Johann Sebastian Bach – Goldberg Variations

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Johann Sebastian Bach, J.S. Bach, Goldberg Variations, Glenn Gould, Joseph Haydn, Columbia Masterworks, Samuel H. Carter, Last Six Sonatas, BWV 988, Stan Tonkel, John Johnson, Ray Moore, Martin Greenblatt, Henrietta Condak, Don Hunstein, Pablo Casals, 30th Street Recording StudioJohann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

Glenn Gould, Pianist (CBS RECORDS MASTERWORKS)

Recorded at 30th Street Recording Studios, New York City – May 1981.

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Brilliant (but can someone please stop that infernal humming in the background…kidding)

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (uncredited):

In 1955, a young Canadian pianist made his first recording for what was then Columbia Masterworks. At that time he was not well-known to concert audiences and was completely unknown to the record market. But after the recording sessions of June of that year, in Columbia’s famous 30th Street Studios in New York City, and after the release of his first album, Bach’s Goldberg Variations, Glenn Gould became world-famous.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Johann Sebastian Bach, J.S. Bach, Goldberg Variations, Glenn Gould, Joseph Haydn, Columbia Masterworks, Samuel H. Carter, Last Six Sonatas, BWV 988, Stan Tonkel, John Johnson, Ray Moore, Martin Greenblatt, Henrietta Condak, Don Hunstein, Pablo Casals, 30th Street Recording StudioHis performance of Bach’s 1742 collection of “keyboard exercises” created an international recording sensation and achieved the unique distinction of becoming an album that, from its original release data to the present, was never absent from the active catalog of Masterworks recordings.

In 1970, Glenn Gould completed a recording session at the 30th Street Studios and decided that in the future he would record exclusively in Toronto, where his television and film activities were center. He did not again return to this musically historical building until 1980 when he began making his first digital recordings for CBS Masterworks – the Six Last Sonatas of Haydn and the Goldberg Variations.

Why did Glenn Gould, who seldom records a piece twice, choose to re-record a work that had received a definitive performance at his hands 27 years ago?

Gould has offered only the explanation that new technology plus his own desire to reexamine the work in terms of its “arithmetical correspondence between theme and variation” led him back into the studio for this recording.

Any more complete explanation of this new approach would, according to Gould, entail a complete written analysis, in an almost book-length essay, of the “thirty very interesting but independent-minded pieces” that make up the Variations – a fascinating prospect, to be sure.

Samuel H. Carter, who co-produced the Last Six Sonatas of Haydn, also worked on the new Goldberg Variations. Following are some of his observations of the last recording sessions:

Sometime past midnight on Saturday, May 27, 1981, the doors of CBS’s famous 30th Street Recording Studios in New York closed on the last official recording session to be held there by CBS Masterworks.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Johann Sebastian Bach, J.S. Bach, Goldberg Variations, Glenn Gould, Joseph Haydn, Columbia Masterworks, Samuel H. Carter, Last Six Sonatas, BWV 988, Stan Tonkel, John Johnson, Ray Moore, Martin Greenblatt, Henrietta Condak, Don Hunstein, Pablo Casals, 30th Street Recording StudioOut of those doors walked a man – assuredly only after a “cool down” period and change of shirt – a man whose illustrious recording career began there a little over a quarter century before. With an appropriateness that is usually found only in fiction, the last notes played by Glenn Gould that night were from the same work of Bach – the Goldberg Variations – with which he had first transfixed the music world in the summer of 1955.

Now the Studio, once a kind of mecca for some of the world’s greatest musicians, was to be sold, victim of the changed fortunes of an industry that has become as multinational as any other and as competitive.

For Glenn Gould and for those of us whose association with “Columbia” covers a long span of years, the old church is a place where many ghosts walk in an atmosphere so laden as to be almost claustrophobic, in spite of the soaring reaches of the ceilings.

Glenn Gould may have quietly come out by the same door wherein he entered but while he had been inside he stirred things up more than a little. Pablo Casals once said that Bach is “a volcano,” speaking of course of the emotional content of the music that traditionalists tried so hard for so long to deny.

Gould, too, is something of a volcanic force. He is the embodiment of musical sophistication in that he seems always to know what he intends the music to do. He almost never lets the music happen to him – he happens to it. That is what made many musicians who nominally “knew” the Goldberg Variations feel that they had just discovered them when the 1955 album appeared.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Johann Sebastian Bach, J.S. Bach, Goldberg Variations, Glenn Gould, Joseph Haydn, Columbia Masterworks, Samuel H. Carter, Last Six Sonatas, BWV 988, Stan Tonkel, John Johnson, Ray Moore, Martin Greenblatt, Henrietta Condak, Don Hunstein, Pablo Casals, 30th Street Recording StudioMay I suggest that, with this new recording, many additional “discoveries” will be made. The nature of these will doubtless be as many and various as the number of listeners.

I think of Glenn Gould as an artist of strong intentionality. He shapes and molds a musical line in its breadth and in its detail with breathtaking awareness. As he has often told interviewers, he will try to make each performance different, yet this firm intention is always present so that however different the “take” there is never any tentativeness or absence of character.

This new digital recording of the Goldberg Variations was made, in the main, simultaneously with a video taping. Make-up sessions were held on April 25 and May 29 for the purposes of the recording.

Having worked extensively in both mediums as performer and producer, Glenn was almost instantly aware, in seeing and hearing a playback, of what takes or portions of takes were suitable for the film and recording and which for the film only. I often felt that he was being excessively nit-picking, only to discover in the intensive listening and editing sessions that followed that he had known precisely the difference he wanted in ever case.

He is a man who is very reluctant to accept anything short of the absolute attainment of his artistic goal.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1 – Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 [51:00]

FINAL THOUGHT:

“I don’t know know much about classical music – for years I thought the Goldberg Variations were something Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg did on their wedding night.” – Woody Allen (Stardust Memories). Of course this recording gets my highest rating!

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)

 

Johann Sebastian Bach – Double Concerto for Two Violins

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Bach Double Concerto, Johann Sebastian Bach, Isaac Stern, J.S. Bach, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Alexander Schneider, English Chamber Orchestra, Andrew Kazdin, Thomas Frost, Paul Myers, Howard H. Scott, Frank H. Decker, Henrietta Condak, Vivaldi, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, Albert Schweitzer, Hannah and her Sisters, Sam Waterston, Dianne Wiest, Carrie Fisher, Woody AllenJohann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins and Orchestra, BWV 1043

Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, New York Philharmonic – Zubin Mehta, Conductor (CBS Great Performances)

Concerto No. 1 in A Minor for Violin and Orchestra, BWV 1041

Members of the London Symphony Orchestra – Isaac Stern, Violinist and Conductor (CBS Great Performances)

Concerto No. 2 in E Major for Violin and Orchestra, BWV 1042

Isaac Stern, English Chamber Orchestra – Alexander Schneider, Conductor (CBS Great Performances)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

One of the best recordings of J.S. Bach’s music ever made (as long as you ignore all the annoying audience noises in the background).

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (uncredited):

Most of the concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1759) – including the six Brandenburgs – were composed in the years 1717 through 1723, the period of his tenure as court organist and director of the orchestra for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Bach Double Concerto, Johann Sebastian Bach, Isaac Stern, J.S. Bach, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Alexander Schneider, English Chamber Orchestra, Andrew Kazdin, Thomas Frost, Paul Myers, Howard H. Scott, Frank H. Decker, Henrietta Condak, Vivaldi, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, Albert Schweitzer, Hannah and her Sisters, Sam Waterston, Dianne Wiest, Carrie Fisher, Woody AllenApart from his prowess as organist and conductor, Bach was an accomplished violinist who had, according Albert Schweitzer, “learned from Vivaldi the perfect violin technique, the art of writing ‘singably’… For him there was really only one style that naturally suggested by the phrasing of the stringed instrument – and all other styles are for him only modifications of this basic style.

In view of Bach’s predilection for the violin, it is all the more disappointing that only three of his works specifically written for the violin have been left to us.

On the often inaccurate basis of stylistic analysis, scholars have postulated that the majority of Bach’s harpsichord concertos are arrangements of concertos originally written for the violin.

True or not, we have to content ourselves with the two Concertos for Violin and Orchestra and with the Double Violin Concerto.

However, this can scarcely be regarded as a hardship. The Double Violin Concerto is a masterpiece, and the two solo violin concertos are like twins divinely blessed.

The very fact that there are only two has worked in their favor. We do not have to contend with the disappointing knowledge that there are some 350 others, equally good and not strikingly dissimilar, vying for our attention – as in the case of Vivaldi, who, legend says, composed violin concertos even during meals.

And it was Vivaldi who was probably the moving force behind Bach’s violin concertos. Bach had already paid the Venetian master the not inconsiderable compliment of transcribing a number of his published concertos for solo keyboard, and, further, he turned a Vivaldi concerto for four violins into a concerto for four harpsichords.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Bach Double Concerto, Johann Sebastian Bach, Isaac Stern, J.S. Bach, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Alexander Schneider, English Chamber Orchestra, Andrew Kazdin, Thomas Frost, Paul Myers, Howard H. Scott, Frank H. Decker, Henrietta Condak, Vivaldi, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, Albert Schweitzer, Hannah and her Sisters, Sam Waterston, Dianne Wiest, Carrie Fisher, Woody AllenCuriously, all these transcriptions show Bach rethinking idiomatic violin music in terms of the keyboard. When he came to compose his own violin concertos, the harpsichord – with its self-sufficient contrapuntal possibilities and its quick, unsustained brightness – was entirely forgotten.

Bach’s violin concertos are not virtuoso showpieces, as Vivaldi’s tend to be, but are conceived completely in violinistic terms.

In form, Bach takes over Vivaldi’s characteristic three-movement, fast-slow-fast pattern. The final movements of both solo concertos, as with Vivaldi, are giguelike dances. The slow movements are again a favorite Vivaldi device – long candilenas over a recurring ground bass.

Only in his first movements does Bach depart somewhat from the practice of Vivaldi and his fellow composers. The general form is the same.: The orchestra is given a distinctive theme, heard at the beginning and end of the movement and also, in abbreviated form, throughout its course; this orchestral ritornello alternates with passages for solo violin.

But while the solo passages in Vivaldi are often merely brilliant displays of virtuosity with small relationship to the ritornello, in Bach the soloist fully shares the thematic material with the orchestra.

The A-Minor Concerto opens with a playful melody, aerated with well-calculated pauses. In this movement, the solo violin is also lighthearted, moving through a rather conventional series of sequential passages with enviable bounce and aplomb.

The Andante is an ostinato piece. The ground bass constantly returns to its thrice-repeated low C, giving it an earthbound quality in contrast to the floating solo violin.

The final gigue has a French grace about its endlessly spun-out triplets. The soloist is given real opportunities here in whirling-dervish speedups of the basic rhythm.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Bach Double Concerto, Johann Sebastian Bach, Isaac Stern, J.S. Bach, Itzhak Perlman, Zubin Mehta, Alexander Schneider, English Chamber Orchestra, Andrew Kazdin, Thomas Frost, Paul Myers, Howard H. Scott, Frank H. Decker, Henrietta Condak, Vivaldi, Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cothen, Albert Schweitzer, Hannah and her Sisters, Sam Waterston, Dianne Wiest, Carrie Fisher, Woody AllenThe Violin Concerto in E Major opens with an Allegro in the solid commanding style of the Brandenburgs, with three proclamatory chords that echo persistently throughout the movement. The soloist plays in real dialogue with the orchestra; there is no rigid separation of tutti and solo.

The Adagio begins and ends with the low strings stating a long, rather melancholy, ostinato bass. Over this, the violin sings a tender song in phrases that seem endless and are virtually devoid of cadential points.

The Allegro assai is one of Bach’s business-like finales – staid, self-assured, rather “fat” in instrumental texture. The movement, with its alternation of ritornello and solo, comes closer to the Vivaldi ideal of Baroque concerto writing than does the first movement.

The Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins and Orchestra was also written during Bach’s Cothen period when the nature of his appointment forced him to concentrate on instrumental music.

It holds a unique position among the many compositions that he wrote for the Court band of some eighteen pieces, for the possibilities of contrasting two solo instruments removed this work substantially from the customary concerto type.

This is particularly true of the slow movement, in which the discourse of the two violins reduces the orchestra to a very subordinate position.

Back too full advantage of the aptitude of the violin for melodic beauty. He set the two instruments against each other in a veritable dialogue, with the orchestra providing harmonic and rhythmic background.

As in many of Bach’s concertos, the slow movement is the point of gravity of the entire composition, flanked by two fast and more or less conventional sections.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-3: Concerto in D MInor for Two Violins and Orchestra, BWV 1043
  • 4-6: Concerto No. 1 in A Minor for Violin and Orchestra, BWV 1041
  • 7-9: Concerto No. 2 in E Major for Violin and Orchestra, BWV 1042

(Sorry, I found no video of the Isaac Stern / Itzhak Perlman recording. Those two hacks above will have to do.)

FINAL THOUGHT:

The “Double Concerto” is featured in one of my favorite movies – Woody Allen’s “Hannah & Her Sisters.” The opening strains of the piece take me immediately to the scene where Sam Waterston is giving Dianne Wiest and Carrie Fisher an architectural tour of New York. This CD is a great workhorse classic and has many of Bach’s “hits” that most people will recognize immediately. It is a well-earned “88” on my piano scale!

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)

 

 

 

 

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach – Trio Sonatas

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Trio Sonatas, Triosonaten, CPE Bach, London Baroque, Harmonia Mundi, Ingrid Seifert, Richard Gwilt, Charles Medlam, Richard Egarr, J.S. Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, J.A. Scheibe, Sulzer, Allemeine Theorie der Schonen Kunste, Hans-Gunter Ottenberg, Derek Yeld, Adrian Hunter, Mary Gunning, Nicholas ParkerC.P.E. Bach (1714-1788)

Sonata in A minor, Wq.156 (H.582)

Sonata in F major, Wq.154 (H.576)

Sonata in E minor, Wq. 55 (H.577)

Sonata in B-flat major, Wq.158 (H.584)

Sonata in D minor, Wq.160 (H.590)

London Baroque (Ingrid Seifert – violin; Richard Gwilt – violin, Charles Medlam – cello; Richard Egarr – clavecin) (Harmonia Mundi)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

J.S. Bach had 20 children (10 survived to adulthood) – C.P.E. Bach is one of the survivors and he also composed music like his dad, just not quite as good (the chick on the CD cover pretty much says it all).

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Hans-Gunter Ottenberg – translation by Derek Yeld):

One of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s earliest compositions was a Trio Sonata which has unfortunately been lost. I twas not without a tinge of pride that the remark, “compiled collaboration with Johann Sebastian Bach,” was added to the catalogue of Bach’s posthumously published works (1791).

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Trio Sonatas, Triosonaten, CPE Bach, London Baroque, Harmonia Mundi, Ingrid Seifert, Richard Gwilt, Charles Medlam, Richard Egarr, J.S. Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, J.A. Scheibe, Sulzer, Allemeine Theorie der Schonen Kunste, Hans-Gunter Ottenberg, Derek Yeld, Adrian Hunter, Mary Gunning, Nicholas ParkerIt cannot be a coincidence that at the beginning of his career as a composer J.S. Bach’s second son had to come to terms with one of the most commonly practiced instrumental forms in Baroque music, considering that the Trio Sonata demanded “that there shall be all the parts, but especially in the upper voices, a steady singing line and a fugal development” (J.A. Scheibe). Moreover, the “concertante” setting-out of the Trio and particularly the techniques of the thorough-bass could be tried out in this, “one of the most difficult forms of composition.”

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach composed a total of twenty-five Trio Sonatas, seven in his Leipzig and Frankfurt periods, and the others in Berlin, mainly around 1747 and 1754.

In the worlds of the Berlin period the technical standards of the composition of the Trio Sonata, as described in a work like Sulzer’s Allgemeine Theorie der Schonen Kunste (1771-1774) had long-since been attained.

It is remarkable how C.P.E. Bach builds the theme of the first movement of the Sonata in F major, W.154/H.576 written in 1747 in the spirit of a gradual opening-up of the sound space. This shaping of the theme can probably be explained, in the first place, from the point of view of performing techniques, since they were played in Berlin by obviously accomplished violinists.

Through the use of different layers Bach achieves greater melodic variety. According to his natural tendency the main theme is kept open, that is, it wants to keep going; in the immediately following development section its motivic substance is treated polyphonically, consequently the second melodic instrument enters at the interval of a fifth.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Trio Sonatas, Triosonaten, CPE Bach, London Baroque, Harmonia Mundi, Ingrid Seifert, Richard Gwilt, Charles Medlam, Richard Egarr, J.S. Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, J.A. Scheibe, Sulzer, Allemeine Theorie der Schonen Kunste, Hans-Gunter Ottenberg, Derek Yeld, Adrian Hunter, Mary Gunning, Nicholas ParkerIn the Andante a more expressive mood predominates communicated to the listener by the gesture of a delicately sensitive melodic line.

In the last movement the motivic ideas are of such vitality that there is a change of musical scene in virtually every bar. This constant fluctuation was understood by his contemporaries as the prevalence of a rhetorical principal.

And, in fact, the opening movement of the Sonata in E minor, Wq.155/H.577, also written in 1747, does lead us into a conversational situation in which the alternation of an emotional and a gallant tone results in the domination of a dialogue-like structure.

Sulzer, in a generalization of a peculiarity of the “Berlin Bach’s” keyboard works (“Most of them are so eloquent that one does not think one is hearing tones, but a comprehensive language”), said of the Trio Sonatas that they were “veritable passionate musical conversations.”

In the slow movements, too, Bach occasionally makes use of the galant manner by indicating a faster tempo – here Andante. The concluding Allegro gives the impression of having been inspired by a dance, with its dotted motives and series of triplets arousing a cheerful mood in the listener.

The Sonata in B-flat major, Wq.158/H.584 of 1754, also demonstrates how Bach already introduces disparate expressive values within the theme itself, which then go on to mark the further progress of the movement: four bars of a plaintive motive, and four bars of triplet figures. If one were to seek the general theme of the dialogue suggested here, one could speak of a “fashionably galant expressiveness” (A. Durr).

The slow movement, Largo, con sordini, is the traditional position for a piece of musical Empfindsamkeit. All the activity is focused on the melodic line. Eloquent pauses and sudden exclamation underline the emotionally laden gesture of this movement, which once more bears witness to Bach’s sensitive handling of the variation form, for instance where he changes the direction of the movement of theme.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Trio Sonatas, Triosonaten, CPE Bach, London Baroque, Harmonia Mundi, Ingrid Seifert, Richard Gwilt, Charles Medlam, Richard Egarr, J.S. Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, J.A. Scheibe, Sulzer, Allemeine Theorie der Schonen Kunste, Hans-Gunter Ottenberg, Derek Yeld, Adrian Hunter, Mary Gunning, Nicholas ParkerAs in the opening movement, the concluding Allegro is also formed of heterogeneous elements: an introductory phrase that insistently turns around the note and gives rise to octave interval structures in the end phrase. And again they evoke an ambivalent expressiveness.

The manner in which Bach treats the two upper voices of the Sonata in A minor, Wq.156/H.582 (1754) shows him on the way to a new understanding of the genre.

The second voice is reduced to a mere accompanying function. It moves along in thirds and sixths beneath the melody of the top voice without intervening in its motivic construction. Occasionally it drums out the same quaver figure as the bass.

Sulzer knew this type of Trio Sonata, which is derived from the symphony and demands “an extremely charming and expressive melody in the upper voice and strange and artful modulations in the scoring.”

There is no ample cantilena, but rather a capricious mood in the highly varied dynamic nuances of the Andantino. Neither does the amusing Tempo di minuetto erect any barriers against the growing number of music-lovers of the second half of the 18th century.

This was also the aim the new chamber music form practiced by Bach in his “Clavier Sonatas with a Violin and Violincello Accompaniment” of 1776 and 1777. Here the thorough bass is finally replaced by the keyboard part. The individually written melodic line is taken up by the treble in the keyboard. The violin and the violincello seem dispensable – but not for long.

