Wednesday Music: Debussy’s ‘Suite Bergamasque’

I realized recently that I don’t think I’ve ever posted about a piece by French composer Claude Debussy. I don’t think I’ve played his work and I’m pretty sure he’s best known for his piano pieces (and I don’t play the piano). Nevertheless, his omission from Wednesday Music is a mistake that must be rectified. Therefore, today’s piece is Debussy’s Suite bergamasque. Here’s a bit about it.

  • The suite has four movements and even if you think you haven’t heard of it, you actually may have. The third movement is called “Clair de lune,” which is one of Debussy’s most famous pieces. I actually thought it was a single piece by itself—I didn’t realize it was part of a suite.
  • Debussy composed the suite around 1890, but revised it heavily before it was published in 1905. His revisions included changing the names of two of the movements. The fourth movement, “Passapied,” was originally called “Pavane.” The third movement, “Clair de lune,” was originally called “Promenade sentimentale.”
  • Musically, the style of “Clair de lune” (I actually wanted to make the post just about “Clair de lune” but then I discovered there are other movements, too) is French impressionism. I was unaware the was an impressionist movement in music too. I’ve only heard about it in the context of painting.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

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Wednesday Music: Clementi’s Sonata in B-Flat Major

Welcome to the first Wednesday Music post of 2017! Today’s piece is a piano sonata in B-Flat major, Op. 24, No. 2 by the composer Muzio Clementi. Here’s a bit about the piece (and the composer, since he isn’t that well-known today).

  • Clementi was born in Italy but moved to England and lived there for most of his life, aside from some trips overseas. In his day, he was a very famous composer, but after he died he was forgotten for a while.
  • He wrote many compositions for piano and influenced many pianists, including Beethoven.
  • The beginning of this piece sounds a bit like the overture to Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Considering it was written prior to Mozart’s opera, it seems likely Mozart borrowed it for his purposes later on after hearing it.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 (Pathétique)

I know, I’ve been very lax in posting Wednesday Music the past two (?) weeks, but I’m back. I want my readers to get their weekly dose of classical music, so I chose a piece near and dear to my heart that I was listening to this weekend. It’s Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13, which is commonly known as Sonata Pathétique. Here’s a bit about it.

  • This is one of Beethoven’s most famous pieces and he wrote it in 1798, when he was only twenty-seven.
  • Some people think Beethoven was influenced by Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K. 457 because they are in the same key and have some similarities in their movements. I don’t know enough about either piece to make a judgment on whether this is accurate!
  • This piece is in three movements. The first two are slow and the third is much faster.

Another fun fact is I once played a violin arrangement of this piece on a local TV program when I was younger. No, I do not have a recording of it, and even if I did, I probably wouldn’t share it here because it’s probably too embarrassing! 🙂

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2

On Friday night, I watched a documentary about classical piano. It’s called Imagine Being a Concert Pianist and it was very interesting. The whole time I watched it, I kept of how little I really know about repertoire for the piano. My instrument is violin, so obviously I know violin repertoire the best. I’m also familiar with cello and viola repertoire since they’re so similar to violin. But piano is not something I’m familiar with. That’s probably why I didn’t realize exactly how popular Sergei Rachmaninov’s work is with performers. I’ve featured another of his piano concertos before, but not this one. Today’s piece is Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Rachmaninov wrote this piece between 1900 and 1901. He was the soloist in the first performance given. It’s one of of his most popular pieces and is performed quite often.
  • Some people say it’s the greatest piano concerto ever written.
  • Rachmaninov wrote it after his first symphony was performed. Unfortunately, no one liked the first symphony, which made him severely depressed and unable to write music. It was only after going to a hypnotist that he managed to start writing music again. This is the result.

Enjoy!

Or click here to watch on YouTube.

(Belated) Wednesday Music: Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’

I was planning on spending the entire day knitting, but when I checked my blog comments this morning, Melanie, one of my most consistent and interesting commenters, pointed out that today is Beethoven’s birthday, which means I have to post a Beethoven piece. (Okay, technically today was the day Beethoven was baptized, so he may have been born a couple days ago, but that’s beside the point.) Yes, I saw the adorable little Google animation on the Google homepage—if you haven’t seen it, go take a look soon because it will vanish after today.

But on to today’s piece. It’s Bagatelle No. 25, more commonly known as “Für Elise.” This was the piece that started it all, everyone. My love for classical music stems from this. Here’s a bit about it.

  • The original manuscript from 1810 was lost, so the version we hear today is from a transcribed version from 1867.
  • No one knows who Elise was. Some people have suggested that the work may have been called “Für Therese,” a friend of Beethoven’s, and that the title was transcribed incorrectly. Others say that Elise was a soprano singer (her real name was Elizabeth, but she often went by Elise) Beethoven knew. No one is really sure, though.
  • Though the piece was written for solo piano, other people have written orchestral versions for it. The recording I first heard when I was younger is for piano and orchestra. I’ve embedded the solo piano version below since this was the composer’s intent.

Enjoy!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14, “Moonlight”

I’ve been on a whole Beethoven kick recently. I’ve been listening to his violin concerto (which was featured on Wednesday Music once) and some of his piano concertos, too. (Number 5 was also featured on Wednesday Music). This week’s piece is another Beethoven piece, one that a lot of people know about: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2, which is popularly known as the Moonlight Sonata. Here’s a little bit about it.

  • Beethoven wrote this piece in 1801 and even then, it was a very popular work.
  • It was nicknamed the Moonlight Sonata by a German music critic after Beethoven’s death. I’ve noticed there seems to be a trend of pieces getting their nicknames after the composer’s death—or at least not from the composers themselves.
  • Like many classical sonatas, this one has three movements, two fast and one slow. Unlike many, it doesn’t follow the traditional order for these movements. Most sonatas have the form of fast-slow-[fast]-fast (sometimes there are four movements, hence the optional fast movement in brackets). The Moonlight Sonata has a slow-fast-fast structure, which is atypical.

Enjoy!

Or click here to watch on YouTube.

Wednesday Music: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 In E-Flat Major

I can’t remember the last time I featured a Beethoven piece, which probably means it’s been too long. Therefore, this week’s piece is Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73. Here’s a bit about it.

  • Though the concerto is nicknamed Emperor, Beethoven himself did not give it this nickname. The English publisher did. I have no idea why.
  • Beethoven wrote it between 1809 and 1811 in Vienna. It was the last piano concerto he wrote.
  • Beethoven dedicated the concerto to Archduke Rudolf, who was his student and patron.

Enjoy!

Or click here to watch on YouTube.