J.P. Morgan | Romantic & Impressionist, Vol. II

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Romantic & Impressionist, Vol. II

by J.P. Morgan

This is my second album of piano and organ music from the early 1800's to the early 1900's - the Romantic and Impressionist Periods. I've experimented with virtual instrument samples in some selections in order to add more over-all variety and color.
Genre: Classical: Romantic Era
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Polonaise in A Major, Op. 40: No. 1
6:11 $0.99
2. Etude, Op. 25: No. 2
1:48 $0.99
3. Nocturne, Op. 9: No. 2
4:16 $0.99
4. Etude, Op. 25: No. 12
2:52 $0.99
5. Rhapsody, Op. 79: No. 1
9:27 $0.99
6. Intermezzo, Op. 117: No. 2
5:12 $0.99
7. Prelude, Op. 23: No. 5
4:17 $0.99
8. Serenata Andaluza, IMF 14 (Arr. by J.P. Morgan)
5:17 $0.99
9. Recuerdos de Viaje, Op. 71: No. 6. Rumores de la Caleta (Arr. by J.P. Morgan)
3:41 $0.99
10. Valse Romantique, L. 71
3:16 $0.99
11. Estampes, L. 100: I. Pagodas
5:05 $0.99
12. Pièces Brèves, Op. 84: No. 1 (Arr. by J.P. Morgan)
2:01 $0.99
13. Pièces Brèves, Op. 84: No. 5 (Arr. by J.P. Morgan)
1:36 $0.99
14. Prelude, Op. 103: No. 1
3:24 $0.99
15. Prelude, Op. 103: No. 7
2:26 $0.99
16. Suite I, Prelude, Op. 51: No. 1
3:58 $0.99
17. Suite I, Intermezzo, Op. 51: No. 4
2:43 $0.99
18. Suite I, Marche Nuptiale, Op. 51: No. 6
6:01 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Romantic & Impressionist Vol. II
There is no particular date to be set that separates the Romantic period from the Impressionist. Impressionism naturally evolved alongside romanticism during the late 1800's, and the two have overlapped and co-existed till today. For general purposes, the composers in this collection can be labeled "early Romantic", "late Romantic", or "Impressionist", but many wrote music that falls into all three categories as they developed their styles. Most of the pieces on this album reflect the national musical traditions of the homelands of their composers.
Early Romantic
Frederic Chopin (1810 - 1849)
1) Polonaise in A Major Op.40 No.1
Frederic Chopin wrote his first polonaise when he was 7 years old. This one, which is one of his best known, depicts a military parade marching through a town. Consequently, "The Military Polonaise" became its unofficial title. But consider this: since a polonaise is a Polish dance in three-quarter time, this piece turns out to be a march in three-quarter time.
A sad, but necessary historical note: When Chopin wrote this piece, he was dying from tuberculosis, and he did not have the strength to play it. Most people know that Mozart died at only 35 years of age, but Frederic Chopin only reached 39. These were the days before antibiotics. Those hopeless times may quickly return as more and more resistant strains of bacteria arise due to our over-use and misuse of antibiotics.
2) Etude, Op.25 No.2
In this short, crystalline Etude, the right hand plays fast triplets in 4/4 time while the left hand plays a slower 3/4 time underneath. Only the first note of each group strikes at the same time. Chopin employs a similar technique in his "Fantasy Impromptu", and in some ways, it faintly resembles this etude, except on a much grander scale.
3) Nocturne, Op.9 No.2
This is perhaps Chopin's most famous and best-loved Nocturne, and for good reason. It's not terribly difficult for an average piano student to play, and play expressively.
4) Etude, Op. 25 No.12
This Etude earned the title "The Ocean". The melody is formed by the bass intervals struck at the beginning of each arpeggio. There are some wonderful Romantic chord progressions in this etude that build and then resolve like giant waves.
Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)
Harold C. Schonberg devotes a chapter to Johannes Brahms entitled "Keeper of the Flame" in his book "The Lives of the Great Composers". Schonberg writes: "Brahms, like Bach, summed up an epoch. . . . . Brahms was a conscious classicist, . . . . he was content with the old forms, and he knew more about them than anybody in his period."
