Friday, October 25, 2019

Beethoven Transcriptions

No. 325 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages, which can be found in our archives at

This week’s Friday montage continues an arc we started ten days or so ago with Beethoven’s “adaptation” of his violin concerto as a piano concerto. All the works on this week’s montage are by Beethoven, adapted in other forms by other composers/arrangers, and one by Beethoven himself.

A while ago, I discussed how opera transcriptions were, in some way, the precursor of recordings and radio. Not everybody could listen to elaborate pieces of music – like an opera – at the drop of a hat.; but if you had a piano in the house, you could enjoy an aria by simply playing a piano reduction. I like to think of Beethoven’s “Piano Trio in D Major after his Second Symphony” as another example of that idea. Not everybody could gather a small orchestra in their living room, but you probably could find a couple of willing friends to partake in a reduction of that symphony for piano, violin and cello. From an entrepreneurial perspective, I think that was a brilliant idea! Musically, Beethoven captures the essence of his symphony (and then some) in this ingenious device.

An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved) is considered to be the first example of a song cycle by a major composer, in many ways the precursor of a series of followers, including those of Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann and Hugo Wolf. Here is a YouTuibe clip of the song cycle, as it was originally envisaged:

Franz Liszt, in the spirit of Mendelssohn’s Songs without words, adapted a good number of lieder as solo piano reductions without voice by Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, Chopin, Lassen, and Mendelssohn. His adaptation of Beethoven’s song cycle is a fine example of of Liszt’s approach to the song without words.

Beethoven's String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95, is commonly referred to as the "Serioso," stemming from his title "Quartett[o] Serioso" at the beginning and the tempo designation for the third movement. The historical picture of this time period helps to put the piece in context. Napoleon had invaded Vienna, and this upset Beethoven greatly. All of his aristocratic friends had fled Vienna, but Beethoven stayed and dramatically complained about the loud bombings.

It is one of the shortest and most compact of all the Beethoven quartets. In character and key, as well as in the presence of a final frenetic section in the parallel major, it is related to another composition of Beethoven's middle period — the overture for Goethe's drama Egmont, which he was composing in the same year he was working on this quartet. Again, a performance of the work as originally envisaged:

Gustav Mahler is known today through his music, but in his own time was equally known as a conductor and arranger. The music of JS Bach held a certain fascination for Mahler throughout his life, and he reimagined Bach's music for the early 20th century orchestra. Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 95 was also arranged by Mahler, who believed that it needed expanding to work in large concert halls, and the result offers an alternative perspective on the work. Mahler arranged this quartet for string orchestra, mostly by doubling some of the cello parts with double basses.

Closing this week’s podcast is a jazz-inspired version of Beethoven’s well-known piano bagatelle Für Elise expanding it with orchestral accompaniment.

I think you will love this music too 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

In Memoriam - Paul Badura-Skoda (1927-2019)

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

Legendary pianist Paul Badura-Skoda left us a little less than a month ago, on 25 September. At 91 he was still active on four continents!

Paul Badura-Skoda was one of the last representatives of a generation for which music is the quintessence of European culture. Music reflects in each of the great composers the life and living style of his epoch, its striving for wisdom, sense, harmony, beauty, fulfilment in love as well as its search for the divine. When Paul Badura-Skoda played Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Ravel or Frank Martin, he succeeded in breathing into his performances the innate spirit of their works. What sets him apart from many other performing artists was his capacity to play not only the notes but also what happens between the notes, thus welding them into a poetic language, making them "speak." His concerts thus became a special experience for his listeners—an event. Like his teacher Edwin Fischer, he created a special, personal sound with many different tone colours. In his hands, his instrument (be it a modern grand or a period piano) sang like a human voice or take on the fullness of an orchestra.

We featured him many times on our Tuesday Blogs and Friday podcasts - in piano duo with Jörg Demus, or in duet with violinist Walter Barylli playing Mozart (look those up in past Tuesday Blogs).

