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BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 9: Opus 14, No. 1

Opus 14, No. 1 in E major is on the shorter side for a Beethoven sonata, with performances rarely going over fifteen minutes long. Something interesting about this one: Beethoven later arranged it for a string quartet to play!Playing for us is Grigory Sokolov, a Russian pianist. He is famous for winning the gold medal of the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition at the age of 16!

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 8: Opus 13

We have arrived at one of the most famous Beethoven sonatas ever! Opus 13, Sonata Pathétique. It not only was a great seller in Beethoven's time and made a name for the composer, but was the first of many sonatas that characterized his Middle Period.Written in C minor, this piece starts out with the tempo marking 'Grave.' This means 'serious and gloomy,' and that is certainly the mood of the piece. The second movement is one of the sweetest melodies of Beethoven.Playing this momentous piece is German pianist and composer Wilhelm Kempff. He is most famous for his interpretations of the more intimate and introverted passages. This is exactly why I chose to show you his performance of Pathétique! 

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 7: Opus 10 No. 3

And so we end Opus 10 in D major! Many consider this piece to mark the end of Beethoven's First Compositional Period. This period is characterized by a traditionally classical sound (i.e. "Mozart like"). The incredible melancholy of the second movement of this piece urges in the Middle Period, characterized by the wild and turbulent emotion that we associate with Beethoven today. It is around this time that Beethoven started to loose his hearing.Performing here is the great Vladimir Horowitz, Russian pianist and composer. He is known for his incredible technique, expression, and tone. He was one of the only performers brave enough to rearrange some classic works in order to make them better suited to the performer. (For example, Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition.' Mussorgsky was not a pianist, and the piece is incredibly uncomfortable to play.)

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 6: Opus 10 No. 2

Sonata Opus 10 No. 2 in F major, composed in 1798, is one of the shorter sonatas of Beethoven. The third movement of this piece is in fugal form. This was not a common way to compose a sonata at the time. A fugue is not so much a form as it is a compositional process. It starts out with an unaccompanied melody (the subject) which gets transposed and developed. It is polyphonic, meaning that there are multiple melodic lines stacked on top of each other, as opposed to homophony, where there is one melody and some harmony.Austrian pianist, composer, and poet, Alfred Brendel performs this piece. Brendel, believe it or not, was mostly self taught, only taking piano lessons until the age of six. After World War Two, he made his recital debut at the age of 17 and his recording debut at 21.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 5: Opus 10 No. 1

Today we begin another set of three! Opus 10 was composed in 1798. This particular one, No. 1, is in C minor. The key of C minor seems to be a favourite of Beethoven's, as many of his most famous works are composed in this key. (ex. Sonata Pathétique, Fifth Symphony, etc.) C minor is notable for its anxious and melancholic tone, so it is very fitting for a composer like Beethoven. Please listen all the way to the end, for there is a sneak peek at the famous Fifth Symphony theme (buh buh buh BUH).Once again, we are listening to the magnificent interpretive skills of Richard Goode. (he plays it a little too fast for my taste, but it really shows off his technique.)

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 4: Opus 7

Piano Sonata Opus 7 in E flat major was composed in November of 1796 for Beethoven's student Babette, Countess Keglevics. With a typical performance lasting around half an hour, it is one of the longest piano sonatas by Beethoven.Performing for us today is Artur Schnabel, Austrian pianist, composer, and teacher. In the 1930s he became the first musician ever to record all thirty two Beethoven piano sonatas. Although his technique is seemingly flawless, Schnabel is said to have suffered from nervousness before performing or recording.

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 3: Opus 2 No. 3

Welcome back to the Beethoven Countdown! Today is Day 3, and our sonata for the day is the last in Opus 3.Some of you might be wondering what 'opus' means. It is a Latin word meaning 'work,' and it is used to catalogue the works of a composer. When we say 'Beethoven's Opus 2' it means that the piece in question is the second one Beethoven ever wrote. When we say 'Opus 2 No. 3' it means the opus has multiple parts to it. Therefore, the sonatas of Opus 2 were written as a set. If you listen carefully you can hear some similarities between them.Opus 2 No. 3 in C major was written in 1795, along with its two sister sonatas. Remember, the first sonata was in F minor, and the second was in A major. If we put all of these keys next to each other, we get F-A-C: an F major chord!!Today's performance comes to us from 1977. It is a live performance by the great Claudio Arrau, a pianist and music teacher from Chile. His interpretation of the second movement of this piece is particularly beautiful and haunting. If you want to hear more from Maestro Arrau, I highly suggest his recordings of Chopin!Tomorrow we leap to Opus 7!

