Lazy Sunday XCIX: Romantic Music

After three Sundays, several SubscribeStar Saturdays, and some Mondays of movie reviews, it seemed like a good time to give the movies a rest.  Don’t get me wrong—there’s a good chance I’ll be writing a movie review tomorrow—but I realized the blog has been skewing a bit heavily in that direction for a few weeks.  Sure, it’s wintertime, the perfect time to vegetate while consuming schlock in the evening, but that doesn’t mean we can live on cultural junk food alone.

To that end, I thought I’d highlight the classier side of The Portly Politico with haute cuisine—my recent posts on Romantic music.  Seeing as Valentine’s Day is one week away, why not cozy up with passionate music from some of history’s greatest composersBon appétite!:

  • Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony” (and “TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“) – photog gave the TBT version of this post a shout-out in his most recent “Friday Finds” post.  I’m grateful he did, in no small part because everyone should hear this beautiful, programmatic symphony.  The Pastoral is a beautiful, melodious traipse through the countryside—all told musically.
  • The Joy of Romantic Music” – For a very brief introduction to and primer for Romantic music, I humbly submit this post.  I point out just a few of the many excellent composers from the time period, almost all of whom I’ve discussed in class this semester.
  • The Joy of Romantic Music II: Bedřich Smetana’s ‘The Moldau’” – Due to a WordPress error, the e-mail preview for this post went out a couple of days before the post was published, meaning that many folks missed it.  That’s a shame, because it’s an absolutely gorgeous bit of nationalistic (and naturalistic) composing, detailing a whimsical river cruise down the titular river, sailing through the Bohemian countryside, through Prague, and past an ancient castle.
  • The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’” – I’ve become fascinated with Hector Berlioz, which is apparently quite common:  music critics either love him almost as madly as he loved Harriet Smithson, or they reject him entirely.  I tend towards the former camp.  Berlioz was a Romantic’s Romantic—full of lofty ideals about the power of music and the passions it stirred.  The Symphonie Fantastique—which he wrote for and about Smithson, and his intense love for her—is likely the first psychedelic work, as it features an opium-addled artist descending into strange dreams.

I’m sure I’ll write more about Romantic composers soon, but these four posts should give you plenty of listening to get you started.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

I’ve been on a major classical and Romantic music kick lately, dedicating the last three Fridays specifically to the music of the Romantic Period (here, here, and here).

As such, I thought it would be apropos to look back at a piece I wrote last January about Beethoven and his masterful Sixth Symphony.  The occasion for that piece was the South Carolina Philharmonic‘s Sunday matinee performance of their popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert—back in The Before Times when we still had live music.  The program, as I wrote at the time, was “‘Beethoven’s Greatest Hits,'” featuring Beethy’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor and Symphony No. 6 in F Major.

The Sixth, often called the “Pastoral,” is one of my favorites.  I’m a sucker for programmatic music, and there are programmatic elements embedded in the titles of each of the symphony’s movements, but the music sounds like the countryside.

But I covered all of this a year ago, so why repeat myself (except that I’m doing that below… hmm…)?  Here is January 2020’s “Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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The Joy of Romantic Music III: Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”

To take us into the last weekend in January, I thought it would be nice to do at least one more entry in my unplanned Friday miniseries on “The Joy of Romantic Music” (read the second installment here).  I very much enjoy the music of the Romantic composers, and have discovered some new favorites as I’ve been covering them in my Pre-AP Music Appreciation class.

I’m a real sucker for program music—music that tells a story or depicts an idea or place—and the Romantic period was full of it.  There was perhaps no greater champion—if not practitioner; Camille Saint-Saëns likely holds that title—of the form than French composer Hector Berlioz.

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Friday Rundown (18-22 January 2021)

It’s been an eventful week, so I figured an extra post today running down the posts from the past few days would be worthwhile.  Also, I’m a slave to the WordPress daily streak counter, and when I scheduled this morning’s post on Wednesday, WordPress for some reason immediately e-mailed a preview; ergo, I want to make sure I get the daily post streak.  Gotta keep the streak alive!

 So, here is a quick rundown of this week’s posts:

Enjoy!

—TPP

The Joy of Romantic Music II: Bedřich Smetana’s “The Moldau”

Last Friday I wrote of the beauty and power—the sheer joy—of Romantic music, a topic I’ve covered once before on this blog.  In writing last week’s post, I noted briefly that Romantic music is nationalistic, which was certainly true in a number of cases.

Europe following the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars was a hotbed of political activity and nationalist sentiment.  The Congress of Vienna (1815) redrew the map of Central Europe, reducing the hundreds of German principalities, bishoprics, duchies, baronies, and the rest into about a dozen political units, hoping these larger Germanic kingdoms would serve as a bulwark against future French aggression.  They did, and more—under the steady Realpolitik of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, Prussia gradually grew to unite these new lands into the Second Reich—a unified Germany.

