Ravel Has Novelty, Always in Good Taste

Ravel Has Novelty, Always in Good Taste. The Golden Encyclopedia of Music by Norman Lloyd confirms my thoughts. His music is “rarely emotional.” It is as though he wrote waltzes, minuets or sonatas with amusement or affection. Lloyd brings out his contrast with Debussy:

  • Debussy drew much of his inspiration from nature.
  • Ravel received his creative impulses from dance.

The Background of Ravel

Ravel’s mother was a Basque.  That defines a region located around the western end of the Pyrenees (the part shaded red).  It is on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. The Bay straddles parts of north-central Spain, and south-western France.

Image result for Free map of Basque territory in Europe
Ravel was born in Basque territory(red)  in the town of Clibourne. The French-Spanish connection is obvious.

Part of his soul was Spanish. His masterpiece, Bolero, is an affirmation. Again, we see a prime example of his affinity for dance. Here’s my favorite story. I set it up by contrast to a story about John Cage. The theme for Bolero is only 8 bars long. Its treatment by variations with orchestra is 17 minutes long. But, it builds to one of the greatest climaxes ever.  In his humble manner, Ravel called it: “17 minutes of orchestration without any music.” By contrast John Cage wrote a piece of music that he calls 4’33”. It refers to the time of actual silence. Not one tone is played. You can “hear” it on youtube.

My Upcoming French Piano Concert

I am planning a full piano concert of French piano music from the late 1800’s and early 19oo’s. My instructor, Mischa Kottler, asked me to do such  the concert just before he passed away. He studied in Paris under Alfred Cortot in the 1920’s. Below is a sample of him playing Chopin’s Minute Waltz.

Minute Waltz (Mischa Kottler Version) – YouTube (to be amazed beyond words, click on “youtube” words and watch). He studied it in Paris.


The entries of my own concert will include the following works:

  • by Claude Debussy: Deux Arabesques, the entire Suite Bergamasque, Reverie. the Sarabande from Pour le Piano, Estampes, and La Cathedrale engloutie
  • By Gabriel Faure: Pavane
  • By Maurice Ravel: Sonatine

I will be arranging a date and place in the near future. It will be announced as an event on DSOworks.com. Below is a sample of the concert taken from from my upcoming Debussy CD. It is his Claire de Lune. from the Suite Bergamasque. Click on the title.

Clair de Lune – Suite Bergamasque by Claude Debussy …

Take Five PaulDesmond

Take Five by Paul Desmond; What a Number!

Take Five was composed by Paul Desmond.  He was the alto saxophonist of the The Dave Brubeck Quartet. The meter is in an unusual 5/4 meter. It was one of the first Jazz numbers with a time signature other than the more common 4/4 beat or 3/4 waltz time. In the late 1950’s the Dave Brubeck quartet was touring Eurasia under a grant by the state department. On a personal note, these grants were not unusual. I ( pianist, David Ohrenstein) worked with David Rubinoff and His Violin as his arranger and accompanist.  Rubinoff played in Vietnam for general Westmoreland’s troops with a grant  from a U.S. State Department. You can hear one of our 45 minute concerts on Oquaga Lake in New York  (played in 1984) on DSOworks.com for free. It is a thumbnail on the page “Lost Concert Found”.  Rubinoff was 86 years of age at the time. In between numbers he talked about his personal friendships with Victor Herbert, Carouso, Irving Berlin, Fritz Kriesler and John Phillip Sousa.  Don’t miss this once in a lifetime treat!The special twist was at the end of the night, they got up and left one at the time.

Creative and Artistic Inspirations, Like Take Five,  Come from Exotic settings

While on tour, the David Brubeck quartet  heard the music of Hungarian street musicians, They were playing Bulgarian songs in unusual meters. That is what prompted Paul Desmond to compose Take Five. When they returned to America, the group gave the song an extra special twist. “Take Five” was first played by The Dave Brubeck Quartet to a live audience at the Village Gate nightclub in New York City in 1959. At the end of the evening, they musicians would end their gig with Take Five. They would pack up and leave one at the time while play it. This was  in the style of Haydn’s Farewell Symphony written almost hundreds of years earlier.   Speaking of travel and music, I also have blogged about how a rich  Russian widow sent Debussy to the exotic Far East so he could enlarge his own musical palette.

My Own Experience Playing Take Five Over the Past Seven Years at My Gig at the Gasparilla Inn on Boca Grande, Fl

In one word, Take Five  is “magic.” Guests and diners discuss romantic subjects or simply the affairs of the day.  Then, the moment the two chords of  distinctive rhythm begin (Eb minor and Bb minor) I’m amazed at what happens:  People from all around the room stop talking and actually say “Take Five.”   It is certainly a real audience -pleaser. 

gasparilla inn
The glamorous Gasparilla Inn in Boca Grande, Fl,  lit up at night. I play my selections on their vintage Steinway grand pianos from the 1920’s.  Dates are basically Christmas to Easter.   The  guests feast on filet and as they enjoy the music. .


