Goodnight everyone, and have a dark classical weekend!

Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of good music available. Come along and enjoy!

This week, a theme I’ve never done before.

With Halloween just around the corner we’ve got to get in the mood. But not with the traditional stuff like Monster Mash. Instead here’s a compilation of dark Halloween music. Classical Halloween music. Dark and classical. Let’s get started!

Edvard Grieg was a Norwegian composer in the 1800’s.  Among his most popular compositions is background music he wrote for the play Peer Gynt. The title character is a Norwegian peasant who falls in love with a girl but is not allowed to marry her. He runs away into the mountains but is captured by trolls who take him to their King. Peer Gynt tries to escape but is chased by the trolls and runs into the troll King but eventually gets away. He kidnaps the bride from her wedding and then abandons her in order to travel the world on other adventures.

Describing the music in a letter to a friend, Grieg wrote “it goes very slowly. It is a frightfully intractable subject, with the exception of one or two parts. And I have done something for the hall of the troll which literally I can’t bear to hear, it reeks so of cow-turds.”

John Henken, managing editor of The Los Angeles Philharmonic wrote, “That piece, ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King,’ is one of Grieg’s best known. In his review of an 1889 London performance, George Bernard Shaw called it ‘a riotous piece of weird fun,’ while also complaining that it is made up of but a single phrase, repeated over and over.”

Very true. Like Ravel’s Bolero, “In the Hall of the Mountain King” features a short, mysterious theme that gains speed and volume as it is repeated, building toward a frenetic climax. I think you’ll recognize.

Here’s the Polish Youth Symphony Orchestra, recorded at the Frederic Chopin School of Music Concert Hall in Bytom, Poland, July 8, 2015.

Pay attention to the strings that play the sounds of Peer tiptoeing and running to escape. The tiptoeing sound is an effect called pizzicato where string players pluck the strings of their instrument rather than use a bow.

Grieg is said to have put Norway on the musical map.

The Polish National Youth Orchestra is the only Polish symphony orchestra comprised of music high schools’ students. Each year, orchestra officials travel across Poland in search of the most gifted young musicians, who share the same passion. Students aged 14 – 19 acquire professional skills and universal values such as responsibility, reliance, creativity and the ability of teamwork.

Now we go more contemporary. Alexandaer Litvinovsky was born in 1962 in Minsk, Belorussia. He graduated from the Belorussian Academy of Music in 1987 and received a post graduate degree in 1991. His music is influenced by Strawinsky, but also by music from the Baroque, classical and Romantic periods, and therefore ranges from the traditional to avant-garde.

In 2001 he composed Tales of the Magic Tree (12 Pieces for String Orchestra). Here’s one of them, performed by the Metamorphose String Orchestra.

Known in France as the ‘prodigy sisters’, Camille and Julie Berthollet shot to fame as teenagers following Camille’s triumph in a television talent competition, Prodiges, in 2014. Promptly signed by Warner, Camille has since recorded a number of well-received discs with her sister which showcase their considerable flair as multi-instrumentalists: Julie is a violinist, violist and pianist, while Camille is a violinist and cellist.

Here they perform the Allegretto from Palladio by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins.

“I think it’s our responsibility to show classical music to everyone.”

“That’s what we try to do the whole time. It’s so important – to bring children and people that haven’t been to a classical concert before. And usually, they love it.”

And no. They are NOT twins.

You should recognize this next piece. I’ll not give it away except to say it was written by Charles Gounod in 1872 about a Marionette that has died in a duel. The funeral procession commences with mourners taking refreshments, before returning to the funeral march.

That’s it for this week.


Sleep well.

Have a great weekend.

You know the story of Romeo and Juliet. The two are star-crossed lovers who belong to rival families in Verona 

In Act 3 of the Shakespearean play the hot-tempered violent Tybalt stabs Mercutio in the streets of Verona. Mercutio was a friend of Romeo who, in anger, takes revenge and kills Tybalt. 

The George Enescu Philharmonic Orchestra performs.

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