Friday, October 29, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #OctoberOctet Week 4

The Classics a Day team decided October was the month to feature octets. Granted, it is the tenth month of the year, but the word "detects" isn't as alliterative. 

The mix of instruments that make up an octet varies. Some composers wrote for double string quartet, some for wind instruments, and some for a blend of instruments.

Here are my posts for the fourth and final week of #OctoberOctet.

10/25/21 Einojuhani Rautavaara Wind Octet

Rautavaara's 1962 octet features four woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon) and four brass instruments (trumpet, trombone, and two horns).


10/26/21 August Walter - Octet in B-flat for strings and winds, Op.7

Walter's 1849 octet features an unusual scoring. It's for four winds (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon) and four strings (violin, viola, cello, bass). Most mixed octets use three wind and five stringed instruments.

10/27/21 Louis Spohr - Octet in E major, Op. 32

Spohr wrote his octet in 1814. It was part of a collection of chamber music he composed for exclusive distribution by Johann Tost. For a 3-year period, Tost retained the only copy of the music and was the only person who could approve performances of it.

10/28/21 Louis Ferdinand - Octet Op. 12

Louis was a respected composer, although better known as a prince of Prussia. He died leading troops into battle against Napoleon in 1806. This is one of 13 published compositions he left behind.

10/29/21 Heitor Villa-Lobos - Bachianas Barsileiras No. 1

The first of Villa-Lobos' nine Bach-inspired suites was written for eight cellos, and dedicated to Pablo Casals. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 also uses eight cellos, but addes a soprano.

Next Month:

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Johann Matthais Sperger - Double Bass Concertos Worthy of Haydn

Johann Matthais Sperger was a countrabass virtuoso, and a contemporary of Haydn. And like many virtuosi of the day, he composed concertos for himself to perform. 

But unlike most virtuosi, Sperger was quite comfortable composing other forms of music. His catalog includes cantatas, sonatas, 44 symphonies, and 18 concertos.

This CPO's second release of Sperger's music. Like the first, it includes a mixture of symphonies and double bass concertos. 

His Symphony No. 15 in A major is a succinct masterpiece. It lands stylistically between Haydn and Mozart. It has Mozart's lightness. And it has the inherent drama of Haydn's Sturm und Drang works (albeit not too stormy).

Sperger knew his instrument well. In the 1700s, the double bass in orchestras just reinforced the cello line. It seldom appeared in chamber ensembles, and almost never as a solo instrument. Sperger shows the capabilities of this instrument and makes it sing.

Sperger's music requires a solid set of skills. The melodies must be played with agility. There are double stops and other bowing effects. A good deal of the time the bassist is playing in the upper register. Maintaining intonation there is especially difficult.

But it's worth it. These aren't novelty pieces. They're well-crafted works that are enjoyable to listen to.  

Contrabassist Roman Patkolo is up to the challenges. His intonation is solid, and he plays with a clean, sonorous tone. My only quibble is with the recording itself. Sometimes his instrument isn't as prominent in the mix as I'd like it to be. 

If you're looking for a slightly different take on Classical Era music, give this disc a listen. Johann Matthias Sperger is a composer worth rediscovering.   

Johann Matthias Sperger
Double Bass Concertos Nos. 1 & 8; Sinfonia No. 15
Roman Patkolo, contrabass Sudwestdeutsches Kammerorchster Pforzheim; Douglas Bostock, conductor
CPO 555 404-2

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #OctoberOctet Week 3

The Classics a Day team decided October was the month to feature octets. Granted, it is the tenth month of the year, but the word "detects" isn't as alliterative. 

The mix of instruments that make up an octet varies. Some composers wrote for double string quartet, some for wind instruments, and some for a blend of instruments.

Here are my posts for the third week of #OctoberOctet.

10/18/21 Johan Svendsen - String Octet in A major Op 3

The Norwegian composer Johan Svendsen was a close friend of Wagner. This 1865 octet was one of the works that made his reputation as a composer.

