Saturday, June 16, 2018

June 16, 1955: Glenn Gould finished his famous recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations

Last updated August 31, 2018.

Goldberg Variations, for keyboard (Clavier- Übung IV), BWV 988 (BC L9)

Johann Sebastian Bach (composer)


Composed: 1741


Recorded by Glenn Gould: June 10-16, 1955


Sales: 2 million


Peak: - NA -

Quotable: “Among the most sophisticated works ever written for keyboard.” – John Keiller, All Music Guide


Genre: classical > baroque > solo piano


Parts/Movements:

  1. Aria
  2. Variatio 1. a 1 Clav.
  3. Variatio 2. a 1 Clav.
  4. Variatio 3. Canone all’Unisono. a 1 Clav.
  5. Variatio 4. a 1 Clav.
  6. Variatio 5. a 1 ô vero 2 Clav.
  7. Variatio 6. Canone alla Seconda. a 1 Clav.
  8. Variatio 7. a 1 ô vero 2 Clav. al tempo di Giga
  9. Variatio 8. a 2 Clav.
  10. Variatio 9. Canone alla Terza. a 1 Clav.
  11. Variatio 10. Fughetta. a 1 Clav.
  12. Variatio 11. a 2 Clav.
  13. Variatio 12. a 1 Clav. Canone alla Quarta in moto contrario
  14. Variatio 13. a 2 Clav.
  15. Variatio 14. a 2 Clav.
  16. Variatio 15. Canone alla Quinta. a 1 Clav.: Andante
  17. Variatio 16. Ouverture. a 1 Clav.
  18. Variatio 17. a 2 Clav.
  19. Variatio 18. Canone alla Sesta. a 1 Clav.
  20. Variatio 19. a 1 Clav.
  21. Variatio 20. a 2 Clav.
  22. Variatio 21. Canone alla Settima
  23. Variatio 22. a 1 Clav. alla breve
  24. Variatio 23. a 2 Clav.
  25. Variatio 24. Canone all'Ottava. a 1 Clav.
  26. Variatio 25. a 2 Clav.: Adagio
  27. Variatio 26. a 2 Clav.
  28. Variatio 27. Canone alla Nona. a 2 Clav.
  29. Variatio 28. a 2 Clav.
  30. Variatio 29. a 1 ô vero 2 Clav.
  31. Variatio 30. a 1 Clav. Quodlibet
  32. Aria da Capo

Average Length: 63:40

Review:

“Bach was perhaps never so rewarded for one of his works as” WK he was for the Goldberg Variations, which were written for harpsichord, but is sometimes performed on piano. WK In fact, pianist Glenn Gould has given the Goldberg Variations their greatest audience with several recordings, collectively having exceeded two million in sales. His recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1983 and added to the National Recording Registry in 2003.

Scholars have debated the specifics about the origin of the work, but have generally accepted that they were commissioned by Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, JK who may have been the first to perform them. WK Goldberg’s “job was to perform for Count Keyserkingk, a chronic insomniac who needed music to lull him to sleep. Many records suggest that Bach once taught Goldberg, a famed virtuoso, who would have easily been able to play the variations. It is also believed that the technical wizardry required to play the variations comes directly from Bach’s study of Domenico Scarlatti’s Essercizi for keyboard from 1739, itself a daunting piece for exceptional players only.” JK

It has been suggested that the aria is “not the composer’s own, but was related to a now-untraceable French keyboard dance.” JK However, “more recent scholarly literature…suggest that there is no basis for such doubts.” WK

“The variations do not follow the melody of the aria, but rather use its bass line…and chord progression.” WK “The basic harmonies and structures of the variations are all the same as the theme’s.” JK “Every third variation in the series…is a canon, following an ascending pattern.” WK “The variations that intervene between the canons are also arranged in a pattern.” WK

“The work exemplifies Bach’s quest for the greatest amount of diversity within relentless unity...The work does not sound like the awesomely complex compendium that it is. The music is deceptively simple and heartfelt, with a noble calm even when the performer is obliged to cross hands at lightning speeds. It never seethes or gets gritty, and is, of course, never boring.” JK

“This work is sublime and compassionate, graceful, warm, and relentlessly intricate, a demonstration of unmatched craft in music history and genuine, poetic imagination. The Goldberg Variations is a work that still engages scholars hundreds of years after its publication and is equally valuable for attracting new listeners to this sort of music.” JK


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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 13, 1911: Stravinsky's Petrushka ballet premiered

Last updated September 1, 2018.

