Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Rachmaninoff, Rafael Orozco, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra*, Edo de Waart ‎– Piano Concerto No.2 / Paganini Rhapsody

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

This week's Vinyl's Revenge is a bit of a detective story...

Several months ago I was strolling at the local shopping center, and I stepped into the record store there. Formerly, the merchant that occupied this space was a branch of HMV, and since then has passed into the hands of an independent merchant. I was pleasantly surprised with the (modest) quality of "classical" titles. There were a few titles from Universal's VIRTUOSO discount reissue series that attracyed my attention, in particular a Rachmaninos coupling Rafael Orozco and Edo de Waart / Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In my vinyl collection, I have the same coupling with the same artists but with a different orchestra (The Royal Philharmonic, Philips FESTIVO series). According to the Discogs website, Orozco and Waart recorded the complete Rachmaninoff concerti in 1973 with the Royal Philharmionic and my record is an excerpt from this set.

These Rachmaninov recordings were extensively recycled - among others, in a 1993 double-compact ("The Best Of Rachmaninoff") with as filler a recording by Waart with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra of the second symphony and the symphonic poem "The Isle of the Dead. Another double-compact of the same series features the 1973 full digital format.

Today's YouTube playlist (featuring clips from Universal International Music B.V.) announces the Rotterdam Orchestra with copyright "℗ ℗ 1973". In addition, the cover is the same as that of the 1993 reissue that identifies the orchestra as the Royal Philharmonic.

So what is the orchestra: Rotterdam or Royal Philharmonic? Two possibilities: either that the original edition of 1973 proposes Royal Philharmonic as a pseudonym for the orchestra of Rotterdam, or (my theory) it was blundered.

Take note of the orchestral attribution for sharing this week.

Happy listening!

Sergei Vasilyevich RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Piano Concerto No.2 In C Minor, Op. 18
Rhapsody On A Theme by Paganini, Op. 43

Rafael Orozco, piano
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Edo De Waart, conducting

Label: Philips ‎– 6570 046
Series: Festivo Series –
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: Canada
Released: 1973
DETAILS - https://www.discogs.com/Rachmaninoff...elease/8376298

Internet Archive - https://archive.org/details/1104RachmaninovRhapsodyOnAThe 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Project 366 - Mozart’s 27 Piano Concertos

Project 366 continues in 2019 with "The Classical Collectionss - A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire". Read more here.

To begin our Classical Collection survey, I thought I’d start with the corpus of 27 “numbered” piano concertos by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

For a long time relatively neglected, Mozart wrote 23 original concertos for piano and orchestra – the first four “numbered” concerti are generally viewed as learning exercises, where Mozart adapted piano sonatas by contemporary composers popular in the day for piano with orchestral accompaniment. Three more concertos (K.107/1, 2 and 3), which are not numbered, are arrangements of piano sonatas by J.C. Bach (Op 5. Nos. 2, 3, and 4, all composed by 1766).

Starting with the Piano Concerto no. 5, scholars agree that the works are indeed original, many of which Mozart composed for himself to play in the Vienna concert series of 1784–86, held special importance for him. They are recognised as among his greatest achievements.
Our Collection survey considers only the 27 “numbered” piano concertos; concerto no. 7 is for three (or two) pianos and orchestra, and no. 10 is for two pianos and orchestra. Here is the list, with references to pas Listener Guides (hyperlinked) and forward-references to the ten new guides proposed in this installment.