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 2: Opus 2 No. 2

Good evening and welcome to day two! Today's Beethoven Sonata is Opus 2 No. 2 in A major. Just like yesterday's sonata, this one is dedicated to Franz Joseph Haydn, one of Beethoven's mentors. The sudden changes of dynamics and spritely gestures in this piece are certainly a tip of the hat to Haydn's compositional style.A little bit about the performers: Yesterday we heard a performance from Daniel Barenboim, a pianist and conductor from Argentina. He is one of my favourite performers!Today we listen to Richard Goode, an American pianist. I am only just beginning to listen to his recordings, and I find his Beethoven interpretations to be quite superb!Tomorrow we finish Opus 2!

BEETHOVEN COUNTDOWN Day 1: Sonata Opus 2 No. 1

Hello music lovers!As you may know, one of my favourite composers of all time is Ludwig van Beethoven. To me, his  music is not only historically significant and fun to listen to, but it holds a special place in my heart. His music, especially his piano music, has taught me about struggle, joy, and pretty much every other human emotion. At a time when I was sure I wanted to quit music forever, this awesome man and his monumental music gave me the courage and inspiration to continue along my artistic journey. Over the span of his career, Beethoven composed thirty two sonatas for solo piano, and these works are some of the most important additions to the literature of the piano.Today, (November 15) we are 32 days away from Beethoven's birthday (December 16). To celebrate the Beeth-day, (lol) I will be posting one piano sonata every day until December 16.Piano Sonata Opus 2 No. 1 in F minor was the very first piano sonata Beethoven ever wrote, and the very first one I ever played! For me, this piece has so many different emotions tied to it: sadness, success, anxiety, catharsis, etc. For you, (the reader) I hope you find in it an exciting and enjoyable listen!Stay tuned for more classical music excitement!-Jules

Toronto - the recap

Part A - Toronto:

It was a great and liberating adventure to travel on my own, but I wasn't totally alone - I got to connect with old friends and even made some new ones along the way. 

I stayed with my dear friend Dylan who has a longtime band/project called Crankbox. Originally a duo, they wrote and recorded and published a song on YouTube every week for two and a half years - that's over 130 songs (!!!!) so they have an impressive back catalogue. During this trip we got to chatting about songs that they should revisit and re-record, now that Crankbox is a full band!

Here's a Crankbox tune from last year, Portico, their 100th song together and my personal favourite. They released a V2 this year but I always come back to this one.


Other highlights: exploring the city by foot, discovering Church and Wellesley Village, eating in a fancy restaurant next to the Old City Hall (that I stumbled across by accident). Taking the TTC Rocket transit was a good experience too. 

(I learned from another friend, Huy, that Drake used to live in an apartment building right next to his by the Rogers Centre. Fascinating)

Part B - The Dir en grey show:


Despite every type of rude concertgoer surrounding me in the pit (holding up cell phones in my way for the whole concert, chatting with friends so loud I couldn't hear the band.... to name a few... please kids never do these things at shows), Dir en grey's last North American show on this tour was 1000% worth the trip. I even met a few girls in line and we became fast friends, chatting for the couple of hours we were outside in the November cold.

The historic Opera House venue was perfect for this, you could hear everything crystal clear without the amount of amplification which is normal at rock/metal shows. It was incredible.

The emotion Dir en grey pours into their music is out of this world. I honestly can't compare them to any band I have heard before. A few of their songs had me (unexpectedly) crying hard, something I haven't experienced much during live shows. 

I really recommend any fans of progressive/extreme metal, who like avant-garde vocalists, to listen to their newest album ARCHE, I'm sure you won't be disappointed (and there are many translations of the lyrics available online, however it's almost not necessary to know the language to understand the music)

my photo of the vocalist, Kyo(my photo of the vocalist, Kyo, from my view in the pit)

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