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Rediscovering a Classic

This blog is about being surprised, not by a new work, but by an old one I considered too familiar, one by a composer whose birthday was on March 4.

It happened that a colleague sent me a score, and asked me to check something in it. I opened the file. There at the top was a most famous title, which brought to mind its opening tune used in countless TV and radio ads. Then, turning to the introduction, I came upon something unexpected: sonnets that the composer had written, one for each of the work’s four parts.

Finally, when I reached the actual score, I found lines from these sonnets above musical passages so that the performer can know what is being described.

“Songs of birds” it said just after that famous opening music. Goldfinch and turtle-dove are heard at measure 58 in the first movement of Part 2. Having often wondered about repeated notes in the slow movement of Part I, I investigated, and read, “the dog that barks.”

Romanticism of the 19th century? Try Baroque, 1725: “Le Quattro Stagioni” The Four Seasons, probably Vivaldi’s most famous concertos.

The most exciting part is that you do not need to be a violinist or conductor to learn these pieces. NLS Music section has an arrangement for solo piano at BRM35873. You can play them at your keyboard, or just read through them to learn what Vivaldi was depicting in his “Trial of Harmony and Invention” (“Il cimento dell’armonica e dell’invencione”).

The next time you hear The Four Seasons, you may give them an added dimension by having Vivaldi’s sonnets at your fingertips. This is just what my wife and I did one evening last month. In the fourth concerto, those tremolo effects brought teeth-chattering winter cold right into our living room, though Virginia temperatures reached the 70s!

So, whether you’ve rarely heard them, or think you’ve heard them too often, Let BRM35873 give you deeper knowledge of The Four Seasons.

New Catalog Available!

Maybe that’s not the most exciting news you’ll hear today, but we’re excited! The Music Appreciation Catalog is making its debut and ready for all patrons interested in learning about music. Previously, we had music instruction and music appreciation joined together in one large print catalog, and while they were happy sharing the space, it was […]

Celebrating Black Composers

In honor of Black History Month, this blog post will highlight materials in the music section that are written by or about African American composers. These composers wrote in many styles, including popular, Western classical, jazz, gospel, and more. Here is some music by three Black composers that we have available in our collection. Harry […]

A Miniaturist and More

For many music lovers, the end of January brings to mind two birthdays: Mozart’s on the 27th, and Schubert’s on the 31st. Could a composer born between these two giants, end up being overlooked? Perhaps. It was while preparing my blog about the Viking Opera Guide (BRM29585) that I learned that the 29th of January […]

Le Jazz Hot!

It’s always interesting to check the date for famous birthdays or events and see where reflections will lead.  Today, January 26, is the birthday of Stèphane Grappelli, French jazz violinist. That’s right, violinists can be jazz musicians, and once you hear a sample, you’ll start appreciating, and I hope, admiring the style.  In fact, stringed […]

For Braille Readers—A Real Treasure Trove

This afternoon, I looked at the Metropolitan Opera schedule, which appears in the October-December issue of our quarterly magazine The Musical Mainstream. It lists all of the operas to be performed, along with NLS materials, librettos, lectures, etc., pertaining to the operas. Nowhere did I find any mention of a reference book that I read […]

A Four Hour Concert in an Unheated Hall

On this day, over two hundred years ago, a historic concert took place. It was in Vienna, in the middle of the Advent season, and Beethoven needed some money. “But, Beethoven,” you would say, “surely he was doing fine! He is Beethoven! Everyone loves him!” However, in Vienna in 1808, just because everyone loved you […]

Don’t Give Up!

While reviewing our file archive, I came upon a letter sent to us in 1989 and experienced a sharp reminder of how our services have advanced in filling requests. At times, I have flashbacks to the pre-internet era and usually shudder.  Speedy communication is one of the positives of the medium, it seems to me.  […]

Working and Music

We are approaching a holiday that signifies many things to people on the calendar: Labor Day.  For children and teachers, it’s back to school. For the sports fan, anticipation for Friday night high school football (and half-time shows; a shout-out to the band kids) and Sunday afternoon professional leagues. But I would like to remind […]

Made in America

“Children must receive musical instruction naturally as food, and with as much pleasure as they derive from a ball game.” -Leonard Bernstein Today, we celebrate the birthday of Leonard Bernstein, one of the greatest American musicians of the twentieth century. Many of us know him as the celebrated conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the […]