Alexander Glazunov and his Violin Concerto

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov (August 10,1865–March 21,1936) was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher, and conductor, who was born in Saint Petersburg, the son of a wealthy publisher. He began studying piano at the age of nine and began composing at 11. Mily Balakirev, formal leader of the nationalist group “The Five,” recognized Glazunov’s talent and brought his work to the attention of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov with a composition by the fifteen-year-old high-school student. Balakirev introduced him to Rimsky-Korsakov shortly afterwards, in December 1879. Rimsky-Korsakov premiered this work in 1882, when Glazunov was 16. Borodin and Stasov, among others, lavishly praised both the work and its composer. Rimsky-Korsakov taught Glazunov as a private student. By the spring of 1881, Rimsky-Korsakov considered Glazunov more of a junior colleague than a student.

More important than this was that among the Glazunov’s admirers was a wealthy timber merchant and amateur musician, Mitrofan Belyayev. Belyayev was introduced to Glazunov’s music by Anatoly Lyadov and would take a keen interest in the teenager’s musical future. Belyayev took Glazunov on a trip to Western Europe in 1884. Glazunov met Liszt in Weimar, where Glazunov’s First Symphony was performed. Also in 1884, Belyayev rented out a hall and hired an orchestra to play Glazunov’s First Symphony plus an orchestral suite Glazunov had just composed. Buoyed by the success of the rehearsal, Belyayev decided the following season to give a public concert of works by Glazunov and other composers. This project grew into the Russian Symphony Concerts, which were inaugurated during the 1886–1887 season. In 1885 Belyayev started his own publishing house in Leipzig, Germany, initially publishing music by Glazunov, Lyadov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin at his own expense. Young composers started appealing for his help. To help select from their offerings, Belyayev asked Glazunov to serve with Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov on an advisory council. The group of composers that formed eventually became known at the Belyayev Circle.

Glazunov soon enjoyed international acclaim. He made his conducting debut in 1888. The following year, he conducted his Second Symphony in Paris at the World Exhibition. Nevertheless, he experienced a creative crisis in 1890–1891. He came out of this period with a new maturity. During the 1890s he wrote three symphonies, two string quartets and the ballet Raymonda. He was appointed conductor for the Russian Symphony Concerts in 1896. In March of that year he conducted the posthumous premiere of Tchaikovsky’s student overture The Storm. In 1897, he led the premiere of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No 1. In 1899, Glazunov became a professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. By the time he was elected director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1905, succeeding Rimsky-Korsakov, he was at the height of his creative powers. His best works from this period are considered his Eighth Symphony and Violin Concerto. This was also the time of his greatest international acclaim. He conducted the last of the Russian Historical Concerts in Paris on May 17, 1907, and received honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. There were also cycles of all-Glazunov concerts in Saint Petersburg and Moscow to celebrate his 25th anniversary as a composer.

Despite the hardships he suffered during World War I and the ensuing Russian Civil War, Glazunov remained active as a conductor. He conducted concerts in factories, clubs and Red Army posts. After the end of World War I, he was instrumental in the reorganization of the Conservatory. Among his achievements were an opera studio and a students’ philharmonic orchestra. He played a prominent part in the Russian observation in 1927 of the centenary of Beethoven’s death, as both speaker and conductor. He remained director of the Conservatory until the revolutionary events of 1917, which culminated on November 7. His Piano Concerto No. 2 in B major, Op. 100, which he conducted, was premiered at the first concert held in Petrograd after that date. Tired of the Conservatory, he took advantage of the opportunity to go abroad in 1928 for the Schubert centenary celebrations in Vienna. He did not return. After he left Russia, he conducted an evening of his works in Paris in 1928. This was followed by engagements in Portugal, Spain, France, England, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, and the United States.

After this tour of Europe and the United States in 1928, he settled in Paris by 1929. In 1929, he conducted an orchestra of Parisian musicians in the first complete electrical recording of The Seasons. Also in 1929, at age 64, Glazunov married the 54-year-old Olga Nikolayevna Gavrilova (1875–1968). Olga’s daughter Elena Gavrilova was the soloist in the first Paris performance of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in B major, Op. 100. He subsequently adopted Elena, though she is sometimes referred to as his stepdaughter. Elena married the pianist Sergei Tarnowsky, who managed Glazunov’s professional and business affairs in Paris. Maximilian Steinberg ran the Conservatory in his absence until Glazunov finally resigned in 1930. In 1934, he wrote his Saxophone Concerto, a virtuoso and lyrical work for the alto saxophone. Glazunov died in Neuilly-sur-Seine (near Paris) at the age of 70 in 1936.

