It’s time to appreciate composer Joachim Raff

 HOW I DISCOVERED JOACHIM RAFF’S MUSIC

It’s time to appreciate composer Joachim Raff. Critics of his day compared the quality of his compositions to his contemporaries, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner. I agree. Apparently so did Bernard Herrmann, conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra who featured his Lenore Symphony #5  on May 27-29 1970  in concert. But where is his music now? Why has his music been ignored? I just happened to be sight reading an etude from Schirmer’s Concert Etudes for the Piano edited by Balough.  Raff’s Etude Melodique  Opus 130 No.2 was so well written that I think it’s on a par with the Etude, Un Sospiro, by Franz Liszt. He orchestrated for Liszt for a number of years in the 1850’s.

Raff, 1878 (published in John Knowles Paine‘s Famous Composers, Vol. 2, 1891)

Joseph Joachim Raff (May 27, 1822 – June 24 or June 25, 1882) was a GermanSwiss composer, teacher and pianist.[1]

SO WHY HAS HE BEEN PRACTICALLY RELEGATED TO OBLIVION?

I feel that, quite bluntly, he went against the male bastion of composers that kept women out of their field. This segregation had been there’s for hundreds of years. In Frankfort Germany Raff was the first director of the Hoch Conservatory of Music. He actually established a class for female composers at a time when women were not taken seriously. Worse yet, Raff hired a woman, Clara Schumann, to instruct composition. Heavens! Does this make him any less of a composer? It just proves that he was secure in his own musical composition.

FELIX MENDELSSOHN BELIEVED IN RAPP’S MUSIC

Felix Mendelssohn was a wonderful supporter of great musicians and composers. He resurrected the music of J.S. Bach in 1829, almost 80 years after Bach passed away, by conducting Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew.  Mendelssohn also championed the compositions of Raff. In writing this blog, I hope Im doing the same. I feel that music of a romantic nature is about to make a come back. I also think that Rapp has taken a bad wrap for too long a time. Please listen to some of his music and let me know what you think.

 

 

Debussy’s Clairvoyant Claire de Lune

Debussy’s clairvoyant Claire de Lune is a profound mystery for me. Its music is elegant, graceful and lyrical but yet it found its way into Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque. So what’s so unusual about that? A suite is usually a collection of dances, sometimes with a prelude The Suite Bergamasque has four numbers: (1) the Prelude (2) Menuet (3) Claire de Lune (4) Passepied. Three of the four numbers belong in a dance suite: the prelude, menuet and passpied. Claire de Lune is program or descriptive music about the Moon: no dancing. So why is it there? One answer is that  both the words bergamask and moonlight are found in the poem, Clare de Lune by Paul Verlaine, given below:

Claire de Lune, poem by Paul Verlaine

Your soul is a chosen landscape
Where charming masqueraders and bergamaskers go
Playing the lute and dancing and almost
Sad beneath their fanciful disguises.

All sing in a minor key
Of victorious love and the opportune life,
They do not seem to believe in their happiness
And their song mingles with the moonlight,

With the still moonlight, sad and beautiful,
That sets the birds dreaming in the trees

And the fountains sobbing in ecstasy,
The tall slender fountains among marble statues.

I have chosen a second answer. I believe that either Debussy or his editor knew, either by intuition or clairvoyance, that Claire de Lune would be a great and lasting classical hit. They placed it in the suite as a third number. The parallel position in today’s Broadway musical show would be called the 11 o’clock number. The hit ballad is saved for this place. Claire de Lune shines like moonlight on the other three numbers and elevates the level entire suite in the same manner that a hit ballad elevates a musical. I do not wish to negate the value of the other three numbers. A hit number can carry a show, suite, symphony or make anything into a success.

