Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Year in Review

Ever since we began our mission here at ITYWLTMT, we have shared a “Year In Review” post in December, my opportunity to reflect on what we have done in the 12 past months, and tease some of our programming for the upcoming year. This year, however, I thought I would mostly forego the “review” portion – save for my yearly YouTube “video retrospective”, and spend more time talking about my programming for 2019, with a forward-look that may take us all the way to 2022 – provided, of course, we still are active by then!

(I should point out that traffic on the Podcast channel has i ceeased to the point that I upgraded my Pod-O-Matic membership to PRO status, offering now 100 GB of bandwidth (Vs 15 previously). I can also keep more podcasts on the roster; that will come in handy in the future.

To begin, I’d like to pick up on a thought I shared last year, and that I touched on mid-way through 2018: our retirement plans are crystallizing (at least, I hope they are) but we are unlikely to move our household in the next 12 to 18 months. This means that I’m proceeding under the assumption that I will maintain my current level of activities – more or less providing fortnightly Tuesday and Friday blog posits on alternating weeks and music shares, with monthly (-ish) editions of Project 366 (More on that project a little later in this post).

As I plan out 2019, I expect to produce 30 new montages (which has been the norm for the last couple of years), and at least 20 Tuesday shares (split between our Cover 2 Cover, Vinyl’s Revenge and Once Upon the Internet series). Except for a few straggler shares, I expect that most of my Project 366 Listener Guides will be finished (and pre-positioned) by Easter, and that new shares will be used to establish new “thematic arcs”. The two main thematic arcs I will be working on once I’m done with the long-term work will be a pair of “Piano Sonata Projects” dedicated to Mozart and Beethoven. I will share more on that as the year progresses.

On the Blog then, it will be “business as usual” until September, following our usual routine and cadence.

Project 366 for 2019 (and 2020)

I recently issued the last of my Time Capsules, completing Part 2 of Project 366 and proposing 244 Listener Guides. There are thus 122 guides left on the project, and I will be dispatching those in two separate Parts:

Part 3 of the Project will cover Guides no. 245 to 300, and will be shared in the Blog between January and August 2019. I will discuss more about “The Classic Collections” in a few weeks – stay tuned!

Part 4 will be the long-teased “Classical Music Calendar”, and that will begin on September 1st 2019 identifying a “Daily Listener Guide” for every day on the calendar for 366 days, ending on August 31st, 2020. In the course of that 12 month period, we will identify Listener Guides 301 to 366, more or less providing 5 or 6 Guides every month, as well as matching the previous 300 to dates along the way.

The idea of the “Musical Calendar” has always been the ultimate objective of the project – what has changed in my mind along the way is the “format” of the calendar, and that explains why this initial version (which I am currently calling “Opus 1”) doesn’t try to integrate any of the “new shares”. I’m playing with some ideas right now, but our Friday Podcasts during that period may be a mix of and “new” montages on our Podcast channel, for example.

As you can see, my current thin inking is that we would institutionalize the calendar approach moving forward. I already have some ideas for an “Opus 2” calendar, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Rampal Plays And Conducts Mozart

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

This week’s Vinyl’s Revenge features a recording from my old Columbia House days – though I believe it was originally an Erato recording, re-purposed by CBS Masterworks. Its principal performers are the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Jean-Pierre Rampal. Rampal acts as soloist on two of the three featured works, taking on the role of conductor for the third.

Mozart traveled to Paris and spent about six months there as a child from November 1763 to April 1864. A decade later, Mozart and his mother returned there in search of work and fame.

Mozart could not understand why the Parisians were not raving about him. How different the times had been when he, the child prodigy, had cavorted with Marie Antoinette. Now nobody was interested in him. He experienced one disappointment after another; whatever he tried, it was to no avail. Only by taking on some music students was he able to support himself and his mother. At this time, Anna Maria Mozart was fifty-seven years old and a simple housewife who had given up everything for her son. She fell seriously ill. 

Wolfgang watched over her at her bedside. A doctor was called but to no avail. Mozart’s mother died on July 3, 1778. Mozart, at twenty-two years of age, was stranded alone in hated Paris…

Though Mozart wasn’t particularly prolific during that seven-month sojourn, we do have a great memento, his concerto for flute and harp composed that April. It was commissioned by Adrien-Louis de Bonnières, duc de Guînes, a flutist, for his use and for that of his eldest daughter, Marie-Louise-Philippine, a harpist, who was taking composition lessons from the composer, at the duke's home, the Hôtel de Castries. Mozart stated in a letter to his father that he thought the duke played the flute "extremely well" and that Marie's playing of the harp was "magnifique".

The second concerto on the record, the oboe concerto, was composed prior to the trip to Paris, but has the distinction of having been re-purposed to fulfill a commission of flute concerti by Dutch flautist Ferdinand De Jean; of which Mozart only completed one new flute concerto. Instead of creating a new second concerto, Mozart rearranged the oboe concerto he had written a year earlier as the second flute concerto, although with substantial changes for it to fit with what the composer deemed flute-like. However, De Jean did not pay Mozart for this concerto…

The final piece on the record is also re-purposed. The Rondo in C Major for Violin and Orchestra, K. 373, was composed in April 1781, likely for Italian violinist Antonio Brunetti, who is known to have also requested both the Adagio in E Major and Rondo in B-flat Major. This Rondo in C, however, was written years after the five numbered violin concertos. This recording is a transcription for flute and orchestra, supposedly produced by F. A. Hoffmeister in 1801, K. app. 184. 

Happy Listening!

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Concerto in C for Flute and Harp, K.299 
Oboe Concerto in C, K.314
Rondo in D for Flute and Orchestra, K.Ahn.184 (arr. of Rondo in C for Violin and Orchestra, K.373) 

Flute – Jean-Pierre Rampal 
Harp – Marielle Nordmann 
Oboe – Pierre Pierlot 

English Chamber Orchestra
Conductor – Jean-Pierre Rampal


Friday, December 21, 2018

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880)

No. 299 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at


Already our last Blog and Podcast for 2018!

To end the year on a high note, I programmed light music by the German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach – both his own and ballet music orchestrating some of his finest moments.
Offenbach was born in Germany of a musician father, cantor of a synagogue. Early on, Jacob Offenbach showed himself adept at the cello, which convinced his father to send him to study in Paris. Offenbach joined the Conservatoire to become a soloist, but his clownish behavior saw him leaving after a year. Thanks to his talent, he still performs in concert - after having francized his given name - then joins the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique in which he plays while establishing himself as a composer.

He made himself known thanks to light melodies, and became director of the Comédie Française in 1847. Eight years later, he decided to open his own theater to produce his works: the Salle des Bouffes-Parisiens, in 1855. This is where his first opera buffa, Orpheus in the Underworld (1858), was successfully premiered. His subsequent operas (La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, La Vie parisienne, Les Brigands) are just as popular. Attentive to the taste of the public, Offenbach then turns to the opera-bouffe-féérie (Le Roi Carotte) and then to the patriotic opera (La Fille du Tambour-Major).

Offenbach died a few months before the premiere of the opera that would bring him the recognition he so longed for, The Tales of Hoffmann - one of the most played French operas today.
In the first part of our podcast, I chose a handful of Offenbach’s Opera and Operetta overtures. Many of them, following the usual medley style, provide hints to some of Offenbach’s Greatest Hits, many of whom are found in the final piece covering the latter half of the podcast.

Gaîté Parisienne (literally, "Parisian Gaiety") was first presented by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at its home theatre on 5 April 1938 (this troupe, formed after Diaghilev’s death, can be thought of as the offspring of his Ballets Russes, with many of his surviving collaborators on hand).
The ballet was commissioned and choreographed by Léonide Massine. Performed in one act, the ballet does not have a conventional narrative. Instead, it depicts the amorous flirtations, convivial dancing, and high spirits of a diverse group of people who patronize a fashionable Paris café one evening during the period of the Second Empire (1851–1870). Members of various social classes are among the participants.

Massine tasked his friend, composer and conductor Manuel Rosenthal, with orchestrating and arranging the score using music Offenbach; he did so in collaboration with Jacques Brindejonc-Offenbach, the composer's nephew. They created 19 distinct numbers some of which are often omitted in commercial recordings. However, to the best of my knowledge, the recording I used in today’s podcast (by the Montreal Symphony) retains all of them.

I think you will love this music too

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Project 366 - Stravinsky Time Capsules

Project 366 continues in 2017-18 with "Time capsules through the Musical Eras - A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire". Read more here.

This is the final set of time capsules in this tranche of Project 366 – these remaining seven listener guides are dedicated to the music of Igor Stravinsky, in my mond one of the most prolific and influential composers of the 20th Century.

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Stravinsky’s career arc mirrors the changing times in the 20th Century and in his native Russia – at one point, he lived in Russia, Switzerland France and America. The aesthetics and traditions reflected in his music are manty; from post-Romantic in the Russian tradition, to neo-classical, to atonal.

Russian period (c. 1907–1919)

Stravinsky began piano lessons as a young boy, studying music theory and attempting composition. At his parents’ urging, he entered law school in Saint-Petersburg, but after four years of study, he chose to take private lessons under the tutelage of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, with whom he studied from 1905 until Rimsky's death in 1908.

