Brahms – The String Quintets

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Julliard String Quarter, Walter Trampler Robert Mann, Joel Smirnoff, Samuel Rhodes, Joel Krosnick, Charles Harbutt, Clara Schumann, Mozart, Haydn, Wagner, Liszt, Joseph Joachim, Elliott Carter, Beethoven, Claude Debussy, Fritz Simrock, Shakespeare, Tennyson, August Bungert, Bruce Adolphe, Billy Rothchild, Robert Wolff, Todd Whitelock, Joos de Momper, Roxanne Simak

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

The String Quintets

Quintet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 88

Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111

Produced by Gary Schultz

Recording Engineer: Charles Harbutt

Julliard String Quartet (Robert Mann & Joel Smirnoff, Violins; Samuel Rhodes, Viola; Joel Krosnick, Cello) & Walter Trampler, Viola

Recording Location: Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy, NY, May 15-17, 1995.

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

These rarely-played chamber gems get the “Julliard” treatment to gorgeous effect but… actually, well-played doesn’t mean… exciting.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (Bruce Adophe, 1996):

Fifty years ago, in 1946, the Julliard String Quartet was formed by the 26-year-old Robert Mann, fresh out of the Army. Fifty years before that, in 1896, the 63-year-old Johannes Brahms, despondent over the recent death of Clara Schumann, composed Four Serious Songs (Op. 121) and Eleven Chorale Preludes (Op. 122).

Brahms, who died at 64, lived almost into the twentieth century. Although typecast as a forever-bearded Romantic god trapped in a remote pantheon called “The Three B’s,” the real Johannes Brahms was only a grandfather away from the generation that founded the original Julliard String Quartet.

Brahms is known to have said, “If we cannot write as beautifully as Mozart and Haydn, let us at least write as purely.” The comment discloses Brahms’ neoclassical bent and surely would have been taken as an anti-Wagner, anti-Liszt sentiment.Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Arabesque Recordings, Wade Botsford, Diana Dru Botsford, Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, David Jolley, Johannes Brahms, Dr. Joseph Braunstein, Clar Schumann, Joseph Joachim, Moscheles, Franz Liszt, Theodore Thomas, Carl Bergmann, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Concordia College, Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Julliard String Quarter, Walter Trampler Robert Mann, Joel Smirnoff, Samuel Rhodes, Joel Krosnick, Charles Harbutt, Clara Schumann, Mozart, Haydn, Wagner, Liszt, Joseph Joachim, Elliott Carter, Beethoven, Claude Debussy, Fritz Simrock, Shakespeare, Tennyson, August Bungert, Bruce Adolphe, Billy Rothchild, Robert Wolff, Todd Whitelock, Joos de Momper, Roxanne Simak

Liszt’s music was so utterly disliked by Brahms and Joseph Joachim (the great violinists who was the composer’s lifelong champion and sometime friend) that they used the word “lisztisch” to mean “damnable” in their letters.

In his String Quintet in F Major, Op. 88, composed in 1882, Brahms achieves a purity of form, voice-leading and counterpoint, which heralds a master composer in his maturity. The quintet opens with luminous nobility.

This quite soon gives way to a radiant, more intimate theme (related by the viola) clothed in a new key and a stunning new texture which no one but Brahms ever dreamed of: each instrument has its own special light – cello and second violin play pizzicato, but the cello divides the measure in two while the second violin plucks in six; the first violin plays eight notes to the bar while the first viola plays the tune in syncopated sixes; the remaining viola plays a counter-melody in four.

This kind of innovative rhythmic and textural design is a blueprint for much music of our century, suggesting even the polyrhythmic configurations of Elliott Carter (whose quartets the Julliard String Quartet has recorded). But the intricate musical web vanishes – before its complexity can register in the mind – into a simpler heartbeat patter, full of yearning.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Johannes Brahms, Emanuel Ax, Piano Sonata No. 3, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim, ETA Hoffman, Kreisler, Sternau, Edouard Marxsen, Hermann Richter, Joan Chisell, Michael Danner, Tritonus, Andreas Neubronner, Peter Laenger

The musical purity Brahms reverered is now clearly manifested as he explores these textures throughout the movement with mastery and deep feeling.

The dark, strring Grave ed oppassionato has enough solid mass to warrant an entire movement, yet Brahms employs it as a standard by which to discover the specific gravity of an Allegretto vivaco and a Presto.

These startling juxtapositions – and their subtle harmonic interrelatedness – seem to have been inspired by Beethoven, who, especially in his late string quartets, discovered uncharted areas of human expression through the investigation of extreme contrast. The underlying metaphor is that of our ultimate aloneness (Grave) in the midst of the busy world (Allegretto vivace and Presto).

The Beethoven connection can also be heard in the finale, which opens with two abrupt, stabbing chords in the manner of Beethoven’s string quartets Op. 59, No. 2, and the third movement of Op. 131.

Following the Beethovenian path still further, Brahms unfolds an uplifting fugue, announcing each entrance with those knifelike chords. Beethoven would not have rolled over but rather sat up straight (both images are problematic!) upon hearing Brahms’ tribute.

While the integration of fugue into sonata form conjures up Beethoven, fugal writing itself summons the spirit of Bach. When Brahms died, Joachim told the Neuen Freien Presse, “On the topmost peak stands Bach, the all-powerful, the incomparable, the creator, the great beginning. Mozart follows as the originator of new forms of beauty, and then comes – Brahms.”

The interviewer asked, “And Beethoven?” Joachim then firmly placed Brahms ahead of Beethoven.

In 1996 – as the new millennium approaches – we can understand the anxiety and exhilaration, the astounded concurrence of old and new, which accompanied the turn of the last century.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Arabesque Recordings, Wade Botsford, Diana Dru Botsford, Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, David Jolley, Johannes Brahms, Dr. Joseph Braunstein, Clar Schumann, Joseph Joachim, Moscheles, Franz Liszt, Theodore Thomas, Carl Bergmann, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Concordia College, Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Julliard String Quarter, Walter Trampler Robert Mann, Joel Smirnoff, Samuel Rhodes, Joel Krosnick, Charles Harbutt, Clara Schumann, Mozart, Haydn, Wagner, Liszt, Joseph Joachim, Elliott Carter, Beethoven, Claude Debussy, Fritz Simrock, Shakespeare, Tennyson, August Bungert, Bruce Adolphe, Billy Rothchild, Robert Wolff, Todd Whitelock, Joos de Momper, Roxanne Simak

Claude Debussy, the prophet and pilot of musical modernism, was twenty-eight years old when, in 1890, Brahms composed the Quintet in G Major, Op. 111. It was the year that the Manhattan Building, the first entirely steel-frame building in the world, was erected in Chicago. At sixteen stories, it was (briefly) the world’s tallest building, earning the nickname “Hercules.”

Feeling the shifting winds, Brahms included a message with the manuscript of the quintet when he sent it to his publisher, Fritz Simrock: “With this letter you can bid farewell to my music – because it is certainly time to leave off…”

But the flowing Herculean architecture of Brahms’ Op. 111 Quintet will surely outlast Chicago’s steel-framed edifices. In fact, far from giving the impression that its composer might soon retire, the opening of the G-Major Quintet explodes into existence with a skyscraper of a first theme in the cello, set against a tempest in the remaining four instruments.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Arabesque Recordings, Wade Botsford, Diana Dru Botsford, Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, David Jolley, Johannes Brahms, Dr. Joseph Braunstein, Clar Schumann, Joseph Joachim, Moscheles, Franz Liszt, Theodore Thomas, Carl Bergmann, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Concordia College, Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Julliard String Quarter, Walter Trampler Robert Mann, Joel Smirnoff, Samuel Rhodes, Joel Krosnick, Charles Harbutt, Clara Schumann, Mozart, Haydn, Wagner, Liszt, Joseph Joachim, Elliott Carter, Beethoven, Claude Debussy, Fritz Simrock, Shakespeare, Tennyson, August Bungert, Bruce Adolphe, Billy Rothchild, Robert Wolff, Todd Whitelock, Joos de Momper, Roxanne Simak

Brahms considered rewriting this opening passage to decrease the risk of the solo cello being drowned out. A draft exists in which the upper strings alternate their activity with rests, cutting the massive texture in half. The composer quickly returned to the original conception of the work, deciding that the rewrite sounded flimsy.

Brahms did not always want cellists to be heard, however. In a now famous story, Brahms was playing his own F-Major Cello Sonata with an unsatisfactory partner. The composer let loose at the piano with an enormous fortissimo, causing the cellist to shout over the music, “Maestro, I can’t hear myself at all,” to which Brahms countered, “Lucky for you!”

Brahms loved a full sound and was renowned for his rich, massive tone on the piano. The Julliard Quartet’s Robert Mann remembers a story once told by a musician whose father, many years earlier, had taken him to hear Brahms play his F-Minor Piano Quintet. The boy’s father leaned over just before the music started and whispered to his son, “Listen well to the strings in the opening unison passage because that will be the last time you can hear them at all!”

A friend of Brahms suggested to the composer that the high spirits in the Op. 111 Quintet may have been partially inspired by a public park in Vienna, known as the Prater. “You guessed it!” answered Brahms. “And the delightful girls there.” 

If Brahms meant this last comment seriously, he would probably have been referring to the graceful second theme in the first movement, which beings in the violas and is soon passed to the violins – it is as fetching and enchanting a melody as any ever composed.

Brahms professed that his beautiful themes came to him in “instantaneous flashes,” which “quickly vanished,” sometimes before he could capture them on paper. He believed that “the themes that will endure in my music all appear to me in this way.”

Brahms did not mean that he was unconscious when composing, but that he experienced what he called a “semi-trance condition.” Explaining this concept to Joachim, Brahms stated, “You must realized that Milton, Shakespeare, Tennyson, Bach and Beethoven never wholly lost consciousness when they entered that border state.”

Of his own semi-trances, Brahms explained, “I always have a definite purpose in view before invoking the Muse and entering into such a mood.” Brahms decried music which did not achieve a balance between the spirtual and the intellectual plains.

He criticized, for example, the composer August Bungert, whose work was immensely popular throughout Europe in the 1890s, for composing only with the conscious mind.

Brahms predicted such music would soon “go into oblivion.” (He seems to have been coorect so far, although an unexpected Bungert festival is always a possibility given the current craze for thematic programming.)

There is certainly no shortage of inspired, entrancing melody in this quintet. In the Adagio, Brahms unveils another jewel – a sweet, sorrowful melody which abides sublimely on the first viola before the first violin appropriates it permanently.

The violin reveals three tragic visions of the theme (as opposed to the viola’s one). The viola makes a moving, cadenza-like plea towards the movements close, but the violins retain the poignant theme for a fourth and final utterance.

The Un poco allegretto ushers in another heart-stoppingly beautiful tune, this one quality prevails, giving way now and then to momentary disquiet. Here, and throughout this quintet, we find the Brahms so admired by Schoenberg for his ability to fully explore the complexity of a seemingly simple idea.

The five instruments are intricately engaged in imitative counterpoint that is rich without excess, at once elegant and luxurious.

The first viola seems to get an idea for the finale which the other instruments quickly realize is a good one. The Vivace ma non troppo presto takes the listener on a thrilling ride through the Hungarian countryside. It may seem  brief, but you’ll find it is just the right length if you try dancing to it (which you’ll want to do).

By the way, it turns out that Brahms did not give up composing quite as soon as he had expected. Soon after completing this quintet, he heard the clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld play and suddenly found himself once again teeming with ideas, burning to compose.

TRACK LISTING:

Johannes Brahms – Quintet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 88

  1. Allegro non troppo ma con brio – 11:19
  2. Grave ed appassionato – Allegretto vivace Tempo 1 – Presto – Tempo 1 – 10:53
  3. Allegro energico – Presto – 5:32

Johannes Brahms – Quintet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 111

  1. Allegro non troppo, ma con brio – 12:48
  2. Adagio – 6:26
  3. Un poco allegretto – 6:13
  4. Vivace ma non troppo presto – 5:00

 

FINAL THOUGHT:

Normally, Brahms’ chamber music is a can’t-miss-bing-bang-bong success. But after listening to this disc… all I feel is… meh. The answer is ‘meh.’ Not terrible, it’s fine… but… ‘meh.’

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

Brahms – Sonatas For Cello And Piano, Op. 38 and Op. 99

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Cello Sonatas, Yo-Yo Man, Emanuel Ax, Jay David Saks, Paul Goodman, Thomas MacCluskey, J.J. Stelmach, Dr. Joseph Gansbacher, Bernard Jacobson, Mahler, Robert Hausmann

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Sonatas For Cello and Piano

Sonata In E Minor, Op. 38

Sonata in F Major, Op. 99

Produced by Jay David Saks

Yo-Yo Ma – Cello

Emanuel Ax – Piano

Recording Date: February 4 & 5, 1985

Recording Location: RCA Studio A, New York City

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Yeah, um, no – there is nothing to say other than Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax play Brahms.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Cello Sonatas, Yo-Yo Man, Emanuel Ax, Jay David Saks, Paul Goodman, Thomas MacCluskey, J.J. Stelmach, Dr. Joseph Gansbacher, Bernard Jacobson, Mahler, Robert Hausmann

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (Bernard Jacobson, 1985):

Opus 38 is not merely the first of Brahms’ cello sonatas: it was the first sonata he published for piano with any other instrument. The three surviving violin sonatas came much later and the two for clarinet later still.

Apart from early essays that the fiercely self-critical composer destroyed, including a duet for cello and piano that he played in public when he was 18, the E minor sonata’s only partial predecessor was the C minor scherzo (or Sonatensatz) he contributed in 1853 to a composite sonata written jointly with Schumann and Albert Dietrich as a tribute to the great violinist Joseph Joachim.

If you think about the character of Brahms’ music throughout his life, and in particular about the qualities of color and texture that make it unmistakably Brahms, it is not surprising that, in 1865, he should have approached the chamber-sonata medium through the cello.

The idea that Brahms was indifferent to instrumental color is a misapprehension. The truth is, surely, that he was relatively uninterested in the more obvious and dazzling instrumental effects.

Consider, for instance, his extraordinary use of the piccolo in the Tragic Overture. This usually obstreperous instrument appears in only 15 of the work’s 429 measures – and then exclusively in mysterious pianissimo.

