Classics of the Phonograph with John Frayne
The composer Tchaikovsky, in his symphonies, wrote highly dramatic music. In some other works, he tried to express in music the stories of famous plays, especially those of Shakespeare. Tchaikovsky's version of "Romeo and Juliet" is often played, but his "Hamlet" and "The Tempest" are less often heard. We will explore off-the-beaten path Tchaikovsky.
The violin and keyboard concertos of Johann Sebastian Bach offer an interesting series of choices. The same concerto may exist in both violin and keyboard versions. Also, one has the choice of performances on modern instruments or on period instruments. We'll find some intriguing paths through these labyrinths.
A classic recording is one which is used as a standard for all recordings of that composition that come after it. Cellists playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto have come and gone over the decades, but their performances are still compared to one made in April 1938 in Prague by Pablo Casals. This recording has never been out of print, and it is hard to imagine it ever being so. You can hear it on the program.
During the 1930s and 1940s, not all conductors active in the U.S. were interested in American music, but Serge Koussevitzky and Leopold Stokowski were. Koussevitzky, with the Boston Symphony, was a strong advocate of the music of Aaron Copland and Roy Harris, and Stokowski, with many ensembles, was a tireless champion of a large array of American composers. I'll play some of their best known recordings.
The great Hungarian cellist Janos Starker died this past April. Starker was famous for the technical perfection as well as the emotional power of his cello performances. He recorded for the budget label Period in the 1950s, and later went on to record for highly prestigious labels. His musical legacy on discs is extensive. We'll sample some of his esteemed recordings.
When we think of piano virtuosos, we usually get an image of brilliant soloists performing dazzling technical feats at the keyboard. But there are famous pianists who are also lovers of chamber music, and who like nothing better than to submerge their musical egos in a larger group of musicians. The names of Arthur Schnabel, Rudolf Serkin and Emmanuel Ax come to mind. We'll hear some their recordings.
This year marks the commemoration of Richard Wagner's birth 200 years ago. After the flood of Wagner recordings after 1925, in the following decades of the 1930s and 1940s, another generation of Wagner conductors emerged. Arturo Toscanini, Bruno Walter and Wilhelm Furtwaengler made outstanding recordings in this period. We'll sample some of these discs.
For concert violinists, the great violin concertos of the 19th century may be the bread and butter repertory, but in the 20th century, the period from 1930 to 1950 saw the composition of many fine violin concertos, and the soloists who first played these concertos often also made the premier recordings of these works. There were, in that period, new concertos by Serge Prokofiev, Samuel Barber, and Bela Bartok, and we'll sample some of those recordings.
The famous British conductor Colin Davis died this past April 14. Davis had been a highly successful recording conductor over many decades. Among his many specialties, his achievements in recording the music of Hector Berlioz stand out. He was the first one to get on discs Berlioz's epic opera The Trojans. We'll sample some of Davis' outstanding recordings.
Sir Thomas Beecham was a man of strong likes and dislikes. The conductor was cold to the music of Bach, but very warm to Handel, and his love for the music of Mozart and Delius was famous. Less known was his affection for the earlier, less heroic symphonies of Franz Schubert. He recorded some of these works in the 1930s and later in the 1950s. There was something in the buoyant youthful cheerfulness in these earlier symphonies that appealed to the genial side of Beecham. We'll hear some of these recordings.
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