Friday, September 29, 2006

Brilliant Russian sacred choral music

A wonderful concert by the Hermitage Ensemble of Russian singing sacred hymns and folk songs in the beautiful little Sibton Church of St Peter in Suffolk (the ruins of a Cistercian Abbey can be seen close to the church) took me down the overgrown path of Russian sacred choral music.

Two outstanding recent releases from the innovative Dutch super-budget label Brilliant Classics are highly recommended. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Paris is famous for its tradition of Russian Orthodox chant. In 1967, under their director Evgeni Ivanovitz Evetz, they recorded an anthology of Russian Orthodox Church Music. Evetz was born in Poland of Russian parents, and his status as a Russian 'displaced person,' meant that he made his reputation as a refugee building and conducting choirs, first in Morocco and then in Paris.

The anthology features composers ranging from Rachmaninov and Arensky to many lesser-known figures, and has now been released as a double CD. The sound isn't demonstration quality and the documentation is minimal, which is a shame as it would be nice to learn more about some of the more obscure composers, but at around £7 (US$13) for two hours and forty minutes of outstanding, and authentic, choral singing this is yet another Brilliant bargain.


Rachmaninov's Vespers Op 37 for unaccompanied choir, based on the Russian Orthodox All Night Vigil Service, is one of the works on yet another outstanding Brilliant Classics release. The Vespers are sung by the National Academic Choir of Ukraine in a fine recording made in Kiev Cathedral in 2000. But it is the coupling of the lesser-known Liturgy of St John Chrysostom, Op 31 sung by the Russian State Symphony Capella directed by Valery Polyansky which makes this 3CD box so recommendable.

The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom was composed in 1910 and is the first of Rachmaninov's three major choral works, the others being The Bells (1913) and the Vespers (1915). In the Orthodox Church the term 'liturgy' is the equivalent to the Catholic Mass, and shares the major elements with the Roman rite. Full texts are provided, and at a price of around £10 (US$18) for almost three hours of singing, including three other Rachmaninov rarities, this is yet another outstanding Brilliant Classics bargain.


It may well have been Rachmaninoff’s great admiration for Tchaikovsky which inspired him to write sacred music., just as Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio, Op. 50 had inspired him to compose a piano trio of his own, Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, Op. 41 and his setting of the All-Night Vigil, Op. 52 were models for Rachmaninoff’s own liturgical compositions. It is a puzzle as to why Tchaikovsky's two sacred masterpieces are not better known today, but once again Brilliant Classics are poised to, at least partially, rectify that with their recent release of the Liturgy coupled with Alexander Gretchaninov's excellent setting of the Vespers Liturgy Op. 59. This is a 2CD set, the ensemble for the Tchaikovsky is once again the National Choir of Ukraine, while the Gretchaninov is sung by the Bulgarian Mixed Choir. Again it is easy to find these 2CDs for less than £10 ($18) delivered from Caiman Ivia Amazon marketplace) and others.

This music, and these recordings, speaks to us with a passion and directness which is rarely found in our Western world. A little while ago I featured the hand-crafted Bible that is being created by James Pepper at Highland Park Methodist Church in Dallas, and all the illustrations with this article are taken from the Pepper Bible. I recently received the following email from James, and I finish with it because it speaks with the same passion and directness:

Pliable - MP 3, yes I am not that advanced. I can still play my grandfathers one sided 78 of Enrico Caruso and a couple of Spike Jones records, sometimes when I am feeling technical I pull out the short wave radio and listen to the BBC. My TV set glows from the vacuum tubes and I write bibles.

I can still remember as a child a room full of Americans all sitting in our living room in a cottage we rented in Bermuda listening to the World Series because for some odd reason our radio could pick it up and it was the only one on the island that could! The place was packed!

Saint Seraphim is a big thing around here (Pliable - this is a reference to my article Orthodox Church of Saint Seraphim of Sarov). The local orthodox church is named St. Seraphim's, the bishop is a former Baptist preacher so its interesting; And they have an icon painter from Kiev working on the place. Also there is a St. Seraphim's in Moscow that our church is co-ordinating with in our missionary activities in Kazakhstan. We operate a church in Karaganda, we support the local missionaries, a few years ago we bought them a yurt. Karaganda was a gulag but is now a medical school and the students come from all over the Muslim world and they learn English by reading the Bible and we convert a lot of them. One of our missionaries started 30 churches in one year by converting Chieftain. Its very remote.

We went down to the Russian Orthodox Church on Good Friday and stood for the liturgy, it really is something to see. Previously I had made the mistake of kneeling for two hours which is really bad on your legs if you are not used to it. Injured while praying.

* Russian Orthodox Church Music is a 2CD set on Brilliant Classics 5029365765626
* Rachmaninov's Vespers and Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is a 3CD set on Brilliant Classics 5029365621526
* Tchaikovsky Liturgy of St John Chrysostom coupled with the Gretchaninov Vespers is on Brilliant Classics 5028421997629
* Brilliant Classics Russian Archives are well worth visiting for some bargain Gilels, Richter, Kissin and Rostopovich, while travelling away from the Russian theme their new release of the Reger and Hindemith Clarinet Quintets is also a gem.
* All illustrations, with permission from the Pepper Bible, see more via this link.
* The Hermitage Ensemble aim to bring the Russian traditions of church music and the motets of the Eastern Church closer to western audiences. More details from their web site where MP3 audio samples are also available.
* As well as sacred music the Hermitage Ensemble also perform Russian folksongs. Which takes us down another very worthwhile overgrown path to Jazz på Ryska (Jazz in Russia) by the superb jazz pianist Jan Johansson, click on this link for the full story and audio samples.

Now playing - G. I. Gurdjieff, Sacred Hymns played by Keith Jarrett (piano). Although Gurdjieff is often linked with Sufism he claimed to have studied more than 200 religions, and as a boy sung in his local Russian Orthodox Church in Kars (now part of Turkey), and his compositions are linked to Greek liturgical music. Keith Jarrett made this recording in 1980 with the support of followers of Gurdjieff. It is an important, and very undervalued, document.

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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to 'L'Orgue Mystique' - the music and 'L'Orgue Mystique' - the images

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In Memoriam - Sir Malcolm Arnold

Sir Malcolm Arnold died on Saturday 23rd September 2006, age 84. In tribute, here is an article published a year ago about him.

Interviewer: "Did you think as you began to write the ninth symphony that it would be the last thing you wrote?"

Sir Malcolm Arnold: "I was rather hoping it would be....(pause)...the piece is an amalgam of all my knowledge of humanity."

Interviewer: "It is a huge, bleak, finale isn't it?"

Sir Malcolm: (long pause) "....Yes...I wanted it to die away into infinity....."

