Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Quest For Knowledge

The college experience has been enjoyable so far. Granted, I've got an easy time of it with only two web based classes. Now that Art History is done, I get to focus all my attention on Issues in Music and prove how much of a musical geek I really am.

How is that?

Well, I've viewed/listened to six of the programs that comprise the lecture portion of the course. The "Issues in Music" programs were recorded in the mid 90's by the gentleman who created the course. Each week, there's two or three musical performances to compare and contrast classical composers with contemporary and current. Some focus on musical styles.

Without fail, each one has sent me trolling the Internet, in search of a work or composer that the performance reminded me of. For instance, one of the performances featured jazz artist Nat Adderly, composer of "The Work Song" (I'd been familiar with the Herb Alpert cover). While not part of the instructions for the week, I just had to compare the different performances of the song.

The other night, three songs by composer Henri Duparc were on the program. The accompanying study guide asked "What are the differences between French and German music, as described by the Duparc biography?" This question was not answered in the program, and this isn't uncommon. However, the search for the answer is enjoyable.

Anyway, I listened to the works, two piano and mezzo soprano, the third, Phidyle, mezzo, tenor and piano. Each were very evocative of Franz Schubert. The third piece sent me searching once again. You Tube to the rescue, or so I thought.

Duparc, a French composer, reminded me of works by a German, specifically Standchen (Serenade). Into the search box Schubert and Standchen went, and out came not one, but THREE works by Schubert with that name. It took a little bit of work to discover that D920 is the work I was familiar with, as the men's group in high school had performed it at festivals the year I was in ninth grade. (fantastically, I might add-I wished I had the vocal chops to do the female solo back then!)

The history of two of the works is quite interesting. Schubert had been commissioned to set a poem to music to be performed for a Fraulein Gosmar's birthday. Schubert, exclaiming how beautiful the poem was, completed Standchen D920 in three days, composing it for a Soprano soloist and male choir.

However, the student who commissioned the work had envisioned it being performed by friends of Fraulein Gosmar and asked Schubert to rewrite it all female voices. He complied, and thus Standchen D921. What is interesting is that the works are essentially the same, but the master really understood the strengths of each gender's vocal abilities. The changes made to the completed work accentuate these strengths nicely.

So, in an effort to teach about a French composer, I went on a quest to find a work by a German one-and learned a bit more in the process. Isn't that what learning is all about?

If you're curious:
D920, for Male quartet and Mezzo:





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