Monday, March 11, 2013

Gabe's Faves


For the final Concertmaster Recital Series performances, Gabe Lefkowitz will be playing old favorites, but except for Rachmaninov, the likelihood of your having heard of the other composers is pretty slim. Ponce, Bazzini and FRANÇOIS Schubert are quintessential one-hit wonders. Not that their output aside from these works sucked or anything, but, these “one-hits” were such big hits that they became calling cards for their composers’ reputations.

I have to chuckle when I see The Bee (L’abeille) attributed to merely "Schubert." Only by staring at the cello sheet music offerings on the back of International Edition cello music while practicing am I aware that this work is not by the Viennese wunderkind Franz Schubert. It is rather by a later composer from Dresden with EXACTLY the same name, whose studies in Paris inspired him to go by the name François. He must have been quite a violinist if he could perform his own works. I love these old-school recordings of violinists, here’s Maud Powell (American premier of the Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and Dvorak Concerti) in a recording that has to be from a wax cylinder or something.

Say what you want about Jascha Heifetz’ playing, but the 1939 MGM film They Shall Have Music put classical music on the map for a lot of folks, and Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita “(Little Star)” is featured in one of five appearances by Heifetz in the film.

In the 1850's, while François Schubert was portraying bees in his music, Brescian composer Antonio Bazzini was seeing goblins. More widely known in his day as a performer than a composer, his contribution to the Messa per Rossini is nonetheless quite a story. His share, among a total of 13 contributing composers, is the Dies Irae chorus. It is interesting to note that the catalyst for this mass, Giuseppe Verdi, contributed the final chorus, Libera me, and his fully-grown Requiem that we will perform on the April Masterworks concerts is a result of compositional seeds that were planted in this Rossini Mass. The work was basically unknown to the world until 1988. ANYways, as a child Bazzini was a violin student of Faustino Camisani; hey, you’d write a piece called Dance of the Goblins too if you’d studied with a guy named Faustino.

The second half of the concert will consist of the Mendelssohn Octet. It seems like every octet is excellent; Schubert’s (we’re not talking François here), and Stravinsky’s are legendary workhorses in their respective genres, and Milhaud wrote two string quartets that can be played as an octet! Mendelssohn’s is scary good; I don’t even have time right now to write about it, so you’ll have to take my word that it’s one of the most perfect pieces of music ever written. Or you can wait for me to tell you why in the next post.

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