Friday, July 12, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #NorthAmClassics Week 2, 2024

Two countries celebrate their independence in July -- and they just happen to be neighbors. On July 1, 1867, three separate British colonies were officially united. United Canadas, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick became Canada. 

On July 4, 1776, thirteen separate British colonies were officially united, becoming the United States of America.


The #ClassicsaDay challenge for July is to post music by Canadian and American composers. Both countries have created their own forms of classical music, independent of Europe's. 

Here are my social media posts for the second week of #NorthAmClassics. As in past years, I alternate between Canadian and American composers. 

07/08/24 Benjamin Carr (1768-1831): Federal Overture

Carr emigrated to America in 1793. In Philadelphia, he was a major figure -- music publisher, composer, teacher, organist, and concert organizer.

 

07/09/24 Nicolas Gilbert (1970 - ) UP!: Sesquie for Canada's 150th

Gilbert is a Canadian composer from Montreal. In 2008 he was named "Composer of the Year" by the Quebec Music Council.

 

07/10/24 Edward Burlingame Hill (1872-1960): Symphony No. 1

Hill studied with two of the "Boston Six" (John Knowles Paine and George Whitefield Chadwick). He was on the Harvard faculty from 1908 until his death in 1940. His pupils included Elliot Carter, Leonard Bernstein, and Virgil Thomson.

 

07/11/24 Sophie Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté (1899-1974): Symphony No. 1

Eckhardt-Gramatté had an international career. She and her husband settled in Winnipeg in 1953 where she became -- in her 50s -- a Canadian composer.

 

07/12/24 Alexander Reinagle (1756-1809): Sonata No. 1

This English composer emigrated to America in 1789. In Philadelphia, he became an established composer, pianist, and teacher. George Washington was a fan. Reinagle taught his stepdaughter, Nellie Custis.

 

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Strata Plums the Depths of Eleanor Alberga's Works

This is the fourth album of Eleanor Alberga's music I've reviewed. And all I can say is, "More, please." Alberga is a British composer, originally from Jamaica. She successfully blends music traditions from both countries into something fresh and unique.

Pianist Alberga and her violinist husband Thoams Bowes performed as a duet. I think those close working and personal relationships informed her string writing. It's original, yet idiomatic to the instrument. 

"Tower" pays homage to a friend, violinist David Angel. The work is for string quartet and orchestra. It's an interesting study in contrasts and balance. The orchestra provides the emotional context for the quartet', which sometimes gets overwhelmed. 

Alberga's first symphony, "Strata" is also written in memory of a friend. In this case, violist David Nash. The movement titles reflect his interest in geology: Firmament, Core, Mantle, Crust, Sailing on Tethys, and Plumes. Each strata has its own characteristic sound. 

The work doesn't follow the traditional four-movement symphonic form. But it works. Each movement (strata) builds on the previous. There's a clear sense of direction and development throughout the symphony.

"Mythologies" has a similar form. Each movement is a character sketch of a Greek god. But here the music seems to work as a suite rather than a unified composition. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Alberga is an excellent composer and masterful orchestrator. 

Thomas Kemp. directs the BBC Symphony Orchestra Their sound is full, rich, and powerful. Alberga's music is in good hands here.

Highly recommended.

Strata: Eleanor Alberga Orchestral Works
Castalian String Quartet
BBC Symphony Orchestra: Thomas Kemp, conductor
Resonus RES 10340


Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Miro Quartet Almost Makes It Home

Okay, I do have some quibbles with this release. But they're more issues with me than anything with the album.

This is Miró Quartet's second album with Pentatone. Their first release was Beethoven's complete string quartets. And while this release might not be as ambitious, the playing is just as uncompromising. 

I like most of the music choices, and how they're presented. And I like the way they're all performed. The Miró Quartet is a world-class ensemble. They're just as comfortable playing contemporary music as standard repertoire. 

The album is a contemplation of the concept of "home."  

Kevin Puts has worked with the quartet before. His work "Home" articulates the feelings of losing a home. Specifically, the experience of war refugees. The work is unsettled and restless. Refugees are constantly on the run, and the music captures the feeling of forced flight. It's a powerful composition, made more so by Miró's performance. 

Also included is Barber's String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11. The middle movement, "Adagio" has taken on a life of its own. But here in its original context, it sounds intimate and personal. 

Caroline Shaw's "Microfictions" grew from her experience during the COVID lockdown. Exploring Twitter, she discovered the Microfictions of T.R. Darling. Each of his daily posts was a piece of short fiction -- contained within the character limit of a tweet. Shaw uses some of these to create her own musical "Microfictions." Her six pieces are short and focused.

Yet like the poems they're attached to, the pieces are also oblique and mysterious. What's unsaid is almost more important than what's said.

George Walker's "Lyric for Strings," like Barber's "Adagio" began as a string quartet movement. He wrote it  it in tribute to his grandmother who was born enslaved. Miró only performs the string quartet version of the one movement. I wanted to hear the entire quartet. After all, that's the context Walker conceived the movement to be heard. 