Take Five nostalgia
The 45 lp recording of Take Five is gold in more ways than one.
This team did so much for our culture

Gilbert and Sullivan’s search for Schubert’s Rosamunde

Gilbert and Sullivan’s search for Schubert’s Rosamunde: Good stories make good blogs. One of my favorites is about Gilbert and Sullivan’s discovery of the music for Schubert’s Rosamunde. Rosamunde, Fürstin von Zypern (Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus) is a play by Helmina von Chézy.  It is mainly remembered for the incidental music by Franz Schubert.  The play premiered in Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on 20 December 1823.[1][2]


Gilbert and Sullivan had many quests. They had heard of Schubert’s Rosamunde which was lost. They traveled to Germany to find the music. There, they caught wind of a certain Doctor Snyder who may have been in possession of the score. The rest of the story reads like a cliff hanger. When they arrived at his home, Dr. Snyder told them he had had a number of Schubert’s  manuscripts in his attic. Unfortunately, he placed them in the trash bin. The operetta duo ran to the trash. There, they not only discovered the score to Rosamunde, but numerous other symphonic works by Schubert. The rest of the story goes, they were so excited at the find, that they immediately played leap frog with each other.

Related image
The famed writing team, Gilbert and Sullivan taking a bow onstage.

Creators Come First, Not Concert Halls

I find this story quite significant to blog about. So many composers had had to have patrons or backers. It the baroque era, it was the Church. In the classical era, it was the nobility. In the romantic era,  donors and backers were rich patrons.  They helped composers to live and thrive not only for a day, but for decades. This is leading up to another  upcoming blog: It will present the premise that without  the support of musical creators by patrons, our concert halls will be without quality, vision or direction. The old names only serve us for so long. Only God is eternal. I personally have heard nothing but belittling comments and disapproval on my being a composer. “When are you going to make a living?” “Composing is fun. Life is hard work.” My question in return has always been. “Where does quality in life come from?”.  Without the arts, life is short and brutish. I ask my public to please take an interest in something more  than buildings. First, we must support the creators who give the musicians in the concert hall new music. After all, there might not be a Gilbert and Sullivan around at the right moment to save another poor Schubert-like composer.


THe confrontation scene between Octavian and Cleopatra is unforgettable drame

Rose and Lilly Point to our Floral New Opera

Rose and Lily Point to our Floral New Opera: The Cup of Cleopatra

Water Lily, Flower, Red, Aquatic, Plant, Bloom, Lake
A water lily, In Our opera, The Cup of Cleopatra, (formerly Octavian and Cleopatra) the ghost of Caesar calls her “My Lily of the Nile”. It was produced at the Palladium Theater in 2003. later presented at the Player’s Theater in Sarasota as part of our musical, Three Queens.

A key element of ancient philosophy was based on the fusion of numbers 5 and 6 and the flowers these numbers represented.  The rose has 5 outlining petals. The lily has 6 petals. The rose is yin, and 5 is a yin number. The Lily is yang as six is a yang number.  How is it that these numbers are fused?  By the ubiquitous use of the megalithic yard by the goddess cultures. Here’s how:

  • 5 x 6/ 5 + 6  (or 30/11) = 2.7272…which translates to one megalithic yard
  • Another megalithic standard is the megalithic mile of 2.727272… English miles or 14, 400 feet. Thus, 14,400/5280 =2.72727…English miles

John Michell, in his City of Revelation, further discusses the fusion:

  • The six sided figure of the hexagon symbolized the macrocosm
  • The five sided figure of the pentagon represented the microcosm.
  • Thus 272 represents the successful fusion of heaven and earth. the model of this fusion is the “Heavenly Jerusalem”.


  • 4:47


  • Click on the 4.:47 number and then youtube to sample our production at the Palladium Theater. I must share with you a part of Sharon’s beautiful lyrics in this segment. Cleopatra realizes that her being alive would jeopardize the life of  her children. This was true especially due to Roman politics. Octavian already had promised to give her children a home in Rome. To Cleopatra, that was more important than her own life. Sharon writes and sings as Cleopatra the following.  You will  hear it sung on this youtube presentation, “It is time to end this life. All that can be done was done. This goodbye is expressed with all my love. We shall meet after today, when we’ve sent you on your way. In the next world, we shall be close as we have ever been.” For the ladies, reincarnation was real.

We are merely the creators. If benefactors had not helped our operatic and instrumental composers, our culture would the the poorer. Verdi, Berlioz, Tschaikovsky, Debussy, Haydyn, Mozart…… all received the help of generous patrons. Music adds beauty to life.- David.




