music

A Unique Composer Has Left Us: Pierre Boulez 1926-2016

“You must not really think of reaching an audience. You must think first to express yourself.”
Pierre Boulez

I can’t say that the music of Boulez has changed my life in any significant way. I studied some of his stuff in college as a music major, and I’m sure most people don’t really care for his style, yet any time an influential figure dies it only seems right to pay some sort of tribute. If you have a few minutes, this piece by NPR should get you up to speed on one of the true greats of our time.

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When I was younger, growing up in the South Bay Area/Silicon Valley, my mom always had KDFC on, a local classical station. In the car or at home, we loved their musical variety of popular classics from Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, but also lesser known works/composers, too. And around Christmas time you couldn’t beat their selection of Canadian Brass or choral selections—”new” and old—that set the tone for the holidays. I still subscribe to their newsletter and read about the winners from their latest contest, the Monte Vista High School Chamber Singers from Danville, CA. I’d say it’s pretty clear why they were the winners. Enjoy.

The Brandenburg Concertos by J.S. Bach are among the most famous pieces of music, ever. As a trumpet player, No. 2 is up there as one of the most revered and feared pieces in the repertoire. I have never played it (nor could have, even in my heyday) and there are many great trumpet players who just don’t even attempt it. What’s interesting about this recording is that the players are playing on period instruments, so that’s why some of them may sound different, and certainly look different, from the instruments you may be more familiar with. In particular, notice the trumpet—no valves! This means all the trills are mostly done using the lips alone, and many of the note changes are made similarly to a woodwind, where you cover holes. I think this is an excellent interpretation by the Freiburger Barockorchester (Baroque Orchestra) of a truly monumental piece. Enjoy.