Pick of the Week
Each week we will be sharing a video, a piece of music, an activity, or just something that made us smile. Enjoy picks from some of your favorite ISO musicians and staff!
Weekly pick by Jacob Joyce
Associate Conductor of the ISO
Mahler, Symphony No. 7, 3rd Movement:
The subtitle of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony is “Song of the Night,” and this third movement bears the tempo/character marking of “Schattenhaft,” meaning “shadowy” in German. One of the eeriest movements Mahler ever wrote, this is a fun and dark scherzo filled with unexpected scary moments.
Bartok, Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste, 3rd Movement:
This piece was featured in Stanley Kubrick’s horror film The Shining, due to its many uses of extended techniques for the strings creating a particularly creepy sound. The entire piece is an immaculate gem of musical construction and well worth a listen, but this third movement is especially Halloween-appropriate.
Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, 5th Movement:
In the final movement of his Fantastic Symphony, the tragic hero of Berlioz’s magnum opus overdoses on opium, and goes through a series of hallucinations imagining himself in the middle of a Witches Sabbath. Eerie sounds are heard in the strings and flutes, and later in the movement, the Dies Irae, the musical theme of death, is heard over and over, gathering energy and culminating in a frenzied fugue.
Performed recently at the ISO, Penderecki happens to be one of the favorite composers of our Music Director Krzysztof Urbański. This piece was also featured in The Shining, and features many extended techniques and involves randomness into the act of performance, a 20th-century musical development leading to a greater sense of disorientation for the listener.
Schumann, Overture to Manfred:
Schumann wrote incidental music for Lord Byron’s phantasmagoric tale Manfred, which was written at the height of the literary world’s fascination with the macabre. Like Frankenstein, Manfred is a tale featuring ghosts, apparitions, and other mystical elements, and Schumann captures this world of dark fantasy beautifully in his overture.
Shostakovich, Symphony No. 10, 2nd Movement:
Many of Shostakovich’s most famous works were responses to the horror of living under Soviet rule, and the Tenth Symphony is an excellent example. This second movement is a grotesque and morose march, featuring shrieking outbursts from the orchestra.
Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire:
The one non-orchestral piece I included on this list was Schoenberg’s groundbreaking Pierrot Lunaire, one of his first uses of free atonality and Sprechstimme technique. Free atonality allowed Schoenberg to write highly dissonant music that intentionally grates on the ears, and Sprechstimme, a Schoenbergian hybrid between speech and song, lends a particularly creepy tone to this piece.
Lutoslawski, Concerto for Orchestra, 2nd Movement:
Like his countryman Penderecki, Lutoslawski’s use of randomness and atonality lends a scary tone to many of his pieces, including his phenomenal Concerto for Orchestra. This second movement is a fleeting, fast-moving Capriccio, another of our Music Director’s favorites.
Saint-Saëns, Danse Macabre:
One of the classic Halloween pieces, Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre is heard on almost every classical concert in late October, and opens with a re-tuned violin playing the interval of the devil, the tritone.
Williams, Devil’s Dance from The Witches of Eastwick:
The classic Halloween movie soundtrack, John Williams’s Witches of Eastwick is one of his most masterful scores, and was the first piece I ever conducted on a Halloween concert, so I felt it must be included!