Bernstein: ‘Slava! A Political Overture’ (1977)

Another Bernstein rarity, this one written for the inaugural season of Mstislav Rostropovich (Slava) as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. There’s a nifty part for electric guitar partway through, and a taped sequence of political speeches (sometimes cut, though not here).

Rostropovich was of course a political figure, dubbed a dissident by the Soviets after he came to the United States. His appointment as music director of our national orchestra was a nice thumb on the nose gesture by us. Bernstein had been instrumental in getting Slava and his wife, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, out of the Soviet Union.

It’s a wonderfully whacky piece that seems to capture some of the atmosphere of political Washington, even to this day. In its way, this overture is kind of a musical equivalent of a satirical essay by H.L. Mencken.

Leonard Bernstein conducts the Israel Philharmonic.

Bernstein: ‘Elegy for Mippy II’

As we approach Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday on August 25, I’ve been featuring a number of his lesser-known pieces in this space. Here’s another: The “Elegy for Mippy II” for solo trombone, composed in the late 1940s. Mippy was the name of Bernstein’s brother’s dog. The score instructs the player to provide a foot-tapping accompaniment. Ximo Vicedo is the trombonist in the video.

Great moments in film music: ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’

This is the famous hula hoop sequence in the Coen brothers’ 1994 classic “The Hudsucker Proxy.” Though the film is set in late 1950s corporate America, the music of the Soviet Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian somehow suits it to a T. In this section, the music is taken from Khachaturian’s ballets, climaxing with the famous “Sabre Dance.” The hula hoop sequence is also a perfect illustration of the laws of supply and demand.

Bernstein: ‘Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs’

In the run-up to Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, I’ve been highlighting some of his lesser known music. Here’s his jazz/classical fusion piece “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs,” originally written, like Stravinsky’s “Ebony Concerto,” which it resembles, for Woody Herman’s big band. Bernstein conducts this performance for the TV show “Omnibus” in 1955.

Pacific Symphony will perform this piece as part of its Bernstein tribute.

GSOplay at the Gothenburg Symphony

GSOplay is the Gothenburg Symphony’s online series of high definition performance videos. “We release approximately two to three videos per month and normally the performances are available for viewing up to 30 days after the release date,” the website says. Currently, the page features a nice range of repertoire, including the Symphony No. 5 by Sibelius, the “Symphonie fantastique” by Berlioz and the Piano Concerto No. 2 by Stenhammer.

Above, Kent Nagano conducts the orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 3.

Anton Urspruch: Symphony in E-flat (1882)

Anton Urspruch (1850-1907), a name new to me, was a German composer, pedagogue and pianist who studied with Lachner, Raff and Liszt. He was said to be one of the latter’s favorite pupils. He composed many works, but, like Franck and Chausson, only one symphony. The piece is Brahmsian, but lighter and brighter, all to the good. It strikes me, after brief acquaintance, as very worthy of revival.

Marcus Bosch conducts the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie. I have posted the movements separately for easier sampling.

To hear other music in this series, click on the “neglected symphonies” tag at the bottom of this post.

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Luciano Berio: Quattro versioni originali della ‘Ritirata notturna di Madrid’

The full title of this 1975 piece explains what it is: “Quattro versioni originali della ‘Ritirata notturna di Madrid’ di Luigi Boccherini, sovrapposte e transcritte per orchestra.”

In English that would be: “Four Original Versions of the ‘Withdrawal by Night in Madrid’ by Luigi Boccherini, superimposed and transcribed for orchestra.”

Riccardo Chailly conducts the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano “Giuseppe Verdi.”

Enjoy.