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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Programming - December 2015


Docstoc is Shutting Down

We were recently advised that the document repository website Docstoc will cease to operate in December, which means that nearly 200 playlists in PDF format that we have been harboring there will soon disappear.

As podcasts get recycled and reused, I will move old playlists to the Internet Archive (as I have been using the IA as the playlist repository for several months now), but do not plan a mass migration (the task is just too much for me to handle at this time).

If listeners need a specific playlist, simply drop me a line and I will post it on the IA for sharing. My apologies for this unplanned inconvenience.

This month’s posts

December is typically our chance to offer more bonbons – festive music of all sorts. Also, December is usually when I muse about the year that was, and the year to come.

Subscribe to our ITYWLTMT Fan Page on Facebook

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!

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Blues

No. 211 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast211

This month’s podcast montage concludes our November homage to artists we have lost – and anniversaries thereof – with a focus on three of them and a common thematic link.

The three honorees this week are guitarist B.B. King, singer-songwriter-artist Gerry Boulet and composer-conductor Leonard Bernstein (who was already featured earlier in the month). And the “glue” that binds them together is the Blues.

What is the Blues? Some would say it’s a form of musical expression, others a musical genre, and I think both are right in their own way. It’s about worry, broken hearts, despair and it’s also a musical genre with its own “code” and “patterns”. A key ingredient is the Blue Note – or the worried note - sung or played at a slightly different pitch (typically between a quartertone and a semitone). Like the blues in general, the blue notes can mean many things. One quality that they all have in common, however, is that they are lower than one would expect, classically speaking.  A great example is the Elvis Presley hit Heartbreak Hotel

Ever Since my baby left me… “my” here is sung as a blue note.

We associate the Blues with North America and Afro-American music, but English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor's "A Negro Love Song", from his The African Suite for Piano composed in 1898, contains blue third and seventh notes.

African American composer W. C. Handy wrote in his autobiography of the experience of sleeping on a train traveling through Tutwiler, Mississippi around 1903, and being awakened by:

... a lean, loose-jointed Negro who had commenced plucking a guitar beside me while I slept. His clothes were rags; his feet peeped out of his shoes. His face had on it some of the sadness of the ages. As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars. ... The effect was unforgettable. His song, too, struck me instantly... The singer repeated the line ("Going' where the Southern cross' the Dog") three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard.

This account, if you ask me, is the first recorded instance of a tradition we call the Mississippi Delta Blues, epitomized – and recorded for posterity – in an odd recording session held on November 23, 1936, in room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas. The artist, Delta Blues guitar artist extraordinaire Robert Johnson, set 16 tracks to vinyl that day, including "Come On In My Kitchen", "Kind Hearted Woman Blues", "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom", "Cross Road Blues" and the classic blues anthem "Sweet Home Chicago".

The melody of "Sweet Home Chicago" is found in several blues songs, including "Honey Dripper Blues", "Red Cross Blues", and the immediate model for the song, "Kokomo Blues". In his rendition, Johnson succeeded in evoking an exotic modern place, far from the South, which is an amalgam of famous migration goals for African Americans leaving the South:

But I'm cryin' hey baby, Honey don't you want to go / Back to the land of California, to my sweet home Chicago

Last time I checked, Chicago is nowhere near California… To later singers this contradictory location held more appeal than obscure Kokomo, which is probably why this stuck. And it is also fitting that Chicago is, to many, the home of the Blues, and of the Blues Brothers. It also is where conductor Seiji Ozawa was introduced to the Blues, while music director of the Chicago Symphony’s summer festival in Ravinia.

In 1966, after hearing a local group - the Siegel–Schwall Band - perform live at Big John's in Chicago, Ozawa conceived the idea of combining blues and classical music. The following year, Ozawa conducted a performance of William Russo's Symphony No. 2, Titans, at the Ravinia Festival. Shortly after that, Russo was commissioned to write and orchestrate the composition that became Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra.

Each “part” (or movement) of the work introduces one of the handful of easily recognizable “riffs” (or patterns) we all associate with Blues performance. While the orchestral parts are fully delineated, the blues band parts are more broadly outlined, leaving significant room for musical improvisation.

Ozawa famously apprenticed under Leonard Bernstein in the early 1960’s, and so it is a fitting segue to continue our exploration of Symphonic Blues under Lenny’s able penmanship. We all remember the film On The Town which starred Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra as sailors enjoying leave in the Big Apple. The film, and musical, was set to music by Bernstein and was based on Jerome Robbins' idea for his 1944 ballet Fancy Free, which was also composed by Bernstein.

The scene is a bar and the outside sidewalk in New York City, in wartime. Three sailors on leave boisterously arrive, have a drink and head outside looking for female companionship. A beautiful girl passes by and the three sailors vie for her attention. She demurs and escapes, pursued by two of the sailors. The Third, having been left in the dust, encounters another beautiful passer-by, and invites her to have a drink with him. He impresses her with a pantomime of his military exploits, and they dance a passionate pas de deux. This musical number – and indeed many of the numbers – uses the theme of a blues song that Bernstein composed especially for the ballet, “Big Stuff”. 

So you cry, “What’s it about, Baby?”
You ask why the blues had to go and pick you.

“Big Stuff” was conceived with the African American jazz singer Billie Holiday in mind, even though it ended up being recorded for the production by Bernstein’s sister Shirley. At that early point in Bernstein’s career, he lacked the cultural and fiscal capital to hire anyone as famous as Holiday. A few years later, she did record the song, and it is that rendition that I included in the montage, followed by significant highlights from the ballet.

In May 2015, American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist B. B. King passed away. An undisputed icon of the Blues -the King of the Blues to many - Rolling Stone magazine ranked King No. 6 on its 2011 list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. Where Robert Johnson is recognized as a master of the “acoustic Delta blues guitar”, King on his “Lucille” Gibson guitar eintroduced a sophisticated style of soloing based on fluid string bending and shimmering vibrato that influenced many later electric blues guitarists. King was known for performing tirelessly throughout his musical career, appearing at more than 200 concerts per year on average into his 70s. Today’s montage includes a few tracks recorded by King, including his great standard “The Thrill is Gone”.

Gerry Boulet, who died 25 years ago this year, is the iconic voice of French Canadian Rock and Blues. Most famous as vocalist for the Quebec rock band Offenbach, he is considered one of the innovators of rock music in joual, the plain talk French Quebec dialect. His musical style and raspy voice are both unique and unforgettable.

Offenbach’s original members had long debated what language they should sing in. Boulet held strongly to the custom of singing in English, but Pierre Harel felt that French would be more natural. While the band members sat around waiting on Harel’s arrival, they started playing around a good “walking boogie” lead by bassist Michel Lamothe. When Harel arrived, Gerry was singing “That’s why, that’s why I’m singing the blues”. Harel then composed French lyrics on a paper place-mat that became the chorus

L’aut’soir, l’aut’soir, j’ai chanté du blues / L’aut’soir, l’aut’soir ça l’a rendu jalouse

Thus was born Câline de blues, a song now revered as a classic in the Quebec blues-rock repertoire.
Set to vinyl several times by the band, Offenbach’s first gold album, “Offenbach en fusion” (a jazz-rock hit), contains another edition of the song, and it is that version that concludes our montage.

I think you will love this music too.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Jon Vickers sings Otello

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

OTF returns with a full-length opera this month, but first a few words on the life and career of the late great Canadian Heldentenor Jon Vickers, who passed away this past July.

Jonathan Vickers was born in the prairie hamlet of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, the suxth if eight children if a devoutly religious family. Jon's father was a teacher - a school principal no less - and the children were involved in their community, singing and performing music at church and in the local jail!

Coming of age in World War II, Jon chose to defer his studies and contribute to the labour workforce, which took him as far Easr as Winnipeg. He worked in Grocery stores and in Department stores, whilst still performing and singing as an amateur.

Finally, in 1950, he earned a scholarship to attend the Royal Conservatory in Toronto and, soon after, made his professional debut with the local opera company and, later, on the airwaves of the CBC. It must have been through performances at the Toronto Opera Festival that he was dispatched to London with a plane ticket - after a short audition - to be featured at Covent Garden productions of Un Ballo in Maschera and Carmen in the 1956-57 season.

When one compares Vickers to his peers of that era, one should not look at other opera singers, but rather at the great "method actors" of the time, folks like Marlon Brando, who not only take on a role, they inhabit it. And the range of characters is impressive - Tristan, Otello and Aeneas (Les Troyens); sining all of these (including five Otellos), in a six-week period at the Met in 1974.

As stated in a recent obituary, a Vickers performance in the opera house was a grand, sweeping, overriding affair, often a performance of extremes, 

Vickers' voice was recorded in dozens of performances. Many critics praised his interpretation of Verdi's Otello, which he recorded twice: in 1960 with Tullio Serafin and 1973 with Herbert von Karajan. As we remember the great tenor, I am sharing today a complete recording of the former (1960) recording.

Happy Listening!

Libretto - http://www.opera-arias.com/verdi/otello/libretto/

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In Memoriam - Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)

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

This week’s Once Upon the Internet highlights the 100th anniversary of the passing of mystic, visionary, virtuoso, and composer Alexander Scriabin with a modest sampling of some of his compositions.

According to the 
AMG, Scriabin dedicated his life to creating musical works which would, as he believed, open the portals of the spiritual world. Scriabin took piano lessons as a child, joining, in 1884, Nikolay Zverov's class, where Rachmaninov was a fellow student. From 1888 to 1892, Scriabin studied piano and started composing at the Moscow Conservatory, where his teachers included Arensky,Taneyev, and Safonov

Mostly inspired by Chopin, his early works include nocturnes, mazurkas, preludes, and etudes for piano. Typical examples of Romantic music for the piano, these works nevertheless reveal the composer's strong individuality. Today’s playlist includes a few of those works, from his op. 8 etudes and a pair of works for the left hand.

Toward the end of the century, Scriabin started writing orchestral works, the first such work being his only piano concerto. At only 24 and needing a piano concerto to show off his abilities in concert, Scriabin was still using the idiom set forth by Chopin for his piano writing, and here he took on Chopin's orchestral mannerisms, as well, although Scriabin's orchestra takes a much more active and partner-like role than Chopin's does in his concertos. Scriabin completed the concerto in only a few days in the fall of 1896, but didn't finish the orchestration until the following May and did not premiere the work until October 23, 1897. Also a favorite of Rachmaninov's, he conducted the composer in a 1911 performance and later performed the work himself at a memorial for Scriabin in 1915.

As we said, it is not surprising that in Scriabin's early compositions the influence of Chopin and Lisztseems more powerful than the composer's own voice. In 1903, Scriabin abandoned his wife and their four children and embarked on a European journey with a young admirer, Tatyana Schloezer. During his sojourn in Western Europe, which lasted six years, Scriabin started developing an original, highly personal musical idiom, experimenting with new harmonic structures and searching for new sonorities. While Scriabin never quite crossed the threshold to atonality, his music nevertheless replaced the traditional concept of tonality by an intricate system of chords, some of which (e.g., the "mystic chord": C-F sharp-B flat-E-A-D) had an esoteric meaning. Scriabin's gradual move into realms beyond traditional tonality can be clearly heard in his ten piano sonatas; the last five, composed during 1912-1913, are without key signatures and certainly contain atonal moments. 
The Fourth Sonata from 1903, demonstrates how Scriabin’s musical approaches embrace the eventual atonal revolution that he would, completely independently from Arnold Schoenberg or any other composer, carry out on his music in the years before World War I. Four years later, the Piano Sonata No. 5, Op. 53, by eschewing any traditional constraints of a central tonal area.

In 1915, Scriabin died in of septicemia caused by a carbuncle on his lip. Among his unfinished project was Mysterium, a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world.

Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)

Piano Concerto in F-Sharp Minor, op 20 
Margarita Fyodorova, piano
Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra
Fuat Mansurov, conducting

Sonata no. 4 in F-Sharp Minor, op. 30
Evgeni Mikhailov, piano 

Sonata no. 5 in F-Sharp Major, op. 53 
Jan Gottlieb Jiracek, piano

Etude in B Flat minor, op. 8, no. 11
Shoshana Rudiakov, piano

Pièces pour la main gauche seulement, op. 9 
Brent D. Hugh, piano 

MP3.COM - 18 February 2002

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In Memoriam - Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

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

This "encore" of no. 18 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/ThisDayInMusicHistory-19August1990

November is a month I usually reserve on this and my other platforms for remembering those we have lost. This is the first of two posts on the Tuesday Blog underscoring the passing of great musicians.

On October 14 1990 - a little more than 25 years ago - and a mere five days after announcing his retirement from conducting, Bernstein died at home, in the Dakota, reportedly while trying to frolic with his grandchildren. Few of us would mind going that way...

Bernstein's decision to retire is easily explained by reviewing the accounts of his last concert - held at Tanglewood a few weeks earlier. He was sucking on oxygen off stage and was hardly able to complete a program that included Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and the Four Sea Interludes from Britten's Peter Grimes, which he had introduced from that very stage in the Berkshires in 1945. Carl St. Clair, then a conducting assistant, was called upon for the premiere of an "orchestrated" version of Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles.

Bernstein's physical deterioration had been evident for a few years. The bloated belly, the shortness of breath, his awesome vitality now having to be summoned by sheer will power. Years of heavy smoking, the scotch and the rough lifestyle had caught up with him. 

What of the concert, then? Well, this farewell performance is recreated in our montage from the Podcast Vault, which features the Deutsche Grammophon recording of the event, completed with a recording of selections from Arias taken from my personal collection. In spite of Bernstein's physical challenges, the two works he conducted are still full of charm and insight..

Happy Listening!

·         Original Bilingual Commentary: http://itywltmt.blogspot.com/2011/08...c-history.html

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Programming - November 2015


Docstoc is Shutting Down

We were recently advised that the document repository website Docstoc will cease to operate in December, which means that nearly 200 playlists in PDF format that we have been harboring there will soon disappear.

As podcasts get recycled and reused, I will move old playlists to the Internet Archive (as I have been using the IA as the playlist repository for several months now), but do not plan a mass migration (the task is just too much for me to handle at this time).

If listeners need a specific playlist, simply drop me a line and I will post it on the IA for sharing. My apologies for this unplanned inconvenience.

This month’s posts

We traditionally use November to undersco  re departed artists and composers from this year and the past.

Subscribe to our ITYWLTMT Fan Page on Facebook

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!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Scary Classics

No. 210 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast210


Note - This is also offered as a "tandem" post on Once or Twice a Fortnight (http://operalively.com/forums/showthread.php/2602-OTF-Scary-Classics)

Tomorrow is Hallowe'en, and I thought we should take this opportunity to consider some musical selections that are "appropriate" for the circumstances.

The first selection in the montage, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is forever associated with either reclusive organ-playing ogres, or classic shots of Gothic castles with assorted thunderstorms. Very cliche, but also very appropriate.

Every small town has a ghost story and this one is from the small municipality of Carleton Place (Ontario), up the Ottawa River valley from my home in Ottawa..

According to local folklore ,the ghost of Ida Moore is still present in the family home - Ida passed away in 1900 from consumption just as she was about to go off to music school to become a teacher. LOcal composer Mark Bailey provides this cute musical sketch inspired by the local legend - over the many years, since the untimely death of Ida, people in the house have reported strange noises, movement of objects, radios being turned off and on and windows being opened and closed.  It is said by all who have encountered Ida that she is a very friendly spirit but one that likes to play tricks on the inhabitants of the house.

The first if two piano trios from Beethoven's opus 70 is known as the Ghost, is one of his best known works in the genre (rivaled only by the Archduke Trio). The D major trio features themes found in the second movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 2. The All-Music Guide states that "because of its strangely scored and undeniably eerie-sounding slow movement, it was dubbed the 'Ghost' Trio. The name has stuck with the work ever since. The ghostly music may have had its roots in sketches for a Macbeth opera that Beethoven was contemplating at the time."

And, indeed, three "ghosts" from our recent past collaborate in this rarely-heard radio performance: violinist Alexander Schneider, cellist Zara Nelsova and pianist Glenn Gould.

Two more pieces on th emontage evoke stormy weather, also a classic part of any good scary story - works by American composers Kerry Turner and Wendy Carlos.

We don't think of the movie Fantasia as being a "scary movie" but it does have its scary moments... In addition to the Bach Toccata (heard then under the orchestration of Leopold Stokowski) we also had Paul Dukas' tone poem The Sorcerer's Apprentice and the final tableau, a combination of Schubert's Ave Maria and Mussorgsky's Night at Bald Mountain, juxtaposing Heaven and the Underworld...I  retained the Mussorgsky tone poem, again as orchestrated by the great Stokowski.

To close things off, works by Grieg and Gounod.

I think you will love this music too!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Art Song at the Gardner

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

This month on OTF, I have not planned to present any opera. My next opera post will be in November, and I promise that it will be a doozy.

Instead, for this installment anyway, I wanted to concentrate in what I think is the simplest, purest form of musical expression – one that involves a singer, and an accompanist, nothing more, nothing less. Just music that’s as naked as it comes.

Art song puts together all the basic ingredients of a great musical experience – it requires great music and musicians of course, but also great texts, great lyrics. The experience is incomplete if the words don’t match the sincerity and beauty of the music.

I hope we’re on the same page here…

All the performances I bring to your attention today are from the extensive chamber music library of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. According to the Museum’s website, Isabella Stewart Gardner filled the Museum with artists of all kinds during her lifetime, including many notable musicians and composers who drew inspiration from the museum’s unique atmosphere. Still today, the Gardner Museum honors this musical legacy by welcoming world-renowned musicians and exciting emerging artists to perform classical masterpieces, new music, and jazz on Sunday afternoons and select Thursday evenings. The Museum’s rich musical program is also available to listeners across the globe through concert videos, audio recordings, and a free classical music podcast.

In many of my posts on my blog and other platforms, I have relied on the ISGM Music library to illustrate some of my musical musings, as I am doing today. I wanted to share with you four particular performances from the library, each providing something unique.

We begin with Dvořák’s Gypsy Songs. The cycle of seven songs is based on Czech poetry by Adolf Heyduk about the lives of Slovakian gypsies. But Dvořák chose to premiere and publish the songs in a German translation of the original text. The cycle was fairly successful; in particular, the song at the heart of the cycle—the fourth of seven—has become one of his best-known, usually translated in English as “Songs My Mother Taught Me.” Throughout, the songs are both lyrical and spirited, combining the flavor of gypsy music with the sophistication of Western art song.

From Czech and German to Spanish, we next consider seven popular songs by Manuel de Falla, a delightful and varied collection of Spanish folksongs that is quite possibly the single most popular piece of classical Spanish vocal repertoire out there. The songs vary, from lovelorn laments to intimate lullabies to spirited dances, but all share an incredibly sensitive and evocative approach to the piano accompaniment—creating a sense of place and mood, while putting the traditional tunes front and center.

Some composers distinguish themselves in a single genre: Hugo Wolf, for example, whose brilliant lieder are like mini-monodramas, containing a whole world of feeling in less than two minutes of music. Wolf's first published songs were his Sechs Lieder für eine Frauenstimme (Six Songs for Female Voice), collected and printed in 1888. Like those of other cycles (like his Goethe-Lieder, for instance), these songs were not composed as a set, but were assembled from the numerous lieder Wolf had written up to that point. Thereafter, the composer would begin to conceive of large groups of interrelated songs, either by the same poet or drawn from the same source.

To complete our sampling of art songs, we will feature a tenor in Liederkreis, a set of songs based on poetry by Heine. The poems tell the tale of a love gone wrong. In nine songs, the singer recounts stories of lost love and painful separation.


Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 –1904)
Cigánské melodie (Gypsy Songs) for voice and piano, B. 104 (op. 55)
7 songs after poems by Adolf Heyduk
Jennifer Johnson Cano, mezzo-soprano
Christopher Cano, piano

Manuel de FALLA (1876 - 1946)
Siete Canciones Populares Españolas (Seven Spanish Popular Songs) for voice and piano, G. 40
Jennifer Johnson Cano, mexxo-soprano
Christopher Cano, piano

Hugo WOLF (1860 – 1903)
Sechs Lieder für eine Frauenstimme (Six Songs for Female Voice), for voice and piano (1888)
6 songs, texts by Anonymous (attributed to Reinhold), Friedrich Hebbel, Friedrich Rückert, Robert Reinick and Eduard Mörike
Jeanine De Bique, soprano
Warren Jones, piano

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Liederkreis (song circle), for voice and piano, op. 24
9 songs, Texts by Heinrich Heine
Mark Padmore, tenor
Jonathan Biss, piano


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Vivaldi - New Philharmonia Orchestra - Leopold Stokowski ‎– Le Quattro Stagioni

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

This month. Vinyl’s Revenge returns with a somewhat nostalgic look (or should I say listen) at a “guilty pleasure” recording that has been part of my vinyl collection for years.

An Amazon reviewer says it best:

Stokowski's performance of The Four Seasons made me enjoy this work as no other performance has […] If you already love this music, please listen to it as conducted by this great artist.

Indeed, as teased in my recent post on Leopold Stokowski, we are of course talking about Stokowski’s “Phase 4 Stereo” recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the “New” Philharmonia Orchestra featuring its then-concertmaster (leader) Hugh Bean as soloist.

Why is it a guilty pleasure? I guess it's the unashamedly "big band" sound... For the record, this recording was displaced in my music collection by the 1982 original instrument version by Simon Standage and the English Concert conducted by Trevor Pinnock. 

Perhaps the finest "big band" Seasons comes from this oft-reissued Phase 4 recording which brims with the conductor's characteristic and highly personal tonal color, rescoring and inflection, but it's deeply heartfelt and thoroughly delightful. Indeed, the dynamic continuo and vivid recording even render it highly stylish. 

At 45 1/2 minutes it's seductively slow, but as our soloist Hugh Bean once said of Stokowski's generation,” they made time vanish”.

And Bean would know a thing or two about that generation of conductors, having served as co-leader, and later leader of the “old” Philharmonia under the great Otto Klemperer. Hugh Bean was, by all accounts, one of the finest British violoinists of his day, a tenured teacher at the Royal Conservatory of Music and an accomplished chamber and orchestral performer. Bean is also well-known for performances of great British violin works: the Elgar Violin Concerto and Vaughan-Williams’ The Lark Ascending, which he both recorded at around the same time as these Vivaldi concerti.

Happy Listening!

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
The Four Seasons from "Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione" op. 8 (nos 1-4)
Hugh Bean violin
Charles Spinks, Harpsichord
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski, conducting
Recorded at Kingsway Hall, London, 11 June 1966 
AAA, London VIVA Series, VIV 3

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Great Leopold Stokowski

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

This "encore" of no. 122 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/Pcast122

Both of my Tuesday Blog posts this month are dedicated to the late great conductor and arranger, Leopold Stokowski. In fact, this week’s selection from the Podcast Vault features three relevant aspects of Leopold – his adaptations of great works for Symphony Orchestra, his incisive conducting and his love for the Baroque.

In recent years, advocates of early instruments and “Historically Informed” performances may have gained the upper hand over those who want to hear baroque music played on today's fuller-sounding instruments. In spite of our ears being “tuned” to these tendencies, the legendary conductor eloquently makes a case for antique music on modern instruments. Old-fashioned gut strings? Forget it. Smaller ensembles? Quite the opposite.

This week’s podcast, for example, provides one of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” under Stokowski’s baton – the entire set will be featured in an upcoming post. Truly, one cannot mistake this for HIP, yet the colour of Vivaldi’s music and the inventiveness of his use of the harpsichord, at times as the continuo, and at times as a soloist itself, is something only a master interpreter would exploit.

Of course, controversy lingers over whether Stokowski actually penned some of his transcriptions. Some have attributed the ``Bach-Stokowski'' works to Lucien Cailliet, clarinetist and resident orchestrator in Philadelphia from 1920 to 1938. The exact truth may never be known; but there is no doubt that the transcriptions convey Stokowskian ideals. As a conductor, the Philadelphia Orchestra's third music director knew the coloristic potential of an orchestra; as an organist, he played Bach, and had a concept of sound consistent with the instrument's big rumble.

Stokowski's orchestrations boldly declare “drama is King”, and the bigger the emotion the better. Less evident in the Purcell pastiche I programmed, the drama, and the “Philadelphia Sound” in all its early stereophonic glory is in the front lines in Stokowski’s orchestration of Wagner’s Love Music from Tristan und Isolde.

The final piece, an electric reading of Nielsen’s “Four Temperaments” symphony (performed with the Danish Radio Symphony, no less) explodes with colour and energy.

Happy Listening!

ITYWLTMT Montage #122 - Leopold Stokowski
(Originally published on Friday, 13 September 2013)

Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto for violin, strings and continuo in F Major, RV 293 
L'autunno (Autumn)
Hugh Bean, violin
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski, conducting

Leopold STOKOWSKI (1882-1977)
Purcell Suite, for orchestra (transcriptions after Purcell) (1949)
BBC Philharmonic
Matthias Baemert, conducting

Tristan und Isolde: Liebesnacht (Symphonic Synthesis after Wagner) (1932, rev. 1935)
Philadelphia Orchestra
Leopold Stokowski, conducting

Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Symphony no. 2, FS 29 (op. 16) 
De fire Temperamenter (The Four Temperaments) 
DR SymfoniOrkestret
Leopold Stokowski, conducting

·         Original Bilingual ommentary: http://itywltmt.blogspot.com/2013/09...stokowski.html
·         Detailed Playlist: https://archive.org/stream/pcast122-Playlist
·         Internet Archive Link: https://archive.org/details/Pcast122