I recognize I'm of a minority to consider hearing all the movements of a work important. So if you're like me, this is a minus. If you're not, then no harm done.  

I really objected to the album's finale, an arrangement of Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow.." Yes, it is skillfully arranged by William Ryden. But to me, it still doesn't quite rise to the level of the other works.  An album of insightful music-making ends with this corny cliched view of home. 

There's a lot to like here. I will be playing his album again many times -- just not the last track

Home: Miró Quartet
Music by Kevin Puts, George Walker, Caroline Shaw, Samuel Barber, and Harold Arlen
Pentatone PTC5187227

Friday, July 05, 2024

#ClasicsaDay #NorthAmClassics Week 1 2024

Two countries celebrate their independence in July -- and they just happen to be neighbors. On July 1, 1867, three separate British colonies were officially united. United Canadas, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick became Canada. 

On July 4, 1776, thirteen separate British colonies were officially united, becoming the United States of America.


The #ClassicsaDay challenge for July is to post music by Canadian and American composers. Both countries have created their own forms of classical music, independent of Europe's. 

Here are my social media posts for the first week of #NorthAm classics. As in past years, I alternate between Canadian and American composers. 

07/01/24 Murray Adaskin (1906-2002): Musica Victoria

Adaskin was born in Toronto to Latvian immigrants. He served as the director of the University of Saskatchewan's music department for many years.

 

07/02/24 Amy Beach (1867-1944): Piano Quintet, Op. 67

Beach was the youngest member of the Boston Six, the most prominent American composers of the late 19th Century. Her piano quintet was completed in 1907. 

 

07/03/24 Elizabeth Raum: Spirit of Canada

Raum was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit for her contributions to Canadian music. She's a prolific composer and prides herself on her music's accessibility.

 

07/04/24 George Frederick Bristow (1825-1898): Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 50 "Arcadian"

Bristow strove to create an American style of classical music. His works often have nationalist themes. His 1872 "Arcadian" symphony depicts pioneers moving west.

 

07/05/24 Ruth Watson Henderson (born 1932): Kyrie Fugue

Henderson was an accompanist for the Festival Singers of Canada. It was there she developed her talent for choral writing. To date, Henderson has written over 200 choral works, in addition to other music.

 

Friday, June 28, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalSextet Week 4

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 fourth and final week of #ClassicalSextets.

06/24/24 Leoš Janáček: Mládí (Youth)

Janacek was inspired by a performance of Rouseel's Divertimento for Wind Quintet and Piano. Janacek's sextet was written for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and bass clarinet. It premiered in 1924.

 

06/25/24 Felix Mendelssohn: Piano Sextet in D Major, Op. 110

Mendelssohn wrote this work for piano and strings at age 15. The lineup includes 1 violin, 2 violas, cello, and double bass. It wasn't published until 1868, almost 20 years after Mendelssohn's death.

 

06/27/24 Ernő Dohnányi: Sextet in C Major, Op. 37

Dohnányi wrote this work while he was bedridden with thrombosis. It was written in early 1935 for piano, violin, viola, clarinet, and horn. The sextet premiered in June of that year.

 

06/28/24 Arnold Bax Sextet: In Memoriam for English Horn, Harp and String Quartet

Bax wrote his sextet immediately following the Easter Rising of 1916. Among Bax's friends was Patrick Pearse. Pearse was executed for his role in the rising, and Bax's work was written to his memory.

 

06/29/24 Alexander Borodin: String Sextet in D minor

Borodin wrote this work in 1860. He studied chemistry by day and relaxed with student chamber music soirees. This work may have been written for one of those evenings. Only the first two movements survive.

 

Next Month:



Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Perform Alum Lukas Foss

In a way, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates one of its own with this release. Lukas Foss was music director of the BPO from 1963-1970. But I say "in a way" because none of the works here date from his tenure with the orchestra. 

Foss was a classmate of Leonard Bernstein. Like Bernstein, he was an equally adept pianist, conductor, and composer. And like Bernstein he created his own musical style. It steered clear of academia and was clear, concise, and accessible. 

Bernstein considered him a genius. Yet Foss never quite achieved the recognition of Copland or Bernstein. And that's a shame. If you like those composers, you should enjoy Foss. Heck, if you enjoy Samuel Barber, Howard Hanson, Walter Piston, David Diamon, or even Morton Gould -- you should like Lukas Foss.

The works presented here show Foss' mastery of orchestration. Symphony No. 1 from 1944 mixes instruments together in unusual ways. The result is a rich and fresh color palette. The Three American Pieces also date from 1944. Originally written for violin and piano, Foss orchestrated them in 1989.

This is American music in the Copland vein. But at no point does Foss imitate Copland. Rather, both composers seemed to draw from the same sources of inspiration. And both have their own take on those common sources.

