One of my favorite composers, Prokofiev, composed the Lieutenant Kijé Suite to accompany a film by the same name. It was 1934 and it was Sergei Prokofiev’s first commissioned piece. The movie is about a fictitious lieutenant, invented by a bureaucrat, upon whom blame is laid for an action that displeases the tsar. Here, Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra play a glorious version. Listen to the first few minutes and you will be hooked. I am grateful for Prokofiev and his contributions to the music canon.
I am grateful to the Minnesota Orchestra (then the Minneapolis Symphony), my elementary school, and my mother for teaming up to introduce me to classical music. Young People’s Concerts began in 1911 (but I wasn’t there)! “Hearing a live performance by the Minnesota Orchestra can awaken a young person’s musical curiosity and lay the foundation for a lifetime of enjoyment. Through these concerts, students learn how composers use music to convey ideas, just as authors use text; there are many ways in which composers express their creativity and spark inspiration in young listeners.” Classical music is vitally important to me. Those school trips to hear the Orchestra were thrilling. We observed real people, who made their living as musicians, playing real instruments, led by conductors who brought their personalities to the performances. It made a difference in my understanding of music. So did the crush I had on Robert Tweedy, the timpanist. What an instrument! What a musician! (The photo below is that of Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, the Orchestra’s conductor from 1960 to 1979.)
I am grateful for all of the acapella artists in the world, in many countries. It’s a form of music I find fascinating for its variations, harmonies, and connection. I was pleased to learn from Pamela Espeland at MinnPost this morning that Bobby McFerrin “has been named to the 2020 class of National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters. A vocalist, composer, conductor, educator, and a genius of vocal improvisation who’s comfortable in all genres …” My heart thrills whenever this glorious musician shares his innovations. Lucky us.
This morning I am listening to Jean Redpath sing and, as she always does, my heart is lifted. For many decades she was THE Scottish folksinger, troubadour, musicologist. She worked with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, Garrison Keillor, and Robert Burns. She researched and recorded songs, preserving them for the future. I came to know her music through A Prairie Home Companion, but she has been singing at our house ever since. I am grateful for her voice, her wit, and her knowledge. She was an Extraordinary Woman.
Last night, a dear friend treated us to dinner and live music at Crooners Supper Club. We were fortunate to hear Prudence Johnson and Dean Magraw spotlight the music of Stevie Wonder, Mose Allison, and Buffy Saint-Marie. Eclectic, right? Prudence and Dean were both so articulate with their arrangements and interpretations of songs—I found myself holding my breath in order to hear every note.
I am grateful to Mary Tjosvold for creating this incredible, friendly, warm space for musicians and those who listen to and love music. The food is great, the wait staff is top-notch, the three listening rooms are comfortable and cozy, and Mary T is usually there to welcome guests.
And, not least, I am grateful to our friend for understanding how much this evening of music and conversation (before and after, not during) would mean to us. It’s already a treasured memory.
I was reminded over the weekend about Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto, allegro molto moderato. This version features Arthur Rubenstein at the piano. There is so much of Grieg’s music to love. Enjoy!
In our office and in our home, we listen to public radio much of the day and night. Music provides the calm in our day and the joy in our evenings. I am grateful to MPR (classical in MN), KBEM (jazz in MN), WKHR (vintage jazz in OH), and KNKX (jazz in WA). We believe in public radio and public television. Our thanks to all of the news reporters, classical hosts, and jazz hosts for sharing your passions and knowledge with your listeners!
It’s Monday morning! Energetic music is needed. When I was in high school, I chose to study Russia in my World History class. For the next six years, I would read Russian novels and nonfiction, sit in the front row to hear Yevgeny Yevtushenko recite his poetry, and listen to Russian music. I was fascinated. One of my great loves from that time is Sergei Prokofiev’s March from “Love for Three Oranges.” Here it is played by the San Francisco Symphony at the 2000 Proms, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting. Happy Monday!
Did you read album liner notes? (I know, what’s an album?) Many of my album covers are worn out because I read through those notes over and over, especially those that had lyrics for all of the songs. I appreciated knowing who the musicians were for each song. I used to imagine their studio sessions and how they interacted. If you look up “liner notes” online, you’ll find articles mourning how liner notes placed the album in a specific time and place. They were recording history for the future. I even dreamed of writing liner notes when I grew up. I’m grateful for the people who did write them … and the artists who made them beautiful. CDs often included liner notes (in miniature) but now, with streaming music, we need a website that has readable images of all of those liner notes of decades past … and going forward.
It’s Monday morning and, as is often the case, I need a kickstart into the week. What better than one of the soundtracks of my life, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Capriccio Italien Opus 45? Composed while he was in Rome in 1880, he wrote, “I have already completed the sketches for an Italian fantasia on folk tunes for which I believe a good fortune may be predicted. It will be effective, thanks to the delightful tunes which I have succeeded in assembling partly from anthologies, partly from my own ears in the streets.” I love knowing that he was listening to folk music to inspire his creativity.
Here’s a version conducted by Herbert von Karajan, with the Berlin Philharmonic: