Friday, February 03, 2012

Sunday Classics preview: En route to more of our musical storms, we encounter perhaps the most eerily wonderful music I know


Just because you live in a cave in a forest doesn't mean you don't have big problems. This is strange and wonderful music that speaks of an all-but-insoluble one.

by Ken

I thought we could wrap up our series on musical storms this week, but as often happens, the musical materials refused to cooperate, and instead insisted on having things their way.

I thought we could get away with a fly-by of several operatic storms that rage at the start of acts (or even of an opera) and then subside, allowing the action to proceed without further weather impediment. And then we could move on to the business of a couple of violent storms that are totally integrated into scenes of their operas. But those act-opening storms, as I focused on them, refused to be dismissed so airily, and so I decided to allow them a post of their own.

Which provided an opportunity in tonight's preview to focus on the music we've just heard, which is the very first thing we hear in one of the operas in which a later act begins with one of this week's storms. And frankly I'm delighted, because not only is this the most unexpectedly arresting musical curtain-raiser I know, it's music that burrows as deep into at least my imagination as any music I know, thanks to the combination of its utterly individual musical ideas and the brilliantly original orchestral setting.

For those who don't recognize it, I'll identify it in a moment, and we're going to hear it again, and again, as well as some more music from this opera, which I think is one of the less-loved operas in the standard repertory.



Preview: Tonight's musical selections should give you a good idea of Sunday's subject (January 13)
The thunderstorm movement from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony and Otello's "Esultate" from Verdi's Otello
Stormy weather, part 1 (January 15)
Verdi's Otello, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, and Berlioz's Les Troyens, plus Lena Horne singing "Stormy Weather"
Preview: Given the resources at his disposal, Vivaldi's musical storms may be the most remarkable of all (January 27)
The three storm movements from Vivaldi's Four Seasons
With the full symphony orchestra you can create a heckuva storm (aka: Musical storms, part 2) (January 29)
Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (again), Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique, Grofé's Grand Canyon Suite, Johann Strauss II's Amid Thunder and Lightning polka, Richard Strauss's Alpine Symphony, Grieg's Peer Gynt incidental music, Britten's Peter Grimes, and Rossini's Barber of Seville
Preview: En route to more of our musical storms, we encounter perhaps the most eerily wonderful music I know (February 3)
The Preludes to Acts I and II of Wagner's Siegfried
Storms that set three great operatic scenes in motion (aka: Musical storms, part 3) (February 5)
The openings of Wagner's Die Walküre Act I and Siegfried Act III and of Act III of Puccini's La Bohème
Preview: En route to our final operatic storms, we hear two famous tenor tunes sung by a very famous tenor (February 24)
"La donna è mobile," the Quartet, and the Storm Scene from Act III of Rigoletto
Musical storms, part 4: We come to our raging storms from Janáček's Kátya Kabanová and Verdi's Rigoletto (February 26)
The storms from Act III of both operas, with a close-up look at how Verdi created the Rigoletto one -- plus the whole of Act III



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