Tag Archives: music

Offenbach ~ Composer ABCs

I cannot hear this excerpt of an operetta by Offenbach without picturing Bugs Bunny. This is an excerpt from Orpheus In The Underworld, an excerpt titled Infernal Gallop. Bet you know it, also.

Jacques Offenbach is considered a French composer, though he was German born. His family moved to France from Germany when he was quite young because Jews were treated better in France. He was born in 1819 and died in 1880. His father was a synagogue cantor and brought music into the home often. Jacques studied violin from his father and then learned cello starting about age 6.

He entered the Paris Conservatoire at about age 14 but only stayed a year, not enjoying the academic life of it. He was accepted into a position as cellist with the Opera-Comique. He also began touring as a cellist and conducting. He did this between the years of 1835 and 1855. He found he enjoyed composing, a dream of his, when he worked as a copyist for the Opera-Comique. He worked with a pianist, Frederich Flotow, who wrote the piano parts while Offenbach wrote the cello parts. They composed two different books of cellos solos this way.

Offenbach is known for his comedic style and his fluid, memorable melodies. His ability to use characterization through sound and to create satire in his music is unmatched in many critics eyes. He approached music with humor and this was apparent in his favorite style of writing operettas. He wrote well over 100 stage works.

When the Opera-Comique would not show any interest in producing his stage works, Offenbach rented a small theater and produced them himself. His first highly successful pieces is still on the repertoire of opera companies today – Orphée aux enfers (“Orpheus in the Underworld”). This satirical piece arrived on the scene in 1858 and poked fun at political figures of the day. It was very well received.

Other pieces followed, including La belle Hélène (1864), La vie parisienne (1866), La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867) and La Périchole (1868). The biggest piece Offenbach is known for was not staged during his lifetime. Les Contes d’Hoffmann (Tales of Hoffman) was in production rehearsals according to some sources when Offenbach died in 1880. Other sources say it was still unorchestrated as well. Either way, Offenbach did not live to see it produced. It is one of the standard repertoire pieces for opera companies today. Below is a piece from The Tales of Hoffman.

Resources for Offenbach:

And one last video for you to listen to – it is about an hour’s worth of music from various Offenbach operettas.



Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook – This week is O is for Olympics
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – This week is Olympics 2021.

Featured from last week the letter N…

Nelson ~ Composer ABCs

After a week away, today’s composer is an American – Ron Nelson. Ron Nelson is a living composer, having been born in Joliette, Illinois, on December 14, 1929. He is known as a composer and as a conductor. He has written music for wind ensemble, orchestra, and choirs.

Nelson has received three degrees in music from the Eastman School of Must. He also studied in France under a Fulbright Grant. He joined the faculty of Brown University in 1956, gaining promotion to assistant professor in 1960 and full professor in 1968. He continued teaching until his retirement in 1993. He was then named Professor Emeritus of Music.

Nelson has been recognized through many awards, achievements, and commissions. Many have sought his work as a wind ensemble composer for new and unique works for their ensembles. He is also a sought after guest conductor.

There are many pieces to choose from to introduce you to Ron Nelson’s works. I think that Rocky Point Holiday is likely my favorite.

Another piece that is interesting is Courtly Airs and Dances. There are several movements to this one. I’ll post the first movement and the others tend to show up in the right hand column on YouTube.

One more wind ensemble piece and then I’ll put up an orchestral piece. Nelson’s work is just so varied it is interesting to listen to all the different uses of sound he has created. This piece is titled Aspen Jubilee. The orchestral piece is titled Savannah River Holiday.

As you can tell from many of the titles, Ron Nelson is a very American composer. Resources for Ron Nelson include the following websites:

https://www.ronnelson.info/bio.htm

https://www.windrep.org/Ron_Nelson

http://www.bruceduffie.com/ronnelson.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Nelson_(composer)

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook – This week is N is for Ninjago
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – This week is Netflix in Your Homeschool.

Other posts from the week of Letter M –

Modest Mussorgsky – Composer ABCs

We are starting today way over in Russia. Modest Mussorgsky was a Russian and is best known for how well he captured the feel of Russia in his music. He wrote music in all sorts of genres, many of the pieces of which were left unfinished at his death and were completed by other Russian composers or were orchestrated by other Russian composers to bring them to performance. Mussorgsky’s music is bold, haunting, frantic, soothing, and so much more.