People Berries, an analgy from Oquaga Lake

Dance Steps of Canoes v. Motor Boats on Oquaga Lake

Dance Steps of Canoes v. Motor Boats. You ask, how can canoes and motor boats dance? They “imprint” dance.  That is they leave either ripples, waves or rough water behind. Of course, that depends on the dance style. A favorite summer activity on Oquaga Lake is watching the boats in the water go by. You’ll see everything including:

  • Motor boats stopping to pick up their fallen water skiers in the middle of the lake.
  • Rubber rafts being towed by a speedboat going dragging 4 or 5 children screaming in delight
  • Show offs that ski holding only one rope with one hand (see picture below)
  • The real show off that places a stand up ladder in the water and manages to ski on that
  • Water-Skiing, Entertainment, Sport, Sea, Women, Girls


    Of course, the Catskill Mountains were known for ballroom dancing. Scott’s Oquaga  Lake House, where Sharon and I resided,  was approached to film Dirty Dancing with John Travolta. The owners turned the offer down. At the time, they were already quite busy.When we were there, the Oquaga Spirit chimed on the dancing thing. She definitely prefers a calm lake. The spirit whispered the following quatrain to me.

    Canoes waltz the water
    Speedboats are cha-cha choppy
    Canoes gently promenade
    Waves from motors are sloppy

    Scott’s Showboat of song can be seen docked in front of the Playhouse. Ballroom dancing took place on the 2nd level at the playhouse.  The bottom level was reserved for Patty’s Pub. It had the most beautiful view of the entire lake. The Scotts featured their guests at talent shows at the pub. Usually, after a beer or two, everybody had the courage to offer their talent.

    The fun at Scotts never stopped. So many of the regular patrons, and even the Oquaga Spirit hopes it will continue for many years to come.






Our Hit Gypsy Czardas from: The Princess and the Peasant

Our Hit Gypsy Czardas from: The Princess and the Peasant (formerly titled “Elizabeth of Russia).

How About Great Caesar’s Ghost for Halloween?



How about Great Caesar’s ghost for Halloween? When was the last time you heard the expression, Great Caesar’s ghost?  For me, it was on the old Superman TV show that played in the 1950’s. The newspaper editor of the Daily Planet, Perry White, would exclaim to Lois, Lane or Jimmy Olson or Clark Kent every time he was frustrated: Great Caesar’s ghost! In our opera, Octavian and  Cleopatra, we did one better than that. We actually have great Caesar’s ghost appearing on the stage. He sings to Cleopatra a beautiful aria that I and Sharon wrote called: My Lily of the Nile.


Of course, a second ghost shows up: The ghost of her other Roman  husband, Mark Antony. The ghosts of Caesar and Antony immediately argue about what would be the proper course of action to take over Cleopatra’s conqueror, Octavian. Caesar says Cleopatra should trust Octavian. Mark Antony takes a totally opposing point of view. Of course, Cleopatra makes a scene where she screams over the arguing ghosts. Her two ladies in waiting witness her demise and try to calm her down with a potion. They think that Cleopatra’s totally lost her mind over the grief she has for her husband, Mark Antony, who has just killed himself.

Our thrilling opera was performed in Sarasota and St Petersburg, Florida with a cast of seven.  We have a complete piano-vocal score and the performance was recorded on DVD. Sharon Lesley Ohrenstein wrote the book and lyrics and I wrote the music. We are in the process of arranging this for a chamber orchestra. My favorite musical moment in the show is a trio which features the Ghosts of Caesar and Antony singing with a living Octavian. They ghosts urge Octavian to  go back to Cleopatra and show her that he loves her.  Octavian rejects their plea, saying that his motto and words he lives by are; “make haste slowly”.  Reserve this show for your theater season so your patrons can be thrilled by the glory that was Rome and Egypt!

Edmond De Mattia, distinguished conductor

Edmond De Mattia, distinguished conductor

Edmond De Mattia, distinguished conductor of the Wind Song 5 offered a popular concert for the benefit the Salvation Army.  It was given at the chapel on Sunday this last May 24, 2015 at 1701 S. Tuttle Av. in Sarasota, Fl. The woodwind instrumentalists of the Wind Song 5 include Edmond De Mattia on oboe, David Lieberman on clarinet, John Stinespring on bassoon.  Sharon Lesley Ohrenstein   is the soprano/arranger of the group.  Her husband, David Ohrenstein is the composer/pianist.   The works they performed spanned from Mozart to  Scott Joplin; from opera to the Broadway stage. Several of David and Sharon’s acclaimed original theatrical works were also offered.


