Music is What Keeps Me Sane

Dr. Phillip M. Feldman

Clearly, I'm not listening (and playing) enough.

My instrument is the piano. Nothing else works so well alone. But, four-handed piano is huge fun, and there are many lovely piano-string duets.

I don't have a favorite composer. If pressed hard enough, I'd say "Mozart, Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmaninov".

1. Sheet Music Archives

My Sheet Music Archive

Note: Many items in the above archive are old editions published in the former Soviet Union, and not covered by any copyright. There are some items for which the copyright status is unknown. If you have definite knowledge that something that I've posted is covered by a copyright that is valid in the United States, please send me e-mail:

A Much Bigger Sheet Music Archive (

2. Reviews of Live Performances

Santa Barbara Symphony, Nir Kabaretti conducting, performed four pieces—three Spanish and one French—with Pablo Sáinz Villegas as soloist on the guitar in two of the Spanish pieces, as well as in three encores, 19 Nov., 2017.

I'm no fan of the New York Times, but agree wholeheartedly with their description of Villegas' virtuosic playing characterized by irresistible exuberance. His performances nearly equal the crisp, precise renderings of John Williams, although Villegas exceeds Williams in showmanship.

Chicago Symphony, Riccardo Muti conducting, performed the Schubert Symphony No. 8 in B-minor ("Unfinished"), Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A Major, and Robert Schumann Symphony N. 2 in C Major, 21 Oct., 2017.

The program notes for the Schubert symphony begin as follows:

We don't know why Schubert never finished his B-Minor symphony. This has been one of music's great unanswered questions for more than a hundred years, and, despite some intelligent speculation, we still come up empty-handed today. At least we know that he didn't finish it. For many years, music lovers persisted in believing that the missing movements sat, forgotten, in some Viennese attic. On the other hand, scholars no longer suggest that Schubert intended to write a two-movement sympony, giving the composer credit for a bold stroke that, for all his daring, is [sic] not his.

Perhaps because I have no training in composition, this piece sounds perfectly finished, regardless of the number of movements. It is always a delight to listen to it, especially when played so well.

It is impossible not to enjoy and be touched by a fine performance of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. Muti reigned in the orchestra just enough to prevent it from overpowering the delicate sound of the soloist, Stephen Williamson.

My wife and I should have left during the intermission, because Schumann's Symphony No. 2 is Teutonic, Wagnerian, and frankly, boring.

Overall, this was a strong performance. (When the Santa Barbara Symphony performs, I often have the feeling that they needed a few more rehearsals, but I had no such feeling tonight). But, my rating reflects not only the quality of the playing, but also the selection of pieces, hence the four stars.

Santa Barbara Symphony, Nir Kabaretti conducting, performed 14 Oct., 2017. This all-Mozart program, entitled Mozart in Dance, consisted of the "Jupiter" Symphony and the Requiem, with the Requiem including a novel dance accompaniment choreographed by William Soleau. The musical part of the program was quite solid, and I particularly enjoyed the Jupiter, despite having heard it so many times. At least for me, the dancing (by the State Street Ballet), although expertly done, detracted from the music. The dance movements were overly repetitious and lacked any obvious connection to the music and lyrics, even including a romantic interlude that contrasted sharply with the theme. I don't know whether the Requiem could be interpreted in dance in a way that would enhance the music, but this interpretation certainly did not work for me.

Note: My rating of this performance (see below) does not reflect the (as always) outstanding pre-performance “Behind the Music” talk by Saïd Ramon Araïza. Ramon knows more about the history of music than anyone whom I can think of (with the sole exception of Prof. Robert Greenberg), and at the same time manages to be wonderfully engaging and entertaining. I've been agitating for the last two years for the Santa Barbara Symphony to record these lectures, and was informed by Kevin Marvin (Executive Director of the Symphony) prior to this performance that recording of these lectures has begun, initially with audio only (which, as far as I'm concerned, is completely adequate).

3. Favorite Short Music Videos

#1: Waltz of the Flowers, Tchaikovsky
#2: The Gran Jota de Concierto, Tárrega
#3: 'Si Un Jour', based on music from Verdi's opera
La Forza del Destino, sung by Natasha Marsh
#4: Flight of the Bumblebee, Rimsky-Korsakov
#5: Libertango, Astor Piazzolla
#6: Bolero, Ravel


#3: The second theme in 'Si Un Jour', which begins at 1:52 into the recording, reminds me of some of the Sephardic and Italian Jewish melodies that I heard as a child and young adult. It is not similar to any one of these melodies, but the feeling is somehow the same.

#4: The original, unedited version of this video can be found at the following URL: Jenö Lisztes and Franz Liszt must be related!

#5: Even the girls' husbands can't tell them apart! More seriously— someone who knows about such things explained to me that for three of the four audio tracks, Ms. Ryzhkova would have been wearing headphones to be able to listen to the initial, "reference" track. Still, an impressive performance, with clever video effects to top it off.

#6: If one watches (and listens) carefully, a plucked string sounds at 33 seconds into the video without the string actually being touched. Still a great performance, despite this bit of fakery.

4. Questions to Think About

(1) It seems as though there are no post-1950 composers of orchestral music on the same level as the great composers of 1650-1950. Is this a misperception? If so, whom would you rank on a par with Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and so on? If not, what is the explanation? Is it that composers are simply following the money, which is no longer in orchestral composition, or is there something more fundamental going on?

(2) Why did Homo sapiens develop the ability to produce, recognize, and enjoy music? This is probably not a well-posed question, so let me rephrase it: What survival advantage does musical ability confer? A few tentative explanations—some more compelling than others—can be found here.

(3) Why does major music tend to sound happier than minor music, and to what extent is this phenomenon independent of culture?

Last update: 25 Nov., 2017