Archive for Aug, 2011

F sharp and G flat majors, & F sharp minor

F# MAJOR, G FLAT MAJOR AND
F# MINOR

Start with the short thematic statements that begin Franck’s Symphonic variations

Well, that was a very misleading introduction. I am sorry. You’d get the impression
that this Keynotes programme is about a minor key but it’s not. It’s about F
sharp major and G flat major. The problem is that those 2 keys are so involved
with the infinite that it is very difficult to cut them up into little pieces,
so I had to go to F sharp minor, which is a very quirky little key, in order to
do that. So… welcome. Please step on to my rainbow and come in

Wagner   Entrance of the Gods

You were ushered in there in G flat major courtesy of Richard Wagner – the Gods enter Valhalla on a
shining rainbow of G flat major. G flat major has 6 flats and F sharp major has
6 sharps. G flat and F sharp are the same note so they are identical keys, so
symmetrical that their mirror images are identical. Their surface is as smooth
as glass. Still waters run deep. Here is Schubert to show what I mean.

Schubert – Impromptu in G flat

The rippling contemplation of Schubert’s Impromptu in  G flat major.  That piece can also be played in G  major but it is just NOT the same. Further illustrating this almost static  quality here is a Romance by Robert Schumann. This is written in F# major.

Schumann – Romance

Schumann’s F sharp major.  A song now that encourages immobility by
using G flat major. It says,  ‘stay in  bed’. Here’s Benjamin Godard’s Berceuse.

Godard – Berceuse

The Berceuse from  Jocelyn by Godard. Clearly Frederick Chopin thought the same about these keys.
Here is his Barcarolle for piano gently rocking on the water hoping never to get to its destination. This is in F# major.

Chopin – Barcarolle

Rocking gently in Chopin’s Barcarolle. Now, what key would you sing in if you were paralysed by past losses while sitting next to deep, still – but foreign – waters? Well, F# major naturally, or so Guiseppe Verdi thought.

Verdi –Va pensiero

The chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco by Verdi. That was F sharp major. We’re going to stay with Verdi and shift into G flat major. Verdi introduces the ecstatic love duet from Otello with a group of cellos playing in this key. Two lovers under the stars
reaching for the infinite in their love.

Verdi Otello Love Duet (first 55 seconds)

When Desdemona starts to sing she shifts away from G flat major. Maybe that’s significant. But when Otello wants his kiss, he goes back to G flat. Very winning.

Verdi Love Duet Kiss (start 7′ 51″ into this recording)

An eternal kiss from Verdi’s Otello. Unfortunately, Otello didn’t look at the Key Iago sings in which is F
minor. Here’s another Love Duet – from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers.
Casilda and Luis, lost in love in F sharp major.

Sullivan There was a time

The touching There was a Time from the Gondoliers by G&S. A further example of love in G flat major can be found in Tchaikovsky’s Swan  Lake in the most famous Pas de Deux. A change of feeling now as we switch to F sharp minor. One can make deep statements in this key – take the slow movement of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata as an example – but it has a uniquely quirky side. Here are Tchaikovsky’s baby swans.

Tchaikovsky – Dance of the little swans
(SwanLake)

Tchaikovsky’s cygnets dancing with linked little wings as they always do in F sharp minor. One is not expected to take them seriously. And this mood exactly is picked up exactly by Shostakovitch in his Prelude for the piano.

Shostokovitch – Prelude (Link also includes Fugue – apparently Vladimir Ashkenzy playing)

Keith Jarrett with Shostokovitch’s quirky little F sharp minor Prelude. JS Bach’s Prelude in F sharp minor is not exactly dignified either.

JS Bach Prelude in F sharp minor.

JS Bach’s Prelude in F sharp minor played by Sviatoslav Richter. Let’s extricate ourselves from F sharp minor and get back to F sharp major and G flat major for a dip into the infinite. To do this we’ll hitch a ride on Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations. As we heard at the start of the programme, these begin in F sharp minor…..

Franck excerpt

….but, by the end, Franck has brightened up that theme and has the pianist playing cascading black notes on the piano in F sharp major.

