A vast amount of music from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, especially from the Baroque era, is now available on recordings. It was not always so. The attempts of pioneers in recording old music in authentic performances began only in the 1930s. In the next 20 years, ambitious collections were put on discs, such as the Anthologie Sonore from France. Famous teachers, such as Nadia Boulanger, made pioneering recordings of Monteverdi madrigals. We'll listen to some of these trail-blazing recordings.
Classics of the Phonograph with John Frayne
The Utah Symphony Orchestra has been an anomaly among American orchestras. A regional orchestra, far from traditional centers of classical music, it long enjoyed the dynamic direction of a world famous conductor, Maurice Abravanel. And their fame was generated by the loyal support of Vanguard records, which supported this organization in daring ventures, such as one of the first recordings of the complete Mahler Symphonies. We'll sample some of their recordings.
Morton Gould was an enormously gifted musician and successful composer. Yet his works seem to fall in that gray area between light and serious classical music. Conductors of symphonic bands love his music, but those who program classical orchestral concerts tend to avoid Gould's music. We will sample the range of Gould's compositions.
Igor Stravinsky, in the last decades of his long career, engaged with Columbia Records in a large-scale project to record his entire works. But, much earlier, in the 1930s, Stravinsky had recorded some of his works in Europe, and these were the recorded versions that gave his music a wide reach in the musical world. I will play portions of these earlier recordings.
Many famous conductors have given concerts here at the University of Illinois. In 1956, during the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Mozart's birth in 1756, Sir Thomas Beecham came here and gave two concerts with the University Symphony Orchestra in April, 1956. The music was, of course, Mozart, and Sir Thomas also gave a lecture. We will hear some of these festivities.
Two famous female pianists of the first half of the 20th century were Ania Dorfmann and Yvonne Lefebure. Dorfmann made a memorable broadcast appearance with Toscanini in the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1, and Lefebure played the Mozart Concerto No. 20 with Furtwaengler in the last year of his life. We will hear some of these recordings.
Constantin Silvestri was best known in England for raising the reputation of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to one of the best in the British Isles. Since his death in 1969, he has acquired a cult reputation, and in recent years many of his recorded performances have been reissued on CD. We'll sample some of Silvestri's most praised performances.
In 1896, after Dvorak's return from America, and from the composition of the New World Symphony, he was attracted to folk tales in the poems of the Czech writer Karel Erben. The result was four symphonic poems telling the stories of such Czech folk figures as "The Water Sprite," and "The Noonday Witch." Great Czech conductors such as Vaclav Talich and Raphael Kubelik have recorded some of these tone poems, and on we'll sample music from them.
Bach's St. Matthew Passion is said to be that composer's ultimate masterpiece. It requires large musical forces, yet it has been recorded from the mid-1930s on to the present. Some historic recordings of this work feature such soloists as the famous contralto Kathleen Ferrier, and some recordings are conducted by such maestros as Serge Koussevitzky and such renowned composers as Ralph Vaughan Williams. I'll sample some of the older recordings of this masterpiece.
In spring, our fancy is supposed to turn to thoughts of love. Evidently, composers' fancies are aroused by the arrival of spring. I tried to think of a famous composer who has not written spring music...the results were slim and conjectural. I'll sample some of the enormous variety of music that has been written and recorded, inspired by "the sweet season."