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17 Apr 2017

6 Drinking Songs from Classical Music

6 Drinking Songs from Classical Music

Frank Sinatra used to say: “Alcohol may be man's worst enemy, but the bible says love your enemy!”

Humanity invented booze a long time ago and it’s been used for relaxation and having a good time for ages by now. It is believed that creative professions are more prone to alcohol consumption, as people of art have been finding it helpful in terms of stimulating the imagination. Musicians being perhaps one of the most widespread layers of creative workers are therefore known for make use of the power of drinks too. Liquors have various effects on them: some are just inspired by them, others are encouraged for something, and someone suffers from the abuse.

Today we’ll talk about the specific genre of a “drinking song”, i.e. the type of composition that was used at the so-to-say ‘parties’ at various periods of the history as a uniting element either to cheer up the people and get them closer together or to encourage further drinking. But the choice of the drinking songs will be specific too: we have looked for such pieces among the works of classical composers. What we’ve found in there – for your attention.

“Festival Overture” by Johannes Brahms

In 1879, Brahms was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Breslau (current Wrocław, Poland). Honored by the occasion, the thankful composer sent a note of gratitude to the university officials. However, the management thought it wasn’t enough and asked Brahms to make something grander than that, for example, compose a symphony! Expecting a well-orchestrated serious music work, they couldn’t believe what their honoured doctor came up with. Instead of a deeply ambitious symphony, Brahms orchestrated a what could rather be called a potpourri of drinking songs for students. He conducted the premiere if the “Festival Overture” himself and did it, as it’s noted, very contentedly. Unlike the university management, obviously disappointed by the result of the pay-back, the students stayed more than happy with the new ‘drinking music’.

Academic Festival Overture at the Royal Albert Hall

“Ah! Quel Diner” by Jacques Offenbach

In 1988, the author of the famous “Can Can” composed the three-act operetta titled “La Périchole”. This is a story about two poor street singers from Peru – too poor to get married officially (get a marriage license). The tipsy aria ‘Ah! Quel Diner” (‘Ah! What a diner’) is definitely a highlight of the opera bouffe. It is performed by Périchole in an inebriated, least to say, condition, and is sung before the ‘unaware marriage’ with her beloved Piquillo. Well, Piquillo is both jolly and unaware too. In the scene below, the part of Périchole is brilliantly performed by Joan Sutherland who theatrically accompanies her aria with the hiccups.

The Wedding Scene from La Périchole

“Finch’han dal Vino” by Mozart

This is the original Italian title of the famous aria from Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” which is also known as ‘the Champagne aria’. In the opera, the aria is performed by the famous seducer Giovanni as an order for his servant called Leporello. According to the song’s lyrics, Giovanni is preparing for a night-long party, so he tells the servant to get stocked up on vine enough for everyone to drunk on. A perfect drinking song with a classical flavour.

Finch’han dal Vino (Peter Mattei, La Scala)

“Libiamo Ne’Lieti Calici” by Giuseppe Verdi

“Let's Drink from the Joyful Cups" is the English version of the popular drinking aria from Verdi’s “La Traviata”. The young but modest Alfredo is convinced by his friend Gastone and his crush Violetta Valéry to put his beautiful voice on display. Alfredo starts singing his brindisi and the two join him in the rapturous chorus: “Ah! Let's drink, and the love among the chalices will make the kisses warmer.” The duo is considered to be one of the most popular singing choices for tenors today.

Libiamo Ne’Lieti Calici  by the Three Famous Tenors

“Votre Toast” by Georges Bizet

There’s only one small reference to drinking in this aria from Bizet’ “Carmen”. However, it doesn’t make it a less suitable drinking song out there. “Votre Toast” (‘your toast’) is better known under the popular title “Toreador Song” and is a perfect ode to accompany an indulgent night. You be the judge!

Votre Toast / Toreador Song  (Erwin Schrott)

“Certain Rat, dans la Cuisine” by Hector Berlioz

This song translated as ‘a certain rat in the kitchen’ is part of Berlioz’ 1846 opera “The Damnation of Faust”. The composition is basically a sorrowful tale about a rat that got killed by a portion of poison in a kitchen. Why a drinking song, you’ll ask? Well, because according to the plot, it was sung as such by a student, already drunk, and sung as a preface to and encouragement for further drinking.

