Today's Classical Music Video

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Solti Archive

In 2011 Lady Solti donated her late husband's scores and papers to Harvard University. The Sir Georg Solti Archive is now a treasure trove for scholars and young conductors interested in the legacy of one of the greatest conductors of the Twentieth Century.

Sir Georg Solti (1912-1997) was born in Budapest and was trained as a pianist. But his talent for conducting soon emerged and after the war he began his career working in German opera houses. He came to the attention of Decca producer John Culshaw and was soon involved in the company's project to record the first Ring cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic. The recordings created an international sensation and Solti became a major figure. He headed the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden then went on to lead the Chicago Symphony.

The Solti Archive is part of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library at Harvard and it can now be accessed online at The site includes selected pages from various scores owned by Solti with his copious markings. Some conductors - Herbert von Karajan is a good example - scarcely marked their scores at all. Solti, on the other hand, marked up his scores to the point where often the music can scarcely be seen. Take a look at his markings for Schubert's Symphony No. 9, Mahler's Symphony No. 5 or Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15.

Many of these markings were put in the scores at different times. They remind the conductor what he did at an earlier performance. To keep things straight Solti often used different coloured pencils. Nonetheless, it seems to me that this way of working leads to confusion. If I were conducting I would prefer to work with a "clean" score or at least a score that only contained markings pertaining to the performance I was now preparing. But people and conductors are different, and their minds often work in different ways. And knowing that Solti got remarkable results, a young conductor might well do worse than spend time trying to decipher Solti's markings.

It needs to be pointed out that conductors add markings to printed scores for a variety of reasons. Stokowski, for example, often added markings that changed tempo, dynamics and orchestration. Solti was more inclined to play the music as written with only occasional changes in the printed score. Why all the markings? For Solti - and many conductors do this - additional markings often serve to highlight what is written. For example, if there is a sudden change in tempo, metre or dynamics a conductor might circle, underline or enlarge the printed marking so that he or she can see it better. Other markings might be added to draw the conductor's eye to an instrumental solo that should be given prominence. Solti's scores are filled with such markings.

In our video Solti conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony in Suppe's Pique Dame Overture. This was a Solti specialty and this performance is tremendously vibrant and exciting.

Paul E. Robinson

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Dudamel Conducts Revueltas

Gustavo Dudamel was recently in Canada conducting several concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. By most accounts these concerts devoted to symphonies by Corigliano and Tchaikovsky were hugely impressive. Meanwhile, in Austin, TX, in the aftermath of the annual SXSW Festival, the Austin Symphony presented a rare showing of the film Redes with music by Silvestre Revueltas. This fine Mexican composer died in 1940 at the age of 40, and it was a tragic loss. Revueltas was destined to be one of the major composers of his generation. Among his finest orchestral works is Sensemaya, a pounding, surging piece influenced by Le sacre du printemps but with a character all its own. Here is a performance conducted by Dudamel with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra.

Paul E. Robinson

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Nelsons First Rehearsal with the Boston Symphony

Latvian-born conductor Andris Nelsons seems to be everywhere these days, and everywhere he goes he leaves a positive impression. Here is a conductor who is technically brilliant and totally involved in the music he loves. On top of that, he is charismatic too. No wonder the Boston Symphony signed him up as their next music director. Just a week ago he was in Boston announcing the orchestra's 2014-2015 season and conducting performances of Strauss' Salome. A few days later he was in New York leading the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. Then it is back to Birmingham, England where he is music director of the City of Birmingham Orchestra, still one of the best in the world after years of development under Simon Rattle.

In this video, Nelsons rehearses Brahms Third Symphony with the Boston Symphony. Lots of detailed work and an easy familiarity between conductor and musicians. Nelsons and the Boston Symphony; it should be an exciting combination for years to come.

Paul E. Robinson


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Anne Akiko Meyers Plays the Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesu

Great violinists can make music out of practically any instrument. But it certainly helps if that instrument is a Strad or a Guarneri, or something comparable rather than a cigar box.

Anne Akiko Meyers has been in the news lately for acquiring a violin reportedly worth $18 million: the 1741 "Vieuxtemps" Guarneri del Gesu. Not that she really needs a better instrument. She already owns two Strads. In 2012 she made a recording of the Bach Concerto for Two Violins and played both parts herself. She played the first solo part using her 1697 "ex-Molitor/Napoleon" Strad and the second part using her 1730 "Royal Spanish" Strad.

She has recently recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons on her "Vieuxtemps" violin. It gets its name, by the way, because it once belonged to the famous Nineteenth Century virtuoso violinist and composer, Henri Vieuxtemps. Apparently Ms. Meyers didn't buy the "Vieuxtemps" herself. Rather, it was purchased for her lifetime use by an anonymous donor.

In the video Ms. Meyers gives us a sample of the sound of the "Vieuxtemps."

Paul E. Robinson


Monday, March 3, 2014

Alan Gilbert Conducts Mahler

Alan Gilbert is the music director of the New York Philharmonic but he is also the principal guest conductor of the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, one of the best orchestras in Germany. Gilbert has his detractors in New York but he has brought a breath of fresh air to the orchestra's programming. He has very wide interests and works hard to present contemporary music in interesting ways. In New York in the next few weeks he will continue his Nielsen cycle in concert and on recordings and conduct performances of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd with Emma Thompson and Bryan Terfel. Next season he'll conduct Honegger's Joan of Arc at the Stake starring famed French actress Marion Cotillard. For more on the New York Philharmonic's next season go to

More on Gilbert and the NDR Symphony Orchestra can be found at In our video Gilbert conducts this fine German orchestra in the opening of Mahler's Symphony No. 5. The excellent trumpet soloist is Jeroen Berwaerts.

Paul E. Robinson

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