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