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How to celebrate International Bassoon Day

Last month, London’s Royal College of Music held a celebration to mark International Bassoon Day at the Royal Albert Hall. Laurence Perkins, the principal bassoonist with the Manchester Camerata, was the musician who came up with the idea of a day to promote the wind instrument. He chose 11 October, and this is just part of a broader push he is leading to find new bassoon enthusiasts. “It’s the best instrument to play in the orchestra,” Amy Harman, who plays principal bassoon for the Philharmonia Orchestra, said. “You get to be all the different parts. You get to play with the cellos, the wind players, and the horns, and you get all these lovely tunes. I think it’s amazing.” Perkins planned International Bassoon Day as the first stage in a three-part strategy to build interest in the instrument. “Bear-faced bassoonery” is a series of free admission events where Perkins explains the characteristics of the bassoon to those who are unfamiliar with it, while allowing more experienced players to discuss progressing their studies to the next level. With a number of “Bassoon Voyager” concerts, the instrument will feature in a one-hour performance including pieces of music to illustrate the bassoon’s musical capabilities.

Classical Pieces and workout

35545219935_6734bd5fdc_zSo you have been working out but you’re somehow tired of your Beyoncé-Rihanna-Arcade Fire-YouNameIt playlist and have no idea what to listen to next? Whether you’re running on a waterfront, on a treadmill or you are just walking 100 floors on the stair master, we have come up with a selection of ten pieces of Classical music that can motivate you, energize you or, if you really hate doing what you’re doing, make your training session less of an ordeal. Your perfect warm-up track. In fact, like the original Hungarian folk dance, Tchaikovsky’s Czarda starts in a slow tempo (lassú) and ends in a very fast tempo (friss).

Mozart— Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, First Movement

Holst—Mars

Wagner— Walkürenritt

Strauss—Radetzky Marsch

Bizet— Carmen, Prelude to Act 1

Khachaturian— Sabre Dance

Grieg— In the Hall of the Mountain King

Tchaikovsky— Symphony n.4 , 4th movement

How did Robert Burns intend his songs to be performed?

Scottish poet Robert Burns is known around the world for his songs. How could you celebrate New Year’s Eve without singing along to Auld Lang Syne? A five-year project at Glasgow University says we should see Burns’ works in a new light. A group of musicians have recorded them in their original arrangements, using 18th century harpsichords, violas and cellos, rather than the typical accordion, guitar and fiddle that often grace the performance area of your local pub or a Burns supper hall. Professor Kirsteen McCue led the project, but even she admits not everyone will be won over easily. “We are opening up a bit of a controversial area and not everyone will like these settings, but we have not recorded them so people will like them, but we have recorded them because that is what they are.”

Remembering Leonard Bernstein on his birthday, 25 August

Leonard_Bernstein_by_Jack_MitchellLeonard Bernstein (1918–1990) was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer and pianist. At Harvard, his tutors included Walter Piston, and at Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute the great Fritz Reiner for conducting and composition with Randall Thompson. His meteoric rise to stardom began when he was appointed deputy at the New York Philharmonic, and subsequently made his sensational debut in 1943, standing in for an indisposed Bruno Walter. In the same year Bernstein made his debut as a performer-composer on disc with his Clarinet Sonata. In 1953, Bernstein became the first American to conduct the orchestra of La Scala opera house in Milan – with Maria Callas in the lead role. In 1954 he was nominated for an Oscar for On the Waterfront, and then scored two consecutive hits with Candide (1956) and West Side Story (1957). From 1958 to 1969, as principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein gave nearly 1000 concerts and made innumerable fine recordings, many of which remain definitive. Bernstein devised and presented a remarkable series of 53 televised Young People’s Concerts which introduced a generation of Americans to the “classics.” Bernstein’s punishing workload and a lifetime of heavy smoking finally took their toll and he died of pneumonia in 1990. Bernstein was the first composer to become a television and radio star.

