Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Classics: Stormy weather, part 1


Lena Horne sings what the YouTube poster aptly describes as her "signature song," "Stormy Weather," from the 1943 film Stormy Weather.

by Ken

In Friday night's preview we heard two thrilling musical excerpts: Otello's first appearance in Verdi's opera, offering his ringing declamation "Esultate" upon his safe arrival on Cypriot soil after his ship appeared to be doomed off the coast amid a raging storm; and the final movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, "Shepherd's song; Happy and grateful feelings after the storm." Our theme might have been described as "After the Storm."

Here's just the first minute-plus of Otello, which plunges us quite violently into the storm. (You'll recall that we've made the point a number of times that in Otello for the first time Verdi dispensed with an overture or even shorter-form prelude. He would do it again in his next and last opera, Falstaff.

Perhaps related to the changes I'll talk about in the clickthrough, our musical host, Internet Archive has been kerplooey since last night, and much of today wasn't coughing up audio for embedded files. So I decided to reinstate the "audio links" I had experimented with for a while and then abandoned, since as of last night clips were still playing onsite. Only then clips weren't playing onsite. And then the embedded clips seemed to be working again, though I still can't upload new files. Fortunately I had already uploaded everything except one file (noted below) for what has turned out to be Part 1 of our "Stormy Weather" post. (It's a good thing I had already decided to spin off a Part 2, because a number of those files remained to be uploaded.)

I guess we'll see what happens! Just remember, if the embedded clips don't play, it's possible that the "audio link" ones will. It's the same music, same files -- just a different way of getting at it.

VERDI: Otello: Act I, opening
THE CROWD: A sail! A sail!
A standard! A standard!
MONTANO: It’s the Winged Lion!
CASSIO: We can see it when the lightning flashes.
THE CROWD: A trumpet call!
A cannon shot!
CASSIO: It’s Otello’s ship.
MONTANO: The violent waves
make it rise and fall.
CASSIO: They lift the bow skyward!
THE CROWD: The clouds and sea conceal it.
And lightning now reveals it.
Lightning. Thunder. Vortex.
All the tempest’s fury.

Alan Opie (b), Montano; Antony Rolfe Johnson (t), Cassio; Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti, cond. Decca, recorded in concert in Chicago and New York, April 1991

And here's the thunderstorm that precedes the concluding "Thanksgiving" movement of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. I was all set to upload the later Chicago Symphony recording by Sir Georg Solti (see, to "match" the Otello excerpt above) when uploading went down, but here's a nice video version I found.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 (Pastoral):
iv. Thunderstorm: Allegro

London Symphony Orchestra, Bernard Haitink, cond. Recorded November 2005

In case you haven't guessed yet, our subject today is musical storms. In the click-through, in addition to hearing the whole opening scene of Otello and hearing Beethoven's thunderstorm in symphonic context, we've got a bunch of other dandy musical storms on tap.



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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