Listening Quest #2: Franz Liszt in The Cat Concerto

Sunday, September 20, 2015 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

I'd like to introduce you to the composer Franz Liszt (pronounced Frahnz as in "say ah" List) who lived between 1811 to 1886 in Hungary. He was as famous as a rock star in his day for both composing  and performing on the piano, and he also wrote hundreds of arrangements of other composers' music so that it could be played on the piano. He is also the person we can consider responsible for a few traditions that we still hold today, including that pianists are expected to memorize the music they are playing (show-off!). He was also the first to turn the piano to the side so that the audience can both see the performer and hear the piano well when the lid is open, not to mention display his good-looking nose. Before he came around, the pianist would usually face the audience or face the orchestra they were playing with.

Liszt's music is sometimes criticized for being too show-off-y. Some of it is, but not all of it. One of his more famous pieces is the Hungarian Rhapsody #2, which became even more famous in 1946 when it became the featured music in the Tom & Jerry cartoon, The Cat Concerto. There's a few little changes from the original, but you'll get the general idea, and it's pretty fun to watch:

Extra Exploring: That Tom & Jerry cartoon was one of the inspirations for Lang Lang to learn to play the piano. He is a well-known concert pianist today. Here's a video of him playing another of Liszt's compositions called La Campanella:

Listening Quest #1: The Piano Guys

Monday, September 7, 2015 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

Let's start with a recording by The Piano Guys. If you haven't already heard of them and you're going to play piano, it's about time to know who they are! They are best known for creative arrangements of popular music, often mixed with classical tunes. They also manage to get pianos where you would normally not find them (like next to canyons, waterfalls, or even on the Great Wall of China) to do their videos. This one is from their latest album called wonders which combines Titanium by David Guetta with the classical song Pavane by Gabriel Fauré:

Extra Exploring: Listen to this other arrangement of Pavane for 12 cellos (since it was originally written for orchestra), then go back to hear how it was incorporated into the Piano Guys' arrangement. 

You can also check out other Piano Guys videos on this playlist:

 or on their website at One of my favourites is Angels We Have Heard on High where four people play the piano (and not just the keys!) at once, but you might want to save it until a little closer to Christmas.


Listening Quests Intro

Monday, September 7, 2015 by Vicki Martin | Listening Quest

Here you'll find listening quests every couple of weeks. Most of them will be short - 5 to 10 minutes, but there will usually be an Extra Exploring option for you to listen to more. I'll give you a little description of what you'll be hearing as well. My goal is to be able to introduce you to important classical & jazz (& a little pop) composers and artists and some of my favourites. Hopefully that introduction will lead to a few long-lasting friendships as well!

Happy listening!