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5 Fun Sites about J.S. Bach

Bach Sleeps In On Sundays


   



Five Fun Sites about J.S. Bach


This week Exploring Music is all about Johann Sebastian Bach and his tenure with Prince Leopold. We found five different websites that celebrate the great composer. Leave us a comment if you find any interesting tidbits, or if you have a favorite site dedicated to Bach.



BringBachtoWeimar5. Bring Bach to Weimar


Did you know that Bach's old basement was paved over, but many of the rooms still exist? Those rooms have been placed under heritage protection, but are closed off to the public and above them is a parking lot. If you want to help the citizens of Weimar convert this parking lot into a Bach House, sign their petition or leave a message of support.

 

 

4. The Practical and Personal of Bach


bach2

If you’re looking for more detailed information on Bach, this article delves into his personal letters and documents to get a better understanding of the composer’s life. This is a dense academic paper but its depth is perfect for anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of Bach.




3. Bach's Life in Pictures


bachinpictures


This straight forward website uses photos and paintings to lead the way through Bach’s life and history. The site provides a brief overview of Bach's life and the pictures provide an interesting backdrop.

 

 2. A Delightful First-Person Blog of Bach's Life


bachandsonsThis imaginative blog takes on the perspective of different people in Bach’s life in order to paint a picture of the composer’s life. Beginning with Bach’s mother Elisabeth Bach at the time of her son’s birth, the posts include history, anecdotes and pictures.

 

1. Free Books Available To Read Via Google Books


googlebooksWe decided to poke around Google Books and see what we could find. We searched “Bach Brandenburg” and came up with more than 200,000 results! Play around with Google Books and see what you discover about J.S. Bach.

 
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Help us find more Hidden Gold!

hiddengold


This week on Exploring Music we're going on an adventure in search of the best works you've never heard. With the help of the WFMT staff, we've found a veritable collection of lost masterpieces including works by Rochberg, Haydn, Piston, Thompson and more! However, we know that there's plenty more musical plunder to be had, and we want your help in finding it. Leave a comment on this page with your favorite "lost masterpiece", and the next time we make a "Hidden Gold" episode your suggestion might be featured!
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Camille Saint-Saëns In His Own Words

If you've been listening to Exploring Music this week, you may have noticed that we've been featuring a French composer named Camille Saint-Saëns. Now Saint-Saëns wrote a lot of absolutely fantastic music, and you probably knew some of it before you even heard our program. (Carnival of the Animals, Danse Macabre, Samson et Dalila.) But what you probably didn't know is that Saint-Saëns was more than just a composer. He was a writer and a darn good one.
musicalmemories

His memoir, Musical Memories, is full of sentences like this: "Oceans of ink have been spilled in discussing the question of whether the subjects of operas should be taken from history or mythology, and the question is still a mooted one." But beneath his clever turns of phrases is a first hand account of music and non musical history spanning from just after Beethoven's death to the 1920s. Think of it. Camille Saint-Saens lived long enough that he knew both Rossini and Stravinsky, experienced Napoleon and World War I, the hey-day of Opera and the beginning of movie music.

You can read his whole memoir for free here, but if you don't have time, we submit our top five favorite snippets for your approval.Rossini1



5. Saint-Saëns on Rossini


To Saint-Saëns Rossini was a dying god, only half-content to be worshipped for his past accomplishments and very much aware that his reign had ended. Yet even in his latter days Rossini remained focused on the future of music, and comitted to helping new composers grow. Saint-Saëns was one of them. He writes,

He [Rossini] said to me one day,

“You have written a duet for a flute and clarinet for Dorus and Leroy. Won’t you ask them to play it at one of my evenings?”

The two great artists did not have to be urged. Then an unheard of thing happened. As he never had a written programme on such occasions, Rossini managed so that they believed that the duet was his own. It is easy to imagine the success of the piece under these conditions. When the encore was over, Rossini took me to the dining-room and made me sit near him, holding me by the hand so that I could not get away. A procession of fawning admirers passed in front of him. Ah! Master! What a masterpiece! Marvellous!

