Friday, August 11, 2017

René Leibowitz (1913–1972)

No. 255 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  player found on this page.

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 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.

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 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.


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:

  • July - Conccert Arias (NEW PODCAST) and guitar music featuring Narciso Yepes (NEW PODCAST)
  • August - Rene Leibowitz composer and conductor (NEW PODCAST) and oboe concertos (NEW PODCAST)
  • September- Hummel (NEW PODCAST), music of Jewish inspiration (NEW PODCAST) and a 5th Friday "bonus" featuring Mstislav Rostropovich, cellist and conductor, playig Shostakovich  (NEW 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: Evgeni Svetlanov in concert (PTB)

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.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)

No. 252 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.


Tomorrow, we will be celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday, and though I expect a great deal of overt security measures in and around Parliament Hill and Ottawa’s downtown core, our city will no doubt throw an epic Birthday party!

I thought it was fitting for me to share a podcast to celebrate Canada’s birthday and I decided to focus on one of Canada’s most famous exports.

Every mooring around 6:30, my bus drives along Albert st. in Ottawa and I get to see the statue of the Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) on the South-West corner of Canada's National Arts Centre. The statue shows Peterson as if he had just finished playing and had turned toward his audience.

The life size statue includes a space for visitors to sit next to him. More often than not, at the time I go past the statue, some construction workers share their morning coffee sitting next to Oscar – I don’t think he’d mind!

Peterson grew up in Montreal’s Little Burgundy, a predominantly black neighbourhood where he found himself surrounded by the jazz culture that flourished in the early 20th century. His father, Daniel Peterson, an amateur trumpeter and pianist, was one of his first music teachers. As a child, Peterson studied with Hungarian-born pianist Paul de Marky, a student of István Thomán, who was himself a pupil of Franz Liszt. At the age of nine Peterson played piano with control that impressed professional musicians.

Peterson also credited his sister—a piano teacher in Montreal who also taught several other Canadian jazz musicians, most notably Oliver Jones—with being an important teacher and influence on his career. We’ll get back to Daisy a little later in my commentary.

In 1940, at fourteen years of age, Peterson won the national music competition organized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. After that victory, he dropped out of school and became a professional pianist working for a weekly radio show, and playing at hotels and music halls. Called the "Maharaja of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, Peterson released over 200 recordings through a career that spanned 6 decades, won eight Grammy Awards, and received numerous other awards and honours. He is considered one of the greatest jazz pianists, and played thousands of concerts worldwide.

One such concert took place at the Orpheum theatre in Vancouver, August 8, 1958, and featured Peterson with the most familiar formulation of his Trio, with bassist Ray Brown and guitarist Herb Ellis.
From that concert, I retained a number of tracks for today’s montage, some Jazz standards, others featuring original compositions by the members of the trio including The Music Box Suite, a piece inspired by Peterson’s sister, Daisy. The selections include Peterson’s audience banter between tracks, including his narrative for the Music Box Suite, a fitting display of his obvious admiration for his sister.

My profession has taken me to every part of the world, none of them more beautiful than where I live. As a musician, I respond to the harmony and rhythm of life, and when I’m deeply moved it leaves something singing inside me. With a country as large and as full of contrast as Canada, I had a lot of themes to choose from when I wrote the Canadiana Suite. This is my musical portrait of the Canada I love.

The second part of the montage is a complete performance of the Canadiana Suite, probably his best known composition. Commissioned by the CBC in 1963, it is a collection of eight short tableaux that moves its listeners across the Canadian landscape on a conceptual railway journey, starting in the Maritimes (Ballad to the East), sweeping through the Laurentian Mountains (Laurentide Waltz) to Montreal (Place St. Henri), Toronto, (Hogtown Blues) Manitoba (Wheatland), Saskatchewan (Blues of the Prairies) Calgary (March Past) and ending in British Columbia (Land of the Misty Giants).
The performance, recorded for Limelight Records on September 9, 1964 (nominated for a Grammy Award in 1965 for best jazz composition) features yet another incarnation of the Oscar Peterson Trio, this time replacing Ellis with drummer Ed Thigpen.

I think you will love this music too!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Schubert Symphony No. 9 ("The Great") - Tate

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

The untimely passing of Sir Jeffrey Tate threw a wrench on my programming plan for this month. This week’s edition of Vinyl’s Revenge planned to begin a series of posts dedicated to an old 5-LP set of Mozart Piano Concertos – I intend to take that project on when I return from summer hiatus. Stay tuned!

It’s unfortunate that we too often pigeon-hole artists (and especially conductors) as “specialists” of a particular portion of the repertoire. Though it is sometimes unfair to do so, we cannot deny that Tate was indeed well-known for his recordings of the great Classical-era composers, especially his English Chamber Orchestra collaborations of Mozart and Haydn. Later this year, I plan to dedicate a Friday Blog and Podcast to Tate’s excellent renditions of Haydn’s London Symphonies.

