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.


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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.


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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 is this week's Tuesday Blog. 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.


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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 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.


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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 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.


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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



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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



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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

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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: 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.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Oscar Peterson (1925-2007)

No. 252 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast252



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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 – https://archive.org/details/JeffreyTateStaatskapelleDresden1986SchubertSymphonyNo.9
(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 can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast251



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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 @ https://archive.org/details/pcast239-Playlist (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

Unvollendet

No. 250 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast250



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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