Friday, January 31, 2020

Carnaval, Mardi Gras, Carnaval

No. 332 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


When w think of Carnivals, our mind goes immediately to the warm streets of Rio and, like its cousin in New Orleans, a last big party before the Lenten season. Here in Canada, we think more of Winter Carnivals that occupy most of the month of February – the most frequented being Winterlude here in Ottawa (during which skating the frozen Rideau Canal and enjoying Beaver Tails are de rigueur, and of course the Grand Daddy of all Winter Carnivals, that of Québec City, its ice buildings and its sympathetic Bonhomme Carnaval.
Indeed, the title for this week’s montage comes from the refrain of the official Carnival theme song written by Pierrette Roy in 1956:
Carnaval, Mardi Gras, Carnaval
À Québec c'est tout un festival
Carnaval, Mardi Gras, Carnaval
Chantons tous le joyeux Carnaval.

The works that constitute this week’s montage share the carnival theme, be it Schumann’s delightful short vignettes that constitute his popular Carnaval, to Respighi’s tone poem Roman Festivals performed by his great champion Toscanini and his NBC Symphony.

To complete the montage, shorter works by Liszt (one of his Hungarian Rhapsodies set for orchestra), Debussy (transcribed by Ravel) and a Carnival Overture by Biohemian-Canadian composer Oskar Morawetz.

I think you will love this music too.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Paul Paray, Detroit Symphony Orchestra ‎– Suppé Overtures

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

This week's Tuesday Blog is another installment of Vinyl's Revenge featuring a late-50's recording from the Mercury Living Presence series.

As discussed in an excellent overview published in Classical Notes, Paul Paray was born into a musical family in 1886. Despite the interruptions of both World Wars (he spent most of the first as a prisoner of war and the second with the Resistance) he established a solid reputation as a French conductor, heading orchestras in Lamoureux, Monte Carlo and Paris. American guest stints led to his appointment as permanent conductor of then recently reorganized Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1952 to 1963).

Their very first records prove that he quickly forged the ensemble into a truly great orchestra and transformed its sound into a replica of those he had known in France. (Paray ultimately parted ways with the DSO in 1963 but remained active well into his nineties; conductors do tend to last a very long time!)

Naturally, Paray brought an appropriate Gallic touch to the great French repertoire. His Debussy, Ravel, Chabrier and Roussel are magnificent, beautifully capturing their elegance with a self-effacing confidence. Equally fascinating is Paray’s touch applied to music of other national schools: Rachmaninov, Sibelius and even Wagner, the epitome of German music and about as far from the French aesthetic as possible. Today's disc - an all-Suppé record - showcases are quintessentially Viennese and speak the same language as Johann Strauss – rhythmically vital, vivacious, infectious.

Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony play instantly accessible music without a shred of pretense. Like Toscanini, Paray appeared to take special pride in according light classical fluff the attention and respect usually reserved for more substantial challenging music with polished and convincing readings.

Happy listening!

Franz von SUPPÉ (1819-1895)

  • Die schöne Galathe (The Beautiful Galathea, 1865)
  • Pique Dame (1862)
  • Leichte Kavallerie (Light Cavalry, 1866)
  • Dichter und Bauer (Poet and Peasant, ca. 1846)
  • Morning, Noon And Night In Vienna (1844)
  • Boccaccio (1879)

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
Paul Paray, conducting

Mercury ‎– SRI 75091
Format: Vinyl, LP, Reissue, Stereo
(Studio, 11/1959)

Internet Archive

Friday, January 24, 2020

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from August 19, 2011. It can be found in our archives at


This week’s dig through the Podcast Vault brings back a flistener guide from 2011, which was part of our 2011-12 Beethoven Project.

Leonard Bernstein was a gifted communicator, conductor and composer, who had a long history with the Boston Symphony and the Tanglewood festival. It is there that he interacted with people like Serge Koussevitzky and Aaron Copland, and held conducting master classes where he took people like Seiji Ozawa under his wing. Bernstein’s final concert in Tanglewood which we are recreating in this montage featured Bernstein “the conductor” in two major works, and featured BSO assistant conductor Carl St. Clair playing Bernstein “the composer”. All three works are significant in their own way, making this concert truly special.