In a podcast I published this past Friday, I shared music from Classical-era composers, and in my commentary discussed how we view the Classical period as covering essentially the 18th Century, noting that there is some “spillage” into the early 19th. As well, I noted that some composers we associate with the Classical period, most notably Beethoven and Schubert, can be thought of as bona fide precursors of the Romantic era.

Both Beethoven’s and Schubert’s Ninth symphonies are indicative of how forward-looking these two geniuses were; these are mammoth works, double the length (and breadth) of what their teachers and contemporaries dared to put to paper. In fact, for many years, Schubert’s Ninth was deemed “too difficult” and “unplayable”. Ten years after Schubert's death, and under the able direction of Felix Mendelssohn and his Leipzig orchestra, the “Great C Major” symphony was finally premiered. To this day, it is considered a major piece of the symphonic repertoire – whether we view it as late Classical or early Romantic.

I cherish Tate’s performance (which is part of my analog collection along with an old VOX cassette of the same symphony by Thomas Schippers and the Cincinnati Symphony ) and find that still today it stacks up well against some of the versions I have in my digital collection (Muti/Vienna Philharmonic and Abbado/Chamber Orchestra of Europe). His vision for the work is clear, and its main quality is its sense of forward propulsion that resonates so much with me.

Conductors generally live long lives and Tate’s passing in his early 70s in some ways means he “died young” - in spite of the ailments that plagued him throughout his life. I hope you will enjoy this fine performance!

Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)
Symphony no. 9 in C major, D. 944 (‘the Great’)
Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden
Sir Jeffrey Tate, conducting
EMI / Angel 38336 (Vinyl DDA)
Recorded at Studio Lukaskirche, Dresden, Released 1986.


Internet Archive URL –
(Thanks to On The Top of Damavand for ever)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Classical Showcase

No. 251 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.


A few weeks ago, we shared a montage of Baroque music by composers other than the usual suspects, and this week we are doing the same, this time for the Classical period.

When we think of classical music periods, we have to look at them in the context of the aesthetics of their time, and not necessarily in terms of a hard time box. As a case in point, consider the Romantic period – in music, this period covers most of the Nineteenth century, yet we could argue that some of Mozart’s late symphonies and piano concerti (dating from the latter part of the Eighteenth century) certainly presage Romantic traditions Ditto for the music of Rachmaninov, who was active well into the Twentieth.

The same applies to the Classical era, which we could simplistically assign to the Eighteenth century, but certainly spills over to the 1800s. Also, “late baroque” music can be thought of as “early Classical”. The inclusion of Georg Christoph Wagenseil, William Boyce and Charles Avison who all were active in the first quarter of the 1700s in today’s montage is indicative of this fact.

The works of our montages’ composers provide good examples of music composed following the tradition well-established by the likes of Haydn, Mozart and Salieri. One can find some of their influence in the concerti by Meridante and Cramer.

I think you will love this music too.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Project 366 - What's in a Name?

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.

Indeed, what’s in a name?

As in any field of endeavor, some words are “reserved” – they typically are used in a very specific context to mean something very specific.

On a past post ion this anthology series, we discussed the meaning of the term concerto, which has evolved from being merely a concert (to meaning the specific form of a work that involves a soloist playing with an orchestra, sometimes as protagonists, sometimes as antagonists. Yes both Robert Schumann and Charles Alkan felt so strongly about piano sonatas they wrote that they compared them in breadth to a piano concerto without an orchestra.

Ditto for works by Charles-Marie Widor, Igor Stravinsky and Edouard Lalo, that in their own way evoke aspects of what “old French” called a symphony – a piece of musical circumstance rather than a “sonata for orchestra”.

Oh, better yet, how about a piece of music that is meant to be sung – a lied – but without any words? Both Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn explored that idea of composing music (euther speculatively,m or just for atmosphere) as “songs without words”.

These are a few examples of words being misleading… Among the music montages I retained, there’s also some “Family Name” confusion (which Bach, which Schumann) and even the further exploration of what it means to leave a work unfinished – should it be left “as is” or should we try and “finish it off”?

