Johannes Brahms – Piano Trio No. 1 Op. 8 (1854)

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After spending Christmas with his parents in Hamburg, Brahms settled down to write the Trio in February of 1854. His progress was soon interrupted however, by news of Robert Schumann’s suicide attempt.

The exact nature of the relationship between Brahms and Schumanns has been open to much debate and wild speculation in musical circles and while the precise truth is still unknown, the fact remains that, at the very least, they were close friends. Upon hearing the news, Brahms immediately decamped to Düsseldorf in order to help the Schumann family. It was during this time that the Trio was completed.

Often described as ‘autumnal’ by critics and musicologists, the Trio is melancholy and introspective, its expansive melodies rendered even more beautiful by an underlying sense of emotional agitation. Given the circumstances under which this piece was composed, the sense of unrest is even more poignant.

The juxtaposition of unbridled emotion and strict observation musical form creates an extraordinary tension that would later become Brahms’ compositional calling card.

In addition to being his first major work, the Trio also turned out to be the first of Brahms’ pieces to be heard in the America. The young American pianist William Mason had been studying in Germany and brought the newly published score back to America with him. The premiere was given in New York on 17th November 1855 however the journey was beyond the financial reach of the young Brahms, so it was Mason that played the composer’s part.

Read the full blog article here.

Piano: Menahem Pressler
Violin: Daniel Guilet
Cello: Bernard Greenhouse

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Johannes Brahms – Piano Trio No. 1 (1854)

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The Piano Trio in B major, Op. 8, by Johannes Brahms was composed during 1854. The composer produced a revised version of the work in 1889. It is scored for piano, violin and cello, and it is the only work of Brahms to exist today in two published versions, although it is almost always the revised version that we hear performed today. Among the piano trios known to have been written by Brahms it is the only one that ends in a minor key. It is also among the few multi-movement works to begin in a major key and end in the tonic minor (another example being Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony).

The trio is in four movements.

Nicholas Angelich (piano), Renaud Capuçon (violin), Gautier Capuçon (cello) perform Johannes Brahms Piano Trio no.1 in B major. Recording in Chambéry, Auditorium de la Cité des Arts, 20-22 December 2003. EMI Records Ltd/ Virgin Classics.

Raymond Moore – Trip Through the Milky Way (1969)

The three basic motives of “Trip Through the Milky Way – An Electronic Panorama” are: a twenty-three-note row in which the interval of a fourth appears thirteen times; a series of thirteen fourths; and a sine wave glide tone whose ups and downs are governed by the interval of a fourth. All of the motives were created with a sine wave oscillator.

Several one-voice lines were created from these three basic motives. They in turn were copied — halving or doubling the tape speed and hence creating a building block — i.e. a four-voice unit.

These building blocks were then combined so that in the middle of the composition there are sixteen distinct lines on each stereo channel and thirty-two in the center (Two channel version).

Hence, “Trip Through the Milky Way – An Electronic Panorama” is a multi-voiced (64) canon at the octave.

The composition was not a planned trip through the Milky Way but rather after the fact. When it was finished (March 1969), the structure and contour of its sound densities and intensities were not unlike a sound picture (or, if you will, Panorama – in the four channel version) of a trip through the Milky Way.

In the July 1970 issue of High Fidelity, “Trip Through the Milky Way” was awarded Honorable Mention in its Electronic Music Contest of August 1969. –Raymond Moore

Art by Wladyslaw T. Benda

Hans Werner Henze – Labyrinth (1951)

The London Sinfonietta
Hans Werner Henze

In 1951, when I was artistic director of a small ballet company attached to the National Theatre of Wiesbaden, I wrote this psycho-chamber-jazz ballet for it. It was never staged because the company dissolved before we could put it on. I conducted the score in a concert on the Darmstadt-Frankfurt a.M. Music Festival on May 29th, 1952.

The ballet tells the story of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur, in a condensed, anagogical and anagrammatical fashion. It is, as a subject, quite similar to Gozzi’s “The King Stag” which I composed as an opera three years later. –Hans Werner Henze

I. Permanent Menace: Adolescents of Knossos under the threat to be fed to the Minotaur.
II. Cantus choralis: Plea to Theseus to kill the monster.
lll. Conflict: Ariadne tries to prevent Theseus from facing the dangers involved by going into the Labyrinth and challenging the Minotaur. But Theseus is adamant.
IV. Variation: She invents the device of the thread stuck to Theseus, made to pull him back out of the Labyrinth in case he would get lost in it.
V. Minotaurus Blues: Theseus in the Labyrinth fights the Minotaur and kills him.
VI. Fantasy in Rose: Theseus and Ariadne happily reunited among the people of Crete who are grateful to be liberated from their nightmare.

Art by Jeffrey Smart

Béla Bartók – Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1945)

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The Viola Concerto, Sz. 120, BB 128 (also known as Concerto for Viola and Orchestra) was one of the last pieces written by Béla Bartók. He began composing the work while living in Saranac Lake, New York, in July 1945. The piece was commissioned by William Primrose, a respected violist who knew that Bartók could provide a challenging piece for him to perform. He said that Bartók should not “feel in any way proscribed by the apparent technical limitations of the instrument”; Bartók, though, was suffering from the terminal stages of leukemia when he began writing the viola concerto and left only sketches at the time of his death.

Béla Bartók (1881-1945)
Viola Concerto
I Moderato
II Adagio religioso
III Allegro vivace

Tabea Zimmermann, Viola
Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Conductor: David Shallon

Robin Ticciati is the new chief conductor of DSO in Berlin

Robin Ticciati heißt der Nachfolger von Tugan Sokhiev an der Spitze des Deutschen Symphonie-Orchesters Berlin. Der 32-jährige Engländer übernimmt die Position des Chefdirigenten und Künstlerischen Leiters des Hauptstadt-Klangkörpers ab der Saison 2017|2018 für zunächst fünf Jahre. Erst im September 2014 gab der Chefdirigent des Scottish Chamber Orchestra und Musikdirektor der Glyndebourne Festival Opera seinen Einstand in Berlin beim DSO mit Anton Bruckners ›Romantischer‹ Symphonie. In der aktuellen Spielzeit wird er am 28. Februar 2016 zum Orchester zurückkehren, mit der Violinistin Vilde Frang und Werken von Debussy, Korngold, Ravel und Widmann.

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Jacob Gotlib — The Ruined Edifice (2010)

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The Ruined Edifice
for ensemble

In the summer of 2009 I moved to Buffalo, New York, a city whose iconic postindustrial ruins are an integral part of its geographical and psychological landscape. Buffalo’s broken structures are distorted and distended, buried and rotting under layers of dirt, rust, and other scars. Although the romanticism of urban decay is to some a particularly tired cliché, it, like de Kooning’s women, calls conventions of beauty into question. The frightening beauty of a ruined edifice, as opposed to the clean, fresh sensuality of a newly built structure, is the kind that has lived, changed, and reacted to its world and to time, a momenti mori for us the inhabitants.

I was not concerned with any of these things when I began to write this piece; its true beginnings were in more abstract musical issues. However, as I was writing and listening to the sound material, I couldn’t help but imagine myself inside one of the crumbling houses or churches that I pass every day. The sounds of the piece took on an architectural quality, becoming the beams, bricks, plaster, and stone, and I felt as if I were witnessing a time-lapse image of the building’s collapse while inside of it.

Like much of my recent music, The Ruined Edifice is in two complementary halves. The first half, whose only descriptive marking is “monolithic and unstable,” uses sounds that add noise, distortion, and dirt to cover and bury the original instrumental tone. The second half, whose descriptive marking is “dustlike,” subtracts the original instrumental tone to reveal the dust and artifacts that it had buried.

Performers on this recording:
Ensemble SurPlus: Martina Roth (flute), Christian Kemper (oboe), Erich Wagner (clarinet), Stefan Häussler (violin), Thomas Avery (viola), Beverly Ellis (cello), Johannes Nied (contrabass), Sven Thomas Kiebler (conductor).