Happy Birthday Samuel Barber

From Britannica-Samuel Barber: “Samuel Barber, (born March 9, 1910, West Chester, PA, died January 23, 1981, New York, NY), American composer who is considered one of the most expressive representatives of the lyric and Romantic trends in 20th-century classical music.

“His [Samuel Barber] style was distinctive and modern but not experimental. He established his reputation with his overture to The School for Scandal in 1933.”

“Although many of Barber’s works make literary allusions, his music is not programmatic in the strict sense.”

In 1936 Barber composed his most beloved and famous “Adagio for Strings” which was the slow movement of his String Quartet in B minor, op. 11. While originally composed for a quartet, it is often played for String Orchestra. It is amazing beautiful and moving whether played by a string quartet or by an orchestra.

Also, from Brittanica-Samuel Barber: “Barber’s Symphony No. 1 (1936; rev. 1942) is in the Romantic tradition. In the Symphony No. 2, 1944; rev. 1947, commissioned by the U.S. Army Air Forces (which he had joined in 1943).”

“Barber also wrote a Violin Concerto (1941) and a Cello Concerto (1946). His Piano Sonata (1949) is a monument of 20th-century American piano music.

” … Barber’s Piano Concerto (1962) brought him new international success and another Pulitzer Prize. His opera Antony and Cleopatra inaugurated the new auditorium of the Metropolitan Opera Association at the Lincoln Center for The Performing Arts in 1966.”

Please turn up the volume and listen to some great compositions from the influential American composer of the 20th Century, Samuel Barber, on his 113th Birthday.

Samuel Barber: String Quartet in B minor, op. 11 [you will hear the famous, Adagio for Strings – Molto Adagio -8:39]:

Samuel Barber: Symphony #1:

Samuel Barber: Piano Sonata in E Flat minor:

Samuel Barber: Overture to the School for Scandal:

Happy Birthday #113 Samuel Barber!

Sheralyn’s Two Favorite Classical Music Pieces on Our Anniversary

I hope you don’t mind this personal post on my classical music blog. Today, March 8, 2023, is my wife, Sheralyn and my, 41st Wedding Anniversary. How blessed I have been and on the other hand I must ask, what was she thinking of? 🙂

March 8, 1982
A few years later 🙂

For many years now we have had season tickets for our great Houston Symphony Orchestra at Jones Hall in downtown Houston, Texas. In all these years I have learned Sheralyn’s very two favorite classical music pieces – that if they are ever performed – we must attend. Can you guess what they are? I will give you a hint: One has been composed by maybe the greatest ever American composer; and the other piece is by a great French composer who ironically just had a birthday in heaven. Now you know, I bet! 🙂

So, please turn up the volume and enjoy my wife Sheralyn’s two favorite pieces [and I bet the favorite for some of you].

George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue:

Maurice Ravel: Bolero:

Happy Anniversary Sheralyn! I love you!

Happy Birthday C.P.E. Bach

Maybe J.S. Bach’s most famous child composer was his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, born in Weimar, Germany on March 8, 1714.

C.P.E. Bach [March 8, 1714 – Dec. 14, 1788]

From Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – Wikipedia: ” … was a German Classical Period musician and composer, the fifth child and second surviving son of Johann Sebastian Bach and Maria Barbara Bach.

C. P. E. Bach was an influential composer working at a time of transition [Rococo Period] between his father’s Baroque style and the Classical style that followed it.”

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some great compositions from C.P.E. Bach.

C.P.E. Bach: Symphony #1 in D Major:

C.P.E. Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in F Major:

C.P.E. Bach: Solfeggietto in C minor for Keyboard:

C.P.E. Bach: Flute Concerto in G Major:

Happy Birthday #309 C.P.E. Bach!

Happy Birthday Maurice Ravel

One of the most beloved French composers was Maurice Ravel, born Ciboure, France on March 7, 1875.

From Ravel-Wikipedia: “Joseph Maurice Ravel was a French composer, pianist and conductor. He is often associated with impressionism along with his elder contemporary Claude Debussy, although both composers rejected the term. In the 1920s and 1930s Ravel was internationally regarded as France’s greatest living composer.”

