Monday, 26 November 2018


Richard Wagner (l), Franz Schubert (c), and Frederick Delius (r) are just three of many composers dating from the
Medieval era to the Romantic / Impressionistic age of Western classical music whose manuscripts and
memorabilia will be made available on the London auction block at Sotheby's on December 4, 2018.

A massive auction of rare autograph scores and letters dating from the medieval era through to the romantic age will commence December 4, 2018, London auction house Sotheby's announced today.

With estimated bids ranging from £300 to £70,000 and well over 100 manuscripts and music related memorabilia to be made available for prospective buyers, one is sure to find something special and unique for even the most difficult-to-shop-for family member, colleague or friend.

Highlights of the impending auction include autograph manuscripts of two, hitherto considered lost lieder written in the hand of Franz Schubert: his Tischler-Lied (D274) and Todtenkranz für ein Kind (D275), composed in 1815 during his so-called 'annus mirablis,' his most highly productive year.[1]

The manuscripts are exceedingly rare - believed to be the only known autographs of the two lieder (having been formally regarded as "lost" in the Schubert Thematic Catalogue) and contain the composers' own handwritten annotations and additional verses of text.

Also up for auction will be a hitherto unknown manuscript of the first two movements of English composer Frederick Delius' 1888 String Quartet in C minor, as well as manuscripts of Johannes BrahmsMaurice RavelFelix MendelssohnEngelbert Humperdinck and Richard Strauss, and will include an exciting detailed scenario and prose draft of Richard Wagner's (left unorchestrated) music drama Wiland der Schmied (WWV82),[2] written in the composers' own hand in dark brown ink, signed and dated “Richard Wagner (Paris, 11 märz 1850) (Zürich, 8 October 1850.)"


The Music, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts and Continental Books auction at Sotheby's is scheduled to begin at 10:30 am GST December 4, 2018.

To explore these and the other numerous manuscripts and memorabilia, visit

[1]To quote from Schubert biographer Brian Newbould: "The year 1815 has been called Schubert’s annus mirabilis. This hardly overstates the case. His output in this year can be summarised as: four Singspiele, a symphony and a half, a string quartet, nine works for solo piano, eight or nine church works involving orchestra (from the 109-bar Offertory (D181) to the Mass in G major, (D167), some two dozen partsongs mostly with piano accompaniment, and about 140 songs."  - from "Schubert: The Music and the Man," pp. 40, University of California Press, 1992

The Schubert manuscript is listed as LOT 316 at Sotheby's.

[2]Wagner's draft for the libretto of his unrealised opera Wieland der Schmied (Wieland the Smith), which has been likened by one biographer as being his "most frankly autobiographic[al]" libretti, was inspired by Hector Berlioz' Romeo and Juliet symphony, and was drafted in the hopes of gaining an audience at the Paris Opéra. Wagner even toyed with the notion of presenting the finished libretto to Berlioz himself for the latters' orchestration.

The draft was originally published as an appendix to Richard's essay The Art-Work of the Future (Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft), a prospective vision on the idyllic aspirations of art and of Germanic legend. Wieland der Schmied fulfills the latter category - it is based on the Germanic legend of Wayland Smith.

Ultimately, Wagner would abandon the work - a move understood by scholars to have been the result of the assumption on the part of the composer of the perceived indifference of the French audience on such subject matters. Wagner attempted to have his father-in-law, Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt orchestrate the work, however the latter declined the offer. An adaptation of Wagner's libretto would be scored by the 19th century Slovak composer Jan Levoslav Bella (written by O. Schlemm) between 1880 and 1890. That opera premiered in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia in 1926, and was subsequently reprised in Slovak under the title Kováč Wieland.

Sunday, 25 November 2018


The countdown begins:

I am so excited about the InSight robotic lander, I put my name on it.

More on this story at Unraveling Musical Myths.

*UPDATE - NOVEMBER 26, 2018: Success! Re-watch the exciting EDL of the InSight robotic lander here, and the subsequent Re-cap/Q&A here.



Clara Schumann | National Portrait Gallery |
More good news for fans of Clara Schumann: a festival in her honor – the first of its kind since the composers death – is slated to be held in London early next year.

Starting on 22 February 2019 and ending on the 24th, St. John's Smith Square in Westminster will find itself alive with the sound of music, opening with a recital by Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser and English tenor Alessandro Fisher of the complete set of Schumann's published lieder (29 settings in total), and will culminate with a recital of Clara's piano works followed by a concert dedicated to the joint works of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Schumann (Zwölf Gedichte aus Friedrich Rückerts Liebesfrühling.)

A lieder masterclass led by American accompanist Eugene Asti is also listed on the festival program.

The exciting news announced by festival curator Beverley Vong comes on the heels of the announcement of a year-long celebration to be held in Clara's native Leipzig in honor of the composers 200th birthday.

That project, known as "Clara19" will seek to highlight her role in female "emancipation" during her era through an examination of her life both on the concert stage and in her private home. It's main draw will be a presentation (of a concept) of Clara's newly added space at Schumann-Haus on Inselstraße, which is currently undergoing construction and is slated for a grand reveal on 13 September 2019.

For further information on the London festival and on 'Clara19' (as well as on the renovations taking place at Schumann-Haus), visit the links listed below in the footnotes.