5) Rhapsody, Op.79 No.1
Brahms' 2nd Rhapsody from his Opus 79 gets more performances, but the first one is no less impressive. This Rhapsody has strong "architecture", - as it's being called today. It's in B minor, with a peaceful mid-section in B major.
6) Intermezzo, Op.117 No.2
This is not a cheerful piece. In fact, it's quite fatalistic. Yes, in the end, death takes us all. But while this Intermezzo evokes emotions of grief, tragedy and loss, there are moments of deep tenderness and affection. There are some surprising chord changes, too.
Late Romantic
Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 - 1943)
7) Prelude, Op.23 No.5
This famous Rachmaninoff Prelude might qualify as a Russian military march except for the lyrical, almost Spanish-sounding middle section. This infectious piece contains all the best elements of what an enduring musical composition should be.
Manuel de Falla (1876 - 1946)
Along with Isaac Albéniz and Enrique Granados, Manuel de Falla belongs to Spain's most important group of Romantic composers. Born in Cádiz, he moved with his family to Madrid around 1900, where he studied at the Real Conservatorio de Música y Declamación. He also studied in Paris for seven years beginning in 1907, where he met several French Impressionists including Debussy and Ravel. Their influences are evident in his nocturne for piano and orchestra "Nights in a Spanish Garden", an enchanting piece that remains universally acclaimed. De Falla left for Argentina in 1939 when dictator Francisco Franco won the Spanish Civil War, and although Franco offered him safety and a pension, de Falla refused to return. His remains were finally brought to the cathedral in Cádiz in1947.
8) Serenata Andaluza
Originally a piano solo, I've arranged Señor de Falla's lovely Serenata Andaluza for piano and string orchestra. Makes me wish I was back in Spain again!
Isaac Albéniz (1860 - 1909)
Isaac Albéniz was a pianist and composer from a small town near Girona, Catalonia, who based most of his pieces on folk idioms. Many of his works were transcribed for guitar by Franscisco Tárrega, and have become standard classical guitar repertoire. As a child prodigy, Albéniz travelled extensively with his father, a customs official, and gave concerts in Argentina, Cuba, the United States (in both San Francisco and New York), England, and many European countries. Albéniz completed his masterwork, the 12-piece suite "Iberia" in 1908.
9) Rumores de la Caleta
This is also a solo piano piece, but it's so distinctly Spanish, I've arranged it for piano, guitar, trumpet and castanets. The official translation of the title is “Murmurs from the small beach”, but since I hardly know any Spanish, a loose translation might be "The Talk of the Cove".
Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
10) Valse Romantique
Just as his contemporaries were doing, Claude Debussy made the transition from "romantic" to "impressionist". But Debussy did it earlier. His Valse Romantique lies somewhere in between, more in the romantic direction.
11) Pagodas
This is the first piece in Debussy's "Estampes" ("Prints"), completed in 1903. Debussy's influences for this piece were his curiosity about Javanese gamelan music and dance which he witnessed during the Paris World Exhibition in 1889. At around 4:00 minutes in “Pagodas”, all sense of time seems to dissolve, as if Nirvana has been achieved. This mystical work might be appropriate for yoga exercises and meditation.
The following seven pieces by two major composers of the Impressionist era all end on a major triad. That seems to have been a trend at the time; - no matter how far away the composer takes us, we're always brought gently back to earth, ultimately settling on a nice, familiar chord we're all comfortable with.
Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924)
Gabriel Fauré began his career writing romantic music, but his later works became increasingly experimental and impressionistic in nature. Although Fauré was a leading composer, organist and teacher of his day, and his work has survived the test of time, he still doesn't receive the kind of attention that Debussy and Ravel do. Maurice Ravel was one of Fauré's students when Fauré taught composition as director of the Conservatory of Paris from 1905 till 1920, when deafness set in. Gabriel Fauré never composed a symphony or a concerto, concentrating instead on smaller-scale concepts. He wrote over 100 songs and works for choir and organ, but according to some associates, he actually preferred the piano over the organ.
