►Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker for Guitar 4tet

Don’t know if I mentioned it yet, I’m finishing university, and tomorrow is one of the last exams. It’s a test in ensemble music, I’m part of a guitar quartet, and one of the pieces we’re playing is the Waltz of the Flowers from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker.

The arrangement for 4 guitars is made by The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, one of the best guitar quartets in the world, and I’d like to show you their brilliant recording. We can only dream of getting close to that…

 

And to complete this post, here’s the original for orchestra. I don’t post one of the videos with ballet, because I looked hard but couldn’t find any decent recording regarding the audio (be it quality of interpretation). But you can easily look that up yourself, it’s beautiful to see, obviously. I post two recordings, I like both, but interpretation is quite different. You can comment which you like best :)

 

►The Alternative Music Lounge: Rabih Abou Khalil

Today’s chapter of this series is about a very eclectic and quite unique musician, his name is Rabih Abou Khalil.

Born in Lebanon, but having moved to Germany in 1978 because of the civil war, he early started his music studies, becoming a virtuoso on his main instrument, the oud (string instrument having common origins with the lute – read more here).

 

An oud
An oud (Author of photo: Viken Najarian)

Probably the best term to describe the style of Khalil’s music could be “World Jazz”, as he combines traditional arabic music with jazz, rock and classical music.

Having released several albums with different projects and colaborations, his original compositions feature a wide spectrum of styles, instrumentations and genres.

Along his career he ranged from an album with mostly arabic music, over two projects more oriented to jazz (one with Sonny Fortune and the other with Charlie Mariano and Kenny Wheeler), a lineup of string quartet, oud, tuba and frame drums producing the album called Arabian Waltz, an exotic project called Morton’s Foot (combining european and easter traditions, including tibetan throat singing) to his most recent project, consisting of a trio (oud, piano and drums), with the original name Journey to the Centre of an Egg.

For a more complete biography, read this.

Let’s listen to some of his music:

Ma Muse m’amuse (from CD The Cactus of Knowledge)

 

Live at Jazz Club 1990

 

Sahara!

 


About this series:

One of the ideas I have for this blog is to start periodic post series about a few interesting topics. Like one post a week or a month, about the same topic but always bringing you new (or classic but little known) musical discoveries.
This series that I gave the name “The Alternative Music Lounge” is about presenting you bands and projects that I like a lot or respect much because of the quality of their music although they haven’t made it into the so called “main stream” and therefore probably will remain unknown for many people.
Whatever might be the reasons for this (sometimes their creations are just too good, too unique, lacking any “commercial characteristics”, othertimes it’s just another case of being disregarded by the music industry, we all know what’s usual to happen…), I think the’re more people out there who might like their music but just didn’t have a chance to discover it yet, so I hope these publications of mine might be helpful.
By the way, if you’re a musician and think I might like your music and would like to propose your creations for being featured in a post of this series, you’re welcome to comment this post or any other future post of this series, stating your project’s name, a link to where I can listen to some tracks and a way to contact you.
I promise to try and listen to everyone’s tracks and respond, even if I happen to not accept the proposal.

►Introducing three portuguese composers

This time I’d like to introduce to you three of the most interesting portuguese composers of the beginning of the twentieth century.

Francisco de Lacerda

He was born in 1869 in a small village on São Jorge Island, Azores. He had his first music lessons with his father. When he moved to continental Portugal, for a  brief time he started to study medicine but then abandoned the idea and went to Lisbon, to study piano and composition at the Conservatório Nacional with José Vieira, Freitas Gazul and Frederico Guimarães.

In 1891 he started his career as piano teacher at the same institute, but four years later he left for Paris where he stayed for a few years. He studied at the Conservatoire National with Émile Pessard, Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray, Charles-Marie Widor and Henri Libert, continuing his studies in 1897 at the famous Schola Cantorum with Vincent d’Indy and Alexandre Guilmant.

