Ferruccio Busoni and Doktor Faust

ferruccio_busoni

Ferruccio Dante Michelangelo Benvenuto Busoni (April 1, 1866 –July 27, 1924) was an Italian composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and piano teacher who represented a remarkable synthesis of two differing attitudes to music at this time, while winning an outstanding reputation as a piano virtuoso. Busoni was born on April 1, 1866 in the Tuscan town of Empoli, Italy, the only child of two professional musicians. His Italian father, Ferdinando, was a clarinetist who was a harsh and demanding pedagogue.. His Italian/German mother, Anna, was a pianist from Trieste. They were often touring during his childhood, and he was brought up in Trieste for the most part.  Under the tutelage of his father, Busoni was a child prodigy. He made his public debut on the piano with his parents, at the age of seven. A couple of years later he played some of his own compositions in Vienna where he heard Franz Liszt play, and met Liszt, Johannes Brahms, and Anton Rubinstein.

Busoni had a brief period of study in Graz with Wilhelm Mayer and was also helped by Wilhelm Kienzl, who enabled him to conduct a performance of his own composition Stabat Mater when he was twelve years old, before leaving for Leipzig in 1886 where he studied with Carl Reinecke.  He began composing early, adding opus numbers to his works from the beginning. Reaching Opus 40 at age 17, Busoni decided go backward to number 31 and start over, causing no end of grief to scholars who attempted to edit his works later.  From an early age, Busoni pursued a serious interest in the music of J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Liszt and first made his mark as an editor of Bach’s keyboard music. Busoni subsequently held several teaching posts, the first in 1888 at Helsinki, where he met his wife, Gerda Sjöstrand, the daughter of Swedish sculptor Carl Eneas Sjöstrand, and began a lifelong friendship with Jean Sibelius. In 1890 he won the Anton Rubinstein Competition with his Concert Piece for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 31a. He taught in Moscow in 1890, and in the United States from 1891 to 1894 where he also toured as a virtuoso pianist.

In 1894 Busoni settled in Berlin, giving a series of concerts there both as pianist and conductor. He particularly promoted contemporary music. He also continued to teach in a number of master classes at Weimar, Vienna, and Basel.  Among his pupils were Egon Petri, Claudio Arrau, and Stanley Gardner.  In 1896, Busoni found his mature compositional voice in the Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 36b, which takes a theme of Bach and submits it to a complex series of variations.   He followed that in 1904 with his huge piano concerto which is cast in five movements, runs ninety minutes, and contains parts for a chorus. In 1907, he penned his Sketch of a New Aesthetic of Music, lamenting the traditional music “lawgivers”, and predicting a future music that included the division of the octave into more than the traditional 12 degrees. His philosophy that “Music was born free; and to win freedom is its destiny,” greatly influenced his students Percy Grainger and Edgard Varèse, both of whom played significant roles in the twentieth century opening of music to all sound.  By 1912, Busoni had composed his first entirely non-key centered composition, the Sonatina seconda.  His major keyboard work is the Fantasia Contrappuntistica (1911-1922), a piece that concludes with a massive fugue built out of the unfinished Contrapunctus XXIV of Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge.  In the years left to him, Busoni composed four operas, Die Brautwahl (1912), Arlecchino (1915), Turandot (1917), and Doktor Faust (1924).

During World War I, Busoni lived first in Bologna, where he directed the conservatory, and later in Zürich. He refused to perform in any countries that were involved in the war. He returned to Berlin in 1920 where he gave master classes in composition. He had several composition pupils who went on to become famous, including Kurt Weill, Friedrich Löwe, Aurelio Giorni, and Stefan Wolpe.  Other notable Busoni pupils included Alexander Brailowsky, Natalie Curtis, Maud Allan (the famous dancer), Michael von Zadora, Louis Gruenberg, Dimitri Mitropoulos, Beryl Rubinstein, Edward Steuermann, Dimitri Tiomkin, Rudolf Ganz, Lloyd Powell, Herbert Fryer, Augusta Cottlow, Leo Kestenberg, Gregor Beklemischeff, Leo Sirota, Edward Weiss, Theophil Demetriescu, Theodor Szántó, Gino Tagliapietra, Gottfried Galston, Otto Luening, Gisella Selden-Goth, Philipp Jarnach, Vladimir Vogel, Guido Guerrini, Woldemar Freeman, and Robert Blum.  Busoni died in Berlin on July 27, 1924, from a kidney disease.

