Many of the pieces in our upcoming “Salute” concert are probably familiar – certainly “The Star Spangled Banner” and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”. But one that may be relatively unknown outside of video game circles is “Baba Yetu”. Once you hear it, though, we think you’ll agree that in addition to being inspirational, it’s also truly unforgettable.
Baba Yetu Meaning and Lyrics
“Baba Yetu” is essentially the Lord’s Prayer sung in Swahili. The title translated means “Our Father”.
The lyrics are as follows:
Baba yetu, yetu uliye Mbinguni yetu, yetu amina! Baba yetu yetu uliye Jina lako e litukuzwe.
Utupe leo chakula chetu Tunachohitaji, utusamehe Makosa yetu, hey! Kama nasi tunavyowasamehe Waliotukosea usitutie Katika majaribu, lakini Utuokoe, na yule, muovu e milele!
Ufalme wako ufike utakalo Lifanyike duniani kama mbinguni. (Amina)
Our Father, who art in Heaven. Amen! Our Father, Hallowed be thy name.
Give us this day our daily bread, Forgive us of our trespasses, As we forgive others Who trespass against us Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one forever.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done On Earth as it is in Heaven. (Amen)
Video Game Origin
Unlike many orchestral and choral pieces that are either classical music or film scores, “Baba Yetu” has a unique story. Composer Christopher Tin was at his five-year Stanford University reunion where he reconnected with his former roommate Soren Johnson. Johnson told Tin that he had been working on the video game Civiliztion III at which time Tin relayed his love of the series.
A few months later, Johnson contacted Tin and told him that he was working on Civilization IV and needed music for the game’s introduction and menu area. Recalling his interest in the series, he asked if Tin wanted to help. Johnson had heard the Stanford Talisman, an a capella group at Stanford, sing traditional African music and wanted something similar. Tin composed “Baba Yetu” in 2005 and recorded it with Stanford Talisman for the game.
Tin re-recorded the piece for his first solo classical crossover album titled Calling All Dawns in 2009, recruiting the talent of the Soweto Gospel Choir for vocals.
Grammy Award Winning
“Baba Yetu” received a lot of critical praise, including from over 20 reviewers from major video game publications like IGN and GameSpy. It was also particularly memorable for fans of Civilization IV because of its combination of an inspirational and majestic theme with African percussion and rhythm.
In 2011, it won a Grammy Award which not only made it the first video game theme nominated, but also the first piece of music composed for a game to win. It also won at the Independent Music Awards and the 2006 Game Audio Network Guild Awards.
Today, the piece is frequently performed at Video Games Live concerts and has even made appearances at venues like Carnegie Hall, The Dubai Fountain, the Kennedy Center, The Hollywood Bowl, and America’s Got Talent.
When it comes to beautiful classical music, there’s a lot to choose from. From slow and melodic to fast and memorable, there’s something out there for everyone. Only a select few pieces, however, rise to the level of being so beautiful they bring tears and touch the soul. If that is what you are searching for, consider our list of top 20 heart-wrenching, moving classical music pieces below.
1. Elgar – “Nimrod” from the Enigma Variations
“Nimrod” is truly one of the all-time heart-wrenching pieces with its fluctuating dynamics and unresolved tension. It is laden with anticipation from the start with a classic crescendo into the second entrance of the main theme. It’s no wonder it is used at British funerals, memorial services, and on Remembrance Sunday. You can hear the Parker Symphony perform it on October 26, 2018 at our Salute concert
2. Tchaikovsky – “Pas de Deux” from The Nutcracker
The “Pas de Deux” is a visually stunning part of the ballet The Nutcracker. And it is no surprise that the beauty of the two solo dancers is complemented by a powerful and expressive melody. It begins with a soulful cello melody and builds from there.
3. Rachmaninov – “18th Variation” from Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Fans of the movie “Somewhere in Time” and those who have seen “Groundhog Day” will instantly recognize this lyrical melody. The variations overall, including the 18th, have become more famous than the Paganini tune they are based on.
4. Dvořák – “Largo” from the New World Symphony
The second movement of Dvořák’s 9th Symphony (the Largo) has often been described as surreal and sublime. While the melody is seemingly simple, it evokes feelings of reminiscence like no other piece. It is, at times, nostalgic with a lamenting, longing tone.
