HSO Performs a Powerful Titan of a Symphony

What a great day Saturday, April 22, 2023, will be for me and Sheralyn. First in the afternoon we will be seeing what hopefully will be a great movie about the amazing life of the Chevalier de Saint Georges, “Chevalier”. For more on that please check out my post: “The Amazing Life and Music of The Chevalier de Saint Georges”.

Then in the evening we will be once again in our home away from home, Jones Hall in downtown Houston, Texas, to be in attendance to hear our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra performing the powerful “Titan” Symphony #1 from Gustav Mahler. The concert program begins with Jaakko Kuusisto’s Violin concerto.

Gustav Mahler [July 7, 1860 – May 18, 1911]

From the Mahler Fest Web Site: “Gustav Mahler was born on July 7, 1860 to a middle-class Jewish family in Kaliste, Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He received his principal musical training at the Vienna Conservatory, beginning in 1875. Mahler’s drive to compose began in his early years, but he found he could make a good living by conducting, which in turn allowed him time to compose.”

“As a Jew, Mahler was exposed to anti-Semitism all his life, including an official “Anti-Semitic” press in Vienna. Some music commentators treated Mahler favorably, while others were vitriolically opposed.  To obtain the Vienna State Opera directorship, it was necessary to be a Catholic, so Mahler converted.

In his lifetime, Mahler was “Best known as a leading orchestral and operatic conductor.”  He composed 9 large and powerful, and I would say amazing symphonies, many of which contained choruses; he also composed an “unfinished” 10th symphony.

Mahler’s first symphony named “The Titan” was scored in D Major. As in all of Mahler’s brilliant symphonies this is a large work of just under an hour with a big sound, as Mahler scores this for a huge symphony orchestra.  This epic work has also been described as a symphonic tone poem.”  “It contains one of my favorite movements of any symphony as in his third movement Mahler brilliantly uses a variation of the children’s song “Frere Jacques” in a slower tempo and D minor key to create a haunting funeral march.  Mahler also inserts a touch of a Jewish Klezmer sound that I love in this movement. The dramatic “energetic” and long final movement, which brings back some of the earlier themes, begins in F minor before returning to the D Major key for an exhilarating climactic ending.

From the Houston Symphony Orchestra Website about this concert: “Epic. Heroic. Monumental. Prepare for an extraordinary musical journey when renowned Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste leads Mahler’s thunderous and blazingly theatrical First Symphony, a thrilling showcase for the Houston Symphony’s virtuosity and expressive power. Jaakko Kuusisto wrote his Violin Concerto to show off the skills of the phenomenally talented Elina Vähälä, and she joins the Symphony in these performances.”

Mahler’s Titan Symphony in D Major has four movements: 1. Slowly, restrained throughout; 2. Moving strongly-restrained-Trio; 3. Funeral March; and 4. Stormly Agitated-Energetic.

Please turn up the volume, play in full screen and enjoy this magnificent symphony from the great Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer, Gustav Mahler.

Mahler Symphony #1 in D Major, “Titan”:

The Amazing History and Music of The Chevalier de Saint Georges

UPDATE: This Friday, April 21, 2023, “Chevalier” the story of the Chevalier de Saint Georges, will be opening in movie theaters all over the United States! Because of that I am repeating this post!

About a year and a half ago [in September of 2021], Sheralyn and I were blessed to once again go to Jones Hall in downtown Houston and hear our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra. It was a wonderful program that contained a piece by a composer I was unfamiliar with-and shame on me for not knowing, Joseph Bologne-Chevalier de Saint Georges. What an amazing history and what an amazing man.

Joseph Bologne [December 25, 1745 – June 10, 1799]


From Wikipedia: “Born in the then French colony of Guadeloupe, he was the son of Georges de Bologne Saint-Georges, a wealthy married planter, and Anne, dite (called) Nanon, his wife’s African slave. When he was young, his father took him to France, where he was educated. During the French Revolution, the younger Saint-Georges served as a colonel of the Légion St.-Georges, the first all-black regiment in Europe, fighting on the side of the Republic.”

What is kind of amazing, at the time period, his father, instead of rejecting this son born from an African slave, he took not just his wife, but also “Nanon” and his son, with him to France, and spent much money making sure his son, Joseph Bologne, had the best possible education and music training and swordsmanship training.

