I just conducted Bruckner’s Second Symphony for the first time a few days ago- even many of the most pro-Bruckner opinion makers seem to think that only his symphonies from the Fourth onward are worth doing, and the often over-zealous defences of the early symphonies by well-intentioned fans of the composer sometimes do more harm than good. Fond as I am of it, I still struggle to accept the Third Symphony as being on anything like the same level of inspiration and accomplishment as the Fourth, and perhaps, in my case, that slightly discouraged me from spending more time with the other earlier works. Until now! Learning the Second has been a real revelation- it’s a totally echt-Brucknerian masterpiece, that works structurally, melodically and sonically. Does more early Bruckner await?
Anyway, the experience of learning to love this underrated work by one of the greatest symphonists of all time got me thinking about what other examples there are of major works by major, mainstream symphonists that get unfairly overlooked or dismissed. No off-the-beaten-track composers qualify- you’ll have to look elsewhere on this blog for defences of the symphonies of Gál, Magnard or Piston. Also, for a piece to qualify, it has to be genuinely unfairly overlooked or maligned- Brahms 3 is the least often played of his four symphonies, but its quality is not in dispute, and it is hardly a rarity. What do you think are the works of the major composers we don’t hear often enough, or don’t understand well enough? Has your orchestra made any big discoveries in recent years? Please share your thoughts!
10- Bruckner- Symphony no. 2
What astounds one the most about this work is how completely it embodies the unique musical personality of Bruckner. It has everything we value in the later works- the sense of awe and isolation, the moments of existential terror and unbearable desolation. It’s also full of astounding rhythmic innovations the likes of which had not been seen in the music of any previous symphonist. A must hear.
Recommended recording- Eugen Jochum, Bavarian Radio Symphony. The piece has become something of a plaything for smaller orchestras of late, and it works fine when played by the likes of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia, or, dare I say, the SMP, but Jochum’s recording has a maturity and a breadth of vision that no modern version can match.
9- Beethoven- Symphony no. 8
We all know that Beethoven’s even-numbered symphonies are all a little overlooked in favour of 3, 5, 7 and 9. No’s 2 and 4 both deserve to be heard more, and the 6th seems to inspire, by far, the most wrong-headed assessments these days- it’s proto- modernism and minimialism, not muzak. I fear it is music that is too modern, original and visionary for most 21st ears. However, I’ve chosen the Eighth because so few people seem to full appreciate just how astoundingly brilliant it is. Yes, it is funny, and yes, it is short, and yes, it is less outwardly dramatic than the odd-numbered symphonies, but if there is cleverer Finale out there to any symphony, I don’t know what it is. Get a good musician to talk you through how it is put together and you’ll never hear it the same way again
Recommended Recording- Not an easy choice- it’s one of those symphonies that really suffers from plodding tempi and muddy textures, but all too many period and HIP performances lack muscle and temperament. John Elliott Gardiner’s performance with the ORR is probably my favourite performance of his classic cycle for Arkiv, and the last movement in particular is refreshingly Dionysian, even if it could use a bit more raw power and depth in the sound.
8- Shostakovich- Symphony no. 7
Always popular with listeners and players, an alarming number of critics and conductors seem unable to keep up with Shostakovich’s wartime masterpiece. One of Britain’s best composers told me last year he considers it the greatest symphony written by a composer born in the 20th c. Keep that in mind as you listen for layers of irony, tragedy, violence, consolation and struggle.
Recommended recording- More so than most of his symphonies, quite a number of Shostakovich’s usually-most-reliable Russian interpreters (Mravinsky, Kondrashin) seem a little scared of the dark core of this symphony and tend to gloss over the top of the music. The best recording by far is Bernstein’s with Chicago, although the recorded sound is not my favourite.
7- Mozart- Symphony no. 39
Mozart’s last three symphonies seem to have been conceived and composed as a trilogy and can be heard as a summing up of his whole outlook on life and music. No. 39, the first of the three, is hardly a rarity, but it’s nowhere near as celebrated as the 40th and the Jupiter, whose emotional narratives are more direct and easier to follow. It’s also more feared than loved by orchestral violinists everywhere, most of whom earned a few grey hairs practicing the excerpts in the last movement for auditions.
Recommended recording- I appreciate the series of recordings Charles Mackerras made with the Prague Chamber Orchestra, in spite of the fact that I find the use of harpsichord throughout his cycle of the complete symphonies unfathomably irritating. Fortunately, I’ve trained myself to ignore it, and at least it’s recorded with very little presence by the Telarc team who must have realized how insanely out of place it sounded. Other than that, the playing has finesse and muscle and the tempi are suitably alive and balances are good. I don’t know his later recording for Linn. I’d love to hear a version with modern tempi from the VPO or Dresden, but without keyboard, please.
6- Schumann- Symphony no. 2
I suppose all of Schumann’s symphonies are in some way undervalued. The fiction about the superiority of the original version of the D minor has done a great deal to worsen people’s understanding of Schumann’s entire output and development as a composer. The Spring seems to have slightly dropped out of the repertoire altogether, and the reduction of the E flat major work with which he ended his career into a trite series of never-intended picture postcards of buildings and waterways has also led to a near pervasive misunderstanding of the staggering originality of the piece. However, of all the Schumann symphonies, the Second is the greatest, the most perfect and the most original- almost certainly the greatest symphony written since the death of Beethoven, and so many folks don’t get it.
Recommended recording- Well, what do you expect me to say? Please buy mine, if only for the program notes. Of the big-band recordings, my easy favourites are Sawalisch and Dresden, followed (at some distance, it must be said) by Cleveland and Dohnanyi.
5- Sibelius- Symphony no. 3
It’s a sad fact of human nature that most of what you read about most pieces of music is a first reaction to the first minute or so to the work, and this includes reviews, programme notes and essays. That’s one reason that 90% of people think of Haydn’s music as simple and straightforward- their attention wanders before it gets really interesting (it usually gets pretty interesting by the 2nd bar, but in some of the rondos, he keeps the listener waiting for 30 or 40 bars before letting loose with everything he’s got up his sleeve). The mention of Haydn is no accident, because if Sibelius ever channelled Haydn, it was in this piece. Don’t let the genial tone of the opening, the graceful and apparently understated second movement, or the triumphant conclusion fool you- this is a deep, deceptive and profoundly original piece, full of surprises and shadows.
