Van Cliburn: A Portrait

Van Cliburn is one of the most celebrated this country has produced. Though he will always be remembered as the winner of the first Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition (and remains the only American ever to have won it), this 1966 documentary from the archives of the Bell Telephone Hour highlights Cliburns true distinction as a musician of remarkable range and depth. Cliburn himself narrates the film, and offers many personal insights on music.

Dr. Fuddle and The Gold Baton Reviewed on

Dr. Woodruff’s irresistible fantasy, Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton escorts readers into a magical tale of danger, kidnapping, deception and adventure wrapped in legendary prophecy. There readers meet almost twelve-and-a-half-year-old Tyler, his mute sister Christina and friends, Antonio, Kathy and Leonard. A group chosen to save the enchanted land of Orphea by re-capturing the stolen “Gold baton” and restoring Orphea’s once pristine beauty. The only requirements—they must learn to play the “sacred instruments” and re-capture the “Gold baton” stolen by the evil musician, Jedermann.

The delightful account begins with Tyler’s return home, where instead of walking blocks out of his way to avoid passing the ghostly manor on “Willow Street Hill,” he decides to confront his chilling fear. Even though his mother had warned him away from the mysterious residence before she died months ago.

“Just a few more steps” Tyler thought, “…I’m almost past it…” and he began to count the steps beyond the ghostly manors reach. Then he heard the special Beethoven piece “…his mother always played for…Christina.” The rich, melodious piano chords stopped Tyler midstride.

The harmonious refrains reminded him of his mother’s last words the night she died, “…you’ll do something important…I’ll send you a clear sign when it’s time…” The connection between his mother and the music gave him the courage to approach the stained glass manor window and peer through the golden glass. He saw the translucent figure of a man seated at an “enormous grand piano.” His supernatural fingers flew over the black and white keys to produce the lovely Beethoven melody as strangely dressed people appeared, then disappeared…while deep inside a brilliant golden door bid him enter…

Thus begins an enchanting fantasy of memorable musicians, a “Gold baton” and the mystical power of music to captivate for good or evil. The journey includes dark musician, Jedermann, magical Dr. Fuddle, Seiren’s—monstrous catlike shape shifters, Erkenbald the gnome, Orphean children and more in a tantalizing tale that leaves readers wanting more.

The result is a literary musical masterpiece that enchants readers long before the last page is turned, similar to C.S. Lewis’s classic Narnia series, one of my all-time favorites. The narrative is rich with classical music from “musical giants of the past” such as Beethoven, Bach, Liszt and Mozart. Musical terms like chords, chromatic scale, harmonies and rhythms are creatively woven throughout the story. Perhaps most important—classical music is portrayed as fascinating, high-tech and “cool” as the “messengers of music” fight to wrest the “Gold baton,” from Jedermann’s evil grasp.

Besides the connection between music that creates darkness and disharmony, I also understood why Hollywood contracted Dr. Woodruff’s current and future work for books, movies and a Broadway production. Dr. Woodruff says he “…hopes to complete the second book of the series by year’s end and one book a year thereafter. The film is currently in development.”

Twitter: @GailWelborn
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Bach Prelude and Fugue in G Major

Sophia performed at the 10th Annual International Russian Music Piano Competition, Junior Category. June 11, 2009, San Jose, California

Classical Music Good for Exercise


London - A gym workout is often accompanied by some high-tempo dance tunes to inspire you to exercise harder.

But your local gym might in fact be better off playing classical music.

Neuroscientist Jack Lewis said that, while music in general makes people exercise slightly harder and slightly longer, classical music has added benefits.

He said: “Not only does upbeat music increase speed, strength and endurance, but the relaxing qualities of classical music appear to reduce heart rate, blood pressure and lower perceived exertion, at the same time.

“In addition, relaxing music has been shown to lower levels of cortisol in the body, the hormone associated with stress.”

He said there are classical compositions that have the same high tempo as dance music, yet with more complex harmonies.

Dr Lewis analyses reports of research in the field to come up with musical fitness tips for music streaming website

He recommended Beethoven’s Symphony No 4, fourth movement, as the ideal workout music.

He also suggests matching music with heartbeat, so as your pulse increases, so should the beat of the music.