The following works by Glazunov are included in my collection:

Chopiniana, orchestral suite (1892).
From the Middle Ages suite, op. 79 (1902).
The Kremlin, symphonic picture op. 30 (1890).
Meditation for Violin and Orchestra, op. 32.
Overture No. 1 on Three Greek Themes in gm, op. 3 (1884).
Overture No. 2 on Three Greek Themes in DM, op. 6 (1884).
Poeme Epique, op. posth. (1934).
Poeme Lyrique, op. 12 (1887).
The Seasons Ballet, op. 67 (1899).
Serenade No. 1 in AM, op. 7 (1883).
Serenade No. 2 in FM, op. 11 (1884).
Triumphal March on the occasion of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago 1893, op. 40 (1892).
Violin Concerto, op. 82 (1904).

Learning Spanish Software

Note: I received the following e-mail to pass along. I know nothing about the people who sent it or the website it mentions, so it comes with the usual “caveat emptor.”


I was wondering if it would be possible to suggest a link for your website at:

Our site Frixo ( is a road travel reporting website, that provides our users with the most up-to-date road traffic information. Our data is updated every 5 minutes using sensors placed on motorways and common A / B roads.

I feel it might be a useful resource for your readers.

Many thanks for your consideration.

Kind Regards,

John Williams


Tom Price

Alberto Ginastera and “Estancia” Ballet

Alberto Evaristo Ginastera (April 11, 1916 – June 25, 1983) was an Argentine composer who is considered one of the most important Latin American composers. Ginastera was born in Buenos Aires on April 11, 1916, to a Catalan father and an Italian mother, immigrants devoted to agriculture, trade, and crafts. He began his music studies at a very early age. When he was 12 he entered the Williams Conservatory. In 1934 he got his first award from “El Unisono” Association. Many important awards followed throughout his life, such as “Argentine School Song” Award, four national prizes, three municipal prizes , Bicentennial Cinzano Award, National Fund for the Arts Annual Award, etc. He studied at the conservatory in Buenos Aires, graduating in 1938. As a young professor, he taught at the Liceo Militar General San Martín. Among his notable students were Ástor Piazzolla (who studied with him in 1941), Alcides Lanza, Waldo de los Ríos, Jacqueline Nova and Rafael Aponte-Ledée. Much of Ginastera’s works were inspired by the Gauchesco tradition which holds that the Gaucho, or landless native horseman of the plains, is a symbol of Argentina. He was also influenced by Stravinsky and, in a lesser degree, by Bartok and Falla. Ginastera grouped his music into three periods. The first was “Objective Nationalism” (1934–1948), which often integrates Argentine folk themes in a straightforward fashion.

Ginastera first came to international attention in the1940s with two ballet scores, Panambí and Estancia, employing this style. In 1942 Ginastera received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation to visit the United States. After his visit to the United States in 1945–47, where he studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood, he returned to Buenos Aires and co-founded the League of Composers. He also founded the La Plata Music and Performing Arts Conservatory and the Latin American Center for Advanced Music Studies at the Di Tella Institute, in Buenos Aires. He held a number of teaching posts. As to his numerous academic activities, he was a Member of the Conseil Intemational de la Musique (UNESCO), Member of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Argentina, Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Honorary Member of the School of Music Sciences and Arts (Chile National University), Member of the Chilean Composers Association, and Honorary Member of the Brazilian Music Academy.

Ginastera was the Dean and Honorary Professor at the School of Music Sciences and Arts (Argentine Catholic University), and Professor at the La Plata University.His second period was “Subjective Nationalism” (1948–1958). The most important works belonging to this period are Pampeana No. 3 for orchestra and his Piano Sonata No. 1. His Cantata para América Mágica (1960), for dramatic soprano and 53 percussion instruments, was based on ancient pre-Columbian legends. Its West Coast premiere was performed by the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble under Henri Temianka and William Kraft at UCLA in 1963. Ginastera moved back to the United States in 1968 and then in 1970 to Europe, marrying cellist Aurora Natola in 1971. The third period was “Neo-Expressionism” (1958–1983). Among other distinguishing features, these periods vary in their use of traditional Argentine musical elements. His works in the later periods incorporate traditional elements in increasingly abstracted forms.

