Classic Mornings

Harvesting the Fields and Other Delights


Did you think I was finished? Yes, I told you about a few new releases last time. But I wanted to mention a few recordings we acquired recently that aren’t new, but which are new to us. In fact, you may have heard selections from them over the past couple of weeks.

You’ll be hearing a bit more of the music of pianist/composer John Field with performances featuring the Irish pianist Míċeál O’Rourke. O’Rourke’s name was mentioned to me years ago. I kept it in mind. And not long ago, I noticed that he had recorded the complete piano concertos by Field – 7 of them – with the London Mozart Players conducted by Matthias Bamert. The recordings were released individually beginning 25 years ago. So, maybe it was appropriate that we got hold of them this year for the anniversary.

They’ve been part of a complete set since 2008, which also includes several shorter works for piano and orchestra (Chandos 10468). I was excited to play the Piano Concerto No. 1, which was first performed by the 17-year-old Field in 1799. There’s a suggestion that it might have been inspired by Beethoven. And his 5th concerto is called: L’Incendie par l’orage (The Blazing Storm). As was the case with a work by another Beethoven contemporary, Daniel Steibelt, a storm pops up in the middle of the concerto. In Field’s concerto, it arrives in the opening movement. Steibelt’s storm comes during his finale. Both may have been inspired by Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 “Pastoral”, which features a storm in the 4th of the 5 movements.

I seem to shower you now and then with stories about the late harmonica virtuoso Tommy Reilly. I won’t this time. But I do want to tell you that I got hold of the recording he made with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble back in 1986 (Chandos 8486). In addition to arrangements for harmonica and strings of well-known classical music pieces, there are some pieces written for him. Two of them are by producer/composer George Martin, with whom Reilly worked with even before Martin’s “Beatles” years. There are arrangements and a composition by his long-time collaborator, pianist and composer James Moody, as well as a solo work which Reilly wrote as a test piece for the World Harmonica Championship. It’s not a virtuosic miniature, but one that might well reveal the lyrical abilities of players. Reilly was a violinist as well. That always came through in his playing and in his compositions.

I was so excited about a recent release with the BBC Philharmonic, led by Gianandrea Noseda with music by Italian composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, that I was glad to get hold of their 2003 recording of music by Ottorino Respighi (Chandos 10081). It includes Respighi’s ballet La Boutique fantasque (The Magic Toyshop), based on music of Rossini, and another ballet called La pentola magica (The Magic Pot), which uses music of Russian composers and Russian folk melodies. There’s even an arrangement of a Bach prelude and fugue. One of his specialties was orchestrating the music of composers who lived long before his time.

Pietro Locatelli was a “Paganini” before Paganini’s time. He was a violin virtuoso who may have inspired Nicolò Paganini. His L’arte del violino includes 12 concertos with 24 caprices for unaccompanied violin. They’re at the end of the first and third movements of each of the concertos. It’s challenging stuff. And it’s no surprise that violinist Giuliano Carmignola took on some of it years ago when he was recording Vivaldi concertos with the Venice Baroque Orchestra. September 3rd marked the 325th anniversary of the birth of Locatelli, who isn’t as well-known in our time as Paganini.

Lots of folks know – and play - the 7th and most famous of the 8 Humoresques by Antonín Dvořák. I noticed a comment online that it’s the 2nd most famous piano miniature of all time. I assured listeners during the fund drive last week that I’m always a bit hesitant about suggesting that something is the most famous, or best, or worst of all time. I’m ok with Beethoven’s Für Elise being considered the most popular miniature, though I’m not sure how you determine that. Dvorak’s famous humoresque exists in many instrumental versions and has acquired lyrics over the years. So, does it really win the silver medal if it came to be known through those, and not just as a piano miniature? Don’t get me wrong. I do think it’s fun to think about “bests.”

It’s exciting to think back on last week’s Fall Fund Drive, during which some 250 listeners contributed over $50,000. Thank you for your support!

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