Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Glenn Gould Plays the Goldberg Variations

No. 365of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages is this week's Tuesday Blog. It can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast365


Today’s “Fifth Tuesday” montage marks a number if milestones:

  • it is our 365th montage in our ongoing series,
  • it marks the end of a year-long survey of all of our montages in this series and
  • serves as a launch point for a new programming arc dedicated to revisiting our many contributions to TalkClassical through our Tuesday Blog, which marked its tenth anniversary a few months ago.

For the next few months, our montages will take a fresh look at some themes we explored on the Tuesday Blog over the years, and today’s montage gets the ball rolling with a look back at one of our earliest musings.

In June of2011, we posted some thoughts on the late great Canadian pianist Glenn Gould and his four commercially available performances of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. In a post from 2014, we marked the sixtieth anniversary of his CBC broadcast performance of that work (one of those four recordings) and today’s montage packages his two “studio” versions – his 1955 “Mono” version and the 1981 “Digital” version, marking the alpha and omega of his great career as a recording artist. (For the record, we posted in our “Canada Day” montage of 2011 selections from the fourth recording, that one a recital performance from the Salzburg festival.)

To mark milestones of these seminal recording releases – and by so doing anniversaries of Gould’s passing – Sony provided a number of “remastered” releases of this same tandem set. Our montage today features a copy of the 1955 version originally downloaded from the old Japanese Public Domain Classic site, and the original CD release from my own collection.

As we have written many times in these pages, to some Gould is an “acquired taste”… However, it is very interesting to compare the two performances, one by a young maverick making a splashy entry into  the music scene, who “attacks” each variation with a combination of assuredness, aplomb and much temerity and the other, an older, more measured (and temperamental) pianist, a master of the recording studio striving for the “perfect rendition”, very deliberate and somewhat aseptic in his approach. 

I’d argue where the 1955 version has more appeal and more “pizzazz” (though I never think of Gould as a “showman” pianist), the 1981 interpretation is a lot more personal, more like ”I’ve played this piece a zillion times, and this is my considered opinion of how Bach would have wanted each variation to be played”. Since we shared parts of his Richard Strauss recording – which I believe was his last as a pianist – Gould only recorded stuff near the end that really cranked his chain, so even these variations that are inexorably linked to him get the same treatment - “unique and special experiences”, to be cherished in the same way he made them, a craftsman above all else.

I think you will love this music too

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Programming – September to December 2021


I hope you are having a good summer, and that your area is slowly moving away from COVID-19 Public Health measures. Here in Ottawa, after well over 18 months of pandemic measures, more than 78% of eligible  adults are fully vaccinated, and we are soon approaching what we can all say are near-normal activities.

On our music platforms, we are soon entering the third year of daily podcasts on For Your Listening Pleasure. Year Two will come to a close on August 31st with the 365th montage in our series we began way back in April 2011. The theme for that podcast is a harbinger of the coming year of daily programming starting September 1st.

222 Days of Binging

We spent the last year reissuing all of our montages (thus 365 all together), which marked the ten years of our blogging and music sharing activities. Overshadowed in a way was the ten-year anniversary of our other platforms, notably our presence on TalkClassical (The Tuesday Blog) and OperaLively (Once or Twice a Fortnight).

In the last few months, I’ve been spending a lot of time rummaging through our music archives for these two platforms in particular, and (to nobody’s surprise) we have more than enough material shared on TC and OL over 10 years to justify spending some time revisiting them. I challenged myself to come up with programming solely fed by these shares – complete operas from OTF “Classic”, shares from our many Tuesday series (Once Upon the Internet, Cover2Cover, Vinyl’s Revenge) and a hodge-podge of playlists we cobbled together over the years

I came up with programming for 222 consecutive days – which will cover the remainder of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022 – to address this challenge. Following our typical two-week frequency of new Friday montages, we will intersperse Friday shares that will respect that challenge – more on that below.

Programming Highlights

Here are some of the highlights (and programming tactics) that merit your attention:

Opera Content – I intend to provide complete operas every other weekend moving forward. Operas may, sometimes, give way to lyrical programs, but the intention here is to showcase our OL content.

