If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lalo / Leonid Kogan, 1959: (Complete) Symphonie Espagnol, Op. 21 - Kondrashin, Philharmonia

The Symphonie espagnole in D minor, Op. 21, is a work for violin and orchestra by Édouard-Victoire-Antoine Lalo, a French composer. Although Lalo is not one of the most immediately recognized names in French music, his distinctive style has earned him some degree of popularity.

Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra still enjoys a prominent place in violinists' repertoire, and is known in many classical circles simply as "The Lalo".


The work was written in 1874 for violinist Pablo de Sarasate, and premiered in Paris in February 1875.

Though officially a symphony (the name translates as "Spanish Symphony") (see also Sinfonia concertante), it is considered a violin concerto by musicians today. The piece has Spanish motifs throughout, and launched a period when Spanish-themed music came into vogue (Georges Bizet's opera Carmen premiered a month after the Symphonie espagnole did).

The Symphonie espagnole is one of Lalo's two most often played works, the other being his Cello Concerto. His "official" Concerto in F for violin, Op. 20, and his Symphony in G minor for orchestra, written thirteen years later, are neither performed nor recorded as often.

Lalo's early musical training was at the Conservatoire in his native Lille, before he transferred to the Paris Conservatoire to study composition and violin.
He started composing in the 1840s, but, discouraged by the lack of performances and publications of his music, he abandoned his creative work for almost a decade to play viola in the Armingaud-Jacquard Quartet.

His muse was rekindled in 1865 upon his marriage to Bernier de Maligny, a fine contralto who performed many of his songs in recital and who also inspired him to produce his first opera, Fiesque.


The Symphonie espagnole had some influence on the genesis of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D major. In March 1878, Tchaikovsky was staying at Nadezhda von Meck's estate at Clarens, Switzerland, while recovering from the breakdown of his disastrous marriage and his subsequent suicide attempt.

His favorite pupil (and possibly his lover), the violinist Iosif Kotek shortly arrived from Berlin with a swag of new music for violin. These included the Symphonie espagnole, which he and Tchaikovsky played through to great delight.

This gave Tchaikovsky the idea of writing a violin concerto, and he immediately set aside his current work on a piano sonata and started on the concerto on 17 March. With Kotek's technical help, the concerto was finished by 11 April.

"Do you know the Symphonie Espagnole by the French composer Lalo?" Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness, Nadejda von Meck. "The piece has been recently brought out by that very modern violinist, Sarasate.

It is for solo violin and orchestra, and consists of five independent movements, based upon Spanish folk songs. The work has given me great enjoyment. It is so fresh and light, and contains piquant rhythms and melodies which are beautifully harmonized.... Lalo is careful to avoid all that is routinier, seeks new forms without trying to be profound, and is more concerned with musical beauty than with traditions."

Tchaikovsky's enthusiasm for Lalo's music has been shared by audiences since the Symphonie Espagnole was first heard in 1875. Lalo had labored for many years, however, before success came his way: he was almost fifty when the Divertissement for Orchestra gained him the attention of the public.

It was with the Violin Concerto of 1874 and this Spanish Symphony, both written for and premiered by the Spanish virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate, that Lalo secured an international reputation.

The Symphonie Espagnole, despite its name, is a true concerto in which the soloist is called upon to display significant feats of violinistic prowess, especially in quick shifts between the highest and lowest registers, a characteristic that reflects an important aspect of Sarasate's technique.

The work's five movements individually employ symphonic structures, which led Lalo to write about the work's title, "It conveyed my thought--a violin soaring above the rigid form of an old symphony." The Spanish influence is heard in some of the rhythmic and harmonic components of the themes, an influence that also lured such other French composers as Bizet, Ravel, Debussy and Ibert.

The first movement is cast in a carefully developed sonata form, with a main theme employing bold upward leaps and a legato second theme in a contrasting major tonality.

The nimble, dance-like second movement, in rounded three-part form, calls for both lyricism and flexibility from the soloist. The next movement is characterized by the extensive use of the Spanish rhythmic device of alternating groups of two and three notes.