La Damnation de Faust, Chanson de Brander (Montréal Symphony Orchestra and Chorus)

Drinking song can be, as it turns out, an important prelude-and-part of a feast. So next time you are going to have a party, may you consider one of these classical brindisi. Have any special song preferences on the topic? Drop them up here on the playlist and let’s have a drink!

Image from pixabay.com under Creative Commons CC0 license

19 Feb 2017

What Matters Most in Music and Life According to Vladimir Malganov

Almost 7 years ago, Vladimir Malganov joined the musicians’ community of MusicaNeo and has been its active member ever since. Today we would like to tell you more about this talented musician and a very sincere and kind person. We asked Vladimir a couple of questions and are sharing his creative vision with you.

Vladimir Malganov

Vladimir Malganov – composer, arranger, guitar player, teacher. Major instrument – guitar. Born in Russia, lives and works in Belarus since 1990.

Vladimir, tell us where your creative journey started?

«It all began with learning to read sheet music which I did on my own at the age of 10, with the help of various guidebooks on guitar. The new world and language that were discovered back then are still bewildering me and inspiring for creating. The very first simplistic composition that I notated became the most notable milestone and a turning point. Unparalleled happiness»

The boldest move in the life of Vladimir was the change of profession: he switched from engineering to music. He says that it rather was a ‘providence, destiny and vocation altogether’. At an already ripe age he went for a university degree and graduated from Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts becoming a ‘teacher of classical guitar and bandleader’ by major (2012).

In what styles, genres and for what instruments are you composing? Who influenced your creative work?

«In my music works, I am trying to use as many various styles and genres as possible. There are compositions for various combinations of instruments, but the guitar is always an essential part.

As for the influences, those are hundreds, perhaps thousands of names both from the epochs of Renaissance and Baroque and from contemporary time. But first of all, it is Johann Sebastian Bach – an ultimate lighthouse for musicians of all styles and genres. At least this is what I believe. I’m in love with classical music and jazz»

Vladimir admits that in his music the Good always wins over the Evil without his being aware of it. He cites Love in all aspects of human life among the essential sources of inspiration, while his main creative principle is honesty. “If you are sly, who’s gonna believe you? It can relate to many things in life, and to art – especially”, says Vladimir.

Who do you consider to be your target audience, what kind of a listener? And what should the performer of your music take into account?

«I address people of all ages and various levels of musical expertise, both in concerts and, indirectly, via my compositions. Being a performer and author simultaneously, I possess the happiness of being able to do it. As a non-indifferent person myself, I would like to address involved and caring people as well, people with an open heart. As for the performer of my music, I would like him/her to be a musically-educated and intelligent person»

Vladimir is not vain, he is not purposefully looking for performers of his music, but he is trying to be visible and active in his sphere. His music mostly sounds in his native country but to the author’s joy, the geography keeps expanding from year to year, including through such resources as MusicaNeo.

The musical activity of Vladimir Malganov is closely connected with both writing music and performing in concerts. Recently he has been most actively performing in a duet with his friend, a laureate of numerous international competitions – Daryan Shakhab. The duet is solely performing the pieces composed by Vladimir: “It is rare luck for a composer-performer. We are trying to perform regularly in solo and mixed concerts. We’ve already recorded the album “Своя игра” (‘Own Play’) and are working on the second album. The new season is ahead and it promises to be very intense. But those are plans that should not be a goal in itself. God willing”.

"Summer Breeze". Duet "Own Play" (V. Malganov, D. Shakhab)

What’s a sign of quality for you, in a work of art/ music composition?

«Absolute completeness. To the extent that no one would want to add or remove anything. A very strong emotional component can also serve as a sign of perfection. Plagiarism and ‘creative diarrhea’ is what I consider to be totally unacceptable. In art, technical falsity is not advisable but sometimes explainable. But there’s nothing like that in life. One just can’t live falsely»

During his academic activity, Vladimir Malganov has taught thousands of young musicians to play guitar professionally. Some of them later became laureates at music competitions on republican and international levels; others went on to become educators and professional guitar players. As pedagogue, Vladimir thinks that the connection between generations must not be lost for a single moment and that one should daily pass the baton of knowledge and skill to the young generation: “Spirituality in broad sense should unite generations and peoples. Otherwise, we will not survive. That’s what I believe.” Thus, he names his wonderful family as his lifetime achievement and calls the rest just ‘a bonus for labor, love and patience’.

Share your recipe of success, if you have one.

