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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Musical Adventure 4: Ravel's Introduction et Allegro, Two Door Cinema Club's Something Good Can Work, and Poulenc's Le Bal Masque

So, for my reintroduction into musical adventure blogging of new pieces with which I'm not familiar, I am taking the opportunity to highlight two pieces in particular which were part of last evening's concert here at IVAI and were performed wonderfully by my colleagues at the festival here. (Call me sentimental, but I am still so affected by the performances from last night that I am posting this practically 12 hours early, AND talking about the pieces that I just heard last night AGAIN!)

Therefore, without further delay--on to the music! (And what wonderful music it is- you're in for a treat here!!)

1. Ravel's "Introduction et Allegro" can be found here on YouTube, and these are my thoughts on this piece: I love the addition of the harp to this ensemble instead of the piano--what a different and more mysterious sound world it gives the whole ambience of the piece!  I also really enjoy the way that Ravel creates such distinct changes of mood with the harp- using it as the middle barrier oftentimes between an interlude of either the strings solely, or the winds solely, or simply to change the entire direction of the piece.  Also, for a mental image this piece does not disappoint---as I was listening to it last night, I had visions (with my eyes closed while listening of course) of the life of a hummingbird who has fallen in love with a butterfly.  So, that alone has won me over to this brilliant and beautiful music!

2. Two Door Cinema Club's song "Something Good Can Work" is a song that was introduced to me recently by my sister, and boy am I glad that she told me about it!  This song is for me, the ultimate motivational song---I mean, is there any way that ANYONE can feel badly about anything while listening to this song?!?! I don't think so.  And, that is the sole reason why I love it.  Plus the fact that they sing a heck of a lot of words without even getting tongue tied once!  So, check it out here on YouTube. Or, there is also their official video here to see (although I don't like it as much as the fun one I found with them just goofing off).

3. Poulenc's "Le Bal Masque" was performed last night to perfection by a colleague here at IVAI- and I am still mentally rewinding to enjoy the great moments that I saw and heard last night.  It's hard to get an idea of it without seeing the entire thing at one stretch, but I will just say that if you ever get a chance to see this piece, or to perform it (after a lot of french diction work- lol) you will be richly rewarded--it's like a circus. Honestly!  You can find a pretty good recording of its parts here, and here, also here, and the final part here on YouTube (gosh, what would we do without YouTube and the wonderful musicians and music that is spreads?!). Make sure to listen to all four parts in order---it gives you an idea of how crazy it was to see and hear them all in a row----wonderful!!

So, thanks for reading today, and for keeping up with my musical mania! Hope you enjoyed!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taking a few days break...!

Because I sang in a Masterclass tonight, which I will post the video of on here tomorrow, and I am preparing for a concert on Friday night here again at IVAI, where I'll be singing a lot of repertoire, and that means I have to practice my music until then! So, please forgive me for not writing blog entries tonight, tomorrow or Friday night, but I will be back on Saturday and Sunday, so enjoy the break, and go check out your own new music! (That's a challenge, just so you know! :) )

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Musical Adventure 3: Mahler Lied, Arcade Fire, Brahms String Quintet No.2

Okay, so I've got some exciting things to listen to this evening, and a few from suggestions from colleagues.  Here they are in no particular order.

1. "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen", sung by Waltraud Meier, composed by Gustav Mahler, and found on YouTube here.  My impressions were as follows: what a beautiful poem, and quite simplistic, but also very poignant.  Waltraud Meier sings wonderfully here in this song, but boy---it seems as if anyone could sing this song well because it's so beautiful!

2. "Mountains Beyond Moutains" by Arcade Fire: This song was recommended by a string player colleague this evening, and I listened to it and liked it a lot. It has a rather lulling experience since it almost sounds like a bunch of tiny fairies singing (because of their voices...) but, I actually really really liked it. It was almost like an adult lullaby.

3. Brahms' String Quintet No. 2 can be found on YouTube here.  My thoughts were: what a really cool rhythmic organization this piece has! And, how unlike Brahms at times...not hugely lyrical, not super smooth long legato lines....very refreshing and very pretty.

So that sums up today's thoughts---hope you enjoyed! More new stuff tomorrow!! :)

And--I'm singing in a masterclass tomorrow with Joan Dornemann here at IVAI in Virginia, and I've got four coachings/lessons before that---so wish me luck! :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Musical Adventure 2: Pearl Jam, Elgar Cello Concerto, Strauss' Elektra

Okay, so tonight's new music for me and my thoughts thereupon were as follows: (And--I'm posting this entry right ON TIME as promised in the entry before last---I'm quite proud! ;) )

1. "Betterman" by the band, Pearl Jam was a song that I found after typing into Pandora as my channel "Counting Crows": catchy tune, loved the guitar playing which made it seem almost like music you'd hear at a blues concert, and good moral to the story of the song. Definitely a classic tune, too.

2. Jacqueline du Pre performing the first movement of Edward Elgar's "Cello Concerto" was found on YouTube and can be listened to here by you: I like the really strong and heroic sound of the orchestral accompaniment on the introduction of the theme and the recurrence of the theme throughout, the thickness of sound that du Pre can get out of the cello on each and every note is amazing and I am really captivated by the expression of the sound that she makes- it sounds like the cello is weeping at some points. As a final thought, boy does Daniel Barenboim look young on this video!!

3. Marilyn Zschau and Deborah Voigt performing an excerpt from Strauss' opera, Elektra, which you can see on YouTube here: at about 2:00, Deborah Voigt gets a really possessed look on her face and sings the heck out of these Straussian lines---I loved it! Also, what a wonderful piece for Sopranos to sing, right? I was thinking that while listening to this and how it's composed--the lines keep going upward and never really downward (at least only for a moment when they do) and it is wonderful I'm sure to sing for voices that lie higher on the staff.  And at 6:28 she sings such a beautiful line after which the strings pick it up and continue the melody---what a wonderful and beautiful aria! Gosh...I'm overwhelmed!! Why isn't this opera performed more often!?

Okay, that's it for today: see you guys on here tomorrow with more! :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Musical Adventure 1: Bach Cello Suite No. 6, Barber's Dover Beach and Elbow's With Love

I've already been quite bad in not listening last evening to the new music that I promised, however, I have done it this morning, and I am planning on being back on track this evening, so please forgive me.  What happened last night was that I was getting some practical advice on what to listen to from my newly moved in neighbors in the dorm here- the string players with whom we will be performing chamber music.

They've suggested my first new piece- Bach's Cello Suite No. 6, which I've listened to on YouTube this morning, and have posted the link here for you to listen to as well.  My thoughts on this piece are in no particular order:

1. Wow- Rostropovich has such an amazingly rich tone color to his playing.
2. This piece is really beautiful and not boring at all for being a completely solo work (without any sort of accompaniment).
3. It kind of reminds me towards the end of the piece, of certain sections of Beethoven's Third Symphony....in that it evokes a pastoral image in my brain.

The second new piece I've listened to is 'With Love' by the british group Elbow.  There isn't any particular reason that I listened to this other than that it was the first piece that came up on pandora.com when I opened the site.  So, my thoughts of this piece are as follows:

1. I like the continuous almost ostinanto of the repeated notes in the chorus and in the background of each verse.
2. I wasn't expecting the spoken group of people's voices to appear in the chorus, but it's a nice touch.
3. I like the text, and I like their accents that come out in their singing. :)

The third new piece that I've listened to this morning is 'Dover Beach' by Samuel Barber and performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and the Juilliard String Quartet, and can be found here on YouTube. My thoughts on this piece are as follows:

1. What an interesting historical context that this song has, and what a moving poem!
2. It's strange to hear Fischer-Dieskau sing in English....
3. This music evokes a lot of really dark subjects when you read the text, and even without reading the lyrics, the music itself is really heavy psychologically and has lots of overlapping textures and dense harmonies.
4. I'm not sure that I like it right off the bat, but I am going to give it a second try and see if it grows on me.


Okay, so that's it for last night's/this morning's new musical adventure. Looking forward to sharing with you another 3 musical snacks tonight at the correct time- 10pm!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

New Musical Adventure Resolution!

Because of a wonderful chamber music concert that I saw last night during the second half of the opening concert for our IVAI program here in Blacksburg, VA, I have been inspired to re-evaluate my musical knowledge and make a few resolutions to better my overall musical palette, and musicianship in a broader sense.

To give a bit of background as to what spurred this train of thought in the first place, I must begin with the specific repertoire which was performed in last night's concert.  The concert featured the music of Schumann, whom although he's in the typical Western Classical music canon, is not a composer with whom his less popular works are well known to me, as well as the music of a very little-known composer named Ernő Dohnányi (pronounced [doch-na-nee]) whose compositional style resembles that of Brahms, and was a Hungarian contemporary of Bartok and Kodaly.  Interestingly enough, Sir George Solti was even a pupil of his.

At any rate, after listening to Dohnanyi's Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor, played by a superb group of chamber musicians here at the IVAI program (the specific instrumentation was that of a typical Piano Quintet--a pianist, a cellist, a violist, and a first and second violinist), I realized that I am not familiar with enough of the wonderful music that is out there, which, like this Dohnanyi, might not be played that often, but is nonetheless absolutely wonderful and deserves to be known and performed.  It was out of this realization that my resolution to listen to an unfamiliar piece of classical, jazz and pop music each day sprung to life.

So, in order to do this, on top of all the other things which need to be completed each day, I have resolved to make a note of it on my blog each evening before I go to bed, so that you, the readers of my blog, can hold me accountable in a silent way, and give me a bit of pressure to keep my resolution going strong.  That way, not only can I learn of new music and broaden my own experience by introducing it to my knowledge base, but you can also come along on this trip with me, so that perhaps you will find something new which you enjoy as well.

In other words, every night at 10pm, I will listen to my three songs, post the artists' or composer's names, and the titles of the pieces (and if possible a youtube link to the pieces themselves), and a few sentences of what that piece made me feel, or reminisce about, etc...

I hope you all will enjoy my musical voraciousness as much as I intend to do, and I am excited to have you all along on this auditory exploration with me! Thanks for signing up! :)

Oh, and, regarding today's adventures at IVAI: I've thus far slept in, done yoga, read a bit of my German novel that I'm working through (Goettertrank by Andrea Schacht--a historical fiction about the history of hot chocolate in Europe and South America), gone to Panera with some colleagues for brunch, written this blog post, mailed some postcards, and I'm now on my way to the practice room to spend a little more time with learning the role of 'Rosina' and my Der Barbier von Sevilla score for August's performances in Bad Orb.  So, toodleloo until tonight's first musical entry at 10pm!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Where is Julia now?..... At The International Vocal Arts Institute in Virginia!

Upon arriving in Blacksburg, VA on Tuesday evening of this week, I was excited and astonished at being able to have this wonderful opportunity to spend a few weeks at such a prestigious program, surrounded by highly-lauded Opera professionals, with whom I was able to work on music that I would like to perform or prepare for upcoming performances. And, these first four days here have not fallen short of my elevated anticipations, I can happily say.

Thus far, I have gotten to meet everyone in the program who is a fellow singer, and I have met four new coaches in the disciplines of language (4), stage direction/acting/interpretation (1), and conducting/collaborative piano (2), and I am excited to become acquainted with the entire faculty by the conclusion of the program's activities.

