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markfromireland

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893): Souvenir de Florence

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July 6, 2014

Tchaikovsky Tchaikovsky composed and scored in June and July 1890 his string sextet in D minor, Souvenir de Florence, Op. 70 at Frolovskoye and revised it at Maydanovo between November 1891 and January 1892. It's scored for 2 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos, and has four movements, lasting somewhere in and around 35 minutes in performance:

  1. Allegro con spirito (D minor)
  2. Adagio cantabile e con moto (D major)
  3. Allegro moderato (A minor)
  4. Allegro vivace (D minor)

Its name was given to it by Tchaikovsky following his return in 1890 from a stay in Florence, he seems to have had quite a lot of difficulty with it describing the task in a letter to Modest Tchaikovsky as 'unimaginably difficult', happily for us he persevered. The name it has to be said is a bit misleading, it's a very Russian piece and whenever I hear it – particularly the last two movements which are so Russian in their character as to be downright stereotypical I find myself thinking that while he may have enjoyed himself thoroughly in Florence he didn't bother to bring back any souvenirs.

It's given me so much pleasure over the years that I really wish it were better known, it's a gracious piece of music that starts with a vigorous main theme which contrasts beautifully well with the subsequenty light and airy lyricism. The second movement opens with a slow version of the first movemen't main theme which progresses to a delightful melody supported by a pizzicato accompaniment. Tchaikovsky then springs a musical surprise by abandoning melodicism and chamber music's formality to produce some music that's pure sound-effect, it's wonderful when it's done properly which is by no means as easy as it sounds because it has to be played with the strings playing rapidly on the point of the bow. The third movement – the only movement in A minor is a happy carefree piece with a trio section that never fails to remind me that this is the man who gave us The Nutcracker. The concluding Allegro vivace makes use of what sounds to me like  a folk tune the tune itself isn't much it's a pleasing musical trifle but oh my what Tchaikovsky does with it! He puts it through its paces including a somewhat surprising fugato before bringing down the curtain with a brilliant close. It is as I say a piece that's given me a great deal of pleasure over the years and I have to say that the performance below which was broadcast on June 27th 2014 by the Dutch Public Broadcasting Organization AVRO as part of their live concerts series is one of the best performances of it I've ever heard. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Ndumiso Manana – 26 April 2014

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July 5, 2014

As I'm sure you know by now I'm a fan of the Drakensberg Boys' Choir I sometimes wonder how the boys progress musically when they leave the school, so I was very pleased indeed when this video of  Ndumiso Manana turned up in my feed.  He was unforgettable aged ten a decade ago — I think you'll agree he's doing very good things with his talent. Enjoy :-).

mfi

Click here to listen to the music and read the rest of the posting ...

Edmund Turges (?1450-????): From stormy windes

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July 4, 2014

Arthur Tudor 180x250 captioned I can tell you very little about Edmund Turges we don't know where or when he was born – although London around 1450 is a reasonably good guess. We know that he was admitted to the London parish clerks' company of the Fraternity of St Nicholas between 1468 and 1470 and we know that his songs were played at the court of Henry VII. It's almost certain that Turges himself moved in the court's musical circles and was commissioned to write songs for particular occasions such as his part-song From stormy wyndis which was addressed to Arthur, Prince of Wales (b 1486; d 1502), either to mark his betrothal (1497) or marriage (1501) to Catherine of Aragon, or to pray for his safety before setting out on a journey. Of those three possibilities I think that it was most likely the song was composed for his marriage to Catherine of Aragon because the date 1501 has been added as a note to the lowest voice-part by a later hand furthermore it was used Browne for his setting of Stabat iuxta Christi crucem the next year which suggests to me that Browne was capitalising on the familiarity and popularity of the song. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Juditha Triumphans RV644

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July 3, 2014

Vivaldi wrote Juditha Triumpans or Juditha Triumphans devicta Holofernes barbarie to give its full title in 1716 for the girls of the Ospedele della Pietà. It's the only one of his oratorios to survive and it's a further demonstration that Vivaldi had full confidence not only in the soloists, and the chorus, but also in the orchestra for whom he wrote glorious music that could only be played by a group of talented and dedicated virtuosi. The score includes parts for recorders, oboes, chalumeaux, trumpets, mandolin, theorboes, viola d’amore and splendid writing for solo strings and continuo.

Venice being Venice spectacle, religion, and politics were closely interwined and this oratorio is no exception the "Sacred military oratorio" is an allegory – a very thinly veiled allegory of the contemporary politico-military tensions in the Adriatic that existed at the time it was composed. What Vivaldi was depicting in concentrated and simplified form was the struggle between Venice and her possessions – Juditha, and the Ottoman Empire – Holofernes. This political aspect accounts for its defiant and assertive tone to say nothing of how heavily it's larded with self-justification. His audience lapped it up but I have to admit it's not my favourite amongs his works. it's very uneven, in fact it's rather like the little girl with the little curl, when it's good it's very very good and when it's bad its, well not horrid, but very very wooden. The major weakness is the chorus which is very under-developed and the arias are very uneven few of them reach the heights of musicality of Veni, veni me Sequere fida but in the face of the splendidly colourful and dramatic orchestral accompaniment that never fails to delight and impress perhaps that hardly matters. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Ecce tu pulcher es

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July 2, 2014

Ecce tu pulcher es is the eight in the series of motets by Palestrina based upon the Song of Songs. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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