Most of Busoni’s works are for the piano. Busoni’s music is typically contrapuntally complex, with several melodic lines unwinding at once. Although his music is never entirely atonal in the Schoenbergian sense, his mature works, beginning with the Elegies, are often in indeterminate key. Busoni also drew inspiration from non-European sources, including Indian Fantasy for piano and orchestra. It was composed in 1913 and is based on North American indigenous tribal melodies drawn from the studies of this native music by ethnomusicologist, Natalie Curtis Burlin.   Busoni’s Turandot Suite (1905), probably his most popular orchestral work, was expanded into an opera.  He began serious work on his best known opera, Doktor Faust, in 1916, leaving it incomplete at his death. It was then finished by his student Philipp Jarnach, who worked with Busoni’s sketches as he knew of them.  After his death, Busoni was regarded as a great piano virtuoso whose own music was seemingly incomprehensible. His compositions were largely neglected for many years after his death, but he was remembered as an arranger of Bach for the piano. Busoni’s thinking would have a more decisive impact on later composers, such as John Cage and Morton Feldman, and in the early 1980s, his music experienced a small-scale revival of interest.

My collection includes the following work by Ferruccio Busoni:

Two Studies for Doktor Faust: Cortege.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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1/2015 Bible story

January, 2015

New Testament Stories My Daddy Told Me

PREACHING IN BEREA (Acts 17:10-15)

By Wayne S. Walker

     After the riot in Thessalonica, the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas, and we assume Timothy, to the city of Berea, about fifty or sixty miles to the west.  Berea was a city of southwest Macedonia, located at the foot of Mt. Bermius and situated on a tributary of the Haliacmon River.  Its origins appear to be lost in the mists of time.  It was counted in the third of the four divisions of Alexander the Great’s empire.  After the battle of Pynda in 168 B.C., it surrendered to the Romans.

When Paul and his company arrived in Berea, they went into the synagogue of the Jews to preach the word of God.  There, in contrast to the majority in Thessalonica, they found that the people were more noble or fair-minded and searched the Scriptures daily in order to determine whether the things which they heard were true.  This simply means that they were a fair and open-thinking group who were willing to study the teachings of Paul in light of what the Scriptures said.

Therefore, many of them believed, and not only just among the Jews but also among the Greeks, both women and men.  However, when the unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica heard that Paul was preaching in Berea, they came there also and stirred up a mob.   Therefore, the brethren sent Paul away to the sea, although Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea to help the new church.  The men who were conducting Paul brought him to Athens and he sent word by them back to Berea for Silas and Timothy to rejoin him as soon as possible.

Questions

  1. When Paul left Thessalonica, where did he go?
  2. In the new city, where did he and his company go?
  3. How are the people there described?
  4. What did they search to find out the truth?
  5. As a result of Paul’s preaching and their search, what did they do?
  6. Who stirred up trouble in that city?
  7. Where did the brethren send Paul?
  8. What did Silas and Timothy do?
  9. Where did the men conducting Paul take him to?

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1/2015 monthly meditation

January, 2015

Monthly Meditation

TO CALM AND QUIET THE SOUL

by Wayne S. Walker

     “Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2).  It is so easy to get frustrated and upset with things and with people.  One thing that I have noticed in pitching baseball or softball to kids is that when some of them cannot hit the ball right away they become very irritated and annoyed which actually makes it more difficult for them to concentrate on watching the ball and reaching out to hit it.  Often someone has to tell them to calm down, breathe deeply, and take it easy.

Kids are not the only ones who have that problem.  There were times in homeschooling when our children were younger and they did something which made me so angry that I had to stop and do the proverbial “count to ten” before reprimanding or punishing them so that I would not do something rash or foolish (and occasionally I would do something rash or foolish anyway!).  Probably all of us have had times when someone said something so wrong or so outlandish that we had to bite our tongues to keep from popping off and saying or doing something which we knew that we would later regret.

