Thursday, February 25, 2016

An extremely unpleasant situation

Hello everyone. Yesterday afternoon (around the time I posted the "British Composers..." disc) I noticed a small wet spot on my carpet, and at first I could not figure out what the source was (or am I just finally that old and just dribbling/incontinent?). Directly above on the ceiling I have a fire sprinkler, and hanging from it, like forming stalactites, were many water droplets quietly making their way to the floor. (A few years before I moved into this apt. there had been apparently a terrible flood, which necessitated a ground-up rebuilding of the tiny apt, more or less from the ground up) So, with this history at hand, I was beyond nervous. 

After 30 min. a 4 inch crack developed next to the sprinkler, a sheet of water now coming in nonstop. With enough pots and bowls to compose a Cage or Harrison work, I managed to keep the water in check if I kept busy. Long boring story short, after many failed attempts to reach my landlord I called a sprinkler co. and a plumber as well. It seems that 75% of my ceiling must be removed, as even the 1.5 inch thick drywall and the insulation are saturated with water and falls apart at the touch. It seems a large portion of the roof on the side of the house where my apt is needs to be replaced, and that's why I now have a complimentary indoor pool forming on my "penthouse".

SO, the point is I am sad to report that I will have to take a break from posting; the first thing I did was frantically wrap up my computer and other devices tightly in plastic bags, then in blankets, and now in my closet they hide. The rain and wind was so bad last night I didn't want to put them in the car. Will do so today. My apt. is covered completely in plastic tarps, my ceiling is to be torn down (hopefully soon) and thus I must stay at my parents house. What to do about the portion of my music collection I keep at my place I know not. I cleared out my closets from clothes and an endless amount of other things, and have crammed them with as many boxes of discs as possible. The closets are not safe either of course so I have to get back in there and somehow crawl to my closets and try to get several thousand discs out. I'm not even thinking about appliances, I don't have the time and the effort would be too great.

Perhaps I will try to decompress whilst I stay with family by posting - but I cannot promise this.

Sorry for a long post full of woe but even writing, as it's here on my blog, is at least a bit purgative for me!

Thanks for your understanding everyone!


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

British Composers Premiere Collection Vol. 2 - Maurice Blower, Eclogue for Horn and Strings - Horn Concerto - Robin Milford, Suite for Oboe & Strings - Frederick Kelly, Serenade for Flute, Harp, Horn & Strings - Walter Gaze Cooper, Concertino for Oboe & Strings - Cameo Classics 2014

Musical Anglophiles rejoice! The "British Composers Premiere Collections" series is nothing short of delicious-especially for those ears of yours. There are nine volumes altogether, and each one explores the byways of British orchestral music from the 20th century. Listening to any of these obscure works leaves one wondering why these composers are still awaiting a proper survey (isn't this often the case,  sadly? I find myself asking this question constantly concerning dozens of composers!). Although this is a much smaller project thus far, these Cameo Classic discs offer the high discovery and excitement that one experiences with the Dutton Epoch recordings. Some of the best music in this series comes from the pen of Maurice Blower, and the two works here are imo the most substantial (Volume 1 features his Symphony in C, which, like all the volumes, I will post when I locate where on earth I put them. I have Volume 4 ready to go as well, so you can expect it soon..) Then again *everything* here is a real delight! 

                               I will provide information on all the music tonight when I can.

Maurice Blower

Lovers of Howells, Warlock, early RVW etc. will surely be, like me, In paradisum :)

Today's Birthdays & Events, February 24th

Feb 24th:

1679 Domenico Natale Sarro
1704 Hubert Renotte
1717 Bernhard Hupfeld
1766 Samuel Wesley, composer/organist
1771 Johann Baptist Cramer, pianist/composer/publisher
1797 Samuel Lover
1842 Arrigio Enrico Boito (best known for his opera ''Mefistofele'' and as librettist of Verdi's ''Otello'' and ''Falstaff.''
1846 Luigi Denza
1876 Jean Poveigh
1877 Rudolf Ganz
1890 Antonio Massana
1905 Guillaume Landre
1911 Konrad Lechner
1912 Julius Kowalski
1921 Ingvar Lidholm
1923 David Soyer, cellist
1932 Michel Legrand
1934 Renata Scotto, soprano and opera director
1934 Shuko Mizuno
1947 Lonnie Turner, bassist/vocalist (Steve Miller Band)
1947 Rupert Holmes, musician/playwright
1962 Michelle Shocked, singer/musician


1607 Claudio Monteverdi's opera "Orfeo" premieres in Mantua
1711 Handel's opera "Rinaldo" premieres at Haymarket theatre in London
1939 Roy Harris's Symphony No. 3 premieres in Boston

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Toru Takemitsu: Complete Original Solo Guitar Works (And Leo Brouwer - Hika: In Memoriam Toru Takemitsu - El Arpa y la Sombra: Omaggio a Toru Takemitsu) Shin-ichi Fukuda, Guitar - Naxos 2014

I don't know about you but I have never met a single work by Takemitsu that I didn't like (even his more abstract, experimental music..and some of the best examples were written for film). His guitar music is, not surprisingly, both beautiful and steeped in delicate simplicity. Leo Brouwer's reverence for Takemitsu takes shape here in two homage works, both of which provide a sense of energy to the otherwise meditative program. Interestingly, the last two tracks taken from Takemitsu's "Twelve Songs for Guitar" are both songs by the Beatles! Takemitsu pulls it off deftly and these arrangements are both winsome and haunting.

Enjoy my fellow sound travelers!

