Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Unusual concertos 51-60: From soprano saxophone to iPad

The concerto for solo instrument(s) and orchestra is one of the most popular genres in classical music. However, I think 95+ % of all concertos have been composed for piano or violin. Previously I have run a series on concertos for less common instruments in this blog, reaching an amazing number of 100 in the end (all these posts were reset to draft end March). I will be summarizing these in ten posts in the course of the year, each covering ten unusual concertos, keeping the sequences the same as in the past.

[51] Soprano saxophone. We have encountered concertos for two other members of the saxophone family before (alto and baritone), now it is the turn for the highest-pitched instrument of the group. Its most famous use in classical music is probably Ravel's Bolero. There are a few concertos for it, though hardly any by a composer who is at least a bit known. I have selected my favourite of them, composed by Takashi Yoshimatsu. It is played by Nobuya Sugawa and the BBC Philharmonic under Yutaka Sado, available on a Chandos CD.

[52] Banjo. Originating from African-American musical heritage, the instrument is now mostly associated with American folk music. Its use in classical music is obviously limited, but banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck composed a Concerto for Banjo, which was premiered in 2011, with Fleck performing with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. As far as I know, there are no commercial recordings yet, and the reviews of the concert were not very positive - but for completion sake I include it in the list.

[53] Euphonium. This brass instrument is a regular feature in brass bands, but its use in classical music is limited, although it has been used as a substitute for Wagner tubas. There are a few concertos for it, though hardly any by a composer who is at least a bit known. I have selected one composed by David Gaines. It is played by Jiri Vydra and the Moravian Philharmonic under Vit Micka, available on an MMC CD.

[54] Harmonium. Also known as the pump organ, this instrument was widely used in smaller churches and in private homes in the 19th century, but it is not regularly seen in classical music, for the obvious reason that larger and more capable organs are at hand in concert halls and churches. I am aware of only one concerto for it, by Dutch composer Martijn Padding. It is played by Dirk Luijmes and the Asko-Schoenberg Ensemble under Etienne Siebens, available on an Etcetera CD.

[55] Paper. One of the most unlikely concertante "instruments" - a once-off experiment by the famous contemporary composer Tan Dun, and a pendant to his water concerto that I posted before here. Both can be viewed as special percussion instruments. This concerto is available on DVD only, played by Haruka Fujii and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra under Heln Elmquist.

[56] Electronic valve instrument. This instrument was developed by Neil Styner around 1975. Its main use so far has been in jazz/rock and new age recordings, but Maurice Jarre (best known for his movie soundtracks) composed a concerto for it. This is available on a BBC CD, in a performance by Neil Styner himself with the BBC Concert Orchestra under the composer.

[57] Oboe. Back to a common orchestral instrument, but still not that common in concertos, when compared to piano and violin. I have selected Bruno Maderna's second of three concertos as my example. All three are available on a Philips CD, in a performance by Heinz Holliger with the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra under Bertini.

[58] Great Highland Bagpipe. This is the instrument commonly referred to as bagpipe(s). One of the more unlikely instruments to be associated with classical music, I know of only one composer of note who used it in one of his scores: Peter Maxwell Davies in his Orkney wedding, with sunrise. We have to look to less common names to find an actual concerto for this instrument. Kevin Weed is one of them (actually the only one I found) - his 20 minutes concerto with the composer as soloist and an unnamed orchestra/conductor can be found on YouTube. Predictably perhaps, it has not reached the CD medium yet.

[59] Classical guitar. Its relatively low volume caused it to fall out of favour as concertante instrument in the romantic period, but 20th century composers have taken up the challenge once more. Most famous of all is of course Rodrigo's Concerto d'Aranjuez, but other notable composers of guitar concertos include Villa-Lobos, Hovhaness and Arnold. I have selected Malcolm Arnolds guitar concerto from 1959 as my example. The version I have is on an RCA CD, in a performance by Julian Bream with the Melos Ensemble under the composer.

[60] iPad. Surely one of the most unlikely concertante instruments. Still, composer Ned McGowan composed a substantial 25 minutes concerto for the tablet and orchestra, utilizing eight apps with graphical interfaces where one can control sound through gestures on the touchscreen (more information here). A performance of the concerto (Keiko Shichijo on the iPad with the Sinfonia Rotterdam, conducted by Conrad van Alphen) can be found on YouTube.

Copyright statement: image sourced from here, explicitly stated to be in the public domain.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Mirror rooms by Yayoi Kusama

The Mirror rooms series by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is among the best of contemporary art installations. The linked site gives a good overview of her work, now totaling 20 creations since her first in the sixties. Beautiful work, and inviting participation by the audience - practically forcing one to take selfies.