In the hands of the Viennese classics and their piano and string trios equal rights would soon be restored to all of the instruments involved.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-3: Sonata in A minor, Wq.156 (H.582) [10:17]
  • 4-6: Sonata in F major, Wq.154 (H.576) [13:58]
  • 7-9: Sonata in E minor, Wq.155 (H.577) [15:08]
  • 10-12: Sonata in B-flat major, Wq.158 (H.584) [13:46]
  • 13: Sonata in D minor, Wq.160 (H.590) [8:06]

FINAL THOUGHT:

It’s tough to be the son of a genius. I realize there many music scholars that would through C.P.E. Bach into the genius bucket – but I just don’t get it. C.P.E. Bach is kind of like Frank Sinatra, Jr. to me. Sure, he can carry a tune and even looks like his dad a bit, but when you watch him in some cheesy small room lounge in Las Vegas, you know you’re not seeing the real Ol’ Blue Eyes.

piano_rating_70

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

Malcolm Arnold – Four Scottish Dances – Symphony No 3

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Malcolm Arnold, Four Scottish Dances, Symphony No 3, Jeffrey Kaufman, Tom Null, MacDonald Moore, Gordon Jacob, Ernest Hall, Cobbett Composition Prize, Royal College of Music, Eduard van Beinum, Sadler's Wells, Homage to the Queen, Hobson's Choice, Bridge on the River Kwai, Donald Mitchell, Robert Burns, Hebridean Song, Paul AffelderMalcolm Arnold (1921-2006)

Four Scottish Dances, Op. 59

Symphony No. 3, Op. 63

London Philharmonic Orchestra – Malcolm Arnold, conductor (Phoenix)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

This recording is all about one little 3:45 piece, Scottish Dance No. 3 – Allegretto (simply beautiful) – the rest of the disc? Meh.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Paul Affelder):

If versatility is what is needed for success in the contemporary world of music, then Malcolm Arnold should fill all the requirements most commendably. As a matter of fact, he has made an enormous success of his versatility. Though his may not be a name too familiar to the average listener, that same person may, without knowing it, be humming or whistling one of Arnold’s works.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Malcolm Arnold, Four Scottish Dances, Symphony No 3, Jeffrey Kaufman, Tom Null, MacDonald Moore, Gordon Jacob, Ernest Hall, Cobbett Composition Prize, Royal College of Music, Eduard van Beinum, Sadler's Wells, Homage to the Queen, Hobson's Choice, Bridge on the River Kwai, Donald Mitchell, Robert Burns, Hebridean Song, Paul AffelderArnold was born on October 21, 1921, at Northampton, England. Until he was thirteen, he was educated at various schools in the vicinity; then for the next four years he studied privately.

In 1938 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London, where he majored in composition under the guidance of the accomplished composer and orchestrator, Gordon Jacob. Meanwhile, he took trumpet lessons from Ernest Hall, solo trumpeter of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Arnold’s work at the Royal College of Music earned him the Cobbett Composition Prize in 1941. That same year, he began his career as a professional musician, joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra as third trumpeter. By the time another year had gone by, he had graduated to the first chair in the trumpet section.

He was called to military service in 1944, but received a medical discharge the following year, at which time he became second trumpeter of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Malcolm Arnold, Four Scottish Dances, Symphony No 3, Jeffrey Kaufman, Tom Null, MacDonald Moore, Gordon Jacob, Ernest Hall, Cobbett Composition Prize, Royal College of Music, Eduard van Beinum, Sadler's Wells, Homage to the Queen, Hobson's Choice, Bridge on the River Kwai, Donald Mitchell, Robert Burns, Hebridean Song, Paul AffelderIn 1946 he returned to the London Philharmonic as first trumpeter, remaining until 1948. Since that time he has devoted his talents principally to composing. While he was still in the Philharmonic, however, he gained considerable help in conducting from Eduard van Beinum who was also one of the first important conductors to give recognition to Arnold’s music.

The music covers an exceptionally broad field. In addition to three symphonies, a sinfonietta and a serenade for orchestra, Arnold has to his credit such well-known works as the English Dances, Scottish Dances, Tam O’Shanter and Beckus the Dandipratt Overtures, and the music he wrote for the Sadler’s Wells – now the RoyalBallet’s Homage to the Queen.

He has composed concerti for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, organ, harmonica, and piano solo or duet, also a seranade for guitar and strings, choral music and piano pieces.

He has also been exceptionally active as a composer for the films. Included among his works in this medium are Hobson’s Choice, 1984, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness and the immensely popular Bridge on the River Kwai.

Writing in the London Musical Times, Donald Mitchell had some pertinent and revealing comments to make about Arnold’s music:

That he has, as it were, sat inside an orchestra is very evident from the natural feel of his instrumentation,” wrote Mitchell; “yet throughout his scores it is not only his intimate experience of the potentialities of an orchestra that is explicit, but also the judgment of an unusually discriminating and original ear. The pure sound of Arnold’s music is, to a degree, an expression of his exceptional musical practicality – practicality, that is, raised to the very high level of virtuosity. There is no doubt that Arnold enjoys writing music. The enjoyment he takes in his own skill he communicates to his audiences with a complete lack of inhibition. Arnold, indeed, is probably the most uninhibited of all our contemporary composers, both in what he says and how he says it. His refreshing, immodest freedom of spirit – his high spirits – are well known. It is almost impossible to write about his music without using such adjectives as ‘gay,’ ‘vital,’ ‘breezy,’ ‘humorous,’ ‘witty,’ and so on. They all, in fact, apply…”

Arnold has supplied his own notes for the music recorded here. Of the Four Scottish Dances, he writes: “These dances were composed early in 1957, and are dedicated to the BBC Light Music Festival. They are all based on original melodies but one, the melody of which was composed by Robert Burns.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Malcolm Arnold, Four Scottish Dances, Symphony No 3, Jeffrey Kaufman, Tom Null, MacDonald Moore, Gordon Jacob, Ernest Hall, Cobbett Composition Prize, Royal College of Music, Eduard van Beinum, Sadler's Wells, Homage to the Queen, Hobson's Choice, Bridge on the River Kwai, Donald Mitchell, Robert Burns, Hebridean Song, Paul Affelder“The first dance is in the style of a slow strathspey.” (The Harvard Dictionary of Music defines Strathspey as “a slow Scottish dance in 4/4 meter, with many dotted notes, frequently in the inverted arrangement of the Scotch snap. The name, derived from the strath (valley) of the Spey, was originally coterminous with reel; later, the term reel was given to somewhat quicker dances in a more smoothly flowing rhythm, lacking dotted notes.)

“The second, lively reel, begins in the key of E flat and rises a semitone each time it is played until the bassoon plays it, at a greatly reduced speed, in the key of G. The final statement of the dance is at the original speed in the home key of E flat.

“”The third dance is in the style of a Hebridean Song, and the attempts to give an impression of the sea and mountain scenery on a calm summer’s day in the Hebrides.

“The last dance is a lively fling, which makes a great deal of use of the open strings of the violins.”

Of his Symphony No. 3, the composer had this to say: “This symphony, which was composed between 1954 and 1957, is written for normal symphony orchestra without harp or percussion. It is in three movements.

“The first movement has two main subjects, the first of which is played by the violins, violas, flutes and bassoon at the very outset of the piece. Later, the second subject is first stated by the oboe accompanied by violins. Towards the end of the movement the tempo abruptly changes and the same material is developed as a scherzo.

“The second movement, elegiac in character, is a set of variations based on a series of chords more than a melodic theme.

“The last movement is based on three main themes and could be loosely described as a rondo.

“The symphony is dedicated to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society.”

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1: Scottish Dance No. 1 – Pesante [2:26]
  • 2: Scottish Dance No. 2 – Vivace [2:04]
  • 3: Scottish Dance No. 3 – Allegretto [3:45]
  • 4: Scottish Dance No. 4 – Con brio [1:13]
  • 5-7: Symphony No. 3, Op. 63

FINAL THOUGHT:

Malcolm Arnold’s talent was as a film composer (Bridge on the River Kwai, et al) and not as a symphonic composer. There’s not much to love in Symphony No. 3 (or the other eight, in my opinion). I realize some consider his symphonic work his most important – I’m not one of them. The highlight of this CD is the simplest tune of them all – Scottish Dance No. 3 – the Allegretto – a truly gorgeous melody.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique, Riccardo Muti, Philadelphia Orchestra, John Willan, Michael Sheady, Fussli, James Agate, Hippolyte Chelard, Richard Wagner, Mozart, Haydn, James Harding, Rossini, Felix Mendelssohn, Theophile Gautier, Victor Hugo, Delacroix, Beethoven, Hummel

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

 

Thomas Arne – Alfred

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Thomas Arne, Alfred, BBC Music, Early English Opera, Rule Brittania, Alfred Saxon King, Diana Montague, Nicholas Sears, Catherine Pierard, Mark Padmore, Stephen Wallace, Ruth Holton, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Nicholas Kraemer, Gwen Hughes, Kenneth Richardson, Classical Music BlogThomas Arne (1710-1778)

Alfred – An Early English Opera

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment – Nicolas Kraemer, Conductor (BBC Music)

Recorded at Studio 1, Maida Vale, London, October 16-17, 1995

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Early English Opera – oh, yeah, let’s get this party started right!

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Jonathan Keates):

Thomas Arne’s Alfred, first produced in 1740 as a masque and later adapted for production as an English opera in 1753, is based on the story of the Saxon king Alfred’s resistance to the invading Danes during the ninth century.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Thomas Arne, Alfred, BBC Music, Early English Opera, Rule Brittania, Alfred Saxon King, Diana Montague, Nicholas Sears, Catherine Pierard, Mark Padmore, Stephen Wallace, Ruth Holton, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Nicholas Kraemer, Gwen Hughes, Kenneth Richardson, Classical Music BlogAct 1 opens with the discovery, by the shepherd Corin and his wife Emma, of King Alfred asleep under an oak tree. The king has taken refuge from the Danes, and the pair now offer him shelter in their cottage. Left alone, Alfred despairs of recovering his kingdom and appeals to the ‘genius’ of Britain for help. His wife Eltruda and son Edward enter and the three go into the shepherd’s cottage.

In Act 2 Emma consoles Eltruda for Alfred’s absence by comparing her plight with that of the lovelorn Edith, whose sweetheart has gone to the wars. Alfred returns and promises to take proper care of Eltruda. Spirits arise and address Alfred as ‘father of the state,’ urging him not to despair. Eltruda offers further encouragement to her husband. Alfred and Edward begin their assault on a Danish fort, and a dirge is sung for those who die in the battle.

