Saturday, 30 June 2018

RARE GEMS: SCHUBERT’S UNFINISHED OPERA, “SAKUNTALA” TO RECEIVE NEW CONCERT VERSION IN DELHI, MUMBAI, KOLKATA AS VIENNESE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, DIRECTOR HEAD TO INDIA

An opera of 19th century Austrian icon Franz Schubert heads
to India this fall in landmark concert performance, aimed at
highlighting Austrian-Indian relations and the recent
Presidency of the European Union by Austria in 2018.
23 chamber musicians will travel to India with Vienna
Boys Choir Artistic Director Gerald Wirth, where they

will collaborate with India's Shillong Chamber Choir, who
will sing in the German muttersprache.
It was back in 1977 that German film director Jörn Thiel, under contract with Italian-German broadcaster SDF TV (Südtirol Digital Fernsehen), set his sights on documenting the life and works of famed 19th century classical-romantic composer Franz Schubert.

Whilst conducting his research, browsing through archival material and commiserating with biographers and scholars, Thiel would happen upon a curator (museum unknown) who presented the documentarian with a behemoth manuscript. What happened next is so serendipitous it toes the indistinct line between the fantastical and the reality of bizarre and fortuitous happenstance.

Legend has it Thiel set the manuscript aside – to revisit at an appropriate time during his research process – only to later peruse the material earlier than expected whilst idling away the hours at a local auto repair shop.

The filmmaker found himself in a state of delirium: cradled in his hands was a massive, 400 page sketch for an opera by Schubert, “Sakuntala” (D 701 in the Deutsch catalogue), unfinished save for roughly 50 percent of the vocal parts, which the composer – not generally known for writing operas – penned in 1820 after having been inspired by a local adaptation of a Sanskrit play “Sacontalá” (The Fatal Ring) by the 5th century Indian writer Kālidāsa, which had been translated into German from it’s original form “Shakuntala” by Sir William Jones in 1789. The play, which had long remained a sensation in the East, now began making the rounds in the West as interest in Indian culture peaked among literate sects in the waning years of the 18th century.

Shakuntala is a Hindu mythological epic of love and rejection, centering around the works’ titular character Shakuntala, and her marriage to the much absorbed king Dushyanta (the destroyer of evil), who becomes so embroiled in affairs of state, he neglects his husbandly duties, much to the chagrin of Shakuntala. The maligned wife, delirious with grief, forgets to serve her husband and king supper, at which point an outraged sage casts upon the couple a curse, wherein king Dushyanta’s memories of the couple’s union will be erased.

The tale (which despite it’s ominous prologue does conclude quite amiably) was beloved by western literary icons of the ilk of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who had witnessed a staging of the play by Schubert contemporary Johann Philipp Neumann (The Recognition of Shakuntala). The author was so moved, he published an epigram about Shakuntala in 1791 and is believed to have borrowed elements from the works prologue for his epic tale, Faust, completed in full in 1831.

Shakuntala (R) Despondent, Raja Ravi Varma
Thiel knew what he possessed in his hands was not only an accomplished gem, but that it also carried significant historical value. Schubert was only known to have authored some 16 works in the operatic genre – only three of which saw production during the composer’s lifetime – none of which achieved critical acclaim. This manuscript was a rare treasure, indeed.

Although Schubert’s operatic adaptation had been heard only once previously (in Vienna in 1971), Thiel had the distinction of carrying the incomplete work to the Munich Philharmonia Orchestra, who filled in the gaps. By 1979, Shakuntala appeared on the stage, in a ballet performance at Munich, which the film director recorded for German television.

Schubert’s original score, which contained somewhat sparse sketches for accompaniment and possessed barren stretches where music should have filled the void, was deemed somewhat of a challenge to interpret, hindering scholars with it’s gothic text. Through the efforts of Danish composer Karl Aage Rasmussen and music librarian at Austria Thomas Aigner, who drew upon the recently discovered long lost script for Neumann’s original play, a "full" adaptation of the work was scored and later made it's world premiere on the Naxos Record label in 2008.

That collaborative effort, however, will not be the version set to premiere in India (Lotus Temple October 2, 2018 in New Delhi). Professor Gerald Wirth, President and Artistic Director of the esteemed Vienna Boys Choir, explained to local press of his intention to stay as close to the vest as possible in conducting Schubert’s neglected work – orchestrating, yet not adding anything new to the score, thus leaving the finished version incomplete, just as Schubert had left it prior to his death in 1828. It will be presented in a concert format.

Reprisals will occur in Kolkata on October 4 at the Kala Mandir Auditorium, and at the Royal Opera House in Mumbai on October 6.

Listen below to the 2008 world premiere recording of Schubert’s Shakuntala published by Naxos (Rasmussen’s reconstruction: Kammerchor Stuttgart and Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen perform under the baton of Frieder Bernius):

Overture only:



“full” production here (listen for the gorgeous second act Quartet, Rosenzeit der Freuden! at 1:00:30):



Footnotes:
- Rose.

Friday, 29 June 2018

TODAY IN CLASSICAL MUSIC HISTORY - 29 JUNE, 1888: HANDEL'S "ISRAEL IN EGYPT" RECORDED ONTO WAX CYLINDER, LONG BELIEVED TO HAVE BEEN OLDEST SURVIVING RECORDING OF MUSIC

Georg Friedrich Händel, formerly of Halle, Germany, would
become a naturalised British citizen on 20 February 1727. The
Brits would later claim the composer as their own after
Handel (now George Frederick) became a pioneer of the
English oratorio, boosting the British nation into the forefront
of musical meccas.
It was on this 29th day in June 1888 at the Ninth Triennial Handel Festival at the Crystal Palace in London that American lt. colonel George Edward Gouraud wowed British spectators with a new, marvel invention: Thomas Edison’s new phonograph, updated from his original 1877 design.