Ravel studied under the tutelage of French composer, Gabriel Faure. Some of Ravel’s most famous works were written in his later years. From the Ravel -Bio Website: “[Some of Ravel’s later works include] Le Tombeau de Couperin, a suite composed circa 1917 for the solo piano, and the orchestral pieces Rapsodie espagnole and Boléro. Possibly the most famous of his works, Ravel was commissioned by Sergey Diaghilev to create the ballet Daphnis et Chloé, which he completed in 1912. Eight years later, in 1920, he completed La Valse, a piece with varying credits as a ballet and concert work.”

“Ravel died in Paris, France, on December 28, 1937. Today, he remains widely regarded as France’s most popular composer. He is remembered for once stating, “The only love affair I have ever had was with music.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some wonderful music from the popular French composer, Maurice Ravel, on this his 147th birthday.

M. Ravel: “Bolero“:

M. Ravel: String Quartet in F Major:

M. Ravel: “Rhapsodie Espagnole”:

M. Ravel: “La Valse”:

Happy Birthday #148 Maurice Ravel!

Happy Birthday Vivaldi

Antonio Vivaldi born March 4, 1678, in Venice, was an Italian virtuoso violinist and one of the top Baroque composers.

Antonio Vivaldi [March 4, 1678 – July 28, 1741]

From Biography – Antonio Vivaldi Web Site: “Antonio Vivaldi was ordained as a priest though he instead chose to follow his passion for music. A prolific composer who created hundreds of works, he became renowned for his concertos in Baroque style, becoming a highly influential innovator in form and pattern. He was also known for his operas, including Argippo and Bajazet.”

“At the age of 25, Vivaldi was named master of violin at the Ospedale della Pietà (Devout Hospital of Mercy) in Venice. He composed most of his major works in this position over three decades.”

“In addition to his choral music and concerti, Vivaldi had begun regularly writing opera scores by 1715; about 50 of these scores remain.”

One of his most famous works [and one of my favorite pieces] is his iconic set of four short violin concertos, known as, “The Four Seasons”.

To honor Antonio Vivaldi on this his 345th Birthday, please turn up the volume and enjoy some of this Baroque master’s great music.

Antonio Vivaldi: “The Four Seasons”:

A. Vivaldi: Oboe Concerto in A minor:

A. Vivaldi: “Gloria” for choir and orchestra:

A. Vivaldi: Concerto for Two Trumpets:

Happy # 345 Antonio Vivaldi!

Happy Birthday Bedrich Smetana

From Britannica Biography-Bedrich Smetana: “Bedřich Smetana, (born March 2, 1824, Leitomischl, Bohemia, Austrian Empire [now Litomyšl, Czech Republic]—died May 12, 1884, Prague), Bohemian composer of operas and symphonic poems, founder of the Czech national school of music. He was the first truly important Bohemian nationalist composer.”

“… his second opera, Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride), … established Smetana’s reputation as a distinctively Czech composer.”

“He became totally deaf in late 1874, but between that year and 1879 he wrote the cycle of six symphonic poems bearing the collective title Má vlast (My Country), which includes [the beautiful-melodic-iconic] Vlatava, The Moldau.” [While Bedrich Smetana may not have many pieces that I personally know, I can tell you his Moldau is one of my favorite pieces of all.]

“Smetana had been, from early in life, a virtuoso performer on the piano, and for many years most of his works were composed for it. Those compositions, augmented by the more mature piano pieces of his difficult last years, constitute an important body of piano literature.”

To read the entire article on the bio of Smetana, please click here.

To celebrate this great Czech composer’s birthday, please turn up the volume and enjoy some of Bedrich Smetana’s beautiful works.

B. Smetana: “The Moldau”:

B. Smetana: “Overture from the Bartered Bride”:

B. Smetana: Piano Trio in G minor:

B. Smetana: Piano Sonata in G minor:

Happy #199 Bedrich Smetana!

Happy Birthday Chopin

From the Chopin Bio Web Site:  “Frédéric Chopin was born Fryderyk Franciszek Szopen on March 1, 1810, in the small village of Zelazowa Wola, Duchy of Warsaw (now Poland).”

