Sunday, May 06, 2012

Sunday Classics: Encores, part 1 -- Three legendary pianists


It makes a nifty encore too! Leonard Bernstein conducts his Overture to Candide, kicking off this December 1989 concert performance of the complete musical with the London Symphony Orchestra.

by Ken

As you may have guessed from Friday's preview ("Encore, encore!"), when we heard the great cellist János Starker play three prime encore pieces -- all, as it happened, arranged for cello and piano from other instrumental configurations. I didn't have a very clear idea Friday where exactly this post was headed, except that it would be all encores.

Okay, we're stretching a little with the above video clip, in which Leonard Bernstein conducts his Candide Overture at the start of a concert performance of the piece. But for easily understandable reasons, countless conductors -- including Lenny himself, as memory serves -- used the Candide Overture as a peerlessly rousing encore.

The thing about encores is that they often represent the artist at his/her most personal, whether they're designed to rouse, seduce, charm, or just plain ravish. It's such a large subject, however, that after initially deciding that we would deal only with instrumental encores, leaving the vast subject of vocal ones for another time, I decided to narrow it down even further, to piano encores, at least once we get to the click-through, where we're going to hear sets of encores from three of the 20th's century's greatest pianists-- two of them actual sets of encores from actual concerts, the third a selection of favorite encores of his made by the artist to fill out an LP side.

Before we go there, though, I though we might hear another encore-suitable piece, an arrangement of a traditional Catalan carol for cello and orchestra, which aims to stir listeners in a very different way.

CASALS (arr.): El Cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds)

Prades Festival Orchestra, Pablo Casals, cello and cond. Columbia/CBS/Sony, recorded 1950



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