In the fourth movement, in rounded three-part form (A–B–A), a somber introduction leads to the melancholy main theme for the soloist. The finale, ushered in by the sound of distant peeling bells, is a rondo based on the bubbling rhythm of the saltarello.

*Leonid Borisovich Kogan was a violin virtuoso and one of the 20th century's most famous Soviet violinists. He ranked among the greatest representatives of the Soviet School of violin playing.

Leonid Kogan was less widely known than his somewhat older contemporary David Oistrakh, but no less a first-tier artist. More concentrated in tonal focus and with a quicker vibrato than Oistrakh and others of the Russian school, Kogan was avowedly a man of his time.

His espousal of the four-octave scale for exercises assured the infallibility of his technique by strengthening his fingering hand in the upper positions. His violin was a Guarneri del Gesù dated 1726 ( although he also had another one dated 1733 ) , which Oistrakh acquired for him in the early 1960s. Kogan had played a Stradivarius in the early years of his career.

Kogan was the only classical violinist of note who preferred to play on all steel strings (Thomastik brand). Most serious classical players prefer a steel E-string, and perhaps also steel A-string (as in case of David Oistrakh), while using gut or synthetics on the G and D strings. Steel gave Kogan more clarity and power, while sacrificing warmth, depth and sweetness associated with gut or synthetics.

Kogan plays with the fearlessness of Heifetz, but with that added to the remarkable tone - which is larger and mightier than Elman's, creates something distinctly Kogan. There can be no comparisons here. It is something about that bowing arm that draws from his Guarnerius an unmistakable propelling tone that is even throughout all registers. High notes do not thin out and there is no weeping mellowness on his G-string. Altogether, it is a beautiful cross between magnetic brillance and soulful wood - truly a unique violin voice

Although he died at age 58, he had amassed a discography that remains as a commanding legacy.


Leonid Kogan plays Lalo's Symphonie Espagnole in D minor, Op. 21

Kirill Kondrashin and the London Philharmonia Orchestra

February, 1959

Allegro non troppo (0:01)
Scherzando (7:09)
Intermezzo (11:10)
Andante (16:47)
Rondo (22:53)

*Kennedy Center
*users globalnet

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

National Jukebox LOC.gov


The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives.

Recordings in the Jukebox were issued on record labels now owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which has granted the Library of Congress a gratis license to stream acoustical recordings.

At launch, the Jukebox includes more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Jukebox content will be increased regularly, with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other Sony-owned U.S. labels, including Columbia, OKeh, and others.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Before I Die



Death can inspire life. Especially in New Orleans, on the corner of Marigny and Burgundy, where the Before I Die project has used the specter of urban decay and death to create art and inspire. Using a boarded up house as a canvas, artist Candy Chang transformed a haunting reminder of blight and divestment into a powerful affirmation of human life and imagination. – Life and Times

It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and forget what really matters to you. With help from old and new friends, Candy turned the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood into a giant chalkboard where residents can write on the wall and share what is important to them.

Stenciled with the sentence “Before I die I want to _______”, the wall became a space where we could learn the hopes and dreams of the people around us. Before I Die transformed a neglected space into a constructive one that helped improve our neighborhood and our personal well-being. It’s a question that changed her over the last year after she lost someone she loved very much.

Before I die I want… to sing for millions, to see my daughter graduate, to eat a salad with an alien, to straddle the International Date Line, to cook a soufflé, to love and be loved, to abandon all insecurities, to be completely myself… The reaction to the wall was more than Candy Chang could have ever imagined. From the funny and creative to the thoughtful and heartbreaking, the responses have made her laugh out loud and also tear up.

The notion of turning a neglected space into an active invitation to engage with your community and get to know your neighbors is a wonderful embodiment of enlightened urbanism. What’s more, it’s a reminder that not all meaningful social platforms are accessed through a screen — an inspired antidote to the Foursquarification of urban social quasi-interaction. – Brain Pickings

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