classical music

Music-lovers in the Netherlands are served high-level music during from 29th June to 3rd July at various venues in the central city of Utrecht.

Janine Jansen, Violine

Janine Jansen, Violine, photographiert am 10.04.2005 in der Koelner Philharmonie.

As the program is accessible in English as well as Dutch, I’m simply providing a link  here. For appetizer, let me only refer to the fact that the main draw is Janine Jansen, the Dutch violin virtuoso of international renown, and her friends.

About the venues I have to say that most on the list are not venues at all, or I can’t see why they’ve made it to the list for reasons other than they are nice and famous places in the city. A few of them are only starting points of city walks with some music. The main venue seems to be TivoliVredenburg, but parts of it only serve as venues for children’s concerts.


The famous Domtoren, Utrecht.

However, the main program there is impressive. At the opening concert, Steven Isserlis on the cello joins Ms Jansen. At other concerts Itamar Golan accompanies her and others on the piano so there’s a lot to be expected.

As to the programmes, there is a wide range besides the usual Dutch fixtures of baroque. At the main venue, in TivoliVredenburg GZ, besides Schubert and Beethoven, a lot more and more modern pieces can also be heard, from Bruch and Debussy through Mendelssohn and Korngold to Kodály, Bartók Messiaen and Shostakovich. But of course don’t expect to hear anything like to wonderful Arensky-, Joachim Raff- or Julius Röntgen-trios, that is, nothing really out of the ordinary. Only thing to be aware of is timing as some of the concerts take place in the morning or during the afternoon, not always in the evening.

Stay tuned, tickets are still available, there’s a nice choice and good musicians. Better plans to start the summer? Hardly.

by P.S.

I’ve just received information about a number of very worthy concerts in Budapest, Hungary, but I have to admit it was too late in the first case: tickets to the concert of the Bogányi family and the New Budapest Chamber Orchestra at the Budapest Academy of Music on 15th May have already been sold out. A great pity that we have to miss such a rare concert, where five siblings perform on different instruments in the same concert, among them perhaps the best pianist of the younger generation of Hungarian pianists, Bogányi Gergely. I wouldn’t really care about the programme comprising Purcell, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Puccini, Vivaldi and Weber, but it would still be a very special evening.

To commemorate a concert Beethoven himself gave in Buda on 7th May, 1900, a month after the premiere of his first symphony, a small series of concerts are in the first week of May. The world-famous pianist, Malcom Bilson gives a recital in the great hall of the Hungarian Academy in the Castle on 5th May, performing pieces by Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin.

On Saturday, 7th May, the popular Hungarian pianist, Vásáry Tamás performs sonatas by Beethoven (Pathetique, Mondschein, Les adieux and Appassionata), then on Sunday, 8th May, Beethoven piano concertos can be heard in the performance of musicians who won this year’s cadenza-competition. On program are the first two concertos, the Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in B-flat major, WoO 6, and the rare Concerto composed in his youth in B-flat major, WoO 4.

I’m not aware whether tickets are still available for any of these three concerts but they certainly are worth a try.

The last concert is still available, though I’m not quite sure if it should be labelled as opera or concert: Verdi’s Othello is performed at the Margit-szigeti Open-air Stage in Budapest on 29th and 31st July with a single singer named. But that is Rost Andrea, the best Hungarian soprano still really active among the best ones. As no other singers are named, I’d have to suppose it’s going to be a concert recital of the opera, except that without anyone for Othello, it’ll be a strange concert. Still, if Rost Andrea sings, it doesn’t really matter who the other singers are, it is worth getting a ticket on either of the evening. Hope you can get yours in time too.

by P.S.

Whoever listened to this piece at a live event? Congratulations if you’ve ever heard the piece, or even if you’ve listened to chamber music more often than by sheer coincidence.

As the name suggests, this type of music has never been intended for a very wide public. A violin sonata, or a string quartet is difficult to enjoy in a stadium, an amphitheater, or in the open air in general, where huge masses can enjoy Strauss polkas with Sir Simon Rattle at the head of the full Berlin Philharmonic though. This is reflected on concert programmes around the world as well, where chamber music is rarely played.

It is, however, highly suitable for smaller concert chambers, like those in former or present palaces in rural areas almost anywhere in Europe or elsewhere. But musical life is also driven by money, so chamber music is still a rarity. Besides, it hasn’t got such a wide repertoire as the piano or the orchestra, and as a result, audiences that do frequent chamber events are served a limited palette of pieces for, for example, piano trios, quartets and quintets, which I’d like to deal with in this post.

