Friday, June 21, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalSextet Week 3

June is the sixth month. It seemed a good time to make sextets the #ClassicsaDay monthly theme. The most common sextet is a doubled string trio. That is, two violins, two violas, and two cellos. But other combinations of instruments are possible. And beginning in the 20th Century just about every type of combination has been explored.

Here are my social media posts for the third week of #ClassicalSextets.

08/16/24 Peter Schickele: String Sextet (1990)

Although known primarily as the creator of PDQ Bach, Schickele had a solid reputation as a composer. His "serious" compositions include film scores, Broadway, and chamber works like this one.

 

06/17/24 Steve Reich: Sextet

Reich's 1984 sextet is for six performers playing multiple instruments: 3 marimbas, 2 vibraphones, 2 bass drums, crotales, sticks, tam-tam, pianos, and synthesizers.

 

06/18/24 Jan Brandts Buys: String Sextet Op. 40

Dutch composer Jan Buys is mainly known for his operas and operettas. His 1917 sextet has a slightly unusual lineup: three violins, two violas, and cello.  

06/19/24 Emiliano Manna: Sextet for mixed ensembles

Not all sextets are written for strings. Manna's sextet features flute (doubling piccolo), oboe, clarinet, horn, timpani, and double bass.

 

06/20/24 Philip Glass: Brass Sextett

Glass wrote this work in 1964. He was composer-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Public Schools. It was composed before he adapted his minimalist style.

 

06/21/24 Francis Poulenc: Sextet for Piano and Winds, Op. 100

Poulenc's Sextet was written for wind quintet plus piano. The work was premiered in 1933.

 

Friday, June 14, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalSextets, Week 2

June is the sixth month. It seemed a good time to make sextets the #ClassicsaDay monthly theme. The most common sextet is a doubled string trio. That is, two violins, two violas, and two cellos. But other combinations of instruments are possible. And beginning in the 20th Century just about every type of combination has been explored.

Here are my social media posts for the second week of #ClassicalSextets.

06/10/24 Antonín Dvořák: String Sextet in A major, Op. 48

Dvorak wrote the sextet in May, 1878. It received a private reading with violinist Joseph Joachim and friends. Joachim liked the work so much that he premiered it later that year and took it on tour with him.

 

06/11/24 Ignaz Pleyel (1757–1831) String Sextet

Pleyel was born in Austria but spent most of his career in France. He was able to successfully navigate the French Revolution, not only surviving but thriving in the New Republic.

 

06/12/24 Bohuslav Martinu: String Sextet for 2 violins, 2 violas, cello and contrabass

In 1932 Martinue won the Coolidge Prize for his String Sextet with Orchestra. His stand-alone string quartet was dedicated to Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge, the contest's sponsor.

 

06/13/24 Erwin Schulhoff (1894–1942) String Sextet (1924)

Schulhoff studied with Claude Debussy and Max Reger. His string sextet was well-received, but his success didn't last. In 1941 he was sent to the Wülzburg prison camp by the Nazis where he died a year later.

 

06/14/24 Ignacy Feliks Dobrzyński: String Sextet for 2 violins, viola, 2 cello, and double bass

Dobrzyński was a classmate of Chopin's at the Warsaw Conservatory. Unlike Chopin, he remained in Poland, striving to develop a Polish national style of classical music. He succeeded in that his own music was performed outside of Poland.

 

Friday, June 07, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalSextet, Week 1

June is the sixth month. It seemed a good time to make sextets the #ClassicsaDay monthly theme. The most common sextet is a doubled string trio. That is, two violins, two violas, and two cellos. But other combinations of instruments are possible. And beginning in the 20th Century just about every type of combination has been explored.

Here are my social media posts for the first week of #ClassicalSextets.

06/03/24 Johannes Brahms: Sextet No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 18

Before Brahms, the string sextet was a rarity. After Brahms, several composers of the 19th and 20th Centuries explored the genre. Brahms' first sextet was published in 1862.

 

06/04/24 Johannes Brahmns: Sextet No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36

Brahms' second string sextet was published in 1865. It received its world premiere in Boston in October 1866. Europe would have to wait another month for the continental premiere.

 

06/05/24 Luigi Boccherini: String Sextet in E-flat major, G 454 Op. 23

Boccherini is credited with writing the first string sextets. This is one of six sextets Boccherini wrote in 1776 as his Op. 23 (published in 1780).

 

06/06/24 Arnold Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), Op. 4

Schoenberg arranged this work for string orchestra. That's the version most frequently performed today. The original sextet premiered in 1902, the string orchestra version in 1924.

