Saturday, November 21, 2015

Exploring Music: What I've Been Listening To Lately

Since I discovered I can check out CDs from the library, I've made an effort to discover new things to listen to as well as revisiting out favorites. It's been an enjoyable process, one I hope to continue! Here's some of the music I've been listening to lately.

1. The Tannahill Weavers

I wanted to explore more folk music, since I love Renaissance Faire music so much. I found this CD at the library, so I decided to check it out. I'd never heard of the Tannahill Weavers before, and it turns out they're a Scottish folk band. I love their music--it's fun, and the bagpipes give it a distinctly Scottish sound. They're a bit like an early version of Tartanic, in the best kind of way. The CD had a good mix of songs, from rousing fiddle tunes to sweet ballads, including a version of "Auld Lang Syne" sung to a different melody than I'm familiar with (but still beautiful). I'd recommend them to anyone who enjoys folk or Renaissance Faire music.

2. Beethoven's String Quartets, Op. 18

Beethoven wrote sixteen string quartets throughout his life. His first published collection of quartets were the six string quartets in his Op. 18. As a musician, I've played many Beethoven string quartets, including several of the Op. 18 pieces, but I'd never listened to a recording of all six. I found a CD collection of the complete Op. 18 quartets by the Julliard Quartet at the library. It's been years since I'd played or listened to this music, and it was great to hear them again (and discover a few I never listened to, like No. 3 and 5). Beautiful music, and considering the composer and instrumentation stays the same throughout the CD, they contain a surprising amount of variation. I'd recommend these to anyone who loves classical music.

3. Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream (Ein Sommernachtstraum)

Musicians reading this are likely surprised to see this on the list! Pieces from Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" appear so frequently on audition requirements that any professional violin or viola player has played parts of them (and listened to the music) hundreds of times. But that's the rub--I'd only ever played or listened to the audition music sections of the piece (Scherzo and Overture), never the whole thing. So when I saw the entire piece at the library, I decided it was high time I heard the rest of it. I think Mendelssohn might be one of the most underestimated classical composers (likely thanks to anit-Semitism and Wagner's vicious attacks on his music). His music can be light and sparkling, yet capture profound loss. Listening to the whole of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" gave me a greater understanding and appreciation for the audition sections, and made a piece that had because onerous enjoyable and fresh. 

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