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was born in the Russian village of Karevo, Russia, in 1839. He died in 1881 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was first given piano lessons by his mother, who recognized his talent. He began playing pieces by Franz Liszt at age 7 and was giving performances by age 9. He was enrolled in a military school and able to continue to study music alongside his military education. He graduated a received a commission in one of the premier military guards.

Music was an outlet for Mussorgsky and he had creative ideas that were so new and different that others didn’t know what to do with them. During his late teen years, he met several important Russian composers who taught and encouraged him. They are collectively known as “The Five” or “The Mighty” and they include Aleksandr Borodin, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Mily Balakirev, and César Cui. These men tend to be grouped together because they strove to portray Russia in their music. Through lyrics, sounds, folk music, and more, they worked to promote a national school of Russian music. The influence of these men on Mussorgsky is strong.

Mussorgsky did not do a lot to succeed in music and much of his great success came along after his death. He became an alcoholic and died of a heart condition related to alcoholism immediately after his 42nd birthday. His music related the history, folktales, legends, characteristics, language, and emotion of Russia. His song cycles are considered the first to really fit the rhythm and lilt of the Russian language to music.

Likely his most famous work is titled Pictures at an Exhibition. It was written after the death of a dear artist friend of Mussorgsky’s. It is programmatic in its writing and sound, depicting a variety of pictures through music. It is composed to take the listener through an exhibition of an artist’s work, each movement depicting a different place, person, or feel. There is a recurring theme meant to represent the composer wandering through the exhibit so it come back over and over through the work. The first video below is the original orchestration – solo piano. It was arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel and there are many recordings of it available performed by full orchestra.

Another of Mussorgsky’s famous pieces is Night on Bald Mountain. It was orchestrated by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The piece is based on a legend about a night where witches meet Satan on a mountain. (I didn’t know this until I was working on this post but I have known the piece for years!) It was based on a written piece by Nikolai Gogol titled St. John’s Eve.

Resources for Mussorgsky:

https://www.classicsforkids.com/composers/composer_profile.php?id=47

https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Modest_Mussorgsky

https://galaxymusicnotes.com/pages/about-modest-mussorgsky

https://www.classicfm.com/composers/mussorgsky/

https://www.classicfm.com/composers/mussorgsky/guides/discovering-great-composers-mussorgsky/

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook – This week is M is for Mindstorms and Minifigs
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – This week is Math Resources ofr Home Education.

Other posts from the week of Letter L –

Liszt ~ composer ABCs

Many will know the name Franz Liszt. This is because he was an accomplished pianist in addition to being a composer.

Liszt was a Hungarian, born in 1811 into a highly musical family. He was known as a prodigy early on and an established concert pianist by age 9. He wanted to enroll in the Paris Conservatoire when he was about 12 years old. He was denied admission due to the fact that he was a foreigner. He had studied under Antonio Salieri (Mozart’s teacher) and was consider a very special musician. He toured all of Europe as a teenage, performing not only in concert halls but also for kings.

One of Liszt’s abilities that few others had was the ability to improvise on a melody suggested by an audience member. This surely influenced his composition and playing abilities.

When his father died, Liszt was only 15. This was a traumatic period for him and he almost quit music completely. He pushed through and reignited his musical passions. In 1849 he accepted the position of the director of the court theater at Weimar. This meant he did not tour or do concert performances much any more.

Liszt did begin much conducting and was able to promote many other composers’ works. He was equally as talented as a conductor as a pianist. He is considered the first to have developed the symphonic poem as a form of composition, contributing a great deal to the orchestral literature of the world.

Some of his greatest compositions are for piano. However, he was such a talented pianist that few players can properly perform his piano works.

The Hungarian Rhapsody series of works is perhaps some of the most well-known of Liszt’s works. All together there are 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies for piano. The first 15 were published during his life and the final four posthumously. These were at one time considered the bread and butter of a pianist’s repertory. They are evidentally not quite as common these days, though. They are such lovely piano works. Here is Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in D Minor.

Some of the Hungarian Rhapsodies have been orchestrated. Here is the same Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 for orchestra.

