Friday, July 31, 2020

Jean Sibelius – Symphonies No. 1 & 2

No. 342 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT  series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


This week’s podcast is an all-Sibelius program, featuring his first and second symphonies.

The Symphony No. 1 was started in 1898, and finished in early 1899, when Sibelius was 33. The work was first performed on 26 April 1899 by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by the composer. After the premiere, Sibelius made some revisions, resulting in the version performed today. The revised version was completed in the spring and summer of 1900, and was first performed in Berlin by the Helsinki Philharmonic, conducted by Robert Kajanus on 1 July 1900.

The symphony is characterized by its use of string and woodwind solos; the first movement opens with a long and discursive clarinet solo over a timpani roll; (this idea returns at the start of the fourth movement, fortissimo in the strings, with wind and brass chordal accompaniment), and subsequent movements include violin, viola, and cello solos.

The Symphony No. 2 was started in winter 1901 in Rapallo, Italy, shortly after the successful premiere of the popular Finlandia, and finished in 1902 in Finland. Sibelius said, "My second symphony is a confession of the soul."

Probably his most played and celebrated symphony, critics were divided following the symphony's premiere; the public generally admired the piece as its grandiose finale was connected by some with the struggle for Finland's independence, so that it was even popularly dubbed the "Symphony of Independence", as it was written at a time of Russian sanctions on Finnish language and culture. However, Virgil Thomson wrote in the New York Herald Tribune that the symphony was "vulgar, self-indulgent, and provincial beyond all description."

Finnish conductors Jukka-Pekka Saraste and Okko Kamu, lead both the performances on the montage. Saraste’s performance of the First comes from his RCA Sibelius cycle with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Kamu’s performance is from an early recording of his with the Berlin Philharmonic; Kamu took the top prize in the first Karajan conducting competition in 1969 when he was just 23 years old. I presume he was awarded the opportunity to record this (and two more Sibelius symphonies) for DG because of that achievement. More recently, Kamu issued a new Sibelius cycle for BIS records.

I think you will love this music too.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Lied der Nacht

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from September 21, 2018. It can be found in our archives at


This week’s throwback podcast is part of our ongoing Project 366 look at Mahler’s symphonies begun yesterday with the Fifth, as we work our way through the trio formed by the symphonies 5, 6 and 7.

As we discussed in the original post in 2018, the three years which elapsed between the completion of the score and the symphony's premiere witnessed dramatic changes in Mahler's life and career. In March 1907 he had resigned his conductorship of the Vienna State Opera, as the musical community in Vienna turned against him. On 12 July his first daughter died of scarlet fever; and, even as she lay on her deathbed, Mahler learned that he was suffering from an incurable heart condition. 

The atmosphere of the symphony is best described as “twilight”, lying somewhere between the tragic message of the sixth and the more humanistic sounds of the Eighth. Te work is not performed often, and is typically limited to your “Mahler cycles” rather than programmed as a singleton.

As a filler, I suggest listening to a chamber work by Mahler. He began work on the Piano Quartet in A minor towards the end of his first year at the Vienna Conservatory, when he was around 15 or 16 years of age. The piece had its first performance on July 10, 1876, at the conservatory with Mahler at the piano. Following this performance the work was performed at the home of Dr. Theodor Billroth, who was a close friend of Johannes Brahms. The final known performance of the Quartet in the 19th century was at Iglau on September 12, 1876, with Mahler again at the piano; it was performed along with a violin sonata by Mahler that has not survived.

The Quartet forms part of the soundtrack in Martin Scorsese's 2010 motion picture Shutter Island and is the subject of a short discussion between the movie's characters. Its complete performance by the Pražák Quartet is featured on the movie's double-CD soundtrack and here today.

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

Friday, July 17, 2020

This day in music history - 17 July 1976

No. 341 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at

This week's Blog and Podcast marks the 44th anniversary of the opening ceremonies to the Summer Olympic Games held in Montreal for a fortnight in July 1976. The remnants of these games, including the famous stadium designed by French architect Roger Taillibert, also includes its deficit, which has become a legend in the field of public finances in Canada, leaving a mixed memory of this event.

The musical look offered today, including the soundtrack of the official ceremonies sold commercially at the time, is an opportunity to reflect on the music of the Quebec composer André Mathieu (1929-1968) and its place in Quebec cultural folklore, including the renewed interest inspired by Alain Lefèvre's recordings over the last twenty years.

