Sunday, November 27, 2011

Holiday Bagpipes

En route to the Caribbean for Thanksgiving. Stephen is listening to archival recordings of 10 years of holiday concerts at the Kennedy Center as we have promised each other that during this vacation we will work on laying out the upcoming Holiday CD. He just handed me his headset…. Bagpipes playing "Scotland the Brave" as a quodlibet with "O Come All Ye Faithful" (you need to listen to our Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel CD if you don’t know what a quodlibet is J). I had totally forgotten this concert, but in 5 seconds, I was back at the Kennedy Center with 80 pipers coming down the aisle, playing, joining the orchestra on stage.  I do not know how we will record that, but how could it be left off the CD???

Friday, November 25, 2011

Music Library No. 6 - Erik Satie "Gymnopédies" - Teenage Favorite

The 3 Gymnopedies by Satie were some of the first classical music pieces that my teenage son actually put on his iPod and listened to while doing homework. Many years later they continue to be a favorite that he goes back to. I still remember the pink cover of the LP of Satie works that I purchased with my own money in my early twenties. There are 3 of them (each 99-cents). After you listen to samples you may want to spring for all three of them.


by All Music Guide
"Erik Satie was an important French composer from the generation of Debussy. Best remembered for several groups of piano pieces, including Trois Gymnopédies (1888), Trois Sarabandes (1887) and Trois Gnossiennes (1890), he was championed by Jean Cocteau and helped create the famous group of French composers, Les Six, which was fashioned after his artistic ideal of simplicity in the extreme. Some have viewed certain of his stylistic traits as components of Impressionism, but his harmonies and melodies have relatively little in common with the characteristics of that school. Much of his music has a subdued character, and its charm comes through in its directness and its lack of allegiance to any one aesthetic. Often his melodies are melancholy and hesitant, his moods exotic or humorous, and his compositions as a whole, or their several constituent episodes, short. He was a musical maverick who probably influenced Debussy and did influence Ravel, who freely acknowledged as much." Source
Ciccolini is a well-known pianist who is known for his Satie interpretations.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Projects on Deck

One door closes, another door opens. With The Soldier's Tale off my desk, I am already putting my arms around the music director and saying, "What's next?" I have desperately wanted to record a Christmas album. For years at the Kennedy Center, we hosted the Annual Washington Chamber Symphony Holiday Sing-Along which The Wall Street Journal wrote was "the hottest ticket in Washington" for the holiday season. We were often totally sold out by Labor Day! Stephen Simon, my husband the music director, wrote musical arrangements for orchestra and chorus of 2,700 (the audience plus professional vocal groups on the stage) and we all sang everything from Jingle Bells to Silent Night to Hannukah, O Hannukah, to the Hallelujah Chorus. These arrangements that everybody loved, have never been recorded, so we may be off to London before Christmas to talk to Abbey Road and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Final Proofs for The Soldier's Tale Are HERE!

I am so excited! The proofs for The Soldier's Tale arrive in New York City on Saturday and I examined every inch of them. With my very large magnifying glass, I looked at very fold line, every cut line, every photograph and illustration. Check! Check! Check! ALL PERFECT AND APPROVED! When the proofs arrive and are approved, I finally believe that the CD will actually be born. Wow! The beginning of the end of almost a year of work. I must say, the illustrations by Icelandic illustrator Birgitta Sif are unusual and beautiful. The graphic design by our wonderful graphic designer Lou Barnicle continues to surprise and impress me. She is brilliant. Now I try to think of other things while I wait for the boxes finished CDs to arrive in Washington, New York, and Massachusetts.

They really will be here for Christmas!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Music Library No. 5 - Bernstein's "Overture to Candide"

After Beethoven, I thought something more contemporary would be good. Leonard Bernstein, the legendary American conductor whose televised Young People's Concerts at Carnegie Hall introduced tens of thousands of families to classical music, composed the operetta Candide in 1953. Candide was based on Voltaire's satiric novella by the same name.

More info at History of Candide

The overture to Candide is infectious and is brilliant Bernstein at this best. Bernstein was said always to be composing - whether waiting for a plane or out late at a restaurant, the pen and the music paper were with him. His Broadway hit, West Side Story, was turned into a blockbuster movie and continues to be performed.

There is a great recording with Bernstein himself conducting the New York Philharmonic, where he began conducting at the age on 25 and eventually became its most famous music director.

The line in Candide that is often used in our family is from Dr. Pangloss who believes that everything that happens in this world is for the best, regardless of how terrible it seems. The musical refrain that gets sung over and over is "This is the best of all possible worlds, the best of all possible, possible worlds" which you will not hear in the overture (which has no words) but may someday if you go to a performance of Candide.

You can have the entire overture for 99-cents! Do you find the Amazon "BUY" links helpful?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Music Library No. 4

As I was flying to Turkey for a week of sailing and a week exploring Istanbul, I put on my noise-cancelling headset and started my iPod for a bit of random listening. Suddenly, I started to listen more and read less and thought, "This is VERY nice. I wonder what it is?" only to look and discover that I was listening to the Beethoven Piano Concertos conducted by the man sitting next to me! So, I decided that I should recommend a track from one of these CDs. They are performed on original instruments with Anthony "fingers faster than God" Newman as the soloist.

However, when I went to find them on Amazon, I discovered that they were not available as a download. That is the bad news. The good news, however, is that the CDs are available at an incredible price at the moment. The CD with Beethoven Piano Concertos 2 and 4 is $10.45 and the CD with Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 and The Choral Fantasy is only $4.89!