My personal favorite was the Renaissance Concerto for flute and orchestra. The title of this 1985 work is a little deceptive. The first movement uses "The Carman's Whistle," a tune from Tudor England. However the other two movements are based on early Baroque compositions. No matter -- it's not about authenticity but mood. Foss evokes an earlier time with modern instruments and modern harmonies. I think it's terrific.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra performs to its usual high standards. JoAnn Falletta's direction is both insightful and illuminating. These artists do a great service to Foss' music. The entire album is both engaging and emotionally rewarding. I hope Faletta and the BPO continue to explore this neglected composer's works. 

Lukas Foss: Symphony No. 1
Renaissance Concerto; Three American Pieces; Ode
Amy Porter, flute; Nikki Chooi, violin
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; JoAnn Falletta, conductor
Naxos 8.559938

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Stephen Dodgson: Canticle of the Sun

Stephen Dodgson was an important British composer. He enjoyed considerable success after the Second World War. Dodgon wrote a variety of classical music, from orchestral works to solo songs. This release focuses on his choral music. 

When I read that Gerald Finzi highly regarded Dodgon's music, I knew I had to give this album a listen. 

The works on this release sound deceptively conventional. Dodgon's music is tonal. Furthermore, he writes idiomatically for the human voice. Melodies are constrained to relatively easy-to-sing intervals. There's some chromaticism, but it's more a spice than a main ingredient. 

Conventional four-part 20th Century choral writing -- but not quite. Careful listening reveals the rather complex harmonies that Dodgson uses. These harmonies provide subtle shading to the text. And while the melodies may be easy to sing, fitting together these vocal lines isn't.

Dodgson was a British composer. But these works fall outside the British choral tradition -- another deceptive characteristic. We don't get the high boy's choir sound. Or even the equivalent vocal lines for sopranos. Rather all four voices contribute equally to the sound.

A few of the selections have religious texts. But in some, like "Tis Almost One," the religious references are oblique rather than direct. The rest of the album is strictly secular. And that's another subtle difference. This is music for the concert hall than the cathedral. 

Sonoro is a superb vocal ensemble. They hit every note exactly on the pitch singing a capella. And they create a wonderful ensemble sound in the process. And while they have a smooth blend, Sonoro's articulation is clear and accurate. It's easy to follow the texts without having to follow along with the booklet.

Well-crafted music sung by a top-notch ensemble. If you're a fan of choral music, this belongs in your collection. 

Stephen Dodgson: Canticle of the Sun
Sonoro; Neil Ferris, conductor
Katherine Bicknell, flute; Michael Higgins, organ
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD -0686

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.

 

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Highly Personal Preludes and Fugues of Matt Dibble

When I was getting my masters in composition, my advisor warned me not to be a desk drawer composer. "Write for commission, write for performers, write music intended to be heard," he said. "Don't write music that just gets stored away in a desk drawer that no one ever hears."

Matt Dibble was certainly not a desk drawer composer. He was a multi-instrumentalist and played jazz, rock, and punk professionally. Dibble produced recordings for his own bands (Super db and DOLLYman) and others. Dibble also composed classical music, mostly for piano. 

But he did have some desk drawer music. In 2015 Dibble began writing a series of preludes and fugues. Inspired by J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, he wrote 24 of them, one for each of the major and minor keys. None of them were publicly performed during his lifetime. These were very personal pieces, created for himself to enjoy. 

Dibble died at age 41 in 2021. The set was completed shortly before his death. Dibble knew and admired the artistry of pianist Freddy Kempf. One of Dibble's last wishes was for Kempf to take these works out of the drawer and present them to the world. Hence, this album. 

Dibble's wide-ranging musical interests are on display here. These are not academic exercises. Dibble remains true to the forms established by Bach. The preludes are free-ranging, while the fugues are tightly organized.

Some have a "classical" sound -- albeit one that could not come from any century but the 21st. But Dibble goes further. The Prelude on B-flat3 is subtitled "Alone - 5 am." It has a wistful piano bar vibe and leads nicely into a jazz fugue. "Samarkand" is the subtitle for Prelude and Fugue on G#m3. This is full of the energy and odd meters of Ubekistanian folk music. 

Dibble chose wisely. Freddy Kempf delivers 24 superb performances. He easily adapts to the style of each piece. Whether classical, jazz, rock, or folk -- his performances are convincing and authentic.

Yes, composers should write music to be performed. But sometimes writing just for oneself can yield a masterwork. As in the case of Matt Dibble's 24 Preludes and Fugues. Truly individualistic, truly wonderful.    

Matt Dibble: 24 Preludes and Fugues
Freddy Kempf, piano
Divine Art DDX 21243

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.

 

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Jakob Lindberg Thoroughly Masters Theorbo Solos

Jakob Lindberg is a master of the theorbo. I wonder, though: how does he travel with that thing? Flying must be a nightmare. 

The theorbo is an early Baroque instrument and part of the lute family. The outsized member of the family. It doesn't even fit on the album cover!

The theorbo was typically over 6 feet long and often used as a bass instrument. A common theorbo had 14 courses (pairs of strings), though some had as many as 19 courses or 38 strings. The instrument had a range running from middle C to about two and a half octaves lower. 

