Archive for the ‘Gioachino Rossini’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: A Clockwork Orange soundtrack (1972).

I’ve had the CD of this soundtrack since the mid 1990s.  I recall playing it all the time.  I hadn’t listened to it in a while and it all came back as I listened again.

This CD is a collection of classical pieces, a few odds and ends and a number of pieces by Wendy Carlos.

I don’t intend to review the classical pieces which are familiar and sound great.  But the Wendy Carlos pieces deserve mention.

Title Music from A Clockwork Orange” (2:21) (From Henry Purcell’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary).  It is fascinating to realize that most of the carlos pieces on this soundtrack are actually classical compositions that she has arranged for the Moog (I assume she is playing the Moog on these).  This piece starts with swirling sounds which turn into a fast melody with drums that are probably low synth notes.  There’s a sprinkling of very odd sounds thrown in the mix which really give everything an unearthly feel.

“The Thieving Magpie (Abridged)” (5:57) [Rossini-Rome Opera House Orchestra]

Theme from A Clockwork Orange (Beethoviana)” (1:44) In the movie, the main character loves Beethoven.  So there are a number of pieces from Beethoven that Carlos has arranged here.  This one sounds amazing in this gentle piece with that otherworldly synthesizer music and of staccato notes and chords.

“Ninth Symphony, Second Movement (Abridged)” [Beethoven-Berlin Philharmonic] (3:48)

March from A Clockwork Orange (Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement, Abridged)” [Beethoven] (7:00)  This is the most striking song on the disc with the synthesized “voices” singing the melody on top of a complex synthesizer pattern.  After two minutes it slows and changes styles dramatically becoming more of a march with whistles and chimes and again those haunting voices.  The end of the piece has a full choir of the haunting voices which sounds even more amazing.  I’m so curious how she did this.  Are there actual voices that she recorded and manipulated or are they generated from notes and manipulated to sound like voices?  It says articulations by Rachel Elkind [now Rachel Elkind-Tourre], so I guess she sang and was manipulated?

William Tell Overture (Abridged)” (1:17) [Rossini]  This piece opens with the familiar horns but as this incredibly fast paced track moves along you can hear the synth notes especially in the quieter middle part.  I wonder if those horns were real?

“Pomp and Circumstance March No. I” (4:28) [Elgar]

“Pomp and Circumstance March No. IV” (Abridged) (1:33) [Elgar]

Timesteps (Excerpt)” (4:13) This is the only fully original piece on the soundtrack.  It sounds like nothing else.  It is a gorgeous spooky composition of tinkling sounds, low gonglike sounds and celestial voices.  It grows somewhat menacing with lots of fast unique sounds skittering around a low throbbing bass.  She adds in sounds that seems sped up (which makes no sense really), but they do.  At one pint the two melodies seem to run counterpoint–low notes going in one direction, high notes in the other.

“Overture to the Sun” (rerecorded instrumental from Sound of Sunforest, 1969) (1:40).  I have always loved this middle-ages sounding song, but I had no idea where it came from.  Turns out it is by the band Sunforest and comes from their only album Sound of Sunforest, 1969.  They were an English psychedelic folk group.  You can play some of the album on YouTube (which sounds a lot like Jefferson Airplane).

“I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper” (rerecorded song from Sound of Sunforest, 1969) (1:00).  This song is also on the Sunforest album, although it sounds very different here.  I’ve always assumed this was some kind of fifties song and had no idea that this is probably the only place most people know it from.  It’s a shame this album is so hard to find.

“William Tell Overture (Abridged)” (2:58) [Rossini-Rome Opera House Orchestra]

Suicide Scherzo (Ninth Symphony, Second Movement, Abridged)” (3:07) [Beethoven] The perfect use of Carlos’ bouncy synths sounds.  It’s amazing to hear her layering sounds as the song gets very big and seems to get away from her into an almost chaotic conclusion.

“Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement (Abridged)” (1:34) [Beethoven-Berlin Philharmonic]

“Singin’ in the Rain” (2:36) [Gene Kelly].  This is a cute ending and seems to tie in to “Lighthouse Keeper” even though it clearly doesn’t.

This is a really fun soundtrack.  It is too bad that Carlos’s music is unavailable anywhere because it  is really quite eye-opening even fifty years later.

[READ: October 15, 2020] “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer”

This article is a book review of Wendy Carlos: A Biography by Amanda Sewell.

I don’t plan to read the book, but I found the summary to be quite interesting.

I’ve known of Wendy Carlos for many years, primarily from her work on A Clockwork Orange soundtrack.  I remember initially seeing that the music was recorded by Walter and/or Wendy Carlos and assuming that they were siblings or spouses.  It was certainly a confusing listing and once that, it turns out, was rather offensive to her.

So I know a little bit about her personal story, but this review added a lot of details to her life that I didn’t know.

Most importantly is that none of her music is available online pretty much anywhere.  Even when people post it, it is taken down quickly. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: May 2, 2014] The Figaro Plays: The Marriage of Figaro

marriageAfter last night’s unexpectedly hilarious Barber of Seville, my expectations were much higher for The Marriage of Figaro.

For a brief explanation of these plays, see yesterday’s post.

The Marriage of Figaro is set three years after The Barber of Seville.  [It must be said that the promotional material said they could be seen in any order, but a lot from Barber is referenced in Marriage and since it is set three years later, it really does behoove you to see Barber first].  The situation is interesting: Count Almaviva and Rosine are still married, although the Count is sleeping around and the Countess is despondent (so much for that rush of first love).  But the main plot concerns Figaro.

Figaro is living with them (as Almaviva’s right hand man) and is set to marry the Countess’ Lady in Waiting, Suzanne.  Figaro is gloriously happy, as is Suzanne.  And they cannot wait to get married.  So, unlike the previous play, there are no shenanigans trying to get them together behind the back of someone else.  The shenanigans are of a slightly different sort.

For Suzanne reveals to Figaro that the reason the Count has given them this glorious space in the chateau–which is but mere feet away from the Count’s private room–is that he plans to deflower Suzanne on the night of her wedding to Figaro.  This was, apparently, the Count’s privilege at the time.  Although Count Almaviva ended that policy when he married Rosine.  But he seems ready to reinstate it now.

Figaro doesn’t believe it at first, but is soon convinced.  The Count wants to meet Rosine in the garden on her wedding night.  And so she and Figaro (with the help of Rosine) decide to hatch a plot.  And that’s just one of many plots in this sequel which is much more complicated, has a much bigger cast and pushes three hours in length. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: May 1, 2014] The Figaro Plays: The Barber of Seville

barber2I won tickets to see The Figaro Plays at McCarter Theater.  And yes, there are two different plays going on at the same time. I have to say, I’m super impressed that they put on two Figaro plays on alternating days starring many of the same actors—how complicated must that be?

The Figaro Plays are, well, I’ll let the McCarter site, explain:

Stephen Wadsworth makes his triumphant return to McCarter Theatre with The Figaro Plays, two thrilling new translations of the great farces that inspired Mozart and Rossini’s operas: The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville…. Wadsworth brings his genius to these two delightfully scathing social satires. Figaro, the famous barber, has his hands full with schemes, plots, and a master who chases all the wrong women. Lush, lively, and a little bit naughty, these plays are chock-full of hilarious misunderstandings, passion, disguises, and sumptuous period costumes.

The plays were written by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, um …who? He wrote three plays about Figaro and Count Almaviva: Le Barbier de Séville, Le Mariage de Figaro, and La Mère coupable.  And so Wadsworth translated, arranged and directed two (I don’t know if the third one was too much to do or not very good or what–according to Wikipedia, it is rarely performed, and the synopsis doesn’t sound great)

So you have certainly heard of these two The Barber of Seville or the Useless Precaution (written in 1773) was turned into Gioachino Rossini’s opera, The Barber of Seville (1816).  The Marriage of Figaro (written in 1778) was turned into the opera Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (The Marriage of Figaro, or The Day of Madness), K. 492, composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,

So that’s a lot of background information, and I knew none of it before seeing this first play.  I wasn’t even sure if there would be music or not.  So no, they were not the operas, indeed, Barber has no music (well, one love song strummed on a guitar).

And it was hilarious. (more…)

Read Full Post »