Birthdays & Events for February 22nd & 23rd

Feb 22nd:

1542 Santino Garsi
1573 Gemignano Capilupi
1745 Joao de Sousa Carvalho
1749 Johann Nikolaus Forkel, musicologist (first biographer of J.S. Bach)
1761 Erik Eriksson Tulindberg
1761 Jacob Kimball
1764 Alexander Campbell
1770 Jan Matyas Nepomuk August Vitasek
1772 Joseph Lipavsky
1772 Karl Jacob Wagner
1779 Joachim Nicolas Eggert
1810 Holger Simon Paulli
1814 Henryk Oskar Kolberg
1817 Niels Wilhelm Gade (Gade is considered the greatest Danish composer of his time. He was initially a violinist and also a conductor)
1819 Bernardo Calvo Puig
1833 Josef Foerster
1834 Albert Heinrich Zabel
1836 Eduard Wachmann
1842 Carl Rosa, founder (Rosa opera company)
1844 Kazamierz Julian Kratzer
1883 Jaroslav Kocian
1891 Lucien Cailliet
1894 Alexander Spitzmuller-Harmersbach
1896 Nacio Herb Brown
1900 Evald Aav,
1903 Robert Weede, baritone
1906 Edmund von Borck
1919 Jiri Pauer
1922 Andre Asriel
1922 Felix Werder
1927 David Ahlstrom
1929 Marni Nixon, soprano (Marni Nixon has been the featured soloist on several Hovhaness discs from Crystal Records)
1934 Thomas Paul, bass
1937 Dubravko Detoni


1892 "Lady Windermere's Fan" by Oscar Wilde premieres at St James Theatre, London
1941 Paul Creston's Symphony No. 1 premieres

Feb 23rd:

1633 Samuel Pepys, navy expert/composer
1649 John Blow (Blow happened to be the first English composer to write an opera ("Venus & Adonis")
1685 George Frideric Handel (never heard of 'em!)
1730 Christian Joseph Lidarti
1811 George Washington Hewitt
1848 Thomas Paine Westendorf
1873 Dmitri Arakishvili
1876 Wadi' Sabra
1880 Edgar Istel
1882 Ladislav Vycpalek
1886 Albert Edward Sammons,
1887 Oskar Frederik Lindberg
1900 Elinor Remick Warren
1905 Leonidas Zoras
1916 Martindale Sidwell, organist/conductor
1920 Hall Overton
1924 Lejaren Hiller
1926 Regine Crespin, vocalist
1927 Ivan Hrusovsky
1929 Richard Moryl,
1952 Brad Whitford, guitarist (Aerosmith)
1955 Howard Jones, rock pianist/vocalist
1962 Michael Wilton, rock guitarist (Queensrÿche)
1967 Chris Vrenna, musician, producer, sound engineer (Nine Inch Nails drummer, fd. Tweaker)
1975 Robert Lopez


1792 Joseph Haydn's Symphony No. 94 in G premieres
1886 Tchaikovsky's  "Manfred" symphony premieres

"The Classic Rózsa": Miklós Rózsa - North Hungarian Peasant Songs and Dances - The Vintner's Daughter - Hungarian Serenade - Concerto for Strings - Frankenland Symphony Orchestra, Carlos Sauvina/Erich Kloss - DRG 1988

So I am quickly posting this fantastic Rózsa disc on a whim; I was trying to import a cd on CRI of solo flute music to share, and halfway into track no. 2  iTunes froze up, the disc stuck in the drive, spinning frantically and creating the most grating of sounds (I'm sure you have all experienced this!)
So, I couldn't force quit iTunes or get the disc from the drive for 20 minutes, and now I have to run. The frustrating thing is I bought this (the solo flute music) cd years ago, and never unwrapped it until now; likely it's the cd that is defective : /

So, I MUST post something now quickly before leaving...I can't help it.

Miklós Rózsa wrote much beautiful music, for the concert hall and for cinema. (You all know this I'm sure!) These are perfect examples of his concert music, and I am guessing that many of you will know these lovely works, if not this particular recording. This delightful recording was originally released in 1961 and then was remastered  in 1988 (with very fine sound).

I am including the booklet scans as well.


Sunday, February 21, 2016


                                                     =  best goddamn violin concertos ever, bro!! 

Birthdays & Events for February 20th & 21st

Feb 20th:

1734 Franz Ignaz Beck
1745 Johann Peter Salomon
1752 Charles Broche
1763 Adalbert Gyrowetz
1770 Ferdinando Carulli
1791 Carl Czerny
1802 Charles-Auguste de Beriot
1803 Friedrich Theodor Frohlich
1816 Josef Michal Ksawery Jan Poniatowski
1854 Louis F M van Westerhoven, actor/singer/opera director
1874 Mary Garden, Aberdeen Scotland, opera star
1876 Fyodor Akimenko
1887 David McKinley Williams
1889 Levko Mykolayevich Revutsky
1899 Leon Woizikowski, Ballets Russes
1900 Antonio Veretti
1903 Karel Janacek
1904 Armin Loos
1907 Nadine Conner, soprano
1911 Robert Guyn McBride
1913 Jozef Kresanek
1916 Julius Juzeliunas
1920 Armin Schibler
1921 Ruth Gipps, composer/conductor
1929 Toshiro Mayuzumi
1940 Barbara Laine Ellis, singer
1940 Christoph Eschenbach, pianist/conductor
1944 Lew Soloff, jazz trumpeter
1948 Barry Wordsworth, conductor
1953 Riccardo Chailly, conductor
1953 Poison Ivy, musician (The Cramps)
1960 Kee Marcello, rocker (Europe)
1962 Joel Ellis, rocker
1963 Ian Brown, rock vocalist (Stone Roses)
1967 Kurt Cobain, rock vocalist (Nirvana) **One of the most tragic losses in rock music of all time


1724 George Frederick Handel's opera "Giulio Cesare in Egitto" premieres in London
1816 Rossini's opera "Barber of Seville" premieres in Rome
1917 Kern, Bolton & Wodehouse's musical "Oh, Boy!" premieres in NYC
1934 Virgil Thomson's opera "4 Saints in 3 Acts" opens in NYC
1960 Jimi Hendrix plays his first gig.

