In this weeks blog I wanted to focus in a little on works written by some of the lesser known composers. This includes writers such as J. Strauss, known for his Waltzes, George Bizet, and also Pablo Sarasate, who wrote an incredible piece of music called Zigerunerweisen for the violin.
Johann Strauss II
Johann Strauss II, born in the year 1825, is known as the most prolific composer of Waltzes that ever lived. He wrote over 500 Waltzes and Polkas (both of which are older dance forms), as well as other works for orchestra! He is probably most well known for his work, The Blue Danube, which has featured in many concerts and movies over the years.
Strauss was born to Johann Strauss I, who himself was also a composer. Whether it was because there wasn’t much money to be made in music, I’m not sure, but Johann I did not approve when his son showed a keen interest in the violin. Strauss Jr. desperately wanted to learn, and so began private, secret lessons with his teacher, who was a violinist in his fathers orchestra. When his father found out his son was learning, he took severe discipline measures to make sure he did not continue to pursue music. However, after his parents marriage broke up, his mother allowed Johann to continue learning his violin.
Strauss II wrote the ‘Trish Trash Polka’ in the year 1858 for orchestra. It is a light hearted work, and the name is thought to refer to the Vienneses’ love of gossip, which can be heard in the piece!
It was later rewritten for piano duet by Jonathon and Tom Scott, who refer to themselves as ‘The Scott Brothers’. Hear them play this incredible duet below.
Look For This!
- Notice the interaction between the 2 pianists?
- Look for the ‘Glissando’, and Italian term for sliding the hand up or down the keys
- Can you distinguish what the two different pianists, known as Primo and Secondo, are doing?
For further listening you can hear the original work for orchestra by following this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuONBz7boBc&ab_channel=EuroArtsChannel
Joshua Bell steals the show with this incredible performance of this work by Sarasate, ‘ZIGEUNERWEISEN’.
Pablo Sarasate was born in Spain in the year 1844, and was also a son of a musician. Unlike J. Strauss II however, Pablos love of music was encouraged by his father, beginning music lessons together at the age of 5 and making his first appearance on stage at the young age of 8.
Sadly, when he was 12, his mother died as they were on route to a musical engagement. Pablo also was unwell, and so was sent home. After he recovered, he continued with the passion of music that his parents had instilled in him, going on to compose works mainly for his instrument, the violin.
‘Zigeunerweisen’ was written in 1878, and actually recorded by the composer himself in 1904. The name means ‘Gypsy Airs’, and like most pieces of music by that name, is a fast and furious work.
This song is now a staple of violin repertoire, and has been used in many movies and films, but probably most notably in the Disney short, One Man Band, played by the the orchestra in the opening title.
Watch Joshua Bell play this below.
Look For This!
- Can you hear the different sections in this work? What moods do they give?
- Do you recognise the opening tune from the violins?
- Listen how the orchestra interacts with Joshua Bell
And finally today, we have a piece of music written for piano solo by the Russian composer Sergi Rachmaninov. Sergi wrote many pieces of music for piano and orchestra, including 3 large concertos, number 3 being the most famous for appearing in the well known movie, The Pianist.
Sergi was a highly dramatic composer, writing often in dark, minor keys and using the full range of the piano. This piece was completed in 1901, and was often performed by the composer himself. It has a ‘marching’ feel about it, with many repeated notes and large jumps across the piano.
Watch pianist Nikolai Lugansky perform this live below.
Look For This!
- Notice the dark, march-like nature of this piece
- Compare the first section of this piece to the middle section – from dramatic octaves and repeated notes to broad melodies and sweeping left hand passages.
- Listen for the clarity in Nikolai’s playing – every note is clear!
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog! If you enjoyed this post, please comment below and tell us what you liked about it! We’d love to hear from you!
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Until next time,
Evans Music School