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 đť…—đť…Ą = 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.

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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.

10 Best Recordings of Bruckner 1 (Part One)

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Tonight is the opening concert of the new season at Staatskapelle Dresden. Christian Thielemann will conduct Max Bruch’s famous violin concerto and Bruckner’s 1st Symphony. We celebrate the event with part one of our ’10 Best’ series of recommended recordings of the latter.

Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor (WAB 101) was the first symphony the composer thought worthy of performing, and bequeathing to the Vienna national library. Chronologically, it comes after the Study Symphony in F minor and before Symphony in D minor (“No. 0”). The first version of the Symphony No. 2 in C minor was completed after the Symphony in D minor.

The Symphony No. 1 was premiered under Bruckner in 1868. It was dedicated to the University of Vienna, after Bruckner was granted an honorary doctorate in 1891.

Bruckner gave it the nickname “das kecke Beserl”, roughly translated as “saucy maid”.

1a. Eugen Jochum with Berliner Philharmoniker (1965)

1b. Eugen Jochum with Staatskapelle Dresden (1978)

2. Gunter Wand with Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester (1981)

3. Wolfgang Sawallisch with Bayerisches Staatsorchester (1984)

4. Sir Georg Solti with Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1995)

5. Stanisław Skrowaczewski with Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra (1995)

10 Best Recordings of Bruckner 8 (Part One)

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Musikfest Berlin 2017 opens today with Bruckner 8 performed by Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim. You can hear the concert live from Berliner Philharmonie on RBB Klassik Radio here.

It is said of Anton Bruckner that he liked to occupy the seats in opera houses where his view of the stage was blocked by pillars. He allegedly also liked to study piano scores of musical and dramatic works only with the text hidden. Dramatic interest moved him, but only if it took a musical form. Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony could claim to verify these anecdotes. This dramatic musical work fills an entire evening alone. Scenic, pictorial representations are sublimated to a great extent. Wherever they appear, such as very clearly during the scherzo or as the finale begins, the movement is particularly decorative and elaborately refined. The idea and structure of the final section is similar to an opera finale, since all the significant elements of the symphony unite here once again.

1. Carl Schuricht with Wiener Philharmoniker (1963)

2. Eugen Jochum with Staatskapelle Dresden (1976)

3. GĂĽnter Wand with NDR-Sinfonieorchester (1987)

4. Sergiu Celibidache with MĂĽnchner Philharmoniker (1993)

5. Stanisław Skrowaczewski with Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbruecken (1993)

Here is a very good deal on the Bruckner recordings on CD.

This series is aimed at finding the best recordings of a particular work and our research team try to find lesser known releases that are on par with the most iconic recordings of the work. Thus, there will be less Furtwängler, Kleiber and Karajan than you normally see on this type of recommendation lists. However, we must mention this recording of Bruckner 8 as well:

Herbert von Karajan with Wiener Philharmoniker (1988)

John Cage – Music Of Changes (1951)

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Music Of Changes I

Music Of Changes II

Music Of Changes III

Music Of Changes IV

Piano – Pi-Hsien Chen
Recorded April 2nd, 3rd & 5th, 2012.

Music of Changes dates from 1951, the watershed year in John Cage’s development, when he began to eliminate any element of personal choice in his compositions by relying on indeterminacy – in this case the I Ching, the Chinese book of divination – to generate his music. Pi-Hsien Chen interleaves the four books of the Music of Changes with nine of Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas, which she plays mostly in pairs. The juxtaposition works wonderfully. The cut-glass precision of Scarlatti’s binary forms and the springy leanness of his keyboard writing contrast beautifully with the irregular, multilayered sound masses of Cage’s pieces. What links them here, though, is the sense of buoyancy and alertness that characterises all of Chen’s playing, in which every rhythm seems freshly imagined and every texture like a discovery, so that Scarlatti’s sonatas, poised between the baroque and the classical, seem every bit as radical as Cage’s pieces.

Andrew Clements – The Guardian

Oscar HylĂ©n – String Quartet in D-major (1870)

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Oscar HylĂ©n (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 HylĂ©n (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 BrĂĽggen 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.

10 Best Recordings of Beethoven 7 (Part 1)

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Here is part 1 of our choice of the 10 best recordings of Beethoven’s Sympony No. 7 composed in 1811-12.

1. Arturo Toscanini with the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York (1936)

2. Karl Böhm with Berliner Philharmoniker (1958)

3. Fritz Reiner with Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1956)

4. Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt with Wiener Philharmoniker (1969)

5. Gunter Wand with NDR Sinfonieorchester (1987)

GraĹĽyna Bacewicz – Divertimento For Strings (1970)

Bacewicz/ Baird/ GĂłrecki/ Paciorkiewicz – Works Composed For The Warsaw Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.
Label: Polskie Nagrania Muza ‎- XL 0586.
Released: 1970, Poland

Conductor – Karol Teutsch.
Orchestra – Orkiestra Kameralna Filharmonii Narodowej.

A5. Allegro
A6. Adagio
A7. Giocoso

Recorded from an Technics 1210 MKII / Ortofon 2M Red cartridge,
into the NAD PP-3 Phono Preamp, and finally into an EMU 1212M PC Music Card.