CD

BIS 2342

Richard Strauss (1864-1949) wrote his first tone poem, in Sonata style, “Macbeth” op. 23 in 1886-1888 listening to Wagner and Lizst and came up with a ‘symphonic poem’ It is really a symphonic movement as it tells the story of the character Macbeth and his wife and the not the story. While his first attempt at writing for characters of literature didn’t go as well as he expected it is certainly worth listening to.  However, it lacks the color and tonal quality of a true tone poem, along with the story telling. What it does offer is lots of action if you like your music this way.

At the request of conductor Hans von Bulow in 1888, who thought little of the work, and wasn’t afraid to give his opinion, Strauss revised the work on several occasions once to change the ending from a major key to a minor one at the end of the ‘symphonic poem.’ He conducted it in 1890 with the Weimar Orchestra after “Don Juan” and “Death and Transfiguration” had their premieres even though “Macbeth” was written before. It wasn’t until 1892 that Strauss became satisfied with it and it is this version that you hear performed.

By creating repeating motifs to create dramatic action in such a dissonant way to bring out the in stabilities of the characters. There is no adherence to the plot of the story only the two main characters and Macduff at the end of the work where we do hear a climax.

We hear Macbeth straight away with a fanfare of trumpets but a note of anguish to it and the second played by cellos, basses, and low woodwinds which bring out the sinister side of the man.

Enter Lady Macbeth who begins with very soft and restful flutes and clarinets over a horn note. What follows is her turmoil in this conflict and there is lots of it brewing.

Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my spirits in thine ear,
And chastise with the valour of my tongue,
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
To have thee crown’d withal.

There is a clashing of the two motifs going back and forth which builds to a climax only  to be climaxed by Macduff leaving the two Macbeth’s destroyed by their own plan.

The conclusion is a triumphant march to end the work.

Written in the summer of 1888  “Tod und Verklarung” (‘Death and Transfiguration’) op. 24 is the third of his tone poems and a completely different very mature work that has seen its way to catalogs of symphony orchestras thus well performed due to its superior quality.Strauss was in excellent health when he wrote this and didn’t come down with pneumonia until 18 months after the completion of the work, contrary to the wives tales of the day.

Could it be as one writer put it that Strauss found poetry in his tone poems and it truly told a story? With the help of his friend Alexander Ritter, who wrote the poem below the reader and listener gets an idea of the work.

I. Largo. “In a small bare room, dimly lit by a candle stump, a sick man
lies on his bed. Exhausted by a violent struggle with death, he lies
asleep. In the stillness of the room, like a portent of impending
death, only the quiet ticking of a clock is heard. A melancholy smile
lights the invalid’s pale face: does he dream of golden childhood as he
lingers on the border of life?”

The mood is quiet and there is a steady, yet syncopated, pattern played
by the violins and violas. This is often thought to be the death motive,
though it can also be associated with a ticking clock and a failing human
heartbeat. Arching woodwind solos over horn and harp accompaniment
signal a sad smile and thoughts of youth.

II. Allegro molto agitato. “But death grants him little sleep or time for
dreams. He shakes his prey brutally to begin the battle afresh. The
drive to live, the might of death! What a terrifying contest! Neither
wins the victory and once more silence reigns.”

Harsh blows of the brasses and a faster tempo signify the struggle
with death. Motives that describe this struggle, including a fast paced
version of the death motive from the opening, are battered about the
orchestra. Just as death is about to triumph we hear a glimpse
of the transfiguration theme presented in the harp, trombones, cellos
and violas, the ideal that can only be achieved after death. But death
has not yet come. The music settles again as calm returns to the room.

III. Meno mosso, ma sempre alla breve. “Exhausted from the battle,
sleepless, as in a delirium, the sick man now sees his life pass before him,
step by step, scene by scene. First the rosy dawn of childhood, radiant,
innocent; then the boy’s aggressive games, testing, building his
strength—and so maturing for the battles of manhood, to strive with
burning passion for the highest goals of life: to transfigure all that
seems to him most noble, giving it still more exalted form—this alone
has been the high aim of his whole existence. Coldly, scornfully, the
world set obstacle upon obstacle in his way. When he believed himself
near his goal, a thunderous voice cried: ‘Halt!’ But a voice within him
still urged him on, crying: ‘Make each hindrance a new rung in your
upward climb.’ Undaunted he followed the exalted quest. Still in his
death agony he seeks the unreached goal of his ceaseless striving,
seeks it, but alas, still in vain. Though it grows closer, clearer,
grander, it never can be grasped entire or perfected in his soul. The
final iron hammerblow of death rings out, breaks his earthy frame, and
covers his eyes with eternal night.”

This section begins quietly with solos traded throughout the orchestra
building to a more marchlike section that describes the man’s maturation
to adulthood. The orchestra swells, and at the high points of phrases we
hear the trombones and timpani proclaim the death motive. In the midst
of the chaos the transfiguration motive is also heard, signaling that the end
is near. Another outburst occurs, the final struggle with death, the storm
and fury of the orchestra dying away and capped off with the sound of the
gong, the death knell, announcing the soul’s departure.

IV. Moderato. “But from the endless realms of heavenly space a mighty
resonance returns to him bearing what he longed for here below and
sought in vain: redemption, transfiguration.”

Beginning quietly, the transfiguration theme is presented and is, itself,
transformed. The sound grows as instruments are added and the sound
climbs higher and higher, with all of the symbolic imagery implied, to
the uppermost reaches of the brass, woodwinds and strings. The work
ends peacefully and tranquilly, with death having won the battle but with
the soul’s deliverance and transformation surpassing all.

60 years later Strauss lying on his deathbed says to his sister that death was as I had composed it to be but he only got the dying part right.

1911 produced the opera Der Rosenkavalier (‘The Chevalier of the Rose’) which was a radical departure for Strauss, a comedy. Apparently he was bored writing serious music and for a change followed the path of Mozart although this was quite a bit different from something Amadeus would compose.

Arranged for suite in 1945 likely by the conductor Artur Rodzinski the suite plays all of the tunes we have grown to love and appreciate. As I close my eyes and listen I conjure up a Max Steiner movie from the ’40s. What an influence Strauss had on Hollywood.

While there are 5 parts and 25 minutes it is played with little pause between the movements. The strings are lush in all the right places and one can easily see why this was his most popular piece.

The Singapore Symphony has come a long way from the Marco Polo days of 30 years ago. It is a first class orchestra and the new recording on the BIS label certainly does them justice. The performance is bright and well paced a pleasant listening experience.

 

 

 

 

Morella_Cover

DDR-696

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Works_of_the_Late_Edgar_Allan_Poe/Volume_1/Morella#top

This soundtrack is from the Roger Corman film of 1990 and like his Poe movies of the ’60s from American International the story is quite different in what actually happened if you read the Poe version, which is quite short, you will see exactly what I am writing about. Corman first did the story in 1962 as part of “Tales of Terror,” a 20+ minute tale starring Vincent Price and Leona Gage. The music was by Les Baxter and with a little bit of hunting, I found it on YouTube.

In the 1990 version Morella meets and marries Gideon and the two of them live a life of recluse, reading books to each other which turns to occult material and as a result she is burned at the stake as a witch for trying out one of the experiments.  Before she is burned she has a daughter Leonora who turns out to be very much like  who he also loves as much as her mother. Her mother has other ideas which is taking over her soul.

There is a lesbian affair, heavy duty violence, and nudity is featured in parts, all of course to attract you to go and see the film. Some of the costumes such as the bikini are not period accurate. David McCallum, who seems to be lost, is featured in the role of Gideon, Nicole Eggert is Morella. Others are added to the cast which aren’t in the story to enhance the script.