Additionally, as mentioned before, Liszt did quite a bit of work on helping the symphonic poem to become a popular form. The symphonic poem is sometimes also called a tone poem. He wrote 13 of these symphonic poems. The most popular one is the third, Les Preludes, based off of Lamartine’s Meditations poetiques.

Liszt allowed many different types of art to inspire his compositions. Not only did Lamartine influence him, but also the piece Orpheus. Victor Hugo’s Les Orientales inspired one of the symphonic poems (No. 6, Mazeppa). The set of 6 frescos by Wilhelm von Kaulbach in the New Museum at Berlin has one picture that was the basis for a musical setting of it, titled Hunnenschlact, or The Battle of the Huns.

Resources for Franz Liszt:

Some of the information in this post came from the liner notes of two CDs that I have. 1) Franz Liszt Symphonic Poems by the Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Hermann Scherchen, conductor, recordings from 1957 and 1958. 2) Franz Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies Nos 1-6, Vienna State Opera Orchestra, Hermann Scherchen, conductor, recordings from 1959. Both CDs released on MCA Classics, copyright 1990.

https://www.classicsforkids.com/composers/composer_profile.php?id=42

https://www.classicfm.com/composers/liszt/

https://www.biography.com/musician/franz-liszt

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Liszt

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook – This week is L is for Legoland.
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – This week is Life Skills In Your Homeschool.

Other posts from the week of Letter K –

Kern – Composer ABCs

Jerome Kern

Kern was born in New York in 1885. His first music teacher was his mother who taught him piano and organ. When he reached high school, he was often found writing music for their theater to perform. At 17, he wrote a production based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. After high school, he tried his hand at his father’s business but he was not successful there. After a disastrous event (according to one source, he accidentally ordered 200 pianos instead of 2!), he was allowed to leave to study music at New York College of Music. After that, he studied in Germany. Following his studies, he returned to New York.

When he got down to working, he worked for a music company writing songs to go into musicals being adapted from England to America. He was highly successful in this endeavor and it launched his writing career. In 1915, he began writing musicals for the Princess Theater. In 1927, he wrote what became his most famous musical: Show Boat. Songs in this musical included “Old Man River”, “Bill”, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man”, “Make Believe”, and “Why Do I Love You?”. Joe, the main character, was first performed by Jules Bledsoe, a tenor from our hometown of Waco, TX.

Kern continued to write for Broadway until sometime in the mid-1930s. At that time, he went to Hollywood and began working on movie music. Many of these were adaptations of Broadway productions. Kern was highly successful in these endeavors. In 1945, Kern had returned to Broadway to help with a revival of Show Boat. He experienced a cerebral hemmorage and passed away.

Kern is remembered for the hundreds of songs he composed and the many musical he created. His life was remembered in the film Till The Clouds Roll By. Kern is considered the grandfather of the musical because his writing was quite progressive and he wrote about some tough themes, many seen in Show Boat. Popular songs, even today, by Kern include  “Ol’ Man River”, “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man, “A Fine Romance”, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, “The Song Is You”, “All The Things You Are”, “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Long Ago and Far Away.”

Resources for Jerome Kern:

https://www.songhall.org/profile/Jerome_Kern

https://www.pbs.org/wnet/broadway/stars/jerome-kern/

https://masterworksbroadway.com/artist/jerome-kern/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jerome-David-Kern

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Kern


Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook – This week is K is for Kitchen.
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – This week is Know Yourself – Stop the Comparison Game.

Featured from Week 10 all things ‘J’

Joplin and Janáček ~ Composer ABCs

This week we are talking about two completely different composers. Joplin is an American whose music falls into the ragtime and early jazz category. Janáček is a Czech composer whose style falls in the eras of Romantic/early 20th century. Joplin is highly known; Janáček is not. Joplin wrote mainly for piano; Janáček wrote a wide variety of music from sinfonetta to opera to chamber music. Night and day, almost.

Leoš Janáček

Let’s start with Janáček. At Home Dad actually recommended included this composer. I wasn’t so sure but when I listened to the Sinfonietta, I was hooked. I love good strong brass parts and Janáček delivers with them early on in this piece.

Leoš Janáček was born in Hukvaldy, in what was part of the Austrian Empire in 1854. His father was a teacher but he encouraged Janáček when he realized what an influence music had on his life. Janáček enjoyed singing in the church choir and pursued a music education as young man. He chose to follow composition, though it took until about 1916 for him to find success. This was when his opera was performed and became a success. During that time, he earned a living by teaching and directing music. After being a choirmaster for a while, he was able to enroll in the Prague Organ School. He quickly completed the course, 3 years in a single year. All of this led to the founding of the Organ School in 1881. Shortly after this, he became deeply interested in the Moravian language and the folk music of the area. This become quite a driving force in his music, as did his friendship with composer Dvorak. He is known for developing speech melodies, bits of music derived from the melodic intonations of the language.

I believe this is act 1 of the 3 act opera Jenufa.

In 1914, he was asked to rework bits of his opera Jenůfa for its premier in 1916. This work had been completed in 1903 but he agreed to modify parts of it yet still kept in his speech melodies. This opera was a spectacular success and at age 62, Janáček entered what is considered his most artistic period of composition. Some of the pieces from this period include the symphonic poem The Ballad of Blaník, finishing the opera Katya Kabanova, and starting on his next opera The Cunning Little Vixen. He also worked on a string quartet After Tolstoy’s Kreutzer Sonata and began even another opera based on Karel Čapek’s The Makropulos Affair. He was a contemporary and fellow inductee to the Prussian Academy of Sciences with Arnold Schoenberg and Paul Hindemith.

As Janáček approached what was the end of his life, his music got “younger” and more progressive. He fit into the 20th century style well, refining it with his work. The last year of his life saw him create the opera From the House of the Dead based on a novel by Dostoyevsky and his string quartet no. 2 Intimate Letters. He died August 12, 1928, in Czechoslovakia.

Resources for Leoš Janáček

Scott Joplin

I could listen to recordings of Joplin for hours on end. I love the ragtime music he developed. He is truly one of the early innovators of American music and a fore-runner of the development of jazz, which is a truly American style of music.

Joplin is believed to have been born in northeast Texas in about 1867/1868. His exact date and place of birth are not recorded anywhere, though he is noted on the 1870 census for Texarkana. His family lived in Texarkana when he was child. Both his father and mother were musical and encouraged it in their children. Joplin became a solid banjo player at a young age. Shortly thereafter, he began to teach himself piano, when he was allowed to play the one in the home of his mother’s employer.

As a teen, Joplin left home to become a travelling musician. Many of the reports of his early life are anecdotal but there are reports of him playing with different groups all over the midwest. He is noted as being a part of a minstrel troupe in Texarkana in 1891. In 1893 he is believed to have been in Chicago, maybe for the World’s Fair, leading a band and playing cornet. He is believed to have returned to Sedalia, MO, after that, making it his home base.

He attended music classes at George R. Smith College in Sedalia. About this time, he was also teaching a few students and beginning his composing. He published his first pieces in 1896. In 1898, he sold his first rag, Original Rag. He was forced to give arrangement credit to another since he was not strong in notation. For his next piece that he sold, Maple Leaf Rag, he worked with a lawyer to make sure he got full credit. It was a slow start to publication in 1999 but within 10 year, it had sold over half a million copies.

As Joplin continued performing and composing, he travelled and wrote. He was married briefly two times. The first ended in divorce; the second ended when his wife died 10 weeks after their marriage. As Joplin continued writing, he published many, many rags. He also worked on operas. He had one that was produced – A Guest of Honor. It was to commemorate the visit of Booker T. Washington to the White House in 1901. It was going very well until the box office receipts were stolen and that led to the inability of bill payment and the shutting down of the production.

Joplin worked for many years on another opera – Treemonisha. This was set in a rural part of northeast Texas and featured the story of how Treemonisha, the only educated member of her community, led her town out of ignorance and superstition. It is considered an allegory of Joplin’s view of the African-American community of his time. He believed that education would bring racial equality for his people. It was not fully performed until 1972. In 1976, Joplin was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously for this work.

Joplin became very sick, quite suddenly, and passed away in 1917 at the age of 48.

There are plenty of recordings of Joplin’s music. I’ll just put one more here that has 27 of his piano rags all together if you want to listen to more.

Resources for Scott Joplin

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook 
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses 

Featured from the letter ‘I’

Ives ~ Composer ABCs

Today we are looking at the American composer Charles Ives. Bridging the Romantic and 20th century music period dates, Ives’ music falls solidly into the 20th century category in technique.