Joseph Bolgne, who would become a virtuoso violinist and classical composer and great conductor, was also a great athlete: he was a great boxer and swimmer and he became a renowned championship fencer. It has been said the Joseph was the greatest swordsman in all of Europe, at that time. Because of his grace and his great accomplishments he would receive French knighthood, and therefore called Chevalier.


From the Houston Symphony Orchestra’s website: “Upon becoming a chevalier (knight), he took his father’s suffix “de Saint-Georges”—named after a plantation in Guadeloupe—to become known as ‘Chevalier de Saint-Georges’.

Saint-Georges composed and published numerous operas, string quartets, concertos, and symphonies over a short span of time, from 1771-1779. He performed all his violin concertos as soloist with Le Concert Olympique—an orchestra he also conducted.”

The Chevalier de Saint Georges, became acquainted with Mozart, and some people refer to Saint Georges as the Black Mozart. But some also dismiss that title because it seems like there were actually some musical ideas that Mozart borrowed from the Chevalier, not the other way around. In fact, in the concert at Jones Hall they have this pre-concert talk called “prelude”, and Calvin Dotsey played some examples of the violin concerto we were about to hear and in one phrase I heard, I thought to myself-I have heard that in some of Mozart pieces, and Mr. Dotsey asked, at the exact moment I was thinking that, have any of you heard that in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. Yes, yes I have. 🙂

In the HSO prelude talk we learned that the Chevalier de Saint Georges was truly a brilliant violinist who not only loved to play fast and furious but he loved to use the difficult high register notes on the violin.

Also something amazing about Joseph Bologne – again from the HSO website: “Saint-Georges commissioned Joseph Haydn to write six symphonies for his orchestra—Le Concert Olympique. These compositions are best known as Haydn’s “Paris” symphonies and were premiered and conducted by Saint-Georges.”

You would think with all these great accomplishments and the knighthood he received that he would be beloved by everyone. But no, he would still face bigotry and discrimination because of his mother being an African: “His name was put forward as a candidate for the director of the Paris Opera at one point, but the Opera’s prima donnas went to Queen Marie Antoinette and scuttled his candidacy (because they didn’t want to take orders from a “mulatto.”). Despite this, it’s thought that Marie Antoinette may have subsequently performed with Saint-Georges as his accompanist.

Also, there is this example from Wikipedia: “Louise Fusil, who had idolized Saint-Georges since she was a girl of 15, wrote: “In 1791, I stopped in Amiens where St. Georges and Lamothe were waiting for me, committed to give some concerts over the Easter holidays. We were to repeat them in Tournai. But the French refugees assembled in that town just across the border, could not abide the Creole they believed to be an agent of the despised Duke of Orléans. St. Georges was even advised [by its commandant] not to stop there for long.” According to a report by a local newspaper: “The dining room of the hotel where St. Georges, a citizen of France, was also staying, refused to serve him, but he remained perfectly calm; remarkable for a man with his means to defend himself.

At the age of 53, in 1799, the Chevalier de Saint Georges died of bladder disease in Paris, France.

This from Artaria: “There were certainly greater composers than Saint-Georges during the late 18th century but none who possessed anywhere near his remarkable range of talents, his exotic persona and fascinating personality.”

To read the entire interesting and informative article about The Chevalier de Saint-Georges from Artaria, please click here.

It’s a shame that there are more people like me, who have never heard of this amazing man, this great classical composer from African descent. I can see why his music would be popular at that time because of the melodic and Haydn like playfull bright characteristic nature of his compositions.

Please turn up the volume and enjoy some melodic sweet compostitions by this classical French composer of African descent, Joseph Bologne-The Chevalier de Saint Georges.

Joseph Bologne: Symphony #1 in G Major:

Joseph Bologne: Symphony Concertante in G Major:

Joseph Bologne: Violin Concerto in C Major:

Joseph Bologne: Sonata for Two Violins in B Flat Major:

Joseph Bologne: String Quartet #3 in g minor, Allegro:

Thank you for reading and listening. I hope you enjoyed some of The Chevalier de Saint Georges’ music.

Happy Jackie Robinson Day

Major League Baseball on this Saturday, April 15, 2023, will once again be honoring the great American patriot, Jackie Robinson, on this yearly anniversary of Jackie Robinson Day!

Established on April 15, 2004, today is the 19th anniversary of Jackie Robinson Day.