Recommended recording- There are a surprising number of good recordings of the Third in spite of its Cinderella status in the hall. Colin Davis has one of the best endings, with a real build up of momentum in his later recording, but the LSO’s playing is pretty ropey throughout the cycle. I think he tends to be the only one who gets the ending right. Berglund with COE is really interesting, and Gibson and the RSNO is also rather special
4- Mendelssohn- Symphony no. 1
Some people just can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that a 15 year old could have written a truly great symphony, even if right around this time he was also writing the Octet, the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the peerless A minor String Quartet. I find myself shaking my head in complete despair every time I read things like “hints of the mature Mendelssohn” or “youthful.” This is a great piece- fiery, dramatic, beautiful, fully thought out and totally original. The Scherzo is mind-shatteringly good on so many levels. Only Mendelssohn could have written it, and it’s as good as anything he wrote.
Recommended recordings- I’ve never heard one I liked. This piece seems to suffer out of all proportion from conductors’ and producers’ inability to get to grips with Mendelssohn’s unique and personal idiom- some treat it like early Mozart, others like Brahms. Blech to both! Hopefully, someone will do it justice in my lifetime. Let us know if you’ve heard a really convincing one.
3- Vaughan Williams- Symphony no. 8
RVW’s Fifth is his most popular, and possibly his most perfect, symphony, but the works that follow it are often problematic to program and perform. The Sixth is almost unbearably bleak, the Seventh tends to show its cinematic roots a bit much for many tastes (and is expensive to put on), and even devoted RVW interpreters often express a degree of befuddlement with the Ninth. But the Eighth? It’s just a great piece- a perfect symphony that works for audiences and players alike. What’s not to love? Why isn’t it played?
Recommended recording- Adrian Boult and the LPO are always the place to start. With RVW. The classic CD version from Decca is great, but start with the DVD on ICA classics if you can. Truly masterful work on the podium, and a nice performance by the orchestra.
2- Mahler- Symphony no. 7
Mahler’s 7th and 8th symphonies tend to be the ones that most show up the hubris and idiocy of those who consider themselves too wise, clever and perceptive to understand either piece. When you hear a commentator talk about the 7th or 8th as a “failure,” it tells you only about their lack of knowledge and taste. Of the two, the 7th is ever so slightly more at risk because it lacks the sense of grand occasion which keeps Mahler 8 in the hearts of the public in spite of critical misunderstanding. A full defense of the piece would take too long for this post, but is unnecessary. My advice is to listen carefully and remember that everything in it is there for a reason- if it sounds banal, or sentimental or bizarre, it’s because Mahler meant it to, and it’s up to us to try follow him. As with Shostakovich above, it’s disheartening how many critics can’t seem to understand the role of irony and parody in a work like this. But I’m sure you can, dear reader.
Recommended recording- Everyone who is interested in Mahler should see Bernstein’s DVD performance with the VPO. The performance of the first movement is one of the worst professional recordings in existence, the last movement, possibly the best. If ever there were a document of a great conductor willing a reluctant and ill-prepared orchestra to achieve something truly special, this is it. Haitink conducts this work incredibly well- the Concertgebouw Christmas Matinee film is wonderful.
There are a lot of other wonderful works by major composers that could go on this list. In many cases, the problem is that these composers have more than one unfairly neglected work in their ouvre. Here are a few examples:
Dvorak- the early symphonies. Big Tony might be the only composer whose symphonies are popular in exact correlation with the order in which they were written, with the last symphony (New World) the most popular and the First (Bells of Zlonice) the least. Is the Fist as good as the Ninth? No. Are they all worth playing? Yes. Is the gap in quality between, say, Six and Seven, or even more starkly, Five and Six enough to account for the huge falloff in popularity. Heck no.
Recommended recording- Because there is more than one unjustly neglected Dvorak symphony, you need a box set. The best are Kubelik with the Berlin Phil (my favourite) and Kertesz with the LSO (a classic that everyone should own)
Schubert- Symphonies 3, 4 and 6. I absolutely adore Schubert 3, 4 and 6 and could conduct them every week. There’s nothing in music like the Unfinished, and the Great Sea Monster is a law unto itself, but 3,4 and 6 are endlessly delightful, original and rewarding pieces. What about 5? It’s my fault entirely, but too many massacres at the hands of orchestras who can’t play it have made it hard for me to listen to it. I also have associated it in my mind with a performance I covered with the Cincinnati Symphony at Riverbend. Jesus Lopez-Cobos and the orchestra did admirable work in 120 degree heat and 100% humidity, but I’ll forever associate this delightful work with human sweat and the pungent fragrance of horse shit from the nearby stables after that night.
Recommended recording- Kleiber’s effervescent recording of the Third ought to be magic enough to persuade any sceptic to learn the early symphonies. Harmoncourt has done a worthy, if slightly slow, Fourth, and Muti has always been a champion of early Schubert
Prokofiev- The symphonies other than Five and the Classical. They’re all great works, consistently strong, original and moving. The Fourth is so good he wrote it twice. The Seventh is both wonderful and surprisingly playable- it should be done more often. The Second is total rock ‘n’ roll.
Recommended recording Again, you’re ideally looking for a box. I’d avoid the famous one on Philips with a noted Russian maestro and wonderful British orchestra. It’s distressingly sloppy in many places and doesn’t hold up to repeated listening. Let me know if you find one you love.
So the final slot on this list goes to-
1- Tchaikovsky- Manfred Symphony. Each of Tchaikovsky’s last three symphonies is among the most popular and most frequently played works in the entire repertoire. One seems to hear performances of the Fourth with the kind of frequency you encounter politicians saying ill-informed things about the arts. Also, although the Third remains a rarity, the First (“Winter Dreams”) has really come into the repertoire in the last ten years, and the Second (“Ukrainian”) has always been a favourite of audiences and youth orchestras. But the greatest of them all is hardly ever heard. I was 43 before I heard a live performance of the Manfred, which is all the more unfortunate because it is exactly the kind of piece that should be heard live.
Recommended recording- Really, you have to hear it live. Even a halfway decent live performance is more immediate and impressive than something polished up and fine tuned in the studio for a work like this.
