Oboe Relaxation

I have come across a piece that is so pleasant and relaxing, I wanted to share it with you.  It is Richard Strauss’ Oboe Concerto in D-Major. 

Richard Strauss was a German composer and conductor in the late Romantic/early Modern eras of music. 

This was one of the last works Strauss composed – in 1945.  This beautiful concerto has 3 movements: 1. Allegro Moderato 2. Andante and 3. Allegro Vivace.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy Richard Strauss relaxing Oboe Concerto in D Major.

Richard Strauss: Oboe Concerto in D Major:

Schubert’s Final Piece For Solo Piano

There are three classical music stations on my I phone I listen to at different times, Houston’s, Houston Public Media Classical, Seattle’s, King FM, and Portland’s, All Classical Portland. About a week ago, and excuse me for forgetting which one, but on one of these stations I heard this beautiful piano sonata that sounded like a Franz Schubert piano piece. And I was right-it was Schubert’s final piano sonata and the announcer informed us that this would be the final piece Schubert composed, just weeks before his death on November 19, 1828. Born January 31, 1797, sadly Schubert died at the too young age of 31.

Franz Schubert final piece, a piece for solo piano, his Piano Sonata D 960 [along with his sonatas D 958 and D959] were not published until 10 years after his death, in 1838-1839.

Schubert’s Piano Sonata in Bb Major, D 960, had four movements: 1. Molto Moderato, 2. Andante Sostenuto, 3. Scherzo-Trio, and 4. Allegro ma non troppo-Presto.

Since I am not sure which classical music radio station gave me this great information and played this great Schubert Piano Sonata, I will give credit to all three: Houston Public Media Classical; King FM; and All Classical Portland!

Please turn up the volume and enjoy Franz Schubert’s last piece for solo piano completed shortly before his death. It is a beautiful, exquisite piece for the piano!

Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata #21 in Bb Major:

A Classical Music Mothers Day

I would like to wish a very Happy and Blessed Mother’s Day to all, especially to all the wonderful Moms out there.

On a personal note, my sister Susan and my brothers Sandy and Brad continue to always remember the blessing of our Mom, Reenie, who is in heaven with our “Pop” and God.  Reenie, who was born on the 4th of July and died on Christmas Day, was a wonderful human being, loved by everyone because she loved everyone.  She made the best apple pies in the world.  Her beautiful paintings still are on view to see at each of our houses.  We love you forever, Mom.

A heavenly Happy Mothers Day to you, Mom!

I’d also like to wish my wife, Sheralyn and my daughter, Ebony a very Happy Mother’s Day on this, their day!

As this is a classical music blog, I’d like to feature a few appropriate songs in honor of all the mothers out there, living or in heaven, on this Mothers Day!

Antonin Dvorak: Songs My Mother Taught Me:

Johannes Brahms: Lullaby:

From Robert Schumann’s: Frauenliebe und Leben: “At My Heart, At My Breast”- a young mother rocks her newborn to sleep:

Happy Mother’s Day to All!

Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Headlines This HSO Concert

Sheralyn and my final concert this Houston Symphony Orchestra season [2022/23] takes place this Saturday night, May 13, in Jones Hall in downtown Houston. It will be a great concert program we will be attending, as our dynamic exciting director, Juraj Valcuha, leads the orchestra in the ultra-virtuosic, Violin Concerto #1 in D Major, by Sergei Prokofiev, and maybe Tchaikovsky’s most dramatic and meaningful symphony-Symphony #6 in B minor, “Pathetique”.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky [May 7, 1840 – November 6, 1893]

From the Houston Symphony Orchestra website: “Tchaikovsky confessed that he had put “his whole soul” into his final symphony, and for the listener, it’s an enthralling experience that awakens us to a universe of emotion. Music Director Juraj Valčuha leads this poignant masterpiece, known for its haunting ending that fades to black. A special program celebrating the legacy of former Houston Symphony Chief Conductor Sir John Barbirolli also includes Paul Creston’s Dance Overture and Prokofiev’s lyrical Violin Concerto No. 1, with Houston favorite Augustin Hadelich.”

The great Russian Romantic composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky scored his “Pathetique” Symphony # 6 in the key of B minor with four movements: 1. Adagio-Allegro non Troppo; 2. Allegro con grazia; 3. Allegro molot vivace; and 4. Adagio lamentoso. As indicated by the final movement’s score, you can tell that this symphony will have an unusual ending for a Tchaikovsky symphony by ending in a rather subdued, almost sad resignation, instead of the usual explosive, exciting and triumphant finale.

Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto in D Major, while short in length, is not short in the virtuosity required by the soloist, Augustin Hadelich. We have been blessed to see violinist Hadelich perform with our great orchestra and know he will do a great job! This concerto has three movements: 1. Andantino, 2. Scherzo, and 3. Allegro moderato.

As usual whenever Sheralyn and I go to a Houston Symphony Orchestra concert in Jones Hall, I like for you to hear some of the pieces we will be hearing on Saturday night. So, please turn up the volume and enjoy Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto in D Major and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony # 6 in B minor.