Usually the theorbo was part of the basso continuo, supporting solo instruments. A keyboard instrument such as a harpsichord filled in the harmonies. And the theorbo outlined the bass. 

Robert de Visée was an accomplished stringed instrumentalist. He served the courts of both Louis XIV and Louis XV of France in the early 1700s. He was a virtuoso luenist, guitarist, and theorboist. Visée published a collection of works for solo theorbo in 1716. He aimed to  demonstrate the viability of the theorbo as a solo instrument. 

And he succeeded. This release features several works from that collection. It also includes some of Visée's unpublished manuscripts for solo theorbo. 

It's a remarkable program. Visée's writing exploits the full potential of the instrument.

The theorbo has a deep, resonant sound. It may remind modern listeners of a cello, but it's more than that. The theorbo, like the lute, has a clean tone that's never muddy -- no matter how low the notes. 

Lindberg's playing is a perfect blend of technical ability and tasteful musicianship. He skillfully weaves together Visée's polyphony, keeping all the lines balanced. 

It's a wonderful collection of music. And it's most wonderfully performed. Highly recommended. Though I still wonder How Lindberg travels with that thing. 

Robert de Visée: Theorbo Solos
Jakob Lindberg, theorbo
BIS 2562

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.

 

Thursday, June 06, 2024

By Women: Piano Works by Armenian Women Composers

Some may think this album's program is way too niche. Not me. I think it's highly focused, and that focus is what makes it successful. Pianist Sahan Arzruni has recorded an album of classical music by Armenians. More specifically, Armenian women. Listening to the wide variety of styles made me want to hear more. 

This very narrow slice of Armenian classical music is incredibly diverse. It makes me wonder how many other gems await in the entire corpus of Armenian classical music. 

The album opens with a sonata and prelude by Geghuni Chitchyan. Chitchyan is something of an icon in Armenian classical music. These works date from the 1950s. They remind me a little of Bartok -- if Bartok had a mischievous attitude. 

At the other end of the spectrum is Mary Kouyoumdjian. She's an Armenian-American composer and teaches at Columbia University. "I Haven't the Words" is her reaction to the George Floyd shooting. Kouyoumdjian writes in a cosmopolitan style, with occasional traces of Armenian folk rhythms. 

Gayane Chebotaryan is represented with a set of six preludes. She's a major figure in her country and deserves an audience outside it. Her preludes were written in 1948. They're tonal and seem to drift from one idea to the next. The harmonies are subtly complex. 

There are other composers represented here, and every one worthy of further exploration. Sahan Arzruni is both the producer and performer for this recording. This is his project and his emotional investment shows. His goal is to give these works their best possible performances, and he succeeds. 

Only an Armenian could phrase the melodies just so to convey the composers' intentions. I knew virtually nothing about Armenian classical music before listening to this album. I now know a little -- and want to know more.

By Women: Piano Works by Armenian Women Composers
Sahan Arzruni, piano
AGBU


Wednesday, June 05, 2024

Album Shows Three Facets of Kaveli Aho

 

In some ways, this release is a study in contrasts. It shows three contrasting forms of Aho's creativity. There's a work for soloist and orchestra, and one for soloist and string quartet. Plus there's a collaboration with an earlier composer.

The Concerto for Guitar and Chamber Orchestra was completed in 2018. Aho wrote the work for Ismo Eskelinen, who performs it here. Aho had collaborated with Eskelinen before. 

Aho is best known as a symphonist, and this work is symphonic in scope. His demands on the guitarist push technique to -- and perhaps a little beyond -- its limits. 

No matter. Eskelinen knows Aho as well as the composer knows the performer. He easily navigates the music and renders an exciting performance in the process.

The Quintet for Horn and String Quartet was written a year later. And yet, to me, it seems an earlier work. Aho studied with Einojuhani Rautavaara. Several string passages reminded me of the older composer's style. 

Ilkka Puputti commissioned the concerto and performed it on this release. As with Eskelinen, the horn player had worked with Aho before. So there's a true collaboration between composer and performer. As with the guitar concerto, Aho demands a lot from the solo player. And Puputti delivers at every turn.  

Johann Sebastian Bach left the final fugue in "The Art of the Fugue" unfinished. Aho isn't the first composer to complete it. But he's one of the more skilled to do so. Aho manages to extend Bach's ideas without slavishly adhering to them. It might not be a historically accurate rendition. But it is distinctive and shows Aho's skill at counterpoint.

John Storgårds directs the Lapland Chamber Orchestra. This is their fifth recording of Aho's music, so they know what they're about. The orchestra has a nice, clean ensemble sound. It's not a big sound, but it's big enough for Aho's music.  

Aho's compositions don't sound quite like anybody else's. They're complex and multi-layered, yet direct and appealing. 