From the December 2012 issue of The Strad
A disc of String trios where time and place play an inescapable role
Buy here from MDT UK
Buy here from Arkiv USA
Buy here from Amazon UK
Buy here from Amazon USA
Here is music for string trio by two composers of Jewish heritage from the same generation, whose experience of the cold hand of Nazism resulted in different fates. The Viennese Hans Gál managed to escape to Britain in 1928 and lived to the ripe old age of 97; the unluckier Czech-born Hans Krása enjoyed, if that’s the word, a brief stay of execution at the Jewish show camp of Terezin before being murdered in Auschwitz aged 44. The players of Ensemble Epomeo capture the charm of Gál’s delightful neo-Classical Serenade (1932) with a sense of line and subtlety of texture. But, one feels, they could have brought more muscle to the emotional sound world of the F sharp minor Trio, with its nostalgic throwback to pre-war Vienna viewed from the sanctuary of 1970’s Edinburgh (and which in its original version included a viola d’amore).
However, they certainly don’t hold back in the short Krása pieces, written during the composer’s last days in Terezin. Here they exploit the dance-of-death tendencides of the Tanec and the sense of order overthrown in the Passacaglia and Fugue (each of which dissipates into Expressionist anarchy) and a frightenly challenging end. A warmly-recorded and thought-provoking disc.
I don’t play trombone, but
If I were to play trombone in a Bruckner symphony, I would…
Bathe in yak’s blood for a month
Shave with an axe
Tattoo a picture of Thor’s hammer on my forehead
Practice starting a lonnnnnnng note REALLY fucking pianissimo, then make a lonnnnnnnnnnnnng diminuendo to nothing
And practice the silence that follows that note, and the breath that precedes it.
If I were to play trombone in a Bruckner symphony, I would
Practice Ride of the Valkyries on the prow of a Viking attack ship
Use the severed head of a conquered Gaul for a mute
Clean my horn with the swaddling clothes of a new-born prince
Take a lesson from James Brown
And another lesson from James Bond
Imagine that when I play the last quarter note of the piece, the entire room would be engulfed in white fire, then go totally black on the cutoff
Imagine the first soft chord of “that” chorale is so in tune that the entire universe hums and the mountains sink contentedly, just a little, into the earth beneath them every time my section plays it.
Find a sound made of stone, and another made of glass, and another made of water, and one more, made of blood
Spend a month watching the loneliest man in the world, and trying to imagine my sound was his voice when at last God chose to listen to him
And I would also imagine my sound was the voice of God when he answered the loneliest man in the world with an implacable “No.”
And I would imagine my sound was the disinterested emptiness of Nature, when God had again left that man alone again
If I were to play trombone in a Bruckner symphony, I would…
Shine my shoes with Donald Trump’s hairpiece
Brush my teeth with steel wool
Wear a suit that would make Armani himself weep with jealousy, and a pocket silk of royal blue
Fill my handmade alligator-skin shoes with tiny, sharp stones, so I never feel too comfortable
And, underneath, I would wear a loin cloth made from the hide of the fallen king of the Wyoming buffalo, who I would have killed with my bare hands and skinned with my embouchure
It’s time for the third installment in our Explore the Score series on the Schumann symphonies. Our new recording of Gal’s 2nd Symphony and Schumann’s Fourth has just been released on Avie Records. Ordering via these links helps support these important recordings.
Explore the score: Schumann Symphony no. 2.
Explore the score: Schumann Symphony no. 3.
Robert Schumann- Composer, writer, ladies man, hard drinker and inventor of “Klangfarbenmelodie”
‘If the Third Symphony represents Schumann’s closest approach to symphonic monumentality, the Fourth Symphony is his most ingenious experiment in form.’ Hans Gál
The work known to most modern listeners as Schumann’s Fourth Symphony was, in fact, the second he completed. After the huge success of his First Symphony in 1841 (the ‘Spring’), Schumann, with typical single-mindedness, forged ahead through the remainder of the year with his focus squarely on orchestral music. In the spring of 1841, he completed the Overture, Scherzo and Finale, then immediately, according to his wife Clara’s marriage diary, began work on a D minor Symphony on 31 May. While the Spring Symphony had poured out of him in practically a single gesture only months earlier, progress on the D minor was more sporadic, with entries in the Hashaltbuch noting numerous bursts of productivity and other periods where the work was set aside due to travel, illness or the urgency of other projects. Finally, Schumann declared on 4 October that he had ‘finished polishing the symphony.’
No doubt the summer of 1841 was a busy one, but there were sound musical reasons why Schumann might have needed more time to work on his new symphony. Although the ‘Spring’ takes interesting steps towards achieving symphonic cohesion through the cross-referencing of themes and motives across movements, the D minor was a radical new approach to symphonic form – a symphony in a single breath. Although Schumann had clearly fashioned the D minor Symphony after Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy, Schumann’s experiment in what he initially even called a ‘Symphonic Fantasy’ was, even in its first manifestation, more structurally ambitious than Schubert’s prototype, and would become, in time, a model for such revolutionary works as Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony and Sibelius’s Seventh.
The ‘Spring’ Symphony had been rapturously received at its premiere by the Gewandhaus Orchestra under the baton of Schumann’s friend Mendelssohn, but Mendelssohn was unable to conduct the premiere of the D minor Symphony, and the job fell to the orchestra’s concertmaster, Ferdinand David, who seems to have managed only a lacklustre job. Schumann expressed disappointment with the performance on 6 December 1841, but he was confident that the merits of the symphony (and the Overture, Scherzo and finale, first heard in the same concert) would soon be recognized: ‘I know they are not at all inferior to the First, and must succeed eventually.’ Certainly, many of the early reviews of both pieces were positive. If the premiere had not been a triumph, neither was it a catastrophe. Nonetheless, Peters Edition declined to publish the D minor as his Op.50, and Schumann set the work aside to attend to new projects.
He returned to his symphonic Cinderella in 1851. The success of his fourth and last symphony, the E flat major work published as his Third and dubbed the ‘Rhenish’ (a title Schumann never used nor intended) had renewed his enthusiasm for the genre, and he had also recently completed preparing the unfinished D minor symphony written by his friend, the recently deceased Norbert Burgmüller, for publication. Although Schumann spent only a week or so revising and re-orchestrating his own D minor Symphony, the changes are extremely important and telling, and all for the better: this is a revision undertaken by a master at the peak of his powers. Most importantly, Schumann attended to the transitions and connections between the different movements and sections of the work, making them more compelling and seamless. He refined the work’s orchestration for performance by the 45 or so musicians of his Düsseldorf orchestra or the Leipzig Gewandhaus, (not a modern symphony orchestra of over 80 players), and made other significant alterations, such as changing the meter of the first movement’s Allegro from the relatively heavy and insistent ‘in one’ to a more varied ‘in two’. The premiere of the revision (catalogued as Op.120) on 30 December 1852 was one of the last great public and critical triumphs of his career, and this time, he had no difficultly in finding an enthusiastic publisher.
