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Inside Appalachia

Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond


(News, Commentary) Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 1, 2011

This weekend, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra is playing one of my favorite pieces: The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Cellists (and people looking for pretty wedding music) love it because of “The Swan”:

Yo-Yo Ma plays "The Swan"

I have fond memories of attending a music camp where all of the bass players (dozens of them) got together every year to play The Elephant:
The Elephant

But my favorite movement currently is “Aquarium.”

It’s so sudden and strange; it always catches me off guard in the middle of the piece. It’s beautiful, and it sounds like perhaps something that Danny Elfman would write for a Tim Burton score.

I was listening to “Aquarium” recently when brainstorming fishy music in the wake of the Bruckner/Arby’s nonsense, and I discovered that it did inspire a film scoring moment – in Disney’s Beauty in the Beast. Listen (and compare the two):

Beauty and the Beast Introduction


(What's your favorite part of this musical menagerie?)

Saint-Saëns wrote The Carnival of the Animals in 1886. The previous year he’d composed a little confection called “The Wedding-Cake.” Afraid of being labeled a composer of light music, he suppressed Carnival of the Animals, and it wasn’t published until after he died. Poor sad, stuffy Saint-Saëns! He wrote plenty of other serious stuff, and what’s so bad about light music, anyway?

If you want to really embrace all that is light and silly, check out the poems that Ogden Nash wrote in 1949 to go with the music. I may not agree with Nash’s thoughts on women’s fashion, but his poems are so much fun.

Camille Saint-Saëns
Was wracked with pains,
When people addressed him,
As Saint-Saens.
He held the human race to blame,
Because it could not pronounce his name,
So, he turned with metronome and fife,
To glorify other kinds of life,
Be quiet please - for here begins
His salute to feathers, fur and fins.

Read the rest of Ogden Nash's The Carnival of the Animals here.

My favorite recording has Leonard Bernstein conducting and narrating. I’ve also recently been enjoying these videos with Sir Roger Moore reading Nash’s poems before each movement.

The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra will be playing Carnival of the Animals (and music by Debussy and Stravinsky)  at Fairmont State University on Thursday, and at the Clay Center in Charleston on Friday and Saturday.

WV Classical Calendar - March

 Permanent link
By Mona Seghatoleslami
 · March 1, 2011


Whoosh! The lion has roared, and March is here with a lot of really nice concerts throughout the state (and some nearby neighbors, including Shenandoah, Virginia). Hope favorable winds blow some great music your way (or you to the music, either way). Let me know if I'm missing anything from the calendar. You can also leave a comment or send an email if you want to share your thoughts after attending any of these shows. Enjoy!

March 1: Marshall University Young People’s Concert

March 1: Laureate Wind Quintet (WVU)

March 2: Emil Yap Chua, piano (WVU Guest Artist Recital)

March 2: Met Opera HD Encore: Adams’s Nixon in China (Barboursville; Germantown, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; and others)

March 2: Shenandoah Conservatory Choir

March 3: Marshall University New Music Festival Concert

March 3: WV Symphony Orchestra “Classic Expressions” (Fairmont State University)

March 4: WV Symphony Orchestra “Classic Expressions”

March 4: Marshall University New Music Festival Concerts

March 5: WV Symphony Orchestra “Classic Expressions”

March 5: Marshall University Festival of Trumpets

March 6: Marshall University Opera Workshop

March 6: WVU Flute Choir

March 7: US Fleet Forces Band (WVU)

March 8: Tuesdays with Fran, Baroque Favorites, with Leah Trent, harp (Carnegie Hall, Lewisburg)

March 9: James Flowers, saxophone (WVU Guest Artist Recital)

March 9: Fairmont State University Wind Ensemble

March 10: WVU Opera Scenes

March 11: Wheeling Symphony Orchestra Pops “Music of the Beatles” with Classical Mystery Tour

March 11: Chris Chreviston, saxophone (WVU Guest Artist Recital)

March 11: WVU African Music Ensemble

March 11: Fairmont State University Collegiate Singers Chamber Choir

March 11: WVU Opera Scenes

March 11: Vienna Boys Choir (Carnegie Hall Lewisburg)

March 12: Huntington Symphony and Marshall University Choruses “Carmina Burana”

March 12: Ohio Valley Symphony with Margaret Carlson “Broadway!”