Listener Guide # 238 – Symphonic Stravinsky
Stravinsky’s “Opus One” is a Symphony in E major. Of classical 4-movement structure, it is broadly influenced by Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Tchaikovsky and Wagner. The score bears the dedication "To my dear teacher N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov". (ITYWLTMT Montage # 263 – 31 October 2017)

Listener Guide # 239 – Ballet Suites
In 1909, Stravinskly began a long association with ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev for which he composed several ballets, including his first major effort in the genre, The Firebird first performed at the Paris Opéra on 25 June 1910. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 278 – 4 May 2018)

Listener Guide # 240 – Petrouchka
Stravinsky's second ballet for the Ballet Russes, Petrouchka, is where "Stravinsky at last became Stravinsky." The music itself makes significant use of a number of Russian folk tunes in addition to two waltzes by Viennese composer Joseph Lanner and a French music hall tune (La Jambe en bois or The Wooden Leg).(Vinyl’s Revenge # 25 – 28 February 2018)

Neoclassical period (c. 1920–1954)

During this period, most of the aesthetics of Stravinsky’s compositions embrace a return to the music of the Classical period but also his exploration of themes from the ancient Classical world, such as Greek mythology.

Listener Guide # 241 – Symphony of Psalms
Unlike many pieces composed for chorus and orchestra, Stravinsky said that “it is not a symphony in which I have included Psalms to be sung. On the contrary, it is the singing of the Psalms that I am symphonizing.” The work was commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. (Vinyl’s Revenge # 34 – 23 January 2018)

Listener Guide # 242 – Basel and Dumbarton Oaks
This all-Stravinsky time capsule  features two of his concertos for orchestra and his set of neo-baroque danses concertantes. (Vinyl’s Revenge # 22 – 1 November 2016)

Listener Guide # 243 – Ernest Ansermet
With his passion for precision, Ansermet became, over time, one of the composer's most trusted interpreters, giving the premières of the Capriccio for piano and orchestra (1929, with Stravinsky at the keyboard). This artistic relationship would founder on the composer's late-career embrace of atonality, a system which Ansermet, trained as a mathematician, would reject on scientific as well as aesthetic grounds. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 286 – 31 July 2018)

Serial period (1954–1968)

In the 1950s, Stravinsky began using serial compositional techniques such as the twelve-tone technique originally devised by Arnold Schoenberg. He first experimented with non-twelve-tone serial techniques in small-scale vocal and chamber works.

Listener Guide # 244 – Intimate Works
This final time capsule of “intimate” works by Stravinsky spans many decades, and features most notably tracks from a pair of recordings by members of the Orpheus Chamber Ensemble. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 283 – 29 June 2018)


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Khatchaturian: Spartacus Suites 1-3 / Järvi, Scottish NO

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

This week’s Cover 2 Cover playlist shares a recording by one of the “busiest conductors in the recording business”, Estonian-American conductor Neeme Järvi. His discography includes over 400 recordings for labels such as BIS, Chandos and Deutsche Grammophon. He is best known for his interpretations of Romantic and 20th century classical music, and has also recorded several works that have rarely been recorded in their complete form - among them all of Edvard Grieg's orchestral music, including the complete incidental music for Peer Gynt, as well as Tchaikovsky's complete incidental music for Alexander Ostrovsky's play Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden).

Soviet-Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian is considered to have been one of the leading Soviet-era composers. Khachaturian is best known for his ballet music—Gayane (1942) and Spartacus (1954). His style is characterized by colorful harmonies, captivating rhythms, virtuosity, improvisations, and sensuous melodies.

His ballet music for Gayane (often times anglicized as “Gayne”) includes the ever-popular “Sabre Dance” but his music for the ballet Spartacus is chuck-full of great tunes – some of them eerily reminiscent of the aforementioned Sabre Dance (“The Market”) – and elaborate neo-romantic sequences (like the “Adagio of Phrygia and Spartacus”)

For most of us Westerners, Spartacus evokes immediately the Stanley Kubrick-directed epic motion picture starring Kirk Douglas, assorted with memorable moments such as the climactic “I am Spartacus” scene, where the recaptured slaves are asked to identify Spartacus in exchange for leniency; instead, each slave proclaims himself to be Spartacus, thus sharing his fate.

Though depicting the same slave revolt of Roman times, the Soviet ballet storyline takes considerable liberties with the historical record. Khachaturian composed Spartacus in 1954, and was awarded a Lenin Prize for the composition that same year. Khachaturian extracted and arranged music from the ballet in 1955 into four orchestral suites (opp. 82 a-d). Today’s album shares the first three suites.

As stated in the Gramophone review, “Jarvi and the Scottish players respond exuberantly to the near vulgarity of the unbuttoned animation and obviously revel in the lusher evocations. The resonant acoustics of the Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, cast a rich ambient glow over Khachaturian's vivid primary colours, and prevent the cruder climaxes from sounding too aggressive.”

Happy Listening

Aram Il'yich KHACHATURIAN (1903–1978)
Suites for Orchestra extracted from the music of the ballet Spartacus (Russian: «Спартак», Spartak) (1954)

Spartacus Ballet Suite No. 1, op. 82a
Spartacus Ballet Suite No. 2, op. 82b
Spartacus Ballet Suite No. 3, op. 82c

Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Neeme Jarvi, conducting
Venue: Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow (5 & 8 September 1990)

Details (Chandos website) -

Friday, December 7, 2018

Mozart: Three Generations

No. 298 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at

This week’s Blog and Podcast features works by three generations of Mozarts – Leopold, Wolfgang and Franz Xaver (sometimes referred to as “Wolfgang, Jr.”).

Let’s begin our commentary with the middle selection, Wolfgang’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola. Prior to his 1778 sojourn in the French capital Mozart had written a few works for multiple soloists, most notably the Concerto in F major for Three Pianos (K. 242) in 1776. Shortly after his arrival in Paris, in April 1778, he composed a Concerto for Flute and harp (K. 299) and is thought to have composed the Sinfonia concertante for wind quartet and orchestra (K. 297b). Back in Salzburg the following winter, he produced the Two-Piano Concerto in E-flat (K. 365) and, in the summer of 1779 the present work, the last of his double concertos and possibly the greatest of all his concerted works up to that time.

The selection of solo instruments in this case had a personal significance for him. While Mozart found his Salzburg duties as violinist distasteful, he discovered a deeper response in himself to the sound of the viola and the spirit it evoked. Possibly, too, the viola represented a softer gesture of independence toward his father. Leopold, renowned in his day as a violinist and pedagogue, frequently nagged Wolfgang about what he might achieve with the instrument if he would only apply himself.

Leopold Mozart's music is inevitably overshadowed by the work of his son Wolfgang, and in any case the father willingly sacrificed his own career to promote his son's. Leopold's Toy Symphony (also variously attributed to Joseph Haydn, Michael Haydn, and Austrian Benedictine monk Edmund Angerer) remains popular; and a number of symphonies, a trumpet concerto, and other works also survive. I retained Die musikalische Schlittenfahrt, (Lit. trans. The Musical Sleigh Ride) a divertimento in F major, premiered in Augsburg in January 1756 - and appropriate for this time of year. In addition to a richly populated orchestra, five tuned sleigh bells and 2 persons with Courrier whips are needed for the performance. The original manuscript was only rediscovered in the 1950s.

Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart was born in Vienna (the youngest child of six born to Wolfgang and his wife Constanze and the younger of his parents' two surviving children) five months before his father's death. Although he was baptized Franz Xaver Mozart, from birth on he was always called Wolfgang by his family.

He received excellent musical instruction from Antonio Salieri, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and Beethoven and studied composition with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger and Sigismund von Neukomm. Like his father, he learned to play both the piano and violin and started to compose at an early age. In April 1805, the thirteen-year-old Wolfgang Mozart made his debut in Vienna in a concert in the Theater an der Wien.

Franz Xaver became a professional musician and enjoyed moderate success both as a teacher and a performer. As a late classical period composer, his musical style was of an early Romanticism, heavily influenced by his father's mature style. His two piano concertos differ somewhat. The first concerto could pass for one of his father's late (K. 550 and above) works, except for a youthful exuberance and the piano's tessitura which had been expanded in 1795, just after Mozart senior died. The second concerto, featured this week,  is more contemporary to the 1810s with a more virtuosic piano part showing hints that the younger Mozart was developing his own style.

I think you will love this music too

Friday, November 30, 2018

In Memoriam - Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

No. 297 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at


Claude Debussy died a century ago, but his music has not grown old. Bound only lightly to the past, it floats in time. As it coalesces, bar by bar, it appears to be improvising itself into being—which is the effect Debussy wanted. After a rehearsal of his orchestral suite “Images,” he said, with satisfaction, “This has the air of not having been written down.” In a conversation with one of his former teachers, he declared, “There is no theory. You merely have to listen. Pleasure is the law.”

Save for the De Falla Hoamaje, all the works in this montage are from Debussy - though a handful of tracks are orchestrations of piano solo works by Debussy himself and others.

