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.


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

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

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.

Subscribe to our ITYWLTMT Fan Page on Facebook

All of our Tuesday, Friday and ad-hoc posts, as well as OTF and YouTube Channel updates get regularly mentioned (with links) on our Fan Page. If you are a user of Facebook, simply subscribe to get notified so you never miss anything we do!

... and on Twitter [https://twitter.com/itywltmt

Friday, September 29, 2017

Rostropovich & Shostakovich

No. 260 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 Blog and podcast considers a pair of works by Dimitri Shostakovich featuring fellow-Russian artist Mstislav Rostropovich – in one instance as cello soloist and in the other as conductor.

Mstislav Rostropovich is internationally acclaimed and acknowledged as one of the world's greatest cellists of his generation. His repertoire includes more than 50 concertos, ranging from the baroque, through the classical and romantic periods, to the avant-garde. As a cellist, Rostropovich is noted for his commanding technique and intense, visionary playing.

Rostropovich was one of the world's most outspoken defenders of human and artistic freedoms. In 1974, after a period of four years during which the writer Solzhenitsyn resided in their home, Rostropovich and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya left the Soviet Union at their own request.
Rostropovich has also won outstanding acclaim as a conductor, appearing with most of the world's leading orchestras, including his long tenure as Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington. Both on the cello and on the podium, Rostropovich is considered one of the leading interpreters of the music of Shostakovich (with whom he studied composition), Britten, and Prokofiev.

Opening the montage is the first western performance of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 2, composed in the spring of 1966 in the Crimea. It was written for Mstislav Rostropovich, who gave the premiere in Moscow at the composer's 60th birthday concert. On the montage, Coplin Davis conducts the BBC Symphony in a live broadcast..

In an interview by Tim Janof, Rostropovich talks about Shostakovich and Prokofiev:

Shostakovich was very shy and sensitive and he had a rich inner life that he kept to himself. He avoided confrontation and would fib to spare somebody's feelings. I remember him going up to somebody after a concert and praising their performance and predicting a great future career even though the performance was actually pretty bad. He generally kept his true thoughts and feelings to himself, though he did tend to open up a bit at parties.

While Prokofiev did a lot of his composing at the piano, Shostakovich worked out a lot of ideas in his head. [,,,] I took many walks with Shostakovich during which he would suddenly raise his head and become very quiet, which I understood to mean that he was composing. […]  Shostakovich liked the combination of cello and celeste in Prokofiev's Sinfonia Concertante [for cello and orchestra, a work dedicated to and premiered by Rostropovich], so that instrumentation appeared in Shostakovich's next work.

Today’s montage features Shostakovich’s Fifth symphony, which Rostropovich brings up in anecdote:

Prokofiev […] didn't seem to have an unexpressed thought. If he didn't like something, he never considered another person's feelings before he shared his opinion. As an example, Prokofiev once asked Shostakovich why he used so much tremolo in his Fifth Symphony, telling him that it sounded like Aida, which I gather was a bad thing. He could be quite acidic.

After the symphony had been performed in Moscow, Heinrich Neuhaus called the work "deep, meaningful, gripping music, classical in the integrity of its conception, perfect in form and the mastery of orchestral writing—music striking for its novelty and originality, but at the same time somehow hauntingly familiar, so truly and sincerely does it recount human feelings."


I think you will love this music too.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Vivaldi: Trio Sonatas Op. 1


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


Brilliant Classics Cover 2 Cover
As I’m sure many of you do, I receive my fair share of YouTube “Spam” mailings. Though some can be irksome and annoying, I’m glad I received a notice about the Brilliant Classics YouTube channel, where the label posts many of its releases integrally. I find that, for the most part, interpretations are generally pretty good. I have slated a few of these albums – starting with this week’s share – for some upcoming Tuesday Blogs.

Vivaldi’s Chamber sonatas for two violins and continuo
Accoirding to an excellent review I found as I was doing my background research for this week’s post, in 1681 Arcangelo Corelli published his first collection of trio sonatas which were to be followed by three further sets of twelve sonatas each. They were enthusiastically embraced by the music lovers and amateur performers at the time. The influence of Corelli's sonatas was such that almost any composer of later generations felt obliged to show his skills in trio sonatas of his own. A set of trio sonatas was often a composer's first publication of music from his pen. Examples are the trio sonatas by AlbinoniBonporti and Caldara.

Vivaldi was another who decided that he should show the music world what he was capable of by publishing a collection of trio sonatas, publishing twelve trio sonatas his opus one in 1705. This edition has only partly survived; today's performers rely on a reprint by Estienne Roger of Amsterdam which dates from around 1715. However, it is assumed that the 1705 edition was in fact a reprint as well and that the first edition could have been from 1703 and may have been published shortly before Vivaldi had been appointed in his post at La Pieta in September of that year. Today’s share is a World premiere recording authorised and based on the Critical Edition of these 12 sonatas by Fabrizio Ammetto, Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice.

