Today's Classical Music Video

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Simone Young Conducts Weber

Just a few days ago it was confirmed that Kent Nagano will become music director of the Hamburg State Opera, succeeding Simone Young in 2015. But who is Simone Young? In fact, she is a well-established and respected Australian-born conductor who has made her career mostly in Europe, and mostly in the opera house. She is a formidable musician and deserves to be heard more frequently in North America. In this video she leads a performance of the overture to Weber's opera Der Freischuetz with the NHK Symphony Orchestra inTokyo.

 Paul E. Robinson

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two Girls and a Boy Play Bach Together

You don't think classical music can be fun? How about outrageously silly. Take a look at this inspired trio comprised of three of the world's great pianists: Garrick Ohlsson, Gina Bachauer and Alicia de Larrocha.

Paul E. Robinson

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Glenn Gould and Lois Marshall in 'Beim Schlafengehen' and 'Cacile'

Today marks the 80th anniversary of the birth of Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (September 25 1932 - October 4  1982).  On Oct. 4 next week, it will mark the 30th anniversary of his death. I remember vividly that fateful day on October 4, 1982 when it was announced on the radio that Gould passed away.  Later it was revealed that he had a stroke a week earlier, sustained irreversible brain damage and his condition was deteriorating. A decision was made to remove life support. With his death, Canada lost one of its greatest musical icons. Last evening, the Royal Conservatory of Music presented a Glenn Gould Birthday BACHanalia, an eclectic celebration of the life and art of this great artist. Yesterday afternoon, the University of Toronto hosted a Glenn Gould Symposium at Walter Hall, with an international panel of speakers. And the launch of a new book, Remembering Glenn Gould, by friend and colleague Colin Eatock took place a few weeks ago. It's a new volume based on interviews of 20 people who knew Gould. To remember this great artist, here is Gould at the keyboard, playing 'Beim Schlafengehen" from Strauss' Four Last Songs, followed by Cacile. Both sung with a striking mix of introspection and ecstasy by late Canadian soprano Lois Marshall.

Joseph K. So

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Franz Welser-Möst Conducts Suppé

Usually, when I choose a video to post in this space I am choosing a conductor and/or performance I admire. But not always. He who likes everything is probably not very discriminating. And besides, we can learn something from what we don't like too. A case in point is this performance of Suppé's Light Cavalry Overture by Franz Welser-Möst and the Cleveland Orchestra. The Cleveland Orchestra has a long history of excellence and I particularly admired the George Szell era. His successors, Lorin Maazel and Christoph von Dohnanyi both maintained the standard of playing although neither one had Szell's sense of style. The current music director is Franz Welser-Möst and he has been garnering rave reviews for his work all over the world. I grant that he rivals Szell in his attention to detail but rarely comes close to Szell's power and excitement. In fact, his work strikes me as generally emotionally neutral. This video is a case in point. This is not profound music. But it is, in a good performance, exciting and entertaining. Not here. Welser-Möst is primarily concerned with carefully balancing the orchestra - heaven forbid that brass and percussion overwhelm the strings. Even the members of the Cleveland Orchestra don't seem to be terribly involved in the music. In short, in spite of the quality - or should I say "correctness" of the playing - this performance doesn't come close to capturing the spirit of the music.

 Paul E. Robinson


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Alban Berg Quartet Plays Beethoven

One of the great chamber music ensembles of my time was the Alban Berg Quartet. It was founded in Vienna in 1970 and disbanded in 2008. That was a run of about 38 years. This quartet was practically without equal in the music of Mozart and Beethoven, and its recordings provide powerful evidence. In this video the Alban Berg Quartet plays the first movement from Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 18 No. 1. For perfection of ensemble, style and phrasing this is a remarkable performance.

Last week on the LSM website we presented another classic Beethoven video: Toscanini conducting the Beethoven Fifth. Both videos should be readily available in every music library in the world.

Paul E. Robinson

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Toscanini Conducts Beethoven

This is a classic performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 conducted by Toscanini. We are fortunate that toward the end of his life some of Toscanini's performances were telecast, in the early days of television. We can hear the way Toscanini galvanized an orchestra on his audio recordings but the video allows us to see what he did to produce those results. In fact, his stick technique was very basic and correct. The force of his personality really came from his face and his presence. And, of course, through the intensity of his rehearsals.