Petrushka, ballet (burlesque) in 4 scenes for orchestra (aka “Petrouchka”)

Igor Stravinsky (composer)


Composed: 1910-11


Revised: 1947


First Performance: June 13, 1911


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: Petrushka‘s “position as one of the greatest ballets remains unassailed.” – Grace Robert WK


Genre: classical > ballet


Parts/Movements:

First Tableau: The Shrovetide Fair:

  1. Introduction
  2. A group of Drunken Revelers passes, dancing
  3. The Master of Ceremonies entertains the Crowd from his booth above
  4. An Organ-Grinder appears in the Crowd with a [woman] Dancer
  5. The Organ-Grinder begins to play
  6. The Dancer dances, beating time on the triangle
  7. At the other end of the stage a Music Box plays, another [woman] Dancer dancing around it.
  8. The first Dancer plays the triangle again
  9. The Organ and Music Box stop playing; the Master of Ceremonies resumes his pitch
  10. The Merry Group returns
  11. Two Drummers, stepping up in front of the Little Theater, attract the attention of the Crowd by their drumrolls
  12. At the front of [i.e. from inside] the Little Theater appears the Old Magician.
  13. The Magic Trick
  14. Russian Dance

Second Tableau: Petrushka’s Room:

  1. As the Curtain rises, the door to Petrushka's room opens suddenly; a foot kicks him onstage;
  2. Petrushka falls and the door closes again behind him
  3. Petrushka's curses
  4. The Ballerina enters
  5. The Ballerina leaves
  6. Petrushka's despair
  7. Darkness. Curtain.

Third Tableau: The Moor’s Room:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Moor dances
  3. Appearance of the Ballerina
  4. Dance of the Ballerina (cornet in hand)
  5. Waltz (the Ballerina and the Moor)
  6. The Moor and the Ballerina prick up their ears
  7. Appearance of Petrushka
  8. The Fight between the Moor and Petrushka. The Ballerina faints.
  9. The Moor throws Petrushka Out. Darkness. Curtain.

Fourth Tableau: The Shrovetide Fair (Toward Evening):

  1. Introduction
  2. The Wet-Nurses' Dance
  3. A Peasant enters with a Bear. Everyone scatters.
  4. The Peasant plays the pipe. The Bear walks on his hind feet.
  5. The Peasant and the Bear leave.
  6. A Reveling Merchant and two Gypsy Women Enter. He irresponsibly amuses himself by throwing bank notes to the Crowd.
  7. The Gypsy Women dance. The Merchant plays the accordion.
  8. The Merchant and the Gypsies leave
  9. Dance of the Coachmen and the Grooms
  10. The dances break off. Petrushka dashes from the Little Theater, pursued by the Moor, whom the Ballerina tries to restrain.
  11. The furious Moor seizes him and strikes him with his saber.
  12. Petrushka falls, his head broken
  13. A crowd forms around Petrushka
  14. He dies, still moaning.
  15. A Policeman is sent to look for the Magician
  16. The Magician arrives
  17. He picks up Petrushka's corpse, shaking it.
  18. The Crowd disperses.
  19. The Magician remains alone on stage. He drags Petrushka's corpse toward the Little Theater.
  20. Above the Little Theater appears the Ghost of Petrushka, menacing, thumbing his nose at the Magician.
  21. The terrified Magician lets the Puppet-Petrushka drop from his hands, and exits quickly, casting frightened glances over his shoulder.
  22. Curtain

Average Duration: ?

Review:

Petrushka first emerged as a ballet in 1911. Stravinsky originally undertook the work “as a kind of compositional reprieve between the completion” sup>JG of The Firebird and The Rite of Spring. His initial conception was that it be an orchestral work with a prominent piano part with the pianist “as some kind of clownish puppet come to life.” JG Sergey Diaghilev, the impresario of the Ballet Russes, heard the beginnings of another ballet and Stravinsky rerouted the “original concert scope to its full theatrical realization.” JG The story focuses on three puppets. Petrushka loves the Ballerina, but she rejects him in favor of the Moor. When Petrushka challenges him, the Moor kills him. Petrushka’s ghost returns before dying again. WK The ballet premiered on June 13, 1911, at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. WK

A decade later, Stravinsky returned to the work when pianist Arthur Rubinstein paid him to convert it into a solo piano piece. Stravinsky subsequently re-arranged Russian Dance, Petrushka’s Cell, and The Shrove-tide Fair BJ to a style more reminiscent of the work’s “initial sketches in the summer of 1910 as a concerto for piano and orchestra.” BJ

In 1947, Stravinsky revived Petrushka again to adapt it from its stage presentation to a concert format. JG In the intervening decades, he had “dedicated much of his creative energies…to developing a more economical, streamlined, objective style.” JG The revision “trims most of the wind parts” JG and brings the piano to the forefront while bringing “out certain elements of the work that had been part of its initial [pre-ballet] creative conception.” JG

A 1950 performance of the piece by L’Orchestre de La Suisse Romande, conducted by Ernest Ansermet, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.