5. Puccini – “O Mio Babbino Caro” from Gianni Schicchi
With a title that translates to “Oh my dear daddy”, you can only imagine that this is a song filled with emotion. “O Mio Babbino Caro” is a soprano aria from Puccini’s opera Gianni Schicchi sung at the point when tensions are so high that they threaten to separate the singer, Lauretta, and the boy she loves, Rinuccio, forever.
6. Barber – Adagio for Strings
Adagio for Strings is arguably Samuel Barber’s best known work. It was arranged for string orchestra from the second movement of his String Quartet Op 11. It has been written that it is “full of pathos and cathartic passion” that “rarely leaves a dry eye”. It has been played at funerals and memorials and in 2004 was voted the “saddest classical” work ever by the BBC’s Today program.
7. Zimmer – Chevaliers de Sangreal
Hans Zimmer’s “Chevaliers De Sangreal” is arguably not classical, but a film score. Still, it is perfect for this list. The gradual crescendo that builds anticipation is the backdrop for the end of The Da Vinci Code when Robert Langdon realizes the truth about Mary Magdalene’s tomb. Sorry…no spoilers here. The point at which the music hits its climax is the moment Langdon reaches the spot and kneels.
8. Godard – “Berceuse” from Jocelyn
Jocelyn may not be among the most recognized operas, but the “Berceuse” from it remains the most enduring of Godard’s compositions. It was originally sung by a tenor, but it has been recorded by other instruments including Pablo Casals on cello.
9. Beethoven – 2nd Movement from “Sonata Pathétique”
The “Adagio cantabile” from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 8 (Pathétique) was used as the theme music for the radio program Adventures in Good Music from 1970 to 2007. The sonata overall is among Beethoven’s most popular piano works.
10. Williams – Schindler’s List
The theme to an intensely emotional movie like Schindler’s List will, of course, also evoke tears and heart-wrenching feelings. The original score and recording features violinist Itzhak Perlman and won numerous awards including an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
11. Handel – “Largo” from Xerxes
With such a beautiful aria, it’s interesting that Handel’s opera Xerxes was a failure. The area was resurrected 100 years later and is typically performed at solemn occasions. Although it was originally sung, it has been arranged for all sorts of instruments and voices.
12. Debussy – “Clair de Lune” from Suite Bergamasque
One of Debussy’s most recognizable works, “Clair de Lune” is actually the third movement of his Suite bergamasque written for piano. It has since been arranged for orchestra and numerous instruments and is prominently featured in both the movie Ocean’s 11 and as background music for the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas.
13. Elgar – 1st Movement from his Cello Concerto in E minor
Elgar’s Cello Concerto is his last notable work and a cornerstone of solo repertoire for any serious cellist. The first movement is filled with passion and it is hard to find a more expressive and passionate recording than that of Jacqueline du Pré.
14. Puccini – “Nessun Dorma” from Turandot
One of the best-known tenor arias in all of opera, Nessun Dorma was popularized worldwide by Luciano Pavarotti who performed it for the 1990 World Cup, captivating a global audience. It was played at his funeral in 2013.
15. Mozart – “Lacrimosa” from his Requiem in D minor
Mozart’s Requiem is full of emotional and intense moments especially in places like the “Dies irae” and the “Lacrimosa”. Sadly, the “Lacrimosa” was incomplete due to Mozart’s death and was finished by Franz Xaver Süssmayr.
16. Gounod/Mantovani – Nazareth
Originally composed by Gounod for voice as “Jesus de Nazareth”, it was recorded by Mantovani & His Orchestra for Christmas albums and titled “Nazareth”.
17. Sartori/Quarantotto – Con te partirò (Time To Say Goodbye)
This Italian song was originally performed in 1995 by Andrea Bocelli at the Sanremo Festival. This second version was released in 1996 sung partly in English with Sarah Brightman.
18. Saint-Saëns – “The Swan” from Carnival of the Animals
Lushly romantic, “The Swan” is another staple in cello repertoire. The cello solo is said to represent a swan gliding elegantly over the water while the piano is the swan’s feet beneath the surface.
19. Massenet – “Meditation” from Thaïs
The “Meditation” is played during a time of reflection in Act II of the opera Thaïs. It is considered one of the great encore pieces and has been performed by all the great violin soloists.
