Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Four Bach Keyboard Suites


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


Today I dig through some old MP3.COM downloads for a Once Upon the Internet playlist o four keyboard suites by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach composed suites, partitas and overtures in the baroque dance suite format for solo instruments such as harpsichord, lute, violin, cello and flute, and for orchestra.

In Bach’s solo keyboard catalog, we typiocally focus on the following sets of 19 suites for keyboard, six English Suites, BWV 806–811, six French Suites, BWV 812–817, the six Partitas, BWV 825-830 and the Overture in the French style, BWV 831.

The nomenclature “English” and “French” isn’t necessarily attributed to Bach and his contemporary publisher - Suites were later given the name 'French' (first recorded usage by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg in 1762). Likewise, the English Suites received a later appellation.

Bach's biographer Johann Nikolaus Forkel wrote in his 1802 biography of Bach, "One usually calls them French Suites because they are written in the French manner." This claim, however, is inaccurate: like Bach's other suites, they follow a largely Italian convention. The Courantes of the first (in D minor) and third (in B minor) suites are in the French style, the Courantes of the other four suites are all in the Italian style. Some of the manuscripts that have come down to us are titled "Suites Pour Le Clavecin", which is what probably led to the tradition of calling them "French" Suites.

Bach's English Suites display less affinity with Baroque English keyboard style than do the French Suites to French Baroque keyboard style; the name "English" is thought to date back to a claim that these works might have been composed for an English nobleman. It has also been suggested that the name is a tribute to Charles Dieupart, whose fame was greatest in England, and on whose Six Suittes de clavessin Bach's English Suites were in part based.

The six partitas for keyboard are the last set of suites that Bach composed and the most technically demanding of the three. Although each of the Partitas was published separately under the name Clavier-Übung (Keyboard Practice), they were subsequently collected into a single volume in 1731, with the same name, which Bach himself chose to label his Opus 1.

Happy listening!

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

English Suite No. 2 in A minor, BWV 807
Justine McIntyre, piano

English Suite No. 3 in G minor, BWV 808
French Suite No. 6 in E Major, BWV 817
Sonia Rubinsky, piano

Partita No.1 in B Flat Major, BWV 825
Elaine Lau, piano

Downloaded from MP3.COM (December 2002)



Friday, October 13, 2017

Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)

No. 261 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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Today’s Blog and Podcast features a montage of works by the Italian Classical master Antonio Salieri. Born in the northern Italian town of Legnano in 1750, Salieri came to Vienna aged 15, where he was introduced to his later mentor, Gluck, and to the emperor, Joseph II. Salieri was invited to join in chamber music sessions with the emperor, and soon found himself launched on a career in the imperial court.

In a Guardian article by Erica Jeal, she writes that it's hard to say which view of Antonio Salieri is more firmly embedded: that he was the tormentor who drove Mozart to an early grave or that he was a lousy composer. If Salieri wasn't the enviously wrathful schemer portrayed in the 1984 film Amadeus, who was he? What is certain is that by 1781, when the 25-year-old Mozart set up home in Vienna, Salieri, six years his senior, was an established star.

An ambitious young composer such as Mozart could conceivably have wished Salieri out of the way, but the other way round? Hardly. So what if Mozart collaborated on Le Nozze di Figaro with Beaumarchais, the doyen of the Paris stage? Salieri was already working on Tarare, to a libretto by Beaumarchais himself, a work that would be a hit in Paris.

And if Mozart's collaborations with the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte bore greater fruit than Salieri's? Well, no matter - it was Salieri, after all, who could claim credit for bringing Da Ponte to Vienna. However, if what Mozart's wife Constanze reported was true, there was one incident that might conceivably have sparked a rivalry. She claimed that Salieri had been offered Da Ponte's libretto for Cosi Fan Tutte - and had rejected it as being not worth setting. When Mozart got his hands on it, a humiliated Salieri had to eat his words.

It was only after Mozart's demise that Salieri began to have any real reason to hate him. Unlike that of any before him, Mozart's music kept on being performed - he became the first composer whose cult of celebrity actually flourished after his death. Salieri, however, had outlived his talent. He wrote almost no music for the last two decades of his life.

He did have an impressive roster of pupils: Beethoven, Schubert, Meyerbeer and Liszt - not to mention Franz Xavier Mozart, his supposed adversary's young son. But the composer who had once been at the vanguard of new operatic ideas was not necessarily teaching his students to be similarly innovative; we can only be grateful that Schubert ignored his diatribes against the "intolerable" genre of Germanic lieder.

In somewhat ominous fashion, the montage starts with a piano piece by Mozart setting six variations on a theme on the Salieri aria "Mio caro Adone" from the Finale (Act II) of the Opera La fiera di Venezia. The young composer was still in his teens when he wrote this work and must have held some admiration for Salieri at the time.

This raises an inevitable yet perhaps unfair question: how does Salieri's work differ from Mozart's? One might say that Salieri’s music feels more mature and textured, whereas the latter very often placed a strong emphasis on melody. But it is best to simply evaluate Salieri's works based on this short sampling.