The late 1950s and 60s saw series of major US Ginastera premieres, including the Piano Concerto No.1 in Washington, the Violin Concerto with the New York Philharmonic led by Leonard Bernstein, the Harp Concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Eugene Ormandy, and Don Rodrigo by the New York City Opera. In 1967 a second opera Bomarzo was premiered in Washington, but the Buenos Aires production was banned for political reasons and not staged until 1972. In 1968 Yale University awarded him an honorary doctorate. The progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer brought Ginastera attention outside of modern classical music circles when they adapted the fourth movement of his first piano concerto and recorded it on their popular album Brain Salad Surgery under the title “Toccata” in 1973. Late works, in which folk influences are fully subsumed into a rich and multi-coloured modern idiom, include the opera Beatrix Cenci, Glosses for orchestra, the Piano Concerto No.2, Popul Vuh for orchestra, and two cello concertos. Ginastera died in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 25, 1983, at the age of 67. Ginastera’s compositions include three operas, five ballets, several concertos, piano pieces, works for organ, vocal and choral music, chamber music, music for the theater, and film music; a couple of symphonies were withdrawn by the composer. His total repertoire contains fifty five works.

My collection includes the following works by Ginastera:

Estancia Ballet (1941): Dance Suite (1943).
Harp Concerto, op. 25 (1956).
Piano Concerto No. 1, op. 28 (1961).
Variaciones Concertantes (1953).

George Gershwin and “Rhapsody in Blue”

George Gershwin (September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an American composer and pianist, whocame from Russian Jewish heritage. His grandfather, Jakov Gershowitz, had served for 25 years as a mechanic for the Imperial Russian Army to earn the right of free travel and residence as a Jew. He retired near Saint Petersburg. His teenage son, Moishe Gershowitz, worked as a leather cutter for women’s shoes; Moishe fell in love with Rosa Bruskin, the teenage daughter of a Saint Petersburg furrier. Bruskin moved with her family to New York because of increasing antisemitism in Russia; she Americanized her first name to Rose. Moishe, faced with compulsory military service in Russia, followed Rose as soon as he was able. Upon arrival in New York, Moishe Gershowitz gave his first name as Morris. He settled at first with his mother’s brother in Brooklyn, a tailor named Greenstein, and earned money as a foreman in a women’s shoe workshop. When Morris and Rose married on July 21, 1895, she was 19 and he was 23. Gershowitz changed his family name to Gershvin some time between 1893 and 1898, perhaps at his marriage.

The first child of the family was Ira Gershwin, born with the name Israel, on December 6, 1896. Morris moved his family to Brooklyn. George Gershwin was born there on September 26, 1898; his birth certificate bears the name Jacob Gershwine, which would have been pronounced “Gershvin.”. The boy was named for his late grandfather, the army mechanic. However, he was not called anything but ‘George’. Years later, George changed the spelling of his surname to “Gershwin” after he became a professional musician; other members of his family followed suit. George and Ira lived in many different residences as their father changed dwellings with each new enterprise he became involved with. Mostly, the boys grew up around the Yiddish Theater District. They frequented the local Yiddish theaters, with George running errands for members and appearing onstage as an extra. George ran around with his boyhood friends, roller skating and misbehaving in the streets. He cared nothing for music until the age of ten, when he was intrigued by what he heard at his friend Maxie Rosenzweig’s violin recital.

The Gerswins had bought a piano for lessons for his older brother Ira, but to his parents’ surprise and Ira’s relief, it was George who played it. Gershwin tried various piano teachers for two years, before being introduced to Charles Hambitzer by Jack Miller, the pianist in the Beethoven Symphony Orchestra. Until Hambitzer’s death in 1918, he acted as Gershwin’s mentor. Hambitzer taught Gershwin conventional piano technique, introduced him to music of the European classical tradition, and encouraged him to attend orchestra concerts. At home, following such concerts, young Gershwin would try to play at the piano the music that he had heard. He later studied composition with the classical composer Rubin Goldmark and avant-garde composer-theorist Henry Cowell. On leaving school at the age of 15, Gershwin found his first job as a “song plugger” for Jerome H. Remick and Company, a publishing firm on New York City’s Tin Pan Alley, where he earned $15 a week. His first published song was “When You Want ‘Em, You Can’t Get ‘Em, When You’ve Got ‘Em, You Don’t Want ‘Em”. It was published in 1916 when Gershwin was only 17 years old and earned him $5. His 1917 novelty rag, “Rialto Ripples”, was a commercial success, and in 1919 he scored his first big national hit with his song, “Swanee”, with words by Irving Caesar. Al Jolson, a famous Broadway singer of the day, heard Gershwin perform “Swanee” at a party and decided to sing it in one of his shows.

In 1916, Gershwin started working for Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York, recording and arranging. He produced dozens, if not hundreds, of rolls under his own and assumed names. Pseudonyms attributed to Gershwin include Fred Murtha and Bert Wynn. He also recorded rolls of his own compositions for the Duo-Art and Welte-Mignon reproducing pianos. As well as recording piano rolls, Gershwin made a brief foray into vaudeville, accompanying both Nora Bayes and Louise Dresser on the piano. In the late 1910s, Gershwin met songwriter and music director William Daly. The two collaborated on the Broadway musicals Piccadilly to Broadway (1920) and For Goodness’ Sake (1922), and jointly composed the score for Our Nell (1923). This was the beginning of a long friendship; Daly was a frequent arranger, orchestrator and conductor of Gershwin’s music, and Gershwin periodically turned to him for musical advice.