Chopin, a child prodigy, was a great virtuoso pianist and composer for the piano during the Romantic era of music.  Born in Poland he moved to Paris, France as an adult [at age 21] and lived their for the rest of his short adult life.  Like many of the great composers, Chopin died at a very young age, 39 [he died of tuberculosis].

Frederic Chopin [March 1, 1810 – Oct. 17, 1849]

While most of the masters were virtuoso’s in more than one instrument, that is not true with Chopin.  Piano was his instrument.  For that reason Chopin did not compose many pieces that contain orchestral music or even any other instruments. He composed two beautiful piano concertos, and 4 chamber music pieces, 3 for cello and piano and a trio for violin, cello and piano.  Other than those pieces, I believe every other composition of Chopin was for solo piano [someone can correct me-if, as I am many times, wrong].

He was prolific in his solo piano compositions with Etudes, Nocturnes, Polonaises, Sonatas, Preludes, Impromptus, Scherzos, Ballades, Mazurkas, and Waltzes.  Chopin is known for some of the most beautiful melodies for piano ever composed.  Frederic Chopin is the quintessential romantic composer.  I remember when my daughter took classical piano lessons, Chopin’s piano music was introduced at a later age because of the challenging nature with Chopin’s use of very large chords [especially difficult for a child with small hands].  While it was challenging, it was some of the most pleasing to play with its ultra beautiful romanticism.

So, while it is true that most of the other great masters had many more great orchestral works and chamber pieces than Chopin, not many [if any] of the other masters can come close to the so many beautiful solo piano compositions that Frederic Chopin gave the world. This is why I call Frederic Chopin, Mister Piano.

On this Wednesday, March 1, 2023, as this blog celebrates Mister Piano on his birthday, please turn up the volume and enjoy some wonderful piano music by Frederic Chopin.

F. Chopin: Impromptu #4 in C# minor, “Fantasie Impromptu”:

F. Chopin: Piano Concerto #1 in E minor:

F. Chopin: Piano Concerto #2 in F minor, Movement 2, Larghetto:

F. Chopin: Nocturne, op. 9, no. 2 in E Flat Major:

F. Chopin: Waltz in C# minor, Op. 64, #2:

F. Chopin: Polonaise In A-Flat Major, Op. 53, “The Heroic”:

Happy Birthday #213, Frederic Chopin!

Happy Birthday Gioachino Rossini

The great Italian composer of the Romantic Era, known for his operas [especially his comic operas], Gioachino Rossini was born on the last day of February [29th] in the year 1792 in Pesaro, Italy. He died November 13, 1868 near Paris, France.

From Britannica Bio-Rossini: “[Rossini’s operas] The Barber of Seville (1816), Cinderella (1817), and Semiramide (1823) are among the best known. Of his later, larger-scale dramatic operas, the most widely heard is William Tell (1829).

Gioachino Rossini was the son of Giuseppe Rossini, an impoverished trumpeter who played in miscellaneous bands and orchestras, and Anna Guidarini, a singer of secondary roles. Thus, Rossini spent his entire childhood in the theatre [sic].”

“[Rossini broke the traditional form of opera buffa as he] embellished his melodies (he was the true creator of bel canto, a florid style of singing), animated his ensembles and finales, used unusual rhythms, restored to the orchestra its rightful place, and put the singer at the service of the music.”

When I think of my favorite overtures, the name of Rossini, always comes to mind. What great melodic music, what bright happy music, and in the case of some of his overtures like the William Tell Overture, what exciting, dramatic music.

While this is not a leap year, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate Gioachino Rossini’s birthday on the last day of February-the 28th-this year of 2023, on this Tuesday.

So, please turn up the volume and enjoy some of the greatest and most beloved overtures ever composed by the Italian composer, Gioachino Rossini, on this his 231st birthday:

The Barber of Seville Overture:

La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie):

La Scala di Seta Overture [Silken Ladder]:

Italian in Algiers Overture:

Guillaume [William] Tell Overture: