Monday, June 30, 2014

Programming - July 2014


Monthly Theme

July and August will be "encore" months on the blog, as I take the Summer to relax and recharge. I also plan some maintenance activities on the blog, cleaning up some of the content and giving the blog a much needed face-lift.

For July, we plan posts that feature Canadian artists. I wil also be limiting myself to one Tuesday Blog and my regular Friday posts (all of them will be encores of either past montages or Tuesday Blog musical suggestions).
Pierre’s Tuesday Blog

With the exception of our Podcast Vault Selecton of the Month on July 1st, there will not be a weekly Tuesday Blog in July. We will return to our Tuesday series in September, and will introduce a new monthly anthology at that time to add to the Podcast Vault, Once Upon the Internet and Chronique du Disque. Stay Tuned!

Once or Twice a Fortnight

OTF takes the Summer off, and should return in the Fall with new complete operas and other musical musings on OperaLively.

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All of our Tuesday, Friday and ad-hoc posts, as well as OTF and YouTube Channel updates get regularly mentioned (with links) on our Fan Page. If you are a user of Facebook, simply subscribe to get notified so you never miss anything we do!


We learn of the passing of American conductor Lorin Maazel (13 July)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Montage # 162 – It’s Haffner Time

Podcast # 162 is available for about a month on Pod-O-Maric (Player embedded on the Right Margin of this page) and using the below player. It can always be heard or downloaded from the Internet Archive at


We had an {issue" posting this last Friday, anf it was published twice. Apparently, I rubbed out the wrong copy...

Today;s montage is a carbon-copy of a past Tuesday Blog which I quite liked the original commentary for. So - albeit a shameless mail-in - here goes...

Today's montage is dedicated to a pair of works that were commissioned from Mozart by a prominent Salzburg fannily, the Haffners.

In the old town of Salzburg, along the left bank of the Salzach between the Franciscan Church and City Hall you wil find the Sigmund Haffner Gasse. It was named after Sigmund Haffner the Elder, mayor of Salzburg from 1768 to 1772.

Twice married, his son from his second wife Sigmund the Younger was a merchant, philanthropist and a benefactor and friend of Mozart. His daughter from the first marriage, Marie Therese was married to the merchant Franz Xaver Andreas Athanasius Weiser, eldest son of Ignatz Anton Weiser (librettist of Mozart's Singspiel "The Obligation of the First Commandment" and Haffner's successor as mayor of Salzburg).

The Haffner Serenade

The "Haffner Serenade" KV 250 , written in 1776 was specially comissioned for wedding of Sigmund's sister "Liserl" Mary Elizabeth with the trade factor Franz Xaver Anton Späth.

The Haffner serenade is noteworthy on many counts, not the least of which by its hidden secret – the second, third and fourth movements represent an additional Mozart violin concerto (let’s call it a violinconcertino).

The Haffner Symphony

Mozart aficionados will agree to disagree on when Mozart’s symphoniuc output transitions from the nave “overture” style, to the classical and finally to a neo-classical/pre-romantic style that foreshadowed the great symphonies of Beethoven and Schubert. Hoewever, few disagree that the Haffner symphony is part of the latter set of works, and is often listed (with the accepted custom of ignoring the 37th symophony as it was jointly penned by Mozart and Michaeel Haydn) as part of the “last six” which are often viewed as his greatest.

On the 9th July 1782 , Emperor Joseph II bestowed onto Sigmund a knighthood and the title "Edler von Innbachhausen". The Symphony was composed to celebrate this event.

I think you will love this music too!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Montage # 161 – This Day in Music History, 21 June 1954

Podcast # 161 is available for about a month on Pod-O-Maric (Player embedded on the Right Margin of this page) and using the below player. It can always be heard or downloaded from the Internet Archive at

Before starting today’s musing, I wanted to extend a pair of shout-outs (which I get into in more detail on my French post this week) – my daughter graduates High School today, and my brother turns 60 tomorrow. All the best to both!

My brother shares tomorrow’s “Day in History” – June 21st 1954 with a particular radio broadcast that we’d discussed on one of my firstTuesday Blogs three years ago.

Indeed, on the evening of 21 June 1954, the CBC broadcast an installment of its ongoing performance series Distinguished Artists, one that Toronto-based pianist Glenn Gould featured in well-over 20 times on the CBC between 1950 and 1955, performing Bach, Beethoven and works of the Renaissance and Second Viennese Schools. In fact, as an "inside joke", he would sign letters “Glenn Gould, D.A.”, claiming the tile of “Distinguished Artist”…

Through the early 1950s, Gould appeared often in solo recitals, chamber music and concertos on CBC Radio (a program on 21 December 1953 included the Canadian premiere of Schoenberg's Piano Concerto). He was also a featured performer in the first television program ever broadcast in English Canada on 8 September 1952. 

The broadcast premiere of Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg variations is noteworthy mainly because of the strong association music lovers have made between work and artist. It was with Bach's Goldberg Variations that Glenn Gould burst onto the world's musical stage in January 1955 making his United States recital début in Washington D.C. with this work. The day after his New York début, he signed a contract with Columbia records and recorded with that label for the rest of his life.
Bach wrote his Goldberg Variations in 1741 and published them as a culmination to his Clavier-Übung , a collection that included his major works for solo keyboard including the six Partitas . Bach was nearly sixty years old when he wrote this work and the only great keyboard work to follow the composition of the Goldberg Variations was the Art of Fugue.
The title may have evolved from Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, a highly talented pupil of Bach who no doubt would have been familiar with the composition. It is believed that Bach wrote the work for Goldberg to play to his insomniac master Count von Keyserlingk and fashioned its technical style specifically with Goldberg's virtuoso capabilities in mind. These variations are notable for Bach's use of virtuosic keyboard writing, canon, and intricate form whilst the virtuoso writing style of some of the variations may have been influenced by the keyboard music of Domenico Scarlatti.
The Aria (a Sarabande from Anna Magdalena Bach's Notebook of 1725) forms the harmonic rather than melodic structure on which the work is based. The fascinating form has the thirty variations grouped into three sets of ten with a canon at every third variation (each time rising by one step of an interval) these canons culminating in the quodlibet (Variation 30, which incorporates two popular song melodies), before the serenity of the original Aria is repeated to close this masterpiece of keyboard-writing and, in effect, begin it again, as the work has come full circle and reached the place where it began.
Most of Gould's radio broadcasts were made in his home town of Toronto , but the performance of the Partita No. 5 in G major BWV 829 from 4 October 1954, was recorded in Montreal for the International Service of Radio Canada. It was a favourite work of his early years when touring Canada , and he played it at his United States début in Washington with the Goldberg Variations .
In addition to the Partita and the Variations, I included as filler the complete set of 15 two-part ionventions. Note the distinctive order that Gould chooses – he will use the same order in recitakl in Moscow a few years later (reissued by Sony with the Salzburg “live” performance of the Goldbergs).

I think you will love this music too.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The seamstress and the Artist – Louise Loves Julien

This Once or Twice a Fortnight is my post from June 15th, 2014  

This month, OTF will consider two operas from two different traditions (although composed within a few years of each other) that explore a common major plotline: the romance between a seamstress and an artist. In both cases, the action takes place in Paris, but the circumstance, and romantic outcome are very different.

A French example of verismo opera, our first of two opera is Louise by Gustave Charpentier (1860-1956).

Charpentier did not come from a musical family—his father was a baker—but his family encouraged his interest in music and allowed him to study the violin at an early age. His formal studies, however, did not begin until he was a teenager, joining the Paris Conservatoire in 1881 There he took lessons in composition under Jules Massenet (from 1885) and had a reputation of wanting to shock his professors. In 1887 won the Prix de Rome. It was there, while living at the Villa Medici, that Charpentier began work on Louise which was destined to become his most famous work. The composer himself created the scenario, based on his own time in Montmartre; Charpentier maintained that he was the sole author of the final libretto, but research has shown that he paid the poet Saint-Pol-Roux to write at least some of the text.

Louise tells the story of a poet who falls in love with a seamstress set in Bohemian Paris. While it sounds like a La Boheme rip off, the occupations of the main characters and the setting are all the two operas have in common. Louise, the main character loves Julien, a poet, but is torn between running off to Paris with the love of her life and her domineering parents who disapprove of their daughter's choices in life.

Many of Charpentier's friends and colleagues suggested that the libretto was too realistic, too crude; the composer made a number of revisions to the text before finally completing the music in 1896. The opera was premiered at the Opera Comique early in 1900 and was an astounding success. It has been called a "roman musical," an early example of "verismo," and a "realist" drama; most importantly, Louise secured Charpentier's fame as a composer and earned him many honors, including election to the Academie des Beaux Arts.

Paul Dukas once wrote of Louise: "The first and last acts are those of a master; the other two are those of an artist; the whole is the work of a man."

Louise is an opera that may be known today as a work with only one hit "Depuis le jour" to its credit, but at one time it was a staple at the great opera houses of the world and was reputed to be a favorite of the Metropolitan Opera's Sir Rudolf Bing who could never remember its name and referred to it as "the one with the girls and the sewing machines."

Interestingly Charpentier founded a school of music, the Conservatoire Populaire Mimi Pinson in 1902, which offered free musical instruction to Paris' many "midinettes"—the shop girls who were popularized in Louise.

Charpentier's next success was the opera Julien of 1913, essentially a sequel to Louise. Probably the second work in an intended trilogy (never to be completed), Julien was not as successful as Louise, but shares many of the latter's charateristics: both are naturalistic music dramas that include the sights and sounds of life on the streets of Paris.
After Julien, Charpentier completed virtually no music, and instead busied himself with organizing concerts and writing as a music critic. Interested in modern technological developments like the gramophone, radio, and film, Charpentier participated in a film version of Louise in 1936; however, he became a recluse after World War II, and produced no more music until his death in 1956.

The Performance
This particular recording is one of the few recordings of this work, studio or otherwise. With Ileana Cotrubas and Placido Domingo as Louise and Julian respectively, who recorded the work at the height of their careers, led by conductor Georges Prete, it is almost guaranteed that the set will be a musical treat and it is indeed. It is also strengthened by some of the best known performers in the French repertoire namely Gabriel Bacquier, Jane Berbie, and Michel Senechal.

Gustave Charpentier (1860 – 1956)
Louise (1900)
opera (roman musical) in four acts to an original French libretto by the composer, with some contributions by Saint-Pol-Roux

Ileana Cotrubas (Louise)
Plácido Domingo (Julien)
Gabriel Bacquier (Father)
Jane Berbié (Mother)
Michel Sénéchal (The noctambulist)
Ambrosian Opera Chorus, New Philharmonia Orchestra
Gorges Pretre (1976)

Synopsis -
Libretto -
Performance -

Friday, June 13, 2014

Montage # 160 – Tone Poems

As of  July 11, 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:



The second in our series of “do-overs” looks at a playlist and subject we first considered last year in our “Tell Me a Story” series, which included looks at fantasies and legends (as well as our Podcast Vault selection from this month on musical poetry).
Tone poems (or symphonic poems or orchestral fantasies) are attributed as a genre to Franz Liszt who composed 13 of them, numbered 95–107 in the Searle catalog (not counting the Faust Symphony which we programmed a few weeks ago in that same tradition). These works helped establish the genre of orchestral program music—compositions written to illustrate an extra-musical plan derived from a play, poem, painting or work of nature. They inspired the symphonic poems of Bedřich Smetana, Antonín Dvořák, Richard Strauss and others.
The five works that make up the montage provide a good sampling of the Tone Poem from its inception to the late Romantic/impressionist/nationalist composers of the late 19th century. The montage launches with Hermann Scherchen’s reading of Les Préludes, the third of Liszt's thirteen symphonic poems, probably his most popular of the lot. Its distinctive fanfare steals the show, in my opinion. Liszt finds the inspiration for this work from the French poetry of Lamartine, but as we know from the Faust symphony, Liszt will find inspiration in other literary traditions, as well as in Hungarian nationalistic themes. Smetana is best-known for his set of six tone poems published under the title Ma Vlast (My Fatherland), but he also found inspiration in the plays of Friederich Schiller, which is the source for his tone poem Wallenstein’s Camp, a vignette about the decline of the famous general Albrecht von Wallenstein, loosely based on actual historical events during the Thirty Years' War.
Whereas we historically connect Liszt to the inception of the genre, Strauss is recognized as one of its strongest contributors, with several massive tone poems such as Don Juan, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Death and Transfiguration and the mischievous Till Eulenspiegel (retained in the montage). In addition to the Strauss, this week’s montage and the original YouTube playlist have indeed a few “common works”: Saint-SaënsRouet d’Omphale, and the great Tchaikovsky fantasy on Francesca da Rimini. The original playlist substituted Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo for Les Préludes and added George Gershwin’s An American in Paris in its historic first recording featuring (apparently by happenstance) Gershwin himself at the celesta.
I think you will love this music too!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Montage # 159 – Symphonies in C

As of  July 4, 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:


This week’s blog post and podcast begins a look at playlists we've assembled for Tuesday blogs that we are now revisiting and issuing as a Friday montage. One such playlist is the one we’d assembled two years ago on symphonies written to the key of C Major.
The original playlist proposed listening to symphonies by Beethoven (his first), Schubert (his sixth), and unnumbered symphonies by Stravinsky and Bizet. The Beethoven (already presented in our Beethoven’s #1montage of the Fall of 2011) and the Stravinsky (would have busted our 90 minute quota) aren’t part of this week’s montage, and are replaced by one of Haydn’s London Symphonies – his 97th – in a vintage mono recording by Hermann Scherchen with the “other” Vienna orchestra (the Symphony, not the Philharmonic). Scherchen is something of “performer” – a la Stokowski – and his Haydn symphonies from the 1950’s decry they tendencies of the time, so not a HIP performance.
The remaining symphonies in the original playlist are back here today – Schubert’s “little” C Major (which, as I pointed out back then is more a “relative” term, as it certainly dwarfs his “Great” C Major symphony) is a transitional symphony, moving from Haydn’s formulaic classical style to the more romantic-sounding latter Schubert symphonies.
As for the symphony by a 17 tear-old Bizet, it is composed in the French vein, clearly influenced by Gounod’s “little symphony” in D and nowhere as ominous as the ones that will be written by the likes of Saint-Saens and Franck in the latter part of the 1800s. It is a delightful, airy work that – thank Goodness – was brought back to life in the 1930’s.

I think you will love this music too.