Luigi Boccherini was born 274 years ago

One of the true masters of Italian music of the Classical period lived for an impressive 62 years and wrote hundreds of pieces of music. Boccherini was almost pre-destined to take an interest in music. His family home was often full of performers; his father was a cellist and double bass player, who was delighted to see Boccherini Junior following a similar musical route to his own. As well as being a fine composer, Boccherini excelled as a cellist – which explains why he wrote so many concertos for the instrument. Some scholars are rather unkind about Boccherini’s music: although he composed a very large number of works (30 symphonies, nearly a hundred string quartets, and plenty more besides) they suggest it’s a case of quantity over quality. And soon after his death, Boccherini was dismissed as “Haydn’s wife” – a clear suggestion that he was the inferior composer. Boccherini’s music has been used in all sorts of unlikely places, including on the soundtrack to the film Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, which features one of his string quintets. In the late 20th-century, the popularization of Boccherini’s music was due in no small part to the Boccherini Quartet, who introduced many audiences to the composer’s string quartets for the very first time.

Have you ever listened to Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge?

As the most progressive work of the greatest composer in the history of Western music, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge demands vast attention. It is one of the last pieces Beethoven wrote for string quartet, one of his celebrated “late” quartets. It’s a one-movement experiment in structure that was universally hated when it was first composed. It had been proven that not only can critics and audiences get it really, really wrong, but also that it’s all about interpretation. You can actually hear the struggle and the effort it must’ve taken to compose, which means it’s not always a relaxing listen, but few pieces in history have so nakedly shown how a composer can throw absolutely everything into a single work. And, in the end, it was hugely influential to later composeres of the 20th century with none other than Igor Stravinsky proclaiming it a miracle of music. How about that for delayed gratification?

Hommage a Debussy

Claude_Debussy_Claude Debussy (1862–1918) was a 20th-century French composer and one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music. Debussy’s obvious talent for the piano led to his winning a place at the junior department of the Paris Conservatoire when he was only 10 years old. The composer was 32 when he completed the first piece to truly declare his independence of thought: Prelude a l’Apres-midi d’un Faune, a highly innovative piece inspired by a poem of Stephane Mallarmé. After his first successes, Debussy began serious work on his opera Pelleas et Melisande and the three orchestral Nocturnes (completed in 1899). The success of Pelleas et Melisande’s long-delayed premiere in 1902 made Debussy a celebrity. In 1914, just as he was at the height of his powers, Debussy discovered he had cancer. An operation left him so debilitated that he composed nothing for over a year. Before his death on March 25th 1918 in Paris, he completed one final masterwork, the Violin Sonata.

Game of Thrones Theme Given New Twist on Church Organ

Game_of_Thrones_title_cardThe French group Grissini Project, based in Lyon, has released a new version of the well-known Game of Thrones theme recorded on church organ, piano and cello. It’s all about the organ and piano in the early part of the rendition, with the cello being brought in to take up the melody closer to the end. The original theme was composed by Ramin Djawadi, who began his career working alongside the famous film composer Hans Zimmer. Apart from Game of Thrones, Djawadi also wrote the theme for Prison Break, and worked on the music for Batman Begins and Ironman.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

Bach_Carl_Philipp_Emanuel_1Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (8 March 1714 – 14 December 1788) was a German Classical period musician and composer, the fifth child and second (surviving) son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach. His second name was given in honor of his godfather Georg Philipp Telemann, a friend of Johann Sebastian Bach. C. P. E. Bach was an influential composer working at a time of transition between his father’s baroque style and the classical and romantic styles that followed it. His personal approach, an expressive and often turbulent one known as empfindsamer Stil or ‘sensitive style’, applied the principles of rhetoric and drama to musical structures. Bach was a prolific writer of keyboard sonatas, many of which were intended for his favored instrument, the clavichord.

Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite

451px-Maurice_RavelRavel first wrote the Mother Goose Suite in 1908 for two children whose parents he was friends with, in a four-hand suite for solo piano. The children, Mimi and Jean Godebski, were extremely fond of the composer since he told them fairytales, some of which he made up on the spot! e original five movements of the suite each illustrate fairytales. Sleeping Beauty’s Pavane, Little Tom Thumb (Moderate speed), Laideronnette (“Little Ugly Girl”), Empress of the Pagodas, The conversations of Beauty and the Beast, The Fairy Garden. Ravel’s music is injected with a lushness and refinement which makes it sound slightly jazz-like.