Monday, June 18, 2018

Why did Stenhammar "withdraw" his F-Major Symphony #1? It is literally Brahms plus Bruckner-Wagner, combined in one style



Swedish composer-piano Wilhelm Stenhammar would turn his back on his own Symphony #1 in F Major (1903), written at the age of 32.  He called it “idealized Bruckner” but later in life as he sought a more personalized idiom (which I have said reminds me of Amy Beach) he came to think of this as a “trivial piece” for all its 55 minutes.  Wikipedia lists it as “withdrawn”.  I guess Stenhammar did perceive his entire compositional output as one continuous process piece gradually getting “less bad”.  I don’t think Stenhammar wanted to give up on German romanticism. He wanted to fuse it into an indivisible whole. (Note: he composed his first piano sonata when he was nine years old.)

Yet, I have a Records International CD somewhere with the Gothenberg Sympnony under Jarvi – and I see I discussed it a little on Oct 7, 2007 here.

The YouTube version seems to be a different performance, with some elaborations of the codas.


Does this sound more like Brahms than Bruckner?  Most of the time it does.  It frankly reminds me of the Brahms Third, in the same key – F Major is the most pastoral of keys. But the orchestration uses the horns and other brass in a manner similar to Bruckner and Wagner, sometimes even Mahler, which produces an odd effect when combined with Brahms-like syncopated triple time a lot. The first movement starts out oh so gently, finally reaching a second subject, but manages to work itself up for a triumphant coda.  The second movement in A Minor will remind you of the Allegretto of the Beethoven Seventh at first, and then the A Minor slow movement of the Schubert Great (the same rhythmic figures), before it quotes a 3-note rising theme that does come from Bruckner (forget which symphony) in the horns.  The gentleness continues in the scherzo in B-flat.

The finale seems to return to the first movement material, but with faster tempi and fugal treatment, yet sometimes sounding Schubertian. (That’s all right; a lot of the completed finale of the Bruckner Ninth has Schubert-“Great” passagework.) The modulations to remote keys get daring.  After the full sonata form, the finale seems to be dying to a quiet coda, like the Brahms third – but then the sun rises again, with the water-music theme from Wagner’s Das Rheingold (often in the background) taking over as the music grows for one last shout, as the Universe is reborn.
  
I wanted to hear this today.  I’ll look at my own “process piece” and try to compose the final transitions very soon before trying to package it into performable shape.  That’s a Sonata #3, started at the end of 1961, and now definitely “less bad”.  It, too, has the grandest of all codas at the end (in C).

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Stenhammar's Piano Concerto #2: An obscure work sounds so familiar




Here’s another piano concerto masterpiece (no “Cakeshop”) that everyone misses.  Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar started out as the Swedish Bruckner (in the Symphony #1) and became more like the Swedish Brahms and sometimes Sibelius.

The Piano Concerto #2 in D Minor, Op. 23, is quite a remarkable work.  I see that I mentioned it at the end of a review of #1 on May 9, 2012; but it really deserves a detailed look.  It bears a certain resemblance to the Piano Concerto of Amy Beach.


Above, Greta Ericksson, piano, plays with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra with Evgeny Svetlanov.

The work comprises four movements without pause, although there is quite a lot of structure within each.

The work begins modestly in triple time, with a descending figure of half-steps in the accompanying orchestra that is common to this compose. The orchestra suddenly modulates to C# minor to what sounds like a main theme, but the rest of the movement has a compressed sonata form as it tends to explore the introductory motive more.  But violence returns to close out the movement (as in the Beach, which, by comparison, has a very expanded first movement). The scherzo starts with a tarantella but has an extensive middle section with a waltz theme that will sound familiar.

The 4/4 Adagio will remind the listener of late Chopin with harmonic schemes out of Op 61 – and the theme will sound familiar (Hollywood loves to take themes from obscure classical works)  The orchestra will develop another motive that resembles a similar descending figure in the slow movement of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto #3.  The D Major Finale is a concluding romp in compound 9/8 time, with a dance theme (a bizarre kind of Polonaise-Fantasy) that will sound suspiciously familiar (Hollywood, again). 
  
The work has many sudden key modulations, especially between D Minor and C# Minor, and sometimes uses some ideas that sound like they come from the Chopin Op. 61.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Vivaldi Gloria excerpt highlights Pentecost service at Dallas Cathedral of Hope



Today, I attended a service at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, TX.