«Humbleness»

What would you advise to yourself of 10 years ago?

«Going forward no matter what. Unhurriedly but steadily»

Share the happiest moment of your life.

«Not every human is lucky to taste the happiness in full. My happiness is perhaps yet to come»

What would you like to achieve within the next 10 years?

«I would like to live. Let God not deprive me of inspiration. And ‘plans’ is a category embracing a part of the future that’s unknown to everyone. I prefer living in the present and a little bit in the past»

Despite his self-restraint and circumspection in evaluations, Vladimir considers himself to be a big optimist. He is convinced that any art should bring positive energy, or rather ‘bring to a common positive denominator’, because real life is full of frustration anyway. And we can’t but agree with him.

Today, Vladimir’s personal website at MusicaNeo counts over 140 music scores. Among them – compositions for the youngest performers, sheet music for guitar duet, quartet, ensemble, solo pieces. Here one can also download music arrangements of popular compositions, various exercises and educational materials. The majority of the scores are available for free.

For our part, we would like to thank Vladimir for the longstanding cooperation and wish him inexhaustible inspiration, enthusiasm and creative success!

12 Dec 2016

Bob Dylan: the Elusive Genius

For the first time in the history, the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to a musician, which took the world by surprise, including the musician himself. In 2016, Bob Dylan is named the holder of the Nobel “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. For two weeks, the press heard nothing but complete silence from Mr. Dylan who, as it became known later, said he would not be present at the ceremony either.

Bob Dylan, always known for his unshakeable views on the subjects of politics, social life and so on, has been one of the brightest figures in the world of music for 5 dozen years already. Today we are gathering a few memorable facts from Bob Dylan’s music, life and career to refresh knowledge/find out more on the man whose contribution has been recognized and rewarded by the Nobel Committee.

Below is a short compilation of the most interesting facts about this outstanding man of music art – the elusive figure of Robert Allen Zimmerman (Bob Dylan’s real name):

  1. Dylan was often referred to as the mouthpiece of his generation, his songs becoming anthems of the time. His early compositions “The Times They Are a-Changin” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” were an important part of the anti-war movement in America, while “Masters of War” remained the most influential protest song for a long time.

    Dylan, however, does not like to be called the voice of the generation, preferring to keep a rather obfuscated identity.

  2. Another powerful song by Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone”, written in 1965, has come through a lot of editing to date: the original lyrics used to take up to 20 pages.
  3. In school/college times, Dylan used to be much of a rebel. In the 10th grade, he and his band were rejected from a talent show because their performance was considered ‘too shocking’ by the council. He would often scam his friends out of clothes and cigarettes. And finally, he did not come to the graduation party.
  4. Before becoming Bob Dylan, Robert Zimmerman went by the stage name Elston Gunn for some time. He also made music under a couple of other pseudonyms: Bob Landy, Blind Boy Grunt, Robert Milkwood Thomas.
  5. The 20-year-old Bob (which is minor age in the U.S.) got a contract with Columbia Records without his parents’ legally compulsory signature by convincing John H. Hammond he was an orphan. By the way, Hammond was the man who, despite his bosses’ opinions, also signed Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen and Billie Holiday.
  6. Among his biggest lifetime influences, Dylan named Charlie Chaplin. James Dean and Elvis Presley are no doubt on that list too. As for personal inspiration sources, musician’s girlfriend Suze Rotolo served as one for many years: the songs "Ballad in Plain D”, "One Too Many Mornings", "Tomorrow Is a Long Time” are among the compositions that were born thanks to her. She is also on the cover of Dylan’s famous The Freewheelin’ album.
  7. The current Pope, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict), for some reason strongly disapproved of Dylan’s music and even tried to stop his performance in 1997 when Dylan played for John Paul II. The then-cardinal Ratzinger named the musician ‘the wrong kind of prophet’. What was Dylan playing? "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "Forever Young".

  8. Dylan tried himself in other spheres of art too. He is actually a very prolific painter (6 books of drawings/paintings), participated in various art exhibitions and wrote the experimental novel “Tarantula” (1971)
  9. A popular bumper sticker reading “World’s Greatest Grandpa” is proudly placed on Dylan’s car: the songwriter has 9 grandchildren.
  10. Dylan became the 1st rock artist to receive a Pulitzer Prize (2008). He was introduced to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bruce Springsteen in 1988.