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Sunday, June 10, 2018

June 10, 1865: Wagner's Tristan und Isolde opera premiered

Last updated August 29, 2018.

Tristan und Isolde, opera, WWV 90

Richard Wagner (composer)


Composed: 1857-1859


Premiere: June 10, 1865


Sales: --


Peak: --

Quotable: “One of the peaks of the operatic repertoire” – Wikipedia


Genre: classical > opera


Parts/Movements:

Act I:

  1. Prelude
  2. "Hab acht, Tristan!" (Kurvenal)
  3. "Doch nun von Tristan!" (Isolde)
  4. "Wie lachend sie mir Lieer singen" (Isolde's Narrative and Curse)
  5. "So reihte sie die Mutter" (Brangane)
  6. "Begehrt, Herrin was ihr wunscht" (Tristan)

Act II:

  1. Prelude
  2. a. "Isolde! Geliebte! Tristan! geliebter" (Tristan, Isolde)
    b. "O eitler Tagesknecht!" (Isolde)
    c. "O sink hernieder" (Beide)
  3. a. "Einsam wachend" (Brangane's Waming)
    b. "Lausch Geliebter!"
    c. "So sturben wir" (Tristan)
    d. "Lass' mich sterben!" (Isolde)
  4. "Tatest du's wirklich?" (King Marke's Monologue)
  5. "Konig... Wohin nun Tristan scheidet" (Tristan)

Act III:

  1. Prelude
  2. "Die alte Weise - was weckt sie mich?" (Tristan)
  3. "Dunkt dich das?" (Tristan)
  4. "Wie sie selig"
  5. "O diese Sonne!" (Tristan)
  6. "Ha! Ich bin's, ich bin's" (Isolde)
  7. "Mild und leise" (Liebestod) (Isolde)
  8. "Prelude und Liebestod" (Concert version, arr. Humperdinck)

Average Duration: 222:30

Review:

Tristan und Isolde is a three-act opera based largely on Tristan, a 12th-century romance by Gottfried von Strassburg. Inspiration also included philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and Wagner’s affair with Mathilde Wesendonck, WK his patron’s wife to whom he wrote poems which became the basis for five of the opera’s songs. JH Wagner “stated in his 1860 essay The Music of the Future, he wanted to compose an opera of more modest scale with a chance of being produced.” JH It premiered on June 10, 1865 at the Königliches Hof- und Nationaltheater in Munich with Hans von Bülow as the conductor. WK

It “was notable for Wagner’s unprecedented use of chromaticism, tonal ambiguity, orchestral colour and harmonic suspension.” WK Many view Wagner’s opera as the onset of a movement away from “common practice harmony and tonality” WK which launched musical modernism and “the direction of classical music in the 20th century.” WK Wagner’s “libretto style and music” served as enormous influences on 19th and early 20th century symbolist poets as well as Western classical composers, proving inspirational to Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Karol Szymanowski, Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg and Benjamin Britten. WK

“The harmonic language of Tristan…not only enacts musically the sexual tension between the opera’s two central characters, but also points to the liberation of dissonance from the constraints of tonality that Arnold Schoenberg and others in the twentieth century would champion. The Prelude to Tristan fully exemplifies Wagner’s forward-looking approach to both harmony and the issue of musical form – or, some would say, formlessness – that operates centrally in his music-dramas.” JH Wagner also used instrumental music to introduce “central motives which correspond with characters and ideas.” JH


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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Neil & Tim Finn: Top 100 Songs

image from pinterest.com

Tim Finn first become a known entity in the music world for helming the New Zealand-based new-wave group Split Enz from the mid-‘70s through the early ‘80s. Toward the end, his younger brother Neil entered the fold. Tim went on to a solo career and Neil formed Crowded House. The two worked together again on a couple of albums and Tim even joined Crowded House for their 1991 Woodface album. Here is the best of the brothers:

I Got You (1980)

1. Don’t Dream It’s Over (CH, 1986)
2. I Got You (SE, 1980)
3. Weather with You (CH, 1991)
4. Better Be Home Soon (CH, 1988)
5. Something So Strong (CH, 1986)
6. History Never Repeats (SE, 1981)
7. Fall at Your Feet (CH, 1991)
8. It’s Only Natural (CH, 1991)
9. Distant Sun (CH, 1993)
10. Message to My Girl (SE, 1983)

