Day 11 Mass for 5 voices – Gloria – William Byrd

Mass for 5 Voices – Gloria
William Byrd

I included this purely to have an English composition representative of the Early Renaissance period. It was a choice made purely on (incredibly feeble) academic grounds, based entirely on internet research. I had *no idea* the fascinating history ahead of me. I mean, intellectually, I knew that the time period was rife with religious persecution, but had never really considered how that would impact musically.

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Day 10 Spring – The Four Seasons – Antonio Vivaldi

Spring – The Four Seasons
Antonio Vivaldi

The Four Seasons are Vivaldi’s best known body of work and were written in 1723 and published in Amsterdam two years later. Spring was the first of four violin concerti and a firm favourite of King Louis XV.

Each of the movements provide a musical expression for a particular season of the year.

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Day 9 The Valkyrie – Ride of the Valkyries – Richard Wagner

The Valkyrie – Ride of the Valkyries
Richard Wagner


I really have to go and see this opera. I love the myths and legends that inspired it (as well as being a fan of Lost Girl…which you know…has a Valkyrie… that counts as relevant right?).

This is another piece that I was familiar with ahead of the challenge but the drama and passion captures my imagination more and more as time goes by, not less!

Da Facts

The leitmotif (main theme) of the piece (ooh, aren’t I learning lots!) known as “Walkürenritt” was first written down on the 23rd of July 1851.

The composition of the opera as a whole was completed in 1856. That’s a *nasty* case of ear worm.

This piece belongs to the third act of the second opera in a series of four – Die Walküre – The Valkyrie. The series of Operars are know as – Der Ring des Nibelungen – The Ring of the Nibelung.

This is the only ensemble piece of the four Ring opera’s that Wagner composed.

The piece builds up successively, layer by layer; corresponding to the story of the opera – Valkyrie sisters meeting on the mountain top, preparing to carry the souls of heroes to Valhalla, culminating in a battle cry.

Did you know?

The opera was first performed on the 26th of June 1870 against Wagner’s express intention. From January of the following year, he was inundated with requests to play this piece independently of the Opera – an idea he vehemented rejected. When the score was released by Schott, he wrote a letter of complaint. It took until 1876 for Wagner to soften his stance. In 1877 he conducted it in London on May the 12th and even repeated it as an encore.
This piece was used to fantastic effect in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now during the attack on a North Vietnamese village by a gun ship.


Lenten Challenge – YouTube 04



Lenten Challenge – YouTube 03


Lenten Challenge – YouTube 02



Lenten Challenge – YouTube 01



Day 8 Finale from William Tell Overture – Gioachino Rossini

Finale from William Tell Overture
Gioachino Rossini

Suggested by:Google Doodle – February 29th was the birth date of the composer. 

The instrumental opening to the 39th and final opera by Rossini – until his retirement, he was the most popular opera compose in history. Isn’t that a rather lovely thing to know about yourself? Very flattering. 

Rossini is a somewhat fascinating character. His father was a Bonaparte supporter – and served the time to prove it. A talented child, his abilities at the harpsichord, violin and piano rapidly became apparent.  

Comprising of 4 movements; each one follows the one before without pause – a structural anomaly. 

According to wikipedia:

The overture is scored for: a piccolo, a flute, two oboes (first or second oboe doubles a cor anglais (not a clue?)), two clarinets in A, two bassoons, four horns in G and E, two trumpets in E, three trombones, timpani, triangle, bass drum and cymbals, and strings. 

I think I love this piece. Without really liking it. It’s all so dramatic and meaningful, so full of itself and purpose. Which I despise. 

And yet. 

And yet.

I do actually love it. For all the reasons I shouldn’t. 

Frustrating this classical stuff isn’t it?  

This is one of the most frequently used pieces of classical music on American advertisements. 
Apparently – it is hypothesized –  this is because it specifically  appeals to male consumers. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but what a delicious thought!

In recent times, it has been popularised as the theme music for the Lone Ranger. 



Day 7 Concierto de Aranjuez – Joaquin Rodrigo

Concierto de Aranjuez
Joaquin Rodrigo

Suggested by: @ArtemisFoul1812

Joaquin Rodrigo – raised to the position of 1st Marquis of the Gardens of Aranjuez by King Juan Carlos I in 1991 – was a Spanish composer and piano player. Near blind for much of his life, he composed in braille – his works translated for publications.

Despite raising the profile of the Spanish guitar and composing so successfully for it, Rodrigo never actually mastered the instruments himself. This work was the first that the compose had written for the Spanish guitar. 

The Concierto de Aranjuez was written in 1939. This melancholic piece was speculated to be a response to the bombing of Guernica, or the tensions throughout Europe that eventually led to the second World War. Many years after its popularity, his wife Victoria revealed that the secondary movement had its origins in a far more personal tragedy for the couple – the miscarriage of their first child. 

Inspired by the gardens at Aranjuez, the spring resort palace of the monarchy. Built in the 16th century by Philip the second, the gardens were rejuvenation two centuries later by Ferdinand the sixth. This composition seeks to transport the listener to a different time and place by mimicking the sounds that present themselves in nature. 

There are three movements within this piece – Allegro con spiritoAdagio and Allegro gentile. The second movement is the best known – indeed it has so permeated the social consciousness that Rodrigo struggled to receive royalties – the timeless quality of the music convinced musicians that it was written in a  bygone era!


Things I learned that I don’t quite understand
but hope to by the end of this challenge
Miles Davis has covered this piece – his interpretation was that “That melody is so strong that the softer you play it, the stronger it gets, and the stronger you play it, the weaker it gets.”
I fully intend to have a listen once the challenge has been completed. 
Apparently it has been used in many different jazz settings – again, I shall be checking these out asap. 
Allegro con spiritoAdagio and Allegro gentile – I’d like to develop a sort of working understanding.  


Day 6 The Earth Prelude – Ludovico Einaudi

The Earth Prelude
Ludovico Einaudi

Suggested by: @srjf


“In general I don’t like definitions, but ‘Minimalist’ is a term that means elegance and openness, so I would prefer to be called a Minimalist than something else.”
Ludovico Einaudi


{Read up on Einaudi’s biography on his official website here!}

Onto the contemporary stylings of the Italian Einaudi – another recommendation from a twitter buddy and book clubber…I’m pretty lucky to have some inspired friends online – especially those willing to share their musical choices!

Einaudi is both a composer and piano player. Another collaborative creator; he has worked on a variety of projects during the last thirty years – each work allowing him the scope to continue to invent a melodious, personal and introspective sound all his own. 

I had to listen to this piece over and over to get a sense of it. Though undoubtedly beautiful; I’m not entirely sure what I feel about it – each time I tried to outline my thoughts, they would change! Deeply atmospheric, I love the different emotions inspired. This is one of those pieces that strikes a different mood depending on how the listener is feeling at the time. 

It was only after I started to read up on the composer that I realised that I actually own several of his film scores – I’ll definitely be going back after this challenge and having a proper listen to them – hopefully with a bit more of a sense of the composer’s intentions. 

Things I learned that I don’t quite understand
but hope to by the end of this challenge
This is England Soundtrack
I’m still here (the bizarre film directed by Casey Affleck about Joaquin Phoenix ‘Rap’ career)
I’d also like to explore the concept of minimalism as it applies to contemporary classical music.