Franck – Symphonic Variations (Start 11 minutes 23 seconds in – Myra Hess recording)

Part of Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations. In the last section the pianist spent much of the time on the black notes of the piano. That’s one of the things about F sharp major and G flat major: with so many sharps or flats the black keys of a keyboard instrument are in heavy use. Chopin wrote 2 Studies in these keys: the first is indeed called the Black Note Study because the pianist’s right hand spends most of the time on the black notes. And the second Study is known as “The Butterfly” because the way it’s written the pianist’s right hand opens and closes like a butterfly’s wings.

Chopin –Black note study

Chopin Butterfly Etude

Two G flat major Etudes or Studies by Chopin. The so-called Black Note and Butterfly Etudes.  I would be wrong not to include some Scriabin in this programme. These 2 keys incorporated or represented the infinite as far as this synaesthetic composer was concerned. Here’s the theme from the slow movement of his piano concerto. Perfect looking-beyond-the-clouds music.

Scriabin Piano Concerto 2nd movement short (Theme statement in the first 1 minute 38 seconds)

The theme from the slow movement of Alexander Scriabin’s Piano Concerto, and later in his life he produced this in F sharp major.

Scriabin – Piano Sonata No4 1 OR

[Scriabin – Poeme no 1 Op 32]

The infinite in the first movement of/ Scriabin’s Piano Sonata No4 in F sharp major. [ Wandering through an infinite universe, that was the hard-to-pin-down Poeme in F sharp major Opus 32 by Alexander Scriabin. ]

Another composer for whom F# major represented the infinite was Olivier Messiaen. To complete the spiritualisation of the key he adds the 6th note to the basic chord.

Messiaen Chord

I’m going to play the final movement of Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony. The whole apotheosis ends with a very long F sharp major chord that gets louder and louder, filling the universe. A feast for the ears as we join in the quest for the infinite. The unusual instrument you hear is an electronic one called the Ondes Martinot

Messiaen – Turangalila Symphony 10

That wonderful F sharp  major chord was created by Messiaen in the last movement of his Turangalila Symphony. Essa Pekka Salonen conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra. For our last piece we shift from F sharp major to G flat major – in other words we have no shift at all – and from one religious composer to another, though very different. This is John Rutter. We’re going to end with a  benediction in G flat major. The Lord Bless
you and Keep you, and if he keeps you in G flat major, you are very blessed.

RutterThe Lord bless you and  keep you.

I couldn’t think of a  nicer way to end a series and to end a programme. That was a G flat major composition by John Rutter called The Lord Bless you and Keep you, though I imagine you heard that.

Start the Haydn Farewell

(Over the music) Well, here we are: it’s time to say farewell. It’s been a great pleasure for me to wander through the musical
keys with you over the last 18 weeks. My thanks to FMR 101.3 for giving me time on air and support and thanks to the staff at the Wynberg Public
library who helped me find much of the music. And so, for the last time and with the help of the F sharp major ending of Haydn’s Farewell Symphony, it’s goodbye from me, Tony Westwood, and goodbye from all the musical keys (well, we missed out two – I wonder if anyone noticed?) Farewell –  from Keynotes.

Haydn Farewell Symphony ending

Characters in ‘Love in a Time of Tuberculosis’

Hans Castorp, the leading man in the musical and the novel, is described in the ‘Synopsis’ post.

His cousin Joachim Ziemssen: Discipline and duty define Joachim. He is ‘old-fashioned’. He is a wounded warrior; beauty destined for tragedy in the St Sebastian mould. He engages the audience’s sympathy, singing ‘silver age of operetta’ music in a lyric tenor range. Even when the audience learns that he is anti-intellectual and anti-Semitic (a proto-Nazi?), they regret his failure to escape the effects of his TB. The iron grip of ‘up here’ is stronger than his fealty towards Kaiser and Country. His brief resurrection at the seance adds to his tragedy.

Claudia Chauchat: Claudia is ‘other’: she is East (Chechenya) , she is ‘free from all ties that fetter the soul’, she is woman (Sweet as a peach), and she is darkness (Claudia’s Tango). To Hans, she is ‘The Beauty of the Body‘ enhanced by inflammation. He hoards her chest X-ray, his momento of his ‘night of love’ as he did the shavings from Pribislav’s pencil many years before.