The works assembled today show the breadth of Mr. BAdura-Skoda's repertoire, from the familiar Beethoven and Chopin, to the less familiar Bartok. I believe ost of these tracks are live recordings.

Happy Listening!

Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Suite for Piano, Op.14 [Sz. 62]

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.8 in C Minor, Op. 13 ('Pathétique')

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Estampes, L. 100

Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
12 Etudes, Op. 25

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
32 Variations on an Original Theme in C Minor, WoO 80

Oaul Badura-Skoda, piano
(Downloaded from MP3.COM, 2001)

Internet Archive -

Friday, October 18, 2019


This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from 19 August 2016. It can be found in our archives at


This week’s selection from the Podcast Vault has to be thought of in the context of the sequence of Listener Guides being proposed in the coming days. These provide something of an exploration of the concerto as a genre, from the Concerto Grosso to the “modern” view of the concerto as the friendly duel between orchestra and soloist.

The works presented today are “shorter” – some of them in a single movement, others laid out over more than one – but remain mostly intimate in their setting and last generally no more than 15 minutes.

As my weekly “bonus” YouTube share, I retained a work (in fact, a pair of works) that feature one of this week’s soloists – pianist Alain Lefèvre – in a pair of what I would call “extended” chamber works. As I stated before in my Piano Quintets Listener Guide, one way of looking at a quintet is as a “mini concerto” with the piano “dueling” with the strings. In contrast to his youthful concertino, an older (and probably more frustrated) André Mathieu puts out a romantically-inspired quintet, full of musical ideas but clearly limited in his ability to exploit them fully. The other work is Chausson’s Concert for piano, violin and string quartet – a bit of a double concerto (rather than a piano sextet) with string quartet as a backdrop.

The complete playlist also features Mathieu’s piano trio. [Album details]

I think you will (still) love this music too.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Daniel Barenboïm & Beethoven

No. 324 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Tuesday BlogIt can be found in our archives at


A little early for our quarterly/fifth Tuesday podcast for October; mainly because of the way programming has been going for the past few weeks, I figured I owed something new…

The two new podcasts I have prepared for this month explore Beethoven in the context of arrangements and orchestrations. The main feature this week, Beethoven’s piano concerto op. 61a, is a straight-forward adaptation of his violin concerto, substituting the violin for the piano.

According to Wikipedia, at the request of Muzio Clementi, Beethoven revised his violin concerto in a version for piano and orchestra. For this version, which is present as a sketch in the Violin Concerto's autograph alongside revisions to the solo part, Beethoven wrote a lengthy, somewhat bombastic first movement cadenza which features the orchestra's timpanist along with the solo pianist.

More recently, it has been arranged as a concerto for clarinet and orchestra by Mikhail Pletnev. Robert Bockmühl (1820/21–1881) arranged the solo violin part for cello & played it as a Cello Concerto; Gary Karr played Bockmühl's arrangement on a double-bass tuned in fifths as a double bass concerto.

Today’s soloist, Daniel Barenboim (who also acts as conductor) recorded the complete Beethoven concertos a few rimes, most noteworthily as soloist and conductor with the Staatskapelle Berlin (for Decca) and with Otto Klemperer as conductor with the Philharmonia (and New Philharmonia) for EMI. Those early concerti are contemporaneous to his first complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas for EMI (issued between 1967 and 1970 and a complete do-over digitally in the mid-2000’s). Impressively, he plays all of the sonatas from memory. (That's about 11 hours of music!)

From that analog set, I retained sonatas 5 and 16 as filler for today’s podcast.

I think you will love this music too

Friday, October 11, 2019

Beethoven 2 X 4

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from 17 Feb 2012. It can be found in our archives at


Beethoven will celebrate his 250th birthday next year, and already many organizations have dubbed the 2019-20 season a Beethoven Year.  Here on our platforms, we are planning lots of Beethoven next year, primarily on the Tuesday Blog. Later this month, we will be sharing a pair of montages dedicated to his music, one of which will include his second piano concerto and a version of his Second symphony for piano trio.

This week’s selection from the Podcast Vault is our “Beethoven 2 X 4” podcast, with four Beethoven works for orchestra, including his second and fourth symphonies.

Also included in this montage is a rather brisk interpretation of the Coriolan overture by Charles Munch and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Maybe because he was French and such a fabulous conductor of French music, Charles Munch never got the respect he deserved as a conductor of German music. That said, Munch actually was born in Alsace (which was under German occupation then and until World War I), and throughout his career he championed German music. Also, Munch got his real start as a musician by playing First Violin in the Leipzig Gewandhaus orchestra under no less a conducting giant than the legendary Wilhelm Furtwaengler ... not a bad way to learn the German repertory!

Notwithstanding this pedigree, Munch's Beethoven sounds more like the Beethoven of Furtwaengler's great rival Toscanini: tempi are quick, articulation is brilliant, accents are strong, and rhythms are sharply projected.

As this week’s bonus track, I added here a YouTube clip of Munch conducting the Eroica symphony. The original (stereo) recording dates from 1957; the Boston orchestra plays superlatively well for its much-loved conductor, but anyone who loves exciting Beethoven playing will probably enjoy this performance.

I think you will (still) live this music too.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Mozart - The Late Piano Concertos, Part 3

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

This week’s Vinyl’s Revenge completes our look at the TIME LIFE collection of Mozart’s last ten piano concertos, with nos. 20, 24 and 26.

Two pianists featured this week merit some introduction. Karl Engel (1923 - 2006) was a Swiss pianist. He trained in Basel and Paris and distinguished himself as an accompanist, often appearing in Lieder recitals with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hermann Prey, Peter Schreier and Brigitte Fassbaender. Among his chamber music partners were the cellist Pablo Casals, the violinist Yehudi Menuhin and the Melos Quartet. Karl Engel recorded the complete piano music of Mozart and of Robert Schumann and made numerous recordings with the singers Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hermann Prey, Brigitte Fassbaender, Peter Schreier et al. He also recorded a remarkable account of Stravinsky's Piano Concerto.
He later became particularly known for his complete cycle of Mozart piano concertos (recorded between 1974-1976) with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg under Leopold Hager, from which TIME LIFE used his recording of the :Coronation” concerto, no. 26.
Fans of the Rolling Stones might — if they are fluent in the rarest of their ephemera — know the name Julius Katchen (1926 –1969), the only classical musician ever to be featured on their spirited television program Rock and Roll Circus. Katchen’s appearance, playing De Falla and Mozart, speaks volumes about the vivid personality of the now-largely-forgotten Katchen, a kind of rock ‘n’ roll spirit in the form of a brilliant classical musician, replete with an early death at age forty-two. Mostly remembered for his Brahms performances, Katchen left a number of recordings of the Mozart concertos for DECCA, from which we get one of several recordings of him playing the K. 466 concerto.

To complete the trio, we included Clifford Curzon playing the K. 491 concerto – he left many recordings of this concerto in particular – from his LSO/Kertesz sessions.

Happy listening!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Piano Concerto No. 20 In D Minor, K. 466
Julius Katchen, piano
Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra
Karl Münchinger, conducting

Piano Concerto No. 24 In C Minor, K. 491
Sir Clifford Curzon, piano
London Symphony Orchestra
István Kertész, conducting

Piano Concerto No. 26 In D Major, K. 537
Karl Engel, piano
Salzburg Mozarteum Orchestra
Leopold Hager, conducting



Internet Archive

Friday, October 4, 2019

Harmonious Winds

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from 24 June 2016. It can be found in our archives at


One of the popular performing ensembles, wind bands are orchestras comprised of wind (woodwinds and brass, or brass only) and percussion instruments. Wind bands developed as stable performing groups in several European countries in the 17th century, appearing in Russia toward the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th as military orchestras composed of wind instruments and attached to regiments of the Russian Army.

