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Music - Piano, organ and other keyboards

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Zombie

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Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828) 

A prolific Austrian composer, especially for the piano, Schubert wasn’t very well known or regarded as a composer during his short life.

Much of his work was unpublished including this now famous “impromptu”, written the year before he died, which was only finally published some 30 years later.

In fact Schubert wrote two sets of four impromptus for piano and this is the third in the first set, played by Alfred Brendel. The melody is hauntingly beautiful.

Impromptu No. 3 in G flat Major D899 Op 90 

 

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Zombie

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Procol Harum “A Whiter Shade of Pale” 1967 - the organ part 

One of the most famous, enduring and all-time classic pop songs from the 1960s.

What makes this song so good is the fantastic Hammond organ part. It was written by Matthew Fisher after Gary Brooker, lead singer of Procol Harum, contacted Fisher (who was advertising himself plus his Hammond organ for hire in Melody Maker) to add a Hammond organ line to a new song Brooker had written.

Brooker never gave a writing credit or any share in the royalties to Fisher, who always felt his contribution to the song should be recognised. In 2005, nearly 40 years later, Fisher eventually sued Brooker, winning in the High Court in 2006 but then losing on appeal when the decision was reversed in 2008. Then Fisher got leave to appeal to the House of Lords and in 2009 - after lugging his Hammond organ into the courtroom at the Palace of Westminster and playing his solo part - their Lordships, in the last ever case decided by the House of Lords (before it was replaced by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom), reinstated the original High Court decision.

Fisher’s part, and Gary Brooker’s original song, are clearly inspired by JS Bach. But the House of Lords ruling established that Fisher’s Hammond organ part is much more than just a line in the song. It is so good, so well crafted and exploits the iconic Hammond organ sound so wonderfully that it fully deserves being heard as a solo piece just as it was by their Lordships in their musty fusty dusty old courtroom (OK, with an added cheesy rhythm track!)
 

 

Here’s an analysis of the music and chord progressions taken from https://telescoper.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-whiter-shade-of-bach/

"It is true that it sounds very much like Bach, especially the trademark descending bass figures which feature in the Hammond organ part; indeed, the first few bars of the accompaniment are pretty much identical to the second movement from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV 1068 better known as “Air on the G String“. After that, although the piece continues to sound like Bach, in the sense that the chord progression has a compelling sense of logic to it, it’s not an copy of anything I recognize (although of course I stand ready to be contradicted by music experts…). The melody is also, as far as I’m aware, quite original.

Here are the chords, by the way, if you’re interested. They’re a great illustration of the difference between a real progression and just a sequence. In fact I’m quite surprised this hasn’t been taken up by more jazz musicians, as it looks like very fertile grounds for improvisation – just as much of Bach’s own music is."

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Edited by Zombie

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Zombie

Posted (edited)

Franz Schubert, Ave Maria - piano transcription by Franz Liszt

More Schubert - this is Franz Liszt’s piano transcription (one of three) of Schubert’s "Ellens dritter Gesang" or "Ellen's Third Song", composed in 1825 as part of his Op. 52, a setting of seven songs from Walter Scott's “The Lady of the Lake”.

Here it is played by the Ukrainian-American pianist Valentina Lisitsa on a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial Concert Grand Piano. The Imperial has an extra 9 keys in the base (darker coloured to avoid distracting pianists not used to them) which gives a full 8 octave keyboard. Those extra keys are rarely used because piano music is written for the standard 88 note keyboard. So why have them? Because those notes provide an additional harmonic resonance to the performance sound.

If you fancy one you’ll need £150,000. But this thing is big (290 cm long - hence the model number - by 176 cm wide, or nine foot six inches by five feet nine inches) so you’ll probably need to build an extension to handle the sheer volume of sound - say the size of a concert hall. Then, when you’ve done all that, maybe a few piano lessons... 

 

 

Edited by Zombie

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Zombie

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I love the Merchant Ivory movies, especially Howards End and the beginning where Vanessa Redgrave wanders through the twilit gardens looking in through the open windows at her family talking, laughing and enjoying family life while a serene and hauntingly beautiful piano piece is played.

I assumed it was composed for the film but it wasn't, it’s by the somewhat neglected but brilliant Australian composer, Percy Grainger. It was written for Karen Holten, a Danish music student whom Grainger had met in 1905. Even though their love-affair was mostly by correspondence, when found out by Grainger's mother she disapproved so much that Grainger ended the relationship. But he never forgot Karen, and he gave her this short piece - just 17 bars - as a wedding gift when she later fell in love again and became Karen Kellerman.

There is a real sense of sadness, regret and loss but Grainger was clearly glad she had found happiness.

Here it is performed, as in the film, by the English pianist Martin Jones:

Percy Grainger (1882 - 1961)

Bridal Lullaby (1916)




 

Edited by Zombie

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