Friday, 8 March 2019


Bust of Terpsikhore, Greek goddess of choral song and dance

(RE)INTRODUCING MADDALENA LAURA LOMBARDINI (*teaser post only - I remain on a brief hiatus. Full length articles will return shortly)

Who she was: a Venetian-born noble who studied at one of the four Ospedali Grandi which trained orphaned girls in music. Regarded as a child prodigy in both singing and on the violin.

When she thrived: mid-late 18th century.

Claim to fame: violin concerti – including a double violin concerto co-written in 1768 with her famous husband, the renowned violinist Ludovico Sirmen. Lombardini did not ride on her partners' coattails, however. Three years following the much admired premiere of the couple's concerto, Lombardini debuted her critically acclaimed  "Concerto on the Violin." It was a performance that would solidify her new status as both a virutosic performer and formidable composer in her own right. She also occasionally performed as a singer.

Admired by: many established violinists and composers, including Quirino Gasparini. Most notably Giuseppe Tartini, who wrote, especially for Lombardini, an epistolary lesson on violin playing. That letter, vouching support and a personal relationship with one of the leading violinists of the era, only added to Lombardini's credit as a top performer and virtuoso. It would be widely published and disseminated (in multiple translations) throughout Europe in the mid-late 18th century.

Why you should listen to her: if you enjoy music from the classical era, in addition to virtuosity. In appreciation of the historical aspect of an independently successful female composer, famous in her own right, one who enjoyed the distinction of touring Europe as a performing composer – a rare privilege for her sex in her era.

Author's choice: Violin Concerto no. V in B Flat major


Wednesday, 6 March 2019

I am on a brief hiatus - I will be returning soon!

In the interim, enjoy some stunning Bruch:

Listen below to the stunning “Ave Maria”* from act I of Max Bruch's early (and much neglected) opera, "Die Loreley," performed live from the Theater Oberhausen in 1984 by the Chor des Theater Oberhausen and Kammerchor Orchestra under Antoni Wicherek.

Die Loreley - so named after the beautiful Rhine Maiden whose siren call and lusty locks (according to legend) famously 'ensnared' hordes of enraptured sailors to their deaths as they navigated waters about the Lorelei cliff, on which the spectre of the long-haired bombshell was said to sit, combing her luxurious hair some 433 feet above the 65 km stretch of River between Koblenz and Bingen in Germany.

Bruch's 1863 opera, originally intended by the works' librettist, Emanuel Geibel to be set to music by Felix Mendelssohn, closely draws on the legend of the maiden “Lore Lay,” a fable first coined in 1801 by the German author Clemens Brentano through his ballad “Zu Bacharach am Rheine” (later adapted by Heinrich Heine), with the Rhine Maiden Loreley (in Bruch's opera a poor daughter of a ferryman called Leonore) exchanging her soul with the spirits of the river (and it's highly conspicuous rock) in an effort to wickedly ensnare the wealthy, noble object of her affection - who had jilted her - though her silvery-toned singing. The work, composed by Bruch at the tender age of twenty, achieved brief success following its premiere in Mannheim, and was later revived in 1887 (via the composers' revised edition) under the baton of Gustav Mahler. It has since, like so many other great operas, fallen into obscurity.

In fact, it was not until late 2018 that a full recording of Die Loreley was made available on CD, with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester and the Prager Philharmonischer Chor performing under Stefan Blunier.

That recording, taken from a live performance at the Prinzregententheater in Munich in 2014, can be purchased online here.

*"Ave Maria" runs from 19:27 - 22:59. Katarzyna Niemiec sings the role of Leonore.