The civil war veteran descended from ambitious stock: his father, Francis Fauvel Gouraud, an engineer from France, had previously introduced into the US daguerreotypes for then primitive photography in 1839.

Now, 49 years later, his son, acting as de-facto foreign agent to Edison would make his mark in the country by becoming a pioneer in the booming technology sector.

Edison’s new phonograph would exceed the limitations of his own original design, as Gouraud made evident by setting up the recording device some 100 yards distance from the stage which had been erected at the Crystal Palace to honor the works of the late German-turned-British composer George Friedrich Handel in both music and song.

Some 20-30 thousand admission-paid attendees[1] had gathered for the festive occasion during “Handel Week” in the Handel Auditorium to witness Sir August Manns, director of music at Crystal Palace, conduct a massive chorus comprised of both amateur and professional vocalists,[2] who performed select works by the composer, including the aria "Moses and the Children of Israel" from Handel’s 1739 oratorio Israel in Egypt. It would be this number that col. Gouraud recorded using Edison’s phonograph, onto yellow paraffin cylinder. The historic recording would send shock waves through London, as playback on the device echoed the collective voices of some 4000 vocalists intoxicating the crowd with an epic ode to the late musical trailblazer who had so successfully pioneered the much beloved English oratorio, and set London on the map as a reckoning force in the endless quest for rivaling nations to obtain musical mecca status in the West.


The technological feat proved so successful with spectators, col. Gouraud would be invited to hold a press conference in the English capital two months later (above), where he would have the opportunity to introduce the new and improved phonograph to a even broader audience.

The highly degraded recording of Moses and the Children of Israel survives in the public domain - it can be heard below:


audio not working? Listen on archive.org

It had long been assumed the above recording, marked on the cylinder as "A chorus of 4000 voices recorded with phonograph over 100 yards away" was the oldest known recording of music – a distinction trumped by the discovery in 2008 of French printer and inventor Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville of France singing the French folk song “Au Claire de la lune” in front of his primitive invention, the phonautograph (a predecessor of the phonograph used to study acoustics, which “transcribed sound waves as undulations or other deviations in a line traced on smoke-blackened paper or glass.”)[3]

Ticket from the Grand Handel Festival, 19 June 1857. It would be this concert performance that
would act as a precursor to the Triennial concerts to come, including the Ninth Triennial, during
which the historic recording was made. The concerts were designed as an homage to Handel's
influence in England, and was the brainchild of Sir Michael Costa, director of the Sacred Harmonic
Society, and the societies librarian, Robert Bowley (later General Manager of the Crystal Palace).
Other festivities during Handel Week included acrobatic performances (on a flying trapeze),
phrenology seminars and swimming performances, among various other entertainments.[4]

A child-like Scott can be heard on the phonautogram singing the french traditional (converted by audio techs from “squiggles on a paper” to digital audio at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory at Berkley, CA). A later adjustment was made at the laboratory, significantly slowing down the high frequency audio file in which Scott’s mature voice can clearly be heard. The phonautogram was one of two deposited in a Paris archive by Scott himself in the late nineteenth century, which lay forgotten for some 148 years. It predates Gouraud’s recording by 28 years, having been recorded April 9th, 1860.


The Scott recording, "Au Claire de la Lune," original transfer (L) and later edit (R).


Listen below to a modern recording of Handel's Moses and the Children of Israel: John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Monteverdi Choir.



Footnotes:
[1] The Musical Times, 1 July 1888, vol 29, no. 545, pp. 408
[2] The Musical Times, 1 July 1888, vol 29, no. 545, pp. 408
[3]Wikipedia: Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville
[4]The Musical Times, 1 July 1888, vol 29, no. 545, pp. 407
Learn more about Edison's phonograph here on Unraveling Musical Myths.

-Rose.

RECENTLY REDISCOVERED DEBUSSY SCORE “HYMNIS” GIVEN SNEAK PREVIEW PERFORMANCE BY AUCTION HOUSE CHRISTIE’S IN PARIS

A young Claude Debussy, as he would have appeared around the
time he is believed to have scored Hymnis.
It was back in November 2017 that appraisers at the Livres rares at Manuscrits at Christie’s auction house in Paris were first presented with the treasure of a long lost, unpublished score by Claude Debussy, “Hymnis,” written sometime in 1881/82 for a play by the same name by the French symbolist poet Théodore de Banville.

The “astonished” staff, along with scores of fans of the late French romantic composer had all but given up hope on ever laying eyes on the manuscript again after it seemingly vanished following a sale at auction in 1926.

Speaking with Christie’s appraisers last month, Parisian specialist Andre Legendre reflected on the excited atmosphere experienced by the French department late last year:

“When we saw it and looked through the 28 pages, we were absolutely astonished..[it is] a piece of his youth, from which we already see the genius he will become.”
The new manuscript contains 15 pages of previously unknown music, and would mark the second time Debussy would collaborate on a play written by Banville (there was Florise in c1882, followed the same year by Hymnis, and Diane au Bois in 1883).

During the time frame Hymnis is believed to have been written, Debussy would score no less than 12 of Banville’s poems, each time dedicating the music to his lover, the amateur soprano Marie Vasnier. Hymnis is no exception – an indiscreet marginalia on the cover page of the manuscript reads "à Madame Vasnier.”