Two main works are featured today. La Damoiselle élue belongs to the same period of composition as the Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire, when Debussy was influenced by the music of Richard Wagner. The composer chose to distance himself from this musical influence, while remaining faithful to symbolist literature.

Fantaisie for piano and orchestra was composed between October 1889 and April 1890 but it received its first public performance only in 1919, a year after Debussy's death, in London by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Alfred Cortot as soloist. It is Debussy's only composition for piano and orchestra and, even though it is written in a three movement form, it was not composed as a Piano Concerto. This work is dedicated to the pianist René Chansarel, who had been scheduled to play the solo part for the cancelled premiere in 1890.

Debussy engineered a velvet revolution, overturning the extant order without upheaval. His influence proved to be vast, not only for successive waves of twentieth-century modernists but also in jazz, in popular song, and in Hollywood. When both the severe Pierre Boulez and the suave Duke Ellington cite you as a precursor, you have done something singular.

I think you will love this music too!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Jean Sibelius, Andrew Davis, Toronto Symphony ‎– Sibelius: Symphony No. 2

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

After a pair of Nielsen symphonies, the Tuesday Blog looks at maybe Sibelius' most popular symphony, his Second.

The genesis of the Second Symphony can be traced to Sibelius' trip to Italy in early 1901; it was there that he began contemplating several ambitious projects, including a four-movement tone poem based on the Don Juan story and a setting of Dante's Divina Commedia. While none of these plans ever came to fruition, some of the ideas sketched during this trip did find their way into the second movement of this symphony.

Sibelius' return to Finland for the summer and autumn was not accompanied by any great burst of inspiration, and extensive revisions delayed the first performance of this symphony, first to January 1902 and then to March 1903. But from then on, the symphony enjoyed unparalleled success in Finland and eventually led to the major breakthrough in Germany that was so craved by Scandinavian composers of this era (one which Nielsen, for instance, never achieved).

The Second Symphony has retained an extraordinary popularity for its individualistic tonal language, dark wind coloring, muted string writing, simple folk-like themes, and distinctly "national" flavor that are all Sibelian to the core.

In the spirit of Vinyl's Revenge, I posted my own digitized rendition of a 35 year-old recording from my personal vinyl collection (surface noise and all) to YouTube. The performance, by the Toronto Symphony, has been unfortunately overlooked in Sony's many reissues.

Happy Listening!

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Symphony No.2 in D Major, Op.43

Toronto Symphony
Andrew Davis, conducting

CBS Masterworks ‎– IM 37801
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Stereo
Country: USA & Canada
Released: 1983

Details -

Internet Archive - 

Friday, November 23, 2018


No. 296 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at

According to Wikipedia, Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated on various dates in Canada, the United States, some of the Caribbean islands, and Liberia. Similarly named festival holidays occur in Germany and Japan. Although Thanksgiving has historical roots in religious and cultural traditions, it has long been celebrated as a secular holiday.

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October,. Closer to typical harvest times in our country. Interestingly, the holiday is also used to celebrate Oktoberfest in parts of Canada with German heritage. That having been said, US Thanksgiving and its first cousin, Black Friday, has now been entrenched in our cultural (and shopping) fabric.

Thanksgiving conjures up three specific ideas, all of which have been in one way or another incorporated in this week’s montage – the Harvest, Family and – why not start there – “Carving the Bird” – whether literally as in a turkey dinner, or like we do today through the music of Charlie Parker.

A few selections, including Morton Gould’s tone poem “Harvest”, John Estacio’s “A Farmer’s Symphony” and the French classic “Le Crédo du Paysan” (literally, the Peasant’s or Farmer’s Creed) is a beautiful ballad, recognizing Heaven’s hand in a bountiful harvest.

Family (and “Coming Home”) are represented by a pair of short works – one by Canadian-American composer Hagood Hardy, the other a Simon and Garfunkel classic – and the inclusion of members of “The First Family of Guitar”, the Romeros plating a Vivaldi Trio Sonata.

To conclude, I chose the fourth and final movement of Ives’ Holidays Symphony. Ives started writing “Thanksgiving and Forefathers' Day” as two organ pieces, for a Thanksgiving church service.

I Think you will Love this Music too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Nielsen - San Francisco Symphony / Herbert Blomstedt ‎– Symphonies 1 & 6

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

For November, I’ve lined up a pair of Tuesday posts highlighting symphonies by a pair of Scandinavian composers. This week is a Cover 2 Cover share of a pair of Nielsen symphonies.

A few months back, I featured Nielsen’s Fourth symphony with Herbert Blomstedt and the Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra - part of his earlier Nielsen cycle, recorded between 1973 and 1975, and for their time were the best available recordings of Nielsen's key works.