The score takes advantage of Teetsel being able to arrange and orchestrate material which was then played by members of Arizona symphony groups to give it a full sound to the themes of Cirino which are quite good. The Main Title, included as a track in the review, fits the film so well with its pounding theme  repeated over and over again with timpani in the background, brass fanfare, clarinet solo. I can see why Jim Wynorski the director chose this particular theme for his film. I’ve heard this theme before just can’t remember where it came from. It is repeated on many of the tracks by different instruments  and could be considered as a monothematic soundtrack.

Within the score are some synth choir on Lenora’s Nightmare, Guy and the Tomb, The Diary, and Morella’s Sacrament which just enhance the tracks giving them more color and depth. There is a hint of a harpsichord in Gideon’s Eyes, something I wish was more prevalent on the entire score.

The key to the success of this soundtrack lies in the fact that it is melodic for the most part and the symphony members increase the number of musicians to a level of twenty-five or more giving this film far more than the usual synthesizer has to offer. There are real strings and brass which makes a difference. Set during a romantic period this is a romantic score which Teetsel weaves the horror references into it.

 

1. The Haunting of Morella: Main Title (6:38)
2. Gideon’s Eyes / Morella’s Portrait (1:48)
3. Goodnight Morella (0:58)
4. The Diary (4:30)
5. Not a Living Soul (1:32)
6. Don’t Leave, Don’t Go (4:10)
7. They Meet (2:30)
8. Lenora, Guy and the Tomb (7:20)
9. I Still Live (5:02)
10. Lenora’s Seduction (4:37)
11. Lenora’s Etude (2:39)
12. The Waterfall (2:39)
13. The Mirror (3:18)
14. Lenora’s Nightmare (3:10)
15. Morella’s Sacrement (1:24)
16. Another Victim (2:24)
17. Lenora Descends Into the Tomb (4:58)
18. Finale (3:54)
Total Time: 64:14

 

 

 

April 7, 2020

Bernstein Cover Art

Beatles Go Baroque 2

November 29, 2019

beatles baroque

Track Listing

JS BACH- KEYBOARD CONCERTO IN D MINOR BWV 1052

1.    Come Together (2:55)

2.    Blackbird (4:44)

3.    Drive My Car (3:06)

JS BACH- VIOLIN CONCERTO IN A MINOR BWV 1041

4.    I Want to Hold Your Hand (2:58)

5.    Something (3:24)

6.    Day Tripper (2:45)

JS BACH- BRANDENBURG CONCERTO NO. 2 IN F MAJOR BWV 1047

7.    Nowhere Man (3:11)

8.    While My Guitar Gently Weeps (3:40)

9.    Ob- La- Di, Ob- La- Da (3:14)

VIVALDI- THE FOUR SEASONS OP. 8

10.  A Day in the Life (3:33) Spring 1

11.  Norwegian Wood (3:48) Spring 3

12.  Octopus’s Garden (4:04) Autumn 1

13.  Because (3:13) Autumn 2

14.  Back in the U.S.S.R. (3:03) Winter 1

15. Julia (3:39) Winter 2

16.  Get Back (3:02) Autumn 3

JS BACH- MASS IN B MINOR BWV 232

17.  I. Here, There and Everywhere (3:20)

18. Yesterday (3:28)

19.  Hello, Goodbye (2:48)

THE BEATLES- GOLDEN SLUMBER- ABBEY ROAD MELODY

20.  Golden Slumber (4:05)

JS BACH-BRANDENBURG CONCERTO NO. 3 BWV 1048

21. Her Majesty (0:49)

8.574078                 Total Time is 70:09

In 1983 Peter Breiner, arranger, pianist, and conductor was approached by the Slovak Chamber conductor Bohdan Warchal to do an encore piece. Breiner created a five-song concerto grosso of the Beatles and the piece was a hit. In 1992 Naxos owner Klaus Heymann asked Breiner to do an album of popular tunes set in the baroque style of Bach and Handel. The Beatles who were called the Schuberts of the modern-day era by Leonard Bernstein provided the perfect songs to be used for this project. The album went on to be a success and sold over 250,000 copies making it a best-seller for Naxos and the crossover market. Christmas Tunes (2 volumes) and Elvis Presley followed. Crossover is not a new thing with Glenn Miller in the ’40s taking the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto and arranger Bill Finegan making a big band arrangement out of it as an example. Eumir Deodato won a Grammy and sold 5 million copies of his rock/jazz version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” in 1974.

For this new release, Breiner took a different approach and melded both compositions into one work producing an amazing track that is much more than the standard crossover of changing the rhythm of a classical work to make it sound disco, big band, or jazz. The opening track of Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in D Minor with the Beatles “Come Together” is an excellent example of what this release is all about. It begins with Bach’s keyboard work and slowly blends in “Come Together” chords until the entire melody is revealed with the Bach work in the background or is it? It returns again to first the melody and then the harmony playing as prominent a role as the Beatles theme making this a new idea. As you give this work multiple listens you’ll find that there are a lot more to the arrangements than your first listen. Also included with the Keyboard Concerto is “Blackbird.” It begins with a dark motif from the Keyboard Concerto with McCartney’s theme coming in over the theme as a single piano key melody followed by a violin solo and then the chamber orchestra including itself in the melody and harmony. The work ends with the return of the Keyboard Concerto theme. Beginning with a Bach fugerian chord the piano and violin introduce the “Drive My Car” into the song with the violin playing the melody and the fugerian chords while the harmony is played by the piano very briskly. The result is a nice blend of the two playings together.

The Bach Violin Concerto in A Minor is nicely mated with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” which becomes something that adapts so well to the concerto you would think the modulations came from Bach himself, Breiner commented. Does that say anything to you about the Beatles and the musical talent they possess? Are they enriched in classical music? “Something” blends the two works so nicely together with the violin being solo featured with the chamber orchestra providing the harmony from the Violin Concerto in the background. “Day Tripper” features the entire chamber orchestra playing both themes in unison with the basses playing “Day Tripper” in the background and a violin and string ensemble playing the other theme.

The Brandenburg Concerto #2 features the woodwinds playing the main melody “Nowhere Man” with Bach accompaniment provided by the strings very active in the background making this a very baroque sounding piece with the harmony it offers. “While My Guitar Weeps” has a background of the George Harrison tune with the Brandenburg Concerto assuming the main role. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’s” loud and rowdy tune is offered from the strings as the strings carry both melodies with the harpsichord playing the harmony both in the background and the forefront. It offers a new unique sound to the Breiner orchestra as the arrangement fits the song well.

The next seven songs of the Beatles are merged with Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons various movements beginning with the most popular Vivaldi movement Spring 1 with the Beatles “A Day in the Life.” Each work gets equal attention as the melody switches back and forth between the two popular melodies making an attention-getting song for the listener. The Violin Concerto of Spring 3 is coupled with “Norwegian Wood” switching violin solo between the harmony and melody creating a rather smooth flow between the two. Starr’s “Octopus’s Garden” fits very nicely with Autumn 1 which uses a harpsichord instead of piano. The violin plays his solo upbeat and with a lot of gusto making it almost gypsy-like. Back to the somber side, we have “Because” coupled with Autumn 2 in a slow romantic setting again with harpsichord. “Back in the USSR” takes a front-row seat with the chamber orchestra assuming both the melody and harmony with Winter 1 in the background. The very beautiful “Julia” is featured on a violin with a background of Vivaldi Winter 2. “Get Back” offers a return to a high energy quick-paced track with Autumn 3 in the background. I was reminded of a high-speed chase track from a soundtrack.

The Bach Mass in D Minor merges with 3 Beatles songs “I. Here, There and Everywhere,” a complex arrangement with the flute, fugue, and melody and harmony by the ensemble. “Yesterday,” reminds one of a melancholy moment with bassoon and solo violin,  and “Hello Goodbye” a very positive reading from both composers.

