G. F. Handel (1685-1759)
Georg Frideric Handel was a German baroque organist, violinist, conductor, and composer who spent most of his working life in London, England. He composed more than 40 operas, oratorios, sacred music, orchestral music, chamber music, and keyboard music. Today Handel is known for works such as the oratorio Messiah, Water Music, and the Royal Fireworks Music.
Handel’s nine German arias are not from any of his 40 operas. They are Da capo arias (an A section followed by a B section which is followed by the A section one last time). This form (ABA) was a popular form of opera aria in the baroque period.
Here are the German arias by G.F. Handel. Dame Emma Kirkby is the soprano. She is accompanied by the London Baroque.
Erik Satie (1866-1925)
A French composer and pianist. Satie was part of a group of composers known as Les Six.
In Satie’s early compositions, the music is reduced down to its bare essentials, and emotion and expressivity are strictly controlled. The melody in each piece is modal. The melodic lines flow seamlessly, and there is a simple chordal accompaniment of mildly dissonant, modal chord progressions that don’t resolve. The accompaniment is straightforward (a sustained note followed by a blocked chord) and has a constant rhythm. This constant rhythm gives the pieces a static feel. The music is not divided up into measures. Satie likes to take certain motivic structures and join them together randomly with other structures. The use of modes makes the music sound archaic and at the same time very modern.
Here are the first three of Satie’s six Gnossienne. They are played by Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The Gnossienne were composed in 1890.
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) was a famous Russian pianist and composer. Lilacs was one of eleven songs that Rachmaninoff composed in 1902. That year he got married and he composed the songs to help pay for the honeymoon. In 1913 Rachmaninoff adapted the song into a solo piano piece. He recorded the piece three times. In 1920 he made a recording of the piece for Victor and also recorded it on a piano roll. In 1942 Rachaminoff recorded Lilacs for RCA.
Here is the recording of Lilacs Rachmaninoff made for RCA. Enjoy!
Georgy Catoire (1861-1926)
Georgy Catoire was a Russian composer of French descent. He studied the piano in Berlin with Klindworth. Catoire studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov and Anatol Lyadov. He was appointed as a professor to the Moscow Conservatory in 1916. Catoire composed works for piano, orchestra, and chamber music ensembles. He also wrote important books on harmony and musical form.
Here is a recording of a piece by Catoire called Elegy for violin and piano. It is played by David Oistrakh (violin) and Alexander Goldenweiser (piano).
The Quintet of the Hot Club of France
The Quintet of the Hot Club of France was a string jazz group made up of three guitars, a violin, and a bass. It was originally formed in 1934 after a series of informal backstage jam sessions. The quintet was a unique jazz group because it was made up of an interesting combination of instruments and it invented a style of jazz known as “gypsy jazz” or “hot jazz.” Over the years the quintet went through many different rhythm guitarists and bass players but the two main players (Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli) remained the same. From 1934 until the beginning of the war in 1939 the quintet made hundreds of recordings and toured Europe many times. The quintet was disbanded in 1939. In 1946 Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt teamed up together again and formed another quintet. This post-war quintet lasted from 1946 until 1948.
Here is a recording done by the Quintet of the Hot Club of France in 1937 of a jazz standard called the “Sheik of Araby.” Enjoy!