This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
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This is really classical music, nothing to do with the dreadful series of records that came out many years ago with that name. The name of the original column was suggested by Norma, the Assistant Musicologist. Over time when I hear something I like, I save it. When I have enough for a column, it magically appears (if only). Let the magic begin.
RALPH VAUGHAN-WILLIAMS was offered a knighthood several times during his life and he refused each time. I applaud him and that alone is enough to get him into one of my columns. However, this is a music column so that will do for my commentary.
Ralph wrote some beautiful music - The Lark Ascending and Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis immediately come to mind. I'm not using either of those. Instead, here is something out of left field.
The tuba isn't used very often as a featured instrument. Before I found this I wouldn't have been able to name one instance. However, thanks to Ralph, we have a Tuba Concerto in F Minor, the second movement.
♫ Vaughan-Williams - Tuba Concerto (2)
Given his ubiquity these days, it might seem surprising that from soon after his death until the twentieth century, ANTONIO VIVALDI was completely unknown.
Even now new works of his are being discovered in attics and toolsheds (okay, perhaps not those places, but they are being found). One composition that was known and performed in his lifetime is "Juditha Triumphans", an oratorio celebrating the victory of Venice against the Turks, and the recapture of the island of Corfu.
From that we have Juditha’s aria Transit aetas, performed by JOHANNETTE ZOMER.
There's some mandolin work going on as well.
♫ Vivaldi - ‘Juditha Triumphans’ RV 644 Juditha’s arias ~ ‘Transit aetas’ for soprano mandolin & strings
I've never been a big fan of FRANZ LISZT, he's a bit too much of a show-off for my taste. Obviously, many others think differently as he's very popular, but that's alright.
He was the rock star of his day and could show any of the modern musicians a thing or two in that regard. As you all no doubt know, his main instrument was the piano for which he wrote many compositions.
One of his compositions I like a bit is La Campanella in G Sharp Minor, although even this one has a bit too much extreme right hand work for my taste. This is from a series of six études for the piano based on compositions by Paganini. The pianist is Lang Lang.
♫ Liszt - La campanella in G Sharp Minor
GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN was the most prolific composer in history – he wrote more compositions than anyone, thousands, and they were all at least good, and many magnificent.
In spite of all that, he only wrote one viola concerto. Indeed, he is the first to have written one of those. His good friend Johann Sebastian Bach obviously listened closely to this as he wrote some violin concertos that sound almost identical, well, to the fourth movement anyway.
That's what we are going to listen to, the fourth movement of Georg's Concerto for Viola, Strings and Continuo TWV 51-G9 in G.
♫ Telemann - Concerto for viola strings and continuo TWV 51-G9 in G (4)
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS showed early promise, not just as a musician, but in all academic studies - Greek and Latin, literature, mathematics, astronomy and so on. He retained an interest in all these throughout his life.
His musical instruction was at the Paris Conservatoire where he found fellow (later) composers César Franck, Georges Bizet and Adolphe Adam. Camille later taught as well, and one of his pupils, Gabriel Fauré, became a life-long friend.
Camille's best known works are his Organ Symphony and the musical suite Carnival of the Animals. Those don't float my boat.
What does, though, is the Romance for Horn & Piano, Op.67, here performed by two of the finest musicians from the last 50 years - BARRY TUCKWELL on French horn and VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY playing piano.
♫ Saint-Saëns - Romance for Horn & Piano Op.67
JOHANN FRIEDRICH FASCH was born in a small town just outside Weimar in 1688.
Later he travelled throughout what is now Germany and held a number of musical positions in various towns and cities. He was once offered the job of Kapellmeister and court composer in Prague but he turned it down. That went to the second-best applicant, J.S. Bach.
He wrote many cantatas, symphonies, concertos and chamber music but none of his music was published in his lifetime. It's all been discovered since. Not all; it's thought that quite a lot has been lost.
Something that hasn't is the Concerto for Bassoon, Two Oboes, Strings and Basso Continuo in C minor, FWV L c2. This is the first movement.
♫ Fasch - Concerto for bassoon, 2 oboes strings and basso continuo in C minor (1)
It's not surprising that today's musical offering from BEETHOVEN features the piano. After all, he was the greatest composer for that instrument who ever strode the planet.
However, it isn't one of his famous sonatas or concertos. It's a piano trio, so there's a clarinet and cello along for the ride. It was written early on when he was still living in Bonn, where he was born, before he moved to Vienna to become the most famous composer in history.
Here is the third movement of the Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11.
♫ Beethoven - Piano Trio in B-flat major Op. 11 (3)
CÉSAR FRANCK, or to give him his full first name, César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck, was born in what's now Belgium but was then part of the Netherlands. However, he spent most of his life zipping around France.
Besides being a composer, he was considered to be a master of the organ and piano. As well, he had a reputation as a great improviser on both instruments. A century later he could have played jazz. He eventually settled down and became a professor at the Paris Conservatoire.
His compositions were the usual symphonies, chamber music and piano pieces. Besides those, he wrote the communion anthem Panis Angelicus. We have the sublime CECILIA BARTOLI singing that with harp, cello and organ playing along.
♫ Franck - Panis angelicus
These days, GIOACHINO ROSSINI is best known, maybe only known, for his operas. Perhaps even just for the overtures to those - think "The Thieving Magpie", "The Barber of Seville", "William Tell" (the A.M. insisted I mention the Lone Ranger at this point, but I'm above that sort of thing).
However, he wrote other works, some of which I'm amazed are not more well known or popular. One (or some, he wrote six of these) is what he called a string sonata. This is really a string quartet under a different name, with a double bass substituting for the viola.
He wrote all six of these when he was just 12 years old and before he had started formally studying music. What were you doing when you were 12?
The photo above was taken when he was a little older than that. The third movement of String Sonata No.3 in C Major.
♫ Rossini - String Sonata No.3 (3)