These words are taken from the discussion between the conductor Andrew Penny and the composer Sir Malcolm Arnold which is included on Naxos' superb recording of his 9th Symphony. The symphony was written in a three week blaze of creativity in August 1986 as a birthday present for the composer's close friend, and carer, Anthony Day. Its composition followed five years of mental illness, and composing silence

Sir Malcolm's career started as an orchestral musician. He was Principal Trumpet for the London Philharmonic Orchestra until 1948 when he turned to full time composing. His musical output is prodigous. The published works include nine symphonies, several concertos (including works for written Benny Goodman, Julian Bream, Larry Adler and James Galway), two string quartets and much other chamber music, and the five sets of dances. But this extraordinary published opus does not include his film and TV music. 1957 for instance produced the 3rd Symphony, four other published works, and no fewer than six film scores, including the Oscar winning The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Inevitably though this phenomenal creative workload took its toll. There was a continuing battle with alcoholism, and recurring manic depressive episodes culminating in several stays in psychiatric hospitals. For seven years, including the period of composition of the 9th Symphony, Sir Malcolm was under the jurisdiction of the Court of Protection, established to protect and manage the financial affairs of those suffering from mental illness. The 83 year old Sir Malcolm now suffers from frontal-lobe dementia, and is largely housebound in Norfolk. He is tended tirelessly by Anthony Day, who welcomed me to their household to discuss a draft of this article. (The photograph above was taken at their house in 2001).

The 9th Symphony was composed in short score, and orchestrated when complete. The writing in the first movement is starkly simple and meditative, with page after page of virtually empty bars. But like late Picasso the work communicates huge emotions through a few sparse gestures. The symphony is in two halves. The first three movements form one, and include a typically Arnold scherzo. There is minimal thematic development, and considerable use of repetition and sequential structures in the first movement. In the second a motif is played on the bassoon, and is then repeated sixteen times as it is covered by different instruments.

The fourth movement, which is almost as long as the first three, forms the second half. The sombre final lento pays homage to Mahler's 9th Symphony, but then moves beyond it into an ascetic world of its own. There is very little conventional harmony in this final movement, the listener is kept waiting more than twenty minutes for the resolution of the final D major chord that ends the work. The lento dispenses with the conventions of symphonic form, and returns to elemental techniques.

Sir Malcolm Arnold's 9th Symphony is by any measure an extraordinary work. Parts look unfinished on paper. It is written entirely in two parts, and this creates the impression that the composer has forgotten how to write harmony. The writing for a large orchestra is equally extraordinary. The second trumpet plays in just twenty of the lento's three hundred and twenty-seven bars. The piccolo and trumpet are silent throught the twenty-three minutes of the last movement, only to play the final note.

When the 9th Symphony was announced the musical establishment was expecting another 'classic' Malcolm Arnold work, and they were sorely disappointed by the manuscript. Arnold's editor at Faber Music, the very experienced Donald Mitchell, was dismayed by the sparse scoring. So were other Arnold champions who were asked to pass judgement. The BBC music editor and Arnold supporter, Edwin Roxburgh, commented on its 'strange kind of simplicity.'

These negative reactions meant that the score remained in manuscript for years, despite vigorous advocacy from Sir Charles Groves and Howard Blake. Finally came publication, and excellent recordings from Naxos, Chandos and Conifer. The full score is now available from Chester Novello who bought the rights from Faber for just £500.

On paper the 9th Symphony may have looked like a bizarre mixture of juvenilia and mischief making, but in performance the work is pure magic. It has many of the unsung qualities of Shostakovich's 15th Symphony. It is a rite of passage. Not from youth to maturity. But from the mature Arnold, to a new and highly economical musical language. It is tonally accesible, but compositionally innovative. Above all it is an important work. A letter from Howard Blake to Arnold's agent Georgina Ivor sums it up beautifully:

"You've got to get this work performed, Georgina! It's not like his other works. It's very sparse and meditative, but it will work fine. It should be played! If nobody will do it, it's the sort of thing you could do in the Roundhouse and have young people all sitting on the floor meditating! You must put it on! It's a very significant work. It's from the deep inner recesses of Malcolm."

While discussing this article with me Anthony Day said Sir Malcolm (portrait by June Mendoza below) was 'heartbroken' by the poor reception accorded to the work. The story of its neglect is a graphic reminder of how difficult it is to achieve publication and acceptance for a contemporary symphony. Although technically innovative it hardly represents the extreme avant garde. It calls for large forces, but they are by no means exotic. Is one of the problems that the symphony is now considered a defunct form by the musical opinion formers?

Few contemporary composers can offer a CV to match Sir Malcolm's. Yet still the 9th Symphony specifically, and the Arnold oeuvre generally, is neglected. Is the problem the perennial one that the musical establishment cannot reconcile popularity with artistic merit? The BBC has been a staunch champions of Arnold's music in the past, but in recent years even this has waned. The last two Proms performances of his works were of film music - the Sound Barrier and St Trinian's suites. It is now more than ten years since one of his symphonies was performed at the Proms - the 2nd in 1994 to be precise. The 9th has never had a Proms performance, although it has received two broadcast performances since its composition.

In 2006 Sir Malcolm celebrates his 85th birthday. His music is a very rich seam that has still not been fully mined. Surely his 85th anniversary year is the appropriate time for the 9th Symphony, the neglected 20th century masterpiece, and his other works to be given the prominence they deserve?

Sir Malcolm Arnold resources:

* The music of Sir Malcolm is well served on CD. There are a number of recordings conducted by the composer. The nine symphonies have been recorded by Andrew Penny, Richard Hickox/Rumon Gamba, and Vernon Handley for Naxos, Chandos and Conifer respectively.

* Sir Malcolm has his own web site. This has an excellent range of resources including a listing of all current recordings. It also includes a catalogue of his published works, and links to their publishers.

* Pier Burton-Page’s 1995 biography, Philharmonic Concerto: The Life and Music of Sir Malcolm Arnold, was for some time definitive. But time, and the publication of two other lives, has now relegated it to a useful reference work. Recent years have brought two biographies which cover Sir Malcolm’s output up to, and beyond, the 9th Symphony. Paul R.W. Jackson’s slim volume The Life and Music of Sir Malcolm Arnold, The Brilliant and the Dark is strong on musical scholarship, but is too close to the subject to provide a totally objective survey. Most recent is Malcolm Arnold: Rogue Genius, co-authored by Anthony Meredith and Paul Harris. This is the most comprehensive biography, and as such should be considered the prime reference work. But be prepared for the unremittingly noir tone of the book. The detail of Sir Malcolm's struggles with his demons sometimes risks swamping the splendour of the musical output.


