'kipedia sez: Pierrot Lunaire is a work that contains many paradoxes: the instrumentalists, for example, are soloists and an orchestra at the same time; Pierrot is both the hero and the fool, acting in a drama that is also a concert piece, performing cabaret as high art and vice versa with song that is also speech; and his is a male role sung by a woman, who shifts between the first and third persons. It is also a work which can be interpreted through the sixth song "Madonna". In this song the only person who could save Pierrot, Jesus, is presented as dead. After a brief period of sorrow in "Der kranke Mond" Pierrot in Part II of the song cycle becomes more depraved in his exploits and by the end is crucified for his sins in "Die Kreuze". Hoping to redeem himself in Part III, Pierrot tries to go back to previous persona as the "old pantomime from Italy" but utimately fails without much hope of redemption by the end of the work.
Grove sez: Parody assumes a very important role in Pierrot lunaire. This work, composed in 1912, before the framing choral scenes of Die glückliche Hand, consists of 21 poems set for speaker and chamber ensemble. Schoenberg had employed melodrama before in the summer wind narrative of the Gurre-Lieder. His highly stylized use of the speaking voice, for which he notated relative pitches as well as exact rhythms, proved an ideal vehicle for the Pierrot settings, which were conceived in what he described as a light, ironic–satirical tone. The rather modish verses, by turns grotesque, macabre or consciously sentimental, provide the occasion for presenting, with the detachment that the protagonist in Die glückliche Hand failed to achieve, human activity as a shadow play in which menace and absurdity are on a level. The focus shifts at random, as in a dream, between the lunatic activities of the clown, impersonal scenes, the poet in the first person and the self-absorbed artist, who is not spared. Within his new style Schoenberg parodies the characteristics of a great range of genre pieces, very often retaining the ghost of their formal layout as well. In music the lines dividing ironic from direct reference are often hard to detect. The peculiar fascination of Pierrot lunaire lies in this ambiguity. The nightmare imagery of some of the poems might scarcely be admissible without ironic distancing, yet the music often strikes with authentic horror. Mockery constantly shades into good humour, exaggerated pathos into the genuinely touching.
Alright, enough abstract art weirdness. Time for something that's neither (strictly) classical, nor weird! Also, it's the composer himself, playing his own music, how often do you see that in my other thread?
'kipedia sez: Three Preludes are short piano pieces by George Gershwin, which were first performed by the composer at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in 1926. Each prelude is a well-known example of early-20th-century American classical music, as influenced by jazz.
Gershwin originally planned to compose 24 preludes for this group of works. The number was reduced to seven in manuscript form, and then reduced to five in public performance, and further decreased to three when first published in 1926. Two of the remaining preludes not published were rearranged for solo violin and piano and published as Short Story. Of the other two, the Prelude in G had been eliminated by the publisher Wyatt because somewhat similar music had already appeared in Gershwin's Concerto in F. The other was excluded for unknown reasons.
Gershwin dedicated his Preludes to friend and musical advisor Bill Daly.
Allmusic.com sez: For some observers these three short piano pieces represent the apex of Gershwin's "classical" output. The two fast outer pieces, both marked Allegro ben rimato e deciso (fast, rhythmically, and decisively), are each hardly over one minute long, while the middle Prelude is a slow, three-minute blues piece. The Preludes combine the immediate appeal of Gershwin's longer concert pieces with the tight melodic logic and seeming musical inevitability of his songs. Gershwin here uses harmonies and intervals derived from popular music, treating them with a miniaturistic rigor that may even remind the hearer of Bartók. The Preludes evolved mostly between 1923 and 1926, although the theme of the third was based on that of the piano rag Rialto Ripples, one of Gershwin's earliest published compositions. They were originally envisioned as part of a large Bach-like cycle, to be entitled "The Melting Pot"; Gershwin presented five Preludes -- the present three plus two earlier pieces that he had earlier called Novelettes -- at a 1926 recital, but then wisely dropped the two Novelettes when the Preludes were published the following year.
Grove sez: After the success of the Rhapsody [in Blue], new patterns emerged in Gershwin’s composing life. He continued to write scores for the musical theatre, though at a somewhat slower rate. He gave more and more attention to concert music, studying with a succession of teachers including Rubin Goldmark, Riegger and Cowell. He devoted much of the summer of 1925 to composing the Concerto in F for piano and orchestra, commissioned by Walter Damrosch and the New York SO. The Preludes for Piano were introduced in December 1926 as part of a recital in which he accompanied the contralto Marguerite d’Alvarez.
If Gershwin’s melodic structures seem old-fashioned for a composer writing concert music in the 1920s and 30s, his tonal vocabulary sounds more up-to-date. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Gershwin’s melodies is their reliance on blue notes. Sometimes these notes function as dissonances, as in one theme of the Rhapsody, where on strong beats they clash with the bass. At other times they soften the melodic contour. In the Rhapsody’s opening theme, the presence of both major and minor 7ths in the second chord, and of both major and minor 3rds in the melody (bars 2–3) manifests in sound the aptness of the work’s title. In the Concerto, blues-tinged tonality appears more subtly in the opening theme, which avoids the tonic chord until its tenth bar and then touches it only briefly, and on a weak beat, before moving on from the raised to the lowered 3rd of the tonic triad. Occasionally the blues idiom provides a harmonic structure for Gershwin, as in the second of his three piano preludes on the 12-bar blues progression. That progression also serves as a reference in the Concerto’s second movement and in An American in Paris.
Browsing quickly through this thread and the classical music one (I totally didn't mean to post this in the classical music thread instead) and I noticed there's a lot of videos that have been taken down... And a surprising amount hasn't. I'm pleasantly surprised!
It's about time I resume updating this thread. The city I'm living in has zero venues for listening to classical music so I might as well turn to CDs and Youtube. On top of using the Grove Dictionary, Allmusic, Amazon and 'kipedia, I got a new source to quote in posts, the Eyewitness' Companion to Classical Music.
Also, it's a way to pass time while I wait for Stormblood to finish downloading! ...just kidding.