Rather than brilliance, it was warmth of tone that attracted Brahms. And thus it is the clarinet and the horn that he most favors among the woodwind and brass families, and the cello among the strings. In all four symphonies some of the most memorable string effects are those entrusted to the cellos.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Cello Sonatas, Yo-Yo Man, Emanuel Ax, Jay David Saks, Paul Goodman, Thomas MacCluskey, J.J. Stelmach, Dr. Joseph Gansbacher, Bernard Jacobson, Mahler, Robert Hausmann

Then there are notable solo passages like those in the slow movement of the Second Piano Concerto, not to mention the wonderfully idiomatic handling of the cello in the Double Concerto, where it not only shares the limelight with the traditionally more extrovert violin but often takes the leading role in thematic exposition.

Following this line of thought, we find also that nobody, probably, has ever written a more cello-ish cello sonata than Brahms’ E minor. Through the entire length of the work (written for and dedicated to his friend Dr. Joseph Gansbacher) it is the special dark, introspective quality of the instrument that is stressed.

The very first theme exploits its ability to sing a sonorous melody in the lowest register, and at no point in the three movements does the pitch of the cello writing rise high enough to demand the use of the treble clef.

Tone color aside, the E minor sonata is Brahmsian also in reflecting its composer’s Janus-like relation to music history. Brahms faced equally in two directions: toward the past, and toward the future.

Much of his influence on later music derives from the linear and rhythmic freedom of his style, which was to have an effect at least as far reaching as – and arguably healthier than – that of Wagner’s innovations in the harmonic sphere. But Brahms’ liberation of line and pulse, though new to the 19th century, stems from his enthusiasm for the music of a much more distant past, going back to the time of Palestrina and indeed beyond that to the earliest origins of German song.

With all its freshness of expression, this sonata has a certain almost self-consciously old-fashioned air. In the first movement, it is to be found in the unhurried deployment of traditional sonata-form elements, and, more intangibly, in the kind of legendary, “far away and long ago” feeling to the actual cut of the themes.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Cello Sonatas, Yo-Yo Man, Emanuel Ax, Jay David Saks, Paul Goodman, Thomas MacCluskey, J.J. Stelmach, Dr. Joseph Gansbacher, Bernard Jacobson, Mahler, Robert Hausmann

The other two movements are more specifically historical in reference, the one recalling the minuet style, the other adopting fugal patterns, and the two together constituting a pair of genre pieces evocative of the baroque sonata or suite.

Yet, even here, the backward look is closely related to a forward influence. It is movements like this quasi-minuet that furnish the clearest link between Mahler’s folkish Knaben Wunderhorn vein and its medieval antecedents, and indeed the contrast of idioms between Brahms’ first two movements suggests a peaceable juxtaposition of past with present and future styles much like that of the corresponding movements in Mahler’s Second Symphony.

As Brahms matured, he turned away from formal displays of fugal erudition like those in the E minor sonata’s finale, the Handel Variations for piano and German Requiem, and instead began to fuse the forms and harmonies of his sonata style more intimately with its contrapuntal elements.

Certainly the finale of the F major cello sonata, written in his Swiss summer retreat at Thun in 1886, wears its learning more lightly than its youthful predecessor. But formidably learned this sonata still is, whether in the polyphonic play and pitting of three groups against duple meter in the finale, or in the subtle rhythmic elisions of the scherzo, or in the piano’s breathtaking pp dolce augmentation of the main theme just before the end of the first movement’s development section.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Johannes Brahms, Cello Sonatas, Yo-Yo Man, Emanuel Ax, Jay David Saks, Paul Goodman, Thomas MacCluskey, J.J. Stelmach, Dr. Joseph Gansbacher, Bernard Jacobson, Mahler, Robert Hausmann

It is not so much learning, however, as passion that strikes the listener first in this deceptively youthful music. The very beginning of the Allegro vivace immediately proclaims the contrast with the E minor sonata: here all is full-blooded romanticism, felt in the constant tumultuous undermining of the movement’s official 3/4 pulse, and articulated as early as the seventh and eighth measures by the devil-may-care leap to the cello’s topmost register.

If the older Brahms tended more and more to moderation, this sonata is a glorious exception, as the “vivace,” “passionata” and “molto” of its movement-headings already suggest. Perhaps, as in the Double Concerto written the following year, it was the return to his old love of the cello combined with the inspiration provided by the gifted young cellist Robert Hausmann that prompted this resurgence of expressive ardor.

It is evident also in the plangent pizzicatos and subsequent Klangfarben-like coloristic effects of the Adagio affettuoso and in that movement’s remote and Haydenesque setting in the flat supertonic key of F-sharp major.

A tangible link with the Double Concerto, incidentally, is to be found in the transition theme of the sonata’s first movement, which could almost be regarded as the concerto’s slow-movement theme set at a different melodic angle.

But the superb coup just before the movement’s end – this time a purely harmonic device that transmutes the last, literal restatement of the stirring subordinate theme into a tender valediction – is a stroke of genius that is all the sonata’s own.

TRACK LISTING:

Johannes Brahms – Sonata For Cello And Piano No. 1 In E Minor, Op. 38

  1. Allegro non troppo – 14:43
  2. Allegretto quasi Menuetto – 5:58
  3. Allegro – 6:37

Johannes Brahms – Sonata For Cello And Piano No. 2 In F Major, Op. 99

  1. Allegro vivace – 9:22
  2. Adagio affettuoso – 7:45
  3. Allegro passionato – 7:20
  4. Allegro molto – 4:32:

FINAL THOUGHT:

Imagine you’re a cellist and a pianist and you’re trying to do some Brahms in your spare time and then freakin’ Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax come out and just stick the landing like it’s never been stuck before. That’s this recording!

 

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

Brahms – Five Trios – Volume 1

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Arabesque Recordings, Wade Botsford, Diana Dru Botsford, Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, David Jolley, Johannes Brahms, Dr. Joseph Braunstein, Clar Schumann, Joseph Joachim, Moscheles, Franz Liszt, Theodore Thomas, Carl Bergmann, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Concordia College

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Five Trios – Volume 1

Op. 8 in B Major

Op. 40 in E-Flat Major

Produced: Wade Botsford

Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio

David Jolley – Horn

Recorded at Concordia College – February 16, 17, 18 & 25, 1989

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Jesus F-ing Christ, it’s chamber music by Brahms played by world-class musicians – is there a negative? NO!

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Arabesque Recordings, Wade Botsford, Diana Dru Botsford, Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, David Jolley, Johannes Brahms, Dr. Joseph Braunstein, Clar Schumann, Joseph Joachim, Moscheles, Franz Liszt, Theodore Thomas, Carl Bergmann, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Concordia College

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (Dr. Joseph Braunstein, 1989):

Brahms And The Trio

Reviewing Brahms’ piano trios in the context of his oeuvre it is instructive to compare his relevant output with Beethoven’s. Beethoven began his official compositional activity with the set of three piano trios published as Op. 1.

They were actually not his first, for he had composed two trios in Bonn before. Hidden in Vienna, they surfaced only after his death and were never included in practical editions through almost two centuries.

Beethoven’s first piano trios originated before 1792 and his last, the Trio in B-flat, Op. 97, was composed around 1811-12, though published in 1816. To be sure he wrote a piece for piano, violin and cello probably around 1816 which was published in 1824 as Op. 121a.

This opus number is chronologically misleading. These are variations for a trio ensemble, not a standard trio in several movements. Evidently no circumstances occurred to prompt Beethoven to create a piano trio in his last decade of his life.

The case of Brahms is different. He had destroyed the works written in his youth. We do know whether a piano trio was among them. His first work of this category, the Trio in B Major, Op. 8 is the achievement of an accomplished composer who had three piano sonatas but no chamber music piece to his credit so far.

In contrast to Beethoven, Brahms assigned the piano an extraordinarily communicative role in his chamber music throughout his life. Op. 8 was written in 1854 when he was twenty-one, while the Trio in A Minor, Op. 114 was composed in 1891, six years before his death at the age of sixty-four.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Arabesque Recordings, Wade Botsford, Diana Dru Botsford, Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, David Jolley, Johannes Brahms, Dr. Joseph Braunstein, Clar Schumann, Joseph Joachim, Moscheles, Franz Liszt, Theodore Thomas, Carl Bergmann, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Concordia College

TRIO IN B MAJOR, OP. 8

Brahms sketched the Trio in B Major in the summer of 1853 when he journeyed on foot, with a walking staff and knapsack, along the Rhine from Gottingen to Hanover. Completed in 1854 it was published in Leipzig in November 1854. There were two private readings in Dusseldorf, one at the home of Clara Schumann with Brahms at the piano and Joseph Joachim on the violin.

The first public hearing occurred on November 27, 1855 at Dodworth Hall in New York. The performers were William Mason (1829-1908), a pupil of Moscheles and Liszt; Theodore Thomas (1835-1905), later conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and Carl Bergmann (1821-1876) who became conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Trio in B Major is a unique creation in view of the key and the architectural dimensions of its original shape. The choice of the very seldom used key of B Major justifies a brief note. Not counting the short Preludes and Fugues in B Major of the Well Tempered Clavier, where the key of B Major was a foregone conclusion because of the didactic concept of the work, no large-scale composition, sonata, suite or concerto in B major by Bach, Carl Philippe Emmanuel Bach nor Handel exists. (Domenico Scarlatti’s K. 245, 246, 261 and 262 in B Major are not works in several movements.)

There are no sonatas, chamber music or orchestral compositions by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven in B Major, Schubert broke the spell in his Piano Sonata in B Major, D 575, composed in 1817, published about 1844, which may have come to Brahms’ attention. The key of B major does not appear in larger works of Mendelssohn and Schumann either. Thus the trio of Brahms was the first important composition in B major without have B major successors of consequence.

This Trio constitutes a unique case within Brahms’ oeuvre because of its length. Brahms was fond of the Trio, yet in the course of time had second thoughts about it. At a performance in Vienna in 1871, he insisted on a substantial cut in the first movement. Finally, he decided on a thorough revision which received its public try-out in Budapest in December 1889 with Brahms at the piano, the Hungarian violinist Jeno Hubay, and the cellist David Popper.

In composing the B Major Trio, Brahms had taken as a point of departure Schubert’s trios, which are of symphonic proportion. So is Brahms’ piece whose measure total of 1628 exceeds that of all his instrumental works. To give a drastic example the Third Symphony is “only” 839 measures long. Thus the reworking resulted in a considerable shortening.

Numerically the “New Edition” (Neue Ausgabe), as Brahms called the recomposed work, is 458 measures shorter and the contents are considerably different. The Trio was a creation of Brahms’ youth, while the revision represents the result of deliberations of a composer whose position in music history was definitely established.

The Neue Ausgabe is essentially a new composition, the retained Scherzo notwithstanding, and we know that Brahms enjoyed it as such. Thus the retained ops number 8 is misleading and the opus number 111 applied to the String Quintet in G Major of 1891 would be more appropriate chronologically. Between the Trio of 1854 and that of 1891 stands most of Brahms’ entire creative life.

The principal idea of the first movement (Allegro con brio, 4/4, cut time) not only generates the Scherzo idea which, incidentally, reappears in the last movement of the “Horn Trio” but occurs slightly altered in the “March of the Dead” in the German Requiem and in the finale of the First Symphony. Substantial cuts and the omission of the fugal passage were made to the movement to achieve a tightly organized structure.

The quick Scherzo (Allegro molto, B Minor, 3/4), displaying minor-major dichotomy, was generally left intact except for the conclusion. The transparency and the deft coda in particular reveal the distinct Mendelssohn touch.

The Adagio (B Major, 4/4) underwent drastic changes. There was, strangely enough, a two measure quotation from Schubert’s song Am Meer serving as the second theme, the excision of which Brahms deemed necessary and justly so. The Adagio quality was seriously impaired by an Allegro portion of more than 60 measures. This passage removed, the movement closes quietly and gently. The tender lyricism of the Adagio is sharply contrasted with the Finale in B Minor (Allegro, 4/4).

The puzzling abandonment of the basic key B Major is partly made good, however, by the introduction of a new beautiful melody which first enters in D Major and reappears in B Major in the recapitulation. Yet B Minor prevails in the vigorous coda.

TRIO FOR PIANO, VIOLIN, AND HORN IN E-FLAT, OP. 40

Brahms composed this Trio, colloquially referred to as the “Horn Trio,” in May 1868 in Lichvental, a suburb of the well-known spa Baden-Baden. There he occupied a little place with a charming view of the country, its wooded hills and nearby forests which he used to roam. He was still suffering from the death of his mother who had passed away in February of that year.

For the unusual combination of piano, violin and horn Brahms had no model. These were the instruments he played in his boyhood. For this trio, Brahms thought of the so-called natural horn, colloquially referred to as Waldhorn (foresthorn) and actually used this term for the publication of the work.

The instrument was familiar to German audiences from the overtures to Der Freischultz and Oberon, and the Notturno in Mendelssohn’s music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the hunting scene at the close of the first act of Tannhauser where waldhorns sound in abundance. Siegfried’s horncall was then still ten years away.

Chromatic notes which the overtone series lacks could not be produced “naturally” on the waldhorn. The invention of the valve mechanism corrected the deficiency, but Wagner contended in the preface to the score of Tristan und Isolde that the technical improvement brought about “an undeniable loss of the beauty of its tone.”

That was correct for the 1850s and 1860s and the composer of Tristan even reckoned with the unavoidable improvement of the valve horn. Brahms would probably not find fault with the instruments and the delivery of his melodies by the players of our time. Thanks to modern technology the valves of horns are now greatly improved over their placement in the crude valved instruments of Brahms’ day.

While Brahms’ first trio was unusual because of its key and large dimension, the second occupies a special position on account of the scoring and the structure of the first movement (Andante, 2/4). This is not the customary sonata movement but a rondo-like five-section piece in which the division in 2/4 and 9/8 (poco piu animato) and the modified first section comprise the coda.

Lyricism is the keynote which is sharply contrasted with the vigorously racing Scherzo, a companion piece to the Scherzo of the B Major Trio. The Scherzo theme which foreshadows the principal ideas of the finale includes the ancient Gregorian Gloria intonation.

The slower Trio (Molto meno Allegro) is in the key of A-Flat Minor (seven flats) which, of course, causes intonation difficulties for the violinist. They are not mitigated in the following Adagio mesto in E-Flat Minor (6/8). This is a lament in memory of Brahms’ mother. The sorrowful mood turns passionate before the mild ending.

