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Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas are among the most famous works of chamber music history and represent, together with Mozart’s works for this instrument duo, the core of violin repertoire from the Viennese Classicist period.

Though composed in a short span in Beethoven’s creative life (nine of the ten were written between 1798 and 1803, with the final one appearing in 1812), these sonatas bear all the marks of Beethoven’s compositional innovation: the breaking of formal tradition, a vast emotional scope, skillful musical manipulation, and, of course, the trademark urgency and power.

The new Bärenreiter edition of the violin sonatas — or, as more appropriately titled by Beethoven himself, sonatas for the pianoforte and violin — offers a revolutionary editorial approach to the music that does more than simply hand down the text.

These new volumes, edited by historical performing practice expert Dr. Clive Brown, present an approach to performance that is quite different from what most of today’s musicians are accustomed to. This approach not only falls much more in line with what Beethoven would have expected, but also imbues the music with a renewed vigor and offers musicians an incredible array of opportunities for creativity.

“This is the highest quality of academic scholarship, but it is not only that: this edition has enabled me to bring these sonatas to life in a way that has not been possible before – this is historical research in the service of living and breathing music!”

Viktoria Mullova, Violinist

Here violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Alasdair Beatson demonstrate some of their most illuminating discoveries from the “Spring” Sonata (Op. 24) and show us why they’re excited to work with these new editions:

The Editorial Approach

Dr. Brown’s new editions of the Beethoven violin sonatas combine a traditional scholarly Urtext approach with a wealth of information on historical performing practice informed by the thorough study of recordings and editions made by 19th-century musicians, many of whom had direct contact with Beethoven himself or with others that did.

These historical sources reveal a striking discrepancy between performance and notation. Composers in Beethoven’s era, including Beethoven himself, simply did not write down a large swath of the expressive gestures that they would have expected musicians to make, including rhythmic and tempo flexibility, piano arpeggiation and asynchrony, portamento, cadenzas, and ornamental, rather than continuous, vibrato effects.

By not including these details in the text, composers created a space bursting with potential for the creative performer to exploit in what could and, most importantly, would be wildly distinctive and thrillingly emotional performances. In many respects, it was a creative freedom much more akin to jazz than to today’s renditions of classical music.

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SongwritingWith:Soldiers: Using Music to Help Veterans Ease Back into Civilian Life

Founded in 2012, SongwritingWith:Soldiers (SW:S) is a non-profit that transforms lives by using collaborative songwriting to expand creativity, connections, and strengths. SW:S holds three-day retreats and custom workshops that pair veterans, active-duty and military families with professional songwriters to turn their stories of service and returning home into song.

Many veterans return home from combat and do not seek services, avoiding therapy or military resources because of the stigma associated with PTSD and depression. The Veterans Administration estimates that approximately 20 veterans take their own lives each day, and of those, 14 have little to no contact with the Department.

During SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreats, veterans and active-duty service members are paired with professional songwriters to share stories and craft songs about their experiences, often about combat and the return home. Participants are registered with ASCAP as co-writers of their songs and have ownership.

Sometimes participants know exactly what they want to say in their songs, but most of the time it’s the community of others who know the same struggles that lets participants find their emotions. And it’s the genuinely interested, empathetic ear of the artist that invites participants to openly share very personal stories that they’ve never shared at all.

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Save The Music Foundation: Helping Students, Schools and Communities Reach Their Full Potential through the Power of Making Music

In 1997, John Sykes, one of the original MTV/VH1 executives, spent a day as principal at a school in Brooklyn. He was shocked to see that the school’s instruments were being held together with gaffer tape and that the entire music program was at risk. In response, he helped mobilize a pro-social initiative at VH1, which quickly gained steam as it became apparent that many more music programs across the country were being deprioritized with severe budget cuts or even eliminated.

Soon thereafter, Save The Music became its own independent 501c3 public charity. Since then, Save The Music has donated more than $60 million worth of new musical instruments, equipment and technology to 2201 schools in 277 school districts across 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, improving the lives of millions of children throughout the United States.

Here’s how Save The Music partners with local communities and school districts to build sustainable music programs:

  • Investing in schools: Save The Music donates instruments, music technology and other equipment to jumpstart public school music programs.
  • Supporting teachers: Save The Music supports music teachers with professional development, ongoing program support and other resources.
  • Advocating for music education: Save The Music advocates at the local, state and national levels to ensure music is part of a well-rounded education.
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The Sphinx Organization: Transforming Lives through the Power of Diversity in the Arts

The Sphinx Organization is the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx’s four program areas – Education & Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists, and Arts Leadership – form a pipeline that develops and supports diversity and inclusion in classical music at every level:

  • Music education
  • Artists performing on stage
  • Repertoire and programming
  • Communities represented in audiences
  • Artistic and administrative leadership

Sphinx was founded in 1997 by violinist Aaron P. Dworkin with the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music. The name Sphinx, inspired by the mythical creature and legendary statue, reflects the power, wisdom and persistence that characterize Sphinx’s participants, as well as the enigmatic and interpretive nature of music and art.

Now led by President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin, Sphinx programs reach more than 100,000 students and artists as well as live and broadcast audiences of more than 2 million annually.

Here’s a brief overview of all the work the Sphinx Organization does. Click on each link to navigate through the article and learn more!