Feb 21st:

1556 Sethus Calvisius
1674 Johann Augustin Kobelius
1690 Christoph Stoltzenberg
1776 Vincenzo Lavigna
1795 Francisco Manuel da Silva
1801 Johann Wenzel Kalliwoda
1814 Nicolo Gabrielli
1831 Eduard Rappoldi, composer
1836 Clement-Philibert-Leo Delibes
1836 Emil Hartmann
1844 Charles-Marie Widor
1861 Pierre Breville
1867 Otto Hermann Kahn, Banker, organized Metropolitan Opera Co.
1878 Fritz Cortolezis,
1893 Andres Segovia, classical guitarist
1898 Vassily Vainonen, ballet dancer/choreographer
1903 Eric Fogg
1904 Armand Preud'homme, organist/poet
1909 George G F van Renesse, pianist/music director
1912 Nikita Magaloff, pianist
1922 Uros Krek
1923 Zvi Zeitlin, violinist/professor (Eastman School)
1927 Pierre Mercure
1933 Nina Simone, vocalist/pianist
1949 Jerry Harrison, rock keyboardist (Talking Heads)
1958 Mary-Chapin Carpenter, vocalist


1927 Franz Lehr's opera "Der Zarewitsch" premieres
1991 Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers" opens at Richard Rodgers Theater NYC for 780 performances

Saturday, February 20, 2016

'Paul Freeman Introduces' Vol. 1 - James Kimo Williams, Fanfare for Life - Richard J. Rendleman, October 9, 1943 - Wendel Logan, Runagate, Runagate Richard Yardumian, Veni, Sancte Spiritus - Peter Saltzman, Walls - Czech NSO, Paul Freeman - Albany Records 1998

This is Volume one of Albany Record's "Paul Freeman Introduces" series, an enterprising project that records works by lesser-known composers and, like most of Albany's priceless catalog, encourages listeners to explore otherwise uncharted compositional territory. The project is headed by the passionate conductor Dr. Paul Freeman, who eloquently introduces the program and the composers at hand on track 1 of every disc (there are 12 volumes in the series). 

Kimo Williams's poignant "Fanfare for Life" packs an instant punch and is a splendid beginning to this recording. Richard J. Rendleman's "October 9, 1943", which is the 2nd movement to his Symphony No. 1 is a slow and sublime movement, and by the sound of this music it's tragic that the whole Symphony has not been recorded commercially (I have emailed him recently, hoping to acquire a private recording..) and I'm happy I "discovered" this piece again; I haven't played this disc in many years. "Runagate, Runagate" by Wendel Logan was initially far from appealing to me. However after many listens, and given the music's sincerity and subject matter, It has grown on me; I  do not particularly care for the Tenor however. The Yardumian piece is the reason I bought this disc, and as I expected it's a beautiful and entirely convincing opus. Saltzman's "Walls" has it's moments, but for me that's about it. 

James Kimo Williams is a versatile composer who has written both serious and commercial works. He is a faculty member of Columbia College in Chicago and writes the following:

"Fanfare for Life was commissioned by AT&T and premiered May 6, 1994 by the Chicago Sinfonietta at Orchestra Hall in Chicago under the baton of Paul Freeman. I composed this work in direct response to the outgrowth of gang violence during that same year. 

A 14-year-old girl, Shavon Dean, was shot and killed by 11-year-old gang member Robert Sandifer. Robert was then hunted down and killed by two members of his gang, a 14-year-old boy and his 16-year-old brother. That same summer 5-year-old Eric Morse was dropped to his death from the 14th floor of a public housing high-rise by two little boys ages 10 and 11. This tragedy occurred simply because Eric would not steal candy for them.

With Fanfare for Life, the beauty of life is presented with an orchestral fanfare. In the second segment the lives of these children are symbolized by two distinct pentatonic melodies. These melodies are cut short as were the young lives that never developed. The third segment (brass tutti) is a variation of the two "child" melodies, symbolizing the families that now only have memories of those lost lives. The last segment is a repeat of the initial fanfare, again emphasizing the beauty of living and the celebration of life. Fanfare for Life is dedicated to the memories of these young souls: Shavon Dean, Robert Sandifer, and Eric Morse."

Richard J. Rendleman, Jr. was born in 1949 in Salisbury, North Carolina and holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he currently serves as Professor of Finance. At age 32, he began studying composition with the renowned composer Robert Ward. As a result, he has written a number of works for piano, chorus, chamber ensembles and orchestra. His works have been performed or recorded by a number of orchestras, including the North Carolina Symphony, the St. Stephens Chamber Orchestra, and the orchestras of Knoxville and Seattle.

Dr. Rendleman provides the following notes:

 "October 9, 1943 serves as the second movement of my First Symphony, completed in 1997. The music is based on a poem of the same title by my grandfather's cousin, Margaret Proctor Wood (born in Danvers Massachusetts, 1881, died 1971). The opening passage was originally set for soprano and piano in my song cycle, Poems of Margaret Proctor Wood. This passage is then extended for string orchestra featuring harp and flutes. The text of the poem is as follows":

October 9, 1943

The yellow leaves drift through the golden air
Making a sound like ghost treads in the grasses.
One pauses in its downward flight
To brush my cheek as it passes.
In the old fond caress she used when I was seven.

The chamber version of Wendel Logan's "Runagate, Runagate" was first performed at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta in 1990. Subsequently the orchestral version was premiered by the Savannah Symphony in 1994 with the distinguished tenor William Brown, for whom the work was written.

Wendel Logan, who is a prolific composer and on the faculty of Oberlin College, writes:

"The text and title of my composition are based on Robert Hayden's collage poem "Runagate, Runagate," which was taken from the collection Angle of Ascent(1975). This poem and others from the collection ("Middle Passage," "O Daedalus, Fly Away Home," "the Ballad of Nat Turner," and "Frederick Douglas") represent a kind of historical chronicle of the Afro-American journey towards freedom.

