Friday, January 31, 2014

Montage #141 – Theme and Variations: The Orchestra Edition

As of February 28, 2014, 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:

https://archive.org/details/pcast141



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Finally, we have come to the fifth and final installment of our look at Themes and Variations. This week’s common thread between the works is that they are all intended for full orchestra, and two of the works are very familiar compositions by British composers.

Benjamin Britten’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell is also commonly known as “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”, and is often performed with a narrator introducing the different variations which, in turn, showcase sections of the orchestra. One could rightly say that this work is a “concerto for orchestra:. The version I chose today simply showcases the orchestra without the benefit (or distraction) of a narrator. The foillowing is a link to an animated narrated version:


The second British piece is the equally famous set of variations composed by Sir Edward Elgar, whose unique subtitles and supposedly mysterious theme comspire to its moniker “Enigma” variations.  My detailed playlist skips the long list of subtitles – you are invited to visit this page for the entire list, as well as some of the “inside joke” explanations. Is the theme really an enigma? Though never revealed fully, I subscribe to the theory tha the theme is derived from Thomas Arne’s Rule Brittania.

The montage proposes two more sets of variations. Schönberg’s 1943 Theme and Variations, Op. 43a is presented here in a version for full orchestra, but was originally composed for wind band. This work is one he composed after fleeing Nazism for the warm climate of Southern California.

Another composer with an American period to his output is Antonin Dvořák. From 1892 to 1895, Dvořák was the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, and he encouraged his stuidents to find inspiration in traditional folk music – something he had made a point of throughoput his composing career. Fifteen years before coming to America, during four days in the middle of January 1877, Antonín Dvorák composed the three part-songs for male voices (now known as B. 66), the first two of which are settings of Moravian folk poems. While the third song of B. 66, "Huslaf" (The Fiddler), cannot boast a folk origin, it can claim a much greater distinction than either of its two sister-pieces: seven months after its composition, Dvorák used its music as the theme for his Symphonic Variations for orchestra, Op. 78.


I think you will love this music too.


A compter du 1et janvier 2014, nos interventions en français (y compris le commentaire associé à cette baladodiffusion) sont exclusivement disponibles sur notre portail L'Idée Fixe.

Visitez http://ideefixe-musique.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 24, 2014

Montage #140 – Theme and Variations: The Piano Edition


As of February 21, 2014, 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:

https://archive.org/details/pcast140



pcast140-Playlist.pdf

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For the last two posts of our 5-week long look at Themes and Variations, I will put together montages that exemplify the T & V formula in works for orchestra (next week) and for the piano. Piano variations are probably one of the most common and popular form of piece in the piano repertoire, and our look at Beethoven a couple of weeks ago gave us a taste.

The first work in today’s montage is a Schubert set of variations for two pianos – a genre we explored already on the aforementioned montage, as well as in one of our Brahms podcasts from a year ago with his Haydn variations.

Speaking of Brahms – and Chopin – they were already featured in piano variations already in our series, but they return with more from their respective catalogs. The modern touch of Anton Webern contrasts quite well with the romantic style of Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky in their respective contributions to the genre, which round up our montage.

More past examples of piano variations from our podcast vault include works by Bizet , Schumann  and Vladimir Horowitz.


I think you will love this music too!

A compter du 1et janvier 2014, nos interventions en français (y compris le commentaire associé à cette baladodiffusion) sont exclusivement disponibles sur notre portail L'Idée Fixe.

Visitez http://ideefixe-musique.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Four Mozart Piano Sonatas


This is a past Tuesday Blog from Jan-21-2014. 


Today’s installment of Once Upon the Internet presents four of the 18 “numbered” piano sonatas in Mozart’s catalog. Even if we add the doubtful or fragmentary sonatas found in the catalog to those 18, the number doesn’t compare to Beethoven’s (32), Haydn’s (over 50) or Scarlatti’s (over 550). They are modest in scope when compared to Beethoven’s or Chopin’s, but varied in their pianistic requirements and in their overall texture.

All four of the sonata performances (downloaded a dozen or so years ago from MP3.COM) are from “live” performances, three of them from the Mozart and Beethoven musical scholar Paul Badura-Skoda.

The “Turkish Rondo” sonata (K. 311) is part of today’s set and gained particular fame for its last movement, the "Rondo alla turca." That movement took its inspiration from the popularity of quasi-Turkish music in Vienna, a fashionable form already exploited by Mozart in The Abduction form the Seraglio of the previous year. In this month of “variations”, we note the elegant set of variations in the first movement.

Also note the catalog numbering for the 15th sonata – the third movement Rondo was originally a stand-alone piece composed by Mozart a few years earlier (K. 494 in the Köchel catalogue.) In 1788, Mozart wrote the first two movements of K. 533 and incorporated a revised version of K. 494 as the finale, having lengthened it in order to provide a more substantial counterpart to the other two movements.

Happy listening!


Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Piano Sonata No.14 in C-, K. 457
Elena Kuschnerova, piano
(Live performance, Stuttgart 1996)

Piano Sonata No.11 in A, K. 331 ('Alla turca')
Piano Sonata No.15 in F, K.533 and K.494
Piano Sonata No.18 in D, K. 576 ('Hunt')
Paul Badura-Skoda, piano
(Live performances, Rio de Janeiro, 1992 [K. 331], Prague, 1992 [K 533] and New-York, 1958 [K. 576])

Downloaded from MP3.COM - 22 November 2001

Friday, January 17, 2014

Montage # 139 – Theme and Variations: The Songbook Edition

As of February 14, 2014, 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:

https://archive.org/details/pcast139



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Today's installment of our series on Themes and Variations looks at such works that find their initial theme in song - be it nursery rhymes, folk or popular songs.

With the exception of our first selection - Mozart's variations on the French nursery rhyme the English-speaking world knows as "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" - I provide a version of the original song.

The Carnival of Venice  is a folk tune popularly associated with the words "My hat, it has three corners". A popular theme for variations by many composers, a series of theme and variations has been written for solo trumpet most notably by Jean-Baptiste Arban, Del Staigers and Herbert L. Clarke , as "show off" pieces that contain virtuoso displays of double and triple tonguing, and fast tempos.

Chopin's "Souvenir de Paganini", dedicated to the composer and violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini, is another variation on this theme; it evokes the variations Paganini himself wrote for his own use, performed in our monrage by a solo clarinetist.

The Hungarian folk song "Flight of the Peacock" was set for chorus and orchestra, and later featured  in a series of elaborate variations for orchestra by Zoltan Kodaly.

As an inventive way of generating some revenue while he composed his opera Porgy and Bess, George Gershwin went on tour performing a set of variations for piano and orchestra based on his (still popular) showtune "I Got Rhythm".

I think you will love this music too!


A compter du 1et janvier 2014, nos interventions en français (y compris le commentaire associé à cette baladodiffusion) sont exclusivement disponibles sur notre portail L'Idée Fixe.

Visitez http://ideefixe-musique.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 10, 2014

Montage # 138 – Theme and Variations: The Beethoven Edition

As of February 7, 2014, 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:

https://archive.org/details/pcast138




pcast138-Playlist.pdf

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For the second chapter of our series on Themes and Variations, a look at some variations by Beethoven, With the exception of the first piece - for cello and piano - on today's montage, all the others are taken from Beethoven's variation catalog for the keyboard..

Surprisingly, most of Beethoven's piano variations are NOT in the Kinsky catalog with opus numbers, but can be found rather in the "without opus" series. The first two also have in common the obscure opera La Molinara (1788) by Giovanni Paisiello. The third set, the intricate series of 32 variations, are more well-known as the "Variations, WoO 80".

From a CBC  broadcast from October 5th, 1952, Glenn Gould proposes variations on a theme first rendered by Beethoven in his ballet The Creatures of Prometheus (of which we usually only hear the overture), which he  later re-used in his Third Symphony, thus the subtitle of the op. 35 "The Eroica Variations".
More piano variations, including the "Doabelli Variations", can be found at the Piano Society.

The closing piece in our montage is an homage to Beethoven by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The work takes its inspiration from the trio movement of Beethoven's Hunt sonata (no. 18). The montage provides the movement, and below is a complete performance of the sonata.




This trio is a fairly strange choice for a theme; its short phrases consist of leaping chords followed by a brief, more melodic figure. On the other hand, it is ideal from a duo standpoint because the chords echo and are easily split between the two performers. Saint-Saëns' variations are comparable to Beethoven's own variation writing in their diversity of style and complete pianism.

I think you will love this music too.


A compter du 1et janvier 2014, nos interventions en français (y compris le commentaire associé à cette baladodiffusion) sont exclusivement disponibles sur notre portail L'Idée Fixe.

Visitez http://ideefixe-musique.blogspot.com/

Friday, January 3, 2014

Montage # 137 – Theme and Variations: The Paganini Edition

As of January 31, 2014, 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:

https://archive.org/details/pcast137



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This week's podcast is the first in a series of five exploring the well-raveled formula of themes and variations. In music, the variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form; the changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.

'Theme and variation' structure generally begins with a theme followed by variations on that theme - each variation, particularly in music of the eighteenth century and earlier, will be of the same length and structure as the theme. This form may in part have derived from the practical inventiveness of musicians, and our first selection - Paganini's 24th caprice for solo violin - is an excellent example of the genre.

The work, in the key of A minor, consists of a theme, 11 variations, and a finale. This final caproce is widely considered one of the most difficult pieces ever written for the solo violin. It requires many highly advanced techniques such as parallel octaves and rapid shifting covering many intervals, extremely fast scales and arpeggios including minor scales in thirds and tenths, left hand pizzicato, high positions, and quick string crossing. No doubt, a showpiece for Paganini!

The theme from Caprice No. 24 is well known, and has been used as the basis for many pieces by a wide variety of composers. I put some of these together for you in this week's  montage. They include:


  • Johannes BrahmsVariations on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 35, for solo piano (2 books)
  • Franz Liszt – the sixth and last of his Six Grandes Études de Paganini, S.141. [I programmed the entire set]
  • Sergei RachmaninovRhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43 (1934), a set of twenty four variations for piano and orchestra

I think you will love this music too!

A compter du 1et janvier 2014, nos interventions en français (y compris le commentaire associé à cette baladodiffusion) sont exclusivement disponibles sur notre portail L'Idée Fixe.

Visitez http://ideefixe-musique.blogspot.com/