10/19/21 Reinhold Glière - String Octet in D Major, Op. 5

Glière dedicated his 1903 octet to his violin teacher, Jan Hřímalý. Origionally from Bohemia, Hřímalý taught at the Moscow Conservatory for 46 years.

10/20/21 Josef Myslivececk - Wind Octet No. 1

Myslivececk's octet was written in 1178. It features two each of clarinets, oboes, horns, and bassoons.

10/21/21 Howard Ferguson - Octet Op. 4

Ferguson's 1933 octect combined wind and stringed instruments. It was scored for a string quartet plus clarinet, horn, bassoon, and double bass.

10/22/21 Jean Francaix - Octet

Francaix completed his octet in 1972. It's scored for 5 strings (2 violins, viola, cello, bass) and 3 winds (clarinet, bassoon, horn).

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Filippo Farinelli steers Hindemith Sonatas for Wind Instruments and Piano project

To my knowledge, this is the first time all Paul Hindemith's wind sonatas have been released as a group. Pianist Filippo Farinelli collaborated with several well-known Italian instrumentists for this project. 

Having the same pianist throughout the set provides a degree of performance continuity. The album was also recorded in the same studio with the same production team for all eleven works. So the sound is consistent throughout the program.

And what a program. Collectively, the sonatas show the breadth of Hindemith's imagination. And they also demonstrate the mastery of his craft. 

Hindemith was an accomplished chamber musician as a pianist, violinist, and violist. He well understood the conversational nature of the genre. In each of these sonatas, both performers stand on equal footing. 

Hindemith also understood the instruments he was writing for. He tailored the music to the wind instrument he wrote it for. The capabilities of the instrument shape the melodic outlines. And sometimes they even determine the style. 

Filippo Farinelli and his colleagues are all fine performers. These are top-notch readings for these sonatas.

This is a great collection for anyone interested in 20th Century music. Hindemith was a practical-minded composer. He wanted to give every instrument its own sonata. He wanted those sonatas to be rewarding to play. And most importantly, he wanted the sonatas to be music audiences wanted to hear.

This collection shows he succeeded on all counts.  

Paul Hindemith: Complete Sonatas for Wind Instruments and Piano
Filippo Farinelli, piano; various artists
Brilliant Classics 95755
2 CD Set

Monday, October 25, 2021

Renata Dubinskaite Gives Luminuous Performances of Barbara Strozzi

Renata Dubinskaite and the Canto Fiorito perform Barbara Strozzi's solo vocal music. Strozzi was well-respected as a singer and composer in 17th Century Venice. Her father, Guilio Strozzi hosted salons of intellectuals and artists in his home. 

Barbara Strozzi performed at these salons, often singing her own compositions. Many of these works saw publication. Strozzi's credited as the most-published composer of secular music in the 17th Century. 

This release presents a selection of her solo vocal music. The program draws from six of her eight published collections. These works were presumably composed by Strozzi for her own performances. And as such, they provide a hint of what she may have sounded like.

Strozzi's vocal lines are beautifully crafted. Ornamentation is used sparingly (for the period). What's most important is the contour of the line, and how it illustrates the text.

Renata Dubinskaite delivers some wonderful performances. She sings with a clean, clear tone that is simply beautiful. The Canto Fiorito provides able -- if muted -- support. 

That's as it should be. When Strozzi sang she accompanied herself on the lute or theorbo. So those gathered intellectuals would have heard one voice and one instrument. 

Expanding that accompaniment to two or three remains true to the music's intimacy. This was quiet music, designed for introspection and contemplation. And in this recording, it's also luminous. 

The number of Barbara Strozzi recordings is on the rise. I'd place this near the top of the list. Dubinskaite and the Canto Fiorito perform the music well. And they capture the personality of Barbara Strozzi -- both the composer and original performer of these works.  

Barbara Strozzi: La Voce Sola
Renata Dubinskaite, mezzo-soprano
Canto Fiorito
Brilliant Classics

Friday, October 22, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #OctoberOctet Week 2

The Classics a Day team decided October was the month to feature octets. Granted, it is the tenth month of the year, but the word "detects" isn't as alliterative. 