March 12: Marshall University Sonatina Festival

March 12: WVU Opera Scenes

March 12: Two Rivers Chamber Orchestra (Shepherd University Friends of Music)

March 12: Shepherd University Trombone Day

March 13: Jack Gibbons plays Gershwin (WVU Steinway Fundraiser Event) (interview)

March 13, 3pm: WV Youth Symphony Chamber Ensembles (Charleston)

March 15: WVU Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band Concert

March 16: Erich Thomas, baritone; Robert Thieme, piano (WVU Guest/Faculty Artist Recital)

March 16: Sarasvati Trio (Kanawha Forum)

March 16: Met Opera HD Encore: Gluck’s Iphéghenie en Tauride (Barboursville; Germantown, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; and others)

March 17: WVU Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Concert

March 18: WV Symphony Pops “The Music of Abba” with Arrival

March 18: WVU New Music Concert

March 18: Anna Larsson, contralto, with the Shenandoah Conservatory Symphony Orchestra

March 19: WV Symphony Family Concert “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”

March 19: Marshall University Day of Percussion

March 19: Met Opera Live in HD: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (Barboursville; Morgantown; Germantown, MD; Pittsburgh, PA; Charlottesville, VA; and others)

March 19: WV Symphony Pops “The Music of Abba” with Arrival

March 19: Shenandoah Singers

March 20: Jack Gibbons Plays Chopin (Davis & Elkins)

March 20: Eddie Daniels, clarinet (Shenandoah Conservatory)

March 23: Lindsey Goodman, flute; Rob Frankenberry, piano (Kanawha Forum)

March 24: WV Symphony Orchestra Tour (Huntington)

March 25: WV Symphony Orchestra Tour (Morgantown)

March 26: WV Symphony Orchestra Tour (Flatwoods)

March 27: Shepherd University Faculty Brass

March 27: Simone Dinnerstein, piano (Shenandoah Conservatory)

March 29-30: WV Symphony Young People’s Concerts “Peter and the Wolf”

March 29-30: Glenville State College Percussion Ensemble School Shows

March 30: Marshall University Guitar Ensemble

March 30: Christian Smith, piano (Kanawha Forum)

March 31: Glenville State College Percussion Ensemble

March 31: Shenandoah Conservatory Student Composers


Something missing? Let me know!

Iphigénie en Tauride

(Commentary) Permanent link
By Carole Carter
 · February 28, 2011

Iphigenie en Tauride
Courtesy of The Met
Paul Groves as Pylade, Susan Graham as Iphigenie & Placido Domingo as Oreste

I attended this Live in HD Met performance Saturday with friends and was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t know this opera composed by Gluck in the 1700s, but found much to recommend it.

To begin with, the small cast was led by mezzo Susan Graham, Plácido Domingo in a baritone role and tenor Paul Groves, who came up through the ranks at the Met. After studying at Juilliard, he ‘graduated’ to the Met’s Young Artists Development Program.

We were momentarily anxious when a gentleman came out to do a curtain speech. That generally means someone isn’t singing that performance. However, he only said that both Susan and Plácido were suffering from colds but were singing through them. Whew!

There were no on-stage coughs, only beautiful melodic lines.

Iphigenie sets
Courtesy of The Met
Opening set for Iphigenie

The sets were sparse but effective. Lighting effects were really well done. There were few minor roles. Male, female and mixed choruses were employed and there was a dancing chorus. The story is based on Greek mythology.

The opera is in four acts, but very short – about 2 ½ hours. They took only one intermission. The music is very lyrical and elegantly clean. Very Mozartian. And the recits are accompanied by orchestra, not just harpsichord.

In short, it’s a perfect opera for university and college music departments to perform!

Of course, you have to have a good mezzo; she is the lead. And how often does that happen? The mezzo is usually relegated to a supporting or even pants role

The encore is Wednesday, March 16 at 6:30 pm if you missed it.

The backstage host is Natalie Dessay, lead soprano in the next HD live production, Lucia di Lammermoor which airs at the same theaters Saturday, March 19 at 1 pm.

If you listen to classical music on WV Public Radio or read Mona’s Classically Speaking blogs, I’m sure she’ll offer tickets the week before – so stay tuned! Check us out on our website or catch us on Facebook.

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