The title of my show is a bit apocalyptic, but in 1996 or so, the major classical labels canceled or curtailed the contracts of many major classical artists, especially conductors. Yes, classical recording has continued but on a much reduced scale, even as the sale of CDs continues to drop. We'll sample some of the canceled conductors.
Classics of the Phonograph with John Frayne
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'll sample the range of Gould's compositions.
At the famous Paris Conservatory, there is a long tradition of "concours" or competitions at the end of the year for instrumental students. Many famous composers have been commissioned by the Conservatory to write pieces that would test the technical virtuosity as well as the emotional expressiveness of students. Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy and Paul Dukas have been among the composers who have written such pieces, and we will heard a selection of them.
Dimitri Mitropoulos was an extraordinarily gifted musician. Although he was an enormous success as conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony in the 1930s, his tenure as conductor of the New York Philharmonic ended in failure in the 1950s. Elsewhere, at the same time, he was regarded as a highly esteemed maestro. We will hear some of his extensive legacy of recordings.
This is a Verdi centennial year, and our program will be devoted to great Verdi conductors. Unlike Wagner conductors, who tend to be at home on concert podium as well as orchestra pit, Verdi conductors spend much more time exclusively in the opera house. Arturo Toscanini is an obvious choice for "greatest," but many names occur as follow-ups, and not all of them are Italian!
Summer is the time for orchestras and other music makers to move outside into the fresh air, and into the country, if possible. Major symphony orchestras have tried to establishing a traditional summer home, such as the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, and the CSO at Ravinia. We'll sample some of the memorable performers at summer festivals.
Richard Wagner, born 200 years ago, was in his own time associated with loudness. His orchestras were larger, the voices of his singers tended to be of heroic dimensions. He was frequently accused of abusing the human ear. But he was also a master of the quiet moment, and his preludes, particularly before his final acts, can be striking examples of low-key, meditative music. So we will try Wagner without ear plugs!
By the year of his death in 1965, Albert Schweitzer was one of the most famous men in the world. His general fame has dimmed, but among his many accomplishments was his fame as a scholar of the organ music of J.S. Bach, and his performances of Bach's organ music. Schweitzer left many recordings of Bach's music and we will sample some of those records.
The Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch is one of the most popular violin concertos in the repertory, but his second and third works in that form are hardly ever performed at concerts. The Italian virtuoso Salvatore Accardo has recorded them all, as well as other Bruch works for violin and orchestra. We'll sample some of these lesser known works.
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.