Piano Concerto No. 1 in F, K. 37                                                                 [Guide # 245]
Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bb, K. 39                                                              [Guide # 155]
Piano Concerto No. 3 in D, K. 40                                                                [Guide # 246]
Piano Concerto No. 4 in G, K. 41                                                                [Guide # 156]
Piano Concerto No. 5 in D, K. 175                                                              [Guide # 155]
Piano Concerto No. 6 in Bb, K. 238                                                            [Guide # 155]
Piano Concerto No. 7 in F, for 3 pianos, K. 242 ('Lodron')(*)                    [Guide # 247]
Piano Concerto No. 8 in C ('Lützow') K. 246                                             [Guide # 157]
Piano Concerto No. 9 in Eb, K. 271 ('Jeunehomme')                                 [Guide # 248]
Piano Concerto No. 10 in Eb, for 2 pianos, K. 365                                    [Guide # 249]
Piano Concerto No. 11 in F, K. 413                                                            [Guide # 155]
Piano Concerto No. 12 in A, K. 414                                                           [Guide # 247]
Piano Concerto No. 13 in C, K. 415                                                           [Guide # 248]
Piano Concerto No. 14 in Eb, K. 449                                                         [Guide # 248]
Piano Concerto No. 15 in Bb, K. 450                                                         [Guide # 247]
Piano Concerto No. 16 in D major, K. 451                                                [Guide # 250]
Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K. 453                                                [Guide # 118]
Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major ('Paradis'), K. 456                         [Guide # 250]
Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459                                                 [Guide # 250]
Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466                                                [Guide # 251]
Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467                                                 [Guide # 252]
Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major, K. 482                                          [Guide # 253]
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488                                                [Guide # 253]
Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491                                                [Guide # 251]
Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503                                                [Guide # 253]
Piano Concerto No. 26 in D major, "Coronation", K. 537                        [Guide # 254]
Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major, K. 595                                         [Guide # 251]
(*) Version for 2 pianos

Your Listener Guides

Listener Guide # 245 – Mozart “Number One” Montage
[Concerto #1] For Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “number one” montage we have combined the first symphony, first violin and piano concerti, first piano sonata and first divertimento for strings (ITYWLTMT Montage # 26 – 14 October 2011)

Listener Guide # 246 – More Mozart “2-3-4”
[Concerto #3] This 2-3-4 sequence of Mozart concerti sees  the « 3 » spot occupied by one of Mozart’s four « student » concerti. It is believed these works adapt movements (in order) by Leontzi Honauer, Johann Gottfried Eckard and Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 288 – 24 August 2018)

Listener Guide # 247 – Radu Lupu, Murray Perahia & Mozart
[Concerti #7, 12 & 15] In 1776, Mozart composed three piano concertos, one of which was the Concerto in F for Three Pianos and Orchestra. The concerto is often nicknamed "Lodron" because it was commissioned by Countess Antonia Lodron to be played with her two daughters Aloysia and Giuseppa. When he eventually revised it for himself and another pianist in 1780 in Salzburg, he rearranged it for two pianos, and that is how the piece is performed here. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 207 – 7 August 2015)

Listener Guide # 248 – Mitsuko Uchida & Mozart
[Concerti #9, 13 & 14] Born in Atami, a seaside town close to Tokyo, Mitsuko Uchida moved to Vienna, with her diplomat parents when she was 12 years old, after her father was named the Japanese ambassador to Austria. She enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Music to study with Richard Hauser, and later Wilhelm Kempff and Stefan Askenase, and remained in Vienna to study when her father was transferred back to Japan after five years. She gave her first Viennese recital at the age of 14 at the Vienna Musikverein. She also studied with Maria Curcio, the last and favourite pupil of Artur Schnabel. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 205 – 10 July 2015)

Listener Guide # 249 – Double Play/ Double Jeu: Mozart & Mendelssohn
[Concerto #10] We sample three double concerti: Mozart’s Flute and Harp concerto, Mozart's concerto for two pianos, and Mendelssohn’s early concerto for piano and violin with strings. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 71 – 14 Sept. 2012)

Listener Guide # 250 – Géza Anda & Mozart
[Concerti #16, 18 & 19] Mozart composed the Concerto No. 16 for performance at a series of concerts at the Vienna venues of the Trattnerhof and the Burgtheater in the first quarter of 1784, where he was himself the soloist. No. 18 is nicknamed “Paradis” in reference to Maria Theresia Paradis (1759 –1824), an Austrian pianist and composer who lost her sight at an early age, and for whom Mozart may have written this Piano Concerto. As was the case for the “Jeune Homme” concerto we sampled earlier, Mozart’s personal papers lead some scholars to attribute this to unsubstantiated folklore. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 208 – 21 August 2015)

Listener Guide # 251 – Clara Haskil& Mozart
[Concerti #20, 24 & 27] A celebrated interpreter of classical and early romantic repertoire, Clara Haskil was particularly noted for her performances and recordings of W.A. Mozart. Many considered her the foremost interpreter of W.A. Mozart in her time. One of her most prominent performances as a soloist with an orchestra is a recording of Mozart's Piano Concertos Nos. 20 and 24 in November 1960 with Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux conducted by Igor Markevitch; this recording features an unusually slow, pensive performance of K.466's third movement and a very subtle, highly lyrical and yet, in some way, vigorous playing of K.491's second movement. The montage is completed with a performance of the concerto no. 27.. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 206 – 24 July 2015)