But what does it mean to have calmed and quieted our souls “like a weaned child with his mother”?  Charles H. Spurgeon noted, “He had become as subdued and content as a child whose weaning is fully accomplished…To the weaned child his mother is his comfort.”  Thus it refers to the fact that our needs have been met by God and we are satisfied.  God will not always remove trying situations in our lives, but like Paul’s thorn in the flesh, we can find that if we trust Him His grace will be sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).  That knowledge should help us to calm and quiet our souls.

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Heitor Villa-Lobos and his Bachianas Brasileiras

Heitor_Vila-Lobos_(c._1922)

Heitor Villa-Lobos (March 5, 1887 – November 17, 1959) was a Brazilian composer, described as “the single most significant creative figure in 20th-century Brazilian art music” who wrote numerous orchestral, chamber, instrumental and vocal works that were influenced by both Brazilian folk music and by stylistic elements from the European classical tradition, as exemplified by his Bachianas Brasileiras (Brazilian Bachian-pieces).  He was born on March 5, 1887, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His father, Raul, was a civil servant, an educated man of Spanish extraction, a librarian, an amateur astronomer, and a musician, who taught him to play cello, viola, and guitar. In Villa-Lobos’s early childhood, Brazil underwent a period of social revolution and modernization, abolishing slavery in 1888 and overthrowing the Empire of Brazil in 1889. The changes in Brazil were reflected in its musical life.  Previously European music had been the dominant influence, and the courses at the Conservatório de Música were grounded in traditional counterpoint and harmony. Villa-Lobos underwent very little of this formal training. After a few abortive harmony lessons, he learned music by illicit observation from the top of the stairs of the regular musical evenings at his house arranged by his father.  When his father died suddenly in 1899 he earned a living for his family by playing in cinema and theatre orchestras in Rio. His earliest pieces originated in guitar improvisations, for example Panqueca (Pancake) of 1900.

Around 1905 Villa-Lobos started explorations of Brazil’s “dark interior”, absorbing the native Brazilian musical culture.   After this period, he gave up any idea of conventional training and instead absorbed the musical influences of Brazil’s indigenous cultures, themselves based on Portuguese and African, as well as American Indian elements. His earliest compositions were the result of improvisations on the guitar from this period.  Villa-Lobos played with many local Brazilian street-music bands; he was also influenced by the cinema and Ernesto Nazareth’s improvised tangos and polkas.  For a time Villa-Lobos became a cellist in a Rio opera company, and his early compositions include attempts at Grand Opera. Encouraged by Arthur Napoleão, a pianist and music publisher, he decided to compose seriously.   In 1912, Villa-Lobos married the pianist Lucília Guimarães, ended his travels, and began his career as a serious musician. His music began to be published in 1913. mainly in Rio de Janeiro’s Salão Nobre do Jornal do Comércio.  When he returned to Rio de Janeiro he briefly attempted to receive a more formalized education, but his personality and musical practice proved ill-matched with the academic establishment and, although he made important connections with the faculty, he soon left classes. He spent the next ten years composing and playing freelance cello in cafes and cinemas to earn a living. He eventually gained national recognition and a fair sum of government funding with the premiere of his Third Symphony, “A guerra,” the first part of a symphonic trilogy commissioned by the Brazilian government to commemorate World War I.

Villa-Lobos introduced some of his compositions in a series of occasional chamber concerts and later also orchestral concerts from 1915 to 1921. The music presented at these concerts shows Villa-Lobos’s coming to terms with the conflicting elements in his experience, and overcoming a crisis of identity, as to whether European or Brazilian music would dominate his style. This was decided by 1916, the year in which he composed the symphonic poems Amazonas and Uirapurú, although Amazonas was not performed until 1929, and Uirapurú was first performed in 1935. These works drew from native Brazilian legends and the use of “primitive” folk material.  Yet, European influences still did inspire Villa-Lobos. In 1917 Sergei Diaghilev made an impact on tour in Brazil with his Ballets Russes. That year Villa-Lobos also met the French composer Darius Milhaud, who was in Rio as secretary to Paul Claudel at the French Legation. Milhaud brought the music of Debussy, Satie, and possibly Stravinsky.  In return Villa-Lobos introduced Milhaud to Brazilian street music. In 1918, he also met the pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who became a lifelong friend and champion; this meeting prompted Villa-Lobos to write more piano music, such as Simples coletânea of 1919.