The mix of instruments that make up an octet varies. Some composers wrote for double string quartet, some for wind instruments, and some for a blend of instruments.

Here are my posts for the second week of #OctoberOctets.

10/11/21 Igor Stravinsky: Octet

This octet has a very unusual combination of instruments. It comprises of a flute, two clarinets (in B-flat and A), two bassoons, two trumpets (in C and A), and two trombones (tenor and bass).

10/12/21 Carl Reinecke: Octet in B-flat major Op. 216

Reinecke wrote his wind octet in 1892. It's for flute, oboe, two clarinets, two horns, and two bassoons.

10/13/21 Felix Weingartner: Octet in G major Op. 73

Felix Weingartner's fame stems primarily from his conducting (and ground-breaking recordings). but he also considered himself equally a composer. His octet was written in 1925.

10/14/21 Joachim Raff: String Octet in C major Op. 176

Raff completed his string octet in 1872. It's scored for four violins, two violas, and two cellos; in essence, a double string quartet.

10/15/21 Ignaz Joseph Pleyel: Octet in E-flat major

Pleyel was a student of Haydn. This is one of two wind octets he wrote. It's scored for two oboes, two clarinets, two horns, and two bassons (with optional doubling with a contrabass).

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Eduardas Balsys - the Voice of Lithuania

Eduardas Balsys was a major musical figure in postwar Lithuania. He was one of the country's foremost composers, Balsys was also an important educator. 

He was head of the composition department a the Conservatory of the Lithuanian SSR. As such, he shaped the next generation of Lithuanian composers. 

Balsys' own style was shaped by politics. This release presents three works tracing his development over three decades. 

When Balsys graduated from the Leningrad Conservatory, Lithuania was in the USSR. Soviet rules required classical music to be accessible. Lithuanian authorities wanted to keep their cultural identity. So the music had to also be "folkloric."

Balsys' 1954 Violin Concerto No. 1 manages to do both. And sound like a coherent work as well. The rules seem to do little more than provide a framework for his fertile imagination. 

Balsys was also a gifted orchestrator. The innovative instrumental combinations he uses in this concerto make it sound fresh. And take it beyond the bounds of the state mandates.

By the mid 1960s the rules had relaxed. As one can hear in The Dramatic Frescoes for violin, piano, and orchestra (1965). Balsys explores some formerly forbidden techniques in this piece. 

Some of it sounds dodecophonic, and other parts tonal a la Hindemith. He also mixes in popular forms of dance music. The liner notes call Balsys a "moderate modernist." And that's an apt description of The Dramatic Frescoes. 

The Reflections of the Sea (1951) was composed three years before Balsys' death. There were no longer state regulations on composition. This is definitely the most dissonant of the works recorded here. 

But it's still a tonal work. Sections reminded me of late Shostakovich. Other parts, though, sounded like nobody else. Balsys had an original voice. And this time it was unchecked. 

The Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra directed by Modestas Pitrenans does this music credit. The ensemble sound is rich and full -- and precise. 

Violinist Dzeraldas Bidva delivers an exceptional performance of the violin concerto. His tone has a pure, lyrical quality to it that adds to the beauty of the music. 

I had never heard of Eduardas Balsys before auditioning this release. I very much want to hear more. A lot more. 

Eduardas Balsys: Violin Concerto No. 1
Dramatic Frescoes; Reflections of the Sea
Dzeraldas Bidva, violin; Indre Baikstyte, piano
Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra; Modestas Pitrenas, conductor
Ondine 1358

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Quartetto Ascanio explores Paganini's influence

This release, in part, shows the direct influence Paganini had on chamber music. The Quartetto Ascanio begins with music by Camillo Sivori, Paganini's only known pupil. 

They continue with a quartet by Giovanni Serra, another teacher of Sivori. Also included is a quartet by Carlo Andrea Gambini. He was a fellow Genoese violinist and composer, and a contemporary of Sivori. 

The Quartetto Ascanio has a beautifully blended ensemble sound. Despite the Paganini associations, these works push the technical limits of the instruments. 

