Friday, September 25, 2015

George Frideric Handel pimps for AT&T

"God Save the King," is the most famous lyric from George Frideric Handel's Coronation Anthem  Zadok the Priest. Many, if not most of you, have likely heard at least that section of this great work composed in 1727 for the Coronation of King George II. Handel wrote four such anthems for the occasion, the others being The King Shall Rejoice, My Heart is Inditing, and Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened.
The creative minds at BBDO Advertising chose Zadok as the music for their recent commercial for AT&T and Direc TV's All In One Plan. Steve Carell provides the narration. Check it out:

This is such an incredible work. The introductory phrase pulses and builds from a quiet beginning to a joyous outpouring of beauty with the entrance of the chorus, punctuated by the timpani drum.
You can't hear the lyrics in the TV spot, but they are:

Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon King.
And all the people rejoiced, and said:
God Save the King! Long Live the King!
May the King live for ever.
Amen. Amen. Alleluia.

I don't see any connection between Handel and AT&T's All In On Plan....or Steve Carell. But who cares. The creators could have picked any music they wanted, but they chose a classical work! I'm OK with that. Most people won't know what piece it is, assuming they even realize there is music behind the narration. But I caught it right away and wanted to share it with you. It's a beautiful piece of music. Here is the full version of it, with lyrics included.

Monday, September 21, 2015

This is my "quiet."

At fifty years of age, I must say that I feel very fortunate to enjoy very good health. I never take that for granted either, or at least I try to remind myself not too. One aspect of my health I pay particularly close attention to is my hearing. As a young person, I enjoyed more than my share of music at high volumes via headphones, car speakers, guitar amplifiers, and symphony orchestras. I am a violinist by formal training, yet I never worried about its effect on my ears. I mean, it's not amplified and playing Bach does not generate a high decibel danger least I thought that to be so.
In early January of 2003, I was teaching violin lessons at the Music Arts Institute in Independence, MO. I had a studio there with 5-6 students each week. MAI is in an old elementary school that was transformed into this great program for teaching music. It is a very old building with high ceilings and wood floors. This created a wonderful "echo chamber" that made my violin sound brilliant and alive....and loud. If one of my students did not show for a lesson, I would use that time to practice. I would also stay late to practice, taking advantage of the wonderful acoustics.
The piece I was trying to play at that time was J.S.Bach's Chaconne from his Partita no. 2. Despite the fact that it really was beyond my technical ability, I was determined to play it and I worked on it every chance I got. It is one of the greatest works of art every created, in my humble opinion, and the fact that I could play it at all gave me enormous satisfaction.
One reason the Chaconne is so difficult to play is its use of chords.....lots of them...which on a non-fretted instrument like the violin is very hard for most of us to play. I worked so hard on this piece and spent a lot of time trying to stick the chord passages.
One evening when I stopped practicing and started putting my violin in its case, I noticed a high-pitched ringing in my right ear. It was a very high, super-sonic tone...constant and very noticeable. No matter how I turned my head, or what I did, it stayed there. I didn't notice it as much in the car on the way home because of the noise of the car itself and the music on the radio. But when I put my head on the pillow that night, it was there....loud and clear. I was very frustrated that it had not gone away. And I was also alarmed because it was so annoying. I went to see an ear doctor. My hearing checked out fine, but he told me I had tinnitus. I had heard of tinnitus and hoped I would never have it...but now I did. He recommended that I use earplugs for any sounds louder than a vacuum cleaner. I read everything I could find about it. I learned about many famous people who suffered from tinnitus, including Beethoven, Some of my friends and family have it too. Any loud noises or trauma can cause it, not just music. Firearms are particularly damaging.
In time, I began to learn to live with it. It has became part of my "normal". It has become part of my "quiet".
I wear earplugs when I play the violin now. I wear them when I am in loud places, including restaurants, my son's swim meets, movie theaters and Royal's games. I am mindful of volume when I listen to music. I do everything I can to be smart about it.
And in a weird way, I am forever connected to Bach now....which is certainly not a bad thing either.
Here is a stunning performance of Bach's Chaconne played by Maxim Vengerov.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fritz Reiner's visit to Kansas City in 1922

I hope you've already figured out that I enjoy writing about legendary conductors and composers who have visited my hometown of Kansas City. By the 1920's, KC was a regular stop for many world renowned artists. Arturo Toscanini and Leopold Stokowski are two well known conductors who came through KC. Add to that list, Fritz Reiner.
Fritz Reiner emigrated to the United States in 1922 and started his career here as the Music Director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. By November 3rd of that year, Maestro Reiner was here in Kansas City with the CSO performing at Convention Hall. Here is the short review I found in the November 18, 1922 edition of Musical America.


Kansas City, MO., Nov 11. 1922 - The Cincinnati Symphony gave two concerts in Convention Hall on Nov. 3, including an evening program under the leadership of Fritz Reiner, with Marjorie Squires, contralto, as soloist.
The new conductor of the organization was warmly applauded and impressed by his enthusiasm and intelligent guidance of the orchestra in Henry Hadley's "In Bohemia," Dukas' "Sorcerers Apprentice," the "Mastersingers" Prelude and Goldmark's "Russian Wedding" Symphony. Miss Squires was heard in arias from Tchaikovsky's "Jeanne d' Arc" and Saint-Saens' "Samson et Dalila." Mr. Reiner was the guest of honor at a reception given by the Women's Auxiliary of the Kansas City Conservatory after the concert.

Fritz Reiner went on to have a great career, peaking with his appointment as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1953. He made a series of legendary recordings for RCA Victor in Orchestra Hall that remain standards of recorded music to this day. Perhaps the greatest of these was his 1955 recording of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra....definitely a "must listen" experience.
Here is a short clip of Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony in 1954, performing Bach's Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major.