Kaveli Aho: Guitar Concerto
Quintet for Horn and String Quartet
Bach/Aho: Contapunctus XIV for String Orchestra
Ismo Eskelinen, guitar; Ilkka Puputti, horn
Lapland Chamber Orchestra; John Storgårds, conductor
BIS 2666 SACD

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.

 

Next month:



Thursday, May 30, 2024

Living in Greg Caffrey's Environments

Irish composer Greg Caffrey is better known in the UK than in America. Perhaps this release will change that somewhat. It features four orchestral works by Caffrey, all written within the last 12 years. 

I'd call Caffrey's style "post-tonal." He uses dissonance effectively, and his melodies seem angular at times. Traditional chord progressions are absent. And yet there's still a sense of motion -- that the music has started at a point and will eventually return to that point.

Aingeal opens the album. It's the most recent composition (2021), and according to the composer, the most personal. The early death of a close friend inspired the work. Caffrey channels his loss and pain into something ethereal, disturbing, and ultimately comforting. 

Caffrey composed Environments I and Environments II in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Environments I is for solo piano and orchestra. It's not a concerto, where the soloist is showcased. Rather, it's a study in contrasts between a single instrument and an ensemble. Caffrey's unusual orchestrations blur the distinction between soloist and group. Daniel Browell's performance is both nuanced and engaging.

Environments II seems similar in intent. Here though, the forces are solo guitar, string orchestra, and percussion. The limited palette of the string orchestra throws the guitar into greater relief. Craig Ogdon has made several great recordings of contemporary guitar works. Add this performance to the list. 

 According to Caffrey, A Terrible Beauty was a long time coming. He conceived each of the three movements as a stand-alone work. Caffrey spent eight years composing the parts and then piecing them together. 

The title comes from a poem by WB Yeats. The music isn't an illustration of Yeats' poetry. Rather, it's an emotional reaction to it. Caffery's orchestration gives the ensemble an unusual blend.  It effectively communicates the unsettled nature of the poems. Yeats' poetry tells us something's not quite right -- Caffrey's music confirms it. 

These are powerful orchestral works. The Ulster Orchestra directed by Sinead Hays does a superb job. This music doesn't sound easy to play. And yet every note sounds authoritative and assured.

This might not be the music for your next dinner party. But if you're looking for music of substance that can communicate true emotion -- well, this might be for you.   

Greg Caffrey: Environments
Craig Ogden, guitar
Daniel Browell, piano
Ulster Orchestra; Sinead Hays
Divine Art


Wednesday, May 29, 2024

David Leisner Charms with New Album

Seldom has a classical album been more appropriately named. "Charms to Soothe" delivers on its promise. Guitarist David Leisner presents a program of favorite 19th-century guitar works. And without exception, they are a delight. The program mixes music by familiar composers and lesser-known virtuosi. 

Touring instrumental virtuosi of the 1800s were often composers. They primarily wrote music for themselves to play in concert. They also wrote instructional guides to further the artistry of their instruments. Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani were two such artists. And their music has remained in the guitar repertoire since it was introduced. 

Leisner presents a few composers whose reputations didn't survive. Johann Kaspar Mertz was a contemporary of Giuliani. He toured mostly in Eastern Europe and Russia. Merz' wife was a concert pianist, and he may have drawn inspiration from the music she played. Included here are two selections from Bardenklänge, Op. 13. One is titled "Lied Ohne Worte," which suggests at least a nod to Mendelssohn.

Giulio Regondi was a Swiss guitarist who spent most of his life in London. His Études for guitar are perhaps his best-known pieces. And while they do have their challenges, they're also enjoyable to listen to. Another London-based guitarist was Leonard Schulz. Most of his music has been lost, but his 12 Studies, Op. 40 survive. They're well-crafted and deceptively complex works. 

All the selections are favorites of Leisner. His talent could easily carry him through the challenges of these works. But there's more going on here. Leisner shows his affection for this music in his playing. The melodies do more than sing, they emote. These are intimate performances. And ones that both charm and engage (well, at least they did for me). 

Well-recorded, and superbly performed. If you'd like to spend time with a friend sharing some of his favorite music get this release. It does indeed have charms to soothe.

Charms to Soothe: 19th Century Music for Guitar
David Leisner, guitar
Azica Records ACD-71368

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Paul Wee Recovers Henselt and Bronsart Concertos

If this album could have been recorded in the 1890s, it would have had a very different dynamic. Back then, this program would have paired one of the most famous concertos in the world with one of the most obscure. 

Fast forward to the 21st Century. Now this program pairs two piano concerts almost equal in obscurity. But now -- as then -- both are worth hearing. And both can deliver an emotionally satisfying listening experience. 

Adolf von Henselt was considered one of the greatest piano virtuosi of the early 1800s. Franz Lizst envied his technique. And his sojourn in Russia influenced generations of Russian pianists -- including Sergei Rachmaninov. 

Henselt's Piano Concerto in F minor, Op. 16 was premiered by Clara Schumann in 1845, with Felix Mendelssohn conducting. As one modern critic noted, "It was the Rachmaninov Second of its day." 