Instead, the composers seemed to focus on creating attractive, lyrical melodies. It's the singing quality of these pieces that comes through in the performances.

Serra dedicated his Quartet No. 4 to Camillo Sivori. It has plenty for the first violin to do. But unlike a quartet brillante, it's not for solo violin plus three. Rather, the other three instruments are on more equal footing with the first violin. 

Gambini's Quartet in E minor is an interesting work. To my ears, stylistically it seemed somewhere between Mendelssohn and Schumann. And that's not a bad place to be. Gambini knew how to write for strings. This quartet sounds like it could be as satisfying to play as it is to listen to. 

All the works receive world recording premieres with this release. This unexplored repertoire is both pleasurable and substantial. I enjoyed the music the first time I heard the album. And I appreciated the skills of these composers with each additional hearing. 

Recommended for chamber music enthusiasts. And anyone else who appreciates a well-turned melody.

Sivori, Gambini, Serra
Chamber music in Genoa after Nicolo Paganini
Quartetto Ascanio
Dynamic CDS 7905

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Paul Wranitzky Symphonies Anticipate Beethoven

Volume two of Naxos' Wranitzky series features all world premiere recordings. Of course, that's not so hard to do. 

As popular as Paul Wranitzky was in 1800s Vienna, he remains all but unknown today. And that's also why a release of never-heard-before recordings is so exciting. 

Wranitzky moved to Vienna from Moravia in the 1770s to seek his fame and fortune. And he found it. 

As a composer, his music rivaled Haydn's in popularity. And he was in demand as a conductor -- he premiered Beethoven's first symphony.

The symphonies in this release show that Wranitzky's compositional skill rivaled Haydn's. Like Haydn, he could take the simplest note combination and build an entire symphony out of it. And make it sound both logical and surprising. Wranitzky also seemed a little more interested in orchestration than Haydn. 

His Symphony in D minor "La Tempesta" simulates a storm in the final movement. He does so through his orchestration, particularly with his use of percussion. And his storm symphony anticipates Beethoven's by fourteen years!

The other two symphonies on this release date from the early 1790s. They also resemble Haydn's of the same era in quality. 

Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice directed by Marek Štilec delivers some excellent performances. Wranitzky was closer to Haydn than Beethoven in style. A big orchestra crashing into the climaxes isn't necessary. The CCPOP plays forcefully when needed. But the lightness and clarity of their sound seem appropriate with Wranitzky's aesthetic.

When Wranitzky died at age 52 in 1808, he had composed 44 symphonies. This release presents three of them. I'm very curious to hear more. If you love the symphonies of Haydn and Mozart, you'll like the symphonies of Wranitzky -- at the very least.

Paul Wranitzky: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2
Symphonies – ‘La Tempesta’; Op. 16, No. 2; Op. 33, No. 3
Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice; Marek Štilec, conductor
Naxos 8.574255

Monday, October 18, 2021

Georg Caspar Schürmann - a rediscovered master

This is the fifth release in CPO's "Music from Wolfenbüttel Castle" series. It features three cantatas by Georg Caspar Schürmann. 

Schürmann served the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel for 54 years. As court composer, he set a musical standard many aspired to. 

The court at Wolfenbüttel Castle had a long tradition of musical excellence. Michael Praetorius had served as Kapellmeister in the 1590s. 

When Schürmann arrived in 1707, he inherited a choral and instrumental ensemble of the highest caliber. And he used those resources to great advantage.

The three cantatas presented here show Schürmann at his best. The works are for solo voices only, without choruses. They showcase Schürmann's skill at writing for the human voice. 

Each line is beautifully sculpted without being overly florid (a no-no for sacred music in this Protestant court). They also attest to the quality of singers available to the composers. 

Some of the arias border on the operatic, which is no surprise. Schürmann wrote over thirty operas (only a few of which survive). His use of dissonance, and delaying resolution to heighten the emotion, works as well in the chapel as it does on stage. 