20. Mahler – 4th Movement from Symphony No. 9
Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 was his last symphony. He died without ever hearing it performed. The final movement is often interpreted as the composer’s farewell to the world since it was composed after the diagnosis of his fatal heart disease.
Honorable Mentions (in case you want to check out more):
Paul Wittgenstein 3 BFMI.jpg Created by Unknown https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Wittgenstein
August 13 is International Lefthanders Day and we’re approaching the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice. So it’s a good time to highlight a left-handed pianist who also served (and was captured) in the war – Paul Wittgenstein. For any die-hard M*A*S*H fans, this name might sound familiar. In an episode titled “Morale Victory”, Winchester tells a wounded drafted concert pianist the story of Paul Wittgenstein and provides him sheet music for Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand commissioned by Wittgenstein himself.
Paul Wittgenstein was born in Vienna to a wealthy family. He is the older brother of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Growing up, his household was visited by prominent composers including Brahms, Mahler, Josef Labor, and Richard Strauss. Paul would often play duets with these figures. He would go on to study piano and made his public debut in 1913. However, World War I broke out a year later and he was called up for service.
While serving in WWI, Paul was shot in the elbow and captured by the Russians during an assault on Ukraine. His right arm was amputated and he was held as a prisoner of war in Siberia. It was during this time that he resolved to continue his career using only his left hand. He wrote to Josef Labor to request a concerto for left hand. After the end of the war, he studied intensely, learned Labor’s composition, and began to give concerts again. Despite receiving reviews qualified with comments that he played well for a one-armed pianist, he persevered. He didn’t want to be regarded as an oddity or congratulated for not being one. He wanted to be taken seriously as a musician with an artistry all his own. He commissioned additional works from other composers, most notably Ravel. Unfortunately, he made changes to the score for the premiere and Ravel was so angry, the two were never friends again.
Two other commissioned pieces worth mentioning were written by Prokofiev and Hindemith. Paul never performed Prokofiev’s 4th Piano Concerto. He stated about the work, “I do not understand a single note in it, and I will not play it.” It was not performed until 1956 when Siegfried Rapp, who also lost his right arm in war, requested the score from Prokofiev’s widow. As for Hindemith’s Piano Music with Orchestra, Paul rejected it outright not only not performing it, but also refusing to let anyone else play it either. In fact, it was hidden and only discovered in 2002 after his widow’s death.
In 1938, Paul and his wife fled to the US and lived in New York. He spent the rest of his life there, teaching gifted students without charge and playing. He became a US citizen in 1946. In 1942, Britten wrote his Diversions for the left hand and it became one of the last pieces Paul commissioned.
Many of the pieces Paul Wittgenstein had commissioned are still performed today, although most often by two-armed pianists. Two more recent pianists who lost the use of their right hands have also performed these works: Leon Fleisher and João Carlos Martins.
His posthumous reputation as a performer is mixed. Some regard him as a world-class pianist while at the same time noting his harsher playing in later years. His tendency to rewrite and alter without authorization make him a controversial figure in the music world. He often complained about the pieces he commissioned, including the final work by Britten. Still, when you consider all he went through, how he persevered in spite of it, and the contributions he made to new music, he is a remarkable artist and musician.
Whether you are an avid orchestral performance attendee or you go to the occasional concert or two, you have probably seen at least one concerto featuring a soloist. You may have even had the opportunity to see a soloist perform with or without an accompanist (which is often a piano). One thing you may or may not have noticed, however, is how orchestras use sheet music while soloists, and even some ensembles, typically do not. Why?
Lack of Time: An orchestra doesn’t have the luxury of a lot of time to learn pieces. Some professional orchestras rehearse as little as two times before performing. Community orchestras usually have about 1-2 months of rehearsals prior to a concert. Still, that is not enough time to memorize 3 or 4 pieces which can span 3-6+ pages each. Orchestras, also, typically only perform the music on one night and then move on to different music for the next concert. The sheer volume of music an orchestra goes through makes it impossible to memorize every part.
A soloist, on the other hand, spends years practicing and perfecting the same pieces, performing them over and over to different audiences and with different orchestras.
Breadth of Works: There is so much orchestral music out there to choose from. Estimates are nearly impossible to make especially since music continues to be written to this day. Even if you just speculate that there have been 10,000 composers throughout history and each one wrote just 100 pieces, the result is 1 million pieces. That is an awful lot of music to memorize as a member of any orchestra – professional or volunteer. And the odds that an orchestra member will play the same piece more than once or twice in their lifetime is slim.