This performance was given on March 22, 1952 in Carnegie Hall. Most of Toscanini's concerts with the NBC Symphony in that period were given in Studio 8-H, an NBC studio notorious for its dry acoustics. In Carnegie Hall, one of the best music venues in the world, one has a chance to appreciate the sound Toscanini really wanted from an orchestra. It wasn't dry and clinical as it seemed in 8-H but warm and expressive but still incisive. Incidentally, Studio 8-H survives to this day as the place where the late night David Letterman show is produced.

Paul E. Robinson

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jan Lisiecki Plays Mozart on DG Video

Yannick Nezet-Seguin has been getting a lot of press lately for his latest successes in concert and opera, and also for signing a contract with Deutsche Grammophon. But another important Canadian artist has also been picked up by DG. Jan Lisiecki was born in Calgary of Polish parents, and is currently studying at the Glenn Gould School of Music in Toronto. At age 17 he is already a world-renowned artist with a tremendous future ahead of him.

This video was produced by DG as part of its promotion for Jan Lisiecki's debut album on the label. He is featured in Mozart's Piano Concertos Nos. 20 and 21 with the Bavarian Radio Symphony conducted by Christian Zacharias. For more on this outstanding Canadian artist visit his website at

Paul E. Robinson

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Lacrymosa from Verdi Requiem: 9/11 Memorial Concert

Today (Sept. 11) marks the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. An outdoor memorial concert of Verdi's Manzoni Requiem was to take place exactly a year later, in open air across the river with lower Manhattan in full view. But due to impending rain, the concert was cancelled and the dress rehearsal from the previous day ended up being telecast instead. It starred a superb quartet of soloists - soprano Sylvie Valayre, mezzo Dolora Zajick, tenor Salvatore Licitra, and bass Samuel Ramey. Zdenek Macal conducted the New Jersey Symphony and the Westminster Choir. It's doubly sad that tenor Licitra died Sept. 5 last year from massive injuries in a motorcycle accident while on vacation in Sicily.  So, to remember the victims of this sad event in history and to remember Salvatore Licitra, here is the Lacrymosa from that performance.

Joseph K. So

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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Kent Nagano Conducts Mahler

This week at Maison symphonique in Montreal the Orchestre symphonique de Montreal (OSM) opened its 2012-13 season with performances of one of the great Mahler symphonies. Music director Kent Nagano was on the podium to lead the OSM, soloists and chorus in Mahler's Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection." Nagano has now conducted most of the Mahler symphonies in Montreal and has become something of a Mahler specialist. In our video he conducts the Halle Orchestra on tour in Tokyo in 1996 in the beginning of the last movement of Mahler 9. News came last week that Nagano had taken on a new responsibility as principal conductor of the Gothenberg Symphony in Sweden. He succeeds Gustavo Dudamel. Nagano recently stepped down as musical director of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich but he is expected to continue in Montreal for at least several more years.

Paul E. Robinson

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ivry Gitlis Plays Saint-Saens

Violinist Ivry Gitlis recently celebrated his 90th birthday (Aug. 25). His parents are Ukrainian but he was born in Israel. He studied under Flesch, Enesco and Thibaud. In the 1950s he made many recordings for Vox. In 1955 he made his U.S. debut performing with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The broadcast of his New York Philharmonic performance of the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Szell conducting has been released by DOREMI. This release includes 2 CDs and a DVD of extraordinary live performances.

Gitlis was renowned for his fabulous technique, his passion, and for the individuality of his interpretations.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Anja Harteros sings Beim Schlafengehen from Strauss' Four Last Songs

Saturday (Sept 8) marks the day German composer Richard Strauss died in 1949. He was of course one of the great composers for the voice, particularly for the soprano. And his last work, Four Last Songs, is musically sublime, not to mention the inherent autumnal quality that touches the heart. There have been many great versions of this cycle in the catalogue - my first favourite was Gundula Janowitz with von Karajan conducting the Berlin Phil. Then of course there were also great versions by Jessye Norman, Lucia Popp, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (particularly the mono version with Ackermann), and Soile Isokoski.  For pure voice there is also Renee Fleming (Eschenbach) and a recent one with the marvelous young soprano Aga Mikolaj.  To remember the great Richard Strauss, here is one with the divine Anja Harteros. I have had the good fortune of hearing her many times in Munich, and her voice is just stunning. Here she is in the third song, Beim Schlafengehen.  The violin solo is very famous, but sadly the soloist here is a bit short on phrasing and legato. But the fabulous Harteros is in great form.  

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