Major League Baseball honors Jackie Robinson, being the first black American allowed to play in the segregated major leagues when he started for the Brooklyn Dodgers at first base on April 15, 1947.

Jackie Robinson is the only player in baseball to have his number officially retired by MLB [meaning no player can ever again where the number 42 on any team in Major League Baseball].

Every MLB player in every major league park will wearing #42, Jackie Robinson’s number that he wore with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Jackie Robinson has to be regarded as one of the top Americans who influenced civil rights in our history, along with great figures like Rosa Parks, not just for being the first black man to play Major League Baseball, but for having to endure unspeakable acts of bigotry against him for “daring” to break the color barrier in baseball. He not only endured them, but he faced them down with courage and grace, in overcoming the bigots.

My wife and I went to see the movie, “42”, a few years ago and I can report that this is a must see movie by every American. We thought it was a great moving movie that ended in applause by the entire theater and tears in many eyes [I know there were some in Sheralyn’s and my eyes]. While Jackie Robinson passed on October 24, 1972, what is great is that Jackie Robinson’s wife, the graceful Rachel Robinson is still living and getting to enjoy this celebration of her beloved Jackie.

Rachel and Jackie Robinson


The Key Is The Key To The Mood

I remember when my daughter Ebony had her classical piano music lessons her teacher, Yelena Kurinets [a great classical music piano teacher], when introducing a new piece, would first play part or the entire piece to my daughter. The first thing she would ask Ebony was to give a description of the piece, i.e., the mood of the piece.  She would ask my daughter to state if the piece was happy, playful, fun, exciting, sad, dramatic, scary, or some other descriptive word. She wanted her to learn the mood of the piece in order to know how to play the piece. What later became obvious was that pieces had a certain flavor according to the key of the piecePieces that were in a major key, like C-Major, E-Major, etc. were almost always bright happy pieces. Pieces that were in a minor key, like D-minor, E flat-minor, etc., were almost always more dramatic and sometimes darker pieces than those with a major key.

Music key signatures explained

The great composers of classical music would put a piece in a certain key to portray the mood they wanted. So, for the most part, if they would want the piece to give a bright, happy feeling to it, they would use a Major key. If they wanted a piece to portray a darker and or dramatic mood, they would use a minor key. [as always in classical music, there are exceptions]

I will give you examples from three of my favorite composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, and Antonin Dvorak, to show how the key of the piece of music helps determine the mood of the piece.

The quintessential classical composer W. A. Mozart, composed 27 piano concertos, most of them truly great piano concertos.  You will hear how the Mozart piano concerto #25 in the key of C Major displays a bright happy character, while Mozart’s Piano Concerto # 24 in C minor portrays a more serious and dramatic mood.

All of Felix Mendelssohn’s pieces have a very melodic beautiful characteristic, but they all don’t have the same mood. Mendelssohn’s Symphony #4 in A Major [Italian Symphony] has a playful, bright happy mood, while his Symphony #3 in A minor [Scottish] has a more dramatic, thoughtful, serious mood.

The great Romantic composer from the Czech Republic, Antonin Dvorak, was known for his stirring pieces and beautiful melodic music. He composed 9 great symphonies and I have chosen the final movements of Symphony #8 [in a Major key] and #9 [in a minor key] to show you how the key of the piece can help determine the different mood of the piece. The final movement of Dvorak’s Symphony #8 in G Major has a very positive and triumphant mood. While in movement 4 of Dvorak’s exciting Symphony #9 in E minor [From the New World] there is a dramatic, tense [and in some places-pensive] feeling/mood.

As I say always, please turn up the volume and enjoy this great music from Mozart, Mendelssohn and Dvorak with two of their pieces: One in a Major key and one in a minor key, and hear how the key is the key to the mood.

W. A. Mozart: Piano Concerto #25 in C Major, Movement 3 Allegretto:

W. A. Mozart: Piano Concerto #24 in C minor, Movement 1, Allegro:


Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony #4 in A Major [Italian], movement 1, Allegro Vivace:

Felix Mendelssohn: Symphony #3 in A minor [Scottish], Movement 1, Andante con moto – Allegro:


Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #8 in G Major, Movement 4, Allegro ma non troppo:

Antonin Dvorak: Symphony #9 in in E minor [From the New World], Movement 4, Allegro con Fuoco:

Classical Music For This Holy Week

On this Holy week where the two great religions of Judaism and Christianity celebrate Passover and Easter, respectively, I thought it appropriate to find some classical music to enjoy for all.

