Opera Completely Changes in the Nineteenth Century. History twists and turns trends in music as it does everything else. Basically opera writers wrote everything in the 18th century. Their writing skills ranged from operatic to symphonic music to cantatas, trios duets, quartets and all types of sonatas. That was the norm. One man was quite an exception: Christoph Willibald Gluck. He was a good half a century ahead of his time:
The reformer-composer clearly announced his avant-guard intentions in the prelude to his opera Alceste (1767): “I have sought to reduce music to its true function: Supporting poetry so as to strengthen emotional expression and the impact of dramatic situations without interrupting the action and without weakening it with superfluous ornamentation.” Gluck defined his music as “the language of humanity”. He left behind musical hedonism in favor of lyric drama. Passion was expressed as naturally as possible by lyrics.
Opera Completely Changes in the 19th Century
With few exceptions, instrumental musical was either more important than or at least as important as lyrics in pre-19th century opera. With most 19th century composers of opera, lyrics became much more important: Music served the intent of the lyrics. Wife Sharon and I approached our new opera, Patra, using the philosophy of Gluck. Sharon, as lyricist, freely added dissonance when called for by the lyrics. If a mood changed suddenly, Sharon would, for example, change the meter to fit the new sentiment. If something called for a Capella singing, she freely cut the instrumental accompaniment. Below a couple of samples on youtube. For more details, our website for Patra is Patraopera.com.
Our opera is all about how Octavian, after his fateful meeting with Cleopatra, changed his life. He transformed from be a rough and insensitive person into the man who will become August Casear. Augustus was famous for initiating the 200 year era of “Roman peace.”
This thrilling new opera filled with enchanting melodies brings to life the seductive world of Cleopatra.
Having defeated his rival Marc Antony, General Octavian marches into Egypt determined to make Cleopatra his slave.
But Cleopatra is determined to somehow save herself and her four children. Her only hope is to win the love of a third Roman Consul and General, Octavian.
Love Note Written by Darlene changed Rubinoff’s Life. I, David Ohrenstein, worked with Rubinoff and His Violin over a 15 year period. We started in the summer of 1970. I was working on my Master of Music degree at Wane State University. As I walked by theLieral Arts Music Office, Dave called. aHe was looking for an arranger/accompanist. Conductor Dr. Morris Hochberg. He gave it to me. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. My capacity with Dave was as his arranger and accompanist. He was seventy-two years of age when our association began. Dave passed away at age eighty-nine. He was an incomparable violinist. Audiences loved him to the tune of $500,000.00 a year. That was in the 1930’s during the Great Depression. Just imagine, Hollywood and Paramount Pictures helped to make a violin player into a matinee idol! Watch the youtube videos below and you’ll see their instinct was right!
Dave’s Love Note Story is Pretty Sensational
As the story goes, Dave felt depressed. For his concert in Hilliard, Ohio the community was small. The weather was very cold and advance tickets sales were quite meager. Usually Dave felt a great zest for the stage: However, not on that snowy night that winter in February of 1972. However, once Dave picked up his Stradivarius that belonged to the czars of Russia. The mood changed. His is future wife to be, Darlene, was in the audience. At the time she was still a widow. Darlene handed him a note and told him not to read it until he was alone. The note read:
Dear Mr. Rubinoff:
Tonight, at age forty-four, I know what love at first sight means. If I were free to do as I please, I would follow you everywhere. Mother of eight.
I never forget: When he returned to Detroit at the Leland House where he lived, he said to me: “Dave, I think I’m in love. I met a wonderful woman after my concert in Hilliard. Do you think I should marry her?” Being agreeable and easy going I replied, “Why not”? He said:”She has eight children.” I then gulped and said, “That makes no difference if you really love her.” He married her. It ended up being the best thing he ever did. She and her children prolonged his life many extra years. He constantly flew me to Hilliard Ohio to work with him at Darlene’s beautiful home on new arrangements. PS I am also a composer. If you care to, read the internal link below.
Musical Taste Referenced by 3 Composers. Obviously, the feature picture is a gag photo and from the 1930’s. Bing Crosby was not a violinist. Here, Rubinoff let him play his Stradivarius violin. Back then, like now, people needed laughter and fun; anything to raise the spirits. My connection with this photo: I both arranged for and accompanied Rubinoff and His Violin over a fifteen year period. Below is a picture of me with “Ruby” from the 1980’s.
Musical Taste as per Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughn Williams and Arnold Schoenberg
Edward Elgar: Believed that being common place is worse than being vulgar. Even a University education cannot replace a commonplace mind. All white for rooms in a house does not show exquisite taste. It merely shows want of taste.
