Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Etudes-Tableaux


No. 361 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montagesis this week's Tuesday Blog can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast361



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This week’s “Fifth Tuesday” quarterly podcast is dedicated to Rachmaninov’s Etudes-Tableaux, a curious mix of pianistic prowess and impressionism “à la sauce Russe”. There are 17 of these studies, eight in a set dating 1911, and nine in a later set from 1916-17. This latter set is presented today in its entirety.

To make my “impressionist” case, look no further than the five studies that Ottorino Respighi orchestrated and that are part of this week’s montage. Each one gets an evocative subtitle: “Red Riding Hood and the Wolf”, “Funeral March”, and so on. Four of the five pieces are taken from the same op. 39 set featured today.

In a Gramophone review, Bryce Morrison puts is quite plainly: ”Ferocious and tormenting in its demands, Op 39 is designed for those whose outsize technical command is complemented by a born feel for turbulence and upheaval.” Morrison’s survey of recordings of the corpus identify today’s performer, Nikolai Lugansky, “[at] his most audacious, willing to step outside convention and declaim Rachmaninov’s glory to the heavens.”

As a fitting homage to the composer, the montage opens with the old man himself in a vintage recording of a pair of the op. 33 studies. To close out the montage Mr. Lugansky returns with selections from Rachmaninov’s Moments Musicaux, a veiled homage to Schubert (in name only, I would argue) sophisticated works of longer duration, thicker textures, and greater virtuosic demands on the performer than any of Rachmaninoff's previous solo piano works.

I think you will love this music too.


Friday, June 25, 2021

Jean Sibelius – Symphonies No. 1 & 2

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from July 31, 2020. It can be found in our archives at  https://archive.org/details/pcast342



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For a second Friday, our podcast features the music of Jean Sibelius and, again, under the baton of a pair of Finnish conductors.

Born in Heinola, Finland, Jukka-Pekka Saraste began his career as a violinist before training as a conductor with Jorma Panula at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. An artist of exceptional versatility and breadth and renowned for his objective approach, he feels a special affinity with the sound and style of late Romantic music. He maintains a particularly strong connection to the works of Beethoven, Bruckner, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and Sibelius and is internationally celebrated for his interpretations of Mahler. We remember Saraste fondly here in Canada as the Music Director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1994 to 2001. The later years of his tenure were marked by strife over the orchestra's financial difficulties, several musicians' strikes, and his unsuccessful efforts to improve the acoustics at Roy Thomson Hall. Saraste stepped down from his Toronto post in 2001, and has since returned to Toronto for several guest appearances.

Okko Kamu was born iin Helsinki  to a family of musicians. His father played double bass in the Helsinki Philharmonic. He began violin studies at age two and entered the Sibelius Academy at age six. He formed his own string quartet, the Suhonen, in 1964 where he played first violin. At age 20, he was appointed first solo violinist at the Finnish National Opera, and held this post until 1968. He then began to conduct, initially with the Finnish National Opera orchestra. Primarily self-taught, he became principal guest conductor of the Royal Swedish Opera in 1969, the same year as he won the first Herbert von Karajan Conducting Competition in Berlin. From 1971 to 1977, Kamu was principal conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. In April 2009, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Kamu as its next chief conductor, as of the autumn of 2011 where he remained through the end of July 2016, at which time he concluded his tenure in Lahti.

As our filler piece, I chose Kamu in a live performance of the Sibelius tone poem The Wood Nymph with the Lahti Symphony.




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


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

PTB Classic: Artur Schnabel plays Beethoven sonatas


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


For the third and final installment in our abbreviated look at Beethoven piano sonatas, let’s turn to a pianist who made the first-ever recording of the entire corpus, and evaluate how well these interpretations have stood the test of time.

Artur Schnabel (1882 –1951) was an Austrian-born classical pianist, composer and pedagogue. Among the 20th century's most respected and important pianists, Schnabel has few equals, especially in the Austro-German classics, particularly the works of Beethoven and Schubert.

Schnabel was the first pianist to record all of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas The recordings were made in Abbey Road Studios in London on a C. Bechstein grand piano between 932 and 1935, seven years after electrical recording was invented.

Although Schnabel had refused to make recordings for years, he agreed to take on the project. The Beethoven Society began distributing Schnabel's recordings of the sonatas in March 1932, issuing a total of twelve volumes through 1937.

The recordings continue to amass universal recognition and have received numerous honors. In 1937, Gramophone wrote of the recordings: "To [his] technical mastery Schnabel adds and fuses an intensely intelligent, not merely 'intellectual' mind ... The result is a perfectly blended interpretation of the music as a spiritual expression and as a musical organism."
In 2014, William Robin of The New Yorker wrote that Schnabel "remains the eminent Beethoven interpreter on record" when discussing his recordings of the piano sonatas. The recordings were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975 and into the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress in 2018.

