No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Michael Barrett

It’s been a Bach week, but I’m departing from my faith-based musical life for today. I’m feeling melancholy since spring is finally here. The Norwegians, after months of non-stop darkness and no sunshine, view the first day of spring as the saddest day of the year, since they can already sense the end of it, and the oncoming winter. But we (and they) still yearn for spring every year.




 |  Michael Barrett

I’ve been drawn closer and closer to Bach lately. Maybe he’s the only antidote I have to our perilous and uncertain times. Yesterday was “Bist Du bei Mir”. And the day before “Schlummert Ein”. To follow, I was drawn to the Goldberg Variations, since it starts with an Aria. I thought that would be the basis of the Song of the Day. No performance on Youtube was particularly convincing. I thought, “oh what the hell, let’s see how old Glenn Gould stacks up”.




 |  Michael Barrett

Today’s Song of the Day features one of my all-time favorites, again by J.S.Bach. I’ve been re-reading John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven with much pleasure. Do yourself a favor and read it. This is from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook—things she wrote down for herself and her many kids. It voices the beautiful wish that at death, one’s beloved is with them, and that they can gently go into that good night of the other world.




 |  Michael Barrett

J.S. Bach is still the guiding light for most of us who have studied and practice classical music. He created a kind of purity that I think married humanity with the loftiest concept of God. I personally find Bach is enough, without religion. And when Lorraine Hunt Lieberson is singing, I feel like I’m safe and loved and touched by grace. Please listen to “Schlummert Ein” from Cantata No. 82 Ich Habe Genug.




 |  Michael Barrett

Certainly one of our most successful living opera composers, Bolcom has an amazing way of writing arias that sound really American, and still sound like Grand Opera. I hear jazz chords, the blues, and american musical gestures which I don’t have a name for. And it is all somehow spun into soaring operatic melody.




 |  Michael Barrett

Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea is the setting of an epic poem by Pablo Antonio Cuadra. The protagonist, a sailor named Cifar is destined to sail the greatest lake in Nicaragua. All his life lessons, challenges, and triumphs are a result of his life on the water. It all begins with Cifar’s birth. Here is “El Nascimento de Cifar” by Gabriela Lena Frank. Andrew Garland is the excellent baritone. Warren Jones is at the piano.




 |  Michael Barrett

Hildegard von Bingen is a tough act to follow for anyone. But about 500 years later Barbara Strozzi appears in Venice (1619-1677). Another remarkable person, all the more remarkable because of her status, talent, and visibility. She published a great deal of her fine music, and performed widely as a soprano. So how did a […]




 |  Michael Barrett

This week we’ve been talking about and hearing from women composers. Women composers are achieving mixed success in entering the male dominated world of classical composition. I think that the quality of one’s work tends to carry the day, and help establish a compositional voice and career, but it has traditionally been the dearth of recognition, and lack of opportunity that has held back talented women.




 |  Michael Barrett

Following yesterday’s post about Gabriela Frank and Anne Ronell, I started thinking about Clarice Assad. She is a wonderful pianist, composer and vocalist. If you hear her in concert, you will probably be swept away by her virtuosic Brazilian scat singing. But being Brazilian, she owns Brazilian music and is one of the upcoming keepers of the traditional flame as well as a creator of the next music in the Brazilian musical lineage.




 |  Michael Barrett

Here’s one of my favorite jazz standards. Not too many songs found in the Fake Book are by women, but Ann Ronnel wrote this (music and lyrics) in the early 1930’s. She was a contemporary of Dorothy Fields and Kay Swift, and a friend of George Gershwin, working as his rehearsal pianist. Leonard Bernstein met his future wife Felicia Montealagre, at a party in Ann’s Manhattan apartment. Here’s a young Sarah Vaughan in a live performance. Listen to the end and you’ll hear a great example how to handle a screw up with grace and humor.