If you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to Hildegard comes to Norwich via IRCAM and Darmstadt invisible hit counter

Monday, September 25, 2006

Heinrich Kaminsky - an emerging composer

I wrote, and reblogged, my research article Furtwängler and the forgotten new music to draw attention to some unknown music from what is described below as "this troubled period in music history." The following informed comments on the article therefore delighted me. Thank you Daniel in Frankfurt, and Garth in Washington DC, for making it all worthwhile

Daniel Wolf wrote - The case of Max Trapp is fairly clear: he was a Nazi, and an early one. His "Appell an die Schaffenden" ("Call to Creative Artists"), in _Die Musik_,in which he identified himself as such, was published in June of 1933. The 1951 performance is simply a reminder that de-Nazification was slow.

The most interesting musician on your list may well be Heinrich Kaminsky (photo left), and one whose career provides a useful contrast to Trapp. Kaminsky's father was an Old Catholic priest of Jewish background, and Kaminsky, who was Pfitzner's successor at the Prussian Academy of the Arts, lost that position in 1933 due to his political outlook. (Perhaps Furtwangler's programming of Kaminsky in 1934 and 1937 may be additional evidence of his independence.)

Garth Trinkl wrote - Daniel, what are your criteria for holding Heinrich Kaminsky perhaps the most important (or rather interesting) of the listed composers? While I have heard some works by Braunfels, Jarnach, Toch, Marx, Holler, Rathaus, Vogel, von Schillings, and Pepping; I believe that Kaminsky is no more than a name to me, and that I have not heard anything by him. (Do you have the inclination and time to develop Kaminsky's Wikipedia site?)

I might counter you, Daniel, that today's international music community holds Walter Braunfels to be the most talented of the above listed composers and Wladimir Vogel the most "interesting", musically. All this, of course, could change with more research, advocacy, and informed performances. I also recall American musicologist Robert P. Morgan mentioning at Juilliard, in 1976, that he thought that Wladimir Vogel's Thyl Claes was the greatest unrecognized masterpiece of this troubled period in music history.

Daniel Wolf replied - I wouldn't take much stock of a curent consensus opinion: given sufficient information the consensus will change, and both information about Kaminski and performances of his works have been rare. Kaminski was called to my attention by none other than Heinz-Klaus Metzger, and Metzger spoke of being shocked (a) not to have encountered his music previously, and (b) not to have heard a bad piece from him. If my view from Frankfurt means anything, the musicological assessment is changing and the emerging music and figure of Kaminski is one of the reasons why.

Kaminiski's invisibility is rather easy to explain. Beyond simply belonging to an age-group of composers who have been mostly forgotten, his work was difficult to "place". It was mystical, but not confessional, like Distler or Pepping; his tonal language was contrapuntal but not neo-baroque, and his students were as excluded from concert life as he was after his exclusion and internal immigration in 1933, so he lacked advocates. His two operas -- and operas were career-defining for his generation -- are said to be problematical, but I cannot judge without having read the scores. In any case, his genres were orchestral music, a few pieces of chamber music, and choral music, of which no pieces appear to be weak.

Kaminski's contrapuntal technique was phenomenal and his tonal language -- especially in pieces like the Dorische Musik für Orchester or the Musik für Violoncello und Klavier points to an alternative path in the course of 20th century German music. In fact, it is easy to imagine that had Kaminski participated in post-war musical life, at Darmstadt for example, its development would have been substantially different, although it is unclear whether he would have ever accepted the role of a school-defining composer. The Kaminsky who wrote "Es ist nicht Sache der Kunst, Gefühle auszudrücken. Musik ist da, um zu klingen und lebendig zu sein. Sie stellt nichts dar. Sie ist Leben an sich." ("It's not the function of music to express feelings. Music exists, to sound, and to be alive. It represents nothing. It is life itself.") was clearly a modernist, but his modernity was one substantially different to the more familiar paths.

As to the names on your list, my assessment is that Toch is the best known, Jarnach is probably held in as much esteem as Braunfels, and Vogel is widely appreciated for his early Busoni-inspired experiments, but the musical significance of Vogel's work -- he was active through the early 1980's -- is less clear, with the post-war developments in his catalog generally, in a word, disappointing. Jarnach is a bit of a curiosity as his principle works were written exclusively in the 1920s, and his post-war career was as an administrator and teacher in Hamburg.

Now visit the excellent blogs of Daniel and Garth - Renewable Music and Renaissance Research

* Links to the composers mentioned are available from my original article - Furtwängler and the forgotten new music

Photo credit - Classical-composers.org Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Intimations of Immortality


Edith Cavell was born in 1865 in the vicarage of Swardeston in rural Norfolk, a few miles from where I write these words. She was an accomplished artist, and had a flair for French. After several jobs as a governess in England she was recommended for a post in Brussels in 1890.

In 1895 she returned to nurse her father through an illness, and it was this experience that led Edith to take up nursing. In 1905 she returned to Brussels and was put in charge of a pioneering training school for lay nurses on the outskirts of the city. Edith often returned to visit her mother who moved to Norwich after her husband's death. While on a visit in 1914 she heard of the German invasion of Belgium, but she returned to her hospital without hesitation.

In the autumn of 1914, two stranded British soldiers found their way to Nurse Cavell's training school. Others followed and were spirited away to neutral territory in Holland. An underground lifeline was established, masterminded by Prince and Princess De Croy at a chateau in Mons, and some two hundred soldiers were helped in their escape.

Two members of the escape team were arrested on 31 July 1915, and five days later Nurse Cavell was interned. The German military authorities, having tried in secret and sentenced Edith and four others to death, were determined to carry out the executions immediately. Despite frantic efforts to save her, by the American and Spanish ambassadors to Belgium, Edith was executed by firing squad at a rifle range just outside Brussels at dawn on 12th October 1915 after a last visit from the English Chaplain.

The Allies acclaimed Nurse Cavell as a martyr, and the stained glass window above was installed by public subscription in Swardeston Church in 1917. After the war her remains were brought to Westminster Abbey. A special train then brought her to Norwich, and a great procession followed her to the Cathedral where she was laid to rest. My photograph of her grave was taken a few days ago early on a wonderful May morning.


Now playing - Intimations of Immortality, Gerald Finzi's setting of the poem by the seventeenth-century metaphysical poet Thomas Traherne which laments the severing of the adult soul from the intuitive primal state. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Finzi's premature death at the age of just fifty-five. Hyperion's superb recording features tenor John Mark Ainsley and the Corydon Singers and Orchestra conducted by Matthew Best.

Additional resources* Edith Cavell website * Gerald Finzi Trust * Image credit: Header photot by Pliable, Edith Cavell from Alamo Community College Swardeston Church window from Edith Cavell website. Any copyrighted material on these pages is used in "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to Childhood luggage

Friday, September 22, 2006

Notes of a College Revolutionary

I started at university in 1968. In March of that year American troops killed hundreds of civilians in the My Lai massacre, and in April student protesters at Columbia University in New York City took over administration buildings and shut down the campus, and student protests spread to France, Japan, Britain, Poland, Spain, Italy and Mexico. Also in April Enoch Powell's 'rivers of blood' speech in Birmingham, England, took racism on to the streets and into the headlines, and in that black month Martin Luther King was taken by a sniper's bullet in Memphis. In May student and worker strikes and riots in Paris nearly brought down the French Government.

