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Maurice Ravel

Monday, May 30, 2016


Norman Lebrecht - Slipped disc

May 16

EU concertmaster to EU commissioner: Don’t silence us

Norman Lebrecht - Slipped discEmily Davis, concertmaster of the European Union Youth Orchestra which faces closure after the EU ended its funding, has asked Slipped Disc to publish a personal letter to the commissioner who is killing the orchestra. Dear Mr Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, In reaction to the news of EUYO’s forced closure due to lack of funding, I am writing to you with my concerns. I wanted to tell you about one of the most exhilarating and defining moments of my life as a musician. It was when I began my EUYO journey on the orchestra’s 2013 Summer Tour, and I performed for the first time at the historically eminent Berlin Konzerthaus. The programme was to begin with an unconducted rendition of Ravel’s Bolero, the clock work stability held together by our superb snare-drum player. He sat centrally, glueing us together as we built up the mechanical intensity; It was therefore a haunting moment when suddenly the support fell out from beneath, and we saw him faint off his chair. He was taken off stage, and after some time we continued with the concert, fuelled by a protective concern for each other. Word came through that he had recovered and despite nursing a slight arm injury, was determined to pick up where he had left off. We finished the concert starting mid Bolero, feeling emotionally charged and determined. Inspired by our friend we threw our entire beings into playing; at one point we stood up together and discarded our chairs. We laughed and moved around the stage, thrilled by the freedom we felt. Ravel’s music soared off the page in a way I hadn’t known before, and I looked around and felt deeply moved by the bond between my peers. The audience were exhilarated and the electricity in the air was palpable. This moment went right to my core as I realised that music really could transcend all other being, and uplift you to a point where there are no further words to describe the feeling. This was the first time I remember experiencing such a powerful concert, but now on the verge of my sixth EUYO tour, I can say there have been many more since. The EUYO isn’t an orchestra that can be simply defined as a project. It is an ongoing, living and breathing being that is run with hard working passion to be a musical institution for our continent. The more conversations I have with other top level musicians who are now based around the world, I realise that the EUYO is a fundamental reason why many wanted to dedicate their life to music – touched by the infectious “EUYO spirit”. Growing up as a young violinist, I looked to the orchestra with great aspirations; The concept of travelling with such a calibre of musicians and representing my country was exciting and fascinating. With the taste of troubling times in the air for the world of music, it disturbs me to think that even this important first step will now cease to exist. The lessons I have learnt with the orchestra don’t end with world class musical training. From my Spanish friends I have learnt to rejoice in song. From the Dutch, their “say it like it is” honesty. From the the Romanians, I am inspired by their bursts of spontaneous folk music and lack of inhibitions. This unique combination of cultural personality and extreme talent has now been moving audiences worldwide for 40 years, in a tradition we are all so proud of. There is always a strong reaction from our audiences, when at the close of every performance we demonstrate our love and respect for each other with hug, symbolising the unity between us all. The orchestra strives to reach out to audiences and communities across the globe, and share this youthful spirit and musical language that we are lucky enough to have. Such a multi cultural hub of talent and energy surely delivers the strongest message from the EU that could possibly be said, resounding in the EU motto, “United in Diversity”. I urge you to reconsider the funding actions from the last two years, as we cannot afford to disregard the future generations of European musicians. Such a group cannot be confined within the brackets of a “project”. It is unacceptable that bureaucracy should interfere with something honest and true – as we witness increasing divisions and xenophobia rising in nations world wide, make use of our voice and our message. Champion us and celebrate us. Don’t silence us. Yours sincerely, Emily Davis EUYO Concertmaster for 2016 Summer Tour Violinist from the UK Please support the European Union Youth Orchestra and sign their petition here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Martin_Schulz_European_Parliament_president_and_honorary_president_of_EUYO_Save_the_EUYO/?fsxCubb&pv=0 Read more information here on what you can do to help: http://www.euyo.eu/about/saveeuyo/

My Classical Notes

May 22

Mutter’s New Year’s Eve Concert

For New Year’s Eve 2015, the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sir Simon Rattle featured music by French composers. The soloist was violinist Anne – Sophie Mutter, who played selections by Ravel and Saint Saens. Listeners get to hear Ms. Mutter perform Saint Saens’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and “Tsigane” by Maurice Ravel. Here is Ms. Mutter in the work by Saint Saens, in an arrangement for violin and piano, rather than orchestral accompaniment:




