January 2012

Stravinsky's "Pulcinella"

Exploring his neoclassical roots.

The score for the ballet Pulcinella is one of Russian-by-birth, French-and-American-by-choice composer Igor Stravinsky’s most enduring compositions. The neoclassical ballet tells the story of Pulcinella, the puppet character popularized in Italian Commedia dell’arte, and explores his relationship with his girlfriend and friends. Aside from Stravinsky, the original ballet had Pablo Picasso as set and costume designer. The ballet premiered at the Paris Opera in May of 1920.  

Trollflojten - Overture

If you're going to make a film adaptation of an opera, what do you do during the overture? Turn it into a portrait of the audience, I guess. Ingmar Bergman's 1975 take on Mozart's famous Zauberflote does just that, entertaining the film's audience with all sorts of interesting Swedish faces.


Forms of Classical Music: The Opera

Another well known form of classical music is the opera.  Other than the orchestra, this type of classical music is enjoyed by many in various countries. The opera began in Italy and then spread to the rest of the world. The first opera was performed in 1600s in the town of Florence. This is the most dramatic form of classical musical because it consists of a theater, opera singer and musicians.

Each of the classical composers have established themselves by the use of the operatic form. Like other forms of theater, the libretto within an opera tells a story. Operas are mainly sung in Italian if they were completed by any of the major composers.

Forms of Classical Music: The Symphony

One form of classical music that is very well-loved is the Symphony. It considered to be one of the best forms to showcase the talents of a composer. Composers such as Mozart and Haydn have created some of the best symphonies.

A symphony is a piece of music that contains only one movement. “Symphony” is a Greek word that can be translated into “agree in sound”. Unlike the concerto in which there is discord between the soloist and the background instruments, a symphony has all instruments playing together in harmony. The first symphony was thought to have been played during the 1200s to 1400s.

Claude Debussy's "Nocturnes"

Impressionist painting for your ears.

Claude Debussy (1862-1918) is one of the most enduring composers of all time. His music—typically is piano music—is often used in music to signal some sort of unarticulated malaise, which is appropriate for Debussy’s impressionist music. The French composer is known for his atmospheric music that transgresses traditional boundaries of pitch and key.

Forms of Classical Music: The Concerto

Classical music can come in various forms and one form is known as the concerto. A concerto is one of the most well known presentations of classical music. You will hear it described as having three movements or three parts to it. During a concerto, a single instrument such as a flute, cello, piano or violin will give a solo while an orchestra accompanies the soloist. 
A concerto is quite beautiful to hear. While listening you will notice times during the movements in which the solo instrument is either playing against or in harmony with the orchestra. In some instances, the soloist will also play independently of the orchestra. The music is done in this way to weave a tale or tell a story. With the right instrument, concertos can evoke emotion within the listener. The solo instrument and the soloist is the main focus of this style of classical music. The musical piece is presented in such as way to show the genius and skill of the soloist and their interpretation of this piece of music. 

Shostakovich's Soviet-Era Rebellion

A Shakespearean controversy.

During the 1930’s and ‘40’s, the Soviet regime wanted memorable melodies in its music, probably so it would be easier for the public to remember music in the form of propaganda. They wanted music to be understood by all, and this was achieved not only with a memorable melody, but also with the “plain language of music,” or more traditional musical harmonies created by Beethoven and other prominent Germans. They wanted music which conformed to the doctrine of Socialist Realism-or music that would serve as propaganda for the ideals of the state—rather than “naturalism,” which, although it leveled the plane of all Soviets, also puts them in a “beastly guise.”

Nessun Dorma

"None Shall Sleep"...


If anyone has ever heard Pavarotti sings “Turandot,” they will know the composition within in it that is entitled “Nessun Dorma”. This classical opera was written by Giacomo Puccini and is a tenor aria.

It is a beautiful piece of classical music that tells the story of the prince Calaf, who becomes enamored with a beautiful princess. The princess is not friendly, but is quite mean and cold towards his affections. The Princess’ name is Turandot.

Franz Liszt

The original glam rocker.

Since the song “Lisztomania” by Phoenix became such a hit in the past few years, I thought it would be worthwhile to speak about the man who inspired it. Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was a Hungarian composer most well-known for his big hair and improvisatory piano stylings. Liszt composed much of the music we know today for himself to perform, making it extremely difficult for even a great pianist to perfect. He also was something of an innovator, using styles and techniques that didn’t become popular until the 20th century.