By George, happy birthday!

Thanks to some wonderful selections today from WQXR (no, we are not remunerated for promoting the station: dreams take time to build), I found out that it is the 115th anniversary of George Gershwin’s birth.  Happy birthday, o American Master, from your jazzy, foot-stompin’ fans at Sibling Revelry. Here is a picture of the man lookin’ pretty dapper, and QXR’s tribute to his keyboard works:

George Gershwin in his youth on a ship's deck

http://www.wqxr.org/#!/story/gershwin/

Sib1 gave me a Gershwin CD many moons ago (when CDs were still a thing): an excellent recording of all the Gershwin classics like “Rhapsody in Blue” and “An American in Paris.” In some ways, Gershwin (“Shwin” to those in the know) embodies some of the values we hold dear as appreciators of the fine arts (well, some of them. Others we grumble about, Walter Matthau-like). His translation of American roots and rhythms into the classical setting both renews and strengthens the art form. He’s a standout American in an art whose history is almost blindingly European (der, it was invented there). AND, he’s one of seemingly few classical composers who collaborated so memorably and effectively with his SIBLING: brother Ira Gershwin, who probably slept over.

Plus, talking about Shwin gives us a chance to plug the incomparable Gene Kelly, whose gleeful, silky, muscular, form-perfect dancing fills us with wonder and delight. Here he is in “An American in Paris,” in which the eponymous work has a starring role (music & lyrics by Sib2 and Sib1, Gershwin edition):

Is there not something so languorous, thick & muddy Bayou blues-y, about that main melody? Surrounded, of course, by much else of European origin. Kind of like an American in Paris.

And really, just for kicks at this point, there is a connection between The Shwin-Bone and Monsieur Horloger: Ravel traveled to the US in the early 20th century, where he met Gershwin and listened to a lot of jazz that he would then incorporate in his subsequent works. Like a Frenchman in New York.

Happy birthday, George!

Score-ally Yours, Part I: Hook

Friends, Revelers, countrymen, lend me your ears!  I’m taking a brief detour from classical music proper to write about its distant favorite cousin: film scores!  Besides, my Sibling and I have filled the classical music blogosphere so thoroughly that there’s really not much more we can cover.  Just kidding…we’re gonna need a bigger blog.

When I was little, I wanted desperately to be able to fly.  I’d be lying if I said a little remnant of that wish weren’t still with me today.  I can still remember having those classic flying dreams, swooping around my house in a state of gravity-free bliss.  Loving the Disney and Broadway adaptations of Peter Pan did little to bring me back to reality.

It’s fitting, then, that the other day “Flight To Neverland” from the Spielberg movie Hook came on Pandora and it honestly took my breath away.  I love that movie, but I hadn’t thought about it or its music in so long.  John Williams is always spot-on when it comes to “flying music” (e.g. E.T.) but this part of his Hook score is exceptional.  I’ve mentioned in other posts how in awe I am of composers who are able to shape and mold black and white notes into emotions.  This music literally soars, and after hearing “Flight To Neverland”, I was transformed for a good while into that kid who flew in her dreams.

I’m not going to dissect this to pieces, because doing so takes away from the magic. Take five minutes and listen to “Flight To Neverland”, because I promise you it’s WONDERFUL.  I love it!!!

 

Aux barricades, citoyens!

When I lived in Germany, a friend and I derived nearly unending delight from the German commentators of a tennis match who opened a segment with the greeting, “Liebe Tennisfreunde,” which could be either “dear tennis friends,” or, as I prefer because it’s even funnier, “dear friends of tennis.”

Dear friends of classical music and one of the most unpopular blogs on the Internet, I’m going to try and keep this brief (ha). Quite simply, here is a beautiful, intricate, intriguing, and, dare I say, half-smiling piece of music. It is called “Les barricades mistérieuses” and was written for harpsichord by the French composer François Couperin. The below version is arranged and played on classical guitar by, once again, the great Parkening.

Couperin was a Baroque composer, a contemporary of Bach, and lived from 1668-1733. “Les barricades mistérieuses” was written in 1717; despite its nearly three centuries of age, I think it is easy to hear some very modern, folk-y things in it – similar to the connection bluegrass players feel with Bach.

Speaking of whom, according to Harold C. Schonberg, Bach and Couperin are supposed to have had a long correspondence; sadly, none is extant. But Bach greatly admired and respected Couperin, whose music manuscripts Bach copied for himself by hand (an honor he also accorded Vivaldi). Maurice Ravel, Monsieur Horloger, celebrated the composer in his “Le tombeau de Couperin” – a mainstay of the WQXR playlist.

The meaning of the title of the piece is, appropriately, mysterious. I like the theory that the barricade is in fact referring to harmonic resolution. Which, you’ll notice, the piece never achieves for long. Some have also posited that the title refers to women’s chastity belts. That would explain the barricade, but not the mystery. I personally don’t find locked metal underwear all that mysterious. But even if the title doesn’t mean one particular thing, I think its open-ended nature fits the music perfectly and is nice fodder for rumination, lo these three hundred years later.

Enjoy! And to our friends in Russia, where we’ve yet to attract a single viewer, we say: спасибо, мы надеемся, что вам нравится музыка.