In its final form, the first movement represents one of the most original re-imaginings of Sonata form of the post-Beethoven era. The slow introduction begins with a powerful multi-octave A pedal, not on the downbeat as one might expect (and as Schumann had written in the 1841 version), but on the upbeat. This metric dislocation is loaded with tension, and the theme that follows is notable for its economy of rhythmic and intervallic materials- it’s all in quavers and mostly written in step-wise motion. The transition into the movement’s main Lebhaft section is another significant improvement. Schumann replaces the original version’s somewhat formulaic fanfare chords, which don’t seem motivically well-connected to the preceding or subsequent material, with something far more fluid and organic. The continuous quaver motion of the melody metamorphoses into a growling bass ostinato, and the violins introduce the main theme of the Lebhaft, derived from the quaver theme, in semi-quavers. The exposition is extremely terse, and essentially monothematic setting the tone for the symphony as a whole. The development lurches from a jovial arrival in F major to a fortissimo unison E flat, dominated by the stentorian power of the trombones, and even introduces new and contrasting material previously withheld. Only in the last third of the movement does Schumann introduce the lyrical second subject we might have expected much earlier, and this soaring theme provides the impetus for an ecstatic coda, which eschews any Beethovenian restoration of order and stability (note how all the accents and emphases fall on wrong or weak beats and bars).
To treat the following Romanze as a broad, big-boned Romantic slow movement is to misread both Schumann’s intent and his metronome marking. The lilting theme in the solo oboe and cello is modelled on a courtly Renaissance dance, and Schumann reportedly originally intended to double the pizzicato accompaniment in the strings with guitar or lute. Even the return of the symphony’s portentous introduction is notably fleeter and more fluid than in its first incarnation (albeit not in all performances. Such dalliances can be beautiful and convincing in the moment, but they surely take away from the sense of unity and direction which is so central to the D minor’s whole conception). As if to underline the sense of continuation and interconnectivity between the first and second movements, the following middle section, with its elegant violin solo, is actually a fairly direct variation of the symphony’s opening (and the reprise of it just heard), the violin triplets embellishing a cantus firmus in straight quavers and step-wise motion. The Scherzo offers an abrupt and violent contrast, while nonetheless growing organically from motives found in the symphony’s opening bars. The Trio, like the Introduction, is a study in continuous quaver motion, integrally connected to both the symphony’s opening and the violin solo in the Romanze, and is as dreamy and sensual as the Scherzo is violent and severe.
The transition to the finale shows Schumann completely at home in the dramatic world of high German Romanticism, with stormy tremoli and dramatic brass fanfares that might evoke memories of Weber’s Der Freischütz, especially the dark and brooding Wolf’s Glen. In the main body of the finale which follows, Schumann changes the meter from 2/4 to 4/4, and (in the revision) integrates the theme of the first movement with the triumphal new theme of the finale (an incredibly powerful link, which Schumann had not developed in the original). This is music that has often been subjected to the indignities of a comedy tempo. The brass chorale at the end of the exposition (repeated in the revision, not in the original, which tells one that repeats in Schumann’s time were anything but pro-forma) also originally appears in the first movement, and proves increasingly key in driving the symphony toward its destination. The structure of the Finale neatly parallels that of the first movement, gradually increasing in intensity as it adds new themes, but this time the musical journey heads surely towards the closure so emphatically avoided by the first movement, in an utterly characteristic meeting of Apollonian rigour and Dionysian ecstasy.
C Kenneth Woods, 2013
Recommended recording of the 1841 version- Thomas Zehetmaier, Northern Sinfonia, Avie Records
Good morning everyone. There’s big news today of a new project starting in 2013.
Here’s the press release from my colleagues at MusicCo.
We’re all very excited here- the ESO is a great band with a great tradition, and I’m excited to get to work on this new series, which I’m sure will be very exciting.
See also reaction from Norman Lebrecht (a “good call”) and Classic FM.
KENNETH WOODS APPOINTED ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF NEW ENGLISH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA SERIES
Kenneth Woods has been appointed Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra’s new subscription concert series for 2013. His first concert in the new role will take place on 22 March 2013, in Christ Church Malvern.
The English Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1978, has not had an artistic director since the 2008 passing of Vernon Handley, who was appointed Principal Conductor in 2007. Woods joins an orchestra with an illustrious history which includes associations with Sir Yehudi Menuhin, notable soloists such as Stephen Isserlis and Nigel Kennedy, and renowned composers including Sir Michael Tippett and Nicholas Maw. The ESO has made dozens of acclaimed recordings, a notable discography which Woods is expected to augment.
Woods remarks, “The ESO is a world-class group of musicians, with an august history of recording and touring at the highest level. Their administrative team has worked incredibly hard to put the orchestra’s finances back on a very strong footing, while developing an enterprising, innovative and wide-ranging education and outreach portfolio. It’s an exciting moment for the orchestra to be returning to their historic home of Malvern with their first new subscription series in some time, and I’m very excited they’ve asked me to partner with them in this new venture.”
Peter Sheeran, Chief Executive of the English Symphony Orchestra adds, “I first met Ken Woods a few months ago, together with the ESO’s leader Michael Bochmann, to explore how we might work together. We discussed plans, ethics and motivation, and we found that Ken was unusually well-attuned to what we are trying to achieve and that very little had to be spelt out. An opportunity came to put on a concert series at a new venue for us, with very exciting possibilities both on the platform and in its community, and Ken was the obvious person to ask to curate this project during its first year, with other possibilities leading out from that. We cannot wait to get down to work with him in January; his approach came at just the right time for us.”
Woods’ programming for his first season with the ESO ranges from 18th-century England to 20th-century Russia, with the repertoire united by a common thread. “My colleagues in the orchestra and I wanted this series to make a statement, to articulate a theme,” says Woods. “We’ve picked the Granddaddy of all themes – resiliency. We’re going to be looking at the way in which music and art seeks light in dark times, though defiance, humour, struggle, meditation, perseverance or heroic striving.”
