Musical Marination

Listen to this: Operatic Aesthetics

As always, if you have any suggested listenings, please email me with your suggestions (check out my contact form).  Thanks!

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Mozart.  He did, after all, write the definitive clarinet concerto (well, at least according to some).  But Mozart did something else for me, which was completely unexpected.  He made me like opera.

Yes.  That’s right.

I didn’t really have much exposure to opera prior to 2000, when I went to study in Austria for a semester.   The experience I had had wasn’t overwhelming.  I wasn’t partial to operatic voices, and I hadn’t heard anything which wooed me.  However, while in Austria, I attended a performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute, the last opera he wrote (1791).  I was floored.  Completely astounded.

It was pleasing to the eye and the ear, all at once!  It was like an aesthetic paradise.

This week’s selection is one of the more famous arias from this opera, the Queen of the Night aria.  It demands vocal gymnastics from the soprano singing it, and it still gives me the chills.  The video excerpt is from the movie Amadeus (historically inaccurate, but a good movie nevertheless).  It doesn’t present the beginning of the aria, but it gives you an idea of the virtuosity required.

Listen to this: rest and relax

Posted in Uncategorized by Rivki Silver on 08/20/2010

Well, it’s a couple days late for the second installation of Listen to This, but I’ve been preoccupied with setting up my other blog on (Fun fun!).

As always, you can send suggestions for this series  to

This week’s excerpt was sent to me by a reader, mandoline.  I love this piece, and had the opportunity to play it in university.

Dvorak’s New World Symphony, second movement.  Delicious, relaxing, and worth a listen.  Enjoy!

Acquisition: Flute!

I’d been meaning to buy a flute for quite some time.  Maybe even for over a year.  I had taken lessons in university and loved the portability, the sound, and most of all, the lack of reeds.  Occasionally I had a hankering to play, but alas, I did not own one.

Sometimes, when we had a little extra money in our pockets, I would roam through the listings on Craig’s List and dream about buying a flute.  However, the money was always spent on something practical (like food).  Then I had a birthday and got a big ol’ check from my mother-in-law, who instructed me that I was to use it on myself.  I love my mother-in-law.  A lot (and not only because she gave me money, mind you).

Also, now it wasn’t just a matter of me wanting to own a flute (which, on the whole, was a pretty impractical desire), but I could use it for In Harmony gigs.  Sweet.

Still, it took me a couple of months to get my act together and actually purchase a flute.  I knew I wanted a Gemeinhardt, and I discovered that there were better prices on ebay than on Craig’s List.  However, I kept forgetting to check on my items before the time ran out, and lost two opportunities. Eventually, I managed to spot a flute within my general price range which was close to the end of the auction.  And I totally won it.

It was kind of exciting.  Down to the wire, someone else bidding actively, upping my bid amount in return.  Cool.

A few days later, and here she is:

all bright and shiny

A match made in 5th grade

Posted in music by Rivki Silver on 08/13/2010
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My Bachelor’s Degree is in Music Performance, with clarinet as my primary instrument.  It was an extremely practical choice (sarcasm, lots and lots of sarcasm).  In my defense, it did make sense at the time.

Anyways, how I even came to play the clarinet is rather serendipitous.  It almost didn’t turn out that way…

In the region where I grew up, band programs generally started in 5th grade.   Students who were interested in learning an instrument were all shuffled down to the music room, where there were lots and lots of instruments to choose from.  I was really excited, because I wanted to be a percussionist.  I had already rented a snare drum and had spent much time hitting it with sticks.  It was fun, and it made a loud noise.  I was in love.

After locating the section for potential percussionists, I found that some adults were proctoring rhythm tests, exercises like tapping one rhythm on the left leg and another on the right.  Separating the wheat from the chaff, if you will.  I passed with flying colors.  Check and check.  However, it turned out that I wasn’t the only kid who thought hitting things and making loud noises was cool (shocking, I know).  I was informed that there were way too many kids interested in playing percussion, and that I should choose a different instrument.


So I thought that maybe I could play the flute.  It was pretty, and light (not like that snare drum I had been lugging around).  I found the area where they were testing aspiring flautists and discovered that I couldn’t make a sound come out of the darned thing.  Nothing.  Just some sad little air sounds.


The saxophone seemed promising.  It was also kind of loud, and there was a definite coolness factor.  However, I couldn’t find the area for saxophones.  I don’t know how easily I gave up (it was a long time ago, this whole adventure), but I do know that I moved on.

Last, but not least.

After so many dead ends, I finally found the clarinet.  A humble instrument.  Not all that exciting.  I thought I might as well try it.  It turns out that I could make some noise.  And that I was decent at it.  It was a match!

So that’s how I came to be a clarinet major.  I guess it’s a good lesson that we don’t always want what we’re meant to have, and that if you keep striking out at something, you should persevere.  Who knows where you’ll end up?

Any other stories of unlikely pairings?

Listen to this: an “a-ha!” moment

Every Wednesday I’m going to suggest a piece of music for your listening enjoyment.  Please email me at with suggestions, I’ll take a listen, and maybe I’ll recommend your piece!  It could be from any genre, classical, world, pop, rock, whatever.

This week’s piece is the second movement of the Piano Concerto #2 in B-flat Major by Johannes Brahms (yeah, it’s a long title, I know).  It has a story to go with it, which goes a little something like this:

My sophomore year in university I took a Music History course.  Being a nerdy type, I absolutely loved it.  Memorize endless amounts of dates?  Sure thing!  Categorize pieces according to the proper time period?  Sweet!  But, hands down, my favorite part of the course was listening to loads of music.  I would go to the music library, check out the required listening, plug it into the CD player, put on the headphones and bliss out.

It was during one of these library sessions that I experienced my “a-ha!” moment.   Smack in the middle of this week’s piece, it was suddenly clear to me why I was studying music, and why I loved it so much.  It was so beautiful and moving that  I literally stood up (still in the library, mind you).  I didn’t actually say, “a-ha!” (probably a good thing, too),  but I felt it.

Here’s a video of the piece.  Feel free to listen to the whole movement (it’s under 10 minutes), but if you want to skip right to the juicy middle, the moment that I’m talking about comes at the 6:05 and is over by 6:25.  That’s right, it’s only 20 seconds.  20 seconds of sublimity.

A little background on the composer and piece:  Johannes Brahms was a German composer who lived from 1833 until 1897.  The Piano Concerto was composed from 1878-1891.  It was premiered by the composer, and was an immediate success.  I can see why.

I have friends who have listened to this piece and agree that it’s lovely, but they didn’t have the same visceral reaction that I did.  Music is funny like that.  It hits people in different ways. 

What did you think?  How did the piece make you feel?

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