Music for the Community

Welcome to our Music for the Community page! Since we can't take our music out to local nursing homes and libraries at the moment, we're inviting you in to enjoy it here instead. Each day you'll find a new student performance on this page, along with some info about the composer or instrument - and sometimes words too so you can sing along. 

If you're interested in a particular category, you can sort performances by student age, instrument, singalong music, composer and so on - click on the orange tags under the text. We hope you and your family will enjoy watching our students share their music! 

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Displaying items by tag: Students age 12 to 14

Friday, June 26 2020 00:00

Day 60 - Mozart Violin Concerto in D major

Violinist age 14 plays Mozart's Violin Concerto #4 in D, first movement

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (born 1756) wrote at least five violin concertos between 1773 and 1776, when he was not much older than this student. He probably wrote them for himself to play in his position as concertmaster (first chair) of the Archbishop of Salzburg’s orchestra.

This one was written in 1775, when he was 19. He did perform it at the time – but after he left the orchestra, he updated it and made it harder for the new concertmaster (Antonio Brunetti) who took over his job! It’s nicknamed the “Military” concerto, and if you listen to the violinist’s opening few measures you’ll hear why – they sound rather like a brass fanfare.

We love it when our older students play beautiful works like this with ease, inspiring beginner and intermediate students with a vision of what can happen if they keep on practicing. But as we make sure to point out to them: students like this were also once beginners learning to pluck open strings, just like the young man in yesterday’s video!

For more music by Mozart, see here and here.

Published in Music For Community
Monday, June 22 2020 00:00

Day 56 - Handel Sarabande

Violinist age 14 plays "Sarabande" by Handel

It's probably no surprise that Georg Frederic Handel (1685-1759), an exact contemporary of Bach, also wrote many pieces featuring the dance forms that were popular among composers at the time. But it's hard to believe that the stately sarabande was originally thought to be a terrible influence -  it was described in a "Treatise Against Public Amusements" in 1609 as  "enough to excite bad emotions in even very decent people"! 

The Sarabande probably had its origins in Central America, in particular Guatemala and Mexico, in the 16th century. It was actually banned in Spain by King Philip II in 1583, thanks to the sentiments above - but that didn't stop it being performed. It spread to Italy in the 17th century, and then - thanks to composers like Handel and Bach, who often used it in their suites of dances - to France, where it became a popular slow court dance.

Having started his career in his native Germany, in 1710 Handel became Kapellmeister (Music Director) at the court of Prince George of Hanover. But in 1714 Prince George became King George I of England, and Handel's success in England led him to settle there permanently. His famous "Water Music" suite was performed several times on barges on the River Thames for the King and his guests. In 1727 Handel was commissioned to write four anthems for the Coronation ceremony of the next king, George II, and one of these anthems, "Zadok the Priest", has been played at every British coronation ceremony since.

Published in Music For Community
Friday, June 19 2020 00:00

Day 55 - Bach Concerto for Two Violins

Violinists age 12 and 16 play Bach Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, second movement

The beloved "Bach Double", one of the composer's most famous works, is usually recognized by its fast first movement. Here, though, we're featuring the lyrical second movement with its expansive, lilting melody. The two violinists have equal parts that weave in and out of each other in a soulful musical conversation in the flowery Baroque style, taking turns with the melody and the accompaniment, finally coming to rest together.

Bach probably wrote this concerto when he was "Kapellmeister" - Director of Music - at the court Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen between 1717 and 1723. This was a very happy employment situation for Bach - Prince Leopold, who was a musician himself, appreciated Bach's talents, paid him well, and gave him a lot of freedom to compose and perform whatever suited him. Much of the music of Bach that we've shown in this series comes from this time, including the orchestral suites and cello suites, as well as his music based on 18th century dances (here, here, and here).


Published in Music For Community
Thursday, June 18 2020 00:00

Day 54 - Allegro by Fiocco

Violinist age 12 plays "Allegro" by Fiocco

Joseph-Hector Fiocco (1703 – 1741), born in Brussels, Belgium, was a composer and harpsichordist of the late Baroque period. His father, Italian composer Pietro Antonio Fiocco, and his older step-brother Jean-Joseph Fiocco gave him much of his musical education. He also learned Greek and Latin well enough to be able to become a schoolteacher in both those subjects.

He became music director at the cathedral in Antwerp, so much of the music he wrote was choral and religious in nature. He also wrote two suites of pieces for harpsichord - but ironically his best-known piece is this Allegro for violin, played by intermediate violinists the world over. "Allegro" literally means "happy", but in musical terms it means "fast and lively", and that's certainly the case with this piece!

Published in Music For Community
Tuesday, June 16 2020 00:00

Day 52 - Telemann Viola Concerto in G

Violist age 14 plays Telemann Concerto in G, first movement

Unlike many of the composers we've featured who were first taught music at home by their parents or other relatives, Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 - 1767) had an uphill battle to become a musician. He first had lessons from a local organist at age 10, and immediately became intensely interested in music - but his family was dead against the idea, and forbade him to take part in any musical activities at all. Nevertheless he carried on studying in secret - and managed to teach himself not only composing, but also the flute, oboe, violin, viola da gamba, recorder, double bass, and other instruments! 

He went to university to study law, but music was clearly his destiny, and he very quickly became a professional musician. In fact, he became one of the most prolific major composers of all time: he composed more than 3,000 works, including 125 orchestral suites, 125 concertos, several dozen other orchestral pieces, many sonatas in five to seven parts, nearly 40 quartets, 130 trios, 87 solos, 80 pieces for small ensembles, and roughly 250 pieces for keyboard!

