Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Richard Strauss: Violin Concerto in D minor; Sinfonia Domestica

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

In the second of our three-part series on orchestral works by Richard Strauss, I propose listening to a Cover 2 Cover share from the Rudolf Kempe/Staatskapelle Dresden “Complete Strauss” set, originally released in the mid-1970’sby EMI.

These recordings have been well and justifiably praised since their initial release; the Staatskapelle is one of the oldest and finest of Germany's many outstanding orchestras,and take pride in having premiered several of Strauss' operas and were a favorite orchestra of the composer/conductor. Kempe, who was born and trained in Dresden, began his musical career as an oboist, perhaps explaining why his performances stand out for their transparency particularly in woodwind detail. Listening to his performances of the many popular tone poems, what immediately distinquishes them from the competition is the way he often holds back the brass or tutti ensemble to reveal much of the delicate interior wind writing. In short, both the orchestra and their conductor know their Richard Strauss!

When Strauss began composing the Sinfonia Domestica, he intended it to be the sequel to Ein Heldenleben, the next installment of the autobiography of the now-successful artist. Where Heldenleben is more popular and, dare I say, pompous and not at all self-effacing, this “symphony” is more subtle. The most detailed exposition of the work's structure was provided for the Berlin Philharmonic's performance on December 12, 1904. On that occasion, the concert programme carried the following outline:

I. Introduction and development of the chief groups of themes; The husband's themes (Easy-going , dreamy, surly, and fiery), the wife's themes (Lively and gay, grazioso
II. Scherzo; Parents' happiness. Childish play. Cradle song [quotation from Felix Mendelssohn's "Venetian Boat Song", Op. 19b, No. 6 from Songs Without Words] (The clock strikes seven in the evening).
III. Adagio; Doing and thinking. Love scene. Dreams and cares (the clock strikes seven in the morning).
IV. Finale; Awakening and merry dispute. Joyous confusion.
Although we think of Strauss as a composer of operas and epic tone poems, he left us with a large amount of songs and a few concerti among which we have a pair of horn concertos, an oboe concerto, his Burleske for piano and orchestra and Don Quixote, which straddle both the tone poem and concertante genres,

Strauss’ violin concerto was written during the composer's teenage years while he was still attending his last two years of school, and is less distinctive than many of his later orchestral works. Despite this it contains some bold and inventive solo writing as well as occasional passages that hint at the composer's mature harmonic style.

Though written in the romantic tradition, it hints at the young composer's reverence of masters of the preceding classical period, especially Mozart and Beethoven. Although it is today rarely performed, it received encouraging reviews.

Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 8 (TrV 110)
(Ulf Hoelscher, violin)
Sinfonia Domestica for orchestra, Op. 53 (TrV 209)
Dresden Staatskapelle
Rudolf Kempe, conducting

Brilliant - #7591/4

Details - https://www.allmusic.com/album/richa...a-mw0001566312

Internet Archive - https://archive.org/details/04SinfoniaDomesticaOp.53

Friday, February 22, 2019

Viktoria Postnikova & Tchaikovsky

No. 304 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast304


Today’s installment of our year-long look at piano sonatas considers two sonatas by Tchaikovsky, from Viktoria Postnikova’s seminal Erato Complete Tchaikovsky Solo Piano  works (which, by the way, includes the rarely recorded set of piano four-hand folksongs with her husband Gennady Rozhdestvensky).

As a Gramophone article posits, it is somewhat surprising that we have in the one handTchaikovsky composing  one of the Piano repertoire’s most recognized pianio concerti (his infamoud B-Flkat concerto), yet his solo piano music is relatively obscure. The article points out that this is a bit of a Western  perspective, as Tchaikovsky’s works are well-performed by Russian pianists, and that many of his works have pedagogical merit.

When perusing the Tchaikovsky catalog,  we find the piano works are typically laid out is collections of pieces – including The Seasons – with a few interspersed single titles, and two piano sonatas, both programmed here in today’s montage.

