Michel Chapuis Improvisation of Prelude and Fugue

Michel Chapuis (1930 – )

Michel Chapuis is a well known French organist and pedagogue.  He studied organ with Marcel Dupre (who was one of the most famous organists of the 20th century, a fine teacher, and one of the greatest extemporizers of all time).  Michel Chapuis is renowned for his interpretations of French baroque and German baroque music.

Here is a recording of Michel Chapuis improvising a prelude and fugue in stylus phantasticus (a style of music that North German organists invented.  The music is full of sudden virtuosic flourishes and it is almost like a written out improvisation).  The prelude and fugue that Michel Chapuis is playing here is in a style similar to that of the North German organists during the baroque period.

The recording begins at 0:40.  Enjoy!


Confidencias – Ernesto Nazareth

Ernesto Nazareth (1863-1934)

A Brazilian composer who is best known for the tangos that he wrote.  Nazareth also wrote waltzes and polkas.  He worked for a time as a pianist playing for silent films.  Nazareth’s tangoes and other music is full of beautiful melodies and infectious dance rhythms.  Ernesto Nazareth’s tangoes established him as one of the most influential Brazilian composers of the 20th century.

Confidencias means Confidences.  The piece is melancholy.  The title of the piece refers to lost opportunities in life.  This particular piece is a hesitation waltz.   I decided to post this piece because I want people to know about this composer (who I think is not as well known as he should be).  I also think this piece is very beautiful.

The pianist on this recording is  Iara Behs.  She is one of the foremost pianists in Brazil.  You can buy the recording of this piece and other pieces by Nazareth on Amazon.com.  It is an excellent recording.  I have a copy of this recording and I highly recommend it.

Béla Bartók – Three Hungarian Folk Songs from Csík

Béla Bartók (1881-1945)

Béla Bartók was a Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso.  In the early part of his career as a composer, Bartók travelled with his colleague Kodály to remote villages in order to study their folk melodies.  He recorded some of the peasants in these villages singing the folk melodies native to their region.  Bartok later transcribed most of these melodies as best as he could for the piano and added harmonies to the melodies.

The Three Folk Songs from Csik  are melodies that Bartók recorded village peasants singing, and then transcribed for the piano.  I hope you enjoy them.  They are quite beautiful.

Rachmaninoff plays Tchaikovsky Lullaby Op. 16

Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

A Russian 19th century composer.   He is known today by lovers of classical music for works such as his Romeo and Juliet Overture, Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto no.1 in b flat minor, his six symphonies, the Waltz of the Flowers, and the music to the ballet Swan Lake.

Tchaikovsky wrote wonderful lyrical melodies and his music is often melancholy.

Here is a lullaby written for the piano played by the famous Russian pianist and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff (the composer’s name is sometimes spelt with a v, but he preferred to spell it with two Fs).  As a pianist, Rachmaninoff was renowned for his precision, rhythmic drive, legato (smooth playing), and the clarity of texture.  Being a composer himself, Rachmaninoff had a real knack for figuring out what the composer was trying to say in his music. He learned a piece of music by deconstructing it note by note in order to figure out the phrasing of the melody (the contour of the melody) and how the piece fit together as a whole.

Here is a recording of a Tchaikovsky Lullaby transcribed by Sergei Rachmaninoff, and played by Rachamaninoff himself.  Note that the recording quality is very good (Rachmaninoff lived from 1873-1943).  Rachmaninoff made normal recordings and also recorded piano rolls.  I think that this particular recording is a piano roll because the  sound quality is extremely good and does not contain any pops or background noise.  Enjoy!


John Dowland – In Darkness Let Me Dwell

John Dowland (1563-1626)

John Dowland was an English composer and lute virtuoso.

He wrote several books of songs for voice and lute accompaniment.  The lute accompaniment in his songs is notable for its complexity and expressiveness.

“In Darkness Let Me Dwell” is one of Dowland’s songs for voice and lute accompaniment.  The subject material is melancholy and that is typical of many of John Dowland’s songs.  It is not known who wrote the texts to Dowland’s songs.  Dowland was a master of word painting in his songs (emphasizing certain words by using dissonant harmonies, or raising and lowering the melodic line which includes leaping down to a low note or leaping up to a high note).  The song “In Darkness” dates from about 1610 and is a late composition.

Here is a recording of “In Darkness Let Me Dwell” sung by Christian Hilz, Baritone, and accompanied on the lute by Rolf Lislevand on the lute.  Listen to the beautiful melodic line and how expresive it is.  Listen to the wonderful lute accompaniment, how complex it is, and how well it fits together with the vocal line.  I chose this song for my blog because I think it is one of Dowland’s most beautiful songs in his entire output.  His music is old but does not sound dated at all.  I think it sounds quite modern compared to some of the music written during Dowland’s lifetime.

Alessandro Stradella. Chare Jesu suavissime.

Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682)

Alessandro Stradella was an Italian composer of the middle Baroque period.  He wrote operas, cantatas, oratorios, and instrumental pieces (mostly for stringed instruments and basso continuo).

Chare Jesu suavissimo (Dear Sweet Jesus) is a song to Jesus.  It is performed in this recording by contralto Gérard Lesne and the ensemble Il Seminario musicale.  I hope you enjoy this beautiful music!

John Dunstable (1380-1453) – Sancta Maria

John Dunstable (1380-1453)

John Dunstable was an English composer of polyphonic music (a style of music which consists of two or more relatively independent musical lines that sound simultaneously).  Dunstable was active as a composer from the late medieval period until the early Renaissance.  He was very well known as a composer in England and across Europe.

The motet Sancta Maria by Dunstable is full of triadic harmony (chordal harmony) and sounds quite modern for its time.  A lot of music back then was based on modes (early scales), and harmony as we now know it didn’t exist at that time.  The main musical line in the motet is taken by the Tenor voice.

Emilia’s 1st aria, Fux (Julo Ascanio)

Johann Joseph Fux (1660-1741)

Johann Joseph Fux was an Austrian composer, music theorist, organist to three emperors at the Imperial Court in Vienna, and important pedagogue during the late baroque period (1660-1741).  He is most well known as the author of a treatise on counterpoint entitled Gradus ad Parnassum.  Fux composed sacred music, instrumental pieces, oratorios, and a few operas.

Emilia’s aria is from an opera by Fux entitled Julo Ascanio.  In this recording it is sung by Radu Marian who is a “natural castrato.”  His voice did not break during puberty, so what you hear in this recording is his natural singing voice.