Settembrini: ‘A good man at heart’ is Hans’ summary of this enthusiastic purveyor of ‘The Light of Human Reason‘. Our sympathies are with Settembrini even as his humanism is trashed in ‘The Great Debates‘ by Naphta. Hans’ rejection of his ‘wholesome advice’ feels like a son spurning his father. Settembrini is the only character still in the story as war breaks out, but has he learnt anything?

Naphta: A creature of his ‘chequered history’: Jewish refugee, an outcast accepted by the Catholic church but thwarted in his ascent of the ecclesiastic ladder, but not entirely by his TB, Settembrini tells us. His adversarial passion (Deo gratias) is fired by an anger that leads to self-destruction. Having seen him as a threat as his religion-based nihilism apparently wins all the arguments, the audience is not sorry to witness the end result of his choler.

Doctor Behrens, Dr Krokowski and Matron von Mylendonck: ‘the infernal trio’, Settembrini calls them. Ostensibly they rule the Magic Mountain. Indeed in one scene they appear as wizards and a witch (‘Walpurgis Night). But we soon learn that they cannot be taken seriously (‘A woman once came here coughing‘), and indeed no-one does, not even dutiful Joachim. But despite their glaring deficiencies and weird ideas (‘Don’t be afraid of Freud‘), Hans ‘uses their services’ in his quest.

Frau Stohr: Coarse (‘Oh how I like to cough‘), gossipy and full of malapropisms, she is surprisingly alert to what is going on ‘up here’. Despite his repugnance, Hans uses her when he wants to know more about Claudia.

Pribislav Hippe: Hero-worshipped from afar by Hans in his school days, Pribislav is linked by his eyes, his drawing pencil and his effect on ‘Young Hans‘ to Claudia.

The Inmates at the Berghof TB sanatorium: It is quite plain that for them ‘life is to be enjoyed’, as Dr Krokowski enjoins them. The Magic Mountain affords them ample scope for hedonistic enjoyment (‘Eat, drink and be merry‘) while they pay lip service to the rules of life ‘up here‘. The contrast of this with the effect of the Mountain on Hans is one of the main themes of Mann’s story. They are id where he is superego, ego and id combined into a Nietschian superman. [Really?! And you can put that on the stage? Yes!!]

Tuberculosis: Not a character as such, TB provides a constant metaphor for the state of the human condition. TB or not TB? That is the question! You can choose to be destroyed by it (the inmates and most of the characters), or look it squarely in the face and rise above it, as Hans does. Or does he? ‘Where did it get you, we enquire?

Scenes in ‘Love in a Time of Tuberculosis’

Love in a Time of Tuberculosis

A musical in 3 acts

Book, lyrics and music by

Tony Westwood

Based on ‘The Magic Mountain’ by Thomas Mann

 


 
PROLOGUE

Fanfare

In which the hero is introduced

Not very (Settembrini, Claudia, Pribislav, Joachim, Naphta)

 

ACT I

Scene 1 (Davos railway station)

Hans is met at the station by Joachim

Up here (Joachim)

 

Scene 2 (Berghof exterior) A few minutes later

First experiences at the sanatorium. He meets Settembrini

Doctor’s orders (Chorus)

 

Entr’acte

A woman once came here coughing (5 soloists)

 

Scene 3 (Hans’ room) Immediately

Hans starts to settle in. His views on death.

The face of death (Hans)

 

Scene 4 (Dining room) Immediately

Dinner time for the patients. Claudia makes an entrance. Settembrini’s warning.

Eat, drink and be merry (Chorus)

Chechenya (Claudia and chorus)

The light of human Reason (Settembrini, chorus and audience)

 

Scene 5 (Berghof exterior)  A week later

Daily life up here. More new experiences for Hans.

 

Entr’acte

My friend and I (Soprano)

 

Scene 6 Epiphany I (Near a waterfall) Later the same day

The Magic Mountain conjures up scenes from his past. The pencil.

Hippe (Hans and Pribislav)

 

Scene 7 (Dining room transformed into lecture hall) Half an hour later

Dr Krokowski’s views on the cause of tuberculosis.