In about 1918 Villa-Lobos abandoned the use of opus numbers for his compositions as a constraint to his pioneering spirit. With the piano suite Carnaval das crianças (Children’s carnival) of 1919–20, Villa-Lobos liberated his style altogether from European Romanticism.   The suite, in eight movements with the finale written for piano duet, depicts eight characters or scenes from Rio’s Lent Carnival.  In February 1922, a festival of modern art took place in São Paulo and Villa-Lobos contributed performances of his own works. The press was unsympathetic, and the audience was not appreciative.  The festival ended with Villa-Lobos’s Quarteto simbólico, composed as an impression of Brazilian urban life.  In July 1922, Rubinstein gave the first performance of Villa-Lobos’s piano suite A Prole do Bebê (The Baby’s Family), composed in 1918. The piece has been called “the first enduring work of Brazilian modernism”.  Rubinstein suggested that Villa-Lobos tour abroad, and in 1923 he set out for Paris.  Just before he left he completed his Nonet (for ten players and chorus) which was first performed after his arrival in the French capital. He stayed in Paris in 1923–24 and 1927–30, and there he met such luminaries as Edgard Varèse, Pablo Picasso, Leopold Stokowski and Aaron Copland. Parisian concerts of his music made a strong impression.

In the 1920s, Villa-Lobos also met the Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia, who commissioned a guitar study.  The composer responded by writing a set of twelve such pieces, each based on a tiny detail or figure played by Brazilian itinerant street musicians (chorões), transformed into a étude that is not merely didactic. The music of chorões also provided the initial inspiration for his Chôros, a series of compositions written between 1924–29.   In 1930, Villa-Lobos, who was in Brazil to conduct, arranged concerts around São Paulo, and composed patriotic and educational music. In 1932, he became director of the Superintendência de Educação Musical e Artística (SEMA), and his duties included arranging concerts including the Brazilian premieres of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B minor as well as Brazilian compositions. His position at SEMA led him to compose mainly patriotic and propagandist works. His series of Bachianas Brasileiras were a notable exception.  Also, during his period at SEMA, Villa-Lobos composed five string quartets, nos. 5 to 9, which explored avenues opened by his public music that dominated his output.  And he wrote more music for Segovia, the Cinq préludes, which also demonstrate a further formalization of his composition style.

Villa-Lobos’s music for the film O Descobrimento do Brasil (The Discovery of Brazil) of 1936, which included versions of earlier compositions, was arranged into orchestral suites, and includes a depiction of the first mass in Brazil in a setting for double choir.  After 1937, during the Estado Novo period when Vargas seized power by decree, Villa-Lobos continued producing patriotic works directly accessible to mass audiences. Villa-Lobos’s writings of the Vargas era include propaganda for Brazilian nationhood (“brasilidade”), and teaching and theoretical works. His Guia Prático ran to 11 volumes, Solfejos (two volumes, 1942 and 1946) contained vocal exercises, and Canto Orfeônico (1940 and 1950) contained patriotic songs for schools and for civic occasions.  Villa-Lobos published A Música Nacionalista no Govêrno Getúlio Vargas around 1941, in which he characterized the nation as a sacred entity whose symbols (including its flag, motto and national anthem) were inviolable. Villa-Lobos was the chair of a committee whose task was to define a definitive version of the Brazilian national anthem, and he established a conservatory for choral singing in 1942.  For the 1943 celebrations he also composed the ballet Dança da terra, which the authorities deemed unsuitable until it was revised. The 1943 celebrations did include Villa-Lobos’s hymn Invocação em defesa da pátria shortly after Brazil’s declaring war on Germany and its allies.

