Day 151: …Hello Woody!

Woody_Allen_(2006)I’ve always been a fan of Woody Allen’s movies.

I liked his standup comedy in the 1960s, as well – which works out great since many of his early movies featured the same jokes he told in his standup routines.

Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935, in the Bronx, New York. His is 78 years old.

I’m not quite sure what it is about Woody’s movies that I enjoy so much. I think it’s partly his quirky mannerisms and clever dialogue and partly his stamina as a screenwriter/director. He creates virtually a movie every year – a pace others half his age would have a hard time matching. I find that remarkable in itself. The fact that some of his very best films (Match Point, Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine) came at a point in his life where you’d think he’d either (a) run out of ideas, or (b) need to slow down is doubly remarkable.

Tonight, however, I don’t intend to start with one of his best films. I will, in fact, start with one I consider among his worst – What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

Oh, well. You gotta start somewhere.

Here’s how this will work: For the next 46 days, I’ll watch every major release film that Woody Allen directed, from What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) to Blue Jasmine (2013).

There are two very minor works he directed that are rare: Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story (1971), a 25-minute film that was never released theatrically and now can only be seen at The Paley Center for Media, and Sounds from a Town I Love (2001), a three-minute film that I found on YouTube. I’ll watch the latter. I’m not flying to New York to watch the former. Sorry.

I’ve already seen most of Woody’s movies. But never in chronological order. And never from the standpoint of analyzing them, intently studying them. So this will be interesting.

Or not.

Who knows?

I’m willing to roll the dice.

If you’re feeling adventurous, join me.

Day 150: Good Bye, Haydn…

HaydnCD150Today’s CD is the pianoforte version of Haydn’s symphony Die Sieben Letzten Worte (the Seven Last Words of Christ), which was composed in 1787. Haydn was 55 years old.

The pianoforte version is played by Bart van Oort.

Originally commissioned for a full orchestra, Die Sieben Letzten is composed of nine movements, described this way:

The seven main meditative sections — labelled “sonatas” and all slow — are framed by an Introduction and a speedy “Earthquake” conclusion, for a total of nine movements…The seven meditations on the Last Words are excerpted from all four gospels. The “Earthquake” movement derives from Matthew 27:51ff. Much of the work is consolatory, but the “Earthquake” brings a contrasting element of supernatural intervention — the orchestra is asked to play presto e con tutta la forza — and closes with the only fortississimo (triple forte) in the piece.

Today’s CD marks the end of my exploration of Haydn’s music. Thanks to the incredible Brilliant Classics record label, I was able to listen to Haydn’s entire creative output.

If you want to hear great music at an affordable price, you cannot go wrong with the Brilliant Classics label. If you want your own 150-CD Haydn Edition, visit Amazon. As of today’s date (February 27, 2014), the Hayden Edition is just $130 for 150 CDs. I’m no math wizard. But according to my calculations that’s less than $1 per disc.

Unheard of. Buy it. You won’t regret it.

So, good bye, Haydn.

Good bye, also to the people from seven countries who visited this blog since the beginning.

Here’s what I listened to today:

Frankly, I prefer van Oort’s pianoforte version over the full orchestra. I think it’s because the pianoforte – along with van Oort’s exceptional talent playing it – helps bring out the emotion of Haydn’s composition.

Piano is often a very melancholy instrument for me., anyway. When it plays Die Sieben it’s a perfect fit.

Favorite!

NOTE: If you’re interested in Woody Allen, stick around. Tomorrow, I start watching everything Woody directed, in chronological order.

Day 149: One Day Left!

HaydnCD149Today’s CD contains Klavierstücke (German for “Piano Pieces”) – or Arrangements for all of us English-speaking dudes.

There are 18 Klavierstücke on this disc, all played with excellence by Bart van Oort on fortepiano.

And these are all wonderful arrangements, too.

I actually recognized the melody of one of them from another Haydn piece. Track 4 is an arrangement from Symphony HOB I:85/III.

I like this CD. In fact, I think I can classify it as FAVORITE!

These arrangements seem to be grouped into five sections:

Arrangement From a Musical Clock
- one track

Arrangements From Symphonies
- eight tracks

Arrangements From the Opera “La Vera Constanza”
- three tracks

Arrangements From String Quartets
- two tracks

Arrangements From Piano Trios
- four tracks

I provided the first track for your listening enjoyment. If you want the rest, I suggest you visit YouTube. They’re probably there.

NOTE: Tomorrow is my last day with Franz Joseph Haydn. Starting Friday, February 28, I begin watching all of Woody Allen’s movies – at least, all of the ones he directed. I believe there are some 46 of them.

Day 148: Bart’s Smorgasbord

HaydnCD148I called yesterday’s musical selection a hodgepodge.

I’m not sure what to call today’s CD.

Perhaps smorgasbord is an accurate description of what I’m faced (eared?) with this morning. There are so many different styles and genres represented on this disc that I’m not even sure where to begin to describe what I’m hearing.

All I know for sure is this: the incomparable Bart van Oort, on fortepiano, is elevating these snippets to a higher level.

Like yesterday’s CD, today’s is (more or less) divided into four sections.

The first section is comprised of three compositions, each with its own Hoboken designation.

Section One

Fantasy in C HOB XVII: 4

Adagio in F HOB XVII: 9

Capriccio in G HOB XVII: 1

Section Two

Piano Sonata in D HOB XVII: D1

Section Three

Piano Sonata in F HOB XVII: A/1

Section Four

Eighteen Menuets and Aria HOB IX: 20 and HOB XVII: F1

Here’s the first composition on today’s CD. I like it a lot.