Meanwhile, smaller nations chafed under Austrian or French influence.  Bohemia—now part of the Czech Republic—fought against Austrian political rule and the German language that came with it.  Bohemians championed the revival of their native Czech language, and began revisiting Czech folklore and music as the resting place of the national spirit.

This process was not unique to Bohemia or the Czechs, but today’s featured piece, Czech composer Bedřich Smetana‘s The Moldau, is a prime of example of how nationalist musical ideas can capture beautifully a sense of a place, while also transcending national identity and borders.

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The Joy of Romantic Music

This semester started with two weeks of online learning (of which today is the last day before students and teachers return to campus after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), so it’s been an unusually slow start to the already sleepy January term.  However, that hasn’t stopped my music classes from listening to great music; indeed, we’re now covering what is perhaps my favorite period in the history of Western music:  the Romantic Era.

While I adore Baroque and classical composers and their works, Romantic music builds upon the forms established in those eras, stretching and expanding upon them to reach new heights of emotional intensity and musical expressiveness.  The music of the Romantic composers delights with its musical exploration of the supernatural, the mysterious, the Gothic, and the nationalistic.

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Monday Morning Update: Back to Work

Well, the glory of Christmas Break has come to an end, and it’s back to the grind this morning.  Due to concerns about The Virus, we’re online for at least this week, and I’ve received word that teachers will be allowed to teach from home for the remainder of the week.  That will make the transition back to full-time teaching a tad more endurable, as waking up and rolling over to the computer is much easier than engaging in the hasty rituals of the morning.

Regardless, I’m scrambling a bit this morning, so today’s post will be brief and belated.  I’ll cover my trip to Mississippi tomorrow; today, I thought I’d give some general updates as we head into the first fiscal week of 2021:

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Lazy Sunday LXXXIX: 100 Week Review

Today marks the 700th consecutive day of posts here at The Portly Politico.  That’s 100 weeks of daily posts, which sounds like a prison sentence for a first-time criminal offender.  Writing the blog daily has occasionally felt like serving a self-imposed prison sentence, but it’s overwhelmingly been a source of joy.  I’ve made a number of great friends, and have accumulated a respectable daily readership, as well as eight faithful subscribers.

According to my WordPress stats, I’ve written 516,512 since 2018.  Those haven’t all been consecutive, but looking at just 2019-2020, it’s still a respectable 459,252 words.  Granted, there are a lot of TBT posts in there, so that pads the stats a bit, but I imagine I’m still safely in the half-million-word mark.

To observe the occasion and still maintain the spirit of Lazy Sunday, here are the Top Three Posts (based on views) since 2018:

  • Tom Steyer’s Belt” – By now it’s predictable, but this single post brought more traffic to my blog than the next seventeen posts combined.  At the time of this writing, it’s had 2997 views—2560 more than the second most popular post.  Most of that traffic is purely organic, meaning I didn’t encourage people to read it beyond my usual sharing to Facebook and on Telegram.  Basically, the post became popular because Tom Steyer blew a ton of cash airing obnoxious television and Internet ads, and mine was one of the few sources to cover his colorful belt.
  • Napoleonic Christmas” – This post—with 437 hits—explored an interesting revisionist take on Napoleon from a PragerU video, as well as the idea that not all non-democratic or non-republican forms of government are bad.  There were, objectively, monarchies and dictatorships that were better off—materially, spiritually, culturally, etc.—than democratic republics, contemporary and present.  That doesn’t mean I endorse those forms of government as somehow preferable to a liberty-loving republic, but I can appreciate the argument that Napoleon was a reform-minded figure, not merely an ingenious brute.
  • Milo on Romantic Music” – One of many things I appreciate about Internet provocateur and author Milo Yiannopoulos is that he is exceptionally erudite.  He might act frivolous and catty—and I suspect he genuinely is—but he’s also deep and interesting.  This post—with 279 views, thanks in large part to Milo sharing it on Telegram—looks at an exchange between Milo and another figure about Romantic music versus Baroque music.  Milo clearly prefers Romantic music overall, (while acknowledging Bach’s essential nature), arguing that it’s “the only proper soundtrack to the trad life.”  Great point!

Well, that’s it—100 weeks!  Thank you again for all of your support.  Keep reading, leaving comments, and subscribing.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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The Joy of Music

One of the greatest joys in life is music.  Regular readers will know that I love musicplaying it, writing it, singing it, arranging it, analyzing it, launching it into space, etc.  As an art form, I believe music is uniquely suited to communicating ideas and beauty across time, space, and cultures.  It can be intensely nationalistic, yet still universal.

We’re back to distance learning today after a positive case of The Virus, and since it’s the day before Thanksgiving Break—historically the biggest blow-off day of the school year—my administration decided to play it safe and declare today a distance learning day.  As such, I took the assignment derived from The Story of 100 Great Composers and ported it to my high school music classes.  Those classes will share about their composers today.

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