The Finale (Allegro con brio, 6/8) is a true movement a la chasse. The speedy motion in which the horn like the waldhorn of yore lustily participates is kept up throughout. At the request of the publisher Simrock, Brahms edited version in which the horn part was transposed for violin and cello respectively. He recognized the sales possibility. The Trio was dear to Brahms for happy (Lichtental) and sad memories and he was very grateful to those players who performed their part on the natural horn.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Arabesque Recordings, Wade Botsford, Diana Dru Botsford, Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, David Jolley, Johannes Brahms, Dr. Joseph Braunstein, Clar Schumann, Joseph Joachim, Moscheles, Franz Liszt, Theodore Thomas, Carl Bergmann, Domenico Scarlatti, Mozart, Schubert, Concordia College

THE NEW YORK TIMES ON THE SCHUBERT TRIOS

Golub, Kaplan and Carr play with great finesse. Their carefully thought out and brilliantly executed interpretations are thoroughly convincing… The artists have gone back to the original manuscript of the Op. 100, restored the pre-publication cut, and recorded both versions of the finale, so that the listener can program the compact disc either way.”

On both side of the Atlantic, the Golub/Kaplain/Carr Trio has been acclaimed as one of the finest piano trios before the public today. Robert C. Marsh of the Chicago Sun-Times hailed their performance as “… bursting with genius. I cannot recall an occasion in which this music was played with such complete conviction.” The Trio has toured throughout the United States and Europe in major centers including New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Washington, London and Paris.

Their electrifying performance in Washington D.C. lead the Washington Post critic to write, “When musicians with international renown as soloists join forces, one awaits, sometimes fruitlessly, a revelatory performance that lives up to the individual talents. Yesterday proved that such a blending is not a pipe dream.”

They have also appeared to great critical acclaim with many major orchestras, performing the well-known and beloved Beethoven Triple Concerto.

David Galub, Mark Kaplan and Colin Carr are celebrated solo artists, with performances throughout the world at leading music festivals including Ravinia, Blossom, Spoleto and Marlboro, and with orchestras of Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, London, Berlin and Montreal.

One of his generation’s most notable and acclaimed horn players, David Jolley has brought his remarkable virtuosity to audiences in the United States and Europe as a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, as well as a versatile and highly respected recording artist.

TRACK LISTING:

Johannes Brahms – Trio In B Major, Op. 8 For Violin, Cello and Piano

  1. Movement 1 [Allegro con brio) 13:45
  2. Movement 2 [Scherzo – allegro molto] 6:20
  3. Movement 3 [Adagio] 8:38
  4. Movement 4 [Allegro] 6:04

Johannes Brahms – Horn Trio in E-Flat Major, Op. 40 for Horn, Violin and Piano

  1. Movement 1 [Andante] 9:46
  2. Movement 2 [Scherzo – Allegro] 7:46
  3. Movement 3 [Adagio mesto] 8:27
  4. Movement 4 [Finale – Allegro con brio] 6:02

https://youtu.be/x0-eerJgqZI

https://youtu.be/ORvvsRawgDo

FINAL THOUGHT:

Chamber music writing at its finest. Schubert – I know, I got your Schubert right here – but Goddamned, Brahms is the freakin’ man. That horn trio? Come on, seriously?!

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Ludwig van Beethoven, Sviatoslav Richter, Leningrad Master, Sonata No 3, Sonata No 7, Sonata No 19, Heinrich Neuhaus, Emil Gilels, Sergei Prokofiev, Mstislav Rostropovitch, USSR Piano Competition, JS Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich, A Montferrand, Leningrad Masters

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brahms – Double Concerto – Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink, Clara Schumann, Robert Hausmann, Franz Wullner, Hans Keller, Sum Raj Grubb, Michael Gray, Michael Sheady, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink, Marie milford, Barry Millington

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Concerto for Violin and Violoncello in A Minor, Op. 102

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64

Itzhak Perlman, Violin

Mstislav Rostropovich, Violoncello

Concertgebouworkest, Amsterdam (Bernard Haitink, Conductor)

Recorded 1983, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Johannes Brahms, Emanuel Ax, Piano Sonata No. 3, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim, ETA Hoffman, Kreisler, Sternau, Edouard Marxsen, Hermann Richter, Joan Chisell, Michael Danner, Tritonus, Andreas Neubronner, Peter Laenger

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

I mean, if they could have only gotten a couple of decent soloists this would have been a home run.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (Barry Millington, 1988):

Brahms: Concerto for Violin and Violoncello in A minor, Op. 102

“I must tell you that I have had the strange notion of writing a concerto for violin and cello!” wrote Brahms to the conductor Franz Wullner in August 1887. A few days later, in a letter to Clara Schumann, the description was amended to “happy notion” – an indication that Brahms had relished the challenge of producing a work in such an unusual, and potentially problematic, medium.

The Double Concerto comes at the end of a line of substantial orchestral works: 4 symphonies, 3 concertos, 2 serenades, 2 overtures and the ‘Haydn’ Variations. It was written in 1887, during the second of the three summers Brahms spent at Hofstettern on Lake Thun in Switzerland, and was performed in Cologne on October 18 the same year.

The composer clearly intended the work as a gesture of reconciliation to his violinist friend Joseph Joachim, from whom he had become estranged over the latter’s divorce, and it was Joachim and his quartet colleague Robert Hausmann that Brahms had in mind when composing the work.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink, Clara Schumann, Robert Hausmann, Franz Wullner, Hans Keller, Sum Raj Grubb, Michael Gray, Michael Sheady, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink, Marie milford, Barry Millington

The short opening orchestral statement is reflected upon by the solo cello in a quasi-improvisatory passage, soon followed by another in which the two solo instruments exchange ideas in the non-competitive spirit that is to characterize the work as a whole.

Just as these extended solos recall the opening of the B Flat Piano Concerto, so the gently weaving figurations of the central F Major sections of the Andante look back to the slow movements of both piano concertos. The finale is a fusion of sonata and conventional rondo elements.

Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64

Although not the only work Mendelssohn wrote for the medium (a youthful concerto in D minor has also been occasionally performed), the E minor is invariably referred to as the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto.

It is, without doubt, his finest concerto for any instrument and its passionate advocate, the late Hans Keller, was prepared to put it alongside the masterpieces of Beethoven and Brahms as “arguably the greatest of them all.”

It was written for the violinist Ferdinand David while Mendelssohn was on a recuperative holiday at Soden near Frankfurt am Main in September 1844 and was first heard the following March at the Leipzig Gewandhaus under the Danish composer Niels Gade.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink, Clara Schumann, Robert Hausmann, Franz Wullner, Hans Keller, Sum Raj Grubb, Michael Gray, Michael Sheady, Itzhak Perlman, Mstislav Rostropovich, Bernard Haitink, Marie milford, Barry Millington

The greatness of the work lies partly in its formal innovations, but primarily in the compelling potency of its melodic inspirations. Dispensing with the conventional opening orchestral tutti, Mendelssohn launches his solo instrument immediately on a poignant cantilena soaring high above the stave.

The slow movement too is dominated by an intensely lyrical theme both announced and expanded exclusively by the soloist. The first two movements are joined by a transition effected by a sustained bassoon note, scarcely sufficient to quell the applause that might have been expected in the nineteenth century.

A further structural innovation is the placing of the first movement cadenza at the end of the development section rather than later in the movement, following the recapitulation.

The finale, which is introduced by an eloquent little meditation by the soloist, is in the elfin dancing style – and indeed in the key – of Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

TRACK LISTING:

Johannes Brahms – Concerto for Violin and Violoncello in A Minor, Op. 102

  1. Allegro [16:51]
  2. Andante [7:44]
  3. Vivace non troppo [8:41]

Felix Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64

  1. Allegro molto appassionato [12:59]
  2. Andante [8:12]
  3. Allegro non troppo – Allegro non vivace [6:27]

FINAL THOUGHT:

This CD is not f-ing around (excuse my German!). In the late-1980s, Bernard Haitink conducted the finest band in the land and Perlamn and Rostropovich were no slouches either!

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

 

Brahms – Piano Sonata No. 3, Opus 5 (Emanuel Ax)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Johannes Brahms, Emanuel Ax, Piano Sonata No. 3, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim, ETA Hoffman, Kreisler, Sternau, Edouard Marxsen, Hermann Richter, Joan Chisell, Michael Danner, Tritonus, Andreas Neubronner, Peter Laenger

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Opus 5

3 Intermezzi, Opus 117

Emanuel Ax, Piano

Recording Location: Henry Wood Hall, London, 1989

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Emanuel Ax sort of knows what he’s doing… and he’s also sort of a master of liner notes (see below):

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Johannes Brahms, Emanuel Ax, Piano Sonata No. 3, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim, ETA Hoffman, Kreisler, Sternau, Edouard Marxsen, Hermann Richter, Joan Chisell, Michael Danner, Tritonus, Andreas Neubronner, Peter Laenger

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (By Emanuel Ax):

“I felt certain an individual would suddenly emerge fated to give expression to the times in the highest and most ideal manner, who would achieve mastery not step by step, but at once, springing like Minerva fully armed from the head of Jove. And now here he is, a young man at whose cradle graces and heroes stood watch. His name is Johannes Brahms…”

This was Schumann’s greeting to the twenty-year-old composer who had so impressed both Clara and Robert with his mastery. He had already played movements of his first two piano sonatas for Joseph Joachim, who was equally overwhelmed by the music’s “undreamt-of-originality and power” and by Brahm’s equally mesmerizing playing.

Brahm’s education create the two sides of his nature that make his music unique, personal, and virtually instantly recognizable. His music teacher Edouard Marxsen – an accomplished musician who valued Classical form and logical structure – strongly encouraged Johannes’ interest in composition, as well as accomplishment in virtuoso piano playing.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Johannes Brahms, Emanuel Ax, Piano Sonata No. 3, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim, ETA Hoffman, Kreisler, Sternau, Edouard Marxsen, Hermann Richter, Joan Chisell, Michael Danner, Tritonus, Andreas Neubronner, Peter Laenger

At the same time, the Romantic movement in literature swept the young man off his feet (he called himself Johannes Kreisler, Junior, after E.T.A. Hoffmann’s mad violinist-hero, and kept a notebook of literary quotations which he named “Young Kreisler’s Treasure”).

This tug between structural balance and Romantic excess delineates one of the cardinal trademarks of Brahm’s music. The other ubiquitous element is rhythmic complexity, especially as exemplified in the hemiola.

Marxsen was instrumental in working with Johannes to strengthen his left-hand independence and sense of cross-rhythm. The contrast of two-against-three and various multiples of this relationship – so integral to Brahm’s dramatic pulse – represents a rhythmic counterpart to the emotional tug of excess and control. The feeling of inevitability in the large structure is always accompanied by a sense of turmoil underneath.

The Sonata No. 3, Opus 5, is unusual for Brahms in two respects: he cast the work in five movements (although one could almost make a case for doing the last three without pause, as part of one large structure); and, at Brahms’ request, a quotation from Sternau was included in the published version at the beginning of the second movement:

Der Abend dammert, das Mondlicht scheint,

Da sind zwei Herzen in Liebe Vereint,

Und halten sich selig umfangen.

(Night falls and the moon shines,

Two loving hearts are united,

Embracing each other blissfully.)

This evocative and touching phrase shows the influence of Romantic literature on Brahms – so striking considering his usual distaste for ascribing literary allusions to his music.

The piece must have been virtually finished by the time Brahms was twenty and had met the Schumanns for the first time – the second and third movements of the work, in fact, were premiered as a unit by Clara Schumann in a concert in Leipzig in 1854: the first performance of the whole Sonata occurred at a musicale in Magdeburg by Hermann Richter.

As usual, Brahms tinkered with the work for a long time, and, also as usual, we have only the final product, along with letters which tell Joachim that he had “substantially altered” the Sonata, and again, that he must “severely review the Sonata, especially the Finale.”

In any case, the final product has become one of the glories of the pianist’s repertoire.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Johannes Brahms, Emanuel Ax, Piano Sonata No. 3, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim, ETA Hoffman, Kreisler, Sternau, Edouard Marxsen, Hermann Richter, Joan Chisell, Michael Danner, Tritonus, Andreas Neubronner, Peter Laenger

The first movementAllegro maestoso – isremarkable for its combination of breadth and intensity (in a letter from 1856, Brahms remarked: “NB, It would have been better to mark the first movement Moderato“). The outer limits of the instruments are immediately established in the first five measures; the next episode, with the muted pyramid of hemiolas (cross-rhythms), will act as an animating force throughout the Sonata. There is a remarkable economy of thematic material, as the first theme, the second theme, and, in fact, the transitional material between the two all share the same leap of the fourth.

The second movement, with the Sternau superscription, progresses from the intimate, yearning first theme to the even more hushed and intimate interlude in the sub-dominant which then becomes transformed into a coda of great ecstasy.

Once again, economy of thematic material combines with mastery of form and a prodigious invention to produce the most spontaneous-seeming, sublime effect. The last arpeggio of the movement appears to demand a continuation directly into the passion of the Scherzo, which abruptly breaks the rapturous stillness.

(The Scherzo perhaps testifies to Brahms’ familiarity with the Mendelssohn Piano Trio in C Minor; the theme is a note-for-note quotation of the Trio’s last movement; and Brahms’ C-Minor Piano Quartet seems to owe much of its last movement to the same Trio’s first.)

The Intermezzo, a true intermission – subtitled “Reminiscence” (Ruckblick), goes back to the love theme of the Andante, but this time in the minor mode; one feels very much a sense of loss and desolation.

Its conclusion speaks of tragedy, and the Finale emerges from it almost reluctantly – the pauses and fermatas have the function of a recitative-introduction, and it is an absolute masterstroke that Brahms also makes this quasi-improvisatory rumination the actual theme of the Rondo. With each repetition of the material it becomes stronger, until finally the entire series of hesitations resolves in an accelerated coda. The feeling is one of bursting the bonds which have held “the young eagle” (as Schumann called him) in check, and the final flight to freedom.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Johannes Brahms, Emanuel Ax, Piano Sonata No. 3, Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim, ETA Hoffman, Kreisler, Sternau, Edouard Marxsen, Hermann Richter, Joan Chisell, Michael Danner, Tritonus, Andreas Neubronner, Peter Laenger

The Three Intermezzi, Opus 117, also start with a superscription: the words “Schlaf Sanft, mein Kind” (Sleep, sleep, my child) from a Scottish lullaby. The mood of peace and intimacy of the first gives way in the second and third Intermezzi to ever increasing darkness and despair.

These pieces and, in fact, almost all of the late piano works are more directed toward the individual than toward the audience. Joan Chisell, in her book on Brahms, very plausibly suggests that Brahms’ piano writing in his later years was motivated by the increasing frailty of Clara Schumann, who was so intimately associated with all his creations for the piano. The dimensions, outwardly, have become smaller, but the inner dimensions are greater than ever before – the density of emotion and intellectual stimulation is as great in these works as in anything Brahms or, for that matter, anyone ever penned.

TRACK LISTING:

Piano Sonata No. 3 in F Minor, Opus 5

  1. Allegro maestoso [10:36]
  2. Andante [10:44]
  3. Scherzo [4:36]
  4. Intermezzo [3:44]
  5. Finale [7:52]

3 Intermezzi, Opus 117

  1. No. 1 in E-flat Major [4:39]
  2. No. 2 in B-flat Minor [4:32]
  3. No. 3 in C-sharp Minor [6:10]

FINAL THOUGHT:

Just a great recording from one of the great master interpreters of Brahms in history. I couldn’t find a video of him playing it (the link above is over Emanuel Ax playing the 3rd movement in audio only) but here is a great classic performance in by Claudio Arrau from Santiago, Chile in 1984 (though it completely looks like the 1960s).

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Ludwig van Beethoven, Sviatoslav Richter, Leningrad Master, Sonata No 3, Sonata No 7, Sonata No 19, Heinrich Neuhaus, Emil Gilels, Sergei Prokofiev, Mstislav Rostropovitch, USSR Piano Competition, JS Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich, A Montferrand, Leningrad Masters

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

 

 

 

Brahms – Ballades – Rhapsodies – (Glenn Gould)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Glenn Gould, Johannes Brahms, Ballades, Rhapsodies, Peter Eliot Stone, Dr. W. Steuhl, Stan Tomkel, Larry Keyes, Ray Moore, Kevin Doyle, Don Hunstein, Samuel H Carter, Chopin, Adam Mickiewicz, Robert Schumann, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Ballades, Opus 10

Rhapsodies, Opus 79

Glenn Gould, Piano

Recording Location: CBS Recording Studios, New York, NY, 1982

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

There is nothing to review about Glenn Gould’s final piano recordings – just listen and love.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Glenn Gould, Johannes Brahms, Ballades, Rhapsodies, Peter Eliot Stone, Dr. W. Steuhl, Stan Tomkel, Larry Keyes, Ray Moore, Kevin Doyle, Don Hunstein, Samuel H Carter, Chopin, Adam Mickiewicz, Robert Schumann, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES: (by Peter Eliot Stone)

The nineteenth century ballade took its earliest inspiration from literary sources – the ballads or narrative poems, usually German or English in origin, dealing with legendary, historical or often purely romantic characters and happenings.

Thus, ballades were early characterized by a programmatic content that could easily seize the imagination both of composer and listener alike. Works by some composers, such as Frederic Chopin, were even considered to parallel lines of poems – in Chopin’s case those by fellow-countryman Adam Mickiewicz.

Johannes Brahms, on the other hand, devoted his ballades, as a rule, to “absolute” music, and his Four Ballades, Op. 10 of 1854 contain only one “programmatic” piece – the first in D minor.

This Ballade musically embodies the famous Scottish ballad of patricide, Edward (“Why does your brand sae drop wi’ bluid, Edward, Edward?”), which Brahms knew in translation from Johann Gottfried Herder’s Stimmen der Volker and which he later set for alto and tenor (Op. 75, No. 1). Brahms climaxes this grim dialogue between mother and son with the Beethovenian fate motif that was to color many of his other works. When the opening theme returns, Brahms treats it in a surprisingly operatic fashion.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Glenn Gould, Johannes Brahms, Ballades, Rhapsodies, Peter Eliot Stone, Dr. W. Steuhl, Stan Tomkel, Larry Keyes, Ray Moore, Kevin Doyle, Don Hunstein, Samuel H Carter, Chopin, Adam Mickiewicz, Robert Schumann, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg

The second Ballade, in D major, departs from its lyrical mood with a dramatically contrasting middle section.

The elfin third Ballade, in B minor, labelled intermezzo and functioning in the set as a scherzo, likewise differentiates its middle section. Brahm’s interest in the inner voices of the fourth Ballade, in B major, reveals the influence of his friend Robert Schumann, but Brahm’s more classic reserve and his formal sophistication yield glimpses of the master’s mature style.

Brahms dedicated his Two Rhapsodies, Op. 79 (1879), to the charming and musical Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, originally entitling them “Capriccio (presto agitato)” and “Molto passianato.” For Brahms, the word capriccio did not seem to imply a light-hearted caprice (unless he used the titles ironically). Almost all of his caprices were gloomy, turbulent, and in the minor mode.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Glenn Gould, Johannes Brahms, Ballades, Rhapsodies, Peter Eliot Stone, Dr. W. Steuhl, Stan Tomkel, Larry Keyes, Ray Moore, Kevin Doyle, Don Hunstein, Samuel H Carter, Chopin, Adam Mickiewicz, Robert Schumann, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg

Regarding publication in 1880, Brahms suggested the title “Rhapsody” to Elisabeth. She answered: “You know I am almost most partial to the non-committal word Klavierstucke, just because it is non-committal: but probably that won’t do, in which case the name Rhapsodien is the best, I expect, although the clearly defined form of both pieces seems somewhat at variance with one’s conception of a rhapsody.”

Somewhat at variance, indeed!

Temperamentally “youthful” but compositionally mature, there is nothing improvisatory or irregular about these pieces. The first, in B minor, contains its agitation within a da capo form to which a coda has been added.

The second, in G minor, unleashes its passion through what for all intents and purposes is a sonata form. Yet the pieces do not resemble movements that might flow from the pen of the neo-classicist Brahms when he intended to write a sonata. Here, Brahms eschews the stable expository section for the instability of development right from the start.

In the first Rhapsody, the middle, bagpipe-like section, is based on a complete exposition of a “second theme” that had been arrived at prematurely and in the “wrong” key in the first section where it was then interrupted by a further intensive development of the first theme.

The G-minor Rhapsody opens with a true primary-group theme whose iambic rhythm, one of Brahm’s fingerprints, contrasts fittingly with the march-like secondary group theme. But the oppressive nature of this second Rhapsody continues to the bitter end, unlike the brief B-major close of the first Rhapsody which somewhat softens its turbulence.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Glenn Gould, Johannes Brahms, Ballades, Rhapsodies, Peter Eliot Stone, Dr. W. Steuhl, Stan Tomkel, Larry Keyes, Ray Moore, Kevin Doyle, Don Hunstein, Samuel H Carter, Chopin, Adam Mickiewicz, Robert Schumann, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1: Brahms Ballade, Op. 10, No.1 (D-Minor)
  • 2: Brahms Ballade, Op. 10, No. 2 (D-Major)
  • 3: Brahms Ballade, Op. 10, No. 3 (B-Minor)
  • 4: Brahms Ballade, Op. 10, No. 4 (B-Major)
  • 5: Brahms Rhapsody, Op. 79, No. 1 (B-Minor)
  • 6: Brahms Rhapsody, Op. 79, No. 2 (G-Minor)

FINAL THOUGHT:

Below is a fascinating (audio) recording of the complete Brahms Ballades recording session from 1982. I didn’t listen to the complete 5 HOUR (!!) recording – but just so much great audio of Gould being Gould (so to speak). Enjoy!

[This recording receives the VERY RARE 88 out of 88 for the simple fact – it’s Glenn Gould’s last piano recording before his death. It may not deserve 88 out of 88 (from a review standpoint) but as a huge Gould fan, anything less would be silly.]

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Classical Music, Symphony No 9, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Robert Page, Carol Vaness, Janice Taylor, Siegfried Jerusalem, Robert Lloyd, Friedrich Schiller, Tony Faulkner

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brahms – Symphony No. 4 (Bruno Walter)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Symphony No 4, Bruno Walter, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, John McClure, Thomas Frost, Larry Keyes, Ted Bernstein, Mary Evans, Art Nouveau

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Tragic Overture, Opus 81

Symphony No. 4, in E Minor, Opus 98

Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Bruno Walter (Conductor)

Recording Location: American Legion Hall, Hollywood, California (Tragic Overture 1960; Symphony No. 4 1959)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

The final recording of the Brahms symphony cycle Bruno Walter and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra, the 82-year-old genius really brings a weight and importance to Brahms that only an 82-year-old genius can bring.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Symphony No 4, Bruno Walter, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, John McClure, Thomas Frost, Larry Keyes, Ted Bernstein, Mary Evans, Art Nouveau

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES: (None)

This is a discount CD from the remastered CBS Masterworks recordings – so, unfortunately, no notes. I would have loved to have read about the recording of the Brahms symphony cycle.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Symphony No 4, Bruno Walter, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, John McClure, Thomas Frost, Larry Keyes, Ted Bernstein, Mary Evans, Art Nouveau

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1: Tragic Overture, Opus 81 [13:18]
  • Symphony No. 4, Opus 98
  • 2: Allegro non troppo [12:55]
  • 3: Andante moderato [11:46]
  • 4: Allegro giocoso; Poco meno presto [6:26]
  • 5: Allegro energico e passionaato; Piu Allegro [11:16]

FINAL THOUGHT:

These great old recordings aren’t heard that much anymore. So happy I have them in my collection. This project is allowing me to go back and listen to CDs that I may not have ever heard again.

The above links at the top of the page are of the actual recordings reviewed here (no video). Below is just a really great live performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 – Bernard Haitink conducting. Enjoy!

 

piano_rating_82

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

Brahms – Symphony No. 3 (Solti)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Sir Georg Solti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Medinah Temple, Robert Schumann, Hanslick, Hans Richter, Joachim, Lionel Salter, James Mallinson, Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, Yvette Debergues, Henning Weber

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Opus 90

Akademische Festouverture, Opus 80

Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti

Recording Location: Medinah Temple, Chicago, May 1978

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

The greatest performance of the greatest Brahms symphony [best of 4] (and you can take that to the Medinah Temple!).

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Sir Georg Solti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Medinah Temple, Robert Schumann, Hanslick, Hans Richter, Joachim, Lionel Salter, James Mallinson, Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, Yvette Debergues, Henning Weber

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (English notes by Lionel Salter):

SYMPHONY NO. 3 IN F MAJOR, OPUS 90

When Brahms had written his First Symphony he was still unsure of himself as a writer for orchestra, and though respected as a musician, had still to make a reputation other than as a pianist and conductor.

By the age of 50, sever years later, this had all changed: established as a composer with the great success of his Second Symphony and Second Piano Concerto, and honored with doctorates from the universities of Cambridge (which he declined) and Breslau, Brahms was now internationally famous, and though he continued to give concert tours, these began to take second place.

In 1883, however, feeling the need for rest after strenuous concert activities, he went to Wiesbaden, where he completed the Third Symphony: it was performed on December 2 by the Vienna Philharmonic under Hans Richter (who had also introduced the Second).

Hanslick, Vienna’s leading critic, greeted the work thoughtfully and enthusiastically: “Many [music lovers] may prefer the titanic force of the First, others the untroubled charm of the Second… but the Third strikes me as artistically the most perfect. It is more compactly made, more transparent in detail, more plastic in the main themes; the orchestration is richer in novel and charming combinations; in ingenious modulations it is equal to the best of Brahms’ works.”

An allusion to Brahms‘ earlier days may be seen in the main subject of the first movement, which is rhythmically identical with that of the “Rhenish” Symphony by his friend and champion Schumann; but an even more meaningful retrospective glance is provided by the work’s initial three chords, a thematic cell that permeates the entire symphony. This is a version – as it were, saddened by experience – of Brahms’ frequently-invoked youthful “life-motto” F-A-F (Frei aber Froh, “free but cheerful”), which had been a response to his erstwhile friend Joachim’s F-A-E (Frei aber einsam, “free but alone”), a figure that appears in bars 3 and 4 of the Andante.

The Brahms pattern’s false relation (F-A / A-flat-F) lends the whole work a major-minor ambiguity which is resolved only at the very end when, after a finale in which the symphony’s climactic dramatic conflict is centered, it returns with a kind of calm philosophical resignation. (All the movements, indeed, end quietly.)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Sir Georg Solti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Medinah Temple, Robert Schumann, Hanslick, Hans Richter, Joachim, Lionel Salter, James Mallinson, Kenneth Wilkinson, Colin Moorfoot, Yvette Debergues, Henning Weber

ACADEMIC FESTIVAL OVERTURE, OPUS 80

In acknowledgement of the honorary doctorate conferred on him by Breslau in 1879, Brahms composed, the following summer, two works which he conducted in that city on January 4, 1881. One was the Tragic Overture, which had partly existed in draft for some time, the other, brand new, the Academic Festival Overture, a rollicking pot-pourri of student songs.

It begins mysteriously with an oblique reference to the popular Rokoczi March, proceeds via a drumroll to “We have built a stately house” (to which the students would have sung their own, unprintable, alternative words), “The father of the country” (on violins) and the freshmen’s initiation song “What comes from up there” (on bassoons), and finally erupts into a joyously full-throated version of the most famous of all student songs, “Gaudeamus igitur.”

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-4: Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Opus 90 [38:51]
  • 5: Akademische Festouverture, Opus 80 [10:35]

FINAL THOUGHT:

Above is a bonus Bernstein live performance of the 3rd Symphony – just because it’s awesome and I would prefer to have live performances as opposed to just audio (the Solti audio music links are at the top).

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Classical Music, Symphony No 9, Christoph von Dohnanyi, Robert Page, Carol Vaness, Janice Taylor, Siegfried Jerusalem, Robert Lloyd, Friedrich Schiller, Tony Faulkner

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

Brahms – Symphony No. 2 (Masur)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Kurt Masur, Wolfgang Mohr, Martin Fouque, Eberhard Sengpiel, Ultrich Ruscher, Christoph Closen, Wolftram Nehis, Ruodlieb Neubauer, Martina Schon, Edwin F. Kalmus, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, Hans Richter, Eduard Hanslick, Suppe, Jim SvejdaJohannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 73

Akademische Festouverture, Opus 80

New York Philharmonic, Kurt Masur – Conductor

Recording Location: Avery Fisher Hall, New York (1-4 February 21-24, 1992; 5 December 1992)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Brahms #2 conducted by Herr Kurt – what’s not to like?

