Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Michael Haydn & Mozart

This week's Tuesday Blog is no. 270 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast270


2018’s first “fifth Tuesday” quarterly montage proposes as its key work one of Mozart’s numbered symphonies that should be rightly assigned to Joseph Haydn’s brother; the so-called Symphony No. 37 adds an introduction by Mozart to a symphony in G by Michael Haydn.

According to Wikipedia , the number of symphonies actually written by Mozart is imprecisely known; of the 41 formally numbered, three (Nos 2, 3 and 37) are established as by other composers and another, No. 11, is considered by scholars to be of uncertain authorship. Outside the accepted sequence 1–41, however, there are around twenty other genuine Mozart symphonies, and beyond these, a larger number of problematic works which have not been authenticated as Mozart's.

The Symphony no. 37 was for a long time believed to be a work by Mozart, but is now known to have actually been written by Michael Haydn, being his Symphony No. 25 in G major, [Perger 16, Sherman 25, MH 334]. As a result, this symphony, which had been quite widely played when thought to be a Mozart symphony, has been performed considerably less often since this discovery in 1907.

Indeed, several of Michael Haydn's works influenced Mozart. To give just three examples: the Te Deum (which Wolfgang was later to follow very closely in K. 141); the finale of the Symphony No. 23 which influenced the finale of the G major Quartet, K. 387; and the (fugal) transition and (nonfugal) closing theme of the G major second subject expositions of the finales of both Michael's Symphony No. 29 (1784) and Mozart's monumental last Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter") (1788), both in C major.

Mozart probably copied out the score in order to learn from it, but he wrote a new Adagio maestoso introduction for it (few of Michael Haydn's symphonies have slow introductions). The introduction was probably composed in late 1783 to be performed in the same concert in Linz, in which Mozart's Symphony No. 36 received its premiere.

Modern commentators find it difficult to comprehend how Mozart scholars could have considered the three movements of the G major Symphony (more aligned with Mozart’s early symphonic output) as the immediate successor of the 'Linz' Symphony.

Although his compositions are less known and performed than his brother’s, Michael Haydn was no slouch! Haydn's sacred choral works are generally regarded as his most important; his musical taste and skill showed themselves best in his church compositions and were already in his lifetime old-fashioned. He was also a prolific composer of secular music, including forty symphonies and wind partitas, and multiple concertos and chamber music including a string quintet in C major was once thought to have been by his brother Joseph.

The montage opens with another Michael Haydn symphony – his 28th. The montage closes with Mozart’s Symphony no. 39, the first of his “final trilogy” of symphonies.

Happy listening!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Stravinsky, RSO Berlin • Riccardo Chailly ‎– Symphonie De Psaumes

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

Riccardo Chailly was chief conductor of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1989, making dozens of fine recordings during that time period, including a splendid trio of recordings from 20th Century masters – I featured his Carmina Burana in one of my Friday montages last year, and I appreciated his reading of Deryck Cooke’s “reconstruction:” of Mahler’s 10th. Today’s edition of Vinyl’s Revenge pairs Chailly with another 20th Century composer, Igor Stravinsky in a trio of short works and one major one – his 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. Although the piece was written for the Boston orchestra, the world premiere was actually given in Brussels by the Société Philharmonique de Bruxelles on December 13, 1930, under the direction of Ernest Ansermet.

Igor Stravinsky's cantata Zvezdoliki' (Звездоликий, The King of the Stars), set to a text by the Russian poet Konstantin Balmont, was composed in 1911–12, thus contemporaneous to his great trilogy of ballets – FirebirdPetrouchka and the Rite of Spring. The original Russian title literally means "Star-face" or "The Star-Faced One". The work is more commonly known by the French title as translated by Michel-Dimitri Calvocoressi, Le Roi des Étoles, thus explaining its usual English title.

Claude Debussy, to whom the work is dedicated, praised the work in a 1913 letter to the composer; though describing it as "extraordinary". The work is very rarely performed however as it is probably too elaborate (written for an unusually large orchestra plus six-part men's chorus) for not much payoff (barely five minutes and encompasses just 54 measures). In fact, it was not performed in public until 1939.

