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This documentary lets you visit Bach landmarks, discover his stories and music
An online documentary on German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, available on the Bachfest Malaysia Youtube channel, has been making its rounds among classical music fans starved of live concerts during these pandemic times.
Encountering Bach, which has a runtime of 130 minutes, brings viewers on a journey around important Bach-landmarks in Germany, while discovering his life stories and music.
The documentary is available in both English and Mandarin, and is hosted by Bachfest Malaysia founder David Chin, and co-hosted by Bachfest Leipzig artistic director and Bach-Archiv Leipzig musicologist Michael Maul and Bach-Archiv Leipzig musicologist and researcher Manuel Baerwald.
“The idea of making a film on the life and music of Bach in my mother tongue, Mandarin, has been on my mind for a while, as very few books have been written in Chinese about the composer, let alone a film. We decided to release this film in two languages with the hope of reaching as many people as possible,” says Chin, 35.
“As a conductor and music scholar, I have always been finding ways to contribute what I can to my fellow Malaysians and the global community, ” he adds.
He recalls how a chance meeting with Maul at the Bachfest Leipzig in the summer of 2018, sowed the seeds for this project.
When Chin was presented with an opportunity to view several of Bach’s original manuscripts, including cantata No.62 and the famous “Entwurff” letter at the Bach-Archiv’s library in Leipzig, Germany, the following year, a lightbulb went off in his head.
After a flurry of emails and phone calls after he returned home, he was once again on a plane headed for Germany to start work on the documentary.
“It was not very much time between when we decided to do this project (mid-August 2019) to when we began filming in Germany (early September 2019). I came up with the outline within a few days, and read many, many books in a very short time.
“Of course, I have done much research on Bach and performed many of his works in past years, but still, there is so much to learn about him, ” he says.
Chin was based in the US for 15 years before moving back to Malaysia. He is now based in Kuala Lumpur.
In putting together this documentary during the lockdown months, he muses that has learned so much more about Bach.
“I truly enjoyed every aspect of making this film. One of the things which I am most grateful for is the people whom I have met in the making of this project. I got the ‘front-row-seat’ by having the directors of the museums give me an exclusive VIP tour while we filmed, and this is not a privilege that anyone can have. I learned a lot from the best people in their fields, ” he says.
Encountering Bach includes interviews with 15 prominent scholars and musicians and features musical performance footage by musicians from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland and the United States.
This project, Chin says, would not have been possible without videographer and violinist Moses Lim, who lugged his equipment to Germany, filmed from morning to evening for consecutive 12 days, then worked on the editing.
In total, it took 15 months to complete, with nine short episodes on different topics made available in the year leading up to the full-length documentary premiere last month.
“I tried to use common language in the film so that people who are not musicians would have an idea of what I am talking about. At the same time, I also covered topics which many musicians normally are not exposed to, so they have an opportunity to be more well-informed through the enjoyable format of a film,” he concludes.
Later in the year, Chin will conduct Beethoven’s ‘Missa Solemnis’ concert tour in Sabah and Sarawak. This year’s schedule includes a Bach’s cantata concert for the Malaysia Bach Festival Singers and Orchestra, an inaugural concert for the new Mendelssohnchor Malaysia and Bach’s ‘Christmas Oratorio’.
Chin has been invited to conduct at Carnegie Hall in New York, and the St Thomas Church in Leipzig, in 2022.
In this 130-minute documentary film, Dr. David Chin will be joined by 15 prominent German Bach scholars and musicians and visit the important Bach-landmarks throughout Central Germany, discovering the interesting stories and wonderful music of Johann Sebastian Bach, with musical excerpts performed by renowned musicians from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United States, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and others.
The song was introduced in a Soundie short film. These three-minute features, produced to be shown on a jukebox-type player, illustrated the band miming to a pre-recorded performance. Entitled “Jam Session” the Soundie was filmed late in 1941 along with four other Ellington numbers. Duke introduces various band members, who then solo: Ray Nance (violin), Ben Webster (tenor sax), Rex Stewart (cornet), Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton (trombone), and Sonny Greer (drums). The complete ensemble carries the tune to its finish with composer Bigard (clarinet) providing some improvised upper register piping.
“C Jam Blues” was formally recorded under that title in January, 1942, for RCA Victor Records. It continued be a staple of the Ellington repertoire, generally featuring a handful of the soloists in the band.
As the title suggests, the piece follows a twelve-bar blues form in the key of C major. The tune is well known for being extremely easy to play, with the entire melody featuring only two notes: G and C.
A performance typically features several improvised solos. The melody likely originated from the clarinetist Barney Bigard in 1941, but its origin is not perfectly clear.
It was also known as “Duke’s Place“, with lyrics added by Bill Katts, Bob Thiele and Ruth Roberts.
Ellington’s black and white film was produced in 1942. The video depicts a jam session where Ellington begins playing with a double bass before gradually being joined by other members of his band, among them drummer Sonny Greer and trumpeter Rex Stewart. The film title is Jam Session.
“Basically a vehicle for jazz instrumentalists to display their improvisational skills, it is one of those pieces that is far more enjoyable for the player than the listener.”