Debussy's inamorata, inspiration, and to whom the score of Hymnis
is dedicated, Marie-Blanche Vasnier.
The Debussy-Vasnier affair proved to be something of a tragic May-December romance: he, still in the flower of his youth – only 18 when he met his future amoureuse (he played pianist to her vocal lessons) – she, some 14 years his senior, and married, to boot. The contentious relationship would fizzle nearly a decade later, but while it lasted, the union was often fraught with jealousy: Debussy, over his ladylove’s avowed, and Mme. Vasnier over her young stud’s frequent travels with wealthy Russian benefactress and famed patroness of the arts, Nadezhda von Meck (the very same wealthy businesswoman who infamously provided Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky with written companionship and intimate friendship for some 13 years).

Leading Debussy scholars look to Hymnis as evidence of the torrid affair having been used as a source of inspiration for the music: the composer, for reasons unstated in his memoirs, opted to score only a portion of the comédie lyrique. Prior to this recent discovery, the only known musical setting of the work came from two sources

(from Christie’s:)

“...one for the Strophes of the first scene (‘Il dort encore, une main sur la lyre’ in the Martin Bodmer collection), the other from the beginning of scene 7, the Ode bachique (‘À toi Lyaeos’, formerly in the Toscanini Collection, sold at Sotheby's, 26 May 1983, lot 17, £14,000).
cover page with dedication to Mme. Vasnier.
High resolution available
at Christie's
The present manuscript, untraced since it was sold at auction on 1 June 1926, has never been described in any of the catalogues devoted to Debussy. It is meticulously notated in brown ink and comprises, with new variants, the Strophes of scene 1 and the Ode Bachique, whilst also including three previously unknown sections:

- The duo for Anacreon and Hymnis in scene 1 (‘Sous nos pas le ciel a mis’), pp. 7-8.
- The song of Anacreon in scene 2 (‘Quand par un jour de soleil’), pp. 9-11, lacking the end of the fourth stanza and the fifth stanza.
- The final trio of scene 7 (‘Ah! nous sommes bénis‘), pp. 23-31.”

excerpt. High resolution available at Christie's

The manuscript is a fair copy, believed to have been destined for the hands of Mme. Vasnier.
It is written in brown ink and appeared in the Christie’s catalogue under lot 13 and sold last month at auction for €112, 500, under it’s estimated hammer price of €120,00 -180, 000.

Just prior to the listing going live on the Christie’s website, the auction house arranged for a performance of the rediscovered work which it included (in truncated form) on a video uploaded to the site - no doubt geared toward highlighting for prospective buyers the exquisite beauty and historical significance of the recent find. It can be heard below (external link, opens in new window).

 Christie's
-Rose.

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

NEVER SEEN MARIA CALLAS LIVE? NOW YOU CAN: "LA DIVINA" HOLOGRAM GOES ON TOUR: “CALLAS IN CONCERT” PRESENTED BY BASE HOLOGRAM

La Divina: coming soon to a stage near you
21st century Maria Callas fans previously unable to witness La Divina on the operatic or concert stage will now come closer than ever before to experience the iconic soprano in all of her glory, live and “in person” by way of hologram.

The exciting technological marvel is expected to travel to the European stage following an autumn kickoff in the United States, Mexico and South America (and a brief return to the US, Puerto Rico and a final stop back in America at the end of the season.)[1]

BASE Entertainment, the organization producing the tour, has quite the resumé. It boasts an impressive 35-year presence in advanced technology entertainment, collaborating with major national and international clients of the likes of Sony, the National Space Center and the Shakespeare Globe Theatre. It’s spin-off, BASE Hologram, was launched in January of this year with La Divina in mind.

BASE Entertainment CEO and co-founder Brian Becker spoke recently with the press, detailing what such a concert has to offer both the famed and persistent Callas cult and newcomers to the 20th century operatic mega star alike:

“With Maria Callas, she was and still is, 40 years after her passing, the definitive name in opera and the original diva with a complex and extraordinary life story…her contributions to the music field are nothing short of groundbreaking and she was equally influential in the areas of acting, stage design and fashion which made her an ideal choice. We want this production to appeal to new generations who may not have known much about her and also to opera lovers who are familiar with her legacy.”

Executive producer and CEO at BASE Hologram Productions Marty Tudor also weighed in:

“I …want to clarify these tours are not created using old footage and recordings. Great care and precision are taken to create a realistic and convincing hologram so fans both old and new can suspend disbelief during a production, allowing the hologram to take on an ethereal attribute. This is brand new proprietary technology and if we didn’t have this type of groundbreaking technique at our disposal we wouldn’t be doing this. If we can’t honor the spirit and legacy of these performers we would be doing everyone a disservice.”

BASE Hologram released a brief demo of the upcoming concert tour earlier this year. It can be viewed below:



Footnotes:

[1]Operawire.com released the touring schedule today. Those interested in learning more about “Callas in Concert” can visit the website’s detailed article on the industrious project by clicking here.