All the major pianists performed the work, and often more than once. It's easy to hear why. Like Rachmaninov's concerto, it's a big work. The melodies are big, the piano passages are big, the emotions are big. And that makes it a real crowd-pleaser. 

It's also a well-constructed work. Henselt unfolds his themes in a logical (though exceptionally dramatic) fashion. 

Henselt withdrew from music in his thirties. And perhaps that's why this concert eventually fell out of the repertoire. 

By contrast, Hans Bronsart von Schellendorf's music never enjoyed much attention. Bronsart was one of Franz List's prime students. He even premiered Liszt's Second Piano Concerto (with the composer conducting). But Bronast transitioned from composing to conducting, and then theater management. His compositional output was small and under-valued by audiences. 

The piece shows Bronsart had the technical skill to write a challenging concerto. And he had the compositional skills to make it an engaging and compelling work. 

Paul Wee performs these concertos with abandon. His technique is formidable, and he employs every bit of it in this work. 

The Swedish Chamber Orchestra is directed by Michael Collins. The ensemble has an impressively big sound. These concertos were meant for flamboyant artists to thrill audiences with their artistry. 

Paul Yee, supported by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, does just that. My recommendation: press play, and enjoy the ride. I did.

Adolph von Henselt; Hans von Bronsart: Piano Concertos
Paul Wee, piano
Swedish Chamber Orchestra; Michael Collins, conductor
BIS-2715 SACD

Friday, May 24, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalMexico Week 4

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 first week of #ClassicalMexico.

05/20/24 Eduardo Hernández Moncada (1899–1995): Costeña

Moncada was active as a pianist, conductor, and composer. His goal was to blend traditional folk music with classical forms.

 

05/21/24 Gabriela Ortiz (1964): Kauyumari

Ortiz is the daughter of folk musicians. She holds several advanced music degrees and combines folk and rock traditions into her work.

 

05/22/24 José Mariano Elízaga (1786–1842): Dúo de las Siete Palabras

Elizaga was the foremost composer in Mexico in the early 1800s. He was also the Kapellmeister for Emporer Augstin I of Mexico.

 

05/23/24 José Antonio Gómez y Olguín (1805-1876): Te Deum para solistas, coro y orquesta

Gómez spent most of his professional life at the Mexican City Cathedral. He began as third organist and eventually became its music director.

 

05/24/24 Gustavo Campa (1863–1934): Three Miniatures for String Quartet

Campa was a major influence in Mexican Classical Music. He was among the first Mexican composers to embrace Debussy and the Impressionist style of composition.

 

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Isabelle Faust Plays Benjamin Britten (Very Well)

Another title for this release could have been "Isabelle Faust Plays Britten." And she does so exceedingly well. The showpiece is, of course, the violin concerto. But the shorter chamber works are more than just filler. They demonstrate both the skill of the young Benjamin Britten and the artistry of Faust.

Britten composed three of the four works on this album for Spanish violinist Antonio Brosa. The Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6 was the first. Britten completed it in 1936. Britten accompanied Brosa at its premiere. 

The young composer had recently heard Alban Berg's Violin Concerto. Berg was the most lyrical of the early twelve-tone proponents. There's some of that aesthetic in this suite. Britten employs the wide leaps and half-step turns of the Schoenberg School. But always in service to the melody. 

Reveille was composed a year after the suite. Britten dedicated the piece to Brosa, who was not an early riser. The work depicts a violinist slowly rousing. As the work progresses, the violist gathers energy leading to a string-busting finale.

The Violin Concerto was written for -- and premiered by Brosa in 1940. This is the product of a mature Britten. His writing is effective and assured. And it's a real showpiece for the soloist. The recording comes from live performances on October 28-29, 2021. The audience is exceptionally quiet -- I had no audio clues that this was live. But the performances show it. Live performances have an energy that studio recordings generally lack.

Isabelle Faust is on top of this work. Her playing is almost perfect, and her performance sweeps the listener along. Especially impressive is her intonation. Harmonics and notes at the extreme end of the register don't phase her. They're as rock-solid as her broad strokes on the open G string. Faust holds her own with the orchestra. And she's also an excellent chamber player. 

In the Suite and Reveille there's chemistry between Faust and pianist Alexander Melnikov. The two musicians convey Reveille's gentle humor. Their performances, make it a fun little diversion. 

Also included is a world recording premiere of Two Pieces for Violin, Viola, and Piano. Britten wrote the piece when he was sixteen. It was 1929 and the influence of atonality is quite evident. Nevertheless, there's something here that rises the quality above that of juvenilia. Britten wasn't just imitating a style -- he was using it to say something. So while this isn't Britten's best composition, it's still one worth listening to. 

Benjamin Britten: Violin Concerto, Op. 15
Reveille; Suite for violin and piano, Op. 6
Two Pieces for violin, viola, and piano
Isabelle Faust, violin
Symphonieorchestra des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Jakub Hrusa, conductor
Boris Faust, viola; Alexander Meinikov, piano
Harmonia Mundi 902668


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

George Walker Complete Piano Works 1 -- About Time

George Walker didn't write much piano music. His entire oeuvre fits easily onto two compact discs. The relatively few works he composed stretch over 60 years. 

