Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Symphonic Organ – Orchestra Edition

No. 335 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast335


About a year ago, we shared a montage of music for the symphonic organ – works by three giants of the French Organ tradition – exploiting the palette of organs built mainly in the 1800’s in France. This week, we revisit the idea of symphonic organ music, this time with organs adding to the palette of a symphony orchestra.

As large organs became more common in new concert halls in the later 19th century, a modest repertoire of celebratory music for organ and orchestra also began to develop. The three works featured this week – two symphonies with organ and a short festive piece for organ and orchestra exemplify how composers use the organ both as a way to extend colours and as a “friendly foe” to the orchestra.

The opening piece, Samuel Barber’s Toccata Festiva, was composed for the inauguration of a new organ at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Mary Curtis Zimbalist, a friend and patron of the composer since his youth at the Curtis Institute, funded the organ and also commissioned this piece. Paul Callaway, the organist and music director at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., played the organ at the premiere in September 1960, with Eugene Ormandy conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Today’s performance, coincidentally, comes from the inauguration of the Cooper Memorial Organ, housed in the Philadelphia Orchestra’s new home, Verizon Hall. The soloist, Olivier Latry, is the principal organist at Notre Dame de Paris, thus providing a “French Connection”.

Aaron Copland was famously one of the first American pupils of the great French musical pedagogue Nadia Boulanger. In his “Organ Symphony,” Copland commented, “you hear rhythms that would not have been there if I had not been born and raised in Brooklyn.” This is also the symphony that provoked the famous comment from Walter Damrosch – after its premiere in 1925: “…if a gifted young man can write a symphony like this at 23, within five years he will be ready to commit murder!” Nadia Boulanger, who herself played the organ for the same premiere, found that “the work is so brilliant, so full of music…”

Charles-Marie Widor had published no fewer than ten solo organ symphonies by 1900; he also wrote orchestral symphonies with organ solo parts – the other major example being the later Sinfonia Sacra of 1908. His Symphony No. 3 for Organ and Orchestra was commissioned by Sir Daniel Barton, the English consul general in Geneva, for the organ in the newly built Victoria Hall in that city. It was premiered on 28 November 1894 by the Harmonie Nautique Orchestra of which Sir Daniel was president. The work is in two main sections, reminiscent of another (more commonly heard) similar symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns.

I think you will love this music too

Friday, March 27, 2020

Rudolf Serkin plays Beethoven

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from December 22, 2017. It can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast267


On Beethoven’s 250th birthday year (let’s not forget that the birthday is in December…), we’ve programmed a lot of Beethoven. One of the works featured today was also featured on the Tuesday Blog in January. To some, that is a tad repetitive, to others we can’t get enough of that beautiful Fourth concerto (count me in the latter category!)

All through the week, Project 366 embarked on a survey of Beethoven’s music, and in particular his piano concertos. Today’s installment, from December 2017, features two works: the Hammerklavier sonata and the Piano Concerto no. 4, both performed by Rudolf Serkin, a champion of German music of the late Classical and Romantic eras.

As my filler track this week, I thought I would keep to the Serkin and Beethoven angle, but this time featuring the younger Serkin, Peter.

Peter Serkin, a pianist who navigated a distinctive course through classical music with thoughtful interpretations of both standard repertoire and bracing new compositions, died of pancreatic cancer a few months ago at his home in Red Hook, N.Y..

Serkin was born in Manhattan on July 24, 1947 and was given the middle name Adolf, after his grandfather, violinist and conductor Adolf Busch. At age 11, he enrolled in the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and studied with the legendary Polish-American pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski. By age 12, Serkin was playing concertos at the Marlboro Festival in Vermont, chamber music in New York and in Cleveland with his father in Mozart's Double Concerto.

In the early '70s, Serkin recorded two albums from seemingly opposite poles: a set of Mozart Piano Concertos and Messiaen's Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jésus, a two-hour set of solo pieces spanning extremes of emotion and virtuosity. Both recordings were nominated for Grammy awards, and together signaled his way forward in terms of embracing contemporary music and standard repertoire.

Here he is, in live performance from Berkeley CA, in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A flat major, Op 110.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Gerd Wachowski - Pachelbel: Organ Works

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

During Lent, I usually program some organ music, and expect a pair of posts this week and next (for our Fifth Tuesday montage) where I will do just that.

Johann Pachelbel was an acclaimed Baroque composer, organist, and teacher who brought the south German organ tradition to its peak. He composed a large body of sacred and secular music, and his contributions to the development of the chorale prelude and fugue have earned him a place among the most important composers of the middle Baroque. Pachelbel's work enjoyed massive popularity during his lifetime, and he influenced greatly the work of one of the most important composers of the late Baroque, Johann Sebastian Bach, whose brother Johann Christoph Bach was his pupil.

