Tuesday, January 15, 2002

[1/15/2011] Stormy weather, part 1 (continued)


The opening scene of Otello, with Jon Vickers in the title role, from the 1974 film by Herbert von Karajan, whose soundtrack is the recording Karajan made the year before, from which hear this scene below, where you'll find the cast list for this scene.


We've actually devoted a certain amount of attention to Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony, first in October 2010 in tandem with its "fraternal twin," Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, and then in May 2011 on its own, as "Music for a late-spring Sunday."

In the course of those posts we've heard performances of the sequence of the third through fifth movements by:
* Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony,
* Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra,
* Pierre Monteux and the London Symphony
* Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic, and
* Günter Wand and the NDR Symphony,
and of the whole symphony by Bruno Walter and the Columbia Symphony.

I was actually prepared to repurpose some combination of these recordings for today's post. However, this time out we're dealing with a new Sunday Classics reality. Our musical host, Internet Archive, has just this week switched to a new audio-video player, and while many of the changes, both for good and bad, will only affect the behind-the-scenes operation here at Sunday Classics, some of the changes will be audible or visible to you.

One apparent difference concerns audio files with multiple tracks. With the old player, the passage from track to track always seemed to be luck-of-the-draw. It seemed to be a matter of how quickly the system accessed the new file --sometimes quicly, sometimes not so quickly. With the new player, however (which seems basically designed to handle video playlists), it's seeming to me to take interminably long all the time.

This is a problem when those multiple tracks are musically continuous. On a CD, the editor can control the pause between-track points, down to no pause at all, which is how the last three movements of the Pastoral Symphony are meant to play, since Beethoven designed them to be played without interruption. We've already got so many perfectly good files of this three-movement sequence stockpiled that my first thought was to give some of them an encore performance. But when I listened to a few of them in the new order, I found the hiatuses unbearable, and finally decided that no indeed, they were not to be borne.

I suppose I can learn how to dump separate CD tracks into single continuous audio files; it can't be that difficult. (It better not be.) But for now the only solution I could come up with was to go back to LPs, and just live with the inevitable surface noise that would mean.

The nice thing is that such necessities sometimes simultaneously bring opportunities, and a couple of recordings quickly popped to mind.d switch tracks in playing audio files that contain multiple tracks. for the apparently interminable time it takes the new MP3 player to move from track to track, I've gone back to LP, and we're going to start with Otto Klemperer's October 1957 EMI studio recording, the one that generated the famous spat with producer Walter Legge over the conductor's gradual tempo for the peasants' dance.

One of the previews to the May 2011 post on the Pastoral Symphony was titled "Otto Klemperer makes us ponder how fast Beethoven's peasants dance," and in it I told a famous story from the making of Klemperer's EMI stereo recording of the symphony. When producer Walter Legge, expressed concern about the slow tempo Klemperer had staked out for the peasants'-dance scherzo, Klemperer replied, "You'll get used to it." Later in the sessions, when they came back to the movement, Klemperer asked, "Walter, have you gotten used to it yet?"

We did hear the famous Klemperer scherzo in the May post. Since I don't have the Klemperer-EMI Beethoven cycle on CD (I've never found the performances that interesting), I made a digital dub of the "Peasants' Dance." As I pointed out, it's really not all that slow, and when we hear it in the context of the three-movement sequence, as we're going to today, I think you may agree that the pacing makes excellent sense, and raises the glorious finale to a majestic climax.

Looking back at the May posts, I noticed for the first time an interesting question added to that preview post by an unfortunately anonymous reader: "Of course, your anecdote about Klemperer and Legge, begs the question: Is the version last night by André Cluytens his or Legge?

The answer is that as far as I know Legge had nothing to do with the making of the Cluytens-Berlin Philharmonic Beethoven symphony cycle, either as producer or as EMI a&r director, since it was made, as far as I know, by the French EMI company, Pathé-Marconi (now EMI France), possibly with the participation of the German EMI company, Electrola, since the recordings were after all made in Berlin.

The other performance we're going to hear is the wonderful series of recordings that William Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Symphony made for Enoch Light's Command label in the early to mid-1960s. (We last heard their rousing, buoyant Tchaikovsky Nutcracker Suite.) I've encountered a reference to a CD issue of the Beethoven symphony cycle by a Montreal company, but I don't find any trace of it, and I'm not aware of another CD edition. So let's listen to that first, and then the Klemperer recording.