Tchaikovsky's Piano Sonata in C-sharp minor was written in 1865, during the composer's final year as a student at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, and only published after his death. The Sonata was published in 1900 (as "Opus 80") under the editorship of Sergey Taneyev, who made corrections and supplied some bars in the Andante. The second subject of the finale (from bar 51) is based on a theme from the Agitato and Allegro in E minor, which Tchaikovsky had written as a student exercise in 1863 or 1864  The Scherzo (third movement) of the sonata was adapted by Tchaikovsky to become the Scherzo of his Symphony No. 1, begun the year after composing the sonata.

At this time the sonata was being prepared for publication the pianist Aleksandr Ziloti objected to the publication of the sonata in full, and insisted that it should be cut. Ziloti played the first and third movements of the sonata (only) in two of his concerts—in Odessa and Moscow in the Fall of 1900.

Tchaikovsky's Grand Sonata  in G major was written in March and April 1878 on his sister's estate at Kamenka. A composition contemporaneous to his violin concerto, the Sonata is dedicated to Karl Klindworth, although this name does not appear on the manuscript score, and was only added later while the first edition was being prepared.

Completing the podcast, The Dumka in C minor (subtitled "Russian Rustic Scene") was the result of a commission from the Parisian music publisher Félix Mackar, who in the 1880s had begun to publish Tchaikovsky's works in France.

I think you will love this music too

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Project 366 – German Symphony Collections

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

In this installment of our Classical Collections, we will focus on the symphonies of four composers of the German tradition: Haydn, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms.

Haydn the Symphonist (SOURCE: Handel + Haydn Society)

Joseph Haydn is popularly known as the “Father of the Symphony” ; born nearly 25 years before Mozart, but living 18 years longer, Haydn’s life spanned nearly the entire Classical era. His early works were key in establishing the Classical style, while his mentorship of the young Beethoven laid the foundation for the subsequent Romantic era.

Haydn’s music had become very popular in France, and so he wrote a series of symphonies for the Concert de la Loge Olympique in Paris. The French orchestra was very good and very large, and Haydn made full use of it in crafting his Paris symphonies.

Symphony No. 82 in C major, L'Ours                                         [Guide #255]
Symphony No. 83 in G minor,L a Poule                                     [Guide #256]
Symphony No. 84 in E major, In Nomine Domini                    [Guide #256]
Symphony No. 85 in B major, La Reine                                    [Guide #165]
Symphony No. 86 in D major                                                      [Guide #255]
Symphony No. 87 in A major                                                      [Guide #165]

Listener Guide # 255 – L’Ours
[Symphonies nos. 82 & 86] As with the nicknames of all Haydn's symphonies, “The Bear” did not originate with the composer. Instead, the name derives from a recurring feature from the last movement (including its famous opening), in which Haydn intimates the tonality of bagpipes: a low sustained drone, accentuated by a grace-note on the downbeat. This curious tonality prompted an 1829 piano arrangement of the symphony to be entitled Danse de l'Ours, the earliest known printed appearance of the nickname. (ITYWLTMT Montage #106 – 24 May 2013)

Listener Guide # 256 – La Poule
[Symphonies nos. 83 & 84] The Symphony no. 83, "the Hen", sees its nickname come from the clucking second subject in the first movement, which reminded listeners of the jerky back-and forth head motion of a walking hen. (ITYWLTMT Montage #105 – 17 May 2013)

His set of London symphonies, sometimes called the Salomon symphonies after the man who brought Haydn to London, were composed during a four-year period in the 1790s.  One set was written during Haydn's first visit to London; the other was composed in preparation for his second visit to the city.

