Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 - Year In Review

Here we are, ready to close the books on another year of ITYWLTMT, and embarking on our fifth – yes, fifth – year.

We had our 200th montage, explored “the concerto” in its many forms and exposed the music of Mendelssohn and Bruch. Our yearly “video mash up:” is a little thin this year, but you will find it – as we do every year – at the end of this post.

This past year, 2015, is a year of transition on our journey, and I thought I would take a few paragraphs to explain why things changed around here after the summer, and how we might be even less present in the coming months.

No – nothing sinister, I assure you!

As I said in my “year in Review” post of 2014, I find I have less and less time to spend on the blog. In years past, I traveled quite a bit, and had many evenings on the road that I needed to fill with something constructive, and would use that time to work on the blog and on creating music montages. 2015 wasn’t a typical year in that regard – I think I traveled on business once or twice.

This past year, we did some remodeling on our home – some work in the kitchen and on refinishing the main staircase. This ate up a lot of my summer – I had accounted for that, and had prepared an all-Mozart series (I hope you enjoyed that!). When late August came, I found I was quite a bit behind, and though I had lots of ideas for posts and illustrations, the cupboard was bare and I had to scramble to get a sum total of four new montages assembled, documented and uploaded.

Like I said last year, time has a funny way of creeping up on you – family, work, and taking time for yourself (yes, I spend more time at the Gym to try as exercise helps fight ailments like high blood pressure and high sugar that have crept up in recent yearly physicals). I have less time on my hands, and the blog and this experiment – however dear it is to me – simply loses out among all those priorities.

In short – I’m struggling to find the right balance, and the right formula.

I have, however, come up with a great idea, one that may help us get back on track, and maybe refocus the effort – and I think it’s fitting that we try this as we mark our fifth year milestone.
I will keep that new “project” under wraps for now – as I still need more time to mature it and better define it. My plan is to get the ball rolling on this new project in April, which will mark our Fifth Anniversary (April 1st, more precisely…)

In the meantime, we will continue with new montages at a rate of about one a month, and complement things with the odd post on TalkClassical.

As for the Tuesday Blog for the coming months, I am not planning to run “encore” montages, at least for the next little while. I have a few “Once Upon the Internet” and “Vinyl’s Revenge” posts sketched out, and those may get published. Sorry Opera fans, nothing in the Opera department in the hopper, at least nothing for now.

Another thing I may get out of the habit of is “Programming posts”. I may issue one later in January, more as a “rough agenda”, but I want to steer clear of “set dates”, to give myself more flexibility. I’d like to publish montages, playlists and musings in a more ad-hoc manner, and not have “promise dates”. I think this may make things easier for me as I continue to keep things going until I unveil the “new project”.

I have been delinquent in updating our yearly lists – that again is due to lack of time. I hope to update our lists in the coming weeks! Another thing I want to start doing in these pages is to “move” some of my Tuesday Blog and OTF posts into this website. I got scared when Luiz had a glitch with his service provider, and I thought I’d lost over 50 posts on OperaLively. I think it makes sense to “patriate” some of that stuff – as you have seen, I’d begun to post new TC and OL posts on ITYWLTMT already…

Happy New Year!



Our Opera directory, as at 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015


No. 212 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast212


Merry Christmas!

THis new montage - our last for 2015 - gathers classical treats, popular standrads and some traditiional woeks set for wind band.

I programmed titles both from the French (Canadian) and English repertoires, faniliar I hope to everybody.

Some of the "stand alone" classics come from Adolphe Adam (Minuit, Chrétiens, which is known in English as O Holy Night), Frederick Delius (his charming sleigh ride) and Corelli's Christmas Concerto. Bemjamin Britten and Ralph Vaighan-WIlliams both provide variations based on a pair of well-known carols: God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen and Greensleeves. Marcel Dupre also adapted a well-known French carol for organ.

Also featured this week a re three "medleys" based on traditional carols arranged by Andre Jutras, Aldo Forte and Leroy Anderson. My apologies if some of the traditional songs get featured more than once! Another medley features Fernand Gignac singing White Christmas in a French translation followed by a well-known French children's carol Petit Papa Noel.