In June 1968 Robert Kennedy was assassinated on the campaign trail, and in August Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia to end the "Prague Spring" of political liberalization, while in the same month police clashed with antiwar protesters in Chicago, Illinois outside the Democratic National Convention. The emerging women's liberation movement staged demonstrations at the annual Miss America Beauty pageant held in Atlantic City, NJ in September. Under the pretext of progress with the Paris peace talks, in October US President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he has ordered a complete cessation of "all air, naval, and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam" effective November 1.

I have many memories of those extraordinary times, and buried among them is a film called The Strawberry Statement which captured the zeitgeist with a soundtrack featuring Crosby Stills and Nash, Neil Young, John Lennon, Buffy Sainte Marie, Thunderclap Newman, J.S. Bach and Richard Strauss. The film was based on a novel by James Simon Kunen of the same name. The book is now considered to be one of the earliest examples of 'new journalism', and its diary format predates the blog by more than 30 years. Kunen wrote the novel while a Columbia College sophmore in 1968, and after graduation he worked as a journalist in Vietnam.

Subsequently as a conscientous objector Kunen worked as a counsellor at a group home for young offenders in Lancaster, Mass. He graduated from New York University Law School, and became a public defender in the criminal courts of Washington, DC, an experience retold in his book "How Can You Defend Those People". He then left the practice of law and returned to journalism. James Simon Kunen's book "Reckless Disregard" was an exposé of the Ford Motor Company's role in a Kentucky school bus fire which killed 24 children and three adults .

The Strawberry Statement is out of print, but I located a used copy in the Seashells Books in Clearwater, Florida. The book cost me $1.56, plus $9.79, and it arrived by airmail here in Norfolk, UK today.

*During the Vietnam war seven million tons of bombs were dropped on Vietnam, more than twice the bombs dropped on the whole of Europe and Asia in World War II.
* Almost one five-hundred-pound bomb was dropped for every human being in Vietman
* It is estimated that there were twenty million bomb craters in the country
* Poisonous sprays were dropped to destroy trees and any kind of growth, an area the size of Massachusetts was covered in defoliants
* On March 16, 1968 a company of Ameriacan soldiers killed between 450 and 500 people, most of them women, children, and old men, in the hamlet of My Lai 4, in Quang Ngai province. Initially the army tried to cover up the story, and the American press ignored the early coverage in French Vietnamese newspapers.
* US casualties in the war were 211,471, of which 58,226 were killed in action
* Vietnam released figures on April 3, 1995 that a total of one million Vietnamese combatants and four million civilians were killed in the war. The accuracy of these figures has generally not been challenged

* Now playing - The Great Mandala, yes I know that Peter, Paul and Mary (right) are about as unfashionable as you can get, but this is one of the great antiwar songs of the era. Composer Peter Yarrow's explanation that the song 'says our lives present us with a choice, in this case, the choice was to either serve in a war that ran counter to basic American principles, or to take the consequences of refusing to do so; for young men called to service, it was the preeminent ethical dilemna of our time' is a stark reminder that relevance never becomes unfashionable.
* For a full timeline for that extraordinary year of dissent, 1968, follow this link.

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
For more on those summers of love, hate, dissent and revolution take An Overgrown Path to I am a camera - St Tropez 1967 and The Year is '72

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Treasure trove of 20th century composers

It is funny how articles follow unplanned themes. Last week turned out to be very much French, and this week we seem to have a very welcome British theme. Lyrita was founded in 1959 as a small independent UK label specialising in British music, and many of their releases went on to become legendary. Their sessions were recorded by the Decca team during their “golden period”, and some of the early recordings used valve (tube) equipment. The LP issues delivered demonstration quality analogue sound, and the many Lyrita vinyl LPs in my collection still sound better than many of the latest CDs.

Lyrita virtually disappeared from the catalogues with the demise of the LP, but the great news is that they have just become available again, with an initial release of 37 CDs being expanded to cover the full catalogue by 2009. The new availability is the result of a distribution deal with Wyastone Estate, the company that was created out of the failed Nimbus operation.

There are some real riches in the first release as the names of the composers (including one woman) will tell you - William Alwyn, Malcolm Arnold, Arnold Bax, William Sterndale Bennett, Lennox Berkeley, Arthur Bliss, Geoffrey Bush, John Foulds, Daniel Jones, Alun Hoddinott, Gustav Holst, William Hurlstone, William Mathias, Hubert Parry, Alan Rawsthorne, Edmund Rubbra, Charles Villiers Stanford, Michael Tippett, William Walton, Grace Williams, Vaughan Williams, and William Wordsworth. What is even more exciting is that there are some unreleased digital recordings to follow the first release, including more Bush and Stanford, plus the first CD releases of some personal LP favourites including four CDs of Gerald Finzi's music.


It is invidious to pick favourites from among the first 37 CDs, but for me Norman del Mar's Rubbra Symphonies stand out, as these were the recordings that introduced me to this grossly underrated composer. And then there are William Alwyn's symphonies, and his scandalously neglected 1977 opera Miss Julie, and Sir Colin Davis conducting Tippett's Midsummer Marriage with Alberto Remedios singing the role of Mark. But the whole catalogue is a treasure trove of mid-20th century music which I urge you to explore. Follow this link for full details.

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk
If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to The Year is '72

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Mugged by music


Jerry Sequenza21 recently reported that David Salvage was robbed at gunpoint in Brooklyn, and asks whether anyone else has been mugged recently. Well yes actually, and it wasn't by a gangster with a gun, it was by a new recording. I've had a lot of close encounters with The Art of Fugue over the years. They started with Karl Münchinger's full-on version with the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester (naughty, but still very nice), and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields recording of the edition prepared by Neville Marriner and Andrew Davis. Staying with strings more recent versions from the Emerson Quartet and the viol consort Phantasm have also provided new perspectives. Favourite keyboard versions have included Evgeni Koroliov on the piano (with the following endorsement from György Ligeti no less: '... but if I am allowed only one musical work on my desert island, then I should choose Koroliov's Bach, because forsaken, starving and dying of thirst, I would listen to it right up to my last breath', and André Issoir on the organ of Grenzig de Saint-Cyprien in Perigord.

That's a pretty formidable list of interpretations, can a newcomer really add anything.Well yes - I’ve just been mugged, and knocked clean off my feet, by a new recording that arrived in the post a few days ago. And what makes the mugging all the more remarkable is that the performers are hardly household names. The Art of Fugue is a daunting challenge for any performers. Shortly after Johann Sebastian Bach’s death his son Karl Philip found a bundle of manuscripts containing fugues and cannons. The scores had no title other than the single word 'Contrapunctus', and no directions for instrumentation or tempi, and it appears that Bach passed away while writing the final fugue in the score. This is the ultimate abstract music, and it was probably commissioned by the Society of Musical Sciences of Leipzig.

