Saturday, January 31, 2015

Programming - February 2015


Monthly Theme

Our monthly arc for February is “Double Double”, where I will program music for two performers, or “twofers”. On my monthly contributionon Hubub, I will also link to past posts from our many series that fit the mold.

Pierre’s Tuesday Blog

    Once or Twice a Fortnight

    This month, I plan a “tandem” post of my Duests montage and a performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni

    NOTE: Since OTF posts do not get published on set dates, make sure to visit OperaLively regularly or …

    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, January 30, 2015

    Felix Mendelssohn: Concertos

    No. 183 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at

    To conclude our Mad for Mendelssohn series of podcasts, we will take a look at Mendelssohn’s concertos.

    According to Robert Poliquin’s Mendelssohn’s works page, Felix Mendelssohn composed eight concertos, for solo piano, violin and combinations thereof. In addition to the E Minor violin concerto (featured in a recent Tuesday Blog), we can add the two piano concertos (opp. 25 and 40) as part of the “mature” works in the genre by Mendelssohn. There are, however, at least five concertos composed in 1823 and 1824, and three of those are for two soloists: his concerto for piano and violin (featured in a 2012 podcast that I plan to bring back as part of our “Double, Double” series next month) and two concertos for two pianos, in addition to a pair of concertos for solo piano and solo violin.. All these concertos were composed around the same time he penned his twelve string symphonies.

    The violin concerto in D Minor from 1823 is probably the best-known of the “early” Mendelssohn concertos. Mendelssohn wrote this violin concerto for Eduard Rietz, a friend and teacher who later served as concertmaster for Mendelssohn's legendary performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's St Matthew Passion, which has been thought to have resurrected Bach in the public image. Eclipsed by the more famous E Minor concerto, the work was long forgotten until Yehudi Menuhin was shown the manuscript of the concerto in the spring of 1951 by Albi Rosenthal, an amateur violinist and rare books dealer. Menuhin instantly developed an interest in the concerto and bought the rights to it from members of the Mendelssohn family residing in Switzerland. Menuhin edited the concerto for performance and had it published.

    On 4 February 1952, Menuhin introduced the concerto to a Carnegie Hall audience with a "string Band", conducting the concerto from the violin – this was the first time Menuhin had directed an orchestra in New York.

    The violin concerto is performed on our podcast by German violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann.

    It is at age 23 that the “mature” Mendelssohn write his op. 25  piano concerto, a good decade after his early attempts discussed earlier. He had reservations about his ability to produce a concerto that was more than just pyrotechnic bravura. Indeed, the first concerto is filled with Mendelssohn's trademark mercurial filigree and brisk, busy passages, but he also achieves a wonderful sense of stillness and serenity in the central Andante that contrasts beautifully with the outer movements. The Second Concerto came about some five years later and already Mendelssohn's growth as a composer can be heard with the concerto's more serious, refined, and less showy nature.

    The performances I retained for the podcast feature the Korean-Canadian pianist Lucille Chung in a Radio-Canada/Richelieu recording from 2000 which was nominated for a local Quebec Classical Music award (Prix Opus). 

    I think you will love this music too!

    Friday, January 23, 2015

    Felix Mendelssohn: Lieder ohne Worte

    No. 182 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


    What are “Songs Without Words”? The title says it all, or does it… In Felix Mendelssohn’s own words:

    What the music I love expresses to me, is not thought too indefinite to put into words, but on the contrary, too definite.
    (Felix Mendelssohn's own italics)
    We all have spent too much time in dental offices or in elevators, listening to piped-in music, with its fair share of “instrumental renditions” of well-known songs. Franz Liszt made quite a few “piano transcriptions” of songs, most notably by Franz Schubert, which do justice to the songs without the words. Mendelssohn’s vision of the Lieder ohne Worte clearly isn’t one of music written in anticipation of somebody adding words to them – they are, as they stand – complete as they are, as the music conveys the entire moment, atmosphere,  or emotion of the moment.

    The eight volumes of Songs Without Words, each consisting of six "songs", were written between 1829 and 1845 so at various points throughout Mendelssohn's life. The works were part of the Romantic tradition of writing short lyrical pieces for the piano, although the specific concept of "Song Without Words" was new. Mendelssohn's sister Fanny wrote a number of similar pieces (though not so entitled) and, according to some music historians, she may have helped inspire the concept.

    In a post from last Fall on operatic transcriptions for the piano, we discussed that before radio and recordings were available, the only way to enjoy music was, well, to play it. The piano became increasingly popular in Europe during the early nineteenth century, when it became a standard item in many middle-class households. Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words are within the grasp of pianists of various abilities and this undoubtedly contributed to their popularity.

    Today’s montage does not provide all 48 pieces, but cuts a swath through the eight volumes, and features a number of pianists. In addition to Felix’s pieces, I added one of Fanny’s lieder for piano.

    To complete the post, here is a “complete” set of all the songs from YouTube, performed by pianist Daniel Barenboim:

    I think you will love this music too.

    Friday, January 16, 2015

    Felix Mendelssohn: Lobgesang

    No. 181 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at

    The third in our series of “Mad for Mendelssohn” podcasts considers two works that have in common the “number 2”.

    The first work is an early “string symphony” – one of 12 composed as student works between the years of 1821 and 1823 by the teenage Mendelssohn. Within two years of completing the twelth of these works, Mendelssohn composed his Octet and the Midsummer Nights Dream overture, launching his mature phase as a composer.

    I retained the second symphony for the podcast – all twelve were assembled in the following YouTube playlist (performed by Concerto Köln and the Northern Chamber Orchestra)

    The bulk of today’s podcast is dedicated to an ambitious work – Mendelssohn’s Second symphony. The 'Lobgesang' (or 'Hymn of Praise') was commissioned by the city of Leipzig from its Kapellmeister Mendelssohn to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the invention of printing in 1840, and has elements of the symphony, cantata and oratorio. The composer's description of the work was "A Symphony-Cantata on Words of the Holy Bible, for Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra". It requires two sopranos and a tenor as soloists, along with a chorus and orchestra. It lasts almost twice as long as any of Mendelssohn's other four symphonies.

    At the opposite pole from Beethoven’s Ninth, we have here a symphonic miniature in three movements, intended to act as the overture to the sung part of the work, which is twice as long. Thus this splendid ‘Symphony-Cantata’ expands into a sweeping vocal and choral epic.

    The performance I retained for this week’s podcast is one by the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra, wguch likely was involved in the work’s première.
    The orchestra's origins can be traced to 1743, when a society called the Grosses Concert began performing in private homes, and later at a local tavern. In 1780, because of complaints about concert conditions and audience behavior in the tavern, the mayor and city council of Leipzig offered to renovate one story of the building used by textile merchants for the orchestra's use – thus Gewandhaus (Cloth or Textile Hall).

    In 1835, Felix Mendelssohn became the orchestra's music director, with the traditional title of Gewandhauskapellmeister, and held the position with only one year's interruption until his death in 1847. Mendelssohn concentrated on developing the musical life of Leipzig, working with the orchestra, the opera house, the Choir of St. Thomas Church, and the city's other choral and musical institutions. Mendelssohn's concerts included, in addition to many of his own works, three series of "historical concerts" and a number of works by his contemporaries. Mendelssohn also revived interest in Franz Schubert. Robert Schumann discovered the manuscript of Schubert's 9th Symphony and sent it to Mendelssohn, who promptly premiered it in Leipzig on 21 March 1839, more than a decade after Schubert's death.

    The post of Gewandhauskapellmeister was held between 1970 and 1996 by Kurt Masur (who is today one of the orchestra’s two laureate conductors) leads today’s performance.

    I think you will love this music too.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    Josef Suk Plays Mendelssohn and Bruch

    This is my Tuesday Blog post from January 13, 2015.

    We are now well-engaged in a month-long theme on the Tuesday and Friday blog exploring the music of Felix Mendelssohn, and this week we turn to his great violin concerto in E Minor.

    I have several versions of this concerto in my collection featuring soloists like Kyung-Wha Chung (featured on a past Blog and Podcast), Leila Josefowicz, Michael Rabin, Frank-Peter Zimmermann and the one I am sharing with you today by Czech violinist Josef Suk.

    Josef Suk (1929 – 2011) has an impressive lineage - he is the grandson of Josef Suk, himself composer and violinist, and great-grandson of Antonín Dvořák. Such big shoes to fill, and what pressure must have been put on him! Ultimately, Suk earned himself the distinction of National Artist - not too shabby!

    After finishing high school in 1945 he entered the Prague conservatoire (1945-1951), where his teachers were Jaroslav Kocian, Norbert Kubát and Karel Šnebergr. Followed stints with the Prague quartet and the orchestra of the National theatre in Prague in principal chairs. Shortly after a 1954 recital in Prague, George Szell invited him to the USA to play with the Cleveland orchestra. In 1958 he performed in Germany, Netherlands and Romania, then also in France and Belgium. In 1961 he toured as a soloist with the Czech Philharmonic with whom he began to record many of the great concertos of the repertoire for the Czech label Supraphon.

    Suk was appreciated for the purity of his tone, his self-effacing musicianship – displaying no technical bravado unless it served the music – and an astonishing command of the instrument.

    Today's recording is a re-issue of the Mendelssohn-Bruch pairing so many other artists have made through the years. Suk approaches the works with such applomb that he makes them sound so, so smooth... I truly enjoy this recording and I hope you will too!

    Max BRUCH (1838 – 1920)
    Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26

    Felix MENDELSSOHN-BARTHOLDY (1809-1847)
    Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

    Josef Suk, violin
    The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
    Karel Ancerl, conductor
    Recorded 1963

    EPIC LC3946

    Thanks to Addiobelpassato for posting these tracks.

    Internet Archive

    Friday, January 9, 2015

    Mendelssohn & Mendelssohn: Trios

    No. 180 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


    Today’s second “Mad for Mendelssohn” podcast features a trio of trios, two of them by Felix and one by his sister Fanny, who was herself an accomplished musician and composer.

    Fanny Mendelssohn is the oldest of the four Mendelssohn children and shared the early musical education and upbringing of her younger brother Felix, including tuition from Carl Friedrich Zelter who, at one point it seems from some of his letters , favoured Fanny over Felix. However, Fanny was limited by prevailing attitudes of the time toward women, attitudes apparently shared by her father, who was tolerant, rather than supportive, of her activities as a composer. Felix did however arrange with her for some of her songs to be published under his name (three in his Op. 8 collection, and three more in his Op. 9). In 1842 this resulted in an embarrassing moment when Queen Victoria, receiving Felix at Buckingham Palace, expressed her intention of singing the composer her favourite of his songs, "Italien", which Mendelssohn confessed was by Fanny.

    Her Piano Trio dates from 1846 and was completed shortly before her death. It is a lovely mid romantic trio with many fresh ideas. In four movements, the opening Allegro molto vivace, begins with a flowing, restless accompaniment in the piano over which a beautiful, broad melody of yearning is sung by the strings. The gorgeous second movement, though very romantic, is introspective and reflective in mood. Fanny subtitled the third movement Lied (song in German) and indeed is a charming Song Without Words of the sort Felix made famous. The finale, Allegro moderato, has a lengthy piano introduction before the strings finally join in. The somewhat heavy, Hungarian-sounding theme has a sad but not quite the ragic aura to it. Cross rhythms and the second theme serve to lighten it.

    Fanny’s trio is preceded and followed in our montage by her brother’s two trios, performed in a vintage Soviet-era recording by David Oistrakh and friends. Felix Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in D minor is one of Mendelssohn's most popular chamber works and is recognized as one of his greatest along with his Octet, Op. 20. The later Piano Trio  in C minor is dedicated the work to the violinist Louis Spohr, who played through the piece with the composer at least once. A notable feature of the finale of this work is its use of the melody of a chorale taken from the sixteenth-century Genevan psalter Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit, also known as Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, as the culminating melody. The tune is known in English as Old Hundredth from its association with the 100th Psalm and is commonly sung to the lyrics "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow."

    I think you will love this music too!

    Friday, January 2, 2015

    Check us out on

    I am trying out something new, at least for the next few months to see how things go..

    My monthly theme will turn into a topic on the service

    Check out "Mad for Mendelssohn" at

    Let me know what you think!

    Felix Mendelssohn: Symphonies no. 1 & 5

    No. 179 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


    This week is the first of  a series of montages that fall under the thematic arc "Mad For Mendelssohn"where we will program many of Mendelssohn's mature symphonies, concertos and some of his more intimate works. Some of these mature works have already been programmed in the past, namely his Scottish and Italian symphonies, his early double concerto and his great Violin Concerto.

    Aside from the youthful String Symphonies, Mendelssohn composed five "mature" symphonies, numbered approximately in the order that they were published, rather than the order in which they were composed. The order of actual composition is: 1, 5, 4, 2, 3. The placement of No. 3 in this sequence is problematic because he worked on it for over a decade, starting sketches for it soon after beginning work on No. 5, but completing it after both Nos. 5 and 4.

    So, although the two symphonies we feature today appear to book-end Mendelssohn's symphonic output, they are in fact his first two "mature" symphonies.

    The Symphony No. 1 in C minor for full-scale orchestra was written in 1824, when Mendelssohn was aged 15. This work is experimental, showing the influences of Beethoven and Carl Maria von Weber. Mendelssohn conducted this symphony on his first visit to London in 1829, with the orchestra of the Royal Philharmonic Society.

    For the third movement he substituted an orchestration of the Scherzo from his Octet. In this form the piece was a success, and laid the foundations of his British reputation. The performance in our montage - by the Calgary Philharmonic and Mario Bernardi - has the original scherzo - here is the "Octet" scherzo, as orchestrated by Mendelssohn - for the London performance:

    A grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn was born into a prominent Jewish family. Although initially he was raised without religion, he was later baptised as a Reformed Christian. Althugh one would expect Mendelssohn to have had a "mixed allegiance" to the Jewish and Christian faiths, it is the latter that had Mendelssohn's devotion - Mendelssohn married Cécile Charlotte Sophie Jeanrenaud, the daughter of a French Reformed Church clergyman, on 28 March 1837. During 1829 and 1830 Mendelssohn wrote his Symphony No. 5, known as the Reformation. It celebrated the 300th anniversary of the Lutheran Church. Mendelssohn remained dissatisfied with the work and did not allow publication of the score. It was not published until 1868, 21 years after the composer's death, which explains its numbering...

    Apart from the pair of symphonies and conceti mentioned previously, I also have programmed some of Mendelssohnès concert and stage overtures in the past. To complete today's montage, I added a pair of overtures: Son and Stranger (or Return of the Roamer) was a comedy of mistaken identity written in honor of his parents' silver anniversary and unpublished during his lifetime. As for Ruy Blas, it is a romantic concert overture inspired by the Victor Hugo play.

    I think you will love this music too.

    Thursday, January 1, 2015

    Programming - January 2015


    Monthly Theme

    Welcome to another year of ITYWLTMT, on Fridays, Tuesdays (on TalkClassical) and twice a month-ish (on OperaLively).

    To start things off, I have prepared a set of posts under the theme “Mad For Mendelssohn”, where we plan on completing our Mendelssohn Symphony cycle (we already posted performances of the Scottish and Italian symphonies in 2012 and 2014, respectively), and provide some extras in the chamber music, piano solo and concertante departments. Here are some of the posts you can look forward to this month in our different series:

    Pierre’s Tuesday Blog

    Once or Twice a Fortnight

    NOTE: Since OTF posts do not get published on set dates, make sure to visit OperaLively regularly or …

    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!

    And also on Our monthly hubub this month can be found at