Sharing the Music of Days gone by...

Because it makes us smile..... April 12 2015

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a concert of the Borodin Quartet in the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. What a treat! On the program were quartets of Borodin, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. The performance lived up to the expectations of the spoiled concert audience of the Dutch capital.

From the audience bravo’s sounded and the Quartet was kind enough to play a delicate encore. They chose an arrangement by Rostislav Dubinsky of Sweet Dreams from Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album. Rostislav Dubinsky was one of the founding fathers of the Borodin Quartet in 1945, playing the first violin until 1970 when he left the Soviet Union and defected to the West.

One of the things that I like about the Borodin Quartet – apart from their (nearly) unmatched musicality – is their subdued movements on stage while preforming. In fact, Ruban Aharonian, who plays the first violin, hardly seems to move at all. Exaggerated swishes and tormented faces are foreign to the Borodin Quartet. Where other musicians sometimes dish up a theatrical performance that forces you to close your eyes in order to concentrate on the music, the Borodin Quartet was – as my companion stated with a good sense of understatement – quite sparse with their body language. Fortunately so!

At one moment however, the stoic face of Aharonian did show a faint smile. It was during the performance of Sweet Dreams, a salon music-like piece, delicate with tasteful delays and an immersive nostalgic melody. On stage there was only the joy of playing. The joy I recognise so well when my (humble) string quartet plays a newly arranged piece by my friend Arjan van der Boom.

And that, my friends, is the power of music. To paint a smile on even one of the most stoic faces I know, the face of Ruban Aharonian. The power of Salon Music.

 


Christmas Season is here! December 07 2014

The Christmas season is here and we’re getting into the right spirit. We added several beautiful arrangements of Christmas music that originate from more than a century ago.

For instance: everybody knows Jingle Bells, but did you realize that this popular song was composed more than 150 years ago by a whaler named James Lord Piermond? We didn’t. Or take Miss Fogarty’s Christmas Cake, a cake from hell if we are to believe the lyrics. Also nearly 140 years old (not the cake, but the song).

The chorus is as follows:

There were plums and prunes and cherries,
There were citrons and raisins and cinnamon, too
There was nutmeg, cloves and berries
And a crust that was nailed on with glue
There were caraway seeds in abundance
Such that work up a fine stomach ache
That could kill a man twice after eating a slice
Of Miss Fogarty's Christmas cake.

Christmas is the time to celebrate life together with friends or family. We can’t think of a better way to get in the spirit then to play old Christmas favorits under the Christmas tree. And stay off the cake, at least the one of Miss Fogarty.... 

Merry Christmas!

 


A Small Tribute to Louis A. Hirsch September 09 2014

A Small Tribute to Louis A. Hirsch

It always amazes me that we seem to know more of the composers who lived more than three hundred years ago than the talents that scored one after another Broadway hit at the beginning of the twentieth century.

One of those talents was New Yorker Louis A. Hirsch. After studying piano in Berlin he returned in 1906 to New York to become one of America’s best and most famous theatre composers. You might know him from The Gay White Way, Miss Innocence or The Girl and the Wizard. His first major success was Vera Violetta (1911), which made Al Jolson a star.

During World War I, Hirsch contributed songs to four editions of the revues of Florenz (Flo) Ziegfeld. Ziegfeld was Broadway impresario who staged a series of theatrical revues known as The Ziegfeld Follies, including "Sweet Kentucky Lady" and "Hello Frisco!". Here at Salonmusic.org we are working an arrangement of the latter. Another well known song of Hirsch, The Tickle Toe, is available for string quartet.

Being one of the first to recognize the hazards of smoking, Hirsch refused to sit next to a cigar smoker at the Yankee game at the Polo Grounds and changed seats with his brother. An officious usher – the ones you find in Disney World nowadays - ordered him to switch back. Hirsch refused and was forcibly ejected from the stands.

Hirsch died far too young of pneumonia at the age of 36.

Lets not forget him and enjoy his music in our time...


First encounters.... with salonmusic July 10 2014

About 30 years ago I was admitted to the Conservatory to study playing the viola. Learning to play the instrument you love  is no punishment. But now, when I look back, the best part of my studying days was playing together with the friends I made as a music student.

One day, during the festive season of Christmas, we were asked to play at a Christmas dinner. Being students (therefore in a constant lack of money), this was a welcome gig for us. So naturally, we agreed. It was then that we discovered that we didn't have the music to suit the occasion. Understandably, no one needs Shostakovich while devouring a turkey thigh...

We had to quickly find suitable music. In the corner of our local music shop there was a pile of yellowed secondhand sheet music. We bought 2 kilogram of it and went home, only to find out that none of it was immediately suitable for string quartet. So we started arranging. For hours and hours. 

On Boxing Day we played our newly arranged music. The dinner guests were thrilled. Their enthusiasm might have something to do with the wine that flowed freely, but we enjoyed it too (ok, we had a couple of glasses ourselves). Our string quartet was an ad hoc ensemble. When we were asked for the name of our string quartet, we came up with the name "Scrooge". It seemed only appropriate.

Now, 30 years later, Scrooge still exists and we still enjoy playing together. Besides the usual suspects like Mozart and Beethoven, we also enjoy playing our own arrangements; the arrangements made by Marley Music (Scrooge, Marley, get it?).

And from now on, we decided to share our music with you. For a small fee, that's true. For as musicians, our lack of money hasn't changed over the decades....