Friday, May 28, 2021

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974)

No. 358 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT eries of audio montages can be found in our archives at


This week, our new podcast focused on works by French composer Darius Milhaud. He was a member of Les Six, a group of composers that steered French music in the first four decades of the Twentieth Century.

As a prolific composer I his own right, his compositions are influenced by jazz and Brazilian music and make extensive use of polytonality. Two of the works on today’s program exemplify these influences most directly: La création du monde (a ballet for small orchestra with solo saxophone, influenced by jazz), and Scaramouche (a suite for two pianos later adapted for orchestra, also for alto saxophone or clarinet).

The Little (Chamber) Symphony No. 2, was written for chamber orchestra, consisting of flute, English horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. Milhaud composed this piece in 1918, fairly early in his composing career, while he was still employed as a secretary to the French ambassador to Brazil. Milhaud wrote this short symphony at sea, during a return voyage to France. Influences of Latin American rhythms and references to South America’s picturesque landscape are present throughout the piece.

Milhaud was living in Brazil when he completed Les Choéphores (The Libation Bearers) in 1916. This work forms the middle part of Milhaud's Orestian trilogy, written in collaboration with the poet Paul Claudel. Les Choéphores is set for vocal soloists, chorus, orchestra, and a battery of percussion instruments; it is divided into seven scenes: As is the case with Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust, the work is neither wholly opera nor cantata, but combines elements of both forms.

Milhaud composed his Concerto pour batterie et petit orchestre in Paris in 1929-30 —it was written as an examination piece for a Belgian music school. It is set for a single percussionist, using a vast array of instruments and accompanied by modest orchestral forces. Milhaud provided a map with the score, indicating the percussion components and their layout: the piece requires the soloist to be completely encircled by instruments, including four timpani, tom-toms, cymbals and suspended cymbals, a bass drum with a cymbal attachment on a foot pedal, castanets, ratchet, slapstick, triangle, cowbell, tambourine and wood block. The Concerto is remarkable not for the rhythmic virtuosity of its solo part, but rather for the demands it makes on the solo percussionist to simply navigate all of the instruments.

I think you will love this music too

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

PTB Classic - Glenn Gould Plays Beethoven Piano Sonatas nos. 12, 16 & 17


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

Today's PTB Classic post is the second set of Beethoven sonatas in out three part series, which we also trust to Glenn Gould. Last month, we considered five sonatas, this week three sonatas, recorded in 1973 and 1983, respectively.

The 1983 digital recording is that of the "Funeral March" sonata, amd the last two (from 1973) are two of the three sonatas from the op. 31 set.

As we discussed the aesthetic around Gould's approach on Beethoven as part of last month's post, I have nothing more to add. Simply enjoy the performances!

The YouTube link below incudes all of the works re-released and remastered under a single multiple-CD box. The three selections are also available on the included Internet Archive link.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata No.12 in Ab, Op.26 ('Funeral March')
Piano Sonata No.16 in G, Op.31, No.1
Piano Sonata No.17 in D-, Op.31, No.2 ('Tempest')

Glenn Gould, piano


Internet Archive

Friday, May 21, 2021

Tcahikovsky Festival, Part Two


This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from May 20, 2011. It can be found in our archives at


This week’s selection from the Podcast Vault is the second of a three-part series from the earliest days of our blog (almost exactly 10 years ago!), featuring the historic DG 1960 all-Mravinsky stereo recordings made withthe Leninngrad Philharmonic of Tchaikovsky’s last three “numbered” symphonies. These recordings were made in London, and showcase a true Russian rendition of these most Russian symphonies. The Fifth featured today stands out as one of my favourites among the ones I have in my collection – Karajan, Rostropovich, Maazel and Guido Cantelli.

Two other works are part of this montage; Stokowski conducts the fantasy overture inspired by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and as final track, a singe movement from the Manfred Symphony, which we recently featured in its entirety in a montage that is still on the roster of our Podcasting channel.

It still made sense to me, as filler, to provide the complete performance by Riccardo Muti and the New Philharmonia Orchestra, available as part of the complete Mutiu cycle (link here  ) and as a single continuous track:

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

Friday, May 14, 2021

Not Always Opera

No. 357 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at


This week’s podcast features three works from three composers we normally associate with opera, not the concert hall.

Georges Bizet's earliest compositions, chiefly songs and keyboard pieces written as exercises, give early indications of his emergent power and his gifts as a melodist. From those student days, the Symphony in C has been warmly praised by later commentators who have made favourable comparisons with Mozart and Schubert.

After his early Symphony in C, Bizet's purely orchestral output is sparse and considered unremarkable. The work I chose to open the program, the overture Patrie, has been dismissed as: "an awful warning of the danger of confusing art with patriotism". For you to decide if you agree with that poor assessment.