– K. J. McElrath
Oscar Emmanuel Peterson, (August 15, 1925 – December 23, 2007) was a Canadian jazz pianist, virtuoso and composer. He was called the “Maharaja of the keyboard” by Duke Ellington, simply “O.P.” by his friends, and informally in the jazz community as “the King of inside swing”. He released over 200 recordings, won seven Grammy Awards, as well as a lifetime achievement award from the Recording Academy, and received numerous other awards and honors. Oscar Peterson is considered one of history’s great jazz pianists, and played thousands of concerts worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.
“Yesterday” is a song by the English rock band the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and credited to Lennon–McCartney. It was first released on the album Help! in August 1965, except in the United States, where it was issued as a single in September. The song reached number one on the US charts. It subsequently appeared on the UK EP Yesterday in March 1966 and made its US album debut on Yesterday and Today, in June 1966.
McCartney’s vocal and acoustic guitar, together with a string quartet, essentially made for the first solo performance of the band. It remains popular today and, with more than 2,200 cover versions, is one of the most covered songs in the history of recorded music. “Yesterday” was voted the best song of the 20th century in a 1999 BBC Radio 2 poll of music experts and listeners and was also voted the No. 1 pop song of all time by MTV and Rolling Stone magazine the following year. In 1997, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) asserts that it was performed over seven million times in the 20th century.
“Yesterday” is a melancholy ballad about the break-up of a relationship. The singer nostalgically laments for yesterday when he and his love were together, before she left because of something he said. McCartney is the only member of the Beatles to appear on the track. The final recording was so different from other works by the Beatles that the band members vetoed the release of the song as a single in the United Kingdom, although other artists were quick to record versions of it for single release. The Beatles recording was issued as a single there in 1976 and peaked at number 8.
“Yesterday” is like no other Beatles’ song. Unlike most of their songs that are credited to Lennon/McCartney, this marked the first time when there was no extensive collaboration between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. “Yesterday” was written only by Paul when he was playing around on the piano; he was also the only Beatle present on stage when the song was played live. John Lennon, however, initially didn’t like the song. In fact, he and other band members made fun of the song. This almost broke The Beatles into two bands: John’s band and Paul’s band.
With respect to the musical aspects of the song, it contains a complete harmonic structure, along with other things like complex lyrics structure, tempos, and a smooth upbeat sound. Production of the music for “Yesterday” indicated McCartney’s intentions of wanting to be a composer.
A composer, in contrast to a typical musical, is a person who’s responsible all aspects of sonic elements of a song. The Beatles’ manager, George Martin, was in favor of McCartney’s efforts, and also the new idea of having no collaborations from John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (who looked cute but didn’t do any intellectual contributions to the band whatsoever – just a fact. Ringo fans, don’t hate me).
This significance of the song transcend beyond The Beatles into the large rock n’ roll movement of the 1960s. “Yesterday” was a catalyst in writing, not just pop songs, but rock songs which were solely intended for the purpose of listening, not dancing. You could still dance if you wanted to, but the larger idea of such songs were to convey a message to the audience (although this particular Beatles song possesses no deep message ). Accordingly, the song was covered countless number of artists. In fact, as of this writing, “Yesterday” has been covered by more artists than any other song.
As for the meaning of the song, it’s a simple one: everything was easy on yesterday so everybody wants to go back to yesterday to erase all the mistakes and make peace with the ones they hurt.
Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away Now it looks as though they’re here to stay Oh, I believe in yesterday
Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be There’s a shadow hanging over me. Oh, yesterday came suddenly
Why she had to go I don’t know she wouldn’t say I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday
Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play Now I need a place to hide away Oh, I believe in yesterday
Why she had to go I don’t know she wouldn’t say I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday
Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play Now I need a place to hide away Oh, I believe in yesterday Mm mm mm mm mm mm mm
Unlike most of the nicknames given to Beethoven’s works, Pathétique is believed to have been picked by the composer himself to convey the romantic and even sorrowful mood of the sonata. The first movement begins with a dark and dramatic introduction before assuming the brisk, nearly frenetic motion of the traditional sonata form. The second movement is gentle, with a central theme that gradually evolves as new melodies derived from fragments of the original are introduced. In the final movement Beethoven offers a tempestuous rondo.
The sonata provides a notable early example of Beethoven’s experimentation with the dramatic potential of the key of C minor, which he would later choose for his well-known Symphony No. 5.
Tonality and influences
Beethoven did not pick C minor arbitrarily as the key center for the first movement. It has a long-standing association with the tragic temperament, dating from the pre-Baroque. For Beethoven, C minor was the key of choice for funeral marches (for example the slow movement of the Eroica Symphony) and for relentless, agitated music. He was greatly impressed by Mozart’s C minor Piano Concerto, No. 24, K491, and there are echoes of the unsettled mood of that piece as well as the final tragic moments from Don Giovanni in the Pathétique. Around the same time as writing the Sonata, he had embarked on the String Quartet, Op. 18 No. 4, also in C minor. It makes for interesting comparative listening (see Spotify playlist).
