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Claude Debussy: The 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
The works of French composer Claude Debussy (Achille-Claude Debussy) (b. Aug. 22, 1862, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France—d. March 25, 1918, Paris) have been a seminal force in the music of the 20th century. Debussy developed a highly original system of harmony and musical structure that expressed in many respects the ideals to which the impressionist and symbolist painters and writers of his time aspired.
Debussy showed a gift as a pianist by the age of nine. He was encouraged by Madame Mauté de Fleurville, who was associated with the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, and in 1873 he entered the Paris Conservatory, where he studied the piano and composition, eventually winning in 1884 the Grand Prix de Rome with his cantata L’Enfant prodigue (The Prodigal Child ).
While living with his parents in a poverty-stricken suburb of Paris, he unexpectedly came under the patronage of a Russian millionairess, Nadezhda Filaretovna von Meck, who engaged him to play duets with her and her children. He traveled with her to her palatial residences throughout Europe during the long summer vacations at the Conservatory. In Paris during this time he fell in love with a singer, Blanche Vasnier, the beautiful young wife of an architect; she inspired many of his early works.
This early style is well illustrated in one of Debussy’s best-known compositions, Clair de Lune. The title refers to a folk song that was the conventional accompaniment of scenes of the love-sick Pierrot in the French pantomime; and indeed the many Pierrot-like associations in Debussy’s later music, notably in the orchestral work Images (1912) and the Sonata for Cello and Piano (1915; originally titled Pierrot fâché avec la lune [“Pierrot Vexed by the Moon”]), show his connections with the circus spirit that also appeared in works by other composers.
As a holder of the Grand Prix de Rome, Debussy was given a three-year stay at the Villa Medici, in Rome, where, under what were supposed to be ideal conditions, he was to pursue his creative work. Debussy eventually fled from the Villa Medici after two years and returned to Blanche Vasnier in Paris. At this time Debussy lived a life of extreme indulgence. Once one of his mistresses, Gabrielle (“Gaby”) Dupont, threatened suicide. His first wife, Rosalie (“Lily”) Texier, a dressmaker, whom he married in 1899, did in fact shoot herself, though not fatally, and, Debussy himself was haunted by thoughts of suicide.
The main musical influences on Debussy were the works of Richard Wagner and the Russian composers Aleksandr Borodin and Modest Mussorgsky. Wagner fulfi lled the sensuous ambitions not only of composers but also of the symbolist poets and the impressionist painters. Wagner’s conception of Gesamtkunstwerk (“total art work”) encouraged artists to refi ne upon their emotional responses and to exteriorize their hidden dream states, often in a shadowy, incomplete form; hence the more tenuous nature of the work of Wagner’s French disciples.
It was in this spirit that Debussy wrote the symphonic poem Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1894). Other early works by Debussy show his affinity with the English Pre-Raphaelite painters; the most notable of these works is La Damoiselle élue (1888), based on The Blessed Damozel (1850), a poem by the English poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
In the course of his career, however, which covered only 25 years, Debussy was constantly breaking new ground. His single completed opera Pelléas et Mélisande (first performed in 1902) demonstrates how the Wagnerian technique could be adapted to portray subjects like the dreamy nightmarish figures of this opera who were doomed to self-destruction.
Debussy and his librettist, Maurice Maeterlinck, declared that they were haunted in this work by the terrifying nightmare tale of Edgar Allan Poe, The Fall of the House of Usher. The style of Pelléas was to be replaced by a bolder, more highly coloured manner. In his seascape La Mer (1905) he was inspired by the ideas of the English painter J. M.W. Turner and the French painter Claude Monet. In his work, as in his personal life, he was eager to gather experience from every region that the imaginative mind could explore.
In 1905 Debussy’s illegitimate daughter, Claude-Emma, was born. He had divorced Lily Texier in 1904 and subsequently married his daughter’s mother, Emma Bardac. For his daughter he wrote the piano suite Children’s Corner (1908).
Debussy’s spontaneity and the sensitive nature of his perception facilitated his acute insight into the child mind, an insight noticeable particularly in Children’s Corner; in the Douze Préludes, two books (1910, 1913; “Twelve Preludes”), for piano; and in the ballet La Boîte à joujoux (1st perf. 1919; The Box of Toys). In his later years, it is the pursuit of illusion that marks Debussy’s instrumental writing, especially the strange, otherworldly Cello Sonata. This noble bass instrument takes on, in chameleon fashion, the character of a violin, a flute, and even a mandolin.
Evolution of His Work
Debussy’s music marks the first of a series of attacks on the traditional language of the 19th century. He did not believe in the stereotyped harmonic procedures of the 19th century, and indeed it becomes clear from a study of mid-20th-century music that the earlier harmonic methods were being followed in an arbitrary, academic manner.
Debussy’s inquiring mind similarly challenged the traditional orchestral usage of instruments. He rejected the traditional dictum that string instruments should be predominantly lyrical. The pizzicato scherzo from his String Quartet (1893) and the symbolic writing for the violins in La Mer, conveying the rising storm waves, show a new conception of string colour. Similarly, he saw that woodwinds need not be employed for fireworks displays; they provide, like the human voice, wide varieties of colour.
Debussy also used the brass in original colour transformations. In fact, in his music, the conventional orchestral construction, with its rigid woodwind, brass, and string departments, finds itself undermined or split up in the manner of the Impressionist painters. Ultimately, each instrument becomes almost a soloist, as in a vast chamber-music ensemble. Finally, Debussy applied an exploratory approach to the piano, the evocative instrument par excellence.
In his last works, the piano pieces En blanc et noir (1915; In Black and White) and in the Douze Études (1915; “Twelve Études”), Debussy had branched out into modes of composition later to be developed in the styles of Stravinsky and the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. It is certain that he would have taken part in the leading movements in composition of the years following World War I. His life, however, was tragically cut short by cancer.