In the early 1920s, Gershwin frequently worked with the lyricist Buddy DeSylva. Together they created the experimental one-act jazz opera Blue Monday, set in Harlem. It is widely regarded as a forerunner to the groundbreaking Porgy and Bess. In 1924, George and Ira Gershwin collaborated on a stage musical comedy Lady Be Good, which included such future standards as “Fascinating Rhythm” and “Oh, Lady Be Good!” They followed this with Oh, Kay! (1926); Funny Face (1927); Strike Up the Band (1927 and 1930). Gershwin gave the song, with a modified title, to UCLA to be used as a football fight song, “Strike Up The Band for UCLA.” He and his brother created Show Girl (1929); Girl Crazy (1930), which introduced the standard “I Got Rhythm”; and Of Thee I Sing (1931), the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize (for Drama).

In 1924, Gershwin composed his first major classical work, Rhapsody in Blue, for orchestra and piano. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé and premiered by Paul Whiteman’s concert band in New York. It proved to be his most popular work. In the mid-1920s, Gershwin stayed in Paris for a short period of time, during which he applied to study composition with the noted Nadia Boulanger who, along with several other prospective tutors such as Maurice Ravel, rejected him. She was afraid that rigorous classical study would ruin his jazz-influenced style. While there, Gershwin wrote An American in Paris. This work had its first performance at Carnegie Hall on December 13, 1928, and it quickly became part of the standard repertoire in Europe and the United States. Growing tired of the Parisian musical scene, Gershwin returned to the United States.

In 1929, Gershwin was contracted by Fox Film Corporation to compose the score for the movie Delicious. Only two pieces were used in the final film, the five-minute “Dream Sequence” and the six-minute “Manhattan Rhapsody”. Gershwin became infuriated when the rest of the score was rejected by Fox Film Corporation, and it would be seven years before he worked in Hollywood again. Gershwin’s most ambitious composition was Porgy and Bess (1935). Gershwin called it a “folk opera”, and it is now widely regarded as one of the most important American operas of the twentieth century. Based on the novel Porgy by DuBose Heyward, the action takes place in the fictional all-black neighborhood of Catfish Row in Charleston, South Carolina. Porgy and Bess contains some of Gershwin’s most sophisticated music, including a fugue, a passacaglia, the use of atonality, polytonality and polyrhythm, and a tone row. Even the “set numbers” (of which “Summertime”, “I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin'” and “It Ain’t Necessarily So” are well known examples) are some of the most refined and ingenious of Gershwin’s output. The work was first performed in 1935 but was a box office failure.

After the commercial failure of Porgy and Bess, Gershwin moved to Hollywood, California. He was commissioned by RKO Pictures in 1936 to write the music for the film Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Early in 1937, Gershwin began to complain of blinding headaches and a recurring impression that he smelled burning rubber. On February 11, 1937, Gershwin performed his Piano Concerto in F in a special concert of his music with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra under the direction of French maestro Pierre Monteux. Gershwin, normally a superb pianist in his own compositions, suffered coordination problems and blackouts during the performance. He was at the time living with his brother Ira and Ira’s wife Lenore in a rented house in Beverly Hills while they worked on other Hollywood film projects. Lenore Gershwin began to be disturbed by George’s mood swings and seeming inability to eat without spilling food at the dinner table. She suspected the onset of mental illness and she insisted he be moved out of their house to lyricist Yip Harburg’s empty quarters nearby where he was placed in the care of his valet, Paul Mueller.

The headaches and olfactory hallucinations continued and on June 23rd, after an incident in which Gershwin tried to push Mueller out of the car in which they were riding, Gershwin was admitted to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles for observation. Tests showed no physical cause and he was released on the 26th with a diagnosis of “likely hysteria”. His troubles with coordination and mental acuity worsened, and on the night of July 9, Gershwin collapsed in Harburg’s house where he had been working on the score of The Goldwyn Follies. He was rushed back to Cedars of Lebanon where he fell into a coma. Only at that point did it become obvious to his doctors that he was suffering from a brain tumor. An immediate call was made to pioneering neurosurgeon Dr. Harvey Cushing in Boston who, retired for several years by then, recommended Dr. Walter Dandy, who was on a boat fishing in Chesapeake Bay with the Governor of Maryland. Dandy was quickly brought to shore by the Coast Guard and sent on to Newark Airport to catch a plane to Los Angeles; however, by that time Gershwin’s condition was judged to be critical and the need for surgery immediate. An attempt by doctors at Cedars to excise the tumor was made in the early hours of the 11th, but it proved unsuccessful, and Gershwin died on the morning of July 11, 1937 at the age of 38.

