Day 309: Brahms’ Third Racket & Symphony No. 4

BrahmsCD3Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 will forever be associated (at least, in my mind) with this scene from the ’70s British TV series Fawlty Towers.

If you’re not familiar with Fawlty Towers, it’s about a snobbish, extremely rude hotel owner named Basil Fawlty (played to perfection by Monty Python alum John Cleese) who, along with his shrew wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) own and operate Fawlty Towers.

In this short-but-hilarious scene, Sybil chastises Basil for not getting to the chores she laid out for him to do (in this case, I believe it was to compose the day’s food menu). He dashes back to his typewriter to begin the task.

So, I’ve been listening to Brahms’ Third Racket this morning.

All joking aside, Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Op. 90 is Continue reading

Day 52: Like a German Monty Python

HaydnCD52Today’s CD, Haydn’s opera Die Feuersbrunst (“The Burned-Down House”), is a very odd duck indeed.

For one thing, some of this sounds like a Monty Python skit with a couple of guys talking in high-pitched voices pretending to be women. Or kids. Or marionettes, as is the subject-matter of this “comic opera in two acts.”

From the website

The plot, involving the adventures of a buffoon named Hanswurst who speaks in a light Viennese dialect, is truly absurd enough to defy summary, but it’s fast-moving and full of amorous intrigue between masters and servants. Both the arias and the spoken interludes are brief, and Haydn rose to the occasion with a mixture of jolly tunes and exaggerated pathos that must have been great fun for all involved. The singers (there are four vocal parts) enter into the situation-comedy spirit of the action…

Buffoons and situation-comedy jocularity. Yes. It’s all here.

Along with lots and lots of talking. In German. It’s like an immersive German-language course.

What I can’t figure out is why this comedic opera is called Die Feuersbrunst. When I typed “Feuersbrunst” into Google, up popped these images:

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 9.12.34 AMSo that’s what a Feuersbrunst looks like. Here are a couple more definitions from Continue reading

Day 36: Scary Movies…and Circuses

HaydnCD36Today’s music is Organ Concertos.

That means I’ll probably hear an organ that’ll remind me of the score of a silent film, something akin to Phantom of the Opera or some other scary movie.

It’s inevitable, really.

Any time I hear and old-timey organ in Classical music, I think of the opening flourish of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BMV 565), which is one of the most distinctive – and famous – passages of music ever written:

See what I mean? You know that sound even if you don’t know it’s name. (Now you do. Write it down in case you ever find yourself on Jeopardy!)

But that’s not the music I’ll hear today. For one thing, it’s not Bach on tap; it’s Haydn.

For another, according to the list of Haydn’s concertos published on Wikipedia, today’s musical selection selection was published in 1756. (Haydn was 24.) Bach lived from 1685 – 1750. So, although, Haydn could have been influenced by Bach (and, most likely, was), I think he was too busy blazing his own trail to copy the works of Johann Sebastian note for note.

Meaning? Meaning the style of music had changed from the early days of Bach to the heyday of Haydn. Therefore, the organ solos in Haydn’s works won’t Continue reading