Ives was born in Danbury, Connecticut, in 1874. His father was a bandmaster (having been the youngest bandmaster of the Civil War). Ives was taught music first by his father, who allowed him to experiment and taught him theory and harmony and counterpoint. His father allowed him to follow his ideas in music, which led to him pursuing them freely and with ambition.

At age 14, Ives became the youngest paid organist in Connecticut. By the age of 20, he had published a number of compositions. He continued his education at Yale and was enthusiastic in his pursuit of music, sports, and academics. He graduated from Yale in 1898. He continued as a church organist for several more years.

In 1899, Ives began working as an actuary for an insurance company. This became something he pursued, also. In 1907, he joined with another to form his own insurance company. He headed that company from 1916 until he retired in 1930. He was highly successful. One of his creations in insurance is widely known and used still today – estate planning. Ives is credited with this strategy of planning. He was incredibly successful as a businessman.

Ives as a business man by day and a composer by night. He wrote many pieces. Most of these were not well known during his lifetime but in his later years, when he struggled to compose new pieces, he worked on revising older pieces and premiering some of them.

As a composer, Ives experimented with music. He took inspiration from everything around him, considering that any sound could be considered music. He quoted folk songs (think Stephen Foster), gospel music, and symphonies (Beethoven) in his works. He utilized sounds from nature as inspiration (flutes trilling like birds). He took inspiration from poets and writers (Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, Emerson). He added his own observations (two bands passing around the town square) and his knowledge of music. He created something quite new and different. And very American.

His techniques included bitonal (two tonal centers at once) and polytonal (3 or more tonal centers at once) music. He used tone clusters (thick groups of notes that are dissonant and harmonic at the same time). He utilized quarter tones (pitch changes smaller than a half step) and polyrhythms (two different time signatures at once). He experimented with aleatory elements (unregulated in rhythm, tempo, or some other aspect). Even with all of these new and unique and quite different ideas, Ives is considered an truly American composer. Some say his work truly represents America – free and yet still within some constraints.

Some of his music for you to listen to:
Variations on “America” – A piece I enjoyed playing, when it was arranged for concert band, though it was originally for organ. It has also been arranged for a number of different instrumentations. This is perhaps his earliest known composition.

The Unanswered Question – A chamber piece that was originally for a string quartet, a flute quartet, and a solo trumpet. It is quite a different piece but quite interesting to listen to.

The Circus Band March – Marches always have an exciting energy to them and Ives’ composition is no different. It is said to have been inspired by two different bands marching in a parade on different sides of a town square. Who knows, since it doesn’t appear that Ives commented on that, but it is a fun idea.

Resources for Charles Ives:

https://www.classicsforkids.com/composers/composer_profile.php?id=38

https://charlesives.org/ives-man-his-life

https://www.wisemusicclassical.com/composer/764/Charles-Ives/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Edward-Ives

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Ives

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook  (Ironman Legos this week!) and
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses (Instagram Home educators to follow this week).

Featured from Week 4 all things ‘H’

Praise in Singing

Last Sunday, May 30, was our 5th Sunday singing at evening worship. I love those singing days a lot. Singing is a joyful way to worship and praise. This is a recording of that worship service. Sing along and enjoy!




List of songs (I think I got them all listed here)

  • I Come to the Garden Alone
  • To God Be The Glory
  • Flee As A Bird
  • Hide Me, Rock of Ages
  • Step By Step
  • I Stand Amazed
  • Just As I Am/I Come Broken
  • Thomas’ Song
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • Holy, Holy, Holy
  • Will Your Anchor Hold?
  • Night With Ebon Pinion
  • I’ll Fly Away
  • When I Go Home
  • O Lord, Our Lord
  • It Is Well With My Soul (When Peace Like A River)
  • Restore My Soul
  • Ten Thousand Angels
  • I Am A Poor Wayfaring Stranger

We live stream our services on Facebook every time we meet. You can join us Sunday mornings at 9 am CST for Bible class, 10 am CST for worship, and 5 pm CST for worship. We also meet at 7pm CST for Wednesday devotional and Bible study time. If you are in town, please visit in person. We’d love to meet you.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Holst ~ Composer ABCs

Gustav Holst was born Sept. 21, 1874, and died May 25, 1934, at the age of 59. He was born into a family of musicians, going back three generations. His grandfather had been a Latvian composer of harp music who moved to England. Holst was a natural at music, learning the piano and violin at a young age. Unfortunately, he had a nerve issue in his right hand and was unable to continue playing piano. He switched to trombone and spent many years playing to supplement his composing income.