Le chant du rossignol (in English, The Song of the Nightingale), is a symphonic poem written by Stravinsky in 1917. The score is adapted from his earlier 1914 opera, Le rossignol (The Nightingale), based on Hans Christian Andersen's tale. The symphonic poem mostly uses music from acts two and three of the 1914 opera. Although not conceived as a dance piece at first, the piece’s ballet debut occurred on February 2, 1920 at the Theatre National de l'Opera in Paris. Stravinsky himself was not entirely pleased. "I had destined Le Chant du Rossignol for the concert platform, and a choreographic rendering seemed to me to be quite unnecessary," he says later in his autobiography.

Stravinsky agreed to do a revival of the ballet in 1925 and for the occasion, Diaghilev chose one of his newest students, George Balanchine, to choreograph the ballet. This is when Stravinsky first met Balanchine, who later became his most important creative partner.

To complete the album, Chailly chose the short orchestral fantasy, Feu d'artifice (Fireworks).

Happy listening!

Igor STRAVIN SKY (1882-1971)
Symphony of Psalms (1930)
Feu d'Artifice, op.4
Le Roi des Étoiles (1911-12)
Le Chant du Rossignol (1914-17)

Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin Und Chor
(Chorus Master – Ernst Senff)
Riccardo Chailly, conducting

Recorded at Jesus Christus Kirche, Berlin. February 1984

Decca ‎– 414 078-1 (Vinyl, LP DDA)
Details - https://www.discogs.com/Stravinsky-R...elease/9404265

Posted to YouTube by Arquivista dos Sons.

Internet Archive copy

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Project 366 - Postcards from the (Classical) Edge

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.

The next few instalments of our Time Capsules through the Musical Eras will dwell into the Classical period. In my initial description, I proposed a time box around the classical period of 1750 to 1820. Today’s post in particular invites you to consider composers that, for the most part, were active either in the early days or the late days of that time box.

A seventy year time span – roughly three generations – allows us to identify some of the main “culprits” of the Classical era if we start with the basic premise that J. S. Bach’s sons form the “first generation”, the musicians they mainly influenced such as Haydn, Mozart and Salieri form the core contributors, and their subsequent pupils – Beethoven, Schubert and Hummel, close out the era.

It may be more appropriate sometimes to talk in “shades” – there are late baroque, early classical, late classical and early romantic composers, all of whom are relevant to the classical period – either because they are transitional (that is, they were trained in one period but blazed the trail of the following tradition) or because they “bucked the trend” and composed in the classical tradition long past the arbitrary time box we are using.

Listener Guide # 144 – Classical Showcase

To further illustrate, this first Time Capsule shares compositions from “late baroque” composers Charles Avison, William Boyce and Georg Christoph Wagenseil and “late classical” (or “early romantic”) composers Giuseppe Mercadante and Johann Baptist Cramer. (ITYWLTMT Montage #251 - 23 June 2017)

Listener Guide # 145 – Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805)

Luigi Boccherini, the Italian classical era composer and cellist known for his courtly and galante style, was born in Italy into a musical family. His father, a cellist and double-bass player, sent him to study in Rome at a young age. In 1757 they both went to Vienna, where the court employed them as musicians in the Burgtheater. In 1761 Boccherini went to Madrid, entering in 1770 the employ of Infante Luis Antonio, younger brother of King Charles III of Spain. Later patrons included the French ambassador to Spain, Lucien Bonaparte, as well as King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, himself an amateur cellist, flautist, and avid supporter of the arts. Boccherini died in Madrid in 1805, survived by two sons. His bloodline continues to this day in Spain. This Boccherini time capsule showcases quintets for piano, guitar and cello with strings quartet. (ITYWLTMT Montage #268 – 6 Jan 2018)

Listener Guide # 146 –Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)