(0:00) Rêverie (4:54) Pour le piano: Sarabande (11:29) Suite bergamasque: Clair de lune (17:21) Estampes: Jardins sous la pluie (20:49) Deux Arabesques: Andantino con moto (24:45) Images Book 1 – Reflets dans l’eau (29:45) Childrens Corner: Golliwogg’s Cakewalk (32:43) Preludes: Cathedrale engloutie (39:13) Danses sacree et danse profane (49:20) Printemps: Modere (55:29) Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (1:05:20) Sonata for Cello & Piano: I Prologue (1:10:32) Violin Sonata: Intermède- fantasque et léger. II (1:14:39) Nocturnes: Fetes (1:21:17) Images for orchestra – 2a. Iberia- Par Les Rues (1:28:27) La Mer – 1. De l’aube à midi sur la mer. Très lent (1:37:02) La Mer – 2. Jeux de vagues. Allegro (1:43:15) String Quartet No. 1, Op 10. Assez vif et bien rythmé
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The Most Famous Classical Piano Pieces
The classical piano repertoire is extraordinarily broad and varied, with new pieces being added to it all the time to satisfy the appetites and tastes of pianists and audiences. Amidst this vast repertoire, there are pieces which are almost instantly recognisable to anyone: even if they may not know the title or composer of the piece, they will know it. These are the piano pieces which have earned the status of “most famous” through their frequency and popularity in performance and on recordings, and, more recently, their use in film, TV and advertising soundtracks. In addition, certain performing artists have become closely associated with certain piano pieces or composers and this undoubtedly contributes to the music’s fame: for example, Glenn Gould, András Schiff and Angela Hewitt with the music of J.S. Bach, Murray Perahia and Maria João Pires with the piano music of Mozart, Arthur Rubinstein with Chopin, Yuja Wang with Prokofiev…
But there’s more, because these famous classical piano pieces are instantly appealing, in all their myriad details, from haunting, lyrical melodies to extrovert rhythms and piquant harmonies or the expression of passionate emotions.
J.S. Bach: Prelude in C Major
This serenely beautiful Prelude is the first of J.S. Bach’s famous Preludes & Fugues, from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Its beauty lies in its simplicity – built from a series of broken chords, Bach uses harmonic progressions and modulations, from major to minor and back again, to create a dramatic processional quality in the music. The piece is popular at weddings and has been transcribed and adapted, perhaps most famously by Gounod in his Ave Maria.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor, Op 27, No. 2 ‘Moonlight’, 1st movement
The opening movement of Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight’ Sonata is, like Bach’s C Major Prelude, instantly recognisable, with its repeating pattern of hushed broken chords and simple but haunting melody. It is so famous that people often forget it is followed by two other movements! The piece was popular even in Beethoven’s day and remains amongst his most famous works. It is unusual for a classical piano sonata to begin with a slow movement and although the nickname ‘Moonlight’ was given to the work after Beethoven’s death, it is perfectly suited to the expressive nature of this twilight first movement whose harmonies shimmer and shift. It’s an amazing gesture, created by a composer poised on the threshold of change in the early years of the nineteenth century.
Wolfgang Amadues Mozart: Rondo alla Turca
Opening of Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca
This is actually the final movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11, K.331, but it is often performed as a stand-alone piece. Mozart gave it the title Alla Turca (Turkish style), and it imitates the sound of Turkish Janissary (military) bands whose music was very popular at the time of the sonata’s composition.
Like Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca, Chopin’s Waltz in D-flat Major, Op 64, No. 1, nicknamed the ‘Minute’ waltz, is a test of the pianist’s fleet fingers – although the piece is not intended to be played in the space of just 60 seconds! It is also known as the Valse du petit chien (French for “Waltz of the puppy”) and is said to have been inspired by the gleeful antics of George Sand’s little dog ‘Marquis’, whom Chopin mentions in some of his letters. It’s easy to imagine an excitable dog chasing its tail in the twirling, seemingly never-ending quavers in the outer sections of the waltz, and the joyous mood of the music. It is one of Chopin’s most famous piano pieces and is also a popular encore.
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor
Composed at the very start of the twentieth century, this piece confirmed Rachmaninoff as a great composer and also one of the greatest pianists of all time. It’s phenomenally difficult to play, with hand-splitting chords and vertiginous virtuosity, but it’s also very beautiful, profoundly emotional and hauntingly romantic. Hugely popular with pianists, it regularly appears in concert programmes and piano competitions, and was made even more popular by its use in the soundtrack of the film Brief Encounter (1945), where it is cleverly employed to express the true emotions of the leading characters.
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18 – I. Moderato – Allegro (Evgeny Kissin, piano; London Symphony Orchestra; Valery Gergiev, cond.)
Claude Debussy: Clair de Lune from Suite Bergamasque
Another “moonlight” piece, Debussy’s Clair de Lune is perhaps his best-loved and most well known piece. It’s the third movement of his Suite Bergamesque, but, like Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca, it’s acquired a life of its own outside of the suite, and is regularly performed as a solo work. It has a remarkable serenity, only briefly interrupted by a more florid middle section. Debussy drew inspiration from a poem by Paul Verlaine, and the piece is an example of impressionism in music – here, capturing the essence of the haunting beauty of moonlight in sound.
Claude Debussy: Suite bergamasque – III. Clair de lune (Nikolai Lugansky, piano)
Scott Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag
Although the ragtime music of Scott Joplin is generally regarded as the pre-cursor to Jazz, his music falls into the category of “classical music”, and his Maple Leaf Rag is one of his most famous piano pieces. This jaunty, athletic rag with its infectious melody is a challenge for the pianist, with its big chords, leaps and syncopated rhythms, but for the listener it’s an almost perfect example of the rag genre. Find a recording with a more leisurely tempo (which is how Joplin intended his music to be played) and enjoy all the details he puts into his score.
Scott Joplin: Maple Leaf Rag (Roger Shields, piano)
George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Instantly recognisable from the opening clarinet glissando, as famous as the opening measures of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is one of the most famous piano pieces of the twentieth century, and also one of the greatest in its evocation of the exuberance of the jazz age. Composed in 1924, it established Gershwin’s reputation as a significant composer, and has since gone on to become one of the most popular all American concert works. It synthesizes jazz effects (syncopated rhythms and jazz chords) with classical elements (for example, the cadenza in the piano) to create a work of enormous vibrancy and musical colour, beloved of performers and audiences everywhere.George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano; Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Marin Alsop, cond.)
Robert Schumann: Traumerei
A miniature gem from Schumann’s collection Scenes from Childhood, a collection of 13 short pieces intended as the composer’s adult reminiscences of childhood, Traumerei (‘Dreaming’) is a peaceful picture in music of a child’s daydreams. Tender, nostalgic and lyrical, with a graceful ascending melody, it’s almost perfect in its construction and is as emotionally powerful as any large-scale work.
The last of Beethoven’s concertos for piano, this work could easily claim the title of greatest piano piece ever written. Composed between 1809 and 1811, the concerto is dedicated to Archduke Rudolf, Beethoven’s patron and pupil, who gave the work its first performance in a private recital in Vienna in January 1811. The nickname ‘Emperor’ was not Beethoven’s, but was given to the work by Johann Cramer, the English publisher.
It’s certainly the most famous of Beethoven’s five piano concertos and one of the most famous piano concertosof all time. Its colossal, propulsive first movement opens with a virtuosic statement by the piano. This is followed by a contrasting slow movement with a nocturne-like serenity which flows directly into the finale, a triumphant rondo in which the piano has the spotlight. It’s been performed and recorded by countless pianists and is a staple of the concert repertoire, perennially popular with performers, orchestras and audiences alike.
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 73, “Emperor” (Alfred Brendel, piano; Vienna Pro Musica Orchestra; Zubin Mehta, cond.)