This limitation in scope is probably a result of the little chance for the musicians to be heard. If a trio or quartet can only get 2 concert opportunities per year, they can’t afford to time to learn a new, however wonderful, piece for every concert down the years. So they learn the compulsory round of Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Dvorak, Brahms and perhaps the great Tchaikovsky trio, and if they get busy, they may add Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Ravel, or Debussy. To get as far as Smetana, Fibich, or Arensky is probably too much for all but the most stable formations.

A few groups, however, do try to research for rarities, and when they find gems like I’m going to include below, and their productions somehow make it to youtube, we can but be grateful to them. High kudos and great thanks to all musicians who make our musical horizons wider. There’s a dazzling array of romantic, late romantic and post-romantic chamber pieces for piano trios, quartets and quintets out there.

I’m not going to include any pieces by the above-mentioned composers as I presume my reader is already reasonably familiar with those pieces. I’m going on with my favourite piece on my list: Xaver Scharvenka’s piano quintet put on separately in three movements, and I’m not going to say much more, as the music does enough of the speaking. Hope you can enjoy all in due course.

Women classical composers may have got into the limelight recently, but I wonder who’s heard their chamber pieces. Here go a few:

Another set by another favourite of mine, Joachim Raff:

Then one that is not such a rarity among musicians perhaps, yet, it is still rarely heard in concert live:

With this we are already in the 20th century:

by P.S.

I’ve had no problem listening to more music recently. Fortunately, I’ve been working at home as a translator so I can listen to music almost any time I want. As a result, I’ve discovered quite a few pieces new to me since my last post. I’ve still found a few unknown piano concertos and a lot of chamber music as well, of which I’ll soon post a bunch, but first I’d like to introduce my readers to excellent cello concertos.

Since recordings by Casals, Rostropovicz, Piatigorsky, Jaqueline du Pré, or Lynn Harell, among other greats, have introduced the very best of the classical repertoire beyond the concert podiums and made it accessible for masses at home, this repertoire, quite like that of the piano, seems to be concentrated on a few outstanding pieces promoted by those cellists. I’m not saying that concertos like those of Elgar, Dvorak, Saint-Saëns, Schumann, or even those of Bach, Vivaldi or Boccherini are not masterpieces and not worth listening to. However, the masses of the late 20th century moved away from classical music, especially the baroque and classicism, partly because they got tired of always listening to the same few classics when exposed to something valuable. Modern trends in the classical genre did little to help keep younger generations with classical music, as they expressed more the tragedies and the alienation from the world’s problems rather than showing a way forward with their lives.

As we look through the list of cello concertos on Google, or the like, we get to published recordings of almost always the same, with rare exceptions, like Rostropovicz’s attempt at the R. Strauss and Bloch concertos. Fortunately, youbute is again the best place to access some classical choice with the value of novelty as lesser-known cellists have little change for wide publicity, but when they are somehow published, there are a few enthusiasts who collect and upload their work despite the danger of running into copyright problems. From what I’ve discovered from them, I’m showing a handful below, with the added remark that they may disappear from youtube any time. Apologies for that, but until then, I wish you can enjoy these beautiful pieces as much as I have done.

This is not a long list as the literature for the cello is not nearly as extensive as that for the piano. A friend of mine recently said that lesser-known composers have not the distinguishing styles the greatest have. You may have discovered how unjust this remark is after listening to several piano concertos of Ries or Elmas on youtube. Here I can also attest against this opinion by showing Karl Davydov, who fortunately composed two concertos for the cello and show a very beautiful and recognisable style of his own.

After the first version of this post I also managed to find two more of Julius Röntgen’s beautiful concertos, so his style can also be further analysed. Here they are:

In my following post, I’m going to show you excellent works of chamber music that you may not have heard yet. Until then, I hope you’ve enjoyed these pieces above.

by P.S.

Since my first post about almost-forgotten gems of the piano literature, I haven’t had so many hits by my readers but I’m free to suppose this may be due to people’s focus on looking for what they are already interested in. Who would be looking for compositions and past composers almost nobody knows about? It’s a shame, but I must live with this. However, I’m convinced that those works and composers deserve attention even when attention is firmly focused on the most brand-new developments. Most people grow up and then grow old becoming a bit more quiet and reserved and may find joy in such ‘ancient’ pieces as I’ve found.

Because I haven’t been idle with listening to and searching for pieces new for me even while I’m busy in front of the computer working away on translations. And I have discovered more gems since my previous post. So here is a host of links to them below. Now that you, my kind visitor, have come so far, all you need to do is click and enjoy. I don’t think listening to these recordings would be a serious infringement on anyone’s copyrights as these pieces would remain hidden and buried under layers of heaps of other stuff more familiar for the masses. Even so, I have to admit some of my earlier findings have already been scraped off youtube for this reason. Very unfortunate, as thus we can no longer find those pieces anywhere any longer, except at the bottom of specialized libraries and personal collections.