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Jim Svejda, 1992):

SYMPHONY NO. 2 IN D MAJOR, OPUS 73

For more than twenty years Johannes Brahms tried his hand of the symphonic genre without having to face the dreaded prospect of actually writing a Symphony.

The two Serenades Opus 11 and Opus 16, the D minor Piano Concerto No. 1 and even A German Requiem contain the materials of his innumerable aborted attempts to assume the mantle that had been placed on his head years before he was willing to wear it.

“There are asses in Vienna who take me for a second Beethoven,” he once said to his friend, the conductor Hermann Levi. “You don’t know what it means to the likes of us when we hear his footsteps behind us.”

A musical conservative who was determined to follow in the line of Haydn, Mozart, and his great idol, Brahms was unwilling to risk a direct comparison with Beethoven until he felt fully ready. He would not publish a string quartet until he was forty, and his long-rumored, eagerly awaited First Symphony would not be performed until November 4, 1876.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Kurt Masur, Wolfgang Mohr, Martin Fouque, Eberhard Sengpiel, Ultrich Ruscher, Christoph Closen, Wolftram Nehis, Ruodlieb Neubauer, Martina Schon, Edwin F. Kalmus, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, Hans Richter, Eduard Hanslick, Suppe, Jim Svejda

With the Symphony’s agonizing gestation behind him and the work launched with considerable success – following the premiere in Karlsruhe, members of the orchestra thanked him for proving that Beethoven had not necessarily said the final word on symphonic form – Brahms would dash out the Second Symphony during the summer of the following year.

Written in Portschach, an enchanting Austrian resort village on the shores of the Worthersee, the new symphony apparently gave its composer little trouble, a fact the modest Brahms attributed to the beauty of his surroundings.

By mid-summer work was proceeding so well that he could afford to write teasing, self-mocking letters to his friends. “You have only to sit at the piano,” he instructed Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, “put your small feet on the two pedals in turn, and strike the chord of F minor several times in succession, first in the treble, then in the bass (ff and pp), and you will gradually gain a vivid impression of my “latest.”

The musical and emotional resemblance of Brahm’s Second Symphony to Beethoven’s “Pastoral” has not been lost on listeners over the years, any more than it was on the audience which heard it for the first time on December 30th, 1877 at a Vienna Philharmonic concert conducted by Hans Richter.

Brahms ardent champion, the powerful Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick could report: “Seldom has there been such a cordial public expression of pleasure in a new composition. Brahams’s Symphony No. 1 was a work for earnest connoisseurs capable of constant and microscopic pursuit of its minutely ramified excursions, the Symphony No. 2 extends its warm sunshine to connoisseurs and laymen alike.”

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Kurt Masur, Wolfgang Mohr, Martin Fouque, Eberhard Sengpiel, Ultrich Ruscher, Christoph Closen, Wolftram Nehis, Ruodlieb Neubauer, Martina Schon, Edwin F. Kalmus, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, Hans Richter, Eduard Hanslick, Suppe, Jim Svejda

For all its outward geniality, the lengthiest of Brahms’s symphonies is a work which conceals unexpected depths of seriousness and dark introspection; and for all its apparent effortlessness, it is one of the most rigorously organized of all Brahms’s works.

For instance, almost all of the Symphony’s thematic material grows from the simple three-note figure in the cellos and basses heard at the beginning of the opening Allegro non troppo. Several preliminary transformations of this motif lead to the flowing theme in the first violins which launches the first movement proper. A secondary theme, again derived from the three-note kernel and tinged with unfulfillable longing, is heard in the cellos and violas.

The dark voices of the cellos also dominate the opening of the Adagio non troppo, one of the most sorrowful major key movements in the symphonic literature. The horn, flutes and oboes take up the cellos’ song, reshaping it into a second theme which, with the first, undergoes an expansive and luxuriant development.

In place of the traditional Scherzo, the Symphony’s third movement is a curious hybrid structure perhaps best described as an Intermezzo in Scherzo form. The delicately scored principal theme alternates with two faster episodes of exceptional grace and lightness; all are thematically related and all derive from the Symphony’s germinating three-note cell.

A reference to the same motto begins the energetic Finale. Three principal themes are presented, developed, altered and reconfigured in rapid succession. While this good-natured cascase of notes is in fact one of the most intricately worked-out of the composer’s inventions, most attempts at closer analysis are usually swept away by the blaze of D major sunlight in which the Symphony ends.

ACADEMIC FESTIVAL OVERTURE, OPUS 80

When the University of Breslau conferred an honorary doctoral degree on Johannes Brahms in March of 1879, they expected – at very least – a symphony from the grateful composer.

The composer, who had become a proficient pianist in some of the more fashionable establishments of the red-light district in Hamburg, decided to return the favor with what he called “a jolly potpourri of student songs a la Suppe.”

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Johannes Brahms, Kurt Masur, Wolfgang Mohr, Martin Fouque, Eberhard Sengpiel, Ultrich Ruscher, Christoph Closen, Wolftram Nehis, Ruodlieb Neubauer, Martina Schon, Edwin F. Kalmus, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg, Hans Richter, Eduard Hanslick, Suppe, Jim Svejda

Written in 1880, the same year which saw the composition of the grimly serious Tragic Overture, his Suppe Potpourri reveals a side of Brahms’s musical personality which he rarely displayed. For apart from the Finale of the Second Symphony, a few of the songs, and the virtually unknown Triumphlied – a festive occasional work written to celebrate the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War – the Academic Festival Overture is one of that handful of pieces in which Brahms abandons his celebrated mood of “autumnal melancholy” and gives his considerable sense of humor free reign.

While the Overture most certainly is a “jolly potpourri” based on four traditional German university songs, it has little in common with Suppe’s irresistible, but feather-weight Light Cavalry or Poet and Peasant. It is a superbly fashioned and amusingly “academic” sonata-allegro movement which both impressed and befuddled the University’s Rector, Senate and Faculty when Brahms presented it to them on January 4th, 1881.

The pompous introduction, in which the surly mutterings of bearded professors might be heard, concludes with a hymn-like setting of the first of the Overture’s principal themes, “Wir hatten bebauet ein staffliches Haus,” a song whose revolutionary sentiments caused it to be banned in Germany throughout much of the 19th century.

Two dramatically contrasting themes are now introduced: the patriotic “Der Landesvater,” first heard in the second violins, and the comic Freshman hazing ditty – whose presence in the Overture scandalized its first audience – “Was kommt dort von der Hoh?” – announced by a pair of jovial bassoons.

A brief development of all the major themes leads to a magisterial coda based on the celebrated “Gaudeamus igitur,” which Brahms decks out in the most resplendent orchestral fabric he would ever employ.

Curiously enough, Brahms despised the title of the piece. For years he tried to think of something better than Academic Festival Overture, but apparently never could.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-4: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Opus 73 [39:38]
  • 5: Akademische Festouverture, Opus 80 [9:38]

FINAL THOUGHT:

Fantastic performance and recording – but really, I’m just doing time until we get to my favorite Brahms symphony – No. 3!

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Beethoven, Triple Concerto, Classical Music, Piano Trio, Kakadu Variations, Bernard Haitink, Prince Lobkowitz, Anton Felix Schindler, Archduke Rudolph, Karl August Seiler, Anton Krafft, Moazart, Hugo Riemann, Thayer, Wenzel Mullers, The Sisters of Prague, Beaux Arts Trio, Manahem Pressler, Isidore Cohen, Bernard Greenhouse, London Philharmonic, Michael Talbot, Lothar Hoffmann-Erbrecht, Jacques Lasserre, Carlo Vitali, Bart Mulder, Christian Steiner, Ed Koenders, Estelle Kercher

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

Boulez – Piano Sonata No. 1 (Also Koering and Messiaen)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Pierre Boulez, Rene Koering, Olivier Messiaen, Michael Levinas, Bertrand Espouy, Solf Schaefer, Eike Georg, Christine Nilson, Andreas Heinztzeler, Gilbert Preneron, Bernard Pages, Rene Leibowitz, Yvette GrimaudPierre Boulez  (1925-): Pierre Boulez: Piano Sonata No. 1

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992): Olivier Messiaen: Regard de L’Esprit de Joie

Rene Koering (1940-): Rene Koering: Piano Sonata

Michael Levinas, Piano

Recorded at the studios of Radio Breme on April 1985 and in Paris (salle Adyar) on July 1985 following a recital given by Levinas on October 13, 1984

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

My battered, scratched and skipping 30-year-old recording actually enhances the craziness of these rarely played disjointed and dissonant pieces.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES FROM 1985 – A LOT HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN (in French – translated by Google Translate):

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Pierre Boulez, Rene Koering, Olivier Messiaen, Michael Levinas, Bertrand Espouy, Solf Schaefer, Eike Georg, Christine Nilson, Andreas Heinztzeler, Gilbert Preneron, Bernard Pages, Rene Leibowitz, Yvette GrimaudPierre Boulez

Pierre Boulez was born in Montbrison (Loire) in 1925.

He moved to Paris in 1942 to devote himself to music. In 1945 he studied composition with Olivier Messiaen and Rene Leibowitz (twelve-tone technique) . A year later, he became director of music at the Scene de Renaud-Barrault Company.

In 1954, he founded the Concerts du Petit Marigny, then the Domaine Musical. Between 1955 and 1960, he lectured in Darmstadt analysis, and until 1966 taught analysis, composition and conducting at the Musik Akademie Basel . He was also a visiting professor at Harvard University.

From 1965 his activity as a conductor takes a preponderant place and he directed in 1976 Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the centenary of Bayreuth.

Pierre Boulez is also the President of IRCAM, director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and professor at the College de France.

Boulez: Piano Sonata No. 1

This work was written in 1946 and performed by Yvette Grimaud the same year.

For fundamental analysis of the Sonata, which includes two movements, it is necessary to refer to the now classic book Cominique Jameux.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Pierre Boulez, Rene Koering, Olivier Messiaen, Michael Levinas, Bertrand Espouy, Solf Schaefer, Eike Georg, Christine Nilson, Andreas Heinztzeler, Gilbert Preneron, Bernard Pages, Rene Leibowitz, Yvette GrimaudOlivier Messiaen

Olivier Messiaen was born in 1908 in Avignon.

In 1919, he entered the Paris Conservatory. M. Emmanuel, M. Dupre and P. Dukas are its main masters.

In 1931, he becomes the main organ player in the Church of the Trinity in Paris.

In 1936, he founded the group Jeune France with A. Jolivet, Daniel Lesur and Y. Baudrier.

In 1942, he was appointed to the Paris Conservatory, where he successively taught harmony and analysis, aesthetics and rhythm.

Starting in 1966, he taught composition – P. Boulez, P. Henry, G. Amy, K. Stockhausen and L. Xenakis among his students.

Olivier Messiaen is interested in rhythm, studying the rhythmic systems of India and Greece , and to the singing birds he patiently noted during his many trips: two sources of inspiration often presented in his work, which also testifies of a Christian faith constantly underlying .

Regard de L’esprit de  Joie (Regard the Spirit of Joy)

Les Vingt regards sur l’Enfant Jesus are inspired by the contemplation of the Child God of the crib and looks that land on him from the unspeakable gaze of God the Father.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Pierre Boulez, Rene Koering, Olivier Messiaen, Michael Levinas, Bertrand Espouy, Solf Schaefer, Eike Georg, Christine Nilson, Andreas Heinztzeler, Gilbert Preneron, Bernard Pages, Rene Leibowitz, Yvette GrimaudRene Koering

Rene Koering was born in Andlau (Alsace ) in 1940. He studied music in Darmstadt until 1960.

In 1961, he became director of the Musiktage de Donaueschingen

His works (symphonic music, concertos, electroacoustic works, chamber music and operas) were performed at various festivals .

Since 1971, he taught at the Beaux-Arts. He was also Vice President of the International Society for Contemporary Music, and also has important functions at Radio France.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-2: Pierre Boulez: Piano Sonata No. 1 [9:42]
  • 3: Olivier Messiaen: Regard de L’Esprit de Joie” [10:07]
  • 4: Rene Koering: Piano Sonata [23:26]

FINAL THOUGHT:

There really is not much to add – other than Google Translate is pretty spotty – either that or the original French notes are written by a second grader. No matter, hopefully you get the gist of it.

This is a French-produced disc (Ades Records) of pretty poor quality – thus the low rating below.

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Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

 

Borodin: String Quartets No. 1 and No. 2

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Classical, Alexander Borodin, Borodin, Borodin String Quartet, Mikhail Kopelman, Andrei Abramenkov, Dmitri Shebalin, Valentin Berlinsky, Yuri Kazhayan, Melodiya, String Quartet No 1, String Quartet No 2, KIsmet, And This Is My Beloved, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Russian Musical Society, Yegorov, Panov, Leonov, Alexander Kuznetsov, Stassov, Mussorgsky, Prince Igor, Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Vassily Prokunin, Sergey Dyanin, John WarrackAlexander Borodin (1833-1887)

Borodin – String Quartet No. 1 in A

Borodin – String Quartet No. 2 in D

Borodin String Quartet (Mikhail Kopelman – violin; Andrei Abramenkov – violin; Dmitri Shebalin – viola; Valentin Berlinsky – cello)

Recorded in 1980 by Melodiya in the USSR (Released in the US by EMI in 1987)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

It was “Kismet” that full-time scientist and part-time composer Alexander Borodin should write these exquisite string quartets! (see what I did there?)

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by John Warrack, 1982):

When Tchaikovsky and Borodin wrote their string quartets in the 1870s – Tchaikovsky’s three between 1871 and 1878, Borodin’s first between 1873 and 1879 – they were entering virgin territory.

Though both had written a good deal of chamber music as young men, these works were for the most part either student efforts or pieces conceived in a fairly unassuming manner for amateur entertainment.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Classical, Alexander Borodin, Borodin, Borodin String Quartet, Mikhail Kopelman, Andrei Abramenkov, Dmitri Shebalin, Valentin Berlinsky, Yuri Kazhayan, Melodiya, String Quartet No 1, String Quartet No 2, KIsmet, And This Is My Beloved, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Russian Musical Society, Yegorov, Panov, Leonov, Alexander Kuznetsov, Stassov, Mussorgsky, Prince Igor, Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Vassily Prokunin, Sergey Dyanin, John WarrackThe Russian string quartet, as a genre, did not exist. There were previous attempts – even Glinka completed a quartet, though he did not think much of it – but in Russian musicians’ endless debates on the course their art should take, the quartet did not play a large part.