Antonio Salieri is still better known today for the renowned composers with whom he was associated than for his own many and varied compositions. While he cannot be ranked among the great masters himself, he has nevertheless come into view as an underrated and important composer deserving of closer attention. Salieri was the dominant figure in Parisian opera from the mid to late 1780s. Tarare (1787), generally considered his finest achievement in the genre, is a masterpiece. He also wrote significant instrumental, sacred, and vocal compositions, and shaped the Viennese musical world that would produce so many important composers for a century and a half. Salieri's illustrious students included Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt, Hummel, and Czerny. There is no evidence to support the durable legend that he poisoned Mozart and created intrigues against him. One of his students was Wolfgang A. Mozart, Jr., whom he would probably not have selected for instruction had he harbored such malice toward his father. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #261 - 13 Oct 2017)

Listener Guide # 147 – Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)

Johann Nepomuk Hummel was an important composer from the late Classical period primarily known for his solo piano compositions and piano concertos. In recent years, however, attention has been given to his chamber music, operas, and sacred works. Young Johann's first musical studies came on the violin at the behest of his father, a player of string instruments himself, and director of the local Imperial School of Military Music. When the family moved to Vienna in 1786, Johann studied with Mozart, with whom he lived for two years. His first major appointment came in April, 1804, when he accepted the post of Concertmaster to Prince Nikolaus Esterházy at his Eisenstadt court, eventually replacing Joseph Haydn there when he retired. This Time Capsule showcases piano trios by Hummel. (ITYWLTMT Montage #258 - 08 Sep, 2017)

Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)

Franz Peter Schubert was among the first of the early Romantics, and the composer who, more than any other, brought the art song (lied) to artistic maturity. During his short but prolific career, he produced masterpieces in nearly every genre, all characterized by rich harmonies, an expansive treatment of classical forms, and a seemingly endless gift for melody. Schubert began his earliest musical training studying with his father and brothers. He began to explore composition and wrote a song that came to the attention of the institution's director, Antonio Salieri, who along with the school's professor of harmony, hailed young Schubert as a genius. In 1813, after Schubert's voice broke, he returned to live with his father, who directed him to follow in his footsteps and become a schoolteacher. Schubert begrudgingly complied and worked miserably in that capacity by day, while composing prolifically by night. He had written more than 100 songs as well as numerous symphonic, operatic, and chamber music scores, before he reached the age of 20. Despite his short life, Schubert produced a wealth of symphonies, operas, masses, chamber music pieces, and piano sonatas, most of which are considered standard repertoire. He is known primarily for composing hundreds of songs including Gretchen am Spinnrade, and Erlkonig. He pioneered the song cycle with such works as Die Schöne Müllerin, and Die Winterreise, and greatly affected the vocal writing of both Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler.

Listener Guide # 148 – Schubert for two pianists, four hands

The piano duet formed by Paul Badura-Skoda and Jörg Demus performs works by Schubert for piano four-hands in a public recital in Milan in 1978. (Once Upon the Internet#1 - 5 June 2012)

(More Schubert Chamber Music in Listener Guide # 20)

Listener Guide # 149 – Schubert: 15 Lieder

Schubert's body of work includes over 600 songs for voice and piano. That number alone is vastly impressive - many composers fail to reach that number of compositions in their entire output, let alone in a single genre. But it isn't just the quantity that's remarkable: Schubert consistently, and frequently, wrote songs of such beauty and quality that composers such as Schumann, Wolf and Brahms all credited him with reinventing, invigorating and bringing greater seriousness to a previously dilletante musical form. (Cover 2 Cover #5 – 28 Nov 2017)

(More Schubert Lieder in Listener Guide # 42)

Listener Guide # 150 – Two Schubert Symphonies

When we think of Schubert, we think lieder and other intimate settings and not necessarily of symphonies. That having been said, Schubert did leave us 12 works (many of them fragmentary) that are in the symphonic form, and eight of them (including the "Unfinished") are part of the repertoire. (Once Upon the Internet #49 – 9 Aug 2016)

(More Schubert Symphonies in Listener Guide # 108)

Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)

Composer, conductor, virtuoso, novelist, and essayist, Carl Maria von Weber is one of the great figures of early German Romanticism. Known for his opera Der Freischütz, a work which expresses the spirit and aspirations of German Romanticism, Weber was the quintessential Romantic artist, turning to poetry, history, folklore, and myths for inspiration and striving to create a convincing synthesis of fantastic literature and music. Weber's additional claim to fame are his works for woodwind instruments, which include two concertos and a concertino for clarinet, a concerto for bassoon, and a superb quintet for clarinet and string quartet.