Don’t be afraid of Freud (Krokowski and chorus)

 

Scene 8 (Hans’ room) Ten days later

While preparing to leave, Hans measures his temperature

Mercurius (Hans)

 

Entr’acte

When health was mine (Soprano)

 

Scene 9 (The dining room) A few minutes later

Hans has a fever! Should he visit the doctor?

Young Hans (Soloists and chorus)

O, how I like to cough (Mrs Stohr)

 

Scene 10 (Doctors’ waiting room and surgery) The next day

A brief brush with Claudia. Joachim’s check-up – ‘just take 6 months’. Hans has TB and must remain on the Magic Mountain.

The medical sleuth (Behrens)

TB or not TB (Behrens, Krokowski, Matron, Hans, Joachim)

Up here – reprise (Principals and chorus)

 

ACT 2

PROLOGUE

Why is Thomas Mann fascinated by disease?

Disease, deformity, disability and death

Little Herr Friedemann

Death in Venice

The Black Swan

 

Scene 1 (Berghof exterior) Sunday, three weeks later

Settembrini advises his pupil. Hans’ love and Joachim’s TB are still active.

 

Entr’acte Milady Malady (Male patients)

 

Scene 2 (Settembrini and Naphta’s rooms) A few days later

A visit to Settembrini introduces an adversary.

The Great Debates (1) (Settembrini, Naphta, Hans, Joachim)

Deo gratias (Naphta)

 

Scene 3 Epiphany II (Balconies) A few months later

The fruit of Hans’ quest for answers is displayed. A vision of the beloved.

Party time (Chorus)

The facts of life: The selfish gene (Hans)

The facts of life: A brief history of time (Hans)

Party time (Reprise)

 

Scene 4 (Berghof exterior) A few months later

The arguments continue. Death. Joachim disobeys orders.

The Great Debates (2) (Settembrini, Naphta, Hans)

For Kaiser and country (Joachim)

 

Scene 5 (In exterior of curtain)

Prepare to witness a wild party

Walpurgis night (Settembrini)

 

Scene 6 (Dining room transformed for Carnival) Seven months after Hans’ arrival

The Mardi Gras Carnival. Hans breaks with Settembrini and approaches the beloved in a ‘dream’. But she will be leaving in the morning. He pours out his unique brand of love.

Don your mask! Get set! Go! (Chorus)

(Dances)

The Carnival Punch (Doctors and chorus)

Sweet as a peach (Claudia and chorus)

I believe this dream (Hans)

Claudia’s tango (Claudia)

The beauty of the body (Hans)

END OF ACT 2

 

ACT 3

PROLOGUE

What is Time?

The Whirligig of Time (Naphta and Chorus)

 

Scene 1 (Berghof exterior) Covering a number of years

Tensions rise; unease is in the air. Hans is dissatisfied. Will music ease the pain?

The great god Dumps (Chorus)

The Great Debates (3) (Settembrini, Naphta)

Here I am up a mountain (Soloists and Hans)

Been there, done that (Hans)

Valentine’s aria (recording using Joachim’s voice)

 

Scene 2 (Hans’ room) Sometime later

A call to suicide.

Valentine’s aria (continued)

Der Lindenbaum (recording)

 

Scene 3 Epiphany III (Mountain scene) Later the same day

Hans takes stock. An enlightening vision.

Betwixt and between (Hans)

Snowstorm and the ‘two-in-one’ vision

 

Scene 4 (Joachim’s room) Sometime later

Death of Joachim

Up here / For Kaiser and Country – reprise (Joachim)

 

Scene 5 (Hans’ room) Sometime later

The Séance

Valentine’s Aria – reprise (Voice of Joachim)

 

Scene 6   Sometime later

The Wheelchair Duel

 

Scene 7 (Berghof exterior) Seven year after Hans’ arrival

Life up here comes to an end

For Kaiser and Country – reprise.

 

Epilogue (A Battle field) Sometime during the 1914-18 war

We say farewell

Not very (Principals and Chorus)

Fanfare and Der Lindenbaum

THE END

 

 

Cast list for ‘Love in a Time of Tuberculosis’

Cast (in order of appearance)

Signor Ludovico Settembrini       An Italian Humanist (baritone)

Thomas Mann                           The Author (non-speaking, non-singing)

Hans Castorp                           The Hero (non-descript baritone)

Claudia Chauchat                     A patient from theCaucasus(sultry contralto)

Pribislav Hippe                         A boy from Hans’ past (German-type treble)

Joachim Ziemssen                    Lieutenant of the Prussian army (lyric tenor with a touch of the heldens)

Dr Behrens                               Chief Doctor at the Berghof (bass baritone)

Dr Krokowski                            His assistant (baritone)

Hermine Kleefeld                      A young patient with a pneumothorax (soprano)

Mrs Stohr                                 An elderly patient (messy soprano)

Miss Robinson                          A patient (soprano)

Fraulein Engelhardt                   A patient (soprano)

Hans Castorp as a child            (treble)

Adriatica von Mylendonck          The Matron (Gilbertian contralto)

Herr Naphta                              A Jewish Jesuit (baritone)

 

Non-speaking parts: Porters, Waiters, Nurses

 

Chorus of Berghof inmates.

 

Prologue to Act 2

1 soprano, 2 mezzo sopranos, 1 tenor, 1 baritone, 1 bass

Mime artists/dancers

Act 2 Scene 3 (The Selfish Gene)

Puppeteers

 

 

 

Living the life of Liza

She turned one year old this week. We had at last learnt which day her birthday was on. Liza had been found when the home she was born in was searched in a drug bust in Cape Town earlier this year. All the adults in the house were arrested. She, being ill, was brought to hospital. She was severely malnourished, showed signs of fetal alcohol syndrome, was riddled with TB and was HIV positive. Amazingly she has survived despite a number of severe hospital-acquired infections she developed owing to her extremely vulnerable health in those first few weeks. She went to a children’s home after many weeks in hospital. She could not go to her family who had neglected her abominably. The only positive contribution her mother seems to have given her is revealing Liza’s birth date to the police.

What a start to a life.

Liza – the biological by-product of drug-induced unprotected sex. We see many, many of those in Cape Town. Alcohol, heroin, tik (metamphetamine) are rife in Cape Town.

How many of her rights have been infringed since the alcohol first started passing down the umbilical artery into her developing organs?

How many of her mother’s rights were infringed when she herself was growing up?

Liza – the product of inter-generational human rights violations.

She was in hospital for her first birthday as her vulnerable gut could not resist another gastro-intestinal bug. But she smiles and plays; the anti-retroviral drugs, the food, and the love and expertise of her carers are doing wonders.

What does her future hold? We know what we have saved her from. What have we saved her for? How can we realise her rights and protect any children she may have (under more propitious circumstances, one hopes)?

The life Liza has lived may be extreme in its pathologies, but each of those pathologies makes up a significant strand in the fabric of child health in South Africa

OCTOBER 2011

Liza died in October. It is remarkable how her short life affected us in the hospital and at Nazareth House which became her home for the few weeks that she was able to stay out of hospital. She developed a bout of gastroenteritis that had her back in hospital. We were so encouraged by the fact that her HIV viral load dropped to undetectable. Surely, we felt, we can now see her through this setback. But the damage had been done. She could not come off oxygen because of what the twin HIV and TB infections had done to her lungs. Her intestines could not heal well and swelled up, being unable to cope with the most simple of feeds. She could not deal with the minor infections that came her way. Between these setbacks Liza smiled and started to use her hands. ‘She liked to use her fingers to play with my hair’, one of the nurses told me. Every nurse, every doctor, the occupational therapists and the volunteers spent time with her. Surely the positive neuro-endocrine effects of such attention and love could save her!  We really thought so. We arranged for her to have oxygen at Narareth House, but then it all went sour again. Nothing worked and one evening we made the decision that it was fruitless to try to cure this latest assault on her tiny frame. We concentrated on comfort and said our goodbyes to this ‘biological by-product’ of damaged lives. Liza was so much more than this – ask anyone who met her in the last few months, and any of the dozens of people who attended her funeral.

Someone suggested that we name a ward after Liza – to be a symbol of who we want to be: people who value child life, of whatever provenance and brevity.