Read more here.

To my ear, you need to compare Schnabel to, say Wilhelm Kempff or Wilhelm Backhaus, near-contemporaries of his and certainly recognized Beethoven interpreters in the classic German style. Schnabel never resorts to “flash” in his performances – the music gets to take center stage, guided by a solid hand, never pretentious.

I was pleased to find the entire set on YouTube (link below), though I retained a few sonatas for your consideration, and posted them in a dedicated archive page.

Happy listening!



Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonatas:

  • No.13 in E-Flat Major, Op.27, No.1 ('Quasi una fantasia')
  • No.22 in F Major, Op.54
  • No.24 in F-Sharp Major, Op.78 ('For Therese')
  • No.25 in G Major, Op.79 ('Cuckoo')
  • No.26 in E-Flat Major, Op.81a ('Les Adieux')
  • No.27 in E Minor, Op.90


Artur Schnabel, piano


Warner Classics – 0190295975050
Format: 8 x CD, Compilation, Remastered, Mono
Recorded 1932-35 in No. 3 Studio, Abbey Road, London.
Remastered 2015-16

Discogs - https://www.discogs.com/Beethoven-Artur-Schnabel-The-Complete-Piano-Sonatas/release/8896381



Friday, June 18, 2021

Paavo Berglund conducts Sibelius

No. 360 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT eries of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast360



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This week’s new montage is an all-Sibelius program, under the direction of Finnish conductor Paavo Berglund. Berglund's conducting career began in 1949, when he founded his own chamber orchestra. In 1953, Berglund co-founded the Helsinki Chamber Orchestra and two years later was appointed Associate Conductor of the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra He served as its chief conductor of the from 1962-71. Berglund became music director of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra in 1975 and held the post for four seasons. In the UK, Berglund led Sibelius Centenary Concerts with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in 1965, and became their principal conductor in 1972, concluding his tenure in Bournemouth in 1979.

Berglund was tireless in studying, preparing and rehearsing. He almost always came to the orchestra with his own materials he had corrected and bowed by his own hand. He would then mark highly detailed instructions on the sheet music of each individual musician.

To open the montage, I chose The Oceanides, a single-movement tone poem for orchestra written in 1913–14. The piece, which refers to the nymphs in Greek mythology who inhabited the Mediterranean Sea, is sometimes viewed as an example of Impressionism. Others have countered that Sibelius's active development of the two subjects, his sparing use of scales favored by Impressionists, and his prioritization of action and structure over ephemeral, atmospheric background distinguish the piece from quintessential examples, such as Debussy's La mer.

The third symphony is a good-natured, triumphal, and deceptively simple-sounding piece, laid out in three movements. It is dedicated to the British composer Granville Bantock an early champion of his work in the UK.

The remainder if the program features short pieces for violin and orchestra. Everyone agrees that the Six Humoresques are miniature masterpieces, but they are still very seldom played, and just as seldom recorded. Along with the two equally fine serenades, they would make perfect encore pieces after Sibelius’ Violin Concerto.

The humoresques are performed here by Heimo Haitto (1925 – 1999). A child prodigy, he was characterized as “Finland’s Jascha Heifetz”. The performances retained here are from Finnish radio, compiled in a 2013 CD.

Ida Haendel (1928 –2020) was a Polish-British-Canadian violinist. A child prodigy, her career spanned over seven decades. After performing the Sibelius concerto in Helsinki in 1949, she received a letter from the composer. "You played it masterfully in every respect," Sibelius wrote, adding: "I congratulate myself that my concerto has found an interpreter of your rare standard." The Sibelius Society awarded her the Sibelius Medal in 1982. She is heard today with Berglund performing the two serenades.

I think you will love this music too.


Friday, June 11, 2021

Rachmnaninov Festival (Part 3 of 4)

  

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from August 9, 2013. It can be found in our archives at  https://archive.org/details/Pcast117



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All week, our daily podcasts revisited our Rachmaninov Festival first shared during the summer of 2013. The Podcast Vault selection is the third in that four-part set, featuring the Third piano concerto and the Symphonic Dances. The two works, discussed at length in the original commentary, come at two very different times in Rachmaninov’s career – the concerto at the height of the Russian phase of his career, the other as a late (and rare) composition in the American phase.

The concerto has been featured in other shares – in addition to this “live concert” performance by Evegny Kissin, we can point to Van Cliburn in a 2017 montage discussing the concerto’s early performance as a summit meeting between Rachmaninov and Gustav Mahler, and a vinyl share last year from a Melodiya North-American issue featuring Andrei Gavrilov. The Symphonic Dances were also part of a Vinyl share in late 2017. Previn’s performance today is on point, though the vinyl performance led by Svetlanov has more “Russian bite”.