Listener Guide # 151 – Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)

A brief overview of the music of Carl Maria von Weber, including one of his clarinet concertos  (ITYWLTMT Montage #269 – 19 Jan 2018)

(More Weber Clarinet music in Listener Guides #21 and #36)

Listener Guide # 152 & 153 – Der Freischütz

A Freischütz ("freeshooter"), in German folklore, is a marksman who, by a contract with the devil, has obtained a certain number of bullets destined to hit without fail whatever object he wishes. As the legend is usually told, six of the magic bullets (German: Freikugeln, literally "free bullets"), are thus subservient to the marksman's will, but the seventh is at the absolute disposal of the devil himself. Resembling the Faust legend, Der Freischütz is a story of two lovers whose ultimate fate is decided by supernatural forces, a story which Weber brings to life by masterfully translating into music the otherworldly, particularly sinister, aspects of the narrative. (Once or Twice aFortnight - 15 Feb 2014
[Synopsis and Libretto]

L/G 152 [Overture, Act 1, Act 2 (beginning)]

L/G #153 [Act 2 (conclusion), Entr'acte, Act 3]

Friday, January 19, 2018

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826)

No. 269 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast269

Today’s podcast, feeding our ongoing set of musical time capsules, is dedicated to the music of Carl Maria von Weber, who like Beethoven and Schubert, is a transitional composer trained in the Classical era but whose work launches the Romantic school.

There is an interesting family connection between Weber and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Weber;s uncle (his father’s half-brother, Fridolin) had four musical daughters, Josepha, Aloysia, Constanze and Sophie, all of whom became notable singers. Mozart attempted to woo Aloysia, composing several pieces for her. But after she rejected his advances, Mozart went on to marry Constanze.

Weber's orchestration has been highly praised and emulated by later generations of composers – Berlioz referred to him several times in his Treatise on Instrumentation while Debussy remarked that the sound of the Weber orchestra was obtained through the scrutiny of the soul of each instrument. Tiday’s podcast features three examples of Weber’s used of orchestral colours.

Weber's operas Der Freischütz, Euryanthe and Oberon – whose overture opens our podcast - greatly influenced the development of German Romantische Oper. Oberon may have influenced Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream and, at the same time, revealed Weber's lifelong interest in the music of non-Western cultures.

Weber's compositions for the clarinet, which include two concertos – the first featured in today’s podcast - a concertino, a quintet (both featured in a past podcasts), a duo concertante, and variations on a theme from his opera Silvana, are regularly performed today.

A brilliant pianist himself, Weber composed four sonatas – one of which is featured today - two concertos and the Konzertstück in F minor, which influenced composers such as Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn. The Konzertstück provided a new model for the one-movement concerto in several contrasting sections, and was acknowledged by Stravinsky as the model for his Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra.

I think you will love this music too.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tchaikovsky - The Shakespeare Trilogy

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

One of the first posts I made in my Cover 2 Cover series was of a double-CD set of Tchaikovsky’s tone poems. In that post, I discussed four of the eight tracks in that set. At that time, all eight tracks were active on YouTube.

Since then, the tracks have been removed; it’s happened to me before, which is why I always back up the tracks into my digital music collection.

All this to say that the tracks we will be discussing this week aren’t available as YouTube clips, but will be available for your listening pleasure on my on-line archive.