 

An overview of the Keynotes programmes

KEYNOTES PROGRAMMES (as first presented in 2006)

Sundays at 7pm on Fine Music Radio

 

5th March                     Introduction and C major                Fundamentals

12th March                   F major                                             Innocent and unsophisticated

19th March                   G minor                                            Plaintive and passionate

26th March                   E flat major                                      Of heroes and kittens

2nd April                      B minor                                            Motifs and autumn leaves

9th April                       A minor                                            Scandinavian sadness

16th April                     A flat major                                      The deepest beauty

23rd April                     D flat major & C sharp minor          Inseparable

30th April                     E keys                                              Folksy and chocolatey

7th May                        B flat major                                      Beery, bibulous and brassy

14th May                      A major                                            Narcissus

21st May                      Fives and Sevens                             Orphan keys

28th May                     C minor                                            The scowling philosopher

4th June                        D major                                            The golden key

11th June                      D minor                                            Iron or irony

18th June                      G major                                            Sunny smiles and strings

25th June                      F minor                                             The toothache!

2nd July                        F sharp major & G flat major           Transcendence

 

© Tony Westwood 2005

E flat major

E flat major

Tonight one of the most easily characterisable keys, E flat major. E flat is a key for heroes (dead or alive or heroes to be); it is the key of the river Rhine; of large edifices.  But if these imposing emanations of Nature and the human spirit are the Ego (capital E as in Emperor) of E flat major, there is an alter ego – no, really and anti-ego with a small ‘e’. A skittish, playfulness like a kitten with a cotton reel. So in order to prevent listener indigestion, I shall intersperse mouthfuls of main course with light-as-air meringues.

For starters – actually there are no starters, straight into main course. To start with, let’s say – Mozart’s Magic Flute Overture. This piece has both sorts of E flat major in it: the imposing chords of the Masons which we heard at the beginning of the programme, and the skittish Birdman. Papageno.

Mozart – Magic Flute Overture

That piece started with an imposing E flat major chord. The resonances of a loud chord in E flat are used for the imposing start to a piece of music by many composers. Here are some examples. Can you name the composers of these E flat major chords?

005 E flat chords

How did you do with those chords? You should have got the first one – that was The Magic Flute overture again. The we had the first two chords from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony; then the beginning of the Rhenish Symphony by Schumann. Mozart’s 39th Symphony – the very beginning; then it was the start of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto – I’m sure you heard the piano in that one; a massive chord from 4 brass bands in Berlioz’ Requiem. Sheakily coming in were Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge over Troubled Water – I wonder if you would have got that just with the first chord – it’s so characteristic, isn’t it? Then it was the Grand March from Aida; the beginning of Mahler’s 8trh Symphony; and the Great Gate of Kiev by Mussorgsky.We’ll hear more from some of those works later – but here’s another starter.

“The scene begins in the River Rhine – IN IT”! The River Rhine flows in E flat. Ask Wagner. Ask Schumann. Wagner begins his Ring Cycle in the depths of the river – in E flat and for the first few minutes all we hear is the chord of E flat – till the 3 Rhinemaidens start carolling. Here we go……

Wagner – Introduction to Das Rheingold

Singing in the Rhine. Carolling Rhinemaidens conducted by Karajan. That was the beginning of Das Rhinegold by Richard Wagner.  Well, while Wagner starts in the murky Freudian depths of the unconscious Rhine, Robert Schumann shows us its grand, broad nature as it rolls through a proud German nation: the beginning of his Rhenish Symphony, Number 3.

Schumann – Rhenish Symphony 1st movement

The 1st movement of Robert Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony. We’ll leave the Rhine now to flow away on its own.

I wonder who started this business of E flat major being the heroic key, the imposing imperial key? I suspect it may have been Mozart as we heard in the Magic Flute Overture. Here’s further evidence that it was Mozart. The stately begninning of the 39th Symphony in E flat. Did this not perhaps call the world’s attention to E flat? See what you think.

Mozart Symphony no 39 1st movt

The 1st movement of Mozart’s 39th Symphony.