In an article in La Presse devoted to the 40th anniversary of the games, I retain the recollections of the legal adviser to the organizing committee, François Godbout (quote amended for this post):

The person in charge of the opening ceremony was André Morin, a Radio-Canada director who played an important role in the cultural component of Expo 67. He wanted a musical score similar to that of a film, an innovation for the Olympic Games. He naturally turned to the work of composer and pianist André Mathieu, for whom he had immense respect. And he asked Vic Vogel to adapt this music.

But above all, it was necessary to obtain the rights to the works of André Mathieu, who died in 1968. The committee negotiated with his widow and when the deal was done, she retrieved an old suitcase: it was the composer's complete work!

In 2012, weproposed a reflection on André Mathieu's career and music, and the section devoted to him in theCanadian Encyclopedia suggests an precocious talent, a career affected by the Second World War, an unhealthy family dynamic and alcohol that will undermine his success. It is difficult to speculate whether, if properly managed, his progress would have been more like that of, for example, Jean Papineau-Couture (fifteen years his senior) or François Dompierre (fifteen years his junior).

If one puts aside the "tragic" aspect of Mathieu's story, and if one concentrates solely on his musical production, one must recognize his genius (especially in his juvenile work), but also the lack of "finish" of these works. We can overlook those things in the work of a child, but we cannot in a young adult; in my opinion, Mathieu must not have been a very good student, because you don't feel maturity in his style - the melodies are there, but their development is quite weak at times.

Quebec lore has not been fond of André Mathieu's music, which in the 1950s and 1960s is considered "a drunk", who earns his living by giving private lessons and who offers himself in performance only in "pianothons" which he promotes himself. Aside from a handful of TV appearances, Mathieu is relegated to oblivion, and will die before reaching his forties.

Vic Vogel (1935-2019) represents a page in the history of Canadian heritage. After working until the late 1950s in the world of bars and cabarets, Vogel led his first band around 1960. It was during this period that Vogel met Mathieu, who frequented the various nightclubs in the Montreal area.
He directed, composed, arranged and orchestrated the music presented at Expo 67, Terre Des Hommes in 1968, the 1976 Montreal Olympics (including a recording for Polydor that became Platinum with more than 200,000 copies sold) and the 1985 Canada Games. For the commercial recording of the ceremonial soundtrack, he acted as music director and teamed up with two local choral groups – les disciples de Massenet and les petits chanteurs du Mont-Royal.

If you listen to the soundtrack carefully, you will recognize the three works proposed in the second part of the montage, all performed by Alain Lefèvre. The lullaby is omnipresent in the athletes' march and in the closing ballet, snippets of the  Concerto de Québec are scattered here and there, and the Olympic cantata is inspired by the Rhapsodie Romantique,which Lefèvre and his orchestrator Gilles Bellemare repurposed as the slow movement of their reconstruction of Mathieu's fourth concerto.

I think you will love this music too!

Friday, July 10, 2020


This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from August 30, 2013. It can be found in our archives at


Normally, our throwback montages correspond to our daily musical calendar podcast. This week, however, the musical calendar selection is from our Tuesday series, which gives us the opportunity to peak into the Podcast Vault for something we haven’t listened to for awhile.

In summers past, we shared montages as part of a recurring series we called The Musical Passport – montages that explore an area of the world, often using pieces from non-native composers. What was unique about our feature this week – Scandinavia – is that all of the composers are Scandinavian: Nielsen, Grieg, Sibelius and Sweden’s Dag Wirén.

I make a point to distinguish Sweden because the first three composers are generally thought of as “National” composers for Denmark, Norway and Finland respectively. However, there is no consensus National composer for Sweden.

As our bonus track this week, I thought I’d add to Wirén and Franz Berwald as Swedish composers of renown by adding Lars-Erik Larsson (1908 –1986), a contemporary of Wiren’s who also studied at the Stockholm Conservatory.

Music for Orchestra (1948-49)
Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sylvain Cambreling (Conductor)

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Glenn Gould, Beethoven, Liszt ‎– Piano Transcription: Symphony No. 6 (''Pastoral'')

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

This week, our lone Tuesday Blog share for July completes our two-part look at Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies, with a performance of the Pastoral Symphony.

For the past few months, we have been living through a pandemic and, as I considered musing about this week’s share, I got to wonder how Glenn Gould – a notorious germophobe – would have fared through a situation like this one. My conclusion is simple: I think he would done just fine, given he lived most of his final years in self-imposed lockdown, avoiding public gatherings and keeping very much to himself.