Fantasy in C HOB XVII: 4

I’m sure all the other compositions can be found on YouTube. Go look.

NOTE: Only two days left of my exploration of Haydn’s music! To be honest, I’m exhausted from 148 straight days of listening to Haydn. I’m ready for a break.

Day 147: Hodgepodge a la van Oort

HaydnCD147Today’s CD is another hodgepodge of short pieces of music.

And when I write “short,” I mean short.

There are 51 tracks on this disc. The total of all music is 75 minutes, 12 seconds, which means the average length for each track is about a minute and a half.

The incomparable Bart van Oort, on fortepiano, plays his heart out on those tiny tracks.

The CD is divided into four sections, each featuring 13 tracks:

Twelve Menuets HOB IX: 8
13 tracks

Twelve Menuets HOB IX: 3
13 tracks

Twelve Menuets HOB IX: 11
13 tracks

Twelve German Dances HOT IX: 12
13 tracks

I provided the YouTube clip for the first section of the four on this CD. If you’re interested, seek out the rest yourself on YouTube.

Bottom line: Although some of these tracks are bouncy, lively, full of Baroque-like trills and verve, a great deal of this CD sounds the same. Each individual menuet or dance is great. Lots in there to digest and enjoy. But 51 tracks of such music wears me down, sort of like Chinese water torture – one drip at a time.

Day 146: Back to Bart

HaydnCD146jpgToday’s CD is an odd duck.

It’s just six compositions on solo piano – three of which are lengthy (over 14 minutes), three of which are relatively short (under seven minutes and thirty-one seconds).

If you ever wanted to hear what Haydn would sound like as Chopin or Bach, this CD is for you.

What I find most interesting about these pieces is that they allow for great expressiveness, a sort of meandering quality that allows for Bart van Oort to demonstrate why he’s one of the world’s best fortepiano players.

These are compositions that would play well as background for writing as well as foreground for active listening.

Highly recommended. FAVORITE!

What I listened to:

1. Arietta No. 1 in E flat with twelve variations HOB XVII: 3

2. Variations (Fantasy) in F minor HOB XVII: 6
3. Arietta No. 2 in A with twenty variations HOB XVII: 2
4. Four Variations on “Gott erhalte” in G HOB XVII: Anhang
5. Five Variations in D HOB XVII: 7
6. Six Variations in C HOB XVII: 5

I provided the first selection from YouTube. The rest are likely there. If you want to hear them, get thee to YouTube.

Day 145: More Riko (Woo-Hoo!)

HaydnCD145Today’s performer is, once again, Riko Fukuda on fortepiano.

From her web site:

RIKO FUKUDA studied piano and oboe at the Toho-Gakuën conservatory in Japan. A grant from the Dutch government enabled her to study with Stanley Hoogland at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where she specialised in fortepiano. Her solo recordings of works by Pinto and Dussek on the Olympia label have met with great acclaim, and in 2001 she released two CDs with piano sonatas of Haydn on Brilliant Classics.

Yes, she did. I’m listening to one of them now. And it’s very good.

Riko’s playing is remarkable for its expressiveness and delicate, yet nimble, touch.

Of course, it’s impossible for me to Continue reading

Day 144: The Brilliance of Riko Fukuda

HaydnCD144Today brings the following:

1. More snow, ice, and high winds,

2. A new performer,

3. Spectacular piano sonatas.

Can’t say much for #1.

It’s been that kind of winter in these parts.

I can say a great deal about #2 and #3.

Today’s performer is Riko Fukuda on fortepiano.

From her web site:

RIKO FUKUDA studied piano and oboe at the Toho-Gakuën conservatory in Japan. A grant from the Dutch government enabled her to study with Stanley Hoogland at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where she specialised in fortepiano. Her solo recordings of works by Pinto and Dussek on the Olympia label have met with great acclaim, and in 2001 she released two CDs with piano sonatas of Haydn on Brilliant Classics.

Yes, she did. I’m listening to one of them now. And it’s very good.

Riko’s playing is remarkable for its expressiveness and Continue reading

Day 143: More Excellence From Yoshiko

HaydnCD143Today’s CD was another enjoyable journey through the creative mind of Joseph Haydn.

At least, the part of Haydn’s mind that composed piano sonatas.

Today’s performer is once again Yoshiko Kojima on fortepiano.

According to one web site,

Japanese pianist Yoshiko Kojima studied piano at the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo and fortepiano at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. Teacher at Tokai University and at the National University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo.

She does a masterful job, too – especially on Track #3.

I listened to this CD three times through. Each time, my attention was riveted by Track #3, which is Movement III (“Finale: Allegro di molto”) of Piano Sonata in E Flat HOB XVI: 45.

Such fleet-fingered playing takes a great deal of skill. Also, I can’t even imagine how much black was on the page of music. All those Continue reading

Day 142: A Change of Pianists

HaydnCD142It’s funny. I knew it was a different pianist today from the first few notes.

I’ve gotten to the point where I can tell by the sound of the piano, or the style of playing, if it’s someone to whom I’ve been listening or not.

Today’s performer is Yoshiko Kojima on fortepiano.

According to one web site,

Japanese pianist Yoshiko Kojima studied piano at the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo and fortepiano at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. Teacher at Tokai University and at the National University of Fine Arts and Music in Tokyo.

She does a masterful job, too.

These selections are crisp and passionate.

The recordings are interesting, too. On track two Continue reading