On the other hand, soloists tend to have a memorized, well-rehearsed repertoire ready to go at a moment’s notice. And when they are asked to play something outside of their repertoire or they are asked to play a new composition, they are given plenty of time to prepare and memorize the piece before performing it.
Need For Consistency: Each member of a section needs to play tightly in unison with other members. You can’t have 10 first violins, each playing something slightly different. During rehearsal, conductors will typically give direction about tempos, dynamics (volume), bowings, and breathing and the musicians will note that in the sheet music to remember for future rehearsals and the performance. Memorizing the music and remembering all those directions is not only difficult, but also not useful for future performances where other conductors may ask for something different.
Soloists, however, have a lot more room to interpret the music as they want. The accompanist or orchestra follow the solo performer’s lead.
All of this is not to say that being a soloist is any easier than playing in an orchestra. Soloists have a unique skill set and face different challenges. They are required to perform their best with very few rehearsals – maybe 1 or 2 or at most. They are expected to play from memory but, at the same time, play with a passion that keeps the audience engaged.
The bottom line is that orchestra members and soloists use sheet music differently due to their unique circumstances and requirements.
When it comes to Veteran’s Day, Denver does it right. From concerts to parades and more, this coming October-November offers numerous ways to celebrate veterans and active military.
Veteran’s Day 2018 (which is Sunday November 11) is particularly special because it marks the 100th anniversary of the WWI Armistice. The armistice ended fighting on land, sea, and air between the Allies and Germany. It came into force at 11 am (Paris time) on November 11, 1918. Hence the phrase the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” and that Veteran’s Day is also known as Armistice Day in the US.
If you’re looking to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice, recognize veterans and active military, or both, here are some of events to check out.
Denver Area Veteran’s Day Events List:
Parker Symphony Orchestra: Salute: The Colorado Mormon Chorale and the Parker Symphony join together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the World War I Armistice. This program of music of remembrance and celebration features popular songs of the times, music of consolation, and spirit-rousing anthems. Selections include Battle Hymn of the Republic, Requiem for a Solider (from Band of Brothers), When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Sousa’s US Field Artillery March, a WWI Medley, and more.October 26 at 7:30 at PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker, CO 80138 Tickets available now: https://parkerarts.ticketforce.com
VetFest 5K – 10K – Street Party: The Douglas County Veterans Monument Foundation is proud to Present VetFest, a 5K and 10K race and street party. There will also be artists booths, food trucks, and beer tents. October 27, 2018 at 10:00 AM at the Festival Park in Castle Rock.
Aurora Veterans Salute: An event in Aurora honoring and remembering 100 years since the end of World War I. Held on Wednesday November 7 from 9:30 – 1:30 PM. Tickets will go on sale September 7. Wings Over The Rockies, 7711 E Academy Blvd #1, Denver, CO 80230
Denver Veterans Day Parade: Thousands of spectators will line Civic Center Park and nearby streets to honor local Veterans and enjoy floats, car clubs, marching units, bands, and more. Saturday November 10 at 10 AM. Parade starts at 14th St and W Colfax Ave.
Denver Veterans Day Festival: Immediately following the Denver Veterans Day Parade, the Festival begins. This family-friendly event features a music stage, kids & family activities, military displays, vendors, and food. Admission is free. Saturday November 10 from 12-3 PM at City Park
Star Spangled Gala: A fund raising event supporting non-narcotic treatments for pain and Post Traumatic Stress. Will feature Carolyn Strauss as the Master of Ceremonies and the Denver Dolls performing a tribute to the Andrews Sisters. October 20 from 5 PM – 9 PM at the Joy Burns Center Tuscan Ballroom, 2044 East Evans Ave, Denver, CO 80208
Broomfield Veterans Day Ceremony: This annual ceremony celebrates both veterans and current military personnel with speeches, song, and tributes. An honored tradition in Broomfield. Monday November 12 at 10 am at the Broomfield High School Auditorium
Veterans Day Celebration & Annual Chili Cook-off: Honor the Veterans of the I-70 Corridor and help support your Tri-Valley VFW Post 8449. If you live and breathe chili, this event is for you. Whether you want to enter your secret family recipe or just come by and sample all the delicious chilis, join the Town of Bennett at this free event. November 10 from 5:00-7:00 PM at the Bennett Community Center, 1100 E Colfax Avenue, Bennett, CO
Castle Marne Annual Veterans Day Giveaway: Every year, Castle Marne in Denver hosts a drawing for a free night for Veterans as a “Thank You” to those who have served. The deadline for entering is Monday October 15 and is open to both active and retired US military personnel. Winners will be served complimentary Afternoon Tea at which time more drawings and door prizes will be given away. Full breakfast the following morning is included. The free stay will occur on November 9 and 10. For more details and to enter, visit their website https://castlemarne.com/annual-veterans-day-giveaway/.