Act 3 begins with the shepherds celebrating Alfred’s presence among them. Eltruda summons guardian angels to protect her, but news soon arrives of Alfred’s victory. Soldiers parade triumphantly to a ‘March with a side drum’ and the opera ends with the festive ode Rule, Britania.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1: Overture [6:30]
  • 2: The shepherd’s plain life [3:33]
  • 3. Sweet valley say [2:01]
  • 4: Let’s not those who love complain [4:00]
  • 5: Love’s the tyrant of the heart [3:32]
  • 6: From the dawn of early morning [5:44]
  • 7: Hear, Alfred, hear [2:29]
  • 8: Gracious heav’n, O hear me [5:30]
  • 9: Vengeance, O come inspire me! [6:15]
  • 10: There honour comes [2:28]
  • 11: Ah me, what fears oppress… Guardian angels, O descend [3:02]
  • 12: March with a side drum [1:34]
  • 13: Rule, Britannia [4:17]

FINAL THOUGHT:

I love early English opera as much as the next person (there are vocal runs in those operas that would make singers on The Voice say to tone it down), but, Jesus Christ, this was a slog. Thank God for Rule, Britania at the end to liven things up a bit.

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

Anton Stepanovich Arensky – String Quartets – Piano Quintet

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Anton Stepanovich Arensky, Classical Music, Russian Music, Piano Trio No 1, Piano Trio No 2, Beaux Arts Trio, Menahem Pressler, Ida Kavafian, Peter Wiley, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Danny Kaye, Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, Saint-Saens, Karl Davidov, Imperial Chapel Choir, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Stef Collignon, Hein Dekker, John Newton, Gosia Jankowska, Ilona Prunyi, Lajtha Quartet, Laszlo Beck, Janos Horvath, Keith Anderson, Alexei Savrosov, Bartok, Kodaly, Leila Rasonyi, Jacques Thibaud International Violin Competition, Gyorgy Albert, Laszlo Kolozsvari, Laszlo Fenyo, Taneyev, Gliere, Conyus, Arensky String Quartets, Arensky Piano QuintetAnton Stepanovich Arensky (1861-1906)

String Quartet No. 1 in G Major, Op. 11

String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 35

Piano Quintet in D Major, Op. 51

Ilona Prunyi – Lajtha Quartet

Recorded at the Rottenbiller Street Studio, Budapest from January 16 – 22, 1994

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Sometimes, even though you wash your hands over and over again, you just can’t get the stink out – that’s how I feel about the Arensky String Quartets – I want them to be clean and smell good but every time I listen to them, I can’t get the stink out. (I realize that should be three sentences but I used dashes instead to preserve my one-sentence format – sorry.)

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Keith Anderson):

The son of keen amateur musicians, his father a doctor, Anton Arensky was born in Novgorod in 1861. His musical abilities were encouraged by his parents and he had his first piano lessons from his mother.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Anton Stepanovich Arensky, Classical Music, Russian Music, Piano Trio No 1, Piano Trio No 2, Beaux Arts Trio, Menahem Pressler, Ida Kavafian, Peter Wiley, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Danny Kaye, Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, Saint-Saens, Karl Davidov, Imperial Chapel Choir, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Stef Collignon, Hein Dekker, John Newton, Gosia Jankowska, Ilona Prunyi, Lajtha Quartet, Laszlo Beck, Janos Horvath, Keith Anderson, Alexei Savrosov, Bartok, Kodaly, Leila Rasonyi, Jacques Thibaud International Violin Competition, Gyorgy Albert, Laszlo Kolozsvari, Laszlo Fenyo, Taneyev, Gliere, Conyus, Arensky String Quartets, Arensky Piano QuintetAs a child he had begun to write music and when the family moved to St. Petersburg he was able to take more consistent musical instruction and after some preparation, in 1879 to enter the Conservatory, where his teachers included Rimsky-Korsakov for composition and Johannsen for counterpoint and fugue.

He was entrusted with the preparation of a piano reduction of the former’s opera The Snow Maiden and under Rimsky-Korsakov’s supervision began work on his own first opera A Dream on the Volga, which was later completed, to be staged in Moscow with some success in 1891.

His teacher, however, saw no great future for the works of his pupil, considering any success achieved likely to be transitory. This prediction has not proved true in every respect, since some, at least, of Arensky’s works have maintained a secure if limited place in standard orchestral and piano repertoire.

Arensky completed his studies at the Conservatory in 1882 and at once took up a position at the Moscow Conservatory as a teacher and later as professor of counterpoint and harmony. There his pupils included Rachmaninov, Gliere, Conyus and Scriabin, and there was fruitful contact and friendship with Tchakovsky and Taneyev.

He appeared as a conductor at concerts, notably of the Russian Choral Society, and his connection with church music led to his appointment, on the recommendation of Balakirev, as director of the imperial chapel in St. Petersburg, a position he took up in 1895 and held until 1901.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Anton Stepanovich Arensky, Classical Music, Russian Music, Piano Trio No 1, Piano Trio No 2, Beaux Arts Trio, Menahem Pressler, Ida Kavafian, Peter Wiley, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Danny Kaye, Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, Saint-Saens, Karl Davidov, Imperial Chapel Choir, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Stef Collignon, Hein Dekker, John Newton, Gosia Jankowska, Ilona Prunyi, Lajtha Quartet, Laszlo Beck, Janos Horvath, Keith Anderson, Alexei Savrosov, Bartok, Kodaly, Leila Rasonyi, Jacques Thibaud International Violin Competition, Gyorgy Albert, Laszlo Kolozsvari, Laszlo Fenyo, Taneyev, Gliere, Conyus, Arensky String Quartets, Arensky Piano QuintetHis final years left him free to follow a career as a composer, pianist and conductor, brought to an end in part through his dissolute way of life. He died of tuberculosis in 1906 at the age of forty-five.

In style and technique Arensky owed much to his teachers. He developed a sure command of harmonic, contrapuntal and structural musical resources, with a lyrical facility.

These elements are at once apparent in his String Quartet No. 1 in G major Opus 11, written in 1988. This shows, from the first bars, an easy understanding of the medium of the string quartet and of the possibilities still inherent in the traditional first movement form.

The second movement opens with a melody of fine contour, before a contrapuntal element is introduced by the cello, followed by the other instruments, and a treatment of the principal melodic material with more elaborately contrapuntal accompaniment.

The mood changes with a light-hearted Menuetto and contrasting Trio.

A Russian element makes its appearance in the Finale, with its variations on a Russian theme. These bring their surprises, not least in the traditional folk texture suggested by the plucked accompaniment in one variation and the later fragmentation of the theme, before a cadenza and the return of the theme in a mood of mounting excitement, leading to an emphatic and vigorous conclusion.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Anton Stepanovich Arensky, Classical Music, Russian Music, Piano Trio No 1, Piano Trio No 2, Beaux Arts Trio, Menahem Pressler, Ida Kavafian, Peter Wiley, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Danny Kaye, Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, Saint-Saens, Karl Davidov, Imperial Chapel Choir, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Stef Collignon, Hein Dekker, John Newton, Gosia Jankowska, Ilona Prunyi, Lajtha Quartet, Laszlo Beck, Janos Horvath, Keith Anderson, Alexei Savrosov, Bartok, Kodaly, Leila Rasonyi, Jacques Thibaud International Violin Competition, Gyorgy Albert, Laszlo Kolozsvari, Laszlo Fenyo, Taneyev, Gliere, Conyus, Arensky String Quartets, Arensky Piano QuintetArensky’s String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Opus 35, was written in 1895 and in its first movement presents a more somber atmosphere, lightened by secondary material, dramatically developed, but returning to its initial mood.

The theme of the second movement is stated simply, before its elaboration in a series of variations with the theme taken by each instrument in turn, before the possibilities of plucked strings and further textural resources are explored in a spirit that ventures far from the original material, sometimes with the energy of a scherzo, then relaxing into a gentler lyrical and eventually somber mood.

The third movement continues in its opening bars the Russian idiom, already heard in the theme of the second. The introduction is followed by what promises to be a vigorous fugue, on a Russian subject, superseded by a reminiscence of the melancholy of the opening of the quartet and followed by an energetic and triumphant conclusion.

The Piano Quintet in D major, Opus 51, was written in 1900.

The piano starts the first movement, soon joined by the string instruments in a historic opening of a texture that recalls that of Schumann’s Piano Quintet. Here, too, the piano plays a virtuoso part, whether in accompaniment or in the statement of thematic material.

The second movement is again in the form of a theme and variations, the former entrusted first to the strings, before the lyrical intervention of the piano, followed by a turn to the more dramatic, a change of mood to the solemn and then to the lyrical. The piano moves on to a recreation of Chopin, in romantic partnership, and then to music of greater vigor, subsiding into the language of the opening.

The capricious Scherzo breaks in, interrupted in its turn by a peaceful trio that brings momentary serenity here and when it returns after a repetition of the Scherzo, which itself has the last word.

A subject of Baroque contour introduces the last movement fugue, but the rigors of counterpoint are later submerged in a thoroughly romantic conclusion.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-4: String Quartet No. 1 in G Major, Op. 11
  • 5-7: String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Op. 35
  • 8-11: Piano Quintet in D Major, Op. 51

FINAL THOUGHT:

Look, I’m not going to slam Arensky too much here (he got enough of that in his life from the asshole Rimsky-Korsakov) but considering he was living a pretty wild life away from work (gambling, drinking like a fish, etc. etc.) the String Quartets are pretty boring. I’ll cut the Piano Quintet a little more slack because I just love piano quintets as a genre (for my money, there is nothing much better than the Shostakovich Piano Quintet – which I’ll get to in about two years!). Unfortunately for Arensky and his legacy – these are works you just don’t want to listen to that much.

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

 

Anton Stepanovich Arensky – The Piano Trios

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Anton Stepanovich Arensky, Classical Music, Russian Music, Piano Trio No 1, Piano Trio No 2, Beaux Arts Trio, Menahem Pressler, Ida Kavafian, Peter Wiley, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Danny Kaye, Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, Saint-Saens, Karl Davidov, Imperial Chapel Choir, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Stef Collignon, Hein Dekker, John Newton, Gosia JankowskaAnton Stepanovich Arensky (1861-1906)

Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 32 

Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor, Op. 73

Beaux Arts Trio

Recorded at Performing Arts Center, Purchase College, USA – June 1994 (Philips)

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

Dude can write one hell of a gloomy melody – perfect for staring out an icy window at the frozen Moscow River on a miserable Sunday afternoon.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by David Brown):

“In his youth Arensky did not escape some influence from me; later the influence came from Tchaikovsky. He will quickly be forgotten.” Thus Rimsky-Korsakov, not without a touch of pique, delivered his verdict upon his former pupil.

anton_arensky_2Born in 1861, Arensky had become Rimsky’s composition student at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, but on graduating brilliantly with a gold medal in 1882, he had been appointed a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, where he was to teach both Rachmaninoff and Scriabin.

