Monday, January 4, 2016

January 2016 - Featured Playlist: A Winter Waltz

The holidays are over and the long winter is here in full force. It’s easy to go into social hibernation to await kinder weather, but that doesn’t have to be so. Winter is the perfect time to fill up your dance card for a magnificent ball, to gather with friends in a brightly lit space and twirl across the floor all night long.

Ladies, put on your finest faux fur, and gents, break out the top hats and tails. Or the other way around—it’s the 21st century after all. Either way, let these merry melodies carry you and your loved one around the dance floor all night long, borne on the splendid sounds of A Winter Waltz.

To hear the playlist, access NML as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Playlist of the Month folder under the Themed Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.

1. William Perry – 6 Title Themes in Search of a Movie: I. Wild Nights in Toronto: Dance Overture – William Perry’s credits as a composer include music for PBS’ award-winning Mark Twain Series films and a staged biography called Mark Twain: The Musical. He also composed a Broadway musical called Wind in the Willows which starred Nathan Lane and earned the composer Tony nominations.

2. George Gershwin – Promenade – This piece for orchestra was originally a portion of Gershwin’s soundtrack for the 1937 film Shall We Dance starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The film score version was titled “Walking the Dog”, as it accompanied a scene where a character took a dog out for a stroll on a luxury cruise liner.
3. Dmitry Shostakovich – Jazz Suite No. 2: VI. Waltz 2 – Shostakovich composed his Jazz Suite No. 2 in 1938, but the score was lost during World War II. However, piano scores for three movements surfaced in 2000 and were orchestrated for Last Night of the Proms. The remainder of the suite has since been found.

4. Ignatz Waghalter – New World Suite: VII. City Dance - Besides his music, Jewish composer Ignatz Waghalter is remembered for his efforts in promoting racial equality. Forced to flee Germany during World War II, he took up residence in New York City and established a classical orchestra made up of African-American musicians, though the ensemble had to fold due to financial problems brought about by the Depression and political hostility.

5. Ernst Mielck – Finnish Suite in D Minor: II. Allegretto grazioso – Mielck’s Finnish Suite would prove to be his final extended work, as he would contract tuberculosis that same year, leading to his death two days shy of his twenty-second birthday. But what little work he left us is of excellent quality, demonstrating the boundless potential that was cut short too soon.

6. Aram Khachaturian – Masquerade Suite: III. Mazurka – Khachaturian derived this suite from incidental music he composed for Mikhail Lermontov’s play of the same name. The play was produced at the Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow, and it debuted the day before the Germans invaded the USSR in 1941, leading to the early end of its run.

7. Richard Rodgers – The Sound of Music, Act I: Ländler – The Sound of Music is one of the greatest Broadway musicals and films ever made. This tune, of course, was the accompaniment as Maria and the Captain demonstrated the ländler to the children—and as they realized that they might be falling in love with each other.

8. Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky – Swan Lake, Act I The Terrace in Front of the Palace of Prince Siegfried: No. 2 Valse – No winter ball would be complete without a Tchaikovsky waltz, and this selection from Swan Lake will fit the bill quite nicely. Swan Lake is one of Tchaikovsky’s three timeless ballets, each of which overflow with glorious music for whisking your partner across the dance floor.

9. Franz Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 104, “London”: III. Menuet. Trio: Allegretto – Haydn’s final twelve symphonies (which is certainly not a phrase one can use for very many composers) were composed while he was in London, and it was the last of them that was rather arbitrarily given the “London” nickname. This lovely minuet and trio makes for a fine twirl across the room.

10. Teresa Carreño – Little Waltz – Venezuela-born Teresa Carreño’s talent was recognized when she was very young; when she was nine she even got to perform for President Abraham Lincoln. Nicknamed “The Valkyrie of the Piano”, she is also remembered for being offered piano lessons by none other than Franz Liszt—and turning him down. The track selected here is taken from a piano roll she recorded in 1905.

11. Kurt Atterberg – Suite No. 3: III. Vision: Allegro moderato – Atterberg derived his Suite No. 3 from music he composed for a mystery play by Maurice Maeterlinck called Sœur Béatrice. The story tells of a nun who has to choose between earthly and spiritual love, and Atterberg’s vivid depiction of this emotional conflict is expertly rendered in this suite.

12. Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr. – Danse Diabolique – Hellmesberger came from a noted musical family in 19th-century Austria; his father, grandfather, uncle, and brother were all major figures in the Viennese music scene. He made his name primarily as a violinist and conductor, but he also composed operettas, ballets, dance music, and lieder.

13. Hector Berlioz – Symphonie fantastique: II. Un bal - Premiering in 1830, Symphonie fantastique called for 90 musicians, the largest orchestral force ever required in-score at the time. The second movement depicts the symphony’s protagonist as he glimpses the woman he loves across the ballroom, providing a sweeping, romantic moment before all hell pretty much literally breaks loose in the final movements.

14. Richard Strauss – Schlagobers Suite: IV. Schlagoberswaltzer (Whipped Cream Waltz) – You knew this playlist had to include a Strauss waltz, right? Well, we got tricksy and picked one by Richard Strauss, rather than a waltz by a member of the famed lite-music family. This ballet is set in a Viennese cake shop and features various dancing confections and a sugar-induced hallucination sequence.

15. Maria Szymanowska – 18 Danses: No. 4 Polonaise – Szymanowska was renowned in her day as a concert pianist, entering the history books as one of the first great virtuoso pianists of the 19th century. While her compositions are limited to piano pieces, songs, and some chamber music, she is remembered as the first notable female composer from Poland and a prominent figure in that nation’s pre-Chopin music scene.

16. Émile Waldteufel – Les Patineurs, “The Skater’s Waltz” – Okay, so we left the Strauss family out, but we still wanted to include a nod to some of the classic lite waltzes. Waldteufel was as lite as they came, and his Skater’s Waltz has become a staple in film and television whenever a sweet, graceful waltz is required.

17. Franz Lehár – Gold und Silber – Franz Lehár was an Austro-Hungarian composer of the early 20th century who is primarily remembered for his operettas. His music was well-loved by Adolf Hitler, a fact that ultimately saved his wife, a Jew who’d converted to Catholicism upon their marriage, from being deported to the concentration camps.

18. Amilcare Ponchielli – La Gioconda: Dance of the Hours – Originally composed to close Act 3 of his opera La Gioconda, Ponchielli’s "Dance of the Hours" has since gained popularity as a short standalone ballet. Its melody has become a part of the general consciousness outside musical circles, thanks to its inclusion in Disney’s Fantasia in 1940 and its use in the 1963 hit novelty tune “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”.

19. Ludwig Minkus – La Bayadère: Andante – Minkus’ ballet La Bayadère was first performed in St Petersburg in 1877 and quickly gained status as a classic in Russia, but it remained almost completely unknown to the West until passages were staged in Rio de Janeiro and Paris in 1961. Two years later it was performed at the Royal Ballet by Rudolf Nureyev to tremendous acclaim.

20. Fryderyk Chopin – Waltz No. 9 in A-flat, “L’adieu” – Chopin composed this waltz as a good-bye present to Maria Wodzińska, to whom he would soon become engaged. In the same year (1835), she painted what would end up being one of the best portraits of him. However, their engagement would be called off in 1837, due at least in part to her father’s objections over Liszt’s poor health.

Each month, Naxos Music Library presents a themed playlist for our subscribers to enjoy. We know that a database of over 1.7 million tracks can be a bit daunting, so we'd like to highlight some of the amazing music that is available to you. Let it kickstart discovery! 

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