Ravel’s ‘Pavane pour une infante défunte’

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Pavane pour une infante défunte (Pavane for a Dead Infanta) is a well-known piece written for solo piano by the French composer Maurice Ravel in 1899 when he was studying composition at the Conservatoire de Paris under Gabriel Fauré. Ravel also published an orchestrated version of the Pavane in 1910; it is scored for two flutes, oboe, two clarinets (in B-flat), two bassoons, two horns, harp, and strings. A typical performance of the piece lasts between six and seven minutes. It is widely considered a masterpiece.

Conductor: Andre Previn
Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra
Recording: 1980.

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Stravinsky’s ‘Suite For Small Orchestra No.1 and No.2’ recorded in Italy in 1953

The Suite For Small Orchestra No.1 was composed between 1917 and 1925. This miniature work, comprising an introduction and three national dances, is notable for its prominent rhythms and rich orchestral colouring.

Suite No.2 is extremely witty and rhythmically varied. The employment of the piano obligato, tuba, and the colourful application of the percussion instruments are described as particularly original orchestral effects.

Conductor: Hermann Scherchen
Orchestra: Orchestra Sinfonica della Rai di Torino
Recording: November 6, 1953

Did you know that Verdi composed a string quartet?

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Giuseppe Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor was written in the spring of 1873 during a production of Aida in Naples. It is the only surviving chamber music work in Verdi’s catalogue.

Verdi’s production of Aida in early March, 1873 was delayed due to the sudden illness of soprano Teresa Stolz. Verdi focused his time in Naples on the writing of his first chamber work, the String Quartet in E minor. The work was premiered two days after the opening of Aida during an informal recital at his hotel on April 1, 1873. The names of the original performers survive only as Pinto brothers, violins, Salvadore, viola, and Giarritiello, cello.

Verdi commented on the work, saying “I’ve written a Quartet in my leisure moments in Naples. I had it performed one evening in my house, without attaching the least importance to it and without inviting anyone in particular. Only the seven or eight persons who usually come to visit me were present. I don’t know whether the Quartet is beautiful or ugly, but I do know that it’s a Quartet!”

The quartet also exists in a version for string orchestra.

The Quartet is scored for the usual string quartet complement of two violins, viola, and cello.

  1. Allegro
  2. Andantino
  3. Prestissimo
  4. Scherzo Fuga. Allegro assai mosso

 

Claude Debussy – La Demoiselle élue (1959 recording)

La Damoiselle élue (The Blessed Damozel), L. 62, is a cantata for two soloists, female choir, and orchestra, composed by Claude Debussy in 1887–1889 based on a text by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It premiered in Paris in 1893.

Nadine Saterereau, Giovanna Fiorini, soloists
Orchestra sinfonica e coro della RAI di Torino, orchestra
Sergiu Celibidache, conductor
30.01.59, recording date

Iannis Xenakis – Empreintes (For Orchestra) (1975)

Xenakis made use of the resources of the expanded modern orchestra throughout his composing career. Visceral gestures‚ prolonged in sequences of vibrant inner activity‚ typify Xenakis’s Pythagorean ballet for Balanchine‚ Antikhthon (1971). The procedure is fined down in 1974’s Noomena‚ whose chains of sound react against each other at a dizzying rate of velocity‚ while Empreintes (1975) heralds a new phase in its more sustained growth towards a laconic‚ Stravinskian close.

Orchestra – Orchestre Philharmonique Du Luxembourg
Conductor – Arturo Tamayo

Iannis Xenakis – Aroura (for string orchestra) (1971)

Aroura is a composition for strings by Greek/French composer Iannis Xenakis. It was composed in 1971.

The title of this composition should be translated as “Earth”. It was first performed on 24 August 1971, at the Lucerne Festival. It was premiered by Rudolf Baumgartner with the festival’s Lucerne Festival Strings. It was published shortly after by Éditions Salabert.

