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