Removal to Russia’s old capital brought Arensky into contact with Tchaikovsky, and the natural creative affinity between the two men fostered mutual friendship. Rimsky’s influence faded, and Tchaikovsky became not only the most potent single force within Arensky’s music but also his staunchest supporter.

After Tchaikovsky’s death Arensky composed his Second String Quartet as a memorial, producing in the string orchestra arrangement he later made of the quarter’s slow movement (Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky) one work that has remained firmly in the repertoire.

Nor has Arensky’s First Piano Trio suffered the fate Rimsky had so balefully predicted for his music generally. Composed in 1894, this too was a memorial work, this time for the cellist Karl Davidov, who had also been a kindly director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory during Arensky’s student years.

It is a splendidly accomplished piece – and also eclectic; sometimes, for instance, the first movement of Mendelssohn’s First Piano Trio, also in D minor, seems to lurk behind Arensky’s opening Allegro moderato. But where Mendelssohn was urgent, Arensky gives his first theme a gentle and very characteristically elegiac tone, and his inventiveness is powerful enough to ensure that what follows has clear individuality, even though it may lack the sheer personality of a Tchaikovsky – or Rimsky.

Arensky’s craftsmanship and clarity of thought are always impeccable, and this precision is even more evident in the scherzo. Not a note is wasted in this enchanting confection built largely from a little stuttering figure (which later nearly gives birth to a more extended melodic idea), flying scales, and sparkling piano figurations.

The centre betrays the trio’s most explicit debt to earlier music, but this powerful echo from the second movement of Saint-Saens’ Second Piano Concerto develops into a kind of lurching waltz very much Arensky’s own. There is careful revision of scoring when the scherzo returns, and a brief coda is added so that the movement may flicker into silence.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Anton Stepanovich Arensky, Classical Music, Russian Music, Piano Trio No 1, Piano Trio No 2, Beaux Arts Trio, Menahem Pressler, Ida Kavafian, Peter Wiley, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Danny Kaye, Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, Saint-Saens, Karl Davidov, Imperial Chapel Choir, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Stef Collignon, Hein Dekker, John Newton, Gosia JankowskaThe heart of this memorial trio is the slow movement.

Deeply elegiac it certainly is – but not funereal; it parades no formal grief, but rather seems to reflect on precious personal memories. With its tender central section, it is surely as affectionate a tribute as any many could wish for.

Nor does the final movement end with any tone of heavy lamentation. Nevertheless, the more lyrical tune that alternates with the forthright opening music harks back to the main theme of the Elegia, preparing us for the explicit recall of the gentle music from that movement’s centre.

There follows a recollection of the whole trio’s beautiful opening melody, its sadness enhanced by a delicately chromatic harmonization before a vigorous return to the finale’s opening material rounds off the whole work.

In 1895, a year after completing his First Trio, Arensky moved back to St. Petersburg to become director of the Imperial Chapel choir. He remained in the post six years, retiring in 1901 with a pension. He was not free to pursue very successfully his career as pianist and conductor, and to compose at will.

But his lifestyle had long been disorderly; drinking and an addition to gambling had undermined his health, and early in 1906 tuberculosis finally claimed him.

His Second Piano Trio of 1905 was therefore one of his last works. The work’s subsequent fate would seem to substantiate Rimsky’s prediction; in fact, its almost total disappearance from the repertoire has been very much our loss.

It would be facile to label this music autumnal, but thoughtful it certainly is. The clear sectionalism of the D minor Trio’s first movement here gives way to a more continuous, more spacious flow, and the opening five notes of the theme quietly enunciated by the piano become a pervasive presence (and also a motto motif that insinuates itself into the following three movements).

Other motifs are gathered along the way to contribute their part in generating an unobtrusively magisterial movement as fine as any from a Russian of Arensky’s generation.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Anton Stepanovich Arensky, Classical Music, Russian Music, Piano Trio No 1, Piano Trio No 2, Beaux Arts Trio, Menahem Pressler, Ida Kavafian, Peter Wiley, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Danny Kaye, Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin, Saint-Saens, Karl Davidov, Imperial Chapel Choir, Mendelssohn, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Stef Collignon, Hein Dekker, John Newton, Gosia JankowskaAfter such an impressive utterance, the main theme of the Romance might seem to promise something jejune, for all the telling harmonic detail in the accompaniment.

But the scale to which this theme grows confirms that Arensky’s greatest single asset was his melodic gift, and that gift is here confidently deployed to sustain the formidable span of an entire movement, braced the more firmly by the four haunting recurrences of the introductory four bars (the motto motif is heard just before the first theme returns for the last time).

The dazzling scherzo is as fleet and economical in texture as its counterpart in the First Trio, though its centre, with its disarmingly simple melodiousness, is more of a contrast (the motto motif quietly infiltrates this melodic flow at about midpoint).

After a truncated repetition of the scherzo, the finale’s quietly complex theme, with its contrapuntal opening and fastidious harmonic detail, might seem to be intractable material for variation treatment. But Arensky’s resourcefulness is equal to the challenge (especially in the weird valse of the third variation).

Several of the six variations seem deliberately to hard back to kinds of music heard in the preceding movements, and at the end of the grandiose final variation the motto motif builds a bridge to the coda, which returns to the reflective mood in which the movement had opened, drawing this sadly neglected work towards a muted but most satisfying resolution.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-4: Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 32
  • 5-14: Piano Trio No. 2 in F minor, Op. 73

FINAL THOUGHT:

Poor Arensky. So good but so flawed. Damn alcohol. Makes me so sad I need a really big drink (maybe at lunch!). But Anton Stepanovich did rate high enough to make it into the lyrics of a Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin song (Tchaikovsky) and that’s good enough for me!  

“There’s Malichevsky, Rubinstein, Arensky, and Tschaikovsky, Sapelnikoff, Dimitrieff, Tscherepnin, Kryjanowsky, Godowsky, Arteiboucheff, Moniuszko, Akimenko, Solovieff, Prokofieff, Tiomkin, Korestchenko…”

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)

Louis Andriessen – De Tijd

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Louis Andriessen, De Tild, Schonberg Ensemble, The Hague, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Reinberg de Leeuw, De Staat, Elmer Schonberger, Dante, Divine Comedy, Plato, Dijksterhuis, Mausoleum, Bakunin, Saint Augustine, Oresme, Ockham, Cusanus, Alain de l'Isle, A. Maier, Reichenbach, Quid est ergo tempus, R.S. Pine-Coffin, Nicoline Gatehouse, Gowert Jurriaanse, Maricke Schneemann, Marie-Cecile de Wit, Nine Sligter, Arielle van Eysden, Peter Verduyn Lunel, Tineke van Greuns, Eveline Hagen, Liesbeth de Jong, Jos Peulers, Erik Van Deuren, Harry Sparnaay, Ad Welleman, Louis Lanzing, Hans Van Loenen, Carl Daleboudt, Edith Post, Arjan Post, Mapje Keereweer, Charlotte Sprenkels, Patricio Rob Zeelenberg, Gerard Bauwhuis, Bob Zimmerman, Gerrit Hommerson, Michiel Weidner, Janneke van der Meer, Wim de Jong, Linda Ashworth, Rena Scholtens, Jan-Erik van Regteren Altena, Erik Krombout, Henk Guittart, Annette Bergman, Peter Luit, Pieter Smithuysen, Harke Wiersma, Niko Ravenstijn, Wim Vos, Get de Zeeuw, Willy Goudswaard, Frans Leerdam, Murk Jiskoot, Arnold Marinissen, Victor Oskam, Adinda de Nijs, Barbara Borden, Erica Grefe, Tannie Willemstign, Bep Pierik, Manon Heijne, Sonja van Lier, Heleen Resoort, Myra Koese, Ananda Goud, Yvonne Benschop, Katrin Pfeiffer, Adriaan Verstijnen, Ben Uytjens, Ty Allison, John Heiden, Robert HurwitzLouis Andriessen (1939-)

De Tijd (Time)

Schonberg Ensemble with Percussion Group The Hague and Netherlands Chamber Choir – Reinbert De Leeuw, Conductor

Recorded March 9, 1990 at Muziekcentrum Vrendenburg, Utrecht, The Netherlands

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

If you like the sound of metal scraping against human bone, you’ll love De Tijd.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES [EXCERPT] (by Elmer Schonberger):

‘mirando il punto a cui tutti li tempi son presenti’ (“… fixed on that point thy sight to which all times as present appertain”)

Dante, The Divine Comedy (Beatrice in ‘Paradisco’ 17th canto, line 17 – translation: J.W. Thomas)

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Louis Andriessen, De Tild, Schonberg Ensemble, The Hague, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Reinberg de Leeuw, De Staat, Elmer Schonberger, Dante, Divine Comedy, Plato, Dijksterhuis, Mausoleum, Bakunin, Saint Augustine, Oresme, Ockham, Cusanus, Alain de l'Isle, A. Maier, Reichenbach, Quid est ergo tempus, R.S. Pine-Coffin, Nicoline Gatehouse, Gowert Jurriaanse, Maricke Schneemann, Marie-Cecile de Wit, Nine Sligter, Arielle van Eysden, Peter Verduyn Lunel, Tineke van Greuns, Eveline Hagen, Liesbeth de Jong, Jos Peulers, Erik Van Deuren, Harry Sparnaay, Ad Welleman, Louis Lanzing, Hans Van Loenen, Carl Daleboudt, Edith Post, Arjan Post, Mapje Keereweer, Charlotte Sprenkels, Patricio Rob Zeelenberg, Gerard Bauwhuis, Bob Zimmerman, Gerrit Hommerson, Michiel Weidner, Janneke van der Meer, Wim de Jong, Linda Ashworth, Rena Scholtens, Jan-Erik van Regteren Altena, Erik Krombout, Henk Guittart, Annette Bergman, Peter Luit, Pieter Smithuysen, Harke Wiersma, Niko Ravenstijn, Wim Vos, Get de Zeeuw, Willy Goudswaard, Frans Leerdam, Murk Jiskoot, Arnold Marinissen, Victor Oskam, Adinda de Nijs, Barbara Borden, Erica Grefe, Tannie Willemstign, Bep Pierik, Manon Heijne, Sonja van Lier, Heleen Resoort, Myra Koese, Ananda Goud, Yvonne Benschop, Katrin Pfeiffer, Adriaan Verstijnen, Ben Uytjens, Ty Allison, John Heiden, Robert Hurwitz

When Louis Andriessen was about two thirds of the way through composing his newest work De Tijd (Time), he played what he had written through, and he suddenly realized that if he managed to conclude it successfully he would have succeeded in doing something that he had wanted to achieve since 1972.