A faster beat “instructs” the brain to energizes the body, he said. - Daily Mail

Classical Masterpieces Turn Up in Cartoons

Music Historian Rober Greenberg talks about the way cartoons draw on an unlikely music source:

Cartoons made in the 1940s and '50s featured characters like Bugs Bunny, Woody Woodpecker and Elmer Fudd pretending to play significant operatic and symphonic works or feuding with their sworn enemies to the tune of epic masterpieces. Many children became familiar with classical music through these cartoons. Music historian Robert Greenberg talks about how that came to be and discusses the impact of cartoons on classical music.

Hollywood Bowl
The Los Angeles Philharmonic performs at the Hollywood Bowl as the cartoon "Baton Bunny" plays overhead.

Bugs Bunny was quite the concert musician. In "Rhapsody Rabbit," he attempted to perform Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2" despite a coughing audience member (whom Bugs shoots), a ringing telephone and a bothersome mouse. He conducted an orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl in "Long-Haired Hare."

The animated films Fantasia and The Sorcerer's Apprentice featured many different musical works. Fantasia, from 1940, featured music from Mussorgsky and Schubert. The film marked an attempt to create an "integrated" art form — what Wagner called Gesamtkunstwerke, a virtual reality that combined music and animation and virtually no dialogue. The music was recorded under the direction of Leopold Stokowski, with seven numbers performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. The Sorcerer's Apprentice was originally a stand alone film based on a story by Goethe and the music of Paul Dukas. At Stokowski's suggestion, Disney expanded the film into Fantasia, which also featured music by Bach, Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky.

Meet The Musical Mendelssohns: Felix And Fanny

Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn relied on each other to shape their very different musical careers.

Musical talent tends to run in families. Think of Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Colin and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, or The Jackson 5.

But long before those musical siblings, there were the Mendelssohns — Felix and Fanny, the subjects of a new album by the versatile Ebène Quartet from Paris.

The Mendelssohns grew up making music together in Berlin at the beginning of the 19th century. Felix, younger by four years, became one of history's most brilliant composers. Fanny, a strong-willed pianist but worried about her worth as a composer, has been neglected. Still, as Felix's career soared and Fanny struggled to publish her pieces, the two remained close.

"The connection between Fanny and Felix was more than brother and sister," Ebène cellist Raphaël Merlin says. "It was almost soul mates."

Other than playing and conducting in salon settings, Fanny made just one public appearance, as soloist in her brother's First Piano Concerto at a benefit concert. Very little of her music was published in her lifetime, and much of it today remains privately owned.

Fanny died suddenly of a stroke at age 41, in 1847. Felix was crushed, and Herzog says you can hear the pain he poured into the String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, completed in September of that year.

"Felix Mendelssohn's music is always a joy. He's an optimistic guy," Herzog says. "In this quartet you feel immediately that there's something strange. You will be shocked by music with so much power and drama."

"And violence," Merlin adds.

Felix referred to the quartet as his "Requiem for Fanny." He would die two months later, at 38, after a series of strokes. He was buried next to his sister in Berlin.

"We think he died of sadness," Herzog says.

Listen to String Quartet in E-flat: Allegro molto vivace

Classical Music in 2013 Super Bowl Ads

1. Doritos: "Fashionista Daddy"

Doritos hosted a competition for amateur filmmakers called "Crash the Super Bowl." The spot "Fashionista Daddy," created by Mark Freiburger, features Schubert's Scherzo in B-flat Major D. 593:


2. Coca-Cola: "Coke Chase"

Coca-Cola starts its "Coke Chase" spot with Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade before a segue to the Danse Bacchanale from Saint-Saens's Samson et Dalila. The two "Orientalist" pieces have long been used to evoke fantasy narratives -- often controversially -- of Arabian lands and the Middle East in general.

(Classical music also made an appearance in the Superdome: a discerning listener may have noticed the strains of Orff's Carmina Burana piped over the public address system in the game's final seconds.)

Stephen Hough Plays Brahms First Piano Concerto Pt. 3

British pianist Stephen Hough (1961-) plays an extended excerpt from the third (final) movement of Brahms' First Piano Concerto with the Budapest Festival Orchestra and Ivan Fischer.