Three of the tracks are part of what I call Tchaikovsky’s Shakespeare Trilogy, works inspired by the Bard’s plays. The most well-known of the trilogy is the overture-fantasia in B minor Romeo and Julietafter Shakespeare's tragedy (ca.1594), written by Tchaikovsky in October and November 1869, and extensively revised between July and September 1870. The final, definitive version of the score dates from August 1880. Between 1878 and 1881 Tchaikovsky sketched part of a duet scena for an opera on the subject of Romeo and Juliet, using themes from the overture-fantasia. Like it contemporary tone poem Fatum, the first version of the work is dedicated to Mily Balakirev.

Tchaikovsky's fantasia The Tempest after William Shakespeare's drama (ca.1611), was composed and orchestrated between August and October 1873. The Tempest is dedicated to Vladimir Stasov (1824–1906), art historian, critic, and director of the arts section of the Saint Petersburg Public Library who proposed the subject to Tchaikovsky in a letter dated December 1872. The completed score was prefaced by a short programme:

The Sea. The magician Prospero commands his spirit Ariel to create a storm, of which a victim is the fortunate Ferdinand. The enchanted island. The first timid stirrings of love between Ferdinand and Miranda. Ariel. Caliban. The lovers are overwhelmed by their passion. Prospero renounces his magical powers and leaves the island. The Sea.
Hamlet is an overture-fantasia after Shakespeare's play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark(1599–1601). It was written and orchestrated by Tchaikovsky between June and October 1888. Tchaikovsky’s brother Modest suggested the following programme in three sections:
Elsinore and Hamlet before the appearance of the ghost;
Polonius (scherzando) and Ophelia (adagio) ;
Hamlet after the appearance of the ghost. His death and Fortinbras
An abridged version of the overture-fantasia was later used in Tchaikovsky's incidental music to the play - written in January 1891 for a French production in Saint Petersburg. Hamlet is dedicated to the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

To close off the program, I included from the same Double set the 1812 Overture.

Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Hamlet (Гамлет), overture-fantasia in F minor, Op. 67 (TH 53)
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Igor Markevitch, conducting

The Tempest (Буря) fantasia in F minor, Op. 18 (TH 44)
Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt
Eliahu Inbal, conducting

Romeo and Juliet (Ромео и Джульетта) Fantasy-Overture in B minor, TH 42
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest
Bernard Haitink, conducting

The Year 1812 (1812 год) festival overture in E-flat major, Op. 49 (TH 49)
Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest
Igor Markevitch, conducting

Tracks from Philips Duo 442586

Friday, January 5, 2018

Luigi Boccherini (1743 - 1805)

No. 268 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast266_201803

For January, I have planned three montages (two for Friday posts, and one for our first quarterly Tuesday post of the year), and they are all feeding our ongoing “Time Capsules” project for January and February which start a four-month look at the Classical period.

Today’s featured composer is Luigi Boccherini, the Italian classical era composer and cellist known for his courtly and galante style. Boccherini was born in Italy into a musical family. His father, a cellist and double-bass player, sent him to study in Rome at a young age. In 1757 they both went to Vienna, where the court employed them as musicians in the Burgtheater. In 1761 Boccherini went to Madrid, entering in 1770 the employ of Infante Luis Antonio, younger brother of King Charles III of Spain. Later patrons included the French ambassador to Spain, Lucien Bonaparte, as well as King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, himself an amateur cellist, flautist, and avid supporter of the arts. Boccherini died in Madrid in 1805, survived by two sons. His bloodline continues to this day in Spain.

Boccherini is most widely known for one particular minuet from his String Quintet in E, Op. 11, No. 5 (G 275), which open’s today’s montage. This string quintet is a "cello quintet" in that it is scored for a string quartet (two violins, viola, cello) with a second cello as the fifth instrument. We can imaginbe these as “mini concertos” for cello and string quartet intended for Boccherini himself, as he would occasionally join the performing quartet as a performer himself.

After a more “traditional” piano quintet, I conclude the montage with one of his nine guitar quintets, wholly transcribed from earlier string or piano quintets by the composer.

I think you will love this music too!