I apologize that the no. 4 concerto I have found by Stavenhanger comes in movements. Still, it’s worth it:

This one by Ludwig Schytte also comes in movements:

To close it for now, here’s a brilliant 20th century piece:

by P.S. and Z.J.S.

This site was set up originally for matters concerning our book on singing and discussing vocal music, but things have been slightly changing all through our lives. Having listened to a lot of classical music over half a century, I’ve got used to looking for new recordings of well-known music and also new music, about which the Hungarian classical radio channel, Bartók Rádió, has always been very good. However, living away from Hungary for years now, I feel that what sources I’ve amassed is not enough, and, not having access to a radio, listening to the Dutch classical television channel is completely dissatisfying. What can I do?

Dissatisfaction seems to be a great way to find new things. When I discussed the apparent lack of serious Dutch musicians and composers compared to other small nations (where is the Dutch Liszt, or Grieg, or Sibelius?) with a friend, he mentioned a name as that of a Dutch composer, which for me was familiar from the sciences. Röntgen. But this was Julius Röntgen, I was informed and given the suggestion of listening to his piano concertos. Which can be done on YouTube. Brilliant.

Röntgen turned out to be a German composer, pianist and teacher who moved to Amsterdam after 26 years, did a lot for Dutch music, and can be partially regarded as Dutch, as much as Händel is English, I think. But the music he composed is very well worth a couple of listenings.

From that point, I went about this great site looking out again for new music, this time for names I hardly ever heard. It’s easy as one name leads to several similar, but different pieces, composers and performers randomly. I’ve listened to music by Moszkowski, Clara Schumann, or Arnesky and a few others earlier for that matter, but I’ve never heard the concertos that I started to be enthusiastic about now. Most people don’t ever hear names like Balakirev, let alone Sergei Bortkiewicz, Kalkbrenner, or Ludwig Thuille, and not only because most people listen only to pop, rock, or jazz and the like. But this piece, by Moszkowski, for one, may be considered by many as entertaining as anything in music:

I believe that the very academia that lifts Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, or Tsaikovsky to the concert podiums is the cause of neglecting other music, mostly without reasons. How can there be reasons in matters aesthetic in the first place? The only reasonable reason can be found in accessibility, and that’s where academia is in serious arrears. But how could it be otherwise? One reads, looks at and listens to art first as a result of the influences from school and family, the latter being even more confined than the first. But school can’t provide everything either, what with time and curricular constraints, individual interests of teachers and our own modern tendencies and resistances. The teacher herself/himself is also the ‘product’ of education, with the same constraints. When one has to wrestle with the greatest works first, there is hardly any more time for ‘lesser’ ones. Then we run out of time, start a career with what we have learned and only rarely have the time or urge to do further research on the personal level. We’ve read War and Peace, Hamlet, Don Quixote, or A Hundred Years in Solitude, Die Erlkönig, but how about Michel Tournier’s The Erl-King? We run into a wall of the academically promoted mass of knowledge. What is not documented well and cross-referenced at least a few times, what has rarely, if ever, been published is almost forgotten and, in the case of music, can no longer be heard. A case in point may be Bortkiewicz’s second piano concerto, which was composed for the left hand of the same pianist for whom Ravel’s famous piece was composed, but this piece has been mostly forgotten as the composer’s name was not Ravel:

Another reason could be that a performer today has to try to stand out either as a modernist who takes up the latest, or almost very latest pieces (seen enough promoted on TV) that very few people would be willing or hardy enough to sit out, or as an outstanding classicist who performs the same great masterworks, hopefully with some new colours and feelings added. The first case would be very tedious, the second could also become tedious for the audience.

Enter the internet and YouTube. Of course, there always are and probably remain copyright problems, but we have to face the fact that without the net, we would have next to a snowball’s chance in hell to listen to these composers. If ever. And even less likely every day. We would need a ten-volume lexicon even to discover names like I mentioned above if we have the time to open such work to begin with. But if the (not always outstanding) musicians willing to play the music live, once in a life-time, do not come in our neighbourhood, and if we say, OK, I have absolutely no idea who Paul Pabst, Hanns Wolf, or Ignacy Paderewski was, so I’ll miss that concert tomorrow evening … , well, in that case we’ll die without ever hearing that music. This music. Because now we can embrace this possibility and learn not only that Paderewski was the first prime minister of the newly independent Poland for a short time in 1919 (like the famed writer Havel a president for the Czech recently), or an exceedingly popular pianist, but also a composer of good, or shall we say? excellent music:

This is enough of me. Below, please find links to those piano concertos I’ve found exceedingly interesting and beautiful over the last few weeks. They are almost exclusively 19th century music, or from the late romantics, the romantic period being my favourite. From each link, you can also find other links to other pieces of the same composers or to other composers, as usual. I’d particularly recommend following links to various compositions of Julius Röntgen, Moszkowsk, Balakirev, and Clara Schumann, but here I start with a link to Bortkiewicz’s 3rd Piano Concerto, a very serious one, but one of my greatest personal favourites:

However, because of the varying quality of the original recordings and the unfortunate limits of computer loudspeakers, I’d recommend any listening with outside loudspeakers attached.

Of course all my guests on these pages are more than welcome to comment on the pieces here or on the original sites. Have a swell time!

The following Moszkowski concerto comes in three pieces, not in one video:

One piece that may have served Chopin as a pattern to be followed:

And finally, now, a surprise by Marx:

By P. S. and S.Z.J.

p.s.: Apologies for those pieces that have since been taken down by youtube.

Musis Sacrum, ArnhemA nice advantage of being able to come to Arnhem for concerts is that ticket prices are not high (from €28 to €38 for major single events, mostly €33), at least compared to prices in most of Western Europe. Prices for series of events, for four or five performances, are considerably lower per concert. The downside may sometimes be that there are hardly any really outstanding performances. A few years back we had such greats as Radu Lupu, Stephen Bishop, Kocsis Zoltán with Kelemen Barnabás, or great young talents like Denis Kozhukhin. This season we can still see Grigory Sokolov, as can be read here in earlier posts of mine.

VolodosHowever, as we look through the new season’s programme, we can hardly find anything with a promise of being outstanding. Sure, on the “Meesters van het klavier” series, we have five events, but only Arcady Volodos (on 6th March 2015) and Nikolai Lugansky (on 6th May 2015) belong among the well-established names. Fittingly, a single ticket bought outside the series is for Volodos more highly priced than all the others – he may be the only one considered among the greats of our time. Besides those two, David Fray promises to give a great concert on 24th November, but we may not consider two Beethoven sonatas (Op. 10/1 and the ‘Appassionata’) after parts of Das wohltemperierte Klavier exactly the most thrilling concert. With four Beethoven and two Schubert sonatas besides Bach numbers twice, two Tsaikovsky pieces and one Brahms, the only exciting piece on offer on the whole concert series may be the complete Iberia series by Albéniz on 14th January 2015, but we are not sure many have heard of the performer, Cuban pianist Horge Louis Prats. Sure enough, he is also coming to the Concertgebouw on 15th January 2015, and therefore he has to be called “charismatic” by the Amsterdam organizers on their program. Though this may be his break-through season in the Netherlands, who knows. But for this, he has to be at least nearly as good as the late Alicia de Larrocha, as far as we are concerned.

Sadly, we cannot point to much else for excitement on the whole program for the Musis Sacrum next season. There are the usual Dutch fixtures of concerts of Bach, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, and first Telemann on the “Oude Muziek” series, but we do not know much about the performers at all. The same hold for the “Kamermuziek” series. We wouldn’t call the Nederlands Kamerkoor, or the Amsterdam Sinfonietta exactly outstanding international successes. In their programmes (three concerts by each), there are pieces that promise something interesting, if one holds quite modern English, Scandinavian or American religious choral music, or Russian and English chamber music in high esteem. But we would not consider the likes of Ravel’s La Valse, or the Carnaval des animaux as something we would stand in long queues for.

We sorely miss any interesting song concerts with important singers. There are three concerts with singers we do not know, and Haydn, Mozart, Poulenc, Chaminade, or Satie do not exactly sound very exciting at the moment. Debussi and Fauré here and there and one Reynaldo Hahn on the concert on 27th October, and then Hugo Wolf and R. Strauss on 26th January 2015 sound inviting though. However, the first concert comes complete with a ‘presenter’, so we would like to warn anyone not familiar with this style of enjoying concerts that that feature alone may cost the listener long-long minutes of boredom in among the 18 pieces on the program.

Besides those mentioned above, we are sorry to say that the rest of the program presents a series by a wind band, the “Nederlands Blazers Ensemble” and a few concerts where the point is to introduce the audience to the composition methods of great composers. This is again to be enjoyed by those understanding Dutch and used to long-winded explanations with intermittent music thrown in. And then the series called “Muziek van 1900 tot nu” presents composers and performers who we do not know. Those concerts may prove to be sensational, but we have some cautious doubt about that.

by P. S. & S. Z.J.