I will defer to the original post (link provided above) for some of the concert details, as provided by the New York Times in a contemporaneous review. Bernstein's Arias and Barcaroles were performed in a setting for singers ad orchestra (the montage only provides a few songs from the work, performed per the original setting with piano duet accompaniment). Today's bonus share is a complete performance of the work in a setting by a different aranger (Bruce Coughlin), under the direction of another Bernstein/Tanglewood alumnus, Michael Tilson Thomas.

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

Friday, January 17, 2020

Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

No. 331 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


My wife and I have escaped the Canadian winter for a week at a sunny destination. However, I did prepare a number of posts in advance, and this montage of Liszt favourites will hopefully get you through the cold of January.

Franz Liszt was a pianist, a teacher and a composer. He developed several musical ways such as programmatic music, technique and thematic transformation. He traveled most of his life, and composed a number of works about the places that he traveled.

Two of the main works in the program are for piano and orchestra. Liszt composed his Piano Concerto No. 1 over a 26-year period; the main themes date from 1830, while the final version is dated 1849. It premiered in Weimar on February 17, 1855, with Liszt at the piano and Hector Berlioz conducting. Liszt made yet more changes before publication in 1856. Béla Bartók described it as "the first perfect realisation of cyclic sonata form, with common themes being treated on the variation principle".

Some of the titles of Liszt’s pieces, such as Funérailles, La lugubre gondola and Pensée des morts, show the composer's fascination with death. In the young Liszt we can already observe manifestations of his obsession with death, with religion, and with heaven and hell. Totentanz (English: Dance of the Dead): is notable for being based on the Gregorian plainchant melody Dies Irae as well as for daring stylistic innovations. The piece was originally planned in 1838 and completed in 1849; it was then revised twice, in 1853 and 1859.

Keeping with the heaven and hell obsession, the Mephisto Waltz No. 1 is a typical example of program music, taking for its program an episode from Nikolaus Lenau's 1836 verse drama Faust The following program note, which Liszt took from Lenau, appears in the printed score:

There is a wedding feast in progress in the village inn, with music, dancing, carousing. Mephistopheles and Faust pass by, and Mephistopheles induces Faust to enter and take part in the festivities. Mephistopheles snatches the fiddle from the hands of a lethargic fiddler and draws from it indescribably seductive and intoxicating strains. The amorous Faust whirls about with a full-blooded village beauty in a wild dance; they waltz in mad abandon out of the room, into the open, away into the woods. The sounds of the fiddle grow softer and softer, and the nightingale warbles his love-laden song.

During the period 1860-1869, Liszt devoted himself to religious music, and by this time he began to write some pieces for organ. During a two-year retreat at the Madonna del Rosario, he completed the Two Franciscan Legends that open our montage: St. François d’Assise: La Predication aux Oiseaux, and St. François de Paule: Marchant sur les flots in 1863. Liszt had personal relationships with these two saints, and particularly he regarded St. Francis of Paul as his patron.

To close the montage, I thought I would re-explore a piece I originally shared in an early Tuesday Blog post in which I explored classical music showcased in cartoons. The Cat Concerto is the 29th Tom and Jerry short, released to theatres on April 26, 1947. Following its release, it was met with critical acclaim, and is considered one of the best Tom and Jerry cartoons. It won the 1946 Oscar for Best Short Subject: Cartoons (their fourth consecutive Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film, tied with Disney's musical series, the Silly Symphonies.)

In a formal concert, Tom, in a tuxedo as the soloist, is performing a piano concerto version of "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2". Jerry, who is sleeping inside the piano, is rudely awakened by the felts, then sits on top of the piano to mock the cat by "conducting" him. Yj rest of the short is filled with typical “cartoon slapstick”, usually in unison with the music which was arranged for the occasion by Scott Bradley.

