Bravo Cadenza!

Cadenza comes from the Italian word meaning cadence.  It is generally an improvised or written-out ornamental passage played by the soloist in a concerto, usually in a “free” style, allowing for a virtuosic display by the soloist.

Cadenza refers to that portion of a concerto in which the orchestra [tutti] will stop playing, leaving the soloist to play alone in free time, so that the soloist can “show off his/her stuff”. 🙂

The soloist decides ahead of time if he will play the cadenza written by the composer of the piece or he can choose one written by another composer for the piece, or even one written by himself/herself.  For example, many Mozart piano concertos have cadenzas written by Beethoven, if the soloist chooses to use those. Cadenzas normally occur near the end of the first movement and sometimes, but not always, also at the end of the third movement.

Here is Beethoven’s Cadenza that he wrote for Mozart’s Piano Concerto #20, 1st movement:

The cadenza will contain themes of the movement but in variations and emphasizing the virtuosity of the soloist.

If you are a first time concert goer and the concert has a concerto in it, you might ask how will you know when the cadenza is being played, as many times the pianist will be playing alone for a few measures.  You can tell because it will be near the end [almost always] of the 1st movement and the conductor will drop his hands to his side, and all of the orchestra members will take their instruments out of playing position.

Many times in a concerto the cadenza ends with a long trill by the soloist [piano/violin, etc] as the conductor will then raise his baton and the orchestra members will get in playing position to re-enter the concerto. After the cadenza, sometimes comes the recapitulation and then the finale of the movement or sometimes just the climax of the movement.

Here is an example of the Cadenza and finale only of the Piano Concerto #3 by Beethoven [first movement]. Watch at the 15 second mark the conductor will instruct the orchestra to stop playing and take their instruments out of playing position…and then the soloist plays the cadenza:

Now turn up the volume and enjoy the entire first movement, Allegro con brio, of the dramatic Beethoven Piano Concerto in C minor and you can tell when the cadenza is being played:

Next we have the first movement of the great Mendelssohn Violin concerto in E minor, Allegro Molto Appasionato, with soloist virtuoso Janine Jansen playing the cadenza from 7:33 – 9:13 in this first movement:

Now in this final example, please, once again, turn up the volume and see if you can tell when the cadenza occurs in this video with the great virtuoso violinist, Midori, performing the first movement of the exciting Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D Major, Allegro Moderato:

Hint: This is a unique movement as it has 2 cadenzas, one very short one near the beginning of the movement, and then the usual cadenza later on.

Bravo Soloists! Bravo Cadenza!

Happy King Day!

Sunday, Jan 15, 2023, marked the 94th birthday of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.; and on this Monday Jan. 16, 2023, the whole nation celebrates and honors this great patriot with the official federal holiday of Martin Luther King Day.  

Martin Luther King, Jr. [Jan 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968]

From the Biography Martin Luther King Web site: “Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King, both a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist, had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Among many efforts, King headed the SCLC.  Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors.  King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, ‘I Have a Dream’.”On August 28, 1963 there was a huge civil rights “March on Washington for jobs and freedom”, which culminated in Martin Luther King’s iconic “I have a dream speech” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, before hundreds of thousands [some estimate 250,000] of Americans.

“I’ve seen the Promised Land,” Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech in Memphis on April 3, 1968. He was assassinated the following day: This video from the Smithsonian You Tube Site:

On April 16, 1963 Martin Luther King in a Birmingham jail wrote one of the most important, inspiring and iconic treatises in his, “Letter From a Birmingham Jail“. It is a very long letter addressed to his fellow clergymen. Please click here to read the entire letter.From this web site the letter begins:

16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.”

and the letter ends
“If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr.”

As this great man and great American patriot is now delivering his inspiring words to the angels in heaven, let all of America salute Martin Luther King Jr. and enjoy this Martin Luther King Day!

Happy King Day, America!

Pianist Yefim Bronfman Joins The HSO In the Rach 3

It is that time once again this weekend [Saturday, Jan. 14] when my wife, Sheralyn, and I trek to Jones Hall in downtown Houston Texas to hear our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra in another great concert program.

On this concert we will see [and hear] once again the great virtuoso Israeli-American pianist, Yefim Bronfman, joining our Houston Symphony Orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s legendary Piano Concerto #3 in D minor. HSO’s dynamic director/conductor, Juraj Valcuha will lead our wonderful orchestra. Sheralyn and I have been blessed to see Mr. Bronfman before in Jones Hall. His virtuosity of the keyboard is displayed with amazing ease. We can’t wait to see and hear him in one of our favorite piano concertos, the “Rach 3”.

