Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977)
Charlie Chaplin was an English comedian, filmmaker, and composer. He became famous during the time of silent films. One fact about Chaplin that many people don’t know about is that he was a prolific composer. Chaplin composed most of the music that was used in his silent films. He was also the composer of the song “Smile” which was recorded by many singers including Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland, and Nat King Cole.
In 2016, violinist Philippe Quint, pianist Marta Aznavoorian, Joshua Bell, and a couple of arrangers got together. After listening to many of Chaplin’s songs, they chose 13 of his most popular songs and arranged them for violin and piano. The project took three years to come to fruition. The recording was released this year. The CD is entitled Chaplin’s Smile and features Quint and Aznavoorian on most of the tracks. Violinist Joshua Bell joins Quint and Aznavoorian on two of the tracks. Here are three selections from that recording. I hope that you enjoy this beautiful music.
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849)
Frédéric Chopin was a Polish composer and piano virtuoso of the Romantic period who lived most of his life in Paris, France. When he was a young man, he left his native Poland to go to Paris. There he met many of the important artists, writers, and musicians of his day including Felix Mendelssohn and Franz Liszt. Chopin was one of the inventors of a new style of composition for the piano with singing melodies and ornamental flourishes. His melodies are beautiful and often contain a touch of melancholy. Chopin’s compositions are mostly for the solo piano, although he also wrote a cello sonata, two piano concertos, and a piano trio.
One of the first pianists to live long enough to be recorded was Vladimir de Pachmann. Vladimir de Pachmann (1848 – 1933) was a Russian/German pianist especially known for his performances of Chopin’s music. He also had an eccentric on-stage style. He was known for making gestures, muttering, and addressing the audience during his performances (even talking during some of his recordings). Vladimir de Pachmann was one of the top pianists of the 19th century. He died in 1933 at the age of 84.
Here is a recording of de Pachmann playing Chopin’s Nocturne in B Major, Op. 32, No. 1. The recording was made when Vladimir was 78 years old. Notice how expressive and elastic the playing is. This is a complete contrast to today’s pianists who are taught to play a piece in strict tempo without slowing down or speeding up too much during a piece. Enjoy!
Jazz violinist Joe Venuti and jazz pianist Earl Hines both began their careers in the 1920s. Venuti played with great jazz musicians such as Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, and Eddie Lang (Venuti and Lang were well known for their violin/guitar duos and they had an influence on Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli). Earl Hines played for many years with Louis Armstrong and was the pianist on several of Armstrong’s early recordings. It has been said that Hines was the only musician who matched Armstrong’s skill and inventive ideas when it came to improvisation.
In 1975, Joe Venuti and Earl Hines teamed up (this was the first time they played together) to make a recording called “Hot Sonatas.” Hines was brought out of retirement to make the recording and Joe Venuti was fading into obscurity (his partner Eddie Lang died early in 1933 and Venuti drank heavily). Venuti had a comeback in the late 1960s after a 15 year lull in his career. Here are a couple of tunes from the recording called “The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else,” and “Hot Sonatas.” Enjoy!
Olivier Latry (1962-)
Olivier Latry is a famous French organist. He is the main organist at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. He also teaches organ at the Paris Conservatory of Music. Latry has played in over 40 countries across five continents. He has made many recordings on the big organ at Notre Dame Cathedral.
In January 2019, Olivier Latry recorded an album of J.S. Bach organ works on the Notre Dame Cathedral organ called “Bach to the Future.” It was the last recording done on the big organ before a fire devastated the Cathedral on April 15, 2019. The spire of the cathedral collapsed, several stained glass windows were destroyed, and the Cathedral had smoke and water damage. The big organ (about 8000 pipes, five keyboards, pedals, and 109 stops) managed to escape severe damage. There was some smoke and water that got into the organ. At the time of the fire the Cathedral was undergoing renovations.
The first organ of Notre Dame was built in 1357. A few years after the first organ was built a new one was put in. Since that time the organ has grown in size. The organ was greatly transformed by the famous organ builder Cavaille-Coll in 1868. Since that time the sound of the organ has greatly changed and the instrument has been modernized.
Here is an incredible video shot in Notre Dame Cathedral of Olivier Latry playing one of the pieces on his new album “Bach to the Future” called The Toccata and Fugue in d minor. This piece has been attributed to J.S. Bach but recent scholarship seems to refute that claim. It is one of the most well known organ pieces on the planet, perhaps the most well known piece. Enjoy the wonderful sound of this massive organ played by one of the greatest organists on the planet.
The Saxon State and University Library in the city of Dresden has a large collection of instrumental compositions that date from the first part of the 18th Century. Most of the music is in manuscript form. The collection is known as the Schrank II Collection. Most of the music in the collection (1750 manuscripts and several printed editions) is from Pisendel’s private library. Johann Pisendel was Germany’s most famous virtusos violinist, a member of the Hofkappelle court orchestra and student of Giuseppe Torelli and Antonio Vivaldi. Most of the pieces are violin concertos and sonatas. Most of the leading composers of the age are included in the collection, although the majority of them are Italian and German.
In 2017, violinist and early music specialist Robin Peter Müller and his orchestra, the La Folia Barockorchester recorded five violin concertos from the Schrank II collection on an album titled, “Rediscovered Treasures from Dresden.” Here are three selections from that recording. The composers of the concertos are not known. These music performances are full of energy and the music really sparkles. I hope that you enjoy this beautiful music.
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman is the name of a classic album of jazz ballads recorded in 1963. The recording is famous for the flawless performance of these wonderful songs as well as for the collaboration between John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman (their one and only collaboration together). John Coltrane holds back from his famous mile-a-minute wild improvisations and for the most part sticks close to the melody in his improvisations. His sax playing nicely complements Johnny’s singing. Johnny Hartman’s deep velvety voice is very soothing and expressive. The two are backed up by John Coltrane’s famous quartet (John Coltrane on sax, McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass, and Elvin Jones on drums). The recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2013.
Here are two songs from that album. “They Say It’s Wonderful” and “You Are Too Beautiful.” Sit back wth a nice glass of wine and enjoy. This recording is great for unwinding at the end of a hectic day.
Michel Corrette (1707-1795)
Michel Corrette was a composer, publisher, teacher, organist, and writer who lived and worked during most of the 18th century. He composed music in almost every genre. In his Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin Op. 25, the full range of the harpsichord is used. The violin (described as an accompanying instrument) is used to enhance the orchestral texture and dynamic nuance of the harpsichord. The instruments imitate each other and the interplay between the instruments is tight but very playful.
The Luchkow-Jarvis Duo was formed by Paul Luchkow and Michael Jarvis in 2007 to explore sonata repertoire for violin and keyboard from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods on instruments of that time. The duo used to be based in Vancouver BC, Canada, but now they are based in Victoria BC, Canada.
Here is Michel Corrette’s Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 25 for Harpsichord and Violin played by the Luchkow-Jarvis Duo. This is very joyful playful music. I hope that you enjoy it.