Tour dates (from operawire.com):

USA & PUERTO RICO
• September 23, 2018 – Jackson Hall (University of California, Davis) – Sacramento, California
• November 2, 2018 – Moss Arts Centre – Blacksburg, Virginia
• November 7, 2018 – Hanover Theatre – Worcester, Massachusetts
• November 8, 2018 – Jorgenson Auditorium (University of Connecticut) – Storrs, Connecticut
• November 9, 2018 – State Theatre – New Brunswick, New Jersey
• November 17, 2018 – Paoli – San Juan, Puerto Rico
• TBD – San Francisco, California

MEXICO
• September 28, 2018 – Teatro Los Heroes – Chihuahua
• September 30, 2018 – Teatro Victor Hugo Rasvon Banda – Ciudad Juarez
• October 4, 2018 – Teatro de la Ciudad – Mexico City
• October 7, 2018 – Auditorio San Pedro – Monterrey
• October 11, 2018 – TBA – Saltillo

SOUTH AMERICA
• October 14, 2018 – Gran Rex – Buenos Aires, Argentina
• October 16, 2018 – Teatro Bradesco – Sao Paulo, Brazil
• October 18, 2018 – Araujo Vianna – Porto Alegre, Brazil
• October 21, 2018 – Movistar Arena – Santiago, Chile

EUROPE
• November 25, 2018 – ENO Coliseum – London, England
• November 26, 2018 – Carre – Amsterdam, Netherlands
• November 27, 2018 – BOZAR – Brussels, Belgium
• November 28, 2018 – Salle Playel – Paris, France
• November 30, 2018 – Salle Playel – Paris, France
• December 1, 2018 – Palias Des Congres – Lyon, France
• December 3, 2018 – TBA – Zurich, Switzerland
• December 6, 2018 – Merh! Theater– Hamburg, Germany

- Rose.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

THE ROYAL OPERA, OPERA RARA TO STAGE WORLD PREMIERE OF DONIZETTI’S RECENTLY DISCOVERED OPERA L’ANGE DE NISIDA (CONCERT PERFORMANCE) JULY 18 & 21

A posthumous portrait of Donizetti,
pictured as he may have appeared in the
late 1830’s, when L’Ange de Nisida is
believed to have been composed. The newly
discovered epic is a romantic display of the
ever-popular love triangle trope so
prevalent in opera – in this instance, the
unyielding love of a soldier who has
fallen besotted for the mistress of a king.
This summer, some lucky London and U.K.-bound melophiles will have the distinct pleasure of experiencing the world premiere of 19th century Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti’s formerly lost opera L’Ange de Nisida (The Angel of Nisida) at Covent Garden. The rare work, discovered by musicologist Dr. Candida Mantica some eight years ago whilst she was studying as a PhD student at Southampton University, is believed to have been written by the composer sometime during the waning years of 1830 whilst residing in Paris[1] for the French capital’s Théâtre de la Renaissance prior to the company going bankrupt, thus prompting Donizetti to permanently shelve the opera.

Dr. Mantica, who located fragments from the work’s score at Paris’s Bibliothèque Nationale in 2010, spoke to reporters about the painstaking process of locating the additional leafs, which she says were scattered among 18 folders in no specific order, and which took her across the Atlantic and back to examine archives in both Europe and the United States to aid in the process of reconstruction:

“I was able to identify about 470 pages of autograph music [written by Donizetti, in his hand] thanks to a draft copy of the libretto, which allowed me to establish their original order.”

L’Ange de Nisida is set to premiere at Covent Garden July 18, with a repeat performance being held on the 21st. It will be a concert version only, with Joyce El-Khoury in the starring role and conducted by Sir Mark Elder (Music Director of the Hallé / Artistic Director and publisher of obscure works at Opera Rara), who is quick to point out that although much of the music contained in this new work was later recycled by Donizetti in later works (including La Favorite in 1840), “over half” of the music in L’Ange has never before been heard.

Tickets to the July 18th premiere and the July 21 encore are available now for purchase: ROH

Listen below to the tenor aria “Spirto gentil” from Donizetti’s La Favorite – a reworking of the previously shelved L’Ange de Nisida. Although Donizetti had new aria written for L’Ange,  the fourth act is said to have been transferred over intact. Franco Corelli performs:


Footnotes:
[1]Donizetti had recently arrived in Paris after having fled Naples in the hopes of creating music under a less oppressive regime than found in Italy, which presently sought to “cleanse” opera of anti-religious/crown sentiment and/or parody, spectacular death, or any other distasteful subject matter that might incite public unrest. It was also meant to be a new beginning for the composer on the personal front: Gaetano had just lost both his parents, and his wife, Virginia (who died in childbirth) before packing his bags and journeying North.

Interestingly, whilst Donizetti assigned Neapolitan roots to the cuckolded King in L’Ange de Nisidia, in the reworked opera La Favorite, which would premiere in 1840 in Italy, the composer penned it’s king – under pressure from Italian censors – as a medieval king from Castile.

This is not the first Donizetti-related development to make the news in recent months: just this May the composer's rare Dante-inspired opera Pia de' Tolomei caused quite a stir during its US debut in Charleston when stage producer Andrea Cigni's made the curious –and very controversial – decision to set the 13th century tale in Fascist Italy. The music scored a major success with critics, the updated, highly politicized setting, not so much.
-Rose.

Friday, 22 June 2018

AN OFFICER, A LADY, AND A GENTLEMAN: THE TRIUMVIRATE BEHIND ROSSINI’S ADINA (ARIA OF THE WEEK)

Police Superintendent at Lisbon Diego Ignazio
de Pina Manique commissioned Adina from
Rossini in 1818.
Not all operas boasted royal commissioners – take, for instance, Gioachino Rossini’s 1826 Adina - the one-act farsa commissioned in 1818 by Portuguese Police Superintendent Diego Ignazio de Pina Manique of Lisbon.

The story behind the making of Adina is as romantic as any great opera: this relatively obscure gem, quoted by Rossini as a “theme [on] the abduction of the seraglio,” was the brainchild of the Officer, who fell besotted by an unknown soprano after hearing her perform at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos. So moved was the music lover (who worked part time as an Inspector of Portuguese theatres), he opted to approach Rossini for a special commission: stage an opera – and quickly at that – in the singer’s honor.[1]

Rossini took on the commission (albeit unenthusiastically), and set to work on writing the score. As a result of the contractual time restraints imposed on Gioachino by the Officer, much of the music was recycled from the composer’s previous work (from his 1814 operatic ‘dramma’ Sigismondo) or written with the assistance of a collaborator. One of the pieces original to the new work is the aria “Fragolette fortunate,” a charming Cavatina for soprano.

