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Broadcast rarities from days gone by


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Author Topic: Broadcast rarities from days gone by  (Read 17459 times)
Gerard
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« on: June 07, 2009, 12:59:25 pm »

This thread is intended as a discussion of rare works and performances from broadcasts of long ago. Here I am shamelessly appropriating an excellent idea of Mr. Autoharp's, which he recently introduced on another forum!

Members (level 2 and above) who would like to study review or compare any of these historic broadcasts may obtain further details HERE. Submissions to this thread will be most welcome. If there are any further questions please PM me.

As a first submission, the first British performance of Forma Ferritonans for orchestra by the Swede Karl-Birger Blomdahl (1916-1968) took place around 1965.


It is a late work, composed in 1961, and shows his use of cluster technique in its development from a slow introduction to a dynamic climax. It was written for an iron company, and so we are unsurprised to hear echoes of Alexander Mosoloff.

But more than anything, I think, it is another example of the all-pervading influence of Stravinsky's Rite in twentieth-century music.

When Blomdahl expired in 1968 he was working with electronics, and in particular busy with his regrettably unfinished opera "The Tale of the Enormous Computer."
« Last Edit: July 16, 2009, 01:33:49 pm by Gerard » Report Spam   Logged

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Reiner Torheit
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« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2009, 08:42:23 pm »

Although I'm not greatly interested in Mr Blomdahl's output,  the prospect of interesting recordings filtering out in this fashion is a tempting one, so I shall be checking back to see what other juicy snippets have come our way through Gerard's generosity of spirit and time Smiley

Mr Autoharp's initiative is well worth seeking out too - some excellent Szymanowski to be had (whilst uploads last) there!
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autoharp
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« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2009, 07:40:51 am »

Many thanks for that, Gerald! I look forward to hearing more of your collection.

On the subject of Blomdahl, Aniara can be located within the following stash -
http://rapidshare.com/users/8RDGKF
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smittims
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« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2009, 08:34:37 am »

I wish the BBC would repeat, or Medici Masters issue on BBC Legends CD, Havergal Brian's Cello concerto, played by Thomas Igloi and conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. It's a charming and modestly-score work which might win friends for this compoer often misundertsood as a creator of gargantuan symphonies only.

Other broadcasts from long ago which I should welcome hearing again are:

 the early '70s BBCWelsh production of the Wasps with Vaughan Williams' music, much bettre thanthe recent Halle version; and

the late '70s broadcast of the complete 'Omar Khayyam' (Bantock) conducted by Norman del Mar. Unlike the  Chandos CDs this was an absolutely uncut performance, and was also most beautifully sung.  .
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Gerard
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« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2009, 11:05:06 am »

Thank you Mr. Autoharp; I am inexpressibly happy about the two Medtner sonatas the Szymanowski and the van Dieren! And Aniara comes as a most interesting and welcome surprise.

I have checked my catalogue but haven't got any of the three works mentioned by member Smittims. I remember hearing the Wasps but unfortunately did not record it.


The subject to-day is the première of Donald Banks's Divisions for orchestra, completed in 1965. Banks was a colonial of course, but after arriving in London he became the friend and secretary of the head of music at the B.B.C., Mr. Edward Clark, a move which did his career no harm at all. He also studied composition under both Seiber and Dallapiccola, and began to write music for the Hammer horror films such as The Mummy's Shroud and Frankenstein.

Divisions (I do not at present know the entire significance of this name) is/are very much in the style of Schönberg's Variations.

Banks made a bad move when he returned to the colonies in 1972 - at much the same time as both Tristram Cary and Roger Smalley emigrated there - little was heard of any of them thereafter!
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Tony Watson
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« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2009, 10:46:21 pm »

I wish the BBC would broadcast again or put out on CD (maybe on the cover of the Music Magazine) the centenary performance of Sullivan's The Golden Legend under Charles Mackerras. It was performed in Leeds Town Hall (as was the premiere) in 1986 and included Benjamin Luxon and Robert Tear. It's better than the Chandos CD issue under Corp in 2001, worthy as that is in many ways.
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Tony Watson
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« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2009, 12:06:52 am »

I should add that I have a recording of that broadcast on cassette, but it's showing its age. As a teenager in the 1970s I used to record items from Radio 3 as I couldn't afford to buy the LPs. Unfortunately none of those has survived.
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Gerard
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« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2009, 08:37:27 am »

Are you sure there is not a shoe-box of treasures in a corner of your garage Mr. Watson?


To-day we might discuss the first British performance of the Séquences for Violin and Small Grouped Orchestra by Roman Haubenstock-Ramati (1919 - 1994). He was born in Poland to a German-Jewish father, studied philosophy in his youth, was interred in Russia in the forties, spent most of the fifties in Israel, then moved to Paris, finally settling in Vienna.

Although the announcer mentioned the year 1953, all the reference books agree in assigning this work to 1958.

Unfortunately I do not know whether Séquences belong(s) among his later, graphical and mobile, scores, or to his earlier Webernesque period, but it/they sound(s) pretty complicated! Without a knowledge of the construction it is difficult to say much more.

According to the web-site of the Universal Edition (with whom he used to work) the orchestral instrumentation consists of 3 Flutes, 4 Percussionists, Harp, Celesta, Piano, 4 Violins, 4 Violas, and 4 Violoncelli. How these are separated in the four groups is not stated, and in any case the separation would be inaudible in the A.M. transmission.

Paul Griffiths in his book Modern Music and After does not mention Haubenstock-Ramati's name; a singular omission I think. Norman Lebrecht mentions him but admires only the second string quartette.
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Gerard
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« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2009, 11:41:36 am »


Two items to-day; first a Stravinsky lollipop: the first British performance of his Elegy for J.F.K. dates from 1964. (The initials J.F.K. are those of a Northern American politician.) The work is scored for baritone and three clarinets; the name of the singer in this performance is not recorded - could he have been Peter Pears? Because the work was new and considered difficult it was sung twice over, without a break for applause.


The second item is Schönberg's Six Pieces for Male Chorus opus 35 composed in 1929 and 1930. Again this was their first British performance. At the time - the mid sixties - the B.B.C. was very assiduously filling all the Schönberg gaps, and I still remember with gratitude my first hearing of his Pelléas and Mélisande. The singers were members of the John Alldis Choir,


and for some unstated reason they omitted the fifth song of Schönberg's six. A year or so later I managed to hear it; its name is "Landesknechte," meaning farm-boys or agricultural labourers, and there certainly are a lot of animal noises to be heard.
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Reiner Torheit
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« Reply #9 on: June 10, 2009, 09:40:40 pm »

Many thanks indeed for those!  Smiley  Unless he had laryngitis on the day, I can't imagine the vocalist is Pears with the clarinets - not his range or timbre at all.
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« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2009, 11:06:25 pm »

I'll catch up with these over the weekend. In the meantime, many thanks for the Blomdahl which reminded me how delightfully perverse this composer can be. I was less impressed by the Banks: his "serious" 12-notery often sounds as though he would really prefer to be writing more jazzy numbers - as indeed he did at times.
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Gerard
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« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2009, 09:57:04 am »

First let me thank member Autoharp for his detail description of the Chinese Symphony. "Defensive wobble" is a fine phrase!


The Violin Concerto opus 13 of Alexander Goehr was written in 1962 and broadcast two years later. It is a substantial work, full of musical interest.

According to Nicholas Williams in the New Grove Dictionary, "Goehr's music, conceived in terms of the received genres, often engages dialectically with his theoretical concerns, and he has made a significant contribution to a clearer understanding of the role of the composer in modern society."

And this, about his later work, is a most interesting paragraph:

"The appearance in 1976 of the explicitly modal, white-note setting of Psalm iv immediately following the assured serial modality of the String Quartet no.3 perplexed many who admired the unity of style achieved in Goehr's works of the preceding 17 years, and whose ears had grown accustomed to the prevailing post-Schoenbergian nuances of his music up to then. Subsequently, however, the rapidly changing outlook of the avant-garde over the last three decades of the 20th century has not only vindicated Goehr's boldness in moving away from the artist's injunction to perpetual innovation through quasi-scientific experiment, but also showed the consistency of the move within the context of his own thinking and in particular his predilection for artistic synthesis. The critics’ chief complaint was that an avant-garde composer should revert to the writing of fugues, not only in the Fugue on the Notes of the Fourth Psalm (1976), but also in Babylon the Great is Fallen (1979) for chorus and orchestra, and in the major work of the period, Goehr's second opera Behold the Sun (1981–4). But with hindsight, the radical and significant feature of these works lay in the composer's rediscovery (in part through an appraisal of the writings of C.P.E. Bach) of a means of composing that renewed the figured bass as the way to assert harmonic and formal control throughout a movement; and, indeed, extended the range of the combinatorial mode of thinking that had proved of central significance since his early works."

But to return to the younger Goehr - in the Wikipedia we find:

"In 1955, Goehr left Manchester to go to Paris and study with Olivier Messiaen, and he would remain in Paris until October 1956. The music scene of Paris would make a great impression on Goehr, who became friendly with Pierre Boulez and was thus involved in the serialist avant-garde movement of those years. Goehr experimented with Boulez’s technique of bloc sonore (particularly in his first String Quartet, 1956–57) which strives to create a distinct harmonic sonority out of serialist treatment. Boulez was indeed a sort of mentor to Goehr in the late fifties, programming his new compositions in his concerts at the Marigny Theatre in Paris.

"It was not to last. Eventually Goehr’s sensibility parted from Boulez’s serialism. What disturbed Goehr was mainly his perception that by the mid-fifties, serialism had become a cult of stylistic purity, modelling itself on the twelve-tone works of Anton Webern. Reference to any other music was forbidden and despised, and spontaneous choice replaced with the combinatorial laws of serialism:

"Choice, taste and style were dirty words; personal style, one could argue, is necessarily a product of repetition, and the removal of repetition is, or was believed to be, a cornerstone of classical serialism as defined by Webern’s late works [...] All this may well be seen as a kind of negative style precept: a conscious elimination of sensuous, dramatic or expressive elements, indeed of everything that in the popular view constitutes music.

"This flexible approach to serialism, integrating harmonic background with bloc sonore and modality is very representative of the type of writing that Goehr developed as an alternative to the strictures of total serialism. It is no coincidence that Boulez - who had earlier facilitated the performance of Goehr’s music - refused to programme Little Symphony: by 1963 Goehr had neatly departed from the style of his Parisian days."

I have always thought Goehr a serious and sensible man, who believes as I do in absolute music; and what a fine speaking voice he has! I just wonder that his academic positions permitted him sufficient time for creative work.

There was a slight delay before the performance began, because the conductor had either lost, or not been provided with, his score . . .
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IanP
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« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2009, 01:40:32 am »

Quote from: Alexander Goehr
"Choice, taste and style were dirty words; personal style, one could argue, is necessarily a product of repetition, and the removal of repetition is, or was believed to be, a cornerstone of classical serialism as defined by Webern’s late works [...] All this may well be seen as a kind of negative style precept: a conscious elimination of sensuous, dramatic or expressive elements, indeed of everything that in the popular view constitutes music.
These are typical straw-man attacks upon a particular field of compositional practice from which certain individuals feel excluded or by which they feel threatened; only tenable without reference to actual works and composers. Works of Boulez from the 1950s such as Le marteau, Structures 1 (not just 1a), the Third Piano Sonata, or the first two Mallarmé Improvisations, may not exploit the concept of 'style' in ways that had earlier become customary, but to my ears are highly stylistically distinctive (and exhibit a degree of commonality in this respect); same is true of works of the same period of Berio, Stockhausen, Maderna, Nono, Pousseur, etc. (all very different, but in each case there remain some unifying factors between different works by the same composer; what they don't do is simply develop 'a style' and then churn out many relatively interchangeable pieces that fulfil the parameters of that style - is this what Goehr means by 'repetition'?). Choice is at play at all levels of the works of the composers at question, including those which employ some degrees of indeterminacy. 'Taste' - what does that mean exactly in this context? Any of those composers' works exhibit very clearly a high degree of personalised judgment and discernment, even if they don't simply adhere to inherited notions of 'taste' (though in some cases, including Boulez, a strong case could be made that this factor is also present). Sensousness: Musica sa due dimensioni? Berio's Chamber Music or Tema - omaggio a Joyce? The second Boulez Improvisation? Drama: Stockhausen Gruppen or Kontakte, or any of the Klavierstücke? Expressiveness: any of the aforementioned Boulez, Berio or Maderna works, or Stockhausen Gesang, or Barraqué Piano Sonata or … au delà du hasard ?

These faux-arguments of Goehr might resonate well with those to whom he can play the 'acceptable face of modernism' (later taking out the 'modernism') card, and who are wedded to ideas of what 'music' is that are frozen at a particular moment in history, but do not say anything else of consequence.
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Gerard
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« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2009, 10:00:52 am »

Many thanks to member IanP for posting that thought-provoking response to Mr. Goehr's ideas! What do other members think about it all?

To-day I would like to discuss in quick succession three items from northern America, that far-away land of which we know so little. First a series of Improvisations organised (one cannot say "composed") by Lucas Foss.


As is well known, both Beethoven and Bach did a certain amount of public improvisation, and in the present day the practice has I understand gained a new-found popularity in some quarters. In the minds of those who appreciate this music then I can imagine that the moment when Foss's tape stops and goes into reverse generates a considerable thrill! Yet it was probably not Foss's intention that it should all have been recorded and resurrected forty-five years later. He did also produce four symphonies, four string quartets, and much else. The B.B.C. announcer here gives a good introductory explanation.
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Gerard
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« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2009, 12:04:21 pm »


Secondly the Sonata for Solo Violin of Roger Sessions, which was written in 1953 at a time when the composer was inspired by a growing friendship with Arnold Schönberg. He stated that his use of the twelve-note method in this sonata was "begun unconsciously"; here is a longer explanation I found:

"A signal compositional event took place in 1953. Sessions’s harmonic language had, since the 1935 violin concerto, become increasingly chromatic. His second piano sonata of 1946 is completely atonal. In 1953, at the start of composition of his Sonata for Violin, Sessions 'realized' that he was writing twelve-tone music. For most of the next 30 years, Sessions composed in a free application of this system, of which he had once been profoundly suspicious. The hallmark of this development was its organic quality, in which Sessions evolved gradually toward the idiom, and finally adopted it seamlessly into his musical language."

The work is quite long, and the absence of any variety of tone-colour makes it rather demanding; nevertheless I believe a close attention should pay dividends. Sessions's magnum opus is said to be the opera Montezuma. He also wrote nine symphonies, a number of concertos, two string quartets and a string quintet.


Finally - also broadcast in 1965 - an orchestral work, the Dramatic Overture of Gunther Schuller, written in 1951. It sounds essentially diatonic to me. Mr. Schuller, who wrote two string quartets and at least one symphony, also presented over two hundred wireless programmes about contemporary music, and "fulfilled a life-long dream by conducting Parsifal in Australia."
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