Franz Liszt: Liebesträum No. 3 in A flat
Franz Liszt is often unfairly dismissed as a showman, whose often complex piano music was written to allow him to display his exceptional pianistic bravado. While it’s true that some of his piano pieces are highly virtuosic, he also wrote a great deal of music which is intimate, romantic and deeply poetic.
He composed three Liebesträum (Love’s Dream) for solo piano, but the third, in warm A-flat major, remains his most famous. Based on the poem by German writer Ferdinand Freliligrath O Lieb, so lang du lieben kannst (Love as long as love you can), the music illustrates themes of love and the loss of love. It’s a challenge for the pianist as the right hand is effectively split into two hands – one playing the melody, the other a flowing, arpeggiated accompaniment. Heart-wrenching and troubled, Liszt melds complex harmonies and melody with dramatic dynamics to create a powerful and achingly beautiful musical narrative. Elvis Presley was a fan of this piece and used it as inspiration for his song ‘Today, Tomorrow and Forever’ in the film Viva Las Vegas.
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Giacomo Puccini: The 100 most inspiring musicians of all time
Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (in full, Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini, (b. Dec. 22, 1858, Lucca, Tuscany [Italy]—d. Nov. 29, 1924, Brussels, Belg.) was one of the greatest exponents of operatic realism, who virtually brought the history of Italian opera to an end.
His mature operas include La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), and Turandot, left incomplete.
Early Life and Marriage
Puccini was the last descendant of a family that for two centuries had provided the musical directors of the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca. Puccini initially dedicated himself to music, therefore, not as a personal vocation but as a family profession. When Giacomo was five, his father died, and the municipality of Lucca supported the family with a small pension, keeping the position of cathedral organist open for the young Puccini until he came of age. He first studied music with two of his father’s former pupils, and he played the organ in small local churches.
A performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, which he saw in Pisa in 1876, convinced him that his true vocation was opera. In the autumn of 1880 he went to study at the Milan Conservatory, where his principal teachers were Antonio Bazzini, a famous violinist and composer of chamber music, and Amilcare Ponchielli, the composer of the opera La gioconda. On July 16, 1883, he received his diploma and presented as his graduation composition Capriccio sinfonico, an instrumental work that attracted the attention of influential musical circles in Milan.
In the same year, he entered Le villi in a competition for oneact operas. The judges did not think Le villi worthy of consideration, but a group of friends, led by the composerlibrettist Arrigo Boito, subsidized its production, and its premiere took place with immense success at Milan’s Verme Theatre on May 31, 1884. Le villi was remarkable for its dramatic power, its operatic melody, and, revealing the influence of Richard Wagner’s works, the important role played by the orchestra.
The music publisher Giulio Ricordi immediately acquired the copyright, with the stipulation that the opera be expanded to two acts. He also commissioned Puccini to write a new opera for La Scala and gave him a monthly stipend: thus began Puccini’s lifelong association with Giulio Ricordi, who was to become a staunch friend and counselor.
After the death of his mother, Puccini fled from Lucca with a married woman, Elvira Gemignani. Finding in their passion the courage to defy the truly enormous scandal generated by their illegal union, they lived at first in Monza, near Milan, where a son, Antonio, was born.
In 1890 they moved to Milan, and in 1891 to Torre del Lago, a fishing village on Lake Massaciuccoli in Tuscany. This home was to become Puccini’s refuge from life, and he remained there until three years before his death, when he moved to Viareggio. The two were finally able to marry in 1904, after the death of Elvira’s husband. Puccini’s second opera, Edgar, based on a verse drama by the French writer Alfred de Musset, had been performed at La Scala in 1889, and it was a failure.
Nevertheless, Ricordi continued to have faith in his protégé and sent him to Bayreuth in Germany to hear Wagner’s Die Meistersinger.
Mature Work and Fame
Puccini returned from Bayreuth with the plan for Manon Lescaut, based, like the Manon of the French composer Jules Massenet, on the celebrated 18th-century novel by the Abbé Prévost. Beginning with this opera, Puccini carefully selected the subjects for his operas and spent considerable time on the preparation of the librettos. The psychology of the heroine in Manon Lescaut, as in succeeding works, dominates the dramatic nature of Puccini’s operas. Meanwhile, the score of Manon Lescaut, dramatically alive, prefigures the operatic refinements achieved in his mature operas: La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and La fanciulla
del west (1910; The Girl of the Golden West). These four mature works also tell a moving love story, one that centres entirely on the feminine protagonist and ends in a tragic resolution.
All four speak the same refined and limpid musical language of the orchestra that creates the subtle play of thematic reminiscences. The music always emerges from the words, indissolubly bound to their meaning and to the images they evoke. In Bohème, Tosca, and Butterfly, he collaborated enthusiastically with the writers Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. The first performance (Feb. 17, 1904) of Madama Butterfly was a fiasco, probably because the audience found the work too much like Puccini’s preceding operas.
In 1908, having spent the summer in Cairo, the Puccinis returned to Torre del Lago, and Giacomo devoted himself to Fanciulla. Elvira unexpectedly became jealous of Doria Manfredi, a young servant from the village who had been employed for several years by the Puccinis. She drove Doria from the house threatening to kill her. Subsequently, the servant girl poisoned herself, and the Manfredis brought charges against Elvira Puccini for persecution and calumny, creating one of the most famous scandals of the time. Elvira was found guilty but was not sentenced, and Puccini paid damages to the Manfredis, who withdrew their accusations.
The premiere of La fanciulla del west took place at the Metropolitan in New York City on Dec. 10, 1910, with Arturo Toscanini conducting. It was a great triumph, and with it Puccini reached the end of his mature period. Puccini felt the new century advancing with problems no longer his own. He did not understand contemporary events, such as World War I. In 1917 at Monte-Carlo in Monaco, Puccini’s opera La rondine was first performed and was quickly forgotten.
Always interested in contemporary operatic compositions, Puccini studied the works of Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, and Igor Stravinsky.
From this study emerged Il trittico (The Triptych; New York City, 1918), three stylistically individual one-act operas— the melodramatic Il tabarro (The Cloak), the sentimental Suor Angelica, and the comic Gianni Schicchi. His last opera, based on the fable of Turandot as told in the play Turandot by the 18th-century Italian dramatist Carlo Gozzi, is the only Italian opera in the Impressionistic style. Puccini did not complete Turandot, unable to write a final grand duet on the triumphant love between Turandot and Calaf. Suffering from cancer of the throat, he was ordered to Brussels for surgery, and a few days afterward he died with the incomplete score of Turandot in his hands.
Turandot was performed posthumously at La Scala on April 25, 1926, and Arturo Toscanini, who conducted the performance, concluded the opera at the point Puccini had reached before dying. Two final scenes were completed by Franco Alfano from Puccini’s sketches.