On An Overgrown Path

May 16

Your cat is a music therapist

A recent post told how a cat crossed my path at the Sufi shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi. Cats are cherished in Islam, and in response to my post a friend who is an adept of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order sent me a link to an article on a Sufi resource. This is about the healing power of cats, and I thought it worth sharing an edited and annotated extract with my readers. The article can be read at two levels. At one level it can be taken as an amusing mix of fuzzy science and New Age babble, as indeed can this whole and many other Overgrown Paths. But drilling down further reveals another level. The power of music to nourish and heal the human spirit and body has been conveniently forgotten in the headlong rush to turn classical music into just another tawdry entertainment. Classical music is not about avaricious celebrities, live tweeting, dressing down, self-promotion, free streaming, and all those other big new idea. It is about only one thing - sound. Ancient wisdom tells us that Nada Brahma - sound is god. And both science and visionaries such as the Sufi master and musician Hazrayt Inayat Khan tell us that sound is about only one thing - vibrations. The article explains how medical research has identified that low frequencies can trigger changes in the human body. This takes us on to themes that will be familiar to Overgrown Path readers, including the overlooked importance of infrasound (very low frequencies), the damaging effect on music of limiting frequency range, the role of bass in connecting with new audiences, and above all the healing power of music. The opening reference to the healing power of trance rituals such as the Sufi dhikr (and also the Gnawa lila) is also relevant to classical music. One of the most popular and enduring Western classical compositions is Ravel's Bolero, and this is thought to have been inspired by a Sufi dhikr that Ravel attended in Tunisia (Claudio Naranjo). Research has shown that the frequency of brain waves determines our moods, and trance and other beneficial moods are induced by low frequency Theta waves; while the the theory of auditory driving postulates that rhythmic low frequencies can 'drive' brainwave frequencies down. That classical music must change has become a mantra. But to date the change has been no more than ineffectual cosmetic surgery aimed at enhancing the art form's mass market appeal. The article's conclusion that if you are recovering from an injury you should hug a purring cat may be pure whimsy, but recognising the power of great music to nourish and heal the human spirit and body is not. Now here is the article: A cat's purr is often compared to the dhikr, the rhythmic chanting of the Sufis, which was also used in early Islamic hospitals as a healing process. Research has identified the healing powers of a cats' purr, specifically how the sound frequency of the purr has as an anabolic effect which stimulates growth and maintenance of the human body. Dr. Clinton T. Rubin of the SUNY Department of Biomedical Engineering is an authority on the use of vibration for non-invasive, non-pharmacological treatment of bone injuries. His research has confirmed that exposure to frequencies between 20-50 Hz* (at low dB) assists healing and increases bone density. The frequency of a cat's purr falls well within this optimum range for bone growth and fracture healing, and extends up to 140 hertz. Which confirms the old veterinary saying that is still repeated in veterinary schools: " If you put a cat and a bunch of broken bones in the same room, the bones will heal." (Research in China independently corroborates the beneficial effects of low frequencies on fracture healing, and biomechanical stimulation using frequencies between 18 - 35 Hz is widely used in sports medicine to relax strained muscles and increases the stretching ability of tendons.) Other research shows that low frequencies can alleviate pain and speed the healing of soft tissue injuries in tendons and muscles. Exposure to frequencies between 50-150 Hz has been found to relieve suffering in 82% of persons suffering from acute and chronic pain. The non-profit Fauna Communications provides an online resource drawing together the studies of the cat's purr as a bio-mechanical healing mechanism. Vibrations at frequencies between 20 and 140 Hz are therapeutic for bone growth, fracture healing, pain relief, swelling reduction, wound healing, muscle and tendon repair, increasing mobility of joints and the relief of dyspnoea. Research has identified that the dominant frequency of a cat's purr lies within this range, while prominent harmonics enhance and extend the therapeutic effect. In summary there is powerful evidence that the cat's purr is a healing mechanism - so if you are recovering from an injury, you should hug a purring cat.* Frequencies of low register instruments: Piano - A0 (28 Hz) to C8 (4,186 Hz or 4.1 KHz), Cello - C2 (65 Hz) to B5 (988 Hz), Double Bass - E1 (41 Hz) to B3 (247 Hz), Drums (Timpani) - 90Hz to 180Hz, Tuba (Bass) - F1 (44 Hz) to F4 (349 Hz), Trombone (Tenor) - E2 (82 Hz) to D5 (587 Hz) Organ - C0 (16 Hz) to A9 (7,040 KHz). My thanks go to Yahya Lequeux of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Order for the heads up on the article and for his continuing wisdom. All the Sufi cats were photographed by me in Essaouira, Morocco; the cat in the header photo was one of three resident on the roof terrace of our rented apartment. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.



My Classical Notes

May 15

Early Recordings by Martha Argerich

Yes, I am a great fan of this amazing artist. I would not be surprised if she is among the top five pianists that I share with you on a regular basis. in June, 2016, Ms Argerich will celebrate her 75th birthday! These early recordings are intended to celebrate with her. The tracks on this collection are: Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 7 in D major, Op. 10 No. 3, recorded in WDR Cologne, 8 September 1960 Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 18 in D major, K576 ‘Hunt’, recorded WDR, Cologne, 23 January 1960 Prokofiev: Toccata in D minor, Op. 11, recorded NDR Hamburg, 16 March 1960 Piano Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 28, recorded NDR Hamburg, 16 March 1960 Piano Sonata No. 7 in B flat major, Op. 83, recorded WDR Cologne, 31 October 1967 Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit! recorded NDR Hamburg, 16 March 1960 Sonatine, recorded WDR Cologne, 8 September 1960 Performed by Martha Argerich (piano) Martha Argerich’s amazing early recordings, released here for the first time, include sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven that appear nowhere else in her earlier recordings. And Prokofiev’s Third Sonata is also a recording première. This set displaying the young virtuoso includes her first recordings of Ravel’s Gaspard and his Sonatine, as well as Prokofiev Seventh Sonata, full of mystery and excitement. They show her to be an eloquent and imaginative artist at the age of 18, already at the peak of her pianistic capabilities. Here is Ms. Argerich in Prokofiev’s beautiful piano concerto number 3:

Maurice Ravel
(1875 – 1937)

Maurice Ravel (March 7, 1875 – December 28, 1937) was a French composer of Impressionist music known especially for his melodies, orchestral and instrumental textures and effects. Much of his piano music, chamber music, vocal music and orchestral music has entered the standard concert repertoire. Ravel's piano compositions, such as Jeux d'eau, Miroirs, Le tombeau de Couperin and Gaspard de la nuit, demand considerable virtuosity from the performer, and his orchestral music, including Daphnis et Chloé and his arrangement of Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, uses a variety of sound and instrumentation. Ravel is perhaps known best for his orchestral work Boléro (1928), which he considered trivial and once described as "a piece for orchestra without music."



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