Serving with Honor: A Volunteer Appreciation Event: An event to thank the volunteers who have rendered Bell Honors at over 1,100 funerals and 150 public and school events. The Honor Bell is a 1,000-pound bronze bell cast with artifacts from Colorado’s military servicemen and women, and tolled exclusively by Colorado’s veterans at graveside and memorial services. The volunteers have devoted countless hours to honoring their fellow service members, educating schoolchildren about the importance of military service, and joining the community in celebrating the memory of those who served. In addition to saluting their volunteers, there will also be a screening of the film Taking Chance. November 7, 2018 from 6:00-8:30 PM at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Littleton
Veterans Appreciation at Mile High Harley-Davidson of Parker: This event is open to the public and they ask all of those able to come out and say a special thank you to our men and women in uniform past and present. Complimentary Brunch will be served and special in store discounts for veterans and Active Duty Military and their family. November 10, 2018 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM at Mile High Harley-Davidson of Parker, 6280 East Pine Lane, Parker, Colorado 80138.
Fort Logan Tours: In an effort to better honor our fallen, Colorado heroes, join TEDxMileHigh and Denver University graduate students as they guide you through the Fort Logan Cemetery telling the stories of forgotten soldiers who fought and died serving their country and their home state of Colorado. November 10, 2018 at 9:30 AM – 11 AM at Fort Logan National Cemetery, 4400 W Kenyon Ave, Denver, Colorado 80236
Veteran’s Day Cut-A-Ton: Do the Bang Thing Salon is hosting their 4th Annual Veteran’s Day Cut-A-Ton. Open to any veteran and their families, they will be doing free haircuts from 12-6 PM. Haircuts come with Shampoo and Style. Refreshments and Beverages will be provided. Valid IDs, such as DD214, Military ID, VA Healthcare ID, and Drivers License with Military Badge. Haircuts will be in a first come, first serve basis. November 12, 2018 from 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM.
Glass Poppy Display at the Denver Botanic Gardens: Glass poppies, created by soldiers and veterans, will be displayed at Denver Botanic Gardens in partnership with Denver’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I armistice and to honor the 1,290 Colorado military members who died during the war. October 20-November 11, Boettcher Memorial Center at the Gardens’ York Street location
Aspen Crossing Elementary School Veterans Parade: Hosted by the Highlander Composite Squadron and the Civil Air Patrol, this event includes both a parade and a tribute afterwards. November 3 from 12 PM – 3 PM at Aspen Crossing Elementary School, 4655 S Himalaya St., Centennial, CO
Ah, Pachelbel’s Canon in D. It’s a staple at weddings. It’s almost always found on “relaxing classical music” playlists. It can even be heard during the holidays both in its original form and as incorporated into Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Christmas Canon.
It is perhaps one of the most famous baroque pieces that almost anyone – classical music fan or not – can hum without help. And yet, it is also one of the most hated by musicians themselves, particularly cellists. But why?
That Terrible Bass Line
Pachelbel’s Canon, as it is commonly known, is one part of his Canon and Gigue for 3 violins and basso continuo. In simple terms, a canon is similar to a round – like Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Typically, one instrument or voice starts the melody and other parts then join in. Unlike a round, however, the parts in a canon don’t have to be exactly identical.
Pachelbel uses the techniques of the canon with 3 voices engaged in the “round”. He adds a basso continuo (bass line) which is independent – making the piece more of a chaconne than a canon. This bass line is the cello part. The same 8 notes that repeat throughout the entire piece with no variation. This is why cellists cannot stand playing this piece. As everyone else in the room enjoys the lovely sounds of the canon, the variations of the melody that travel through the violins and viola, the cello is stuck playing the same two-bar line – one that is so simple it can be played by beginning students. Musically speaking, this is definitely not challenging or fun for cellists.