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 (Pastoral):
iii. Merry gathering of the peasants: Allegro
iv. Thunderstorm: Allegro
v. Shepherd's song; Happy and grateful feelings after the storm: Allegretto

Then, because I keep making such a fuss about the series of recordings William Steinberg and the Pittsburgh Symphony made for Enoch Light's Command label, we'll hear their performance.

[Storm: 5:15 to 8:42] Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, William Steinberg, cond. Command, recorded c1966 [audio link]

[Storm: 6:25 to 10:05] Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer, cond. EMI, recorded October 1957 [audio link]


We've also heard this opening sequence of Otello before, from the thundering opening through Otello's "Esultate," in what I thought was an interesting assortment of four performances, and again I thought we could resurrect some of them for this post, but again I was troubled by the track switch(es) -- all the CD editions naturally have a track point somewhere around the start of the "Esultate, which for our purposes would have made for a full stop that would have seriously undercut the scene. So again I've gone to the LPs for three "new" performances, giving us representations of the dominant Otellos of the last half-century, Jon Vickers and Plácido Domingo and for good measure a performance in English.

VERDI: Otello: Act I opening: Chorus, "Una vela!" . . . "Dio, fulgor della bufera" . . . Otello, "Esultate" . . . Chorus, "Vittoria! Vittoria!"
Outside the castle, with the sea wall and sea in the background. An inn with a pergola. It is evening. A thunderstorm is raging.

THE CROWD: A sail! A sail!
A standard! A standard!
MONTANO: It’s the Winged Lion!
CASSIO: We can see it when the lightning flashes.
THE CROWD: A trumpet call!
A cannon shot!
CASSIO: It’s Otello’s ship.
MONTANO: The violent waves
make it rise and fall.
CASSIO: They lift the bow skyward!
THE CROWD: The clouds and sea conceal it.
And lightning now reveals it.
Lightning. Thunder. Vortex.
All the tempest’s fury.
The waves tremble. The sky trembles.
The world itself trembles to its core.
With blind rage the waves make the heavens spin.
The gods shake the callous sky
like a bleak, billowing veil.
All is smoke. All is fire.
An inferno that enflames and engulfs all.
The universe itself shakes.
The north wind soars like a phantom.
The titans strike the anvil, and the heavens roar.
God, in the midst of the storm smile upon us.
Save the banner of Venetian glory!
Thou, who reigns over the heavens and the earth.
Calm the gale.
Place the anchor true in the midst of the sea.
JAGO: The mast is breaking.
RODERIGO: The ship will crash on the rocks.
JAGO: (May the sea be Otello’s grave.)
THE CROWD: They are saved!
They’re manning the rowboats.
They’re approaching shore!
They’re at the docks. Evviva!
OTELLO: Rejoice!
The pride of the Ottomans
rests at the bottom of the sea.
Our glory is from heaven.
For the storm
has destroyed our enemy.
THE CROWD: Evviva, Otello! Evviva!
The enemy is destroyed, buried in the deep sea.
For a requiem they have the crash of the waves.
The abyss of the sea. Victory!
Our enemy is buried at sea.
The storm is calmed at last.

Mario Macchi (b), Montano; Aldo Bottion (t), Cassio; Peter Glossop (b), Jago; Michel Sénéchal (t), Roderigo; Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. EMI, recorded 1973 [audio link]

Edward Toumajian (b), Montano; Ezio di Cesare (t), Cassio; Justino Díaz (bs-b), Jago; Constantin Zaharia (t), Roderigo; Plácido Domingo (t), Otello; Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Lorin Maazel, cond. EMI, recorded 1985 [audio link]

[in English] John Gibbs (b), Montano; Adrian Martin (t), Cassio; Neil Howlett (b), Jago; Stuart Kale (t), Roderigo; Charles Craig (t), Otello; English National Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Mark Elder, cond. EMI, recorded live, October 1981 [audio link]


I already had a lineup planned that would include storms by the likes of Britten, Grofé, Rossini, and Verdi again (it was actually the amazing storm in the final act of Rigoletto that got me to thinking about this), but I decided it's too much for one post. We'll have Part 2 at a future date -- very likely next week, but one never knows about such things. We'll add just one more specimen, to bring in a French storm to set alongside our Austrian and Italian (based on an English play about Venetians) ones.

