25 February 2014

I recently joined the Derby branch of the U3A (University of the Third Age)  (http://www.u3a.org.uk/).  

The idea is that the 'first age' is when we're in education as children/young people; 'second age' is when we're working; so 'third age' is now we're (in theory) retired    

To quote their site: 'the University of the Third Age is a unique and exciting organisation which provides, through its branches, enhancing and life-changing opportunities.  Retired and semi-retired people come together and learn together, not for qualifications but for its own rewards:  the sheer joy of discovery!'

'Members share their skills and life experiences: the learners teach and the teachers learn, and there is no distinction between them.'

Today was my first visit to the Classic Music Appreciation group and I thought it would be a good idea, over the coming weeks, to document music to which we're introduced.  

This was today's programme:

'An American in Paris' (1928) 
by George Gershwin (1898 - 1937) 

This was when Gershwin was studying in Paris, and what jumped out at me was the sounds of the city:  car horns, bustling people and much traffic, as well as a slight melancholy at one time due pehaps to his being so far away from home.
For more information see: http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/An_American_in_Paris.html
and Youtube sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeEMlYpGJzs

Swedish Rhapsody No 1, Op19 'Midsommervaka' 
by Huga Alfven (1872 - 1960)

This is a lively, jolly piece of music I'd always though had been written by an English composer, so quite a surprise when it was by a Swede: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrUFF8MM2RI.  Now we know there's more to Swedish music than Sibelius, wonderful though his music is.

Toward the Unknown Region (1907)
by Ralph Vaughan Williams 
(1872 - 1958)
I imagined that this music and words referred to beyond life itself and it succeeded in putting over the majesty and awe.  It was the sort of music which would be heard the occasion of a state funeral.   Having said that, I wasn't quite so struck on this piece of music as other Vaughan Williams although may change my mind having heard it a few times.  Seehttp://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dw.asp?dc=W2997_GBAJY9365510&vw=dc

This is set to words by the well-known American poet Walt Whitman (http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=17431).

Apparently Vaughan Williams was arguably England's best composer; but see also Britten, Dowland, Elgar, Delius, Bliss, Rutter and others! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chronological_list_of_English_classical_composers) (by the way, the pic above shows Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Michael Tippett, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Ursula Vaughan Williams at a recording of Tippett's Second Symphony at the BBC in 1958).

Tod und Verklarung Op 24 
(Tone-poem for large orchestra) (1889) 
by Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949)

Written when Strauss was only 24, it shows an incredible depth of feeling for one so young and is well worth listening to.

Fantasy in C minor for piano, chorus and orchestra Op 80 (1808)
by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827)

Grand and inspiring, giving shades of his 9th Symphony (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Choral_Fantasy_(Beethoven)).  As I was sat listening I was trying to think what else was composed at about that time, to see how this piece would compare with what else was going on (http://www.classissima.com/en/people/early_19th_century_classical_composers/).  If I could only take one composer to my desert island it would have to be Beethoven, so here's one to add to the collection.

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