Collections – Under our Cover2Cover and Vinyl’s Revenge series, I have planned to share some “collections” – the first three are the complete Paganini violin concertos (in September), the complete Gershwin works for orchestra and piano and orchestra (in October) and the complete Beethoven Piano Trios (in November). The music shares justify more than one “daily spot” on our binge calendar. In some cases, I plan to use a Friday slot (and montage) to deploy some of that content.

A La Carte – Our mission will shift somewhat from the business of “content creation” to that of “content curation” and in that vein, there are some parts of our music share collection that may get “extended” (in the case of playlists that are shorter in duration than 60 minutes) or “broken up” (for rather large shares). The A La Carte series will revisit some of these long or short shares and repackage them with additional material. I have some A La Carte shares planned for Tuesdays, others as Friday montages. I intend to go back to some of the original TC and OL commentary and provide updates where appropriate.

Tuesday Themes Revisited – Finally, as a way of ensuring all our Friday montages meet “the spirit” of the 222 day binge challenge, some Friday montages will revisit some past Tuesday (or OTF Classic) themes. Examples include “Rachmaninov the Pianist” and “Remembering Bob Kerr”, which we proposed on the Tuesday Blog in the early days of that series.

In December, when I tease 2022, I’ll provide more insight into how we intend to complete the “binge challenge”, other programming tactics I plan to use to finish our survey of past TC and OL material, as well as reintroduce ITYWLTMT montages (old and new) into the FYLP programming calendar.

In closing, please let me know what you think of our programming through Twitter (@itywltmt), our Facebook page or by posting comments on the platforms themselves. Your comments are valuable and always appreciated!

Your friendly Music Curator


Here’s the programming calendar for the upcoming four months:

Friday, August 27, 2021

Beethoven: Sonatas & Concerto

This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from May 30, 2014. It can be found in our archives at 


Today will be our last Podcast Vault post for awhile, as we prepare for a new yearly programming plan starting September 1st. I will issue a separate blog post with more details in the coming days.

For most of the last two weeks, we’ve been sharing our Beethoven / Mozart / Scarlatti survey of piano sonatas, and many of the Beethoven posts from 2019 also paired sonatas with a piano concerto. Today’s share is one of our earliest to exploit that programming ruse, with two somatas and one concerto that had until then been provided “partially”. The sonatas are the Moonlight and Pastoral and the concerto was the Emperor concerto.

The soloists featured are popular artists on our podcasts: Wilhelm Kempff, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Vladimir Horowitz. As filler, I found this YouTube playlist of Beethoven favourites played by Horowitz, including the very same performance of the concerto…

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

Friday, August 20, 2021

Sviatoslav Richter & Beethoven


This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from March 22, 2019. It can be found in our archives at 


Last week, we began revisiting our survey of piano sonatas from 2019, whoch featured sonatas by Scarlatti, Mozart and of course Beethoven. At the time, we not only "filled in the holes" on the entire corpus, but also revisited some of the piano concertos.

In a programming snafu, I realized some of the montages I'd planned for this week, notably our Salieri anniversary post, were skipped in favour of some of these montages, something I plan to remedy next week...

A week or so ago I featured one of the two Stallworth pianists of the Soviet era, Emil Gilels. Today, it's Sviatoslav Richter's turn in the spotlight.  I believe Richter recorded or performed in recital all 32 of Beethoven's sonatas (I may be wrong on that...), with pressings from his homeland and live or studio recordings for Western labels. I believe the three onatas featured today are from live recitals, with the filler Andante Favori taken from a studio session in London.

Our bonus YouTube feature is another live recording, this one from28 November 1963, at the Leipzig Gewandhaus of the three final sonatas with some Brahms at the end.

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

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Left Hand


This montage from our Podcast Vault revisits a post from August 13, 2019. It can be found in our archives at 


This selection from the Podcast Vault  marks Left Hander’s Day, first celebrated on 13th August 1992 as an annual event when left-handers everywhere can celebrate their sinistrality and increase public awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of being left-handed. As our way of celebrating this event, I programmed three piano works meant to be played by the left hand only.