Here are two selections from his "Pièces Brèves", Op.84, composed between 1869 and 1902, originally for solo piano:
12) Pièces Brèves, Op.84 No.1
I've given the melody to a flute for this one. This piece in 9/8 time signature contains Romantic sweetness with a few unexpected dissonances thrown in for good measure.
13) Pièces Brèves, Op.84 No.5
This number reminds me so much of the great jazz standards like "Autumn Leaves", etc. that I gave the melody to a saxophone, an instrument that was invented in Belgium by Adolphe Sax in 1840. The saxophone became popular during Fauré's lifetime.
Fauré delved deeper with his pensive, introverted Opus 103 Preludes. Chords and unusual key changes morph and mutate from one into another, many times hanging on a single common note.
14) Prelude Op. 103 No.1
I wonder if jazz pianists like Oscar Peterson or Thelonius Monk ever listened to this prelude. Some of the things they've done certainly sound like they may have heard it.
15) Prelude Op.103 No.7
This Prelude begins in a melancholy, almost ominous mood, and after doing a tremendous build-up with some strange transitions in the middle, it quickly returns to the beginning theme. A series of classic jazz chord progressions follow, the last group employing the so-called "jazz circle of fourths", . . . the same chord sequence J.S. Bach used too! The two bars after that don't fall into any category, but serve to bring about a return to the main theme, and that aforementioned soft landing on a major triad.
Louis Vierne (1870 - 1937)
Born nearly blind due to congenital cataracts, just about every misfortune that can overcome a person happened to Louis Vierne; - the loss of his youngest son to tuberculosis, and both his oldest son and his brother in WWI. His mother and his best friend Alexandre Guilmant died only four days apart from kidney disease. He suffered a divorce, two other broken relationships, bankruptcy, and an accident that broke a leg and an ankle, . . . bad news for an organist. Then, one year later, a life-threatening illness. But all these terrible occurrences never diminished Louis Vierne's life-long passion for composing and performing music. He completed six organ symphonies, and many other works for organ, as well as chamber music, and one symphony for orchestra. Louis Vierne was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur by the French government in 1931.
Vierne held the position of chief organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris for 37 years, starting in 1900. Indeed, that's where he died; on the organ bench. After years of successful organ concerts in the Notre Dame Cathedral, the church bishops decided to call a halt to them. (Too much sensual, earthly pleasure for the conservative clergy, maybe?) More than three thousand people showed up for the last concert, and, although Vierne told his close friend, student Maurice Duruflé who was with him in the organ loft, that he was feeling ill, Vierne played his best to an appreciative audience. But at the end, when Vierne was starting to do an improvisation on a theme that had been submitted, he suddenly collapsed and died from either a heart attack or a brain hemorrhage.
Here's a very informative website about Louis Vierne, and the turn-of-the-Century times he lived in:
Reviewer Eric Meese calls Louis Vierne a "post-impressionist - if he is to be classified".
Here are three selections from his "Pieces of Fantasie Op.51" (1926 - 1927) that can validate that classification. They employ both jazzy chords, and modern combinations of tones.
16) Prelude, Op.51 No.1
A delightful and ethereal mix of flute and woodwind sounds with three separate, consecutive underlying reed pipe melodies. Can anyone imagine hearing these melodies being sung, first by a baritone, then an alto, then both together in unison on the last verse? . . . if someone feels like writing lyrics? The key would also have to go up several steps to accommodate normal human voice ranges.
17) Intermezzo, Op.51 No.4
This piece might better be called a Scherzo, or musical joke. A quirky, practically calliope- style theme alternates between slow, smooth sections that include periods of silence. Vierne tops it off with a theater-organ ending.
18) Marche Nuptiale, No.6
Here's a wedding march fit for royalty, or more precisely modern royalty, that is. Big, jazzy chords deployed in unconventional ways form a theme, with less-tonal, softer sections playing out between the theme's reoccurring variations. During these intervening sections, listen for melodies to quietly appear moments later as accompaniment in the bass pedals. When the last of these softer sections ends on a cliff-hanger, the dam begins to burst, and the main theme returns in the pedals with tsunami force. This is the first time I've used the 32' "Bombard" rack of pipes in my Vienna Konzerthaus Organ software. Warning: gets loud, especially if your stereo set has a good bass woofer!



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