Sergei Prokofiev: Violin Concerto #1 in D Major:

P.I. Tchaikovsky: Symphony # 6 in B minor, “Pathetique”:

Happy Birthday Brahms and Tchaikovsky

May 7th is the birth date for two of the giants in the Romantic Era of music, Johannes Brahms and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Brahms was born in the year of 1833 and seven years later in the year, 1840 was born Tchaikovsky. Both of these composers were known for their big orchestral sound filled with beautiful melodies.

Johannes Brahms [1833 – 1897]

Johannes Brahms, born May 7, 1833 in Hamburg, Germany was a great composer, pianist, and conductor in the Romantic Era of classical music.

From: Britannica Bio-Brahms: “German composer and pianist of the Romantic period, who wrote symphonies, concerti, chamber music, piano works, choral compositions, and more than 200 songs. Brahms was the great master of symphonic and sonata style in the second half of the 19th century.”

Brahms developed a great friendship with the great pianist and Romantic composer, Robert Schumann. Please check out a previous post: Robert, Clara, and Johannes.

Johannes Brahms is one of my favorite composers with his beautiful ultra melodic compositions.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky [1840 – 1893]

Tchaikovsky, born May 7, 1840 in Votkinsk [now Udmurt Republic, Russia], was also a great pianist and composer in the Romantic Era of music.

From Britannica-Bio: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: “Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, (born April 25 [May 7, New Style], 1840, Votkinsk, Russia—died October 25 [November 6], 1893, St. Petersburg), the most popular Russian composer of all time. His music has always had great appeal for the general public in virtue of its tuneful, open-hearted melodies, impressive harmonies, and colourful, picturesque orchestration, all of which evoke a profound emotional response. His oeuvre includes 7 symphonies, 11 operas, 3 ballets, 5 suites, 3 piano concertos, a violin concerto, 11 overtures (strictly speaking, 3 overtures and 8 single movement programmatic orchestral works), 4 cantatas, 20 choral works, 3 string quartets, a string sextet, and more than 100 songs and piano pieces.”

Both Tchaikovsky’s piano and violin concerto’s are considered near the top of compositions in those genres.

Just like Brahms Tchaikovsky’s luxurious melodies are prolific in all of his compositions and why, along with Brahms, is one of my favorite composers.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some beautiful music from these two giants of the Romantic Era – celebrating their birthdays on this Sunday, May 7.

J. Brahms: Symphony #2 in D Major:

J. Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Haydn:

J. Brahms: Violin Concerto in D Major:

P.I. Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto #1 in B Flat minor:

P.I. Tchaikovsky: Symphony #6 in B minor, “Pathetique”:

P.I. Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture:

Happy Birthday Johannes Brahms and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky!

Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Edward Benjamin Britten, was a modern era Romantic English composer born November 22, 1913, in Suffolk County, England. Benjamin Britten was also an accomplished conductor, and pianist. He was a central figure of 20th-century British music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. Britten lived until the age of 63, dying of heart failure on December 4, 1976.

One of Benjamin Britten’s most famous and most popular piece [still to this day] was his iconic orchestral showpiece, “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra“.

Benjamin Britten wrote the piece just as the title of the piece states, as an introduction for children on how a symphony orchestra works to make beautiful music. Britten uses a mesmerizing theme from a fellow Englishman, Baroque composer, Henry Purcell and uses that theme in a fugue and theme and variations style to demonstrate how the different sections of the orchestra sound. The piece begins with the Purcell theme by the whole orchestra, before it is broken down by each of the four sections [and the instruments in those four sections] of the orchestra: woodwinds, brass, strings, and percussion. The piece culminates with the entire orchestra coming back together in a stirring polyphonic majesty that includes Purcell’s original theme. This piece uses a narrator to help children and those young at heart, unfamiliar with a symphony orchestra, understand the various sections of the orchestra.

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra is also referred to as “Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell“.  

Sometimes, when this piece is played in a children’s program, it is accompanied by another piece of music that also uses narration for children, composed by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev, “Peter and the Wolf.”  Prokofiev uses the children’s story to also explain about the sound of different instruments in a symphony orchestra.  The narrator will explain which musical instrument represents which character in the story. 

That is why “Peter and the Wolf” and “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” may be the best two pieces used to introduce classical music to young children.

Without further ado, here is on You Tube, Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” [including narration for children]. And as a bonus, a video of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

Please turn up the volume and enjoy these two great works explaining the various instruments and sections of a symphony orchestra.

Benjamin Britten: “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”:

Sergei Prokofiev: “Peter and the Wolf”:

Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Schubert Teenage Works

There have been many great genius prodigies in the classical music world, most as young violin and piano masters.  Three of my favorites that come to mind are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Schubert.  Their remarkable God blessed talent wasn’t just in their remarkable virtuosic playing of the piano and violin as young children, but also of their accomplished mature compositions as teenagers

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [1756 – 1791]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria on Jan. 27, 1756 and died in Vienna on Dec. 5, 1791.  His genius on the piano was discovered early at age 4.  At age 5, Mozart wrote his first published composition, a miniature andante and allegro for piano.  Mozart wrote music for a number of occasions.  In 1770, Mozart (only 14) was commissioned to write an opera (Mitridate, re di Ponto)…the opera was a huge success and was performed 22 more times.” 