My primary concern in attempting a musical setting of Runagate, Runagate was to capture some of its inherent musical qualities: the frenetic "beat" of a train (symbolic of the Underground Railroad); the unmistakable melodic character, resulting from repetition of lines and phrases and the use of lines from spirituals ("Mean, mean, mean to be free" and "And Before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave"); and finally, the imagery of the poem, from which sprang many creative ideas about drama, pacing, sound, texture, and so forth. The word "runagate" refers to a fugitive, a runaway slave."

Richard Yardumian (1917-1985) enjoyed a rather unusual career as a twentieth-century composer. Although he is largely self-taught, by the mid-1940's his music had attracted the attention of Leopold Stokowski, Jose Iturbi, and Eugene Ormandy, who encouraged and supported the young composer's work. He was composer-in-residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly 15 years.

Yardumian's "Veni, Sancte Spiritus" was premiered by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra on April 3, 1959 and performed over 100 times during Ormandy's tenure. The work was inspired by a Plainsong, a sequence for Whitsunday and the Octave of Pentecost in the Roman Liturgy. The Plainsong has five sections or sentences that have been put into a chorale setting, mainly for the string section of the orchestra. Near the end of the fourth section and throughout the fifth, other parts of the orchestra join in the chorale setting. The pungent, quiet, and reflective plainsong is introduced by an unaccompanied solo clarinet at the beginning by clarinetist Lubomir Lebenza. The harp cadenza is played by Dagmar Platilova.
Peter Saltzman has written extensively for dance and theater groups as well as for orchestra. He is very active in the Chicago musical scene and writes the following:

"I wrote Walls during a three-week period in December, 1995 and January, 1996. It was commissioned by Kevin Iega Jeff, choreographer of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, which premiered a synthesized version of the work in February, 1996. Like most of my large-scale works, this piece follows a design similar to the cyclical sonata-allegro form of the classical period: exposition, development, recapitulation. I do not impose 18th or 19th century structure on 20th century content. While there is certainly nothing wrong with emulating this formal clarity, I prefer form following content. In my case the content is the music which I heard and played during the early years of my development, i.e. jazz, pop, rock, rhythm and blues, etc. To extend these beyond song-forms, I have employed techniques similar to those of the classical era: motivic development, counterpoint, and variation.

The title and concept for Walls came from Kevin Iega Jeff. Throughout history, walls such as the Berlin Wall, the Western Wall, the Great Wall of China, the Viet Nam Memorial, have been a symbol of the divisive elements within a society. If the walls could talk, I wonder what they would say?"

Paul Freeman  (1936-2015)

Paul Freeman has distinguished himself as one of the world's pre-eminent conductors. Much in demand, he has conducted over 100 orchestras in 28 different countries including the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and major orchestras in London, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Berlin. Maestro Freeman has served as the Music Director of Canada's Victoria Symphony, Principal Guest Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic and Associate Conductor of the Detroit and Dallas Symphony Orchestras. He was Music Director of the renowned Chicago Sinfonietta and simultaneously served as Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Prague. With over 300 recordings to his credit, he has won numerous awards for his unique interpretations of the classical, romantic, and modern repertoire. Dr. Freeman, who studied on a U.S. Fulbright Grant at the Hochschule in Berlin, holds a Ph.D. degree from the Eastman School of Music and LH.D. degrees from Dominican University and Loyola University.

 Enjoy everyone!

Friday, February 19, 2016

Metamorphosis: Béla Bartók, String Quartet No. 4 - György Ligeti, String Quartet No. 1 "Metamorphoses nocturnes" - György Kurtág, 12 Microludes for String Quartet - Cuarteto Casals - Harmonia Mundi 2010

This is really a birthday post for the great Hungarian composer György Kurtág who turns 90 today. I don't have the energy to comb around for my "all-Kurtag" discs so this recording of his "12 Microludes for String Quartet" (which happens to be the shortest piece here) will have to do. This is, however, an exceptional disc in every way and I'm sure I would have posted it eventually anyhow. Cuarteto Casals is a top-tier ensemble and their performances of all three works are near-perfection. This is surely one of my top Bartók 4ths, and I have *never* heard Ligeti's "Metamorphoses nocturnes" Quartet played better than this. I don't think it gets any better than this! Same goes for the Birthday boy's "12 Microludes" (I have another recording of the Kurtág with the Avanti Quartet on Ondine, and then there's a DG disc that I haven't heard, admittedly).  I think that everyone who loves quartet writing in general and intense, powerful string quartets of our time will be quite pleased :)

György Kurtág

Enjoy everyone!

Benjamin Britten - Scottish Ballad for Two Pianos & Orchestra - Bohuslav Martinů - Concerto for Two Pianos & Orchestra - Fantasie for Two Pianos - Three Czech Dances - Joshua Pierce & Dorothy Jonas, Pianists - TRATSOO Luxembourg, Ettore Stratta - 1994 Carlton Classics

Benjamin Britten's "Scottish Ballad" is a fine work that is rarely heard and has rarely been recorded; I do have another version on Centaur Records (coupled with RVW's Concerto for Two Pianos), however other than that, whatever else exists is long out of print. Martinů's "Concerto for Two Pianos" is the better known piece here, however it still remains in the shadows of his extraordinary (solo) piano concertos as well as other concertante works (such as the sublime Rhapsody-Concerto). 

Martinů's concerto is a work of great energy and invention, and has a suggestion of the composer's earlier neo-baroque style with an element of Czech folk melody. Also rarely heard are the two two-piano works "Fantasie" and the "Three Czech Dances", both lively works, mostly full of good cheer (Czech Dance II makes a melancholic entrance, however it is lovely with its quiet sense of longing). 

My only quibble with this recording is the sound quality; it is far from crisp, however a few adjustments on your amplifier will remedy this satisfactorily. Otherwise the performances are commendable, and exciting.

Britten's Scottish Ballad for Two Pianos and Orchestra was given its first performance in the winter of 1941 by two musical acquaintances of the composer ''on the keys'' - the husband and wife piano duo Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson. Eugene Goosens directed the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. After Britten's return to England in 1942, Bartlett and Robertson made successful tours of America and Europe performing the "Ballad" and other works, but soon after the Scottish Ballad simply fell from the concert repertory. Whether or not is has been performed in concert at all over the last several decades I know not. 