Solemn funeral services were held for Puccini at La Scala in Milan, and his body was taken to Torre del Lago, which became the Puccini Pantheon. Shortly afterward, Elvira and Antonio were also buried there. The Puccini house became a museum and an archive.
LA BOHÈME ATO I 1. Introdução 2. Dueto: “Non sono in vena” 3. Ária: “Che gelida manina!” 4. Ária: “Si. Mi chiamano Mimí” 5. Dueto de amor: “O soave fanciulla” ATO III 6. Dueto: “Mimí” 7. Trio: “Marcello, finalmente!” 8. Ária: “D’onde lieta uscí” ATO IV 9. Dueto “Sono andati?” 10. Final: “Mimí”
MADAME BUTTERFLY ATO I 11. Introdução 12. Dueto: “Dovunque al mondo” 13. Dueto: “Amore o grillo”Arrivèe de Madame Butterfly 14. “Quanto cielo, quanto mar!” 15. Dueto de amor: “Bimba dagli occhi pieni di malia” ATO II 16. Ária: “Un bel di vedremo”Scene de la carte 17. “Amico, cercherete quel bel fior di fanciulla” 18. Ária e Final: “Con onor muore”
“What a Wonderful World” is a song written by Bob Thiele (as “George Douglas”) and George David Weiss. It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released in 1967 as a single, which topped the pop charts in the United Kingdom, though it performed poorly in the United States because Larry Newton, the president of ABC Records, disliked the song and refused to promote it.
One source claims the song was first offered to Tony Bennett, who turned it down, although Louis Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi disputes this claim. George Weiss recounts in the book Off the Record: Songwriters on Songwriting by Graham Nash that he wrote the song specifically for Louis Armstrong. Weiss was inspired by Armstrong’s ability to bring people of different races together.
Because he was gigging at the Tropicana Hotel, Armstrong recorded the song in Las Vegas at Bill Porter’s United Recording studio. The session was scheduled to follow Armstrong’s midnight show, and by 2 am the musicians were settled and tape was rolling. Arranger Artie Butler was there with songwriters Weiss and Thiele, and Armstrong was in the studio singing with the orchestra. Armstrong had recently signed to ABC Records, and ABC president Larry Newton showed up to photograph Armstrong. Newton wanted a swingy pop song like “Hello, Dolly!“, a big hit for Armstrong when he was with Kapp Records, so when Newton heard the slow pace of “What a Wonderful World”, he tried to stop the session. Newton was locked out of the studio for his disruption, but a second problem arose: nearby freight train whistles interrupted the session twice, forcing the recording to start over. Armstrong shook his head and laughed off the distractions, keeping his composure. The session ended around 6 am, going longer than expected. To make sure the orchestra members were paid extra for their overtime, Armstrong accepted only $250 musicians union scale for his work.
The song was not initially a hit in the United States, where it sold fewer than 1,000 copies because Newton did not like or promote it, but was a major success in the United Kingdom, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart.In the United States, the song hit No. 16 on the BillboardBubbling Under Chart. It was also the biggest-selling single of 1968 in the UK where it was among the last pop singles issued by HMV before it became an exclusive classical music label. The song made Armstrong the oldest male to top the UK Singles Chart. Armstrong’s record was broken in 2009 when a remake of “Islands in the Stream” recorded for Comic Relief—which included the 68-year-old Tom Jones—reached number one in that chart.
ABC Records’ European distributor EMI forced ABC to issue a What a Wonderful World album in 1968 (catalogue number ABCS-650). It did not chart in the United States, due to ABC not promoting it, but charted in the UK where it was issued by Stateside Records with catalogue number SSL 10247 and peaked on the British chart at No. 37.
The song gradually became something of a standard and reached a new level of popularity. An episode of The Muppet Show produced in 1977 and broadcast early in 1978 featured Rowlf the Dog singing the song to a puppy. In 1978, it was featured in the closing scenes of BBC radio’s, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and was repeated for BBC’s 1981 TV adaptation of the series. In 1988, Armstrong’s recording appeared in the film Good Morning, Vietnam (despite the film being set in 1965 – two years before it was recorded) and was re-released as a single, hitting No. 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1988. The single charted at number one for the fortnight ending June 27, 1988 on the Australian chart. It is also the closing song for the 1995 movie 12 Monkeys and the 1998 film adaptation of Madeline.
In 2001, rappers Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, and the Alchemist released “The Forest,” a song that begins with three lines of lyric adapted from “What a Wonderful World”, altered to become “an invitation to get high” on marijuana. The rappers and their record company, Sony Music Entertainment, were sued by the owners of “What a Wonderful World,” Abilene Music. The suit was thrown out of court after Judge Gerard E. Lynch determined that the altered lyric was a parody, transforming the uplifting original message to a new one with a darker nature.
By April 2014, Louis Armstrong’s 1967 recording had sold 2,173,000 downloads in the United States after it was released digitally.
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Pete Townshend (born this day in 1945)
Peter Dennis Blandford Townshend (born 19 May 1945) is an English guitarist, singer and composer. He is co-founder, leader, guitarist, secondary lead vocalist and principal songwriter of the Who, one of the most influential rock bands of the 1960s and 1970s.
As an instrumentalist, although known primarily as a guitarist, Townshend also plays keyboards, banjo, accordion, harmonica, ukulele, mandolin, violin, synthesiser, bass guitar, and drums. He is self-taught on all of these instruments. He plays on his own solo albums, several Who albums, and as a guest contributor to an array of other artists’ recordings.
Townshend has also contributed to and authored many newspaper and magazine articles, book reviews, essays, books, and scripts, and he has collaborated as a lyricist and composer for many other musical acts. Due to his aggressive playing style and innovative songwriting techniques, Townshend’s works with the Who and in other projects have earned him critical acclaim.
Pete Townshend, The Who’s guitarist and principal songwriter, was born into a musical family in Chiswick, West London, on May 19, 1945. His father Cliff played the alto saxophone with the RAF dance band The Squadronaires, and his mother Betty Dennis sang professionally. An aunt encouraged him to learn piano but after seeing the movie Rock Around The Clock in 1956 he was drawn to rock’n’roll, an interest his parents actively encouraged.
Having dallied briefly with the guitar, Pete’s first real instrument was the banjo which he played in a schoolboy trad jazz outfit called The Confederates. The group featured John Entwistle on trumpet but after John took up the bass guitar the two friends joined another schoolboy band, The Scorpions, with Pete on guitar. Pete and John both attended Acton County Grammar School where another, slightly older, pupil Roger Daltrey had a group called The Detours. Roger invited John to join and about six months later the nucleus of The Who was in place when John persuaded Roger that Pete should join too.
Meanwhile Pete had enrolled at Ealing School of Art to study graphic design, where he broadened his mind on a diet of radical performance art and American blues music, both of which would influence The Detours as they worked their passage through the West London club and pub circuit. With the arrival in 1964 of drummer Keith Moon and managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, The Who were on their way, with Pete increasingly cast in the role of leader and spokesman.
Pete soon found himself at the forefront of the British musical boom of the Sixties. As guitarist and composer of the band, he became the driving force behind one of the most powerful, inventive and articulate bodies of work in rock. From early classic three-minute singles like ‘My Generation’, ‘Substitute’ and ‘I Can See For Miles’, through to complete song cycles in the shape of Tommy, Lifehouse and Quadrophenia, Pete established himself as one of the most gifted and imaginative musicians working in the rock field.
Pete spent all of the Sixties and much of the Seventies concentrating his creative energies on The Who. In concert he became recognised as the most visual guitarist of his and future generations, careering around the stage, leaping into the air and spinning his arm across the strings in his trademark ‘windmill’ fashion. He developed a unique guitar style, a cross between rhythm and lead which veered from furiously strummed chord patterns and crunching power chords to chromatic scales and delicate finger-picking. On top of this, he frequently smashed his guitar into smithereens at the climax of a performance.
Pete also emerged as one of rock’s most eloquent spokesman, a much sought-after interviewee who always had something interesting or controversial to say. In 1970 and ’71 he wrote series of pieces for Melody Maker which challenged the status quo in the music industry, cementing his position as a pioneer and a man who was uncomfortable with the trappings of celebrity.
In 1967 Pete became a follower of the Indian avatar Meher Baba which inspired him to release three privately circulated devotional albums. These led him to compile Who Came First (1972), the first of a series of non-Who albums, followed by Rough Mix (1977), a collaboration with fellow Baba devotee Ronnie Lane, and then the solo albums Empty Glass (1980), All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982), White City: A Novel (1985), The Iron Man: The Musical by Pete Townshend, an adaptation of Ted Hughes’ children’s story (1988), and Psychoderelict (1993).
In 1984, with The Who temporarily disbanded, he led an ad-hoc band called Deep End with whom he released a live album in 1986, and he has also issued a series of albums called Scoop which feature Pete’s demos for Who songs, solo material and miscellaneous unreleased projects.
Beginning in the Nineties Pete has toured, mainly in North America, with a solo band, initially performing Psychoderelict but as the decade wore on he presented shows that included his solo material as well as Who classics. Many such shows, including occasional concerts in the UK, have been done in aid of charities.
Having established himself as one of the most intelligent and articulate of rock performers, Pete has run his own book publishing company and worked as an editor at the publishing house Faber & Faber which in 1985 published Horse’s Neck, a collection of his short stories. Ever inquisitive about new ideas and technology, he was amongst the first rock stars to utilise the internet on which his regular and often frank journals and essays have provided essential reading for fans.
In many ways Pete can be regarded as an internet pioneer, insofar as Lifehouse, the project that embraced the songs on the album Who’s Next, included ideas such as the ‘Grid’, a national communications network, and ‘experience suits’ where life programs were fed to individuals via the Grid. At the time most observers were unable to grasp these ‘science fiction’ ideas but with hindsight it’s clear that Pete’s concepts were not too far removed from the world wide web and virtual reality that we know today.
In 1970, the technology wasn’t available for the project to be realised and it took Pete almost 30 years to see it through. It was only fitting that when he did get to perform the Lifehouse music in its entirety it was available to a global audience via a webcast.
A Lifehouse Method website was made available from 2007 to 2008 through which ‘sitters’ were able to create musical portraits on line. Pete has plans to do more with this process in the future. He has plans for future artistic endeavours using the internet and in the meantime contributes posts to his own blog on this website.
Pete continued to write and perform with The Who, and 2006 saw the release of Endless Wire, the band’s first new studio album in 24 years. In 2012 Harper-Collins published Pete’s long awaited autobiography Who I Am, a typically forthright memoir of his life inside and outside of The Who.
In the second decade of the new millennium Pete Townshend has deservedly ascended to a place of honour at rock’s high table, a grandee who commands enormous respect in the world of music. This current decade has seen The Who tour in 2006/7 and again in 2011/12 with Quadrophenia & More. In 2014 The Who celebrated their 50 years together by embarking on a two year tour and a greatest hits album The Who Hits 50!, the album and world tour both being an enormous success which culminated in two spectacular weekend concerts as part of the Desert Trip event at Coachella, California. 2017 saw The Who returning to the Royal Albert Hall, London to perform Tommy for the 100th concert in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust followed by a UK and US tour and, for the first time ever, a tour of South America.
In 2016 Pete signed to Universal Music for his solo work which saw the re-release of the first seven solo albums from his back catalogue including 1972’s Who Came First right through to 1993’s Psychoderelict – plus all three of Pete’s Scoop series of albums.
The spring of 2019 saw the announcement of the publication in autumn of this year of Pete’s new novel The Age of Anxiety which will be followed in 2020 by an album of his music of the same name
2019 also saw what for many was the unbelievable when Pete and Roger announced a new tour for the summer and autumn plus a return to the recording studio to record a brand new Who album called, simply, WHO.
There is still no finer sight nor sound in rock than when Pete straps on an electric guitar, spins his right arm like a Catherine-wheel and slashes down across the strings to create the unmistakable resonance of those opening four chords of ‘I Can’t Explain’ – described by Pete himself as YAGGERDANG!
The Who’s Pete Townshend grapples with rock’s legacy, and his own dark past. (read this article here)
Of all the key figures from rock music’s glory days, the Who’s Pete Townshend is the one to have had most deeply interrogated — on albums like “Quadrophenia” and in his own writing over the years —the relationship between musicians and their audience. That decades-long preoccupation, which has resulted in so much thrilling, questing music, resurfaces on “WHO,” his band’s first studio album in 13 years, as well as Townshend’s first novel, “The Age of Anxiety,” out in November. “Paul McCartney thinks he knows who he is,” Townshend, 74, says. “Mick Jagger thinks he knows who he is. Keith Richards thinks he knows who he is.” A resigned look passes over his face. “I don’t.”
You’ve spent 50 years exploring the archetype of the confused, messianic rock star, including in your new book. For part of that time I’d even say you were living that archetype. What’s left to mine there? You’re looking for clues in the wrong place. I couldn’t write about Wall Street. I couldn’t write about crime. I have spent 55 years working in rock. I remain in familiar territory. I’ve always regarded the rock-star phenomenon with immense disdain. I’ve had my moments, which have been gloriously recorded and exalted — but brief — when I’ve felt: I’m going to try and do this job. I’m going to try to be a proper rock star. Then I would do it, and it wouldn’t work. I was counterfeit. There are very few people truly authentic to the cause: David Byrne. Mick Jagger. Neil Young. Joni Mitchell. Deborah Harry.
Authentic to what cause? Authentic to the perceived, accepted ideal of a rock star. Now, online, you’ll see a throwaway statement — “rock is dead” — which is something that we in our genre have been considering since the ’70s. But what is rock? Rock is hip-hop. Rock is probably Taylor Swift. Rock is, dare I say it, Adele and Ed Sheeran. They’ve dared to take on that mantle, and they have to deliver. They’ve got to do something spectacular as performers. Not just as recording artists. They’ve got to do something amazing, and if it includes dancers, if it includes too much video, then they’re cheating. They know that, we know that and the audiences know that. That’s why audiences will come to something like a Who concert or a Stones concert, where there might be some video, there might be a symphony orchestra, but at the end of the day it’s about: “Can you dance for two and a half hours without dropping dead? Can you sing without lip syncing for two and a half hours?” It’s about sport. It’s about entertainment as a physicality. It’s about an endurance test.
Is that really interesting to you, the idea of a rock concert as an endurance test? It is. It’s a part of what I bring to my table. I want to be fit, I want to be strong and I want to be able to move and sing and play conventionally. I’m talking about a performance standard that has risen out of the ashes of the halcyon years of rock ’n’ roll.
Is that performance standard an anachronism? Let’s just talk about the Who. What people want from the Who is the music to be live, I suppose. And yet, for example, we cheat by having musicians on the stage who can read musical charts as if they’re computers. But I don’t feel that they’re a cheat. I feel that they add to the experience.
I’m wondering what exactly you mean when you say that today’s pop stars have to “deliver.” My impression is that there was a serious belief from, say, 1965 till about 1970, in rock’s potential to be a galvanizing force for social change. I don’t think I’m being cynical in suggesting that no popular music, let alone rock, feels as if it carries that kind of charge anymore. The stakes are lower. But when you say musicians have to deliver, my hunch is that you might be implying something beyond just a good album or tour. Is my rambling here making any sense? I understand exactly what you’re saying. I was just talking about delivering an excellent record and an excellent performance. But take the case of the Who. “I Can’t Explain” was our first single. It was a hit. Kids heard it, and they came and said, “This is helping us.” And I thought: This is my commissioning group. This is the party that’s going to love whatever I do. I served that audience11 The Who’s specific audience, at least in its formative years, was the mod subculture that flourished in the Shepherd’s Bush neighborhood of London. very faithfully up until “Quadrophenia.”22 The band’s 1973 concept album, a double-album meditation on where mods came from and where they wound up. That album was an appeal to the Who to address the questions of why is Keith Moon33 The band’s musically and personally audacious drummer. He died in 1978. now driving around in pink Rolls-Royces. Why is Roger Daltrey44 The band’s lead singer, now 75 years old, continues to record and tour with Townshend in the Who. growing his hair like a rock god? Why has John Entwistle55 The virtuosic bassist died in 2002 after nearly 40 years with the Who. got a house full of suits of armor? What is this all about? So to address your question, I think I invented the concept that music was going to have democratic give-and-take between the artists and their audience.
If we take that as a given, which I’m not sure it is, what happened to that invention? Well, I wrote “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which was essentially saying to the audience: “Just [expletive] off. I’m not going to be your tool.” It led to the question, If you’re going to say “[expletive] off” to revolutionary thinking, then what it is that you are going to do? That is a process that I’m still involved in.
Insofar as we’re now able to look back at the rock era as a completed thing, what do you see you and your peers as having achieved? There’s a subset of living musicians who are trying to carry whatever it was they garnered from the era of LSD, the Vietnam War and the decline of the Vietnam War through to the present. Joni Mitchell is still carrying it. Neil Young is carrying it. David Byrne is carrying it. Brian Eno is carrying it. We’re carrying what we each decided to share of the load. And what is the load? The load was this massive question.
Which is what? The massive question was: Who are we? What is our function? What is our worth? Are we disenfranchised, or are we able to take society over and guide it? Are we against the establishment? Are we being used by it? Are we artists, or are we entertainers?
Is there an honest reading other than a pessimist’s for what the answers to most of those questions ended up being? I think so. Rock ’n’ roll was a celebration of congregation. A celebration of irresponsibility. But we don’t have the brains to answer the question of what it was that rock ’n’ roll tried to start and has failed to finish. Neither do our journalistic colleagues, no matter how smart they think they are. Greil Marcus66 This critic is best known for “Mystery Train” (1975), easily one of the best books ever written about rock. is not going to write the book that has the answer. He’s not going to come up with the goods. For God’s sake, neither could the Rolling Stones or the Who. That’s not going to happen. That postwar vacuum that we tried to fill — we did fill it for a while, but then we realized it was fizzling out. The art proposed the questions without offering solutions. So what the Who are doing at the moment — we’ve made a good album. I hope it’ll do O.K. I don’t need it. Nobody needs it. Some of the subjects of the songs are quite deep, but they’re not as brave as “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” which is saying: “[Expletive] off. I’m going to solve this problem with my guitar and my singer with long, golden hair and a big [expletive].”
While we’re on that subject: The old mythology of male rock stars as hypersexed icons cutting a swath through their tour dates feels more and more suspect the further we get from the ’70s. But that mythology is still a part of the glamour of that era. How do you look back at the sexual dynamics of rock stardom? That’s not my story. I’m not going to say I wish it were, but there were times when this gawky, big-nosed guy in a band — who always seemed to be having sex with people — would actually be in bed with his overly fingered Playboy magazine. I was performing for the gang. I was performing for the men. You have to talk to the guys who got the girls and ask them how they perceive their past behavior. I don’t have one of those huge sexual-conquest counts. It’s not a conversation I can have. It just wasn’t me.
You alluded earlier to rock’s failure to finish what it set out to do, whatever that was. How much was your audience — baby boomers — complicit in that failure? It was a parallel experience for the musicians and their audience. What we were hoping to do was to create a system by which we gathered in order to hear music that in some way served the spiritual needs of the audience. It didn’t work out that way. We abandoned our parents’ church, and we haven’t replaced it with anything solid and substantial. But I do still believe in it. I do believe, for example, that if I were to go to an Ariana Grande concert — this iconic girl who has achieved so much, and rose up after the massacre at her concert in Manchester with dignity and beauty — that I would feel something of that earlier positivity and sense of community.
How does nostalgia — your own and your fans’ — affect the criteria for what makes a good Who concert in 2019? That criteria must be different than it was in 1969. Now I perform the wonderful music that I wrote when I was young, that was so successful that people still want to hear it, and I perform it to the best of my abilities. Blah, blah, blah. What I really want now is a couple of moments on the stage in which I have the potential to wreck the whole thing. If I can do that, then I’m happy. Just for a moment.