The piece is in only one movement and takes around 12 minutes to perform. It is scored for four first violins, three second violins, two violas, two cellos and one double bass, even though it is clarified by Xenakis that it can also be performed by a larger string orchestra or ensemble. Aroura makes an extensive use of glissandos, jagged chords, sound clusters and other techniques exploited in avant-garde movements. The piece has a tempo of 𝅗𝅥 = 60 (which means two beats per second). The register of the piece ranges from a C1 (played by the double bass) to D8, played by one of the first violins. First and second violins rarely play unison, but each of the violinist has their own line. Xenakis uses graphic notation up to six times in the score, the first one being the opening of the composition.

In November 29, 1975, Elgar Howarth with the New Philharmonia Orchestra recorded the piece in Kingsway Hall, in London. The recording was released by Decca and Explore Records.

Franz Liszt – Sonata in B minor (1853)

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The Sonata in B minor, S.178, is a sonata for solo piano by Franz Liszt. It was completed in 1853 and published in 1854 with a dedication to Robert Schumann.

Liszt noted on the sonata’s manuscript that it was completed on February 2, 1853, but he had composed an earlier version by 1849. At this point in his life, Liszt’s career as a traveling virtuoso had almost entirely subsided, as he had been influenced towards leading the life of a composer rather than a performer by Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein almost five years earlier. Liszt’s life was established in Weimar and he was living a comfortable lifestyle, composing, and occasionally performing, entirely by choice rather than necessity.

The Sonata was dedicated to Robert Schumann, in return for Schumann’s dedication of his Fantasie in C major, Op. 17 (published 1839) to Liszt. A copy of the Sonata arrived at Schumann’s house in May 1854, after he had entered Endenich sanatorium. His wife Clara Schumann did not perform the Sonata; according to scholar Alan Walker she found it “merely a blind noise”.

Emil Gilels, piano. Live recording, Naples, Italy – 04.04.72.

Oscar Hylén – String Quartet in D-major (1870)

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Oscar Hylén (1846 – disappeared 1886) student to Berwald.

Work: String Quartet in D-major (1870)

Mov.I: Allegro
Mov.II: Andante
Mov.III: Scherzo: Allegro
Mov.IV: Final: Molto allegro quasi presto

Ensemble: Frydénkvartetten

Oscar Hylén (1846-1886) was born in Stockholm where he entered the Royal Swedish Conservatory. Among his several teachers was the fairly well-known composer Franz Berwald from whom he studied composition. Several of his early works were performed with success shortly after he graduated from the Conservatory. Among these was his String Quartet in D Major which dates from 1870. Although these works were well received he had difficulty making a reputation for himself. Besides composing, he pursued a career as a teacher and conductor of a Swedish touring orchestra. The Quartet was published twice, first in the early 1870’s and then again around 1900 but each time it disappeared. It was rediscovered in the 1960’s and had a brief moment of revival before disappearing yet again.

In four movements—the energetic first movement, Allegro, begins with a bang and then races forward with great elan. A lovely Andante of vocal quality comes next. the third movement is a Scherzo allegro with finely contrasting trio. A dance-like finale, Molto allegro, quasi presto, concludes the quartet.

Although this quartet is strong enough to stand on its own merits without considering whether it is historically important, the fact is that it is historically important because there were very few Swedish string quartets composed before 1870 and this one serves as a good example of musical developments in Sweden at that time.

Read more about the composer here.

10 Best Recordings of Beethoven 7 (Part 2)

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Here is part 2 of our choice of the 10 best recordings of Beethoven’s Sympony No. 7 composed in 1811-12.

The listing is chronological.

6. Frans Brüggen with Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century (2011)

7. Daniel Barenboim with West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (2011)

8. Mariss Jansons with Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (2012)

9. Martin Haselbock with Wiener Akademie Orchester (2015)

10. Herbert Blomstedt with Gewandhausorchester Leipzig (2015)

Buy the recording here.