Listen below to Clara Schumann's setting of Rückerts poem "Liebst du um Schönheit," no. 4 of the 12 settings to music by both husband and wife of Rückerts "Liebesfrühling." Of the 12 lieder, Clara is the composer of nos. 4, 2 (Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen), and 11 (Warum willst du and're fragen), with the remaining nine musical settings in the hand of Robert. Swedish soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and French pianist Hélène Grimaud perform:

External links:
Internal link:
- Rose.

Saturday, 24 November 2018


The University of Pisa has announced the occurence of a free-admission roundtable meeting this Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at the Centro Congressi Le Benedettine to discuss 19th century Hungarian composer and pianist Franz Lizst's time in Tuscany's prized city - specifically, the occurrence of a solo recital by the musician that may predate his first known performance of its kind, historically believed to have been held at the Hanover Square Rooms in London in 1840.[1]

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* Invitation/RSVP infomation for roundtable

Word of a game-changing discovery was first revealed by musicologist Mariateresa Storino in July of this year, who spoke with faculty at the University of “documents related” to the discovery of a Graf fortepiano (containing within hitherto unknown documents) believed to have been played by Liszt, which had been in the possession of one Cardella family. According to her research, the unspecified documents will conclude “for the first time” a clear corroboration with the written testimony of the musician’s one time travel companion and mother to his three children (including Cosima, who would marry Richard Wagner) the Countess Marie D’Agoult, who placed him in Pisa in March, 1839.[2]

These elusive documents, which have yet to be revealed on the international circuit, are the end result of a two year long research project, set up as a competition (with the granting of a research award as the prize) by the Center for the Dissemination of Culture and Musical Practice at the University. The project was led by Storino and funded by the educational institution and the Agenzia Generale UnipolSAI divisione SAI di Pisa.

Wednesday's panel discussion, which will begin at 9:30, will be led by a four-member committee consitisting of musicologists and Liszt scholars Alessandro CecchiMaria Antonella GalantiMaurizio Sbrana and Mariateresa Storino under the patronage of the Liszt Institute Foundation, Bologna and the Italian Society of Musicology. RSVP information can be found by enlarging the graphic above, or by clicking the PDF file listed at the bottom of this post under "External links."

Unraveling Musical Myths announced the impending reveal in August.


[1]The Hanover recital occured on Tuesday, June 9, 1840. According to a contemporary advertisement announcing the impending concert, Liszt performed the following works, in the following order: 1) the Scherzo and Finale of Beethoven's "Pastorale" Symphony; 2) Schubert's Serenade; 3) Ave Maria, by Schubert [sic]; 4) Hexaméron (variations on the Grand March in Bellini's I Puritani); 5) Neapolitan Tarantelles [sic], and 6) Liszt's Grand Galop Chromatique. Tickets were sold for 10s. 6d each, with reserved seats near the pianoforte at 21s.
[2]What we know so far: According to Dr. Storino's extensive research, the alleged concert which took place in Pisa occurred in the small Teatro della Soffitta (adjacent the Palazzo Mazzarosa in Lungarno Pacinotti) during Liszt's time in Italy. A "random" discovery of the Graf fortepiano, which contained inside writings by various unknown persons - all of them traceable to the concert of 1839 - directly corroborated the written testimonies of the Countess d'Agoult, who accompanied Liszt to Italy and may have been present at the performance in question. Aided by these new documents,  Storino was able to uncover hitherto unknown newspaper articles, manuscripts  and other related documents which support her case, and which will "conclusively" answer questions pertaining to the composer's activities in Italy, of which many aspects have hitherto remained unexplored.

Listen below to the fourth number on Liszt's Hanover programme: the "Hexaméron" - a collaborative composition of variations on Vincenzo Bellini's "I Puritani," written by Liszt, Sigismond Thalberg, Johann Peter Pixis, Henri Herz, Carl Czerny, and Frédéric Chopin. Marc-André Hamelin performs:

External links:

Internal link:

- Rose.

Friday, 23 November 2018


Are you one of the 2.4 million people who added your name to NASA's InSight (robotic lander) mission? If so, your name, alongside my own, are scheduled to land on the red planet on Monday, November 26, 2018. Read the infograph below for live streaming information.
*Screenshot only. Be sure to check your email if you have added your name to InSight!
Live streaming can be watched online HERE.

Recommended listening for the occasion: Mars, the Bringer of War from Gustav Holst's "The Planets:" (Levine, CSO perform)

*UPDATE - NOVEMBER 26, 2018: Success! Re-watch the exciting EDL of the InSight robotic lander here, and the subsequent Re-cap/Q&A here.

- Rose.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


Giovanni Bottesini (the "Paganini of the
Double Bass") may have met his match
in Rinat Ibragimov. Listen below to the
Russian bassist and his violinist daughter
Alina perform the virtuosic Gran Duo.
Just one watch of former London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) Principal Bass (now Emeritus) Rinat Ibragimov's Gran Duo by the "Paganini of the Double Bass" Giovanni Bottesini (the infamous 19th century virtuoso[1]) would leave the unsuspecting viewer convinced the Russian native was born with his signature 300-year old double bass between his knees.

Not quite so - the atypical path that would lead the unrivalled musician to his beloved Albani would begin with another instrument altogether: the cello.

