Friday, April 30, 2021
|No. 356 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.|
Kondrashin was formed as a conductor at an early age, making his conducting debut at the Moscow Children’s Theatre in 1931, later working as assistant conductor at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre in 1934. For almost 25 years, including a stint at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as a member of the conducting staff in wartime until 1956, Kondrashin was mainly an opera and ballet conductor, though he did dabble in orchestral repertoire. Notably, his performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1 attracted the composer's attention and led to the formation of a firm friendship.
After leaving the Bolshoi, Kirill Kondrashin concentrated on orchestral conducting, becoming highly thought of as a concerto accompanist and working with the country’s leading instrumentalists, such as Emil Gilels, Leonid Kogan, David Oistrakh, Sviatoslav Richter and Rostropovich. In the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1958, Kondrashin was the conductor for Van Cliburn, who won the first prize. After the competition he toured the USA with Cliburn, being the first Russian conductor to visit America since the Cold War began. The performances and recordings with Van Cliburn helped to establish an international reputation for Kondrashin. He held numerous subsequent engagements in the America, the last being a concert at the Hollywood Bowl in February 1981.
The two works on the program today are Tchaikovsky’s Third orchestral suite – a work that requires little introduction, as it has been featured in past shares- and Shostakovich’s Sixth symphony.
Shostakovich had announced once in September 1938 that he was anxious to work on his Sixth Symphony, which would be a monumental composition for soloists, chorus and orchestra employing the poem Vladimir Ilyich Lenin by Vladimir Mayakovsky, but the declamatory nature of the poem made it difficult to set. He later tried to incorporate other literature about Lenin in his new symphony, but without success. Finally, he settled on a purely instrumental symphony, completing it in September 1939.
On 21 November 1939, exactly two years after the premiere of the Symphony No. 5, the premiere of the Symphony No. 6 took place in the Large Hall of the Leningrad Philharmonic in Leningrad by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under Yevgeny Mravinsky. The symphony had a successful premiere, however the work was later criticised for its ungainly structure and the jarring juxtaposition of moods. The fact that the symphony was performed during a 10-day festival of Soviet music which included patriotic works (by Prokofiev and Shaporin ) probably did not help. The third movement galop is the movement Shostakovich himself thought was most successful (at the premiere, the finale was encored).
I think you will love this music too.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021
|This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.|
Today’s Cover2Cover post launches a three-part series of shares of Beethoven piano sonatas. I avoided programming Beethoven so far in 2021, simply because we had so much of it last year for the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. However, one area we did not dedicate much Tuesday Blog posts on last year was the vast corpus (32 in all) of his piano sonatas, spanning the whole arc of his career as a composer. Over this short set, we will consider almost half of those – 15 in fact – which reminds us that not all Beethoven sonatas are created equal, and that even the “short ones” pack a good punch!
Two of the posts planned in this short series feature Glenn Gould as the performing artist. The choice is no coincidence – we are entering our tenth year of Tuesday Blogs and Gould is a frequent guest around here… If you scan the Gould discography, you’ll find that after Bach, Beethoven is probably the composer Gould recorded the most, be it in his many years at Columbia/CBS or in some of the CBC archival broadcast recordings re-issued on their “Perspectives” series.
Gould recorded all the concerti, bagatelles, variations and of course most (not all) of the piano sonatas. In fact, Gould did something almost sacrilegious, issuing the triptych of the last three piano sonatas as his second release for Columbia in 1956! This was an interesting choice for a rather young pianist, when these mature Beethoven sonatas are usually left for mature artists to perform.
The two discs featured today – six sonatas in total – cover two complete sets (op. 10 and 14), plus the more familiar Pathétique sonata. Gould is in fine form (humming along, as usual), and his performance of the op. 10 set feels especially inspired. Beethoven composed these sonatas early on in his career and for himself as a touring pianist. Gould shows incredible dexterity and deftness – he plays the fast parts really fast, the slow parts lyrically (noteworthy for Gould who’s never sentimental…). His Pathétique is performed in “puritan” mode, where he scrupulously sticks to Beethoven’s indications with little to no ornamentation. The music speaks for itself, and it does so eloquently.
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.5 in C Minor, Op.10, No.1
Piano Sonata No.6 in F Major, Op.10, No.2
Piano Sonata No.7 in D Major, Op.10, No.3
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...Ul__6_IasGQ7Co
Piano Sonata No.8 in C Minor, Op.13 ('Pathétique')
Piano Sonata No.9 in E Major, Op.14, No.1
Piano Sonata No.10 in G Major, Op.14, No.2
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...LBmc_selkUIS5s
Friday, April 23, 2021
|This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from June 10, 2011. It can be found in our archives at |
For the past eight months, we’ve been going through all of our montages and I’m glad to revisit this quite early post from June 2011. Though I haven’t been reporting on this before, as I go through these montages I do from time to time recompile them – today’s montage had many “home digitized” tracks that I have later found properly digitized elsewhere and the resulting “revised” montage is of far better quality!
I remember that my younger daughter (fourteen at the time) was getting ready for her annual dance recital when I assembled this montage of dance favourites.
In classical music, we find dances in several forms – as pieces that exemplify specific dance styles (waltzes are a good example of that), as dance suites (such as, say, the Bach partitas), as national or folk dances and – of course – as dance numbers within larger stage works.