The foundation of the Russian Musical Society in 1859 gave an enormous impetus to Russian musical life. Chamber music featured in the Society’s programmes; and new interest in the string quartet followed upon the founding of the Russian String Quartet in 1871.

Its members were Panov, Leonov, Yegorov and the young cellist, later to be a distinguished figure in Russian musical life, Alexander Kuznetsov. Tchaikovsky described them in 1874 as ‘an ideally harmonious ensemble.’ Other players, in St. Petersburg and Moscow, formed more or less regular ensembles; and the effect was to increase rapidly the appreciation and understanding of the classics of Western string quartet music among Russian musicians.

However, Russian composers were concerned to develop their own methods, rather than model themselves slavishly on Western example. More than the virtuoso French quatuor concertant tradition, it was to the Viennese tradition that they turned, despite the natural Russian affinity for Latin rather than Teutonic art; but when Borodin began work on his first quartet, he was clearly anxious to find structural methods that were more identifiably Russian.

The use of folk music, or melodies close to the Russian folk manner, was one immediate stimulus; but Borodin did not associate himself with the so-called Slavophiles, the more vigorously nationalistic of the Russians, and indeed when he showed his first sketches of this quartet to Mussorgsky and the critic Stassov, they were ‘horrified,’ he said.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Classical, Alexander Borodin, Borodin, Borodin String Quartet, Mikhail Kopelman, Andrei Abramenkov, Dmitri Shebalin, Valentin Berlinsky, Yuri Kazhayan, Melodiya, String Quartet No 1, String Quartet No 2, KIsmet, And This Is My Beloved, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Russian Musical Society, Yegorov, Panov, Leonov, Alexander Kuznetsov, Stassov, Mussorgsky, Prince Igor, Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Vassily Prokunin, Sergey Dyanin, John WarrackHe may have begun work as early as 1873-4; the sketches were ready by April 1875, more substantial work was done during a happy summer in 1877 in the country, and the quartet was finally completed, with the scherzo, in early August 1879.

The slow gestation can be partly explained by the fact that he was also working on Prince Igor (to which there are some thematic resemblances), also perhaps by the problems of building a novel work in a non-existent tradition.

The first performance, by the quartet of the Russian Musical Society (which had by now changed some of its members) was in St. Petersburg on December 30, 1880; it was a success, the players declaring that they were ‘simply delighted’ with the work.

Borodin’s attachment to classical practice led him to keep to the traditional sonata form structure for his first movement; and indeed after a moderately slow introduction, the first subject of the movement is actually based on a theme by Beethoven.

In admitting this, Borodin did not identify the theme: it is in fact from the finale of the B-flat Quartet, Op. 130. However, the handling of the theme is in no way like Beethoven: the flowing melody is passed around the two violins and the cello with variants of its basic form.

This varied repetition was a device much admired by Russian composers in Glinka, and in many different ways used as the substance of large-scale movements, but Borodin’s handling is unusually free and subtle

It leads to a second subject also in freely-flowing quavers, at first over a shifting drone bass; and only towards the close of the exposition does the music reach any real tension, in the wake of a fugue initiated by the cello. After the recapitulation, the movement ends quietly with a long mysterious coda.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Classical, Alexander Borodin, Borodin, Borodin String Quartet, Mikhail Kopelman, Andrei Abramenkov, Dmitri Shebalin, Valentin Berlinsky, Yuri Kazhayan, Melodiya, String Quartet No 1, String Quartet No 2, KIsmet, And This Is My Beloved, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Russian Musical Society, Yegorov, Panov, Leonov, Alexander Kuznetsov, Stassov, Mussorgsky, Prince Igor, Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Vassily Prokunin, Sergey Dyanin, John WarrackWith the Andante, Borodin turns openly to a more folk-like manner, and even, it seems, to an actual folk tune. At the time he wrote the movement, 1874-5, he was helping Rimsky-Korsakov with gathering material for his Collected Russian Folk-Songs; and a song that particularly attracted him in one of the anthologies they searched, Vassily Prokunin’s Russian National Songs (1872-3), was ‘The Song of the Sparrow Hills.’

Borodin used a version of it in Prince Igor, on which he was simultaneously working, and, beginning with the viola counterpoint to the opening tune, the whole Andante is permeated with variants and reminiscences of the song.

Borodin’s biographer Sergey Dyanin, who studies these correspondences in detail, suggests that the course of the movement is also colored by the words of the song. This concerns an eagle holding in his talons a crow which tells him of a young hero he has seen lying dead, while over him hover three pipits that are his mother, his sister and his wife.

If we wish to follow this idea, the first theme may be associated with the eagle and the crow, the fugato with the pipits, the impassioned ending with their grief.

Dyanin goes further and suggests associations with an imagined story of the young hero: there is no justification for this beyond Borodin’s known liking for background programmes, nor any reason to regard the lively Scherzo and Trio as anything but a brilliantly assured contrast to the somber mood of the Andante.

For the finale, Borodin returns to sonata form, once again prefacing it with a brief introduction. As before, there is a stronger emphasis on sustaining the movement’s considerable momentum by means of varied repetition, and insistence on the driving rhythms, than on any development in the manner of Beethoven.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Classical, Alexander Borodin, Borodin, Borodin String Quartet, Mikhail Kopelman, Andrei Abramenkov, Dmitri Shebalin, Valentin Berlinsky, Yuri Kazhayan, Melodiya, String Quartet No 1, String Quartet No 2, KIsmet, And This Is My Beloved, Tchaikovsky, Glinka, Russian Musical Society, Yegorov, Panov, Leonov, Alexander Kuznetsov, Stassov, Mussorgsky, Prince Igor, Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Vassily Prokunin, Sergey Dyanin, John WarrackBy contrast with this work, Borodin’s second, and much better known, quartet was written in a short space of time, during a contented summer in the country at Zhitovo.

Increased assurance, rather than this burst of creativity, should perhaps be given credit for the quartet’s greater unity, not only of mood but also in thematic handling. Thus, there already appears in the first subject a dactylic figure (a long and two short notes) which the listener is clearly intended to recall when it occurs more prominently in the second subject.

These two related themes are the substance of the movement’s progress through the traditional exposition, development and recapitulation; but Borodin produces two other fragments of themes – they are scarcely more than figures of four bars each – which serve to shed contrasting emotional light on the main pair of themes.

The Scherzo is no less ingeniously put together. Perhaps Borodin thought it difficult to handle a traditional Scherzo-and-Trio in times so far removed from the Scherzo’s dance origins in the Minuet; but he acknowledges the connection by answering his fleeting, almost Mendelssohnian first theme with what is virtually a waltz. These are then made the material of a brief sonata movement.

After the famous Nocturne – a movement much abused by arrangers, and with its ravishing, somewhat oriental tune best presented as Borodin intended – the finale opens with a brusque, Beethovian gesture of question and answer.

Essentially, it is based on the rapidly and ingeniously varied treatment of these two themes (they immediately turn out to work together fugally) and a contrasting second subject. If the repeated question-and-answer interruptions suggest some private references, what matters to the listener is a skillfully and satisfyingly constructed finale, most original in form, to a brilliantly original quartet.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-4: String Quartet No. 1 in A Major [36:51]
  • 5-8: String Quartet No. 2 in D Major [28:53]

FINAL THOUGHT:

Methinks Mr. John Warrack is a bit of a snob in his notes. If you write CD notes about Borodin’s String Quartet No. 2 and fail to mention that some of the melodies became the foundation of a popular Broadway musical (“Kismet” – he even won a posthumous Tony Award!) and an incredibly beautiful popular ballad (“And This Is My Beloved”) and instead just say the quartet has been “abused by arrangers” – you are probably a bit of a music snob. For the most part, nobody would have even heard of Borodin if it wasn’t for “Kismet.” 

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Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

Boccherini – Guitar Quintets – Volume 1

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Luigi Boccherini, Guitar Quintets, Zoltan Tokos, Danubius String Quartet, Judit, Toth, Adel Miklos, Eniko Nagy, Ilona Ribli, Ibolya Toth, Istvan Berenyi, Keith Anderson, Wattean, Giovan Gastone, Joseph Haydn, Antonio Salieri, Maria Ester, Onorato Vigano, Salvatore Vigano, Manfredi, Nardini, Cambini, Infante Don Luis, King Charles III, Font family, Benavente-Osuna, Friedrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia, Lucien Bonaparte, Mozart, Beethoven, Marques de Benavent, Szendrey Karper Laszlo, John Williams, Leo BrouwerLuigi Boccherini (1743-1805)

Quintets for Guitar and String Quarter – Volume 1

Quintet in D Minor, G. 445

Quintet in E Major, G. 446

Quintet in B-Flat Major, G. 447

Zoltan Tokos, Guitar

Danubius String Quartet (Judit Toth – violin; Adel Miklos – violin; Eniko Nagy – viola; Ilona Ribli – cello)

Recorded at the Unitarian Church in Budapest by Phoenix Studio from July 28-31, 1991

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

I know very little about Boccherini and don’t listen to a lot of guitar quintets – so the following liner notes should be educational for both of us.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Keith Anderson):

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Luigi Boccherini, Guitar Quintets, Zoltan Tokos, Danubius String Quartet, Judit, Toth, Adel Miklos, Eniko Nagy, Ilona Ribli, Ibolya Toth, Istvan Berenyi, Keith Anderson, Wattean, Giovan Gastone, Joseph Haydn, Antonio Salieri, Maria Ester, Onorato Vigano, Salvatore Vigano, Manfredi, Nardini, Cambini, Infante Don Luis, King Charles III, Font family, Benavente-Osuna, Friedrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia, Lucien Bonaparte, Mozart, Beethoven, Marques de Benavent, Szendrey Karper Laszlo, John Williams, Leo BrouwerThe Italian cellist and composer Luigi Boccherini was born in Lucca in 1743, the son of a double-bass player.

His family was distinguished not only in music, but boasted poets and dancers among its members.

His elder brother Giovan Gastone, born in 1742, was both dancer and poet, the author of the text of Haydn’s Il ritorno di Tobia and the libretti of some earlier stage-works of the Vienna Court Composer, Antonio Salieri.

His sister Maria Ester was a dancer and married Onorato Vigano, a distinguished dancer and choreographer. Her son, Salvatore Vigano, who studied composition with Boccherini, occupies a position of considerable importance in the history of ballet.

Boccherini was giving concerts as a cellist by the age of thirteen, and in 1757 went with his father to Vienna, where they both were invited to join the orchestra of the court theatre. Boccherini returned to Italy, but there were further visits to Vienna, before he finally secured a position in his native town.

In 1766, however, he set out with his fellow-townsman, the violinist Manfredi, a pupil of Nardini, for Paris, having performed with both violinists and with Cambini in chamber music in Milan the previous year.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Luigi Boccherini, Guitar Quintets, Zoltan Tokos, Danubius String Quartet, Judit, Toth, Adel Miklos, Eniko Nagy, Ilona Ribli, Ibolya Toth, Istvan Berenyi, Keith Anderson, Wattean, Giovan Gastone, Joseph Haydn, Antonio Salieri, Maria Ester, Onorato Vigano, Salvatore Vigano, Manfredi, Nardini, Cambini, Infante Don Luis, King Charles III, Font family, Benavente-Osuna, Friedrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia, Lucien Bonaparte, Mozart, Beethoven, Marques de Benavent, Szendrey Karper Laszlo, John Williams, Leo BrouwerIn France, Boccherini and Manfredi won considerable success, and the former continued his work as a composer, as well as appearing as a cello virtuoso.

In 1768, the pair left for Spain, where Boccherini seems to have lived until his death in 1805.

In Madrid, he was appointed composer and virtuoso de camera to the Infante Don Luis, younger brother of King Charles III. Part of the following period he spent in Madrid and part at the Palace of Las Arenas in the province of Avila, where the Infante retired after an unacceptable marriage.

Members of the Font family were employed by Don Luis as a string quartet and renewed their association with Boccherini at the end of the century.

After the death of the Infante in 1785, the composer entered the service of the Benavente-Osuna family. At the same time, he was appointed court composer to Friedrich Wilhelm, who in 1787 became King of Prussia, providing the cell-playing king with new compositions on the same kind of exclusive arrangement that he had earlier enjoyed with Don Luis.

There is, however, no evidence that Boccherini ever spent any time in Prussia. After the death of Friedrich Wilhelm and the departure of other patrons from Madrid, Boccherini received support from Lucien Bonaparte, French ambassador in Madrid, and remained busy until the end of his life, although visitors reported that he lived all the appearance of poverty.

Boccherini’s style is completely characteristic of the period in which he lived, the period, that is, of Haydn rather than of Mozart or Beethoven.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Luigi Boccherini, Guitar Quintets, Zoltan Tokos, Danubius String Quartet, Judit, Toth, Adel Miklos, Eniko Nagy, Ilona Ribli, Ibolya Toth, Istvan Berenyi, Keith Anderson, Wattean, Giovan Gastone, Joseph Haydn, Antonio Salieri, Maria Ester, Onorato Vigano, Salvatore Vigano, Manfredi, Nardini, Cambini, Infante Don Luis, King Charles III, Font family, Benavente-Osuna, Friedrich Wilhelm, King of Prussia, Lucien Bonaparte, Mozart, Beethoven, Marques de Benavent, Szendrey Karper Laszlo, John Williams, Leo BrouwerHe enjoyed a reputation for his facility as a composer, leaving some 467 compositions. A great deal of his music is designed to exploit the technical resources of the cello, in concertos, sonatas, and, particularly, in chamber music for various numbers of instruments, including a remarkable series of quintets with two cellos.

The twelve quintets for guitar and string quartet, of which eight have survived, are arrangements by the composer of works written for pianoforte quintet in the late 1790s.

The set of six quintets here recorded (only three in volume 1) were dedicated to the Marques de Benavent, an enthusiastic amateur guitarist.

The first, the only one in a minor key, is in four movements, and establishes the mood, its Spanish elements mingling happily with the idiom of Vienna.

It is followed by a three-movement Quintet in E major, ending in a Polish dance.

The third of the group, in B-flat major, returns to the four-movement form, its Minuet and Trio now preceding the slow movement.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-4: Quintet in D Minor, G. 445 [19:53]
  • 5-7: Quintet in E Major, G. 446 [18:16]
  • 8-11: Quintet in B-Flat Major, G. 447 [21:26]

FINAL THOUGHT:

OK – so Boccherini was a prolific and important dude and his family was crazy talented. I need to investigate why his nephew (Salvatore Vigano) “occupies a position of considerable importance in the history of ballet.” It’s a nice, pleasant disc – brunch music – very Haydn. (Though the guitar is barely distinguishable in this recording – maybe that’s the style or the acoustics.)