It is also Unraveling Musical Myths' Aria of the Week:



Footnotes:

[1]It is presently unknown why Rossini waited 8 years to première Adina at São Carlos (it’s first performance was held on this day in 1826). It is certainly curious given the police officer’s contractual stipulation for a speedy staging.

- Rose.

NEW DIGITAL SHEET MUSIC APP "NKODA" SEEKING BETA TESTERS FOR ANDROID, iPHONE, MAC OS, WINDOWS 10

nkoda, Boosey & Hawkes
It is destined to become a hot commodity for both professional and amateur musicians, conductors, students and scholars alike: the recently launched digital sheet music subscription app, "nkoda," presently available for purchase via iTunes, offers instantly accessible scores to users along with a fully integrated search and sort platform, allowing subscribers to download music for offline use, create playlists and share annotated files with other members.

Music publishing powerhouse Boosey & Hawkes recently announced it's partnership with the revolutionizing app, adding some 7,000 scores to the nkoda catalogue, joining 49 other publishers (and counting) presently adding music to the database. Currently, the app, launched on iTunes June 8, 2018 boasts an impressive 70,000+ completed scores, in both conductor versions and performing parts. Founder Lorenzo Brewer, himself a musician, created the app with the global market in mind: soon, subscribers from around the world will be able to access the massive digital archive - presently available in English - in Chinese, Spanish, Russian, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese and Korean.

Educational material is also featured on the helpful app, and will be present on future editions currently undergoing Beta testing on alternative formats. Those interested can apply now to test for Android (tablet), iPhone, Mac OS and Windows 10 here.
 
Boosey & Hawkes owns the copyrights to the music of many major players of 20th and 21st century classical music, including, to not limited to Stravinsky, Britten, Bernstein, Prokofiev and Richard Strauss. 

The late B&H music publisher Ernst Roth was instrumental in the 1950 production of the latter composer's Vier Letzte Lieder at Royal Albert Hall by publishing the four songs together as a single unit following the musician's death.

Listen to the performance below (Kirsten Flagstad performs with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Wilhelm Furtwängler:


-Rose.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

BLOG UPDATE: JUNE 21, 2018 / CELEBRATING 150 YEARS OF DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG WITH A LITTLE COMIC RELIEF


Unraveling Musical Myths is excited to announce that the thirteenth installment of Trivia & Humor is currently underway and will be live soon!

The "spooky" numeric will not be glossed over - the forthcoming edition aims to present to the reader a litany of unspeakable debauchery from the annals of musical hell. This series has covered every lecherous pestilence known to infect and terrorize some of the greatest musical minds to have ever lived - from sexually transmitted disease and hysteria to mêlées and murder. Next, we look at what can arguably be deemed as man's greatest scourge of all: that pesky little thing called "love!"

In the interim, what better way to celebrate mayhem and music than with a little comical interlude? In honor of the 150th anniversary of the premiere of Herr Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Königliches Hof- und National-Theater on this day in 1868, watch below a charming clip from the 1946 musical comedy "Two Sisters from Boston" starring the great heldentenor Lauritz Melchior as opera singer "Olstrom." In this cheeky scene, Olstrom can be seen singing the celebrated Prize Song (Morgenlich leuchtend im rosigen Schein) from Die Meistersinger into a phonograph as RCA-Victor mascot Nipper looks on -  hilariously striking the famous pose from the iconic "His Master's Voice" campaign.



Stay tuned!

Internal Links:

-Rose.

WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING OF BERNSTEIN'S "A QUIET PLACE" (CHAMBER VERSION) TO BE RELEASED FRIDAY

Pre-order available: Decca
This Friday, June 22, fans of American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein will be able to get their hands on the world premiere recording of Garth Edwin Sunderland's chamber adaptation of the late maestro's 1983 opera "A Quiet Place," recorded live last March at the Maison symphonique de Montréal with the OSM performing under the baton of director Kent Nagano.

Much like it's title, Bernstein's last work written for the stage has remained but a quiet murmur among the icon's compositional repertoire. Penned as a sequel to his only other opera* "Trouble in Tahiti," A Quiet Place was roundly panned at its 1983 Houston premiere. It would undergo several revisions by the composer and librettist Stephen Wadsworth before finally earning praise - under a 2010 production staged by revisionist director Christopher Alden.

"Interdisciplinary artist" Garth Edwin Sunderland's chamber adaption of the relatively obscure opera will prove to be the latest "revision." Sunderland had previously authored new editions and performing versions of Bernstein's music, including Songfest and West Side Story. Currently serving as Senior Music Editor for the Leonard Bernstein Office, his CV can be found here.

From the OSM Press Release (link to the full release in the footnotes):

"WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING OF THE CHAMBER VERSION FOR THE BERNSTEIN CENTENARY

Decca Classics and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal are proud to present the world premiere recording of the chamber version of Leonard Bernstein’s ‘A Quiet Place’, adapted by Garth Edwin Sunderland. It is conducted by Kent Nagano and will be released on 22nd June, ahead of the Bernstein centenary on 25th August 2018.