Though few and far between, they're compositions of exceptional quality. So I'm excited about Alexandre Dossin's latest project. He will be recording Walker's entire solo piano output (plus the piano concerto). 

Collectively, they'll show the range and imagination of the composer. 

This volume includes the first three of Walker's five piano sonatas. The first sonata, written in 1954 is the longest. It also incorporates African-American spirituals. 

His third sonata, written twenty years later, is very different. Here Walker explores the possibilities of a limited set of motifs. The music borders on atonality, with nary a spiritual to be heard. 

Walker was a composer who cconstantly evolved. The pieces on this volume demonstrate just how much he grew over the decades. 

Alexandre Dossin performs with both passion and authority. This is his project -- and he's invested in the results. Even when Walker's at his most intellectual Dossin's playing conveys real emotion. 

I am very much looking forward to the second volume.

George Walker: Complete Piano Works 1
Alexandre Dossin, piano
Naxos 8.559916

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Peñalosa Ensemble Celebrate the Spanish Renaissance

The Peñalosa Ensemble celebrates its 25th anniversary with an album of Spanish Renaissance composers. One happens to be the ensemble's namesake, Francisco de Peñalosa. The other is Tomás Luis de Victoria. 

The Peñalosa Ensemble neatly divides the program into two halves. The first part presents the music of Peñalosa, the second Victoria's. Peñalosa was active in the late 1490s. He was the first Spanish composer to adopt the Netherlandish style of Josquin de Prez. 

Peñalosa composed before the age of printing. Through handwritten copies, his music spread throughout Spain (though not far beyond). Peñalosa had an affinity for counterpoint and was one of its most advanced proponents. 

Many of his works play with the melodies. Motifs are presented backward, upside down, and even "remixed" with other melodies. This release includes a sterling example of this:  the Missa O Magnum Mysterium. 

Tomás Luis de Victoria came two generations after Peñalosa. He represents the twilight of Rennaisance polyphony. Victoria was a contemporary of Palestrina, and nearly as influential. Unlike Peñalosa, Victoria benefitted from music printing. Victoria was well-known across Western Europe.

Victoria was inspired by Peñalosa (as were most Spanish composers). But his works look ahead to the thinner textures of the Baroque Era. In this release, the differences between Peñalosa and Victoria show in stark contrast.

Marian Music of Spain
Francisco de Peñalosa; Tomás Luis de Victoria
Peñalosa Ensemble
CPO 555 398-2

Friday, May 17, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalMexico Week 3

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 third week of #ClassicalMexico.

05/13/24 Alfonso de Elias (1902-1984): Sinfonia No. 3

Elias's style remained solidly Post-Romantic, even as the century progressed. He was also an important pianist and piano pedagogue.

 

05/14/24 Manuel de Sumaya (1678–1755): Missa a 8 de tercer tono

Sumaya was the most famous Mexican composer in the New Spain colony. He was the first to write an opera in North America, modeled after Italian grand opera.

 

05/15/24 Graciela Agudelo (1945–2018): Parajes de la Memoria: La Selva

Agudelo avoided folk elements in her music. She helped found the Mexican Society of New Music and started the contemporary music group Onix Ensamble.

 

05/16/24 Felipe Villanueva (1862–1893): Amar (Nocturno)

Villanueva was a gifted pianist and violinist, as well as a composer. Although he died at 31, he's still considered one of the major figures of Mexican music during the Romantic Era.

 


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Avalon String Quartet Give Chicago Composers Some Love

This is the kind of release I like. The Avalon String Quartet present works seldom heard. And they're all works that deserve to be heard -- a lot. 

Florence Price had some remarkable achievements to her credit. In the 1930s her works were performed by major symphonies -- the first for a Black female composer. Her piano concerto attracted critical attention. But when she died in 1953, her passing was hardly noted. 

Many of her works remained unperformed and unheard. And most of it was considered lost until 2009. That's when renovations began on her former Chicago home. The workers discovered a large cache of Price's manuscripts. That collection revived Price's reputation.

Her String Quartet No. 2 was written in 1935. It was only published after its rediscovery in 2009. It's a beautifully crafted work. Price effortlessly blends a late-Romantic style with African-American traditional music.

Leo Sowerby was another Chicagoan whose oeuvre also awaits discovery. He composed over 500 works, many of them still in manuscript. His String Quartet in G minor is one such piece. It was written the same year as Price's second quartet. But it's a very different composition. 

Price focused on melody and harmony. Sowerby focused on linear development. It's how the four instruments interact that makes the music. 

The Avalon Quartet performs these works with sympathy and enthusiasm. Their message: this music is a joy to perform, and you should listen. I did, and I agree. 