Today’s share is a Sony re-edition of a CBC Radio broadcast performance recorded: June 11, 1968. At a little over 55 minutes, Gould savoutrs every note, in a very internal performance. As this was recorded in his home studio in Toronto under his manic supervision, one has to think that this is a performance totally aligned with his vision of the work, with ever note in place.


Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano transcriptions of Beethoven Symphonies, S. 464
Symphony No.6 in F Major, Op.68 'Pastoral' [S.464/6]
Glenn Gould, Piano

Sony Classical ‎– SMK 52637, Sony Classical ‎– WSK 52637
(The Glenn Gould Edition )
Released: 1993


Internet Archive -

Friday, July 3, 2020

Cowboy Classics

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from July 8, 2011. It can be found in our archives at


As we discussed in our original post introducing today’s montage, the cowboy mystique has inspired countless works of music – film and television scores, and works for the stage. American composers of course have penned memorable melodies we rightly associate with cowboys, but also composers from abroad.

The two main works on the montage – Aaron Copland’s ballet Rodeo and Puccini’s final act from the Girl from the Golden West are excellent examples of ambitious stage works that look at romance in the open prairie – one lighthearted and the other with dramatic twists.

As filler today, I found the complete performance of Puccini’s opera that I used in the montage.

Minnie: Renata Tebaldi
Ramerrez: Mario del Monaco
Jack Rance: Cornell MacNeil
Chorus and Orchestra of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
Franco Capuana, conducting

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

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Project 366 - Dates on the Musical Calendar for July 2020

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

  • 1-Jul       Canada Day [Guide #350]
  • 4-Jul       Independence Day (USA) [Guide #351]
  • 7-Jul       Happy Birthday Gustav  Mahler (Born OTD 1860) [Guide #264]
  • 14-Jul    Bastille Day (France) [Guide #352]

On account of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health measures as well as continuing concern for the health and well-being of the community led organizers to the 2020 edition of the Calgary Stampede. Though it cannot be celebrated in traditional way, Stampede Spirit can’t be cancelled! In this spirit, spirit we have kept our Cowboy Classics montage on the calendar [Guide #61]
Symphonies by Tchaikovsky, Nielsen and Mahler adorn the calendar, along with two full-lengtyh operas: Dialogues of the Carmelites [Guides # 353 & 354] and L’Elisir d’Amore [Guides # 355 & 356]

Your Listener Guides

Listener Guide #350 – Canada Day
As our regular listeners will attest, scarcely a listener guide goes by without its fair share of "Canadian content". To celebrate Canada Day, we assembled a montage of music featuring Canadian compositions and performers. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 12 - July 1, 2011)

Listener Guide #351 – America
America is synonymous with migration - save for the people from the First Nations, everybody (or their ancestors) have come from elsewhere. Many of today's musical selections are indicative of travel to America, or of people that have elected to live in America. (ITYWLTMT Montage # 116 - 02 Aug, 2013)

Listener Guide #352 – Séjour musical en France
Tarbes is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées, in south-western France. And it is the birthplace of French pianist Cécile Ousset, who will be our soloist in Poulenc’s Piano Concerto. In this (in my opinion) definitive performance, she is ably backed-up by Rudolf Barshai and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. (ITYWLTMTMontage #15 - July 22, 2011)

Listener Guide #353 & 354 – Dialogues des carmélites
The opera explores the drama surrounding the Carmelites of Compiegne, sixteen Carmelite nuns (cloistered) sentenced to death in July 1794 by the Revolutionary Tribunal on the grounds of "fanaticism and sedition." Arrested and convicted at the height of the Terror, they had two years earlier, vowed to give their lives to "appease the wrath of God and the divine peace that his dear Son came to bring the world." Their peaceful death on the scaffold impressed the crowd and was one of the many seminal events that put an end to this dark chapter in post-Revolutionary France. (Once or Twice a Fortnight -14 Nov 2013)

Acts 1 &2 - L/G 353, Acts 3 & 4 - L/G 354

Listener Guide #355 & 356 – L'Elisir d'Amore
L'elisir d'amore (The Elixir of Love) is a melodramma giocoso in two acts. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto, after Eugène Scribe's libretto for Daniel Auber's Le philtre (1831). Composed in less than a month (according to The New Grove Masters of Italian Opera) l’elisir d'amore was the most often performed opera in Italy between 1838 and 1848 and has remained continually in the international opera repertoire. Today it is one of the most frequently performed of Donizetti's 75 operas. (Once or Twice a Fortnight - 20 Oct 2012)

Act 1 - L/G 355, Act 2 - L/G 356