Before any performance can take place solutions to the missing instrumentation and the incomplete final group of fugues need to be found. In an outstanding collabaration the musicologist and composer Jacques Chailley arrived at an inspired solution arranging the fugues in a binary progression, while the renown trumpeter Pascal Vigneron (above) undertook a new instrumentation using Chailley’s ordering and structure. Chailley postulates that Bach used Pythagorean mathematics to create the two hundreds and eighty-seven different versions (and inversions) of the main re-la-fe motif that make up The Art of Fugue. His analysis concludes that Bach planned to write six groups of four fugues, with each group of four comprising two pairs of rectus and invertus. But of the twenty-four planned fugues only twenty exist, and the last is incomplete.

Pascal Vigneron’s instrumentation is quite remarkable. It uses the organ as the central element, but extends the sonorities using just woodwind and brass. The instruments are used in three groupings; the organ alone, organ and woodwinds, and organ and brass, following Chailley’s groupings of the fugues into three ‘families’. The instrumentalists are drawn from the Ensemble de Cuivres Pascal Vigneron and L’Orchestre de Chambre du Marais, with Pascal Vigneron on trumpet, and with the organ parts shared by Jean Galard and Vigneron.



But let’s cut to the chase. This isn’t a dry, academic exercise in musicology. This is a living, visceral performance which literally mugs the listener with its sonorities and fresh perspective. The recording was made in La cathédrale de St Bernard de Comminges (above) in south-west France which dates from the 12th centurt, and the brass and wind choirs produce a wonderfully burnished sound as they extend the range of the great organ cathedral which dates from 1550 and has three manuals. Great performances can make Bach sound like contemporary music, and this one certainly does just that. But it also points back to the Renaissance. I first heard this magnificent recording on BBC Radio 3, and for a moment thought I was listening to a Gabrielli brass canzona until the appearance of the fateful re-la-fa motif. The mathematical symmetry of the twenty-four fugues is retained by using two double fugues played on positive organs for ‘Contrapunctus’ 21 and 22, with the final fugue concluding with the Choral ‘Von Deinen Thron Tret Ich Hier Mit’.(In front of your throne I will appear) played by trumpet and organ.

It is only July. But this The Art of Fugue must surely be a frontrunner for the best new release of 2006. It is not just a triumph of scholarship and musicianship. The recording from the little known Quantum label is also a technical triumph, and the beautifully realised gatefold packaging, with its colour photography of La Cathedrale de St Bernard de Comminges is living evidence of why, for this music lover at least, the MP3 file will never replace the CD.

Bach wrote on the final page of the manuscript of The Art of Fugue ‘... und einen andern Grundplan’, which translates as ‘... and under another plan’. Perhaps, at last, Pascal Vigneron and Jacques Chailley have revealed that plan. Jacques Chailley died in 1999 age 88.

* Pascal Vigneron's website
* Festival de Comminges
* La Cathédrale de Comminges

* I bought my copy from Amazon Marketplace reseller Avatar Music, the double CD cost £14.93 ($28) plus delivery, it arrived in three days, as have other orders from this source.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Some free, legal, and Italian, downloads

Dear classical music blogger, critic and connoisseur, this email is meant to bring to your attention Musikethos.org , a relatively new, nonprofit initiative dedicated to the spread of classical music and to the promotion of a group of young Italian professional musicians, by offering free, legal downloads of their musical performances (licensed under CC). We would appreciate if you would take a moment to browse through our small but varies archive and download whatever catches your eye: my hope is that some of you might find our project and website interesting enough to give it some attention on your columns, blogs, or websites. Being the initiative still young, we would also love to hear any comments, suggestions, critiques you might have. Apologizing for sending a group email, I wish you a pleasant day.
Best, D. BerrettaEditor, Musikethos.org

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Treasure trove of historic MP3 downloads

Tainted by experience - John Drummond

"Minorities matter, especially since majorities are so often wrong."

"For me, knowing more has always meant understanding more, and therefore enjoying more."

"That unfamiliarity was the obstacle, not complexity, became a basic tenet of my musical belief."

Quotations from Tainted By Experience, A Life In The Arts by John Drummond. During his long career in the arts John Drummond (left) was Controller of BBC Radio 3, and Director of both the Proms and Edinburgh Festival. He died yesterday aged 71, his adventurous programming and prescient musical tastes will be sorely missed.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beyond borders - East-West divine orchestra

East-West music fusions are currently hot properties, and the danger of these exercises in musical bridge building is that they can come over as being more about the media coverage than the music making. But one recent east-west fusion release has returned repeatedly to my CD player, and that is a good reason for sharing it with you. Catalan viol player Jordi Savall will need little introduction, and his musical roots are in the only European country to have been part of Islam for an extended period. Du temps & de l’instant (Moments in time) is a Savall family jam session with Montserrat Figueras (Mrs Savall) vocals, and the multi-talented Arianna and Ferran Savall (the Savall children) singing and contributing harp and théorbe respectively. And just to avoid charges of nepotism the incomparable Pedro Estevan adds the percussion line.

This is one of those ‘it isn’t early music, it isn’t improvisation, it isn’t jazz, it isn’t World Music, and it doesn’t matter’ discs, and its low profile is probably because it doesn’t fit neatly into any one media friendly category. The repertoire spans medieval to contemporary, while the geography moves from Afghanistan, through Israel, to Morocco, Greece, Sarajevo, France, Spain and across to Mexico, and the performances range from instrumental (the treatment of Marin Marais’ Muzettes l-ll is a standout) through solo cuts such as Ferran Savall’s wonderful interpretation of the traditional Catalan song La Cançó del Lladre to three pure improvisation.

Du temps & de l’instant isn’t a neatly tailored package aimed at maximum media coverage. It is 72 minutes of unbridled and spontaneous music-making by a family of incomparable musicality that spans just about every culture, musical style and performance tradition – quite simply one divine CD.


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A Schoenberg and Rossini double bill?

Commenting on my recent article Britten's musical mind map Henry Holland said: What on earth is a "choreographed production"? It's hard to credit, but Von Heute auf Morgan is a comedy and should be paired with Die Gluckliche Hand and the great Ewartung (the whole evening would be less than 1 1/2 hours of music). Pliable, was the Curlew River (production shot above) filmed by chance?

The director of Curlew River Frederic Wake-Walker has replied: Pliable, yes, we are in the process of producing a DVD. Exact details of how to get hold of it will be posted on our website soon. A choreographed production means getting the singers to dance. I think a whole evening of Schoenberg might scare quite a few people off. I'd like to pair one of those Schoenbergs with a one-act Rossini... Best wishes, Frederic.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky tandem cycle

I hear on the grapevine that BBC Radio 3 are broadcasting the complete works of both Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky over five days starting February 10 2007. Other details are sketchy. You heard it first On An Overgrown Path, more details when available.

