Monday, October 31, 2011
Years before there was Photoshop, there was Gustav Mahler, and his infamous "retouchings" of respected scores to bring them up to modern listening standards. Known in his day more as a conductor than a composer, Mahler would make revisions to the music he was performing—an instrument added here, a note changed there—ideas that were not always popular with listeners. However, in the case of Schubert’s Quartet in D Minor, Death and the Maiden, a theme and variations on his lieder of the same name, the work definitely remains more Schubert’s. Mahler reinforced the bass line, changed double stops into rich string textures, and brought this intimate chamber work into the large concert hall. This podcast uses a recording of the original quartet, performed by SFS musicians Sarn Oliver and Amy Hiraga, violins; Nanci Severance, viola; and Peter Wyrick, cello.
Posted by San Francisco Symphony Podcasts at 11:40 AM
Monday, October 24, 2011
By the time he wrote what we now know as his Symphony No. 2, Robert Schumann had already completed his Symphony No. 1, his Overture, Scherzo, and Finale, and the first version of the work that would eventually be published as Symphony No. 4. However, by summer 1844, Schumann began to be ruled by his mood swings and phobias (including fear of blindness, heights, death, and poison), effectively halting his creative activity. But then, midway through 1845, he wrote a letter to Felix Mendelssohn about dreams of blaring trumpets in C. Finally, in December 1845, he wrote, in three weeks, the essentials of Symphony No. 2, and the symphony was premiered in November 1846.
Posted by San Francisco Symphony Podcasts at 9:15 AM
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Much like his fifth and sixth symphonies, Ludwig van Beethoven composed his seventh and eighth symphonies in quick succession. Compared with Symphony No. 7 and Symphony No. 9 (which would not be completed for twelve more years), Symphony No. 8 seems like a look back to Classical times, with nods to Beethoven’s teacher, Josef Haydn. However, the Eighth is more a study in compactness: there is just as much music packed into fewer notes, a sentiment that Beethoven himself echoed--when asked why the Seventh was so much more popular, he responded, “…because the Eighth is so much better.”
Posted by San Francisco Symphony Podcasts at 6:32 PM
Thursday, October 6, 2011
In mid-nineteenth century Italy, Alessandro Manzoni, a poet and humanist, was one of the central figures in Italian cultural life. Not only was he a great writer, but he had been elected to the first Senate of the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861. Upon his death, in 1873, the country entered a period of national mourning. Giuseppe Verdi, having not yet written much of anything other than opera, volunteered his services to compose a Requiem mass. He offered the public not a strictly liturgical work but a concert piece, and it was greeted with applause both at its premiere in Milan’s St. Marco Cathedral and at its second performance, three days later, at La Scala.
Posted by San Francisco Symphony Podcasts at 4:58 PM