With fellow composer Oscar Lorenzo Fernandez, Villa-Lobos cofounded the Brazilian Academy of Music in 1945.  Vargas fell from power in 1945. Villa-Lobos was able, after the end of the war, to travel abroad again; he returned to Paris, and also made regular visits to the United States as well as travelling to Great Britain, and Israel. He received a huge number of commissions, and fulfilled many of them despite failing health. He composed concertos for piano, cello (the second one in 1953), classical guitar (in 1951 for Segovia, who refused to play it until the composer provided a cadenza in 1956), harp (for Nicanor Zabaleta in 1953) and harmonica (for John Sebastian, Sr. in 1955–6). Other commissions included his Symphony No. 11 (for the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1955), and the opera Yerma (1955–56) based on the play by Federico García Lorca.  In 1957, he wrote a 17th String Quartet, whose austerity of technique and emotional intensity “provide a eulogy to his craft”.  His Benedita Sabedoria, a sequence of a capella chorales written in 1958, is a similarly simple setting of Latin biblical texts. These works lack the pictorialism of his more public music.

Villa-Lobos’s final major work was the music for the film Green Mansions starring Audrey Hepburn and Anthony Perkins, commissioned by MGM in 1958.  It earned Villa-Lobos $25,000, and he conducted the soundtrack recording himself.  From the score, Villa-Lobos compiled a work for soprano soloist, male chorus, and orchestra, which he titled Forest of the Amazon (Floresta do Amazonas) and recorded it in 1959 in stereo with Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayão, an unidentified male chorus, and the Symphony of the Air for United Artists Records.  He spent the last ten years of his life traveling and conducting, primarily in New York and Paris.  On November 17, 1959, he died in Rio de Janeiro.  His state funeral was the final major civic event in that city before the capital transferred to Brasília.  His body is buried in the Cemitério São João Batista in Rio de Janeiro.  During his life, he composed ceaselessly–about 2,000 works are credited to him in all.  Except for the lost works, the Nonetto, the two concerted works for violin and orchestra, Suite for Piano and Orchestra, a number of the symphonic poems, most of his choral music and all of the operas, his music is well represented on the world’s recital and concert stages and on CD.

The following works by Heitor Villa-Lobos are contained in my collection:

Bachianas Brasileiras No. 2 for Orchestra (1931).

Bachiana Brasileira No. 5.

Danca Frenetica.

Down in a Tropical Forest Overture.

Momo precoce, fantasy for Piano and Orchestra on Children’s Carnival.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

Turkey Creek School, Stone County, Arkansas

turkeycreekschool_large

Turkey Creek School is a former educational facility located along Arkansas Highway 9 in Stone County, Arkansas.  Built in 1925 it was used as a school between 1925 and 1949. The traditional frame school building designed by George Green and Robert Hawkins has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985.  Today it is used as a community building and often hosts gospel singings.

http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/historic-properties/national-register/results.aspx?county=Stone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mI9y3WqOyOk

1/15 news from Home School Book Review

If you and your kids enjoy reading, check out  Home School Book Review (https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com/ ) , with over 3,000 book reviews, primarily of children’s and youth literature, from a Biblical worldview, that can be searched by  title, author, age level, or category.

The books reviewed in December of 2014 include the following:

December 31, 2014–Wild Horse Running

December 30, 2014–The Raft, The River, and The Robot

December 26, 2014–A Manual for Marco

December 25, 2014–Fable Weaver

December 24, 2014–The Case of the Slippery Sharks

December 21, 2014–The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea

December 20, 2014–Talking Walls: Discover Your World

December 17, 2014–The Glass Mermaid

December 16, 2014–Thanks to the Animals

December 15, 2014–Swimming Home

December 14, 2014–The Years of the Forest

December 13, 2014–Please Save Jessie: Jessie #2

December 7, 2014–The Men Who Have Molded Me…

December 6, 2014–Andy Smithson: Power of the Heir’s Passion, Prequel Novella Book 0

December 5, 2014–Always Mom, Forever Dad: A Story of Divided Households

December 4, 2014–The Reluctant Witch

December 3, 2014–Angela and the Broken Heart

December 2, 2014–What My Parents Did Right!: 50+ Tips to Positive Parenting

Each month we give a “Book of the Month” award; for Dec., 2014, the prize goes to:

slipshar

The Case of the Slippery Sharks by Stephen Mooser.

Books that we are currently reading and will be reviewed in the near future include:

Travel to Tomorrow (Fifties Chix #1) by Angela Sage Larsen

Hour of God, Hour of Lead: Diaries and Letters, 1929-1932 by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Socks by Beverly Cleary

Daniel Sommer, 1850-1940: A Biography compiled by William E. Wallace