Daily listening Monday 13th July

This is Rondo alla Mambo (inspired by the Third Movement of W. A. Mozart’s Horn Concerto No.3) played by French Horn player, Sarah Willis, and the Havana Lyceum Orchestra of Cuba. Sarah Willis is a horn player in the world-renowned Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. She travelled to Havana in Cuba to teach and discovered that music was everywhere, and was very surprised to come across a monument commemorating Mozart. This was the inspiration for her project ‘Mozart y Mambo’ a one-time musical experience combining Mozart’s horn concertos with traditional Cuban music. Find out more about this project here.

The mambo is a genre of Cuban dance music which originated in Cuba in the 1940s. Listen out for the syncopated rhythms and exciting percussion. Compare the mambo-style melody in today’s extract above (from 57 seconds) with Mozart’s original version here from the 1780s.

Daily listening Sunday 12th July

Do Not Be Afraid is a choral song composed by Philip Stopford with words by Gerard Markland. It is based on four verses from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 43.

Philip Stopford (born 1977) is an English sacred music choral composer and choir director. He is known for his contemporary a cappella and accompanied settings of traditional Latin and English prayers and hymns. A cappella means vocal music performed without instrumental accompaniment as can be heard in today’s piece. A cappella is Italian for ‘”in the manner of the chapel”‘ – it was originally used in religious music.

Daily listening Saturday 11th July

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1 / Sir Simon Rattle, conductor · Berliner Philharmoniker / Recorded at the Berlin Philharmonie, 5 November 2010

Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian composer and conductor from the late Romantic period of music. Today’s piece, the Symphony No. 1 in D major was mainly composed between late 1887 and March 1888.

The extract is from the start of the fourth movement.

Things to listen out for:

  • The introduction consisting of an abrupt cymbal crash, a loud chord in the upper woodwinds, string and brass, and a timpani roll, all in succession.
  • Fanfares in the brass section

The symphony is scored for a very large orchestra, consisting of the following:

  • Woodwinds – 4 flutes, 4 oboes, 4 clarinets, 3 bassoons 
  • Brass – 7 horns, 5 trumpets, 4 trombones, 1 tuba
  • Percussion – 6 timpani, 1 bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tam-tam
  • Strings – 1 harp, 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, cellos, double basses

Daily listening Friday 10th July

Flight of the Bumblebee is an orchestral piece written by Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, composed in 1899–1900 during the late Romantic period of music. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 –1908) was a Russian composer who is regarded as a master of orchestration. Orchestration is the practice of writing music for an orchestra.

The composition of today’s piece is intended to musically evoke the seemingly chaotic and rapidly changing flying pattern of a bumblebee. 

Things to listen out for:

  • The rapid chromatic scales played by the solo violinist. A chromatic scale is a pattern of notes consisting of semitones. A semitone is the smallest gap between 2 notes, for example C to C#. Using semitones creates musical tension.
  • The virtuosic melody line with a light accompaniment from pizzicato orchestral strings. Pizzicato means the instruments are played by plucking the strings with the finger instead of using the bow.
  • A steady pulse

Daily listening Thursday 9th July

Alexis Ffrench (born 1970) is a contemporary composer and pianist from the UK. He is known for his unique style of combining his classical training on the piano with a love of roots music and R&B (rhythm and blues).

Today’s piece, Waterfalls comes from his debut album, Evolution.

Things to listen out for:

  • The piece begins in 3/4 time with a 1-in-a-bar feel. 
  • The right-hand melody mainly consists of step-wise movement.
  • The opening melody is repeated several times. At 00:51 listen out for the violin counter-melody (a secondary tune heard at the same time as the main melody).
  • The music builds up to a climactic moment at 02:01 where the piano note values are halved, creating a cascading feel (like a waterfall)
  • A percussion instrument called a mark tree is used at various points during the piece. See if you can hear when it is being played.
25 Bar Mark Tree by Gear4music: Amazon.co.uk: Musical Instruments
A mark tree

Daily listening Wednesday 8th July

Mary O’Brien (1939 – 1999), professionally known as Dusty Springfield, was an English pop singer and record producer. Her career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s and at her peak, she was one of the most successful British female performers, famous for her distinctive mezzo-soprano sound.

I'm making a chart to show vocal ranges and would love some ...

Today’s song, “Son of a Preacher Man” is a song written and composed by American songwriters John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins. Springfield recorded the song in September 1968 for her album Dusty in Memphis.

As a fan of US soul music, she brought many little-known soul singers to the attention of a wider UK record-buying audience. Since her death, Springfield has been widely commended as the leading British soul singer of the twentieth century. She is remembered as an icon of the Swinging Sixties, and her album Dusty in Memphis is recognised as a pop-R&B masterpiece.

Dusty Springfield Takes The Reigns Of Blue-Eyed Soul

Daily listening Tuesday 7th July

Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (1685 –1757) was an Italian composer from the Baroque period although his music was influential in the development of the Classical style too.

Listen out for this piece’s bell-like quality from the outset and the use of ornaments. Music from this time often featured long flowing melodic lines using ornamentation (decorative notes such as trills and turns).

Harpsichord - Wikipedia
This piece was originally composed for the harpsichord. The harpsichord is a keyboard instrument in which the strings are plucked, rather than hit with a hammer (which is the mechanism for the piano, a more recent development). The distinctive sound of the harpsichord creates an almost immediate association with the Baroque era.

Daily listening Monday 6th July

Baker Street” is a song written and recorded by Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty. It was released as a single in 1978.

The song features a prominent eight-bar alto saxophone riff played as a break between verses. A riff is a short, repeated melodic pattern, often forming the background to a solo or vocal line. 

The Mystery Behind Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street' - The Atlantic
Raphael Ravenscroft ( 1954 – 2014) was a British musician, composer and author. He is best known for playing the saxophone on “Baker Street”.

The sax riff led to what became known as “the ‘Baker Street’ phenomenon”, a resurgence in the sales of saxophones and their use in mainstream pop music and television advertising.

Daily listening Sunday 5th July

Georgs Pelēcis (born 1947) is a Latvian composer and musicologist. A musicologist is a person who studies musicology (the history, theory and science of music).

Today’s piece is Concertino bianco (literally ‘Little White Concerto’). It’s name reflects its key signature. It is in the key of C major which means that the piece is played on all white notes as there are no sharps or flats.

Daily listening Saturday 4th July

Louise Farrenc ( 1804 – 1875) was a French composer, virtuoso pianist and teacher. She studied piano from a young age, and after becoming interested in composing she applied for the prestigious Paris Conservatory, aged 15. She became one of a handful of 19th century women who enjoyed success during their time, rising to prominence in the male dominated world of 19th century music by virtue of her talent and her family’s encouragement and support.

Despite not having the popular profile or pay of her male composer counterparts, Louise Farrenc never gave up writing music. She often protested to the authorities, trying to gain equality for nearly a decade. Louise eventually won her battle for equal pay. In 1842 she became the only woman to be appointed to the position of professor at the Paris Conservatory in the 19th century – the only such appointment for a woman for the entire 19th century. 

In 1840, she wrote the All Things Considered theme: Louise Farrenc ...

In 1830, Farrenc produced an important collection of 30 etudes for solo piano. An etude is a short musical composition, typically for one instrument, designed as an exercise to improve the technique or demonstrate the skill of the player. Farrenc wrote these etudes in all the major and minor key signatures. Key signatures show the key in which the music has been written. The choice of key signature sets the tone for a piece of music.