La Scena Musicale

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: February 16 (Corigliano, Evans)

1938 - John Corigliano, New York City, USA; composer

Wiki entry

Joshua Bell plays John Corigliano's music from The Red Violin at Duquesne University

1922 - Geraint Evans, Pontypridd, Wales; opera baritone

Wiki entry
Short Bio

Verdi's Falstaff Act II, Scene 1, Geraint Evans as Falstaff; Regina Resnik as Mistress Quickly (1978)

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: February 15 (Adams, Sembrich)

1947 - John Adams, Worcester, MA., USA; composer

Wiki entry
Official site

John Adams's Short Ride in a Fast Machine (Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart)

1858 - Marcella Sembrich, Wisniewczyk, Galicia (Ukraine); opera soprano


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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brahms: Symphonies Nos. 2 and 3

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra/Marek Janowski
PentaTone PTC 4186 308 Hybrid SACD
***** $$$$ (79 min 17 s)

We might just be within an ace of the finest Brahms symphony cycle of the digital era. Marek Janowski and the Pittsburgh Symphony commenced the series with impressive accounts of Symphony No 1 and the Haydn Variations. These live concert performances from November 2007 of Symphonies 2 and 3 confirm the partnership’s mastery of Brahms and elevate expectations for the Fourth, which should appear within a matter of months.

Marek Janowski’s contribution to the Pittsburgh conducting triumvirate (with Sir Andrew Davis and Yan Pascal Tortelier) appears to be a ‘back to basics’ approach to core repertory. It is easy to lose touch with the quality of an orchestra after an extended break in commercial recording activity. With the advent of this Brahms project, the PSO reveals itself again as a truly great ensemble. The stunning performances are enhanced by Direct Stream Digital engineering, which permits multi-channel surround playback. This mode provides one with the illusion of occupying the best seat in Heinz Hall.

In the Brahms symphonies, we are really spoiled for choice; the Abbado/Berlin Philharmonic cycle from the early 1990s (Deutsche Grammophon) continues to stand up very well. Just last year, Marin Alsop and the London Philharmonic completed a distinguished four-disc traversal of the symphonies and other orchestral works for Naxos. Janowski’s interpretations benefit from more finely developed rhythmic propulsion to achieve a sense of buoyancy in these densely packed scores. A decision may boil down to excellent Brahms on a budget (Alsop) versus definitive Brahms at more than twice the price (Janowski). But it is nice to have options. The PentaTone issue includes a current catalogue of the label’s inventory.

Janowski the Wanderer: Marek Janowski was born in Poland in 1939 but is by background, training and temperament a German conductor of traditional outlook. We are indeed fortunate that the maverick PentaTone label has taken him up by at an advanced stage in his career. In this respect, and others, it is apparent that he has much in common with the late Günter Wand, who would be Janowski’s senior by nearly three decades. Although Janowski is more traveled throughout Europe than Wand was, they have similar tastes when it comes to recording the repertory (Janowski has also released a Bruckner 9th with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande for PentaTone), as well as the rigour of their application to the scores. In 1991, Wand didn’t even rate an index entry in Norman Lebrecht’s survey of the conducting profession, The Maestro Myth. Neither did Janowski. At that time both were accomplished conductors, both had turned away from the opera house to concentrate on symphonic music, and each had made some notable recordings. By the end of the decade, Wand had secured a pre-eminent place among active conductors thanks, in large part, to the advocacy of RCA Victor. It would be a bonus for collectors if Janowski’s association with PentaTone lasts long enough to yield results of comparable magnitude.

-Stephen Habington

Buy this CD at

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Top 10 Musical Valentines

Songs have been sung to loved ones since the beginning of time. Several years ago, Czech archeologist Bratislav Vachala discovered in Egypt what seems to be a love song, well over 4,000 years old. Dating from the period in which the pyramids were built, the song, the oldest known music written, was drawn in hieroglyphs on the wall of a nobleman’s tomb.