Symphony No. 93 in D major                                       [Guide #257]
Symphony No. 94 in G major, The Surprise                 [Guide #258]
Symphony No. 95 in C minor                                       [Guide #69 & 161]
Symphony No. 96 in D major, The Miracle                  [Guide #258]
Symphony No. 97 in C major                                        [Guide #31 & 166]
Symphony No. 98 in B major                                      [Guide #258]
Symphony No. 99 in E major                                      [Guide #257]
Symphony No. 100 in G major, Military                      [Guide #257]
Symphony No. 101 in D major, The Clock                   [Guide #257]
Symphony No. 102 in B major                                    [Guide #166]
Symphony No. 103 in E major, Drumroll                   [Guide #166]
Symphony No. 104 in D major, London                       [Guide #259]

Listener Guide # 257 – Scherchen/Haydn - Four More London Symphonies
[Symphonies nos. 93, 99, 100 & 101] Hermann Scherchen was musically self-taught. Early in his career, he played viola, and for a time he accompanied Arnold Schoenberg on tour. Interned in Russia during the First World War, he returned to Berlin after the war and founded in 1918 the Neue Musikgesellschaft ("Society for New Music"). In 1933, he fled Germany for Belgium, and conducted in Spain, France and elsewhere in Europe during and after the Second World War. (Once Upon the Internet #61 – 5 June 2018)

Listener Guide # 258 – In Memoriam: Sir Jeffrey Tate (1943 - 2017)
[Symphonies nos. 94, 96 & 98] In 1985 Tate was appointed the first Principal Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra and began a major recording programme for EMI which included the complete Mozart symphonies as well as a number of Haydn's. Tate's Haydn and Mozart are in a class of their own. Using modern instrumental forces and often adopting tempi which are much broader than we have come to expect from period orchestras, Tate achieves a lightness and lyricism which make every note compelling. (ITYWLTMT Montage #265 – 24 November 2017)

Listener Guide # 259 – London
[Symphony no. 104] The last symphony of the set (and, in fact, the last symphony of the Hoboken catalog) has the subtitle “London”, and is possibly the most modern of Haydn’s symphonies. I may be alone to think this, but I find quite a few similarities between this symphony and Mozart’s Jupiter, in particular the finale. (ITYWLTMT Montage #64 – 27 July 2012)

Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies
Beethoven remains one of the most well-known composers in the modern world. It is, no doubt, made possible by his ground-breaking symphonies. Beethoven's symphonies number only nine; each one unique, each one preparing the way for the next. Beethoven’s most popular symphonies, numbers 3, 5, and 9, have graced the ears of millions of listeners.

Symphony No. 1 in C, Op. 21                                       [Guide #177]
Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 36                                       [Guide #30]
Symphony No. 3 in Eb, Op. 55, Eroica                        [Guide #83]
Symphony No. 4 in Bb, Op. 60                                     [Guide #30]
Symphony No. 5 in C-, Op. 67                                      [Guide #69 & 180]
Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68, Pastoral                        [Guide #180]
Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92                                       [Guide #122]
Symphony No. 8 in F, Op. 93                                        [Guide #120]
Symphony No. 9 in D-, Op. 125, Choral                      [Guide #260]

Listener Guide # 260 – Musikalische Akademie der 7. Mai 1824
[Symphony no. 9] This montage is a reconstruction of the concert programme from 7th May 1824, held at Vienna’s Kärntnertortheater, where Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 was first performed. This was the composer's first on-stage appearance in 12 years; a Beethoven "Akademie," was more of a benefit concert for the composer himself. (ITYWLTMT Montage #54 – 4 May 2012)

Felix Mendelssohn’s five numbered symphonies (he composed 12 string sinfonias as student works) make a motley collection: a piece of precocious juvenilia, three ‘named’ symphonies, only one of which (the Scottish) the composer deemed worthy of publication, and the Lobgesang, a ‘symphony-cantata’ that found its way into the canon as No 2. Once criticised for being a pale simulacrum of Beethoven’s Ninth, the Lobgesang, like the Reformation, has benefited from performances set on stripping the music of Victorian complacency and grandiloquence.

