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Noon Edition

Furioso: Ether Game Playlist

Rage boiled over on this week's show as we listened and quizzed on musical fury and anger. Browse nine red-hot pieces below, and then have a cool-down.

Johann Strauss, Jr. (1825-1899) Furioso-Polka, Op. 278 Strauss Jr’s Furioso Polka premiered at a benefits concert in Pavlovsk, in 1861. The cover for the published piano edition shows two devils stretching a cord across the floor, intent on tripping up dancers, which perfectly encapsulates the mood of this fiery and rollicking polka. The work was written at the height of Strauss’s career, when his many waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and galops achieved a level of popularity in both the concert hall and the ballroom, which would last for at least half a century. A little over ten years after writing Furioso Polka, Strauss switched his focus from ballroom music to operetta, composing sixteen stage works which still incorporated the dance music that gave him his fame.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)Orlando Furioso, RV 728: Sinfonia (RV 116) Vivaldi wore many hats, and while he is perhaps best known for being the violin teacher and concert master of the Pio Ospedale, the girls school whose young musicians were most often the recipients of his many compositions, he also worked as an impresario, with varying degrees of success. From 1713 to 1715, Vivaldi and his father managed the Teatro San’Angelo, which at the time was one of the musical hubs of Venetian opera. It was there that he staged a successful adaptation of the epic poem Orlando Furioso, composed by Giovani Ristori with a libretto by a lawyer named Grazio Braccioli. Emboldened by its success, Vivaldi commissioned Braccioli to rework the libretto for his own setting, which was to be his second attempt at writing an opera. Unfortunately this was a fiasco, and Vivaldi had to repair his reputation by restaging Ristori’s original work. Thirteen years later Vivaldi would attempt another adaptation of Orlando Furioso, with practically the same Braccioli libretto but entirely different arias. We don’t know if this new version was a success, however we do know that the new arias were written during one of the most productive periods in Vivaldi’s career, and that the arias would’ve been considered highly original and novel.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) String Quartet No. 10 in A-flat, Op. 118: II. Allegretto Furioso Shoshstakovich intended to compose twenty-four string quartets, one giant cycle containing works for every musical key. Even with a career that lasted over fifty years, he managed fifteen quartets -still more than half the goal, composed between 1938 and 1974. His 10th quartet was composed during a sort of quartet composition contest with a friend, the polish pianist and composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg to whom both his 9th and 10th quartet are dedicated. The 10th has some unique qualities; it is the only quartet in the cycle that contains a movement titled Allegretto Furioso. Furthermore, the venomous, vitriolic character of this second movement doesn’t reappear in any of Shoshtakovich’s later quartets. 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) Rondo a capriccio in G, Op. 129 'Rage Over a lost Penny' Robert Schumann said that this work shows that Beethoven was not only a transcendent genius, but a musician capable of down-to-earth humor. However, the amusing subtitle “Rage Over a Lost Penny” may not have been Beethoven’s idea. It is written in the original score, but not in Beethoven’s hand. Scholars believe that it was added by Beethoven’s friend Anton Schindler. To even his friends, Beethoven was known to be hot-tempered, a personality trait that intensified as he grew more deaf. Regardless of the origin of the subtitle, the wild abandon of the music is reflected in the composer’s markings. Beethoven wrote alla ingharese at the beginning of the work, which is believed to be a mix of the indications to play “like a gypsy” or “like Hungarian music.” In Beethoven’s time, Hungarian music and gypsy music were widely held to be one and the same.

Christoph W. Gluck (1714-1787) Orfeo and Euridice: Deh placate con me Orfeo et Euridice, is considered to be the first modern opera. Gluck struck out in a new direction that was more flexible than the French tragedie lyrique and less bound to showcasing divas than older Italian opera. Though not so obvious today, the opera would’ve been quite shocking to early 18th-century audiences in the way it stripped away operatic conventions in favor of direct emotional expression. Following Ranieri de Calzabigi’s elaborated version of the familiar myth, Orpheus journeys to the underworld to retrieve Eurydice, using the power of music to traverse all obstacles, guided and encouraged by the personification of Love. In this dramatic scene from Act 2, Orpheus is confronted by the Furies and their wrathful dance. Accompanied by delicate arpeggios from the harp, which is starkly contrasted by the angry chorus of brass and voices, Orpheus attempts to placate the Furies, declaring that while suffering such pangs of love he is not unlike the spirits of the underworld.

James Horner (b.1953) Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan: Surprise Attack Composer James Horner is one of the most popular composers of film music today. He earned degrees in Theory and Composition from UCLA and began his career by scoring horror and sci-fi flicks such as 1980’s Humanoids from the Deep. This led to his breakthrough successes with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, taking over where Jerry Goldsmith left off. He’s been nominated for an Oscar for his work on Aliens, Field of Dreams, Braveheart, the song “Somewhere Out There” (the theme from An American Tail), and the music to Apollo 13. He finally won that Academy Award—two, in fact—in 1997 for his work on the movie TITANIC, winning both the Best Original Dramatic Score and Best Original Song for the very not rage-filled song“My Heart Will Go On.”

Kurt Weill (1900-1950) The Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath The intriguing Weill work The Seven Deadly Sins was labeled by the composer as a “sung ballet,” however, it’s also be labeled as a “pantomime cantata,” a “Kurzoper” or “short opera,” and others have given it the spin of an “immorality play”. The librettist who gave it that magic touch was Bertolt Brecht, Weill’s frequent collaborator. The lead character is Anna, whose personality has been split into Anna I (the singer) and Anna II (the dancer). The Annas travel around seven cities in the U.S., looking for work as performers. In each city, Anna II encounters a different deadly sin and is scolded by Anna I. In scene 3, Anna II has journeyed to Los Angeles and commits the sin of Anger, or Wrath. Like many of Weill’s works, the Seven Deadly Sins is a grand satire, as whenever Anna is encouraged to behave morally against one of the sins, she ultimately ends up committing another.  

Bellerofonte Castaldi (1580-1649) Furiosa corrente This courante is performed on the lighter side of “furiosa.” Perhaps that’s because it is being played on one of the more unwieldy, but no-less beautiful, plucked- instruments of the 17th century: the six-foot-long theorbo, or chitarrone, as Castaldi might have called it. Castaldi lived in the north Italian city of Modena, where he composed music for voices and lutenists. Rage played some part in what is known of his life, in that in 1612 he organized the revenge killing of an assassin who shot his brother. The episode left Castaldi with a gunshot wound to the foot and he was forced to seek refuge in Rome, however he was pardoned and eventually returned to Modena where he would live the rest of his life. 

Rage Against the Machine (1992) Wake Up Alternative rock band Rage against the Machine began in 1991 as an informal jam session between bandmates Tom Morello and John Knox with hardcore punk rapper Zack de la Rocha and drummer Brad Wilk. The group formally hit the scene with their self-titled album in 1992 and would go on to garner a massive fan-base for their music which combined elements of heavy metal, hip-hop and punk. Morello’s distinctive playing has been described as “DJing” on the guitar, while de la Rocha’s energetic rants against corporate America, government opression, and cultural imperialism struck a chord with activists and rebellious listeners. Rage formally disbanded in 2000, although several reunions have occurred over the last two decades. Their music saw a new spike in popularity following the protests over the murder of George Floyd, and in 2022 Rage embarked on a new tour. 

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