Your Listener Guides 

Listener Guide #103 - "You call that a Symphony?"They are all symphonies, at least by name… Works by Mozart, Widor and Lalo. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 103 - 3 May 2013)

Listener Guide #104 - "Concerto solo"We have here a pair of concerti for piano without orchestra by Alkan and Schumann. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #189 - 13 Mar 2015)

Listener Guide #105 - "Schumann & Schumann" Piano works by the husband and wife duo of Robert and Clara Schumann.(ITYWLTMT Podcast # 123 -  20 Sep, 2013)

Listener Guide #106 - "In the name of BACH"Compositions from members of the Bach Family Tree - Johann Bernhard, Wilhelm Friedemann, CPE, JC and… PDQ. Read our commentary Januar y 31st @ , details @ (ITYWLTMT Podcast #239 - 31 Jan 2017)

Listener Guide #107 - "Lieder ohne Worte"A selection of pieces from Mendelssohn's eight books of Songs Without Words. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #182 - 23 Jan 2015)

Listener Guide #108 - "Unvollendet"An extended play montage features works left unfinished by their composers: Schubert, Mahler, Borodin and Tchaikovsky.  (ITYWLTMT Podcast #250 - 9 June 2015)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SCHERCHEN / The 1950s Haydn Symphonies Recordings

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

Everyone wants to know me. I had to dine out six times up to now, and if I wanted I could have an invitation every day; but first I must consider my health, and second my work. Except for the nobility, I admit no callers till 2 in the afternoon.
These words, from private correspondence to a friend, describe Haydn’s welcome in London in early 1791. Haydn’s presence in the English capital had been arranged by the violinist-cum-impresario Johann Peter Salomon; Haydn’s secluded life as Kapellmeister to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy had hardly prepared him for the feverish musical and social activity in London.

Haydn’s fame in England, as in France, was based above all on his symphonies from the 1770s and 1780s, and the main part of his lucrative deal with Salomon was the composition of six new symphonies (Nos 93–98) over two seasons, for which he would receive £300—equal to approximately £25,000 today.

There are 12 so-called London Symphonies, and they can be categorized into two groups: Symphonies Nos. 93–98, which were composed during Haydn's first visit to London, and Symphonies Nos. 99–104, composed in Vienna and London for Haydn's second visit. Every London Symphony, apart from one (No. 95), has a slow introduction to the first movement.

This week’s share takes us back to my Once Upon the Internet series, and some downloads from the Japanese site Public Domain Classic and the Italian site LiberMusica – the latter still active.

Today’s featured conductor, Herrmann Schechen, was one of the 20th-century’s great new-music conductors yet he recorded an unusually wide range of repertoire, from the baroque to the contemporary.

Recorded in mono for the Westminster company between 1950 and 1953 Scherchen’s recordings of the 12 London symphonies with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Vienna Symphony are pioneer performances because, at a time when precious few took these works seriously, Scherchen granted them the time and care they deserved. The result is not just a worthy acknowledgement of Haydn’s historical importance, but a true realisation of his greatness. Scherchen turns out to be a classicist of humanity and warmth.

From these I retained three of the London symphonies – nos. 97, 102 and 103; 8 of the remaining 9 can be found on LiberMusica.

Happy Listening!

Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)

Symphony No.97 in C Major, Hob.I:97
Symphony No.102 in B-Flat Major, Hob.I:102 (*)
Symphony No.103 in E-Flat Major ('Drum Roll'), Hob.I:103

Wiener Symphoniker
Hermann Scherchen, conducting
Source: Public Domain Classic and LiberMusica (*)

Friday, June 9, 2017


No. 250 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


Today, I’m proud to share the 250th montage in our ongoing series. As I typically do when we hit a major milestone, I have programmed an “Extended Play” podcast that exceeds my self-imposed 90 minute limit.

The title of our montage, unvollendet, is the German word for “unfinished” and clearly applies to work that were left incomplete for whatever reason. The most famous such work is Schubert’s B minor symphony, which was not left incomplete due to the composer’s early death, but rather left incomplete out of disinterest…

Started in 1822 but left with only two movements (though he lived for another six years), Schubert may have sketched a finale that instead became the big B minor entr'acte from his incidental music to Rosamunde. To this day, musicologists still disagree as to why Schubert failed to complete the symphony; some have speculated that he stopped work in the middle of the scherzo in the fall of 1822 because he associated it with his initial outbreak of syphilis—or that he was distracted by the inspiration for his Wanderer Fantasy for solo piano, which occupied his time and energy immediately afterward. It could have been a combination of both factors.

Schubert's eighth symphony is sometimes called the first Romantic symphony due to its emphasis on the lyrical impulse within the dramatic structure of Classical sonata form. Furthermore, its orchestration is not solely tailored for functionality, but specific combinations of instrumental timbre that are prophetic of the later Romantic movement. The recording I programmed today is by the NBC Symphony under Toscanini.

Another work left unfinished is Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. Mahler had a habit of working on a symphony over two consecutive summers: one summer of sketches, and a following summer for orchestration. This was his way of balancing composition and conducting. Mahler’s untimely death in 1911 meant that he’d only completed the orchestration of one of the movements – the Adagio.
This opens up an important topic: how sacrilegious is it for another composer (or musicologist, or colleague) to complete another’s unfinished work?