Later on digital format, Herbert Blomstedt recorded a second Nielsen cycle with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Like its predecessor, it too has been unmatched for 30 years. That is quite an achievement for any conductor.

Today's featured disc includes the Symphonies Nos. 1 and 6 from that second cycle.

Nielsen wrote his first symphony at 27 years of age. Lyrically, Nielsen demonstrated his talents very successfully in his first symphony, and this at 27!

The Sixth Symphony may be partially autobiographical; the composer had just experienced a tremendous success with his Fifth symphony, but had also suffered a series of heart attacks He was to write several more works, but in the remaining six years of his life, the atmosphere of his works began to change.

Note to Collectors: This year we shared a pair of Nielsen symphonies (nos. 4 and 5) in the Vinyl’s Revenge series, and posted a Friday podcast containing the Third and the clarinet concerto. The second symphony was part of a Stokowski Friday montage a few years ago.

Happy Listening!

Carl NIELSEN (1865 –1931)
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, FS 16 (Op. 7)
Symphony No. 6 ("Sinfonia semplice"), FS 116
San Francisco Symphony
Herbert Blomstedt, conducting
Venue – Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, September 1988.
London Records ‎– 425 607-2 [L|H]
Format: CD, Album
Released: 1989

Details - 

Internet Archive URL -

Friday, November 9, 2018

Porgy and Bess

No. 295 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at


At last count, in my Internet Archive collection, I have about 470 audio entries, and a few videos – over the years, only two have been expunged by the site managers due to copyright claims. Today, I’m re-issuing one of these audio shares, originally issued under my Tuesday series Once Upon the Internet by creating a “mashup montage” and combining it with another like-minded work.

Cast recordings of George Gershwin’s lone Grand Opera Porgy and Bess date back to 1935 and the early forties (when the opera was revived after Gershwin’s death). Porgy and Bess: A Symphonic Picture is a 1942 album arranged by Gershwin's collaborator and sometimes arranger Robert Russell Bennett, which includes most of the best-known songs from the opera, although not in the exact order of their appearance. While some of the more esoteric parts of the opera are absent, many of the catchier tunes that can be heard in this suite are absent in others, including Gershwin's own Catfish Row Suite, which tended to highlight the more cerebral elements of the work.

Porgy and Bess has been the subject of many so-called “concept albums”, some of which have had snippets shared on past montages over the years. Two seminal concept albums – both from jazz legends dating from the same year, 1958 – come specifically to mind: Miles Davis’ East-Coast Studio effort and one by the duo of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong from the West Coast. The latter is presented in its entirety here today.

The album is considered the most musically successful amongst the jazz vocal versions of the opera and was released to coincide with the 1959 movie version. In 2001, it was awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, a special achievement prize established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance." The arranger on this album, Russell Garcia, had previously arranged the first jazz vocal recording of the work, 1956's The Complete Porgy and Bess.

A review of the album claimed "What's really great about the Ella and Louis version is Ella, who handles each aria with disarming delicacy, clarion intensity, or usually a blend of both... Pops sounds like he really savored each duet, and his trumpet work – not a whole lot of it, because this is not a trumpeter's opera – is characteristically good as gold. This marvelous album stands quite well on its own, but will sound best when matched with the Ray Charles/Cleo Laine version, especially the songs of the Crab Man, of Peter the Honey Man, and his wife, Lily the Strawberry Woman."

The performance, unlike the Miles Davis version, proposes nearly all the songs (arias) from the opera, and except for the long “overture” does not provide instrumental tracks for Armstrong to perform at the Trumpet, save for a relatively short introduction to “I Got Plenty of Nuthin’”

I Think you will Love this Music too

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

This is my po st from this week's Tuesday Blog.

No. 294 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT 
series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at


This week’s Blog and Podcast – our quarterly “Fifth Tuesday” post - features two of Sir Edward Elgar’s three concertos – his concerto for violin and his more famous cello concerto.

According to the Elgar Society’s website, two concertos for the cello are performed more often than any others. One is by Antonin Dvorak, an epic work brimming with melodies and embracing a wide range of emotion. The other is Elgar's: intimate, highly-concentrated and unlike any other ever written for the instrument.

Elgar wrote the concerto in 1919, just after the Great War. Appalled and disillusioned by the suffering caused by the war, he realized that life in Europe would never be the same after such destruction. His first reaction had been to withdraw from composition, and he wrote very little music during the war's first four years. Then, over a period of twelve months - from August of 1918 to the following August - Elgar poured his feelings into four works that rank among the finest he ever composed. Among that set was the Cello Concerto, Elgar's lament for a lost world. The performance I chose is by Canadian cellist Shauna Rolston.