Premiered in 1983, Bernstein’s opera ‘A Quiet Place’ was the composer’s last work written for the stage and remains one of his lesser known large-scale compositions. The concert-version presented on the new album features a chamber orchestra and was recorded live at the Maison symphonique de Montréal in May 2017. Garth Edwin Sunderland’s adaptation offers a compact presentation of the three-act opera which places equal focus on librettist Stephen Wadsworth’s dramatic narrative and Bernstein’s complex and highly developed late musical style.

Kent Nagano was introduced to Bernstein by Seiji Ozawa in 1984 and studied with him until his death in 1990. Nagano says, “For Bernstein music was life – the two were synonymous, inseparable. He never stopped exploring and pushing his own compositional language. The goal in this particular adaptation is to allow the spirited brilliance and poetic depth of the work to shine through – including dance rhythms and elements of American folklore. Our hope is that the timeless and universal quality of the piece and the genius of the composition are laid bare in this new recording.”

Joining Kent Nagano and the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal on this new album is an outstanding group of young singers featuring soprano Claudia Boyle as Dede and tenor Joseph Kaiser as François. The cast also includes: baritones Gordon Bintner, Lucas Meachem and Daniel Belcher; tenors Rupert Charlesworth and John Tessier; mezzo-sopranos Annie Rosen and Maija Skille; and bass Steven Humes; as well as the OSM Chorus led by chorus master Andrew Megill.

‘A Quiet Place’ is an audacious musical-dramatic exploration of the changing face of American society. As Garth Edwin Sunderland, Senior Music Editor at the Leonard Bernstein Office, said of the composer’s late opera, “It’s such a brilliant work, the culmination of what he accomplished and the culmination of his gifts as a composer. Creating this adaptation was a deeply powerful experience for me, and it is my hope that it will provide audiences with a similar experience of this great American opera.”

Pre-ordering is currently available: A Quiet Place - Nagano

Listen below to the Prelude from "A Quiet Place," conducted by its composer:


Footnotes:
*not including Bernstein's 1953 operetta, Candide.
External links:
Press Release - OSM
 - Rose.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

PREVIOUSLY UNDISCOVERED YSAŸE SONATA GIVEN PREMIERE IN BRUSSELS, FILM/PERFORMANCE TO FOLLOW (MANUSCRIPT NOW AVAILABLE)

UK classical music magazine “the Strad” and insider website Slippedisc have reported the recent discovery of a previously unknown sonata by the late virtuoso violinist and composer Eugène Ysaÿe of Belgium.

According to the magazine, the exciting discovery was made by French violinist Philippe Graffin whilst researching papers at the library of the Brussels Conservatoire. Speaking with journalists, the musician explained how he believes the lost work wound up there:
"Josef Szigeti [the Hungarian violinist] once visited Ysaÿe in the Belgian resort town of Knokke...while there, he saw a green sketchbook of Ysaÿe’s that he described as “very precious” and containing many marvellous things. After Ysaÿe’s death, the sketchbook passed to Philip Newman, a British violinist, and then to French violinist Josette Lavergne, who left her collection to the Conservatoire here in Brussels."
Graffin further detailed his discovery, explaining his delight at stumbling across a “very elaborate first draft” containing a “very substantial” first movement, a second movement akin to a canzone, and a portion (two-thirds) of a third movement for a sonata, believed to have been composed by Ysaÿe sometime between the makings of the virtuoso’s fifth and sixth incredibly masterful sonatas, written in July 1923.

Ysaÿe's erudite Six sonatas for solo violin, Op. 27 were famously inspired by the composer having heard Szigeti perform J.S. Bach’s sonata for solo violin in G minor, which sparked in him a burning desire to incorporate into the instruments’ repertoire a sound representing the evolution of musical technique into the 20th century. Each of the six sonatas were dedicated to contemporary violinists admired by Eugène: Joseph Szigeti (No. 1), Jacques Thibaud (No. 2), George Enescu (No. 3), Fritz Kreisler (No. 4), Mathieu Crickboom (No. 5), and Manuel Quiroga (No. 6).

The latest discovery will be titled "Sonate posthume op.27 no.6bis." It is unknown if Ysaÿe intended a dedication for the piece.

A brief educational film, including a performance of the recent premiere in Brussels of the Sonata by Graffin is expected to be released later this year.

A manuscript for the Posthumous Sonata is now available on the Brussels Conservatoire website.

Listen below to the Sonata No. 3, D minor, "Georges Enescu" by Eugène Ysaÿe. Maxim Vengerov performs.


- Rose.

PROFESSOR STEPHEN HAWKING’S VOICE BEAMED FRIDAY INTO BLACK HOLE 1A 06200-00 TO ORIGINAL SCORE SET BY VANGELIS

The late theoretical physicist Professor Stephen Hawking was remembered Friday with a touching and historical tribute by the crossover composer Vangelis, who composed a moving orchestral score, overlaid with the voice of Hawking himself, professing thanks to loved ones and expressing – and encouraging – introspection, hope for the future of scientific research, and peace for both planet and fellow man.

The stunning recording, entitled “Seize the Moment,” was beamed into earth’s nearest black hole, 1A 06200-00 (some 3,457 light years away) during the scientist’s internment at Westminster Abbey, thanks to the efforts of the European Space Agency who agreed to broadcast Hawking’s eloquent message into space from it’s satellite dish at Ceberos (in Spain) as a mark of "respect and remembrance." The recording, which is presently traveling at the speed of light, is expected to reach its destination in the year 5475, and it will mark the first ever human interaction with a black hole.

Hawking, who was diagnosed at age 21 with the motor neuron disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), managed to defy the odds - living some 55 years following the diagnosis, shocking the physicians caring for him who had given him the grim prognosis of only two years. He would pass on March 14 of this year. The professor’s ashes were interred during the service – he now lay at rest in between mathematician and fellow physicist Sir Isaac Newton and evolutionist Charles Darwin.

