Saturday, May 26, 2018

Project 366 - Les Romantiques

Project 366 continues in 2017-18 with "Time capsules through the Musical Eras - A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire". Read more here.



The next four instalments of our time capsule series will explore music of the Romantic period, essentially spanning the 19th century, and stepping into the first decade or two of the 20th – though I don’t want you to necessarily hold me to that…

As we saw with Beethoven, Schubert and (I’d argue) some of Mozart’s late great works, the Romantic movement essentially has one common formative concept – the rigid forms that were established mostly in the classical period become more “guidelines”, providing context and order, but take a back seat to great ideas, themes and more programmatic and expressive works. Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony is indicative of what I mean here.

I like to think that composers break out of the rigid moulds, and let their imagination and feelings loose

If Italian composers have a large say in baroque and early classical periods, they are overtaken by three major “schools” of music, each with its own distinctive brand and sound These schools which are featured in their own chapters in the series, are regional (if not national), indicative of the “inheritance lines” and educational values of these three main regions. We begin this month with the French Romantics.

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin (1810-1849)

Frédéric Chopin was born Fryderyk Franciszek Szopen in the small village of Zelazowa Wola, Duchy of Warsaw (now Poland). His Father, Nicholas, was a French émigré who was working as a bookkeeper when he met and married Justyna Krzyzanowska. Soon after Frédéric was born, Nicholas found employment as a tutor for aristocratic families in Warsaw. Chopin published his first composition at age 7 and began performing one year later. In 1832, he moved to Paris, socialized with high society and was known as an excellent piano teacher. His piano compositions were highly influential.


Listener Guide #185 – Chopin #1 Montage
Chopin’s first piano concerto, first piano sonata, first ballade and first scherzo are featured in this time capsule, with performances by two of my favourite Chopin pianists of the 20th century: Vladimir Ashkenazy and Artur Rubenstein. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #27 - October 21, 2011)





Listener Guide #186 – Alessandro Deljavan, Chopin ‎– Complete Etudes

The idea of the piano étude conjures up one of two things – a study in composition and harmony or a study in piano performance. We can safely say that Chopin hits both of these objectives. Chopin's études formed the foundation for what was then a revolutionary playing style for the piano. They are some of the most challenging and evocative pieces of all the works in concert piano repertoire. (Cover 2 Cover #9 – 8 May 2018)


More Chopin – Listener Guide #6 & 113

Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)

Hector Berlioz turned his back on a career in medicine to follow his passion for music, and went on to compose works that showcased the innovativeness and search for expression that were hallmarks of Romanticism. His well-known pieces include the Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts. Berlioz left behind many innovative compositions that had set the tone for the Romantic period; though the originality of his work may have worked against him during his lifetime, appreciation of his music would continue to grow after his death.

Listener Guide #187 – Berlioz / Lorin Maazel / Cleveland Orchestra ‎– Symphonie Fantastique

Symphoinie Fantastique is a wholly programmatic work which imagines a desperate artist who is bisited by haunting images of a lost lover while under the influence of opium. The work introduces the concept of the idée fixe or leitmotiv as a recurring and ever-evolving thematic line. (Vinyl’s Revenge #21 – 4 October 2016)



More Berlioz – Listener Guides #58 & 112

Claude Debussy (1862–1918)

Claude Debussy was born into a poor family, but his obvious gift at the piano sent him to the Paris Conservatory at age 11. At age 22, he won the Prix de Rome, which financed two years of further musical study in the Italian capital. After the turn of the century, Debussy established himself as the leading figure of French music . Embracing nontraditional scales and tonal structures, Claude Debussy is one of the most highly regarded composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is seen as the founder of musical impressionism.



Listener Guide #188 – Sergey Schepkin Plays Debussy

Claude Debussy's Préludes are divided into two separate livres (or books) of twelve preludes each. Unlike previous collections of preludes, such as those of J.S. Bach and Chopin, Debussy's do not follow a strict pattern of key signatures. (Once Upon the Internet #5 – 9 October 2012)

Listener Guide #189 – Intimate Debussy
Chamber music for one, two and four performers, including some art songs.  (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 77 - 26 Oct, 2012)



Listener Guide #190 – Orchestral Debussy
Along with La Mer, Iberia is another triptych of Debussy's that comes immediately to mind. Iberia is Debussy's look at Spain, and is often presented (as I did today) as a standalone movement from a larger set of Images for Orchestra. Also, Nocturnes and the ballet Jeux. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #76 - 19 Oct, 2012)


More Debussy – Listener Guides #53 & 84


Maurice Ravel  (1875–1937)

A contemporary of Debussy, Maurice Ravel was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire at age 14, and later studied with Gabriel Fauré. His ballet Daphnis et Chloé was commissioned by Sergey Diaghilev. Other pieces include the the orchestral works La Valse and Boléro. Ravel remains the most widely popular of all French composers.

Listener Guide #191 – Daphnis et Chloé

At almost an hour long, the music (which requires a wordless SATB choir offstage) is widely regarded as some of Ravel's best, with extraordinarily lush harmonies typical of the impressionist movement. Even during the composer's lifetime, contemporary commentators described this ballet as his masterpiece for orchestra.  (Vinyl’s Revenge #35 – 27 Feb 2018)



More Ravel – Listener Guide #74 & 95

Listener Guide #192-194 – Ambroise Thomas: Mignon

Mignon is an opéra comique  in three acts based on Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre. Thomas had already written 17 operas when Mignon appeared in 1866. Many of them were in styles reminiscent of other composers, including Rossini and Donizetti. But with Mignon, he seemed to find a style all his own. It was his biggest hit by far, and remains one of only two operas by Thomas that are likely to be heard today, along with his well-known setting of Shakespeare's Hamlet. (Once or Twice a Fortnight – 20 June 2012[Synopsis] [Libretto]

L/G 192 - Act I, L/G 193 - Act II, L/G 194 - Act III

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Herbert Blomstedt ‎– Carl Nielsen


This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.


Today's installment of Vinyl's Revenge features a few selections from a three-disc set dating from the mid-1970's, featuring the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra under Herbert Blomstedt.

This set, second of two, completes Blomstedt's first complete cycle of the symphonies of Carl Nielsen; another cycle was produced about 15 years later while he was Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony. This set features the last three symphonies and three short orchestral works. Today's share has two of these and Nielsen's Inextinguishable symphony.

I remember well my first encounter with Nielsen's Fourth: it was a television broadcast featuring Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony, and the impression it left me was such that I absolutely needed to acquire this work - which I did in a Bernstein vintage CBS recording with the New York Philharmonic.

The symphony's opening is mst surprising to me; while most symphonies takes a few bars to establish the mood before "getting to business", Nielsen's work dives right in, as if the first couple of pages of the score were ripped out! The result is a work that is all-momentum, a fitting tribute to Life and the Human Spirit undeterred by the effects of the ongoing First World War.

Preceding the symphony in this share, I added a pair of short orchestral works. The Rhapsodic Overture "An Imaginary Trip to the Faroe Islands" draws on Faroese folk tunes but also contains freely composed sections. The nine-minute symphonic poem "Pan and Syrinx" is based on the ancient legend which tells how the amorous god Pan invented the pan flute when following the nymph Syrinx.

Happy Listening!


Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)

Rhapsody Overture 'En fantasirejse til Faeroene' (An Imaginary Trip to the Faroe Islands), FS123
Pan And Syrinx, Op. 49
Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 "The Inextinguishable"

Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Herbert Blomstedt, conducting

Seraphim ‎– SIC-6098
Vinyl, LP, Stereo, Quadraphonic
Released 1975

Details - https://www.discogs.com/Danish-Radio...elease/7208102






Friday, May 18, 2018

The St. Petersburg School

No. 279 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.


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There once were two brothers – Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein. Both were pianists, copmposers and educators; Anton not only founded the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, the first music school in Russia, he was its first director but also recruited an imposing pool of talent for its faculty. Among  its first pupils, a young and eager Peter Tchaikovsky. Once Tchaikovsky graduated in 1865, Rubinstein's brother Nikolai offered him the post of Professor of Music Theory at the soon-to-open Moscow Conservatory – the second institution of its kind in Imperial Russia, and the second founded and directed by the Rubinstein brothers.

However, it would be inaccurate to purely equate the Russian Nationalist “St Petersburg School” with Conservatory and its close predecessor, the Russian Musical Society. Equally important is a group known in Russian as Moguchaya kuchka, which looseluy translates to "Mighty Bunch" – we also know  the group under other names: the Mighty Five, The Mighty Handful or simply the Five - five prominent 19th-century Russian composers who worked together to create distinct Russian classical music. Mily Balakirev (the leader), César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Borodin all lived in Saint Petersburg, and collaborated from 1856 to 1870.

The formation of the group began in 1856, with the first meeting of Balakirev and César Cui. Modest Mussorgsky joined them in 1857, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1861, and Alexander Borodin in 1862. All the composers in The Five were young men in 1862 (Balakirev was 25, Cui 27, Mussorgsky 23, Borodin the eldest at 28, and Rimsky-Korsakov just 18).

They were all self-trained amateurs. Borodin combined composing with a career in chemistry. Rimsky-Korsakov was a naval officer (he wrote his First Symphony on a three-year naval voyage circumnavigating the globe). Mussorgsky had been in the prestigious Preobrazhensky Regiment of the Imperial Guard, and then in the civil service before taking up music. For several years, Balakirev was the only professional musician of the group; the others were amateurs limited in musical education. He imparted to them his musical beliefs, which continued to underlie their thinking long after he left the group in 1871, and encouraged their compositional efforts.

The RMS and the two conservatories had powerful champions in Anton and Nikolai Rubinstein, others feared the influence of German instructors and musical precepts into Russian classical music. Balakirev's sympathies and closest contacts were in the latter camp, and he frequently made derogatory comments about the German "routine" which, he believed, came at the expense of the composer's originality.

