Monday, September 26, 2016

Diabelli Project 127 - A Work for Chamber Orchestra

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week I think I got a litter over-ambitious and sketched out something for chamber orchestra all in the space of the allotted 10 minutes. I think it turned out rather well, considering. The basic idea was to have a burbling energy generator in the strings that slowly changed over time. On top of it, the winds and brass would provide three motifs that would gradually come together to form the opening theme (or they would, given enough time).

As you can see,the three motifs are a whole-note slide (mm 2-3, oboe and clarinet), syncopated fifths (mm 3-4, trombone and tuba), and a sweeping arpeggio (mm 4-5, flute and bassoon). This is another sketch I'll place in the "possibilities" folder to revisit later, I think.

As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Line Mar Match Box Construction 021 Stamper

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

021 Stamper

Normally, I post the image of the toy from the instruction sheet at right. For the next three posts, you'll be seing the same image. Although these are all separate toys, on the instruction sheet, the stamper (21), wind wheel (22), and the fork (23) were all jammed together. So rather than spend time Photoshopping the images, I just cropped the grouping. The toy we're focues on this time is the one at the far left.

The stamper was a simple toy to construct. The only difficult part was connecting the two dowels with the wooden collar. The handle is most secure when the collar is centered over the two dowels. Making that happen though took some trial and error. Eventually I was able to position the collar to provide support for both dowels. Eventually.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

László Lajtha Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 - A Great Start

László Lajtha, along with colleagues Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály collected folk music in his native Hungary. Their aim was to not only preserve their cultural heritage but incorporate it into their own music. Lajtha may be the least famous of the three, but his music can be just as rewarding to listen to.

Lajtha retained a neo-classic style throughout his career. His 1933 Suite for Orchestra is an intriguing mixture of lush harmonies, restless syncopations and sometimes spiky melodies. The suite is comprised of music from his ballet Lysistrata. Dynamic and dramatic contrasts abound in the score. It's a great opener -- I'm surprised the Suite isn't regularly programmed by orchestras.

The 1941 In memoriam was written to honor the victims of the Second World War. While it has a more somber cast than the Suite, the work effectively conveys the complexity of emotion war and loss can bring. There are quiet moments for contemplation and heavily chromatic passages that suggest anxiety and uncertainty. And throughout there's a slow, inexorable pulse that, like an army, keeps moving forward until, at the climax, it fades off into the distance.

The first of Lajtha's nine symphonies was completed in 1936. To my ears, it has more in common with Martinu's music than it does with Bartók's or Kodály's. There is similar syncopation that gives the themes a dancing quality, and Lajtha's use of the harp to punctuate parallels Martinu's use of the piano for the same purpose.

The influence of folk music is closer to the surface of this work. The harmonies have a modal sound to them, and the melodic turns -- especially in some of the fast passages -- sound very close to Hungarian folk dances. Lajtha studied with Vincent d'Indy, and to my ears, his influence can be heard in Lajtha's orchestrations.

László Lajtha ran afoul of Hungary's communist regime in 1956, and his music ceased to be performed. Recordings such as this should help rectify this wrong. In his native land, Lajtha is considered one Hungary's most important composers. With this release, it's easy to hear why.

László Lajtha: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1
Symphony No. 1; Suite pour orchestra; In memoriam
Pécs Symphony Orchestra; Nicolás Pasquet, conductor
Naxos 8.573643