A Golden Slumber is an Abbey Road medley of Beatles song written in the baroque style and the last track albeit 49 seconds is a Brandenburg Concerto.

One of the things I suggest you do is to listen to all of the original Beatles compositions to get an exact idea of the medley and how it fits into the baroque works. Breiner has gone to great lengths with his arrangements to make these more than just a rhythm sound to these works. When you listen to these works think of them as something you are hearing for the very first time. If you do, it will enhance your listening pleasure greatly.

 

 

 

 

 

    

FR-735COVER

Alexander Nevsky op. 78
1 Russia under Mongolian Tyranny 3:29
2 Song of Alexander Nevsky 3:50
3 The Crusade in Pskov 7:28
4 Arise, People of Russia 2:06
5 The Battle on the Ice 13:46
6 The Field of the Dead 6:13
7 Alexander enters Pskov 4:31
Lieutenant Kijé Suite op. 60
8 Kijé’s Birth 3:58
9 Romance 3:51
10 Kijé’s Wedding 2:33
11 Troika 2:42
12 Kijé’s Funeral 5:22

Total Time= 60:06 FR735SACD

Sergei Prokofiev (1891- 1953) was Ukranian born to an agronomist father and a mother who was devoted to music and theater. Because of this, he started playing at the age of three, wrote his first composition at the age of five, and his first opera at the age of nine.

At eleven he was introduced to Reinhold Gliere who began teaching him composition for two years. At fourteen he was introduced to Alexander Glazunov and the Saint Petersburg Conservatory where he remained for ten years, composing ballets, operas, and concertos.

In 1917 he wrote his first symphony “Classical” a work written in the style of Haydn yet incorporating modern elements making it truly unique. In 1918 he left Russia for San Francisco and spent the next eighteen years in America and Paris finally returning to Moscow in 1936 where he remained until his death in 1953 also the same day Joseph Stalin died. He was convicted of formalism along with others in 1948 forcing him to withdraw from public appearances.

The two works presented on this CD were from his film days, “Alexander Nevsky” (1938) is a product of the famous Russian director Sergei Eisenstein and Lieutenant Kije (1934). Both works were turned into symphonic works and are two of his more popular works. He even had a hand in mike placements to determine trumpet sounds (distorting them in Nevsky).

Since both films are available on the internet for free you should watch them seeing where the music is placed even though they are suites that you’re listening to. It will also give you an idea of how far we’ve come in terms of audio quality. The results will shock you.

In 1242 Alexander Nevsky was summoned to save the federation of Rus by the knights of the Livorian order. Prokofiev wrote a twenty-seven part soundtrack for the film which he reduced to a seven-part cantana for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra. Frank Strobel introduced the original film score in 2003 and gave a stoic performance.  What is included has no musical interest or improvement to the cantata.

  1.  “Russia under Mongolian Tyranny” sets the scene by Prokofiev with an atmospheric motif in c minor as the camera pans over burnt villages, human bones, swords, and rusty lances all depicting the war. The motif switches between the heavy brass and a folk tune from the winds.
  2.   “Song of Alexander Nevsky” is embedded into the film as part of the commentary by Eisenstein’s decision not to synchronize the music to the film. The chorus talks about the victory over the Swedes but Nevsky warns about a more dangerous foe Germany.
  3.   “The Crusade in Pskov” is filled with heavy brass dissonant chords mixed in with chants from the chorus. The lower register passages will rumble your woofer and the major strings will switch your mood almost instantly, mourning for the dead.
  4.   “Arise, People of Russia” is a march full of resolution and hope a bolstering of the troops predicting victory. Nevsky has made his plans to capture the enemy on the ice.
  5.   “The Battle on the Ice” is the longest of the movements at nearly fourteen minutes and is also the most popular part of the work. It begins with the dawn and sinister strings followed by a constant playing of a low register theme that signals the German army arriving. The German theme is distorted on purpose with the brass, grating to the ears. The movement, after much turmoil, segues into a quiet peaceful string elegy.
  6.   “The Field of the Dead” mourns the death of war. The Mezzo-Soprano promises to wed a warrior whose bravery will never end instead of one who is handsome. There are no chords of triumph.
  7.   “Alexander Enters Pskov” continues the dirge as the dead are brought through the city. The music continues with a compilation of the previous themes and ends on a victorious note.