Scholars have noted that Vivaldi's trio sonatas show some immaturity. That could be the reason that in our time they are not that often performed and recorded. It seems that in Vivaldi's time they didn't find a wide dissemination. It has also been suggested that the composer himself didn't rate them very highly as he hardly ever borrowed from them. Maybe he even didn't like the very form of the trio sonata as after 1710 he seldom returned to it.

Whatever one may think of these trio sonatas they make for good listening for about 90 minutes or so, certainly if they are played so well as here by L'Arte dell'Arco. One of the features of L'Arte del'Arco's playing is a great rhythmic precision; if you love baroque string music and/or Vivaldi you should add this fine performance of the corpus to your collection.

Happy Listening


Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
12 Sonate da camera a tre, Op. 1
(Order on the recording)
No. 1 in G Minor, RV 73
No. 8 in D Minor, RV 64
No. 5 in F Major, RV 69
No. 10 in B-Flat Major, RV 78
No. 6 in D Major, RV 62
No. 12 in D Minor RV 63 “Follia”
No. 9 in A Major, RV 75
No. 7 in E-Flat Major, RV 65
No. 3 in C Major, RV 61
No. 4 in E Major, RV 66
No. 11 in B Minor, RV 79
No. 2 in E Minor, RV 67

L'Arte dell'Arco [Federico Guglielmo, Glauco Bertagnin, violin; Francesco Galligioni, cello; Ivano Zanenghi, theorbo; Roberto Loreggian, harpsichord, organ]

rec: March 12 -16, 2012, Carceri (PD), Abbazia di Santa Maria
Brilliant Classics - 94784BR
More info: http://www.brilliantclassics.com/art...io-sonatas-op1


Internet Archive URL - https://archive.org/details/LArteDellArcoVivaldiTrioSonatasOp.1

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Old switch-a-roo

This is my post from this week's Once or Twice a Fortnight.


Many years ago, the CBC broadcasted an Edmonton Opera performance of the Marriage of Figaro sung in English.

Pause

That what I thought, exactly!

I won’t call it a cottage industry, but there are many operas that have had their libretti adapted or translated in other languages. Some of them by design – Dialogues des Carmélites was first performed in an Italian translation at its La Scala première before its Paris debut in the original French libretto by the composer.

In my record collection I have a fine version of Pagliacci sung in German (A Munich performance conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch) It takes some getting used to, but it kind of works.

All this to say that there’s something to be said for opera sung in the local language for local audiences. Maybe some of the “big staples” (like my example of Mozart’s Figaro) are harder to warm up to, but less traveled repertoire, and especially light opera or operetta work well. This is why this vintage performance I found on LiberMusica of Auber’s Fra Diavolo I think is worthwhile.

The opera was Auber's greatest success, one of the most popular works of the 19th century and was in the standard repertory in its original French as well as German and Italian versions. It is loosely based on the life of the Itrani guerrilla leader Michele Pezza, active in southern Italy in the period 1800-1806, who went under the name of Fra Diavolo ("Brother Devil").

Expanding and renaming the roles of Beppo and Giacomo (two accomplices of Fra Diavolo) Laurel and Hardy starred as "Stanlio" and "Ollio" in the 1933 feature film Fra Diavolo (sometimes titled as The Devil's Brother or Bogus Bandits) based on Auber's opera. There is not a great deal of singing in the film. Much of the chorus material is intact, and Diavolo has three numbers; however, Zerline gets to sing only the small bit necessary to the plot (singing when she undresses), Stanlio and Ollio only repeat songs heard by others, and no one else sings.

For comparison, a YouTube performance of the original French version can be found here.

The audio quality here is at times suspect, but once you get used to the sound, you'll like this!

Daniel François Esprit AUBER (1782 - 1871)
Fra Diavolo, ou L'hôtellerie de Terracine, opéra comique in three acts (1830)
Original French libretto by Eugène Scribe; Italian translation by Manfredo Maggioni

PRINCIPAL ROLES
Fra Diavolo - Giuseppe Campora,
Zerline - Alda Noni,
Lord Cockburn - Gino Orlandini,
Lady Pamela - Mitì Truccato Pace,
Lorenzo - Nino Adami,
Giacomo - Fernando Corena,
Beppo - Giuseppe Nessi,
Mathéo - Pier Luigi Latinucci,

Coro della RAI di Milano (Roberto Benaglio, chorus master)
Orchestra sinfonica della RAI di Milano
Alfredo Simonetto, conducting
HOPE 237
Recorded : 5/3/1952

Synopsis - http://www.opera-arias.com/auber/fra-diavolo/synopsis/
Libretto - http://musicologia.unipv.it/collezio...f/ghisi097.pdf
LiberMusica URL - https://www.liberliber.it/online/aut...r/fra-diavolo/

Friday, September 22, 2017

Jewish Inspirations

No. 259 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.