The Thematic material is derived from old Scottish tunes to "evoke", says Britten, "a sequence of ideas and emotions that have have been characteristic of the life of the Scottish people during centuries of stormy history". The work is in one continuous movement, in three distinct sections. In the first section, a Lento introduction uses the psalm tune "Dundee" as a basis for variations. The central section is based on the lament "Flowers of the Forest", and the repeated motif by the pianos contrast with the mournful interjections of the orchestra. "Dundee" is recalled before the final section, where, in the Scottish custom of dancing reels after a funeral, pianos and orchestra vie with each other in a lively, headlong chase. 

Martinů's "Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra" was written early in 1943 and given its first performance the following November by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra. Playing the fiendishly difficult solo parts were Pierre Luboschutz and Genia Nemenoff. The composer wrote: "I have used the pianos for the first time in a purely solo sense, with the orchestra as accompaniment. The form is free; it leans rather towards the concerto grosso. It demands virtuosity, brilliant piano technique, and the timbre of the same two instruments calls forth new colors and sonorities". -Some astute listeners may notice that the main theme from Martinů's wonderful "Sinfonietta La Jolla" is quoted here, especially in the first movement! 

The first movement is contrapuntally complex, with soloists complementing the orchestral texture with arpeggio figures and fast-moving passages. Much of the second movement is for soloists alone, with the orchestra playing in the central section. The last movement is more energetic and light-hearted, though the soloists have a cadenza in a contrasting slow tempo. This is, all around, a knockout concerto!

The "Fantasie" for Two Pianos is an earlier work, begun in Bohemia and completed in Paris in 1929.
It is harmonically and rhythmically complex, with a strongly bitonal flavor. Though it is written in a neo-classical style, there is an emphasis on dissonance, and the work emerges as a virile, invigorating essay in pianism. 

Martinů moved to Paris in 1948 but returned to New York in the autumn. The following spring saw the completion of "Three Czech Dances", written (as was the Concerto for Two Pianos) for Bartlett and Robertson. Once more, Martinů's music demands a formidable technique; of the three dances, the second compliments the outer, toccata-like movements.  


Benjamin Britten

1) Scottish Ballad, Op. 26 (13:10)

Bohuslav Martinů

Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra

2) Allegro non troppo (6:13)
3) Adagio (9:58)
4) Allegro (6:29)

5) Fantasie for Two Pianos (6:54)

Three Czech Dances

6) Allegro (3:26)
7) Andante moderato (4:53)
8) Allegro non troppo (4:57)

It's been a rough week for me, so I will try to post more tonight and during the weekend for everyone.


Birthdays & Events February 16th - February 19th

Feb 16th:

1684 Bohuslav Matěj Černohorský, monk/composer
1709 Charles Avison
1774 Pierre Rode
1790 Chretien Urhan
1813 Semyon Stepanovich Gulak-Artemovsky
1826 Franz von Holstein
1836 Benjamin Edward Woolf
1847 Ludwig Philipp Scharwenka
1854 Oscar Fetras
1856 Willem Kes, violinist/composer/conductor
1866 Johann Strauss
1874 Marie Gutheil-Schoder, soprano
1878 Selim Palmgren, pianist/composer/conductor 
1890 Semyon Semyonovich Bogatiryov
1896 Alexander Brailowsky, pianist
1905 José Muñoz Molleda, composer/journalist/jurist/politician
1907 Fernando Previtali
1910 Miguel Bernal Jiminez
1912 Machito "Frank Grillo", bandleader (salsa)
1916 Bill Doggett, jazz and blues musician
1916 William Ballard Doggett, jazz musician
1922 Geraint Evans, opera vocalist
1932 Otis Blackwell, composer/singer
1935 Sonny Bono
1938 John Corigliano
1942 Gabriel Brncic
1943 Anthony Dowell, ballet dancer (Royal Ballet)
1955 Jeff Clayton, jazz saxophonist/composer
1961 Andy Taylor, guitarist (Duran Duran)


1854 Franz Liszt's symphony "Orpheus" premieres
1892 Opera "Werther" premieres in Vienna
1947 Premiere of Morton Gould's Symphony No. 3
1962 Premiere of Darius Milhaud's Symphony No. 12 

Feb 17th:

1444 Rudolf Agricola, Dutch humanist/organist
1653 Arcangelo Corelli
1667 Georg Bronner
1675 Johann Melchior Conradi
1696 Ernst Gottlieb Baron, composer
1697 Louis-Maurice de La Pierre
1747 Narciso Casanovas
1754 Jan Jachym Kopriva
1796 Giovanni Pacini
1816 Friedrich Wilhelm Markull
1820 Henri Vieuxtemps
1821 Lola Montez, dancer
1831 Francisco Salvador Daniel,
1850 Anton Urspruch
1850 Ludwig Bonvin
1858 Ernest Ford
1862 Edward German
1882 Kurt Schindler
1887 Leevi Antti Madetoja
1902 Marian Anderson, contralto
1906 Ramon Tapales
1907 Alec Wilder
1909 Marjorie Lawrence, soprano
1913 Oskar Danon
1913 Rene Leibowitz
1915 Homer Keller
1920 Paul Fetler
1925 Ron Goodwin, composer/conductor
1926 Friedrich Cerha
1926 Lee Hoiby
1930 Usko Merilainen
1941 Gene Pitney, vocalist/songwriter
1944 Karl Jenkins
1949 Fred Frith, guitarist/violinist/bassist
1957 Loreena McKennitt, vocalist/musician/songwriter
1967 Chanté Moore, American singer
1971 Martyn Bennett


1859 Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Un Ballo in maschera" premieres in Napoli
1904 Giacomo Puccini's opera "Madama Butterfly" premieres in Milan
1916 Romberg/Hanley/Atteridge/Smith's musical premieres in NYC
1932 Irving Berlin's musical "Face the Music" premieres in NYC

