Archive for the ‘Dmitri Shostakovich’ Category

tny 5.26.08 cvr.inddSOUNDTRACK: PACIFICA QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #383 (August 18, 2014).

pacificaIn this Tiny Desk Concert, the Pacifica Quartet explore the world of a single composer, Dmitri Shostakovich.  They will play three movements from different Shostakovich quartets

The quartet consists of Simin Ganatra and Sibbi Bernhardsson on violins, Masumi Per Rostad on viola and Brandon Vamos on cello.

I’m going to quote a ton from the NPR blurb because they know from what they speak.  But I’m going to chime in that these pieces are really cool.  I like Shostakovich, but haven’t really devoted a lot of time to him. His music seems at times playful and at other times very dark.

In the first piece I love how that three note motif recurs in different places and then the piece turns into a delicate pizzicato section.

The second piece is so light-hearted as it starts–pastoral and lovely.  But there hangs a slightly menacing version of that pastoral riff.  I especially enjoyed watching the cellist bow aggressively.  It goes a little crazy towards the end but somehow remains upbeat.

The final piece plays off of the notes of Shostakovich’s initials (they explain all about this in the intro and what the S and H are in terms of musical notes).  It’s amazing to think that these different parts play with those four notes in a different way.  It’s an intense piece and reminds me a bit of Psycho.

From the blurb [with my comments in brackets]:

With the arguable exception of Béla Bartók’s six string quartets, it’s generally accepted that the 15 by Dmitri Shostakovich are the strongest body of quartets since Beethoven….  The Shostakovich quartets are intense, like page-turning thrillers, as they pull you into his world. They are dark and introspective, witty and sarcastic, and stained with the Soviet-era violence and hardship the composer lived through.

Quartet No. 7 in F-sharp minor, Op. 108 (1960) Allegretto
Eerie pizzicato and piercing stabs in the violins help color the twitchy, even sinister, opening movement of the Seventh Quartet. Stalin might have been dead since 1953, but hard-line Soviet politics (including the violent suppression of the 1956 Hungarian uprising) were still in place. The music’s lightness and transparency create a crepuscular feel.

Quartet No. 3 in F major, Op. 73 (1946) Allegretto
The Third Quartet’s first movement looks back to a slightly more pleasant time before World War II. At one point Shostakovich considered a subtitle: “Calm unawareness of the future cataclysm.” The jaunty opening theme, like Haydn after a few beers [now that is a hilarious line], is among the most lighthearted in the 15 quartets. But the mood sobers with an intense double fugue before returning to the opening music and a flashy final page.

Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110 (1960) Allegro molto
The Eighth Quartet is Shostakovich’s most popular — and one of his most hair-raising. He dedicated it to victims of fascism and war while at the same time creating his own epitaph. The entire quartet is built on a foundation of four notes that spell out his first initial and the first three letters of his last name [watch in the beginning of the piece as they demonstrate these notes]. The second movement juxtaposes violent energy with a tweaked version of a Jewish folk theme from an earlier work.

[READ: February 27, 2016] “The Full Glass”

I never understand how the New Yorker selects what it will publish each week.  Sometimes authors can go for years without a piece and sometimes they can go just a couple of months.  Such is the case with 2008 where there have been many duplicate authors in the span of a few months.  Updike’s last story in the magazine was in January of 2008–that’s barely five months.

Anyway, this story is written from the point of view of a man turning eighty.

He talks about retiring from his job as a wood floor re finisher in Connecticut.  He’s admitting he is his age and is taking a ton of pills every day and what not.

And he reflects on a many things in his life.  Like the bliss of a cold glass of water.  He hates the thought of drinking 8 glasses a day, but a cold glass at night is wonderful [I concur]. (more…)

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percy2SOUNDTRACK: JENNY LIN-Tiny Desk Concert #160 (September 6, 2011).

linJenny Lin is an amazing pianist.  So it’s slightly disconcerting that she is playing these beautiful pieces on a Korg keyboard.

The write up says

It’s rare to see a world-renowned pianist willing to make such a sacrifice, but that’s how strongly Lin feels about getting the music out there, knowing that (with even more downsizing) folks could watch her perform this Tiny Desk Concert on their iPhones.

And while I wouldn’t think that a great pianist would have a problem playing an electronic piano, I had to wonder if the keyboard weight impacted her at all.  It sure doesn’t seem like it.

She plays five pieces altogether.  And they are all modern pieces.  I don’t know a lot about Shostakovic, but the blurb says that  Shostakovich, inspired by Bach wrote his own set of Preludes and Fugues in all 24 keys in 1950.  I would have guessed they were Bach, but you can hear differences in his more modern style (and not just because of the keyboard).  The notes are fast and furious (and beautiful).

I don’t know Federico Mompou at all, but the blurb says  “Barcelona-born Federico Mompou was a contemporary of Shostakovich’s, but that’s where the comparisons end. In the 1960s, he completed four volumes of piano music he called Musica Callada, or “Silent Music.” Mompou’s sound, [features]  austere beauty and emphasis on the spaces between notes.”  And you can really hear the way the notes ring out (I’ll bet even more so on a grand piano).

The final song is an arrangement of Gershwin’s “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” which has been “souped up by the late American virtuoso pianist Earl Wild. His arrangement turns the Gershwin song into a kind of stride-jazz extravaganza.”

Watch Lin’s hands fly around the keyboard.  It is hard to comprehend.  I don’t know which hand I am more impressed by.

It’s amazing to be able to watch a master so closely.

The setlist:

  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in A minor, Op. 87
  • Dmitri Shostakovich: Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in A major, Op. 87
  • Federico Mompou: Musica Callada — Nos. 1, 15
  • Gershwin (arr. Earl Wild): “Fascinatin’ Rhythm”

[READ: November 22, 2015] The Sea of Monsters

Clark really liked the first graphic novel and asked me to get the rest.  So I did.  And then I had to see how the story continued, too.

Book two of the graphic novel series (also with art by Attila Futaki) begins with Percy at home.  He is told he shouldn’t return to Camp Half -Blood, but his mom won’t say why.  At “regular” school, he is still picked on, but he now has help from a huge boy known as Tyson.  The bullies make fun of Tyson too, calling him a retard, but Percy sticks up for him. [The one problem with the graphic novels is they have to edit down so much, there’s no real introduction to Percy’s school or to Tyson].

On the next page, though, we learn that the bullies are actually demons and that Tyson is able to fight them off because he is …a cyclops.  (It must be very hard to create a cyclops–visually, they are just so wrong–where do you put that eye?  Do the normal eye sockets still exist? I always find them disconcerting to look at). (more…)

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