According to the Free Dictionary, the instrumental makeup of the wind band developed gradually. In its modern form it has three varieties, each representing an orchestra of mixed composition: small (20 members), medium-sized (30), and large (42-56 or more). The large wind band is made up of flutes, oboes (including the alto oboe or English horn), E-flat, B-flat, and bass clarinets, saxophones (soprano, altos, tenors, and baritones), bassoons (including the contrabassoon), French horns, trumpets, trombones, cornets, alto horns, tenor horns, baritone horns, basses (tubas and double bass), and percussion instruments of determined and undetermined pitch. In performing concert works the wind band occasionally includes a harp, glockenspiel, and piano.

Our montage features works by Mozart, Vaughan-Williams, Sousa, and Beethoven.

Founded by Frederick Fennell in 1952, the Eastman Wind Ensemble is often credited with helping popularize wind band music. Under his leadership the group became known as the pioneering force in the symphonic wind band movement in the United States and abroad. Its core of about 50 performers includes undergraduate and graduate students of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.

The ensemble is featured in today’s montage, but I thought I’d provide some bonus material from YouTube.

I think you will (still) love this music too.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Project 366 - Dates on the musical calendar for October 2019

Project 366 continues in 2019 with "Dates on the Musical Calendar". Read more here.


  • Oct 1st – Happy Birthday Vladimir Horowitz (1903) (Guide #225)
  • Oct 9 – Happy Birthday Camille Saint-Saëns (1855) (Guide #307)
  • Oct 31 –Hallowe’en (Guide #310)

The remainder of the month will continue our retrospective look at Part 1 of the Project, with listener guides dedicated to chamber, orchestral and vocal music. Worth noting, we will sample the complete Brahms symphonies. Our additional guides feed into that overall arc – Schubert’s Great C Major symphony (Guide #306), more concertos (Guide # 308) and Opera Potpourri excerpts (Guide #309)

Listener Guides

Listener Guide #306 - Schubert Symphony No. 9 ("The Great") (Tate)
Both Beethoven’s and Schubert’s Ninth symphonies are indicative of how forward-looking these two geniuses were; these are mammoth works, double the length (and breadth) of what their teachers and contemporaries dared to put to paper. In fact, for many years, Schubert’s Ninth was deemed “too difficult” and “unplayable”. Ten years after Schubert's death, and under the able direction of  Felix Mendelssohn and his Leipzig orchestra, the “Great C Major” symphony was finally premiered. To this day, it is considered a major piece of the symphonic repertoire – whether we view it as late Classical or early Romantic.  (Vinyl’s Revenge # 29 - 27 June 2017)


Listener Guide #307 – Organ and Orchestra
Camille Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony is probably the most played of his symphonies, and certainly the most famous work in its genre. The London Philharmonic Society commissioned the Symphony No. 3 from Saint-Saëns, who conducted its first performance in London on May 19, 1886. Although he lived until 1921, Saint-Saëns would not compose another symphony. He later explained: "With it I have given all I could give. What I did I could not achieve again." (ITYWLTMT Montage #46 - March 9, 2012)

Listener Guide #308 – A Montage of Second.. Concertos
My #2 Obsession features four second concertos, for three different instruments: the horn, the violin and the piano. Works by Richard Strauss, Szymanowski, Liszt and Saint-Saëns. (ITYWLTMT Montage #92 - February 15, 2013)

Listener Guide #309 - Great Voices from the (not so distant) past
For another listener guide  leveraging some of Sean Bianco’s “Opera Potpourri” podcasts, I thought I would share some more great moments from singers in recordings from after 1950. (Once or Twice a Fortnight – 28 June 2015)

Listener Guide #310 – Scary Classics
For Hallowe'en, we should take this opportunity to consider some musical selections that are "appropriate" for the circumstances. Works by Bach, Beethoven, Dukas and others. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 210 – 30 October 2015)