Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Respighi, Antal Dorati, Philharmonia Hungarica ‎– Ancient Dances And Airs For Lute - Suites 1,2 &3

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

Today’s share, under the Cover 2 Cover series, looks at Ottorino Respighi’s three suites of Ancient Airs and Dances “for he lute” adapted for small orchestra. We know Respighi today mostly for his Roman Trilogy of tone poems, but he did dabble quite a bit in “re-purposing” the music of other composers: Rossini (la Boutique Fantasque and Rossiniana) and Rachmaninov (some of his Etudes-Tableaux) come to mind.

In addition to being a renowned composer and conductor, Respighi was also a notable musicologist. His interest in Italian music of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries led him to compose works inspired by the music of these periods. Respighi loved plainchant and Renaissance and Baroque music. His Ancient Airs and Dances suites are his most successful efforts to bring early music to his contemporary listeners, in terms of the taste and imagination of his arrangements as well as audience appeal. Largely deriving from Italian and French music for the lute, the original melody lines and pieces come from seventeenth and eighteenth century. The piece consists of three suites of four pieces each, the first two for orchestra and the third for strings. (All three suites were made into a ballet shortly after Respighi's death by his wife and student, Elsa, in 1937.)

The 1958 Dorati version, with the Philharmonia Hungarica, is exquisitely well played and very well recorded. The resulting product, a ravishing, hauntingly beautiful record. The tempos are natural and gay, sad when they have to be, but always natural. The playing is never rushed, always andante cantabile.

Happy Listening

Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879 –1936)
Antiche danze et arie per liuto (1917-32)
Suite No. 1, P 109
Suite No. 2, P 138
Suite No. 3, P 172
Philharmonia Hungarica
Antal Dorati, conducting

Mercury Living Presence D 135538
1958, reissued 1992

DISCOGS - https://www.discogs.com/Respighi-Ant...elease/4068202

Internet Archive -  https://archive.org/details/suite-no.-2

Friday, April 24, 2020

Erich Leinsdorf & Mozart

No. 337 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast337


A few years back – and indeed as part of Project 366 – we considered a trio of symphonies I dubbed “Mozart’s European Vacation”. A the time of the original post, we still had access to some download services like Japan’s Public Domain Classic, and I pointed to two conductors – Christopher Hogwood (on MP3Lemon) and Erich Leinsdorf (on the Japanese site) to give listeners points of comparison. Since then, I re-issued the same trio of symphonies with some YouTube content featuring, among others, Karl Böhm and Otto Klemperer.

Today, we return to that trio of symphonies – with no. 34 as a bonus – with Leinsdorf at the helm. We have become accustomed to original instruments especially for Mozart’s early works and we forget how marvellous the conductors of a previous generation could be.

Erich Leinsdorf (1912-1993) may not be a name many consider a big Mozart conductor today, but he made the first complete cycle of Mozart Symphonies in London for Westminster records (a New York based company) in 1955-56. These early symphonies were recorded in stereo in 1956, and are among the first widely available recordings of these works. While conductors like Bruno Walter, Thomas Beecham and Böhm had already released recordings of the later Mozart Symphonies (34-41, and especially 38-41) by 1955, they focused on the LATER symphonies, while Leinsdorf proved that Mozart's earlier symphonies are worth hearing.

Leinsdorf and the "Philharmonic Symphony of London", actually the Royal Philharmonic under a different name for Westminster records, play with great precision. Tonal refinement and glowing sound in the manner of Walter or Böhm is not an issue with Leinsdorf; he follows more Toscanini as his model, and precision and Classical lean-ness are the order of the day. Leinsdorf's Mozart resembles Toscanini or Szell more than it does Walter, Böhm, Furtwangler, Beecham, or Klemperer.

I plan to return in a few months with another tranche of symphonies from Mr. Leinsdorf’s cycle.

I think you will love this music too

Friday, April 17, 2020

Mendelssohn in London

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from March 9, 2018. It can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcas273


This week, we don’t have to reach out too far into the Podcast Vault, picking up a two year-old montage from March 2018 featuring a pair of Mendelssohn favorites, performed by London-based ensembles.

Yesterday’s featured Listener Guide (erroneously posted this past Monday, but who notices those things…) started a mini-arc dedicated to concertos by Mendelssohn which we contribute to today with the E Minor violin concerto. That concerto, along with the two piano concerti featured yesterday, constitute the three “mature” concertos associated with Mendelssohn.

According to Robert Poliquin’s compilation of Mendelssohn’s works there are five “early” concertos by Mendelssohn dating from 1822 to 1824 (between ages 13 and 15!). Among these we count yesterday’s violin concerto in D, a concerto for violin and piano (which we featured in a Mendelssohn/Mozart montage in 2012), another piano concerto and two concerti for two pianos – one in A Flat and the other one in E.