Today Pachelbel is best known for his Canon in D; which is fascinating because of the fact that it was never performed during his lifetime (Apparently the powers that were felt it was too repetitive!) It is the only canon he wrote, and is somewhat unrepresentative of the rest of his oeuvre.

Pachelbel preferred a lucid, uncomplicated contrapuntal style that emphasizes melodic and harmonic clarity. His music is less virtuosic and less adventurous harmonically than that of his contemporary, Dietrich Buxtehude.

The modest sampling of Pachelbel's organ music proposed this week first came to my attention on YouTube. Unfortunately, as it happens from time to time, the video has since disappeared, which explains why exceptionally thus week I only have a version I uploaded for you on the Internet Archive. The original CD also contained a pair of unspecified Fugues in C which the YouTube clip failed to share - so this is really a "nearly Cover2Cover" share. According to the information I found on the Web, Mr. Wachowski uses three different configurations of the Great Rieger Organ at Rothenburg's Jakobskirche.

Happy Listening!

Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)

Prelude, for organ in D minor, T. 222
Fugue, for organ in D minor, T. 276
Ricercare, for organ in C major, T. 291
Chorale Prelude "Meine Seele erhebt den Herren" (Magnificat; I), for organ, T. 55
Chorale Prelude "Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her" (I), for organ (Choräle 6), T. 6
Chorale Prelude "Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr," for organ (I), T. 14 (also attrib. Buttsett)
Chorale Prelude "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ," for organ, T. 38
Chorale Prelude "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern," for organ (Choräle 7), T. 7
Fantasia, for organ in D minor (Dorian; I), T. 252
Fantasia, for organ in A minor, T. 256
Ciacona, for organ in F minor, T. 206
Fantasia, for organ in G minor (Dorian), T. 255
Prelude & Fugue, for organ in E minor, T. 228
Toccata, for organ in C major (IV), T. 234
Toccata, for organ in G minor, T. 246
Fugue, for organ in G minor, T. 282
Toccata, for organ in E minor, T. 240
Fugue, for organ in E minor, T. 277

Gerd Wachowski
Rieger Organ, St.-Jakobs-Kirche, Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber, Germany
MDG ‎– 606 0273-2
Released: May 1997
Discogs https://www.discogs.com/Johann-Pache...elease/6805864

Friday, March 20, 2020

Schumann & Tchaikovsky Symphonies no. 1

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from May 2, 2014. It can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast154


This week’s Podcast Vault selection harkens back to May 2014 with a pair of works that share some common features – they are both First Symphonies, they are both dedicated to seasons and some movements of each symphony were featured early on in past montages.

As we transition from Winter to Spring, it’s also appropriate to bid farewell to one season (via Tchaikovsky’s Winter Daydreams symphony) and welcome Spring (with Schuman’s aptly nicknamed Spring Symphony).

As filler, keeping with the springtime theme, Beethoven’s Spring sonata for violin and piano featuring David Oistrakh on violin and Lev Oborin in piano accompaniment.

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

Friday, March 13, 2020

Haydn: The Paris Symphonies

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from May 10, 2013. It can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/Pcast104


Friday the 13th is your lucky day, as we dig out not only one, but three podcasts planned for our Podcasting channel over the next three days - more on the other two podcasts a little later.

As I pointed out on the original musing from nearly 7 years ago, Haydn’s sponsor for the Paris symphonies was Claude-François-Marie Rigolet, Comte d'Ogny, an aristocrat and France’s Postmaster General. The ensemble  intended  to create the symphonies was the Paris-based Concert de la loge 'Olympique' (trans. Orchestra of the 'Olympic' (Masonic) Lodge), made up of well-over 50 professional and amateur musicians  -  an extraordinary size of orchestra for the time. The performances were attended by royalty, including Queen Marie Antoinette, who particularly enjoyed the Symphony No. 85, giving rise to its nickname.

It is indeed à propos to bring this symphony up, as it is one of the three works I have programmed for today’s montage, the other two being related to this work – one by ancestry, the other one as it is part of the set of six.

Marie-Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI of France and infamous in her own right, was the fifteenth and penultimate child of Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and Empress Maria Theresa. Her mother was also accorded the favor of Haydn compositions: his Mass in B-Flat (the Theresienmesse, Hob. XXII:12) and his  Symphony no. 48, written some 13 years earlier.

The Symphony No. 87 in A major, the sixth and last of the set, is unremarkable at first glance - it is only one of two symphonies in the set without a nickname, and is another of the many "cookie cutter" symphonies Haydn is known for. But you may well be surprised by it...