Ralph Vaughn Williams stated: “If a composer is naturally vulgar, let him be frank and write vulgar music, instead of hedging himself about with an artificial barrier of good taste.”
Arnold Schoenberg went even further: “In my vocabulary (taste) stands for arrogance and superiority-complex of mediocrity. And taste is sterile. It cannot produce. Taste applies only to the lower zones of human feeling.”
The above notations and quotes are reference in Michael Steinberg’s The Symphony, A Listener’s Guide , p.156 Oxford University Press 1995.
To sample Rubinoff’s musical taste click on the link below:
Five Bar Opening for Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Phrases have always come in four bar segments. Beethoven opens his 5th symphony with five bars. Look at the opening motif . We have two bars and a fermata (hold). Then we have three bars and a hold. The hold sign is called fermata. It looks like a bird’s eye. By arithmetic, 2 + 3 = 5. Was this an attempt by the Great Master to be cute? Did he think it was clever to start the Fifth with five bars of music? For the most likely answer, we must look into his Masonic roots.
Five Bar Opening: BEETHOVEN’S DELIBERATE USE OF THE FIBONACCI NUMBERS
Look at the red numbers: To the right of Leonardo Bonacci’s back, the highest red number is 55. However, he covers numbers 21 and 34. Each new number is the sum of the preceding two. We have 13 (visible) + 34 = 55. Then 21 + 34 = 55. So, let’s continue the series: 34 + 55 = 89. Next, 55 + 89 = 144. Next 89 + 144 = 233. The length of Beethoven’s opening section is exactly 233 bars. . Next 144 + 233 = 377. Beethoven’s development section is 377 bars. I think this was learned as a result of his Masonic association.
Why This Opening?
Beethoven, being the brilliant genius that he was, knew exactly what he was doing. When we listen to the symphony it sounds so natural; but can you imagine how he must have struggled to make the bar length come out right and still sound like that’s how it should be? Leonard Bernstein says of Beethoven and the 1st movement in The Joy of Music: “he will give away his life just to make sure that one note follows another inevitably.” In conclusion, I think that in addition to an even greater appreciation of Beethoven, we have graphic proof the relationship between music and numbers. This is why music lessons, theory and composition increase aptitude for mathematics. In no uncertain terms, music is a stimulus for success in every sense of the word!
External Link: I am also a composer, my wife a lyricist and book writer. Enjoy part of our brand new opera, now called Patra. We just showcased it in New York, before corona came.
Caruso and McCormack – What Did they Think of each Other
On December 26, 1900, Enrico Caruso celebrated the Christmas season with his debut at La Scala by performing the part of Rodolfo in Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème with Arturo Toscanini conducting. As his career advanced, he went on to please audiences in Monte Carlo, Warsaw, and Buenos Aires. He appeared before the Tsar and the Russian aristocracy at the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg as well as the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. In 1910, a landmark event occurred when he performed live from the stage of the New York Metropolitan Opera House. He honored America with first public radio broadcast to be transmitted in the United States.
A source for this post is The Virtuosi by Harold C. Schonberg. He was the music critic for the New York Times. John McCormack achieved a good measure of fame as an opera singer. He never had the power of Caruso and never cared for such projection. McCormack chose to remain a lyric tenor all his life. His phrases seemed to go on without end. Violinist Jan Kubelik believed he was so great he must have had a Stradivarius in his throat. New York World published a letter of McCormack dated April 14, 1918. I quote below:
“A great many singers have an idea that the public wants bigness of voice. That is a mistaken notion…. The history of the world’s greatest singers brings not one supreme artist who is not essentially lyric. What the public enjoys most of all is the smooth, pure and beautiful tone in the singing voice.”
Caruso and McCormack – No Contest as/per Both Tenors
Here is the story that Schonberg relates about an accidental meeting between the two tenors: McCormack says to Caruso: “Well. Rico, how is the world’s greatest tenor today?” To which Caruso replied: “John, I didn’t know you have turned into a bass.”
Here is an internal link about what I have up to:
In one of the final years of his life, renowned violinist Dave Rubinoff plays the Stradivarius violin for an intimate concert at Scott’s Oquaga Lakehouse in 1984. He is accompanied by pianist, David Ohrenstein. Visit http://dsoworks.com/live-performances… for a behind-the-scenes view from David Ohrenstein of what it was like to work with Rubinoff and His Violin.
Song Without Words Can Stand on its Own. It certainly has in the past. Witness the musical compositions of Felix Mendelssohn.