And watch two of its finest professional ensembles in a moving performance from Sphinx’s virtual gala in October here:

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Pathway to Success: How to Give Every Student an Opportunity for Leadership & Create a Culture of Excellence

Understanding that teaching band is as much about teaching students to work together as it is about teaching them to learn musical skills individually, the team behind the much-loved Habits series, which includes such titles as Habits of a Successful Band Director, takes on the broader subject of leadership in Pathway to Success, which helps develop leadership skills in every student in a class and includes a focus on emotional health that has been especially helpful for teachers during COVID.

Authors Scott Rush and Tim Lautzenheiser also host a free Zoom community on Sunday evenings to support teachers implementing the Pathway to Success method in their classrooms. Read more and register below!

“To borrow a phrase: All children have talents, however, not all children have opportunity and encouragement. Pathway to Success by Tim Lautzenheiser and Scott Rush describes in detail the ‘how’ and provides that encouragement young people need to overcome any reservations and reluctance they may have to step forward and become a leader! History is full of examples of shy and timid youngsters who responded to a challenge and rose to greatness as a leader. This book is invaluable for any age! Leadership by example. Pathway to Success. I wish it was available when I was a student. Tim and Scott nailed it!”

– Richard Crain, President of The Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic
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Tchaikovsky Body Tag: A (Remote) Music Class Activity for Children

This spring, Mark Burrows (a.k.a. “Mister Mark”) put together a few distance-learning resources called Classics Come Alive to support music instruction while many school buildings were closed. This is one of our favorites!

We know how hard you’re working to stay connected with your students. And we have all discovered some of the benefits and limitations of technology and “virtual classrooms.” Heritage Music Press wanted to help. Classics Come Alive features some of the great stories from classical music. But they’re not “sit still ‘n’ listen” stories. Each short story invites students to be not just attentive listeners, but active participants. Even better, there are no materials needed, no props, no set-up, no prep-time. All that’s needed is you and your students!

Today’s story is Tchaikovsky Body Tag.

Heritage Music Press has provided the script and a video of Mark sharing the story. Use it as a model to make your own video, or if that seems like too much right now, let Mister Mark bring the story to life with your kiddos.

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First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up

Guest post by Michael Andros

I picked up the guitar at 14, played in a band for 14 years, then quit.

Years later I picked it up again and have been going strong ever since. But the road to guitar greatness is littered with those who gave up.

Hopefully, my experience helps you avoid becoming a casualty on the guitar “battlefield.”

Let’s look at a four-pronged strategy to defeat the biggest causes of quitting — pain, boredom, and discouragement. We will exploit “beginner’s blush,” focus on the mission, explode plateaus, and “learn how to learn.”

How to Exploit “Beginner’s Blush”

The idea here is to harness the almost irrational, dopamine-induced optimism to push through the painful process of earning your “guitar fingers.” 

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Sheet Music Plus Now Has 2 Million Titles for Sale Worldwide: Here Are Our Favorites

We now have more than 2 MILLION titles for sale worldwide!

Focusing on our mission to make the world’s music more playable, we’ve doubled our catalog in the last five years by forging critical relationships with sheet music publishers, creating pathways to sell and ship editions worldwide and aggressively expanding into digital sheet music available for instant download and printing.

We started Sheet Music Plus in 1997 with a commitment to serve musicians like ourselves with a full spectrum of sheet music, fast delivery and music experts filling our ranks in every department.

We’d like to celebrate this milestone by introducing ourselves (in alphabetical order!) and sharing some of our favorite items with you.

AMY, General Manager

Amy, General Manager, Sheet Music Plus

 

 

I have fond memories of playing through the duets in the Album of Flute Duets with my amazing flute teacher, Patty Lazzara.  Making music together with others has brought me joy throughout my life.

Album of Flute DuetsFlute Music by French ComposersJazz & Blues Play-Along Solos for FluteTwenty-Four (24) Flute Concert Studies

Continue reading ‘Sheet Music Plus Now Has 2 Million Titles for Sale Worldwide: Here Are Our Favorites’

Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora: The Best-Selling Anthology by William Chapman Nyaho

William Chapman Nyaho

While teaching at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1991 to 2002, Ghanaian American pianist William Chapman Nyaho was struck by the utter lack of available piano scores by composers of African descent. To the extent that he could find any at all, they were mostly out of print or in manuscript form.

Shortly thereafter Nyaho found himself wandering the exhibition hall at an MTNA conference. He asked publisher after publisher for music by Florence Price. Publisher after publisher responded, “Who’s that?” Nyaho told them that she was an African-American composer and was told time and time again, “We only have Scott Joplin,” with the excuse being that there didn’t seem to be any demand for Price’s music. Nyaho replied, “The chicken or the egg: which comes first?”

Continue reading ‘Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora: The Best-Selling Anthology by William Chapman Nyaho’

Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English

“There is no truth in theory – only in music!”

Frank Sikora

That’s Frank Sikora‘s creed.

Frank Sikora is also in charge of the theory department and the Master’s program in Jazz Composition & Arrangement at the University of the Arts Bern and is the author of a best-selling and widely acclaimed jazz theory book, Neue Jazz-Harmonielehre, that is now available in English: Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach.

While this coincidence might seem puzzling or even contradictory at first, it is exactly what lends Sikora’s approach the nuance and balance to successfully bridge the gap between theory and practice. In Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach, Sikora sets out to mold musicians who can adapt to anything, regardless of how novel and unexpected it may be. To achieve this, he establishes a close relationship between theory, the ear and our instrument, forging a dialogue between theory and spontaneity that helps musicians connect with music both intuitively and analytically.

Continue reading ‘Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English’


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