The Jewish Holiday of Passover begins at sundown Wednesday night April 5, 2023 and will last until Thursday April 13 at sundown. 

There are some moving classical music pieces for Passover:

One is by the Jewish Czech late Romantic/20th Century composer, Erich Korngold; his Passover Psalm that he composed in 1941.  Arnold Schoenberg, the post Romantic modern Jewish composer from Austria wrote the opera Moses and Aron, about the Exodus. The great Baroque composer, and a religious Christian, George Frederick Handel, also composed a piece about the Exodus, his oratorio, Israel In Egypt. Felix  Mendelssohn, while an early Romantic composer, composed his oratorio Elijah, the old testament prophet mentioned in the Passover Seder, in the Baroque style.

The sacred Christian Holiday of Easter is on this Sunday, April 9, 2023.

Handel’s most famous and beloved oratorio was his iconic, “Messiah”, which I had thought was more appropriate for Christmas, as that is when you most hear it played in concert halls across America; but looking into it, I learned that Handel originally composed this piece to be played for Easter.

There is also other classical music compositions appropriate for Easter, just a few of which are J.S. Bach’s St. John’s and St. Matthew’s Passion and his Easter Cantatas.  

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Stabat Mater was a cantata representing a Catholic hymn about the suffering of Mary during Jesus crucifixion, and the Romantic composer Nicoli Rimsky-Korsakov composed his Russian Easter Overture. 

Please turn up the volume and enjoy these wonderful pieces of music composed for Passover and Easter.

Felix Mendelssohn:  Elijah, “He Watching Over Israel”:

Erich W. Korngold: Passover Psalm:

George F. Handel: Israel in Egypt, ‘The Lord Shall Reign Forever and Ever’:

J.S. Bach: St. John’s Passion, “Ruht wohl, ihr heiligen Gebeine” & Choral final:

J.S. Bach Easter Oratorio,“Kommt, eilet und laufet:

George F. Handel: ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from “Messiah”:

Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all who celebrate these holidays on this Holy Week.

A Pearl of a Man Leads the HSO in Mozart’s Requiem

This Saturday evening Sheralyn and I will once again make our trek to downtown Houston to Jones Hall for a special Houston Symphony Orchestra Concert. Special in two ways: This will be an all Mozart concert featuring Mozart’s bright fun Symphony #29 in A Major and also Mozart’s iconic, dramatic Requiem in D minor. This also will be a special concert as we have a guest conductor: the legendary Israeli-American violinist and conductor, Itzhak Perlman.

From the Houston Symphony Orchestra website: “Mozart’s genius burns with brooding intensity in the legendary Requiem that was to become his own funeral music. Instantly recognizable thanks to its use in the multi-Academy-Award-winning film Amadeus, to experience it live is to feel its brilliance. Houston Symphony Artistic Partner Itzhak Perlman conducts orchestra, chorus, and outstanding vocal soloists in this must-see concert event.”

What a blessing it will be for me and my wife to be able to see the great Itzhak Perlman leading our world class Houston Symphony Orchestra in this great concert program.

Mozart’s Symphony #29 is a fun symphony as Mozart turns a simple two note motif into a bright first movement. I talked about this in a previous post: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Simply Genius. He scored this symphony in the key of A Major with 4 movements: 1. Allegro Moderato; 2. Andante; 3. Menuetto Trio-Allegretto; and 4. Allegro con spirito.

Mozart’s Requiem is a requiem mass [unfinished at his death on December 5, 1791-completed with using Mozart’s written ideas by Franz Xaver Sussmayr] was scored in D minor with 8 sections: 1. Introitus; 2.Kyrie; 3. Sequentia-[a. Dies Irae, b. Tuba Mirum, c. Rex tremende, d. Recordare, e. Confulatis, f. Lacrymosa]; 4. Offertorium; 5. Sanctus; 6. Benedictus; 7. Agnus Dei; and 8. Communio.

Please turn up the volume to hear the two wonderful pieces by W.A. Mozart that my wife and I will be hearing in Jones Hall this Saturday night.

W. A. Mozart: Symphony #29 in A Major:

W. A. Mozart: Requiem in D minor:

Welcome to Houston, Itzhak Perlman!