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Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

Bernstein: Arias and Barcarolles

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Leonard Bernstein, Arias and Barcarolles, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mozart, Gershwin, Dwight Eisenhower, Jennie Bernstein, Yankev-Yitskhok Segal, Charles Webb, Joyce Castle, Louise Edeiken, John Brandstetter, Mordechai Kaston, Amalia Ishak, Raphael Frieder, Irit Rub-Levy, Ariel Cohen, Judy Kaye, William Sharp, Michael Barrett, Steven Blier, Bright sheng, Susan Graham, Kurt Ollimann, Gerard Schwarz, Bruce Coughlin, London Symphony Orchestra, Trouble In Tahiti, Jerome Robbins, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal, Lukas Foss, Jack Gottlieb, Steven Blier, Thomas Hampson, Frederica von Stade, Alison Ames, Pal Christian Moe, Christian Gansch, Gregor Zielinsky, Jobst Eberhardt, Klaus Behrens, Stephan Flock, Boosey & Hawkes, Arthur Umboh, Kiyotane Hayashi, Christina Burton, Don Carlos Bell, Fred Munzmaier, Don HusteinLeonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Arias and Barcarolles (1988)

A Quiet Place (1983)

West Side Story: Symphonic Dances

London Symphony Orchestra, Michael Tilson Thomas – Conductor

Recorded September 1993 – London, Henry Wood Hall

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

I was excited to listen to this disc again – such rhythmic bravura and musical surprises from Mr. Bernstein!

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by MIchael Barrett):

ARIAS AND BARCAROLLES (1988)

Two of Leonard Bernstein’s last compositions, A Quiet Place (1983) and Arias and Barcarolles (1988) share the same subject: the modern American family.

Arias and Barcarolles, a concert work, gives us fleeting glimpses into a marriage (there are two duets for couples, a wedding scene and meditations on birth and death).

The opera A Quiet Place, written in collaboration with the librettist Stephen Wadsworth is the story of a broken family thrust back together at a funeral (Act 1), showing, in flashbacks, their turbulent history (Act II, which incorporates Trouble in Tahiti, Bernstein’s one-act opera from 1951), and, after the funeral, their eventual reconciliation (Act III).

But the two works have more than a theme in common.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Leonard Bernstein, Arias and Barcarolles, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mozart, Gershwin, Dwight Eisenhower, Jennie Bernstein, Yankev-Yitskhok Segal, Charles Webb, Joyce Castle, Louise Edeiken, John Brandstetter, Mordechai Kaston, Amalia Ishak, Raphael Frieder, Irit Rub-Levy, Ariel Cohen, Judy Kaye, William Sharp, Michael Barrett, Steven Blier, Bright sheng, Susan Graham, Kurt Ollimann, Gerard Schwarz, Bruce Coughlin, London Symphony Orchestra, Trouble In Tahiti, Jerome Robbins, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal, Lukas Foss, Jack Gottlieb, Steven Blier, Thomas Hampson, Frederica von Stade, Alison Ames, Pal Christian Moe, Christian Gansch, Gregor Zielinsky, Jobst Eberhardt, Klaus Behrens, Stephan Flock, Boosey & Hawkes, Arthur Umboh, Kiyotane Hayashi, Christina Burton, Don Carlos Bell, Fred Munzmaier, Don HusteinAs Michael Tilson Thomas has put it: “Quiet Place and Arias and Barcarolles both show LB as a masterful musical conjurer. He is so amazing in transforming tone rows from angry ostinatos to scat riffs, bluesy ballads or Mahlerian adagios. The music is so clever, yet engaging and satisfying to follow. He was so happy that in these… works he had really conquered serial writing and that he achieved it, not by excruciating study, but by applying his brilliant sense of gamesmanship. If Lenny had wanted to write ‘brainy,’ really difficult music he certainly could have. With his mastery of mental jotto and acrostics, he could have out-puzzled us all. But the essence of music and life for him was communication. His work poses questions and conundrums but also offers solutions.”

After playing Mozart and Gershwin at the White House in 1960, Bernstein experienced a somewhat awkward moment, President Eisenhower greeted him and said, “You know, I liked that last piece you placed; it’s got a theme. I like music with a theme, not all those arias and barcarolles.”

According to Eisenhower’s definition, Arias and Barcarolles at first would seem to be music without a theme; the musical elements are disparate and eclectic: twelve-tone writing, rhythmic improvisation, late romanticism, scat-singing and pure Coplandesque Americana.

There is, however, a theme running through the texts, which is revealed in the opening lines of the “Prelude”: “I love you, it’s easy to say it, and so easy to mean it, too.” We have entered the private and sometimes dark thoughts of a couple, and are off on a musical exploration of different aspects of love.

The “Prelude”‘s accompaniment, spiky, discordant and rhythmic, is periodically interrupted by the impassive vocal line, which seems oblivious to the musical storm brewing behind it.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Leonard Bernstein, Arias and Barcarolles, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mozart, Gershwin, Dwight Eisenhower, Jennie Bernstein, Yankev-Yitskhok Segal, Charles Webb, Joyce Castle, Louise Edeiken, John Brandstetter, Mordechai Kaston, Amalia Ishak, Raphael Frieder, Irit Rub-Levy, Ariel Cohen, Judy Kaye, William Sharp, Michael Barrett, Steven Blier, Bright sheng, Susan Graham, Kurt Ollimann, Gerard Schwarz, Bruce Coughlin, London Symphony Orchestra, Trouble In Tahiti, Jerome Robbins, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal, Lukas Foss, Jack Gottlieb, Steven Blier, Thomas Hampson, Frederica von Stade, Alison Ames, Pal Christian Moe, Christian Gansch, Gregor Zielinsky, Jobst Eberhardt, Klaus Behrens, Stephan Flock, Boosey & Hawkes, Arthur Umboh, Kiyotane Hayashi, Christina Burton, Don Carlos Bell, Fred Munzmaier, Don HusteinThis idea of turmoil masked by calm is continued in the lyrical “Love Duet,” where both characters sing a random list of everyday questions while narrowly avoiding the deeper conflicts lurking beneath their ironic detachment.

Over constant, machine-like eighth-notes (quavers) in the orchestra – the piece is in 10/8 meter – the couple is singing about the song they are singing (about their relationship!). It defies their categorization, like the music of Arias and Barcarolles itself: (Is it) “minimal music or classical or popular song? All of them wrong.”

“Little Smary” is a bedtime story the composer remembered hearing repeatedly as a child, told by his mother, Jennie Bernstein, who is credited with authorship of the text. The musical setting follows a double course, alternating the mother’s bright, animated tone with the profound emotions experienced by the child listening. There is a despairing Berg-like interlude at Smary’s loss of her little “wuddit” (rabbit), and a brilliant Straussian flourish at her triumphant recovery of it at the end of the song.

After this brief excursion into the world of children, “The Love of My Life” takes us back to the realm of adult reflection through a long, improvistory twelve-tone orchestral introduction. (The notes are indicated, but not the precise rhythms). The tone row alternates mercurially with tonal sections in a variety of moods, including a few measures of hard-driving blues. The song is edgy, obsessive, questioning and, at the end, ironic, subtly quoting the beginning of Tristan und Isolde at the words, “So that was it, huh?”

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Leonard Bernstein, Arias and Barcarolles, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mozart, Gershwin, Dwight Eisenhower, Jennie Bernstein, Yankev-Yitskhok Segal, Charles Webb, Joyce Castle, Louise Edeiken, John Brandstetter, Mordechai Kaston, Amalia Ishak, Raphael Frieder, Irit Rub-Levy, Ariel Cohen, Judy Kaye, William Sharp, Michael Barrett, Steven Blier, Bright sheng, Susan Graham, Kurt Ollimann, Gerard Schwarz, Bruce Coughlin, London Symphony Orchestra, Trouble In Tahiti, Jerome Robbins, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal, Lukas Foss, Jack Gottlieb, Steven Blier, Thomas Hampson, Frederica von Stade, Alison Ames, Pal Christian Moe, Christian Gansch, Gregor Zielinsky, Jobst Eberhardt, Klaus Behrens, Stephan Flock, Boosey & Hawkes, Arthur Umboh, Kiyotane Hayashi, Christina Burton, Don Carlos Bell, Fred Munzmaier, Don Hustein“Greeting” was written in 1955 after the birth of the composer’s son Alexander, and then revised in 1988. In its rapt, ethereal atmosphere it hovers above the key of A major without ever actually alighting on an A major triad, and ends on the dominant, E. The repose in this song is the eye of the hurricane of emotion elsewhere in the work.

“Oif Mayn Khas’neh” (“At My Wedding”), the setting of a Yiddish poem by Yankev-Yitskhok Segal, is a surrealistic reminiscence of a wedding. Like “The Love of My Life,” it uses a twelve-tone row as a recurring motif, while the music courses through many different tonalities. The song illustrates an essential theme of Arias and Barcarolles: passion can inspire love, but it can also unleash mayhem. At the mid-point in the song, there is a cantorial cadenza. The music then builds from a quiet, slow recapitulation of the opening, accelerating in tempo to a frenzied climax at the end of the song.

“Mr. and Mrs. Webb Say Goodnight” is an affectionate portrait of Charles Webb (Dean of the Indiana School of Music), his wife Kenda, and their sons Malcolm and Kent (in the original version, their parts are taken by the pianists; here they are performed from the orchestra).

In this little domestic drama, played out at four in the morning, the two rambunctious children are head singing together. Kenda, having scolded them into temporary silence, can’t sleep and takes the opportunity to throw a tantrum. Charles calms her with a romantic memory, they say their prayers one last time, and fall asleep as the children are heard quietly scat-singing once more.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Leonard Bernstein, Arias and Barcarolles, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mozart, Gershwin, Dwight Eisenhower, Jennie Bernstein, Yankev-Yitskhok Segal, Charles Webb, Joyce Castle, Louise Edeiken, John Brandstetter, Mordechai Kaston, Amalia Ishak, Raphael Frieder, Irit Rub-Levy, Ariel Cohen, Judy Kaye, William Sharp, Michael Barrett, Steven Blier, Bright sheng, Susan Graham, Kurt Ollimann, Gerard Schwarz, Bruce Coughlin, London Symphony Orchestra, Trouble In Tahiti, Jerome Robbins, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal, Lukas Foss, Jack Gottlieb, Steven Blier, Thomas Hampson, Frederica von Stade, Alison Ames, Pal Christian Moe, Christian Gansch, Gregor Zielinsky, Jobst Eberhardt, Klaus Behrens, Stephan Flock, Boosey & Hawkes, Arthur Umboh, Kiyotane Hayashi, Christina Burton, Don Carlos Bell, Fred Munzmaier, Don HusteinA truculent march begins the piece, which continues in a succession of popular music styles — cool jazz for the children, a virtuosic musical theatre-style patter for Mrs. Webb’s tirade and a suggestion of swingtime for Mr. Webb’s reminiscences.

The “Nachspiel” (Postlude) is a slow waltz, with the two singers humming a descant. Headed “in memoriam,” this final song maintains an inward, elegiac tone, never rising above a hush. The piano version has also been published in a collection of “Thirteen Anniversaries.

Arias and Barcarolles was first performed in New York in May 1988 in a version for four singers (Joyce Castle, Louise Edeiken, John Brandstetter, Mordechai Kaston) and piano duet (the composer and Michael Tilson Thomas); the version with two voices had its premiere in Tel Aviv in April 1989 (Amalia Ishak, Raphael Frieder, Irit Rub-Levy, Ariel Cohen) and its first New York performance in September 1989 (Judy Kaye, William Sharp, Michael Barrett, Steven Blier).

An arrangement by Bright Sheng for strings and percussion was first performed in New York in September 1989 (Susan Graham, Kurt Ollimann, the New York Chamber Symphony of the 92nd St. Y conducted by Gerard Schwarz).

The orchestration by Bruce Coughlin was given its first performance in London in September 1993, with the conductor, orchestra and soloists of the present recording.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Leonard Bernstein, Arias and Barcarolles, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mozart, Gershwin, Dwight Eisenhower, Jennie Bernstein, Yankev-Yitskhok Segal, Charles Webb, Joyce Castle, Louise Edeiken, John Brandstetter, Mordechai Kaston, Amalia Ishak, Raphael Frieder, Irit Rub-Levy, Ariel Cohen, Judy Kaye, William Sharp, Michael Barrett, Steven Blier, Bright sheng, Susan Graham, Kurt Ollimann, Gerard Schwarz, Bruce Coughlin, London Symphony Orchestra, Trouble In Tahiti, Jerome Robbins, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal, Lukas Foss, Jack Gottlieb, Steven Blier, Thomas Hampson, Frederica von Stade, Alison Ames, Pal Christian Moe, Christian Gansch, Gregor Zielinsky, Jobst Eberhardt, Klaus Behrens, Stephan Flock, Boosey & Hawkes, Arthur Umboh, Kiyotane Hayashi, Christina Burton, Don Carlos Bell, Fred Munzmaier, Don HusteinA QUIET PLACE (1983)

After four productions and one major revision, A Quiet Place has still to find a foothold in the repertoire, yet it contains music which is arguably among the most powerful, affecting and lyrical Bernstein ever wrote.

Much of this has been included in the suite, which was compiled by Michael Tilson Thomas, myself and Sid Ramin, who also provided the additional orchestrations. The first performance was given in September 1991 by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

The suite begins with the Prologue, the musicalization of a violent car accident, accompanied in the opera by the comments of witnesses and onlookers (the chorus); in the suite these are exclaimed by an array of percussion instruments following the contour and rhythm of the original Spechstimme choral parts.

A brass chorale emerges, growing phrase by phrase to reach a dramatic climax. In the opera, it is sung to words from Dinah’s final diary entry, “Give all for love, for love is strong as death.” It is she who has been killed in the car accident, and it is her funeral with which the opera begins. Attending are her husband Sam, their grown children, who arrive late, and family friends.

Silent and aloof through most of Act 1, Sam finally, in an operatic tour de force, gives vent to his rage, guilt and frustration toward himself, his children and his deceased wife (Sam’s Aria). In the suite, Sam’s baritone is given to the trombone, propelled by brilliant, metrically shifting orchestral outbursts.