I think you will love this music too.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Ye Olde Keyboards

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from March 10, 2017. It can be found in our archives at


This week’s dig through the Podcast Vault brings back a fairly recent montage that shares some keyboard concerti featuring “old keyboards”. As one of the most versatile musical instrument families, keyboards have amassed great importance and popularity. The keyboard allows a performer to play several notes at once and in close succession to one another, a feat that few other instruments can accomplish. Because nearly any composition can be played on a keyboard, whether it’s chordal harmonies, a single melody or a combination of the two, the keyboard has been utilized by nearly every major composer since the 16th century.

As I reported in the original post that accompanied this week’s encore montage, the first known keyboard instrument was the hydraulis, a type of pipe organ invented in the late 3rd century BCE in Ancient Greece. This type of organ disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire in 5th century CE and it would be nearly a thousand years before another appeared. The first large installation pipe organ was developed in the 13th century, followed by the invention of the clavichord in 14th century France. The clavichord was the most prominent keyboard instrument until the appearance of the piano 400 years later, although very different from the piano we know today as it was smaller, lighter, and had a limited pitch range.

Leading up to the 20th century, keyboard instruments saw enormous growth with the development of the harpsichord and its relatives. Pipe organs were used predominately in churches, while the harmonium and harpsichord found a home in popular music until the advent of the modern piano in the 1900s.

Since keyboard instruments were first invented, there have been attempts to make them smaller and lighter while retaining sound quality. The invention of electricity made way for the electric piano in the 1920s, which was similar to the electric guitar in that it amplified the vibration of the strings through electricity. The electronic piano was first invented 50 years later and became the first keyboard instrument to simulate the timbre of a piano without the use of strings. While both were popular, they were quickly eclipsed by the digital piano and electronic synthesizer in the 1980s.

With the exception of Poulenc’s Concert Champêtre, the remainder of the proposed works are from the baroque and early classical period. As our bonus feature, I found another harpsichord piece by modern Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů. I took this from a YouTube playlist entitled ”Harpsichord modern compositions

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4; Triple Concerto

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

On this Beethoven anniversary year, we are planning monthly shares dedicated to Ludwig among our ongoing series throughout the year.

This week, to aunch this #Beethoven2020 series, we are sharing a Cover2Cover post of yet another RPO-produced and distributed disc from the late 1990's, this time part of a Beethoven piano concerto cycle with pianist Micjael Roll and Howard Shelley as conductor.

According to Wikipedia, English classical pianist Michael Roll. Born in the UK to Viennese Jewish parents, Roll was a child prodigy who performed on the concert platform with the City of Birmingham Orchestra at the age of ten and at the Royal Festival Hall aged twelve under the direction of Sir Malcolm Sargent. Roll won the Leeds Piano Competition aged only seventeen; as of 2016, he remains the competition's youngest winner.

Roll performs Piano Concerto no. 4 and is joined by violinist Jean-Jacques Kantorow and cellist Raphael Wallfisch for the "Triple" concerto.

Happy Listening!

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770- 1827)

Piano Concerto No. 4 In G Major, Op. 58
Concerto For Violin, Violoncello, Piano And Orchestra In C Major, Op. 56 "Triple Concerto"

Violin – Jean-Jacques Kantorow (op. 56)
Cello – Raphael Wallfisch (op. 56)
Piano – Michael Roll
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Howard Shelley, conducting

Intersound 2870
Release Date - 1999
AllMusic -


Internet Archive -

Friday, January 3, 2020

Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

No. 330 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


Joaquín Rodrigo discovered a way of bringing Spanish music into the 20th century. His solution was to exploit singable melody and to use traditional orchestral timbres; or as the musicologist Tomas Marco puts it: "In form, harmony, melody and rhythm, Rodrigo's work might be broadly classified as neo-classical".

Rodrigo fell victim to a diphtheria epidemic when he was just three years old, which left him almost totally blind (his sight was completely gone by 1948). The disability was the determining factor in Rodrigo's devotion to music, and, for the practicalities of composing, his companion Rafael Ibanez took musical dictations and made copies of his work.