Woods’ first concert with the ESO includes his own arrangement of Victor Ullman’s Chamber Symphony (originally composed as his third and final string quartet), written in Terezin just prior to his execution in Auschwitz; Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, which was the composer’s last completed instrumental work, responding to illness and crisis with search for tranquillity; and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, perhaps his most light-hearted symphony, but written concurrently with his Heiligenstadt Testament, when he was seriously contemplating suicide because of his deafness.Future programmes feature works by Arne, Malcolm Arnold, Boyce, Britten, Finzi, Gál, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.
Woods’ appointment as Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra caps a climatic year for the fast-rising conductor. As Principal Guest Conductor of Stratford-upon-Avon-based Orchestra of the Swan, he has captured international recognition for his ongoing series of performances and recordings pairing the symphonies of Hans Gál and Robert Schumann. His world-premiere recordings of the Gál symphonies have been cited by National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC and The Guardian’s international edition, among others. Also with Orchestra of the Swan, Woods conducted an acclaimed all-British programme at London’s Cadogan Hall, and recorded the world-premieres of two fusion concertos for the release Spring Sounds, Spring Seas, recently selected as one of MusicWeb International’s Records of the Year. Other recording highlights in 2012 included his first disc for Signum and two recordings for Somm Recordings with Orchestra of the Swan and the Royal Philharmonic, following on from his highly successful Somm recording of Schoenberg’s arrangements of the songs of Gustav Mahler.
As Artistic Director of the English Symphony Orchestra, Woods can be expected to lend the many strings of his bow to the organisation. In addition to his prowess on the podium and in the recording studio, Woods is a cellist of significant stature. This past year, with his Ensemble Epomeo, he recorded the complete string trios of Gal and Krasa, a Critic’s Choice in the December issue of Gramophone Magazine, and was soloist in Brahms’ Double Concerto with the Surrey Mozart Players alongside violinist Suzanne Casey.
22 March 2013
Ullmann Chamber Symphony, Op. 43a
Mozart Clarinet Concerto
Beethoven Symphony No. 2
24 May 2013
English Music Festival
Arne Symphony No. 1
Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings
Boyce Symphony No. 8
Finzi Dies Natalis
Arnold Sinfonietta No. 2
John Andrews guest conductor
27 September 2013
Mendelssohn ”Hebrides” Overture
Gal Concertino for Cello and Strings
Matthew Sharp cello
Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3, “Scottish”
Tchaikovsky Andante Cantabile (arr. from String Quartet No. 1)
Shostakovich Chamber Symphony Op. 83a (arr. from String Quartet No. 4)
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto
MUSIC COMPANY INTERNATIONAL LTD.
Monday, 3 December, 2012
Session 1- 10:00 AM
Scheduled: Schumann- Symphony no. 4, mvts 1 and 2
Recording is like nothing else- getting great material on disc requires a rather unforgiving balance of precision and passion. To get the kind of passion and energy that makes a recorded performance leap out of the speakers, the musicians need to play every take with the kind of intensity and energy that one would hope to achieve in a very inspired concert. To get the kind of precision and attention to detail, one is constantly having to stop and work on all sorts of technical details, fine points of interpretation and questions of style. In a concert you don’t have to repeat things or remember what went wrong to fix it the next time. In a recording you do. Going back and forth between sorting out the detail and playing at maximum intensity in real performance mode takes great skill and vast reserves of energy.
Sir George Solti- one man who knew how to give everything on every take
I’m not sure any composer needs a more exacting balance of detail and passion than Robert Schumann. This morning the Orchestra of the Swan and I are starting to record our third Schumann symphony together. When we recorded our first Schumann in 2010 (the last symphony in E-flat major sometimes erroneously called the “Rhenish”), I think it took some time for the musicians to actually believe that they really had to give as much energy as I was asking them for on every take. Smart orchestral musicians know that a recording session is absolutely useless if your chops give out, so wind and brass players in particular are very careful to pace themselves whenever they can, and later composers are more shrewd at spreading out the workload than Beethoven and Schumann were. The problem with Schumann is that there are very few times when one can back off without the music suffering. I think we’ve all heard enough tepid Schumann symphonies in our lives- listless, sprawling heatlamp-warmed buffets of mezzo forte overcooked musical vegetables. Blech.
We started the two days with the first movement of the Schumann because it needs the most raw energy. In some ways, it needs even more intensity than anything in the E-flat and C major symphonies we’ve already recorded because of the stormy nature of the music.
And of course, even with all our shared experience in Schumann, and a complete lack of skepticism from the musicians, it’s taken the first hour or so to start to get the intensity, the depth of sound, the huge and immediate dynamic contrasts and the rhythmic vitality we need. By this point, I’m already a sweaty, panting mess. It’s going to be a tiring couple of days. Conducting is not always a dignified business (note how many times you can see Solti’s underwear in the clip above- how much do I love that he doesn’t seem to give a flying f*ck about this?) I’m all for recording in long takes in theory, but with 3 sessions to keep in mind, I decide early on to record and patch in short-to-medium length bursts of maximum intensity. There’s no point in playing on for one bar if the energy level drops. That way, everyone can rest their chops for a moment between takes while we sort out details. Also, we’ll be recording the concert, which will give us the ultimate, high-energy long take. Some whole movements on previous discs have been taken almost complete from the concert, while others are all from the sessions- I challenge anyone to guess which is which. After the break, things start to click in earnest, and the coda, in many ways the most difficult part of the movement, comes together very quickly.
With just fifteen minutes left, it’s not realistic to record the entire second movement even though it is short, but it’s important to make a start on it. We read it and the solos sound lovely, but the whole thing is a little too Romantic and lugubrious. Schumann modelled this Romanze on a courtly Renaissance dance- he even considered using lute or guitar to accompany the cello/oboe duo. As soon as I ask the orchestra to lighten the second beat of each bar and treat it as dance, the whole thing is transformed. As Simon, our producer, remarked at the break it “instantly changed the architecture of the whole thing.” I’m not sure I’d consider any part of the movement to be “in the can,” but it’s not technically hard and everyone now knows how it goes.