Feb 18th:

1632 Giovanni Battista Vitali
1716 Gaspard Fritz
1751 Karl Haack
1770 Johann Christian Heinrich Rinck
1771 Friedrich Christian Ruppe, composer and violinist
1776 John Parry
1819 Joseph Philbrick Webster
1841 Samuel Prowse Warren
1850 George Henschel
1880 Eric De Lamarter
1902 Walter Herbert, conductor and impresario
1915 Marcel Landowsky
1926 Harry "Little" Caesar, blues singer/actor
1927 Tabe Bas, actor/opera vocalist (Leiser Wolf in Anatevka)
1929 André Mathieu
1931 Dieter Schonbach
1933 Elisabeth S Belder-Ameling, soprano
1933 Yoko Ono
1934 (Clyde) Skip Battin, rocker (Byrds)
1934 Aldo Ceccato, conductor
1939 Marlos Nobre
1939 Marek Janowski, conductor
1952 Juice Newton, vocalist
1953 Robin Bachman, guitarist
1964 Paul Hanley, musician (The Fall, Tom Hingley and the Lovers)
1965 Dr. Dre (Andre Romelle Young), American rapper and record producer
1980 Regina Spektor, Russian-born singer and songwriter


1735 First opera performed in America, "Flora", in Charleston, SC
1902 The opera "Hunchback of Notre Dame" premieres in Monte Carlo
1947 Gian Carlo Menotti's opera "Telephone" premieres in NYC
1968 David Gilmour joins rock group Pink Floyd

Feb 19th:

1616 Jacques de Saint-Luc
1671 Charles-Hubert Gervais
1687 Johann Adam Birkenstock
1743 Luigi Boccherini
1762 Friedrich Franz Hurka
1812 Lauro Rossi
1841 Felipe Pedrell
1843 Adelina Patti, soprano
1863 Emanuel Moor
1877 Louis Francois-Marie Aubert
1880 Arthur Shepherd
1881 Armin Knab
1886 George Luther Foote
1906 Grace Mary Williams
1906 Hendrik W C Spruit, conductor
1911 Nikola Hercigonja
1912 Saul Chapli
1913 Alvin Derold Etler
1921 Claude Rene Georges Pascal
1922 Josef Matej
1923 Donald Lybbert
1925 Jindrich Feld
1926 Gyorgy Kurtag
1932 Jean-Pierre Ponnele, opera director
1941 Carlos Roque Alsina
1948 Tony Iommi, guitarist (Black Sabbath)
1954 Frances Bucholz, rocker (Scorpions)
1971 Gil Shaham, violinist


1736 George Frideric Handel's "Alexander's Feast" premieres
1914 Riccardo Zandonai's opera "Francesco da Rimini" premieres in Turin
1923 Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 6 (my personal favorite!) premieres

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Birthdays & Events for February 15th

Feb 15th:

1557 Alfonso Fontanelli
1571 Michael Praetorius (best known for his delightful "Terpsichore",  a series of over 300 instrumental dances)
1740 Ernst Eichner (Neglected German composer. Wrote over 30 symphonies and 20 concertos)
1760 Jean-Francois Le Sueur
1783 Johann Nepomuk Poissl
1789 Friedrich Fesca
1807 Ignacy Feliks Dobrzynski
1822 Theodor Uhlig
1847 Robert Fuchs (a late romantic, Fuchs penned appealing and tuneful music. He was also an important teacher, and (some of) his students included Gustav Mahler, Erich Korngold, Hugo Wolf, Jean Sibelius, Alexander Zemlinsky, Franz Schmidt, Franz Schreker, and even Erkki Melartin!
1855 Gustav Hollaender
1874 Emilis Melngailis
1885 Richard Wurz
1893 Walter Donaldson, pianist/composer (Girl Crazy, Whoopee)
1899 Georges Auric (French composer, member of "Les Six")
1905 Harold Arlen (Over the Rainbow..)
1907 Jean Langlais (French composer best known for his imo superb organ and choral music)
1920 Ingmar Milveden
1927 Gottfrid Grasbeck
1937 Zoltan Pesko
1947 John Adams (needs no introduction!)
1949 Christopher Rouse (no intro needed here either, another American composer)
1949 Hans Graf, conductor


1686 Jean Baptiste Lully's opera "Armide" premieres in Paris
1941 Duke Ellington records "Take the A Train"

Birthdays & Events for February 14th

Feb 14th:

1513 Domenico Maria Ferrabosco
1572 Hans Christoph Haiden
1602 Pier Francesco Cavalli
1670 Georg Gabriel Schutz
1679 Georg Friedrich Kauffman
1813 Alexander Sergeyevich Dargomyzhsky
1858 Charles Beach Hawley
1880 Aida Overton Walker, dancer
1880 Edgar Leslie Bainton
1882 Ignaz Friedman,
1892 Nikolaj A Orloff, pianist
1897 Jorgen Bentzon
1902 Valentin Ruiz Azner
1915 Irving Gordon, songwriter
1916 Wawrzyniec Jerzy Zulawski
1921 Jeanne Demessieux
1924 Arghyris Kounadis
1925 Elliot Lawrence, orchestra leader
1933 Andrey Mikhaylovich Volkonsky
1933 Bertram Jay Turetzky
1934 Michel Corboz, conductor
1939 Chris Pyne, trombonist
1943 Maceo Parker, tenor saxophonist
1945 Vic Briggs, rocker (Animals)
1953 Wayne Siegel
1957 Soile Isokoski, soprano
1959 Renée Fleming, soprano


1918 H Atteridge & S Rombergs musical "Sinbad" premieres in NYC

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Birthdays & Events for February 13th

I probably won't be posting any music during the weekend. My heating in my apt isn't working and meanwhile it's the coldest weekend all winter (in fact tomorrow is going to be a record-breaker, trumping a winter day in 1906 when it was -2 degrees F). So, staying with the parents for the time being.