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Berlin Philharmonic’s cymbal moment of glory

In the music critic’s equivalent of a busman’s holiday, I took a night off from reviewing the Proms on Saturday — and watched the concert on BBC TV instead. Even filtered through the tinny speakers of my low-fi telly, it was wonderful: Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony, gloriously played by the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle.

Wonderful, that is, except for one thing. In the entire work the cymbal player has just one moment of glory — a single, mighty clash at the climax of the sublime slow movement. To watch the player sit silently for half an hour, lift his glinting golden discs, prepare himself spiritually and physically for his thrilling entry, hurl the cymbals together with all his might, and then resume his seat and sit imperturbably for the remaining half-hour of the work — this is one of the great concert-hall experiences.

Well, you can guess my complaint. The TV director gave us innumerable close-ups of conductor, strings, brass and woodwind. But the poor old cymbal player’s moment of glory came and went, and he never got on camera! A huge disappointment for connoisseurs. But it’s his mum I really feel sorry for.

Richard Morrison in good form
in today’s Times. The slow movement of that symphony and the cymbal part have a number of resonances. Bruckner is said to have written the solitary cymbal clash into the score when he heard of the death of Wagner, or did he? One source says: 'The biggest issue relating to editions seems to relate to the inclusion of a cymbal clash at the climax of the adagio. This was originally suggested by Nikisch and added to the score but Bruckner seems to have been uncertain about it (although there is no doubt about the inclusion of the clash at the analogous point of the Eighth symphony). The Haas edition does not include the cymbal clash (whereas Nowak does) but some conductors, such as Karajan, have used Haas and then added the clash.'


The adagio movement gained notoreity when it was broadcast by the German radio (Deutscher Reichsrundfunk) when the news of Hitler's death was announced on May 1, 1945, and there is little doubt that Hitler was associated with Bruckner's music, the photo here shows him standing in front of a bust of the composer in 1937.

Which points us rather sadly down An Overgrown Path to the Berlin Philharmonic’s darkest hour.

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Much music, but how much merit?

A heads-up for some exciting events that are happening in September while I am in France. The media event, if not the musical event, of the autumn is almost certain to be the premiere on Thursday September 7 at English National Opera of Gaddafi: A Living Myth. The work is a collaboration between the musicians of Asian Dub Foundation, director David Freeman and designer Es Devlin. It will certainly push the envelope, but the jury is out on whether it can combine media appeal with merit. It is a co-commission with Channel 4, the TV channel that reaches the peaks of artistic merit with programmes such as Big Brother, and whose next project is a documentary-style film in which George Bush is assassinated. A glimmer of hope comes from the director, David Freeman, who has something of a track record of rejuvenating operatic lost causes, most notably Philip Glass' The Making of the Representative for Planet 8. But don't take my word, make up your own mind on Gaddafi: A Living Myth by following this link.

Meanwhile merit is guaranteed at the Wigmore Hall when a three concert series combining the music of György Kurtág with Bach’s Art of Fugue starts on September 20. The artist line-up is pretty starry, with Thomas Adès, the Keller Quartet, and soprano Valdine Anderson. But it is eclipsed by the appearance of Kurtag himself playing his piano duet Játékok on November 8, and for me these three concerts are among of the musical highspots of the London autumn.

Meanwhile the obsession with anniversaries continues well past the BBC Proms with a Steve Reich fest running at the Barbican from September 28 to October 8. Reich himself (below) premieres a new piece, the Daniel Variations, with the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the BBC Symphony, London Symphony banging their way through everything from Reich’s early opuses to his experiments with video operas. All the media buzz words are there – iconoclastic, multi-media, American, cross arts, new audience, living composer, internet appeal etc etc. Now I am a great fan of Reich's music in the right quantities, and I hate to keep banging on a can. But couldn’t just some of this rehearsal time been used by the BBC Symphony to programme at least one work by Malcolm Arnold and Edmund Rubbra in this anniversary year that they share with Steve Reich? Does anyone seriously believe Reich’s 1993 digital opera The Cave has more merit than Arnold’s 1986 Ninth Symphony or Rubbra's 1972 Ninth Symphony? Or did those composers simply make the error of discarding their baseball caps as they gracefully passed the age of 70?


Finally, just to confirm that you can have too much of a good thing, the Barbican's obsession with contemporary American music at the expense of pretty well everything else continues in November with an American Pioneers series featuring, among others, John Adams as conductor and composer. Adams seems to be a permanent fixture on the podium in London at the moment - perhaps someone in New York would like to organise a British Pioneers series featuring Arnold and Rubbra?

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Philadelphia Orchestra's magic fire music

On June the 16, 1984, the Théatre du Chatelet had invited a series of guest Orchestras to perform. Muti (left) performed Franck's Symphony in the first half with the Philadelphia Orchestra. During the interval, a wire burned which caused some fire alarms to ring and the iron curtain to drop. The curtain was finally lifted and the intendant came to explain the situation. There was no apparent smoke and all was OK, but the doctor who was touring with the orchestra thought that the concert could not resume. (which should have been Mahler 1). History repeat itself at this year's BBC Proms. How many of the Philadelphians who were in the Orchestra in '84 are still there ? - writes contributor Antoine Leboyer, who also provides a wonderful Overgrown Path to my Reflections on the Philadelphia Orchestra

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When market forces and music collided


The dramatic cancellation of last night's Philadelphia Orchestra BBC Prom due to a fire was the first Promenade Concert to be lost for twenty-six years. In 1980 the circumstances of the cancellations were far more serious and damaging, and the story is worth retelling to underline how precarious is the livelihood of our wonderful performing musicians.

A financial crisis that had simmered at the BBC for several years flared up in February 1980 when a large package of economies were proposed to save £130m ($235). The proposal involved disbanding five orchestras, including the BBC Scottish, in a move aimed at saving £500,000 ($900,000) a year, or eight per cent of the BBC's music expenditure. On May 16 1980 the Musician's Union voted to strike against the BBC, and two weeks later the musicians of the BBC Symphony, and all other BBC musicians, stopped work. The dispute was not just about job losses, the musicians suspected a hidden agenda of a move away from contract orchestras to freelance arrangements.

The 1980 Proms season was at the centre of the dispute, and the Managing Director of BBC Radio publicly said the concerts were of 'less consequence than the music policy of the orchestras for the future'. The dispute was extraordinarily bitter, and for the first time ever in the history of the series the First Night was cancelled. The BBC broadcast a recording of the scheduled work (Elgar's The Apostles) while the BBC Symphony Orchestra played a protest concert in an alternative venue under the baton of that musician's musician par excellence Sir Colin Davis. As plans for more protest concerts gathered momentum, including one conducted by another musician with experience of the barricades, Pierre Boulez, the BBC began to back down. On July 24 a compromise solution was reached, and the BBC caved in to the Musician's Union demands and withdrew all the notices of dismissal. The BBC Scottish Symphony was thankfully saved, although long term damage was inflicted on it by limiting the number of musicians, but two other orchestras were disbanded with many job losses.

