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1  About music in general / The listener / A school story on: December 09, 2017, 10:51:13 am
The school I went to was built in 1894, and its main building boasts a huge central hall in fine Victorian red-brick, with a grand arch over the end platform. A gallery runs around three sides of the hall, with classrooms off on both levels. One day, it what was probably about 1968, I happened to be standing at the end of gallery after lessons had finished. The hall was deserted; it was about 6 p.m. and the hall was in semi-darkness. The arch at the far end was hidden by a thick purple curtain.

Suddenly something blazed out from behind the curtain - some unseen person was practising on the school organ. What I heard was this:

I was transfixed. I stood there rapt until the piece ended.

I had no idea what I had just heard, but it made such an impact that I could still hum the fugue subject years later. So ... about six years later I visited the organ scholar Evan John and asked if he could identify the work from my feeble humming. Oh yes he could - BWV 543, he said at once. And indeed it proved to be so, once I tracked down a record of it. It still thrills me today.

I do think many organists get the registration wrong, with far too light a palette. It needs to thunder out grandly as it did from behind that curtain all those years ago. The above link is the best performance I have found so far, and not surprisingly, is from a concert.
2  About music in general / Individual composers / Re: Vissarion Shebalin on: December 09, 2017, 10:21:30 am
I've seen his son a few times.
3  Little-known music of all eras / New recordings / Re: Unknown Martinu on: December 02, 2017, 11:14:20 am
I have listened to volume 1. The performances with Sinfonia Varsovia and Ian Hobson are fine. The pieces are none of them profound, but pleasant listening, and some show very interesting pre-echos of Martinu's later style.
4  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Composers under National Socialism on: November 21, 2017, 12:00:39 pm
That's a very good article.

In passing, it's interesting to note that there never was such a place as "Nazi Germany" any more than there was a "Commie Russia". The name "Nazi" was always an insult, even before Hitler appeared on the scene. It meant a country bumpkin. It's a contraction of "Ignatius" which is a common name amongst Bavarian peasants, and thus equivalent to calling an Irishman a "Paddy".

I suspect that those today who go around calling themselves "Neo-Nazis" don't know this.
5  Little-known music of all eras / Downloads discussion / Mongolian music on: November 21, 2017, 11:34:25 am
Interesting to see the repost by Elroel of symphonies by Gonchiksumla. When the recording of the 1st was originally available, the movements were in a different order. I am quite sure that the order presented by Elroel is the correct one; the other one always sounded wrong. The explanation is presumably that the original LP had movements I and II on one side and III and IV on the other, and someone played them in the wrong order. Easily done! Or it would not have been the first time if they had actually been mislabelled.
6  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Composers under National Socialism on: November 13, 2017, 10:52:33 am
A good balanced article. It seems to me the case against Sibelius is extremely weak.
7  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Mussorgsky but not Ravel on: November 13, 2017, 10:47:53 am
Thanks, a very interesting thread, I had tried to collect them, in my quasi-youth, and agree that the original piano version has so many rewards all by itself. Of the rest, and beyond the Ravel, I enjoy the Naoumoff the best because I am a pf cto nut. The others will be fun to check out.

There is also a YouTube video of the Naoumoff version in a two-piano guise. Personally, I think the extra lines added by Naoumoff are quite out of keeping. I can see the potential of a two-piano version, thinking of the various versions of Busoni's Fantasia Contrapuntistica, but it would be better to use the second piano to thicken the textures rather than adding the weird excursions that Naoumoff overlays.
8  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Mussorgsky but not Ravel on: November 12, 2017, 08:22:51 am
I didn't mention jazz and rock versions. Of the latter, the best known is that by Emerson Lake and Palmer from way back in the days of 70s prog rock, but there is also a more recent one by the German group Mekong Delta. Just listening to the introduction and first promenade (I didn't have the stamina for any more) of the Mekong Delta version shows the limitations. It's a very literal reading, but the use of electric guitars robs the music of any character.
9  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Mussorgsky but not Ravel on: November 11, 2017, 03:34:53 pm
Back in the days before the internet, when my main source of music was BBC Radio 3, I conceived an interest in the alternative orchestrations of Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition", given that it was so rarely one got a chance to hear anything other than the Ravel version. I managed to capture a couple on tape, but it was a rare event.

So I thought it would be interesting to see how many orchestrations I could track down today on YouTube. The answer is: quite a few. Here are some links; not a complete list. I exclude versions for organ (many), versions for wind band or wind ensemble (also numerous), and peculiar instrumental arrangements like guitar, or trombone and piano (!).


This was the first ever orchestration. Tushmalov was a pupil of Rimsky - there is no R-K version, surprisingly.


Sir Henry Wood's 1915 orchestration was the first after Tushmalov.







Saraste's version is actually a compilation of Funtek and Gorchakov.

Cohen (Strings):

Leonard (Pf & orch.)

This is a woefully bad performance.

Naoumoff (Pf & orch)

Gamley (finale only):

I include this last one, despite it being only one movement, because my father had it on an old LP, and for YEARS I wondered whose orchestration it was. At last I've found out! It adds men's voices and organ into the mix. Quite over-the-top but needs to be heard.

There is also a version by Leonard Slatkin in which each picture is clipped from a different orchestration; done for a BBC documentary:

Probably my favourite is the Stokowski, but really, I prefer the piano original to all of them.

10  Little-known music of all eras / Youtube performances / Addiobelpassato on: November 11, 2017, 11:20:29 am
I just came across this channel today. It is mostly non-obscure repertoire, but a lot of historical performances and quite a lot to explore, so I post it here:
11  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Composers under National Socialism on: November 05, 2017, 07:42:17 am
I guess we could start a thread called "Composers under Communism"  hope those would not want to burn all the scores also.

Hardly necessary, since that subject is widely discussed and the composers are well-known. What happened to music in NDSAP Germany is more of a black hole.
12  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Aarre Merikanto (1893-1958) on: November 02, 2017, 08:24:03 am
Another Finnish composer whose music stands well outside the Finnish mainstream of its time and who equally deserves more recognition is the remarkable Ernest Pingoud (1887-1942) who, similarly, suffered from the rejection of the Finnish musical establishment and was also accused of "musical Bolshevism". Pingoud committed suicide. Merikanto drank too much (but then Sibelius did too Sad).

Pingoud is something of a favourite of mine. His music is not at all difficult, and I don't know why he was so rejected.

IIRC, he threw himself under a train in Helsinki Central Station.
13  Little-known music of all eras / Notice of interesting concerts around the world / Sven-David Sandström premiere on: November 02, 2017, 08:18:51 am
Five Pieces for Piano and Orchestra
14  Little-known music of all eras / Notice of interesting concerts around the world / Re: Glass Symphony No. 11 on: October 31, 2017, 11:11:47 pm
Late report back - it was interesting that in the programme notes, the composer compares his 11th to his 8th and 9th symphonies, with no mention of the 10th. However, I don't think that those who disparage Glass #10 will be enthusiastic about #11.

It was the first time I had been in the Sage at Gateshead, and I have to say I was most impressed by the acoustics. The second half of the concert was given over to Rachmaninoff's 2nd symphony, and I found I was noticing details of the orchestration I had never noticed before, and it's a work I have heard many times. It's a work supposedly influenced by Tchaikovsky, but it seemed to me that Borodin is a much stronger influence - and I had never noticed that before.
15  Little-known music of all eras / Youtube performances / Re: 'Midi' performances on: October 30, 2017, 11:53:14 pm
Well, digging around, I found this -
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