In your novel,77 Townshend previously wrote a short-fiction collection, “Horse’s Neck” (1985). there’s this purist musician character, Crow, who has a line — which I assume you wrote tongue-in-cheek — in which he’s talking about his band and says something like, “We’re not going to be the Who and sell out.”88 Selling out was a concern for the Who as early as 1967, when the band released the irreverently titled album “The Who Sell Out.” The concept has arisen in less playful fashion for Townshend in the context of the band’s various reformations after its initial 1982 split. Maybe it’s just because the bottom dropped out of the music business, but why isn’t selling out a source of hand-wringing the way it once was for the Who? The concept almost feels quaint now. Selling out has lost the stain, because musicians can’t hold a purist’s stance anymore. They have to accept the dollar and also the fact that the dollar is helping deliver the message. But the concept Crow was addressing in the book was about selling out what the music meant to somebody. In other words, if you add a chewing-gum commercial to “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” then you forget what it meant to you when you listened to it while you were having a rage at your sports teacher or whatever.
It’s noticeable that even now, when you’re at an age at which your sense of self might be more likely to be relatively settled, you’re still willing to entertain skepticism about your identity and the roles you’ve inhabited. I don’t want to go into this too deeply. I’ve been thinking about it. Last year I took a sabbatical, and during that time I did some quite special therapy. One of the things that I’ve realized looking back — I have photographs of myself as a child. I was so beautiful. I know all children are beautiful, but I was uniquely beautiful. My mother at some point made this huge mistake, which was to dump me into darkness.99 Townshend addresses his childhood abuse in his 2012 memoir, “Who I Am.” I came out of it — and I’m sorry to say this, but I came out ugly. So with the question of identity, my work has been about trying to recover innocence and real beauty too. And if I can’t be beautiful, then I’ll create beauty, and if I can’t create it, I’ll get your attention by being angry, by being violent, by apparently not giving a [expletive]. But getting back to an earlier question, I think a lot of people went through the ’60s not trying to find themselves. I think a lot of us thought we already knew. I remember having a conversation with George Harrison about how he could reconcile following Krishna with his having to lay out lines of coke in order to talk about Krishna with me.
What did he say? I can’t remember, but I do remember being convinced by his incredibly elegant answer! Anyway, I’d love to have a long conversation with Irvin D. Yalom1010 This venerated American psychiatrist and psychotherapist is known for his work developing ‘‘existential psychiatry.’’ about who I might be, because I am a man without a psychological backbone. That affects my work. If “Tommy,”1111 The band’s landmark 1969 “rock opera” about a youth struck “deaf, dumb and blind” as a result of trauma who then becomes a pinball-playing quasi savior. It was adapted into both a feature film and a Tony Award-winning musical. for example, is a reflection of that plunging into childhood darkness that I mentioned, then one question that I ask is, Jesus, why did people like it so much?
“Tommy” is coming back to Broadway in 2021. You’ve come back to that music so many times and in so many forms. Is it painful to keep revisiting work that was, like you just said, a reflection of the abuse you suffered? Yes, it is. I shouldn’t do it. The thing for me about “Tommy” is that the writing was all unconscious.
But it’s not unconscious anymore. You’re aware of where “Tommy” came from, and yet you still keep coming back to it. Is that about catharsis? I’m working something out. The Who perform a piece of “Tommy” onstage, but we don’t do the violent stuff. And, remember, “Tommy” ends with a prayer. A secular prayer to the universe celebrating the spirit of life, the value of suffering, the transformation of suffering into joy. And it’s a death, a hopeful transformation. I wish I were in Tommy’s shoes, in a joyful moment of waking up one day and disappearing into dust. I’m not quite there, and I don’t know whether I will get there. I’ve been waiting, and I’m pushing 75.
Are you saying that you’re wishing for a graceful death? Or that your death might have some larger meaning? A hopeful transformation is what I wish for at the end of my life. I would be comfortable with wherever it was. Whether it would be turning to dust or falling into the hands of astral angels or finding myself at the gates of heaven and being turned away.
Do you think about the intended audience of your work as much as you used to? I’m particularly interested in that as it relates to your novel, because I found it just about impossible to separate reading the book from what I know about you and your music. The question of readership was not uppermost in my mind when I started the book. One thing that I did have in my mind was that I had abandoned my art-school thesis,1212 Townshend was a student at London’s Ealing Art College in the early ’60s. which was to be a deconstructionist, and I did that because I had a hit song. When that happened, I was in the middle of this fantastically stimulating course at art school with a whole bunch of radical thinkers, and that intense period of finding myself creatively collapsed because I was out there with this band. And I never liked it. I still don’t like it.
Don’t like what? What I do with the band. People always say, “You seem like you’re having a good time.” Last year I said to my wife,13 The musician Rachel Fuller. They wed in 2016. “I must be such a good [expletive] actor.”
So then why stick with the Who? You can’t need the money. I think it’s probably for the greater good. I may not like it, but I can’t say it’s hard. It comes incredibly easily to me. That’s probably the reason I would so carelessly let it go in 1982. I’d done my best to try to serve this revised group after Keith Moon’s death, and it wasn’t going to work. I thought: I’ll just do a solo career. I’ll do what I want. And I did. I did a couple of solo projects. I worked as an editor at Faber & Faber. I had a lovely life. Money did bring me back in the end: That was the Who’s 25th-anniversary tour. After that it was nearly 11 years before we got back together properly. So I did try stopping. But then I suppose I thought, [Expletive] it. I’m now 60-something. If I go deaf, I don’t care.1414 Townshend formerly suffered from serious and at times debilitating tinnitus. It seems to make a lot of people happy. People believe I’m happy doing it. This was something that I could give to myself to do, which I’m good at. As long as it’s my decision to do it, that’s O.K. I’m not on a great mission anymore to get anything from it.
This interview has been edited and condensed from two conversations.
Les Deux Arabesques, L. 66, sont une oeuvre de jeunesse de Debussy. Il les composa entre 1888 et 1891, alors qu’il n’avait pas encore soufflé sa trentième bougie. Cependant, le jeune âge de l’artiste ne se ressent absolument pas dans ces pièces à l’identité musicale déjà bien affirmée.
De caractère, Claude Debussy n’en manquait d’ailleurs pas. Chef de file du courant musical impressionniste, il se distingua par son style singulier rapprochant musique et peinture. Pour lui, le travail de composition consistait à retranscrire sur le papier à musique des couleurs et des impressions. Les codes « traditionnels » de la musique ? Très peu pour lui. Ne dit-il pas qu’il fallait « débarrasser la musique de tout appareil scientifique », que « l’extrême complication [était] le contraire de l’art » ?