=====================================================================
We often talk of musical traditions in the context of national music, or national schools. Think of the great German, French, Italian and Russian traditions. Each of these traditions have a distinct “sound”, and even a distinct aesthetic.

We also sometimes talk of music as either sacred or secular. Again, there are sounds and aesthetics at play when considering music meant to be played in churches or as part of religious rites and ceremonies as opposed to music intended to be played in a concert or a recital.

I’m not quite sure where to place music of Hebraic or Jewish inspiration in those contexts – are we talking about a tradition, or a form of religious music? I remember once somebody discussing how Mendelssohn’s E Minor violin concerto is probably the best example of Jewish music ever composed (Mendelssohn’s grandfather is recognized as an eminent Jewish thinker  yet his immediate family converted from Judaism to of the Reformist Church!)

None of the pieces I selected for this montage of music of Jewish inspiration are in my view religious in nature, but they do share the common distinctive sound, at times “schmaltzy” we associate with Jewish folk music.

All of the works are contemporary (written in the 20th century). Sergei Prokofiev wrote the Overture on Hebrew Themes in 1919, during a trip to the United States. It is written for a relatively uncommon instrumentation of clarinet, string quartet, and piano. Prokofiev received the commission from a Russian sextet called the Zimro Ensemble, whose members played the instruments in this work's instrumentation. They gave Prokofiev a notebook of Jewish folksongs, though the melodies Prokofiev chose have never been traced to any authentic sources.

Ravel composed three songs in Yiddish and Hebrew - Mejerke, main Suhn (From Chants populaires, MR A17, no. 4) and Deux mélodies hébraiques (MR A22), sung here by Pierre Bernac accompanied at the piano by Francis Poulenc who we siometimes forget was an outstanding pianist in his own right.

Bernstein’s elegy Halil and two “Suites Hébraïques” – one by Canadian composer Srul Irving Glick and the other by Ernest Bloch are fine examples of the Jewish sound. Bloch settled in the US where he taught composition in New-York, Cleveland and San Francisco, but his legacy as a composer revolves around many works reflective of his faith –Bloch’s “Jewish Cycle.” refers to a series of compositions in which he was trying to find his musical identity. This was Bloch’s way of expressing his personal conception and interpretation of what he thought Jewish music should be, since the Jewish nation did not exist, in the strictest sense, at the time these biblically-inspired works were written. Schelomo, which concludes the montage, is the fourth work of this cycle.


I think you will love this music too.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Project 366 - Pick Your Poison

To mark the fifth anniversary of ITYWLTMT, we are undertaking a long-term project that will introduce - and re-introduce - musical selections in the context of a larger thematic arc I am calling "A Journey of Musical Discovery". Read more here.


Piano… Violin… Again?!?

Today’s chapter serves as a modest attempt at veering away from the same old, same old. After all, in principle, any object that produces sound can be considered a musical instrument—early musical instruments may have been used for ritual, such as a trumpet to signal success on the hunt, or a drum in a religious ceremony. Cultures eventually developed composition and performance of melodies for entertainment. Musical instruments evolved in step with changing applications.

I could point to many Listener Guides in our series that feature instruments other than the piano and the violin: for example, we dedicated entire chapters to the organ and to voice. Peppered here and there I featured the trumpet, the Moog Synthesizer and even the dill piccolo.

To add to our “featured instruments”, we will add today the horn, the oboe and the guitar. The cello and viola are also added to the mix, though they are after all part of the violin family. Ditto for the harpsichord and tangent piano, which are after all ancestors of the modern piano.

Finally, you will find a pair of listener guides that feature the piano and the violin – after all, the repertoire is dominated by pages upon pages dedicated to those two stallworths!