Manfred Cordes and the Weser-Renaissance Bremen perform to their usual high standards. The soloists sing in clean, clear tones with minimal vocal ornamentation. The instrumental ensemble provides the right level of support at all times, even when timpani and brass weigh in. 

Schürmann wrote a vast quantity of music, in all types of genres. It's a shame only a small amount of it survived. Based on these three works, I'd like to hear more.

Georg Caspar Schürmann
Nimm das Opfer unsrer Hertzen Cantatas
Weser-Renaissance Bremen; Manfred Cordes, director
CPO 555 374-2

Friday, October 15, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #OctoberOctet Week 1

The Classics a Day team decided October was the month to feature octets. Granted, it is the tenth month of the year, but the word "detects" isn't as alliterative. 

The mix of instruments that make up an octet varies. Some composers wrote for double string quartet, some for wind instruments, and some for a blend of instruments.

Here are my posts for the first week of #OctoberOctet.

10/04/21 Felix Mendelssohn: String Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20

Mendelssohn composed his octet at age 16. It was written for four violins, two violas, and two cellos -- in essence two string quartets.

10/05/21 Nikolay Afanasyev: Double String Quartet in D major

Afanasyev considered this a very different type of composition than a string octet. Though the instrumentation is the same, he considered this 1875 work as one for two separate quartets interacting with each other.

10/06/21 Dimtri Shostakovich: Two Pieces for String Octet Op. 11

Shostakovich used Mendelssohn's model for his string octet. It features a prelude and a scherzo, and was written in memorium to a friend.

10/07/21 Franz Krommer - Octet Partita OP. 57 in F major

This was originally titles "Harmonie," and was a nonet (2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 horns, 2 bassoons, 1 contrabassoon). It was eventually retitled, as the contrabassoon part simply doubles the second bassoon at the octave and can be dropped.

10/08/21 Max Bruch: String Octet in B-flat major, Op. Posth.

In 1920 Bruch reworked his String Quintet no. 3, transforming it into a string octet. It was one of the last works he completed before his death in 1920.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Louse Farrenc violin and piano music has timeless appeal

This release presents three chamber works by Louise Farrenc. Farrenc was renowned as a pianist as well as a composer. These selections show her skill at writing for violin. 

Daniele Orlando and Linda Di Carlo deliver wonderfully expressive performances. Farrenc had a rare melodic gift, and Orlando's violin practically sings them. Farrenc was also a concert pianist. 

Most of her chamber works have substantial piano parts. Di Carlo plays with assurance and authority, an equal partner to Orlando at every turn. 

The album starts with the Variations concertantes sur un air suisse. This is salon music, meant as light entertainment. But it's of exceptional quality. Schumann remarked it was "o sure in outline, so logical in development." Indeed so. The music is light, but not cliche. 

Her two violin and piano sonatas were also well-received at the time. Her first violin sonata from 1848 is a fully formed complex work. One critic noted it was in the "austere classical style reminiscent of the great masters." To me, the sonata suggested Mendelssohn as inspiration. 

Farrenc's second sonata was a favorite of Joseph Joachim. Brahms would compose his violin concerto for Joachim, so high praise indeed! Here the inspiration seems closer to Beethoven. But what Farrenc does with that inspiration is purely her own invention. 

It's still a mystery to me that music this well-received should lapse into obscurity. There's nothing old-fashioned about Farrenc's compositions. They sound as fresh today as any music of "the great masters." The excellent performances of Orlando and Di Carlo just deepen that mystery.

Highly recommended. 

Louise Farrenc: Music for Violin and Piano
Daniele Orlando, violin; Linda Di Carlo, piano
Brilliant Classics 95922

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Marcel Poot Symphonic Survey Revealing

Initially, Belgian composer Marcel Poot wasn't particularly interested in music. And that's what makes his symphonies so interesting. Poot's father, director of the Royal Flemish Theater, pressured his son into music. 

Marcel first failed as a clarinetist, then became a reluctant piano student. "The town organist taught me scales and the Czerny exercises. This did not amuse me at all," Poot later wrote.