Symphony No. 1 in C-, Op. 11                                      [Guide #261]
Symphony No. 2 in Bb, Op. 52 Lobgesang                  [Guide #48]
Symphony No. 3 in A-, Op. 56 Scottish                       [Guide #195]
Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90 Italian                           [Guide #262]
Symphony No. 5 in D-, Op. 107 Reformation              [Guide #261]

Listener Guide # 261 – Felix Mendelssohn: Symphonies no. 1 & 5
[Symphonies nos. 1 & 5] Aside from the youthful String Symphonies, Mendelssohn composed five "mature" symphonies, numbered approximately in the order that they were published, rather than the order in which they were composed. The order of actual composition is: 1, 5, 4, 2, 3. The placement of No. 3 in this sequence is problematic because he worked on it for over a decade, starting sketches for it soon after beginning work on No. 5, but completing it after both Nos. 5 and 4. So, although the two symphonies we feature today appear to book-end Mendelssohn's symphonic output, they are in fact his first two "mature" symphonies. (ITYWLTMT Montage #179 – 2 January 2015)

Listener Guide # 262 – Italian Symphony
[Symphony no. 4] The Fourth symphony results from Mendelssohn's European travels in the late 1820's, which also gave us his Scottish Symphony. Completed in Berlin, the symphony was first performed in London in 1833 and - from what we can read - didn't completely please Mendelssohn. He planned to do complete rewrites of several of its movements but - thank Goodness - he never got around to it! (ITYWLTMT Montage #156 – 16 May 2014)

Johannes Brahms was one of the romantic period's most conflicted musical characters, and his symphonies are the perfect way to find out why... The image of Brahms the curmudgeon with his hands firmly behind his back is how most people see this most quietly influential of composers. But particularly in his symphonies, this image is proven to be a complete myth. Few symphonic composers have done so much with so few works, but Brahms four symphonies have lasted through the centuries thanks to their verve, their freedom and their complexity.
Symphony No. 1 in C-, Op. 68                                      [Guide #198]
Symphony No. 2 in D, Op. 73                                       [Guide #199]
Symphony No. 3 in F, Op. 90                                        [Guide #263]
Symphony No. 4 in E-, Op. 98                                      [Guide #32]

Listener Guide # 263 – Third Symphony
[Symphony no. 3] To many, the Third symphony is Brahms' best: it has a very heroic flavour to it, and the well-known third movement Allegretto is somewhat reminiscent of the funeral march of Beethoven's Third - or is it just me? Unlike the jubilant theme and variations that end the Eroica, however, the Third chooses to end with a tad more drama, giving the third a lasting tragic overtone. (ITYWLTMT Montage #88 – 18 January 2013)

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Richard Strauss - Berliner Philharmoniker · Herbert von Karajan ‎– Eine Alpensinfonie

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

This week’s edition of Vinyl’s Revenge starts a short series of Tuesday shares featuring tone poems/concertante works by Richard Strauss.

Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss came to know one another as young conductors in Leipzig in 1887. From then until Mahler's death in 1911 (the year of the first performance of Der Rosenkavalier) they kept in touch. Mahler himself described their relationship as that of two miners tunneling from opposite directions with the hope of eventually meeting. These were two men who were as antithetical in their musical means and goals as in their temperaments and personalities, but who exercised a strong fascination for one another. Mahler conducted Strauss's Sinfonia Domestica in 1904 and, in turn, Strauss's championed Mahler's music, especially the Second and Third Symphonies.

Strauss’ penchant for "music as life" type pieces wholly justifies this Alpine Symphony, but one has to acknowledge that he was probably thinking about Mahler's death when he wrote it (or, at any rate began it); the very end, with the orchestra developing the thick sound of darkness and as the marching theme lays down and goes to sleep can be very moving that way (also, the cowbells were a further hat tip).

This expansive work has a very detailed program depicting the experiences of eleven hours (from daybreak just before dawn to the following nightfall) spent climbing a mountain. The score calls for around 115 players, including the operator for both the wind and thunder machines. Amongst the other features are an expanded wind choir, a huge brass group, including 12 off stage Horns , 2 harps and a string compliment of 64, the so-called "Wagner 64”.

