Orchestral Work

(1945-46)

Nearly every detail about Nikolai Myaskovsky contradicts common assumptions about the development of musical talent, cultural life in the Soviet Union, and the historical reception of now-forgotten composers. For example, Myaskovsky was born into a family of professional soldiers, yet his father supported Myaskovsky’s desire to study music. After the Russian Revolution, Myaskovsky remained an individualist in outlook and teaching style, regarded as “the musical conscience of Moscow,” yet he worked largely unmolested by the Soviet authorities until the 1948 Zhdanov decree. Finally, though a little-known figure today, Myaskovsky achieved an international reputation during the interwar period, including commissions and consistent performances of his works throughout the West. His life and works are a study in contrasts, with personal tragedy offset by professional success and intense emotional expression guided by respect for formal principles. …

(1927)

Willem Pijper was a Dutch composer, music journalist, and teacher who rose from a humble background to become a central figure of musical life in the Netherlands. Along with his contemporary Matthijs Vermeulen (1888-1967), Pijper is now considered the most important Dutch composer in the first half of the twentieth century.

Pijper was born in a village near Utrecht to working-class parents. A sickly child, he was educated chiefly at home. Pijper wanted to study botany during his brief stint in high school but instead entered the Utrecht Toonkunst Muziekschool in 1911. Here Pijper studied composition with Johan Wagenaar (1862-1941). He took a final examination in music theory in 1915 but continued to study composition privately for a further three years.

Pijper received national recognition with the premiere of his First Symphony in 1918. Enthusiastically taken up by conductor Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951) because of its Mahlerian style, its success began a period of professional growth for Pijper. From 1918-1921 he taught music theory at the Amsterdam College of Music and from 1917-1923 he contributed articles to the Utrechtsch Dagblad. Pijper’s sharply worded criticisms of what he perceived as low performance standards and lazy artistic decisions caused so much trouble for conductor Jan van Gilse (1881-1944) that he resigned from his post with the Utrecht Stedelijk Orkest in 1922. Ironically, this scandal gained Pijper widespread acclaim for his writings as well as his music. Pijper also represented the Netherlands at the 1922 inaugural meeting of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) in Salzburg, afterwards helping establish the Dutch section of the same organization. …

Opera

  • Giannini, Vittorio

    Lucedia, A Legend from Pagan Times. Tragical Opera in a Prelude and three Acts (1931-32). (Vocal score by Otto Lindemann with German & Italian libretto / The full opera score has been lost during the turmoil of the 2nd World War.)

    60,00 
    No. 4490

They met by chance at a trolley car stop in New Jersey in 1926: the 23-year-old composer Vittorio Giannini and the 21-year-old poet Karl Flaster were to work together from 1927 to 1961, and immediately in 1927 they landed a veritable hit with the song ‘Tell Me, Oh Blue, Blue Sky’. Together they wrote 20 songs, 3 operas — ‘Lucedia’, ‘The Scarlett Letter’ (first performed in Hamburg in 1938) and ‘The Harvest’ (first performed in Chicago in 1961) — and the unfinished drama ‘Christus’ (1941-56).
After the success of the first five songs, Giannini and Flaster set to work on ‘Lucedia’ in New York in 1931. They rented a room and, according to Flaster, were often admonished by neighbours who complained about the noise.

The libretto is based on an old Indian legend. Lucedia, the daughter of the high priest, is one of seven virgins responsible for the sacred flame on the altar of the deity. But she falls madly in love with Evol, who sought her out because of a vision. When they are caught in flagrante delicto, the people demand their death. They are thrown into the dungeon and sent out to certain death in a defective boat on the open sea. The opera is set in the forest on the shore of a lake.

Giannini completed ‘Lucedia’ presumably in 1932. In the summer of 1933 he visited his sister Dusolina in Berlin. She had made a great career in Germany after her sensational debut with ‘Aida’ in 1927 and introduced him to Wilhelm Furtwängler, who, however, according to a contemporary press note, could not warm to Vittorio Giannini’s music – unlike Oswald Kabasta soon afterwards. In 1933, G. M. Sala translated Karl Flaster’s libretto for ‘Lucedia’ into Italian and Hans Ferdinand Redlich (1903-68) translated it into German. The premiere of ‘Lucedia’ was already scheduled for November 1933 in Frankfurt am Main, but due to an intervention by the National Socialists it was cancelled. …

Chamber Music

Sæverud is, arguably, Norway’s pre-eminent symphonic composer. With his nine symphonies, five concertos and numerous orchestral works, including ballet and stage music, he created a distinctive body of work, wide in scope and imagination. His music for piano stands as a truly original and unique contribution to the literature.
He began writing in a style redolent of late romanticism. For roughly a decade he experimented with atonality before finding his mature voice around the beginning of the Second World War. His music is characterized by an intense focus on the present moment and is strongly influenced by Western Norwegian nature, with its abrupt contrasts both in landscape and weather. He was always mostly interested in musical lines and the way they interact with one another, and was a master at the exacting art of two-part writing. He always demanded full characterization of every note and every phrase, often stating that “every note is a personality”. …

 

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