As we heard in the Magic Flute Overture and in that symphony, Mozart can be credited with giving E flat its noble character, but it was Beethoven who set the mould for all time. The Eroica Symphony, of course. The heroic human spirit; a symphony half as long again as any that had gone before. Heroic proportions, epic. And starting with 2 E flat major chords as we heard earlier.

Eroica chords

I would like to shared the whole of the 1st movement of the Eroica Symphony with you but there just isn’t time. So we’re going to listen to the last bit, the Coda, as it’s known in the trade. Here the heroic theme receives its full magnificent treatment.

Beethoven – Eroica Symphony  1st movement.

After Beethoven, as I said, it was hard to write music about heroes without invoking E flat. Witness Richard Strauss in A Hero’s Life. (His own, by the way). I won’t subject you to the whole work. Apart from the fact that I haven’t got time, I find it an irritating work. But it does have a grand opening in E flat.

R Strauss – Ein Heldenleben – opening (start 20 second in)

Yes, well I think he’s made his point. That was ‘our hero’, Richard Strauss clothing him self in E flat major in Ein Heldenleben.stra.

Elgar put his heroic hunter Nimrod in E flat, too.

Elgar – Nimrod

Nimrod, the heroic E flat major variation from the Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar. George Hurst was conducting the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

And Verdi to prove my point about heroics. The Grand March from Aida. I think I can rest my case.

Verdi – Aida – Grand March

The noble glories of Egypt.

Even Arthur Sullivan caught the E flat bug. The majestic peers pass by in E flat in Iolanthe. “Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes”. Heroes indeed!

Sullivan – Loudly let the trumpets bray, Iolanthe

Sullivan’s music for the Entrance of the Peers from Iolanthe. Music too good for its subject perhaps, but leading nicely into the less serious side of E flat major.

Here is Saint Saens in skittish mood in his second piano concerto.

Saint Saens – 2nd Piano Concerto 2nd movement

Definitely a kitten on the keys there: the 2nd movement of Saint Saens’ second Piano Concerto. I hope you enjoyed the very skittish side of E flat major.

Chopin uses E flat as a gossamer-light web spread over the piano in his Prelude.

Chopin – Prelude in E flat

Where shall we go now? Let us visit Kiev through its massive gates. The first of our imposing edifices. Composed by Mussorgsky, arranged, not by Ravel, but by Leo Funtec.

Mussorgsky –  Great Gates Of Kiev

The Great Gate oF Kiev from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. And now the stone walls of the Tower of London. Here to tell us about them (in E flat , of course) is Dame Carruthers.

Sullivan – When our gallant Norman foes

Dame Carruthers in Gibert and Sullivan’s Yeomen of the Guard.  I’m leaving the biggest musical edifices in E flat major till last. Let’s go in the meantime to our Bach fugue. The fugue has a bold subject that would sound good and heroic if played on a trombone.

Bach  F in E flat – Book 2

I think you deserve something skittish now and here’s some Mozart – very frothy. The final movement of his Piano Concerto number 22.

Mozart Piano Concerto no 22 3rd movement

Quite the most delightful piece of E flat whimsy that movement: the 3rd movement of Mozart’s 22nd Piano Concerto.

Staying with the piano, we’ve had our Chopin Prelude and our Bach Fugue – now time for some Shostokovitch. His prelude in E flat contains both the skittish and the solemn, but he skittish gets more and more sinister as the short piece goes on.

Shostokovitch –  Prelude in E flat

Shostokovitch’s prelude in E flat major.

Now we’re going to go really big:

When Hector Berlioz exploited the possibilities of E flat major, he didn’t stop with orchestral forces. He added 4 brass bands, dozens of kettle drums and a huge chorus. The sound is awesome (I use the term literally, not in the teenage American way.) This is the Dies Irae from Berlioz’ titanic Requiem.

Berlioz – Requiem

You’d think that anything after that would be an anticlimax.  That was the Dies Irae from Berlioz’ Requiem. There’s someone who can out do that.

I end the programme with some Mahler. This is the concluding Gloria section from his Symphony of a Thousand, the number 8. It can only be done in E flat as Mahler understood – his biggest choral movements are in E flat. It all ends with ‘ the sound of a great Amen’, rolling on bar after bar – one of the greatest in all music.