The original commentary delves into the specific works, and the injured pianists that inspired their composition.  The filler material, also features a pianist who for several years lost the use of his right hand. Leon Fleisher (1928 –2020) was a well-established soloist and recording artist when, at the age of 36, he lost the use of his right hand, due to a neurological condition that was eventually diagnosed as focal dystonia. In 1967, Fleisher commenced performing and recording the left-handed repertoire while searching for a cure for his condition. His first choice was Ravel's Piano Concerto for the Left Hand.[1] In addition, he undertook conducting beginning in 1968, and became associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 1973, and music director of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. In the 1990s, Fleisher was able to ameliorate his focal dystonia symptoms after experimental botox injections to the point where he could play with both hands again.

The following is his 1993 Sony release “Leon Fleisher Recital”.

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

Friday, August 6, 2021

Richard Strauss: wind werke

No. 364 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT  series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/pcast364


This week’s new montage sets up a three-day series on our pod casting channel dedicated to the music of Richard Strauss. Curiously, an interest in writing for wind ensemble characterized both the beginning and the end of Strauss’s long creative life. The youthful Serenade, Op 7, and the two Sonatinas of 1943 to 1945 belong to the so-called ‘Indian Summer’ period of his last years. Today’s commentary reuses notes I found on the three works from Hyperion’s website.

The Serenade in E flat major, published in 1882 and dedicated to Friedrich Meyer (Strauss’s composition teacher in Munich), was given its first performance in November of that year by the Dresden Court Orchestra under Franz Wüllner. Although Strauss later considered the Serenade to represent little more than the ‘respectable work of a music student’, there is no denying the easy Mendelssohnian charm of its thematic material and the confident handling of the instrumental resources (two each of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons, four horns and contrabassoon). Ostensibly in conventional sonata form, the work contains just a short central development section, almost improvisatory in nature, in which overall integration is ensured by the frequent reference to the ascending three-note figure of the second subject and a distinctive dotted rhythm heard towards the end of the exposition.

In a letter of 1943 to Willi Schuh, Strauss wrote that he considered his life’s work to have ended with the opera Capriccio (1940/1). However, far from signalling a period of compositional retirement, the 1940s in fact heralded the start of an important final phase of Strauss’s creativity in which works such as the two Sonatinas for wind, the Second Horn Concerto and Metamorphosen for strings figure prominently. Strauss’s somewhat dismissive and certainly over-modest reference to these and other works as ‘exercises for my wrist’ is clearly not applicable.

In 1941 Strauss and his family moved to their house in Vienna. The following year he was awarded the Beethoven Prize of the City of Vienna, and in response to this composed the Fest musik for the city trumpeters. It was perhaps this re-involvement with wind writing together with an atmosphere of almost melancholic reflection on the activities of his youth (intensified by the current horrors of war) that inspired the composition of the Sonatina No 1 in F major for sixteen wind instruments. This was written between February and July of 1943, initially during a period of convalescence from a bout of influenza (hence the subtitle ‘From an invalid’s workshop’).

In the summer of 1943 Strauss returned to Garmisch. Profoundly distressed by the subsequent destruction of the Munich National Theatre in October of that year, he continued to bury himself in composition. The first Sonatina had inspired him to attempt another piece for the same combination of instruments, and he began writing early in 1944. It is remarkable, bearing in mind these circumstances and particularly his own worsening personal relationship with the Nazi authorities, that he was nonetheless able to give this new work, the Sonatina No 2 in E flat major, the subtitle ‘Happy workshop’. The title-page bears another inscription which gives a further clue to Strauss’s feelings and preoccupations at this time: ‘To the spirit of the divine Mozart at the end of a life full of gratitude.’ Strauss had always revered Mozart and must have found the creative process involved in such a homage to his great forbear an effective palliative against the political realities surrounding him.

I think you will love this music too.