What makes Salieri's Variations on "La follia di spagna" noteworthy is that it is one of only very few sets of successful orchestral variations that was written before the late Romantic period, when the form became more popular after Brahms' 1873 Haydn Variations. Salieri's take on the famous Portuguese (not Spanish, as the title suggests) theme, the score calls for strings, woodwinds, brass, harp, percussion, and tambourine, all featured at some point over the 26 variations.
The montage next features a pair of concerti for groups of instruments and orchestra, reminiscent of the concerto grosso genre from the earlier baroque period.

One might hear echoes of Le Nozze di Figaro in the beginning of La Veneziana, where the strings play together wonderfully. Actually, perhaps it is more accurate to say that the spirit of The Marriage of Figaro drew on inspiration from the teacher.


I think you will love this music too.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ‎– The Late Piano Concertos


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


Mozart’s piano concertos are, in my opinion, the one genre of work where we can truly appreciate his growth as a composer, as he produced them continuously throughout his career. Concertos Nos 1–4 (K. 37, 39, 40 and 41) are orchestral and keyboard arrangements of sonata movements by other composers, leaving 23 “original” concerti (concertos nos. 7 and 10 are for three and two keyboards respectively).

I began sharing some of what we would call Mozart’s “late” Piano Concertos with concertos no. 17 and 21 recently featured. Today’s post shares music from a TIME-LIFE compilation set of 5 LP reissues from the early 1970’s and that I acquired many years ago at a second-hand store. I already featured Concerto no. 21 from that compilation set, and concerto no. 24 many years ago on a post about Sir Clifford Curzon. The three works presented today (nos. 18, 22 and 25) feature three different soloists and orchestras.

The concerti are discussed in a well-written Wikipedia synthesis article on the Mozart concertos. Mozart conceived a unique vision of the piano concerto that attempted to solve the ongoing problem of how thematic material is dealt with by the orchestra and piano, and most of his best examples are from later works.

Three concertos composed in 1784, K. 453 (No. 17), 456 (No. 18) and 459 (No. 19), can be considered to form a group, as they all share certain features, such as the same rhythm in the opening. K. 453 (featured in our recent Previn montage) was written for Barbara Ployer, and is famous in particular for its last movement. The next concerto in B flat, K. 456 (featured today) was, for a long time, believed to have been written for the blind pianist Maria Theresa von Paradis to play in Paris.

Next on our program, from 1785, K. 482 (no. 22 in E-flat) is slightly less popular, possibly because it lacks the striking themes featured in K. 467 (heard in our Ashkenazy share). To close this week’s share, we have the final work of the year 1786, No. 25, K. 503, one of the most expansive of all classical concertos, rivaling Beethoven’s Emperor concerto.

One final note – the clip of Barenboim playing and conducting no. 18 has been withdrawn from YouTube, but I do have it posted as an MP3 track on our Internet Archive version of today’s playlist.

Happy listening!



Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 18 In B Flat Major, K. 456
English Chamber Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, piano & conducting

Piano Concerto No. 22 In E Flat Major, K. 482
Karl Engel, piano
Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra
Leopold Hager, conducting
YouTube - https://youtu.be/YFQf-05zfOk

Piano Concerto No. 25 In C Major, K. 503
Alicia De Larrocha, piano
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Georg Solti, conducting
YouTube - https://youtu.be/-XVrRB_wgPM

Label: Time Life Records ‎– STL M01
Format: 5 × Vinyl, LP, Compilation
Issued in 1973
More info - https://www.discogs.com/Wolfgang-Ama...elease/4295176



Sunday, October 1, 2017

Programming - October, November & December 2017

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Already the last quarter of 2017 - 13 more weeks to go. Sure flies by, doesn't it!3

On our radar for this final quarter is the end of the first tranche of Project 366, and the launch of Part 2 and a fresh set of 122 Listener Guides. More about Part 2 in November.

Friday Blog and Podcast:

  • October - Podcasts featuring Mozart (NEW PODCAST) and Salieri (NEW PODCAST)
  • November - An "IIn Memoriam" podcast featuring Sir Jeffrey Tate (NEW PODCAST) and the music of Ieland's John Field (NEW PODCAST)
  • December - a pair of piano legends in Edwin Fischer playing Bach  (NEW PODCAST) and Rudolf Serkin  playing Beethoven (NEW PODCAST)
  • Our last post in December will be our annual Year in Review featuring our compilation of YouTube favourites.
Tuesday Blog (TalkClassical):
  • Cover 2 Cover - Schubert Lieder with the late great Gundula Janowitz (PTB)
  • Once Upon the Internet - J. S. Bach Keyboard suites (MP3.COM, PTB) and Beethoven "Live" (LiberMusica, PTB)
  • Vinytl's Revenge - Mozart Piano Concertos (PTB), Rachmaninov's Second Symphony and Symphonic Dances (PTB) and Holst's Planets (PTB)
  • Bonus Montage for the 5th Tuesday (October) - Symphonic Stravinsky (PTB)
OperaLively:

The Flying Dutchman (Wagner, OTF). Other opera posts TBA, time permitting.

I will update this page if programming changes in the coming weeks, and also look for unannounced “repatriated” posts from our PTB and OTF series.

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