His father enrolled him in the Brussels Conservatory. Poot was admitted the second time he applied. Something must have clicked.  After graduation, he became part of Les Synthétistes. It was the Belgian answer to France's Les Six. 

From then on, Poot moved from strength to strength. His compositions were performed both in Belgium and other countries. He founded the Union of Belgian Composers and taught at the Brussels Conservatory. 

But he always seemed to view classical music slightly askance. His seven symphonies have an irreverent character to them. Poot mixes traditional post-Romantic harmonies with Stravinsky-like rhythms. Jazz motifs appear from time to time. And on occasion, Poot creates proto-show tunes.

The seven symphonies are presented here in order, and that's a good way to first experience them. Symphony No. 7, written in 1982, isn't quite as cheeky as Symphony No. 1 from 1929. 

Poot's style became more sophisticated over time. And while the mix of influences became smoother, it never disappeared. Symphony 7 is mostly a serious work, but Poot manages a few winks at the listener.

This was a massive recording project, involving four orchestras and four conductors. Frédéric Devreese and the Moscow Smphony Orchestra perform symphonies nos. 3, 6, and 7. Naxos had released these recordings before, and it's good to have them back in print. Devreese studied composition with Marcel Poot, and his insightful interpretations were most welcome.

It's a pleasure to have all Poot's symphonies available. Now we can only hope this lays the foundation for more of his music to be recorded!

Marcel Poot: Symphonies Nos. 1-7 
Antwerp Philharmonic; Léonce Gras, conductor 
BRTN Philharmonic Orchestra; Hans Rotman, conductor 
Moscow Symphony Orchestra; Frédéric Devreese, conductor 
Belgian National Radio Symphony Orchestra; Frans André, conductor 
Naxos 8574292-93 2 CD Set

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Jouni Somero surveys Selim Palmgren piano repertoire

This volume in Grand Piano's series spans fifty years of Selim Palmgren compositions. They show the development of the composer over time. 

The album opens with Three Piano Pieces, Op. 4, written in 1893. Palmgren was 15. These are charming, unprepossessing pieces with traces of Brahms and Schumann. 

Palmgren wrote his Lyrical Intermezzo, Op. 8 after he began his musical studies in Berlin. The music is more sophisticated, and the piano technique is also more challenging.    

The latest work on the album is Sun and Clouds, Op. 102. It's also the longest piece on the album. Each of the twelve movements depicts a different month of the year.

Though written during the height of the second world war, the music is sunny and optimistic. The textures are much thicker than those in Palmgren's early works. And the technique more advanced -- as befitting a student of Busoni. 

Jouni Somero is an exceptional performer. And so are his interpretations of his fellow countryman's music. Somero plays with authority. He brings out the simple charms of Palmgren's early works. And delivers his mature pieces with power and verve. 

The more of Palmgren's music I hear, the more I want to hear. Looking forward to volume 4.

Selim Palmgren
Complete Piano Works 3
Jouni Somero, piano
Grand Piano GP869

Monday, October 11, 2021

Joseph Boulogne Symphonie Concertantes solid entertainment


Joseph Boulogne was one of the most brilliant composers and violinists in France -- and a person of color. Still, he was a prominent and influential musical figure in 1770s Paris. He was renowned as a conductor,  performer, and composer. 

Boulogne was an extraordinary violinist, and composed fourteen concertos for himself to perform. He also wrote four symphony concertantes, featured on this release. 

The relationship between Boulogne and Mozart isn't clear. But there is a clear relationship between their musical styles. Boulogne's music has the stately elegance of Mozart's. Themes are distinctive, and well-developed throughout the compositions. 

The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice has recorded many Classical Era composers. And their performances here are all I expected. The music is light but not slight. The ensemble plays with both accuracy and energy. 

The sinfonia concertantes mostly feature two solo violins (one includes a viola). Yuvy Revich and Libor Jezek are the violin soloists. They give a good account of the music and a hint of what Boulogne's own playing may have sounded like. 