Other precedents in a similar tragic mode are: Bach’s Partita for keyboard in C minor Mozart’s Fantasia in C minor, K475 Beethoven’s own ‘Electoral’ Sonata No. 2 in F minor
The Pathétique may indeed borrow certain features from all the above, whether the ornate introduction or a more general reflection of mood, but it also set a new benchmark for writing in the tragic style.
Edward D. Latham contends that Gershwin’s experimental use of simple rondo form with the main theme as the refrain echoes the tension between Porgy and Bess in the duet, “It is as if Bess is clinging to the refrain for dear life, afraid that if she wanders too far from it, she will lose Porgy’s love for good.
Once again, it is Porgy who guides Bess back to the home key, re-establishing F major with a half cadence at the end of the B and C sections.” Gershwin thereby subverts the rondo forms as a guaranteed sign of confidence and stability into an indication of the situation’s volatility. Gershwin had originally changed the title from Porgy to Porgy and Bess to emphasise the romance between the two title characters and accommodate operatic conventions.
On the technicality of Bess’s role in the duet, Helen M. Greenwald, chair of the department of music history at New England Conservatory and editor of the Oxford Handbook of Opera, wrote that Bess’s solo “requires the legato power of a Puccini heroine”.
I Loves You Porgy (1935) from the opera “Porgy and Bess”
“It takes years and years of experience to know that such a note cannot take such a syllable, that many a poetic line can be unsingable, that many an ordinary line fitted into the proper musical phrase can sound like a million.”
– Ira Gershwin
The folk opera Porgy and Bess was based on a 1926 novel Porgy written by a white poet from South Carolina, DuBose Heyward, who, with his wife Dorothy, adapted the novel for a play which had a successful run in 1927. The story centers on a disabled black man (Porgy), the woman he loves (Bess), her lover (Crown), and a drug dealer (Sportin’ Life). In the Broadway show which featured a mostly black cast these roles were played respectively by Todd Duncan, Anne Brown (who introduced “I Loves You Porgy”), Warren Coleman, and John W. Bubbles.
The Heywards and the Gershwins spent part of the summer of 1934 near Charleston observing a group called the Gullahs who became the prototypes for the residents of the show’s Catfish Row.
Although George Gershwin had proposed in 1926 that Heyward write the libretto for an opera, nothing happened for several reasons until 1933, and then their lack of proximity to each other made the collaboration difficult. It was then that Ira Gershwin became involved in the project. Some of the lyrics for songs from Porgy and Bess are credited to Ira alone, but the ever self-effacing lyricist is quoted in Philip Furia’s book Ira Gershwin: The Art of the Lyricist as saying, “Even with these, however, Ira maintained ‘I’m pretty sure I was indebted, theme-wise, to a word or phrase borrowed from the text.’” Several songs, including “I Loves You Porgy,” are credited to both Ira and Heyward.
As Furia points out, “In their collaborations, it was apparent to Ira that Heyward, fine poet that he was, simply was not skilled in the lyricist’s craft of writing singable and memorable words.” As Ira says in his book Lyrics on Several Occasions, “This is no reflection on DuBose’s ability. It takes years and years of experience to know that such a note cannot take such a syllable, that many a poetic line can be unsingable, that many an ordinary line fitted into the proper musical phrase can sound like a million.”
Many jazz artists have mined the now popular score, including Billie Holiday (1948), Oscar Peterson (1959), and the MJQ (1964). A 1956 studio recording (reissued on CD in 1999) included the complete score with Al “Jazzbo” Collins providing the narration, Mel Torme singing the role of Porgy and Frances Faye as Bess; Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong recorded the songs in 1957; Miles Davis and arranger Gil Evans recorded their highly praised album in 1958. Nina Simone’s rendition of “I Loves You Porgy,” featured on her 1959 debut album, became one of the top 20 songs on the Billboard charts. In 2004 trumpeter/flugelhornist Clark Terry recorded songs from Porgy and Bess (including “I Loves You Porgy”) with the Chicago Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Jeff Lindberg.
There was great enthusiasm for the production which opened at the Alvin Theatre in New York on October 10, 1935. An elaborate opening-night party was planned, but there was little to celebrate after the reviews came out, most of which, at best, were mixed. The show ran for only 124 performances, most of them at a loss. George, who considered Porgy and Bess his best work, would not live to see the acclaim that it eventually received.
According the Edward Jablonski in Gershwin: A Biography, “[Ira] was thrilled in 1976 when the Houston Grand Opera presented a stunning production of Porgy and Bess with the original score and orchestration intact. The production was a triumph which brought the shock of recognition: Porgy and Bess was a real opera. Ira rejoiced in this, his brother’s vindication. (Ira did not live for that ultimate endorsement, a production at the Metropolitan Opera House, during the spring of 1985, nor the greater triumph at Glyndebourne, England, in the summer of 1986.)” Although bedridden, Ira was pleased that the show also was revived at Radio City Music Hall before his death in 1983.
The 1959 film of Porgy and Bess featured Sidney Poitier as Porgy (voice dubbed by Robert McFerrin), Dorothy Dandridge as Bess (voice dubbed by Adele Addison), Sammy Davis, Jr. as Sportin’ Life, and Brock Peters as Crown.