He remembered visiting a friend one evening ‘full of plans for big works – this was well before De Staat (The Republic) and very excitedly I shouted: “I want to compose a piece – nothing but terrifying blue columns. Very long. Bangs. Silences.”‘

Nine years later the work acquired its definitive form and title: De Tijd.

It was the third in a series of large instrumental-vocal pieces which began in 1976 with De Staat to a text by Plato, and continued three years later with Mausoleum to a text by Bakunin.

In De Tijd the ‘blue columns’ took the form of a drawn-out series of chords which supported a vocal cantus firmus; the ‘bangs’ constituted a second layer made up of strongly attacked chords which articulated the eternal present of the blue columns, imbuing the music with the present, past and future.

The ‘silences’ became bars of rest which functioned as interims – sometimes for all the musicians (as in the beginning of the ninth minute), at other times for the choir alone, such as when eternity (aeternitas) is mentioned for the first time – eternity of which it is ultimately said that ‘ever still standing it determines both past and future time, although itself neither past nor future.’

De Tijd ended up being a long pieces: 41 minutes in an unchanging tempo of 48.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily's Music Dump, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Louis Andriessen, De Tild, Schonberg Ensemble, The Hague, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Reinberg de Leeuw, De Staat, Elmer Schonberger, Dante, Divine Comedy, Plato, Dijksterhuis, Mausoleum, Bakunin, Saint Augustine, Oresme, Ockham, Cusanus, Alain de l'Isle, A. Maier, Reichenbach, Quid est ergo tempus, R.S. Pine-Coffin, Nicoline Gatehouse, Gowert Jurriaanse, Maricke Schneemann, Marie-Cecile de Wit, Nine Sligter, Arielle van Eysden, Peter Verduyn Lunel, Tineke van Greuns, Eveline Hagen, Liesbeth de Jong, Jos Peulers, Erik Van Deuren, Harry Sparnaay, Ad Welleman, Louis Lanzing, Hans Van Loenen, Carl Daleboudt, Edith Post, Arjan Post, Mapje Keereweer, Charlotte Sprenkels, Patricio Rob Zeelenberg, Gerard Bauwhuis, Bob Zimmerman, Gerrit Hommerson, Michiel Weidner, Janneke van der Meer, Wim de Jong, Linda Ashworth, Rena Scholtens, Jan-Erik van Regteren Altena, Erik Krombout, Henk Guittart, Annette Bergman, Peter Luit, Pieter Smithuysen, Harke Wiersma, Niko Ravenstijn, Wim Vos, Get de Zeeuw, Willy Goudswaard, Frans Leerdam, Murk Jiskoot, Arnold Marinissen, Victor Oskam, Adinda de Nijs, Barbara Borden, Erica Grefe, Tannie Willemstign, Bep Pierik, Manon Heijne, Sonja van Lier, Heleen Resoort, Myra Koese, Ananda Goud, Yvonne Benschop, Katrin Pfeiffer, Adriaan Verstijnen, Ben Uytjens, Ty Allison, John Heiden, Robert HurwitzIn contrast with De Staat which was rooted in a musical vision, De Tijd is the musical image of what was originally a non-musical impression, once described by Andriessen as ‘a unique experience which gave me the feeling that time had ceased to exist, the feeling of an eternal moment.’

The desire to transpose this experience into a work of ‘sustained exalted musical motionlessness’ spurred the composer on a quest into the scientific, historical and philosophical labyrinth of time, which began with Dijksterhuis’s classic De mechanisering van bet wereldbeeld (The Mechanization of the World Image) and Dante’s Divine Comedy, ending up two years later with Saint Augustine, and the same work by Dante which was to provide the superscription for the piece.

In the meantime, the composer’s journey extended from Florence – where he was researching into a particular philosopher who was a contemporary of Dante’s – to Tunisia where in December 1980, more or less by coincidence, he wrote the last bars of the short score of De Tijd hardly sixty kilometers from Saint Augustine’s birthplace.

‘Quid est ergo tempus?’ is the famous question Saint Augustine asked himself: ‘What, then is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled.’

Entirely at odds with his original intentions, Andriessen ended up writing music that measure time rather than expression the ‘eternal moment,’ and in contrast with this he used a text with a metaphysical import.

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1 – De Tijd [42:56]

FINAL THOUGHT:

This is not cocktail party music. And really terrible for some sort of outdoor picnic or wedding reception. This is first rate haunted house music or perfect to set the mood at a creepy art installation. The listener may very well need a little bit of early Mozart to get the pounding, disturbing, dissonant clock strikes out of your head.

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)

Charles-Valentin Alkan – Grande Sonate ‘Les Quatre Ages’

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Classic Music Blog, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Grande Sonate 'Les Quatre Ages', Robert Schumann, 1848 French Revolution, Beethoven, Zimmerman Paris Conservatoire, Antoine Marmontel, Berlioz, Gounod, Liszt, Chopin, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Charles Dutoit, Tony Faulkner, Andrew Keener, Mike Dutton, Peter Salisbury, Terry Shannon, Joanna Gamble, Mike SpringCharlies-Valentin Alkan (1813-1888)

Grande Sonate ‘Les Quatre Ages’ – Opus 33

Sonatine (Opus 61)

Barcarolle (Opus 65, No. 6)

Le Festin D’Esope (Op. 39, No. 12)

Pianist: Marc-Andre Hamelin (Hyperion)

Recorded November 23 & 24, 1994

ONE-SENTENCE REVIEW:

If Alkan do it – so can you (actually you probably can’t but Marc-Andre Hamelin comes pretty damn close in this brilliant recording)

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES [EXCERPT] (by Francois Luguenot):

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Classic Music Blog, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Grande Sonate 'Les Quatre Ages', Robert Schumann, 1848 French Revolution, Beethoven, Zimmerman Paris Conservatoire, Antoine Marmontel, Berlioz, Gounod, Liszt, Chopin, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Charles Dutoit, Tony Faulkner, Andrew Keener, Mike Dutton, Peter Salisbury, Terry Shannon, Joanna Gamble, Mike SpringCharles-Valentin Alkan: A Life’s Works

The Grande Sonate and Sonatine, brought together on this recording, are Charles-Valentin Alkan’s first and last masterpieces for solo piano and illustrate two extremes in the composer’s aesthetic development.

In many respects, the Grande Sonate Op. 33 is one of the pinnacles not only of Alkan’s output but of the entire Romantic piano repertoire.

In writing a piano sonata, Alkan was reviving and preserving a form which was not merely undervalued by the French but was even described by Schumann as being “worn out.”

In the hands of this extremely discreet composer, it could almost claim to be a manifesto: composed in the wake of the 1848 Revolution, and dedicated to his father, it is prefaced by what constitutes one of the rare official examples of the composer’s taking an aesthetic stand on an extremely controversial matter: programme music.

His text is not to be overlooked:

Much has been said and written about the limitations of expression through music. Without adopting this rule or that, without trying to resolve any of the vast questions raised by this or that system, I will simply say why I have given these four pieces such titles and why I have sometimes used terms which are simply never used by others.

It is not a question here, of imitative music; even less so of music seeking its own justification, seeking to explain its particular effect or its validity, in a realm beyond the music itself. The first piece is a Scherzo, the second an Allegro, the third and fourth an Andante and a Largo; but each one corresponds, to my mind, to a given moment in time, to a specific frame of mind, a particular state of the imagination. Why should I not portray it? We will always have music in some form and it can but enhance our ability to express ourselves: the performer without relinquishing anything of his individual sentiment, is inspired by the composer’s own ideas: a name and an object which in the realm of the intellect form a perfect combination, seem, when taken in a material sense, to clash with one another. So, however ambitious this information may seem at first glance, I believe that I might be better understood and better interpreted by including it here than I would be without it.

Let me also call upon Beethoven in his authority. We know that, towards the end of his career, this great man was working on a systematic catalogue of his major  works. In it, he aimed to record the plan, memory or inspiration which gave rise to each one.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Manka Music Group, Classic Music Blog, Charles-Valentin Alkan, Grande Sonate 'Les Quatre Ages', Robert Schumann, 1848 French Revolution, Beethoven, Zimmerman Paris Conservatoire, Antoine Marmontel, Berlioz, Gounod, Liszt, Chopin, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Charles Dutoit, Tony Faulkner, Andrew Keener, Mike Dutton, Peter Salisbury, Terry Shannon, Joanna Gamble, Mike SpringThe composition and publication of the Grande Sonate occurred at a crucial moment in the composer’s life.

During the summer of 1848, when the Revolution was not yet over, Zimmerman, Alkan’s teacher, resigned from his position as Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatoire.

It would seem natural enough that Charles-Valentin, his most brilliant and promising student, should succeed him; but in the troubled climate of the time, and as a result of some predictable intrigue, it was in fact a second-rate musician, Antoine Marmontel, who was to gain the post.

This was a particularly bitter pill for Alkan to swallow; he was to fade gradually further into obscurity and renounce all public and official posts.

The Revolution was also to harm any publicity which might have surrounded the publication of the Grande Sonate; although it was well heralded in the music magazines, it would appear that there was not one single review of the piece, nor one public performance thereafter.

The British pianist Ronald Smith is fully justified in thinking that he brought the piece to life in America in 1973 when he gave it its first public performance!