Elgar was at the height of his fame when the Philharmonic Society commissioned a violin concerto in 1909. The work was dedicated to Fritz Kreisler, the internationally famous violinist who was the soloist at its first performance.

The work is long for a violin concerto and expansive in mood but nevertheless compelling and not overblown. It contains none of the pomposity and swagger found in many of Elgar's works which some commentators find disturbing and rather distasteful. The work is firmly established in the classical repertoire although not performed frequently. The performance on the montage is one by Nigel Kennedy during the early stages of his career.

It is easy to dismiss Salut d'Amour as an insignificant trifle, salon music not deserving a wider audience. However, for the work to establish itself so forcefully in what was a fiercely competitive field says much for its charm and quality. The version of the piece I chose to complete the podcast is a setting for violin and small ensemble, featuring Gil Shaham and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

I think you will love this music too.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Project 366 - Modern Time Capsules

Project 366 continues in 2017-18 with "Time capsules through the Musical Eras - A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire". Read more here.

As we near the end of our series of Time Capsules, we now focus on the music of the last 100-plus years and some of its main currents forming what we collegially call “Modern” or “contemporary” music.

1913 is an important uear in music, and for many people it marks a clear inflexion point in Western Classical Music – the Skandalkonzert of March that year and the infamous evening of ballet in Paris a few months later represent significant events – to quote Don McLean “the day the music died”, or certainly Romantic traditions and approaches. Harmonies and rhythms that were the norm for centuries now were displaced by serialism, 12-tone and miminalism.

Listener Guide # 228 – Alban Berg (1885-1935)
A pillar of the Second Viennese School, Berg wrote atonal and 12-tone compositions that remained true to late 19th-century Romanticism, strongly influenced by the young composer’s musical gods, Gustav Mahler and Richard Wagner. (ITYWLTMT #281 – 1 June 2018)

Modern music trends aren’t limited to atonal construcycts. Mush music of the 20th century, especially that composed in Europe, relied on motifs inspired by local folk music, or even nature. The next set of time capsules illustrates some of these currents.

Listener Guide # 229 – Messiaen, the Spiritual Composer
It is quite an understatement to say that Messaien's music is rhythmically complex. Messiaen chose to make use of rhythms from ancient Greek and from Hindu sources, and the musical language (and sometimes even the titles of his works) have a strong Mid- and Far-Eastern flavour Many of his compositions depict what he termed "the marvellous aspects of the faith", and drew on his deeply held Roman Catholicism. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 45 – 2 March 2012)

Listener Guide # 230 – Jewish Inspirations
We also sometimes talk of music as either sacred or secular. 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? None of the pieces I selected for this Time Capsule are in my view religious in nature, but they do share the common distinctive sound, at times “schmaltzy” we associate with Jewish folk music. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 259 – 22 Sept. 2017)

Listener Guide # 231 – Bela Bartok: The Three Violin Sonatas
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Béla Bartók's death, violinist Gullermo Figueroa was featured at the first complete New York performance of the composer's violin sonatas. These three works represent two different stages of Bartók's creative life: the Two Sonatas for Violin and Piano, from his most radical and experimental early period, and the Sonata for Solo Violin, one of the four last great works written shortly before his death. (Once Upon the Internet #2 – 24 July 2014

Across the pond, music composed in the-Americas developed its own specific sound, mainly inspired by the Blues and Jazz and latin rhythms South of the Equator; though, some composers such as Charles Ives merely extended the overall exploration of his European contemporaries.

Listener Guide # 232 – Bernstein Conducts Ives
I loath to pigeon-hole Charles Ives as an “American:” composer, as his work transcends the ill-defined notion of “American Music”. His music is a blend of late-Romantic and modern music, more akin to, say, Scriabin than to Schoenberg or Stravinsky in that sense (save for the mysticism). His later works can be challenging to listen to at times, but the set assembled by Bernstein is quite accessible, and some of the pieces have become American classical music “standards”. (Vinyl’s Revenge #37 – 24 April 2018)

Listener Guide # 233 - Due South
The theme for this Time Capsule has to do with “going South”. South can be both a relative and an absoluter term. It includes two 20th century works: one by Ralph Vaughan-Williams, the other by the Argentinian King of the Tango, Ástor Piazzolla. (ITYWLTMT #284 – 13 July 2018)

Listener Guide # 234 - Ragtime: Original piano rolls (1896-1917)
Scott Joplin never made an audio recording as a pianist; however his playing is preserved on seven piano rolls. All seven were made between April and June 1916: six released under the Connorized label and the other roll, a recording of "Maple Leaf Rag" was recorded on the Uni-Record label in June 1916. (Once Upon the Internet #53 - 29 Nov. 2016)

