Introducing Lark Notes!

Once upon a time, in the halcyon days before September 2012, I thought of myself more as a historian and wannabe musicologist than as a commentator on never-ending orchestral lockouts.

Crazy, right?

Well, it’s been a year, but my heart’s still in the whole history thing. I’ve ignored it and I’ve missed it. I’m not giving up analysis of orchestral politics – by any means – but I do want to try to shoehorn some history onto the blog.

Consequently I’m embarking on a new series…


So what are Lark Notes? Great question. I’m not even 100% sure yet. (Let’s hear it for flying by the seat of your pants!! Woohoo!) I do know that the Notes will be my exploration of a particular musical topic, and that exploration might come in the form of essays, Youtube videos, interviews…who knows! We’ll have to see how the Notes evolve as time goes by. For the foreseeable future, they’ll likely tie into the programs of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra.

The meat of the Musicians’ November program is Brahms 2. Listening to or performing a Brahms symphony is always an event. So to celebrate, over the next week, I’ll be posting a three part essay giving some bare-bones background about the extraordinary relationship between Brahms, the Schumanns, and the symphonic form.

I also made a homemade Brahms video…just for you! (And like any proper homemade video, it’s complete with barking Sheltie!) In it I answer the question “what’s your favorite moment of Brahms 2?”

I would looooove to hear what your favorite moment is! Even if you can’t make it to next week’s show, tell me what your favorite moment is and why, whether in comment or video form (but video form would be awesome! especially if you’re a musician and can demonstrate on an instrument! cough cough!).

And if that question stymies you, try posting a video or writing a comment about something else Brahms related…whether it be your first experience with Brahms, or what side you’d take in the War of the Romantics, or whether, when it comes to Clara Schumann, you’re Team Robert or Team Johannes. The dorky possibilities are endless! Just leave a link in the comment section to your creation.

Hopefully the Brahms Lark Notes will provide a jumping off point for my readers to learn and listen more. My ultimate dream is that the Lark Notes enrich your concert experience at Ted Mann Concert Hall next week. (Do you have your tickets yet?) (What about for the December shows?)

Anyway. Now you guys know where I’ve been: I’ve been vacationing in mid-nineteenth-century Germany. The trip was a good one, full of music I love. And very happily, I managed the entire journey without running into any incompetent orchestra managers from Bournemouth! I hope you forgive my temporary absence, but I needed – repeat: needed – to take this trip to nourish my soul after a very difficult (albeit oddly rewarding) year. Writing about the music I love may not attract the same number of eyeballs as scandalous -gate stories, but it does keep me from going crazy. And in these circumstances? There’s definitely something to be said about not going crazy.


Filed under Blog Stuff

9 responses to “Introducing Lark Notes!

  1. This isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but your question about Robert-Clara-Johannes reminded me of something I had to dig up and, for better or worse, post on my own blog.

    (Love the video — do more!)

    — Steve

  2. Anuru

    Sonic archeology. This article may be a jumping off point for interesting discussions.

  3. Karin

    Love the new Lark notes, and keep doing videos!!!

  4. Lisa Renee Ragsdale

    The Brahms Symphony # 2 fourth movement is one of my favorite pieces within all of his symphonies. He starts off with just the strings (“Allegro con spirito” according to my flute part!). Then less than 20 measures later he brings in the entire orchestra with a bang and not long after that he gets into doing his favorite thing with the “hemiola’s.” It’s that surprise of bringing in the entire orchestra after the quiet, flowing sound of the strings that I like.

  5. PianoGirlAnn

    My favorite symphony by my favorite composer! — and my favorite moment is the f-sharp minor theme in the exposition, halfway between the tonic opening theme and the modulation to the dominant. (The feel-good brain chemicals kick in just thinking about it.) Since I’m in a pod-sized hotel room in NY without my piano, I sadly can’t play it, but it’s at 2:35 in this link:

  6. Sarah

    I was listening to this on MPR while driving home – my favorite part is that really famous bit that everybody knows. That’s as close as I can describe it right now ;-)

  7. Sarah

    And this afternoon they played Tchaikovsky Symphony #5 – isn’t that December’s concert? Hmm, deliberately or not, MPR is spotlighting the musicians . . .

  8. Bill Slobotski

    Emily, your tying together Brahms with the concept of the half note made me think about one of the most dark and passionate pieces I have ever heard for piano, his Intermezzo in B flat Minor. (What sane mind would chose to compose in this diabolical key? )

    Here is a good interpretation of the piece with sheet music to follow along:

    All throughout this piece, the left hand has a 4 note motif where the last 3 notes fit a common chord (ahh, easy on the ears!) but the first note is a half step below the second note, creating a moment of dissonance (ouch!) which quickly ends as the next 3 notes bring us to the above-mentioned happy triad.

    Watch the video and note these dissonances in the left hand:
    E natural in measure 2 (well, the first full measure)
    A natural in measures 3 and 4
    G natural in measure 5
    F in measure 6
    E Natural in measure 7

    This pattern fills the song, and perhaps EVERY left hand motif contains it (I do not know off the top of my head, I shudder when keys of B Flat Minor are placed in front of me, and thus never learned the piece adequately, which is why I linked to someone playing it who knows what they are doing :) ).

  9. Lisa Renee Ragsdale

    Having performed the Intermezzo Op. 117 # 1, I dabbled with # 2 as well and (in the days that I was a much better pianist than I am now) I did not find it that difficult to play. But to be honest I never gave a thought to analyzing the theory behind the work. A piano teacher in college did assign me a much more difficult work: Op. 118 # 6 in E flat minor (6 flats!!) and I had nightmares trying to play that. But there were good days when I made it through.
    Lisa Ragsdale

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