Wednesday Music: Horn Trio By Brahms

I’ve only featured music by Johannes Brahms once during my Wednesday Music series, which is a shame. He was a very good composer and is very highly regarded.

This weekend, while looking up Arthur Grumiaux on the internet (yes, I randomly research violinists on Saturday nights), I stumbled across a forum post mentioning a Horn Trio by Brahms. I listened to it, loved it, and so that’s today’s piece: Horn Trio, Op. 40 by Johannes Brahms. Here’s a bit about it.

  • This piece is written for violin, piano, and natural horn. Natural just means the horn doesn’t have valves the way horns today do. However, most of the recordings I’ve seen when I searched have a regular horn, not a natural one. Natural horn is archaic and difficult to play, from what I can determine. I’m not a hornist, though, so correct me if I’m wrong.
  • Brahms claimed the theme of the first movement (there are four total) came to him while he was walking through the woods.
  • The order of the movements goes slow, fast, slow, fast. This isn’t typical for classical practice. Maybe Brahms just wanted to be a bit rebellious!

I had trouble finding a video of this piece. There aren’t many options out there aside from this one. Unfortunately, Daniel Barenboim is the pianist in another one I found and I flatly refuse to embed anything with him playing or conducting. (I refuse to buy any recording he has, too.) So we’ll just have to go with this one, which is perfectly respectable.

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Update On The Russian Resources Page

Remember that Russian resources page I talked about? Well, it is in progress. I’m making very slow progress on it—mainly because I’ve been working on other things, like violin and knitting and writing, not to mention some stuff for work.

But never fear, the progress is slow but steady. I’m going to keep working on it and I promise to let you know when it’s finished…

Wednesday Music: A Retrospective

Belgian Arthur Grumiaux. His Mozart recordings are amazing!
Belgian Arthur Grumiaux. His Mozart recordings are amazing!

I’ll just say it right up front: there isn’t a new video and piece of music this week. Instead, I want to talk about Wednesday Music in general. If you want to listen to something, feel free to browse the Wednesday Music tag on this blog.

A little over one year ago, on January 21, 2015, I published the first Wednesday Music post. My stated intent was to “convert the entire United States” to listening to classical music. Over a year on, I think I still have a little ways to go—but I have hope that maybe, just maybe, I’ve exposed someone previously unfamiliar with classical music to this fabulous genre.

Considering how long I’ve loved classical music, it’s not surprising that I would come up with this series of posts. But why, you ask, did I choose to post them on Wednesday? After all, “Monday Music” would be more alliterative and “Friday Music” more appropriate because many symphony concerts are on Fridays.

The reason is somewhat prosaic: I don’t (or rather, didn’t) like Wednesdays, so I decided to do a recurring theme that I liked in hopes of making me look forward to that day. It’s actually worked. I don’t hate Wednesdays nearly as much as I used to. In fact, I look forward to them because I know I’ll probably get a few comments, emails, or tweets based on my music posts.

So, to anyone who has ever commented, tweeted, emailed, or otherwise contacted me about Wednesday Music: thank you. I really enjoy writing the posts and I hope all of you enjoy listening to them. I love being able to share my passion with you. If you ever want to suggest a piece, please don’t hesitate to do so in the comments.

And next week, we will return to our regularly scheduled programming with a new piece and a video.

Coming Soon: Russian Learning Resources

Dear friends, I am creating an exciting new resource that will be posted to this blog soon. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but I figure I need to just go ahead and do it. I want to create a page with resources for people who want to learn Russian.

Let’s say someone decides to learn Russian and realizes she needs a lot of practice listening, so she wants to download some podcasts. That’s an excellent idea, but the average person probably doesn’t know where to get Russian podcasts. And even if our hypothetical learner finds a bunch of podcasts, how will she know which ones are decent?

It’s a problem you can face with any aspect of language learning. Even if you are taking a class, you’re still going to have to do a lot of work on your own if you want to be fluent. That’s what I would like to help people with. I’ve been learning Russian for a long time and I’ve discovered a few tips and tricks along the way. ;) I know a ton of good resources and I’m working on preparing a nice document to share with you aspiring Russian speakers out there.

Even if you aren’t learning Russian, some parts of this project will apply to language learning in general. I’ll be working on putting this together and I’ll let you know once it’s actually posted live on the blog. In the meantime, you can check out my Russian Log page, which has a list of Russian things I’ve watched and read.

A Trip To Arizona

Dear readers, I have been remiss in my blogging. Earlier today when I walked past a car with Arizona license plates (I don’t live in Arizona, so I don’t see that very often), I was reminded of a trip I took to Arizona last year that I never told you about. I went to Tucson for a few days and had a great time. Here’s some photographic evidence of the trip.