For each of these discs, we have five rehearse/record sessions and a concert. I write the schedule to try to record the outline of everything in the first four sessions, which leaves the last session to rehearse the overture, fix anything that has been giving us problems and tie up loose ends. It’s actually not realistic to get everything done in those first four sessions- I know when I do the schedule that we’ll always run a bit behind, but I do this because you never quite know what might need a night to settle, or what might give me or the players extra trouble. So, it’s fine to run behind schedule as long as you don’t build up more than two and a half hours of work to do in the final session. By the end of this morning, we’ve got the first movement in the can and know what needs doing with the second. Getting it recorded will probably take another thirty minutes, at least, which leaves us two hours of flexible time in the final session tomorrow. That’s pretty good- first sessions are notoriously slow with all orchestras and producers because it takes time for the engineer to find the sound and for the orchestra to get in the grove. For one project, I think we ended up about an hour and forty-five minutes behind at the end of the first session. That’s when you start to feel tiny shards of glass grinding against the lining of your stomach whenever you look at the clock.
As I leave for lunch, I run into Phil, our wonderful first bassoonist. I thank him for some great work, and he says he’s “just relieved to have the slow introduction behind me. It’s the most strenuous thing in either piece.” I mention this because I think audiences sometimes think it is the fast and loud music that is most difficult or the most exhausting- quite the opposite, and this is one reason this Schumann is so hard. By the time the main part of the movement starts, the winds have already played the most tiring music in the whole symphony.
Schumann’s fate as an opera composer seemed to mirror that of his hero Beethoven, and not always in positive ways. Both men sought to reform the genre, stripping it of frivolity and artifice, eradicate virtuoso display and create an idiomatic, German approach to music drama liberated from Italian and French influence. Both Beethoven and Schumann doted on their operatic only-children, but neither Beethoven’s Fidelio nor Schumann’s Genoveva has ever been among their most loved or best understood works. Schumann chose the tale of Genoveva with great care, after considering operas on such well-known German stories as Till Eulenspiegel and the Niebelungeng myth. For Schumann, Genoveva became a once-in-a-lifetime labour of love- he wrote the libretto himself (not surprising, as Schumann remains one of the few composers equally famous in his lifetime as writer and composer) and worked tirelessly on the score, which features Schumann’s own distinctive take on the Leitmotiv technique most often associated with Wagner.
It was with Wagner that the problems began for Genoveva. Schumann had been highly critical of Tanhauser in 1945, and for Wagner, Genoveva was payback time. Wagner and his colleagues briefed and lobbied endlessly against the piece, criticizing both the libretto and the music. Gradually, Wagner’s criticisms became accepted as fact by a generation of musicologists who had never heard a live performance of the piece, nor ever opened the score. Only in recent years has the opera begun to return to the repertoire. Happily, the glorious Overture has always remained popular, and it is a remarkably complete summing up of Schumann’s gifts as a composer.
Does this guy matter. Albert Einstein thinking science stuff I don’t really understand
Have you ever wondered whether scientific scientists actually influence their science experiments?
They seem important. After all, they’re standing in the middle of the lab wearing white coats and goggles, doing stuff, giving instructions, waving their hands and pressing buttons. But the science machines are all connected to computers that are telling them what to do. If you took the scientist away, could the laboratory do science on its own?
Apparently, this guy did matter when he was still alive according to previous studies
Following on the heels of a recent scientific study of conductors’ influence on the orchestras they conduct, a team of scientists at Moronton University led by Dr Osmosis Los Alamos has conducted a similar survey, studying the impact being a scientist has on doing science.
“Having conclusively proved that being a trained, experienced and competent conductor makes you better at conducting, we wanted to do the necessary, ground-breaking, grant-funding-attracting research to needed to scientifically assess whether basic competence matters in other fields of endeavour, and we decided to start with the field we know best.”
Researchers set up two identical sciencing labs to run an experiment to measure the specrtra produced by super-heated ionic gas clouds using a device called a microwave spectrometer. Each lab was fitted with numerous motion sensors, remote cameras and lab computer activity was tracked remotely.
When the scientists started the experiment, researchers watched to see which team got the best results, who used their time the most effectively, which team caused serious accidents, explosions or fires and which team needed the most or least hospitalization. Researchers also tracked which lab produced the most graduate research assistant fatalities and which computers were used primarily for analysing incoming experimental data, and which were used primarily to access pornography. Using mathematical techniques originally designed by Nobel Prize-winning economist Percy Granger, Los Alamos and his colleagues analysed whether the actions and expertise of the scientists were linked to the effectiveness of the experiments.
The researchers hypothesized that if the actions of the scientists could predict the effectiveness of the experiment, then the scientist was clearly running the lab. But if the scientists’ actions could not predict the progress of the machines, then the experiment was running itself.
(The research study is part of a larger project where Los Alamos is trying to figure out if human activities share something in common with knowing what you are doing. Future studies will focus on how being able to snow peer-review committees under mountains of bullshit and a very effective PR outreach can lead to increased grant funding of pointless research projects)
But the study found more: The researchers had two scientists give the same lecture on advanced quantum mechanics. One was a veteran university professor who possessed an ironclad understanding of the material. The other was an idiot.
“What we found is the more the influence of the science professor to the science students, the more education — educationally effective the lecture was overall,” Los Alamos said.
Science experts who listened to the lecture of the students under the control of the two speakers found the version produced by the person who actually knew anything about quantum mechanics to be educationally superior. Remember, these experts didn’t know which version was being led by the veteran science professor, and which by the idiot. All they heard was the lecture.
Next up will be a study about whether journalists with a technical background in the field they are writing about produce more informed articles about the subject they are covering than those whose expertise lies elsewhere.