In that spirit, in January 2001, La Scena Musicale compiled a list of 88 classical works that one could offer to a special love as a testimony of undying passion. That list (still available on the Web) was based on the suggestions of our contributors and other specialists in the classical music field. Visitors to our Web site were then invited to vote for their 10 favourite musical works.

Here is the list of the 10 top musical valentines. Thanks to EMI Classics and CBC Records, we created 6 Musical eCards based on musical selections from this list. This was the first eCard to have musical selections in their entirety and it still seems to be the only available on the web with great musicians such as Furtwängler, Jussi Bjõrling, Rita Gorr, Gérard Souzay and Linda Macguire. Visit the Valentines eCard page to send your own musical eValentine.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Note: The musical selections require Realplayer.

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Today's Birthdays in Music: February 14 (Fleming, Sor)

1959 - Renée Fleming, Indiana, PA, USA; opera and recital soprano

Wiki entry

Renée Fleming in Copenhagen sings Handel's "Let the Bright Seraphim"

1778 - Fernando Sor, Barcelona, Spain; composer, guitarist

Wiki entry

Fernando Sor: No. 3 from Six Petite Pièces for Harpolyre, played by John Doan

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Recordings on Hold at CBC Records

A cloud hangs over the future of CBC Records in producing new recordings of classical music or other genres, according to Arthur Kaptainis's report in today's Montreal Gazette. Over the past weekend, the Canadian label's recording of Barber, Korngold and Walton concertos featuring violinist James Ehnes with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra conducted by Bramwell Tovey won a Grammy Award in the Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra category. Despite the recognition being the label's first Grammy, the news is bittersweet.

"We are certainly in a different situation now," Randy Barnard, general manager of CBC Records, said the day after the Grammy ceremonies in Los Angeles. "There are changes at CBC Radio 2 and (the French FM network) Espace musique. We have been refocusing our intent to non-classical releases."

But even the non-classical outlook is cloudy.

Barnard confirmed that CBC Records has nothing "in the can" - industry jargon for a completed recording pending release - in any genre.


David Greilsammer Wins Rising Artist at Victoire de la Musique

by/par Audrey Roncigli

Toulouse / David Greilsammer has won the French "Victoire de la Musique" in the "Rising Artist" category. To thank the audience, he performed Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue under the baton of Russian conductor Tugan Sokhiev.

Read our interview with David Greilsammer

Read this report on the Victoire de la Musique.

> Victoire de la Musique website


Toulouse- David Greilsammer vient de remporter la Victoire de la Musique dans la catégorie « Révélation instrumentale de l'année ». Pour remercier son public, il a interprété Rhapsody in Blue de Gershwin sous la baguette du Maestro russe Tugan Sokhiev.

Félicitations !

Lire notre entretien avec David Greilsammer

> site Web de Victoire de la Musique


Today's Birthdays in Music: February 13 (Chaliapin, Farrell)

1873 - Feodor Chaliapin, Kazan, Russia; opera bass

Wiki entry
Opera shop

Chaliapin sing Boris's monologue from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov

1920 - Eileen Farrell, Willimantic, USA; opera & recital soprano

Wiki entry
Short bio

Eileen Farrell sings "Pace, pace, mio Dio" from Verdi's La Forza del Destino

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: February 12 (Zeffirelli)

1923 - Franco Zeffirelli, Florence, Italy; opera director and designer

Wiki entry
Short Bio

Zeffirelli talks about his 1983 film production of La Traviata (Domingo and Stratas)

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Today's Birthday in Music: February 11 (Firkušný)

1912 - Rudolf Firkušný, Napajedla, Czech Republic; pianist

Wiki entry

Rudolf Firkušný plays Dvořák's Humoresque in E flat minor op 101 # 1
(Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa)

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Today's Birthdays in Music: February 10 (Coulthard, Price)

1908 - Jean Coulthard, Vancouver, Canada; composer

Naxos entry

1927 - Leontyne Price, Laurel, Mississippi, USA; opera soprano

Wiki entry
Short Bio

Leontyne Price sings "O patria mia" from Verdi's Aida

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