Six Months in a Leaky Boat (1982)

11. Six Months in a Leaky Boat (SE, 1982)
12. One Step Ahead (SE, 1980)
13. I Hope I Never (SE, 1980)
14. Into Temptation (CH, 1988)
15. I See Red (SE, 1978)
16. World Where You Live (CH, 1986)
17. Chocolate Cake (CH, 1991)
18. Mean to Me (CH, 1986)
19. Four Seasons in One Day (CH, 1991)
20. Locked Out (CH, 1993)

A Fraction Too Much Friction (1983)

21. How’m I Gonna Sleep (TF, 1989)
22. Time for a Change (SE, 1975)
23. Don’t Stop Now (CH, 2007)
24. What’s the Matter with You? (SE, 1980)
25. Hard Act to Follow (SE, 1981)
26. Silent House (CH, 2007)
27. Nails in My Feet (CH, 1993)
28. Late Last Night (SE, 1976)
29. Dirty Creature (SE, 1982)
30. Poor Boy (SE, 1980)

Message to My Girl (1983)

31. My Mistake (SE, 1977)
32. Now We’re Getting Somewhere (CH, 1986)
33. Won’t Give In (FB, 2004)
34. Pineapple Head (CH, 1993)
35. When You Come (CH, 1988)
36. Maybe (SE, 1975)
37. She Will Have Her Way (NF, 1998)
38. Fingers of Love (CH, 1993)
39. Persuasion (TF, 1993)
40. Straight Old Line (SE, 1983)

Don’t Dream It’s Over (1986)

41. Give It a Whirl (SE, 1979)
42. Never Ceases to Amaze Me (SE, 1982)
43. Bold As Brass (SE, 1977)
44. I Don’t Wanna Dance (SE, 1981)
45. Edible Flowers (FB, 2004)
46. Private Universe (CH, 1993)
47. I Walk Away (SE, 1984)
48. Next Exit (SE, 1983)
49. A Fraction too Much Friction (TF, 1983)
50. Not the Girl You Think You Are (CH, 1996)

Something So Strong (1987)

51. Things (SE 1979)
52. Sister Madly (CH, 1988)
53. Hit the Ground Running (TF 1993)
54. Instinct (CH, 1996)
55. Never Be the Same (CH, 1988)
56. Stuff and Nonsense SE, 1979)
57. For You (SE, 1973)
58. Charlie (SE, 1977)
59. Sinner (NF, 1998)
60. Rest of the Day Off (NF, 2001)

Better Be Home Soon (1988)

61. Together Alone (CH, 1993)
62. I Feel Possessed (CH, 1988)
63. Our Day (SE, 1983)
64. Angels Heap (FB, 1995)
65. Mansion in the Slums (CH, 1988)
66. Matinee Idyll (129) (SE, 1976)
67. What You’ve Done (TF, 2001)
68. Another Great Divide (SE, 1977)
69. Young Mountain (TF, 1989)
70. Suffer Never (FB, 1995)

Weather With You (1991)

71. Suicide on Downing Street (TF, 1989)
72. Couldn’t Be Done (TF, 2006)
73. Nothing Wrong with You (FB, 2004)
74. Everything Is Good for You (CH, 1996)
75. Pour Le Monde (CH, 2007)
76. As Sure As I Am (CH, 1991)
77. Sweet Talkin’ Spoon Song (SE, 1973)
78. Song of the Lonely Mountain (NF, 2012)
79. Disembodied Voices (FB, 2004)
80. Wherever You Are (NF, 2001)

She Will Have Her Way (1998)

81. No Bother to Me (SE, 1975)
82. All I Ask (CH, 1991)
83. Made My Day (TF, 1983)
84. Shark Attack (SE, 1980)
85. Salt to the Sea (TF, 2006)
86. Don’t Bury My Heart (TF, 1986)
87. Not Even Close (TF, 1989)
88. Saturday Sun (CH, 2010)
89. Winter Light (TF, 2006)
90. Black and White Boy (CH, 1993)

Won’t Give In (2004)

91. Last One Standing (NF, 1998)
92. Lovey Dovey (SE, 1976)
93. Hole in the River (CH, 1986)
94. The Saw & the Tree (TF, 2008)
95. Catherine Wheels (CH, 1993)
96. Through the Years (TF, 1983)
97. Staring at the Embers (TF, 1983)
98. Whispers and Moans (CH, 1991)
99. Take a Walk (SE, 1982)
100. Death of a Popular Song (TF, 2000)

Song of the Lonely Mountain (2012)

CH = Crowded House, NF = Neil Finn, TF = Tim Finn, FB = Finn Brothers, SE = Split Enz