Welcome Winter 2021-22

Today, Tuesday Dec 21, 2021, marks the first day of Winter-The Winter Solstice!

Half of the planet will see the shortest hours of sunlight and the longest dark hours of the year.

It just seems right as we are in the last week of the Christmas season, with Christmas this Saturday, that the cold weather comes in and the fire places get to warm up.

To celebrate this Winter, as we celebrate all the seasons on this classical music blog, there is no better way to celebrate the new season with the Italian Baroque composer, Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”. The Four Seasons were four short Violin Concertos, each concerto representing one of the four seasons.

Antonio Vivaldi [1678 – 1741]

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“Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was concerto #4 scored in F minor with three movements: 1. Allegro non molto, 2. Largo, and 3. Allegro. This, is one of my favorite concerto of the Four seasons.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy the exciting Winter, from Antonio Vivaldi!

Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Concerto #4, Winter:

Welcome Winter!

Sonatinas That Warmed a Dad’s Heart

Muzio Clementi was an important composer and classical pianist from Italy. He is well known, along with Carl Czerny for his studies [etudes] for the piano.  Many young classical music students will know the name of Clementi for his studies and sonatinas. 

Very young Ebony [my daughter] 🙂

I remember my daughter, Ebony, in her Suzuki classical music classes [started when she was 5 years old], while using the studies of Czerny, played some nice sonatinas by Clementi.  I especially remember these two bright, happy sonatinas Ebony would play at around 8 years old.

The first piece is a short 3 movement piece, I think you can see how it could warm a Dad’s heart with happiness hearing his little girl play this. In the Suzuki method the students had to memorize and play without music all their pieces. It still was amazing to me how a person so young could memorize all three movements.  

The second piece, which is Clementi’s sonatina #3, I remember Ebony playing this 1st movement-exactly like this little girl did on this video.

It brings back heart warming memories to watch this.

I hope you don’t mind this personal wonderful remembrance from a proud father, remembering his little girl playing these sweet sonatinas by Muzio Clementi.

Muzio Clementi: Sonatina #1 in C-Major:

Muzio Clementi: Sonatina #3 in C-Major, Movement 1, Allegro:

The Sonata Form Used In the Composition of Classical Music

Literally, the word sonata means a piece played as opposed to a cantata-a piece sung.  In classical music sonatas [other than piano sonatas] are pieces written for an instrument that will usually involve piano accompaniment.  For example, a violin sonata involves one violin and one piano.  A violin sonata could also be described as a “sonata for violin and piano”. There are sonatas that have been written for almost every instrument of the orchestra.  

Franz Joseph, “Papa”, Haydn:

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There is another meaning of the word sonata which was developed in the classical era by Franz “Papa” Joseph Haydn. That definition of sonata is what this post will deal with. It is the form or structure that many pieces in the classical era use in their composition.  This form of composition will involve 3 parts: 1. exposition, 2. development, and 3. recapitulation.

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This structure or form that a composer uses to write the movement of a piece is not just used for sonatas, as you might think.  It is also used in many large orchestral works, symphonies and concertos.  Sonata is not the only form that the great composers used to compose a movement or an entire piece of classical music.  Some other forms of composition are “rondo”, “theme and variations”, “trio”, et. al. 

While there were other forms of composition in the Classical Era, usually, but not always, when the movement of a classical music piece isn’t designated by which form it has used to compose it, the structure of the piece will be in sonata form.

The sonata form consists of three different sections.  Like a book or a speech that has a beginning, middle and end, so does a classical movement in the sonata form.  The three parts are called exposition, development and recapitulation.  

1. Exposition is the beginning of the movement or piece of music, with a theme or themes introduced.  These theme[s] will be developed and define the character of the movement/or piece. 

2. After the exposition comes the development.  This could be considered like the middle of the movement.  This could develop the original theme or begin a completely new theme.  As the exposition defines the character of the movement, you could consider the middle part developing the character.

3. The final section [and ending of the movement or piece of music] of the sonata form is recapitulation.  This means that the music will return to the opening of the exposition.  It will sound like the movement is starting all over again and the exposition is being replayed.