Other notable songs from the opera include the ever popular jazz standard “Summertime,” “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” “Bess You Is My Woman Now,” and “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’.” Selections from Porgy and Bess were recorded in 1935 by white opera singers. Several other versions were recorded between 1940 and 2006 when the first recording of Gershwin’s original production was released featuring a cast backed by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
American composer Aaron Copland is known for works like “Appalachian Spring” and “Fanfare for the Common Man,” among many others.
Who Was Aaron Copland?
Aaron Copland was born in Brooklyn, New York, and went on to study piano and composition and studying in Europe for some time. He became one of the century’s foremost composers with highly influential music that had a distinctive blend of classical, folk and jazz idioms. Some of Copland’s most prominent pieces included Fanfare for the Common Man, El Salon Mexico and Appalachian Spring, for which he won the Pulitzer. An Oscar-winning writer of film scores as well, Copland died on December 2, 1990.
Early Years and Travels
Composer Aaron Copland was born on November 14, 1900, in Brooklyn, New York to parents of Jewish and Eastern European descent. The youngest of five children, Copland went on to develop an interest in the piano, receiving guidance from his older sister. He later studied under Rubin Goldmark in Manhattan and regularly attended classical music performances. At 20 years old Copland opted to continue his studies in Fontainebleau, France, where he received tutelage from the famed Nadia Boulanger.
A Visionary Composer
Studying a variety of European composers while abroad, Copland made his way back to the U.S. by the mid-1920s. Having been asked by Boulanger to write an organ concerto, Copland eventually debuted Symphony for Organ and Orchestra on January 11, 1925, with the New York Symphony Society under Walter Damrosch.
The decade that followed saw the production of the scores that would spread Copland’s fame throughout the world. He was concerned with crafting sounds that would be seen as “American” in its scope, incorporating a range of styles in his work that included jazz and folk and connections to Latin America.
Some of his most well-known pieces include Piano Variations (1930), The Dance Symphony (1930), El Salon Mexico (1935), A Lincoln Portrait (1942) and Fanfare for the Common Man (1942). Copland later composed the music to Martha Graham’s 1944 dance Appalachian Spring. The following year Copland won the Pulitzer Prize for the piece.
An author as well, Copland published the first edition of the book What to Listen for in Music in 1939, followed by Our New Music (1941) and Music and Imagination (1952). The latter title was shaped by the composer’s Norton Lectures at Harvard, and he also taught at the New School for Social Research.
Oscar for ‘Heiress’
Copland was a renowned composer of film scores as well, working on Of Mice and Men (1939), Our Town (1940) and The North Star (1943)—receiving Academy Award nominations for all three projects. He eventually won an Oscar for The Heiress (1949). And more than a decade later, Copland composed a stark, unsettling score for the controversial Something Wild (1961). Selections from his various works would be used in TV series and commercials over the years, as well as films like Spike Lee’s He Got Game (1998).
In his later compositions, Copland made use of a European derived tonal system. By the 1970s, he had ceased crafting new works, focusing on teaching and conducting.
Copland died on December 2, 1990 in North Tarrytown, New York at 90 years old. Having received an array of accolades in his later years, the iconic composer had also worked with Vivian Perlis on a two-volume autobiography, Copland: 1900 Through 1942 (1984) and Copland Since 1943 (1989). A well-received, lengthy biography on his life was published in 1999—Aaron Copland: The Life & Work of an Uncommon Man, by Howard Pollack. And an extensive collection of Copland’s works, including his personal letters and photographs, are held by the Library of Congress.
Copland wrote a total of about 100 works which covered a diverse range of genres. Many of these compositions, especially orchestral pieces, have remained part of the standard American repertoire. According to Pollack, Copland “had perhaps the most distinctive and identifiable musical voice produced by this country so far, an individuality … that helped define for many what American concert music sounds like at its most characteristic and that exerted enormous influence on multitudes of contemporaries and successors.” His synthesis of influences and inclinations helped create the “Americanism” of his music. The composer himself pointed out, in summarizing the American character of his music, “the optimistic tone”, “his love of rather large canvases”, “a certain directness in expression of sentiment”, and “a certain songfulness”.
While “Copland’s musical rhetoric has become iconic” and “has functioned as a mirror of America,” conductor Leon Botstein suggests that the composer “helped define the modern consciousness of America’s ideals, character and sense of place. The notion that his music played not a subsidiary but a central role in the shaping of the national consciousness makes Copland uniquely interesting, for the historian as well as the musician.” Composer Ned Rorem states, “Aaron stressed simplicity: Remove, remove, remove what isn’t needed…. Aaron brought leanness to America, which set the tone for our musical language throughout [World War II]. Thanks to Aaron, American music came into its own.”
Aaron Copland’s music has served as the inspiration for a number of popular modern works of music:
Baden Powell was considered one of the world’s best contemporary acoustic guitar players and one of the most expressive composers of 20th century Brazilian popular music.
Baden Powell was born in the town of Varre-e-Sai (State of Rio de Janeiro) on August 6, 1937, first child of Adelina Gonçalves de Aquino and Lilo de Aquino and was named after the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Thompson Baden Powell, of whom Mr. de Aquino was an admirer. The family moved to Rio when the child was four months old and Baden then became a carioca from the São Cristóvão borough. The boy grew up listening to music: his father, a shoe maker by trade and a violinist by calling, held regular get-togethers at home, at which Pixinguinha and Donga, two of Brazil’s popular music icons, were always present.
At the age of eight, after much insistence from Baden, his father arranged for him study guitar with Jaime Florence (“Meira”), violinist from the group “Regional do Canhoto”. Florence introduced Baden to Brazilian popular music and the classics, especially the Spanish masters Francisco Tàrrega and Andrés Segóvia. The boy proved to be a prodigy on the instrument and the following year at age nine, performed in the program Papel Carbono, produced by Renato Murce at the Ràdio Nacional, winning first place as a guitar soloist. By thirteen Baden was practically playing as a professional musician, earning small cachets for performances in balls and parties in the suburbs.
After finishing junior-high school, Baden Powell worked as a musician for the Ràdio Nacional and toured the country performing in small towns. Around 1955 he joined the trio of pianist Ed Lincoln which performed in the Bar Plaza, in Copacabana. At that time jazz had marked its presence in Brazil not only by the possibilities of improvisation and the technique required, but also by the presence of jazz greats such as Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, etc. And the Plaza was the place to be for music lovers, including one of Powell’s admirers: Antônio Carlos Jobim.
That is when Baden started to compose and, all by himself, produced Deve Ser Amor (It Must Be Love), Encontro Com a Saudade (Date with Loneliness), Não é Bem Assim (Not Quite Like That). In 1956 came his first big success Samba Triste (Sad Samba), with lyrics by Billy Blanco. Other collaborators are: Aloysio de Oliveira (Vou por Aí – Wandering), Geraldo Vandré (Rosa Flor – Rose), Ruy Guerra (Canção à Minha Amada – A Song to My Love), etc.
In 1960, during a performance by Tom Jobim at Arpège, a nightclub in Copacabana, Baden met Vinícius de Moraes, who would become his most frequent collaborator and who was responsible for Baden’s integration into the bossa-nova movement. Cançã o de Ninar Meu Bem (Lullaby for My Love) was the duo’s first composition and was an immediate success. The new greats of modern music were practically in house arrest for three months. Samba em Prelúdio (Samba in Prelude), Só por Amor (Only for Love), Bom Dia Amigo (Good Morning, Friend), Labareda (Blaze), Astronauta (Astronaut) were from that vintage and remained in the charts for months on end.
Baden, now part of the bossa-nova movement, participated in shows and television programs. As an interpreter he highlighted his versatility, his refined technique coupled with unique musicality, conquering the highest applause for his absolute command of the instrument, virtuosity and personalized interpretations.
As a composer he contributed with his songs to the development of popular music. The composer’s inspiration is of unsurpassed richness and new, successful songs with lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes were introduced shortly; among these Além do Amor (Besides Love), Valsa Sem Nome (No-name Waltz), Deve Ser Amor (It Must Be Love), Canção do Amor Ausente (Song to an Absent Love), Consolação (Solace), Deixa (Let It Be), Amei Tanto (Too Much Loving), Tempo Feliz (Happy Times), Apêlo (Appeal), etc., etc. The Candomblé theme which had been attracting Baden for some time, generated a new flood of compositions by the duo called Afro-sambas. The first songs of the new genre were Berimbau and Samba da Bênção. The latter was part of director Claude Lelouch movie Un Homme et Une Femme, re-titled Samba Saravah.
In his declarations about Baden Powell, Vinicius de Moraes said: “Before Berimbau and Samba da Bênção, Baden had already chosen me to write Canto do Caboclo Pedra Preta (Black Rock’s Chant). That song was composed ‘right there and then’ – that is, music and lyrics for the second part searching for a meaning for the original caboclo’s chant. From that same period is Canto de Yemanjá in which, it is my opinion, Baden reached a beauty rarely attained.” Vinicius went on: “Baden’s musical antennae to Bahia and, in a final stretch, to Africa, allowed him to put together this new syncretism, adding a ‘carioca’ taste, within the spirit of modern samba, to the Afro-Brazilian candomblé, giving it a more universal dimension.”
Other Afro compositions include Canto de Ossanha (Ossanha’s Chant), Canto Xangô (Xango’s Chant), Lamento de Exu (Exu’s Lament), Bocoché (Secret) and Tristeza e Solidão (Sadness and Solitude).
In the Sixties, Baden went to the United States to meet and play with Stan Getz. In 1966, Baden went to Europe and became well known with the song Samba de Bençao which was part of the original soundtrack of French filmmaker Claude Lelouch’s Un Homme et Une Femme. One year later, he received his first Golden Record in Paris. In the Seventies Baden discovered Japan.
Baden Powell died on 2000. As an acoustic guitar virtuoso, he never forgot his Brazilian musical roots. Baden bridged the gap between classical and modern music.
Antonio Vivaldi (b. March 4, 1678, Venice, Republic of Venice [Italy]—d. July 28, 1741, Vienna, Austria)
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was an Italian composer and violinist who left a decisive mark on the form of the concerto and on the style of late Baroque instrumental music.
Vivaldi’s main teacher was probably his father, Giovanni Battista, who in 1685 was admitted as a violinist to the orchestra of the San Marco Basilica in Venice. Antonio, the eldest child, trained for the priesthood and was ordained in 1703.
He made his first known public appearance playing violin alongside his father in the basilica in 1696. He became an excellent violinist, and in 1703 he was appointed violin master at the Ospedale della Pietà, a home for abandoned or orphaned children. The Pietà specialized in the musical training of its female wards, and those with musical aptitude were assigned to its excellent choir and orchestra.
Vivaldi had dealings with the Pietà for most of his career: as violin master (1703–09; 1711–15), director of instrumental music (1716–17; 1735–38), and paid external supplier of compositions (1723–29; 1739–40).
Vivaldi’s earliest musical compositions date from his first years at the Pietà. Printed collections of his trio sonatas and violin sonatas respectively appeared in 1705 and 1709, and in 1711 his first and most influential set of concerti for violin and string orchestra (Opus 3, L’estro armonico) was published by the Amsterdam music-publishing firm of Estienne Roger. In the years up to 1719, Roger published three more collections of his concerti (opuses 4, 6, and 7) and one collection of sonatas (Opus 5).
Vivaldi made his debut as a composer of sacred vocal music in 1713, when the Pietà’s choirmaster left his post and the institution had to turn to Vivaldi and other composers for new compositions. He achieved great success with his sacred vocal music, for which he later received commissions from other institutions. Another new field of endeavour for him opened in 1713 when his first opera, Ottone in villa, was produced in Vicenza. Returning to Venice, Vivaldi immediately plunged into operatic activity in the twin roles of composer and impresario.
From 1718 to 1720 he worked in Mantua as director of secular music for that city’s governor, Prince Philip of Hesse-Darmstadt.
This was the only full-time post Vivaldi ever held; he seems to have preferred life as a freelance composer for the flexibility and entrepreneurial opportunities it offered.
Vivaldi’s major compositions in Mantua were operas, though he also composed cantatas and instrumental works.
The 1720s were the zenith of Vivaldi’s career. Based once more in Venice, but frequently traveling elsewhere, he supplied instrumental music to patrons and customers throughout Europe. Between 1725 and 1729 he published five new collections of concerti (opuses 8–12).
After 1729 Vivaldi stopped publishing his works, finding it more profitable to sell them in manuscript to individual purchasers.
In the 1730s Vivaldi’s career gradually declined. The French traveler Charles de Brosses reported in 1739 with regret that his music was no longer fashionable. Vivaldi’s impresarial forays became increasingly marked by failure. In 1740 he traveled to Vienna, but he fell ill and did not live to attend the production there of his opera L’oracolo in Messenia in 1742. The simplicity of his funeral on July 28, 1741, suggests that he died in considerable poverty.
Almost 500 concerti by Vivaldi survive. More than 300 are concerti for a solo instrument with string orchestra and continuo. Of these, approximately 230 are written for solo violin, 40 for bassoon, 25 for cello, 15 for oboe, and 10 for flute. There are also concerti for viola d’amore, recorder, mandolin, and other instruments. Vivaldi’s remaining concerti are either double concerti (including about 25 written for two violins), concerti grossi using three or more soloists, concerti ripieni (string concerti without a soloist), or chamber concerti for a group of instruments without orchestra.
Vivaldi perfected the form of what would become the Classical three-movement concerto. Indeed, he helped establish the fast-slow-fast plan of the concerto’s three movements. Perhaps more importantly, Vivaldi was the first to employ regularly in his concerti the ritornello form, in which recurrent restatements of a refrain alternate with more episodic passages featuring a solo instrument. Vivaldi’s bold juxtapositions of the refrains (ritornelli) and the solo passages opened new possibilities for virtuosic display by solo instrumentalists.
The fast movements in his concerti are notable for their rhythmic drive and the boldness of their themes, while the slow movements often present the character of arias written for the solo instrument.
Several of Vivaldi’s concerti have picturesque or allusive titles. Four of them, the cycle of violin concerti entitled The Four Seasons (Opus 8, no. 1–4), are programmatic in a thoroughgoing fashion, with each concerto depicting a different season of the year, starting with spring. Vivaldi’s effective representation of the sounds of nature inaugurated a tradition to which works such as Ludwig van Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony belong. Vivaldi also left more than 90 sonatas, mainly for stringed instruments.
More than 50 authentic sacred vocal compositions by Vivaldi are extant. They range from short hymns for solo voices to oratorios and elaborate psalm settings in several movements for double choir and orchestra. He composed some 50 operas (16 of which survived in their entirety) as well as nearly 40 cantatas. Many of Vivaldi’s vocal works exhibit a spiritual depth and a command of counterpoint equal to the best of their time. Moreover, the mutual independence of voices and instruments often anticipates the later symphonic masses of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
APPROACHING PIAZZOLLA’S MUSIC: an analysis of his music and composition styles (2)
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Milonga del ángel
As for Soledad, Milonga del ángel has the milonga rhythm as a basis more or less throughout the entire piece. Except for the middle section, the primary melody is repeatedly presented.
Consequently, the element that is processed is not the melody; instead, it is of more interest to study the contexts of which the melody is placed.
The articulations between the sections are characterised by a continuous flow, and there is no dominant chord that prepare for their arrival; however, the sections are still smoothly merged.
The first primary section (P) establishes the harmonic environment and presents the primary melody twice. Furthermore, the secondary section (S) starts with modulating sequences and then continues with a part that is reminiscent of P. The last section is more or less a recurrence of the first section, although with a more refined environment. As with Soledad, it is possible to read the large scale structure as an ABA structure. In fact, these two milongas are rather similar in large and middle scales respectively.
In the introduction (O), the motivic chord gesture that opens every subsection, except for T and 2T, is presented. Letting this gesture end the O subsection smoothly merges the O and P subsections; thus, the subsections overlap each other.
The changes of key areas between subsections enter without fifth motions in the bass line. Instead, the changes are characterized by ascending chromatic motion. Either it is only the melody that is moving, or it is both the melody and the bass line. The bass line’s gesture is probably derived from the arrastre gesture and therefore I define this kind of key change for as ‘change of key area by arrastre’.
With a single bar gesture as basis, the primary melody is present almost the entire piece through. While preparing for the melody’s arrival by establishing an atmosphere, the introduction also presents a motivic gesture that is frequently recurrent throughout the piece.
In P and P2, the same process continues, though in different keys, and in P1 and P3 it is slightly accustomed. Remains of the primary melody is also to be found in the S(P) subsection. Just like in Soledad, there is a large amount of ‘jazzy’ II-V-I chord progressions in minor mode; altered fifths and ninths are used frequently. Except for T and 2T, the bass line is pending, moving in fifths or moving in descending motion. In the following illustration, notice how the usage of reinterpretation of the chord in bar four (C#7b9/B to E13b9no1/B) enables an immediate transfer to Am.
Just as in Libertango, the melody is moving in triads when the bass line is pending; it seems like the melody is active when the bass line is passive, and the melody is passive when the bass line is active. As the illustration shows, the melody is a descending motion from the second to the fifth note in the scale. Linked together with an arppegio, the structural motive (D B A G F#) is presented at the beginning and at the end.
Unlike the other subsections, T is a more rhythmical passage where two tresillo rhythms and the mordent rhythm confront each other in sequences. P1 and S(P) may be smoothly merged without T though, especially since they end with the same note. Perhaps it is not satisfying defining this passage as a transition; hence, it might rather be defined as an excursion or as sequenced tonicizations (to make it more graphically, I have excluded the chords in the illustration).
The similiarities between Soledad and Milonga del ángel are quite recognisable: e.g. the ‘jazzy’ chords; frequent mordents; accompaniment gestures; lyrical melody; and naturally the milonga rhythm that saturates them. A major disparity though, is the way the change of key areas are realised; in Soledad by descending chromatic motion with pedal, and in Milonga del ángel by ascending chromatic motion. In the latter case though, the gesture is implemented just before the new key arrives; in the former case, there is a preparation that lasts for several bars and it is not that clear where the new key enters.
Just as Soledad, Milonga del ángel has an ABA-structure and with the milonga rhythm as basis it is characterised by long note values, ‘jazzy’ chord progressions and change of key area by arrastre. Throughout the piece, the primary melody is located in different environments regarding harmony, tempo and instrumentation.
Fuga y misterio
In the same manner as for Fugata, I prefer to analyse Fuga y misterio as three sections: fugue exposition; middle section with melody and accompaniment; and a closing coda-section, which differs from the first two sections.
Covering half the piece, the first section (P) is a fugue exposition in four parts, which through a large-scale fifth motion changes key from E-minor to G-minor.
The secondary section (S) presents a contrasting theme that is accompanied by a chord progression that is derived from the fugue theme. Leading back to the primary theme, this section reveals the chord progression that has been hinted in the exposition. The last section (K) is a slow cantabile passage where a new melody theme is presented. While the fugue exposition (P) has a polyphonic texture, the other sections have a texture of ‘melody and accompaniment’. Though every section is in minor, the two first sections are a little ‘edgier’ due to the augmented fourth (or the jazz blue note) that is exposed already from the beginning. The large-scale structure can be read as an ABC-structure.
In the fugue exposition, which is characterized by a rhythmical contrapuntal texture, there are strong accented rhythms. Short note values are predominating. Just as in Fugata, the most frequent surface rhythm of the fugue theme is tresillo 1. The key change between these subsections is realized by transforming the tonic chord into a dominant (e.g Em E7 Am).
Thus, unlike the exposition in Fugata, there is no preparation of the new dominant. In the following illustration, notice how the last bar of the fugue theme is a diminished variation of the two first bars.
Reaching G-minor, the exposition is accomplished and the key of the secondary subsections (Em) is introduced without preparation; the only gesture that indicates E-minor is an ascending diatonic bass line (B C# D#). With the marcato base as a basis, the secondary subsection presents a contrasting melody that is characterized by mordents and harmonic intervals such as the diminished 10th and the added 11th, which serves as top notes in chords.
The last secondary subsection is a recurrence of the fugue theme, presented in a homophonic environment though. As pointed out earlier, the last subsection (K) is a cantabile passage that differs quite a lot from the other passages. It is slower, have longer note values, and it is the first time in the piece that there is a descending bass line in crotchets present.
The fugue exposition is rather similar to the one in Fugata, especially regarding the treatment of gestures, counterpoint and change of key areas; it is rather clear to see Piazzolla’s influences from the inventions of Bach. Notice also how the usage of instrumental rubato automatically implies that tresillo rhythms are accented.
The melody has typically stepwise motion or motion as skips, which reaches chord notes.
Similar to Fugata, this applies to all fugue parts. The most common intervals in parallel motion are thirds and sixths. In contrast to Fugata’s chord progression, which is based on a descending bass line, the chord progression in Fuga y misterio is instead based on II-V-I progressions. With a cycle of fifth as a basis, the II-V-I sequences implies tonicization; Bm-E7-Am Am-D7-G instead of E7-Am-D7-G.72 The first subsection of S is a more homophonic passage where the secondary melody is harmonized with block technique.
As pointed out earlier, the chord progressions are rather similar to the progressions in the exposition’s first eight bars, though with altered chords similar to the ‘jazzy’ one’s used in Soledad and Milonga del ángel. In the first four bars, which are rather static due to its harmony based on primary chords, the low notes in the bass line is reached through octave leaps. This implies an accentuation that enhances the static state. As in e.g. Fuga, there are also several percussive gestures produced by dissonant chords.
Due to its different style regarding tempo, harmony and melody, the last subsection has a completely different character. The most significant characteristics are the descending bass line and the 9-8 appoggiaturas that are exposed in the melody. Implemented as sequences, the chord progression is rather similar to the one that is to be found in the primary subsection of Soledad.
The very last bars are a descending chromatic gesture presented by diminished seventh chords, though with the tonic pedal as bass note. Ending with a B7b9 (without root note though), these last four bars functions as codetta. The gesture may be regarded as a T-DD-s progression, which is similar to the motivic chord gesture in Libertango.
Fuga y misterio has a structure similar to the one found in Fugata: A fugue exposition as a start; melody and accompaniment in the middle; and a closing section that is rather different than the other two. There is no key change between sections (but the key changes within sections though), and the harmony is characterized by chord progressions with primary chords and fifth motions by tonicization sequences.
This chapter will give emphasize techniques and musical events that are, in a general perspective, mutual to the compositions that have been analysed. As suggested of LaRue, I have chosen to categorise the characteristics of Piazzolla’s music that I have found into four categories: harmony; melody; rhythm; and structure (I prefer using structure as a category instead of growth). The sketches and the tables are not exact rules of how Piazzolla’s music functions; they are rather to regard as suggestions how to relate to his composition style.
The change of key areas may be categorised into two main categories: maintaining the key or entering a new key. As pointed out in chapter 1.5, LaRue defines this as ornamental modulation and structural modulation respectively. The techniques, which are to be found in both categories above, I define as ‘tonicization’ and ‘descending chromatics with pedal’. Thus, they are used for both purposes. The following illustration shows my suggestion on how to regard the tonicization technique.
The latter one is concerning the relation between a descending chromatic motion and its pedal accompaniment in the end of subsection. Unlike the tonicization technique, this procedure does not include any intermediate tonic states; there is either no change of key area at all, or the passage has the aim to modulate. It seems like when a new key is going to be established the pedal is fading out before the new dominant chord (this is not the case in the K-section of Fugata though). When the key is maintained the pedal keeps on going, and it seems like it frequently has a role of a dominant. In its simplicity, it may be illustrated as follows:
Additionally, Piazzolla also changes key without preparation by implementing the arrastre gesture74 (as described in Milonga del ángel). As pointed out in Soledad, two techniques are sometimes combined. There are three characteristics regarding melody that I want to point out. The first one I define as ‘ostinato gestures’, which are rhythmical patterns based on tresillo rhythm 4 and 7.
Frequently subordinated the main melody though, they contribute to the melodic tension by exposing characteristic intervals (e.g chord notes like b9, #5 and 13).
The second one, which describes the relation between the top voice and the bass line, I have chosen to define as ‘uniform ambitus’. It seems like when the bass line is pending, the top voice has a more active role; it moves in arpeggios and repeatedly presents an immanent chord progression. Consequently, when the bass line is more active the melody’s ambitus decreases.
The third characteristic regarding melody is the melodic motion. Applicable in small dimensions, when descending, the melody tends to have a stepwise, often chromatic, motion.
Furthermore, when ascending it tends to move in leaps or in arpeggios; consequently, there are also neighbor notes implicated.
Two common large-scale structures that the analysed pieces share are the ABA-structure and the ABC-structure; ABA in the milongas, and ABC in the fugues.
As pointed out earlier, Piazzolla freely uses the tresillo rhythm and its shifts. In addition to the original rhythm, which is the most common, it seems like the second, the fourth and the seventh shift are the most common rhythms that are based on the tresillo. Particularly clear in Fugata, the tresillo rhythm is also to be found in large-scale patterns. In this piece, the tresillo rhythm is carefully distributed which makes the ABC-structure mathematically equal to 3:3:2.