Twenty concerts were lost from the 1980 Proms season which resumed on August 7 with a programme of Ravel, Messiaen and Mahler's Fourth Symphony conducted by Sir John Pritchard. The 1980 autumn season was in full swing for the fiftieth anniversary of the BBC Symphony on 22 October which was dutifully attended by many of the BBC Governors who just months before had tried to drive a dagger through the hearts of the same BBC musicians. The dispute was settled, but it gave an early warning of the market driven management that today leaves both Radio 3 and the BBC Proms a pale shadow of their former selves.

Sources: The BBC Symphony Orchestra 1920-1988 by Nicholas Kenyon (ironically), publisher BBC (out of print), and Is the Red Light on? The story of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra by John Purser, publisher BBC Scotland (out of print).

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Philadelphia Orchestra Prom cancelled by fire


The BBC Proms concert due to take place tonight (Sunday Sept 3) has been cancelled after a small fire at the Royal Albert Hall. The London Fire Brigade say they were called to the incident in the artist's bar at the venue earlier. No-one was injured or trapped but part of the building was filled with smoke. The concert was due to feature works by Beethoven and Matthias Pintscher. The performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra was to be broadcast live on BBC Four and BBC Radio Three.

The BBC and the venue released a joint statement shortly before the concert was due to start. "Due to loss of electrical power following a minor fire at the Royal Albert Hall, it is with great regret that the Royal Albert Hall has been forced to cancel this evening's performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra," it said. "We would like to assure you that urgent work is being carried out to repair damage and we aim to make the hall available for full use as soon as possible. "We hope that both Proms scheduled for Monday 4 September (Prom 67 and 68) will go ahead as planned. A further statement will be issued when any further information is available."

All ticket-holders would get full refunds, it added. People who bought tickets from the Royal Albert Hall by telephone will be refunded within seven days. Those who purchased tickets with cash have been advised to send their tickets to the venue by post.

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Furtwangler and the forgotten new music


When, in November 1943, Furtwängler returned to Berlin from a concert tour abroad, he was informed that the Philharmonie Hall had been bombed during an attack on the night of November 22-23. The facade had been badly damaged, and so had the front rooms in which the irreplaceable music library had been kept. Important letters, files, documents, orginal scores - everything had been destroyed.

The concert hall itself remained intact, but the windows had been blown out, and glass, at the time, was not available. Besides, concerts could no longer be given there because high piles of rubble cut off the hall from the outside world. And before it could be cleared away, more bombs fell on the Philharmonie Hall on January 30, 1944, when the Anhalter Station, near the hall, was the target. This time the Philharmonie was completely wrecked.

From Wilhelm Furtwängler a biography by Curt Riess, 1955

Following the destruction of the Philharmonie Wilhelm Furtwängler conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in nine more concerts before the Nazi forces surrendered. Six were in the Staatsoper, and when this was damaged by bombing the last three were held in the Admiralpalast. The last concerts under Nazi rule were held on 22nd and 23rd January with a programme of Mozart’s ‘Die Zauberflote' overture, Mozart Symphony no 40 (first two movements only for reasons not given), and Brahms First Symphony.

Those final two concerts took place just four months before the collapse of Berlin. Allied forces were closing in on the stricken city, and air raids continued night and day. Remember that Hitler was not a democratically elected leader, and many of those, musicians and others, trapped in the beleagured city were not rabid Nazis. Like those in the Twin Towers, New Orleans and the London Underground history dictated that many were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The predicament faced by the performing arts in the 21st century palls into insignificance compared with the conditions that the inhabitants, and musicians, of Berlin faced in the final months of the war.

Yet not only did the music continue, but quite remarkably the final nine concerts in those last torrid months included the first performance of one new work (by Gerhart von Westerman, and played in two successive concerts), and one Berlin Philharmonic first performance (Kurt Hessenberg’s Second Symphony).

Today Wilhelm Furtwängler's name is irrevocably linked to the Nazis. It is not the purpose of this article to cover that ground again, too many apologies have already been written. The fact is he remained in Germany as Director of the Berlin Philharmonic through the darkest hours of the Nazis. But a lot of great music was performed in the years between 1922 and 1954 when Furtwangler led the orchestra. Although his political compromises were deplorable, they should not prevent study of the music that was an integral part of the culture during those turbulent years.

Furtwängler is remembered today as an important interpreter of the Austro-Germanic repertoire, from Mozart through Beethoven to Bruckner. He is also known as a composer; the very last work he conducted with the Berlin Philharmonic in concert was his own Second Symphony on 20th September 1954. He died just three months later in December 1954.

During his thirty-two years as Director of the Berlin Philharmonic a surprising amount of 20th century music was performed under his baton. (Don’t forget his tenure at the orchestra only covered the first half of the century). Some the new music has endured. There was much Schoenberg (including the first performance of the Variations for Orchestra, op. 31 2nd version in 1928), much Pfitzner and Hindemith (the Nazi banning of his opera Mathis del Maler provoked Furtwangler’s resignation from the Berlin Opera in 1934), plus Bartok, Prokofiev and more.

But he also performed a large amount of 20th century music that has not stood the test of time. For research purposes I have taken a subjective definition of a ‘forgotten composer’ as one whose work is not performed with any regularity today. Using this definition, I researched every one of the four hundred and seventy-three concerts Furtwängler conducted with the Berlin Philharmonic. This identified forty-five 20th century works, from thirty composers who have subsequently slipped into varying degrees of obscurity.

The results of my research are given below (more details of the research are given as a footnote). The history of these composers varies. Many remained in Germany through the Nazi period and beyond. Some such as Ernst Toch (right) fled to the US when the Nazis came to power. There are very few non-Germans, but these include the Italian Alfredo Casella, who was a known Fascist sympathiser. Interestingly one fellow conductor-composer is included, the Polish-born Paul Kletzki. Some works remain in print, if not in performance. These include the two works performed in 1944 after the destruction of the Philharmonie; Gerhart von Westerman's Divertimento and Kurt Hessenberg's Second Symphony, op. 29.

Looking at frequency of performance, the name that jumps out is Max Trapp. Six of his compositions were given over a twenty-eight year period, three of these in first performances. His works were performed both during the Nazi period (1935 and 1939), and after the war in 1951. Trapp lived from 1887 to 1971, and taught in various positions in Berlin throughout his life. His works included seven symphonies, and chamber music. The only one known at all today is his Piano Concerto, and he is largely forgotten. Why?

There is no suggestion that a body of forty-five neglected masterpieces awaits discovery in Berlin archives. (But how many perished in the fall of Berlin?) But what was this music like? Furtwängler was a brilliant conductor and accomplished composer – does his programming of these composers bestow some merit on them? Or were many of them politically convenient commissions? (This argument falls on the fact that many of the performances were pre-1933). Is the comparative obscurity (I can find no information at all on two) of these composers simply typical of the casualty rate among new works? Have I misrepresented these artists who lived through such difficult times? Do any readers know more about these thirty forgotten composers?

More questions than answers, but an overgrown path that is well worth exploring. Please add further information and views using the comments (or email) feature at the foot of the article.

And here is my analysis of Furtwängler's forgotten modern music:

Max Trapp: Symphonie Nr. 11 in h-moll op. 15 (BPO first performance)
28/29 January 1923.
Symphonie Nr.IV in b-moll op. 24 (BPO first performance)
14/15 December 1930.
Sinfonische Suite op. 30 (BPO first performance)
3 & 4 December 1933.
Orchesterkonzert op. 32 (First performance)
29/30 September 1935.
Konzert Nr. II f. Orchester op. 36 (First performance)
3/5 December 1939.
Symphonie Nr. Vl op. 45 (First performance)
25/26 February 1951.
Walter Braunfels:
“Don Juan”, eine klassich-romantische Phantasmagorie op. 34 (BPO first performance)
16/17 Novembber 1924.
Vorspiel u. Prolog aus “Die Vogel.”
20/21 December 1925.
Georg Schumann:
(photo right) Variationen und Gigue uber ein Thema von G. F. Handel op. 72 (BPO first performance)
22/23 February 1925.
Variationen uber “Gerstern abend war Vetter Michel “ da op. 74 (First performance)
2/3 February 1930.
Philipp Jarnach:
Morgenklangspiel op. 19 (First performance)
7/8 November 1926.
Musik mit Mozart. Symphonische Variaten f. Orch op. 25 (BPO first performance)
15/17 February 1942.
Ernst Toch:
Komodie f. Orchester op. 42 (BPO first performance)
13/14 November 1927.
Kleine Theatersuite op. 54 (BPO first performance)
8/9 February 1931.
Karl Marx:
Konzert f. 2 Violinen u. Orch. Op. 5 (BPO first performance)
30 Nov/1 December 1930.
Passacaglia ((First performance)
18/19 December 1932.
Heinrich Kaminsky:
Dorische Musik
25/26 November 1934.
Konzert f. Klavier u. Orch (BPO first performance, the composer conducted this work, Furtwangler conducted the balance of the programme )
28/29 November 1937.
Gottfried Muller:
Variationen u. Fugue uber ein deutsches Volkslied (“Morgenrot Morgenrot”) op. 2 (BPO first performance)
5/6 Feb 1933.
Konzert f. gr. Orchester op. 5 (BPO first performance)
17/19 December 1939.
Theodor Berger:
(photo right)
Rondino giocoso (BPO first performance)
15/17 December 1940.
Ballade f. Orchester op. 10 (First performance)
2/4 November 1941.
Karl Holler:
Konzert f. Violincello u. Orch. Op. 26
16/18 October 1949.
Konzert f. Violincello u. Orchester op. 26 (First performance)
19/21 October 1941.
Heinz Schubert:
Praludium u. Toccata f. Streichorch (BPO first performance)
5/7 February 1939.
Hymnisces Konzert f. Orgel, Orch. Mit Sopran- und Tenor-solo (BPO first performance)
6/8 December 1942.
Bernhard Sekles: Gesichte. Fantastiche Miniaturen f. kl. Orch. Op. 29 (BPO first performance)
11/12 November 1923.
Alfredo Casella: Partita f. Klavier u. Orchester (BPO first performance)
19/20 December 1926.
Karol Rathaus: Ouverture fur grosses Orchester op. 22 (First performance)
4/5 March 1928.
Gunther Raphael: Thema, Variationen u. Rondo f. Orch. Op. 19 (BPO first performance)
24/25 March 1929.
Paul Kletzki: Orchestervariationen (BPO first performance)
19/20 January 1930.
Botho Sigwart: Melodram “Hektors Bestattung” op. 15
2/3 February 1930.
Wladimir Vogel: 2 Etuden f. Orchester (BPO first performance)
25/26 October 1931.
Paul Graener: Die Flote von Sanssouci. Suite f. Kammerorch. Op. 88 (BPO first performance)
20/21 December 1931.
Max Ettinger: Altenglische Suite op. 30 (BPO first performance)
3 & 4 April 1932.
Hugo Reichenberger: Zwei Mariensbilder
18/19 December 1932.
Max v. Schillings: Symphonischer Prolog zu “Konig Odipus” f. gr. Orch. Op. 11
15/16 October 1933.
Sigfrid Walther Muller: Heitere Musik op, 43 (BPO first performance)
14/15 January 1934.
Hans Brehme: Triptychon (BPO first performance)
26/28 November 1938.
Heinrich Zilcher (should this be Hermann Zilcher, a composer who lived from 1881 - 1948?) : Konzert f. Violine u Orch. In A-dur op. 92 (First performance)
2/4 February 1941.
Paul Hoffer: Symphonische Variatonen uber einen Bass von Bach op. 47 (BPO First performance)
1/3 March 1942.
Gerhard Frommel: Symphonie in E-dur op. 13 (First performance)
8/10 November 1942
Ernst Pepping: Symphonie Nr. II f. Orch. In f-moll (BPO first performance)
31 October/3 November 1943.
Gerhart v. Westerman: Divertimento f. gr. Orch. Op. 16 (First performance)
22/23 October 1944.
Kurt Hessenberg: (photo above) Symphonie Nr. Ll in A-dur op. 29 (BPO first performance) 11 December 1944.

Notes on the research:
1.The analysis was carried out specifically for this article using Wilhelm Furtwängler Die Programme Der Konzert Mit Dem Berliner Philharmonischen Orchester 1922-1954 published in 1965 by F.A. Brockhaus Wiesbaden.
2. I have not translated the composition titles from their original German. This is because many have never been translated, and I would prefer a more skilled linguist to undertke this important work.
3. I have added hyperlinks to web resources where available. Not surpisingly some of these are in German. Details of further resources will be gratefully received. I will be glad to share the contents of this fascinating inventory of every work Furtwangler performed with the Berlin Philharmonic with any interested researchers.
4. First performance means world premiere. BPO first performance is hopefully self-explanatory.
5. The Classical Composers Database is a very useful tool for researching the more obscure composers; but, like all of us, it is by no means infallible.

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* This article was originally published on October 5 18, 2005, and is reblogged here as part of On An Overgrown Path's second anniversary celebration of Music beyond borders. Follow this link to read the comments posted to the original article.