This week’s recording (winch I acquired in vinyl DDA format) is the first digital rendering of the work and features Karajan and his Berlin Philharmonic. The work achieved great critical success; you can attend to the work's symphonic structure, contemplate its deeper meaning, or wallow in Strauss' orchestration--or you can do all three at once, as Karajan seems to in this performance. Neither the work itself, nor the mountain it depicts, seem quite as majestic in the hands of other expedition leaders.

Happy Listening

Richard STRAUSS (1864 –1949)
Eine Alpensinfonie, tone poem for orchestra, op. 64 [TrV 233]
Berliner Philharmoniker
Herbert von Karajan, conducting

Label: Deutsche Grammophon ‎– 2532 015
Format: Vinyl, LP (DDA)
Released: 1981

DISCOGS - https://www.discogs.com/Richard-Stra...elease/3544550

Internet Archivehttps://archive.org/details/01RichardStraussEineAlpensinfon

Friday, February 8, 2019

Plaisir d'amour

No. 303 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast303

** UPDATE ** Shared on OperaLively on 13 Feb 2019.


This week’s Blog and Podcast is an early Valentine’s Day montage of love-themed songs spanning 300 years – from lieder, to opera/stage to popular repertoires.

The opening piece, "Plaisir d'amour" (literally "The pleasure of love") takes its text from a poem by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian (1755–1794), which appears in his novel Célestine. The refrain probablty summarizes every love song ever written:

Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment, chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie.
(The pleasure of love lasts only a moment, the grief of love lasts a lifetime.)

The song was greatly successful in Martini's version; Hector Berlioz arranged it for orchestra in 1859 and it has been arranged and performed in various pop music settings. For instance, a version of the melody has been used in Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling In Love, from the soundtrack of his 1961 romantic comedy Blue Hawaii.

The one Elvis Presley song I retained on the podcast, his solo ballad Love Me Tender, is also from the 1956 film of the same name.

Hymne à l'amour is a signature Edith Piaf standard, which she first sang at the Cabaret Versailles in New York City on September 14, 1949. It was written to her lover and the love of her life, the French boxer, Marcel Cerdan. Tragically, on October 28, 1949, Cerdan was killed in a plane crash on his way from Paris to New York to come to see her. She recorded the song on May 2, 1950.

Crying is a ballad written by Roy Orbison and Joe Melson that was a hit for Roy Orbison in 1961. In 1987, Orbison rerecorded the song as a duet with k.d. lang. Their collaboration won the Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals – that is the version featured today.

The main work in the podcast, Dichterliebe, "A Poet's Love" (composed 1840), is the best-known song cycle of Robert Schumann. The texts for the 16 songs come from the Lyrisches Intermezzo of Heinrich Heine, written 1822–23. Dichterliebe is a hothouse of nuanced responses to the delicate language of flowers, dreams and fairy-tales. Schumann adapts the words of the poems to his needs for the songs, sometimes repeating phrases and often rewording a line to supply the desired cadence. Dichterliebe is therefore an integral artistic work apart from the Lyrisches Intermezzo, though derived from it and inspired by it. Contrast in context, Schubert’s Die Liebe hat gelogen (”Love has lied”) the loss of love is as inevitable as death itself, a terrible shock and yet somehow expected as part of the sufferer’s life-sentence.

Interspersed in the montage are selections from opera and musical theatre – works by Gershwin, Verdi, Bizet, Offenbach, Rodgers and Kern.

Carole King’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman was a 1967 single originally released by "The Queen of Soul", Aretha Franklin. King later covered the song on her milestone album Tapestry, as have many other vocalists – including my good friend Steve Longmoor at a karaoke bar in Fort Wayne, Indiana (at my urging, as I recall). At the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, Aretha Franklin performed the song to honor award-recipient Carole King. It is that version which concludes today’s podcast.

I think you will love this music too.