…or is it? The Piano Guys have a wonderful rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon that plays on this common cellist complaint and takes the piece to new heights.
Incidentally, I describe the bass line as the cello part, but it can be played by other instruments (as is the case in wind ensembles).
It’s not just the bass line that is played over and over again. The entire piece itself seems to be overplayed. Weddings, parties, relaxing CDs, holidays, etc. It’s everywhere.
In addition to its original form, the piece’s chord progression can be heard in numerous other places including in popular music. Green Day’s Basket Case, Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger, and Vitamin C’s Graduation are all based on the same chords. Some songs even incorporate samples of the original, as is the case in Coolio’s C U When You Get There.
One could argue that that’s evidence of the simple genius of the piece. Comedian Rob Paravonian would disagree with that.
There Are Many, Many Better Pieces
Perhaps one of the most common reasons musicians give for why they dislike (or even hate) Pachelbel’s Canon is because there is plenty of “better” classical music out there to choose from. One Google search for “relaxing classical music” or “classical wedding music” will return numerous options that are NOT the famous canon. Debussy’s Clair de Lune, Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, and Elgar’s Salut d’Amour just to name a few.
Musically, Pachelbel’s Canon also doesn’t offer much. For those who were taught to listen closely to minute details in music, the piece falls far short from anything written by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. It’s unsophisticated and highly redundant.
But its simplicity is effective. The unvarying melody at the root of the composition and the repeating basso continuo line are designed to sustain a mood. Unlike other pieces that use a chord structure that gives the music forward momentum (dynamic harmony or chord progression), Canon in D uses a chord structure that does not vary much (static harmony). So unlike music that creates moments of tension and relaxation to tell a story, the canon’s repeating chords serve to prolong the same calm feeling throughout the entire piece.
When It’s Played Badly, It’s Awful
Because the piece is so well-known, mistakes and intonation issues stick out like a sore thumb. One lazy performer – including the musician falling asleep while playing the bass line – can ruin the entire piece.
So while the piece may be the bane of your existence for any of the reasons mentioned above, if you have to play Pachelbel’s Canon, be sure to play it well and in-tune or everyone will notice.
Music Director René Knetsch and the Parker Symphony Orchestra announce the appointment of Cynthia Carrier as the orchestra’s new concertmaster. Ms. Carrier succeeds former concertmaster Nadya Hill.
Ms. Carrier is an established violinist and music teacher. She was the assistant concertmaster of the Lone Tree Symphony and performed with the Parker Symphony last year. She has also previously performed with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra dell’Università di Firenze in Florence, Italy, the Lakeshore Symphony Orchestra in Chicago, the Midwest Chamber Ensemble, and the Lee’s Summit Symphony Orchestra in Missouri. As a soloist, she performed in the Kansas City and Chicago areas including at the Gospel Fest in 2005 in front of an audience of over 3,000. She is currently also an elementary school music teacher in Castle Rock. She earned a Bachelor of Music Education from Wheaton College and a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
“In my heart I know that the decision to choose Cindy is the best one for the PSO,” said Mr. Knetsch. “She has such maturity in her sound, and a command of her instrument. She exudes confidence, and has such poise….. an impressive young woman.”
Ms. Carrier’s first appearance as concertmaster will be at the Parker Symphony Orchestra’s season opening concert on Friday October 26, 2018 at 7:30 PM at the PACE Center in Parker.
Image from http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/shakespearelang/2017/06/13/music-in-shakespeare/
It is a well-known fact that Shakespeare’s influence spread well beyond his plays and far beyond idyllic Stratford-upon-Avon. He gave us new words like “fashionable” and “softhearted”. He inspired figures like Freud, Dickens, and George Washington, to name a few. His reach can even be seen as far as the planet Uranus – 25 of its 27 moons are named for Shakespearean characters. A bit closer to home, however, are the numerous orchestral and vocal works that were written about Shakespearean storylines and characters. From A Midsummer Night’s Dream to The Tempest, here is a rundown of the best classical music inspired by Shakespeare.