Mozart composed 5 piano concerti by age 17.  He composed his first Symphony at the incredible young age of 8. In fact, Mozart composed the majority of his 41 symphonies before he turned 20 years old.

Felix Mendelssohn [1809 -1847]

Felix Mendelssohn was born Feb. 3, 1809 in Hamburg, Germany and died November 4, 1847 in Liepzig, Germany.  This child prodigy began his piano lessons from his mother at age 6.  Besides being a virtuoso pianist at an early age, Mendelssohn was also a prolific composer at a young age. “Between the ages of 12 and 14, Mendelssohn wrote 12 string symphonies” … “He wrote his first published work, a piano quartet, by the time he was 13.” … ” In 1824, the 15-year-old wrote his first symphony for full orchestra (in C minor, Op. 11).

At age 16, Mendelssohn wrote what many consider one of the greatest chamber music pieces ever, his Octet for Strings in E-Flat Major.  This remarkable piece, composed by a teenager is one of my favorite pieces in the chamber music genre.  Mendelssohn wrote the beautiful and exquisite ‘Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the age of 17

Franz Schubert [1797 – 1828]

Franz Schubert was born Jan. 31, 1797 in Austria and died in Vienna on Nov. 19, 1828. “Young Schubert first came to the attention of Antonio Salieri, then Vienna’s leading musical authority”.  Schubert’s genius began to show in his compositions at a young age.  Franz Schubert was a prolific composer.  By 1814, at the age of 17, the young composer had written a number of piano pieces, and had produced string quartets, a symphony, and a three-act opera. Before Schubert turned 20 years old, he had composed an incredible five mature symphonies. 

Note:  The video below of Mozart’s piano concerto #6, that Mozart composed just before he turned 20, has a special meaning to me as my daughter, Ebony, played the first movement for piano competition at age 13.  And she played it perfectly!  So, she was playing this piece as a young teenager that was composed by a genius teenager.

Please turn up the volume and listen to some great music from these classical music geniuses that they composed as teenagers.

W. A. Mozart: Symphony #25 in G-minor [age 17]:

W. A. Mozart: Piano Concerto #6 in B Flat Major [Age 19]:

Felix Mendelssohn: String Octet in E-Flat Major [Age 16]:

Felix Mendelssohn: Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream[Age 17]:

Franz Schubert: Symphony #5 in B Flat Major [Age 19]:

Franz Schubert: Mass #3 in B Flat Major [Age 18]:

I hope you have enjoyed just a few of the great classical works composed by teenagers.

In Classical Music This Joke is No Joke

In large classical compositions, like symphonies, concertos, chamber music pieces, etc., the compositions are divided into sections that are called movements. A classical symphony will usually have 4 movements, a classical concerto will have 3 movements, and chamber music pieces have various number of movements-usually three or more.

These movements will be described usually by the tempo of the movement. You might see for example Symphony #1 in D major, movement #1, allegro. Of course, that means the composers 1st movement of his 1st symphony will be played fast.

Sometimes movements are also given a more descriptive term for the movement, besides the tempo. For example you have movements described as romances [self explanatory], or dances [like minuets, gavottes],  or trios [which means that the first and 3rd section of the movement will be exactly the same, divided by a different second section of the movement]. You have ‘theme and variations’ and ‘rondos’ and then there are some movements that are called, scherzos.

Scherzo literally means to jest or joke. Scherzos in a musical composition or movement usually have a light, fast-moving, and playful character. A scherzo usually will be the second or third movement of a symphony. Some scherzos actually bring a smile to your face, like the third movement of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata known as the Spring Sonata, which we feature here. 

Two of my favorite scherzos come from the great Ludwig Van Beethoven. One is from his Sonata for Violin and Piano, called the Spring Sonata [this is one of the shortest scherzos you will hear]; and the other scherzo is the second movement from his famous Symphony #9 [this is one of the longest scherzos you will hear]. 

In Beethoven’s Spring Sonata, the scherzo is the short third movement. You can hear the playful nature of the pianist and violinist and the “joke” of how the instruments don’t seem to be playing together [which is on purpose].  When hearing this movement there is no doubt why this movement is scored scherzo.

Then a more vigorous and dramatic scherzo comes from what many call the greatest symphony ever written, Beethoven’s majestic Symphony #9, commonly known as the Ode To Joy, for it’s glorious, hopeful choral final movement. The Scherzo is the second movement of this masterpiece.  This dramatic scherzo, while having what could be described as a surprise ending, is definitely no joke.

As always, classical music friends, I ask that you please turn up the volume, play in full screen and enjoy these two scherzos by the master Beethoven, and while these are scherzos, they are are no joke.  

L.V. Beethoven: “Spring Sonata” for Violin and Piano, Movement 3, Scherzo:

L.V. Beethoven: Symphony # 9 in D minor, Movement 2, Scherzo: