Here is the second movement of Benedetto Marcello's Sonata in D minor for recorder and basso continuo. This binary-form Allegro is still in the key of D minor, even if the key signature used by the composer does not match modern practice. In fact, baroque music in minor keys was often written with a key signature with fewer flats than we now associate with their keys.
The fifth movement of Johann Sebastian Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G major is actually made up of two minuets, the first one in the key of G major and the second one in the key of G minor. This second minuet is one of only twelve movements in all six cello suites that don't contain chords. At the end of the movement, Menuet I is played again, this time without repeats.
Published in 1902, just three years after “Maple Leaf Rag”, this marvelous display of pianistic prowess shows Scott Joplin's potential for innovation and development. Of course, all ragtime music is rhythmically charged, forward-thrusting and syncopated, but there is a particular bounce to the step of “Elite Syncopations”.
The piece is marked "Not fast", but “fast” in this instance must be seen as a relative term: it is likely that in Joplin's time many pianists were playing his rags at breakneck speeds to show off their skill. It has been widely agreed that the composer's intention was that his pieces were not to be played at outlandish speeds, but in a controlled manner.
“Elite Syncopations” is built, as are all of Joplin's pieces, from several tuneful strands. In the last two sections, we move from the key of F major to the key of B-flat major, never to return.
In the concluding Allegro of Telemann's Quartet for recorder, two flutes and basso continuo, the music returns to the home key of D minor. The movement is in ABA form, with a large, fluid middle part that pays a visit to the key of D major before repeating the opening section.
As always, our tempo indication of 112 beats per minute is only a suggestion. In fact, this Allegro is often played up to about 132 BPM.
“Old Hundredth” is a hymn tune from the 1551 edition of the Genevan Psalter, Pseaumes Octante Trois de David, and is one of the best known melodies in all Christian musical traditions. The tune is usually attributed to the French composer Loys “Louis” Bourgeois.
Although the tune was first associated with Psalm 134 in the Genevan Psalter, the melody receives its current name from an association with the 100th Psalm, and is commonly sung with diverse other lyrics as well. A hymn commonly sung to Old 100th is Thomas Ken's “Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow”, often known simply as “The Doxology”.
By the first decade of the 20th century, ragtime music was already widely heard in Europe, and many of these songs were in Cakewalk rhythm. The Cakewalk dance is best described as an act of parody, in which, it is supposed, Negro slaves would caricature the haughty manners of their white owners. The winner would be awarded with a prize, normally in the form of a cake.
Debussy's “Le petit nègre” (or “The Little Negro”) followed the enormous popular success of his “Golliwogg's Cakewalk”, the last piece from his suite Children's Corner, and was written and published in 1909. The work was commissioned as a piano tutor called Methode de piano, edited by Theodore Lacke. The intention was to provide aspiring young pianists with a volume of pieces which were equally well calculated to afford modest technical advancement, and to provide delight and musical insight for both players and listeners alike.
The third movement of Benedetto Marcello's Sonata in D minor for recorder and basso continuo is in the key of F major, even if the original manuscript retains the baroque key signature of D minor, with no flats nor sharps. This Largo is proposed in its original unornamented form, but, as is usual with baroque music, this simplicity should encourage the player to add in his own ornamentations.
This well-known drinking song is generally accepted as an Irish tune, since Mallow is a town in County Cork, Ireland. However, there have been early versions of this tune with the title “The Rigs of Marlowe”, leading to speculation that this was an English tune to begin with. Whatever its origin, this polka has long been popular in Scotland, and it was there that it was first published in the 1780s.
For those of you who are not used to this kind of historic terms, a rake (short for rakehell) was a fashionable youth who led a somewhat dissolute life, frequently a heartless womanizer, so this tune celebrates such young men from the town of Mallow.
In recent times, a version of the tune was included by American composer Leroy Anderson in his Irish Suite for orchestra. The song is also a fight song for Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans.
This gorgeous “Frühlingslied”, or “Spring Song”, is taken from the fifth book of Felix Mendelssohn's series of lyrical piano pieces Lieder ohne Worte, or Songs without Words. This “song” was also known in England as “Camberwell Green”, being the place in London where Mendelssohn composed it while staying with the Benneckes, relatives of his wife.
Thanks to James for suggesting this piece!
Telemann's seventh Fantasia for solo flute is in the majestic key of D major. The opening movement, rightly marked “Alla Francese”, has the attitude of a French overture, and sports a series of regal dotted rhythms, which are usually played in a very incisive manner. A rondeau in 3/8 time follows, which culminates in a repetition of the initial rhythmic pattern. A ternary-form Presto closes this Fantasia in worthy manner, reverting back to 4/4 time and introducing a very fast, brilliant final theme.
The composition of this reel is credited to Donegal singer Davey Arthur, former member of the group The Furey Brothers who is now following a solo career. Rumor has it that it was later renamed as “The Howling Wind” by accordion player Paddy O'Brien because he liked the tune, but not the name, which derives from a legendary ballad originating from the Scottish Borders. In fact, O'Brien's version is a somewhat altered development of Arthur's original. Currently the melody has currency with many musicians who play for Irish step-dancing competitions, and is also referred to as “The Glasgow Reel”.
Orlande de Lassus, also known as Orlando di Lasso, was a Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance. He is today considered to be one of the two most famous and influential musicians in Europe at the end of the 16th century, the other being Palestrina. Lassus demonstrated complete competence in the expressive styles of the Italian madrigal, setting Petrarch and Ariosto alongside the best native speakers. Yet he also left essays in the simpler and lighter Italian genre of the villanella, two books' worth. “Matona mia cara” (“My Dear Lady”), from the second published collection, exemplifies his efforts in the genre. The text of this madrigal represents a particular subset of the broad category villanella, the todesca, in which German soldiers are the butt of various jokes. In this case, an inept German soldier stumbles upon his words as he tries to convince an Italian lady to accept his attentions.
“Chanukah, Oh Chanukah” is a very popular modern English version of the traditional Yiddish song “Oy Khanike”. This upbeat playful children's song has lines about dancing the Horah (a national dance in Israel), eating latkes (potato pancakes), lighting the candles and singing happy songs.
Thanks to Hillary for suggesting this song!
Hänsel und Gretel is an opera by 19th-century composer Engelbert Humperdinck. The libretto was written by Humperdinck's sister, based on the fairy tale of German origin Hansel and Gretel. The whole opera is much admired for its folk music-inspired themes, one of the most famous being the “Abendsegen” (“Evening Prayer”) from Act 2.
The idea for the opera was proposed to Humperdinck by his sister, who approached him about writing music for songs that she had written for her children for Christmas. The composer happily provided some musical numbers, and the entertainment went off so well that he decided to expand what he had written into a three-act opera.
Thanks to Colleen for suggesting this piece!
Here is the last movement of Benedetto Marcello's Sonata in D minor for recorder and basso continuo. This 3/8-time Allegro has the usual binary (AABB) structure, and a gorgeous Italian-sounding melody.
We now have all four movements of the sonata! For increased user-friendliness, they can now be accessed directly from the detail page of each movement in the work. As you may have noticed, we have also modified the composers' pages so that movements from the same work are now listed in the right order. (Thanks to Joyce Kai for suggesting these features!)
The title of this popular Hanukkah song, “Sevivon”, is Hebrew for “dreidel”, where “dreidel” is the Yiddish word for a spinning top, one of the best-known Hanukkah symbols. This tune appears to be very popular in Israel.
The second suite derived from Bizet's incidental music for L'Arlésienne opens with a Pastorale, originally the prelude to Act 2 of the play, and the most complete bit of music Bizet had composed for L'Arlesienne that he hadn't already used in the first suite. This broad Andante evokes the rolling Provençal countryside with a simple theme subjected to several treatments and interspersed with gentle, rustic woodwind passages. The middle Andantino notably features the flute and the piccolo as the solo instruments.
Choosing a tempo is not an easy task here. Most editions of the incidental music and of the suite indicate quarter = 54, so this was probably originally marked by Bizet himself. Nonetheless, today the piece is commonly played much faster, at about 80 beats per minute.
Playing with the dreidel (a spinning top with four sides, and a Hebrew letter printed on each side) is a traditional Hanukkah game played in Jewish homes all over the world.
Although this popular tune is often referred to as a Jewish folk song, its author was actually Samuel E. Goldfarb, “the father of Jewish music in America”, who gave it the title “My Dreidel”. Born in 1891, Goldfarb was a prolific composer of songs and other music. Together with his older brother, Rabbi Israel Goldfarb, he composed hundreds of songs which are still sung in Jewish schools today.
Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, commonly known as Sonata Pathétique, was written when the composer was 27 years old, and published in 1799. Although commonly thought to be one of the few works to be named by the composer himself, it was actually named Grande sonate pathétique (to Beethoven's liking) by the publisher, who was impressed by the sonata's tragic sonorities.
This sonata is one of Beethoven's most well-known works, and perhaps the earliest of Beethoven's compositions to achieve widespread and enduring popularity. It has three movements, of which the middle Adagio is arguably the most popular, opening with a famous cantabile (songful) melody. This theme is played three times, always in A-flat major, separated by two modulating episodes.
Thanks to Jackie for suggesting this piece!
“The Army Goes Rolling Along” is based on “The Caisson Song” composed by field artillery First Lieutenant Edmund L. Gruber, a distant relative to the German composer Franz Gruber, who wrote the Christmas classic “Silent Night”. Composed at Fort Stotsenburg in the Philippines in 1908, Lieutenant Gruber's tune quickly became popular in field artillery units.
In 1917 the Secretary of the Navy asked John Philip Sousa to create a march using “The Caisson Song”. Sousa changed the key, harmony, and rhythm and renamed it “U.S. Field Artillery”. The recording sold 750,000 copies. Sousa didn't know who had written the song and had been told that it dated back to the Civil War. Gruber later became involved in a prolonged legal battle to recover the rights to music he had written and that had been lifted by Sousa and widely sold by sheet music publishers who reaped profits while Gruber received nothing. Gruber eventually lost his battle in the courts: they ruled that he had waited too long to complain and that his music was by that time in the public domain.
“The Caisson Song” was never designated as the official U.S. Army song because the lyrics were too closely identified with the field artillery and not the entire army. The official song, “The Army Goes Rolling Along”, retains Gruber's music, but with rewritten lyrics. This song was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 1956, and is now played at the conclusion of most U.S. Army ceremonies.
“Hanerot Halalu” (“These lights”) is an ancient chant mentioned in the Talmud, a vast collection of Jewish laws and traditions. It is recited or sung while lighting additional Hanukkah candles after the candle for the night has been lit. The hymn states that the sole intent in kindling Hanukkah lights is to publicize the miracle of the lamp burning for eight days on barely enough oil for one, a miracle described in the Talmud.
Many different musical settings of this hymn exist.
The opera-ballet Mlada (which is the name of a main character) was composed between 1889 and 1890 by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
An orchestral suite was derived from the opera by the composer himself in 1903, and included five numbers. The final piece, which is known as the “Procession of the Nobles” and originally opened the second act of the opera, is by far the most famous; with its high-spirited brass fanfares and boisterous percussion, it comes extremely close to being a march... in 3/4 time!
If you find the opening too monotonous, you may want to skip directly to measure 20: that's the main theme.
Thanks to Elizabeth for suggesting this piece!
“The Wexford Carol” is one of the oldest extant carols in the European tradition, dating back to the 12th century. It is also known as “The Enniscorthy Carol”, as it was originally collected by organist and folklorist William Grattan Ford in Enniscorthy, a town in Ireland's County Wexford,
Traditions abound concerning this song. For many years, it was felt that only men should sing it. It was only at the current revival of all things Irish that this attitude changed. Many popular female artists, such as Loreena McKennit, recorded the “The Wexford Carol” during the 1990s.
Thanks to Ben for suggesting this carol!
