Friday, June 16, 2006

Alexander Borodin and an announcement

Though immensely talented as a composer, Alexander Borodin was a well-known chemist by trade, and saw composing as a fun little diversion. This is unfortunate, because Borodin's musical output is relatively small, leaving you wanting more. His most famous compositions are his second string quartet, the opera Prince Igor, and his second symphony.
Borodin was a member of the Mighty Handful of Russian nationalist composers, and this symphony is indeed very Russian, especially the first movement. He always had a flair for writing beautiful melodies- the first movement and nocturne from his second quartet come to mind- and one of the most beautiful appears in the third movement of this symphony, an altered folk tune with a gracefully shifting meter.

Alexander Borodin- Symphony No. 2
Rotterdam Phil., Valery Gergiev

There's a reason I posted the Borodin symphony. I will be playing this entire thing very soon, as part of the Northwestern High School Music Institute(I'm only 17). I'll be on the Northwestern campus in Evanston, Ill. for a good five weeks, starting Wednesday, so Masterfade will be on a rather long break. That is, unless anybody else decides to post again.

I will try and post once more before I leave, but if I don't, thanks for your support and interest in this little blog.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Cesar Franck (1822-1890)

Once ignored by most, Cesar Franck is only now earning recognition for being an immensely talented Romantic composer. Franck, a Belgian who spent much of his life in France, was a proficient pianist and organist; he wrote many important works for the organ repertoire and gave up a virtuoso career to live a modest life as an organist for a Paris church. Characteristics of Franck's music include cyclic form, chromatic movement, and constant modulation. As a composer, Franck didn't mature until late in his career, and his fame is based on a relatively small batch of pieces: the most famous are his Wagneresque symphony, the epic Prelude, Chorale and Fugue for piano, and his Piano quintet of 1879.

This Piano quintet is very progressive and difficult for its time; the pianist at the premiere was the more conservative Camille Saint Saens, and he loathed the piece so much that he didn't even wait for applause at the end of the performance and stormed off the stage. Franck's own wife hated the piano quintet, which was nothing like normal delicate French music; this piece, especially the last movement, is as dramatic and intense as any of Wagner's works. I just recently bought the recording of this, and it is already among my favorite pieces of Romantic chamber music.

Cesar Franck- Piano Quintet

Ludwig String Quartet
Michael Levinas, Piano