Your Musical Guides

Listener Guide #109 – “Narciso Yepes (1927-1997)”: Considered one of the finest virtuoso classical guitarists of the twentieth century, Spain’s Narciso Yepes is featured as recitalist, soloist and arranger in this montage of guitar favourites. (ITYWLTMT Montage #254 – 28 July 2017)



Listener Guide #110 – “Ye olde keyboards”: Before the piano, there was the harpsichord, the fortepiano and the tangent piano. Listen to concerti featuring these old keyboard instruments. (ITYWLTMT Montage #242 - 10 Mar, 2017)


Listener Guide #111 – “Oboe Concertos”: The oboe produces a beautiful, sweet, haunting sound. When used as solo instruments the sound is sometimes described as a 'pastoral' sound. Different composers approached the oboe differently – as a violin substitute or as its own voice. (ITYWLTMT Montage #256 – 25 Aug 2017)



Listener Guide #112 – “Viola & Orchestra”: The viola has a rich tone, subtly deeper than its first cousin, the violin. Here we have a trio of works for viola soloist and orchestra by Hindemith, Hummel and Berlioz. (ITYWLTMT Montage #240 - 10 Feb 2017)



Listener Guide #113 – “Frédéric Chopin , Piaano sonatas no. 2 & 3”: A vintage vinyl recording from 1966, featuring Tamás Vásáry (Vinyl’s Revenge #9 – Sep 2015)



Listener Guide #114 – “Dimitry Markevitch on MP3.COM”: French-Russian cellist Dimitry Markevitch performs solo suites by J. S. Bach and a pair of cello sonatas by Beethoven. (Once Upon the Internet #31 – 18 Nov 2014)



Listener Guide #115 – “Violin and Cello”: Brahms’ Double concerto pairs the violin and cello. Completing our program are the Tragic Overture and Ravel's sonata for violin and cello. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #53 - 27 Apr, 2012)



Listener Guide #115 – “Mozart and the Horn”: Some horn and piano or orchestra music by Mozart, Czerny and Schumann. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 73 - 28 Sep, 2012 )



Listener Guide #116 – “Wolfgang Schneiderhan (1915 –2002)”: The main work features Schneiderhan in a 1952 performance of the BrahmsViolin Concerto in D, plus a pair of Beethoven sonatas from the 1952 set recorded with Wihelm Kempff. (Once Upon the Internet #48 – 12 July 2016)







Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Vladimir Ashkenazy (*1937)


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


Today’s edition of Vinyl’s Revenge contributes to a few ongoing threads – first, it continues a mini-series on the Tuesday Blog exploring Mozart’s Piano Concertos – in fact, it launches a look at an old Time-Life5-LP compilation of hiss “Late” Piano Concertos and, second, it features another pianist who “Moonlights” as a conductor.

In preparing for this post, I realized that Vladimir Ashkenazy turned 80 this past Summer. This Russian born and trained pianist came into prominence in the mid- to late 1950’s, following in the tradition of the great Soviet-era musicians such as Gilels, Richter, Oistrakh and Rostropovich. The latter three managed to develop an international career whilst remaining based out of the USSR, and it appeared that he would do the same; however, Ashkenazy left his homeland in 1963 not for the “artistic reasons” cited by most émigrés but for a woman—a stately blonde from Iceland named Thorunn Johannsdottir, who studied piano at the Moscow Conservatoire. To marry Ashkenazy, Johannsdottir was forced to give up her Icelandic citizenship and declare that she wanted to live in the USSR.

In his memoirs, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev recollects that on a visit to London Ashkenazy refused to go back to the Soviet Union. Khrushchev mentions that Ashkenazy then went to the Soviet Embassy in London and asked what to do, who in turn referred the matter to Moscow. Khrushchev claims to have been of the opinion that to require Ashkenazy to return to the USSR would have made him an 'Anti-Soviet'.

In 1963 Ashkenazy decided to leave the USSR permanently, establishing residence in London where his wife's parents lived. The couple moved to Iceland in 1968 where, in 1972, Ashkenazy became a citizen. Later the family moved to Lucerne, Switzerland.

Ashkenazy has recorded a wide range of piano repertoire, solo, chamber and concerti. His discography is varied and in many cases authoritative – ChopinBeethoven, Mozart and the late-Romantic Russians (notably Rachmaninov and Prokofiev). Midway through his pianistic career, Ashkenazy branched into conducting. One of his earliest conducting endeavours was a solid complete Mozart piano concerto cycle (conducting from the keyboard with the Philharmonia Orchestra). Our first selection in today’s playlist is from that cycle, re-issued in the Time-Life collection I referred to up front.

Today, he performs almost exclusively as a conductor, with long-standing associations with the Royal Philharmonic, NHK and Sydney Symphonies. The complete album I retained to complete today’s playlist is an early digital recording with the English Chamber Orchestra.

Happy Listening!


Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto no.21 in C Major, K.467 ('Elvira Madigan')
Philharmonia Orchestra
Vladimir Ashkenazy, piano & conducting
Label: Time Life Records ‎– STL M01 (Disk 2, Side 2)
Format: 5 × Vinyl, LP, Compilation
Issued in 1973


Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Siegfried Idyll, for small orchestra in E Major, WWV 103

Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951)
Verklärte Nacht for string orchestra (1917; arr. from String Sextet, Op.4)
English Chamber Orchestra
Vladimir Ashkenazy, conducting
Label: Decca ‎– 410 111-1
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album (DDA)
Issued in 1984

YouTube playlist - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...6Npko31_fnk65J



Friday, September 8, 2017

Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

No. 258of 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.