All of these performances are available in our Archive [https://archive.org/details/@itywltmt?query=rachmaninov]

As a bonus track, I chose one of Rachmaninov’s tone poems. The Rock (or The Crag) is an early composition from the summer of 1893, dedicated to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The inspiration has a few likely storylines; a couplet from a poem by Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov, and a story by Anton Chekhov titled "Along the Way", in which a young girl meets an older man during a stormy, overnight stop at a roadside inn on Christmas Eve.

The YouTube clip features the Berlin Philharmonic under Lorin Maazel

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


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Walton / Nigel Kennedy / André Previn / RPO ‎– Violin & Viola Concertos

 


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


What do Maxim Vengerov, Sir Yehudi Mnuhon and Nigel Kennedy have in common? They are all renowned violinists who traded their violin for a viola in a recording of William Walton's viola concerto. Today’s Cover2Cover share, my last in that series before mu annual summer hiatus, is a 1987 coupling of Walton’s viola and violin concerti featuring Kennedy as soloist with the Royal Philharmonic under Andre Previn.

The pair of concertante works are workhorses of 20th-century British repertoire, and both were revised years after their creation. The viola concerto was created by none other than Paul Hindemith; the violin concerto by Jacha Heifitz.

Nigel Kennedy is a colourful personality in the musical world; his early career was primarily spent performing classical music with highly acclaimed recordings, and he has since expanded into jazz, klezmer, and other music genres. One could say his eclectic repertoire has dominated his records and performances for about three decades. This Walton recording, made in the early phase of his career, allows us to appreciate his unique brand of music making.

As stated earlier, Menuhin recorded both these works with Walton conducting. Not surprisingly, Kennedy's jazz sympathies give his playing a natural bite in the sharply syncopated passages so typical of Walton, matching Previn's similarly jazz-founded understanding.

Happy Listening!


Sir William Turner WALTON (1902 –1983)
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, C22
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, C37

Nigel Kennedy, viola (C22) and violin (C37)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Andre Previn, conducting
Recorded in No.1 Studio, Abbey Road, London 27 June and 9 September 1987

EMI – CDC 7 49628 2
Format: CD, Album
Released: 1987
Discogs https://www.discogs.com/Walton-Nigel...elease/2684691

Friday, June 4, 2021

0 & 00

No. 359 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT eries of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast359



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This week’s new podcast continues our revisit of “Music by the Numbers” with a look at a pair of numbers that are kind of unusual in musical numerology.

The numbers

Roulette is a casino game named after the French word meaning “little wheel” which was likely developed from the Italian game Biribi. In the game, players may choose to place bets on either a single number, various groupings of numbers, the colors red or black, whether the number is odd or even, or if the numbers are high (19–36) or low (1–18).


The pockets of the roulette wheel are numbered from 0 to 36. In number ranges from 1 to 10 and 19 to 28, odd numbers are red and even are black. In ranges from 11 to 18 and 29 to 36, odd numbers are black and even are red. There is a green pocket numbered 0 (zero). In American roulette, there is a second green pocket marked 00.

In clothing, size zero or size 0 is a women's clothing size in the US catalog sizes system. Size 0 and 00 were invented due to the changing of clothing sizes over time (referred to as vanity sizing or size inflation), which has caused the adoption of lower numbers.

The Music

It is unusual to have works numbered “0” – let alone “00” – but this is the case with the pair of early Bruckner symphonies featured today.

The Symphony in D minor, WAB 100, was composed in 1869 between Symphony No. 1 (1866) and Symphony No. 2 (1872). In 1895, when Bruckner reviewed his symphonies in order to have them published, he declared that this symphony "does not count" ("gilt nicht"). He wrote on the front page "annullirt" ("nullified") and replaced the original "Nr. 2" with the symbol "". The symbol "" was later interpreted as the numeral zero and the symphony got the nickname Die Nullte ("No. 0").

Bruckner's Symphony in F minor, WAB 99, was written in 1863, at the end of his study period in form and orchestration. Bruckner's F-minor symphony was initially designated “Symphony No. 1”, and, in a letter to his friend Rudolf Weinwurm dated 29 January 1865, Bruckner described the C-minor symphony he was working on at the time as his Symphony No. 2. Later Bruckner decided to leave the F-minor symphony unnumbered, and he called the C-minor symphony of 1865–66 his Symphony No. 1.

Criticism of the work led Bruckner to label the symphony "Schularbeit" (schoolwork) or Study Symphony; scholars at first believed that the next symphony Bruckner wrote was the so-called Symphony "No. 0", so that this symphony is sometimes called “Symphony No. 00”.

I think you will love this music too.