In these years he had contact with many important people, among others Claude Debussy, which for sure also helped to amplify his interest for symbolistic music, as which can be classified a significant part of his compositions.

He became interested in orchestral direction, starting his career as maestro of the orchestra of the Casino de La Baule.

Four years later he became maestro of the orchestra of Montreux, having also initiated the orchestra of Nantes and directed the orchestra of Marseilles. He often insisted on directing interesting, very new or little known works and composers.

In 1913 he returns to Azores, and 1921 he moved to Lisbon again, where he focused on composing but also direction, funding the Filarmonia de Lisboa, an orchestra that had great ambitions but didn’t last, although it might have had a brilliant success with him as their leader if there only had been more financial support.

Frustrated with the whole situation, he left his country again, continuing his compositions but also to direct orchestras of Marseille, Nantes, Paris and Toulouse.

In 1928 he had to suspend his career due to his deteriorating health, returning to Lisbon, where he dies in 1934, not being able to finish all his interesting projects.

Indeed, many of his works were meant to have several movements but only the first was concluded.

Among his greatest compositions are the following:

Ochestral

  • Épitaphe
  • Amourol
  • Pantomima
  • Dans le Clair de Lune

Voice and orchestra

  • Trovas (inspired in traditional music from Azores)

Piano

  • Trente-Six Histoires pour amuser les Enfants d’un Artiste (symbolistic influencies)

Guitar

  • Serenata a una Muerta

As always, here are some great videos of some of his works so you can hear by yourself:

Almourol

 

Épitaphe

 

Dans le clair de lune

 

Tenho tantas saudades (from Trovas)

I don’t really like the singer in the last video, but well, can’t find anything better on youtube…

 

Luís de Freitas Branco

Born in 1890 in Lisbon, Luís’ musical talent was noticed early by his family and he started to have lessons with Augusto Machado and Tomás Borba.

At the age of 15 he already had published two compositions and continued his studies with Désiré Pâque, a belgian musician who also initiates him in the theories of Vincent d’Indy. He received lessons in instrumentation from Luigi Mancinelli and continued to improve his piano playing and also the violin.

In 1908 he won the first prize of the Concurso de Música Portuguesa and at the time he already had composed several symphonic poems. Two years later he traveled to Berlin with his uncle, where he had some lessons with Humperdinck, but they don’t really satisfied him, so he continued to work with Pâque, who had moved to Berlin.

He returned to Portugal but only for one year, when he traveled again, this time to Paris, where he was introduced to Claude Debussy and received lessons in symbolistic aesthetics from Gabriel Grovlez, which certainly served as inspiration for several of Luís’ compositions, before turning into a neo-classical direction upon creation of his symphonies.

After his marriage with D. Stella de Ávila e Sousa, the whole family moved temporarily to Madeira island and he continued to compose actively.

Two years after returning to continental Portugal, in 1916, he started his teaching career at the Conservatório Nacional, eventually becoming sub-director and initiating a reformation of it, together with its director, Viana da Mota.

In 1924 he left the position of sub-director, because it didn’t leave him enough time for his compositions. He published some books about music and got several important positions at institutions related to music, but in 1939 he was suspended from all his teaching jobs due to a (unfunded) suspection by authorities of Salazar’s fascist regime.

He continued an intense activity as a composer until his death in 1955.

Some of his greatest works:

Ochestral

  • Paraísos Artificiais (first contact with symbolism)
  • Vathek (can be classified as avantgarde composition)
  • Viriato
  • 2 Suites Alentejana
  • 4 Symphonies
  • Concerto for violin and orchestra
  • Canto do Mar for soprano or tenor and orchestra

Chamber ensembles

  • 2 Sonatas for violino and piano
  • String quartet
  • Sonata for violoncello and piano
  • Theme and variations for 3 harps and string quartet

Piano

  • Mirages
  • 10 Préludes to Viana da Mota (symbolistic influences)
  • 4 Préludes to Isabel Manso
  • Arabesques

He also composed many works for voice and piano, especially inspired on poets and portuguese traditions, although he was much less inclined in that direction than Francisco de Lacerda.

