Friday, February 8, 2013

Montage # 91 - A Montage of second../Un montage de deuxièmes... symphonies

As of March 8, 2013, this montage will no longer be available on Pod-O-Matic. It can be heard or downloaded from the Internet Archive at the following address / A compter du 8 mars 2013, ce montage ne sera plus disponible en baladodiffusion Pod-O-Matic. Il peut être téléchargé ou entendu au site Internet Archive à l'adresse suivante:

pcast091- Playlist

===================================================================== English Commentary – le commentaire français suit

This week’s number 2 obsession is all about the symphonies. I have chosen three that we can call “less heard”  – not obscure, however. It makes little sense to me to program symphonies that we either have heard before (Beethoven and more recently Brahms come to mind) or that are played more often like Mahler’s Resurrection
Schubert wrote nine symphonies, and his second dates from between 1814 and 1815, when the composer was in his late teens. Clearly more mature than your run-of-the-mill student work, this symphony already shows some of the hallmarks of the burgeoning symphonist, most especially its rousing galop finale.
A very prolific composer in his own right, Rimsky-Korsakov only left us only three symphonies. Antar was originally written in 1868 amd revised in 1875 and 1891. He initially called this work his Second Symphony, later calling it a symphonic suite, therefore in his mind closer to Schéhérazade than his other two symphonies – and there are indeed common traits between the two so-called suites.
In fact Rimsky-Korsakov designated another work his Second Symphony: it is an unfinished work in B minor, which he started in 1867. He showed his work-in-progress to Balakirev, who did not approve of how Rimsky-Korsakov wrote the exposition of his themes yet did not give concrete suggestions or solutions on how to proceed. As a result, Rimsky-Korsakov lost interest in the project and he started Antar after abandoning the B minor Symphony.
Antar, like Schéhérazade, finds its inspiration in an Arabian tale. Antar, an enemy of all mankind, has become a recluse in the desert. He saves a gazelle from a large bird. Weary from fighting the bird, he falls asleep exhausted. He dreams he is in the palace of the Queen of Palmyra. The queen, the fairy Gul-Nazar, was the gazelle Antar saved from the bird. As a reward, she permits Antar to fulfill three of life's greatest joys — vengeance, power and love. He accepts these gifts with gratitude, then makes a request himself. He asks the queen to take his life if these pleasures become tiresome. He then falls in love with the queen. After some time, however, he becomes weary of his passion. The queen takes him in her arms, kissing him with such ferocity that his life ebbs away.
As Hector Berlioz did in his Symphonie fantastique, Rimsky-Korsakov employs an idée fixe in various guises through all four movements to depict Antar. This theme is played by the violas in the introduction to the opening movement. Later in the same movement, flutes and horns play another important theme, this time depicting the queen.
Kurt Weill is a well-known German 20th century composer, active in Berlin circles between the two World Wars and later finding refuge in France and the United States after fleeing Germany during the Nazi regime.
Weill is best remembered for his stage works, and his extremely fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht. With Brecht, he developed productions such as his most well known work The Threepenny Opera in 1928.
Weill’s musical training can be viewed in two distinct phases. First, as a teenager, he took private lessons with Albert Bing, Kapellmeister at the "Herzogliches Hoftheater zu Dessau", who taught him piano, composition, music theory, and conducting. Weill performed publicly on piano for the first time in 1915, both as an accompanist and soloist. After the First World War, Weill had an interview with Ferruccio Busoni. After examining some of Weill's compositions, Busoni accepted him as one of five master students in composition at the Preußische Akademie der Künste in Berlin. From January 1921 to December 1923, Weill studied music composition with him and during his first year he composed his first symphony, Sinfonie in einem Satz (Symphony in one movement). His second symphony dates from 1934, thus after his exile from Germany. It was first performed by Bruno Walter and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. It is his last purely orchestral composition.
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Commentaire français

L’obsession numéro 2 se poursuit cette semaine avec l’audition d’un trio de symphoniues numérotées de la part de trois compositeurs connus, quoique ces oeuvres sont moins entendues que les deuxièmes de Beethoven, Brahms ou Mahler.

Franz Schubert, précoce, prolifique et celui qui propose la transition entre l’ère classique et le romantisme composera neuf symphonies, et sa deuxième est une œuvre d’adolescence (composée entre 1814 et 1815). Il ne s’agît pas ici uniquement d’une œuvre estudiantine: notons le galop du finale, à la fois entraînant et casse-cou.

Un autre compositeur prolifique, Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov nous laisse seulement trois (ou peut-être quatre) symphonies, et celle qui fut originalement publiée comme étant sa deuxième a un historique des plus intéressants.
En effet, à l’issue d’une paire de revisions, Rimski-Korsakov traite dorénavant cette œuvre coimme une suite symphonique et non pas une symphonioe – la mettant dans la lignée de sa suite Schéhérazade plutôt que de l’associer avec ses deux autres symphonies. Dans ses mémoires, le compositeur évoque une symphonie en si mineur, qu’il proose à son confrère Balakirev pour sa revue. Balakirev n’offre pas de commentaires positifs, et Rimski abandonnera le projet en faveur d’Antar.
Antar – comme Schéhérazade – trouve son sinspiration d’une histoire arabe: Antar, un personnage maléfique, sauve la vie d’une Reine qui lui offre d’exaucer trois vœux. Antar accepte le don, sous certaines conditions. L’histoire atteint son apothéose avec la mort d’Antar, suite à un bauiser mortel de la Reine. Antar, comme Schéhérazade et la Symphonie Fantastique de Berlioz, est développée autour de léitmotivs qui évoquent les personnages principaux.
Kurt Weill est un compositeur qu’on associe avec le théâtre (et son association avec Bertolt Brecht). Weill, on note, a reçu une formation en composition et en piano sous Albert Bing à Dessau et plus tard fait un apprentissage sous Ferruccio Busoni à Berlin.
On note plusieurs compositions dites « sérieuses » de la part de Wreill, y compris un bon nombre de lieders et une paire de symphonies, dont cette deuxième qui date de 1934, donc peu après son exil d’Allemagne. La symphonie recevra sa premi;re sous la direction de Bruno Walter au Concertgebouw d’Amsterdam.
Bonne écoute!