We’re only days away from next week’s Orchestra of the Swan concert and recording sessions, and everyone involved is getting excited about meeting up again with our old friends, Bobby and Hans. Our previous encounters have been most memorable. This time out, we’re playing Hans’s Second Symphony, a searingly personal work written in the darkest hours of WW II that ultimately seeks a tone of peace and consolation. This amazing work has, amazingly, not been performed in concert in 61 years. What insanity. Bobby is represented by his second symphony, the one in D minor which we call his Fourth Symphony, the third or fourth and last of his six symphonies, which are numbered 1-4. No wonder the poor guy ended up in an asylum once the publishers got their hands on his music. It’s amazing, and hugely influential. What follows is the welcome blurb from next week’s printed programme, which gives a little sense of the thinking behind the concert:
The relationship between a composer’s personal circumstances and their creative work is often a complicated one. Schumann’s Fourth Symphony is the most dramatic and stormy of his four works in the genre, and yet it was written in what was one of the happiest and most productive years of his life, just after the triumphant premiere of his Spring Symphony in 1841. Even in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime combination of professional success and personal happiness, did Schumann sense the dark clouds of his own tragic destiny on the horizon? Did the struggle against darkness it expresses so powerfully take on new meaning to Schumann when he returned to revise the work ten years later, at a time when his own circumstances were becoming far more difficult, and his future health was becoming a matter of existential concern?
On the other hand, Gál’s Second Symphony is a deeply lyrical, tender, wise and gentle work conceived and completed in an era of mass violence, war, genocide and personal tragedy. At the moment in Gá’s life when he had lost the most, did he choose to assert his will to survive not through Beethovenian defiance or Mahlerian anguish but through music that seeks consolation and comfort, or was he simply writing what he felt he had to?
In both cases, these are symphonies that respond to universal tragedy with an insistent will to live and to seek joy- statements of hope and optimism all the more moving because they were created by artists who had endured incredible darkness and tragedy themselves, and were able to turn from that darkness to something ultimately life-affirming through their music.
Last spring, I was commissioned to write an essay on the work of Eugen Jochum for EMI’s new 20 CD box set of his late recordings in the Icon series. The disc is now out, and I thought Vftp readers might find the essay of interest. I’m confident that anyone who wants to hear core repertoire played with un-surpassable insight and understanding will want to check out the set. Available here
Eugen Jochum was born to a Roman Catholic family in Babenhausen. As he recounted to Alan Blyth in a 1972 Gramophone interview, ‘My father had a little choir school so that he could train his children for the church… I usually played the organ when my father was conducting and if he went on holiday, I would take over the conducting too – although I was only nine… And I had to accompany, and transpose, all of which was excellent training’.
He completed his formal studies in nearbyAugsburgandMunich, then held early posts inMonchengladbach,Kieland then went to Manheim, where he attracted the favourable attention of Wilhelm Furtwängler, who would be both a champion of and inspiration to the younger conductor. The 1930s were to be hugely productive for Jochum, during which he served as director of both the Hamburg Opera and Philharmonic, eventually developing a repertoire of over 60 operas. Jochum, to his credit, managed to avoid getting entangled with the Nazis.
The most important appointment of his career came in 1949, when he was made the founding music director of the Bavarian Radio Symphony inMunich, an ensemble he built into one of the most admired orchestras inEurope. He also had long partnerships with the Berliner Philharmoniker, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,Amsterdam, where he served as Co-Principal Conductor alongside the young Bernard Haitink in the early 1960s.
Furtwängler remains the conductor to whom Jochum is most frequently compared. Both men were most at home among the monuments of the Austro-German repertoire, both were known for flexibility of tempo, but for both men, their seemingly spontaneous approach to tempo was grounded in a highly rigorous and analytical approach to score study, and both were keenly concerned with revealing the structure of the music they conducted. However, Jochum was very much his own man. Where Furtwängler was surrounded by something like the cult of a shaman, and could conduct with a beat that was sometimes as mysterious as it could also be illuminating, Jochum was a famously direct and genial man, and his conducting technique was one of pinpoint precision, honed to perfection during his early years in the opera house. Jochum also preferred a leaner, more delineated sound and more precise ensemble than the glorious growl Furtwängler drew from his Berlin Philharmonic.
The Bruckner Specialist
Jochum’s name and career were tied to the music of Anton Bruckner from the moment of his first significant professional success, when he conducted a triumphant performance of Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony with the Munich Philharmonic in 1926. Jochum himself said of the piece ‘this symphony made my whole career.’ From the beginning, Jochum found himself to be completely comfortable with Bruckner’s distinctive sound world: ‘Every young conductor has his problems with Mozart and Beethoven. I never found I had these problems with Bruckner; he seemed to come to me naturally.’ Jochum himself believed his affinity for Bruckner grew from his own training as an organist: ‘I began playing the organ when I was six years old… so his style was never difficult for me.’
From his debut inMunichto his final, triumphant Bruckner performances in the 1980s, many critics and musicians considered him the leading Brucknerian of his era. Off the podium, his commitment to Bruckner’s music included a long tenure as President of the West German Bruckner Society and several essays on Bruckner interpretation. However, Jochum always viewed his interpretations of Bruckner’s music as a work in progress, and he was passionately interested in absorbing the latest research. He was one of the first major Brucknerians to set aside Robert Haas’s original Critical Edition of the symphonies in favour of the new postwar edition made by Leopold Nowak. ‘Haas was, how shall I say, a very gifted man,’ he said, ‘but… I don’t think that kind of editing will do.’ In return, Nowak was unpolitic in his assessment of Jochum’s commitment to understanding Bruckner’s music, ‘The only conductor who ever came to the library, or wrote to ask questions about the sources in all my years editing Bruckner,’ he said, ‘was Eugen Jochum.’
Jochum’s recorded performances of the Bruckner symphonies span almost his entire 60-year career, and his evolution as an interpreter is both clearly apparent but also notably incremental, the core of his artistic persona being present from early on. Critic Herbert Glass described him as someone constantly challenging his own ideas about music: ‘The Fifth Symphony drove him to distraction and he would regard his every performance of it as an interpretation in progress. In rehearsal, such doubts could sorely test an orchestra’s patience, this despite his courtly, respectful treatment of his players.’ Central to Jochum’s approach to all music of the Romantic era, and to Bruckner’s in particular, is the integration of a deeply ingrained structural understanding of the music’s large-scale organization with a finely honed approach to tempo flexibility.
