Friday, 28 May 2010

Mahler: Symphony No.1, 2nd Movement

The recording of the second movement of this symphony is now complete. I did not have much opportunity to work on it during the past weeks, but once I started the remaining work, it went quite fast. The recordings - the very latest one plus the earlier partial recordings - are at

The next tasks are to create recordings of the first and the forth movement - these are gigantic works, and I am quite sure that I will not be able to complete these recordings before 7.July, Mahler's 150th birthday... pity.

I also ordered the score of the lost movement "Blumine", which had originally been a part of this Symphony. That should be a relatively quick task to do, since it is a slow movement; but I never heard it nor have I seen the score... so this has some uncertainty.

On my site about Mahler and his First Symphony I mentioned the programmatic content that was originally handed out as program note for the performance. There were very nice titles, and I am going to adapt them. This second movement will hereby be known as "Set with full sails", indicating an optimistic start into the future. The whole symphony will be entitled as "From the life of a lonely one". That is so much more fitting than "Symphony No.1, D major". I think the classic music community has gotten used over the years to those non-descript titles of orchestra works, which really do not do any justice to the wonderful music they are supposed to describe. Also, I will break with the tradition of using the tempo instructions as titles for symphony movements: why should a work be entitled "Largo" or "Presto"? This is only intended for the conductor and for the orchestra players, so that they know how fast to play. These are completely inappropriate titles... and I intend to use different ones. Fortunately, Mahlers "Song of the Earth" does have very descriptive titles - it appears that at the end of his life he returned to using programmatic titles, which convey at least a glimpse of the context in which the music was envisioned.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A Sad Event

Berta Hopfner, my grandmother, died on 9.May 2010, following a stroke. She was 91 years old. I could book a flight on short notice with Easyjet, leaving on 11.May from Manchester (MAN) to Munich (MUC). From MUC I could rent a car, to drive the 2 1/2 hour distance to the town of Iphofen.

The evening before I left UK for the travel, Monday night, I looked through a bag with old pictures, and I scanned a few into my computer, to share them with other family members.

The church service and the funeral were set for Wednesday, 12.May. The night before I thought that it would be nice to play a video in church, and so I too the Windows ZP Moviemaker, imported the Dvorak Largo of which I recently had created a rendition (because this music was her favorite piece), and added a few of the pictures, in chronological order. This was done at night, between 02:00 - 04:00. Next day I asked if they had a screen and a projector (in Germany they call these projectors "beamers"). The church did not have any of the equipment that I would need, so I checked the internet. Came across the site erento which would provide links and information to providers of equipment for rental. I entered details of my request, and a few minutes later received an email with the address of a supplier in Wuerzburg: Seissiger Veranstaltungstechnik. I called, and yes, they did have the equipment available. So I drove to Wuerzburg, picked up the stuff, paid, and drove to the Stadtpfarrkirche Iphofen to assemble it. The setup included: a 2.40m x 1.80 screen, a "beamer", two active speakers with a signal converter box (from line to mic), and a frame for placing the projector. My brother arrived to help me with the setup.

It was a few minutes before the church service began (14:30), everybody was already seated, and the projector did not show any image, just a red-blinking LED. We would be able to only play the music, without video... but in the last minute, after another power switching circle, the LED blinking changed to green, and the image appeared on the screen.

After the priest hat mentioned about her life, silence set in, and I started to play the video.

The sound of the speakers was very good; the video on the screen was unfortunately not very well visible, because incoming sunlight caused a slight reflection.

But this idea was well received, and the people who attended the church service gave very positive feedback afterwards. The funeral went without any incidents, and we said "Farewell" to my grandmother.

I returned the equipment to Seissiger in Wuerzburg, and I distributed the video on a CD to our closest relatives.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Music on Wikipedia

Wikipedia does have a lot of information about composers and music. But there are only very few music files. One reason is that they only accept that strange OGG file format. The other reason may be copyright issues: one cannot just upload a recording ripped from a CD, as the performers do have the copyright; and the performers themselves probably have no idea how to upload files to Wikipedia and edit entries there.

Here is where I see a good opportunity to get some of my music recordings out in the world: ok, once they are on Wikipedia, they are no longer under my control and are basically available for free. But that is fine - I also give them away on my VPO site for free anyway. Through having my music on Wikipedia people would get to know my style, and may later actually buy something.

Sonar does not export OGG files, but I could take the wave file and process it with Audacity.

So far I have uploaded two files and linked them to the appropriate Wikipedia entries:
From Dvorak the 2nd movement from his 9th Symphony,
and from Mahler the Adagietto

New Rendition: Mahler's Adagietto

In summer 2000 I completed an MP3 file recording of Gustav Mahler's Adagietto (4th movement from his 5th Symphony). And last week I began taking the Cakewalk sequence for this file and rework it for the Garritan Personal Orchestra 4. The score is only 5 pages long, there are only strings and a harp, so in principle this is quite an easy piece. However, since it is slow, with long lasting notes, it needs a lot of attention to detail, otherwise the recording would sound quite boring, playing back long loops os samples. In the release of July 2000, I had mixed several layers: MU-80 strings as the foundation, then a few soundfonts on top, also a few solo strings; separating fast notes and slow notes into different tracks.

Now with GPO4, I also did some layering: added for each string track a "lush strings" from the section strings. I also added a few solo strings in the lower registers (bass, cello), but did not yet do this for viola and the violins.

Yesterday I uploaded the first version, today I uploaded a slight revision. The music is here on this page.


The on-board soundblaster Xi-Fi which I am currently using as the main audio output, does not have an ASIO driver. This forced me to use the WMD driver which has a significant latency.

Today I found the ASIO4ALL driver and installed it - did the latest recording now with this driver, and it works great. Finally I will be able to record live playing without that delay.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Visiting David Solomons

It has been already 3 years that I had last visited my music friend David W Solomons. It was about time, and on the Monday bank holiday I drove across the Pennines to Manchester to have a meal with him and chat, about music and other things, listen to his latest recordings and let him hear my newest recordings. He has been very productive in creating new recordings, and has made a great collection of music videos on his YouTube site.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Dvorak: "From the New World", 2nd movement

My beloved grandmother, Berta Hopfner, is not very well: she is almost 91 years old, and now had three strokes within a short time. Her all-time favorite music is the Second movement from Antonin Dvorak's Symphony no.9: "From the New World". Everytime when I visited her, she asked me to play this piece (in my own improvisatory way) on the piano or on the organ.

To make her a joy and to cheer her up in her present condition, I decided yesterday that I would take that old MIDI file which I had made of this music 15 years ago, and would turn it into a recording with the new MAESTRO-2 system. It took me 13 hours to do this. Was not too difficult, the main work had already been done: getting all the notes into the file. I even did not change the tempo much: my rendition from 1995 was already up to my current standards. I had to edit new expression curves, and used some of the specific samples from the GPO-4 set (trills for strings, for example).

Now the music rendition is completed, and I already uploaded it to the web site. I did not yet make a special page for it, just placed it into the file collection.

The latest recording of this music is available here at

My grandmother is the only one in our family who has some significant musicality: she played piano and taught many students in Iphofen how to play this instrument, until a few years ago. Both my parents do not exhibit a significant musicality strain, so I must have gotten the music bug from her only. I hope that listening to this music will bring her into good spirits.