Mahler – 8th Symphony. End of 1st movement (Start 20 minutes 32 seconds in)

I really don’t know how to put you down gently after that.  Mahler’s 8th Symphony is like that. I suppose I’ll have leave you sitting there transfixed as I bid you farewell from Keynotes and E flat major, hoping that you will join me the next time we explore the world of the musical keys. Goodbye.

 

A New Work for the Musical Theatre

Love in a Time of Tuberculosis

by Tom Read

Seriously entertaining musical theatre!

 

‘Love in a Time of Tuberculosis’  is a work for the musical theatre based on German author Thomas Mann’s novel  ‘The Magic Mountain’


THAT GREAT, DEEP GERMAN NOVEL FOR THE MUSICAL THEATRE?! WITH SINGING AND DANCING?!

 

IMPOSSIBLE!

 

Well, it has been done – and it is entertaining! Mann entertained hopes that the novel and its welter of ideas might one day be made visual. Now it has been – using all the possibilities that musical theatre allows.

 

Imagine an evening of musical theatre from which, after two- hours of looking at some of contemporary life’s vexing questions, a satisfied audience leaves humming the tunes…..

 

‘Love in a Time of Tuberculosis’ takes an ordinary young man to a tuberculosis sanatorium in the Swiss Alps for a journey of discovery. Drawn into the sanatorium’s lazy tuberculous atmosphere, he finds his way through dreams, new and clashing ideas, love in confusing forms, and death. Or does he? TB, he finds, is not simply TB – there is no question!

 

Gently ironic throughout, its vivid characters, compelling story line and songs such as ‘Eat, drink and be merry’, ‘Don’t be afraid of Freud’ and the beautiful love song ‘I believe this dream’ make ‘Love in a Time of Tuberculosis’ seriously entertaining. “Analgesia couldn’t be easier!”

 

The composer writes:

 

Thomas Mann said that he had consciously adopted a light style in writing The Magic Mountain. (Some readers may feel that his tongue must have been in his cheek!) In writing for the musical theatre, I have adopted that light tone in dialogue, lyric and music while being true to the welter of ideas. Those ideas presented in Mann’s novel in Nobel-prize winning form in 1924 resonate today. Where Mann had TB, we now have AIDS. His hero’s quest takes him right into our post modern and post rational era. Hawking and Dawkins find their way into the mix. The clash between Religion and Western thought continues.

 

My aim has been to produce a work of musical theatre that is serious in its intent and satisfyingly entertaining in its execution.

 

Tom Read

2011

[A note on copyright: The rights to Mann’s novel have lapsed in some countries and not in others, meaning that in some countries (mostly in the southern hemisphere), the musical can be performed without permission to do so (and probable royalties to be paid) from the publishers of the novel.]

 

Synopsis with excerpts from the songs

Cast list

Characters

Outline of scenes

Pitch imperfect – introduction

I have never had perfect pitch – the ability to name a note or a chord by its musical name on hearing it played. I have been able to name a key or a note most of the time but cannot always follow rapid modulations and cannot tell where a note is if it falls between the classic semitones on the piano. I grew up with a piano that was not in pitch with the rest of the world (a quartertone flat), having been moved from Britain to southern Rhodesia across the ocean. I then learnt the clarinet which does not play the note one sees. I am also not Chinese. Mandarin Chinese being pitch-related enables young Chinese to be pitch perfect in a large proportion of cases. So that I have had pretty good (but not perfect) pitch, I consider to be a boon.

This facility certainly underpinned the nature of the Keynotes programmes on Fine Music Radio. The ‘sound’ of a key influenced most if not all the composers I included, and often determined my emotional response to a piece or a section of  a piece. ‘Keys have character’.

But now things are changing. Since I first compiled those programmes in 2006, the ‘sound of music’ is not what it was. I am losing pitch. The tendency has been for keys to sound a semitone higher than they really are. E major sounds like F major, for example, and, in so doing, it loses the character I have always known it to have. It’s like losing a friend.

I intend to chronicle aspects of this change here. Sometimes it’ll be how I feel, and sometimes what I experience, and perhaps I’ll also take a scientific approach. At what frequency does a specific key ‘switch’ in my brain?

Return top