Balakirev was outspoken in his opposition to Anton Rubinstein's efforts. This opposition was partly ideological and partly personal; Anton Rubinstein was at that time the only Russian able to live on his art, while Balakirev had to live on income from piano lessons and recitals played in the salons of the aristocracy.

As a composer, Balakirev finished major works many years after he had started them; he began his First Symphony in 1864 but completed it in 1897. The exception to this was his oriental fantasy Islamey for solo piano, which he composed quickly and remains popular among virtuosos. Often, the musical ideas normally associated with Rimsky-Korsakov or Borodin originated in Balakirev's compositions, which Balakirev played at informal gatherings of The Five. However, his slow pace in completing works for the public deprived him of credit for his inventiveness, and pieces that would have enjoyed success had they been completed in the 1860s and 1870s made a much smaller impact.
Balakirev’s First Symphony (opening the set) is to my ear much more pretentious and ambitious than the aforementioned First symphony by Rimsky-Korsakov.

Like the other members of the group, many of Mussorgsky’s works were inspired by Russian history, Russian folklore, and other national themes. Such works include the opera Boris Godunov, the orchestral tone poem Night on Bald Mountain and the piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.
For many years Mussorgsky's works were mainly known in versions revised or completed by other composers. This is the case for the selections I retained this week. Like Mussorgsky's earlier Boris Godunov, Khovanshchina deals with an episode in Russian history; the background of the opera comprises the Moscow Uprising of 1682 and the Khovansky affair a few months later, its main themes are the struggle between progressive and reactionary political factions during the minority of Tsar Peter the Great and the passing of old Muscovy before Peter's westernizing reforms.

Rimsky-Korsakov completed, revised, and scored Khovanshchina in 1881–1882. In 1913 Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel made their own arrangement at Sergei Diaghilev's request; Diaghilev's company employed a mixture of orchestrations which did not prove successful. The Stravinsky-Ravel orchestration was forgotten, except for Stravinsky's finale, which is still sometimes used. Dmitri Shostakovich revised the opera in 1959 based on Mussorgsky's vocal score, and it is the Shostakovich version that is usually performed.


I think you will love this music too!


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Alessandro Deljavan, Chopin ‎– Complete Etudes


This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.


This week’s Tuesday Blog is a Cover 2 Cover share of a Brilliant Classics recording of the complete Chopin études.

The idea of the piano étude conjures up one of two things – a study in composition and harmony or a study in piano performance. We can safely say that Chopin hits both of these objectives. Chopin's études formed the foundation for what was then a revolutionary playing style for the piano. They are some of the most challenging and evocative pieces of all the works in concert piano repertoire.

Some are so popular they have been given nicknames; arguably the most popular of all is Op. 10, No. 3, sometimes identified by the names "Tristesse" ("Sadness") or "Farewell" ("L'Adieu"), as well as the "Revolutionary Étude" (Op. 10, No. 12). No nicknames are of Chopin's original creation.

All twenty-seven études were published during Chopin's lifetime; Op. 10, the first group of twelve, were composed between 1829 and 1832, and were published in 1833, in France, Germany, and England. The twelve études of Op. 25 were composed at various times between 1832 and 1836, and were published in the same countries in 1837. The final three, part of a series called "Méthode des méthodes de piano" compiled by Ignaz Moscheles and François-Joseph Fétis, were composed in 1839, without an assigned opus number. They appeared in Germany and France in November 1840, and England in January 1841.

According to his own website our featured pianist Alessandro Deljavan began learning to play piano before the age of two and gave his first performances at age three. A graduate of the Conservatorio Statale di Musica Giuseppe Verdi of Milan and the Istituto Gaetano Braga. In addition, he has taken part in courses at the Mozarteum Salzburg, the Festival dell Nazioni at Città di Castello and the Ottorino Respighi Foundation on St. George Island, Venice, Italy. His teachers include Valentina Chiola, Piotr Lachert, Ricardo Risaliti, Enrico Belli, Eugenio Bagnoli, Lazar Berman, William Grant Naboré, Dimitri Bashkirov, Laurent Boullet, Fou Ts’ong, Dominique Merlet, John Perry, Menahem Pressler and Andreas Staier.

He has since performed around the world including in Austria, Belgium, China, Columbia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, South Korea, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Alessandro has a discography of over 40 albums with the Stradivarius, Brilliant Classics, Onclassical, Aevea, Naxos, Tactus and Piano Classics labels. Some of the most recent releases include two albums of the complete Chopin Waltzes & Études (the latter is today’s featured recording) and the Complete Chopin Mazurkas. He is currently professor of piano at the U. Giordano Conservatory of Music, Foggia, Italy.

Happy Listening


Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)

12 Études, Op. 10
12 Études, Op. 25
3 Nouvelles Études, B. 130
Alessandro Deljavan, piano

Brilliant Classics ‎– 95207 (2015)
Details - https://www.brilliantclassics.com/ar...mplete-etudes/