His Viola Concerto in G major is actually the first known concerto for viola, and was written some time between 1716 and 1721. This mellow "Largo"  - a piece in a slow, broad tempo - is the first movement, giving the soloist the opportunity to show off the rich, deep tone of the viola. (See here for other viola performances.)

Published in Music For Community
Friday, June 12 2020 00:00

Day 50 - Czardas

Violinist age 12 plays "Czardas" by Monti

We’re back to Hungarian music today, to finish the week with Vittorio Monti’s sizzling “Czardas” - a tribute to the wonderful violin tradition of eastern Europe. A Czardas (pronounced Shar-dus) is a Hungarian music folk music form, which starts out with a slow, soulful section called "lassu" and ends with a very fast "friss" (literally "fresh"). 
This is the music of coffee houses and campfires - and there is an ongoing argument in Hungary about whether it’s actually Hungarian folk music, or really belongs to the traveling  Romani people. Either way, Hungarian violin music is known the world over for its passion, romance and virtuosity.
This piece is no exception. It's full of variety in speed and mood, with plenty of fiery technical tricks thrown in, and an ending to bring the house down. In fact, it's so catchy that it's been has featured multiple times in movies and TV, from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” to an episode of “Peaky Blinders”  – and Lady Gaga used part it as an introduction for her song "Alejandro". 
Published in Music For Community
Thursday, June 11 2020 00:00

Day 49 - Bach Prelude from Suite in G

Violist age 14 and Cellist age 16 play Bach Prelude in G major

Today, an opportunity to make a direct comparison between the sound of viola and cello playing the same piece. The two instruments have the same string set-up but the cello is an octave lower, meaning the strings (which are much longer) vibrate exactly twice as slowly. The bigger air cavity inside also deepens the sound.
Bach’s beautiful suites for solo cello were probably written between 1717 and 1723. They all have six movements, starting with a prelude and followed by Baroque dance movements such as here and here. This Prelude is the first movement of the first suite.

Because of their musical and technical difficulty, the Suites were not much performed until the great 20th century cellist Pablo Casals took them up, after discovering them in a thrift shop in Barcelona, Spain at the age of 13. His famous recordings of them were selected in 2019 for preservation in the Library of Congress. 

They have been adapted for many instruments, including viola – and in fact it’s been recently suggested that they were not necessarily written for the familiar cello balanced between the knees (da gamba), but possibly for a cello-like instrument played rather like a large violin, on the shoulder (da spalla)! 
Published in Music For Community
Friday, May 29 2020 00:00

Day 40: The Boy Paganini

Born in Prussia (now part of Germany), Edward Mollenhauer (1827–1914) achieved success in America as a violin soloist and teacher. His best-known pieces for young violinists are “The Infant Paganini” and “The Boy Paganini”, written in homage to the legendary Paganini himself - see below - and including some of Paganini’s own special violin techniques. Of these, listen out for:
harmonics (1:40 - 1:50)
left hand pizzicato (plucking) mixed with bowed notes (2:54 - 3:11)
chords on all four strings (3:27, 3:49)
simple octaves (4:49)
Niccolo Paganini (1782-1840) himself was a household name in his time, touring Europe to rave reviews and swooning audiences. He was a great showman as well as artist, and would wow his audiences by playing so furiously that he would break all his strings except one, then finishing the piece with flair on the one remaining string (of course, he had perpared this on purpose!).
Paganini composed all the music that he played at his own concerts. In the process he wrote some of the most fiendishly difficult technical works for violin, including his famous set of 24 Caprices - which still offer the highest of technical challenges for 21st century violinists. 
Published in Music For Community
Monday, May 25 2020 00:00

Day 36: Mozart Minuet and Trio

Violist age 12 plays Minuet & Trio by Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1766 in the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg. When he was 3, his father starting teaching his 7-year-old sister Nannerl the clavier (the forerunner of the modern piano). Wolfgang was fascinated and began picking out simple intervals right away, so his father began teaching him too. He began composing at the age of 5 – by which time he was already performing on both violin and keyboard. 
After spending his childhood performing all over Europe, at age 17 Mozart was appointed court musician at Salzburg. But he had bigger dreams, and soon resigned the position to move to Vienna to seek more fame and fortune. He found plenty of the first and less of the second, as he frequently more money than he earned. By the time he died at the age of 35 he had composed more than 600 works and was the most highly-regarded composer of the classical period. Older classical composer Joseph Haydn, who at one point had given him composition lessons, wrote: "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."
We talked about “sandwich construction” on a small scale in Twinkle. A Minuet and Trio set is the same idea on a larger scale – a short “A” piece, followed by a “B” piece, then back to “A”. As discussed here, the minuet was a very popular dance music form of the 18th century. Minuets are always in triple time: see if you can hear the “ONE two three, ONE two three”.
Published in Music For Community
Tuesday, April 21 2020 00:00

Day 12: Schindler's List

Violinist age 14 plays Theme from “Schindler’s List”

Steven Spielberg’s movie “Schindler’s List”, about the German manufacturer Oskar Schindler who saved more than 1000 Jews from the Holocaust by employing them in his factories, won 7 Oscars including Best Picture for Spielberg and Best Score (Music) for composer John Williams.

We feature its theme in homage to today’s observance of Holocaust Memorial Day, and in solidarity with victims of oppression everywhere.

Published in Music For Community
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