Tag Archives: Classical music

Briefly about a baroque genius, George Frederic Handel

When I think of Handel (1685 – 1759), there always comes to my mind his anthem ‘Zadok the Priest’ written especially for the coronation of George II of Great Britain (1683 – 1727). I like it, as it’s not very pompous but still sublime. I’m not going to analyze this work in depth, but only draw a small sketch of his artistic work.

Many people may not be aware that this German composer spent 47 years in Britain and composed for Queen Anne, and later for George I and George II. For example, he wrote the ‘Water Music’ especially for King George I so he could listen to it while he rode with his courtiers on the River Thames.

However, his life was not all roses. According to ‘About music, the most beautiful of arts’, by Boguslaw Smiechowski, Handel had problems with the courtly intrigues against him, as he was a foreigner. Also, his very serious competitor was the so-called Beggar’s Opera. Handel was even thinking about leaving Britain, but then he decided to start composing oratorios, one of them appeared to be incredibly successful – the ‘Messiah’. The oratorio is the best known for the ‘Hallelujah’ and it is said that this piece so impressed the king that stood up.

A few days ago, I presented several pieces of the above-mentioned oratorio to my 13 year old students, as I thought it would be a great prelude to this Easter season. Their reaction to this piece of art astonished me, as most of them sat listening intently to the music. So there is something timeless in this almost 300 year old music, as it can cause a child to stop for a moment in a world where almost everything is dictated by the media.


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‘Every appearance on the stage makes me happier’ – Mark Fedorov, a young gifted musician.

I never liked works by the Austrian pianist and composer Carl Czerny (1791 – 1857) and thought I would probably never like them. However, a few months ago I changed my mind as quite unintentionally I found on YouTube an engrossing performance of Czerny’s ‘Etude op. 740 no. 50.’ The performer was Mark Fedorov, a young Russian boy to my surprise. His playing astonished me with its dexterity, but first of all with its maturity. I had to satisfy my curiosity about this child prodigy, so I contacted his mum, Ekaterina Fedorova who  actually posted the aforementioned video on YouTube.  Surprisingly, she appeared to be a Doctor of Economics and an expert on oil and natural gas and her articles are regularly published in the journal ‘Oil of Russia.’  However, she graduated from music school, so as she says, that is why she can help her son in his musical education. The interview was conducted in Russian, so I hope that I managed to pass on the beauty of this language in English, and above all, what Mark and his mum have to say to people who will read this piece of work.

Hello. How are you? The first question is to a mother. Your son is only 12 years old, but his playing style is very mature. How is Mark? (Obviously, I think of his character traits).

Mark turned 13 in July. His playing style stands out for its professionalism, as he studies at a special school at the conservatory with high quality teachers and is serious about his music lessons. He is a cheerful and sociable boy by nature, very inquisitive and friendly.

Mark, when did your passion for music start? Do you remember your first concert, contact with the audience and the first impressions?

When I was three years old, grandma brought us mother’s old piano. I started to pick up the melodies of Mozart and Bach. My parents took me to art school which I attended for about a year. Teachers of the piano and of the solfège, advised me to go to the Central Special Music School at Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov’s Saint Petersburg State Conservatory where I have been studying since 2004 in a class led by Vladimir Vladimirovich Suslov. I have had my first concert already in the art school, and I really remember it with affection. Among the spectators there were many children and I did not expect that I would be listened to so carefully. I managed to convey my emotions to the audience and after the concert different people approached me with congratulations and joy on their faces. Since then, every appearance on stage makes me happier.

Has Mark taken part in piano competitions?

Mark has participated in several competitions. He has a diploma from the 5th international competition’ Young Pianists. Dedication to Franz Liszt’ (Moscow, 15-21 November 2008) and from the 8th International Competition for Young Pianists dedicated to works by Chopin (Narva, Estonia, 31 January – February 7, 2010). He was the first prize winner of the International festival of arts ’Vivat talent!’ – ‘Petersburg’s Spring – 2010’, and winner of  Alphathe international contest-festival ‘Wreath of Chopin’ (Novgorod, October 2010).

Mark, is there competition among your peers?

