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Obscure Music Mondays

  • Obscure Music Monday: Boulanger's Vieille Prière Bouddhique

    Marie-Juliette Olga "Lili" Boulanger (Aug. 21, 1893 - March 15, 1918) was a French composer, and  the younger sister of the famed composition teacher/composer Nadia Boulanger. Born in Paris, Lili Boulanger was a child prodigy; at the age of two, it was discovered that she had perfect pitch. Her parents, both musicians, encouraged her musical education, and she would accompany her sister Nadia to classes at the Paris Conservatory, studying music theory and organ. Her sister Nadia was one of her teachers, and later on studied with Paul Vidal, George Caussade, and Gabriel Faure, who was particularly impressed by her abilities. Lili would go on to win the Prix de Rome at the age of 19; she was the first woman to ever win the composition prize. Tragically, she died at the young age of 24. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Bantock's Hamabdil

    Sir Granville Ransome Bantock (Aug. 7, 1868 - Oct. 16, 1946) was a British composer and conductor, born in London. His parents hoped he would enter the Indian Civil Service, but poor health would prevent him from that. He turned to chemical engineering, but around 20 years old, he started looking at musical manuscripts. His first teacher was at Trinity College of Music, and in 1888 he entered the Royal Academy of Music, studying with Frederick Corder. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Chaminade's Avril s'éveille

    Cécile Louise Stéphanie Chaminade (Aug. 8, 1857 - April 13, 1944) was a French pianist and composer. Her first teacher was her mother, and she also took violin and compositions; sadly her father disapproved. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Beach's Hermit Thrush At Eve

    Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (Sept. 5, 1867 - December 27, 1944) was an American composer and pianist.  Extremely gifted from a young age, Beach's talents seemed to run in the family, with various members playing instruments or singing, and showing great aptitude for music.

    Beach was exceptionally talented, having learned 40 songs around the age of one, and at two she was able to sing counter melodies. She taught herself to read at three, and composed some piano waltzes at age four. She began formal lessons with her mother at six, and was soon giving public recitals and performing her own music.  In 1875, her family moved from New Hampshire to Chelsea, Massachusetts, and instead of enrolling their talented daughter in a European conservatory, they chose to keep her training local. She studied piano along with harmony and counterpoint, but her thirst for knowledge was formidable. She did additional work on her own time outside of her studies. Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Boulanger's Hymne au Soleil

    Marie-Juliette Olga "Lili" Boulanger (Aug. 21, 1893 - March 15, 1918) was a French composer, and  the younger sister of the famed composition teacher/composer Nadia Boulanger. Born in Paris, Lili Boulanger was a child prodigy; at the age of two, it was discovered that she had perfect pitch. Her parents, both musicians, encouraged her musical education, and she would accompany her sister Nadia to classes at the Paris Conservatory, studying music theory and organ. Her sister Nadia was one of her teachers, and later on studied with Paul Vidal, George Caussade, and Gabriel Faure, who was particularly impressed by her abilities. Lili would go on to win the Prix de Rome at the age of 19; she was the first woman to ever win the composition prize. Tragically, she died at the young age of 24.

    Much of Boulanger's output was choral, including Hymne au Soleil This work for mixed choir, solo alto, and piano is around five minutes, and is beautifully intense. The work starts out with the piano playing quarter notes in each measure, adding on to each chord, before the choir comes in with an ascending line that reaches a peak, with the text praising and adoring the sun. After a long 6/4 section, it goes in to 3/4, and then the solo alto sings briefly in the 4/4/ section. This work is highly impressionistic, and the way Boulanger writes the chorus' ascending line is akin to the rising of the sun. It's a stunningly intriguing work!

    Here are some recordings of this wonderful work for you to enjoy!

    Orpheus Vokalensemble
    Philharmonia Chor Stuttgart

  • Obscure Music Monday: Amalia's Divertimento

    Anna Amalia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (Oct. 24, 1739 - April 10, 1807) was a German princess and composer. As a patron of art and literature, she transformed her court in to an influential cultural center in Germany.  Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Burleigh's Deep River

    Henry Thacker "Harry" Burleigh (Dec. 2, 1866 - Sept. 12, 1949) was an African-American composer, arranger, and baritone born in Erie, Pennsylvania. Burleigh is well known for introducing spirituals and folk songs to classically trained singers, in more classically arranged versions for them. He grew up hearing spirituals and slave songs from his grandfather, who suffered the deep injustice of slavery himself (he was eventually granted freedom, by buying his, and his mother's way out of slavery).  Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Dett's In the Bottoms

    Robert Nathaniel Dett  (Oct. 11, 1882 - Oct. 2, 1943) was a composer, pianist, organist, and professor of music. Born in Ontario, Canada, he showed interest in music at a young age, and began piano lessons at five years old. The family moved to New York around the time Dett was ten years old, and a few years later he was playing piano for his church. He would later on study at the Oliver Willis Halstead Conservatory of Music, and continued studying piano at the Lockport Conservatory, before eventually attend the Curtis Institute of Music. At Curtis, Dett was introduced to the idea of using spirituals in classical music, like in the music of Antonin Dvorak. The music Dett heard reminded him of spirituals he'd learned from his grandmother, and he'd later on integrate folksongs and spirituals in to his music.   Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Wiggins' Water in the Moonlight

    Thomas "Blind Tom" Wiggins (May 25, 1849 - June 14, 1908) was an African-American musical prodigy on the piano. Born on a plantation in Georgia, he was sold, along with his parents, in to slavery. Because he was blind, his owner, James Bethune, originally wanted to kill him, as he couldn't do much of the work he demanded slaves do, but eventually decided to let him play and explore the plantation he was on.  Continue reading

  • Obscure Music Monday: Coleridge-Taylor's Ballade, Op. 73

    Samuel Colderidge-Taylor (Aug. 15, 1875 - Sept. 1, 1912) was born in London, England, to Alice Hare Martin, an English woman, and Dr. Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, from Sierre Leone. They were not married, and Daniel Taylor returned to Africa before 1875, not even knowing he had a son. Martin named her son after the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and was raised in Croydon, Surrey by his mother, and her father. Coleridge-Taylor studied violin at the Royal College of Music, and was later on appointed a professor at the Crystal Palace School of Music, and conducted the orchestra at the Croyden Conservatory.  Coleridge-Taylor found success at the Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester and Worcester; he was recommended by Edward Elgar, who heard rave reviews about Coleridge-Taylor from noted music critic and editor August Jaeger. He had much success during his time, and his interest in African-American culture brought him to the States on several occasions where his success continued. He made such an impression that he was invited to the White House by Theodore Roosevelt.  Continue reading

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