Saturday, December 24, 2016

World History Project: Semi-Christmas Edition, or, Handel and Vivaldi Strike Bach!

So, in keeping with the holiday spirit (not really), here are a few more classical records - two out of three of which are God-themed, but only one of which is, oh, joyful! But that’s a better batting average than usual.

There’s one each by Bach, Handel and Vivaldi. I keep comparing these guys when there’s really no valid reason to. These just happen to be records I have where the compositions were written around the same period (1725-1750 or so). But from that point, I’m just making sh*t up.

But since these same three guys keep popping up I considered giving them a humorously inappropriate nickname, like "The Three Amigos" (especially since, like Beethoven, Steve Martin actually lost some hearing during the making of that movie). But I’m not talking about Beethoven right now, am I? (That was a test.)

There’s also a part in the movie Don’t Look Back where poor Donovan plays a pretty song only to have Dylan blow him away with “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. In other words, your song sucked. Christ, what a prick.

But I didn't have a third guy, so forget that.

Then there's the Three Stooges, but who is who? I mean, up until now, I could see Bach as Moe, slapping both Vivaldi

who reminds me of Larry

and Handel (which makes him Curly or Shemp. You pick) across the face in one swing, because he keeps being better than them.

Does that situation apply here?  Not exactly, but it’s funny how, no matter what Handel or Vivaldi do, Bach’s always there to outdo them.

But not today!

Mass in B Minor.jpg
Bach: Mass in B Minor

So Handel’s doing his thing with Messiah which is a bunch of people singing about Jesus, and of course, Bach says I can do that! and writes Mass in B Minor.  (Yeah, he's really reminding me of Dylan at this point.

And well, it’s kind of what you’d expect at Mass, which is a bunch of people singing together kind of slow - occasionally midtempo. And if they’re having a good time, I wouldn’t know because they’re singing in another language.

But let’s face it, even with the language barrie, you can usuallly tell when there’s a party going on. And it ain’t here.

Now I admit, I should have known what I was getting into. I already have Requiems by Mozart and Brahms and, well, they’re requiems. That word translates into “not quite as fun as Mass”.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised.

But they do occasionally pep up, but that’s really only when they’re kissing God’s ass, which is what people spent a lot of time doing back then.

So, I can’t say that it’s bad, because it’s not. But I’ll go to hell if I only give it a B, so


Here’s the whole thing. Play it on Sunday, and you won’t have to go to church.

Handel: Messiah

I mentioned this one before in comparison to another George (Harrison) because I like to play bother of them on Christmas.

For my money, Messiah beats Mass in B Minor, mainly because the latter IS IN B MINOR! Not the cheeriest key.

Meanwhile Messiah is a bunch of people singing (in English!) about how happy they are about said Messiah. So there’s really no contest.

And there’s usually someone singing lead, whereas in Mass it’s a bunch of people trying to convince you that, despite the key we’re singing it, it’s all good. (Actual lyrics!)

I’m not buying it.

The worst you can say about Messiah is that they like to repeat lines over and over, so a song with five lines may go on for ten minutes, a la:

BeHOLD a virgin shall conceive and bear a son!
Behold a VIRgin shall conceive and bear a son!
Behold a virgin SHALL conceive and bear a son!
Beho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-hold… etc.

You get the idea.

But one great thing is that there are individuals singing.

First, there's the bass dude, going on for a while about the good news, instead of actually delivering it.
And then, the lady - probably his wife - singing Will you get to the f*cking point? Praise the Lord!
And then the chorus comes in to take sides.
First the wives with He’s such an ass! How'd you let yourself get knocked up by him? God Bless Us!
Then the husbands come to his defense with Hey, she’s no bargain, whatever and ever amen

So it’s more entertaining. Like a family gathering. But as you can see it takes some time before the, uh ACTUAL MESSIAH shows up.

And while I’ve had this record for, oh 25 years now, I couldn’t be positive I’d know it when it’s on. But if you drop the needle on it somewhere I’d find myself enjoying it. (Mass not so much  It makes me feel like I should be sitting up straight.)

Oh, and on Messiah, I can hear people having a good time.



Vivaldi Mandolin.jpg
Vivaldi: Mandolin Concerto
Vivaldi: The Mandolin Concerti: Concerto in G Major for Two Mandolins, Strings, and Basso Continuo, P133; Concerto in C Major for Mandolin, Strings and Basso Continuo P134
Concerto in C Major for Two Mandolins, Two Theorboes, Two Flutes, Two (are you really still reading this? Okay, I’ll keep going) P16; Concerto a due Chori in B-Flat Major “Con Violino Discordato” for Strings and Basso Continuo P368

Which you probably can’t find anymore, but any of these should do.

Not much God here, this is just a really good album - maybe my all time favorite classical record.

You get to hear a string instrument you like and the style of playing is in a sweet spot between classical and pop. Some nice riffs and melodic turns, so it doesn’t feel like work at all.

It’s almost like the Grateful Dead doing an acoustic album.


"Concerto in G Major"

So, in your face Bach (or Dylan, or Moe or whoever you are)!

For the rest of us (rhymes with?) this Christmas, I suggest getting Mass out of the way early, rejoice for the coming of the Messiah, and then just kick back with a drink, and enjoy those wailing mandolins!

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