From the HSO website: “Prepare for an extraordinary concert experience when world-renowned virtuoso Yefim Bronfman tackles Rachmaninoff’s lush and legendary Piano Concerto No. 3—one of classical music’s most well-known and beloved masterpieces! And, Music Director Juraj Valčuha leads the orchestra in Bartók’s fearlessly provocative Miraculous Mandarin, part of a two-week spotlight on music that caused an uproar.”

Rachmaninoff scored his ultra virtuosic 3rd piano concerto in the key of D minor with three movements: 1. Allegro ma non tanto; 2. Adagio; and 3. Alla Breve.

As usual whenever the fetching Mrs. B and I go to a Houston Symphony Orchestra concert, I like to share a little of what we will be hearing on Saturday night. So, please turn up the volume and enjoy

Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #3 in D minor:

Welcome, once again, to Houston Mr. Yefim Bronfman! I hope you enjoy your stay!

Dvorak’s Use of Dynamics Enhances His New World Symphony

In classical music, dynamics means the volume [soft/loud] used in a piece of music. 

The two basic dynamic markings are soft, marked p [meaning piano], and loud marked f [meaning forte].

Pianissimo, pp means play very softly. Fortissimo, ff means very loud.  To have a phrase played the softest as possibly can be played is marked ppp [piano pianissimo]; and to have a phrase played as loud as possible is marked fff [forte fortissimo].

Antonin Dvorak [1841 – 1904]

In the Romantic era of music dynamics are an especially important tool to project certain emotions of the piece that the composer wants to portray. This was certainly true with the great Romantic Czech composer Antonin Dvorak.  Because of Dvorak’s numerous exquisite melodies and beautiful sound he portrays in his pieces, this proud Czech is one of my favorite composers.  

One of my favorite pieces from Antonin Dvorak is his Symphony #9 in E minor, “From the New World.” Dynamics play an important role in this majestic piece.

During the period when Dvorak was in America as a symphony director, he composed this piece about America. When in America, Dvorak gained a love for African American spirituals and Native American folk music and he reflects that [especially in the early movements] in his most famous symphony. This symphony is not just the most beloved of Dvorak’s symphonies, it is one of the most beloved in all of the symphonic repertoire.

Dvorak’s New World Symphony #9 is scored in E minor with four movements: 1. Adagio – Allegro Molto; 2. Largo; 3. Scherzo; and 4. Allegro con fuoco.

In the final movement of the New World Symphony,  Allegro con fuoco, you get the full range of dynamics from pianissimo to fortissimo. You can hear the fortissimo almost immediately with the introduction of the horns. There are many phrases marked forte throughout this movement. 

But you also have so many moments of exquisite soft phrases that display a calm beauty in contrast to the bold strength portrayed in the louder statements of the movement. You will easily hear those differences and understand the importance that these dynamics display.

This is truly a great symphony from Antonin Dvorak.

So, please turn up the volume and see how Dvorak uses dynamics to enhance the mood of his New World Symphony, especially in the final movement that begins at 34:08 in the following video. Check out how from the loud beginning of the final movement, it becomes so soft at around the 36:00 minute mark.

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #9 in E minor, “From the New World”:

Schubert’s Rosamunde

Franz Schubert was an Austrian late classical/early Romantic composer who, like Mendelssohn, is known for his beautiful melodies in his pieces.  Like many of the great composers, Schubert died at very young age of 31, but despite that he was blessed by God with the talent to be a prolific composer of so many wonderful melodic pieces in all genres. We, the lovers of classical music, were also blessed by God as he give us this wonderful composer and his wonderful music.

Franz Schubert [Jan. 31, 1797 – Nov. 19, 1828]

From Clinton Symphony Orchestra website: “Franz Peter Schubert wrote the incidental music to the play Rosamunde, Princess of Cypress, for a friend Helmina von Chézy.”

“Schubert wrote no specific overture for Rosamunde. Instead he dusted off an overture to his unperformed 1820 opera Alfonso und Estrella for the opening night of the play, but when the Rosamunde manuscript was published in 1891 as Op. 26, it was not with the Alfonso und Estrella Overture, which had actually introduced the play in the theater, but with a still earlier one which Schubert had composed in 1820 for a different play by a different writer, called The Magic Harp.

Thus, the Overture to Rosamunde may be said to have served a double duty for two independent works.”

On this, hopefully, peaceful day for everyone, please turn up the volume and enjoy Schubert’s Rosamunde Overture and also one of his many beautiful impromptus, the meditative Impromptu #3 in G-Flat Major.  

Rosamunde Overture:

Impromptu Op. 90 #3 in G-Flat Major: