Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Orchestre Symphonique De Montréal, Holst, Charles Dutoit ‎– The Planets


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


For my last two Tuesday Blogs for 2017, I programmed some Christmas presents for you, works that should please everybody, casual and vested CM lovers alike.

Written between 1914-1916 by British composer Gustav Holst, this week’s featured work ‘The Planets’ is a suite of seven short tone poems, each representing one the known planets of the Solar System seen from Earth at the time, and their corresponding astrological character.

According to Kenric Taylor’s “Gustav Holst website” Holst seemed to consider The Planets a progression of life. 

  • "Mars" perhaps serves as a rocky and tormenting beginning. In fact, some have called this movement the most devastating piece of music ever written!
  • "Venus" seems to provide an answer to "Mars," its title as "the bringer of peace," helps aid that claim.
  • "Mercury" can be thought of as the messenger between our world and the other worlds.
  • Perhaps "Jupiter" represents the "prime" of life, even with the overplayed central melody, which was later arranged to the words of "I vow to thee, my country."
  • Through "Saturn" it can be said that old age is not always peaceful and happy. The movement may display the ongoing struggle for life against the odd supernatural forces.
  • "Saturn" is followed by "Uranus, the Magician," a quirky scherzo displaying a robust musical climax before…
  • … the tranquility of the female choir in "Neptune" enchants the audience.


(More insight on the astrological meaning of each planet can be found here )

The piece displays that Holst was in touch with his musical contemporaries. There are obvious ideas borrowed from Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Debussy (the quality of "Neptune" resembles earlier Debussy piano music.)

Holst never wrote another piece like The Planets again. He hated its popularity. When people would ask for his autograph, he gave them a typed sheet of paper that stated that he didn't give out autographs. The public seemed to demand of him more music like The Planets, and his later music seemed to disappoint them. In fact, after writing the piece, he swore off his belief in astrology, though until the end of his life he cast his friends horoscopes. How ironic that the piece that made his name famous throughout the world brought him the least joy in the end.

For your listening pleasure, I chose the 1987 Decca release by Charles Dutoit and l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal from my vinyl collection. Some of the movements were already available on YouTube, I simply added the missing movements to complete the playlist.

Dutoit has a real affection for The Planets and his performance is vital, insightful, and recorded in resplendent digital sound The Montreal Symphony has a particularly powerful trombone section, which adds just that extra drop of energy to "Mars,"Jupiter," and "Saturn." A fine disc.
--David Hurwitz
Enjoy


Gustav HOLST (1874–1934)
The Planets, op. 32
Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal
Choeur des Femmes de l'OSM [”Neptune”] (Iwan Edwards, chorus master)
Charles Dutoit, conducting
London Records ‎– 417 553-1 LH
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album (DDA)
Recording location: L'église de Saint-Eustache, Qc , June 1986.

YouTube Playlist - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...HhUffUlNTwt8sl


Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/05SaturnTheBringerOfOldAge

Friday, December 8, 2017

Edwin Fischer (1886 -1960)

No. 266 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.


=====================================================================

This week’s podcast features a pianist I find has been much overlooked in recent years. Edwin Fischer (1886 –1960) was a Swiss classical pianist and conductor who is regarded as one of the great interpreters of J.S. Bach and Mozart of his generation, if not of the twentieth century.

Precocious, Edwin Fischer entered the Basle Conservatory at age ten where he studied with the composer Hans Huber. When Fischer was eighteen he moved to Berlin to study at the Stern Conservatory with Liszt pupil Martin Krause (who would later teach Claudio Arrau).

After a period of teaching at the Stern Conservatory, Fischer gave recitals and at this time appeared with such eminent conductors as Willem Mengelberg, Arthur Nikisch, and Bruno Walter. He toured in Europe and Britain, but gave only a limited number of concerts.

In 1931 Fischer succeeded Artur Schnabel as director of the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, a post he held for four years. During World War II Fischer returned to his native Switzerland from where he gave master-classes for a number of later prominent pianists (such as Alfred Brendel, Helena Sá e Costa, Mario Feninger, Paul Badura-Skoda and Daniel Barenboim). He continued to tour until 1954 when he stopped performing in public as he was suffering from a paralysis of his hands.

Fischer’s repertoire was dominated by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert. He also played Chopin and Schumann, but had a wide knowledge of the piano repertoire. Describing Fischer’s pianistic personality is not easy. He was a genuinely honest and kind person whose humanity shone through his music in performances that contained a beautiful, seamless legato, and a pellucid tone quality that is unique to Fischer. He found all things spiritual extremely important to his life as a musician, always searching for the true inner spirit of the music he was interpreting.

Edwin Fischer was the first pianist to make a complete recording of Bach’s Das wohltemperierte Klavier which he commenced in 1933. Perhaps the best adumbration of Fischer’s musical outlook is his recording of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue recorded in 1931. The Fantasy sounds more like an improvisation with Fischer not fearing to double notes and use extremes of dynamic, his pianissimo being almost hypnotic as it draws the listener in. He makes this Fantasy into an improvisational poem, at times creating moments of aching beauty. He brings the same qualities to Busoni’s arrangement of Bach’s Chorale Ich ruf’zu dir.

In 1930 Fischer formed his own chamber orchestra of Berlin musicians, which he conducted from the keyboard. In 1950 Fischer gave a series of concerts in London and other European cities to commemorate the bicentenary of Bach’s death. In these concerts he played all the concertos for keyboard. Today’s podcast features his recording of three of these concerti with his Chamber Orchestra.