Listener Guide # 252 – Mozart & Bartók
[Concerto #21] Although he played very little Mozart in his early career, Géza Andabecame the first pianist to record the full cycle of Mozart's piano concerti (recorded between 1961 and 1969, with himself conducting from the keyboard). His recording of Mozart’s K. 467 concerto on the soundtrack of the 1967 film Elvira Madigan led to the epithet "Elvira Madigan" often being applied to the concerto. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 40 – 27 January 2012)

Listener Guide # 253 – Vladimir Ashkenazy & Mozart
[Concerti #22, 23 & 25] The Piano Concerto No. 22 in E major, K. 482, composed in December 1785, is the first piano concerto of Mozart's to include clarinets in its scoring. The Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488) was finished, according to Mozart's own catalogue, on March 2, 1786, two months prior to the premiere of his opera, Le nozze di Figaro. The Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 is widely recognized as "one of Mozart's greatest masterpieces in the concerto genre." (ITYWLTMT Montage # 300 – 4 January 2019)

Listener Guide # 254 – The Crown
[Concerto #26] Mozart's coronation concerto wasn't commissioned for a coronation ceremony - rather, the nickname comes from his playing the work at the time of the coronation of Leopold II as Holy Roman Emperor in October 1790. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 55 – 18 May 2012)

Project 366 - The Classical Collections

For Part One of Project 366, click here.
For Part Two of Project 366, click here.

Part Three - The Classical Collections

A Continued journey through the Western Classical Music Repertoire

Project 366 enters a short third phase this month, consisting of 56 new Listener Guides (nos. 245 to 300). In the spirit of our past two phases, there is a unifying “vision” to this tranche of the project.

When I started the Project in 2016, I asked the question: “What constitutes the basic repertoire?”

As I said then, there is no one-size-first-all answer to the question, as personal taste has a lot to do with it. The works one may think are “must haves” in one’s music collection (reflective of one’s conception of the repertoire) is very dependent on the kinds of music (composers, settings, eras) that resonate most with us. One of the aims of the Project was to propose a series of listener guides to not only try and cater to different tastes, but also to expose areas (maybe) less frequented.

In the course of that exploration (244 guides to date), we have sampled “collections” or “cycles” of works by one composer – think of Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies, or Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues for keyboard. Wouldn’t it be interesting to look at our past guides in the context of “complete collections”?

Again – in doing so, we are somewhat arbitrary in our choices as these are mainly “targets of opportunity”. Some collections we will consider in this tranche of the Project may not be among your favourites or make your must-have list. But the fun part is that it allows you (and me in the future) to continue the exploration and build more collections!

Mozart’s 27 Piano Concertos245-254
German Symphony Collections255-263
The Mahler Symphonies264-270
Piano Concerto Collections271-279
Tchaikovsky and Nielsen Collections280-287
Five "odd" collections288-300

Your Yellow Pages:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Claudio Arrau (1903–1991)

No. 302 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast302


My wife and I are leaving tomorrow for a week-long getaway in the Sun, and I wanted to reschedule my quarterly “fifth Tuesday” share to the fourth Tuesday this time around. I hope you won’t mind…

My shares here on the Tuesday Blog and on my Friday series in January have been focused on music for piano (Ashkenazy playing Mozart concertos, Alicia de Larrocha playing music by Albeniz and Mozart and the next two shares (this week and next) exploring mainly romantic and neo-romantic piano works in solo and concertante settings.

This week’s featured artist, Claudio Arrau León was a Chilean pianist known for his interpretations of a vast repertoire spanning the baroque to 20th-century composers, especially BachBeethovenSchubertChopinSchumannLiszt and Brahms. He is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century.

Arrau was an intellectual and a deeply reflective interpreter. He read widely while travelling, and he learned English, Italian, German, and French in addition to his native Spanish. Arrau's attitude toward music was very serious. He preached fidelity to the score, but also the use of imagination. Although he often played with slower and more deliberate tempi from his middle age onward, he had a reputation as a fabulous virtuoso earlier in his career, a reputation supported by recordings he made at this time, such as Balakirev's Islamey (opening today’s montage) and Liszt's Paganini études. However, even late in his career, he often tended to play with less restraint in live concerts than in studio recordings.