So, I like to say in a piece or movement of music using the sonata form [structure], you will hear a beginning, then a middle, and then back to the beginning. 

Here are some great pieces of classical music that use the sonata form of composition. Please turn up the volume and see if you can detect the exposition, development and then recapitulation in their structure.

I will give you the first one [Mozart Clarinet Quintet-Larghetto]: The exposition is about the beginning to the 2 minute mark; then the Development is about 2:09-3:25; and the recapitulation is about 3:30 -5:30. Also, in the second video, the exposition begins after the introduction by the orchestra [tutti] and after the recapitulation will be a solo cadenza by the pianist.

W.A. Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A-Major, Movement 2, Larghetto:

Franz Joseph Haydn: Piano Concerto in D Major, Movement 1, Vivace:

Franz Joseph Haydn: String quartet #3 in G Minor, “The Rider”, Movement 4, Allegro con Brio:

Felix Mendelssohn: String Octet in E-Flat MAJOR, MOVEMENT 1, ALLEGRO MODERATO:

I hope you enjoyed some beautiful music from Mozart, Haydn, and Mendelssohn composed in the sonata form. Thank you for listening.

Mozart Brings Out the Beauty of the Oboe

One of my favorite composers, the quintessential Classical era composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is known for his virtuosity on the piano and violin.  His many great compositions for the piano and violin reveal his knowledge in those instruments.  But it is not just the violin and piano that Mozart knew well.  He could bring out the beauty of many instruments that are used in the symphonic orchestra.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart [Jan. 27, 1756 – Dec. 5, 1791]

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For example, I believe Mozart was the first composer to utilize the clarinet in the classical orchestra.  It is because of his wonderful clarinet concerto and his clarinet quintet that I became a huge fan of the clarinet, and in fact name that instrument, along with the piano, as my favorites.

Mozart once said he was not a big fan of the flute, but that did not stop him from composing a great concerto for the flute.

Mozart was also able to bring out the beauty of the Oboe.  He showed his knowledge and the ability to bring out the best in this instrument with his Oboe Concerto in C Major and in one of my favorite chamber music pieces of all, his Oboe Quartet in F Major. This quartet for Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello is exquisitely beautiful and soothing and the Oboe oozes a sunny happiness in this piece.  

Mozart’s extraordinary Adagio movement of the “Gran Partita” for winds, brings out the beauty of not just the oboe, but of all the wind instruments that he uses in this piece.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy how Mozart was able to bring out the beauty of the Oboe.

W.A. Mozart: Oboe Concerto in C Major:

W.A. Mozart: Oboe Quartet in F Major:

W.A. Mozart: ‘Gran Partita’ for Winds, Movement 3, Adagio:

Happy Birthday Hector Berlioz

From Biography-Berlioz: The French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz “was born on December 11, 1803, in La Côte-St-André, Isère, France (near Grenoble). Hector Berlioz, as he was known, was entranced with music as a child. He learned to play the flute and guitar, and became a self-taught composer.”

Hector Berlioz [Dec. 11, 1803 – March 8, 1869]

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“In 1826, Berlioz enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire. The next year, he saw Harriet Smithson in the role of Ophelia and became captivated by the Irish actress [and many years later he would actually marry her]. His ardor inspired the Symphonie fantastique (1830), a piece that broke new ground in orchestral expression.” His iconic Symphony Fantastique was unusual as it it changed keys with each movement and had 5 different keys. Also, instead of the usual four movements, this symphony had 5 movements in these descriptive terms: 1. Passion, 2. A Ball, 3. Scenes in the Field, 4. March to the Scaffold and 5. Dream of a Witches Sabbath.

Berlioz described his own compositions this way: “The prevailing characteristics of my music are passionate expression, rhythmic animation, and unexpected turns.”

Along with his impressive Symphony Fantastique, were the impressive choral works, “La Damnation de Faust” and his large Requiem, “Grande Messe des Mortes”.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some Romantic music by the French composer, Hector Berlioz, on his birthday.

Hector Berlioz: La Damnation of Faust, Hungarian March:

Hector Berlioz: Symphony Fantastique:

Hector Berlioz: Requiem, Movement 10, Agnus Dei:

Happy Birthday #218 Hector Berlioz!