For nearly a decade, Ibragimov practiced on the bass' smaller cousin, yet ultimately found himself unsatisfied with the instrument. Citing poor technique, an inadequate teacher and the challenge to truly stand out from the competition (due to the over representation of the cello) as just three of many reasons to lay down his bow, the final straw which ultimately led to the switch to the double bass came with the recommendation of his fellow pupils (and perhaps even his teacher himself!)

Ibragimov would heed that advice, in effect making the most fortuitous decision of his lengthy and highly respected career. The next time the erudite musician would hold a bow in his hand, it would be gliding over the strings of a d-bass under the tutelage of Gregory Favorsky at the Ippolitov-Ivanov College.

The symbiotic relationship between an adept professor and a pupil finally working within his true element proved electric: Ibragimov over-excelled on the instrument, and within a short time frame, he was inducted into the esteemed ranks of the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire where he would study under the legendary bassist Evgeny Kolosov, whilst also studying the art of conducting under Dmitri Kitaenko. A series of accolades would soon follow for the highly skilled musician, including first prizes in the All-Union Double Bass Competition in 1984 and in the Giovanni Bottesini International Competition in Parma, Italy, in 1989, not withstanding his earning of a coveted spot as bassist for Moscow’s famous Bolshoi Ballet and Opera (from 1983-1997.)

Rinat would join the London Symphony Orchestra as Principal Double Bassist in 1998 under Sir Colin Davis, a position he would hold for some 15 years, concurrently holding tenure at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the heart of the city where he taught lessons on the instrument on his own 300 year old Albini - a generous gift bestowed upon him by his stand partner in Russia during his tenure with the Bolshoi Ballet.

A stroke suffered in 2014 would effectively end Rinat's performing career, however he continues, on occasion, to teach at Guildhall.

Listen below to Rinat Ibragimov and daughter Alina[2] perform the exquisite Gran Duo of Giovanni Bottesini (the "Paganini of the Double Bass.") Grace Mo performs on piano:


[1]]Known globally as the 19th century "Paganini of the Double Bass," Lombardy-born Giovanni Bottesini was known for unparalleled virtuosity on the instrument. He was a composer of numerous, masterful concerti, opera, and fantasies - his adaptations of Vincenzo Bellini's Lucia di Lammeroor, I puritani and Beatrice di Tenda remain exceptional examples of such virtuosity. Bottesini likewise excelled in the field of conducting, holding a post at the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris from 1855 to 1857. His 1716 Carlo Antonio Testore, which Bottesini had converted from a four-sting to three (citing greater resonance) is now in the posession of a private collector in Japan.  

[2]Rinat's daughter, Alina Ibragimova, on violin, studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School, where her mother holds tenure. She would perform Bach under Menuhin's baton in 1998, and later at the maestro's funeral. She has held an impressive career and earned many accolades throughout, including being appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2016 for her services to music. Alina is the wife of U.K. music journalist, author and critic Tom Service.

Bonus videos (concerti), Catherine Edwards on piano:

Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf:

Jan Křtitel Vaňhal:

- Rose.

Saturday, 17 November 2018


A recently discovered portrait of Elizabeth I,
c.1559, Unknown artist
Today marks the 460th anniversary of the Accession of Queen Elizabeth I to the throne of England following the death of Queen ("Bloody") Mary Tudor, Elizabeth's controversial half-sister on November 17, 1558.

The music of the Tudor court has been covered extensively on Unraveling Musical Myths, however in light of recent scientific and media attention toward the 16th century “Virgin Queen's” masterful manipulation of portraiture to influence heads of state, I wish to shift focus to "Gloriana's" use of music as a tool for spreading political propaganda.

This past June, BBC historian and art dealer Philip Mould discovered a hitherto unknown portrait of a diminutive Elizabeth on oak wood, (left) estimated to have been painted during the second year of her reign as Queen of England and Ireland in 1559 - potentially making it the earliest known portrait of the young queen as ruler of the British empire. 

The portrait depicts a youthful, softer side of the characteristically stern-jawed, resplendent likenesses of Hilliard, Segar and Gheeraerts that have become synonymous with the image of Elizabethan power and 16th century English dominance.

It would be followed by a series of likenesses of the Queen, both authentic and imagined, which would feature such feminine, girlish attributes: an increasingly expanding cherubic face, a direct forward facing gaze, a sly smile – demure characteristics Elizabeth would soon grow to detest. As such, authentic portraiture dating from the ruler's early reign – that is, portraiture for which Elizabeth actually sat – would increasingly fall into the category of rare commodities. The Queen is said to have destroyed in the fire portraiture she found unbefitting of the subliminal message of political prowess she sought to covey to her British subjects, and more importantly, to foreign heads of state.

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* Early portraits and likenesses of Elizabeth portrayed the young Queen in diminuitive form, much to the ruler's ire. The infamous "Rainbow portrait," seen on extreme right, bore all of the fruits of Tudor propaganda. Painted well into her rule, Elizabeth's wardrobe drips in symbolic excess - symbols are lifted from books of emblamatic morals: her cloak bears the eyes and ears of an all seeing, all knowing ruler, complimented by a serpent of wisdom which the Queen wears unabashedly on her sleeve, and there is the presence of a cestial armillary sphere, suggesting dominion in the heavens and on earth. This c. 1602 portrait attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger is the most heavily symbolic of Elizabeth's portraits.

Just as “Good Queen Bess” (just one of many nicknames attributed the Queen by her loyal subjects) would exert control over her image as she grew into her role as Ruler of England, becoming slimmer, grander, more symbolic (as seen in the famous Rainbow portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger above right) and even allegorical (see Elizabeth I and the Three Goddesses, attr. Hans Eworth below)  Elizabeth would extend her propagandizing efforts through music – through intimate and public settings to unconsciously bring detractors into the Elizabethan fold and into England's dominant Protestant Church.

This 1569 allegorical portrait of Elizabeth triumphing over the goddesses Venus, Juno and Minerva belonged to the Queen herself. The portrait is especially bold, as it re-fashions the mythological tale of the beauty contest 'The Judgment of Paris," in which it is Venus who triumphs over her rivals Juno and Minerva. In this painting, attributed to Flemish artist Hans Eworth, the mythological triumvirate enter the realm of the living, whereupon they are defeated by Beauty's ultimate victor, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Presently in the collection of the Royal Collection Trust, this masterful oil work sits inside a frame that bears the contemporary description:  `IVNO POTENS SCEPTRIS ET MENTIS ACVMINE PALLAS / ET ROSEO VENERIS FVLGET IN ORE DECVS / ADFVIT ELIZABETH IVNO PERCVLSA REFVGIT OBSVPVIT PALLAS ERVBVITQ VENVS'. T ('Pallas was keen of brain, Juno was queen of might, / The rosy face of Venus was in beauty shining bright, / Elizabeth then came, And, overwhelmed, Queen Juno took flight: / Pallas was silenced: Venus blushed for shame'.

The Queen of England was known to have held 'intimate' meetings with foreign dignitaries in which discussion of political affairs were accompanied by music - performed by Elizabeth herself. Scottish Ambassador Sir James Melville famously listened to her performing on her virginal in her private chamber, remarking that he had been unknowingly entranced: “I heard such melody as ravished me, that I was drawn in e'er I knew how,” whilst the Duke of Bracciano Don Virginio Orcino felt himself a paladin – a foremost warrior at the court of the illustrious Charlemagne, after the Queen sang, danced and played for him on the lute. 

Elizabeth's private performances with the French Ambassador, Charles de Gontaut (for whom she danced in her private apartments) and with Baron Rabenstein (Breuner, the Imperial Ambassador to Ferdinand I, the Holy Roman Emperor) were even more intimate: with marriage negotiations for the Queen to wed the Emperor's son, the Archduke Charles of Austria at a frustrating standstill (and perceived by the Baron as an exercise in futility), Elizabeth hatched a cunning plan to woo back into her graces the frustrated Ambassador (who was set to leave court empty handed) with a private boat side serenade on the river, where Breuner was instructed to sit in the mighty Treasurer's seat – a shrewd move that succeeded in regaining the Baron's faith in a potential victory for Ferdinand through the clever use of power placement seating and through the 'intimate privilege' of a one-on-one, private performance. The Ambassador would in turn report back to Ferdinand, tempering the Emperor's ire with words not of failure, but rather of praise and of optimistic hope, allowing Elizabeth to maintain a sense of détente between the two powerful rulers through creating the illusion of ongoing negotiations.

The ploy of using music as both a negotiating and propagandizing tactic was ingenious: by mixing her 'body politic' with her 'body natural,' Elizabeth invoked the powers of feminine eroticism with the learned graces of music - a gift promoted through the teachings of Aristotle as an invaluable political tool. Elizabeth effortlessly interweaved this intellectual, poised allure with that of the all-encompassing power of 16th century advertisement: through the illusion of intimacy, and through music, the Queen could begin to establish trust in the foreign diplomats who frequently visited her court, who would, in turn, return home to their respective kingdoms with ravishing reports of a learned, skilled, erudite ruler – reports that would spread rapidly across Europe like an untamed wildfire.

The Queen did not limit the influence of music to personal performances, however. Courtiers and noblemen were wont to both pen lyrics and compose music in her honor for fear of losing her good grace, whilst tunes of grandeur and English revelry would accompany her garrison as she held processional tours – a perfect highlight to the grand entrance of a powerful ruler.

Elizabeth I gets a 21st century animatronic treatment. Using
advanced digital scanning and 3D printing, artist Mat Collishaw draws
upon known portraiture and literature concerning the 'Virgin Queen' in an
attempt to reveal the true face behind the highly propagandized likenesses
of the 16th century Queen. Visit to watch this fascinating video.

At home base, the frequently rivaling religious factions in England were still brewing – Catholic England had lost their chief supporter through the demise of Mary I, and whilst Elizabeth issued a compromise of sorts through her 1559 Religious Settlement, which re-established the Church of England's independence from Rome through the first of two acts, The Act of Supremacy of 1558 and the re-establishment of the Book of Common Prayer through the second (Act of Uniformity of 1559) which attempted to blend aspects of both religions under one faith, the English peoples remained nonplussed. The Protestants felt the full breadth of their faith unfulfilled, whilst the Catholics believed the issuing of the Settlement to be entirely heretical: their faith submerged under the crushing weight of the increasingly popular Protestant ilk which would eventually grow into such a dominating force it would result in the modern Anglican Church.

The industrious Queen Elizabeth, who strongly leaned Protestant, played a large hand in forming the Anglican Church as its denomination knows it today – and she did it through the power and influence of music, and through her trusted Archbishop, Matthew Parker.

In 1567, the Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed by Elizabeth in accordance with her late mother Anne Boleyn's wishes (to keep watch on her only child) was assigned by the Queen the task of translating into English from Latin select entries from the Book of Psalms. For his part, Parker chose Psalms 1, 68, 2, 95, 42, 5, 52, 67 in addition to a 9th century hymn known as Veni Creator (Come, Holy Ghost, Eternal God) and commissioned court composer Thomas Tallis to set the translations to music.

Imagined likeness of Thomas Tallis. Elizabeth would grant the long tenured
court composer and his most prized pupil, the composer William Byrd
exclusive rights to print and publish polyphonic music, granting them a
21-year monopoly which included the right to enforce strict prohibition of
sales of any “songs made and printed in any foreen countrie(s)” in a
game-changing attempt at introducing to the world - and seeking dominance
in it
-the English repertoire among the masses, taking full advantage of the
newly improved printing press. This was but just one example of Elizabeth's
savvy use of music as a tool for manipulating the status quo.

In doing so, Elizabeth was effectively challenging the liturgical practices of the Church as her subjects knew it, whilst influencing reform-minded Catholics to yield to the Protestant yolk. For 16th century English citizens, attendance at Church was mandatory – thus congregates who numbered themselves among the bodies lining fully manned pews were helpless but to both witness and partake in newfound tradition: the Nine Tunes for Parker's Psalter, as the Archbishop-Tallis collaboration would become known, would force the assembled congregation to sing – not simply orate – the poetic Psalms, and only in the English tongue.

It was this last stipulation that was of utmost importance to Protestant influencers, and Elizabeth was fully cognizant of this. By releasing the scripture from its formerly unintelligible tongue (most 16th century civilians could neither read, nor understand spoken Latin) and placing it under a visible spotlight where its words and meaning could be fully digested by all was an immensely clever way of attempting to establish a sole collective of congregates, who could find salvation through comprehension of the 'Word of God' - and, in effect, through the Protestant Church - effecting a potential victory by Elizabeth over the long held, acrimonious Wars of Religion that had for so long plagued the English State.

Listen below to the third of Nine Tunes for Parker's Psalter, “Why fum'th in sight” (Psalm 2) as performed by the Tallis Scholars. This piece would famously influence 20th century English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams to compose his much beloved Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. It would also become known as the “third mode melody.”

- Rose.


Cecilia Bartoli and the Cappella Musicale Pontifica "Sistina,"  Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, 2017 |  Franco Origlia

Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of Cecilia Bartoli's historic live recording of 13th century ars antiqua composer Pérotin's (Perotinus') breathtakingly exquisite conductus Beata Viscera Mariae Virginis from within the hallowed walls of the Sistine Chapel.

Last Friday, November 17, 2017 marked the first time in the history of the Church that a woman was accepted into the ranks of its infamous 50 member, male exclusive choir – the Sistine Chapel Choir, which is comprised of 20 men and 30 boys.

Bartoli – arguably one of the finest mezzo-sopranos to specialize in early music repertoire – appeared resplendent as she stood front and center before the dominating force of the choir, her nondescript Indigo dress offering mute testimony to the evenly paced, stunningly reverberate, ethereal voice that would escape from within her strong, feminine frame.

The unique and much revered acoustics offered by the Sistine Chapel (which had so infamously left 18th century Rome and a visiting young Wolfgang Amadé Mozart in awe) are adequately preserved on the pontifical choir’s 16-track Christmas CD Veni Domine: Advent and Christmas at the Sistine Chapel  (a previous, private session also recorded from within in the Church and released by Deutsche Grammophon in late October and December 2017.) That recording would pre-date the November 17 performance – making the DG release Bartoli's de-facto "first recording" in the Sistine Chapel with its resident choir.

In both album and in “live” video, Pérotin's hypnotically melismatic, recurrent refrain “O Mira Novitas” can be heard reverberating over onto itself as Bartoli and the collective choirs' voices echo tender cries of Marian praise and wonderment over the "purity" of the Christian Virgin Birth and the Holy Mother. 

Each poetic stanza (written by the theologian Philip the Chancellor) is likewise rendered every bit as awe-inspiring as the ever-expansive frescoes of Michelangelo which bore witness to the historic occasion from the vicinity of the holy church's ceiling (and which collectively point toward the direction of the heavens, leaving glorious music trailing mere steps behind.)

The live recording, described by the Archbishop Georg Gänswein (Prefect of the papal household) as a "[translation] into sound [of] the manuscripts present in the Sistine Chapel archive... a truly precious treasure...”) was scheduled to be performed before a Papal audience, however the presently residing Pontiff, Pope Francis was unable to attend.

The decision to highlight ancient works which formerly lay dormant among the Church's musical archives follows an edict set forth in 2010 during the reign of Pope Benedict XVI to reform the Cappella Musicale Pontifica "Sistina" through the restoration and performance of neglected works housed in the Vatican Apostolic Library. Pérotin's ethereal motet is but one of the manuscripts preserved in the archive, making Bartoli's efforts doubly significant: as the first female to perform alongside the Sistine Chapel Choir within the Church itself, and as the first ever to record Pérotin's Beata viscera Mariae Virginis.

When pressed for comment regarding her historic appearance, Cecilia described the once-in a lifetime experience as an exultant moment which projected her into a state of “seventh heaven.”

When listening to Bartoli's crisp, barley-there vibrato and tender – yet altogether powerful – timbre, its quite easy to join her there.

Listen below to the recording by Deutsche Grammophon, followed by a video excerpt (with interview.) Cecilia Bartoli and the Sistine Chapel Choir sing Beata viscera Mariae Virginis, led by Msgr. Massimo Palombella:

Pérotin (Latin Perotinus, also known as "Perotin the Great") was a 13th century European composer, believed to be of French descent, who composed for the Church of Notre Dame in both polyphonic and the ars antiqua style. He is one of the only composers of his era whose name can be authentically attributed to individual compositions, and has been cited as a "Magister," or Master - indicative of academic pedigree and of professorship. He pioneered the three and four-part polyphonic styles of organa (organum triplum and quadruplum), notable for being the earliest form of polyphonic European Church music.

External links:
- Rose.

Thursday, 15 November 2018


Johannes Brahms as he would have appeared
in 1868. (Unknown, c. 1866)

A recent unknown, hitherto unpublished letter authored by the 19th century German composer Johannes Brahms has surfaced, the Brahms Institute at the Musikhochschule Lübeck (MHL) announced Tuesday.

The three-page, self-authored document, written in Kurrentschrift is dated 14 October, 1868 - it's recipient the renowned chanteuse Maria Schmidt of Zurich, whom Brahms addresses in cheeky salutation: "Dear Miss, (read: Madame)" - a reference to the singer's recent wedding to composer and pianist Theodor Kirchner, a confidante of Johannes.

MHL director, Prof. Wolfgang Sandberger highlighted the significance of the recent acquisition whilst speaking to the press in Lübeck:

"The letter fits perfectly into our collection, which includes [documents related to] Theodor Kirchner. The letter shows how virtuosically Brahms, who was repeatedly depicted as a lazy writer, really dominated the genre of letters...they show him as one of the great letter writers of the 19th century, as a master of irony, masking and obfuscation."

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* First of three pages:
Brahms letter to Maria Schmidt[1]
| Brahms-Institut Lübeck |

Indeed, Brahms follows his greeting to "Madame" Kirchner with the coy subtext "[the] metamorphosis indicated above is just [noted] between writing and reading" - a sly reference to the singer's sudden shift of status from Fräulein to Frau. Kirchner's union with Schmidt had come as a surprise to those within the pianists inner circle, including to Brahms himself, who had introduced the pair to one another. 

Theodor had infamously griped over the couple's engagement in a letter to the writer and muse of Richard Wagner, Mathilde Wesendonck in June 1868 that he had "no choice but to be released from an embarrassing situation." Nary three months later, the pair were walking down the aisle in the Neumünster Church in Zurich-Riesau.

Initially, Brahms' letter to Schmidt never reached its intended recipient - it would be returned to sender, whereupon the composer would add to the document, addressing not only Maria, but also greeting Theodor before once more sending the written exchange back to Zurich in February 1869.

Maria Schmidt | Brahms-Institut Lübeck |
The present letter, discovered in an American antiquarian bookshop, was acquired by the Brahms Institute through the support of the Association for the Promotion of the Brahms Institute Lübeck. It joins the so called 'Hofmann' collection at MHL - a veritable cornucopia of Kirchner regalia consisting of 36 music autographs, several hundred sketch sheets and designs, the extensive collection of first and early prints of his works as well as numerous documents and life documents acquired through the estate of Conrad Hanns, Kirchner's latest pupil. Hanns had been bequeathed a sizable share of memorabilia related to his former professor upon the latters' death.

The Brahms-Schmidt letter is now listed in the Brahms-Briefwechsel-Verzeichnis (BBV).[2] Its discovery completes the 'Hofmann' Collection, which may be viewed online in digital form at

Brahms would score great success with the premiere performance (of the first six movements) of Ein deutsches Requiem (A German Requiem) in 1868, the same year in which the letter to Schmidt was written. The performance would be held, to much acclaim, at the Bremen Cathedral on the 10th of April, Good Friday, with Julius Stockhausen as baritone soloist, and with Brahms himself at the helm. Listen below to the gorgeous third movement (I) of the Requiem "Herr, lehre doch mich" (Lord, Teach Me) as performed by American baritone Thomas Hampson, the Wiener Symphoniker and Wiener Staatsopernchor under maestro Harnoncourt (Vienna, 1988):

[1]Partial text (Deutsche Kurrentschrift):

"14. Oct. / Sehr geehrtes Fräulein (lies: gnädige Frau) d. 15 (author's note: "d. 15" is in reference to the date of the wedding that October of Kirchner to Schmidt, which was forthcoming. Translation: "Dear Miss (read: Madame))

Ihr liebes Schreiben kommt mir durch einen Zufall verspätet zu... oben angedeutete Metamorphose grade zwischen Schreiben [und] Lesen" (author's note: direct translation, paraphrase (omissions of unintelligible text indicated by ellipses) "Your dear letter comes to me late by accidental delay...[the] metamorphosis indicated above is just [noted] between writing and reading...")
[2]Inv.-Nr. 2018.070a; INCIPIT: "[Glückwunsch zur Hochzeit]"
External link:
- Rose.