The montage proposes Arrau at different phases of his career – playing the difficult Islamey on a shellac recording from 1928, Debussy in the 1950’s, and Liszt in the 1970’s; Arrau was a pupil of Martin Krause, who was a student of Franz Liszt.

Chopin and Mozart complete the montage – Mozart’s forward-looking Fantady K. 475 and a pair of Chopin nocturnes. Further, Chopin and Mozart have an intriguing point of intersection in our montage – his variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for piano and orchestra, Op. 2, written in 1827, when he was aged 17. "Là ci darem la mano" is a duet sung by Don Giovanni and Zerlina in Act I of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni.

The Variations were Chopin's first work for piano with orchestra; Chopin often played the variations without accompaniment, and he later abandoned the orchestra almost entirely in his compositions. In his early career he wrote two concertos and three other concertante pieces, but always remained relatively indifferent to the orchestral elements of these works, often using the orchestra as a mere accompaniment to the much more brilliant piano part.

I think you will love this music too. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Alicia de Larrocha & Mozart

No. 301 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast301


In the spirit of our “Classical Collect ions”, my intention throughout 2019 is to survey the piano sonata repertoire, and contribute to our ongoing series of playlists and montages featuring piano sonatas by Beethoven, Scarlatti and Mozart.

This week’s montage features four sonatas and a piano rondo and, for a second time on consecutive weeks, Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha y de la Calle (1923 –2009) is prominently featured in our pages. She was considered one of the great piano legends of the 20th century, dubbed "the greatest Spanish pianist in history", and "the leading Spanish pianist of her time".

(As luck has it, I grew up on rue de la Roche in Montreal, in Spanish Calle de Larrocha…)

Alicia de Larrocha was born in Barcelona to a piano family; both her parents were pianists and she was also the niece of pianists. Beginning her career at the age of three, she gave her first public performance at the age of five, performed her first concert at the age of six at the World's Fair in Seville in 1929, and had her orchestral debut at the age of 11. She retired from public performance in October 2003, aged 80, following a remarkable 76-year career.

Alicia de Larrocha made numerous recordings of the solo piano repertoire and in particular the works of composers of her native Spain. She is best known for her recordings of the music of Manuel de Falla, Enrique Granados, Federico Mompou, and Isaac Albéniz, as well as her 1967 recordings of Antonio Soler's keyboard sonatas.  As she grew older she began to play a different style of music; more Mozart and Beethoven were featured in her recitals and she became a regular guest at the "Mostly Mozart Festival" of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York.

One of the basics of Mozart's music is that it is difficult to play. In a specific sense, every note is out there alone, transparent. Whether it is simply a sustained note in an opera, a limpid passage in an adagio or the quickness demanded by a vivace, the waver of a diaphragm or clumsiness of a finger can ruin everything. Add to that the fact that Mozart demands both proper phrasing and a unity of overall phrasing so that and you have a large musical responsibility before you even get to matters of interpretation.

As pointed out in a review of her Mozart piano sonata recordings, in all of these aspects, Alicia de Larraccha succeeds and excels, with wonderful interpretations synthesizing superb technique, a deft and appropriate touch and decorous sentiment. She is always within the bounds of interpretive unity and as close to Mozart's intentions as we can be two centuries later.

I think you will love this music too

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Isaac Albéniz - Iberia & Navarra

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

Even for a musical prodigy, Isaac Albéniz’s childhood and youth were extraordinary. He was playing the piano in public at age four, passed the entrance examination to the Paris Conservatoire at six, and was touring at the age of eight. By thirteen, he had twice run away from home, giving concerts and leading a picaresque existence in Spain, South America and the United States.

Intermittent studies in Leipzig and Brussels were capped-off by realising a long-held ambition to study with Franz Liszt. So far, his piano compositions had consisted of little more than facile salon trifles and showpieces for him to play: Liszt opened his eyes to greater possibilities.

In 1894 Albéniz moved to Paris, where he became closely associated with ChaussonDukas and d’Indy, and for six months taught the piano at the Schola Cantorum. This more scholarly and sophisticated influence is plainly to be heard (along with that of Liszt’s transcendental technique) in his masterpiece Iberia, the greatest piano work in all Spanish musical literature.