The selected works cover the entire spectrum, including a few “ballet selections” among which is the Sailor’s Dance from Reinholt Gliere’s 1920’s era ballet “The Red Poppy”. As our bonus piecem this week, here’s a suite of selections from the ballet performed by the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra conducted by Yuri Fayer.
I think you will (still) love this music too.
Friday, April 16, 2021
|No. 355 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Friday Blog and Podcast. Mobile followers can listen to the montage on our Pod-O-Matic Channel, and desktop users can simply use the embedded player found on this page.|
This week’s new podcast takes us back to a familiar place: Haydn’s London Symphonies. In the past, we assembled a triptych of three “even” London symphonies (nos. 94, 96 and 98) under one conductor and orchestra and today’s triptych completes the “even set” with symphoniesm100, 102 and 104.
We have also trusted one conductor, Otto Klemperer, with these three works but his forces are the “original” and “new” Philharmonia orchestras. Let me share the insights of James Weinman commenting on these performances for Maclean’s a dozen years ago:
Klemperer made [four Haydn symphony LPs] at various times in his career; two of those LPs are among the best things this prolific conductor ever recorded. […] These are the recordings he made in 1964-65, one LP of symphonies # 88 and 104 (Haydn’s last symphony) and another LP of symphonies # 100 and 102 […].
The British critics hated these discs, calling the performances charmless and heavy. […] Klemperer’s performances were among the few of the era that really took the music seriously, and really grasped how much Beethoven borrowed from Haydn: the sudden pauses, the weird shifts in tone within a movement, the complex development of seemingly simple melodies. Most conductors of the time tended to let the strings dominate in this kind of movement, but Klemperer keeps the woodwinds well forward […] and when Haydn writes a brass fanfare in the first movement of 104, you can hear it.
[…] While Klemperer has a reputation as a slow conductor, his tempos are not slow in these symphonies; not as fast as they would be today, and like many conductors he doesn’t seem to think Haydn means it when he marks his minuets (which aren’t really minuets at all) “allegro,” but these are not slow at all.
I think you will love this music too
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
|This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.|
Today’s Tuesday Blog is the second of a three-part series where we consider the four symphonies of Robert Schumann. In this “PTB Classic” playlist, Sergiu Celibidache leads the Munich Philharmonic in a pair of live concert recordings featuring the second symphony and the piano concerto in A Minor.
In the year 1845, Schumann embarked into intensive study of counterpoint with his wife, Clara. He began to compose away from the piano, as he noted in his writing: “Not until the year 1845, when I began to conceive and work out everything in my head, did an entirely different manner of composition begin to develop”.
Schumann began to sketch his second symphony on December 12, 1845, and had a robust draft of the entire work by December 28 and spent most of the next year orchestrating it. The uplifting tone of the symphony is remarkable considering Schumann's health problems during the time of its composition — depression and poor health, including ringing in his ears.
Though begun a few years earlier, the composition of Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor drags into 1845 as well. The complete work was premiered in Dresden on December 4 of 1845. It is one of the most widely performed and recorded piano concertos from the Romantic period.
Today’s featured soloist, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli is considered one of the greatest pianists of the twentieth century and was perhaps the most reclusive, enigmatic and obsessive among the handful of the world's legendary pianists. Our conductor today, Sergiu Celibidache, considered Michelangeli the "greatest living artist" and saw in him a colleague, stating that “Michelangeli makes colors; he is a conductor."
Celibidache's career in music spanned over five decades, including tenures as principal conductor of the Munich Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Sicilian Symphony Orchestra and several other European orchestras. Celibidache frequently refused to release his performances on commercial recordings during his lifetime, claiming that a listener could not have a "transcendental experience" outside the concert hall. Many of the recordings of his performances were released posthumously. He has nonetheless earned international acclaim for his interpretations of the classical repertoire and was known for a spirited performance style informed by his study and experiences in Zen Buddhism.
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54
Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, piano
Live recording: 26 September 1992
Symphony No.2, in C Major, Op.61
Live recording, 29 November 1994
Munich Philharmonic Orchestra
Sergiu Celibidache, conducting
YouTube - https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PL...3O_CyDJgXx9bM0
Friday, April 9, 2021
|This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from April 29, 2011. It can be found in our archives at |
This coming weekend, we will be programing our “Musical Alphabet” montages which were our first and second installments. Today’s montage, the fourth in our ongoing series which counts today well 354, was made up entirely of selections from my vinyl collection, some were even digitized using homemade techniques – which were discussed on another contemporaneous post which discussed this in more specific terms. Since those days, I have since found digital copies of most (if not all) of the tracks on today’s montage, though for nostalgia sake, I have not re-edited the montage to replace some of my original handy work!
In the original post, I make specific reference to the album Saga by pianist and “pseudo-classical” composer André Gagnon (the quote is attributable to the performer, actually). I managed to fimnd the entire album (save for one track) as a playlist on the artists’s YouTube Topic page. I luckily found the missing track and created a more complete playlist that I share today as our bonus filler.
I think you will (still) love this music too!
Friday, April 2, 2021
|This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from March 29, 2013. It can be found in our archives at |