Happy Birthday Franz Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn: “(born March 31, 1732, Rohrau, Austria—died May 31, 1809, Vienna), [was an] Austrian composer who was one of the most important figures in the development of the Classical style in music during the 18th century.”

On this Friday, March 31, 2023 we say Happy 291st Birthday to this giant of classical music.

Franz Joseph “Papa” Haydn was one of the most important pioneers in the development of classical music.  He was the creator of the classical symphony. He gave the future great masters much to study from as he wrote an amazing 104 classical symphonies. That is not all. This great composer did in the development of classical music. He also developed the sonata style of composition [exposition, development, recapitulation] that became a staple of composers of classical music.

Papa Haydn also was a leader in developing the string quartet.  He was prolific in his string quartets and it led the way to the great string quartets from the masters that followed Haydn’s lead. 

With all of these influences Haydn had on the development of classical music, it is no wonder most lovers of classical music will include him in their top echelon of composers.

In my opinion, only JS Bach had more influence in the development of music than Franz Joseph Haydn. So, is it just a coincidence or the hand of God that both Bach and Haydn share the same birthday, March 31. Please check out my post celebrating Bach’s birthday today.

Without further ado, please turn up the volume and enjoy some amazing music from one of the greatest influences in the development of classical music, Franz Joseph Haydn.

F.J. Haydn: String Quartet #62  in C Major “Emperor”, movement 2, poco adagio, cantabile, theme and variations:

F.J. Haydn: Cello Concerto #2 in D Major:

F.J. Haydn: Trumpet Concerto in E Flat Major, Movement 3, Allegro:

F.J. Haydn: Symphony #104 in D Major, “London”:

F.J. Haydn: Piano Concerto in D Major:

Happy Birthday “Papa” Haydn!

Happy Birthday JS Bach

The quintessential Baroque composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, was born 338 years ago in Germany on either March 21, 1685 or March 31, 1685 – this time dispute relates to the change of calendars [Julian to Gregorian] during that time period.  Because most musicologists celebrate Bach’s birthday on March 31, this blog also will celebrate his birthday on Friday March 31, 2023.

When you say Baroque music, the name Bach must first come up. He is one of, if not the most, influential person in classical music with his musical inventions, techniques and great compositions.  Without Johann Sebastian Bach, it is doubtful, in my opinion, that classical music would have developed as fully as it did.  Most of the great composers in the Classical and Romantic Era’s to follow [and even with children learning how to play classical music today] got their foundation from Bach’s musical inventions. Bach was a virtuoso organist whose upbringing in religion and deep faith led him to compose much sacred music for organ and for choral works. Bach had a fairly long life [for that period of time] of 65 years and he used this blessing by God to be a prolific composer of some of that greatest music ever written. He was a composer of cantatas and oratorios and many organ pieces and other keyboard pieces [mainly for harpsichord] and he was also an orchestral composer of concertos for violin and keyboard [that some have been transformed for the modern piano] and of orchestral suites and dances, and also of many great chamber music compositions.

From Wikipedia: Bach’s famous instructive ‘Well Tempered Clavier’ for keyboard [at the time – harpsichord] “consists of Books 1 and 2 with each book containing a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys in chromatic order from C major to B minor.”

Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ for keyboard is “an aria with 30 variations” with an “unconventional structure: the variations build on the bass line of the aria, rather than its melody.”

J.S. Bach [March 31, 1685 – July 28, 1750]

Make no doubt about it, when one talks about the giants in classical music, J.S. Bach must be mentioned right near the top.  Along with Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, Bach fills my list of who I believe are the top 4 most influential composers with regards to the development of music. [classical or non-classical].

Bach was the main developer of the polyphony technique that was a main characteristic in the Baroque period of music.  Polyphony means ‘many voices’ and in the compositions was demonstrated by different thematic lines [voices] of music being played at the same time.

Without further ado, please turn up the volume and enjoy some of the greatest music ever composed by the genius, Johann Sebastian Bach to celebrate his 338th Birthday.

JS Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor:

JS Bach: Air on the G String:

JS Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C minor:

JS Bach: J.S. Bach: Brandenberg Concerto #2 in F Major, Movement 3, Allegro Assai:

JS Bach: Violin Concerto #1 in A minor:

Happy Birthday JS Bach!