And when the victim had exhausted the resources of the language in praise, Rossini replied, quietly:

“I agree with you. But the duet wasn’t mine; it was written by this gentleman.”

Such kindness combined with such ingenuity tells more about the great man than many volumes of commentaries. For Rossini was a great man. The young people of to-day are in no position to judge his works, which were written, as he said himself, for singers and a public who no longer exist."

Franz_Xaver_Winterhalter_Family_of_Queen_Victoria



4. Saint-Saëns On Royalty


Saint-Saëns didn't just fraternize with musical royalty, but with actual heads of state. Often they were of the fairer sex and many of Saint-Saëns anecdotes paint him as a sort of queen-whisperer. A cynic might wonder how many of these tales are embellished, but that doesn't make them any less entertaining. As Camille-Saëns said himself, "History is made up of what probably happened; mythology of what probably did not happen. There are myths in history and history in myth."On Queen Christine of Spain:

Queen Christine expressed a desire to hear me play the organ, and they chose for this an excellent instrument made by Cavaillé-Coll in a church whose name I have forgotten. [..] Some great ladies lectured the indiscreet queen for daring to resort to a sacred place for any purpose besides taking part in divine services. The queen [...] responded by coming to the church not only not incognito, but in great state. [...] I was a little flustered when she asked me to play the too familiar melody from Samson et Dalila which begins Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix. [..] During the performance the Queen leaned her elbow on the keyboard of the organ, her chin resting on one hand and her eyes upturned. She seemed rapt in exstasy which, as may be imagined, was not precisely displeasing to the author.

Victor+Hugo+Victor_Hugo



3. Saint-Saëns on Victor Hugo


Saint-Saëns idolized Victor Hugo, but that didn't stop him from recognizing when his hero had some odd ideas.

"He believed in the most incredible things, as the “Man in the Iron Mask,” the twin brother of Louis XIV; in the octopus that has no mouth and feeds itself through its arms; and in the reality of the Japanese sirens which the Japanese were said to make out of an ape and a fish. He had some excuse for the sirens as the Académie des Sciences believed in them for a short time. "


2. Saint-Saëns on A-Tonality


Despite bearing witness to more modern music, Saint-Saëns was no fan. He held Debussy in disdain and after hearing the Rite of Spring, questioned Stravinsky's sanity. Here's what he had to say about the post-Wagner musical breakdown.

He did not foresee the a-tonic system, but that is what we have come to. There is no longer any question of adding to the old rules new principles which are the natural expression of time and experience, but simply of casting aside all rules and every restraint.

“Everyone ought to make his own rules. Music is free and unlimited in its liberty of expression. There are no perfect chords, dissonant chords or false chords. All aggregations of notes are legitimate.”

That is called, and they believe it, the development of taste.

He whose taste is developed by this system is not like the man who by tasting a wine can tell you its age and its vineyard, but he is rather like the fellow who with perfect indifference gulps down good or bad wine, brandy or whiskey, and prefers that which burns his gullet the most.

bassoon-iS-2


1. Saint-Saëns on the Bassoon


It is not entirely fair to say that Saint-Saëns detested the Rite of Spring for its tonality alone. A large part of his loathing stemmed from Stravinsky's extreme use of the Bassoon. In fact Saint-Saëns had his own small vendetta against the instrument, as if writing too exciting a bassoon part was some vice, like eating too much chocolate or drinking before noon.

"I need not speak of his [Meyerbeer] immoderate love for the bassoon, an admirable instrument, but one which it is hardly prudent to abuse."

