Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Symphony Saturday

OK, we really fell off the wagon here, didn’t we? So let’s get back into it with a two-week look at a couple of Alexander Glazunov’s eight symphonies.

I must confess a great lack of familiarity with Glazunov’s work. He seems to be one of those composers who lingers at the edges of the standard repertoire. For whatever reason, he hasn’t broken through into the first tier of composers, but neither has he lapsed into obscurity, either. From what little I’ve heard, his work tends to be right up my alley, with its scope and its lyricism. He seems to be somewhere between Tchaikovsky’s songs of sorrow and Borodin’s love of epic grandeur. Glazunov bridged the end of Russian Romanticism and the beginnings of Russian Modernism, and thus he seems to be roughly analogous to Sergei Rachmaninov.

This is Glazunov’s Fifth Symphony. I’ve played it several times over the last few weeks, and I find myself responding more and more to it. It has all the heartfelt singing and Russian brooding that you would expect and wish for from a Russian symphony written in the post-Tchaikovsky era, as well as an almost frothy confection in the scherzo movement that sounds almost like a children’s dance.

Here is Glazunov’s Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major.

Next week: Glazunov's 7th.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Bad Joke Friday (the Kinda Clever Joke edition)

It's still Friday! And this one is actually not bad, in my opinion. And yes, it's a wee bit political.

Steve Jobs would have made a better president than Donald Trump.

But that’s a silly comparison, really.

It’s like comparing apples with oranges.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Something for Thursday

I don't recall if I've posted this before, but it's an interesting piece nonetheless: the Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra by Alexandra Pakhmutova.

The repertoire for solo trumpet is pretty rich prior to, say, 1750, and then aside from the concertos of Haydn and Hummel it dries up spectacularly until the 20th century, when suddenly composers left and right were featuring the instrument. That's a shame, because it would have been wonderful to hear what some of the Romantic masters might have done with the instrument as a soloist. How great would a Dvorak Trumpet Concerto be! Alas.

Pakhmutova is a former Soviet composer whose work was well enough known in the USSR that she became Leonid Brezhnev's favorite composer, which is interesting enough. Her trumpet concerto is a complex work with some folk-like rhythms that put me in mind of the more famous Trumpet Concerto by Armenian composer Alexander Arutunian, although Pakhmutova's effort is more martial in nature and its melodies don't linger in the ear like Artunian's. Nevertheless, the Pakhmutova concerto is a fascinating piece, especially for the soloist, making a number of interesting technical demands and at times requiring tremendous skill.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

The waltzes of Johann Strauss Jr. are more than just waltzes. They're much more than just dance music for an elegant age now gone by; they all contain some of the most wonderful tone painting that I know. It's impossible to hear these waltzes and not get a feel for the culture in which Strauss was raised, with its attention not just to courtly elegance but also to the pastoral nature that surrounded the sparkling city of Vienna.

Here is one of the most famous of those waltzes, Tales from the Vienna Woods.

Friday, April 21, 2017

How revealing!!!

I've revealed the full cover art for Amongst the Stars, otherwise known as The Song of Forgotten Stars, book III! It's over at ForgottenStars.net, so go have a look!

The third volume is coming soon, folks!

Bad Joke Friday

Hey, anybody know what a will is?


Come on! It's a dead giveaway!


Thursday, April 20, 2017

"It's time for the Jedi to end"

So last week the first trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi hit. Here it is!

I actually don't have a whole lot to say about it. This isn't out of any lack of excitement for the movie, although I was admittedly less thrilled than most with The Force Awakens. This trailer doesn't really do much more than it absolutely has to. It's a pretty middle-of-the-road, safe trailer, isn't it? It pretty much hits all the points that this movie needs to hit. We hear Luke Skywalker's voice, we see him doing a little bit of training Rey, and then we see some space battle stuff and some flying ships and the back of Leia's head and a brief shot of Kylo Ren. Oh, and Poe and BB-8. And Finn! Only one shot of Finn and he looks like he's still in the coma in which he ended The Force Awakens. Finn was huge in the previous film, so I wonder why there's so little of him here.

Assuming that the trailer is representative of the film, this movie has potential to end up being the most beautiful Star Wars movie yet, in terms of the visuals. There are some gorgeous shots here, my favorite being the distant shot of Rey practicing with her lightsaber on the island.

Luke is also apparently not faking his whole "depressed Jedi teacher" thing, as hinted in The Force Awakens. From what little we see or hear, Luke Skywalker sounds old, tired, and weary of the whole thing. I still don't know that I like this turn of events, and I remain convinced that surely the writers crafting this part of the story could have figured out a way to engage the emotions and have danger without undermining all the victories of the original trilogy. There's a sense here of, oh, as if Victor and Ilsa's plane at the end of Casablanca had to turn around and land again, due to engine trouble.

Also released was the first poster for The Last Jedi:

It's OK as well. Nothing earth-shaking. The lightsaber blade, with the starburst right at the pommel, is a callback to the famous Brothers Hildebrandt poster for Star Wars, way back in the day. The faces of Luke and Kylo Ren, looming over Rey, seem to indicate that they will be battling for Rey herself; she appears to be caught in the middle of these two men. This is all a lot of tea-leaf reading, I admit, but I'm not really wild about the notion of these films making us wonder if Rey will tumble to the Dark Side or stay with the Light. Again, we've seen that story before. But I could be wrong, and I'm willing to see.

I also find it fitting that Kylo Ren's face is notably smaller than Luke's, because Luke is the ultimate hero of much of Star Wars, and frankly, as a villain Kylo Ren is simply not that interesting to me. Finally, as a visual note from the poster, that starburst at the lightsaber blade's base is surrounded by a multi-ringed halo that seems suggestive to me of Captain America's shield.

So, a nice trailer and a nice poster. Red seems to be a dominant color this time out, with the red lettering of the Star Wars logo and the red background in the poster and even the planet in the trailer whose soil seems to be a red dust. Red is typically the color of the Sith lightsabers, so...well, again, we'll see.

Meantime, we're two weeks out from Guardians of the Galaxy v. 2....

Something for Thursday

One of my favorite piano concertos: Mozart, No. 22 in E-flat, K 482. It's very nearly perfect, so 'nuff said!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dogs and cats, living together -- MASS HYSTERIA!!!

Generally, Cane gets along pretty well with our two cats, Lester and Julio. Julio will actually walk up to Cane and head-butt him, where Lester's relationship with Cane has a little "sibling rivalry" thing going on.

Well, here's what happened tonight when Cane reached out and touched Lester.

Lester finds displeasure in the dee-oh-gee's touch. The dee-oh-gee, however, thinks that this is some fun shit. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #greyhound #Lester #catsofinstagram

Note that Cane is enjoying the hell out of this, and Lester is...not.

Angry kitteh is angry. #Lester #catsofinstagram

Poor Lester.

He stuck it out, though. When a cat doesn't want to leave the warm space they've found, it takes a lot more than a mischievous greyhound touching their butt to get them to move. Eventually, though, Lester put his ears back, said "Eff this", and ran upstairs.

Such is life at Casa Jaquandor!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tone Poem Tuesday

Some years ago I wrote about the Oliver Stone movie Nixon, which is a sort of companion piece to his JFK. As in the earlier film, John Williams provided the score, and it's an underrated standout in his long parade of amazing works. The opening track on the CD is, in my mind, a brilliant film music tone poem, called "The 1960s: The Turbulent Years". There are brief moments of lyrical optimism, but they are shot through with moments of militaristic menace.

Williams's score for the film highlights Stone's mood of inward-looking paranoia that dominates the film, and it accentuates the central tragedy that Nixon might well be the quintessential political figure for America in the last half of the 20th century. It's a brilliant score, and this track shows why.