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Music and Transfiguration

Interpreting Music

Glenn Gould's 1981 recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations is one of my all time favorites, not just of that particular piece, but of every recording I've ever heard. While listening to it yesterday, I began thinking about interpreting music. How can you not think about interpretation when listening to Gould since his were often so far from the beaten path? Nevertheless, it's a topic that comes up often in the music world, usually with much debate. What makes a "good" interpretation? What makes one better than another? How do you go about interpreting a piece of music?


Destination: The Renaissance

I was finally able to pull myself away from Bach's organ works and get back to my intended destination: Late Renaissance music. I located a few scores that I'll start with but have yet to really delve into them. Other than what I experienced in my music history courses in college, I've never spent much time studying Renaissance music. So, the thought of actually getting into this wonderful period of music intrigues me.

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Bach on a Sunday Morning

After my last post, I had full intentions of making a trip into the music of the Renaissance. However, I was slightly sidetracked along the way. The cause of my distraction: the Bach organ works. One can only marvel at the organ works of the immortal J.S. Bach. First of all, there is the sheer number of works he composed. Yet, even more significant, is their profound artistry. While most of these works are cast in the archaic forms of prelude and fugue or chorale preludes, their musicality and expression are far from stagnant.


Rediscovering the Past

While driving around the other day, I had the radio on the local classical station. The current program was doing a comparison between the works of Thomas Tallis and his lesser-known contemporary John Shephard. To be honest, this was the first time I had actually listened to any Renaissance music for quite some time. Yet, it was incredibly refreshing. There is something about the music of the Renaissance, of Palestrina and Allegri, Tallis and Monteverdi, that, even today, possesses a unique and striking quality. Maybe it's the purity of the music, or the solemn character.


Dvorak, Rostropovich, Karajan and the Berlin Phil

Today, I was listening to Rostropovich's recording of the Dvorak Cello Concerto with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Even though I've listened to this recording countless, just to re-read that first sentence leaves me awe struck. Antonin Dvorak, Mstislav Rostropovich, Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic all mentioned in one sentence and together in one recording. The recording was made during the turbulent 1960s in Cold War ravished Berlin. The political overtones of the collaboration did not go unnoticed.

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Where is the Passion?

For the past century classical music has experienced a decline in popularity. In consequence, we often hear of professional orchestra having budget problems and what not. It's often said that classical music suffers from a bad case of elitism. This much is true. I can say that I've dealt with my fair share of classical musicians and scholars who have elitist attitudes, and to speak bluntly, I abhor dealing with them. But what causes elitism? I believe elitism starts when one's passion has died out and all that is left is an empty shell.


Counterpoint and Me

As you probably could tell from my previous post, I'm very interested in the subject of counterpoint. It is such a vast subject capable of so much variation. I honestly believe one could study the subject for their entire life and still be learning until the very end. This is the reason I lament the fact the almost non-existence of counterpoint in university music curricula. One semester, or even a few, is barely enough time to just scratch the surface.


A Brief History of Counterpoint

Counterpoint is all at once the most intricate, the most necessary, the least understood and most neglected technique in music. Just in case you're wondering, counterpoint is the simultaneous combination of two or more melodies. However, in my opinion, a better and broader definition is the relationship of two or more parts to each other in music.


Getting Caught Up in the Music

I was thinking again today about Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and what I had written about it in my last post. I remembered some time ago I read a short little anecdote about the Fifth Symphony. It was from a collection of Robert Schumann's critical writings. Unfortunately, I don't have the book readily available so I'll just paraphrase the story.


The Joy of Music - Thoughts While Listening to Beethoven's Fifth

I was listening yesterday to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony recorded by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. Karajan's recordings never cease to amaze me. His interpretations of classic works like Beethoven's Fifth are breathtaking and the Berlin Philharmonic is the epitome of perfection. While listening, I kept thinking, "This was a man who understands the music. I want to understand it, too." Performers and conductors who really understand the music, that take it beyond superficial emotionalism or technical display are rare. In my opinion, Karajan was one.

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