I think you will love this music too.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Schubert: 15 Lieder / Gundula Janowitz, Charles Spencer


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


This week’s Tuesday Blog is an installment of our Cover2Cover series, with a 1989 recording of the esteemed soprano Gundula Janowitz in a Milan recital, singing a selection of 15 lieder by Franz Schubert, accompanied at the piano by Charles Spencer.

According to classical-music.com, Schubert's body of work includes over 600 songs for voice and piano. That number alone is vastly impressive - many composers fail to reach that number of compositions in their entire output, let alone in a single genre. But it isn't just the quantity that's remarkable: Schubert consistently, and frequently, wrote songs of such beauty and quality that composers such as SchumannWolf and Brahms all credited him with reinventing, invigorating and bringing greater seriousness to a previously dilletante musical form.

Maybe it’s just me, but I sense there’s a preponderance of male Schubert singers; Schubert's Winterreise is performed by both men and women. However, even when there are implied "characters," the tendency is inconsistent: as an example, Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin is almost always sung by men, while Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is split almost equally between men's and women's voices in performance.

Gundula Janowitz officially retired from the stage in 1990 and, according to most accounts, gave occasional recitals until around the middle of that decade with her final recital –captured for posterity in a bootleg recording - in September 1999. As far as I know, there are only two mainstream recordings of Ms Janowitz singing Schubert (with the exception of that final recital), one for DGG (with Irwin Gage at the piano) and this late-career recital with Spencer at the piano re-issued on The Nuova Era and Brilliant Classics labels.
I agree with some of the contemporaneous reviews of this and her final recital a decade or so later; the singer is in remarkably fresh voice throughout. There’s a certain loss of bloom, inevitably, and an occasional brittleness of intonation, but the unique sound is unmistakable, the delivery still clear and confident.

Happy Listening!


Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

  • Der Winterabend D938, Text by Karl Gottried von Leiner
  • Auf dem See D543, Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Das Lied im Grunen D917, Text by Fredrich Reil
  • An die untergehende Sonne D457, Text by Ludwig Gotthard Theobul Kosegarten
  • Der liebliche Stern D861, Text by Ernst Schulze
  • An den Mond D296, Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • Nachtstuck D672, Text by Johann Baptist Mayrhofer
  • Augenlied D297, Text by Johann Baptist Mayrhofer
  • Der blinde Knabe D833, Text by Jakob Nikolaus de Jachelutta Craigher
  • Am Grabe Anselmos D504, Text by Matthis Claudius
  • Bei Dir allein D866, Text by Johann Gabriel Seidl
  • Die abgebluhte Linde D514, Text by Ludwig Graf von Savar-Felso Videk Szechenyi
  • Fischerweise D881, Text by Franz Xaver Freiherr von Schlechta
  • Geheimnis D491, Text by Johann Baptist Mayrhofer
  • An die Musik D547, Text by Franz von Schober

Gundula Janowitz, soprano
Charles Spencer, piano
Live Milan, Italy, 1989
Nuova Era 6860 [http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/...bum_id=134490]



Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/GundulaJanowitzFranzSchubert15Lieder
Video posted by Johnny BeGood

Friday, November 24, 2017

In Memoriam: Sir Jeffrey Tate (1943 - 2017)

No. 265 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.


=====================================================================
Earlier this year, I posted a Tuesday Blog saluting g the career of conductor Sir Jeffrey Tate, who passed away this past June. This week’s post is another tip of the hat to Sir Jeffrey, this time in three symphonies by Joseph Haydn.

In 1985 Tate was appointed the first Principal Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra and began a major recording programme for EMI which included the complete Mozart symphonies as well as a number of Haydn's. Tate's Haydn and Mozart are in a class of their own. Using modern instrumental forces and often adopting tempi which are much broader than we have come to expect from period orchestras, Tate achieves a lightness and lyricism which make every note compelling.

As we discussed in yet another Tuesday Blog earlier this year, Haydn’s London symphonies can be categorized into two groups: Symphonies Nos. 93–98, composed during Haydn's first visit to London, and Symphonies Nos. 99–104, composed in Vienna and London for his second visit. Today’s trio of symphonies date from the first set and were presented to London audiences in a different order – they were his third, sixth and fourth.

Haydn's music contains many jokes, and the Surprise Symphony (no. 94) includes probably the most famous of all: a sudden fortissimo chord at the end of the otherwise piano opening theme in the variation-form second movement. The music then returns to its original quiet dynamic, as if nothing had happened, and the ensuing variations do not repeat the joke. (In German it is commonly referred to as the Symphony mit dem Paukenschlag - "with the kettledrum stroke").

The symphony no. 96 has been called the Miracle symphony due to the story that, during its premiere, a chandelier fell from the ceiling of the concert hall in which it was performed. The audience managed to dodge the chandelier successfully as they had all crowded to the front for the post-performance applause, and the symphony got its nickname from this. (More careful and recent research suggests that this event actually took place during the premiere of his Symphony No. 102).

Haydn was composing the Symphony no. 98 when he heard, and was greatly distressed by, the news of Mozart's death. The Adagio, solemn and hymn-like, makes noticeable use of material from two works by Mozart, the Coronation Mass and Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter").


I think you will love this music too.