Copyright statement: image created from screenshot - all original pictures are thumbnail size and considered fair use.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Potpourri [9]

An overview of recent images that would have ended up in my parallel blog Art's Potpourri (now stopped). Clicking the icons in the left side of the table takes you to the picture on the site where I found it in a new window. The text includes a link to the site.

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Artistic Friends. Part of a series of montages, showing figures from classic paintings in modern day pop culture situations. I love their take on Friends (Amazing Stuff). First seen here.
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Politics 2016/2017. This beautiful piece of graffiti would be even more fun if it would not be so true, given what's been happening with Brexit and the US elections (Just for Fun). First seen here.
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Bohol Island Chocolate Hills. This Philippines landscape is one of the weirdest and most beautiful that I've seen - on photographs that is (Natural Beauty). First seen here.
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Akoya plane. This design by LISA airplanes is of exceptional beauty, as well as amazingly practical: it can land on water, snow, and land (Special Designs). First seen here.
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Bologna, Bologna. In the 13th century, the skyline of Bologna (over 180 towers!) must have been as impressive as that of New York seven centuries later (Amazing Stuff). First seen here.
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Movie pawsters. Nice and fun piece of photoshopping: an imgur user called lamirene photoshops his or her dog into famous movie posters (Just for Fun). First seen here.
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Banana! If this is not Photoshopped, it is one of the most stupid mistakes I've seen for quite a while. And that in an education book for children... (Mixed Nuts). First seen here.
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Antelope Canyon. The linked post in MyModernMet is well worthwhile clicking. Beautiful photographs of beautiful canyons in the USA (Natural Beauty). First seen here.

Copyright statement: image based on a photograph created by myself. Copyright Hennie Schaper.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Citrus fruit crate labels

Not the first place where you would expect beautiful vintage images: labels for citrus fruit cases. But the linked blog post in Art & Artists gives a fascinating overview, with dozens of examples dating back to the early 20th century.

Copyright statement: image in public domain.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

No glory in illness

The background story is well-known by now: just after Timmy Maechler stormed the charts with the hit Automatic and the debut album So far so good, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Two years later he has been pronounced cured, but the experience of course left a mark on his soul. His sophomore album, with its wry but appropriate title, takes us through these experiences - albeit set against similar driving beats as on his debut album. It is not an easy listen, but very rewarding.

The idea of this little game is to create an album cover for an imaginary artist/group, as well as an imaginary review, following these instructions: [1] The artist/group: go to the wiki random page generator. The first random Wikipedia article obtained this way is the name of the band or performer. In this case, I ended up with Maechler. [2] The title: go to the random quotations site. The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of the album (from 2014 onward: any part of a random quotation will do). The random quote that came up was by John Green: If you were to go [to the Rijksmuseum], and hopefully someday you will, you would see a lot of paintings of dead people. You'd see Jesus on the cross, and you'd see a dude getting stabbed in the neck, and you'd see people dying at sea and in battle and a parade of martyrs. But Not. One. Single. Cancer. Kid. Nobody biting it from the plague or smallpox or yellow fever or whatever, because there is no glory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honor in dying of. [3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Victim, can be found here on Flickr. The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Algerian 60 b3b38o and Loki Cola 70 e3e33f, respectively.

Note: this is a variation on the "Debut album game" that has been making its rounds around bulletin boards and blogs for some time now - the original version called for a random Flickr Explore photograph to be used as the cover. I have been trying to find out who had the original idea, but so far no success.

Copyright statement: image created by myself based on one of my photographs. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The top 35 female composers in classical music

Like any "top this" or "greatest that" list, the linked overview of top 35 female composers of the 20th and 21st century can be criticized for some inclusions and exclusions. All in all, I think Anne Midgette did a good job - the main name I'm missing is Bacewicz. Well worth reading and exploring with the included YouTube examples. My personal recommendations: Gubaidulina, Chin, and Saariaho.

Copyright statement: all original images are in thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

By the time I get to Phoenix (RIP Glen Campbell)

After a long struggle with Alzheimer, my favourite country singer Glen Campbell died earlier this week. In his memory, one of his best songs. Art Rock score: 8/10 (great song, I'd put it on my MP3 player).

Copyright statement: image in public domain.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Death row

Repetition always makes for strong subjects in photography, and this is a perfect example. The repeated increasingly smaller gateways, in combination with the fascinating textures on the walls, creates a stunning image. The black and white conversion is practically mandatory in cases like this. Another gem by my Flickr friend Rodolfo Anzaldua.