TRACK LISTING:

  • 1-4: Grande Sonate ‘Les Quatre Ages’ Op. 33 [38:48]
  • 5-8: Sonatine Op. 61 [18:05]
  • 9: Barcarolle Op. 65 no. 6 [3:41]
  • 10: Le Festin D’Esope Op. 39 no. 12 [8:40]

FINAL THOUGHT:

Seriously, if you’ve heard the Grande Sonate ‘Les Quatre Ages’ you would feel as I do – completely stunned that this great piano work didn’t have its public premiere until 1973. Alkan got screwed.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Beethoven, Alfred Brendel, Czerny, Piano Sonata Opus 78, Piano Sonata Opus 106, Hammerklavier, For Therese, Alfred Brendel, Therese von Brunsvik, Josefine von Brunsvik, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Misha Donat, Franz Klein

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

 

Johann Georg Albrechtsberger – Concertos for Jew’s Harp, Mandora and Orchestra

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Emily's Music Dump, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Concerto for Jew's Harp, Orfeo, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Hans Stadlmair, Fritz Mayr, Dieter Kirsch, Jew's Harp, Mandora, Wolfgang Schreiner, Beethoven, Joseph II, Kunert, Koch, Eulenstein, Jean Paul, Justinus Kerner, Bruno Glatzl, Melk Priory, Jacques FournierJohann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809)

Concerto for Jew’s Harp, Mandora and Orchestra in E Major

Concerto for Jew’s Harp, Mandora and Orchestra in F Major

Munich Chamber Orchestra – Hans Stadlmair (Orfeo)

Recorded July 31, 1984 – Studio II des Bayerischen Rundfunks – Munich

ONE SENTENCE REVIEW:

Finally, a Jew’s Harp concerto worth listening to.

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (including same spelling and grammar) (by Dieter Kirsch):

For many music-lovers this recording may come as something of a surprise. It is certainly a curiosity.

Who would have thought that a “common folk instrument” like the Jew’s harp (or Guimbard) had had classical concertos written for it, and by Beethoven’s teacher of composition at that!

And what is a mandora anyway?

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Emily's Music Dump, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Concerto for Jew's Harp, Orfeo, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Hans Stadlmair, Fritz Mayr, Dieter Kirsch, Jew's Harp, Mandora, Wolfgang Schreiner, Beethoven, Joseph II, Kunert, Koch, Eulenstein, Jean Paul, Justinus Kerner, Bruno Glatzl, Melk Priory, Jacques Fournier, Friedrich von HausenA glance at the history of the Jew’s harp will soon make us realize, however, that here we are dealing with an instrument of long and venerable lineage.

Old surviving specimens, pictures, sculptures that this is one of the most ancient and widespread of all musical instruments.

During the 19th century in Europe it even enjoyed a brief heyday outside the confines of folk music, with its own virtuoso exponents and repertoire of written works.

No other musical instrument has borne so many different names: in English Jew’s harp or Jew’s trump (origin of name unknown), in German Maultrommel (“mouth drum”) or Brummeisen (“buzzing-iron”), in Latin Crembalum, in Italian Aura (“breeze” or “breath”) and Harmonica or, again as in the poem by the minnesinger Friedrich von Hausen, “Summer” (“buzzer” or “vibrator”). This later reference would appear to be the earliest written evidence of the Jew’s harp in Europe.

From the 14th century onwards there are numerous pictorial representations of the instrument, showing it mainly in the hands of simple peasant folk but also occasionally in more august surroundings.

The cultural movement most fascinated by the sound of this strange instrument was that of the German Romantics.

After the 1800 we find more and more reports of travelling virtuosi (Kunert, Koch, Eulenstein) who were able to play on up to 16 different instruments and also in two parts. Several of the Romantic poets and novelists were so moved on hearing these excellent artists that they immortalized the instrument in their writings (e.g., Jean Paul in his novel “Hesperus”).

Justinus Kerner, the Swabian poet, physician, occultist and player of the Jew’s harp, wrote of his instrument: “Fortissimo and piano dolce can be expressed on the Jew’s harp most magnificently, and it is excellently suited for playing fantasies of one’s own; suited to convey outpourings of pure feeling in tones from better worlds, as the Aeolian harp conveys the feeling of Spring or a starry night.”

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Emily's Music Dump, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Concerto for Jew's Harp, Orfeo, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Hans Stadlmair, Fritz Mayr, Dieter Kirsch, Jew's Harp, Mandora, Wolfgang Schreiner, Beethoven, Joseph II, Kunert, Koch, Eulenstein, Jean Paul, Justinus Kerner, Bruno Glatzl, Melk Priory, Jacques Fournier, Friedrich von HausenThe name mandora has cropped up several times during the course of musical history.

Although the mandora of the Middle Ages is quite a different instrument from the 18th century mandora, they have one thing in common: they are both “little sisters” of the lute.

The mandora for which Albrechtsberger wrote his concerto with Jew’s harp is described in his textbook on composition (1790) under the heading “percussion instruments” as being “A small kind of lute, played in just the same manner, but tuned differently. It has only eight courses made of sheep’s gut.”

The lower four courses (pairs of strings) were tuned differently each time according to the key in which the piece was to be played. The simplification of the instrument in this way (the lute proper is an extremely difficult instrument to play) naturally results in a corresponding lack of musical substance: the player is often merely required to strum a few basic accompaniment patterns.

The similarities to the classic guitar are obvious. It is not surprising that the mandora had its greatest following among those groups of people who wanted to enjoy some convivial music-making without having too many technical demands made on them. Hence the reason why most of the surviving copies of music for mandora have been found in monastery libraries.

The history of the concerto recorded here can likewise be traced back to a monastery. In 1765, returning from his coronation in Frankfurt, Joseph II sojourned at Melk Priory.

Here he heard Father Bruno Glatzl, renowned for his virtuosity on the Jew’s harp. In the prior’s diary we can read: “lusit coram Majestatibus on two Jew’s harps. Namely, he played the Primus and the Secundus both at once, making from the notes minuets, concertos and a thousand other fine artistic things…”

A mandora provided the accompaniment.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Emily's Music Dump, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Concerto for Jew's Harp, Orfeo, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Hans Stadlmair, Fritz Mayr, Dieter Kirsch, Jew's Harp, Mandora, Wolfgang Schreiner, Beethoven, Joseph II, Kunert, Koch, Eulenstein, Jean Paul, Justinus Kerner, Bruno Glatzl, Melk Priory, Jacques Fournier, Friedrich von HausenAt the time a Melk Priory scholar whose duty it was to play the organ on such festive occasions, Albrechtsberger is sure to have been present. His proficiency as an organist finally took Albrechtsberger to Vienna, where in the years that followed he composed his concertos for Jew’s harp, mandora and strings.

Judging from the numberings, Albrechtsberger must have written at least seven such concertos.

Three of them have survived, those composed in the years 1976, 1770 and 1771, and are preserved today in the Budapest National Library Szechenyi (Ms.mus 2551-2553).

All the “concerti” are autographed and prescribe the use of several Jew’s harps functioning at different pitches, whereas for the lower part Albrechtsberger employs letters without indicating exactly which octave pitch is intended. In the case of the E major concerto there exists a handwritten “viola prima” part, which, as it includes all the chief melodic material of the mandora part, is obviously intended as an alternative to this. (Dieter Kirsch – Translation: Avril Watts).

TRACK LISTING:

  1. Concerto for Jew’s Harp, Mandora and Orchestra in E major
  2. Concerto for Jew’s Harp, Mandora and Orchestra in F major

FINAL THOUGHTS:

If you can own only one Jew’s harp recording, make it this one!

piano_rating_87

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

 

John Adams – The Chairman Dances

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, John Adams, The Chairman Dances, Peter Sellars, Alice Goodman, Nixon In China, Madame Mao, Jiang Ching, Richard Nixon, Christian Zeal and Activity, Cornelius Cardew, Aaron Copland, Eugene Goossens, Sergiu Comissiona, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Kirchner, Edo de Waart, Philip Glass, Riley, Steve Reich, Michael Steinberg, John Newton, Lolly Lewis, E. Amelia Roger, Carin Goldberg, Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Hurwitz, Glenn Fischthal, Laurie McGraw, Betty FingoldJohn Adams (1947 – )

The Chairman Dances

Christian Zeal and Activity

Tromba Iontana

Short Ride In A Fast Machine

Common Tones In Simple Time

San Francisco Symphony – Edo de Waart, conductor (Nonesuch)

Recorded November 1986 at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco

ONE SENTENCE REVIEW:

Brilliant minimalism that completely avoids the horrible droning a la Phillip Glass – particularly “Short Ride in a Fast Machine.”

ORIGINAL LINER NOTES (by Michael Steinberg)

The Chairman Dances, written in 1985 in response to a joint commission from the American Composers Orchestra and the National Endowment for the Arts, is a by-product of John Adam’s current work-in-progress, the opera Nixon In China. Alice Goodman’s libretto is based on a scenario by herself and the director of the production, Peter Sellars, the most original mind on the American theater scene today.

nixon_in_chinaThe opera, Adams explains, is neither comic nor, like The Huguenots or The Sicilian Vespers, historical, though it contains elements of both genres; rather, it is heroic and mythic. “The myths of our time,” he told the audience when The Chairman Dances was first performed on 31 January 1986 by the Milwaukee Symphony under Lukas Foss, “are not Cupid and Psyche or Orpheus or Ulysses, but characters like Mao and Nixon.”

Nixon in China is set in three days of President Nixon’s visit to Beijing in February 1972, one act for each day. The single scene of the third act takes place in the Great Hall of the People, where there is yet another exhausting banquet, this one hosted by the Americans.

Here is the situation as described in a preface to the score of The Chairman Dances:

Madame Mao, alias Jiang Ching, has gatecrashed the Presidential banquet. She is seen standing first where she is most in the way of waiters. After a few minutes, she brings out a box of paper lanterns and hangs them around the hall, then strips down to a cheongsam, skin-tight from neck to ankle, and slit up to the hip. She signals the orchestra to play and begins to dance by herself. Mao is becoming excited. He steps down from his portrait on the wall and they begin to foxtrot together. They are back in Yenan, the night is warm, they are dancing to the gramophone…

Act Three, in which both reminiscing couples, the Nixons and the Maos, find themselves contrasting the vitality and optimism of youth with their present condition of age and power, is full of shadows; Jiang Ching’s and Mao’s foxtrot in the opera is therefore more melancholy than The Chairman Dances.

