Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Symphony No. 1 in D major, D 82
Symphony No. 2 in B-flat major, D 125
Symphony No. 3 in D major, D 200
Symphony No. 4 in C minor, "Tragic" D 417
Symphony No. 5 in B-flat major, D 485
Symphony No. 6 in C major "Little C Major" D 589
Symphony No. 8 in B minor "Unfinished" D 759
Symphony No. 9 in C major "Great C Major" D 944
1) There's a symphony missing.
2) It's not the unfinished symphony.
Unfinished, but included
The official "Unfinished" symphony (No. 8) incompletion wasn't because of Schubert's death. He wrote the first and second movement in 1822 (six years before his death), and just never got around to writing the last two movements. (most symphonies from this era had four movements). The first two movements were of such quality, though, that they were performed and have become part of the standard repertoire.
Unfinished and missing
The missing symphony is No. 7 is even more of a fragment than the 8th. composed in 1821, this E major symphony exists in sketch form, with a melody line and bass and counterpoint underneath. Unlike the 8th, all four movements of the 7th were written, and the first part of the first movement is fully orchestrated (the next step in the composition process).
The other other unfinished symphony
And there's another symphony missing from the list. In the final weeks of his life, Schubert composed a 10th symphony in a piano reduction score. That is, the music is written to be played on the piano, with notes indicating instruments for later orchestration. Like the 7th, it appears to be complete in sketch form.
With a significant amount of these compositions complete, it isn't surprising that musicians have been tempted to fill in the blanks.
Symphony No. 7's three co-composers
Schubert's 7th symphony was first completed in 1881 by John Francis Barnett, an English composer and teacher. Famed conductor Felix Weingartner did his own version in 1934, and featured it in performance. The final version (to date) is by composer and scholar Brian Newbould, who extensively studied Schubert in order to make his completion as authentic as possible.
Symphony No. 10's two-and-a-half co-composers
The score for Symphony No. 10 was only identified as such in the 1970's, and Brian Newbould offered a scholarly completion of it. Conductor Pierre Bartholomeé revised Newbould's version with controversial results. And finally, composer Luciano Berio used the source material as the basis for his work "Rendering."
So how many symphonies did Schubert really write? In terms of completed works, seven. In terms of what's commonly performed, eight. And in terms of what might have been, ten.
But are these completions valid? It's difficult to say Schubert may have revised the surviving material after working with it for a while. While we can say a combination of instruments for a certain passage is likely, based on Schubert's other works, it's possible he may have chosen differently.
Personally, I think the sketches are complete enough that most of the resulting music is Schubert's. And I'm glad for the opportunity to hear these works, even in an adulterated form. They deepen my understanding and appreciation of this short-lived musical genius.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Wendy Warner, cello
Camerata Chicago; Drostan Hall, conductor
An appealing program played by a masterful virtuoso. That's my impression of this new release from Cedille. As with many recordings, this Chicago-based label uses local talent -- but what talent it is!
Drostan Hall and the Camerata Chicago perform with precision and sensitivity admirably suited to Haydn. And Wendy Warner, though from Chicago, is an internationally-recognized cellist who brings a fresh interpretation to some well-known works.
The two cello concertos of Franz Joseph Haydn have long been repertoire staples, and just about every major cellist has recorded them. Warner's performances are expressive without being overly dramatic. The clear, singing tone of her Guarneri cello is beautiful -- and beautifully recorded. And Warner's interpretation, accompanied by a small ensemble, makes these works sound warmly intimate.
Sandwiched between the Haydn concertos on the album is Josef Myslivecek's only concerto for cello. A contemporary of Haydn (and friend of Mozart), Myslivecek's wrote in a similar style that nicely complements the Haydn concerti. And the Myslivecek concerto does not suffer for the comparison. Myslivecek wrote in a leaner, more straight-forward manner, bringing the aesthetics of the classical style to the forefront of his music.
Monday, November 18, 2013
Orquestra de la Comunitat Valencian
Pablo Heras-Casado, conductor
Normally a new recital disc of Verdi arias by Placido Domingo would not be particularly noteworthy, except this disc features the great tenor in arias written for the baritone voice. After a distinguished career as a tenor, Domingo now is singing Verdi's baritone roles. Already Covent Garden, Berlin, Mantua, and the Met have heard him as Simon Boccanegra, Germont, and in other roles, but this new disc features a broad spectrum of arias composed by Verdi for his baritone characters.
Distinguished Verdi baritones are a rare commodity these days, so this disc is especially welcome. Verdi's baritone roles typically lie mostly in the upper part of a lyric baritone's register, well within the range of Domingo's voice.
Domingo the baritone does not evoke memories of Macneil, Warren, or Milnes. Instead, he makes these arias his own, almost as though Verdi composed them for a lower-voiced tenor. The dark, but still lyric quality of the Domingo voice is still very much in evidence, as is the noble phrasing and immaculate technique.
As always, he does not simply sing the arias, but he inhabits the role that he is portraying. Boccanegra's curse terrifies, and Germont's sorrow is made real for us. Domingo's voice does not quite reach the depths of the baritone register, so a phrase or two is not perfectly finished where it concludes in the lower register, as in "Eri tu" from Un ballo in maschera, but otherwise his voice comfortably fits the selections he has chosen for this recital.
Particular favorites are "Pietà, rispetto, amore" from Macbeth, which opens the disc, and Rigoletto's anguished "Cortigiani, vil razza dannata." Domingo's treatment of Germont's aria "Di Provenza il mar" from La traviata rivals Robert Merrill's interpretation in its lyricism, if not in pure baritonal heft. Verdi usually encouraged a lyrical interpretation from his singers (the role of Lady Macbeth being an exception), and he would have approved of Domingo's always lyrical approach. It is only in the arias from La forza del destino, where we have grown accustomed to a more muscular approach, that Domingo's treatment of Carlo's music is not entirely convincing. albeit beautifully sung.
Throughout the disc Pablo Heras-Casado's conducting of the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana is supportive and flexible. (Heras-Casado recently made his Met debut conducting Rigoletto).