After his education at a boys school, he attended the Royal College of Music. He learned composition and met Ralph Vaughn Williams, another composer who became a lifelong friend. Largely influenced by the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, Holst’s compositions grew and changed. While in London a bit later, he became interested in ancient texts, the Hindu philosophy, and learned Sanskrit so he could translate his own pieces. This influenced much of his writing and many of his pieces.

Holst was also influenced by the writings of George Bernard Shaw and William Morris, both outspoken socialists. Other writers were also influential for Holst, including Walt Whitman, Thomas Hardy, and Robert Bridges. The world that Holst was living and working in was changing and growing quickly, moving from the Romantic era of art and music into the 20th century.

Holst married a soprano from one of the choirs his directed and they seem to have had a pleasant life. They had one daughter, Isobel, that is noted in most biographies.

Holst is most well known for an orchestral piece, The Planets. This is a seven movement pieces, each movement named for one of the planets known at the time. Most popular of these are “Jupiter – Bringer of Jollity” and “Mars – Bringer of War.” This piece came about after a period where Holst traveled to Spain with Arthur Bax, his brother Clifford Bax, and Balfour Gardiner. Clifford Bax introduced him to astrology and he became fascinated with it. This fascination with the stars and skies led to what became the orchestral suite The Planets. The piece was almost immediately popular and this seems to have been an area of irritation to Holst since he was not completely pleased with this piece. This piece did, however, secure his financial situation.

Holst spent the second half of his life teaching, particular at St. Paul’s Girls School. He began teaching there in 1904 and taught there until the end of his life. He wrote the St. Paul’s Suite for the opening of the music wing at the girls school. He also taught at Morley College. The students of Morley College helped transcribe the 500 page score a newly found piece by 17th century composer Henry Purcell. The students wrote out the score, orchestra parts, and vocal parts for The Fairy Queen and then they performed it. It was a stunning success.

From his Indian influences, many works emerged. One of the best known is the grand opera Sita. He also wrote songs with vedic settings. Another piece included in this influence set would be Sivitri, which is a chamber opera.

Not mentioned in many biographies about Holst is his wind band music. He was actually a fairly driving force in the early stages of wind bands of the early 20th centure. His military band music is still important in the band world today. He wrote First Suite in E-flat for Military Band in 1909 and Second Suite in F Major for Military Band in 1911. Neither of these pieces appear to have been premiered until the early 1920s.

Holst experimented with music of all sorts and writing styles of all sorts. He wrote psalms in plainsong, experimented with minimalism, echoed the style of Gilbert and Sullivan, wrote opera like the 16th century composers, set traditional texts to music, used folk songs and elements of them in pieces, and studied, translated, and utilized ancient texts. If you are looking for a composer with a huge range and variety of pieces to experience, Holst is one to study.

Reference materials for Holst:
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6380559/gustav-holst
https://www.classicsforkids.com/composers/composer_profile.php?id=37
https://www.classicfm.com/composers/holst/guides/holst-facts/
https://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Holst-Gustav.htm
https://www.wisemusicclassical.com/composer/712/Gustav-Holst/
http://www.gustavholst.info/biography/index.php?chapter=1
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Gustav-Theodore-Holst
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Holst

Note: I know lots of folks do not like Wikipedia. For composers, however, it is a great source list of pieces. You will often find pieces and links to them mentioned in Wikipedia that exist but other biographies do not deem worth mentioning. An example of this is the military suites by Holst. They are a staple of the band world today yet are seldom mentioned in standard biographies.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook  (Harry Potter this week!) and
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses (Homeschool Bloggers this week).

Featured from Week 4 all things ‘G’

Grainger, Ginastera ~ Composer ABCs

This letter was hard to pick; there are quite a few other composers I could have included. But top of my list had to be Grainger. Percy Grainger’s Children’s March is one that happily frolicks in my head many a day and I love it. Grainger’s pieces were always a joy to perform and I still love listening to them. Alberto Ginastera had to go on the list because, as a French horn player, he wrote fabulous pieces that were transcribed for wind ensemble. They were challenging but tons of fun.