Rodrigo wrote a good deal of guitar music -- not surprising for a Spanish composer of the twentieth century, but what was somewhat surprising was that he did not play the guitar. His guitar pieces are not particularly idiomatic: they use sounds from Spanish vernacular traditions, but guitarists say they don't fit easily under the fingers and in fact are unusually difficult to play.
 Our montage features a few selections for solo guitar. In Madrid in 1939, Rodrigo's first important composition emerged: the Concierto de Aranjuez for guitar and orchestra, the success of which cast a shadow over much of his subsequent work.

To complete the montage, the Concierto serenata for harp and orchestra was written for Nicanor Zabaleta, who premiered the work in Madrid on November 9, 1956; Paul Kletzki conducted the Spanish National Orchestra. The concerto is in three movements; the first of the three movements represents a group of young musicians walking in the street; the third represents evening. The second is written in form of a canon.

I think you will love this music too.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Project 366 - Dates on the musical calendar for January 2020

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

We begin a new year and a new four month tranche of our Musical Calendar (See the four month layout here). 

  • 1 Jan – New Year’s Day (Guide #68)
  • 7 Jan – HB Francis Poulenc (Born OTD, 1899) (Guide #321)
  • 16 Jan – Rachmaninov and Mahler at Carnegie Hall (OTD, 1910) (Guide #72)
  • 20 Jan – Martin Luther King Jr. Day (US Holiday) (Guide #234)

The remainder of the listener guides for this month picks up things near the end of Part 1, and starts Part 2 with a few baroque entries. Added this month, a pair of Schubert symphonies (Guide # 320), compositions from composer and organist Alexandre Guilmant (Guide #323) and clarinettist Benny Goodman playing Mozart and Copland (Guide #322).

Your Listener Guides

Listener Guide # 320 - Schubert, Klemperer, Philharmonia Orchestra ‎– Symphony No. 5 & 8

Schubert would be especially amazed to learn that he has come to be regarded as a great symphonist. Of all the genres in which he excelled, these fared the worst during his life. His first two were written for his school orchestra and the next four for an amateur group he was able to assemble, all intended to be heard once and then forever forgotten. Written in his teens, they gleam with dewy innocence, reminiscent of Mozart's juvenilia, with only the barest hint of an incursion of strife. Among his most enduring from that period we can single out the Fifth, a buoyant package of joy. (Vinyl's Revenge # 15 - March 22, 2016)

Listener Guide # 321 - Francis Poulenc (1899-1963)

Music was not the Poulenc family business - pharmaceuticals was - but the well-off Poulenc explored music as a hobby at first and (later uder the tutilage of Spanish pianist Ricardo Viñes) as an all-consuming passion. Very early on, Poulenc hooked up with a group of up-and-coming composers that author Jean Cocteau would champion under "Les Six" (a kind of thinly-veiled homage to the Russian Mighty Handful). Though their music wasn't strictly nationalistic, it was distinctive and indicative of their shared carefree lifestyle. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 133 - 29 Nov 2013)

Listener Guide # 322 - Mozart & Goodman

Goodman was a well-established Jazz clarinetist when he answered, shall we say, a late calling to explore the classical clarinet repertoire. In 1949, when he was 40, Goodman decided to study with Reginald Kell, one of the world's leading classical clarinetists. To do so, he had to change his entire technique: instead of holding the mouthpiece between his front teeth and lower lip, as he had done since he first took a clarinet in hand 30 years earlier, Goodman learned to adjust his embouchure to the use of both lips and even to use new fingering techniques. He had his old finger calluses removed and started to learn how to play his clarinet again—almost from scratch. (ITYWLTMT Podcast # 72 - 21 Sep, 2012)

Listener Guide # 323 - Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)

A student of his father, then of the Belgian master Jacques-Nicolas Lemmens, Guilmant became an organist and teacher in Boulogne-sur-Mer, a city ion Northern France and his place of birth. In 1871 he was appointed to play the organ regularly at la Trinité church in Paris - the same church and organ Messiaen occupied for 60 years and a position Guilmant himself held for a mere… 30 years.(ITYWLTMT Podcast #149 - 28 Mar 2014)