If you ask me what I had in mind when I wrote it, I would say: just the song as it is. And if I happen to have certain words in mind for one or another of these songs, I would never want to tell them to anyone. This is because the same words never mean the same things to others: Only the song can say the same thing. Such songs can arouse the same feelings in one person as in another. Words cannot express this feeling.
Songs Without Words, German Lieder ohne Worte, collection of 48 songs written for solo piano rather than voice by Felix Mendelssohn. Part of the collection—consisting of 36 songs—was published in six volumes during the composer’s lifetime. Two further volumes—with 12 more songs—were published after Mendelssohn’s death in 1847.
Felix Mendelssohn, painting by Wilhelm Hensel.Photos.com/Getty Images…………………………………………………………..
A Song Without Words – Can it Stand on its own Today?
Certainly, there are some affirmative examples. But the music to much of what is written today is circular and repetitive. In computer terms you could say the music “loops”. Repetition of the the same three notes over and over to simplistic lyrics or single words is the style. Basically I feel that what much of the music industry markets today is the image of the “composer.” The archetype example, in my opinion is found in the movie, The Producers.
YouTube – Feb 17, 2016
A gun-wielding Franz confronts Max and Leo, accusing them of breaking the “Siegfried Oath“. He is partially angered over the continual used of the word “baby” in the musical lyrics by the star in the cast.
I Write in the Song Without Words Form
Fortunately, I am married to my own lyricist. What a convenient source for words. We are producing a concert version with dance of our New York tested opera, Patra. It was presented as a staged reading by the American Center for New Works Development. Date of the Sarasota performance is March 23 at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center in Sarasota, Fl. Reserve your tickets today.
Opera Comique In Two Acts – By Sharon and David Ohrenstein
Musical Duration Dots Abound in Chopin Prelude #3. What do dots do to the duration of notes? In Western musical notation, a dotted note is a note with a small dot written after it. In modern practice, the first dot increases the duration of the basic note by half (the original note with an extra beam) of its original value. This means that a dotted note is equivalent to writing the basic note tied to a note of half the value. For instance, a dotted half note is equivalent to a half note tied to a quarter note. Subsequent dots add progressively halved value.Chopin uses this quite effectively in his Prelude #3. I call his use by the name of pyramided dots.That is because you can make the numbers 1,2, and 3 into a pyramid. See the illustrations below:
On the top treble clef, three dots are used twice:
The 1st beat of measure one.
Also, the first beat of measure three.
One the second treble/bass staff, two dots are then used twice:
On the third beat of the treble.
Single dots are used by Chopin in the 5th and 6th measures.
A triple-dotted note is a note with three dots written after it; its duration is 17⁄8 times its basic note value. Use of a triple-dotted note value is not common in the Baroque and Classical periods. It is quite common in the music of Richard Wagner and Anton Bruckner, especially in their brass parts.
What Effect do the Musical Duration Dots have on Chopin’s Prelude?
I feel Chopin’s compositions for the piano are highly innovative. My own teacher was Mischa Kottler. He studied with Alfred Cortôt. This was in the 1920’s. In turn Cortôt studied with a pupil of Chopin. I was taught to play a dotted note on the piano with more tone. Then certainly a double dot should be played with more tone. A triple dotted note should then have tone to the max. Tone, when played on the piano, should always sound pleasing. Ask me for a live demonstration of this Chopin Prelude on the newly refurbished 1924 Steinway Concert Grand at the Gasparilla Inn. I play for there for dining 6 nights weekly. See internal link:
Unthoughtful Editing of Music Seems to be Everywhere. I attended an accelerated high school- Cass Technical High in Detroit. They had some 32 curriculums you could major in. They even kept an airplane in a large room on the 1st floor for an aeronautics technology program. For me, there were two musical courses to choose from: Vocational and Advocational. This remarkable high school was “college prep”. In retrospect, I think many colleges could have been “prep” for Cass Tech High. But alas, things change. Ruins of the high school are pictured below.
Unthoughful Editing of Music- One Typical Example
We had a esprit de corps among the students that was second to none. we discussed countless and varied topics. Nothing was ever off the table for discussion so to say. Music editing was a hot subject. My fellow students, the class of 1969, had a running joke about musical editors. We all concurred on a musical frustration cycle. It went as follows
First you work at becoming a pianist/composer. When that doesn’t quite pan out-
Second you try working at becoming a conductor.
Finally, when the above two fail, you become an editor.
