Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Smorg's Favorite Tunes: The Last Five

Continuing from my previous post on my 10 most favorite pieces of music, here's the rest of the list:

6. Johann Strauss jr's Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (AKA Tales from the Vienna Woods):
Strauss' waltzes were my first loves when it came to classical music, and the hallucinating clarinet entrance to 'Tales from the Vienna Woods' constituted something of a first crush. I had never heard a zither before either, and spent many hours associating different sorts of trees and meadows to the various instruments while replaying the tune in my head.
A path in the Torrey Hills. This is about as wooded as it gets in Southern California.
Being 'lost in the woods' can be a jolly happy experience when you can wake up out of it anytime you want, of course. I've spent some time being semi-lost in the real woods on camping trips, though, and that isn't nearly as nice... Wonder why...

7. Bartok's Romanian Folkdances: (violin & piano arrangement) 
What can I say? I love European folk songs! If I'm not hearing Béla Bartók violin & piano rearrangement of his Romanian Follkdances in my head in the pre-bedtime hours, I'm hearing movements from Smetana's Má vlast. It sort of makes up for my current inability to hop on the plane to trek across Europe and satisfy my gnawing travel-lust. And the nice thing about this pseudo-traveling via classical-folk music is that you can close your eyes while listening and 'see' those far away countries the way you would like to see them (as long as your vision is supported by the music, of course) rather than being limited to what they actually look like now. There is really no harm in dreaming as long as you don't confuse it with reality!

8. Danse de Prêtesses de Dagon & Printemps qui commence from Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila:

Printemps qui commence,.... Spring, which commences
Portant l'espérance.............. leading in a new hope,
Aux cœurs amoureux,......... to the loving hearts.
Ton souffle qui passe.......... Your sigh that passes,
De la terre efface................ erasing from its path,
Les jours malheureux.......... the unhappy times.

Tout brûle en notre âme,..... Ablazed in our souls,
Et ta douce flamme............ and in your sweet flame,
Vient sécher nos pleurs;......come and dry our tears;

Tu rends à la terre,.......... You render to the earth,
Par un doux mistère,........ by a sweet mysticism,
Les fruits et les fleurs...... the fruits and the flowers.

En vain je suis belle!........ In vain is my beauty!
Mon cœur plein d'amour,. My heartful of love,
Pleurant l'infidèle,.......... crying over infidelity,
Attend son retour!.......... waiting for his return!
Vivant d'espérance,......... Living just in hope,
Mon cœur désolé............ my sorrowful heart
Garde souvenance.......... guards the memory
Du bonheur passé........... of past happiness.

À la nuit tombante......... As the night falls
J'irai triste amante,......... I'd go, with heavy heart,
M'asseoir au torrent,...... and sit by the torrent,
L'attendre en pleurant!.... to wait in tears for him!
Chassant ma tristesse,.... Away would go my sadness,
S'il revient un jour,......... should one day he returns,
À lui ma tendresse......... For him my tenderness
Et la douce ivresse......... and the sweet intoxication
Qu'un brûlant amour...... that a burning love
Garde à son retour!....... guards for his return.
Saint-Saëns Dalila has a lot of lovely lusty things to sing in the opera, the most famous being, of course, the wickedly sultry 'Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix'. For my slow-moving mellow temperament, though, her entrance aria here sticks longer in my intra-cranial CD player... especially when it is sung by a voice like Olga Borodina's or a soul like Vesselina Kasarova's. People like to diss Kasarova for 'pulling at the tempo' when she sings... well, at least it usually is the conductor who is dragging her out toward breathlessness. I've never heard VK drag anything out as stretchily as Olga B does when she sings the thing, but with a voice and self-possession like that she can pull and drag as much as she likes and no one in their right mind would even think of protesting. The longer she pulls, the more time you have to just soak in her luxurious notes.

9. 'Wochenend und Sonnenschein' (Comedian Harmonists):
This tune is better known in the English-speaking world as 'Happy Days Are Here Again'... The lyric is different, though, and so is the pathos. Man, if only I could get Barbra to sing the German version... 

10. Mozart's concert aria KV. Anh 245, Io ti lascio, o cara, addio: (preferably sung by Vesselina Kasarova... again! ;o) )


I've always practiced low-impact camping/hiking/other things, so I really dig this sort of thinking (though I have a feeling that old Wolfie had something a bit more romantically chivalrous in mind when he arranged this music). It, like most of Mozart's arias, is of course a b*stard to sing well without self-strangling in the process. Kasarova doesn't just sing it well, though, she actually somehow manages to live it as well. All the more remarkable with this being a studio recording (which means it was probably not recorded straight through in one take -- all the harder to maintain any coherent pathos from start to finish). And darn if Sir Colin Davis and his Staatskapelle Dresden aren't some supporting partners in crime here.

So... what are your favorite bits of music?

6 comments:

eyesometric said...

Favourites vary from day to day, sometimes depending what I'm working on. All time favourite - Libera Me from Faure Requiem; it's the heartbeat.

berenice said...

hola mister Smorg!

long time and i haven't had a chance to comment on your blog, but i do read you, i love your selections! i love Strauss "Cuentos de los Bosques de Viena" and "Camille Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila", I am not sure if i ever shared this with you, but from age 7 to age 19 i studied classical piano, that's where my little knowledge and love for classical music come from, both Strauss and Camille Saint-Saëns are musicians that once i interpreted on piano, great selection and so good to finally be able to write you, at least on the blog :)))

salutes from cloudy Kearny Mesa and Normal Heights, Les Chats send you a fine-tuned meow!!

yvette said...

This is really puzzling... I am very fond of Eastern music, plus Klezmer Cracovian music, and all the good old tunes you selected sung by Vesselina, not including the Mozart one, belonging to you, though I could borrow it now! and even these so clever Comedian Harmonists, my fave being "Veronika Der Lenz ist da'...What can I say? your choice is very smart indeed with a true love of the open air... Thanks or sharing !

Smorg said...

Hiya Eyes: Nice choice! It's been a while since I listened to Faure's Requiem. Time for a refreshing session, I reckon. Thanks! :oD

Oy Berenice, you multi-talented bella! :o) Good to see another Saint-Saëns fan, of course. I loved his piano etudes, but always ended up with tangled fingers trying to play them. :o( I bet his hands must have been as freaky as Rachmaninov's! Hope all is well Chez les chats and that you're enjoying the current bout of cool weather! ;o)

Yvette, der Lenz ist da,
die Mädchen singen tralala.
Die ganze Welt ist wie verhext,
Veronika, der Spargel wächst!
:oD

A good spring song, Yvette! Now I must add the Klezmer Cracovian music to my 'To Explore' list, thanks to you! ;o)

Georg said...

Hi Smorgy,

Wonderful music splendidly sung by Ms Kasarova. Mozart is the best, one of the best.

In this aria she has a wonderful dark voice, a bit melancholic.

Georg

Smorg said...

Hallo Georgy,
Glad you enjoyed it, bro. :oD It really is a melancholic tune, but so emotionally loaded when sung as well as Kasarova does. A study in effective musical understatement, I think.

I'm working on the next email before my next travel (going to Los Angeles next week). Hope you're recovering well! :oD