Christmas at the Villa Guitarist Richard Savino and the Treble Choir of Houston join the Houston Chamber Choir and conductor Robert Simpson. Dec. 14 and 15 at Chapel of the Villa de Matel, 6510 Lawndale. 713-224-5566; houstonchamber choir.org . Latin Christmas Houston Latin American Philharmonic’s program features holiday music conducted by Glenn Garrido. 8 p.m. Dec.
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Classical music review: Sweet singing from New York Polyphony
There were stark sounds from the three-voice Coventry Carol and, alternating two and three voices, an old English There is no Rose. In Audivi vocem de caelo the 16th-century Englishman Thomas Tallis evoked the otherworldliness of a celestial summons in polyphony rich and strange, itself wrapped around a florid plainsong melody. The Victoria O magnum mysterium, sung by many a decent church choir, offered welcome familiarity. Open harmonies and strategic crunches in several arrangements by the British-born Andrew Smith, who is now living in Norway, often evoked medieval and early renaissance forebears. Smiths version of Ave maris stella altenated the original plainsong tune, sung in Latin, with an English translation of the hymn set to the French tune Noel nouvelet. Williams alternate setting of There is no Rose surprisingly enlisted the 19th-century English organist Samuel Sebastian Wesleys hymn tune Hereford. Phillips added quirky chords to the familiar melody of Gabriels Message (The angel Gabriel from heaven came). At the other end of the spectrum, Phillips arrangement of the beloved American tune to O little town of Bethlehem luxuriated in ooh-la-la harmonies popularized by the Kings Singers, the very prototype of contemporary male vocal ensembles.
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Vietnam’s classical music star in the making
Mozart, Haydn, Liszt, Verdi, and Wagner would not understand why you just sniffed. They all wrote commercial music — because they were paid to compose what they wrote. They all adapted their styles to the needs of their audience and those who hired them — whether that was rewriting an opera for Parisian tastes as Verdi did with Il Trovatore and Aida, composing for a drunken party of students as Mozart did, or creating descriptive music synchronized to stage movement as Wagner did, while currying the favor of the king — who paid him with land, a theater and a house! In the 1940s, Max Steiner, the Viennese-trained composer (one of his teachers was Gustav Mahler) who composed over 300 symphonic film scores including Gone with the Wind, was called “the father of film music.” He responded by saying, “Nonsense. The idea originated with Wagner.
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Classical Music 101: Epilogue
The revolutionary work of Webern greatly intrigues me. The drama in the music of John Williams, Stephen Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown amazes me. The quirkiness of Imogen Heap inspires me. I love the edge of Michael Jackson and Queen. I am also in awe of the simplicity in the music of Trinh Cong Son.
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