Also included is the first of Boulogne's two Opus 11 symphonies. To me, the work seemed closer to Haydn than Mozart. I later read that the symphony may be spurious. Perhaps so. It does seem a little out character compared to the rest of the album. 

Nevertheless, making more of Boulogne's music available is always a good thing. This isn't just well-crafted music by a composer of color. It's well-crafted music. Period. 

Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges
Symphonies concertantes; Symphony in G major
Yury Revich, Libor Jezek, violins; Pavla Hansova, viola
Czech Chamber Orchestra Pardubice; Michael Halasz, conductor

Friday, October 08, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #SymYesNo Week 5

 For the month of September, the Classics a Day team chose a controversial theme. There is a small subset of symphonic works within the classical repertoire that appear misnamed. Most composers choose their titles carefully. But when the title runs counter to expectations, disagreements arise. 

What does the title "symphony" mean? Can a composition be a symphony in everything but name? Or could a work titled "symphony" be a different type of composition in disguise?

For this month's challenge, I included a poll with each post to let the readers decide. Here are the posts -- and the poll results -- for the final week of #ClassicsaDay #SymYesNo (Symphony? Yes/No).

09/28/21 Richard Straus - Ein Heldenleben

Strauss' original intention was to compose a heroic symphony modeled after Beethoven's Eroica. It eventually became a massive tone poem. But does its grandeur and complexity make it symphony after all? 

Poll results: Yes 40$ No 60%

09/29/21 Franz Liszt - Faust Symphony

"A Faust Symphony in three character pictures" is the full title. So is this a symphony, or simply three interrelated tone poems strung together? 

Poll results: Yes 100% No 0%

09/30/21 Berlioz - Symphonie Fantastique

Originally Berlioz called this a program symphony. Later on, he downplayed the program (but never fully got rid of it). So is this a symphony, or just the scariest valentine ever? 

Poll results: Yes 100% No 0%

Friday, October 01, 2021

#ClassicsaDay #SymYesNo Week 4

 For the month of September, the Classics a Day team chose a controversial theme. There is a small subset of symphonic works within the classical repertoire that appear misnamed. Most composers choose their titles carefully. But when the title runs counter to expectations, disagreements arise. 

What does the title "symphony" mean? Can a composition be a symphony in everything but name? Or could a work titled "symphony" be a different type of composition in disguise?

For this month's challenge, I included a poll with each post to let the readers decide. Here are the posts -- and the poll results -- for the first week of #ClassicsaDay #SymYesNo (Symphony? Yes/No). 

09/20/21 Franz Joseph Haydn - Symphony No. 60 "Il Distratto"

The father of the symphony recycled his incidental music from a play for Symphony No. 60. The work has six movements, corresponding to the overture, four entr'actes, and a finale. Functionally, is this a symphony, or an orchestral suite? 

 Poll results: Yes 50%, No 50%

09/21/21 Richard Strauss - An Alpine Symphony

Richard Strauss originally began the work as a traditional four-movement symphony, "The Alps." He eventually recycled parts of the unfinished work into the Alpine Symphony. It has 22 parts, played as one continuous movement. Strauss titled it "symphony," but is it really a tone poem? 

Poll results: Yes 66.7% No 33.3%

09/22/21 Richard Strauss - Symphonia Domestica

Strauss always intended this as a tone poem. But it is a large, four-movement work with "Symphonia" in the title. So is it just a tone poem, or a programmatic symphony? 

Poll results: Yes 100% No  0%

09/23/21 Bela Bartok - Concerto for Orchestra

Bartok titled this work a concerto, as each section is treated in a virtuosic fashion. But traditionally "concerto" means a single instrumentalist is featured (or two in a double concerto). So is this really a symphony with some really hard parts for everyone?

Poll results: Yes 50% No  50%    

09/24/21 Alexander Scriabin: The Poem of Ecstasy

Scriabin sometimes called this his fourth symphony. But the work parallels a 300-line poem Scriabin wrote to go with it. And he wrote a shorter set of program notes for subsequent performances. So is it only a tone poem, or legitimately a symphony?

 Poll results: Yes 66.7% No  33.3%