I can see my growth in music not in terms of competition with my peers in the training for some individual items, but through the expression of the individuality of my interpretations. Perhaps, this approach sets me apart from the competition.

Yekaterina, how do you support your son in his fight?

Professional music education does not seem to us like a fight. It is daily hard work, aimed at high results, as in any profession.

Mark, what do you think about your own style?

It depends on the work. I change on stage without losing individuality. At school, the basis is classic pianism.

How many hours a day is Mark practicing ? How does he combine music with school?

Mark is practicing for about four hours a day, sometimes more, sometimes less. The teaching of musical and general subjects is provided in his high school, and it is very well organized to receive a full education.

Mark, who are your favourite composers and why do you admire them?

My favourite composers are Johann Sebastian Bach and Franz Liszt. Works created by Bach are timeless, seemingly designed for modern instruments, and perhaps for those that will only appear in the future. I admire Liszt for the combination of all the ‘faces’ of his pianism: brilliance, tenderness and the ability to charm the audience.

What other interests besides music does Mark have?

Strategy games, chat online, he loves to read.

Mark, what is your biggest dream?

I want people to be tolerant and seek to understand (each other). 

Yekaterina, do you think sometimes about his future?

An education in the special school suggests the next stage – the conservatory, that is why the Mark’s short-term future can be seen clearly.

Mark, how do you see your future profession: as a musician, composer, performer, or just an amateur?

At first I wanted to be a conductor. Now I am interested in pianism and would like to become a performer. I test myself by creating transcriptions of famous pieces.

Thank you very much to both of you for the conversation. I wish you much success and look forward to further videos of your performances on YouTube.



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Mozart’s timeless music.

Mozart is undoubtedly one the most famous the composers in the history of classical music, as probably there is no one in the civilized world who has never heard of him. This can be proved very easily: when you ask the average man in the street which classical composer he knows, he will probably answer, ‘Mozart’. Maybe he would not be able to give you any names of Mozart’s work or at least will mention the great Symphony no. 40 or the serenade Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Many people are familiar with this composer and his works because of the biopic ‘Amadeus’ (1984). American Film Institute ranked the film at number 53 in its 100 Years…100 Movies.

Despite of his short life (he lived only 35 years), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed over 600 music pieces and wrote in every major genre of the classical epoch. His work included: opera, symphony, piano sonata, and string quintet, string quartet and solo concert. He also wrote religious works such as masses and also dances and serenades.

 The style of Mozart’s music is very characteristic; it is balanced, clear and somehow cheerful. If we compare his work to pieces which were composed by baroque artists, we can see that his music was completely new. Precisely, in his music we can see that the heavy baroque sounds were replaced by more informal and more individual textures; however, there were not as effusive as those which came later with romanticism.

 These days his music is used in many different experiments:  surely many of as have heard about the so-called ‘Mozart effect’, a concept described by French otolaryngologist, Alfred A. Tomatis in his book’ Pourquoi Mozart?’ who believed that listening to Mozart’s music has an effect on human brains. Today it is thought that listening to his music might improve both children’s’ and adults’ health. It might also help with many physical and psychological disorders such as stress, problems with sleeping, depression and different fears. Moreover, Mozart’s music is used in treating ADHD, ADD, autism and dyslexia.

Israeli scientists proved that prematurely born children who listened to Mozart’s music, put out on weight more quickly and were stronger than their peers. Furthermore, Amadeus’s music is used to develop intelligence, imagination and creativity and is applied to improve concentration or effectiveness in work.

It looks like Mozart’s music has been reduced merely to an applied art. However, this does not change the fact that it is immortal and will always be the work, that defines the canon of beauty.


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Tribute to Friedrich Gulda


Sometimes, when we go into someone’s creative activity which is unique in our minds, we wish to meet him in person or at least to see him somewhere giving his performance. I wish I could see one of Friedrich Gulda’s concerts. Unfortunately, he died ten years ago; unfortunately I only discovered him on youtube this year.

I remember it was quite accidental; I found Mozart’s Concerto 20 in d and just listened to the music without watching the clip. It sounded very skilful and I would be lying if I said that it didn’t charm me. Later I casually played the clip again and realized what was going on there. Anyway, if I had a set of false teeth they would have fallen out; I saw a crazily dressed man in a little yellow hat and black jumper. He was also wearing a talisman which was rather unrecognisable for me. It was Friedrich Gulda (1930-2000), the Austrian pianist. But it wasn’t his unconventional clothes that absorbed my attention; it was his performing – he was conducting the orchestra and at the same time playing the concert on the main instrument, the piano. In some moments he was playing with his right hand while conducting with his left hand. He played and conducted with all of his body; he was immersing himself in the music and sailing in his own expanse. I have never seen such an astonishing performance in my life.

There are not many online sources concerning Friedrich Gulda. Obviously, a quite extensive article about his life and his works of art can be found in Wikipedia, but as we all know, this source is not very reliable. Also, there are very similar articles about this artist at http://www.allmusic.com or at http://www.bach-cantatas.com. According to these materials Gulda’s nickname was ‘terrorist pianist’, because he refused ‘to follow clothing conventions or scheduled concert programmes’.

Friedrich Gulda was popular because of his original interpretations of Bach, Chopin, Ravel or Mozart. He was also a big fan of jazz and wrote several songs which were connections between classical music and jazz; among other things, he composed Variations on The Doors’ Light My Fire.’

The artist died on January 27, 2000, on the day of the composer’s birthday he admired most– Mozart’s. I wish I could see one of Gulda’s performances. Anyway, now I’m going find his interpretation of Someday My Prince Will Come, as I really like this piece in original performance.

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Astonishing classical music

I like the BBC. I have to confess that I’m fascinated by BBC Radio 3 and its Breakfast in the morning, which is broadcast between 7.00 am and 10.00 am. However, I don’t listen to it every day, just sometimes, especially when I’m studying.

Last week, I was really busy with my writing and other things, so I thought, ‘Why not change Mozart to something else? I ‘torture’ his music almost every day’. I turned on the radio and the music I heard beat me. Actually, I couldn’t have switched on the radio at a better moment. The music that flowed from loudspeakers was such a magic stream of harmony and like a balm for my soul. And I thought with amusement about Claudius Ptolemy, a Greek erudite who lived in the first century A.D and made up a very specific definition of music. He claimed that it is just an ability to distinguish between high and low sounds. Well, in the piece I heard there were so many colours and shadows.

Today it’s difficult for me to put this experience into words. The music is not a picture, or a written piece. It is much more; it is some inner experience that anyone who doesn’t feel the beauty of music will never experience. No other art is able to influence us as much as music that moves, touches and impels us to reflection. Anyway, while listening to that Breakfast I managed to catch with my dry ear that it was contemporary music than from immemorial times. The beginning of the piece was very interesting; it was played on strings which sounded like a beehive. Later it mixed with a low sound of French horns and trumpets which dialogued with each other. All of these instruments created an atmosphere of tension, especially when the music gradually got louder and took the shape of an amazing crescendo. Suddenly that beehive underwent to a hectic dance with the trumpet in the foreground. Also, later a tambourine there was introduced. This music sounded to me somehow lively, like the connection between some rustic dance and an orchestra of amateurs. Obviously, I mean the simplicity of harmony, not the work itself. The piece ended with a decrescendo. The next movement astonished me with its melancholy, but to be honest, I did not remember as many details of it as in the first movement. To be plain, the whole thing seemed to blend together in some significant sadness. There were definitely strings, bass drum and my favourite oboes. I don’t remember the third movement at all, as I was probably too absorbed with my work then.

Later, I found out more about this wonderful work. It was The Karelia Suite, Op. 11 by Jean Sibelius (1865 – 1957), one of the most popular Finnish composers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The first movement was called ‘Intermezzo’, and my beehive and tension were actually intended by the composer to be march. The second part was called Ballade, and the third – Alla Marcia. According to some sources, the music was influenced by folk music and the history of the Karelia region, where Sibelius spent his honeymoon in 1892.

As we see, intensity of these sounds might be better understood with this little fact about the piece. Anyway, Sibelius couldn’t dress his longing and other feelings towards Karelia any better.


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