As our bonus track today, keeping with the “Mendelssohn in London” theme, here is the double concerto in E featuring the sister duo of Katia and Marielle Labèque, with the Philharmonia orchestra under Semyon Bychkov.

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

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Easter Vigil

No. 336 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast336

I delayed this week’s Blog and Podcast to better fit the Lenten calendar, and not rob the solemnity of our daily share for Good Friday.

Among liturgical western churches including the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches, Easter Vigil, is observed in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, it is during this liturgy that people are baptized and that adult catechumens are received into full communion with the Church. It is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day – most commonly in the evening of Holy Saturday or midnight – and is the first celebration of Easter, days traditionally being considered to begin at sunset.

The three works I assembled for this Easter Vigil montage provide the spectrum of Darkness – with a pair of works inspired by the Passion – and Light - with a sacread cantata associated with Easter morning.

As with most of the nicknames that have become attached to Haydn's symphonies, that of Haydn’s Symphony no. 49 did not originate with the composer himself. It was long believed that the nickname "La passione" or The Passion derived from the nature of the music itself: the slow opening movement of the sinfonia da chiesa, its minor key modality and its association with the Sturm und Drang period of Haydn's symphonic output. However, the nickname can be traced back to a single source from a performance given during Holy Week in the Northern German city of Schwerin in 1790, where secular music was banned from performance between 1756 and 1785. This suggests that the name was derived circumstantially and not thematically and that reading the symphony as having a Passion-related motif is post-facto interpretation.

French organist and composer Marcel Dupré made the first of his many visits to America in 1921. He refers in his memoirs to the evening of 8 December when, at a recital he was giving on the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ in Philadelphia, he was offered several liturgical themes on which to improvise—Iesu redemptor omnium, Adeste fideles, Stabat mater dolorosa and Adoro te devote. He instantly decided to improvise an organ symphony in four movements which depicted in music the life of Jesus: ‘The world awaiting the Saviour’, ‘Nativity’, ‘Crucifixion’ and ‘Resurrection’. This improvisation became the basis of his Symphonie-Passion, Op 23, which he began to compose on his return to France.

Christ lag in Todes Banden ("Christ lay in the snares of death") is a chorale cantata, a style in which both text and music are based on a hymn. In this instance, the source was Martin Luther's hymn of the same name, the main hymn for Easter in the Lutheran church. The composition is based on the seven stanzas of the hymn and its tune, which was derived from Medieval models. This cantata is one of J. S. Bach’s earliest church cantatas. It is agreed to be an early work partly for stylistic reasons and partly because there is evidence that it was probably written for a performance in 1707. Bach went on to complete many other works in the same genre, contributing complete cantata cycles for all occasions of the liturgical year.

I think you will love this music too

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Ludwig van Beethoven, NBC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini ‎– Missa Solemnis

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

Today's post combines our ongoing #Beethoven2020 series and Holy Week with a Once Upon the Internet share sourced from the old Japanese Public Domain Classic site we so often have acknowledged in past Tuesday Blogs.

A few days ago on my Friday Blog and Podcast, I began a look at Beethoven's sacred choral works with the oratorio Christus am Ölberge and a YouTube share of the Mass in C. Today, we complete the trifecta with the Missa Solemnis in a vintage performance featuring the Robert Shaw Chorale, Canadian and American soloists and the NBC Symphony all under the direction of Arturo Toscanini. I believe this recording was part of a complete Beethoven symphony cycle issued on RCA Victor.

Composed from 1819 to 1823, it was first performed on 7 April 1824 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, under the auspices of Beethoven's patron Prince Nikolai Galitzin; an incomplete performance was given in Vienna on 7 May 1824, the Kyrie, Credo, and Agnus Dei were conducted by the composer at the same concert which premiered the Ninth Symphony. It is generally considered one of the composer's supreme achievements and, along with Bach's Mass in B minor, one of the most significant Mass settings of the common practice period.

There are at least three commercially-available performances of the Missa under Toscanini, two (from 1940 and 1953) with the NBC Symphony stir debate among aficionados, most preferring the soloist quartet and overall performance of the earlier version. However, the 1953 session benefits from Carnegie Hall as a venue and a better engineered result. Whether it ranks #1 or #2, let's all agree that Toscanini captures the solemnity of the piece, and gets he most out of his singers and orchestra.

Happy listening!