Jochum’s approach to tempo in Bruckner remains controversial among some critics and conductors, but it is also often misunderstood. Where an interpreter like Bernstein, Stokowski or even Karajan might tend to broaden an established tempo to savor a detail or emphasize a cadence, Jochum more often used changes of tempo to underline large-scale musical structure, at his best achieving a rare balance of subtlety and audacity. Where many musicians think first of ‘taking time’ when they think of rubato, Jochum was an expert at moving the music forward, a skill that has nearly vanished from the podium in more recent generations. Over the course of his career, one can hear his control of tempo becoming ever more refined. By the time he recorded this, his final complete cycle, with the Dresden Staatskapelle in the 1970s, his ability to pace a large-scale accelerando is so secure that one often only senses at the arrival of a long buildup that something has been going on at all. Jochum’s Bruckner interpretations ought to be required listening for those who find Bruckner’s music to grandiose, monolithic and static. Jochum’s Bruckner is always going somewhere, full of rhythmic energy and forward motion. His approach to sound is notably less massive and organ-like than that of his contemporary and sometime rival, Herbert von Karajan. Especially inDresden, Jochum elicited brighter and more intense brass playing than many of his peers, creating a sound with more edge if possibly less stentorian power. The Dresden brass were probably still using smaller-bore brass instruments than their American and West German contemporaries, so the orchestral sound is likely closer in many ways to one Bruckner himself would have recognized.
‘He should be de-Bruckner-ized’
Veronica Jochum, pianist and daughter of Eugen Jochum
‘Today, everyone thinks of me as a specialist in Bruckner’s symphonies,’ Jochum said in a 1983 interview. ‘But I began with the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. And it is to their music that I still feel closest.’
Jochum belonged to a generation of mainstream conductors who refused to relinquish Bach to historical specialists. He himself was deeply interested in the questions of source-criticism, historical instruments and style which have proved so influential in the last thirty years, and he wrote an extensive essay on the interpretation of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the 1960s. ‘Even nearer to my heart,’ he remarked toBlyth, ‘is the B minor Mass, the most spiritual work in the repertory.’ In the busy autumn of his career in the 1970’s, he still harboured one great ambition: ‘My greatest wish is to do the B minor Mass again.’
Jochum wore his scholarship lightly, and his underlying approach to early music was highly pragmatic: ‘I realise that there are many specialists in this field, and they know how everything should go from a stylistic point of view but some of them do not succeed in bringing the music to life; their approach is too academic. I don’t think it matters too much if you use a large or a small choir, old or new instruments; what they must be is lively and dramatic. Expression is the heart of the matter.’
Jochum’s ‘greatest wish’ was fulfilled when he recorded the B Minor Mass for EMI in 1983. Jochum’s Bach has in many ways held up better than that of many of his near-contemporaries, such as Klemperer, whose Bach can sound painfully leaden to some modern ears. Jochum’s understanding of dance rhythm, his sense of forward motion so apparent in his Bruckner performances, and his ability to get singers to engage with the meaning of the text, all make for gripping listening in Jochum’s Bach.
The Beethoven symphonies were central to Jochum’s repertoire, and he recorded the cycle three times: first for DG in the 1950s with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Bavarian Radio Symphony, then with the Concertgebouw for Philips in the 1960’s, and finally, this set for EMI with LSO in the 1970s.
Balance seems to have been a key issue in Jochum’s Beethoven, especially as heard in his final cycle. The quirky woodwind chords which open the First Symphony are meticulously balanced, so as to make the most of the unstable harmonies and their resolutions, and as a result, what often sounds like a series of standalone events becomes a phrase. Beethoven himself seemed to welcome and perhaps even prefer larger orchestras, according to the historian Clive Brown, and Jochum’s full LSO string section would have been similar in size to the large orchestras used in the Viennese premieres of Beethoven’s Third, Fourth, Seventh, Eighth and Ninth symphonies. Jochum’s achievement is to elicit incredible clarity of texture and unanimity of rhythm from such a large ensemble. Jochum’s Beethoven sometimes lacks the same sense of propulsion and forward motion that critics often favorably commented on in his interpretations of Mozart and Haydn, but even if he doesn’t seem particularly concerned with Beethoven’s metronome markings, he is clearly aware of harmonic rhythm and phrase structure of every page, and by and large, his performances achieve a sense of momentum which belie their occasionally leisurely tempi. As in his Bruckner, Jochum is particularly adept in making independent lines and cross rhythms come to life. Sample, for instance, the beginning of the development of the Eighth Symphony and note the way in which the arpeggios, moving in contrary motion between high and low strings, are so compellingly shaped and totally clear. Likewise, it is hard to imagine any conductor has ever captured the rhythmic and contrapuntal complexities of the finale of the ‘Eroica’ more incisively than Jochum with the LSO.
The Great Brahmsian
Jochum recorded the Brahms symphonies twice, first in mono for DG in the 1950s, and then with the London Philharmonic in the 1970s. He himself considered the 1964 sessions of Brahms’s piano concertos with Emil Gilels to be his finest recordings. Perhaps it is in Brahms that his artistic maturation is seen to greatest effect. His use of structurally underpinned tempo modification is absolutely central to his approach to this composer, and it is with Brahms that his greatly increased subtlety and mastery of tempo pays the biggest dividends. While the earlier set, for all its beauties, is occasionally let down by the odd awkward transition, ragged ensemble or in-organic accelerando, in this cycle, building on the intervening 20 years of experience and the matchless attentiveness and cohesion of London orchestral musicians at his disposal, Jochum recorded a truly great cycle of Brahms performances. From a conductor’s perspective, it is hard to think of a more technically or musically impressive performance than that of the first movement of the Fourth, in which Jochum is able to achieve complete and effortless-sounding flexibility of tempo, while making sure that all of Brahms’ intricate polyrhythms are articulated with absolute security and clarity.
Another hallmark of Jochum’s approach to Brahms is his ability to sublimate his own personality, where required, to engage with the full range of character across the individual works. The atmosphere of brooding high-tragedy Jochum elicits in the Fourth, with its huge surges and ebbs of tempo, is certainly the work of the same conductor as the similarly intense, even terrifying, performance of Bruckner’s Ninth, but miles away from the warm, unfussy and conspicuously brisk performance of Brahms’ Second, in which the long first movement unfolds with such ease and clarity of purpose.
Jochum was an artist with a huge musical personality, but what continues to impress across his vast discography is his ability to know when and how to apply the components of that personality to the repertoire at hand. This master of rubato could stick with a lively and steady tempo to great effect in Beethoven, Bach and even Brahms, and this master of forward motion also knew when to stop and let the music breathe. A man noted by all for his warmth and good humour, he could unleash the demons in the late Bruckner symphonies with an existential ferocity like few before or since. Surely, this is one of the marks of a conducting Icon?
c Kenneth Woods, 2012
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