Wagner composed his only symphony (also in C) in the brief space of six weeks at the beginning of the summer of 1832. The composition shows the influence of the symphonies of Beethoven and also of the late symphonies of Mozart; the orchestration is in the style of Weber and Beethoven. The work shows the composer's inexperience (he was less than 20 years old when writing it).

Early performances took place in November 1832, January 1833, and August 1833. The score was subsequently thought to have been lost, but the parts from the 1832 Prague performance were found in a trunk which had been left behind by Wagner when he fled Dresden in 1849. The work was performed again at Christmas 1882, two months before Wagner's death. Wagner later wrote (referring to himself in the third person…) "If there is anything at all in this work which shows the mark of Richard Wagner, it is the fact that it is not polluted by the hypocritical stance which was to appear later and which Germans find very difficult to get the better of, and the fact that, from the outset, he remained true to himself and was unwilling to be deflected from his proper course."

Gian Carlo Menotti wrote many operas but did pen some piano and orchestral works. He was a traditionalist and romanticist at a time when most western composers were preoccupied with new styles marked by the avant-garde experimental spirit and theoretical rigor; there was little room for traditional tonality and lyricism in the classical music world at the time.

Menotti’s profound interest in the voice and belief in connecting with his audience through accessible musical language is also tangible in his instrumental works. The Violin Concerto, rich with drama, lyrical melody, and orchestral color, is far more accessible that instrumental works by other composers of the time. The concerto was written in 1952 after a commission by the violinist Efrem Zibalist, who premiered the work with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Carnegie Hall later that year. The premiere was a success, as can be read in a review by Louis Biancolli of New York World-Telegram & Sun: “It is a fresh and vigorous piece of music, overflowing with energy and melody and whatever else it takes to complete a three-movement concerto without becoming apologetic.” Yet, after the initial success, the work was largely neglected.

I think you will love this music too.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Schumann, New Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer – Symphony No. 3


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

To conclude our three-part look at Schumann’s symphonies, I chose my favorite of his, the Rheinish. It was composed in1850, the same year that he completed his Cello Concerto (which was published four years later).

Schumann was inspired to write the symphony after a trip to the Rhineland with his wife Clara. This journey was a happy and peaceful trip; he incorporated elements of the journey and portrayed other experiences from his life in the music.

There are two forces at work in the Symphony – an essential formal conservatism and an exuberant rhythmic and melodic inventiveness. These two forces combine to give the opening movement tremendous swagger and swing. The three central movements function as interludes, capturing different moods and suggesting different scenes, while simultaneously fulfilling the requirements of the symphony for a scherzo and a slow movement.

With the finale, the animation of the first movement returns. Here, Schumann emphasizes rhythm and clarity of articulation (much of the music is marked to be played staccato), giving the music a propulsive lightness that drives the Symphony to its exhilarating, noble close.

This vintage performance by Klemperer and his “new” Philharmonia is capped off with the overture Schumann wrote for what we should think of as a “Faust oratorio;”. Schumann's music suggests the struggle between good and evil at the heart of Goethe's work, as well as Faust's tumultuous search for enlightenment and peace.

Happy listening!

Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphony No. 3 In E Flat Major, Op. 97 ("Rhenish")
Overture To Goethe's "Faust", A3, no. 0

Orchestra – New Philharmonia Orchestra
Conductor – Otto Klemperer

Angel Records – RL-32064
Format: Vinyl, LP, Reissue


Friday, May 7, 2021

Musikalische Akademie der 7. Mai 1824

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from May 4, 2012. It can be found in our archives at 


On this day in 1824 at Vienna’s Kärntnertortheater Beethoven premiered his Ninth Symphony. As I discussed in the original post, two more Beethoven works were also performed that night – three sections of his Missa Solemnis and an overture he wrote for a re-staging of Kotzebue’s The Ruins of Athens for the opening of Vienna's new Theater in der Josefstadt nearly two years earlier. Because the text that was used differed from the original, Beethoven wrote new music including the overture which we now know as The Consecration of the House Overture.

The Ninth symphony needs no introduction; its celebratory tone makes it a favourite at special concert events. The symphony is remarkable for several reasons; it is longer and more complex than any symphony to date and requires a larger orchestra. Beethoven’s inclusion of a chorus and vocal soloists in the final movement was a first as (presumably) nobody had done that in a symphony.

Beethoven composed more music after the Ninth, devoting his energies largely to composing his late string quartets, but no more symphonies. There are, however, symphony fragments in Beethiven’s many sketchbooks, all clearly intended for the same symphony, which would have followed the Ninth, since they appear together in several small groups, and there is consensus that Beethoven did intend to compose another symphony.

British musicologist Barry Cooper assembled the sketches into a coherent concert score first performed in 1988 by the Royal Philharmonic Society, London, to whom Beethoven himself had offered the new symphony in 1827.

As filler for today’s post, here is the combination of a lecture on the score by Dr. Cooper and a performance by the London Symphony under Wyn Morris.

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