Lt. Kije (1934), a farcical film was the first attempt at a soundtrack for Prokofiev. He was intrigued by the storyline and ended up writing a series of leitmotifs totaling fifteen minutes that were satirical by this caustic and witty composer. The story was perfect for him and led him to his return to Russia two years later.

Because of a mistake on a roster list the fictitious Lt. Kije is created and he somehow marries the daughter of the tsar Gagarina and has lots of fortune available to him. Eventually, he is found out which solves the problem. but the story shows the stupidity of the royal family and the displeasing of one’s superior.

While it is seldom played the suite is scored for a baritone which is sung in Romance and Troika tracks.

  1. “Kije’s Birth” begins with a distant cornet barely audible to introduce the track. The piccolo introduces a march type theme that extends itself to the strings and brass. We hear a solo from a tenor saxophone (new at the time). It ends as it started with the cornet in the background.
  2.  “Romance” is a song The Little Grey Dove is Cooing which Prokofiev adapted to fit this movement. It starts with double bass, viola, tenor saxophone, horn and bassoons, and celesta. The flute offers a counter-melody and the strings end the sentimental movement.
  3.  “Kije’s Wedding” begins with a brass phrase followed by the wedding theme. The middle section is a soulful tenor sax solo before the leitmotif returns in a witty fashion. The brass ends the movement as it began.
  4.  “Troika” is a Russian three-horse sleigh and with tempo changes, Prokofiev goes from very quickly to slow to reproduce motion. Its theme has been used many times in jazz arrangements, commercials, television, and films. As you listen to it you can hear the bells jingling and the clicking of the hooves.
  5.  “The Burial of Lt. Kije” begins like the first movement a distant cornet and then Prokofiev arranges the four tunes like a highlight reel including all the nuances and subtleties they have to offer. There is a part where the strings and the cornet are playing two of the melodies at the same time. It’s a very clever well thought out arrangement.

     There have been many recordings of this suite including 78 recordings, 331/3 LPs, cassettes, 8 tracks, and CDs.  There are many fine recordings available, one of which is this recording with the Utah Symphony. What sets this one apart is the new recording quality from Reference recordings. The instruments just sound better and this is very important with Prokofiev and the instruments he chose for these compositions especially the tenor saxophone.

7318599924519

 

van BEETHOVEN, Ludwig (1770—1827)
Symphony No.9 in D minor, ‘Choral’, Op.125
I. Allegro ma non troppo e un poco maestoso 14’26
II. Molto vivace — Presto 14’08
III. Adagio molto e cantabile — Andante moderato 14’31
IV. Finale 22’38
Presto 2’37
Allegro assai 3’21
Presto 3’28
Allegro assai vivace. Alla marcia 3’53
Andante maestoso 3’02
Allegro energico e sempre ben marcato 2’13
Allegro ma non tanto 2’15
Poco allegro — Presto 1’49
Ann-Helen Moen soprano · Marianne Beate Kielland alto
Allan Clayton tenor · Neal Davies bass
Bach Collegium Japan chorus & orchestra
Masaaki Suzuki conductor

BIS-2451 TOTAL TIME- 65:03

Composed between 1822-24 Beethoven was thinking about the D Minor Symphony ten years earlier with sketches of the scherzo, fugue, and first movement in his sketchbooks. It was during this time in his life that the effects of his deafness were beginning to take effect. Since his early youth, he had been interested in Schiller’s An Die Freude (owned a book of his poems) “Ode to Joy” and his Ninth Symphony became the vehicle to incorporate this poem written in 1785. The poem/song has become a symbol of hope and unity,  most recently because of the Bernstein performance when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 as well as the initial reaction of the work between the populist and Hapsburgs among others. It turned the city of Vienna from a police state into one of universal brotherhood. Beethoven, by using this composition, created the first Choral Symphony, opera incorporated into a symphony, and a bridge between classical and romantic music. He also influenced a lot of composers including Brahms, Bruckner, Wagner, and Mahler with this last major work.

