Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moeran: Symphony in G minor

Whenever I bring a new piece of classical music to someone’s attention I always describe the images and emotions it conjures for me.  Perhaps this is because, personally, music is both the most expedient route to an emotion and fuel for colourful imagination.  Almost unfailingly, the scenes a piece sketches for me are of nature.  Nature was a source of inspiration for many Post-Romantic composers such as Mahler and Schoenberg, and Ernest John Moeran is no different. 

Moeran’s Symphony in G minor is a marvellous piece of music that captivates the dichotomy of nature’s beautiful landscapes and the ravenous vitality that continuously reshapes them.  Moeran juxtaposes these two themes throughout the four movements in spine-tickling fashion.  Timelessness and utter transiency combat each other in the Lento with instrumentation similar to that in “Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age” from Holst’s “The Planets” Suite. There’s a powerful solo trombone entrance in the middle of the Lento that, if I may assert my personification, takes on the role of nature’s Darth Vader.

Not all movements are shrouded in the dark side of the force.  The Vivace, for instance, has a lighter, more playful and spring-like character, an allusion to the panorama from whence inspiration came.  Much of the symphony was written in County Kerry, Ireland (pictured above), a landscape marked by rocky inlets with lapping ocean waves and beautiful green, rolling hills and mountains dotted with sheep.  But no matter how pure and beautiful Moeran’s symphonic painting of the countryside is, he never quite lets us forget that the spirit of nature’s Darth Vader is omnipresent.  Don’t fret, there is a protagonist!  At four minutes into the final movement, Lento - Allegro molto, Moeran unleashes the heroic brass to race across the terrain on string-and-woodwind stallions.

The only completed symphony we have of his, Moeran took thirteen years to compose this work, having abandoned its original form and retracted it from a premiere performance twice before finally unveiling it in 1937.  Fortunately, a three-movement Sinfonietta and an orchestral Serenade are possible extensions for our exploration of this wonderful composer.  The Sinfonietta can be found on the same Naxos Music label recording I heard.

Before I wrap this up, I want to know what you’re thinking of!
- What are some further recommendations you may have for this time period?  I’m itching for more!
- What work, from any time, paints the clearest image of a nature scene for your mind’s eye?  Is it because you listened to that piece when you were there?

I’m looking forward to your comments!  Stay tuned for another Post-Romantic symphony on Saturday.

Happy Listening!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Symphonies of the Post-Romantic

To this day, I hold that one of my most memorable performance experiences was during the 2008 New England Music Festival where I, along with the orchestra, played the Allegro con brio of H. Hanson’s Symphony No. 2 “Romantic”.  What a wonderfully-ebullient movement!  Not a single rehearsal went by during that festival that I didn’t leave with a smile, arms covered in goosebumps, humming the majestic conversations between the cellos and French horns.  

Ever since, I’ve been hooked on the orchestral colour of Post-Romantic music.  So, for my first week I’ve decided to explore what the Naxos Music label has to offer for lesser-known Post-Romantic symphonies. 

Join me and the FermataPhone community on Wednesday and Saturday for an exploration of two symphonies that deserve a spot in our stereo’s repertoire.  It’s sure to be a fun ride for your ears and your hair follicles!

Happy Listening!

Welcome to FermataPhone!

Welcome, welcome, welcome to FermataPhone, a Classical music blog where we explore great music!

You may recognize the phrase "explore great music" as the tagline of online music merchant Much more than mere marketing hyperbole, this call to enrich your musical life is vital to sustaining a life-long passion for music. Since you are reading this, I’m confident in assuming that music is special in your life. But despite the fact that our daily lives are so immersed in music, we admittedly tend to sequester ourselves with the familiar while leaving the rest unexplored.

But what’s the cure?  Well, while on exchange in Italy last Fall an important notion of social music exploration was first revealed to me.  Before a night out in Milan, we exchange students, from backgrounds that blanketed most of the globe, would convene around a computer or an iPod and play Hot Potato DJ, sharing musical favourites enthusiastically and spontaneously.  Each new song brought new recommendations and by the end everyone left with a new set of artists for their own permanent collections to remind themselves of their exchange.  Our common identity was indeed music.

Social music exploration can happen through any medium and that’s precisely what this blog is to become: a platform for virtual friends on a common expedition through the vast Classical genre to share, discover, and explore music!  Every week I will pick an overarching “theme”, or more appropriately a “leitmotif”. On each Wednesday and Saturday I’ll post a new review of a work plucked from the gargantuan Naxos Music label.  These themes (leitmotifs) will be anything and everything, and the works covered will stray from the common in search of something off your radar.  Albeit some obscurity, everything will be worthy of reverence.

This is only the half of it!  After each post, I want you to tell me what you think.  Offer up your feedback, recommendations, anecdotes -- basically anything that furthers the FermataPhone blog community’s quest for new, great music.  I’ll join in too!  This way everyone will benefit most from our discoveries.

So what are you waiting for?  Get your stereos and headphones ready and let’s “explore great music!”

Happy Listening!