Percy Grainger

Percy Grainger was born in Australia in 1882 to an architect/engineer father and a mother who encouraged his visual and musical art abilities. He learned to play piano first and then added harmony studies and composition later. He was primarily known as a pianist for a long time, commanding top performance fees and playing to sold-out crowds.

When he was about 11, he had his debut concert and was well received. He and his mother (his father had left) moved to Europe when he was 13 so that Grainger could continue his studies. He enrolled in Hoch Conservatorium in Frankfurt, Germany, to study composition and piano. In 1901, he then moved to London. While in London, he became known worldwide as a pianist. He also began to collect English folk songs which made their way into his compositions. Some examples of these folk songs influencing his music are found in the excepts shared here: Country Gardens, Over The Hills and Far Away (The Children’s March), and Lincolnshire Posy. These are well known and universally played band arrangements.

Grainger is also well known for championing the music of the Nordic lands and peoples. Frederick Delius and Edvard Grieg were two important friendships that Grainger maintained.

In 1914, Grainger moved to America. He became a naturalized citizen. He lived in America the rest of his life, though he was constantly touring and visiting both Australia and Europe. Grainger became very involved in educational works and set up a museum in his name in Melbourne, his birthplace. As he aged, he continued to perform and to write and revise his works. He gave his final performance less than a year before his death in 1960.

Note – There are some hints (and perhaps more blantant statements than I found) of unseemly behavior on the part of his father in some of the resources out there. Just a note prior to having students research.

This is the first movement of the suite and it should continue playing on through all movements. If it doesn’t, you can watch on YouTube and it will play all movements. It is worth listening to them all.

Additional Resources on Percy Grainger:

https://grainger.unimelb.edu.au/discover/percy-graingers-timeline
https://grainger.unimelb.edu.au/discover/biography
https://www.percygraingeramerica.org/
https://percygraingeramerica.org/bio
https://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Grainger-Percy.htm

Ginastera

This is a movement from Estancia

Alberto Ginastera (pronounced with the Spanish J/H sound) was born in 1916 in Argentina. He is considered one of the America’s most important 20th century composers. Born in Buenos Aires, he studied music privately as a child and then enrolled in the National Conservatoire of Music there. Beginning composing in his youth, he won his first prize in 1934 with Piezas Infantiles for piano. Also in 1934 he wrote Impresiones de la Puna, for flute & string quartet. These pieces and the next ones that he wrote featured heavily the authentic sounds and folk music of his native country Argentina. Through about 1947, he wrote strongly nationalistic pieces.

In the late 1940s, he traveled to the USA on a Guggenheim fellowship and studied with Aaron Copland. From this point forward, Ginastera’s music began to change a bit and featured less obvious folk melodies, though they were still present. Following a year in the US, he returned to Argentina and continued composing. His works through this period continued to focus on the sights and sounds of the Gaucho traditions.

In the late 1950s, Ginastera’s style changed yet again to a much more 20th century style. He still called upon the Gaucho tradition and traditional melodies but they are not so easy to recognize in his music. He also began using the serial techniques and 12 tone techniques popular with composers such as Berg. Throughout his life, Ginastera was an influential composer who touched many of the composers to come after him in Argentina. He wrote in all genres, though not really more prolific in one than in another.

In researching this post, I found out that Ginastera wrote some amazing pieces for individual instruments. One of those was the harp. This blog post by Yolanda Kondonassis was quite interesting to read about playing one of Ginastera’s harp pieces. There are some track previews available on the post showing off the unique writing Ginastera did for the harp.

Further resources for Alberto Ginastera:

https://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Ginastera-Alberto.htm
https://www.boosey.com/pages/cr/composer/composer_main?composerid=2699&ttype=BIOGRAPHY
https://www.boosey.com/pages/focus/?url=/focus/ginasteracentennial.htm
https://www.boosey.com/pages/cr/composer/composer_main?composerid=2699&ttype=BIOGRAPHY
https://www.naxos.com/person/Alberto_Ginastera/26054.htm

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.



Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook and
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré

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