Friday, October 30, 2020

Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from April 20, 2018. It can be found in our archives at


A few weeks ago, we spent a weekend exploring the music of The Mighty Five, the group of Nationalist composers that reshaped Russian music. Today’s throwback post revisits the music of one of their disciples, Alexander Glazunov.

In many ways, Glazunov was a transitional figure in Russian – later Soviet – music; not so much in terms of a late romantic to modern transition (that was more left to Stravinsky and Scriabin) but in terms of a nationalist transition. 

Glazunov was not supportive of the modern direction Stravinsky's music took. He was not alone in this prejudice—their mutual teacher Rimsky-Korsakov was as profoundly conservative by the end of his life, wedded to the academic process he helped instill at the Conservatory. Unlike Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov was not anxious about the potential dead end Russian music might reach by following academia strictly, nor did he share Rimsky-Korsakov's grudging respect for new ideas and techniques. 

Stravinsky was not the only composer whose modernist tendencies Glazunov disliked. Shostakovich mentioned Glazunov's attacks against the "recherché cacophonists"—the elder composer's term for the newer generation of Western composers, beginning with Debussy. Once, while looking at a score of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, he commented, "It's orchestrated with great taste.... And he knows his work.... Could it be that Rimsky and I influenced the orchestration of all these contemporary degenerates?"

Both Glazunov and Rachmaninoff, whose first symphony Glazunov supposedly had conducted so poorly at its premiere (according to the composer), were considered "old-fashioned" in their later years. In recent years, reception of Glazunov's music has become more favorable.

Glazunov served as director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory between 1905 and 1928 and was instrumental in the reorganization of the institute into the Petrograd Conservatory, then the Leningrad Conservatory, following the Bolshevik Revolution. The best-known student under his tenure during the early Soviet years was Dmitri Shostakovich.

Glazunov toured Europe and the United States in 1928, and settled in Paris by 1929. He always claimed that the reason for his continued absence from Russia was "ill health"; this enabled him to remain a respected composer in the Soviet Union, unlike Stravinsky and Rachmaninoff, who had left for other reasons. 

In 1934, he wrote one of his final works; a virtuoso and lyrical concerto for the alto saxophone. This is our filler work for today.

I think you will (still) love this music too

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Beethoven Two-For: Overtures and Emperor Concerto

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

This month's installment of our #Beethoven2020 series (the penultimate installment) shares two vinyl albums from my collection - one of them completes the "piano concerto" cycle we undertook when er launched this series earlier this year.

Let's start there - Rudolf Serkin recorded all of the Beethoven concertos - some of them more than once, under Eugene Ormandy, Bruno Walter and Leonard Bernstein, The Bernstein collaboration on the Emperor concerto was reissued several times, including under the "Great Performances" series, which is how I acquired it.

Manu conductors have recorded the Beethoven overtures - either as filler for their symphony cycles like Bernstein, von Dohnanyi and Leibowitz did or as stand-alone releases. This "Resonance" reissue combines overtures recorded by Karl Böhm with the Vienna Philharmonic with a pair of Fidelio overtures from his landmark recording of the opera with Staatskapelle Dresden.

Happy Listening!

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Overture To Goethe's Tragedy "Egmont", Op. 84
Overture To H.J. V. Collin's Tragedy "Coriolanus", Op. 62
Overture To The Ballet "The Creatures Of Prometheus", Op. 43
Wiener Philharmoniker
Overture "Fidelio", Op. 72b
Overture "Leonora No. 3", Op. 72a
Staatskapelle Dresden
Conductor – Karl Böhm
Deutsche Grammophon ‎ Resonance – 2535 135
Format: Vinyl, LP, Reissue

Concerto No. 5 In E-Flat Major For Piano & Orchestra, Op. 73 "Emperor"
Piano – Rudolf Serkin
Orchestra –New York Philharmonic
Conductor – Leonard Bernstein

CBS Great Performances ‎– MY 37223
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album

Friday, October 23, 2020

Back to Bach – Orgelwerke

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from October 18, 2013. It can be found in our archives at


For a few years, we used to feature Podcast Vault podcasts on the Tuesday Blog, and this week's selection was indeed redone in March of 2014. The title I used at that time was "Three Organs and Three Organists" and though the bulk of the musing essentially repeated the original Friday musing, there was a notable exception and let me recycle iy here:

Seeing all these colonnades of bone so methodically ranged about, would you not think you were inside of the great Haarlem organ, and gazing upon its thousand pipes?

This description of the mouth of a whale, quoted from the Melville novel Moby Dick makes a direct reference to the historic Christiaan Müller organ of the St.-Bavokerk in the Dutch city of Haarlem. It is one of the world's most historically important organs, whose original construction dates back 1735-38, thus contemporary to Bach’s lifetime. Dutch organist and composer Piet Kee performs eight short preludes and fugues for organ (BWV 553-560) on this venerable instrument.

Our two other organists - and organs - come from different parts of the Globe; Ian Tracey performs the Passacaglia and Fugue BWV 582 in this montage on the grand Blancfort organ at Our Lady of Incarnation church in Marbella, Spain. Glenn Gould plays selections from The ARt of the Fugue on the Casavant organ at All Saints' Kingsway Anglican Church in Toronto.

The original post (under my old bilingual format) proposed two YouTube clips (on in the French commentary, the other in the English commentary). Today's filler is an altogether different performance of the Art of the Fugue, this one on the Ahrend & Brunzema organ, , Kirche St. Johann, Bremen-Oberneuland by Herbert Tachezi.