Borodin completed two symphonies in his lifetime: his Symphony No. 1 was first performed in 1869 and in that same year Borodin started on his Symphony No. 2, which was not particularly successful at its premiere in 1877, but with some minor re-orchestration received a successful performance in 1879. Three years later he began composing a third symphony, but left it unfinished at his death; two movements of it were later completed and orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov. Glazunov and Rimsky-Korsakov collaborated in re-assembling sketches of Borodin’s only opera, Prince Igor. There are many recordings of this third symphony – one is included in today’s podcast – and there is no sense of reticence when it comes to performing that posthumous version of the work, none whatsoever.

The same can’t be said of Mahler’s Tenth, for which there exist a number of “performance scores”, largely based on the sketches and early drafts of the composer’s orchestration. According to many of Mahler’s contemporaries who tried their hands at this, only two movements could be reconstructed with any level of fidelity. In the 1940s the American Mahler enthusiast Jack Diether tried to encourage several notable composers to realize the entire work. Figures such as Shostakovich, Schoenberg, and Britten (all of whom had been considerably influenced by the works of Mahler) refused, and instead the task was taken up by musicologists: early attempts at realizing the entire work were made in America by Clinton Carpenter (completed 1949, subsequently revised 1966), in Germany by Hans Wollschläger (1954–1962, withdrawn), and in England by Joe Wheeler (1953–1965) and Deryck Cooke. The various realizations produced by Cooke have, since the mid-1960s, become the basis for most performances and recordings.

Many conductors refuse to perform any of these realizations (the performance in the podcast, from the early stereo cycle by Kubellik and the BRSO doesn’t include any reconstruction, just the Adagio movement).  Bernstein notoriously refused to perform any of the musicological reconstructions. On the other hand, Chailly in his Decca set includes the Cooke version.

Tchaikovsky's Symphony in E-flat major (also known inaccurately as his Symphony No. 7), was abandoned in November 1892 with only part of the first movement having been fully completed, and the remainder left in sketch form.

Interestingly, the work has survived through recycling in the Tchaikovsky catalog:

  • The opening Allegro brillante becoms the one-movement Piano Concerto No. 3

  • Two movements were rescored as well for piano and orchestra and became the the Andante and Finale,

  • The symphony’s Scherzo was arranged for solo piano as Scherzo-Fantasie (No. 10 of the Eighteen Pieces, op. 72).

In the 1950s the symphony was reconstructed from the manuscript sources and completed by the Soviet musicologist Semyon Bogatyrev. It was first recorded as the “Symphony no. 7” by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra and presented here in a later recording conducted by Neeme Jarvi.

I think you will love this music too

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Haydn at the Keyboard

No. 249 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Tuesday Blog. It can be found in our archives at


I’ve surprised myself going through the thought experiment of “blind listening” to the five works I selected for this week’s montage and wonder out loud who composed these works. Might I suggest you do a blind listen yourselves before reading on…

When we think of Joseph Haydn, we think primarily of his symphonies and his string quartets – at least, I do. However, and it should not be surprising, Haydn left a substantial amount of work for the keyboard – 21 piano trios, 13 divertimentos, 52 piano sonatas and 11 piano concertos – and that’s only the pieces that are in the “official” Hoboken catalog!

Listen to the Rondo all'Ungares that concludes the Piano Concerto no. 11 and ask yourself whether that ditty isn’t Mozart at his most playful? The Vivace movement follows the recipe of so many of Mozart’s opening movements. Yet both concertos programmed today are by Haydn and not Amadeus.

The Sonata no. 50 (or is it no. 60?) sounds to me like something Schubert would have written (or even the aforementioned Mozart in the case of the sonata no. 49).

We often accuse Haydn of composing “formulaic” music – think of a lot of his middling symphonies - and in fairness maybe our uninformed association of Haydn’s piano works with other composers of his time talks not necessarily of a “Haydn formula” but rather of a “classical formula”, and in that sense, no other composer of the period has done more to establishing the “code” and aesthetics of classical form than Haydn.

This may explain why his piano music in particular doesn’t have his unique fingerprints – or maybe Haydn’s fingerprints are distinctly indistinguishable!

You decide... I think you will love this music too.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Igor Markevitch (1912-1983)

No. 248 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at

In recent months, we have shared lots of music that featured Ukranian-Italian--French conductor Igor Markevitch (Haydn’s Creation, a pair of Franz Berwald symphonies, only to name those). Today’s Blog and Podcast not only provide a few more selections of modern music with Maestro Markevitch, but also a few pieces showcase him as a composer.