Tucson 1 This is a cactus in the hotel parking lot. I’ve lived east of the Mississippi River my entire life (except for college and grad school, but I don’t know if that counts because I knew it was temporary), so seeing all the cacti was kind of amazing. There were so many, everywhere! There was one particularly fat one by the side of the road that blocked my view as I tried to make a right turn. It may not sound that funny when I write it, but trust me, I was completely cracking up in the car when it happened. I wish I’d been able to get a photo of the cactus, but unfortunately, driving and taking pictures with my phone do not mix…

Tucson 2

There’s another view of the hotel parking lot. I don’t usually think of hotel parking lots as particularly exciting, but I’m telling you, the cacti made it very fascinating.

Of course, a trip wouldn’t be complete without shopping, so I went to the mall one afternoon. It took me forever to get there because of all the lights. I think there was a way to get there on the interstate (I-10 if I remember correctly) but I was too unmotivated to figure it out. The mall was really nice. I bought a drink at Starbucks and wandered around for a while.

Tucson mall

My one piece of advice to you if you want to move to Tucson is this: do not, I repeat, do not live anywhere near the Air Force Base. My hotel was near the Air Force Base and believe me, those planes are LOUD. The first time I heard one, I had just stepped outside to walk to my car and I thought we were under attack or something! Trust me, you don’t want to be anywhere close to those planes when they’re flying. I do have to admit, though, that they were pretty cool to see. I wish I’d been able to get a few pictures.

Anyway, as a result of this trip I can’t wait to go back to Arizona. I’d actually love to move there, but unfortunately there seems to be a lack of jobs in my field. Hopefully I’ll get lucky and something will open up in the next few years so I can move out there. And then I can post cactus pictures on my blog all the time until all my readers are sick of them. ;)

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Note: I’ve tried to create a little gallery of these photos plus two extras (also taken in the hotel parking lot) using some nifty WordPress features. I hope it actually worked!

Wednesday Music: Saint-Saëns’ ‘Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso’

This piece is another discovery through Pandora. I love Pandora, even though the iPad app has been acting a bit… funny recently. (Seriously, it keeps giving me a weird message about buffering in the middle of my music, which I don’t understand because I have really fast internet.) Still, though, my devotion to Pandora is strong enough that I plan on sticking with it and not switching to Spotify. I’m probably one of the few people in America who has never used Spotify. All my friends find this funny. I guess I enjoy being a rebel, though.

Anyway, back to the music. Today’s piece called Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A Minor, Op. 28, written by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It’s written for violin and orchestra. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Saint-Saëns wrote this piece for Spanish virtuoso violinist Pablo de Sarasate. Sarasate was very well-known during his career and also composed ridiculously hard music, including the dread Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs). It’s not a dreadful piece to listen to, but it’s very hard to play.
  • Saint-Saëns wrote this in 1863. It’s strange to think that as he was writing it, the Civil War was going on in the United States.
  • Saint-Saëns originally intended this piece to be the final movement of his Violin Concerto No. 1, but for some reason he didn’t use it and instead it’s played as a separate piece by itself.


Or click here to watch on YouTube.

My Latest Obsession: Russian Craft Blogs

As you probably saw last year, I stopped following the news. It’s been an excellent decision and one that I cannot recommend highly enough. However, since I used news websites to help with my Russian learning, I realized I needed some way to fill this void because I need my daily dose of Russian content. It’s not easy keeping up with my Russian in a monolingual city, but it can be done.

The first thing I’ve done is resolved to read more books in Russian. I read novels really slowly and Russian novels are often really long, so I’ve been working on the same book for ages. That isn’t enough, though. To get exposure to some more easily read material, I’ve turned to blogs. I used to read some political blogs in Russian, but you know how that ended up.

Luckily, there are a ton of Russian people using the internet to blog, just as there are in the English-speaking world. (I read that internet penetration in Russia isn’t as high as it is in the US or Canada, but since Russia is so big, that’s still a lot of people online. Just saying.) And I’ve found a new niche of Russian blogs that I am completely obsessed with. I call them the craft blogs.

Right now, I’m following four Russian craft blogs: Дневник рукодельницы, Creative Living (despite the name, it is written in Russian), Матрёшкин блог, and Родом из мечты. The four lovely Russian women post about their lives and the craft projects they do, like sewing, knitting, crocheting, and needlepoint. I am totally addicted to these blogs because they’re fascinating. It’s so neat to see what everyday life is like in Russia. You see, not all of these bloggers live in big glittering Moscow. The first one lives in Penza, I think, and another lives in Samara. And yes, maybe their lives aren’t as conventionally exciting as some well-known journalist or politician living in Moscow, but that isn’t a bad thing. My life isn’t exactly that exciting either, sometimes. I’m certainly not meeting famous people or jetting off to exotic locations every weekend!

Plus I like reading about other people’s crafts. It’s a bonus that I get to learn some Russian words while I’m at it. :)