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Pierre's Tuesday Blog

La Chronique du Disque (November 2013)

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For those unfamiliar with our monthly recordings review - If Sound Quality (SQ) and Overall Impression (OI) grades need further context, feel free to visit earlier posts in this series.

My acquisitions for November

Menotti: The Medium - The Telephone

Sometimes, the line between opera and musicals can be blurtred (think of West Side Story or of Show Boat, for example), but there is no mistaking Gian-Carlo Menotti’s one-act operas The Medium and The Telephone as musical comedies. They are, in the tradition of Puccini’s Il Trittico, sefl-contained stage works, one with a tragic ending the other with a light-hearted one. These short operas do have a Broadway connection: this double bill opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, on 1 May 1947, and ran for over 200 performances. According to what I have read, the shorter Telephone was the curtain raiser, and then the longer Medium completed the double-bill. The performances here feature the Broadway casts and orchestra, supervised by Menotti and under the musical supervision of Emanuel Balaban. As most Naxos historic releases, great care was taken in restoring the analog master, and the singers shine, especially the deep contralto voice of Mary Powers. SQ: A, OI: A.

TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 7 / Piano Concerto No. 3

This past November 6th marked the 120th anniversary of Tchaikovsky’s death, and I am planning a set of posts and montages in December to mark the occasion - this recording serves as an appetizer. A year before his death, Tchaikovsky made substantial sketches for a Symphony in E-flat major, which was abandoned before the orchestration had been completed. However. Tchaikovsky subsequently used these sketches in the Piano Concerto No. 3, and also for the piano piece Scherzo-Fantaisie (No. 10 of the Eighteen Pieces, Op. 72). The idea of completely restoring the Symphony in E-flat major from the surviving manuscripts was proposed by the academic Boris Asafyev, but he did not succeed in realizing this concept before his death in 1949. Between 1951 and 1957 Professor Semyon Bogatyrev was able to reconstruct the whole of the Symphony in E-flat major, working from the surviving manuscripts. Eugene Ormandy made the first commercial recording of the reconstruction and this more recent recording by Neeme Jarvi is just as good. To complete the picture, the CD filler is the Concerto no. 3 as Tchaikovsky published it (as the single Allegro brillante movement). Better than a musical curiosity, but – as the composer suggested – “just an empty playing with sounds—without genuine inspiration". SQ:A, OI:A-.

Yuli Turovsky - Violonchelo Espanol - I Musici de Montreal

My podcast of November 22nd was a tribute to cellist and conductor Yuli Turovsky, and in preparing for the podcast, I downloaded this excellent recording of him in both roles, with the chamber orchestra he founded (I Musici de Montréal). The overall theme of the the CD is Spanish music and music of Spanish inspiration for cello and orchestra. There are some well-known pieces (Glazunov’s Minstrel’s Song and an arrangement of the Ritual Fire Dance from Falla’s El Amor Brujo), but also some interesting works I had not heard before. Turovsky’s playing as a cellist conveys the sense of ease and comfort in friendly confines, surrounded by former students and colleagues, giving this very much a family feeling. These are not necessarily showpieces, but they are well performed and provide a great sense of overall continuity in programming. SQ:A, OI:A.

POULENC: Complete Works for Two Pianos

This coming Friday, I have programmed a podcast of music by Francis Poulenc, honouring the 50th anniversary of his death. This disc looks at Poulenc’s works for two pianos, and features his concerto for two pianos and orchestra, a pair of sonatas and other works for two pianos, or piano four-hands. Poulenc’s piano music, unlike – say – that of Erik Satie, is typically effervescent and brisk. Also, Poulenc was a strong pianist himself, so you know the works are both modern and challenging to play. The duo pianists on this BIS recording are up to the challenge. A nice disc. SQ:A, OI:A-.

Lukas Foss: Time Cycle

Let’s end today’s Chronique with another Naxos historic recording, this one from their “Classical Archives” series, where they restore forgotten records from the 50s and 60s. As a student at the Curtis institute, Lukas Foss began a lifelong friendship with classmate Leonard Bernstein, who later described Foss as an "authentic genius." In 1961 Bernstein would conduct the premiere of Foss's Time Cycle, while Foss would conduct the premiere of Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. At its world premiere (for which the Improvisational Chamber Ensemble provided improvised interludes, between the movements), Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic performed the entire work twice in the same evening, in an unprecedented gesture of respect. Time Cycle, which received the New York Music Critic’s Circle Award in 1961, was recorded on the CBS label (and issued in the Bernstein Century series by Sony) and it is that recording that was remastered and re-issued by Naxos. The work shows that Foss, who studied composition under Hindemith, paid attention in class! This is neo-clacissism in its finest form, and Bernstein and soprano Adele Adison (for who Foss wrote the work) convey the mood beautifully. SQ: A, OI: A.

November 29, 2013, "I Think You Will Love This Music Too" will feature a new podcast "In Memoriam: Francis Poulenc" at its Pod-O-Matic Channel . Read more November 29 on the ITYWLTMT Blogspot blog.

Updated Nov-27-2013 at 01:35 by itywltmt

Classical Music , Recorded Music