Mendelssohn – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Mendelssohn wrote music for Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream on two separate occasions. He first wrote a concert overture in 1826 and then in 1842 he incorporated the overture into incidental music he wrote for a production. The exclusively instrumental movements, the Overture, Scherzo, Intermezzo, Nocturne, and Wedding March, are typically played as a suite in both concerts and recordings and they remain among the most famous of all Shakespearean classical music. In fact, the Wedding March is the traditional music you hear when the just married couple exits the ceremony.
Gade – Hamlet Overture
Like Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky wrote both an overture and incidental music about Hamlet. Liszt also wrote a symphonic poem titled Hamlet. But it is Danish composer Niel Gade’s Hamlet Overture that made our list because of its emotionally dramatic nature that is truly evocative of Shakespeare’s play. A symphonic poem of sorts, it begins with a funereal march that foreshadows tragedy followed by an animated, angry theme in a minor key that eventually leads to a pulsating theme in a major key (perhaps a Hamlet and Ophelia love theme). The piece then returns to the funereal march in a unified conclusion. The Parker Symphony will be performing Gade’s Hamlet Overture on May 11!
Dvořák – Othello Overture
Critics sometimes note that Dvořák’s Othello Overture has a “New World Symphony” quality to it, but for anyone who has heard his In Nature’s Realm Overture, the similarities in some of the melodies are indisputable – and with good reason. The work is the third part of a trilogy called “Nature, Life, and Love”. The other two overtures are In Nature’s Realm and the Carnival Overture. Othello is by far the most emotional of the three works with sweet moments woven in between intense and even ominous parts. Dvořák called it “the most substantial and the most subtle, touching emotions not engaged by its more outgoing companion works.”
Prokofiev – Romeo and Juliet
You’ve no doubt heard parts of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet in popular culture – most recently “The Dance of the Knights” as ominous music in The Apprentice. But there’s more to this ballet and its music than just that one melody. Love, quarrels, fights, and the balcony love scene all offer amazing musical moments. Note: Tchaikovsky also wrote a Romeo & Juliet overture worth listening to.
Verdi – Macbeth
Macbeth was the first Shakespeare play that Verdi adapted for the operatic stage (he also wrote Otello, Falstaff, and Re Lear). It is also one of only a handful of Shakespeare-inspired operas that have made their place in standard repertory. When he set out to write, Verdi wanted to make Macbeth one of his best scores. He was truly inspired by Shakespeare’s play calling it “one of mankind’s greatest creations.”
Schumann – Julius Caesar Overture
It was not only inspired by Shakespeare’s play, but Schumann’s Julius Caesar was also heavily influenced by Beethoven’s Egmont overture. It shares the key of F minor with Beethoven’s work as well as the sonata form and a code in a major key. A known musical cryptogram enthusiast, it has been suggested that there is a cipher for “C-A-E-S-A-R” in this work’s opening chords.
Schubert – An Sylvia
From the title, it’s difficult to see how this fits the Shakespeare music theme. However, An Sylvia was inspired by a scene in Two Gentlemen of Verona. It is a German lied (an art song in which a German poem is set to music). The text is a German translation of the poem, “Who is Sylvia” from Act 4, Scene 2 of the play. Schubert wrote this at the height of his career and while it seems simple, it also has an elegant and witty quality that is perfectly aligned with the tone of the play.
Walton – Suite from Henry V
Before the times of John Williams were numerous film score composers you may not know. And like some of today’s compositions, some of this film music can truly stand on its own. William Walton’s music for the 1944 film Henry V can be counted in this category. He manages to achieve dramatic effect that delivers a top-notch musical adventure. The music was arranged into a suite and recorded in 1963.
Korngold – Much Ado About Nothing
Korngold is another name known for his film scores (although he also wrote an amazing violin concerto). In 1918, prior to his time as a film composer, he was asked to write incidental music in Vienna for Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The result was music with imaginative melodies, rich tones, and lush harmonies that help it stand on its own as an independent work.
Sibelius – The Tempest (Stormen)
The Tempest is considered by many to be among Sibelius’ greatest achievements. Written as incidental music to the play, Sibelius strove to represent individual characters through specific instrumentation. Critics note that his use of harps and percussion to represent the ambiguity of Prospero is a truly inventive choice. This along with another work titled Tapiola were the last of Sibelius’ works. After that he spent his remaining 32 years writing almost nothing else.