Thursday, 8 November 2018


London auctioneer Bonhams has announced the inclusion of a hitherto unknown draft from 19th century German composer Robert Schumann's 1837 “Fantasiestücke,” the collective title of a set of eight pieces for piano in its November 27 Fine Books and Manuscripts sale.

Schumann drew inspiration for Fantasiestücke from the Fantasiestücke in Callots Manier of author E.T.A. Hoffmann - a collection of novellas, essays, treatises, letters and writings concerning music. Additionally, Schumann attributed the dual facets of his personality into each movement after Florestan (impetuous, passionate) and Eusebius (a sensitive dreamer) - characters assigned by the composer who dwell among the fictitious “Davidsbünd,” a band of Davidian artists who rejected the cultural Philistines of the era. As such, the eight pieces which make up Fantasiestücke vary in mood from sensitive and serene to playful and jovial. Schumann had previously explored this concept earlier the same year with his famous eighteen-piece Davidsbündlertänze, his sixth opus.

The 14-page manuscript, which is projected to sell between £200,000-300,000 (its current estimated value), is described by Bonhams as a “major discovery [which] provides a fascinating insight into Schumann’s working methods, and the creative decisions he took in completing the version of Fantasiestücke we are familiar with contains six of the eight pieces from the final work and a ninth piece that was dropped at proof stage. Markings in Schumann’s characteristic red crayon also show how he experimented with the order in which the pieces should be played.”

*CLICK TO ENLARGE* Excerpt from the manuscript of
Robert Schumann's "Fantasiestücke"
The manuscript, completed in Schumann's own hand in July 1837, survived potential desecration during WWII thanks to a fortuitous exchange of hands that began with Schumann himself, who delivered it into the possession of the Jewish composer Gustav Schmidt in August of the same year, later to be acquired by Jewish-German jurist Dr. Moritz Sprinz, who would carry the work among his possessions during his flight from Germany in February 1939, mere months before the outbreak of the war.

Fantasiestücke is listed under Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts, Lot 31. The auction will begin at 13:00 GMT.

Listen below to all eight pieces of Schumann's Fantasiestücke. Martha Argerich performs.

External links:
- Rose.


A new composition written by the celebrated Polish composer Krzystof Penderecki, “Fanfara dla Niepodłegłej,” or, “Fanfare for the Independent Poland,” is slated for a multi-national premiere performance this Sunday, November 11 in Penderecki's native Poland (Kraków), and at eleven venues spread out across the globe: in London, Melbourne, New York, Chicago, Paris, Tokyo, Copenhagen, Milan, Frankfurt, Lviv (Ukraine) and Vienna as part of an international celebration of the Independence of Poland, which gained autonomy on 11 November, 1918, just one day following the culmination of WWI.

Each concert, which will feature music written in the past 100 years by Polish composers such as Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, Wojciech Kilar and Karol Szymanowski, will open with Penderecki's new fanfare. The concerts will wrap up once 100 Polish compositions have been played globally.

The collaborative domestic and foreign effort, coined “100 for 100 Musical Decades of Freedom" is the brainchild of PWM Edition, Poland's largest music publisher.

The Polish world premiere proper of Fanfare for the Independent Poland will be performed by the Kraków Philharmonic Orchestra under Tadeusz Strugała. It will immediately be performed at nine other venues across Poland following the world premiere at Kraków, including a performance conducted by Penderecki himself at the Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa where he will be leading the Orkiestra Teatru Wielkiego Opery Narodowej. Fanfare's score calls for seven brass instruments, timpani and percussion.

Those unable to attend can preview Penderecki's roughly one-minute Fanfare by watching the video below:

External links:

Wednesday, 7 November 2018


Charles Gounod
Lucky opera-goers residing in or traveling to Boston this week will have the rare opportunity to attend a production of Le médecin malgré lui (The Doctor in Spite of Himself), a 3-act opéra comique by the 19th century French composer Charles Gounod (with libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré.)

Based on the 1666 play by the same name by famed playwright Molière, this comedic satire of 17th century French medicine follows the drunken exploits of an abusive wood-cutter (Sganarelle) and his vengeful wife (Martine), who hatches a plot with two brutish servants of a wealthy bourgeoisie (Géronte) to pummel the lout into accepting a new identity as a practising "physician” - forcing him in the process to work out the kinks of the unhappily betrothed daughter of Géronte (presently feigning a bout of hysteria to escape her fate), only to have their collective plans foibled when Sganarelle is offered a small fortune for the job at hand, becoming a rogue doctor 'in spite of himself.'

Gounod's opera would experience initial hesitation by the Comédie-Française (a major state theatre in France famous for hosting its own troupe of actors), who objected to the use of borrowed spoken dialogue and verse from troupe leader Molière's original play - notwithstanding the perceived slight of the memory of Molière himself, who both wrote and starred in his own production – and attempted to block all future performances of the opera.

 Le médecin malgré lui would be successfully revived in 1872 at the Opéra-Comique and would go on to travel far beyond the Parisian stage from where is first premiered (at the Théâtre Lyrique, on 15 January 1858), appearing before enthralled audiences in Hamburg, Stockholm and Warsaw.

Le médecin malgré lui, in spite of itself, would prove to be a smashing success – it would mark its 100th staging back in France from whence it was first revived - at the Opéra-Comique under maestro Sylvain Cambreling on November 25 1978. Both the opera and its composer would earn public and critical acclaim – with shouts of high praise from the likes of Igor Stravinsky, Richard Strauss and Hector Berlioz, who referenced a recent production of the opera as "Gounod is at his best!"