This is the exquisite central movement of French Romantic-era composer Benjamin Godard's Suite of Three Pieces. Godard was a violinist, but this suite was specifically composed for flute and piano. It's one of the few pieces where you can find a low B that can be played with a C foot... simply because it's a B-sharp. Even more unusual is to find a C-sharp, a B-sharp and a C-natural all occurring within a single short phrase, and not in chromatic order (at the end of bar 46); your right pinky will have quite some work to do! Remember that if the composer decided to go that low there sure is a reason, so try to pay special attention to expression.
Thanks to James for suggesting this piece!
The third movement of Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” clearly pays homage to Ludwig van Beethoven. Appropriately entitled after the “Molto vivace” (“very lively”) in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the first notes will make the listener feel they are suddenly listening to Beethoven all over again. Being so fast and lively, this dancing movement is a direct contrast to the Largo before it. The following “Poco sostenuto” trio in E major, on the other hand, recalls Dvorak's very strong Czech-Bohemian folk influences. Of course, Native American music had also been an influence on this symphony. In particular, Dvořák wrote that the third movement scherzo was “suggested by the scene at the feast in Hiawatha where the Indians dance“, referring to Longfellow's 1855 epic poem The Song of Hiawatha.
“Rocky Road to Dublin" is a fast-paced 19th-century Irish song about a man's experiences as he travels to Liverpool, England from his home in Tuam. The tune has a typical Irish rhythm, classified as a slip jig, in 9/8 time.
The song is partially recited several times by Mr. Deasy in James Joyce's Ulysses. It is an old favorite of the famous folk band The Dubliners; you may have heard their version in the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, where it is used as a fighting scene playback and as an end-credits playback.
Thanks to Tianna for suggesting this tune!
This gorgeous tenor aria is taken from Act II of Georges Bizet's famous opera Carmen. After being released from prison, corporal Don José visits Carmen at the tavern. When he hears the bugle call for him to return to his regiment, Carmen mocks his loyalty. To prove his love for her, he reveals the dried and wilted flower that she had given him when they first had met. He tells her that the flower was what had kept his faith and hope of reuniting with her after his release:
The flower that you threw to me
Remained with me while I was in prison.
Withered and dried, the flower
Always maintained its sweet scent.
Thanks to Luis for suggesting this piece!
This 17th-century English carol is about “wassailing”, or singing carols door to door. According to Readers Digest, “the Christmas spirit often made the rich a little more generous than usual, and bands of beggars and orphans used to dance their way through the snowy streets of England, offering to sing good cheer and to tell good fortune if the householder would give them a drink from his wassail bowl or a penny or a pork pie or, let them stand for a few minutes beside the warmth of his hearth. The wassail bowl itself was a hearty combination of hot ale or beer and spices and mead, just alcoholic enough to warm tingling toes and fingers of the singers”.
This carol is a bit unusual in that its verses are sung in 6/8 time, while the chorus switches to 2/2, but always keeping the same tempo.
Thanks to Christine for suggesting this tune!
Both names “Farinel” and “Farinelli” are used in literature to indicate the one and only 17th-century French violinist who studied with Giacomo Carissimi in Rome and subsequently went to England and Germany. This Mr Farinel is not to be confused with Farinelli, the famous Italian castrato singer of the 18th century, whose actual name was Carlo Maria Broschi. To confuse matters still more, the variations for which our Mr Farinel is now chiefly remembered are referred to as “Faronell's Ground” in The Division Flute, a collection of popular pieces published in 1704 in London. These divisions are based on the Spanish chord sequence “La Folia”, which was later made famous by Arcangelo Corelli in the variations at the end of his Op. 5 violin sonatas, published in 1700.
This popular sacred ballad, originally written for choir and orchestra, was composed in 1892 by Michael Maybrick, an English composer and singer. Maybrick originated his career in light opera, but ultimately switched to singing ballad concerts in public halls throughout the United Kingdom and America. Although he retained his true name as a performer, for published compositions he adopted the name Stephen Adams. Maybrick/Adams hit his stride through a collaboration with lyricist Frederick E. Weatherly, a well-known London barrister who is sometimes credited for the lyrics to the song “Danny Boy”. Adams and Weatherly were the Lennon and McCartney of 1880s Britain, producing a string of popular songs including the well-loved “The Holy City”.
Thanks to Heidi for suggesting this piece!