Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra

Sometime in the early 1940’s, Bela Bartok emigrated to the United States.  He was broke, and, what is worse, sick.  Serge Koussevitsky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, commissioned him to write  a piece, which he composed while lying sick.  The result was his concerto for orchestra, a magnificent piece human ingenuity.  In it is all the angst and hope that one would think a suffering man might have.  Sometimes the worst circumstances in life produce the most amazing and surprising things.  That’s comforting when times are tough.  When times are good, it’s a frightening thought.

Here’s the first movement:

For your edification: Bach’s un-Advent Cantata

Everyone thinks this is for Advent.  It’s actually for one of the last Sundays of the church year which precede Advent.  “Wachet auf” means, “wake up.”  It’s great music to jump start the morning.

Have you ever heard anything this beautiful before?

I have just recently picked up James R. Gaines’ Evening in the Palace of Reason, an account of the meeting in 1747 between Johann Sebastian Bach, the greatest composer who ever lived, and the Prussian emporer Frederick “the Great.”  It is a fascinating read, aside from the author’s occasional silly attempts to appeal to bourgeois dolts.

Somewhere along the way, the Actus tragicus, an early work of Bach’s, is mentioned, and I hadn’t recalled ever hearing it before.  So I looked it up on YouTube.  It is unspeakably beautiful.  Here ya go:

Glenn Gould plays Brahms

One of my favorite musicians plays one of my favorite composers.  The Glenn Gould year is just winding down, and what better way to mark it than with the golden autumnal works of Johannes Brahms?

Learning to program manageable concerts

Last spring, I planned an organ recital that I thought would be really fantastic.  The problem was that I had gotten in over my head and, for a number of reasons, some of which were related to burnout, found myself unprepared as the recital neared and having to cancel it.

I have not failed to reflect on this, and I have come up with a program for this Fall (date to be announced later) which should be much more manageable, and dare I say enjoyable, to prepare for.  This lineup is based on an All Saints/All Souls theme:  I suppose you could call it the elitist’s version of the all-too-common “Halloween concert.”

Henry Walford-Davies:  Solemn Melody

J.S. Bach:  Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543

Bach:  Alle menschen muessen sterben (from the Neumeister Choraele)

improvisation on the Dies Irae

Olivier Messiaen:  Le Banquet Celeste

Messiaen:  Transports de joie

Hymn:  O Quanta Qualia (assuming there are enough people there to make the singing of it thrilling)

Calvin Hampton:  In Paradisum

Marcel Dupre:  Cortege et Litanie