, and woodwinds (especially the piccolo!) get the melody at the beginning and middle. I just love how unconditionally joyful the Alborada melody is!
IV. Scena e Canto Gitano (Scene and Gypsy Song)
This movement. Is awesome. Sure, if you're not a soloist then you do nothing but sit there for the first half of the song (but trust me, it's still really cool to sit there and watch the harpist go nuts). This movement starts with about five cadenzas. One is more like a fanfare, and it's played by the trumpets. Absolutely amazing sounding, I love the BIG sound you can get from brass!
 Next is the violin, with an absolutely devilish sounding bit that should be played very forcefully and with great attention to the pauses and moments of silence. Next is the flute (yay!) cadenza, which shows off the player's range very well, and sounds very bright and bubbly. Then the clarinet gets a turn, and it's very up-and-down, also quite bubbly like the flute one. I really like how low notes sound on a clarinet! Finally, we wrap up with the harp cadenza, which is very cool, especially if you're not used to playing with a harpist! So after all the cadenza funtimes, the orchestra begins playing a very Spanish sounding melody, which is repeated many times and only gets more and more intense until it suddenly explodes into...
V. Fandango Asturiano
THE FINALE!! We begin with a bursting fanfare that comes right off of the run from last movement, and then the flutes play a very mischievous little melody (which I wasn't supposed to be playing because I was on Piccolo duty, but I did anyway because the conductor thought Piccolo sounded good there XD). We call this movement the 'Pirate Movement', because the sounds and tunes sound very seafaring and pirate-y to me. This movement ends with an even more loud and joyous reprise of the original Alborada theme, and brings the whole piece full circle with a spectacular ending.

*I'm not high, I just talk like I am

Next Up: In The Steppes of Central Asia by Alexander Borodin

Friday, May 22, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: Rondo (From Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major)

Everyone (or at least every musician) has that one piece of music that they absolutely dream of playing. For my sister, it's this one, the lovely and lively Movement III from Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major!
I haven't heard the other two movements of this particular Concerto (I hear that they're maddeningly difficult though, more so than this one if that's believable), but this 10 minute piece feels pretty complete in and of itself. It goes through several different moods and stages, and always returns to the bright, joyful melody you first hear the violin playing at the very beginning. There are very impressive runs and cadenzas, and I think that this piece very successfully showcases pretty much everything that is awesome about the violin.
Libby here, Xochitl let me write a bit because I play violin :) One of the things I really like about this concerto is that unlike a lot of violin concertos the ENTIRE orchestra gets to play so it sounds really big and impressive, concertos that don't use the entire orchestra aren't bad but this one would sound really dorky without it XD I think this is my favorite concerto, its really happy and it uses the entire violin, even though that can make it really hard to play, it sounds great :D

Next Up: Capriccio Espagnol by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Grand Inquisi-bore

95% of The Brothers Karamazov is near-flawless, brilliantly nightmarish reading. The 5% that isn't is the chapter The Grand Inquisitor. I get some parts of it, but when I first read it I didn't understand at all. I plan on reading it again, maybe I'll appreciate it then, but until now, have the product of my frustration!
I think that I just didn't like it because Ivan said it was a Poem, and that chapter was... not a poem.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity by Gustav Holst [1916]

My sister played an abridgment of this one when her orchestra did a collaboration with the kiddie orchestra. It sounded so completely awesome. So you can imagine that if the abridgment was terrificoso, then the original must be RIGHETOUS!!
Anyhoo, Gustav Holst was a very revolutionary composer, at least in my most humble self-taught opinion. This work, Jupiter, is part of a much larger work called The Planets. The Planets is very unique and interesting. By far the most unique part of the entire piece is the very end of the final movement, Neptune, The Mystic. That movement features a women's choir, and at the end of the piece, the last bar is repeated until the sound fades out. This was achieved by having the choir singing in an adjacent room to the orchestra with the door open. They would sing the final bar, and a stagehand would slowly shut the door on them. This way the sound would 'fade out'. So cool, eh?
But anyway, Jupiter!
The piece is very bombastic and powerful sounding. There are two main themes that get repeated a few times. The first is cheerful and excited, while the second is more majestic and, well, really emotional. The instrumentation is genius. I love the use of strings, and especially the brass! The brass section really brings home the extreme Jupiter-ness of the composition, they make it sound so BIG! Oh, and how could I go through a music post without bringing up Piccolo or Flute? Well, the Piccolo part is pure awesome. It's so fast and difficult, but it sounds so starry! It's like the brass and the strings are this big hulkin' planet, and the piccolos (there are two of them in this piece!) are the stars.
So without further ado, here's the song! My ranting can't do it justice. XD

Next Up!: (maybe) Violin Concerto in D Major: Movement III (Rondo) by Beethoven or possibly Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov

I'll get back to comics. I have a few stockpiled, but I haven't been able to access my Dad's camera for a while. :)
Oh, and the tag. Well, our adorably foreign conductor was trying to get the flutes to play more excited so he told them to imagine "One light, and then another light, and then... JUPITER!"

Sunday, May 3, 2015


Yep. Me and Libby had our concert today!! I had a solo and I DIDN'T miss my cue (like I did at rehearsal all the time :P), and I was doubling piccolo (Piccolo is awesome) and it was great! Libby did great, she had a lot of spirit, and she and her section were really lovely. Just beautiful! She is such a talented violinist. :)
Here's the list of songs we played....

Finale to Symphony 2 in C Major by Tchaikovsky
This one was very easy, and a lot of fun to play! This piece was performed as a collaboration with another orchestra from a different city. They were really cool to meet! I loved this one part where the 2nd Violins (Read: Libby's Section) had pizzicato offbeats, and they totally aced it!

Violin Concerto by Accolay
Every year we have the Concerto Competition, and this year the winner was a violinist and he played this one. It's a pretty good song, and he was very skilled. It's not really my taste in music, but like I said, the soloist was very good!

Turkish Fragments by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
Now this was a terrific piece, and definitely one of my new favorites! The first movement, aptly named 'Caravan', really does sound like a Caravan lumbering through the desert. The second movement, 'At Rest', has it all. Beautiful melodies, terrific percussion, and even a really good Piccolo part! I was thrilled and really scared at the same time to play it, because it's so prominent!

On the Steppes of Central Asia by Alexander Borodin
This piece is really something special and amazing. This song is about the Russians discovering Central Asia back in the 1800's. At first, a very Russian melody plays, and then a Central Asian melody plays. But they're apart, so it shows that the two cultures don't quite understand each other yet. Later in the song, the two are played together, and this represents the reconciliation of the two cultures. The music is very beautiful, and has a magnificent swell and decrescendo. Love it.

Symphonic Pictures of Turkmenistan by Nury Halmamedov
Our performance today was actually the U.S. premier of this piece! I really love this. It was written when the composer was only 23, and there are so many different moods and sounds that it's really quite an experience.  I'd write a lot more, but I'm really tired. :) I played Flute/Piccolo for about 4 hours straight today and my shoulders and wrists feel like jelly. XD When our CD comes out in a few months, I think I'll to a full feature of it in a post. It's just not enough to talk about this music! You have to hear it to really get it.