Thus, today's podcast provides two of the six Paris symphonies. In lieu of a "bonus track" this week, I will rather bring to your attention that tomorrow and Sunday, I will share the remaining four symphonies as part of the remaining podcasts in that short arc of three. Thus:

Montage #105 - Symphonies 83 and 84
(Archive page https://archive.org/details/Pcast105)

Montage #106 - Symphonies 82 and 86

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Beethoven - Radu Lupu • Zubin Mehta • Israel PO ‎– Piano Concertos No.1 & 2

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

This week’s Vinyl’s Revenge is part of our #Beethoven2020 series and features Romanian pianist Radu Lupu in a pair of Beethoven piano concertos, taken from his Beethoven cycle recorded with the Israel Philharmonic in the early days of the DIgital era.

Beethoven’s early career in Vienna, where he settled in 1792 after leaving his native Bonn, established him first of all as a pianist. He had already tackled a piano concerto in 1784, at the age of fourteen, but Piano Concerto No.1 in C major, the third attempted and the second completed, was ready for the composer’s own use by 1795. It was revised in 1800, but is thought by some to have had its first performance either in March or December 1795.

There is, however, some disagreement on the identification of the concerto played on these occasions. Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major was in existence at the time, having been started in the later 1780s in Bonn, but underwent various further revisions in the following years, reaching its final form, it would seem, in 1798.

As am Amazon reviewer puts it, “Radu Lupu is a once in a lifetime musician, meaning someone like he only appears to us mere mortals briefly allowing us to hear his genius and the beauty of that genius.” Hard to disagree!

Happy listening!

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770- 1827)
Piano Concerto no. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Piano Concerto no. 2 in B Flat Major, Op. 19
Radu Lupu, piano
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Zubin Mehta, conducting
Recorded March 1979 in the Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv

London Records ‎– LDR 10006
Format: Vinyl, LP, Stereo (DDA)
Released: 1980

Discogs https://www.discogs.com/Beethoven-Ra...elease/6330274

Internet Archivehttps://archive.org/details/101pianoconcertono.1incmajor

Friday, March 6, 2020

It's Haffner time!

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from June 27 2014. It can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast162


This week’s encore podcast was, itself, an encore when I issued it in June of 2014. The montage was part of a four-part series of “Tuesday to Friday” shares, reprising Tuesday blog themes for a Friday montage.

(In the future, I have a few more of those kinds of recycled Tuesday themes for Friday podcasts, but probably in the Fall of 2021.)

In the old town of Salzburg, along the left bank of the Salzach between the Franciscan Church and City Hall you wil find the Sigmund Haffner Gasse. It was named after Sigmund Haffner the Elder, mayor of Salzburg from 1768 to 1772. Twice married, his son from his second wife Sigmund the Younger was a merchant, philanthropist and a benefactor and friend of Mozart.

The pair of works featured this week were both commissioned by the Haffner family to mark special events – the wedding of Marie Elisabeth Haffner for the serenade (with its “hidden” violin concerto) and the ennoblement of Sigmund Haffner the Younger for the symphony.

As our bonus track thuis week, I chose another work Mozart dedicated to a friend. The String Quartet in D major, K. 499, was published by – if not indeed written for – his friend Franz Anton Hoffmeister. Because of this, the quartet has acquired the nickname Hoffmeister.

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

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Project 366 - Dates on the musical calendar for March 2020

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


  • March 1st - HB Frederic Chopin (Born OTD1810) [Guide #186]
  • March 8 - Daylight Savings Time begins in North America [Guide #329]
  • March 10 - HB Pablo de Sarasate (Born OTD 1844) [Guide #289]
  • March 17 - St-Patrick's Day [Guide #216]
  • March 20 - Spring Equinox in North America [Guide #218]
  • March 31 – The Skandalkonzert (OTD 1913) [Guide #73]
This month continues our look at the music of the Classical era, and provides a few Lenten selections, including St-Matthew’s Passion (Guide # 330 and 331).

Your Listener Guides
Listener Guide # 329 – L’heure Espagnole (Ravel)

Ravel’s vocal output is surprisingly diverse – from settings of old Greek songs to a pair of short, one-act operas. L'heure espagnole is a one of those, best described as a musical comedy to a French libretto by Franc-Nohain, based on his 'comédie-bouffe' of the same name first staged in 1904. (Once or Twice a Fortnight - May 12, 2017)

Listener Guide # 330 & 331 – Mathias-Passion

Although Johann Sebastian Bach wrote "five passions, of which one is for double chorus", only two works have survived: the St John Passion (performed 1724, 1725, 1732 & 1749) and the St Matthew Passion (1727, 1729, rev. 1736, 1742), this last using double chorus. Their popularity rests in their immense emotional power, and in the blend of drama and spirituality that Bach's music offers. Neither of his Passions is a work that an audience or a choir embarks on without due thought: The Passion According to St John of 1724 runs to about two hours, the St Matthew of 1727 to three or more. (Once or Twice a Fortnight - April 4th, 2012.)

Part 1 (L/G 330) -

 Part 2 (L/G 331) -