Copyright statement: posted with explicit permission of the creator who retains all rights.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Valley of the Santa Ysabel

Although in general my taste in paintings is more in impressionism and expressionism, there are romantic landscape painters I like very much as well. Best known examples are Constable and Turner, but Frederic Edwin Church (1826 - 1900) belongs to that group too. I came across this 1875 beauty in a piece about the Berkshire Museum, and it was love at first sight. More about Church in the linked Wikipedia article.

Copyright statement: image in public domain.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Vogue September 1921

Another masterpiece by one of the best designers of Vogue covers: Helen Dryden. Play Brahms' clarinet quintet while looking at this gem, and you have the perfect autumn experience.

Copyright statement: image in public domain.

Sunday, August 06, 2017


Another example of digital art made possible with the on-line program at the DeepArt site (blogged here). In this case, I took a photograph of a peacock in the local children's zoo, and a painting by August Macke (Couple at the garden table). The result of this digital mixing is a beautiful piece of expressionism.The link leads to the original photograph.

Copyright statement: image created via the DeepArt site from one of my original images. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The ar(t)chitecture of Le Corbusier

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier (1887 - 1965), was a Swiss-French architect. Widely considered as one of the first and foremost modernist architects, his buildings can be found in Europe, Japan, India, and North and South America. Here is my pick for five of his best works with links to the Wikipedia pages:

1. Notre Dame du Haut Ronchamps, France, 1954 (image above).
2. Saint-Pierre Firminy, France, 2006.
3. Pavillon Le Corbusier Zurich, Switzerland, 1967.
4. Palace of Assembly Chandigarh, India, 1950.
5. Villa Savoye Poissy, France, 1931.

Copyright statement: image by Lu Schaper, used with permission. Copyright Lu Schaper.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Art for Art's Sake turns eleven

I'll open a bottle tonight to celebrate. Eleven years ago today I started this blog. The currently archived posts do not go back further than October 2008, because at that time I made a fresh start, deleting everything that I had posted before. And like most of my blog birthdays the past few years I wonder how much longer I'll keep it going.....

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues. The label picture is by myself.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Ripped in July

A selected overview of culture stars relevant to my own tastes who passed away this month - another extraordinary quiet month in this respect. Rest in peace.

Pierre Henry (89), French composer. We have none of his work on CD, but his composition Psyché Rock was the inspiration for the theme song of the awesome animated cartoon show Futurama.
Martin Landau (89), American actor. He played in numerous movies, including Hitchcock's North by north west, but I'll remember him mainly for his roles in the TV series Mission Impossible and Space: 1999.
Jeanne Moreau (89), French actress and singer. She snag a duet with Yves Duteil on one of my all-time favourite songs, L'Adolescente.

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Curves and lines in Ruurlo

Things have slowed down even further on Flickr, and I have not posted new work either for a while. Of the ones uploaded in recent weeks, this one got the best response. It is the roof of a construction at the railway station of Ruurlo, shot to give an optical illusion like effect, especially after the conversion to black and white.

Camera: Nikon D7000 (Nikkor 18-300 mm), 16 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.0025 sec (1/400)
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 127 mm
ISO Speed: 1000
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Copyright statement: image created by myself. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

One million views

Around now, the number of views of this blog has probably passed one million. Probably, because the statistics that the Blogger host provides go back to July 2010 - we had 900000 views since then and I have estimated the views for the first four years conservatively to be 100000. One million.... unbelievable.

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues.

The Tokyoiter by Japanese artists consortium

I love this. The covers of the magazine The New Yorker are among the best and most influential in the business, and now a undisclosed consortium of Japanese artists have been inspired to produce covers for the non-existing magazine Tokyoiter in a similar style. A selection is shown above; I warmly recommend clicking the link to see more.

Copyright statement: image created from pictures in the referred site. All six pictures are thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.

Monday, July 31, 2017

L'adolescente (RIP Jeanne Moreau)

Today Jeanne Moreau, French actress and singer, passed away, aged 89. In her memory, the beautiful duet with Yves Duteil, L'adolescente. Rest in peace. Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time).

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues. The video screenshot included in the image is thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.

Happy birthday Jazz - fabulous fifteen

Today our cocker spaniel Jazz turns 15 (105 in human years), truly exceptional. And in relatively good health for his age as well! Fun fact: he was born on the day we flew from Singapore to Europe to settle in France, where we picked him up a few months later.

Copyright statement: image created on the site from one of my own photographs. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Kathy's song

Paul Simon is one of my all-time favourite singer/songwriters, Simon and Garfunkel is my favourite act from the sixties, and their Kathy's song is one of my favourite songs by them. Imagine my surprise when I came across a cover of this gem that is even better than the original. It is sung by Eva Cassidy, who tragically passed away in 1996, aged only 33. Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time).

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues. The included images of Eva Cassidy album covers are thumbnail size and considered fair use.