Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Glenn Gould’s 1955 Goldberg Variations Outtakes Released

Photograph of Glenn Gould, pianist

Photo by Don Hunstein / Glenn Gould Foundation

Glenn Gould was not only a great pianist, he was also well-versed in the art and technology of audio recording.  He was the final arbiter of what appeared on his released recordings.  Any retrospective look at his 1955 and 1981 recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations will mention the countless alternate versions of individual variations that Gould discarded in favor of the performances that ultimately were released.

I’m sure I’m not the only one to wonder what those outtakes were like.  The difference between his 1955 and 1981 recordings of the Variations is stunning.  What alterations were occurring in 1955 that we didn’t get the chance to hear?  Some outtakes were made available in the retrospective A State of Wonder recording that included both the earlier and later renditions.  But it was only a small sample.

Finally, it is possible to hear them all.  Sony has released a box set containing all of the alternate versions that were recorded in the 1955 sessions.  There are five CDs of outtakes.  The box set also includes a coffee table book that includes audio engineering notes and the score, the 1955 and 1981 recordings on CD, the 1955 recording on vinyl, and a poster.  You can see the box set here.

Or should we perhaps trust Gould’s meticulous selection of variations, seamlessly spliced together, as representing his vision of what the Goldberg Variations should be, as he saw it in 1955?  I will leave it to you to decide.

Here is a video of Gould playing some of the variations in a television broadcast from 1964.

 

References

  1. Siegel, Robert and Huizenga, Tom, “The Gould That Didn’t Glitter: New Box Set of ‘Goldberg Variations’ Outtakes” Deceptive Cadence from NPR Classical, October 25, 2017.  http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2017/10/25/559611543/the-gould-that-didnt-glitter-new-box-set-of-goldberg-variations-outtakes?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=classical&utm_term=music&utm_content=2052
  2. Clements, Andrew, “Goldberg Variations, Complete Sessions CD Review—Glenn Gould’s Obsession, Meticulously Assembled” The Guardian online version, September 13, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/sep/13/goldberg-variations-complete-sessions-cd-review-glenn-gould

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Image attribution:  Photograph of Glenn Gould by Don Hunstein / Glenn Gould Foundation [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glenn_Gould_1.jpg

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Free Concert Webcasts: Berlioz, Elgar, New Music, and Opera!

Tomorrow, 21 October 2017 at 8:00 PM EDT (GMT -5), visit dso.org/live for a performance of Harold in Italy by Hector Berlioz, Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and the world premiere of Loren Loiacono’s Smothered by Sky (at link see page 19).

The Opera Platform website, long the home of free opera webcasts, is now Operavision.eu.  Operas typically remain available for viewing on the site for six months after their initial webcast, and some are available with subtitles in multiple languages.  Operas currently available on the new website include Puccini’s Tosca and Madama Butterfly, Handel’s Acis and Galatea, and Verdi’s La Traviata.  Haven’t watched opera before? Check out Operavision’s New To Opera? tab for some helpful information.

Also, opera fans, please note that Operavision will present Wagner’s entire Ring cycle in separate webcasts beginning 28 October 2017, and, on a lighter note, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro on 3 November.


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Haiku Wednesday: Sitka Spruce

Photo, looking up at a group of sitka spruce trees

Sitka spruce photo by Peter Pearsall/US Fish and Wildlife Service

Once the wind would howl
Around your supple branches.
You stood, majestic,
Among the tall trees.
A silent sentinel, you
Looked out on the world.

That was not your fate.
To be cut down in your prime
Seems all too bitter,
But keen eyes picked you
To help others see and hear
A whole inner world.

And now the sound swirls
Like snowflakes, landing softly,
Hushed and whispering;
Or hits you like hail,
Ferocious, unrelenting.
You pay it no mind,
As you once did on
An Alaskan hillside; but
Now, Sitka, you sing.

Sitka spruce is the wood most commonly used for piano soundboards due to its resonance, flexibility, and great strength.  Piano soundboards resonate and propagate the sound generated by the strings of the piano.

Today’s haiku was inspired by a documentary.  Sitka traces the restoration of the Steinway grand piano at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.  The soundboard of the piano at The Phillips Collection had cracked, and this had adversely affected the sound.  Piano fans will enjoy seeing the inner workings of the instrument, and the meticulous work involved in restoration process.  The soundtrack is provided by Joseph Haydn (performed by Olivier Cavé).

And now, here is Sitka.

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Image attribution: Sitka spruce photo by Peter Pearsall/US Fish and Wildlife Service, https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Cape_Meares/wildlife_and_habitat/sitka_spruce.html


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Free Concert Webcast Tonight! Beethoven’s 3rd and More

Beethoven

Join the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, for a free concert webcast tonight, Saturday, October 14, 2017 at 8:00 PM (GMT -5).  You can watch it at this link.  Here’s the program:

Conor Brown: World premier of How To Relax with Origami

Barber: Piano Concerto featuring pianist Olga Kern

Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

There will be a pre-concert talk with Leonard Slatkin starting one hour before the concert.

