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.
Wednesday Music is back, everyone! Since the poll I conducted last week was overwhelmingly in favor of it—well, it’s here to stay, at least for a while.
This week’s piece is Modest Mussorgsky’s “The Great Gate of Kiev.” Here’s a bit about it.
This piece is actually part of a larger work Mussorgsky wrote for piano called Pictures at an Exhibition. It is made up of ten movements and five promenades, for a total of fifteen parts.
The original name of this piece in Russian isn’t actually “The Great Gate of Kiev.” It’s usually translated into other languages that way—for example, in French, it’s called La grande porte de Kiev. The Russian title is Богатырские ворота (В стольном городе во Киеве). That more closely means “The bogatyrs’ gate in the capital city in Kiev.” A bit wordy, for sure!
Even though this piece was written for piano, the video I have embedded below is an arrangement for orchestra. I usually try to go with whatever the composer intended when I choose the videos—as in, if it was written for piano, I’ll find the piano version—but I really wanted to share an arrangement this time because I played this piece in youth orchestra years ago. I’ve actually never listened to the piano version.
I haven’t done Wednesday Music in a while. For those who are new here, Wednesday Music is a once-a-week post about a classical music piece. I started the series back in 2015 and have been working on it semi-steadily ever since. Or rather, until earlier this year. To be honest, I haven’t been blogging that much recently, which is another issue altogether. Anyway, I used to write the Wednesday Music posts (almost) every Wednesday, but then I kind of just… stopped.
Rather then feel bad for not posting, I thought I’d ask the readers. Do you think Wednesday Music should continue? Vote in the poll below to tell me your thoughts.
If you answer is no, I’d love to know why. Is once a week too frequent? Should the Wednesday Music become Monthly Music instead? Let me know your thoughts!
Update, August 26: I have closed the poll. By overwhelming consensus, Wednesday Music is here to stay! Thank you to everyone who voted and/or commented.
I’ve posted this piece before, but I thought I’d do a repost since the first day of summer was… somewhat recently. Here’s a bit about Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, L’estate (Summer).
This piece is one of four violin concerti that make up Vivaldi’s group of compositions collectively called The Four Seasons (Le quattro stagioni for you Italian speakers out there!). Each one is meant to evoke one of the four seasons. They were published in 1725.
In addition to music, there are also accompany sonnets to go with each piece. This means they are called program music.
In addition to the sonnets, Vivaldi has instructions in the music. The instructions for summer include “Languor caused by the heat.” I guess it’s safe to assume that Italy gets hot in the summer!
You guys, I discovered this piece recently and immediately loved it, so obviously I said to myself that I just had to share it with my blog readers. The piece in question is the Waltz from Aram Khachaturian’s Masquerade. I’d never heard about it until a couple of weeks ago, so all the facts I researched were new to me, too. Here’s a bit about it.
This piece is a bit—okay, a lot—more modern than what I usually post since it was written in 1941. By my standards of posting pieces from the eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries, that’s practically yesterday! 😉
Khachaturian wrote this as incidental music for a production of a play in the USSR. The play was also called Masquerade and was written by Mikhail Lermontov, one of my favorite authors. (He wrote the excellent novel A Hero of Our Time, which I greatly enjoyed.)
Later on, Khachaturian extended the music he wrote into five movements to make a symphonic suite. What I’m posting is just the first movement of the suite, the waltz.
This post may be a little late, but you know what they say: better late than never. Plus, it is still Wednesday where I reside, even though it’s already Thursday for my European and Australian and Asian readers. (I don’t think I have any readers in Africa, but if I do, I know it’s Thursday there, too.) Anyway, I haven’t done a Wednesday Music post in a really long time, so I am so excited to post today because I have found the most fabulous piece of music. It’s called Fantaisie sur l’Hymne National Russe (Fantasy on the Russian National Hymn) by Charles Gounod and it is simply glorious.
I wrote earlier this week about my love for the tsarist national anthem and if you like that anthem, you’ll probably like this piece. Gounod basically built the entire thing on the melody of the national anthem. If you listen to a recording of the anthem, then this piece, you can clearly hear the melody right from the start. Here’s a bit about it.
Gounod wrote this fantasy in 1885. No one is certain how or why he chose the national anthem of the Russian Empire as his theme, but I’m certainly glad he did. Maybe he was a Russophile and we just don’t know that…
The piece premiered on November 16, 1885. Lucie Palicot, to whom it was dedicated, played it, accompanied by Gounod himself on the piano.
The orchestral version premiered in February 1886. The brass instruments and the piano have the theme most of the time.
Dear readers, I can’t believe I haven’t posted about this piece before. It’s appropriate for this time of year. Today’s piece is Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, La primavera. That’s Italian for “spring.” Here’s a bit about it.
This piece is the first in Vivaldi’s cycle known as The Four Seasons. Each season is a concerto separated into three movements.
There are poems to accompany each season and the music is supposed to evoke imagery from the poems. For example, in Spring, there is a barking dog marked in the viola section. I’m not sure if the music actually sounds like a barking dog, though…
Other imagery supposedly in this piece are birds singing and thunderstorms. Again, I’m not sure I hear this when I listen to it—but based on the accompanying poems, it’s what Vivaldi wanted us to hear.
I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember when the last Wednesday Music post was. I would look back in my archives, but that would probably be demoralizing, so let’s just say it’s been a while. Today’s piece is Luigi Boccherini’s Cello Concerto No. 7 in G Major, G. 480. Now, the numbering of Boccherini’s cello concertos always confuses me—I swear I’ve also seen this one referred to as Concerto No. 3—but I know I have the G. 480 correct, so if you find this piece with a different concerto number but still listed as G. 480, I’m assuming it’s the same one. Here’s a bit about it.
Boccherini didn’t list this piece in his own catalog of works, but it was published in Paris in 1770, and most scholars seem to assume it was written slightly before then. Boccherini himself probably performed it in Paris.
During the time the composer wrote this concerto, he was at a high point in his life. He was very popular and he was working as a chamber composer for the Infante Don Luis in Spain, so he had financial stability as well.
The accompanying orchestra for this concerto is composed of strings only—no woodwinds. This was more common in the pre-classical era than the classical era.
You guys, it’s been ages since I put up a Wednesday Music post! I kept forgetting, even though I’ve had this piece on my mind for a little while now. It’s composer Anton Arensky’s Variations on a Theme by Tchaikovsky, Op. 35a. Here’s a bit about it.
Arensky, a composer I’ve never heard of, wrote this piece to Tchaikovsky in 1894, the year after Tchaikovsky died.
It’s based on a theme Tchaikovsky wrote in a piece called “Legend: Christ in His Garden,” which is part of Sixteen Children’s Songs.
The theme from Arensky’s piece was actually the slow movement of a string quartet he wrote. When the quartet was performed, everyone loved the slow movement so much that Arensky arranged it as a separate piece for string orchestra, which is what you’ll hear if you play the video below.
I almost didn’t write a post in time for Wednesday Music this week because I had trouble choosing something. I knew I wanted to have Mozart because last Friday, January 27 was his birthday (so I should have had Mozart last week, but I didn’t realize it was his birthday until the day of), but I couldn’t decide what Mozart piece to post. Then I remembered his horn concerti. I love them all but strangely enough, I haven’t posted any of them. So today’s piece is his Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat major, K. 447. Here’s a bit about it.
Mozart completed it between 1784 and 1787 when he was living in Vienna.
He wrote it for his friend Joseph Leutgeb, an accomplished hornist and friend. The score is currently stored at the British Library in London.
The work is in three movements and is scored for two clarinets, two bassoons, solo horn, and strings.
Enjoy! The second movement is a particular favorite of mine, so be sure to listen to that (it starts at 7:06). This is an old recording, so the quality isn’t the best, but it’s hard to find a decent one on YouTube!