This is not the first time Vangelis has been involved in creating music for the heavens – the Greek composer also provided the official music for NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey on the 23rd October that year, which marked the entry into orbit of it’s spacecraft of the same name. A portion of the live recording from the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens can be heard here on Unraveling Musical Myths.

That monumental recording, entitled “Mythodea” was inspired by NASA's mission to Mars, as the composer known only as Vangelis explained to reporters in 2001:

"I made up the name Mythodea from the words myth and ode. And I felt in it a kind of shared or common path with NASA's current exploration of the planet [Mars]. Whatever we use as a key — music, mythology, science, mathematics, astronomy — we are all working to decode the mystery of creation, searching for our deepest roots."

As for what inspired this latest stellar tribute, Vangelis states:

 “Through sound and music, the language that I know best, I pay tribute and express my high esteem and respect to this extraordinary man.

I imagine he will continue to travel with the same devotion, wherever he may be, in the known unknown. ...”

A CD featuring the historic tribute to Hawking was given to guests and attendees, which included some 1000 members of the public who won seats to the service via ballot.

Speaking to reporters, Hawking’s daughter Lucy expressed her deep gratitude, calling the composition a

"beautiful and symbolic gesture that creates a link between our father's presence on this planet, his wish to go into space and his explorations of the universe in his mind."

Indeed.


Listen to the audio below (transcript provided).

“I am very aware of the preciousness of time. Seize the moment. Act now. I have spent my life traveling across the universe inside my mind. Through theoretical physics I have sought to answer some of the great questions but there are other challenges, other big questions which must be answered, and these will also need a new generation who are interested, engaged and with an understanding of science.

How will we feed an ever-growing population, provide clean water, generate renewable energy, prevent and cure disease and slow down global climate change? I hope that science and technology will provide the answers to these questions, but it will take people, human beings with knowledge and understanding to implement the solution. One of the great revelations of the space age has been a perspective that has given humanity on ourselves.

When we see the earth from space we see ourselves as a whole; we see the unity and not the divisions. It is such a simple image, with a compelling message: one planet, one human race.

We are here together, and we need to live together with tolerance and respect.
We must become global citizens.

I have been enormously privileged through my work to be able to contribute to our understanding of the universe. But it would be an empty universe indeed, if it were not for the people I love and who love me. We are all time travelers journeying together into the future. But let us work together to make that future a place we want to visit. Be brave, be determined, overcome the odds.

It can be done. It can be done.”
- Professor Stephen Hawking



External links:


- Rose.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

A UNIVERSAL COMING OF AGE: MARIAN ANDERSON DIGITAL ARCHIVE UNDERWAY IN PENNSYLVANIA, WAGNER AT BAYREUTH

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* Earliest surviving program of Marian Anderson - The People's Choral 
 Society concert for a production of Handel's Messiah, Philadelphia, PA, April 6, 1916. 
Marginalia: "$55.00 Tickets sold..."  Mini-biography on Anderson reads: “Marion [sic] E. 
Anderson, of Philadelphia, Contralto, is a young singer of great promise and has a rich 
contralto voice of large range and volume. She is a pupil of one of the best teachers in the 
city, and has made remarkable strides in a short time.” UPenn Archive
It’s one of the more gratifying signs of the times: the collective digitization of archive material pertaining to major composers and performers, each representing the best of Western classical music and opera.

In early 2018, it was announced Chopin (who was Polish but thrived in France) would lead the way for artists to come across the globe - becoming a pioneer of the effort to bring together scores, dust off old archival manuscripts and regalia and enter them into the universal database of the future – and not just selected material – entire oeuvres.

Now, both the United States and Germany are attempting to follow suit, with the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) digitizing their archive of one of the institute's most prized donors, the African-American contralto Marian Anderson (who first donated materials to university in 1977 (Almanac April 12, 1977), continuing until her death in 1993 (Almanac April 13, 1993); and, in Germany, a historic effort is underway to make formerly semi-private accessibility of Wagner material available to the public at large by digitizing material related to the composer presently holed up at the Wagner National Archive at Wahnfried House – currently the largest collection of Wagner regalia in the world. Previously, one seeking to view scores, documents or other related material had to “fill out application forms proving that they were doing professional research. In addition, visitors had to travel to the Richard Wagner Museum in Bayreuth themselves to view the documents.” (Deutsche Welle). Soon, even the private the correspondence and personal journals of the Romantic era icon will be added to the estimated 16,000 pieces in the institute's private holdings slated to join this exciting wave of the future.
 

Listen below to Philadelphia native Marian Anderson perform J.S. Bach's "Erbarme dich, mein Gott" (Matthäus-Passion BWV 244):



Whilst not quite as inclusive as the effort underway in Poland with the Fryderyk Chopin Institute (NIFC)'s commendable full-oeuvre undertaking, the decision to digitize the archives of Anderson - a woman of color who shattered barriers in the segregated operatic world of the early 1900’s - and that of Wagner, whose material, astonishingly, remained censored from the greater public well into the 21st century, will prove a great boon to the integration and inclusivity movements and doctrines so highly valued in the West.

As for UPenn, the existing digital archive of Anderson will be greatly added to, with focus aimed at personal documentation – diaries, programs, scrapbooks, interviews and home studio performances formerly belonging to the late singer and activist, including rare, never-before publicly viewed or heard interviews transferred from fragile cassette and reel-to-reel.