Igor Markevitch was born in Kiev. His great-grandfather Andrey Markevitch, a nobleman and Secretary of State for the Tsar, was also one of founders of the Russian Musical Society. The family moved to Paris in 1914 and again to neutral Switzerland in 1916 during the World War I. Pianist Alfred Cortot, perhaps the greatest French pianist of his time, recognized the boy's talent and advised him at age 14 in 1926 to go to Paris for training in both composition and piano at the École Normale. There Markevitch studied under both Cortot and Nadia Boulanger.

Markevitch gained important recognition in 1929 when Serge Diaghilev discovered him and commissioned a piano concerto from him. In a letter to the London Times, Diaghilev hailed Markevitch as the composer who would put an end to 'a scandalous period of music ... of cynical-sentimental simplicity'. He produced at least one major work per year during the 1930s. He was rated among the leading contemporary composers of the time, even to the extent of being hailed as "the second Igor", after Igor Stravinsky.

In the period immediately following the death of Diaghilev in 1929, Paris was awash in choreographic projects, each clamouring to fill the sudden void. One of these was an idea conceived by Leonid Massine for a film starring Brigitte Helm, for which Markevitch would write a ballet score. The project was never realized, however some of the music survived in the form of the Cinéma-Ouverture, which lay unperformed until given its delayed world première in Harderwijk, in The Netherlands, on 30 November 1995, by the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra under Christopher Lyndon-Gee.

The music Markevitch composed for a ballet that was never staged, L'envol d'Icare (based on the legend of the fall of Icarus) was especially radical; Béla Bartók once described Markevitch as "...the most striking personality in contemporary music..." and claimed him as an influence on his own creative work. A chamber version of L'envol d'Icare for two pianos and percussion, which Bartók heard, is believed to have influenced the latter's own Sonata for 2 Pianos and Percussion.
Markevitch later revised the work in 1943 under the title Icare, simplifying the rhythms and orchestration. Icare is one of the main works in today’s podcast, in a live concert performance by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

In October 1941, Matkevitch fell seriously ill. After recovering, he decided to give up composition and focus exclusively on conducting. His last compositional projects were the revision of L'envol d'Icare and arrangements of other composers' music (including an orchestration of Bach’s Musical Offering). He had débuted as a conductor at age 18 with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, perfecting his craft with Pierre Monteux and Hermann Scherchen. He became permanent conductor of the Orchestre Lamoureux in Paris in the 1950s, and had a short tenure with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra around that time.

As a conductor, he was much admired for his interpretations of classical and romantic repertoire (French, Russian and Austro-German) and twentieth-century music in general. The two works I retained to complete the montage are vintage recordings of Markevitch and the Lamoureux orchestra in works of contemporary French composer Albert Roussel and Swiss composer Arthur Honnegger.

I think you will love this music too.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Robert Johnson - King of the Delta Blues Singers

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

As I teased in my earlier post of Tudor-era lute music by the 17th century composer of the same name, today’s Vinyl’s revenge looks at another troubadour guitarist (if you allow me to equate lute and guitar…) also named Robert Johnson.

Robert Leroy Johnson (1911 –1938) was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician who has the unique distinction of being ranked fifth in Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". As an itinerant performer who played mostly on street corners, in juke joints, and at Saturday night dances, Johnson had little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime. Johnson's shadowy and poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend. He is credited by many rock musicians as an important influence; the blues and rock musician Eric Clapton has called Johnson "the most important blues singer that ever lived."

Johnson is considered a master of the blues, particularly of the Delta blues style. Keith Richards, of the Rolling Stones, said in 1990, "You want to know how good the blues can get? Well, this is it." But according to Elijah Wald, in his book Escaping the Delta, Johnson in his own time was most respected for his ability to play in a wide range of styles, from raw country slide guitar to jazz and pop licks, and for his ability to pick up guitar parts almost instantly upon hearing a song. Johnson’s playing was complex and musically advanced. When Keith Richards was first introduced to Johnson's music by his bandmate Brian Jones, he asked, "Who is the other guy playing with him?", not realizing it was Johnson playing one guitar. "I was hearing two guitars, and it took a long time to actually realise he was doing it all by himself," said Richards, who later stated that "Robert Johnson was like an orchestra all by himself. […] As for his guitar technique, it's politely reedy but ambitiously eclectic—moving effortlessly from hen-picking and bottleneck slides to a full deck of chucka-chucka rhythm figures."

The Robert Johnson legend rests predominantly on a pair of recording sessions. The first session was held on November 23, 1936, in room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, which Brunswick Records had set up to be a temporary recording studio. In the ensuing three-day session, Johnson reportedly performed facing the wall, which has been cited as evidence he was a shy man and reserved performer. The slide guitarist Ry Cooder speculates that Johnson played facing a corner to enhance the sound of the guitar, a technique he calls "corner loading".