Gershwin received his sole Academy Award nomination, for Best Original Song at the 1937 Oscars, for “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”, written with his brother Ira for the 1937 film Shall We Dance. The nomination was posthumous; Gershwin died two months after the film’s release. Gershwin was influenced by French composers of the early twentieth century. In turn Maurice Ravel was impressed with Gershwin’s abilities. Ravel’s two piano concertos evince an influence of Gershwin. Aside from the French influence, Gershwin was intrigued by the works of Alban Berg, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, and Arnold Schoenberg. Russian Joseph Schillinger’s influence as Gershwin’s teacher of composition (1932–1936) was substantial in providing him with a method of composition. Gershwin’s compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known. Gershwin’s compositions have been adapted for use in many films and for television, and several became jazz standards recorded in many variations. Countless celebrated singers and musicians have covered his songs.

My collection includes the following works by Gershwin:

An American in Paris, tone poem for orchestra (1928).
But Not for Me, from Girl Crazy (1930).
Catfish Row Suite (1936) from Porgy and Bess (1935).
(Piano) Concerto in FM (1925).
Cuban Overture, Rumba for Orchestra (1932).
Embraceable You, from Girl Crazy (1928/1930).
A Foggy Day (in London Town), from Damsel in Distress (1937).
I Got Rhythm Variations (1934).
The Lady Said Yes.
Lullaby for String Orchestra (1919).
Oh Lady Be Good, from Lady Be Good (1924).
Porgy and Bess (1935): Selections, including I Got Plenty of Nuttin’; It Ain’t Necessarily So; Summertime; and A Woman is a Sometime Thing.
Portrait of You.
Promenade, or Walking the Dog (1936).
Rhapsody in Blue (1924).
Second Rhapsody for orchestra with piano (1931).
Someone to Watch Over Me, from Oh! Kay (1926).

Francesco Geminiani and his Concerti Grossi op. 7

Francesco Saverio Geminiani (December 5, 1687–September 17, 1762) was an Italian violinist, composer, and music theorist. Born at Lucca, he received lessons in music from Alessandro Scarlatti, and studied the violin under Carlo Ambrogio Lonati in Milan and afterwards under Arcangelo Corelli. From 1707 he took the place of his father in the Cappella Palatina of Lucca. From 1711, he led the opera orchestra at Naples, as Leader of the Opera Orchestra and concertmaster, which gave him many opportunities for contact with Alessandro Scarlatti. After a brief return to Lucca, in 1714, he set off for London, where he arrived with the reputation of a virtuoso violinist, and soon attracted attention and patrons, including William Capel, 3rd Earl of Essex, who remained a consistent patron. In 1715 Geminiani played his violin concerti for the court of George I, with Handel at the keyboard.

Geminiani made a living by teaching and writing music, and tried to keep pace with his passion for collecting by dealing in art, not always successfully. Many of his students went on to have successful careers, such as Charles Avison, Matthew Dubourg, Michael Christian Festing, Bernhard Joachim Hagen, and Cecilia Young. Geminiani’s most well-known compositions are three sets of concerti grossi; his Opus 2 (1732), Opus 3 (1733) and Opus 7 (1746). There are 42 concerti in all which introduce the viola as a member of the concertino group of soloists, making them essentially concerti for string quartet. These works are deeply contrapuntal to please a London audience still in love with Corelli, compared to the style galant work that was fashionable on the Continent at the time of their composition. Geminiani also reworked his teacher Corelli’s Opp. 1, 3 and 5 into concerti grossi.

Geminiani’s significance today is largely due to his 1751 treatise Art of Playing the Violin, published in London, which is the best known summation of the 18th century Italian method of violin playing and is an invaluable source for the study of late Baroque performance practice. The book is in the form of 24 exercises accompanied by a relatively short but extremely informative section of text, giving detailed instructions on articulation, trills and other ornaments, shifting between positions, and other aspects of left- and right-hand violin technique. The instructions in this treatise are famously opposed to those expressed by Leopold Mozart in his Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing (1756) on several issues, including on bow hold, use of vibrato, and the so-called “rule of the down-bow”, which states that the first beat of every bar must be played with a down-stroke.