Finally, Mikhail Pletnev arranged a suite for solo piano of some of the great moments of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. You will find the complete ballet in a past montage here.

I think you will love this music too!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tchaikovsky, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti ‎– Symphony No.1 In G Minor

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

December has been here for two weeks already and we here in Ottawa have yet to experience “winter weather”. I shoveled the driveway once, and we had one bout of freezing rain that caused limited havoc on our roads. Temperatures have been milder than years past, and the Rideau Canal is far from ready for Winterlude. Thank you, Global Warming!

This, I trust, is nothing but a temporary setback, and one has to think that by Christmas (in 10 days already…) snow and chill will add to the holiday landscape now entirely dominated by houses adorned with lights and seasonal decorations!

But if Mother Nature (or Old Man Winter) hasn’t yet provided the picturesque landcape, surely we can rely on music – and Mr. Tchaikovsky – to provide at least musical evocations of winter. This week’s instalment of Vinyl’s revenge goes back to 1975, and a release from EMI of a studio recording by a then-rising name among conductors, a young Riccardo Muti.

I became aware of Maestro Muti when he succeeded Eugene Ormandy at the helm of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which he led on numerous international tours. In 1979, he was appointed its music director and, in 1992, conductor laureate. However, since 1971, the Naples-born conductor had been a frequent conductor of operas and concerts at the Salzburg Festival, where he is particularly known for his Mozart opera performances. From 1972 Muti regularly conducted the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and in 1973 he was appointed its principal conductor, succeeding Otto Klemperer. In my vinyl collection, I own a few of these Muti-Philharmonia collaborations - his recording of Mendelssohn’s Scottish symphony, and some of his Tchailkovsky titles, which he later recorded digitally with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Tchaikovsky’s “big three” symphonies are his latter three (nos 4, 5 and 6) and these were the subject of past posts on the Tuesday Blog and on ITYWLTMT. Though less performed, his earlier three symnmphonies are just as full of the Tchjaikovslky idioms, with less of the pathos and despair we find in the latter three. 

Composed between 1866 and 1868 and later revised in 1874, it is clear from reading some of the ample correspondence Tchaikovsky left behind that the gestation and composition of this first symphony was difficult, reminiscent of Brahms’ difficulties in creating his own first symphony. It seems, as will be the case at many times throughout his life, had bouts with his self-confidence as a composer, and paid attention (maybe too much) to the advice and criticisms of colleagues. 

In spite of the difficulties which beset this Symphony, it always remained one of Tchaikovsky's favourite works: "I like this symphony very much, and deeply regret that it's had such an unhappy existence". At the time of its performance in 1883, Tchaikovsky wrote to Karl Albrecht that: "Despite all its huge shortcomings, I still nourish a weakness for it, because it was a sin of my sweet youth", and sometime later to Nadezhda von Meck: "I don't know if you are familiar with my composition. In many respects it is very immature, although fundamentally it is still richer in content than many of my other, more mature works".

The Symphony is dedicated to Nikolay Rubinstein, virtuoso pianist and founder of the Moscow Conservatory who conducted the first ever performance of the work (in its original form) in 1886.Tchaikovsky left no explanation as to the sub-titles he gave to the Symphony, Winter Daydreams, and to the first two movements, Daydreams of a Winter Journey and Land of Gloom, Land of Mist. It is possible that he originally envisaged a programmatic element in the work which may not have survived into the completed version.

Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No.1 In G Minor, op. 13 (TH 24) " Winter Daydreams" (Зимние грезы)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, conducting
LP AAA, Angel RL-32013
(Studio, 1975)

NOTE: The YouTube video I had found was pulled this past weekend so instead I amproposing the music as a hyperlink.

The Magic Flute

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

This year on OTF, we have featured our fair share of “complete” Mozart operas: Don Giovanni and Cosi fan Tuttecompleted the Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy we began a few years ago (and reprised this summer on ITYWLTMT) withLe Nozze di Figaro. A Mozart survey  incomplete without considering his penultimate opera Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute).

In preparing for this post, I stumbled onto an interesting opinion/appreciation piece from the London Telegraph, from which I will borrow unashamedly…

Though it is his ultimate work for the stage, few would argue that The Magic Flute was Mozart’s greatest opera. It was designed to be a popular hit in a form of theatre whose conventions have dated badly. And yet with such rough unpromising material he manages to evoke both child-like wonder and rational enlightenment – as well the darker pulsations of life. How does he pull it off?

Flute, first performed in 1791 in a suburban Viennese theatre, was dubbed a Singspiel - literally meaning Sing-speak – which combines spoken dialogue with arias and ensembles, and relies on spectacular visual effects to keep the crowd happy. Interestingly in his letters Mozart referred to it as an opera – he evidently had a more serious outlook on the piece. He wrote the music to the words of his friend Emanuel Schikaneder, an actor, impresario and fellow enthusiast for the freemasons – a group whose rational ideals had a powerful influence on the opera.

This brings me to a somewhat rhetorical (and maybe unimportant) question: is this opera a comedy or a drama. I won’t go and apply buffa or seria here, but rather whether the overall tone is light or dark…

The plot here is more akin to a fairy tale than to a romantic comedy: a noble prince is ordered by the mysterious Queen of the Night to rescue a beautiful princess who has been kidnapped. We are launched from the opening moments right in the thick of action. A serpent is attacking Prince Tamino, the hero, when three ladies appear from nowhere and save him. This scene, like many in the opera, could as easily be played for laughs or as genuinely scary.

And there are plot twists – who are the “good guys” and the “bad guys”? Sent on a chivalresque mission by the Queen, when Tamino eventually meets the kidnapper Sarastro and his temple-goers, they turn out to be anything but evil. In the opera’s iconic aria, the Queen orders her daughter to murder Sarastro, pushing the human voice to breaking point by climbing to the highest of high notes. This isn’t Mozart simply gunning for impressive effects: it’s meant to express anger beyond words.

Ultimately, for this stage work to be truly effective (and leave a lasting impression), it requires great staging. The comic parts have to be played comically, and the serious parts seriously. An audio performance (as the one I propose today) may not present the work “in full light” – we rely here on the projection and characterizations by the soloists and, of course, on the music’s nervous energy, oscillating between sadness and joy.

Here you go, my holiday gift for 2015!

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Die Zauberflote, K. 620
Opera in two acts, german libretto: Emanuel Schikaneder

Pamina: Julia Kleiter
Queen of the Night: Albina Shagimuratova
Tamino: Matthew Polenzani
Papageno: Nathan Gunn
Speaker: David Pittsinger
Sarastro: Hans-Peter König

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Adam Fischer, condicting
Met Opera live broadcast April 10, 2010

Synopsis - http://www.opera-arias.com/mozart/di...B6te/synopsis/
Libretto - http://www.opera-arias.com/mozart/di...B6te/libretto/

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Suite at the Movies

This "encore" of  no. 20 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at http://archive.org/details/ASuiteAtTheMovies


December already! Another year comes to an end, and another season of shopping and partying begann in earnest last week - yes, even uus in Canada are no longer immune to Black Friday

Black Friday has now displaced Boxing Day (the day after Christmas, December 26) as the busiest shopping day of the year here in Canada. For me and my two younger cousins (who aren't t young any more...) Boxing Day wasn't spent in busy shopping malls but rather at the movies, as theaters weren't very busy on that day. A family tradition of sorts... And I guess this tradition is the inspiration behind my Podcast Vault selection for this month, a look at film music - suites from film scores - penned by well-known composers, both of screen and stage and of the concert hall.

The mood behind the Henry V suite and the delightful sleigh ride from Kije hit the spot this time of year!

Happy listening... and happy holidays!

Original Bilingual Commentary: http://itywltmt.blogspot.com/2011/09...e-loge-au.html