Beethoven conducted the premiere in Vienna in May of 1824 (his choice was Berlin because of the Italian influence in Vienna). He was totally deaf by this time in his life and the alto singer Caroline Unger turned him around after the performance to face the enthusiastic audience which was in shock when they realized he couldn’t hear. He conducted the following evening to a much smaller audience and this was his last public performance.

The Symphony is in four movements and very long for its day at 60+ minutes. It was the largest orchestra that Beethoven had ever assembled including two ensembles and amateurs.

The first movement begins with a pianissimo stirring in the fog waiting to emerge. We don’t know what it is but it shows itself with an abrupt immersion of a theme in D minor in fortissimo. Written in 1816 (sketchbooks) this heroic music shows the transition between the classical and the romantic style. As it shows itself we don’t know whether to embrace it or be afraid. The end features a funeral march that starts with the bass and eventually spreads itself to the entire orchestra, a coda of some length.

The second movement, a scherzo, in quadruple time, is played out of usual order and has a somewhat similar sound to the first movement. It is a fugue piece of rhythm in D minor, staccato, with accompaniment from the timpani. The second theme is in D major which is in duple time and the trio’s theme is introduced by the trombones, a folk-like melody which eventually is overpowered by the scherzo which abruptly ends the movement.

The third movement, an adagio in B flat major, is placed out of order by Beethoven and unlike the first two movements is one that is filled with warmth but also sadness. It is lead by the woodwinds, a double variation between the rhythm and the melody. In the end, the pizzicato sound increases in volume and the movement ends with a loud fanfare from the brass.

The final and longest of the movements is, in reality, a symphony within a symphony divided into four parts.

  1.  Themes and Variations which include a brief cell of each of the first three movements as well as dissonant passages in the beginning which definitely gets your attention.
  2.   A Scherzo in a military-style and it ends in a chorus of the main theme “Ode to Joy.”
  3.   A slow meditation with a new theme.
  4.   A fugato based on the first and third themes.

The Ninth today is almost universally accepted as one of the greatest musical works ever written. Having said that Verdi loved the first three movements but found bad writing for the voices in the final movement. There has been much discussion in the metronome markings, some conductors claiming it was too fast. There has been a discussion about a missing weight which would alter the numbers on the metronome of Beethoven’s that still exists today. Both Wagner and Mahler changed the woodwinds to give it a modern sound and several have performed the work on original instruments, the path taken by the Bach Collegium Japan, orchestra of this review.

There have been several books that have been written about just the Ninth Symphony and the times in Austria/Germany.

There have been movies such as “Copying Beethoven”(2006) which is a fictional story about the last year of his life about a copyist who never really existed. There was a Hollywood film “Immortal Beloved”(1994) starring Gary Oldman about his life. There was a documentary film “Following the Ninth: In the Steps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony.”

Stanley Kubrick, a director, featured the Ninth in his film “A Clockwork Orange,” and it has been used in several other films such as “Die Hard,” “Dead Poets Society” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

Founded in 1990 by Masaaki Suzuki, Bach leading authority, the Bach Collegium Japan has recently gotten away from recording only Bach to Beethoven including this 9th Symphony using period instruments. The result is nothing short of spectacular comparing it to similar recordings. The SACD Surround Sound Hybrid pressing results in a superior sound, a huge difference from my Toscanini NBC Symphony release from the early fifties which is a monaural recording. Over the years I have listened to many conductors and orchestras and this has remained my favorite. Suzuki has given us a fine reading with period instruments in a modern up to date recording. I can only hope this will be a success for BIS. It is now a part of my collection along with the Toscanini.