To give a brief description of what I've been up to since arriving here, my days have basically been comprised of the following elements in different quantities of time each successive day: coachings, voice lessons, private practice, lunch/breakfast/dinner, sleeping.  Those things, believe it or not, take up 90% of my days here at the program, and I am very happy to say that because of this, I have learned quite a lot in a very short amount of time which I am certain will help me a great deal in the months and years to come, and specifically with regard to my singing Rosina in Bad Orb in August of this year.  So, I am quite happy about that.  And, of course there is a little bit of time left over for getting to know my singing colleagues better- they are all very nice people, and from what I have learned thus far, they are equally busy at the program, and they are equally enjoying it.

Therefore, since I don't have too much exciting news to report just yet beyond that, I would like to show some photos of what the campus looks like here, and the places that I spend most of my time.  I'd like to direct your attention to the photo captions, which will explain the significance of each photo.  Enjoy!

My Dorm Building- 'New Hall West'

The Cafeteria--also known as 'Dietrich Hall'

Campus gate, and also 'Squires'- the music building!

The Virginia Tech Hedge on drive into campus

The 'Hokies' Football Stadium

War Memorial Hall- the gym!

The Main Building in the middle of campus, north side

The 'Duck Pond' on campus

The Drillfield (in the middle of campus--huge fields!)

The Monument to the students who were shot here in 2007
A final note to those of you who are looking at the pictures and thinking, "Wow! The weather there looks amazing!" Yes, it has been really good thus far, although, as I am typing this, we are in the middle of a humongous thunderstorm, I am certain that it will continue to be as nice as it has been.  The best part about the weather here that I really love so far is that it is hardly humid. There is always a light breeze blowing, and it actually carries the scent of these trees on campus that are everywhere which have small flowers on them and smell really wonderful--so that has been a highlight of my outdoor experience here thus far.  I am looking forward to more wonderful sunny days and temperate evenings, and I am wishing you all the same for your summers! Thanks for reading--there will be more to come in the following week, so check back!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Recital Wrap-Up!

An exciting thing happened recently to me: I performed a Solo Recital here in Reading, PA, and I didn't (for once) walk away from it feeling like I could have done it better.  Sure, there were small things that went awry, as with any live performance, but there was nothing that I really felt needed a little more polishing before it went out there to the audience.  All in all, I was pleasantly surprised that it turned out so well.  (Please, those of you who don't know me and might at this juncture think that I'm a bit self-absorbed, know that I normally am my most harsh critic, and have a tendency to undercut even my most impressive successes, so the fact that this particular recital elicited a response such as this from ME, is pretty huge, I have to say.)

And, as if my own happiness with my singing wasn't enough, I found out after the recital was finished that a lovely woman named Gale Martin, who is the author of the wonderfully written and very informative Opera blog, Operatoonity, was in the audience and wanted to email me with a short interview because she enjoyed my performance and wanted to write about it in her blog (you could have pushed me over with a feather at that point)!  So, if your curiousity and interest are peaked: visit the review of my performance here or you can visit Gale's Facebook Page by searching 'Operatoonity' and 'Liking' the page, which links you to the blog as well.

I have to mention too that for those of you who are interested in seeing which dress won the contest and a picture of me IN that dress (which YOU all picked in the last blog post- thank you SO much for your votes!!) I will be posting that in the next week- so stick around and keep checking back (and of course I will post an update on my facebook profile too when that is posted and up)!

Thank you all for helping to make my recital a success, whether you attended, helped with the preparations, voted on a dress, wrote a review, or provided much-needed mental, financial and or physical support in the months/days/weeks/minutes leading up to the performance---THANK YOU!!!

As a final note: How ironic! I finished my recital last Friday and I got a terrible cold on Monday--so, for those of you who were planning on seeing the concert tomorrow- it's cancelled. And, for those of you who want to see or hear the whole thing, email me or message me: I made DVD's and CD's and they can be ordered for $10 and $8 (including S&H within the USA) respectively!