According to the University’s website,

“An estimated 5,000 individual items, spanning most of Ms. Anderson’s life as a singer and social justice advocate, will be included in the project. The collection has 1,200 recital and performance programs, 146 notebooks and diaries, 34 scrapbooks, 34 interview transcriptions and 277 hours of recordings.”

The massive undertaking, which is expected to wrap up in May 2019, will provide both scholar and student greater access to material related to the singer than ever before possible.

The Wagner Archive at Bayreuth will prove even more resourceful – for the first time enabling worldwide access to both scholar and layman alike to the massive archive housed there. High-resolution color scans will be included in the digital archive, which as of posting, has no estimated date of completion.

Listen below to the great Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad perform "Allmächtige Jungfrau" from Wagner's Tannhäuser:


Footnotes:
[1]Deutsches Radio SWR2: Wagner bald online (Nachrichtenartikel auf Deutsch)
External links:
- Rose.

Friday, 15 June 2018

NEW BOOK DEVOTES CHAPTER TO BEETHOVEN’S “SPANISH ROOTS,” GRANDMOTHER MARÍA JOSEFA POLL, POSSIBLE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND THE SETTING OF FIDELIO

Beethoven, often coined "the Spaniard" by his peers (meant
as a pejorative) due to the darkness of his complexion,
inherited his pigment from a line of Spanish ancestors, new
book alleges in chapter dedicated to Ludwig and maternal
grandmother
María Josefa Poll
SPAIN - A new book on Spanish musicians aims to seek out the possible motivating factors behind the setting of 18th/19th century classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven’s 1805 opera Fidelio, set in Seville – a theory which begins and ends with one María Josefa Poll, the musicians maternal grandmother, said to be of Latin descent.

According to musicologist Andrés Ruiz Tarazona, author of the new compilation España en los grandes músicos, Poll descended from either south of the Pyrenees or was descended from a “Spanish family who undertook the journey north during the War of Spanish Succession.”

It’s a controversial statement among leading Beethoven scholars, who until now, have not given the subject much credence – citing lack of surviving historical data and much speculation. 

Tarazona draws his conclusion based on the findings of American music scholars David Jacobs and professor at Harvard, Elliot Forbes, who had concluded that Poll had originated from eastern Spain – those findings, Tarazona states, will be given special precedence in a chapter devoted to Ludwig.

Of what little evidence survives of Poll, incidentally, also comes from the research backed by Forbes: in the critically acclaimed three-volume Thayer’s Life of Beethoven (Alexander Wheelock, 1866-1879), later revised and edited by the Professor in 1991, there can be found one mention of María Josefa, in a church registry.

According to the register of the parish of St. Regimus at Bonn, Germany, Poll, then aged 19, wed Beethoven’s grandfather of the same name, aged 20, on 7 September 1733.[1] No record of ancestry is present in the surviving documents, however there is a record of baptism that would follow shortly after – consecrating the birth from the union of one Maria Bernadina Ludovica, Ludwig’s late aunt, Christened on 28th of August, 1734. (Bernadina would survive for only a year, expiring in infancy on 17 October 1735. Her Baptismal Sponsors, Maria Bernadina Mengal and Michael van Beethoven likely contributed to the child’s Latinised Christian name.)

Of the broad bibliographical works on Beethoven, from Thayer to 21st century biographer and music historian Jan Swafford, there is only one other incidence in which Poll is given any veritable mention – in the latter’s 2014 Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, now considered a standard. Her origins are not mentioned.

Ludwig van Beethoven - the composers' grandfather who
shared the same name, wed
María Josefa Poll at Bonn in
1733. The elder Beethoven was himself a musician,
serving as bass singer and later Kapellmeister of the
Kölner Kammerchor.
In España en los grandes músicos, Tarazona continues to make his case, citing a perceivable “Spanish influence” in the life and works of the 19th century icon – specifically, in Beethoven’s decision to set his only opera, Fidelio (1805) in Seville.

The musicologist further posits that the decision to enroll Ludwig’s nephew Karl (of whom Beethoven had obtained custody following the premature death of his brother, Kaspar Karl, on Nov 15 1815) into a Viennese boarding School founded by Cayetano Anastasio del Río, a local aristocratic tutor, the following year was based almost solely on paying homage to Karl’s “Spanish roots.” The del Río family is believed to have offered Beethoven moral support during the contentious battle for custody of the young boy, and it is to their school, presently run by one Giannattasio del Río that a 9 year old Karl was immediately placed following Ludwig’s upsetting win over Johanna, the child’s biological mother, in 1816.

However, as surviving documents detail, Karl’s enrollment in the boarding school was to be short lived: he remained in the Viennese institution only until 24 January 1818 before becoming privately home schooled under a tutor appointed by Ludwig.

Later, Beethoven would seek out German schooling for Karl – first at the institute of Johann Baptist Kudlich[2] (where the boy would temporarily become a boarder), and, after a failed attempt at tutorship under Johann Michael Sailer,[3] a German Jesuit professor of theology and residing Bishop of Regensburg, Ludwig would have his nephew enrolled at the school of one Joseph Blöchlinger von Bannholz,[4] officially becoming a boarder there on 22 June 1819.

Wherever the truth may reside for the family Beethoven, España en los grandes músicos[5] should make for an interesting read.

Listen below to Jon Vickers perform the famous tenor aria "Gott! Welch' Dunkel hier" from Beethoven's Fidelio:


Footnotes:
[1] Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, Wheelock pp. 45, 46
[2,3,4]Beethoven and His World: A Biographical Dictionary, By H. P. Clive, Professor of French Peter Clive, Oxford University Press, 2001 pp. 17, 18
[5] ISBN: 9788417308810
External links: 

- Rose.