Press Play: “Abendlied” by Josef Rheinberger

Josef Rheinberger was born in Liechtenstein, which is enough to make me interested in him.

Liechtenstein is one of the world’s most ridiculously tiny countries; in area, it’s less than half the size of Seattle, and its population is just 35,000; the equivalent of the average university campus. To imagine how tiny the population of Liechtenstein is, imagine filling your bathtub with water, right up to the brim. That water represents the population of the earth.

Now take a teacup and dip it in the water. Now take a thimble and dip it in the teacup. Now take an eye dropper and extract the water from the thimble. Now squeeze the eye dropper until one drip comes out.

That’s everybody in Liechtenstein.

Key moment: The E flat that the sopranos hold for two and a half bars, starting at 1:30.

That makes me think of: “Sandy” by Caribou. Caribou’s voice might not be suited to the type of music Rheinberger wrote, but his falsetto reminds me of some of the great moments in Rheinberger’s piece. Plus, “Sandy” is from an album named after another of the world’s tiniest countries; Andorra.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

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Press Play: “Bogoroditse Devo” by Sergei Rachmaninoff

According to this book, a young Rachmaninoff visited an elderly Tolstoy in 1900. He played some music for him, and hoped for some encouraging words from the living legend.

No such luck. Tolstoy simply asked, “Is such music needed by anybody?” He went on to trash Beethoven and Pushkin, and (I can only assume) promptly left to go sit on his porch and yell insults at young people from a rocking chair.

Well, even if his music can’t cure grumpiness due to aging, Rachmaninoff’s work is certainly good enough for me. This piece in particular is guaranteed to ease the February blues.

Key moment: The final cadence takes almost half a minute. Like watching a spoonful of honey drip into your tea.

That makes me think of: The tenors and sopranos sing the same line an octave apart, starting at 1:17. Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell used to do that all the time. Have a listen at 3:44 of this song for a pretty example.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Trois Beaux Oiseaux de Paradis” by Maurice Ravel

French is a great language for singing.

The letter ‘e’ alone can give you at least four distinct sounds, depending on what kind of accent sits on top of it. The letter ‘x’, usually an ugly, harsh letter in English, is used in French to elegantly tie words together, as in the first line of this piece. “Beaux oiseaux” comes out as the syrupy “bo-zwa-zo”. Even the word for war, “guerre” gets an extra syllable when sung: “guerr-e”. Almost makes war sound cuddly.

Key moment: The supporting chorus of ‘ahs’ is wonderful the whole way through, but I love the unexpected A-naturals from 1:15 to 1:20.

That makes me think of: Nobody made French sound quite as nice as Edith Piaf.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”

Press Play: “Sanctus” by Alfred Schnittke

Alfred Schnittke was not blessed with good health. According to Wikipedia, he was “declared clinically dead on several occasions”, which is either a sign of poor health or doctors who need to review the symptoms of death. Then there’s this, from his biography on Boosey.com:

In 1985 Schnittke suffered a stroke which left him in bad health for the rest of his life. Far from impeding him, however, sickness seems to have released an inner torrent and in later years he became prolific, answering each successive brush with death with a further flood of music.

If there was ever a piece that sounded like it was composed by someone with a close personal relationship with death, I’d say it’s this one.

Key moment: For all its bleak darkness, there are about 20 seconds of gorgeous lightness starting at about 2:34.

That makes me think of: The repeating bass line is an unresolved looping interval, sometimes played by the organ, sometimes by the vibraphone. This is what gives the piece its feeling of uneasiness, and it reminds me of the uneasy repeating bass line in “The Blend” by Herbaliser.

Andrew Moore is our blogger-in-residence, and author of the music blog Beautiful Song of the Week.”