In Berlioz' epic opera The Trojans, more or less based on The Aeneid, Aeneas and a party of Trojans have escaped their doomed city just before its sacking by the Greeks, charged with a divine mission to found, or maybe just find, something called "Italy." With a talent for leaving destruction in his wake, Aeneas first finds Carthage, where he becomes passionately involved with the Carthaginian queen, Dido. This is the state of affairs at the time of the pantomimed "Royal Hunt and Storm," which opens Act IV. Come Act V, however, Aeneas will be rebitten by the "Italy" bug, and . . . well, it doesn't end happily for Dido or Carthage.

BERLIOZ: Les Troyens: Act IV, Scene 1, Royal Hunt and Storm
A forest in Africa, in the morning. At the rear, a very high crag. Below and to the left of the rock, the opening of a grotto. A small stream flows the length of the crag and finally is lost in a natural basin bordered by rushes and reeds. Two naiads allow themselves to be seen for an instant and disappear; then we see them swimming in the basin.

Royal hunt. Hunting horns resound in the distance in the forest. The frightened naiads hide in the reeds. Young Ascanius [the son of Aeneas], on horseback, crosses the stage at a gallop.

The sky is obscured; rain falls. Growing storm . . . . Soon the tempest becomes terrible; torrents of rain, hail, lightning, and thunder. Repeated calls by the hunting horns in the midst of the tumult of the elements. The hunters disperse in every direction; at the end we see Dido dressed as the huntress Diana, bow in hand, quiver on her shoulder, and Aeneas in semi-military garb. They are both on foot. They enter the grotto.

Immediately the forest nymphs, hair disheveled, appear at the top of the crag, and come and go, shouting and making wild gestures. Amid their clamors we can distinguish from time to time the word "Italy."

Orchestre de Paris, Daniel Barenboim, cond. CBS/Sony, recorded Feb.-March 1976 [audio link]

Chorus of the OSM, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Charles Dutoit, cond. Decca, recorded October 1993 [audio link]


Since we've lightened today's load, and since I had already prepared a number of those pre-existing audio files for reuse, here they are.

VERDI: Otello: Act I opening: Chorus, "Una vela!" . . . "Dio, fulgor della bufera" . . . Otello, "Esultate" . . . Chorus, "Vittoria! Vittoria!"

Arthur Newman (b), Montano; Virginio Assandri (t), Cassio; Giuseppe Valdengo (b), Jago; Leslie Chabay (t), Roderigo; Ramón Vinay (t), Otello; Chorus, NBC Symphony Orchestra, Arturo Toscanini. Broadcast performance, Dec. 6, 1947 [audio link]

Siegfried Rudolf Friese (bs), Montano; Ryland Davies (t), Cassio; Peter Glossop (b), Jago; Hans Vickmann (t), Roderigo; Jon Vickers (t), Otello; Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan, cond. Live performance from the Salzburg Festival, July 30, 1971 [audio link]

Malcolm King (bs), Montano; Frank Little (t), Cassio; Sherrill Milnes (b), Jago; Paul Crook (t), Roderigo; Plácido Domingo (t), Otello; Ambrosian Opera Chorus, National Philharmonic Orchestra, James Levine, cond. RCA/BMG, recorded August 1978 [audio link]

Alan Opie (b), Montano; Antony Rolfe Johnson (t), Cassio; Leo Nucci (b), Jago; John Keyes (t), Roderigo; Luciano Pavarotti (t), Otello; Chicago Symphony Chorus and Orchestra, Sir Georg Solti, cond. Decca, recorded in concert in Chicago and New York, April 1991 [audio link]

BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 (Pastoral):
iii Merry gathering of the peasants: Allegro
iv. Thunderstorm: Allegro
v. Shepherd's song; Happy and grateful feelings after the storm: Allegretto

Chicago Symphony, Fritz Reiner, cond. RCA/BMG, recorded 1961 [audio link]

Gewandhaus Orchestra (Leipzig), Kurt Masur, cond. Philips, recorded December 1992 [audio link]


BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 6 in F, Op. 68 (Pastoral):
i. Awakening of Agreeable Impressions on Arrival in the Country: Allegro ma non troppo
ii. Scene by the Brook: Andante molto moto
iii. Merry gathering of the peasants: Allegro
iv. Thunderstorm: Allegro
v. Shepherd's song; Happy and grateful feelings after the storm: Allegretto

Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Bruno Walter, cond. Columbia/CBS/Sony, recorded Jan. 13, 15, and 17, 1958 [audio link]



See With the full symphony orchestra you can create a heckuva storm (aka: Musical storms, part 2) (January 29)

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At 6:44 PM, Anonymous wjbill49 said...

Wow, this is a lot of music Ken


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