The point is the editor is out for revenge. He thinks: “If can’t make it as a composer, performer or as a conductor, I’ll be sure that no one else can”. This thought may be either conscious or unconscious but the effect is the same either way. If you follow the editors instructions, your efforts will most likely fall in line with his expectations of failure. Many teachers insist on their students following the editor’s marking.That’s a minor to major tragedy!
Unthoughtful Editing: My teacher studied with Emil von Sauer in Vienna in the 1920’s
Emil von Sauer was personally taught by Franz Liszt. Liszt accepted several students at the end of his life. Sauer was one of them. He, in turn, edited all the piano works of Johannes Brahms. However, I believe that even Liszt kept fingering secrets from his select piano students. Sauer in turn taught my teacher, Mischa Kottler. Samples of Mischa’s playing anywhere are extremely rare. Below is one that will show you what good fingering can do. Here’s to reviving another lost art!
Panacea is Found in Our Civilization’s Music. Originally I posted this on our other website: Reviving Antiquity@aol.com, however, I feel it is common to both of these sites. Certainly, in the past many composers of music borrowed from themselves. For example, in music, the BACH motif is a motif. Its notes are a succession of notes important or characteristic to a piece. These notes are B flat, A, C, B natural. In German musical nomenclature the note B natural is named H and the B flat named B. It forms Johann Sebastian Bach‘s family name.
So, Here is My Panacea Quote from Reviving Antiquity
Panacea – what is its meaning? In Greek mythology, she(Greek Πανάκεια, Panakeia) was a goddess of universal remedy. This remarkable entity was the daughter of Asclepius and Epione. With her sisters each performed a facet of Apollo‘s art:
Panacea (the goddess of universal health).
Hygieia (“Hygiene”, the goddess/personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation).
Aglæa/Ægle (the goddess of beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment).
It’s time to cure the ills of mankind. Music, when properly applied, can do just that. Best of all, it’s free. Also the knowledge I write about has the capacity improve the interpretation of music by a searching musician. That analysis is for the future. First notice there are 12 basic key signatures. The bottom three are called “enharmonic.”
C# major is merely another letter name for Db major.
F# major is another name for Gb major
Cb is another name for B major.
This means there are basically 12 key signatures. I have my reasons for aligning the 12 key signatures with the 12 zodiac signs. Many have done this before me, but I feel my way is most correct. My reasons will be explained over time.
Let’s discuss heart problems. To cure these problems listen to classical music in the key of one flat. That, as you can see from the diagram, is F major and its relative minor of D. Why classical? Quite often, classical music is defined by its key signature. i.e. : Symphony in F major, Quartet in D minor, Trio in D minor, etc. The minor key alleviates the sordid condition. The major maintains good health in the area needed. More will be forthcoming. Keep checking.
Poetry signals Change is in the Air. Said another way: When there is no poetry of quality then musical quality takes a nose dive. This is not only my own observation. As my resource I quote Music by Frederic V. Grunfeld. The book I read it in is published by Newsweek Books out of New York. Place and year- Mondadaori, Verona, Italy, 1974.
Poetry (founded as Poetry: A Magazine of Verse) has been published in Chicago since 1912. It is one of the leading monthly poetry journals in the English. Poetry is founded by Harriet Monroe and now published by the Poetry Foundation. It is currently edited by Don Share
Those who decry the primitivism of today’s music along with its limited scope, need to look for another Heinrich Heine type figure. Indeed, so many “songs” use about three or four repeated notes or thrive on platitudes and vulgarity. I have already mentioned him on DSOworks in the internal link below. The problem is where is our Henrich Heine for this present day and age?
As a writer of poetry, I am inspired by the same place at which the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was filmed for this coming season: Scott’s Oquaga Lake House on Oquaga Lake. The beauty and enchantment of the lake knows no limits.
Here is an excerpt from my poem called “Fun.” It describes this setting in some detail.
The diving platform is located
End the end of the extended dock.
Canoes and kayaks are nearby
The woods where the birds do flock.
The swimming area is marked
By yellow balls on rope
Fastened to a rubber raft
Beyond which the lake has slope.
A second dock is to the left
With a speedboat at its end.
On its left we find a showboat
Built just for voices to blend.
A playhouse is to the rear
Grand piano is set on stage
Near bowling ping-pong and pool
Games all quite the rage!
Do yourself a favor and make a pilgrimage to Oquaga Lake and visit Scott’s Hotel. A number of doctors from India did just that! All this beauty and memorabilia can be yours to enjoy. Revive that ancient poetic feeling so many once had. And please share this post!