Also included is Price's Five Folksongs in Counterpoint for String Quartet. This 1951 shows Price just as talented at polyphony as Sowerby. What interested me was the subject matter. Price didn't select five Negro spirituals. "Clementine" and "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes" are also present.

The Avalon Quartet makes a strong case for these works to be heard. And to be heard more often. Recommended.

Florence Beatrice Price; Leo Sowerby
Music for String Quartet
Avalon String Quartet
Naxos 8.559911

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

The Pre-Raphaelite Cello - British Gold

My first reaction when this release crossed my desk wasn't kind. I had nothing against the composers or the performers -- just the title. The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of British painters and poets who wanted authenticity. 

In the 1850s the mannered style of Raphael and Michelangelo defined academic art. As their name suggests, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood were inspired by an earlier style. It was one of intense color and an almost hyperrealistic luminosity. (See the cover for this release.)

The Pre-Raphaelite movement petered out in the mid-1850s. So how, I wondered, could these early 20th-century composers be considered Pre-Raphaelite? According to the liner notes, it's because that's how they defined themselves. 

Percy Grainger coined the term. There were some characteristic harmonies that this loose group of British composers favored. To him, those harmonies were the sonic equivalent of the Pre-Raphaelites' use of color.

Given that, my objection to the title went away. And that knowledge also helped me hear the context of this music. Most of the works were written for British cello virtuoso Beatrice Harrison. Her playing helped define the style of the composers who wrote for her. 

This release presents a roster of composers whom Grainger considered Pre-Raphaelite. There is a similarity in style. Most have the late Romantic post-Brahms sound of Charles Villiers Stanford. But it's mixed with something new. Interest in British folk music was on the rise. Many of these works have modal harmonies and distinctively British melodic turns. 

Adrian Bradbury performs with a clear, warm tone. Many of these works want to sing, and Bradbury's instrument does so. Listen to his heart-melting performance of Roger Quilter's "L'Amour de moy."

Cyrll Scott's compositions border on Debussy-like Impressionism. I especially recommend "Ballade," a 12-minute journey of exploration. 

Every track is a well-crafted miniature. And yes, there is a commonality to these works. Highly recommended for the music, the performances and, yes, even the title.

The Pre-Raphaelite Cello
Adrian Bradbury, cello; Andrew West, piano
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0685

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Welcome Purcell Reissues from William Christie

 

Well this is a nice present. In honor of William Christie's 90th birthday, Harmonia Mundi is reissuing some of his landmark recordings. This particular present is a two-disc set of Purcell. It's really a present for us all. 

Christie and Les Arts Florissants recorded Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" in 1989. "The Fairy Queen" recording followed three years later. Both the recorded sound and performances have aged well. 

Early music, like other aspects of classical music, is an evolving art form. Over time ideas about interpretations evolve. New recordings of this material can sound very different than Christie's. 

But William Christie's genius was in finding the balance between scholarship and musicality. These are well-researched, historically-informed performances. Les Arts Florissants effectively recreated the sound heard in Purcell's time. 

But they're also musical performances. Purcell's 1689 "Dido and Aeneas" is considered the first English opera. His work "The Fairy Queen" from 1692 is based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." These are both dramatic works for the theater.

Christie knew he was telling stories with these works. Both performances effectively convey the dramas. If you know nothing about 17th-century music, you can still enjoy these stories. 

Everything is sung with such clean, clear articulation. You might not even need the libretto. These recordings are as rewarding to listen to today as they were when first released.

As I say, this set is a present to us all.  

Henry Purcell: Dido and Aeneas; The Fairy Queen
Les Arts Florissants; William Christie, conductor
Harmonia Mundi HAX 8904106.08
2 CD Set


Friday, May 10, 2024

#ClassicsaDay #ClassicalMexico Week 2

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 first week of #ClassicalMexico.

05/06/24 José Mariano Elízaga (1786–1842): Ultimas variaciones

Elizage is considered the most important Mexican composer of the early Romantic period. The bulk of his music was considered lost until a cache was discovered in 1994.

 

05/07/24 Cenobio Paniagua (1821-1882): String Quartet No. 1

Paniagua was a violinist as well as a composer. He was the second conductor of the Cathedral Orchestra in Mexico City. Paniagua wrote several operas as well as 70 masses. 

 

05/08/24 Aniceto Ortega (1825–1875): Vals Jarabe

Ortega was a physician, as well as a pianist and composer. He founded Mexico's first hospital for women and children in the 1840s. Ortega helped found the Sociedad Filarmónica Mexicana. And he wrote the first opera based on a native Mexican story --Guatimotzin.  

05/09/24 Felipe Villanueva (1862–1893): Amar (Nocturno)

Villanueva was a gifted pianist and violinist, as well as a composer. Although he died at 31, he's still considered one of the major figures of Mexican music during the Romantic Era.  

05/10/24 Salvador Contreras (1910–1982): Corridos para Coro y Oquestra

Contreras was a composer and violinist. He studied with both Silvestre Revueltas and Carlos Chavez. His own style evolved from neo-romantic to serial composition.