Geminiani’s Guida harmonica (c. 1752, with an addendum in 1756) is one of the most unusual harmony treatises of the late Baroque, serving as a sort of encyclopedia of basso continuo patterns and realizations. There are 2,236 patterns in all, and at the end of each pattern is a page number reference for a potential next pattern; thus a student composer studying the book would have an idea of all the subsequent possibilities available after any given short bass line. Geminiani also published a number of solos for the violin, three sets of violin concerti, twelve violin trios, The Art of Accompaniment on the Harpsichord, Organ, etc. (1754), Lessons for the Harpsichord, Art of Playing the Guitar (1760) and some other works.

Geminiani appears to have been a first-rate violinist. His Italian pupils reportedly called him Il Furibondo, the Madman, because of his expressive rhythms. After visiting Paris and residing there for some time, he returned to England in 1755. In 1761, on one of his sojourns in Dublin, a servant robbed him of a musical manuscript on which he had bestowed much time and labor. His vexation at this loss is said to have hastened his death.

The following works by Gemeniani are included in my collection:

Concerto Grosso in DM, op. 7, no. 1 (1746).
Concerto Grosso in dm, op. 7, no. 2 (1746).
Concerto Grosso in CM, op. 7, no. 3 (1746).
Concerto Grosso in dm, op. 7, no. 4 (1746).
Concerto Grosso in cm, op. 7, no. 5 (1746).
Concerto Grosso in BbM, op. 7, no. 6 (1746).

Vincent d’Indy and the Symphony on a French Mountain Air

Paul Marie Théodore Vincent d’Indy (March 27, 1851–December 2, 1931) was a French composer and teacher, born in Paris into an aristocratic family of royalist and Catholic persuasion. He had piano lessons from an early age from his paternal grandmother, who passed him on to Antoine François Marmontel and Louis Diémer. From the age of 14 he studied harmony with Albert Lavignac. At age 19, during the Franco-Prussian War, he enlisted in the National Guard, but returned to musical life as soon as the hostilities were over. The first of his works he heard performed was a Symphonie italienne, at an orchestral rehearsal under Jules Pasdeloup; the work was admired by Georges Bizet and Jules Massenet, with whom he had already become acquainted. On the advice of Henri Duparc, he became a devoted student of César Franck at the Conservatoire de Paris. As a follower of Franck, d’Indy came to admire what he considered the standards of German symphonism.

In the summer of 1873 d’Indy visited Germany, where he met Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms. On January 25, 1874 his overture Les Piccolomini was performed at a Pasdeloup concert, sandwiched between works by Bach and Beethoven. Around this time he married one of his cousins. In 1875 his symphony dedicated to János Hunyadi was performed. That same year he played a minor role – the prompter – at the premiere of Bizet’s opera Carmen. In 1876 he was present at the first production of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle at Bayreuth. This made a great impression on him and he became a fervent Wagnerite. In 1878 d’Indy’s symphonic ballad La Forêt enchantée was performed. In 1882 he heard Wagner’s Parsifal. In 1883 his choral work Le Chant de la cloche appeared. In 1884 his symphonic poem Saugefleurie was premiered. His piano suite (“symphonic poem for piano”) called Poème des montagnes came from around this time. In 1887 appeared his Suite in D for trumpet, 2 flutes and string quartet. That same year he was involved in Lamoureux’s production of Wagner’s Lohengrin as choirmaster. His music drama Fervaal occupied him between 1889 and 1895.

Inspired by his own studies with Franck and dissatisfied with the standard of teaching at the Conservatoire de Paris, d’Indy, together with Charles Bordes and Alexandre Guilmant, founded the Schola Cantorum de Paris in 1894. D’Indy taught there and later at the Paris Conservatoire until his death. Among his many students were Isaac Albéniz, Leo Arnaud, Joseph Canteloube (who later wrote d’Indy’s biography), Pierre Capdevielle, Jean Daetwyler, Arthur Honegger, Eugène Lapierre, Leevi Madetoja, Albéric Magnard, Rodolphe Mathieu, Darius Milhaud, Cole Porter, Albert Roussel, Erik Satie, Georges-Émile Tanguay, Otto Albert Tichý, Emiliana de Zubeldia and Xian Xinghai. Xian was one of the earliest Chinese composers of western classical music. Few of d’Indy’s works are performed regularly today. His best known pieces are probably the Symphony on a French Mountain Air (Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français, also known as Symphonie cévenole) for piano and orchestra (1886), and Istar (1896), a symphonic poem in the form of a set of variations in which the theme appears only at the end.

Among d’Indy’s other works are other orchestral music, including a Symphony in B♭, a vast symphonic poem, Jour d’été à la montagne, and another, Souvenirs, written on the death of his first wife–he later remarried; chamber music, including two of the finest string quartets of the latter 19th century, No. 2 in E major, Op. 45, and No. 3 in B-flat, Op. 96; piano music including a Sonata in E minor; songs; and a number of operas, including Fervaal (1897) and L’Étranger (1902). His music drama Le Légende de Saint Christophe, based on themes from Gregorian chant, was performed for the first, and possibly last, time, on June 6, 1920. His Comédie Musicale had its premiere in Paris on June 10,1927. His Lied for cello and orchestra, Op. 19, was recorded by Julian Lloyd Webber and the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier in 1991. As well as Franck, d’Indy’s works show the influence of Berlioz and especially of Wagner. D’Indy helped revive a number of then largely forgotten early works, for example, making his own edition of Claudio Monteverdi’s opera L’incoronazione di Poppea. His musical writings include the co-written three-volume Cours de composition musicale (1903–1905), as well as studies of Franck and Beethoven. D’Indy died where he was born, in Paris.

My collection includes the following one work by d’Indy:

Symphony on a French Mountain Air, op. 25 (1886).

Cesar Franck and Symphonic Variations

César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck (December 10, 1822–November 8, 1890) was a Belgian composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who worked in Paris during his adult life. He was born at Liège, in what is now Belgium, though at the time of his birth it was part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, to Nicolas-Joseph Franck, a bank clerk whose family came from the German-Belgian border, and Marie-Catherine-Barbe Franck (née Frings), who was from Germany.. Although young César-Auguste, as he was known in his early years, showed both drawing and musical skills, Nicolas-Joseph envisioned him as a young prodigy pianist-composer, after the manner of Franz Liszt, who would bring fame and fortune to his family. His father entered Franck at the Royal Conservatory of Liège, studying solfège, piano, organ, and harmony with Joseph Daussoigne-Méhul and other faculty members. César-Auguste gave his first concerts at Liege in 1834, one before Leopold I of the newly formed Kingdom of Belgium.

In 1835, Franck’s father resolved that the time had come for wider audiences, and brought César-Auguste and his younger brother Joseph to Paris, to study privately: counterpoint with Anton Reicha and piano with Pierre Zimmermann. Both men were also professors at the Paris Conservatoire. When Reicha died some ten months later, Nicolas-Joseph sought to enter both boys into the Conservatoire. However, the Conservatoire would not accept foreigners; Nicolas-Joseph was obliged to seek French citizenship, which was granted in 1837 In the interval, Nicolas-Joseph promoted concerts and recitals in Paris featuring one or both boys playing popular music of the period, to mostly good reviews. Young Franck and his brother entered the Conservatoire in October, 1837, César-Auguste continuing his piano studies under Zimmerman and beginning composition with Aimé Leborn. He took the first prize in piano at the end of his first year (1838) and consistently maintained that level of performance. His work in counterpoint was less spectacular, taking successively third, second, and first prizes between 1838 and 1840. He added organ studies with François Benoist, which included both performance and improvisation, taking second prize in 1841, with the aim of competing for the Prix de Rome in composition in the following year. However, for reasons that are not explicit, he made a “voluntary” retirement from the Conservatoire on April 22, 1842.

This withdrawal may have been at his father’s behest. While César-Auguste was pursuing his academic studies, he was, at his father’s demand, also teaching privately and giving concerts. These concerts performed by young Franck (some with his brother on the violin, some including Franck’s own compositions) were at first received well, but increasingly Nicolas-Joseph’s commercial promotion of his sons antagonized the Parisian musical journals and critics. Nicolas-Joseph decided that a return to Belgium was in order, and in 1842 compelled his son to leave the Conservatoire and accompany him. The return to Belgium lasted less than two years. Nicolas-Joseph then brought his son back into a regime of teaching and family concerts in Paris. During this period his first mature compositions emerged, a set of Trios (piano, violin, cello), which are the first of what he regarded as his permanent work. In 1843, Franck began work on his first non-chamber work, the oratorio Ruth. A public performance in early 1846 met with public indifference and critical snubs. In reaction, César-Auguste essentially retired from public life to one of obscurity as a teacher and accompanist.

In 1847 Notre-Dame-de-Lorette gave Franck an appointment as assistant organist, the first of a succession of increasingly more important and influential organ posts. He now had occasion to match his Roman Catholic devotion with learning the skills needed for accompanying public worship, as well as the occasional opportunity to fill in for his superior, Alphonse Gilbat.On February 22, 1848, Franck married one of his private piano pupils, Eugénie-Félicité-Caroline Saillot (1824–1918), whose parents were members of the Comédie-Française company under the stage name of Desmousseaux. in 1851 the church’s Abbé Dancel moved to the new church of Saint-Jean-Saint-François-au-Marais as curé and two years later invited Franck to assume the position of titulaire, or primary organist. Also in 1851 he attempted an opera, Le Valet de Ferme. Then on January 22, 1858, he became organist and maître de chapelle at the newly consecrated Sainte-Clotilde, where he remained until his death. Pieces by Franck for organ, for choir, and for harmonium began to circulate, among the most notable of which is the Messe à 3 voix (1859). More notable still is the set of Six Pièces for organ, written 1860–1862 (although not published until 1868). The group includes two of his best-known organ works, the “Prélude, Fugue, et Variation”, op. 18 and the “Grande Pièce Symphonique”, op. 17.