Listener Guide # 235 - King Of The Delta Blues Singers
The Robert Johnson legend rests predominantly on a pair of recording sessions. The first session was held on November 23, 1936, in room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, which Brunswick Records had set up to be a temporary recording studio. In the ensuing three-day session, Johnson reportedly performed facing the wall, which has been cited as evidence he was a shy man and reserved performer. The slide guitarist Ry Cooder speculates that Johnson played facing a corner to enhance the sound of the guitar, a technique he calls "corner loading". (Vinyl’s Revenge #28 - 16 May 2017)

Listener Guide # 236 - 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. (ITYWLTLT Montage # 211 – 27 Nov. 2015)

Listener Guide # 237 - Threatre of the Mind
Our last Time Capsule for this chapter presents speculative works – that is to say, works written (one could think) in anticipation of a stage work. All of the pieces I chose are intended either to depict stage music, or suggest stage music, whilst not necessarily designed to accompany any specific stage work – other, maybe, than the type of stage performance, be it a theatrical play, a ballet or an opera. (ITYWLTMT Montage #282 – 15 June 2018)


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Gidon Kremer, Riccardo Muti, Philharmonia Orchestra / Sibelius & Schumann ‎– Violin Concertos

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

This week’s installment of Vinyl’s Revenge is a mid-1980’s coupling of violin concertos featuring Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer and the Philharmonia Orchestra under Riccardo Muti.

If we were to create a pie chart of all the concerti for solo instrument and orchestra, I’d hazard to guess at least 2/3 of the pie would be occupied by concertos for either keyboard or violin. The violin concerto repertoire is huge, mostly composed of baroque and classical-era works – Vivaldi contributed probably 500 – but the workhorses among violin concertos are late Romantic works – TchaikovskyBrahmsMendelssohn (in E-minor) and Sibelius are prominent among those, and are most often used in the “final event” of so many competitions.

Originally composed in 1904 and extensively revised the following year, the Sibelius violin concerto was premiered in January 1905 in Berlin under the baton of Richard Strauss, no less. It is the only concerto that Sibelius wrote, though he composed several other smaller-scale pieces for solo instrument and orchestra. One noteworthy feature of the work is the way in which an extended cadenza for the soloist takes on the role of the development section in the sonata form first movement.

The initial version was noticeably more demanding but still the revised version requires a high level of technical facility on the part of the soloist; some of the most striking changes, particularly in the first movement, are in orchestration, with some rhythms played twice as slow. The original is somewhat longer than the revised, including themes that did not survive the revision. Certain parts, like the very beginning, most of the third movement, and parts of the second, have not changed at all. The cadenza in the first movement is exactly the same.

In a large corpus such as that for violin and orchestra, we are bound to find some “curiosities”. Without wanting to be unkind to Robert Schumann’s ability as a composer, we’d have to attribute that moniker to his Violin Concerto in D minor, one of his last significant compositions, and one that remained unknown to all but a very small circle for more than 80 years after it was written.

Schumann wrote it in the Fall of 1853 for violinist Joseph Joachim. He had just previously completed another work for Joachim, the Fantasie, op. 131. Though Joachim performed Schumann’s Fantasie, he never performed the Violin Concerto. After playing it through with the Hannover Court Orchestra for Schumann in October 1853, Joachim retained the manuscript for the rest of his life. After Schumann’s attempted suicide the following February and ended up in a mental facility hereafter, Joachim evidently suspected the Concerto was a product of Schumann’s madness and thought of the music as morbid.

Now, there are a few disparate facts that add to this “morbid” idea; in a supplement to the Schumann Complete Edition, Johannes Brahms makes reference to a theme that would have been dictated to Schumann by the spirits of Mendelssohn and Schubert, no longer recognizing that it was a melody he had used in the slow movement of the Violin Concerto. Much later, in 1933, during a spiritualist séance in London attended by Joachim's two grand-nieces (the sister violinists Jelly d'Arányi and Adila Fachiri) a spirit-voice identifying himself as Robert Schumann requested Miss d'Aranyi to recover an unpublished work of his (of which she claimed to have no knowledge) and to perform it. In a second message, this time from the spirit of Joachim, they were directed to the Prussian State Library where the manuscript had been deposited for safe keeping.

Clearly less travelled than other Romantic concerti, I thought the work stands well in this particular pairing, and Kremer’s clean lines and impeccable technique add to the experience.

Happy listening

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Violin Concerto In D Minor, A 23

Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Violin Concerto In D Minor, op. 47

Gidon Kremer, violin
Philharmonia Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, conducting

Angel Records ‎– DS-37957
Format: Vinyl (ADD), LP
Released: 1983
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