His extense catalog of works also includes compositions for organ, sacred music, choir, aswell as soundtracks for cinema and theatre.

Listening suggestions:

Vathek (part 3 of 3)

 

Sonata for violoncello and piano, 1st movement

 

Paraísos Artificiais

 

Prélude III

 

Symphony no. 1, 1st movement

 

António Fragoso

He was born 1897 in Cantanhede, Portugal.

At the age of 8 he had his first piano lessons with his uncle and later with Ernesto Maia.

At the age of 16 he published his first composition, receiving overwhelming support by the audience and critics and one year later he was admitted at the Conservatório Nacional, studying harmony and piano with Marcos Garín, Tomás Borba e Luís de Freitas Branco, concluding the class of piano with disctinction and the highest grades possible.

Unfortunately, in the same year of 1918 he was one more victim of the terrible pneumonic flu epidemy, dying at the age of 21.

He still left about hundred compositions and there have been made several hommages at an international level in recognition of the quality of his work.

Some of his works:

Orchestra

  • Nocturno

Piano

  • Préludes

Voice

  • Lieder

There’s not much on youtube, but these are very nice recordings:

Prélude from Petite Suite

 

Prélude IV

 

Nocturno (piano reduction)

 

And with these beatiful compositions I conclude one more “episode” about great but not very well known composers. Suggestions for names about whom I could write the next episode are always welcome.

►The Alternative Music Lounge: Revolution Void

In the first post of this series I’d like to introduce to you a project that describes it’s music style as “nu-jazz, electro-jazz or electronic breakbeat jazz” and their name is:

Revolution Void

Having been founded by producer and jazz pianist Jonah Dempcy, their recordings also feature a number of guest musicians including among others Seamus Blake, Matthew Garrison and Lucas Pickford .

Combining electronic music with live improvisation, Jonah considers his main jazz influences to be John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, as well as contemporary artists such as Kurt Rosenwinkel and Brad Mehldau.

Six years ago, Jonah began releasing music online through the Creative Commons, beginning with the album Increase the Dosage. Since then, Revolution Void has been an active member of the online music-sharing renaissance, regularly releasing albums and singles in their entirety for free online.

That’s how I got to know them, actually, found their album available for download on a torrent site that only includes LEGAL downloads.

I immediately liked their music, right from the first listen, every single track of the album.

What I especially admire is the quality of sound, improvisation, production and the diversity and creativity of each track.

I also love the different rhythms and beats they used, while still managing to mantain some connection throughout the whole album.

So, as I suppose you’re almost at the point saying “stop talking, I want to LISTEN!”, here goes a widget with some of their tracks:

 

And to finish up this post, here’s the link to their website .

 


About this series:

One of the ideas I have for this blog is to start periodic post series about a few interesting topics. Like one post a week or a month, about the same topic but always bringing you new (or classic but little known) musical discoveries.
This series that I gave the name “The Alternative Music Lounge” is about presenting you bands and projects that I like a lot or respect much because of the quality of their music although they haven’t made it into the so called “main stream” and therefore probably will remain unknown for many people.
Whatever might be the reasons for this (sometimes their creations are just too good, too unique, lacking any “commercial characteristics”, othertimes it’s just another case of being disregarded by the music industry, we all know what’s usual to happen…), I think the’re more people out there who might like their music but just didn’t have a chance to discover it yet, so I hope these publications of mine might be helpful.
By the way, if you’re a musician and think I might like your music and would like to propose your creations for being featured in a post of this series, you’re welcome to comment this post or any other future post of this series, stating your project’s name, a link to where I can listen to some tracks and a way to contact you.
I promise to try and listen to everyone’s tracks and respond, even if I happen to not accept the proposal.