Feb 13th

1660 Johann Sigismund Kusser
1713 Domingo Miguel Bernaube Terradellas
1721 John Reid
1755 Francois Alexander Sallantin
1778 Fernando Sor (especially delightful guitar works)
1787 James P Carrell
1820 Bela Albrecht Pal Keler
1837 Valentin de Zubiaurre y Unionbarrenechea
1840 Georg Jacobi
1862 Karel Weis
1870 Leopold Godowsky
1877 Jazeps Medins
1883 Bainbridge Crist
1908 Gerald Strang
1914 George Kleinsinger (Tubby the Tuba!)
1920 Eileen Farrell, soprano
1923 Yfrah Neaman, violinist
1926 Barney Childs
1950 Peter Gabriel
1956 Peter Hook (New Order)
1960 Michael Craig, rock bassist (Culture Club-Do You Want to Hurt Me)
1961 Henry Rollins, vocalist/poet/punk/hardcore legend (Black Flag, Rollins Band..)
1961 Les Warner, (Cult)


1914 American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP) forms in NYC

Friday, February 12, 2016

Birthdays & Events for February 11th and 12th

Feb 11th

1567 Thomas Campion, composer/poet/physician
1740 Matej Sojka
1751 Joseph Waast Aubert Nonot
1752 Josef Reicha
1753 Lambert-Francois Godecharle
1758 Christian Ignatius Latrobe,
1760 Jan Ladislav Dussek
1778 Franz Joseph Volkert
1853 Bertram Luard-Selby
1885 Licinio Refice
1886 Gustaf Lazarus Nordqvist
1886 Michel Brusselmans
1891 Maurice Yvain
1898 LeRoy Harris (When Johnny comes Marching Home etc..)
1899 Albert Huybrechts
1914 Gordon Tex Beneke, saxophonist/bandleader/vocalist (Glenn Miller Orchestra)
1916 Karl Hubert Rudolf Schiske
1917 Thomas K Scherman, conductor
1923 Mel Powell
1929 Agustin Gonzalez Acilu
1936 Arnost Parsch
1955 Bill Laswell, American bassist and record producer
1967 Chitravina N. Ravikiran


1840 Gaetano Donizetti's Opera "La Fille du Regiment" premieres in Paris
1843 Opera "I Lombardi" premieres in Milan
1903 Anton Bruckner's 9th Symphony premieres in Vienna
1916 Baltimore Symphony Orchestra presents its first concert
1922 "April Showers" by Al Jolson hits #1

Feb 12th:

1755 Albert Christoph Dies
1790 Ignaz Assmayer
1810 Loisa Puget,
1819 Samuel Parkman Tuckerman
1830 Hans Bronsart von Schellendorf
1830 Peter Arnold Heise
1874 Fritz Bennicke Hart
1875 Sara Wennerberg-Reuter
1879 Jean Gilbert
1882 Gheorghe Cucu
1883 Paul August von Klenau
1889 Vladimir Mikhaylovich Deshevov
1894 Alfonso Leng
1895 Viktor Nikolayevich Trambitsky
1897 Yves de La Casiniere
1903 Hans Redlich
1912 Rudolf Firkusny, pianist
1913 Lucio Diestro San Pedro
1914 Menelaos Pallantios
1922 Tudor Jarda
1926 Alexander Gibson, conductor
1929 Leonard Gregory Kastle
1930 C H Dearnley, organist
1932 Jerome Lowenthal, Phila, pianist/professor
1934 Francesco Pennisi
1935 Bent Lorentzen
1937 Lodewijk Boer, violinist/playwright
1938 Willy Correa de Oliveira
1954 Noriyuki Asakura
1956 H.R. (Paul D. Hudson, vocalist of the seminal punk/hardore band Bad Brains) 
1956 Didier Lockwood, violinist


1889 Caesar Franck's Symphony in D premieres
1906 George Cohan's musical "George Washington" premieres in NYC
1978 "Jesus Christ Superstar" closes at Longacre Theater NYC after 96 performances

If you click on the photo you can enlarge it and read the rest of the text.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Pēteris Plakidis - Music for Piano, Strings, & Timpani - Songs for the Wind & Blood - Concerto for Two Oboes & Strings - Concerto-Ballad for Two Violins, Piano & Strings - Pēteris Plakidis, Piano - Riga Chamber Players, Normunds Snē - Toccata Classics 2007

Peteris Plakidis is an almost exact contemporary of Peteris Vasks and both composers share a strong affinity with the meditative power of nature and the distinct character of Latvian folk music. Plakidis writes exciting music, and I find that (not that this is exclusive to Plakidis!) I listen with an ear that is perpetually curious about what is around the corner, minute by minute. What a sublime feeling for a listener! Indeed, there is a 'certain something' about Baltic composers that I have always found intriguing (and extremely enjoyable), not unlike the best music that Finland has gifted upon the world. There is an expansiveness of sound, brisk yet also warm and undoubtedly inspired by the geography, as well as what seems to me to be an innate spiritualism found in the works of many Baltic composers (yes Arvo Pärt is the obvious example).  

The earliest work on this recordings is the "Music for Piano, Strings, and Timpani" , written in 1969 as Plakidis completed his musical studies at the Latvian Conservatory. A work of strength and urgency, it betrays the heavy influence of Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta . A long, free solo passage for piano at the start evolves into a Bartókian allegro, and thence through several variations on a simple thematic motif. Despite the clear influence of the Hungarian master-not a bad model for a young composer at the time-there are many individual touches. One of these is a dual cadenza for timpani and piano, a "duel" cadenza in fact, and a harmonically ambivalent ending where the piano's accented chords fight the key established by hymn-like string textures. (This polytonal clash may have had its origin in the closing bars of Berg's Chamber Concerto) There would also seem to be a political undercurrent to the piece: the thematic motif comes from a nationalistic Latvian song. The booklet notes take it to be an anti-Soviet statement, although knowing this fact is by no means vital to an appreciation of the work. 