This is, uninhibitedly, a cabaret number, an entertainment, and a funny piece; as the Chairman and the former actress turned Deputy Head of the Cultural Revolution make their long trip back through time they turn into Fred and Ginger. The chugging music we first hear is associated with Mao; the seductive swaying-hips melody – La Valse humorously translated across immense distances – is Jiang Ching’s. You might imagine the piano part at the end being played by Richard Nixon.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, John Adams, The Chairman Dances, Peter Sellars, Alice Goodman, Nixon In China, Madame Mao, Jiang Ching, Richard Nixon, Christian Zeal and Activity, Cornelius Cardew, Aaron Copland, Eugene Goossens, Sergiu Comissiona, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Kirchner, Edo de Waart, Philip Glass, Riley, Steve Reich, Michael Steinberg, John Newton, Lolly Lewis, E. Amelia Roger, Carin Goldberg, Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Hurwitz, Glenn Fischthal, Laurie McGraw, Betty FingoldChristian Zeal and Activity is the central panel of a triptych called American Standard, written in 1973 under the influence of the radically stripped-down music of the English composer Cornelius Cardew and his Scratch Orchestra, and introduced under the composer’s direction by the San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble on 23 March that year.

The “standards” are a march, a hymn, and a jazz ballad. I quote Adams: “The hymn tune’s harmonies, freed from their homophonic shackles, flaot in a kind of dream polyphony, only occasionally coming together to render a proper cadence.” In all three parts of American Standard the performers are invited to add relevant sonic “found objects.”

For this recording, a 1976 text-sound composition Sermon provides an interestingly nervous yet lyrical contract to the hymn tune’s serenity.

The most famous American fanfare is Hail to the Chief. Next comes Aaron Copland’s thumping huff and puff in honor of “the Common Man.” That was one of eighteen fanfares commissioned during World War II for the Cincinnati Symphony by its distinguished Music Director, Eugene Goossens.

Now Houston has outdone the Queen City: celebrating the sesquicentennial of the declaration of independence of the Republic of Texas, its Symphony has commissioned fanfares from more than twenty composers.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, John Adams, The Chairman Dances, Peter Sellars, Alice Goodman, Nixon In China, Madame Mao, Jiang Ching, Richard Nixon, Christian Zeal and Activity, Cornelius Cardew, Aaron Copland, Eugene Goossens, Sergiu Comissiona, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Kirchner, Edo de Waart, Philip Glass, Riley, Steve Reich, Michael Steinberg, John Newton, Lolly Lewis, E. Amelia Roger, Carin Goldberg, Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Hurwitz, Glenn Fischthal, Laurie McGraw, Betty FingoldTromba Iontana, introduced by Sergiu Comissiona on 4 April 1986, is John Adams’s contribution to the project. The title can be translated as Distant Trumpet or Trumpet in the Distance, though Adams points out that really it ought to be Trombe Iontane since there are two solo trumpets in stereo placement at the back corners of the stage. Most fanfares are brilliant, even aggressive (etymologists disagree whether the word is onomatopoetic or actually connected with the verbal family that gives us fanfaronade, meaning blustering and bragging behavior), but Tromba Iontana is, in Adams’s own description, “incredibly quiet, slowly moving, mysterious, almost ethereal.”

To think of Tromba Iontana as a remote cousin to Ives’s The Unanswered Question is not totally far-fetched.

By contrast, Short Ride in a Fast Machine is a joyfully exuberant piece, brilliantly scored for a large orchestra including two synthesizers. Commissioned for the opening concert of the Great Woods Festival in Mansfield, Massachusetts, it was first played on that occasion, 13 June 1986, by the Pittsburgh Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas. The steady marking of a beat is typical of Adams’s music.

Tromba Iontana begins with a glockenspiel quietly marking the quarters, while piano, harp, flutes, and piccolos add a tinkling clockwork of eighth notes.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, John Adams, The Chairman Dances, Peter Sellars, Alice Goodman, Nixon In China, Madame Mao, Jiang Ching, Richard Nixon, Christian Zeal and Activity, Cornelius Cardew, Aaron Copland, Eugene Goossens, Sergiu Comissiona, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Kirchner, Edo de Waart, Philip Glass, Riley, Steve Reich, Michael Steinberg, John Newton, Lolly Lewis, E. Amelia Roger, Carin Goldberg, Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Hurwitz, Glenn Fischthal, Laurie McGraw, Betty FingoldShort Ride begins with a similar marking of quarters (woodblock, soon joined by the four trumpets) and eighths (clarinets and synthesizers), but the woodblock is fortissimo and the other instruments play forte.

Adams describes the woodblock’s persistence as “almost sadistic” and thinks of the rest of the orchestra as running the gauntlet through that rhythmic tunnel.

About the title: “You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?” It is, in any event, a wonderful opening music for a new American outdoor festival.

John Adams likes referential titles, and if they are punning, so much the better (Wavemaker, Phrygian Gates, Shaker Loops, Harmonium, Harmonielehre, etc.). Common Tones in Simple Time first of all means what it says: The notes most of the time form triads, often called common chords, or equally straightforward and familiar harmonic constructions, and the meter is 4/4 or 2/2 all the way. Harmony yields another meaning for common tones.

A handy way to modulate from one key to another is to find a chord containing notes belonging both to the key you want to leave and the one you want to get to. These notes that allow you to use this chord as a pivot are called common tones. This is important because modulation from key to key is essential to what makes Common Tones in Simple Time go.

Not least, by immediately laying “common” and “simple” on the table, Adams both announces on aesthetic intention and moves one jump ahead of those critics to whom exoteric music is as the red rag to the bull.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, John Adams, The Chairman Dances, Peter Sellars, Alice Goodman, Nixon In China, Madame Mao, Jiang Ching, Richard Nixon, Christian Zeal and Activity, Cornelius Cardew, Aaron Copland, Eugene Goossens, Sergiu Comissiona, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Kirchner, Edo de Waart, Philip Glass, Riley, Steve Reich, Michael Steinberg, John Newton, Lolly Lewis, E. Amelia Roger, Carin Goldberg, Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Hurwitz, Glenn Fischthal, Laurie McGraw, Betty FingoldCommon Tones in Simple Time, completed on 3 January 1980, was first played by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra with Adams conducting on 30 January 1980.

After hearing the piece several times, Adams withdrew it “for accoustical revisions,” and the work, which is dedicated “to my friend and teacher, Leon Kirchner,” was reintroduced in November 1986 by the San Francisco Symphony under Edo de Waart.

Tromba Iontana, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, The Chairman Dances, and Common Tones in Simple Time, though divergent in musical character, are all examples of the style now generally called minimalism. Its features are repetition, steady beat, and perhaps most crucially, a harmonic language with an emphasis on consonance unlike anything we have had in Western art music in the last five hundred years.

Some find it delightful, some maddening. Adams, not a simple artist and by no means a simple-minded one, subscribes to this aesthetic claim by the composer and theorist Fred Lerdahl: “The best music utilizes the full potential of our cognitive resources.” [Lerdahl cites Indian raga, Japanese koto, jazz, and most Western art music as good examples, Balinese gamelan and rock as musics that fail in this respect.]

Adams also described himself some years ago as a minimalist who was bored with minimalism. His concern has been to invent music that is at once familiar and subtle, and, for all of their familiar minimalist features, Shaker Loops, Harmonium, Grand Pianola Music, and Harmonielehre are full of surprises, always enchanting in the glow and gleam of their sonority, and bursting with the energy generated by their harmonic movement.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, John Adams, The Chairman Dances, Peter Sellars, Alice Goodman, Nixon In China, Madame Mao, Jiang Ching, Richard Nixon, Christian Zeal and Activity, Cornelius Cardew, Aaron Copland, Eugene Goossens, Sergiu Comissiona, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leon Kirchner, Edo de Waart, Philip Glass, Riley, Steve Reich, Michael Steinberg, John Newton, Lolly Lewis, E. Amelia Roger, Carin Goldberg, Joel Meyerowitz, Robert Hurwitz, Glenn Fischthal, Laurie McGraw, Betty FingoldI would say the same of Common Tones in Simple Time. It was the first piece by John Adams I ever heard (at its premiere).

It delighted me then, not least because the voice was so distinct from the already familiar voices of Riley, Young, Reich, and Glass (some of which I liked much more than others). It has been a delicious pleasure to return to it after an interval, to be dazzled again by the lustre of its sound, enchanted by the purr of its engine, startled by those powerful lifts into a new harmony (startled no less for anticipating them), and happy in its deep calm.

Common Tones in Simple Time is Adams’s most extreme essay in minimalism: there really are no tunes. Adams thinks of it as “a pastorale with pulse,” and the experience of listening to it as flying or gliding over a landscape of gently changing colors and textures. Violins and violas establish the quick vibration of sixteenth notes and they are soon joined by two pianos which have the same material but are always one sixteenth note out of phase with ether other (at the given speed, this means they are about one-tenth of a second apart). Oboes, flutes, and crotales (tuned antique finger cymbals) are the first instruments to play long, sustained notes, appearing and disappearing so discreetly that one is not aware of their attacks and releases, but only of a line whose color and thickness is constantly changing.

The spice of dissonance is used with utmost delicacy, but given the “simplicity” of so much of the music, we come to hear it as a major melodic and harmonic event when two oboes or two trumpets sway back and forth between neighboring B and C. The swells of the smaller hills are discerned to be parts of larger ranges.

Finally, we seem to ascend to such a height that we lose sight of detail, lose even the sense of our speedy flight over the ground, until the landscape vanishes from our view altogether. [Michael Steinberg is Artistic Adviser of the San Francisco Symphony.]

JOHN ADAMS – THE CHAIRMAN DANCES – TRACK LISTING:

  1. The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra) [12:27]
  2. Christian Zeal and Activity [10:00]
  3. Tromba Iontana [4:11]
  4. Short Ride in a Fast Machine [4:13]
  5. Common Tones in Simple Time [20:37]

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I think that incredibly detailed and long liner note description of the recording says it all.

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Emily's Music Dump, Classical Music, Glenn Gould, Beethoven, Ludwig Van Beethoven, 3 last sonatas, Charles Rosen, Marc Vignal, Robert Cushman, Antonie Brentano, Maynard Salomon, Archduke Rudolph, Maximiliane Brentano, Schubert, Haydn

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mission

Manka Bros., Khan Manka, Emily Sachs, Manka Music Group, Emily's Music Dump, CD Shelf, classical musicGood afternoon.

The purpose of this blog is to force me to listen to every single recording of music I have in my personal collection.

The bulk of this collection is classical and I am starting with those recordings in alphabetical order.

This project is going to take a couple of years as I have several thousand CDs.

I’m also going to do a slight write-up of my opinions of the piece as well as all the information on the recordings that I can muster. This will include the name, conductor, performer, cover art, etc.

Should be a fun process and if anyone would like to help contribute their opinions – that would be icing on the cake.

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