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770- 1827)
Missa Solemnis, in D Major, op. 123

Lois Marshall, Soprano
Nan Merriman, Mezzo-soprano
Eugene Conley, Tenor
Jerome Hines, Bass
The Robert Shaw Chorale (Chorus Master – Robert Shaw)
NBC Symphony Orchestra
Arturo Toscanini, conducting

Recording: New York, 1953
Source: Public Domain Classic

Discogs https://www.discogs.com/Ludwig-van-B...elease/5287415
Internet Archive - https://archive.org/details/103missasolemnisop.123credo

Friday, April 3, 2020

Christus am Ölberge

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from April 3, 2015. It can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast267


In recent months, our Friday visits into the Podcast Vault are complementary to Project 366, as we post daily from our musical calendar and take advantage of planned shares. This week, however, Project 366 is contemplating Beethoven’s Fidelio, which gives us a nice segue into Beethoven’s choral output.

Past montages/listener guides have considered Beethoven’s Choral symphony (which we will be featuring on the Project in May), and his late choral works – all secular in nature. Beethoven did contribute three sacred works to his choral repertoire, two are featured as part of our Lenten programming – today and this coming Tuesday – and the third, his Mass in C Major, is our “bonus” track.

Christus am Ölberge (Christ at the Mount of Olives) is Beethoven's only sacred oratorio. Unlike Bach and other composers before him, Beethoven does not consider a complete setting of the Passion rather focusing on one specific episode. In doing so, Beethoven creates a work of human proportions (rather than a two-hour magnum opus), allowing for a focus on the human aspects rather than a continuous narrative of the biblical story. The libretto for this oratorio is from poet Franz Xaver Huber, and the work was likely created in the lenten season of 1803 (April 5th) in a concert that also premiered his second symphony. The work is later revised in 1811, explaining its later Hess number (op. 85) compared to that of its contemporary symphony (op. 36). The work was published near the time of the MasS in C (op. 86).

The filler material in the montage is film music by Jacques Ibert for the 1935 French film Golgotha by Julien Duvivier.

The bonus selection, as teased earlier, is a complete performance of the Beethoven Mass in C, featuring the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner and played on period instruments.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Project 366 - Dates on the Musical Calendar for April 2020

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

This month’s “musical dates” include the conclusion of our Lenten Listener Guides (culminating with the three-day period starting on Good Friday), four complete operas (Beethoven’s Fidelio, Thomas’ Mignon, Wagner’s Tristan and Leoncavallo’s (not Puccini’s) version of La Bohème (Guides 334 and 335). And a few stage works including Debussy’s seculat cantata La demoiselle élue (Guide #332). Among some new “filler” listener guides, I added three Mendelssohn concertos (Guide #333) and a selection of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies in their original piano form (Guide #336).

Your Listener Guides

Listener Guide #332 - In Memoriam - Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Claude Debussy died a century ago, but his music has not grown old. Bound only lightly to the past, it floats in time. As it coalesces, bar by bar, it appears to be improvising itself into being—which is the effect Debussy wanted. After a rehearsal of his orchestral suite “Images,” he said, with satisfaction, “This has the air of not having been written down.” In a conversation with one of his former teachers, he declared, “There is no theory. You merely have to listen. Pleasure is the law.” (ITYWLTMT Montage # 297 - 30 Nov 2018)

Listener Guide #333 - Felix Mendelssohn: Concertos
Felix Mendelssohn composed eight concertos, for solo piano, violin and combinations thereof. In addition to the E Minor violin concerto we can add the two piano concertos (opp. 25 and 40) as part of the “mature” works in the genre by Mendelssohn. The violin concerto in D Minor from 1823 is probably the best-known of the “early” Mendelssohn concertos. (ITYWLTMT Podcast #183 - 30 Jan 2015)

Listener Guide #334 & 335 – La Bohème (Leoncavallo)
Puccini wasn’t the only composer to attempt a work on Henri Murger's novel Scènes de la vie de bohème. In February 1893, two Milan newspapers announced that two operas were to be composed on the subject of La bohème, one by Leoncavallo and one by Puccini. Ruggero Leoncavallo, best known as the composer of Pagliacci, first considered composing the opera, and offered a libretto that he had written to Puccini, who refused because he supposedly was considering another subject. Puccini then employed Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa to provide him with their version, which reached the stage in 1896, while Leoncavallo’s version debuted in the following year. Although Leoncavallo’s version was well received at its premiere, it shortly was totally eclipsed by Puccini’s work. (Once or Twice a Fortnight – 15 Oct 2016)

L/G 334 (Acts 1 and 2) - 

L/G 335 (Acts 3 and 4) - 

Listener Guide #336 - Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies (original piano version)
As Liszt toured Europe as a piano virtuoso, notably in the late 1830’s, he returned to his native Hungary where he re-encountered the folk tunes of his youth, and from there the Hungarian Rhapsodies are finally hatched. All the works bear dedications to important Hungarians of the day (Szerdahelyi, Teleki, Festetics, Kázmér Esterházy, Mme Reviczky, Apponyi, Orczy, Augusz, Egressy), or to musicians with Hungarian interests (Joachim, Ernst, von Bülow). (ITYWLTMT Podcast #177 - 12 Dec 2014)