The response to Sam’s fierce Aria is the beautiful Trio, sung by his and Dinah’s daughter Dede, their son Junior, and Dede’s husband, Francois. They recall heartfelt letters they wrote as children to their fathers. Here the vocal lines of Dede (soprano), Junior (baritone) and Francois (tenor) are taken by solo viola, bassoon and english horn respectively.

The Jazz Trio (“Mornin’ Sun” ) from Trouble in Tahiti depicts the troubled marriage of Sam and Dinah 30 years earlier. The words describe, somewhat ironically, the bliss of upper-middle class suburban life in 1950s America. The light, nightclub-combo scoring of the original has been re-worked in the suite into a Big Band number, giving it symphonic weight.

The opening chorale from the Prologue returns, this time quietly and without a climax, punctuated only by fragments of the jazz clarinet tone-row from Trouble in Tahiti.

The suite ends with the Postlude to Act 1. Junior is left alone onstage with his mother’s coffin, after one of his aggressive psychotic episodes has effectively cleared the funeral parlor of family and friends. In this wordless scene, in which he becomes aware of his disarray, the music describes his remorse, tender memories of his mother, and anguish of his grief.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Leonard Bernstein, Arias and Barcarolles, Michael Tilson Thomas, Mozart, Gershwin, Dwight Eisenhower, Jennie Bernstein, Yankev-Yitskhok Segal, Charles Webb, Joyce Castle, Louise Edeiken, John Brandstetter, Mordechai Kaston, Amalia Ishak, Raphael Frieder, Irit Rub-Levy, Ariel Cohen, Judy Kaye, William Sharp, Michael Barrett, Steven Blier, Bright sheng, Susan Graham, Kurt Ollimann, Gerard Schwarz, Bruce Coughlin, London Symphony Orchestra, Trouble In Tahiti, Jerome Robbins, Sid Ramin, Irwin Kostal, Lukas Foss, Jack Gottlieb, Steven Blier, Thomas Hampson, Frederica von Stade, Alison Ames, Pal Christian Moe, Christian Gansch, Gregor Zielinsky, Jobst Eberhardt, Klaus Behrens, Stephan Flock, Boosey & Hawkes, Arthur Umboh, Kiyotane Hayashi, Christina Burton, Don Carlos Bell, Fred Munzmaier, Don HusteinWEST SIDE STORY: SYMPHONIC DANCES

Some commentators have gone so far as to call West Side Story the great American opera that composers have supposedly been trying to write for decades.

Bernstein himself, however, reminded us that West Side Story is not an opera: the denouement is spoken, not sung. And so the work remains a child of the Broadway stage – where it opened in September 1957 and ran for nearly two years – albeit one of its most complex and sophisticated children.

It is a testimony to Bernstein’s gifts and versatility that material from a successful Broadway musical could be turned into a symphonic score which has found a secure place in the standard orchestral repertoire.

In collaboration with the choreographer and director Jerome Robbins, Bernstein created a theatrical world where dance is on an expressive par with song and dialogue. Much of West Side Story is told through dance, and the choreography generates the essential energy of the action; writing dance music allowed Bernstein to deploy the full range of his compositional powers.

The Symphonic Dances (1960) extracted from the complete work are arranged according to an organic plan rather than in dramatic sequence. In their orchestration Bernstein had assistance from his lifelong friend, Sid Ramin, and Irwin Kostal, who together had recently revised the scoring of West Side Story for the screen version.

The first performance of the Symphonic Dances was conducted by Lukas Foss with the New York Philharmonic in February 1961.

Bernstein’s amanuensis Jack Gottlieb has outlined the action of the principal sections of the Symphonic Dances as follows:

  • Prologue: The growing rivalry between two teenage gangs, the Jets and Sharks.
  • Somewhere: In a visionary dance sequence, the two gangs are united in friendship.
  • Scherzo: In the same dream, they break through the city walls, and suddenly find themselves in a world of space, air and sun.
  • Mambo: Reality again; competitive dance between two gangs.
  • Cha-Cha: The star-crossed lovers see each other for the first time and dance together.
  • Meeting Scene: Music accompanies their first spoken words.
  • “Cool” Fugue: An elaborate dance sequence in which the Jets practice controlling their hostility.
  • Rumble: Climactic gang battle during which the two gang leaders are killed.
  • Finale: Love music developing into a procession, which recalls, in tragic reality, the vision of “Somewhere.”

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-8: Arias and Barcarolles (1988) [33:45]
  • 9-14: A Quiet Place: Suite (1983) [22:07]
  • 15-23: West Side Story: Symphonic Dances (1957) [22:10]

FINAL THOUGHT:

After those notes up there, I doubt anyone has made it to the bottom of the blog. But if you did, the video above is a real treat (not from the disc featured – but the “Mambo” from West Side Story is in the Symphonic Dances. This video, conducted by the great Gustavo Dudamel is a real joy!

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Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique (BBC)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, BBC Symphony, Andrew Davis, Harriet Smithson, Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, Francois-Antoine Habeneck, Robert Cowan, Eugene DelacroixHector Berlioz (1803-1869)

Symphonie Fantastique, Op. 14

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Andrew Davis – Conductor

Recorded live at Hitomi Kinen Kodo, Tokyo, on May 28, 1993 (BBC Music)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

What to say about this version of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique that I didn’t say about the last one… oh, yeah… this one is better!

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Robert Cowan):

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, BBC Symphony, Andrew Davis, Harriet Smithson, Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, Francois-Antoine Habeneck, Robert Cowan, Eugene DelacroixBerlioz’s semi-autobiographical Symphonie Fantastique grew out of his burning infatuation for the Irish actress Harriet Smithson. He had seen Smithson play Ophelia in 1827, and his Symphonie was completed three years later.

Berlioz himself stated in a programme note that it was his intention in the piece to ‘treat various states in the life of an artist, insofar as they have musical quality.’

It was the first major orchestral work to follow a detailed programme, and broke new ground by introducing the concept of an idee fixe, or recurring ‘motif,’ in this instance representing Harriet Smithson.

Wagner was to learn a great deal from Berlioz’s innovation and indeed his own ‘leitmotif’ is inconceivable without Berlioz’s inspired prompting.

A further revolutionary aspect of the symphony is its five-tier structure.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, BBC Symphony, Andrew Davis, Harriet Smithson, Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, Francois-Antoine Habeneck, Robert Cowan, Eugene DelacroixEach movement has a subtitle that refers to a specific aspect of the programme: the first, ‘Daydreams – Passions,’ reflects wavering joys, fears and frustrations in the face of amatory obsession; the second, ‘A Ball,’ recalls happier times, but a chance encounter with the beloved deflates its high spirits; ‘In the Meadows’ opens to the pastoral piping of two shepherds and ends with distant thunder; the ‘March to the Scaffold’ reports the artist’s attempted suicide, his dreams of killing the woman he loved and his death by the guillotine; and ‘Sabbath Night’s Dream’ finds him among spirits, sorcerers and monster, preparing for his own funeral.

Berlioz’s original scoring included an ophicleide (an obsolete low brass instrument, commonly replaced nowadays by the tuba), bells (doubled, originally, by six pianos), an E-flat clarinet, and a pair of cornets, although the cornets aren’t always used in modern-day performances.

The Symphonie Fantastique, or five ‘episodes in the life of an artist,’ was premiered at the Paris Conservatoire on December 5, 1830, under the direction of Francois-Antoine Habeneck.

Another leading pioneer of musical Romanticism, Franz Liszt, was in the audience, and within three years he had undertaken the gargantuan task of transcribing the entire symphony for piano solo.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1: Daydreams – Passions [15:05]
  • 2: A Ball [6:13]
  • 3: In the Meadows [15:52]
  • 4: March to the Scaffold [6:29]
  • 5: Sabbath Night’s Dream [9:57]

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Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, BBC Symphony, Andrew Davis, Harriet Smithson, Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, Francois-Antoine Habeneck, Robert Cowan, Eugene DelacroixFINAL THOUGHT:

This whole bit about Berlioz writing this piece for some Irish actress chick was news to me. And they ended up marrying in 1833 (the liner notes should have mentioned that!). The marriage fell apart by 1840 after Berlioz started having an affair. Harriet Smithson moved out, suffered a form of paralysis that left her barely able to speak and died in 1854. Just another tragic tale from the Romantic era.

(I put pictures of Harriet Smithson in throughout the notes because she is more interesting looking that Hector Berlioz – sort of like Kristen Wiig in this one.)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Symphony No 4, Symphony No 5, Leornard Bernstein, Sir George Grove, Countess Therese Von Brunswick, Carl Maria Von Weber, Berlioz, Theater an der Wien, ERoica, Goethe, Faust, John McClure, Larry Keyes, Fred Plaut, Hank Parker

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)

Berg – Stravinksy: Violin Concertos

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Alban Berg, Igor Stravinsky, Itzhak Perlman, Seiji Ozawa, Rainer Brock, Klaus Hiemann, Hans-Peter Schweigmann, Reinhild Schmidt, B. Schoott's Sohne, Dr Volker Scherliess, Christian Steiner, Franz Neuss, Samuel Dushkin, Louis Krasner, Manon Gropius, Alma Mahler-Werfel, Walter Gropius, John Coombs, Jacques Fournier, Gabriele CervoneAlban Berg (1885-1935)

Violin Concerto (“To the memory of an angel”)

——

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

Violin Concerto

Itzhak Perlman, Violin

Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa – Conductor

Recorded in 1980 (Deutsche Grammophon)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Itzhak rules!

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Volker Scherliess – translation by John Coombs):

If it is true that a recording can be not only entertaining but at the same time revealingly instructive, then that is the case here; it brings together two works of the same genre and the same period; each commissioned by a prominent violinist and composed with his particular technical accomplishments in mind – two virtuoso concertos, therefore, successors to the great bravura pieces of the 19th century, but by no means restricted to demonstrating dazzling violin playing.

Each is, indeed, a work of the highest quality, and occupies a place of importance in the oeuvre of its composer.

(Alban Berg once remarked that a concerto is the “art form in which it s not only the soloists who have an opportunity to display their virtuosity and brilliance, but also for once the composer.”)

The list of similarities could be extended further, but the remarkable fact is that these external resemblances highlight all the more clearly the fundamental contrast between the two works, and between their composers.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Alban Berg, Igor Stravinsky, Itzhak Perlman, Seiji Ozawa, Rainer Brock, Klaus Hiemann, Hans-Peter Schweigmann, Reinhild Schmidt, B. Schoott's Sohne, Dr Volker Scherliess, Christian Steiner, Franz Neuss, Samuel Dushkin, Louis Krasner, Manon Gropius, Alma Mahler-Werfel, Walter Gropius, John Coombs, Jacques Fournier, Gabriele CervoneStravinsky’s Concerto was written in 1931 for the young American violinist Samuel Dushkin, who (as is specifically stated in the score) gave the composer technical advice on the writing of the solo part.

Stravinsky said, jokingly, that the Concerto should “smell of the violin,” and in the event no potential of violin technique remained unexploited.

The element of display is also fascinating in the orchestra, which despite its full scoring always creates the transparent effect of chamber music.

This work is a masterly example of neoclassicism, not reactionary and content with superficial stylistic copies, but creating something wholly new as a result of an affectionate approach to models from the past – often parodistically distorted.

The movement titles indicate a return to baroque forms: Toccata and Capriccio – two fast movements charged with motor energy – enclose Aria 1 and Aria II, both of which are dominated by a richly decorated cantabile line.

At the beginning of each movement the soloist plays the same motto-like chord D’ – E” – A”’, but otherwise the music is not concerned with thematic associations, with evolution from a germ cell or with rising to emphatic climaxes, but with assembling colorful elements in the manner of a collage.

The deliberate avoidance of subjective moods, expression and feelings, instead the creation of music which is refreshingly serene, effervescent and objective, music without a “message” or “idea” (except that of virtuosic playing) – that was Stravinsky’s intention.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Alban Berg, Igor Stravinsky, Itzhak Perlman, Seiji Ozawa, Rainer Brock, Klaus Hiemann, Hans-Peter Schweigmann, Reinhild Schmidt, B. Schoott's Sohne, Dr Volker Scherliess, Christian Steiner, Franz Neuss, Samuel Dushkin, Louis Krasner, Manon Gropius, Alma Mahler-Werfel, Walter Gropius, John Coombs, Jacques Fournier, Gabriele CervoneIt was quite otherwise with Alban Berg.

When the violinist Louis Krasner asked him for a violin concerto in February 1935, he was uncertain at first of the form which the work should take.

The death of the eighteen-year-old Manon Gropius, daughter of the brief marriage between Mahler’s widow Alma Mahler-Werfel and the architect Walter Gropius, on April 22 affected him so profoundly that he decided to create a memorial to the girl: he dedicated this Concerto “to the memory of an angel.”

Its layout encompasses several musical layers. Berg based his compositional procedure on Schoenberg’s twelve-note technique, but he used it in an unorthodox manner (his based 12-note row contains major, minor and whole-tone elements), and even combined it with purely tonal music – a Carinthian folk song and the chorale Es is genug in Bach’s harmonization.

These contrasting elements serve Alban Berg’s wish “to translate characteristics of the young girl’s nature into musical terms”: the Concerto as a whole is intended to depict life (1st movement), the struggle with death, and transfiguration (2nd movement).

When at the end a vision of the “angel” is evoked again by the reappearance of its musical motifs, the rare mastery with which Berg blended form and expression, musical logic and a poetic idea, is more than ever apparent.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-2: Berg: Violin Concerto (“To the memory of an angel”)
  • 3-6: Stravinsky: Violin Concerto

FINAL THOUGHT:

Not a great recording from a technical standpoint – it was the early days of CD production after all (either that or my CD is wearing out) – but the fantastic playing of Itzhak Perlman overcomes any technical issues and makes this a truly fantastic disk. The Stravinky almost feels like you’re listening to something as accessible as Mozart after hearing the 12-tone complexities of the Berg piece.

 Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Alban Berg, Igor Stravinsky, Itzhak Perlman, Seiji Ozawa, Rainer Brock, Klaus Hiemann, Hans-Peter Schweigmann, Reinhild Schmidt, B. Schoott's Sohne, Dr Volker Scherliess, Christian Steiner, Franz Neuss, Samuel Dushkin, Louis Krasner, Manon Gropius, Alma Mahler-Werfel, Walter Gropius, John Coombs, Jacques Fournier, Gabriele Cervone

 

Emily Sachs – President – Manka Music Group (A division of Manka Bros. Studios – The World’s Largest Media Company)