1868 – The maestro of Overtures, Gioachino Rossini dies near Paris and Scott Joplin, king of ragtime is born in Texas. Some 50 years later in 1918, Impressionist composer Claude Debussy dies in Paris whilst Leonard Bernstein, acclaimed composer, pianist and conductor is born in Massachussetts.
To celebrate the anniversaries of these 4 great composers, we welcome you to our Heavyweight Showdown. Come and elect your champion!
La Gazza Ladra
The piece de resistance of our program (Rossini was also an avid cook!) will likely be the famous overture of Rossini’s “Thieving Magpie”, written just over 200 years ago before he moved to France. The “Italian Mozart” as he was dubbed, had by then become a master at composing overtures, not always related to the rest of the music that followed but so catchy that they would often outclass the main arias. Some of you may even recognise it as the soundtrack to a Batman video game!
It’s hard to think that Scott Joplin’s music had nearly fallen into oblivion, only to be resurrected by the 1973 movie “The Sting” whose soundtrack featured many of Joplin’s ragtime. Instantly recognisable by its syncopated rhythm and crowd pleasing melodies, this style of music, like the Blues, is regarded as what eventually led to the creation of Jazz. We will play one of Joplin’s most famous pieces to celebrate the king of Ragtime.
French composer Claude Debussy is more known for its Impressionist music than his Ragtime pieces but he too had a go at embracing Joplin’s style. From the “Children’s corner” series of pieces, Golliwogg’s cakewalk was originally a piano piece, illustrating the imaginary dance of a child’s toy, here adapted for a small orchestra:
West Side Story Medley
Although we had a done a WWS edition in the past, Leonard Bernstein’s most famous work had to be featured for the occasion, this time condensed in a 4-part medley featuring some of the best songs from the musical: I feel pretty / Somewhere / America / Tonight.
Well we also need to celebrate some Jazz anniversaries too! American pianist Charles Thompson (often called Sir Charles by some of the Count Basie band members, all of them self-proclaimed noblemen!) was born 100 years ago and got to perform with all the great Bebop players. However, he is best remembered for his standard “Robbin’s Nest”, made famous by Ella Fitzgerald. Here’s a version by totally unknown musicians to me but I thought they sounded rather cool….
A brilliant performer, singer and guitarist but also a gifted songwriter and composer, Prince would have been 60 in June. Let’s celebrate his Purple highness with a medley comprising of over 10 songs no less!