His first recorded song, "Kind Hearted Woman Blues," in contrast to the prevailing Delta style of the time, more resembled the style of Chicago or St. Louis, with "a full-fledged, abundantly varied musical arrangement." Unusual for a Delta player of the time, a recording exhibits what Johnson could do entirely outside of a blues style. "They're Red Hot", from his first recording session, shows that he was also comfortable with an "uptown" swing or ragtime sound similar to that of the Harlem Hamfats, but as Wald remarked, "no record company was heading to Mississippi in search of a down-home Ink Spots ... [H]e could undoubtedly have come up with a lot more songs in this style if the producers had wanted them."

In 1937, Johnson traveled to Dallas, Texas, for another recording session in a makeshift studio at 508 Park Avenue. Eleven records from this session would be released within the following year. Johnson did two takes of most of these songs, and recordings of those takes survived. Because of this, there is more opportunity to compare different performances of a single song by Johnson than for any other blues performer of his time and place. Johnson recorded almost half of the 29 songs that make up his entire discography in Dallas.

Today’s share, the 1961 album King of the Delta Blues Singers, compiles sixteen mono recordings, thirteen of which were previously available as 78s on the Vocalion label, originally recorded during the two Brunswick sessions of 1936 and 1937. By the time this album appeared, Johnson was mostly rumor, if known at all, except to a small group of collectors and those who had purchased the original 78s. Bob Dylan, who had never heard of Johnson, became mesmerized by the intensity of the recordings. The album appears in the album cover photo to Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home amid various emblems of bohemian life. Songs from the album were repeatedly covered throughout the decade by many artists, notably Eric Clapton (Clapton would later record an entire disc of Johnson's songs, Me and Mr. Johnson).

In 2003, King of the Delta Blues Singers was ranked number 27 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Robert JOHNSON (1911 –1938)

  • Crossroads Blues
  • Terraplane Blues
  • Come On In My Kitchen
  • Walking Blues
  • Last Fair Deal Gone Down
  • 32-20 Blues
  • Kindhearted Woman Blues
  • If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day
  • Preaching Blues
  • When You Got A Good Friend
  • Rambling On My Mind
  • Stones In My Passway
  • Traveling Riverside Blues
  • Milkcow's Calf Blues
  • Me And The Devil Blues
  • Hellhound On My Trail

Robert Johnson, guitar and vocals
Recorded November 23, 26 and 27, 1936; and June 19-20, 1937 by the American Record Corporation

Columbia ‎– CL 1654
Format: Vinyl, LP, Mono, Compilation, Repress
Recording details -

(Thanks to Enzo Baddo

Internet Archive URL -

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Project 366 - Single Works

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.

Today’s installment of Project 366 builds on a series of Friday Podcasts that consisted of what I called back then “one-work montages”. My policy on Friday podcasts has always been to target montage duration somewhere between 75 and 90 minutes in length, in line with the duration of a run-of-the-mill Compact Disc which, depending on its capacity, is anywhere between 74 and 80 minutes.

Back in the day of vinyl “Long Playing (LP)” records, where one side typically contained 20 minutes of music, a “large work” would be issued as a two-disc album. Works that would require that treatment were typically operas (which would be issued sometimes as three or even four record sets!), but also ambitious symphonies, oratorios, that sort of thing.

(There are always exceptions to that rule. In my vinyl collection, I own a single Everest disc of Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand (from the Vienna Festival, conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos)  which was made to fit on a single LP. I commend the record label for attempting the experiment, but the acoustic quality of the recording suffered greatly, as the grooves were so narrow that scarcely any dynamics could be rendered for the listener.)

As there is no specific overarching theme at play here, other than each Listener Guide contains a single work, let me just dive right into our list of proposed listening, with maybe a word or two about the feature work.

Listener Guide #97 - Verdi's Requiem

First performed at the San Marco church in Milan on 22 May 1874, this Messa da Requiem is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral mass for four soloists, double choir and orchestra, composed in memory of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist whom Verdi admired (the work was at one time called the Manzoni Requiem). It is rarely performed in liturgy, but rather in concert form of around 85–90 minutes in length. Musicologist David Rosen calls it 'probably the most frequently performed major choral work composed since Mozart's Requiem.' (ITYWLTMT Montage #151 - 11 Apr 2014)

Listener Guide #98 – Busoni’s Piano Concerto, op. 39

One of the largest works ever written in this genre, this concerto lasts around 70 minutes and is in five movements; in the final movement a male chorus sings words from the final scene of the verse drama Aladdin by Adam Oehlenschläger. The first performance of the concerto took place in the Beethoven-Saal, Berlin, on November 10, 1904 with Busoni himself as soloist, and Karl Muck conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Choir of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. (ITYWLTMT MOntage #247 - 12 May 2017)