Composed between 1905 and 1909, Iberia is Albéniz's best-known work and considered his masterpiece. Stylistically, this suite falls squarely in the school of Impressionism, especially in its musical evocations of Spain.

Originally, Iberia was designed as a series of tone portraits of various regions of Spain, including the northern province of Navarra, which is south of the Pyrenees mountains. Albeniz had not completed Navarra by the time he had 12 movements for Iberia, so the work's final form, as completed in 1909 (the year of the composer's death), did not include it.

Iberia is laid out in four books of three pieces each; the twelve pieces were first performed by the French pianist Blanche Selva, but each book was premiered between May 1906 and February 1909 in four different French venues.

The entire suite has been recorded by many of the finest pianists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including Artur Rubenstein, Yvonne Loriod and Marc-André Hamelin. However, no other pianist in my opinion has captured the essence of this music like the late great Alicia de Larrocha, who recorded the work at least three times (1958, 1972 and 1989). It is the latter digital recording that is featured this week.

Albeniz turned to shorter piano projects and did some more work on Navarra, but it was left unfinished at his death. The composer Déodat de Severac completed Navarra; it is a gentle piece, with a dreamy melody over a gentle jota rhythm. It imitates the texture of Spanish guitar music.

(NOTE: The video shared today focuses on these 13 pieces. The remaining material on the 2-disc set -Suite Española – is not part of this week’s share. I may include it in a later playlist.)

Happy Listening

Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)

Iberia, 12 Impresiones Españolas, B. 47
Navarra, in A flat major, B. 49

Alicia de Larrocha, piano
Venue: West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge (1986)
Decca ‎– 478 0388

Details - https://www.discogs.com/Alicia-De-La...elease/3803736

Internet Archive -  https://archive.org/details/202IberiaLivre4No.11laMi

Friday, January 4, 2019

Vladimir Ashkenazy & Mozart

No. 300 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast304


As we do when we hit a significant milestone in this series, this week's Blog and Podcast extends past the self-imposed 90 minute limit, featuring five works for piano and orchestra by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, all taken from the Vladimir Ashkenazy/Philharmonia Complete set of concerti.

Three of the works, concertos nos. 22, 23 and 25 complete our set of Mozart piano conceros - more on that later this month as we launch Part 3 of Project 366.

The Piano Concerto No. 22 in E♭ major, K. 482, composed in December 1785, is the first piano concerto of Mozart's to include clarinets in its scoring. The Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488) was finished, according to Mozart's own catalogue, on March 2, 1786, two months prior to the premiere of his opera, Le nozze di Figaro.

The Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503, was completed on December 4, 1786, alongside the Prague Symphony, K. 504. Although two more concertos (K. 537 and K. 595) would later follow, this work is the last of what are considered the twelve great piano concertos written in Vienna between 1784 and 1786.

K. 503 is now widely recognized as "one of Mozart's greatest masterpieces in the concerto genre." However, it had long been neglected in favor of Mozart's more "brilliant" concertos, such as K. 467. Though Mozart performed it on several occasions, it was not performed again in Vienna until after his death, and it only gained acceptance in the standard repertoire in the later part of the twentieth century.

The Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in D major, K. 382 is a set of concert variations scored for piano and orchestra composed in early 1782 by Mozart as an alternative final movement to his Piano Concerto No. 5, a piece he composed in December 1773 when he was 18.

Mozart had just moved from his hometown Salzburg to Vienna in 1781, where he needed to gain a reputation and a subsequent secure income. He did this through composition, teaching and piano performances in concerts. As he did not have too many original piano concertos to his name this was an area where Mozart could draw work from. His 5th piano concerto had been a great success in Mannheim, which he had visited on his 1777 journey to Paris.Thus, he revised the work to make it more suitable for his Viennese audience at the upcoming important Lenten concert on 3 March 1782.

Mozart wrote the Rondo in A major at around the same time as his three first Vienna piano concertos, nos. 11, 12 and 13.

The musicologist Alfred Einstein believed that the piece was intended as either the original or a replacement finale for his Piano Concerto No. 12 in A. Both pieces are in the same key, and both were composed at similar times. However, there are considerable differences. The three concertos were composed by Mozart to be a quattro (with just four strings in accompaniment), whilst the Rondo cannot be, as the cellos have an independent line from the basses.The first page of the manuscript was also titled and dated by Mozart, suggesting individuality.

I think you will love this music too.