This May, DU Lamont School of Music’s Heidi Leathwood will join the Parker Symphony in performing Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. It’s one of the composer’s most popular works and one of the most loved and performed of all piano concerti. Whether you recognize the opening notes or have heard the whole thing numerous times, chances are you don’t know all there is to this to this stunning piece. Here are 7 interesting facts about the Grieg Piano Concerto.
It was Grieg’s only completed concerto. When he was just 25, Grieg wanted to make his mark on the world. This was his first work to employ an orchestra and it was an instant success. Many expected the composer to write a second, but one never came. He began work on a second concerto in B minor, but he never completed it. Several pianists have recorded the sketches and in 1997 the Oslo Grieg Society held a competition in which one contestant elaborated a full concerto from the sketches. Grieg also started work on a violin concerto that also was not completed.
It is often compared to Schumann’s Piano Concerto. Not only did Grieg and Schumann each write only one piano concerto, they both wrote theirs in A minor. Both works also begin on a similar descending flourish on the piano. Schumann wrote his first and Grieg heard Clara Schumann perform it about 10 years before writing his own. It is said that Grieg was greatly influenced by Schumann’s style having been taught piano by Schumann’s friend.
Grieg did not perform it at the premiere. Some sources say that Grieg was the intended soloist but he was unable to attend the premiere due to previous commitments in Christiania (now Oslo). Anton Rubinstein, however, was in attendance and he even provided his own piano for the occasion. Danish composer Niels Gade (who wrote the Hamlet Overture which the PSO is also performing in May) was also in the audience.
It was the first piano concerto ever recorded. German pianist Wilhelm Backhaus recognized the importance of the gramophone. His 1909 recording of the Grieg Piano Concerto was not only the first recording of that work, but the first time any concerto had been recorded. Due to the technology of the time, however, it was a heavily abridged performance that lasted only 6 minutes.
A pianist died while performing it. On April 2, 1951, pianist Simon Barere collapse on stage while playing the first few bars of the Grieg Piano Concerto. The performance was with conductor Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York. Unfortunately he died backstage shortly after collapsing.
Grieg revised the work at least 7 times. Most of the updates were subtle, but they add up to over 300 differences from the original orchestration. The final version was completed only a few weeks before Grieg’s death and this is the version we know today.
The concerto contains Norwegian folk music influences. This isn’t surprising since Edvard Grieg was from Norway and like other composers including Dvorak and Sibelius, he sought to pay tribute to his homeland in much of his music. The opening flourish of the concerto is a motif typical in Norwegian folk music while the last movement contains imitations of the Norwegian folk fiddle and halling (a Norwegian dance).
Don’t miss Heidi Leathwood’s performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor along with other Scandinavian pieces at the Parker Symphony Orchestra concert on May 11 at PACE.Tickets are on sale now.
The Parker Symphony and Parker Arts present the final concert of the 2017-2018 season on Friday May 11 (Mother’s Day Weekend) at 7:30 PM at the PACE Center, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., Parker. The concert is titled “Grieg Piano Concert and Other Scandinavian Favorites” and will feature Heidi Brende Leathwood from the University of Denver Lamont School of Music on the piano.
Ms. Leathwood has performed with members of the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Colorado Symphony. Since moving to Colorado in 2001, she has performed regularly with leading musicians in the Front Range area. She was a prize winner in the Stravinsky Awards International Piano Competition and the Ruth Slenzynska National Piano Competition among others. She is currently part of the Lamont School faculty teaching the Alexander Technique and Piano.
In addition to Ms. Leathwood’s performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor, the Parker Symphony will also be playing Sibelius’ “Karelia Suite”, Alfven’s “Midsommarvaka”, and Gade’s “Hamlet Overture”.
Tickets for this Denver area May concert are available now at the PACE Center online box office (https://parkerarts.ticketforce.com/), by phone at 303-805-6800 or in person at the PACE Center. And they make excellent Mother’s Day gifts!!
Established in 1994, the mission of the Parker Symphony Orchestra is to perform orchestral music that will educate, entertain, and inspire the people of Parker, Colorado and the surrounding communities. Under the direction of René Knetsch, the PSO is an all-volunteer orchestra, seventy five members strong, dedicated to continual excellence and growth. They perform with the goal of offering interesting and entertaining performances to tempt everyone’s musical palate.