Enjoy!


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New Free Online Concert Resource

Broadcast tower topped by music note, globe in background

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has announced the addition of video to their collection of audio concert recordings.  The recordings are free and available on demand.  A series of live-stream concert webcasts will begin in September.

At the moment there are only a few video recordings available, but they are outstanding.  There are performances by pianist Jeremy Denk (Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue –wow!), as well as a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s  Symphony No. 4 “Italian”, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.  You can check out their library of recordings here.  Videos are indicated by a small camera icon, and clicking on a hyperlinked performer name will give you a list of performances by the artist available on the site.

With selections from John Adams to Hugo Wolf, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy!

 

 


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Free Public Domain Classical Music: Listening, Downloads, and Sheet Music

Creative Commons logo, circle with 2 Cs, as eyes with smile

Many generous musicians around the world are making their performances available so that more people can have access to and enjoy classical music. They are doing this through Creative Commons licensing of performances of materials in the public domain.

The rules governing what works are in the public domain vary from country to country (find your country in the list here).  Be sure that the offerings meet the public domain requirements of your country.  Don’t infringe copyright.  Don’t be that guy.1  Read more about classical music and copyright here.

Here are my latest discoveries.

Here is the opening paragraph of the https://www.hdclassicalmusic.com/ website:

Here at HDCLASSICALMUSIC.COM, we believe that classical music is the common heritage of humanity, and therefore everyone in the world should be able to enjoy it and use it for free. In order to achieve this, we are building the world’s largest and highest quality platform for releasing classical music under an open copyright license (public domain, creative commons, etc.).2

I can’t improve on that wording.  Here is the composers index, You can play the track online as well as download it.

They also offer playlists and a radio option.  You can also build your own CDs.  The quality is wonderful.  Listen here to a performance of “Mélodie” from Tchaikovsky’s Memory of  a Dear Place (Op. 42, 3rd Movement).

And then there’s MusOpen (https://musopen.org/)

Musopen is…focused on increasing access to music by creating free resources and educational materials.  We provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions.  Put simply, our mission is to set music free.3

I found this entry for Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in D major (BWV 1028) featuring viola da gamba and harpsichord.  On this page, you can listen to the track, download the recording, and download the sheet music.

Here’s a comment about the Classic Cat website (http://www.classiccat.net)

Classic Cat is a great website available for downloading thousands of free classical music downloads that are completely legal for you to download and keep.4

You must use caution when exploring the Classic Cat website.  There are many ads.  Be sure to use the tiny red download buttons to get to the music you want. When you click on them, you will be taken to another website where you can hear and/or download tracks.  No downloads were automatic.  For example, if you click on Tomaso Albinoni on the composers list, you’ll be taken to a works page where you’ll see  the Sonata in C major, underlined, in a blue font.  Clicking that takes you to another page.  The tiny red button that you will then find midpage will take you to the website of the performers, the Corale San Gaudenzio, where you can hear and download a large number of tracks of various works, including Albinoni’s.  In exploring the Classic Cat site, this was a typical series of steps, leading to fine performers who have made a lot of tracks available.  It would be hard to track down all these folks independently, so Classic Cat has provided a great roundup.  A lot of steps (tread carefully), but rewarding.

And let’s not forget Wikipedia.  You may have noticed that an entry for a composer might have a link to a sound file so you can hear a representative piece of music.  There is a master list.  Go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Sound/list and you’ll find links to alphabetical index pages where you can find the composer and the pieces that are available for that composer.  You can play or download the files.

Piano fans:  Lisztonian.com provides free recordings that the performer has made available for you to listen to online or download, as well as links to download the sheet music.  Here’s the composers list.

Also, see the bottom of this recent post for a list of Bach freebies.

Happy music hunting!

References

  1. Catapulting into Classical Terms of Use Page.
  2. http://www.hdclassicalmusic.com/
  3. http://musopen.org/
  4. https://www.thebalance.com/download-free-classical-music-at-classic-cat-1358019


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New Digital Audio Guide Page on Streaming and CD, LP Conversion

Stick figure confused by music note comprised of ones and zeroes

Now available in the Digital Audio Guide tab is Drinking from the Firehose: Giant Music Libraries at Home and Online.  This page will give you background information on what’s involved in turning your physical musical media (CDs and LPs) into audio files on your computer.  It will also provide a quick overview of on-demand streaming services.  I hope you’ll check it out.

Speaking of streaming services, Primephonic has inaugurated its new streaming service specializing in classical music.  You can stream in MP3 or FLAC format.  They are offering a 30-day free trial.  Here is the link for the signup.