Listener Guide #99 – Mahler’s Third Symphony

Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 is his longest piece and is the longest symphony in the standard repertoire; the first movement alone, with a normal duration of a little more than thirty minutes, sometimes forty, forms Part One of the symphony. Part Two consists of five more movements and has a duration of about sixty to seventy minutes. The symphony’s program suggests a title for each of the six movements: "Pan Awakes, Summer Marches In", "What the Flowers in the Meadow Tell Me", "What the Animals in the Forest Tell Me", "What Man Tells Me", "What the Angels Tell Me" and "What Love Tells Me" (ITYWLTMT Montage # 150 - 4 Apr 2014)

Listener Guide #100 – Liszt’s A Faust Symphony

As the title suggests, Eine Faust-Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern, or simply the "Faust Symphony", was inspired by Goethe's Faust. The symphony was premiered in Weimar on September 5, 1857, for the inauguration of the Goethe–Schiller Monument there. The first clue as to the work's structure is in Liszt's title: "A Faust Symphony in Three Character Sketches after Goethe: (1) Faust, (2) Gretchen, (3) Mephistopheles." Liszt does not attempt to tell the story of Goethe's drama. Rather, he creates musical portraits of the three main protagonists. By doing so, though this symphony is a multi-movement work and employs a chorus in its final moments, Liszt adopts the same aesthetic position as in his symphonic poems. The work is approximately seventy-five minutes in duration. (ITYWLTMT Montage #153 - 25 Apr 2014)

Listener Guide #101 – Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie

The Turangalîla-Symphonie was written between 1946 and 1948 on a commission by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The premiere in Boston on 2 December 1949 was conducted by Leonard Bernstein, substituting for an ailing Koussevitzky. Yvonne Loriod, who later became Messiaen's second wife, was the piano soloist, and Ginette Martenot played the ondes Martenot (invented by her brother Maurice). The commission did not specify the duration, orchestral requirements or style of the piece, leaving the decisions to the composer. When asked about the meaning of the work's duration (80 minutes) in its ten movements and the reason for the use of the ondes Martenot, Messiaen simply replied, "It's a love song." (ITYWLTMT Montage #246 - 28 Apr, 2017 )

Listener Guide #102 – Haydn’s Creation

Haydn was inspired to write a large oratorio during his visits to England in 1791–1792 and 1794–1795, when he heard oratorios of George Frideric Handel performed by large forces. Die Schöpfung is considered by many to be Haydn’s masterpiece. The oratorio depicts and celebrates the creation of the world as described in the Book of Genesis and is structured in three parts. The first deals with the creation of light, of heaven and earth, of the sun and moon, of the land and water, and of plants. The second treats the creation of the animals, and of man and woman. The final part describes Adam and Eve during their happy time in the Garden of Eden, portraying an idealized love in harmony with the "new world". A typical performance lasts about one hour and 45 minutes. (Once or Twice a Fortnight - December 12, 2016 )

Friday, May 12, 2017

L'heure Espagnole (Ravel)

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

Many times on OTF, I’ve tried to program one-act operas. I don’t mind monumental works (like Wagner’s Tristan we discussed last time) but since I do most of my music listening on the bus, I really like something that I can listen to from beginning to end during my commute – rather than doing it over two or three.

Ravel’s vocal output is surprisingly diverse – from settings of old Greek songs to a pair of short, one-act operas. L'heure espagnole is a one of those, best described as a musical comedy to a French libretto by Franc-Nohain, based on his 'comédie-bouffe' of the same name first staged in 1904.

Ravel was closely involved in every aspect of the production as it was prepared for its premiere at the Opéra-Comique in Paris. First performed at the Opéra-Comique on 19 May 1911 in a double-bill with Massenet’s Thérèse, it stood for nine performances and was not heard again for 10 years (5 December 1921 at the Paris Opera) when it enjoyed more success. The opera returned to the Opéra-Comique in 1945 where it entered the company’s repertoire.

Translated literally, the title in English is "The Spanish Hour", but the word "heure" more importantly means "time" – "Spanish Time", with the connotation "How They Keep Time in Spain". Time keeping, and in particular clocks, are used extensively as plot devices throughout the 21 scenes of this delightful work. Concepción, the clock-maker’s wife plans to use his weekly service rounds to entertain gentlemen at home, and her rendezvous’ are either aided or hampered by clocks that are used by her suitors to hide and get moved between her bedroom and her husband’s workshop.

Today’s musical share is from a 1965 recording supervised by Lorin Maazel, featuring local singers with varying name recognition.

Happy Listening!

Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
L'Heure Espagnole, MR 52
Musical Comedy in one act for 5 voices and orchestra, French libretto by Franc-Nohain

Concepcion – Jane Berbié
Don Inigo Gomez – José van Dam
Gonzalve – Michel Sénéchal
Torquemada – Jean Giraudeau
Ramiro – Gabriel Bacquier
Orchestre National de la R.T.F
Lorin Maazel, conducting
Recording: Paris, O.R.T.F., 2/1965

Synopsis -

Libretto -

Busoni: Piano Concerto, op. 39

No. 247 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at

The second of our “one work montages” features a work that is quite unique, both in its format and its very sparse discography: the only piano concerto by the late 19th– early 20th century virtuoso pianist Ferruccio Busoni.

