Classical Music Stories #1: Anna Karenina (Part 5)

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At last we come to the final movement. But first, let’s indulge in a quick recap:

  1. Anna arrives by train to help mend Dolly’s and her brother’s marriage after the brother was unfaithful.
  2. Anna falls desperately in love with Vronsky.
  3. While among highbrow, sophisticated society, they try to contain their emotions.
  4. But then Anna is dying and Vronsky doesn’t matter anymore—she only wants her husband. Unfortunately for that husband, those feelings don’t last long.

So now we come to the fifth and final movement. What is Grieg going to leave us with? Continue reading

Classical Music Stories #1: Anna Karenina (Part 4)

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Holberg Suite, Op. 40: IV. Air (Andante religoso) by Edvard Grieg

Hold onto your hats, kids, because the hint of tragedy that was in the second movement is in full force now. We hear a pervasive hopelessness and what sounds like a struggle against something unchangeable (…hence the hopelessness). Plus, when the music comes back to repeat, it’s even sadder and more disillusioned, just like Anna after she gives birth to Vronsky’s child and thinks she’s dying.

(2:55) But then things become much more tender and hopeful (definitely a welcome surprise after all of this depressing music). It’s like when her husband, Alexei Alexandrovitch comes to visit her. Now that she’s sick he’s the only one Anna wants—the only one who can break her out of her own misery and self-pity (a.k.a. all the music up to this point).

(3:27) All of which leads quite Continue reading

Classical Music Stories #1: Anna Karenina (Part 2)

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First, I forgot to mention something in my last post: the way I’m describing and “interpreting” the music should be understandable by anyone and everyone.  You don’t have to know anything about classical music in order to “decode” the emotions or actions it’s communicating.  That famous quote about music being a “universal language?” Well, there’s some truth to that.

There are, however, some requirements for understanding the music, which I will go into now:

  1. Have you grown up within a Western musical culture? (Ex: Do you listen to pop or rock music? Have you ever seen a movie that used a soundtrack in the background? Have you ever watched TV or seen commercials that use music?)

Yup, that’s it.  That’s all you need.  You’ve been trained your whole life to recognize “happy” and “sad” music, and in general to connect certain types of music to certain types of feelings or actions.

Okay, time to get off my soap box and just tell you the story:

 

Holberg Suite, Op. 40: II. Sarabande (Andante) by Edvard Grieg

General Story:

The opening theme is so hopeful and beautiful (have I mentioned how much I LOVE this piece?)—it sounds like someone is daydreaming and/or in love.

(0:55) It’s not all daisies and sunshine, though. After all, if someone’s filled with hope then they Continue reading

Classical Music Stories #1: Anna Karenina (Part 1)

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I’ve dealt with this idea a little in previous posts, but now I want to address it head-on:

classical music tells a story.

It has characters and actions, plot twists and classic endings, heroes and villains.  Of course, since music is so abstract it doesn’t tell a specific story (most of the time).  But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your imagination to hear one if you want to.

I think the simplest way to think about it is to imagine that the piece you’re listening to is actually the score of a movie adaptation of a book. I know, I know, books turned into movies aren’t always the best…but here’s your chance to do it correctly inside your head. Who would the characters be? What would they be doing? You’re basically Continue reading