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

Friday, October 16, 2020

Arthur Fiedler (1894 - 1979)

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from February 7, 2014. It can be found in our archives at


In order to complete our series of podcasts entrusted to “memorable conductors”, this week's throwback montage cedes the podium to the late Arthur Fiedler, associated with the current of “popular concerts” in the United States (and elsewhere) where we program works from the repertoire to others we don’t usually hear during symphonic concerts.

A seriously trained musician and member of the Boston Symphony (as was his father for that matter), in 1924 he created the Boston Sinfonietta, with which he began a series of concerts outside of his duties at the BSO. This orchestra - which would later become the Fieldler Sinfonietta on record – stuck to the traditional repertoire. In 1930 he was hired as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, where he held musical direction for nearly half a century. Under Fiedler's direction, the "Pops" have made more recordings than any orchestra in the world, selling over 50 million records and cassettes. In addition, Fiedler collaborated for 26 seasons with the San Francisco Pops Orchestra, and occasionally conducted other orchestras around the world.

The montage explores the more or less “typical” content for Fiedler and his “Pops”. Our bonus clips feature more Fieldler and the Pops. The album title (Evening at Pops) refers to his decade of television concerts produced WGBH fir PBS.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Mozart, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Alexander Gibson, Henryk Szeryng ‎– The Violin Concertos


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

This week's Tuesday Blog is a near-COver2Cover share of Henryk Szeryng's complete Mozart Violin Concerto cycle.

Back in February of 2016, I shared in these pages a vinyl pressing of two of these concerti - numbers 3 and 5. Today, we share the remaining tracks from that cycle, including three short concerto movements.

As I wrote back then, Szeryng's noble tone, flawless technique, and eloquent expressivity are wonderfully well-suited to Mozart's youthful concertos, and his lyrical yet playful interpretations touch the elegant impetuosity at the heart of the music.

Also worth noting, the fine backdrop offered by Sir Alexander Gibson and the New Philharmonia orchestra.


Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Violin Concerto #1 In B Flat, K. 207
Violin Concerto #2 In D, K. 211
Adagio In E, K. 261
Violin Concerto #4 In D, K. 218
Rondo In B Flat, K. 269
Rondo In C, K. 373

Conductor – Alexander Gibson
Orchestra – New Philharmonia Orchestra
Violin – Henryk Szeryng
Philips ‎ Silver Line Classics – 422 256-2


Friday, October 9, 2020

Saint-Saëns‘ cello

No. 345 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


Today marks Camille Saint-Saëns' birthday )born OTD in 1835) and to celebrate, I created a montage of works he composed for Cello and orchestra.

Saint-Saëns was a pianist and organist or renown, but he did compose worls for violin and for cello at different times during a career that spanned into the earky 20th century.

The First Cello Concerto has long been one of Saint- Saëns’s most popular pieces,; although officially written in one continuous movement, such a description is misleading in that the music follows concerto convention by dividing the music into three distinct sections, with a fast-slow-fast structure. It is only in one movement inasmuch as each movement continues without a pause. The performance chosen  here today, featuring canadian cellist Shauna Rolston, was the one remaining work from a CBC recording she made with the Calgary Philharmonic under Mario Bernardi (the other works on the album were featured in past montages).

While the First Cello Concerto was written during a period of post-war social readjustment, the Second—composed three decades later in 1902—came at a time of significant upheavals in the French musical landscape. This was the year that saw the premiere of Debussy’s opera Pelléas et Mélisande, a work that was not to the taste of Saint-Saëns, nor to many other critics of the time. Saint-Saëns’ new cello concerto was even less successful, with one critic denouncing it after its premiere on 5 February 1905 as ‘bad music well written’—a phrase that plagued the composer’s music for years. A principle objection was the physical demands made of the soloist. Joseph Hollman (1852–1926), was an energetic, muscular player, and Saint-Saëns sought to exploit these characteristics, but to the detriment of its reception. Although performances and recordings of the Second Cello Concerto have become more frequent in recent years, it is still greatly overshadowed by the First, and this is in no small part due to the music’s considerable technical difficulties with many solo passages, huge leaps, and runs that require two staves to accommodate them.

Remaining pieces on the album are shorter concertante works, inclusing the Swan from the Carnival of the Animals. The exception is the Suite in D minor, originally conceived for cello and piano, but was revised and orchestrated in 1919 (Saint-Saëns wrote two new movements for the orchestral version, the Gavotte and the Tarentelle).

I think you will love this music too.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Opera on Broadway

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from October 31, 2014. It can be found in our archives at


Our Podcast Vault selection this week feeds a thematic arc on our podcasting channel this week which I called “Operation Opera”.

Two of the titles released this week featured works by George Gershwin, a composer who is usually associated with musicals and with the famous New York theater district, Broadway.

One of the works we shared - Blue Monday - was included in a revue and the other, Porgy and Bess, was a daring attempt to put on a "grand opera". Even though Porgy is now staged by major operatic companies, its premiere was on Broadway, not the Met.

The post that originally accompanied today's share explored the opera phenomenon in the context of accessibility, and the pair of operas composed in the mid-1940s by Menotti are fine examples of this attempt to bring together the medium of opera and access to an audience that is less familiar with the same medium.

The bonus clip, another short opera by the same composer, attempts the same experiment with the radio audience. The Old Maid and the Thief is a short 14-scene opera composed expressly for radio, exploring a contemporary theme, in a language familiar to listeners. The chosen performance is the original feed from the NBC company, with the introduction (and synopsis) of the time.

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