 

 

4035719001044

 

            01 Andante – Allegro con anima 14:48
02 Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza –
Moderato con anima 12:25
03 Valse. Allegro moderato 5:43
04 Finale. Andante maestoso –
Allegro vivace (Alla breve) 12:03

Total time 45:38
Bavarian Radio Symphony
Mariss Jansons / conductor

BRK900104 W/ CATALOG

In celebration of ten years, BR Klassik’s (radio station founded in 1980) label is offering this CD for $4.99 with a catalog of their releases. This Mariss Jansons recording was released in 2009, a live recording in Munich. It was re-released for this anniversary without the “Francesca Da Rimini” selection.

The initial idea for a new symphony came to Tchaikovsky in April 1888 about the time he was also working on the overture to Hamlet while staying in Frolovskoye, a town outside of Moscow, to get away to compose. There was a doubt as he wrote to his younger brother Modest, “Now I am gradually and with some difficulty, squeezing a symphony out of my addled brain.” He expressed doubt to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck saying “Am I really written out?” The rough draft was completed by the end of June and the orchestration was done by the middle of August with the composer being relatively pleased with the work.

The orchestral premiere took place in St. Petersburg in November of 1888 with the composer conducting. While friends of Tchaikovsky were enthusiastic about the performance critics were very harsh towards it. Alfred Einstein accused the neurotic  Tchaikovsky of exhibitionism of emotion claiming the composer had succumbed to spasms of melancholia. This lead Tchaikovsky to further bouts of depression and failure as a composition.

Today it stands out as a work of great orchestration, harmony, and filled with many melodies and takes its place as one of the great symphonies which are listened to and performed often.

The main theme is introduced and darkly played by a clarinet which is a cyclical one in all four movements, where Tchaikovsky made some program notes about it but discarded it. In it, he said of the first movement “… a complete resignation before fate which is the same as the inscrutable predestination of fate…” It is a sonata, taking the form of many classical symphonies as the first movement. It offers five themes switching from major to minor keys and returning at the end to the recurring main theme.

The second movement or andante cantabile is one of the more recognizable tunes having been performed in films and as a single called “Moon Love” by Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra among others with lyrics by Mack David, Mack Davis, and Andre Kostelanetz. The five-note melody on the horn going gently upwards is introduced by the strings. There is a theme by the oboe and the horn a return to the main theme and finally, the clarinet which remains in a dream-like state.

The third and shortest of the movements is a waltz which has three melodies from the violin, oboe, and bassoon, and bassoon including a scherzo and finally back to the main theme.

The fourth movement returns to the recurring main theme before the violins take-over with an allegro. There are two additional themes from the woodwinds, strings, and flute. The brass and the trumpets finish off the movement with a return to the main theme.

There are over 100 recordings of the Fifth Symphony in a single form, the last three symphonies, or a set of six symphonies with or without the Manfred. All of the major conductors have recorded some or all of the Tchaikovsky symphonies. Included in this mix is Mariss Jansons who also recorded the set in 1984 with the Oslo Philharmonic for Chandos as well as this release for BR Klassik’s in 2009. Both recordings are very similar in tempo and style which is straight from the score, perhaps a little bit on the quick side but certainly not pushed in any way. It is far from the almost frantic pace of the Mravinsky 1960 DG stereo recording, the most recommended performance. To get this recording you have to purchase 4, 5, and 6 as opposed to getting a good quality Symphony No. 5 at a reduced price by a conductor who has Russian Soul and an orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony who understands Russian music.

One thing that I didn’t like was the humming in the background of the conductor. The first time I heard it I had to go back and re-listen to it to make sure I had not made a mistake. I heard it on my higher end Grado headphones and not my Bose speakers so the sound is very soft. I wouldn’t let this prevent me from purchasing this recording.

I found the wave download file from Naxos to be perfectly acceptable for my listening needs. It was free of any glitches that sometimes occur.

This is a good buy and I would recommend it if you don’t have it or as a gift to someone.