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On This Day – January 13

Russia, 1944. World War II is still raging, and Sergei Prokofiev is in a safe haven run by the Soviet Union. It has been 14 years since his last symphony, but his has been busy in that time. We have the famous Lieutenant Kije, Romeo and Juliet, Peter and the Wolf, the 3 War Sonatas, Cinderella and War and Peace. But Now he returns to the Symphonic form with his Symphony No. 5 in B-flat Major, Op. 100, premiered on this day in 1945.

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On This Day – January 11

Today we look at the premiere of a piece commissioned by Princess Edomnd de Polignac. Her original request was for “a piece for soloists, choir, orchestra (perhaps with Polish text) – a king of Polish requiem.” Karol Szymanowski composed his Stabat Mater, premiered on this day in 1929.

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On This Day – January 5

Today we look at a concerto that inspires humanity. Written for Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm during World War 1, it reminds us that music eats at us, and if something gets in the way of us doing it, we will find a way to do it no matter what. Ravel’s Piano Concerto in D Major for the Left Hand, premiered on this day in 1932. Continue reading On This Day – January 5

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On This Day – January 1

Welcome back to the On This Day series. We welcome the new series with a new site design, and a promise from me to have an “On This Day” post every day of the year. Today we look at one of the major works of the violin repertoire, one according to violinist Joseph Joachim that was one of the four great German violin concerti. Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D major, premiered on this day in 1879.

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On This Day… October 16

In my most recent WA Youth Orchestra concert, we performed the piece that we look at today. Our conductor talked about the special moments that we could have in our musical careers, and the Last movement of this symphony was one of them. Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique, Symphony Number 6, premiered on this day in 1893. Continue reading On This Day… October 16

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On This Day… October 15

Today we look at a piece that did a lot to introduce the magnificent instrument of the orchestra to young people. It also ended up being one of his most popular works. Benjamin Britten’s <em>The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra</em>, premiered on this day in 1946.<!–more–>

Originally written as accompanying music for a BBC documentary <em>Instruments of the Orchestra</em>, it was actually premiered on this day by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1946 (the documentary used the London Symphony Orchestra, and was premiered on the 29th of November, 1946). Britten started composing this work in mid-December, 1945, and continued writing up to midnight, New Years Eve, 1945.

The piece itself consists of a theme (from Purcell’s <em>Abdelazar</em>) and variations, with each variation introducing a new instrument, and a final fugue in which all the instruments are put together. The instruments are introduced by family – winds, strings, brass and percussion. The fugue is based on an original theme, and once every instrument has entered, the brass are used to return Purcell’s original motive.

There are two different versions, one with narration and one without. The narration was written by Britten’s friend Eric Crozier, and designed to be spoken by the conductor or a separate narrator.

Today we have a performance by the London Symphony Orchestra, with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting.

Did you like the performance? Do you prefer this, or other popular children’s pieces such as Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, or Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf? Let me know in the comments, or write a post on your own blog, linking back to this post, and I’ll add a link below.