Bob Dylan is a unique, versatile and prolific artist. He never stops playing music, performing in over a 100 concerts annually, which is a part of his so-called “Never-Ending Tour” that he embarked on back in the 1980ies (by the way, he learnt about the unexpected Nobel Prize while on tour too). Having already explored most of American Song traditions from folk, country and blues to gospel and rock’n’roll, he keeps embracing music. And we wish him to have an even longer journey.

30 Sep 2016

Italian Spider Song: Notable Tarantellas

Apart from being the motherland of some of the world’s most famous opera composers like Rossini, Verdi and Puccini, Italy holds another title in the list of musical phenomena birthplaces. Today’s traditional Italian weddings and national celebrations rarely come without the favourite accompaniment of this passionate people – tarantella. Traditionally an iconic dance/song, it also overflew into the instrumental music of many composers of the Romantic period.

Tarantella, often called ‘the song of Italy’, varies by region. So the Neapolitan, Calabrian and Sorrentine examples may differ in style, but what they all have in common is the fast tempo, rhythmic and lively.

Like with many historical phenomena the real roots of which are already hard to verify, the term ‘tarantella’ has a number of versions regarding its origin and purpose. The most ingenious and picturesque theory blames the wolf spider ‘tarantula’ (not same as the contemporary species) that inhabited the area near the Italian town of Taranto. According to the legend, the bite of that little creature was very poisonous and people believed that frenzied dancing in a special rhythm would rid the body of the dangerous venom that should go away with the sweat. There are even ‘testimonials’ that Middle Ages fiddlers would walk the surroundings in search of people who had been bitten by tarantulas and offer them their service of playing the cure-song and fighting off the death.

According to other sources, the popularity of the tarantella mass dance, with all of its hectic moves, could have been partly explained by the special ‘herbs’ in combination with the rhythmic music that drove people insane and that eventually raised the authorities’ concern and the subsequent ban of the practice. Some say that the spider version was invented afterwards in order to get this ritual back out of the underground.

There’s a more ‘medical’ version too. Simple: tarantella was used to cure depressions, you dance – you regain the joy of life as people watch you self-express in a rhythmic dance show. Later on, the dance itself was often performed as a courtship dance, though it could be seen danced both by couples and solo females.

No matter what the initial purpose of the dance was, what we have today is a beautiful national tradition and a number of amazing classical music works that were born inspired by it. Let’s have a look at some of them.

The ancient tarantella dancers would usually move to the beats of mandolin, accordion, guitar, and, most importantly, tambourine that helped to create the most perfect rhythmic pattern. With the flow of time, composers would add more instruments (piano, violin, flute, clarinet) and experiment with style, some making the sound more frenetic and daunting (Schubert's “Death and the Maiden Quartet” and Mendelssohn’s “Tarantella” from his Symphony No.4), while others preferred sticking to the traditional sound and the rhythm of 6/8 (Rossini’s Neapolitan “La Danza”). Below are some of the most notable tarantellas (the sheet music to all of the compositions is available in our catalogue).

Giacomo Rossini, “La Danza”. One of the most ‘classical’ works of the kind.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk, “Grande Tarantelle”. The piece was transcribed for various combinations including, piano solo, piano and violin, two pianos, two violins and piano, piano and orchestra.

Frédéric Chopin, “Tarantelle in A-flat, Op. 43”. Inspired by and similar to Rossini’s “La Danza”.

Franz Liszt, "Tarantella, Venezia e Napoli". No. 3 from the set of 3 suites for piano “Années de pèlerinage” (Year 2: Italy).

Camille Saint-Saëns, wrote a separate “Tarantella, Op. 6 in A minor” (flute, clarinet and orchestra/piano) and also used this form in the 2nd movement of his “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor”.

Some of the most popular guitar tarantellas were composed by Santiago de Murcia and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, while for violin – by Pablo de Sarasate (“Introduction and Tarantella”) and Karol Szymanowski (“Nocturne and Tarantella”).

The list of classical compositions, be it a separate music work or a tarantella embodied in a symphony, is a long one. Above are just a few examples of this well-recognized Italian folk feature. The references to tarantella are also to be met in other forms of art like literature (“A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen) and cinema (“The Godfather”).

At MusicaNeo, you can also get acquainted with the modern vision of the famous Italian dance song: this type of music is popular among contemporary composers who write tarantellas of their own.

 
   
 
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