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 15 to 18

Wednesday, June 24 2020 00:00

Day 58 - Arpeggione Sonata by Schubert

Violist age 18 plays Arpeggione Sonata by Schubert

Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) wrote this sonata in November 1824, for an instrument that had been invented only the previous year! It’s the only major composition for the arpeggione - basically a bowed guitar – that is still played today, albeit by other instruments. 

The sonata was probably commissioned by Schubert's friend Vincenz Schuster, who was already a virtuoso of the arpeggione, even so soon after its invention. But unfortunately it wasn’t published till 1871, long after Schubert’s death – by which time the excitement about this new instrument had long since disappeared, along with the arpeggione itself.

Schubert’s beautiful composition lives on, though, and today it's usually performed by viola or cello. There are versions for other instruments, too — including double bass, flute, euphonium and clarinet for the arpeggione part, or with guitar or harp for the piano part. And now in the 21st century, interest in the aprpeggione has revived, with several composers writing for it - so perhaps we'll be able to hear it again as Schubert intended in the not too distant future.

For more music by Schubert, see here.

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 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
Wednesday, May 27 2020 00:00

Day 38: Bourrée 1 & 2 by Bach

Cellist age 16 plays Bourrées I & II from Bach Solo Suite #3 in C 

More old-fashioned dance music today, but unlike a Minuet, a Bourrée (pronounced "boo-ray") is in duple time (ONE two, ONE two) – similar to a Gavotte. Still, like our Minuet and Trio on Day 36, this set of two Bourrées is again made on an overall A B A pattern.  

Why is this such a common musical form? It's because it's satisfying: after you hear the A, then the B in contrast, returning to the A gives a feeling of “coming home”, and also provides a simple sense of symmetry. That’s true in very small pieces like Twinkle, in dance sets like this one – and even often in big symphonies by composers such as Beethoven. Teaching students to hear and understand this in the music they're playing helps them to appreciate all music more deeply.
The music of Bach’s six unaccompanied cello/viola suites is some of the most beautiful there is to play, and gives musicians both a musical and technical workout. It’s always exciting for us as teachers when student reach the milestone of being ready to discover them!
Published in Music For Community
Friday, May 22 2020 00:00

Day 35: Vivaldi Cello Sonata in A minor

Cellist age 15 plays Vivaldi Cello Sonata in A minor

Born in Venice on the day of an earthquake, Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi (1678 -1741) is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era, and during his lifetime he was famous across Europe. He composed many instrumental works, especially for string instruments - many of which were written for girls at the orphanage in Venice, whose musical skill improved their marriage prospects at a time when there were few other options for women. He also wrote a large amount of church music, and more than forty operas. His best-known work is the series of violin concertos known as the Four Seasons - we featured "Spring" earlier in this series.

Vivaldi wrote a set of six cello sonatas (works for a solo instrument, usually with accompaniment by a keyboard) between 1720 and 1730. All of them have four alternating slow and fast movements (separate pieces); this is the second movement of the third sonata.

Published in Music For Community

Violinist age 16 plays Mozart's Violin Concerto #3 in G major, 1st movement

We hope you’ve enjoyed a peek behind the scenes of students’ musical and technical development in this week’s entries. Our aim as teachers is to help students enjoy and celebrate all these stages on a well-planned journey, giving them appropriate music for their age and skill level along the way. But we do this also with - from their very first lesson - the long-term goal of giving them full ownership of their own musical and expressive voice.
So to finish our week, here’s a video to show where this has all been heading: a performance by a student who is well past the basic and intermediate stages, and is now ready and equipped to explore professional-level repertoire in the form of one of Mozart’s sparkling violin concertos. 
While the video was not taken from the best angle, we’re pretty sure you’ll enjoy this young man’s sensitive and expressive playing, and how he's now able to put his technical skills at the service of Mozart's beautiful and timeless music.
Published in Music For Community

Violist age 15 plays Seitz Concerto in D, first movement

Friedrich Seitz (1848 - 1918) was a German violinist and composer, conductor, concertmaster (first chair in an orchestra), and teacher. He wrote five “Pupil’s Concertos”, as he called them, as a stepping-stone between easier short pieces and the longer, more challenging concertos of Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart. This student is well on the way to completing that transition.
The viola is bigger and lower in pitch than the violin – see also these performances. It loses the highest string (E) on the violin in exchange for a lower one (the C below middle C) at the other end; this, and the greater volume of air inside it, makes for a darker, richer, velvety sound. But the fingering system is exactly the same as on violin, so anything written for violin can be very easily adapted for viola, as has been done here.
Published in Music For Community

Cellist age 16 plays Allegro Appassionato by Saint-Saens

French composer Camille Saint-Saens (pronounced Sanh-Sonh) was born in Paris in 1835. By the time he was three he was picking out tunes on the piano, and his great-aunt started teaching him. He made his professional debut at the age of 10, and also became a brilliant organist. 

His first job was as a church organist, which allowed him time to pursue his interests in piano and composing. He later became a beloved teacher at a school for future organists and choirmasters, and wrote his famous “Carnival of the Animals” with his students in mind (although he didn’t finish it till much later, after he left the school). 

Saint-Saëns was a keen traveler - from the 1870s until the end of his life he made 179 trips to 27 countries! His performances took him mostly to Germany and England; for vacations, and to avoid Parisian winters which affected his weak lungs, he often went to Algiers and Egypt in north Africa.  
At his last public recital in 1921 it was noted that his playing was “as vivid and precise as ever”, and that he appeared “admirable for a man of eighty-six”. He died about a month later in Algiers, after a long and full musical life.
Published in Music For Community
Friday, April 24 2020 00:00

Day 15: Haydn Cello Concerto in C

Cellist age 15 plays Haydn Cello Concerto in C, first movement

A concerto is a big piece designed to show off a solo instrument, originally written with accompaniment by an orchestra. In recital, the piano plays a condensed version of the orchestra part, with the student's teacher providing a bass line (called a "continuo"). So you have to imagine the several dozen other instruments and performers who would normally provide the backing for the solo cello.
Concertos are often written in three “movements” which are separate but related pieces – usually following the pattern of fast first movement, slow second, fast (sometimes very fast!) third movement. This first movement covers the full range of the cello, starting with big chords for all four strings, and sometimes climbing to sections high enough to be played (more easily!) on a violin. Listen out for the cadenza just before the end – a free-form solo section where the orchestra drops out and leaves the cellist to show off her technical skills.
Austrian composer Franz Josef Haydn wrote this piece in 1761 for his friend Josef Weigl, the principal cellist in the orchestra of Prince Nicolaus of Esterhazy, where Haydn was court composer at the time.
Published in Music For Community
Thursday, April 16 2020 00:00

Day 9: Courante, Bach Suite #3 in C

Violist age 16 plays “Courante” from Bach Suite #3 for Viola/Cello

A viola is more than just a “big violin”. That extra size gives it a deeper, darker sound. Bigger things vibrate more slowly - try filling a smaller glass and a bigger glass with water, and tapping them each with a fork, and you’ll hear that idea at its most basic.

The viola has the same tuning as the cello, except an octave higher (meaning the viola’s strings vibrate exactly twice as fast as a cello’s) - so they can share some of the same music, including Bach’s solo suites. “Suite” means a collection of pieces which go together, and Bach’s suites are collections of 18th century dance music. “Courante” literally means “running”, and you can hear how this piece just keeps going and going – try running around to it!

If you like the sound of the viola, it’s a great instrument to learn to play – there are never enough viola players, and you will get lots of invitations to play with others!

Published in Music For Community
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