Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Cathedral Sparrows

The mystery bird got me thinking about the Regensburger Domspatzen which means the Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows. I believe they are the oldest children's choir in the world.

They are singing "For He Shall Give His Angels Charge Over Thee," by the great Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. That is Pope Benedict in the audience. Wow, he is a music person. He is just drinking it up!

Here they are in 1956, the Mozart 200th anniversary year, singing Mozart's "Regina Caeli."

The Regensburger Domspatzen grew more famous a few years ago because Pope Benedict's brother was for years their leader. There are the Brothers Ratzinger in the picture at the top of this post! He retired in 1994 but he was at the helm for a lot of recordings. And it was so funny, this CD of them turned up on my desk before Benedict XVI retired, and it was only when I sat down to write about it and had to get everything straight that I saw, in tiny print, that its director was Georg Ratzinger.

Good job, Georg Ratziner!

Perhaps he is directing them here, in Mozart's "Regina Coeli." This is a piece I love. It is so joyous! I get a kick out when it quotes Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Today, the funniest thing.

I am driving to church, listening to this new disc of various treatments of the "Ave Maria." This is life of a music nerd! And I come to the Gregorian chant "Ave Maria."

The chant I was listening to is the first piece in the video above. Anyway, I liked the sound of it and I think we had sung it once before at St. Anthony's, where I go to church. And I had thought it was so beautiful.

On the way to church I listened to it a bunch of times, even though after it was this Palestrina "Ave Maria" that I also loved. I thought for some reason: I should learn this Gregorian chant, I might have to sing it.

And it was funny. I mean, I wouldn't need it today, it's not as if it's May or anything. So I get to church, sure enough, it's not in the program, or whatever you would call it. At Offertory we do this hymn we often do. And at the recessional there is this Haydn hymn.

So I have my hymn book ready. But all of a sudden the friar stops, after blessing us. These are the visiting friars from Binghamton.

And he starts in on the "Ave Maria."

Did I call this or what??

Here was my payoff from listening to it all these times! Not that I could sing it that well, but still, better than if I had not been listening to it all the way to church.

The moral of the story: Learn your Gregorian chants!

You never know when you might need them!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


This morning on the way in to work I turned on the radio and came in on the middle of Beethoven's "Eroica" Variations.

I was thinking: God, I love that piece!

That fugue sounds like Bach. And that theme, it breaks your heart. That melody.

It just touches your heart as Beethoven can do.

I just found this recording of Glenn Gould playing it.

And here is part two:

Glenn Gould could not keep his mitts off anything and sometimes he wish he could, but you know what? I like that he shared my appreciation of this piece. Even thought I do think he is kind of, ahem, rough with it and he does not always bring out its beauty.

Well, at least he is not walking on eggshells. When I was a teenager I heard him playing Mozart's A minor sonata, and I remember I liked it because he didn't seem so darned careful, the way other pianists sounded. Sometimes it is nice to hear someone take chances. Mozart can take it. Beethoven can take it.

Today I just kept thinking about the "Eroica" Variations because I was just so enchanted by them all over again. I played them a few years ago. My teacher, Stephen Manes, he did a great job of guiding me through them, but he had never played them himself. I do not think he quite got why I loved them so much. But I just do.

They are superior to the "Diabelli Variations."

I am the opinionated voice crying in the wilderness!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The world's nerdiest Web log

I have found the nerdiest, most absurdly great music Weblog in the world. Next to mine, of course.

It is by a musicologist named Michael Lorenz and it has the greatest title: Musicological Trifles and Biographical Paralipomena.

I do not even know what Paralipomena are! I will have to look that up. I am guessing it is plural. We will hope for the best.


That is a picture of Michael Lorenz up above. Well, all I can think is that must be what he looks like. What he does is, he explores some highly esoteric aspect of some musician's life, and presents all kinds of proof of his research. You can click on things, say on some small scribbling Felix Mendelssohn made in the margin of his manuscript, or a Mozart family entry in the baptismal register of Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral -- and blow it up so you can study it more closely.

Nerd's dream!!

A few upcoming topics:

"Godchild of Maria Theresia Paradis." She was a pianist friend of Mozart.

"Unknown Trattner Documents." Therese von Trattner was a student of Mozart and it has been whispered, although without proof, that they were more than friends.

"Franz Wild: The Tenor Who Did Not Know When He Was Born."

There is a lengthy exploration of the background of Joseph Leitgeb, the horn player for whom Mozart wrote his great horn concertos. Lorenz mentions casually: "Although I have done more research than anyone else on  Joseph Leitgeb..." I believe it! By the way I have usually seen his name spelled Leutgeb. I am sure Lorenz deals with that.

Another irresistible essay: "A Child Named Christian Mozart."

(But what about George Mozart, Fred Mozart or Don Mozart? Huh, Mr. Lorenz? Huh? Huh?)

Here is another one: "Antonio Salieri's Early Years in Vienna." As is true in most cases there are all these maps, portraits and documents you are encouraged to blow up and study.

He should put this all together into a book. I have the perfect title: "The Ueber-Nerd's Guide To Classical Music."


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Three pianists face off

Because it is Pennario's birthday  ...

And because it is July ...

We give you Pennario, pictured above, playing Gottschalk's  "The Banjo." He begins at 7:25 in this video. Preceding him are Arthur Friedheim, on an old piano roll, and Eugene List.

Pennario's two albums of the piano music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk are not is prime legacy but they are wonderful and fun and tremendously virtuosic. Angel Records issued the first one, "The Union," in 1976 for the American Bicentennial.

If you look on the YouTube site and see the comments you will see my tendency to "get into it" over Pennario. I cannot see why some other nerds who post comments put Eugene List's version, or Arthur Friedheim's version, over his. For the life of me I cannot hear what they mean. I have tried and tried.

Pennario's virtuosity and jaunty joie de vivre, so perfect for Gottschalk.

The other two sound labored in comparison.

They are clearly sweating.

Anyway, I get into it over stuff like this sometimes when I should be working on my book.

It is an occupational hazard!