Clair de lune”, (“Moonlight”) Op. 46 No 2, is a song by Gabriel Fauré, composed in 1887 to words by Paul Verlaine. What most people do not know is that  Gabriel Fauré, wrote his Claire de Lune three years before Debussy began his, which is in his Suite Bergamasque. What most also do not know is that Faure taught Debussy composition. Also Debussy wrote his Claire de Lune in five flats just like Faure’s. Faure’s is in Bb minor while Debussy’s is in the major mode.  Did Debussy choose to follow the path of his instructor and perhaps even try to out do him? Please listen to both Clair de Lunes. See if you agree with me that the poem is much closer to Gabriel Faure’s musical sentiment than it is to Debussy’s. I feel that Debussy’s is positively romantic while Faure’s  fits the line: Sad beneath their fanciful disguises. Feel free to email the site with your answer as to who you prefer.

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Debussy’s La Cathedrale engloutie

Debussy’s La Cathedrale engloutie: How my Project Began

Debussy’s La Cathedrale engloutie. For over 20 years my wife, Sharon,  has been trying to get me to learn this esoteric work for the piano by Claude Debussy. Though it’s beautiful, haunting, and exotic; at times, I can be contrary and stubborn: I didn’t want to take the time required to master it. Then the following happened: (1) My oldest son insisted that I should record one hour of Claude Debussy to be available on our ( being Sharon and myself) website. He is building it. (2) My teacher, Mischa Kottler, said on his last visit to us, I should play a concert of French music, especially Debussy in order to “show people what I can do.” (3) My wife is still insisting that I learn Debussy’s La Cathedrale engloutie. And, I must admit, now that I am working on it, has been the thrill of my life

 

 

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Debussy may have also been inspired by Monet’s paintings on the Rouen Cathedral. Monet painted a multitude of paintings of this cathedral at different times of the day.

 

THE STORY OF THE SUNKEN CATHEDRAL

The cathedral of Ys rests on the mythical city-island of Ys, located by Brittany in France (also spelled Keris).  It daily rises from the ocean. Debussy’s music conveys the sounds that issue forth from the cathedral including bells chiming, priests chanting and its full-sized organ. The opening suggests church bells ringing in the distance and the clerics singing medieval chant. The middle section imitates the action of waves crashing on the cathedral. The story goes that the island was sunk by the Devil due to the rampant impiety on the island.  For this expression in music, Debussy includes a featured place for the interval of the augmented fourth. This interval was called by the church the diabolis in music (the devil in music).

MY SCHEDULED RECORDING SESSION

Now, I hope you can see why I’m looking forward to recording one hour of Debussy’s music; and especially La Catherale engloutie. The recording  session is scheduled for November 11 at a performing arts center in Sarasota.  Of course, afterwards, there are still a number of necessary steps. I keep telling myself to be patient by reciting the motto: Rome wasn’t built in a day. 

 

 

One Musical Hoagy Please?

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ONE MUSICAL HOAGY PLEASE?

 

One Musical Hoagy Please?  This blog takes a look at the timing of American musical trends. It uses the songwriter, Hoagy Carmichael, to illustrate the point. In the past, dominant melody and then dominant rhythm have taken turns in ten year periods. Individual writers here and there have written melodic works in a rhythmic era and vice versa; but there has been a ten year rhythmic cycle in public taste.

Hoagy Carmichael’s Epoch Making Song-   Stardust
One Musical Hoagy Please?  Here’s the story.An effective way to gain some insight into these cycles involves the classic song, Stardust.  It was written in the late 1920’s by Hoagy Carmichael. Hoagy made a fortune with it because of the Great Depression which began in October of 1929.

GOOD TIMES = RHYTHMICAL SONGS
Earlier, January of 1929, Joe walks downtown, he’s upbeat because “everything’s coming up roses.” He has plenty of money, a good looking dame and one of those new- fangled automobiles. He has a bounce in his gait and moves to the rhythm of the quick step song, “Five-Foot-Two”. The last thing he wants to hear is a long- winded beautiful melody. What a damper melody is!Continue reading