 

06/07/24 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70

Tchaikovsky sketched the main themes for this work while he was visiting Florence. He completed the composition in 1890. After revision, it was premiered in 1892.

 

Tuesday, June 04, 2024

Maria Herz -- Ripe for Rediscovery

Maria Herz was another artist whose career was derailed by the Nazis. In the 1920s Herz was a brilliant pianist. Her own music was well-received. But Herz was a Jew, and her career ceased in 1933. Jews were banned from performing in Germany, and their music was pulled from the market. 

Her family assets were seized -- including her manuscripts. Herz moved continually over the next six years. She searched for refuge for herself and her children. Herz eventually landed in Britain, where she would wait out the war. She stopped composing in 1933 when she left Germany. She had written about 30 works.

This album features four of her compositions -- all world premiere recordings. And they all show what the world lost when her voice was silenced. Herz's manuscripts were presumed lost. So Herz was unable to get her music performed after the war. Her manuscripts only recently came to light, so we can finally hear them. 

The works presented here show a composer fully immersed in the changing music scene of the 1920s. Herz's 1927 piano concerto straddles the transition from Post-Romantic to Modern. In some ways, it reminded me of Paul Hindemith. Tonal, but with new thoughts about what tonality meant. Oliver Triendl plays with authority and swagger. This is a concerto that demands attention -- and Triendl rewards that attention.

The 1930 Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, Op. 10 shows Herz's development. This work sounds less like Hindemith, and more like, well, Herz. Cellist Konstanze von Gutzeit gives a fine reading. Her playing of the double-stop passages is exceptional -- and moving. As with Herz's piano concerto, the solo instrument is the star here. And von Gutzeit doesn't disappoint. I would love to see her perform this live. 

The Four Short Pieces for Large Orchestra, Op. 8 have a different character. To my ears, this 1929 work resembles Schoenberg's "Verklärte Nacht." It has a dreamlike quality to it. Subtle cross rhythms give the orchestra a smeary sound. And the climaxes never quite deliver until the end. Christiane Silber leads the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin in a moving performance.

The same is true of their performance of the Orchestra Suite, Op. 13. This was composed in 1931, and shows where Herz was heading. The work is both fluid and complex. And while it has a tonal center, shifting harmonies continually blur it. I wish Herz had been allowed to continue growing as a composer -- instead of scrambling to survive.

Maria Herz: Piano Concerto
Cello Concerto; Ochestral Works
Oliver Triendl, piano
Konstanze von Gutzeit, cello
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin; Christiane Silber, conductor
Capricco C5510

Friday, May 31, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalMexico Week 5, 2024

Mexico has a long classical music tradition, extending back to the late 1500s. Composers emigrated from Spain to supply the great Mexican cathedrals with music. Within a generation, native-born composers assumed those roles. 

The Classics a Day team realizes that Cinco de Mayo is more of an American than a Mexican holiday. But it is an opportunity to celebrate Mexican culture. And so, the challenge for May is to post examples of Mexican classical music on your social media platforms.

Right from the beginning the traditional music of the native population influenced the classical composers. As a result, Mexican classical music has become a natural expression of the national character.

Here are my selections for the fifth and final week of #ClassicalMexico.

05/27/24 Carlos Chávez (1899–1978): Chapultepec Obertura Repulicana

Chávez was a founder of the Mexican Symphony Orchestra. His use of native Mexican music in his works influenced the course of Mexican classical music -- and brought it to the world stage. 

 

05/28/24 Silvestre Revueltas (1899–1940): Sensemayá

Sensemayá is Revueltas' most popular composition. It was based on a poem describing an Afro-Cuban religious ritual and sacrifice. Revualtas originally wrote the work for a small orchestra in 1937. A year later he created a version for a standard symphony orchestra. 

 

05/29/24 Higinio Ruvalcaba (1905–1976): Cuarteto de Cuerdas No. 6 in D major

Ruvalcaba was a violinist and composer. He replaced the founder of the Léner String Quartet when he retired.

   

05/30/24 Blas Galindo (1910–1943): Sones de mariachi

Galindo studied with Carlos Chavez and Aaron Copland. He eventually became the director of the National Institute of Fine Arts and the music director of the Symphony of the Mexican Institute of Social Security.

 

05/31/24 Melesio Morales (1839–1908): La Farfalletta

Morales was born in Mexico City. He had a successful career as an opera composer in Florence and eventually returned to Mexico City. Morales is best known for his vocal music, which includes 10 operas and two cantatas.

 

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