Russian impresario of Serge Diaghilev was so taken by Le médecin, he commissioned French composer Erik Satie to compose recitatives to replace the spoken dialogue, thereby transforming the work into an entirely sung opera in June 1923. Satie accepted the commission, and the reworked version of Gounod's opera would premiere seven months later, in Monte Carlo on January 5, 1924.

Le médecin, like so many great operas before them, would gradually fade into relative obscurity. It has rarely been performed on stage in recent years, however there have been infrequent, sporadic radio broadcasts of the opera which have been heard over the airwaves – notably by the BBC in the 1950's and on French radio in the 1970's.

The upcoming, fully-staged production by Odyssey Opera, set to premiere at Boston's Huntington Avenue Theatre this Friday, November 9th at 7:30 PM (with an encore performance being held on the 11th at 2:00 PM) promises to introduce to lucky attendees “never before heard” recitatives by Satie.

The production will feature baritone Stephen Salters (Sganarelle), mezzo-soprano Tascha Anderson (Jacqueline), tenor Piotr Buszewski (Leandre) who will be making his Boston debut, and a full orchestra and chorus conducted by Gil Rose, with stage direction by Daniel Pelzig.

Tickets can be purchased at or by calling the number displayed at the end of the teaser shown below:


Listen below to the charming sérénade “Est-on sage dans le bel âge,” from Gounod's Le médecin malgré lui, performed by tenor Michel Cadious and l'Orchestre de la RTBF, under Tony Aubin. Recorded at Brussels. 1959

- Rose.


Bust of Terpsikhore, Greek goddess of choral song and dance

Today we are traveling back in time to ancient Greece, to discover the very roots of vocal Western Classical Music.

The date is 810 CE, the place, Constantinople – a bustling city located in the heart of the Byzantine Empire. In this year, a young girl would be born – her parents would name her Kassiani (or, “Kassia,” in short form) after the Latin Cassius – a strong, male, Roman name that would serve the child well into womanhood as she became to embody the attributes typically associated with her male counterparts. Having been fortunate enough to have been born into wealth and provided an education in Classical Greek studies, Kassiani would excel in musicianship and in composition, in literacy and philosophy and in razor-sharp repartée – learned skills often denied to young girls and women of lower classes.

In adulthood, the devout Kassiani would become abbess of her own nunnery (some 300 years prior to the famed Hildegard von Bingen) following a heated tête-à-tête with the future Roman Emperor Theophilos (the Iconoclast), who by all accounts, wished to wed the rumored beauty once laying eyes upon her at a “bride show” set up by his step-mother, the Empress Dowager Euphrosyne – that was, until the ever wise Kassiani out-witted the young Bachelor in his own attempt at debate.

Iconography of Kassiani (Kassia) holding her
eponymous Hymn of Kassiani.
Far from the subservient or demure sort, Kassia would famously thwart the advances of Theophilos as he approached the young woman from the assembled lineup of potential brides with the opening line:

 “Through a woman [came forth] the baser [things],"

referencing the suffering of man as a result of the sinful transgression of Eve in the Garden of Eden, a prideful Theophilus could hardly believe the insightful retort which would escape from the lips of the young woman who stood firmly before him: 

“And through a woman [came forth] the better [things]”

Kassia responded to a shocked audience and an outraged Theophilos - her reply a direct reference to the hope of salvation through the incarnation of Christ through the Holy Mother Mary. Surely, any decent young Greek lady ought to know her role in society, and stay in her place – such was the norm in ancient Greece. With these defiant, erudite few words, Kassiani flipped gender roles over onto themselves, eschewing any suggestion that she was less than capable of matching any nemesis – male or female, wit for wit.

Theophilos outright rejected the outspoken Kassiani in favor of the more demure Theodora, future patron saint. It was a matter of meager consequence to the young Kassiani, who would proceed to excel on her own, founding her own monastery abutting Constantinian walls at the tender age of 33 where she would begin to focus on composition. The abbess would pen many liturgical hymns – one of which – the eponymous Hymn of Kassiani, also known as the Hymn of the Fallen Woman, continues to be chanted in the present day during Holy Week.

Theophilos chooses Theodora as his wife 830 (Kassia at L)
Approximately fifty of Kassiani's hymns – much of them in didactic eastern chant – survive, 23 of which are included in the liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church. Kassiani was also a prolific producer of secular verse, among which many are counted as gnomic – that is, in epigram or aphorism form.

The abbess would also focus her finely honed crafts outside of the nunnery, working closely with the neighboring monastery of Stoudios (notable for re-editing Byzantine liturgical books, which would include much of Kassiani's work) through the 9th and 10th centuries.

Kassiani's contribution to Western Classical Music must not be oversimplified. From a retrospective lens, she exists as one first composers in history to have interpretable, surviving manuscripts – scores from the ancient era that reveal the humble beginnings of vocal music from the time of monophonic chant to the present era. Her hymns continue to be appear in the Byzantine liturgy to this day, and her status as a female polymath ranks her as one of the most influential women in history.

Kassiani would live out her final days composing poetry and setting them to music and penning both philosophical and literary works.

A small sample of her music can be heard in the video below. German early music ensemble VocaMe perform:

- Rose.