During the offertory, there was a performance of “Domine Deus” from the Gloria in D by Antonio Vivaldi. The soprano was Coretta Smith, the oboeist was Quince Holman, the organist David Moldenhauer. It was sung in Latin with the translation, “Lord God, Ruler of Heaven, God the Father almighty.
 
 
  
The whole work appears above.  I guess if the Metropolis Ensemble asks us to enjoy Charpentier, we should enjoy big Vivaldi choral works.
  
The communion included the Benedictine Plainsong Mode V (13th Century), then “Holy Spirit” by Bryan and Kate Torwall, “Sure the Presence” by Lanny Wolfe, and “Holy Ground” by Geron Davis.  

The recessional was a setting of the Sibelius Finlandia, which I will return to later. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Scott Paddock Jazz Quartet performs on Pentecost Sunday at First Baptist Church, Washington DC



The Scott Paddock Jazz Quartet performed the prelude, offertory and postlude today at the First Baptist Church of Washington DC for Pentecost Sunday.  The quartet includes piano. 
  
  
The materials included folk spirituals and some improvisations with a little more modern dissonance.
  
Here is the second sample video.
  
The Ascension would have been quite a miracle for anyone who witnessed it in person. Your life is, what it is.


Saturday, May 05, 2018

Diemer's Piano Sonata #3





Jeong in-Kim plays the Piano Sonata #3 in C by Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927 in Kansas City MO, the Midwest).  I don’t have a time of composition, might have been the 1950s.


The first movement (7 minutes) is marked Serenade/Toccata but the Toccata like theme, a rising figure, seems to open the work.  The serenade is a lyrical second subject in what seems like a compressed sonata form. The movements on a loud dissonance.

The second movement is called the Interlude, seems to be in A minor, but soon presents a jazz theme that might have come from Gershwin.

The expansive finale, Tango Fantastique, is very demanding, seems almost like perpetual motion, and ends on an impressive climax in E.  (My own preference is that works end in the tonality in which they start, but progressive tonality for cyclic works came into vogue with Mahler and Nielsen.) 
   
The overall style is tonal but dissonant, with heavy syncopated rhythms associated with dance.  Some of the harmonies sound a but impressionistic. 

This seems like an extremely difficult work (23 minutes) to play.

Emma Lou Diemer’s output is quite varied as to form and should be heard more often.  It compares well to Amy Beach.  She has often performed her own organ works.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Church presents some music by Emma Lou Diemer



Today, at the First Baptist Church of the City of Wahington DC, Lou Schreiber played an extended Postlude, “Contrasts,” a rather dissonant march which seemed to resolve to  D Major, by Emma Lou Diemer.


A quick review of YouTube shows a larger repertoire of works by her (including piano sonatas), comparable to the output of ASmy Beach.

The anthem “Christ, whose Glory Fills the Skies” was also performed.
  
On April 15, the MCC Nova Music Ministry in Fairfax VA performed “Camina Pueblo de Dios” (“Go Forth People of God”) in Spanish. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Easter Service: Scott's "Joy to the Heart"


This year, Easter sunrise for me was an Easter Saturday drive to Shrinemont (Orkney Springs VA) and then Wolf Gap (Big Scloss), near Wardensville W Va.

The First Baptist Church of Washington DC had the usual celebratory Easter service at 11 AM.
  
Everybody stands for the Hallelujah Chorus in D Major (Part 2), which actually depicts the ascension. But I’ve always liked the Amen Chorus (Worthy of the Lamb, followed by a great fugue), which raises to pre-Mahler (Resurrection Symphony 2) thrills at the very end, of Part III.  It sounds “greater” as a music concept to my ear.


Above is Hogwood’s performance. The Amen chorus represents to resurrection of the dead and the glorification of Christ in Heaven.  This is not to promote one religious interpretation of the Afterlife, and I have my own ideas about that.
  
Earlier, the Choir and orchestra had played K. Lee Scott’s “Joy to the Heart”, a great paean in D-Flat Major. 

A guest organist concluded the service with the Toccata finale from Widor’s Organ Symphony 5.
   
I missed the preludes, but here are the works. 

The famous excerpt from Telemann’s “Musique Heroique”;  "Rejoice” by Healey Willan;  a Prelude in C (from a Sonata) by Corelli, and a Paraphrase and Variations on a Theme of Handel by Alexander Guilmant.