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

Today’s Blog and Podcast consider three piano trios and a piano rondo by Johann Nepomuk Hummel, considered today as somewhat of a secondary figure of his time, yet he clearly rubbed elbows with and gained the respect of the elite of the Classical period.

According to his Wikipedia page, Hummel was born in Pressburg, now Bratislava in Slovakia. His father, Johannes Hummel, was the director of the Imperial School of Military Music in Vienna and the conductor of the orchestra at the Theater auf der Wieden.

As a child prodigy in the 1780s he was Mozart’s favourite pupil. Hummel later studied in London with Muzio Clementi and befriended Joseph Haydn, who was in London at the same. Upon his return to Vienna in the late 1780’s, he was taught by Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Joseph Haydn, and Antonio Salieri. At about this time, young Ludwig van Beethoven arrived in Vienna and also took lessons from Haydn and Albrechtsberger, thus becoming a fellow student and a friend – a friendship that has its ups and downs though at Beethoven's wish, Hummel improvised at the great man's memorial concert. It was at this event that he made friends with Franz Schubert, who dedicated his last three piano sonatas to Hummel

Hummel is known to many as the man who succeeded Haydn at the court of Prince Esterházy. In 1804, Hummel became Konzertmeister to Prince Esterházy's establishment at Eisenstadt. Although he had taken over many of the duties of Kapellmeister because Haydn's health did not permit him to perform them himself, he continued to be known simply as the Concertmeister out of respect to Haydn, receiving the title of Kapellmeister, or music director, to the Eisenstadt court only after the older composer died in May 1809. He remained in the service of Prince Esterházy for seven years altogether before being dismissed in May 1811 for apparently neglecting his duties.

Hummel’s output as a composer includes seven concertos and numerous sonatas and solo pieces for the piano, to say nothing of works for various instrumental combinations, operas, masses, and other vocal music. His output of chamber music includes duo sonatas, piano trios, string quartets, a piano quintet (scored like Schubert’s ‘Trout’) and two septets with piano. He wrote no fewer than eight piano trios including the three we retained as the core of today’s montage; the first and earliest, a youthful essay published in London in 1792, the other two mature works composed between 1799 and about 1820.

In 1828,  Hummel published A Complete Theoretical and Practical Course of Instruction on the Art of Playing the Piano Forte, which sold thousands of copies within days of its publication and brought about a new style of fingering and of playing ornaments. Later 19th century pianistic technique was influenced by Hummel, through his instruction of Carl Czerny who later taught Franz Liszt. Hummel's influence can also be seen in the early works of Frédéric Chopin and Robert Schumann. The Hungarian-style rondo that completes today’s montage, contemporaneous to the earlier piano trio, might be described as a sonata-rondo since it has two main themes, the first playful and the second more lyrical.


I think you will love this music too

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

André Previn (*1929)

No. 257 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast257



=====================================================================
Summer is entering its last few weeks, and my two-month hiatus from the Tuesday Blog comes to an end with one of my “quarterly” montages.

The term “triple threat” comes up from time to time in sports and in performing arts as a very distinct form of praise to somebody who can hit for percentagehit for power and steal bases in baseball, or actsing and dance on the Broadway stage or actwrite and direct in Hollywood.

The primary subject for today’s musical share is himself a triple threat – as a composerconductor and pianist. We could also state his threat status somewhat differently as a man of jazzfilm and concert music.


In spite of a French-sounding name, André Previn (no accent aigu on the family name, I checked!) isn’t French at all – he’s born in Berlin, emigrated to America where, to make ends meet, his father gave music lessons at home. Young Previn studied piano, theory, and composition from the best instructors available, Joseph Achron and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and later conducting studies with Pierre Monteux. As a teenager Previn practiced piano up to six hours a day. 

Eager to help his family financially, he quickly followed up when he heard that the movie studio Metro-Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) needed someone to compose a jazz arrangement (a musical score). This led to writing more arrangements, at first sporadically and then more regularly, several times a week after school. Seduced by Hollywood's glamour, he signed a contract with MGM when he turned eighteen. 

His early career of orchestrating film scores at MGM led quickly to conducting engagements of symphonic repertoire and on to an international career as Music Director of orchestras as London, Los Angeles, Oslo and Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, he concentrated increasingly on compositions for the concert hall and opera. His own richly lyrical style underscores his love of the late Romantic and early 20th-century masterpieces of which his interpretations as conductor are internationally renowned.