Mais regardons de plus près cette Arabesque N°1. Dans celle-ci, on réalise très vite, à la première écoute, cette volonté de l’artiste de s’affranchir des schémas préétablis. Les premières mesures surprennent par leur légèreté et on se laisse vite porter par le flot ininterrompu de notes et l’entremêlement des triolets main gauche et main droite. Puis, on retrouve un rythme à « trois contre deux », binaire d’une main, ternaire de l’autre, caractéristique de Debussy. Quant au tempo, il laisse une grande latitude à l’interprète, avec un « rubato » sur la partie centrale de l’oeuvre.
Vous l’aurez compris, c’est un artiste pas comme les autres que vous découvrirez au travers de cette partition. La difficulté résidera donc dans votre capacité à vous adapter à son style peu orthodoxe. Heureusement, Jeff Martin est là pour vous guider dans votre apprentissage ! Dans son cours sur les morceaux classiques confirmés, Jeff vous donne toutes les clés pour interpréter cette oeuvre dans les règles de l’art.
En posant en 1894 avec Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un faune le premier jalon de la musique moderne, Debussy place d’emblée son œuvre sous le sceau de l’avant-garde musicale. Il est brièvement wagnérien en 1889, puis anticonformiste le reste de sa vie, en rejetant tous les académismes esthétiques. Avec La Mer, il renouvelle la forme symphonique ; avec Jeux, il inscrit la musique pour ballet dans un modernisme prophétique ; avec Pelléas et Mélisande, l’opéra français sort des ornières de la tradition du drame lyrique, tandis qu’il confère à la musique de chambre, avec son quatuor à cordes, des accents impressionnistes inspirés.
Une part importante de son œuvre est pour le piano (la plus vaste de la musique française avec celle de Gabriel Fauré) et utilise une palette sonore particulièrement riche et évocatrice.
Claude Debussy laisse l’image d’un créateur original et profond d’une musique où souffle le vent de la liberté. Son impact sera décisif dans l’histoire de la musique. Pour André Boucourechliev, il incarnerait la véritable révolution musicale du vingtième siècle.
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Dave Brubeck: The Top 20 pearls in Jazz history
Dave Brubeck, byname of David Warren Brubeck, (born December 6, 1920, Concord, California, U.S.—died December 5, 2012, Norwalk, Connecticut), popular American jazz pianist who brought elements of classical music into jazz and whose style epitomized that of the “West Coast movement.”
Brubeck was taught piano by his mother from the age of four—and for a period of time he deceived her by memorizing songs rather than learning to read music. He worked as a pianist with local jazz groups from 1933 and studied music at the College of the Pacific (1938–42) in Stockton, California, where he formed and led a 12-piece orchestra. During World War II, Brubeck conducted a service band in the army of Gen. George S. Patton. After the war, he studied composition at Mills College in Oakland, California, under the French composer Darius Milhaud.
During this period, Brubeck also studied with Arnold Schoenberg, the inventor of the 12-tone system of composition. He formed the Dave Brubeck Octet in 1946, employing fellow classmates as band members. The group made several recordings (released in 1951) that reflected Brubeck’s studies in polyrhythms and polytonality (respectively, two time signatures or two keys played simultaneously).
The octet recordings sound ahead of their time even by contemporary standards, and the highly experimental group disbanded after their radicalism failed to find an audience. Brubeck next led a trio that proved popular in the San Francisco area, but he was forced to disband it in 1951 after he was incapacitated for many months by a back injury.
In late 1951 Brubeck reformed the trio, which soon became a quartet with the addition of alto saxophonist Paul Desmond. Within several months they attained a measure of national fame, largely by word of mouth among West Coast critics who championed the group’s innovations.
Also during this time, Brubeck became one of the first jazz musicians to regularly tour and conduct seminars at college campuses; several albums recorded at college concerts—such as Jazz at Oberlin (1953), Jazz at the College of the Pacific (1953), Jazz Goes to College (1954), and Jazz Goes to Junior College (1957)—are among Brubeck’s most highly regarded. For much of the decade, Brubeck and Desmond remained the only constants in the group; permanent members Joe Morello (drums) and Eugene Wright (bass) joined in 1956 and ’58, respectively.
Brubeck’s fame was such during this period that he was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1954—although he began to encounter critical backlash about the same time. Brubeck was a major figure in the West Coast jazz movement, which grew somewhat independently of New York-based bebop. Critics grew to prefer the East Coast’s adherence to the jazz traditions of swing and emotionalism more than the cooler, more intellectual approach of the West Coasters, which many found to be gratuitously academic.
There was never any dispute, however, as to the superb musicianship of the Brubeck group. Some chastised Brubeck for ham-handed piano solos that relied on “fat” block chords, but much praise was afforded Desmond’s “cool” tone (he stated he wanted his saxophone to sound “like a dry martini”) and Morello’s facility and inventiveness. Brubeck himself received the most acclaim for his work as a composer; his best-known tunes include “The Duke,” “In Your Own Sweet Way,” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk.” The group flirted with what for jazz of that period were abstruse metres (e.g., 5/4or 9/8), and Brubeck’s compositions showed the influence of his classical training through his employment of atonality, fugue, and counterpoint.
The quartet achieved their greatest commercial success in 1960 with the Desmond composition “Take Five,” a widely acknowledged jazz classic and the best-selling jazz single of all time. A perennial crowd-pleaser, “Take Five” became de rigueur in the group’s concert performances, during which band members would leave the stage one at a time after their respective solos until only drummer Morello was left.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet disbanded in 1967, although they were to have several reunions before Paul Desmond’s death in 1977. Afterward Brubeck led a variety of small groups, including the quartet he formed with his sons Darius (keyboards), Chris (bass and trombone), and Danny (drums). Their sound can best be heard on the album Two Generations of Brubeck (1973). By the 1980s Brubeck was a respected jazz icon.
Although his peak period of commercial popularity had long passed, his work of the 1980s and ’90s has been among his most praised, with albums such as Paper Moon (1981), Blue Rondo (1986), Moscow Nights (1987), Nightshift (1993), In Their Own Sweet Way (1994), and To Hope! A Celebration (1996) earning critical acclaim. His A Dave Brubeck Christmas (1996) was also heralded as the best-ever jazz album of Christmas music. Brubeck also recorded a few albums of solo piano music, revealing the depth of his harmonic insight on such recordings as One Alone (2000), a set of standards that demonstrates Brubeck’s adaptability in a variety of styles from stride to modern.
Brubeck was named a Kennedy Center honoree in 2009 for his contributions to American jazz.
Dave Brubeck – Thank You – 00:00 Dave Brubeck – Brandenburg Gate – 05:00 Dave Brubeck – Upstage Rumba perform Wynton Marsalis – 13:55 Dave Brubeck – I’m Afraid The Masquerade Is Over – 20:08 Dave Brubeck – On The Sunny Side of the Street – 25:49 Dave Brubeck Long Ago (And Far Away) – 33:16 Dave Brubeck, Roy Hargrove & Joshua Redman – Blue Rondo a La Turk – 41:10