MUSIC OF NOTE ♫

ELIZABETH HANDLEY’S

HISTORY AND APPRECIATION OF MUSIC LECTURES, COURSES AND WORKSHOPS

A. FAMOUS COMPOSER COURSES

  1. BEETHOVEN
  2. MOZART
  3. TCHAIKOVSKY
  4. FIVE FAMOUS FAVORITES

1. BEETHOVEN COURSE

THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF BEETHOVEN – “A COLOSSUS ASTRIDE TWO CENTURIES”

 (4 x 1 or 2-hour lectures with musical illustrations)

In this course we explore how Beethoven, as exceptional innovator, stands alone in Music History. A crucial figure in the transition between two eras, we discover how, as a Child of Revolution, he wrested music from the restrained and tasteful confines of 18th century Classicism and drove it into the restless turbulence of 19th century Romanticism.

Born in Bonn in 1770, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne, Beethoven later moved to Vienna. There he studied with Mozart and Haydn, but soon evolved beyond their compass. He quickly gained a reputation as a virtuoso pianist, and as a brilliant composer with the tenacity to blaze new paths in musical evolution.

In spite of a gradual loss of hearing, and against all odds, he continued to compose, conduct, and perform. After becoming completely deaf, he refused to be defeated by Fate, and continued valiantly to compose until the time of his death.

While listening to abundant musical illustrations, we discover how, in originality and construction, he transcended anything previously achieved, and why he still remains at the summit of musical popularity and influence throughout the world today.

In the first lecture we learn about the historical background to the18th and 19th centuries, including the music. Beethoven’s Personality is explored, as well as his “musical fingerprints” – the unique and distinctive characteristics that make his music undeniably his alone.

The second lecture covers Beethoven’s ancestry and apprenticeship, his friends and patrons, and the composers who influenced his early works. We discover the nature of Beethoven’s own piano playing, and, driven by the scourge of increasing deafness, come to the famous Heiligenstadt Testament (1802): Will or suicide note?

In the third lecture we enjoy the popular “Middle Period” works. We also hear about Beethoven’s loves, and try to identify the mysterious “Immortal Beloved”!

The fourth lecture covers the events and struggles of Beethoven’s last ten years, and we hear excerpts from some of the towering “Final Period” works.

Finally: the death of not only a master musician, but one of the master minds of Western cultural history.

COURSE SCHEDULE:

LECTURE 1: Introducing Beethoven and his Era

LECTURE 2: Beethoven’s First Creative Period: Imitation

LECTURE 3: Beethoven’s Second Creative Period: Externalisation

LECTURE 4: Beethoven’s Third Creative Period: Reflection

 

2. MOZART COURSE

 Work in progress

 

3. TCHAIKOVSKY COURSE

 THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF TCHAIKOVSKY – A RUSSIAN ICON

(4 x 1- or 2-hour lectures with musical illustrations)

Music was an escape for Tchaikovsky – particularly the world of dance (ballet). In a troubled life fraught with profound grief at his mother’s early death, suicidal depression, and guilt surrounding his homosexuality, he sought refuge in glorious melodies and finely-crafted masterworks. Above all he was “Russian, Russian, Russian, to the core of my very being.”

This course explores Tchaikovsky’s music, which stemmed from a complex personality and highly-charged imagination, and how he advanced beyond the traditional themes of his Russian Nationalist contemporaries to create a link with the West that brought his music to the international stage.

The son of a mining engineer, this highly cultured and well-traveled man, cruelly referred to as “the sugar-plum fairy of the 19th century” by some, became a Russian icon – a revolutionary figure who influenced succeeding generations of Russian composers and changed forever the world view of Russian music. This course, richly illustrated with musical examples, explores the life and work of Tchaikovsky, in all its joy and angst. We discover why his music remains as revered and popular today as it was at his death a century and a quarter ago.

COURSE SCHEDULE

LECTURE 1: INTRODUCING TCHAIKOVSKY AND HIS ERA:

– Western Background and Russian Heritage

– Unique and instantly recognisable musical “fingerprints”

LECTURE 2: THE EARLY YEARS – a “child of glass” (1840 – 1874)

– Ancestry, childhood, and first successful works

LECTURE 3: THE GROWTH OF TALENT: New mastery, and mature works (1874 – 1880)

– Two women: a disastrous marriage, and an intriguing patroness

LECTURE 4: INTERNATIONAL FAME, and A MYSTERIOUS DEATH (1880 – 1893)

– Natural causes…or blackmail and suicide?

 

4. FIVE FAMOUS FAVORITES COURSE

SIGNIFICANT CORNERSTONES IN THE HISTORY OF MUSIC

(5 x one-hour lectures with musical illustrations)

Throughout the history of Western art music there have been several figures who have shaped its development through their bold innovations and unprecedented genius. This course explores, in chronological progression, the lives and work of five of these significant composers, and, with numerous musical illustrations, explores and reveals their extraordinary contributions.

COURSE SCHEDULE

LECTURE 1: JS Bach Master of Counterpoint and Virtuoso Organist 

Johann Sebastian Bach was a towering figure of the Baroque Era, a brilliant intellectual who contributed music through his skill in counterpoint, and harmonic and motivic organisation, and through his adaptation of styles from abroad – specifically France and Italy. His significance lies in his development of an eclectic, energetic musical style in which foreign influences were combined with the pre-existing German musical language.

LECTURE 2: Mozart – Precocious Genius

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was no innovator, but in this lecture it shall be seen how with his exceptional gifts he brought the existing “Classical” forms of his time to an extraordinary peak of beauty and perfection.

LECTURE 3: Beethoven – Disruptive Innovator

Ludwig von Beethoven, traditionally dubbed the “bridge” between Classicism and Romanticism, was the product of a revolutionary age. He left the beaten path to forge new ones, and in so doing created volcanic, ground-breaking works never before heard in the concert hall. His music transmits his message of remarkable optimism, and universality: he wrote consciously, and deliberately for posterity – us.

LECTURE 4: Chopin – Poet of the Piano OR

LECTURE 4: Liszt – Titan of the Keyboard

An exploration of Frederik Chopin’s Romantic oeuvre embraces the political events which inspired his ardent Polish nationalism: the Partition of Poland (again) in 1815, between Russia, Austria and Prussia, and his nostalgic relocation to Paris – the “Capital of the 19th Century”. His music is intensely personal, unique, and instantly-recognisable, revealing his Polish-French polarity, his “Classical” tendencies, and his contribution to the art of piano playing and technique.

OR Franz Liszt’s fierce Romantic creative spirit brought forth music that was a brilliant amalgamation of both current musical trends and those of the great figures of the past. His prodigious and diverse body of work influenced both his contemporaries and anticipated trends seen in the following century. His piano music signifies his phenomenal keyboard virtuosity which revolutionized piano technique, and elevated the standard of piano performance to heights never before attained.

LECTURE 5: Tchaikovsky – Incurable Romantic

Tchaikovsky’s music displays a continual struggle between despair and hope, between the passionate chaos of his emotional intensity, and the carefully structured ordering of its articulation through music. But apart from his preoccupation with Fate, and the Slavic capacity for gloom, there are his rich and colourful orchestration, his glorious melodies, and his gift for addressing us each individually – the key to his universal appeal.

 

 

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