Venetian Games

The last composer in our brief survey of Polish music is Witold Lutosławski. Lutosławski’s style changed considerably during the course of his career, moving from Bartokian folk-based pieces (for instance, the Concerto for Orchestra) through to the ‘limited aleatoricism’ of Jeux vénitiens [Venetian Games] and later works. And yet there is an indefinable something in all […]

Bacewicz & Panufnik

No, not a firm of solicitors from Warsaw, but two of Poland’s finest twentieth century composers. While their musical vocabulary is definitely of their time, they – unlike Penderecki or Lutosławski – weren’t deeply interested in exploring the sound worlds of sonorism, aleatoricism, serialism, etc. Grażyna Bacewicz was both virtuoso violinist and a composer, many of her […]

May Night: Karol Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto

Ever heard a concerto that started like this before? [Go on, listen to it all: it’s worth it!] w May Night [Noc majowa] is the title of the poem by symbolist Tadeusz Miciński that was a source of inspiration for Szymanowski’s first violin concerto. The fantastical imagery of the poem –Miciński’s work was a precursor of […]

God jul! Hyvää joulua! Glædelig jul! and a Merry Christmas, too

To finish, a look at (and a listen to, of course) some of Scandinavia’s exports: three second generation American composers whose parents hailed from Norway, Sweden, Finland or Denmark. And then maybe – just maybe, you understand – we’ll let the Yuletide Spirit take over and hear where it leads us… Any copyrighted material on these pages […]

Not Sibelius

Uuno Klami : Kalevala Suite, V. The forging of the Sampo Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Petri Sakari Chandos Classics: CHAN 10427 X From the Kalevala Suite of Uuno Klami (1900–1961), via the Comedy Overture and Third Symphony  of Leevi Madetoja (1887–1947) and the Cello Concerto of Joonas Kokkonen (1921–1996), to the mystic angel music of Einojuhani Rautavaara (b. 1928) — a sample […]

Swedish Serenades

 After the intensity of Sibelius’ 7th we should maybe head across the Baltic to relax a little, sample a smörgåsbord and sip chilled aquavit lightly spiced with caraway, anise and fennel. And the music? Another smörgåsbord! Serenades by Stenhammar, Dag Wiren and Lars-Erik Larsson; and, on the more serious side, a symphony by Alfvén, a piano concerto […]

Schnittke and Gubaidulina

A symphony must be like the world, It must embrace everything – Gustav Mahler For this, our final session for this term, we’ll explore the astonishing world of Schnittke’s First Symphony… …and the spiritual journey that is Gubaidulina’s first violin concerto: Offertorium. Gubaidulina uses the Thema Regium (King’s Theme) from Bach’s Musical Offering as the […]

The next generation

In my less generous moments I considered calling this post The Drinker, the Sluggard and the Megalomaniac but a sense of fair play prevailed, since these calumnies, though they can be (just about) substantiated, reflect only the negative sides of three men who were fine composers and fascinating and complex human beings: Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov […]