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Tag Archives: classical music

Pure power: Igor Stravinsky

An inspiration to countless musicians, Igor Stravinsky is a name known throughout the world. His music is of the most intricate and complex nature, tearing up all the rules used in composing traditional classical music and groundbreaking at the time due to its atonal nature. This led to the infamous riot during the opening ballet performance of The Rite of Spring in Paris in 1913, or so the story goes.

On a personal level, I absolutely love Stravinsky and his mad compositions, joining the millions of people who are probably far more knowledgeable than myself on the subject. However, after witnessing The Rite of Spring at the Royal Opera House last Wednesday, I feel the need to share the excerpts of Stravinsky’s music that have had a profound effect on me.

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In terms of raw power and a wonderful feeling of dread, Dance Of The Young Girls (Section 2, Part 1) from The Rite Of Spring is on a plateau all of its own. The accentuated stabs throughout the piece can not fail to force your spine into a state of rigidity, building up the terror incessantly and reaching a pinnacle from 2.09 onwards. The layering of instruments is beautiful, twisting woodwind lines contrasted with the urgently rising and falling strings. The crescendo comes to a head with The Mock Abduction (Section 3, Part 1) at 3.11, a monstrous piece of music that assaults all of the senses. It is truly magnificent and petrifying.

The Rite Of Spring’s importance in cultural significance is huge, as is Stravisnky’s music in general. It forced people to reconsider what music could mean, how it should sound and inspired composers and musicians to alter or experiment with their technique.

A final, tiny excerpt that has always stuck in my mind is a certain passage from Chez Petrushka, lifted from the ballet Petrushka. Between 0.46 and 1.00, the choice of note and lightning speed with which it is executed places me into a happy and delighted stupor.

I’m stating the obvious here, but Igor Stravinsky was a momentous force to be reckoned with. Enjoy it.

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Vladimir Horowitz – master of the ivories

Vladimir Horowtiz is a god amongst men in the piano world – a tinkler of the ivories like no other.

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In particular, I am a huge fan of his nimble fingered renditions of Frédéric Chopin’s work. There is no question of virtuosity, it is plain for all to see.

My personal favourite, Chopin’s Polonaise in A-Flat Major, Op. 53 is a piece of grand proportions and is suitably majestic in the tone and style that Horowitz coaxs out of his piano. Dipping and diving between soft, intricate passages and booming chords, it is a tour de force.

Horowitz’s take on Islamey by Mila Balakirev is a frantic jaunt of devilish talent, with a dark and quiet interlude from 2.00 before rising up the registers again. It is also worth hearing the orchestral version as a point of comparison, played here by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra.

Finally, ending on another Chopin piece, Etude in G-Flat Major, Op. 10, No. 5, ‘Black Key’ is a clear, live demonstration of the ease at which Horowitz plays his instrument. At just over a minute and a half in length, it is a cascading melody that is joyfully brought to life by Horowitz.