Friday, May 17, 2013

Grand Finale

While the focus of our concerts this week have been Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, I am really enjoying getting to know Lucas Richman’s Three Pieces for Cello and Orchestra. For a body of work (concerti for cello generally) that seems to be becoming weirder and weirder, Lucas’ piece is a breath of fresh air. The musical language is somewhere between Tchaikovsky and Ernest Bloch, and there is a lot of soulful cello singing. The work closes with a vigorous klezmer-like passage, wherein clarinetist Gary Sperl bends notes like a drunken glassblower. Another KSO member has also suggested that one of the themes of the Freilach is derived from the chase scene at the end of Some Like It Hot.

Meanwhile, back in the Rite, I am really loving performing this monumental work, with its thickly colorful orchestration, mind-boggling meter changes and sheer power. At first a seemingly random barrage of orchestral sound, it is a barrage that performers, conductors and aficionados have come to own. These passages are the bedrock of polytonal, polyrhythmic and atonal composition that to this day inspires composers across the board. Whether it be new orchestra repertoire (Lucas Richman’s Three Pieces, performed tonight!) movie scores (Starwars), TV music (Star Trek), the inspiration is unmistakably audible. Every time you hear or perform it, you hear something new.

Here is something to look out for. The theme that starts the Rondes Printanières, (in part 1) in the E-flat clarinet and bass flute (I think) is widely known as the “Nyaah-nyaah-ni-nyaah-nyaah” motif, which is said to be a musical phrase that instinctively “hard-wired” into the human brain from birth. No, Stravinsky is not the originator of this motif, of course, but it is heard in so many genres of music. Here are some more well-known appearances of it:

We Are the Champions by Queen
Beethoven 6th Symphony, finale.
Everyday People by Sly and the Family Stone
There’s a bit in the Star Wars soundtrack that uses the motif

These are just a few I could think of off the top of my head.

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