Classical Music, Ballet, Opera
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Daniel E. Freeman is a music historian of international repute born in Everett, Washington. He has taught music history at the University of Illinois, the University of Southern California, and the University of Minnesota. He also appears regularly as a lecturer for the Smithsonian Institution. He is also a pianist with experience as a soloist and accompanist for instrumentalists, vocalists, and dancers.
Experiencing Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker
Life in Tsarist Russia of the late 19th-century could be oppressively dreary, but many city dwellers found escapist outlets in operas and ballets based on fantasy and fairy tales. The best-loved of all from this time is Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker, the story of a girl who falls asleep after a Christmas party and experiences a series of fanciful dreams, including one that leads her into the arms of her first boyfriend. In this class, we’ll explore the background of the story, the types of dance pieces that make up a traditional Nutcracker performance, and Tchaikovsky’s extraordinary music for his ballet, which was carefully crafted to help lift dancers off their feet and push them across the floor.
Beethoven’s “Battle Symphony” – The Symphony No. 5 in C minor
With his troubled personality, Ludwig van Beethoven frequently sought solace in his musical compositions, always hoping for a better life for himself and a better world for the entire human race. Both his inner turmoil and a means to escape it are brilliantly capsulized in his Symphony No. 5, the opening of which features one of the most recognizable musical themes ever produced by a composer of classical music. In the presentation, we’ll discuss Beethoven’s techniques of creating an unsettling exploration of moods and styles that is swept away by a musical depiction of a victorious cavalry charge symbolic of the triumph of good over evil, and the certainty of a bright future for all mankind.
An Enticing Spanish Dance written by a Frenchman – Ravel’s Boléro
Although Maurice Ravel has a reputation for writing overrefined music that is too stylized for most listeners, his exotic Boléro of 1928 achieved immediate popular success with concert audiences, and it remains one of the most beloved orchestral pieces in the standard repertory. Ravel’s Boléro is famous for its simple construction that features two exotic musical themes in Spanish style that are repeated over and over with subtle changes of instrumentation. In this presentation, we’ll explore the historical background of Ravel’s Boléro (with its roots in ballet composition), and the composer’s ingenious techniques of varying his two themes without ever instilling boredom or weariness among audience members.
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