 
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Our Top 5 Musical Families

This week we've been listening to musical families, and boy are there a lot. Most of our focus has remained on musical performers, but even the beginning student of Music History knows that there are plenty of families of composers as well.  Here are some of our favorites. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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Top 5 Composers Who Couldn’t Finish What They Started

unfinishedsymphonies
  



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Our Top Five Spookiest Selections


Demons, Spooks & Other Things That Go Bump In the Night


   

 

Exploring Music's Top Five Spookiest Selections


 Darkness has descended on Exploring Music as we investigate composers’ fascination with ghosts, goblins, Mephistopheles and other phantasmagoria. Here are the top five spookiest pieces we played this week in order from least to most terrifying. Disagree, think we missed something, or want to suggest your own scary selection? Post in the comments below.


5.


Manuel De Falla's El Amor Brujo



More mysterious than menacing, this piece for orchestra and mezzo-soprano by Manuel de Falla follows the journey of one woman as she tries to exorcise the spirit of her dead husband. Anyone familiar with Falla's Siete Canciones Populares may be reminded of his song, "Polo", both pieces have a mezzo-soprano singing "Ay!" over active accompaniment !


 

4.


Danse Macabre, camille saint-saens,


Join dancing skeletons, Death, spooks and more with Camille Saint-Saëns's Danse Macabre.  Evocative use of the tritone might have pushed this selection higher on our list, but the work ends with a happy ending -- the break of day.


3.


nightonbaldmountain


Listeners might remember Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain from it's use in the Walt Disney classic, Fantasia, but even without animation this work still frightens. Although, much like Danse Macabre the work ends happily.


 2.


berlioz'sdamnation



Next Berlioz's La Damnation de Faustioz plunges us into deep darkness. The Ride to the Abyss is particularly chilling with real screams and a triplet figure that mimics galloping horses dragging Faust into Hell.


1.


schubert'serklonig


For all of Berlioz's bluster, Schubert is the one who understands true terror. In no song is this clearer than Erlkönig. From the seductive major tonality of Death, to the child's frenzied cries, to the father's denial, to the  narration of the inevitable conclusion, it's hard to think of a more chilling piece of music.

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Verdi Part ii: Bill’s Bibliography

verdiotelloredo
   
There's no composer that says "opera" like Verdi. Join us for the second part of our two week series as we hear Verdi's take on Shakespeare, Egyptian princesses, and perhaps the grandest requiem ever written. Post your thoughts on the show here and your comment might be read on air. Plus keep reading for a special note from Bill on how he researched the show.

A Note From Bill


verdi'sshakespeareI'd have to say my favorite discovery this week was Garry Wills' book, "Verdi's Shakespeare" which is as wonderfully informed as everything I've ever read from Professor Wills, and in addition to wonderful quotes from Verdi's letters about how he wanted various passages sung (very detailed and extremely knowing as well as demanding) Wills also answers some questions I'd never thought to ask — like, "Why did Shakespeare write so much more for men than women?" Well, mostly cause it wasn't women who were playing those roles, it was twelve year-old boys, who gifted as they were, might not have been up to learning the six or seven hundred lines Shakespeare wrote for his leading characters, but could learn two hundred and fifty or three hundred. Also, the boys frequently doubled other roles, which meant that Lady Macbeth couldn't be on stage when the lad was taking on another role.


verdiwithavengenceIn addition to Julian Budden's three volumes on the Verdi operas, which is terrific and very complete, but almost too much so for me to use on the air, I found a lot of help from William Berger's "Verdi With a Vengeance", which manages to pack a tremendous amount of information into one volume. He's also very knowing, frequently funny, sometimes appealingly catty.


In addition, I used the Grove Dictionary article, which is terrific and in most libraries, and Mary Jane Phillips Matz magisterial one-volume biography. About four years ago I got the nicest e-mail from Ms. Phillips Matz. She had moved back to the US and had taken a liking to Exploring Music. I wrote back to her but didn't go to visit. I was a fool. She lived about a mile and a half from my apartment. Sadly, she died this past January. And so, our ten hours of Verdi had the benefit of her scholarship, but I never got to sit down with her and ask some of the hundreds of questions that came to my mind when I researching the shows.


I should also mention the IMSLPetrucci operalovermusic library which is fabulous. All the Verdi operas are on line, in piano/vocal and full score. I used all of them a great deal. For me, the fastest way to get to know a piece of music is to read it — the score — it's quicker and deeper than listening to recordings or just reading about the opera.


Finally, I borrowed a copy of "The Opera Lover's Companion", by Charles Osborne, who still lives in London at the last report — Osborne has short (3-5page) pieces on almost all the operas presented in an intelligent, lively style that can give a newcomer a feel for the stories and in a couple of cases, I quoted from his book in recording the shows.


Oh, and I can't neglect the record library at WQXR, which is exceedingly well-supplied due to George Jellinek, who hosted a program called The Vocal Scene for thirty five years or more. I had a ball picking through the opera holdings, which are rarely played intact anymore. I opened up a fabulous Aidia with Leontyne Price and found an odd sort of crumble of foam — it was one of those liners record companies used to insert in multiple disc recordings when they first brought them out. The foam crumbles with time but not the recording. I brushed it off carefully and sat back to listen to Ms. Price in her splendor. I doubt anyone had opened that cd case in ten years.

-Bill McGlaughlin



 

 
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Verdi Part One

200yearsshort                     
A towering presence in Italian art and perhaps the greatest composer of 19th century opera, Giuseppe Verdi is one of the most venerated figures in classical music. This week we begin a ten-part series investigating his life and music. Airing this week on a radio station near you!  Join us here, on our Exploring Music blog, for previews and supplemental content for the coming week, read the post, listen to the show, and then tell us what you think! If you're curious what's playing you can click to listen and find  playlists, or you can sign up to have playlists and show summaries delivered to your inbox every Monday!


briefrecap

Monday


On Monday we briefly surveyed the operatic tradition that was Verdi's springboard, and began to brush away the cobwebs of myth and mystery of Verdi's early life. Oh, and as always we listen to his music. His beautiful, beautiful, music.



Tuesday


As Bill would say, "Man that boy wrote a lot of music!" On Tuesday we explore all the obscure nooks and crannies of Verdi's repertoire, including a trip to Medieval Spain, Shakespeare's Scotland, and even France!



Wednesday


Rumor has it that a hundred thousand voices rose in song at Verdi's funeral, but don't worry, we haven't finished our week on Verdi just yet, but on Wednesday we do investigate some of Verdi's most stirring opera choruses. Click here to see a cute animated version of the Gypsy Chorus from La Traviata!



5factsaboutVerdiThursday


Could it get any better than Verdi's Rigoletto and La Traviata? Bill sure doesn't think so. Listen to Thursday's program and enjoy some of the most popular classical music on earth.



Friday


Despite Verdi being known for his work in an art form intimately connected with language, his music transcends words. To end our first week on Verdi, we explore some of his greatest overtures.


 

 Past Shows



 

 
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Tell us about your favorite Exploring Music program & what you’d like to hear in the future

about_bill_mcglaughlin_hdAs we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Exploring Music and the launch of this new streaming website we're eager to hear about:

1) Your favorite Exploring Music program or moment.

2) What topics you'd like to see Bill cover in the future.

Click POST A COMMENT below.

Also, please note that in the near future we'll be adding a feature allowing listeners to comment on specific programs on the Player Page for each 5 hour 'week.' So you can also share your thoughts there and read insights from others listeners.
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Welcome to the Exploring Music Discussion Page – Give us your general feedback on the site!

Welcome to the Exploring Music streaming website. This site allows you to listen to the more than 850+ hours of programs that we've created over the past ten years (please note: some programs are still being added, so if something you're looking for isn't here yet, check back soon).

One thing that we're looking for now is your feedback!

As you use the site, please share your comments. We want to hear what you like and also what you think we should add or improve. Please post your comments below.
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This is simply one of the very best radio programmes in the medium!...The study of the people, the times, and the events that inform the music we otherwise enjoy and even, heaven forbid, take for granted, brings the entire world of the music and the composer to life.
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