Previn’s discography as a jazz pianist, classical pianist and conductor is impressive. I retained two of them in today’s montage both concertos featuring him as soloist and conductor. The first is of Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 17 (with the Vienna Philharmonic) and the other is of Gershwin’s Jazz-inspired Concerto in F with the Pittsburgh Symphony.

To complete the montage, I added a solo piano composition by Previn – a series of short piano vignettes “Five Pages from my Calendar” composed in the 1970‘s.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Oboe Concertos

No. 256 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast256



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

The oboe (and its larger relative, the cor anglais - literally translates from French as English Horn) produces a beautiful, sweet, haunting sound. When used as solo instruments the sound is sometimes described as a 'pastoral' sound. This is because it descended from the type of reed instruments that have been used in folk music and by shepherds the world over for thousands of years. Modern oboes blend superbly with all instruments of the orchestra and can also be surprisingly agile. Oboes have been used in orchestras for about 400 years and are among the most established instruments of the orchestra.

The standard oboe has several siblings of various sizes and playing ranges. The adorementioned cor anglais, the oboe d'amore, the “ mezzo-soprano” member of the family. J.S. Bach made extensive use of the oboe and oboe d'amore as well as the taille and oboe da caccia.

I can’t find backing data, but I would hazard to say that of all the instruments that are featured as solo instruments, the oboe must be the most popular wind solo instrument in concerto repertoire, with more concerti than the flute, clarinet or trumpet. It was logical, given Italy's - and, indeed, Venice's - pioneering role in the development of the Concerto, that sooner or later the first concerti with parts for oboes would be written. The big question was how, if at all, Should, they differ in style and form from violin concerti?

For Vivaldi, as for most Italian composers, the problem was easily resolved. In his hands the oboe becomes a kind of ersatz violin. To be sure, he takes care not to exceed the normal compass of the instrument, remembers to insert pauses for breathing and avoids over-abrupt changes of register, but the solo part still seems remarkably violinistic - as Vivaldi himself tacitly acknowledged when, on more than one occasion, he prescribed the violin as an alternative to the oboe.

It was left to Vivaldi's important Venetian contemporary, Tomaso Albinoni, to find another way of treating the oboe in a concerto. Apart from being a capable Violinist, Albinoni was a singing teacher married to an operatic diva. His experience of writing operas and cantatas decisively affected the way in which he approached melody and instrumentation. His concerti equate the oboe not with a violin but with the human voice in an aria.

Domenico Cimarosa is mainly known for his scintillating operas, which are generally of a comic nature. His orchestral writing shimmers with transparent harmonies and lively rhythms. But in the year 1787, he took up the post of composer in residence to Catherine II of Russia. At the time, Russia's coffers were not overly plentiful, and the amount of money the Empress was willing to spend on opera dwindled with each season. Cimarosa took to composing instrumental music to pass the time. Among his instrumental works composed in Russia are a group of thirty-two keyboard sonatas after the style of Domenico Scarlatti. In 1949, Arthur Benjamin took four of his favorite keyboard sonatas of Cimarosa and combined them into the larger concerto form. He rewrote the pieces, scoring them for oboe and string orchestra, keeping most of the melody in the solo voice.

Two other opera composers complete our montage of oboe concerti - Vincenzo Bellini's only surviving concerto was most likely composed his in 1823 and constitutes an important part of his limited instrumental output.

American oboist John de Lancie was a corporal in the U.S. Army unit which secured the area round the Bavarian town of Garmisch where Richard Strauss was living in April 1945, following World War II. As principal oboist of the Pittsburgh Orchestra in civilian life, he knew Strauss's orchestral writing for oboe thoroughly, visited the composer in his home, and in the course of a long conversation asked him if he had ever considered writing an oboe concerto. Strauss answered simply "No", and the topic was dropped.

However, in the months to follow, the idea grew on him and he completed the short score of his Oboe in the Fall of 1945. The work was premiered on 26 February 1946 in Zürich. Strauss saw to it that the rights to the U.S. premiere were assigned to de Lancie, who after the war had switched to the Philadelphia Orchestra and was only a junior member there. Protocol made de Lancie's performing the premiere impossible since the Philadelphia Orchestra's principal oboist had priority. De Lancie instead gave the rights to the U.S. premiere to a young oboist friend at the CBS Symphony Orchestra in New York, Mitch Miller, who later became famous as a music producer and host of a sing-along TV show.

John de Lancie later became the principal oboist for the Philadelphia Orchestra for 30 years but it was only after his retirement that he finally performed the concerto.


I think you will love this music too.