Maestro de Mattia recently gave a concert in the Cleveland with his musically acclaimed family. We were so honored to have them feature three of our original compositions. One in particular, we were told, brought the house down: The Iguana Farm. I actually composed it on the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras. An iguana farm is there where Iguanas are raised. Sharon skillfully arranged it for oboe and piano.  Their concert at the Lakewood Presbyterian Church this last September 20th featured Ed De Mattia on oboe. He is both the founder and president of the American Concert Band Association. His nephew, Alan De Mattia, also plays the French horn with the Cleveland Symphony. Richard De Mattia is the choir director and organist-pianist of the church. Sullen De Mattia was the flutist.


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The Sgro Brothers Race To Scott’s


With Harmonica virtuosos - The Sgro Brothers
David and Sharon with the world’s greatest harmonica virtuosos who tell the world’s best jokes – The Sgro Brothers


Why did the Sgro Brothers race to Scott’s Oquaga Lake House? So they could hear and visit with the great violinist, ” Rubinoff and his Violin“.  How did this happen, you ask? It all goes back to the Southern Hotel in Colombus, Ohio where Rubinoff was staying.  He had just given a concert.  The Sgro Brothers were in the audience and loved it.  They were blown away by an incident that occurred during Rubinoff’s concert. While performing, Rubinoff heard someone talking. It happened to be someone backstage. Rubinoff lost his temper and began a five minute swearing tirade at the audience. He shouted at the full house: ” You so and so and so (blank, blanks, blank) –. You pay good money to hear me and have the nerve to interrupt my performance”…… (with his heavy Russian accent). The Sgro Brothers thought that at any moment audience would start pelting Rubinoff with rotten tomatoes. What happened? As soon as Rubinoff  finished his vitriolic tirade, the entire audience rose to their feet and gave him an enormous standing ovation. The following day the Sgro Brothers were performing at the same venue.  They invited Rubinoff to be a part of their act. He graciously accepted. Since this incident, they refer to him as “the master.”

Back to Scott’s Hotel. Ray Scott is the owner and proprietor of the Scott’s Oquaga  Lake House. It’s been in the Scott family since 1870. He knew that the brothers lived in Elmira, New York. It is not too far down the road from the Scott’s resort in Deposit NY.  For years, “Scotty” had been trying to get the brothers to come to the lake house, but unsuccessfully. Because of my association and  friendship with the Rubinoffs, Dave Rubinoff graciously agreed to play at the resort. Darlene Rubinoff, his wife, called the Sgros about two hours before the show. That is the reason for my blog about why the Sgro Brothers race to Scott’s.   My concert with Rubinoff broke the ice. So the Sgro Brothers began coming back for many years to entertain and thrill Scotty’s audiences.

As a result, I was doubly happy. First that I brought Rubinoff. Second, that  paved the way for the Sgros. You can listen to that famous Rubinoff concert that the Sgro Brothers attended on the thumb video on the top of the 1st page. The year of that concert was 1984.




Our new music is being heard on Memorial Days thanks to the Sarasota Concert Band under the baton of William Barbanera.  We, David and Sharon, are writing new patriotic concert works. For  Memorial Day 2014, our new opus was named, Glory and Honor.  In a world premier, the Sarasota Concert Band joined ranks with Civil War re-enacters to perform the opus which included  gun salute effected The Civil War Re-enacters  shooting muskets.  The model, of course, is Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812.  The spectacle, including the smoke from the muskets being fired, can be viewed on the thumb video at the heading of our website. The conductor not only gives the concert band their cues, but he also points at the musketeers when it’s their turn to shoot. Sharon, the arranger, actually wrote the gun salute cues into the musical score.

 Our new music is heard on Memorial Days in 2015  for a second time.  We wrote wrote a march in two tempos for the Sarasota Concert Band entitled, “We Are One“.   It was inspired by the of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  Beethoven inserted a Turkish March in his symphony in the middle of his choral work, Ode To Joy.  We created a march in 6/8 tempo that opens our work. Then the music transitions to our patriotic anthem: “We Are One”.  The lyrics and the full concert band arrangement were written by Sharon.  It was performed under the baton of Maestro William Barbanera with the full Sarasota Concert Band on May 25 of this year.  The singers in the above thumb video on the first page of the website are Allen Kretschmar (baritone), Baron Garriott (Tenor), Karen O’Shea (alto), and Sharon Ohrenstein (soprano, lyricist and arranger). As she so aptly says to me: “Without my work, you music would still be on the shelf.”

We are thankful to Maestro Bill Barbanera for the advice he gave us while we were writing the musical score. For example: Do not write quickly moving 16th notes for the flute or clarinet while the trumpets are playing. These woodwind instruments would not be heard Common sense, isn’t it?  Yes, but that’s what good conductors have. We are also very thankful to Mary Beth Stiber, President of the Concert Band Board; and her husband Don. He is an excellent trumpeter and band leader of his own group, Sarasota Gold. They have encouraged us and assisted us with these musical projects.  IMG_20150904_0001IMG_20150904_0001IMG_20150904_0001