With the two shorter concertante pieces from the 1980s, we are in more recognizably Baltic territory. Texture becomes the primary element in the lovely lovely "Concerto for Two Oboes and Strings" where the two solo instruments unfold freely imitative musical lines over a wash of high strings. The sound suggests birds winging in close formation over some vast, cold landscape. The Concerto-Ballad combines this free imitation with more propulsive writing, led by an important piano part, taking us into different emotional territory again. A plaintive, folk-like theme in thirds is a notable strand of the busy middle section of this tautly structured piece. 

Finally, from 1991, comes a brief cycle of three songs for mezzo-soprano and chamber orchestra, "Songs of the Wind and Blood". Settings of dream-like poems by Astrida Ivaska, the songs evoke a warm response from the composer. Melodic vocal lines and atmospheric string textures blend with the innate warmth of the mezzo voice to produce a heartfelt mini-cycle on the subject of the "dark waters of memory". 

I have included (the always informative) Toccata booklet notes.

Enjoy what imo is a major discovery!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Vittorio Giannini - Piano Concerto - Symphony No. 4 - Gabriela Imreh, Piano - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Spalding - Naxos 2009

The Italian-American composer Vittorio Giannini wrote large, sweeping works, full of unabashed lyricism in a "Romanticism for the 20th century"style. Giannini cared little for the musical trends surrounding him, and for this reason his impeccably crafted compositions remained lesser-known than that of his contemporaries (even whilst the works of stylistically kindred-spirits Hanson, Creston, W. Schuman etc. managed to capture the spotlight). Giannini was one of the finest American symphonists, and for those of you who are not yet acquainted with his music, I think this recording will bear this out.  

Giannini was not without his supporters, among them no less the composer and music critic Virgil Thompson who had this to say: "Giannini's talent has long been known as phenomenal, and now . . . he writes like a master . . . with such fine skill and such pretty taste that no one can deny him a place among the authentic composers of our time. By following none of the contemporary trends, in fact, he has arrived at a highly individual position." 

The Piano Concerto is a purely Romantic work, and while the Symphony No. 4 is almost half the duration of the Concerto, it is a substantial and moving affair.


Birthdays & Events February 8th - February 10th

Feb 8th

1586 Jacob Praetorius
1708 Vaclav Jan Kopriva
1741 Andre-Ernest-Modeste Gretry
1764 Joseph Leopold von Eybler
1789 Ludwig Wilhelm Maurer
1810 Norbert Burgmuller
1828 Antonio Cagnoni
1888 Matthijs Vermeulen
1891 Edgar Palm, pianist/composer
1900 Guy Douglas Hamilton Warrack
1904 Igor' Fyodorovich Belza
1906 Artur Balsam, pianist
1908 Grigor Eghiazaryan
1912 Simon Jurovsky
1914 Jules van Ackere, Flemish musicologist
1925 Alvin Brehm
1927 Zdenek Zouhar
1930 Manuel Castillo
1932 John Towner Williams, composer/conductor
1933 Elly Ameling, soprano
1940 Talib Rasul Hakim
1943 Jose de Almeida Prado


1735 First opera (ballad-opera) in North American colonies, "Flora" opens in Charleston SC
1862 Julius Benedict's opera "Lily of Killarney" premieres in London
1895 Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" premieres in St Petersburg
1946 Béla Bartók's Piano Concerto No. 3 premieres in Philadelphia

Feb 9th -Most notable for today is Alban Berg!

1607 Abraham Megerle
1741 Henri-Joseph Rigel
1744 Amos Bull
1756 Karel Blazej Kopriva
1771 Daniel Belknap
1780 Walenty Karol Kratzer
1808 Francesco Gomez da Rocha
1834 Franz Xaver Witt
1867 Edward Naylor
1875 Sidney Hugo Nicholson
1879 Carl Natanael Berg
1885 Alban Berg
1903 Georg Trexler
1906 Gwen Catley, soprano
1909 Harald Genzmer (one of my favorite extremely  neglected composers, Genzmer was born in Bremen, Germany and studied with Hindemith)
1914 Ralph Herman, orchestra leader
1924 George Guest, organist
1929 James Mulcro Drew,
1929 Willem Kersters
1930 Emil Petrovics
1931 Xavier Benguerel
1942 Carole King, singer-songwriter
1942 Charlie Morrow
1942 Milos Stedron
1943 Ryland Davies, tenor

1966 Amanda Roocroft, opera singer


1893 Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Falstaff" premieres in Milan

Feb 10th

1696 Johann Melchior Molter
1702 Jean-Pierre Guignon
1717 Pierre de La Garde
1735 Johann Christoph Kuhnau
1741 Franz Adam Veichtner
1750 Stanislao Mattei
1788 Johann Peter Pixis
1819 Richard Storrs Willis
1841 Walter Parratt
1866 Bror Beckman
1869 Vasily Pavovlich Kalafati
1879 Franz Carl Bornschein
1903 Matvey Isaakovich Blanter
1905 Vilko Ukmar
1908 Jean Coulthard
1921 Adrian Cruft
1923 Cesare Siepi, basso 
1927 Leontyne (Mary Violet) Price, soprano

1929 Jerry Goldsmith, pianist/film composer
1930 Peter Phillips
1931 Gerhard Rosenfeld
1931 Makoto Shinohara
1935 Salvator Pueyo
1935 Theodore Antoniou
1939 Barbara Kolb
1948 Conrad Cummings
1953 Carl Joseph Stone
1962 Cliff Burton, bass guitarist (Metallica) (d. 1986)


1794 Joseph Haydn's 99th Symphony premieres
1878 Peter Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 premieres
1881 Jacques Offenbach's opera "Les Contes d'Hoffman" premieres in Paris
1882 Rimski-Korsakov's opera "Snyegurochka" premieres in St. Petersburg
1934 Howard Hanson's "Merry Mount" premieres in NYC (The "Suite from Merry Mount" is a delight, but so too is the rarely heard opera itself..if anyone is interested I shall post it)
1961 Walter Piston's Symphony No. 7 premieres