Friday, August 11, 2017

René Leibowitz (1913–1972)

No. 255 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT  series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast255



=====================================================================
This week’s Blog and Podcast features music by Polish-born and French-naturalized composer, conductor, music theorist and teacher René Leibowitz.

Training early as a violinist, Leibowitz studied composition and orchestration with Maurice Ravel during the early 1930s in Paris, where he was introduced to Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-note technique by the German pianist and composer Erich Itor Kahn. Many of the works of the Second Viennese School were first heard in France at the International Festival of Chamber Music established by Leibowitz in Paris in 1947. Leibowitz was highly influential in establishing the reputation of the Second Viennese School, both through activity as a teacher in Paris after World War II (in 1944 he taught composition and conducting to many pupils, including Pierre Boulez (composition only), Antoine Duhamel, and Vinko Globokar) and through his book Schoenberg et son école, published in 1947.

As a composer, René Leibowitz adopted the 12-tone method of composition, becoming its foremost exponent in France. The two works retained, but most especially his piano concerto, are fine examples of this.

Leibowitz studied conducting in Paris with Pierre Monteux, and made his debut as a conductor in 1937 with the Chamber Orchestra of the French Radio in Europe and the USA. Meanwhile, he continued to conduct whenever he found time - though his podium activities were interrupted by the war. It was during this period that he wrote several books concerning the music and techniques of the Schoenberg school. Also, during the war he was an active member of the French resistance against the Nazis. Upon the conclusion of the war, he returned to conducting - reluctantly at first. He felt that in his five-year enforced retirement he might have lost his touch as a maestro. This proved to be totally untrue. Soon after his return to the conducting world, he became one of the most sought-after directors in Europe. Attesting to his international success is the fact that his list of recordings is well over the hundred mark.

One of his most circulated and most notable recordings is a set of Beethoven's symphonies made for Reader's Digest; it was apparently the first recording to follow Beethoven's metronome markings. Leibowitz also completed many recordings as part of Reader's Digest's compilation albums. The first work in our montage, an arrangement of Bach’s Passaglia and Fugue for two orchestras and the closing Beethoven’s 8th come from this period.


I think you will love this music too


Friday, July 28, 2017

Narciso Yepes (1927 –1997)

No. 254 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast254



=====================================================================
For a reason that I really can’t explain, we haven’t programmed a lot of guitar music on our Friday podcasts. This oversight is remedied today with this set of selections played brilliantly by Spain’s Narciso Yepes, who is considered one of the finest virtuoso classical guitarists of the twentieth century

Yepes’ father gave him his first guitar when he was four years old, and took the boy five miles on a donkey to and from lessons three days a week. Later his family moved to Valencia when the Spanish Civil War started in 1936. When he was 13, he was accepted to study at the Conservatorio de Valencia with the pianist and composer Vicente Asencio. Here he followed courses in harmony, composition, and performance.

According to Yepes, Asencio "was a pianist who loathed the guitar because a guitarist couldn't play scales very fast and very legato, as on a piano or a violin" Through practice and improvement in his technique, Yepes could match Asencio's piano scales on the guitar. Yepes is credited by many with developing the A-M-I technique of playing notes with the ring (Anular), middle (Medio), and index (Indice) fingers of the right hand.

In 1947 he made his Madrid début (performing Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez with Ataúlfo Argenta conducting the Spanish National Orchestra). The overwhelming success of this performance brought him renown from critics and public alike. Soon afterwards, he began to tour, visiting Switzerland, Italy, Germany, and France.

In 1950, after performing in Paris, he spent a year studying interpretation under the violinist George Enescu, and the pianist Walter Gieseking. He also studied informally with Nadia Boulanger. This was followed by a long period in Italy where he profited from contact with artists of every kind.

In 1964, Yepes performed the Concierto de Aranjuez with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, premièring the ten-string guitar, which he invented in collaboration with the renowned guitar maker José Ramírez III. After 1964, Yepes used the ten-string guitar exclusively, touring all six inhabited continents, performing in recitals as well as with the world's leading orchestras, giving an average of 130 performances each year.

Apart from being a consummate musician, Yepes was also a significant scholar. His research into forgotten manuscripts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries resulted in the rediscovery of numerous works for guitar or lute. Among these, I programmed his Suite Española after the lute music of Gaspar Sanz.

In addition to the solo works by Sanz, I programmed a few guitar standards by fellow Spaniard Francisco de Asís Tárrega y Eixea known for such pieces as Recuerdos de la Alhambra. He is often called "the father of classical guitar" and is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote numerous orchestral, chamber, instrumental and vocal works influenced by both Brazilian folk music and by stylistic elements from the European classical tradition. His Etudes for guitar (1929) were dedicated to Andrés Segovia while his 5 Preludes (1940) were dedicated to Arminda Neves d’Almeida, a.k.a. "Mindinha", both are important works in the guitar repertory. I have programmed today Yepes in the preludes and in the concerto for guitar and small orchestra.