Busoni was the prototypical Renaissance man - composer, pianist, conductor, editor, writer, and teacher. A child prodigy, largely taught by his clarinetist father (his mother, a pianist, was also a professional musician), he began performing and composing at the age of seven. Busoni composed in his early years in a late romantic style, but after 1907 he developed a more individual style, often with elements of atonality. His piano compositions include original works and transcriptions of the works of others, notably Johann Sebastian Bach. In that sense, one can think of Busoni in the same vein as Liszt, Godowsky, and other piano virtuosi who composed “showpieces” for their own use.
His other compositions include chamber music, vocal and orchestral works, and also operas, one of which, Doktor Faust, was left unfinished at the time of his death. Busoni died in Berlin at the relatively young age of 58.

Busoni’s Piano Concerto in C major is one of the largest works ever written in this genre. The concerto lasts around 70 minutes and is in five movements; in the final movement a male chorus sings words from the final scene of the verse drama Aladdin by Adam Oehlenschläger, a Danish playwright who’s a contemporary of Goethe.

The first performance of the concerto took place in Berlin on November 10, 1904, at one of Busoni's own concerts of modern music. Busoni was the soloist, with Karl Muck conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Choir of the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche. The reviews were decidedly mixed, some being filled with outright hostility or derision. Apart from the immense demands required of the soloist and the large forces needed, there is a further difficulty that can affect performances of this work: the role of the soloist.

As Busoni himself wrote, piano concertos tended to be modelled after either Mozart or Beethoven. In Mozart's case, the concerto centres around the spotlit virtuoso composer-performer, who appears to spontaneously create the work before us, on-stage. The orchestra mostly provides a background accompaniment. But with Beethoven, it’s the reverse - the work is often conceived in symphonic terms; the piano takes the secondary role, reflecting on or responding to ideas that have already been introduced by the orchestra (the fourth piano concerto being the exception).

Busoni combined both these perspectives in the Piano Concerto: a huge work of symphonic proportions which presents exceptional challenges for the soloist, who is often required to incorporate a glittering cascade of notes into the overall orchestral sound. This self-abasement of the familiar 19th-century heroic soloist's role thus requires careful consideration of balance in performance.
It seems to have been Beethoven who first included a chorus in a concertante work with piano and orchestra (his Choral Fantasy, Op. 80). since then only a handful of works have been scored for similar forces, including Daniel Steibelt's Piano Concerto No. 8 and the Piano Concerto No. 6 by Henri Herz which also have a choral finale. Adam Oehlenschläger's verse drama Aladdin, or the Magic Lamp was first published in Danish in 1805. The play has a number of parallels with the works and ideas of Goethe, such as the Faust-figure of the wicked magician Noureddin who takes advantage of Aladdin's youth and inexperience to get hold of the wonderful lamp; Goethe was also much preoccupied with Plato's philosophy, including his theory of Forms and the Parable of the cave.
During his travels in Germany in 1805-6, Oehlenschläger spent several months in Weimar in the company of Goethe and his closest circle of friends. He used the opportunity of his daily visits to read out Aladdin to Goethe, freely translating from the Danish. At the time, Goethe was in the process of completing the final version of Faust, Part 1.

As I stated earlier, Busoni worked late in life on an opera based on Faust, but was equally taken with this early German version of Aladdin and planned to adapt it as a one-evening work. However, Busoni never completed his adaptation of Aladdin, although he did compose music for the final chorus in the magic cave; this made its way into the Piano Concerto.

Since its premiere in 1904, the concerto has seen relatively few performances, owing to the large orchestration, complex musical texture, the use of a male chorus, and the staggering demands put on the soloist. Consequently, its discography is sparse (refer to this Wikipedia entry), and as was the case last time with the Messiaen Turangalila symphoiny, we turn to a vintage stereo recording from the mid-1950’s featuring the late John Ogdon who, like Marc-André Hamelin today, had a reputation in exploring arcane (and technically challenging) piano repertoire by the likes of Alkan and Busoni.
The conductor in this performance, Daniell Revenaugh, studied piano with Ferruccio Busoni's pupil Egon Petri from 1951 until Petri's death in 1962. He later founded the Busoni Society, and has amassed a large and important collection of Busoni and Petri materials. This recording of the Busoni concerto won the Deutscher Schallplatten Preis, the Montreux Award, a Grammy nomination, and has remained in the EMI catalogue for decades.

I think you will love this music too!