Franck continued to write compositions for use by choir in this period, but most were never published. He was encouraged to begin work (1869) on a major choral work, Les Béatitudes, which was to occupy him for more than ten years, the delay partly due to the interruptions of the Franco-Prussian War. Franck’s reputation was now widespread enough, through his fame as performer, his membership in the Société Nationale de Musique, of which he was the oldest member, and his smaller but devoted group of students, that when Benoist retired as professor of organ at the reopening of the Paris Conservatoire in 1872, Franck was proposed as successor. This exposed the embarrassing fact that Franck was not a French citizen, a requirement for the appointment. It turned out that Franck did not know that when his father, Nicolas-Joseph, became a naturalized French citizen to enter his sons into the Conservatoire as students, they were counted as citizens only until age twenty-one, when they were obliged to declare their allegiance to France as adults. Franck had always regarded himself as French from the time of his father’s naturalization but in fact had to go through the naturalization process at once.

Franck was now in a position to spend time composing works for which ideas had been germinating for years. He interrupted his work on Les Béatitudes to produce (among many shorter works) the oratorio Rédemption (1871, revised 1874), the secular cantata Les Éolides (1876), the Trois Pièces for organ (1878), and the piano Quintet (1879). Les Béatitudes itself finally saw its first performance in 1879. Franck was finding, in the 1880s, that he was caught between two stylistic advocates: his wife Félicité, who did not care for changes in Franck’s style from that to which she had first become accustomed; and his pupils, who had a perhaps surprising influence over their teacher as much as he over them. In addition, there were some discords within the Société Nationale, where Saint-Saëns had put himself increasingly at odds with Franck and his pupils. A number of his more “advanced” works appeared in this time period: the Quintet of 1879, the symphonic poems Le Chasseur maudit (1882) and Les Djinns (1883–1884), the Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue for piano (1884), the Symphonic Variations (1885), and the opera Hulda (1886).

On August 4, 1885, Franck was made a Chevalier of the French Légion d’honneur. In 1886 Franck composed the Violin Sonata as a wedding gift for the Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. This became a resounding success. The dissension between Franck’s family and his circle of students reached a new height when Franck published Psyché (written 1886–88), a symphonic poem based on the Greek myth. Further controversy arose with the publication of Franck’s only symphony, that in D minor (1888). In 1888, Franck tried his hand again at another opera, Ghiselle. It was more sketched out than composed and Franck never completed it. In contrast, a massive String Quartet was completed and performed in April 1890, and was well received by public and critics. During July 1890 Franck was riding in a cab which was struck by a horse-drawn trolley, injuring his head and causing a short fainting spell. There seemed to be no immediate after-effects; he completed his trip and he himself considered it of no import. However, walking became painful and he found himself increasingly obliged to absent himself first from concerts and rehearsals, and then to give up his lessons at the Conservatoire. He took his vacation as soon as he could in Nemours, where he hoped to work on the proposed organ pieces as well as some commissioned works for harmonium. During the vacation he was able to start on both projects.

While Franck could not complete the harmonium collection, the organ pieces were finished in August and September 1890. They are the Trois Chorals, which are among the greatest treasures of organ literature, and which form a regular part of the repertory today. Franck started the new term at the Conservatoire in October, but caught a cold mid-month. This turned into pleurisy complicated by pericarditis. After that, his condition rapidly worsened and he died on November 8. The funeral mass for Franck was held at Sainte-Clotilde, attended by a large congregation including Léo Delibes (officially representing the Conservatoire), Camille Saint-Saëns, Eugène Gigout, Gabriel Fauré, Alexandre Guilmant, Charles-Marie Widor (who succeeded Franck as professor of organ at the Conservatoire), and Édouard Lalo. Emmanuel Chabrier spoke at the gravesite at Montrouge. Many of Franck’s works employ “cyclic form”, a method aspiring to achieve unity across multiple movements. This may be achieved by reminiscence, or recall, of an earlier thematic material into a later movement, or as in Franck’s output where all of the principal themes of the work are generated from a germinal motif. His music is often contrapuntally complex, using a harmonic language that is prototypically late Romantic, showing a great deal of influence from Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner.

The following works by Franck are included in my collection:

Le Chasseur maudit (The Accursed Huntsman, 1882).
Psyche (1888).
Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra (1885),
Symphony in dm.