The theme to the  1952 film Forbidden Games (Orig. French Jeux interdits) by René Clément is a work "Romance" which Yepes claims to have written when he was a young boy. Despite Yepes's claims of composing it, the piece ("Romance") has often been attributed to other authors – "Estudio en Mi de Rubira", "Spanish Romance", "Romance de España", "Romance de Amor", "Romance of the Guitar", "Romanza" and "Romance d'Amour" among other names; the earliest known recording of the work dates from a cylinder from around 1900.

Yepes died after a nearly 50-year career in 1997, 20 years ago this past May.


I think you will love this music too.


Friday, July 14, 2017

Mini Operas

No. 253 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast253



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

A few years ago, I shared an OTF post on OperaLively I had called “Opera Domestica”, and it featured a series of MTV-like opera video clips created by Canadian composer Alexina Louie. These “short operas” – typically 3 to 5 minutes long, essentially encapsulated a single aria.

The works I chose to assemble in today’s montage are not too dissimilar – they are essentially single arias, meant to stand alone in concert, and in some cases sound like they’re taken out of a larger (contemporaneous) operatic work, inspired by a character from literature.

The text for Scena di Berenice is taken from Act 3, scene 9 of Pietro Metastasio’s Antigono, a libretto which had originally been set by Hasse in 1743 and subsequently by over thirty composers, including Jommelli (1746), Gluck (1756), Traetta (1764), Paisiello (1785) and Joseph Haydn (1795-97). Although betrothed to Antigono, Berenice is actually in love with his son, Demetrio. Torn between his feelings for Berenice and his filial duty, Demetrio can see no way out of his predicament, and has resolved to kill himself. In “Berenice, che fai?” the disconsolate heroine deliriously laments her fate and longs to die alongside her beloved.

The settings by Haydn and Avondano open this week’s montage.

Mozart wrote several concert arias and I retained a few for today’s montage. The librettists for these arias include Vittorio Amedeo Cigna-Santi and Michele Sarcone.

At age 11 Juan Crisostomo Arriaga started composing major  chamber,  orchestral  and choral works,  the  most  remarkable  of   which  was  a two-act  opera 'Los Esclavos Felices',   written  at  the  age  of  13  and  successfully  performed  in  Bilbao.

When Arriaga was 16 he was sent  to study at  the Paris Conservatoire where the  Principal, Cherubini,  judged  Arriaga's  choral   work  'Et  Vitam  Venturi' (now lost)  to be a  masterpiece.   He absorbed all  the  principles of harmony and  counterpoint  in  only three  months  and  two  years later, aged  18,  he became the youngest professor ever appointed at the Conservatoire.

Among Arriaga’s Paris works is Erminia, based on lyrics by the French poet Vinnay but sung in an Italian translation by Giovanni Gandolfi. Erminia is sometimes referred to as an opera, because it suggests two scenes.

It's one of those songs which has such a fantasy feel about it. I think people should just listen to it, think about it, and then make up their own minds as to what it says to them... "Bohemian Rhapsody" didn't just come out of thin air. I did a bit of research although it was tongue-in-cheek and mock opera. Why not?
Freddie Mercury
To close the montage, I selected Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody”. The song is highly unusual for a popular single in featuring no chorus, combining disparate musical styles and containing lyrics which eschew conventional love-based narratives for allusions to murder and nihilism. It consists of sections, beginnin g with an introduction, then a piano ballad, before a guitar solo leads to an operatic interlude. A hard rock part follows this and it concludes with a coda.


I Think you will Love this Music Too.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Programming - Summer 2017

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

Summer means I take time off the Tuesday Blog, Project 366  and OTF for July and August, but continue with my bi-weekly Friday podcasts. 

Friday Blog and Podcast:



Tuesday Blog (TalkClassical):

  • Our Bonus 5th Tuesday montage (in August) for the quarter: Andre Previn, Triple Threat (NEW PODCAST)
  • Vinyl's Revenge: Vladimir Ashkenazy, pianist and conductor (PTB)
  • Cover 2 Cover: Vivaldi trio sonatas, op. 1 (PTB)
OperaLively:


Fra Diavolo (Auber, OTF).

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.

Subscribe to our ITYWLTMT Fan Page on Facebook

All of our Tuesday, Friday and ad-hoc posts, as well as OTF and YouTube Channel updates get regularly mentioned (with links) on our Fan Page. If you are a user of Facebook, simply subscribe to get notified so you never miss anything we do!

... and on Twitter [https://twitter.com/itywltmt