Thursday 28 September 2023

Sergei Rachmaninoff: The 'Crême de Menthe' Variation

Ever since hearing the late John Lill playing Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini at a Glasgow Proms concert on Wednesday 26 June 1974, I have been hooked on this piece. A few weeks later, I came across the boxed set of records of Vladimir Ashkenazy playing the entire cycle of Rachmaninoff’s concerted piano works on a stall at Glasgow’s legendary The Barras in the Gallowgate. His performance of the Rhapsody remains my “go-to” recording to this day. 

The Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, op.43 was Rachmaninoff’s last work for piano and orchestra. It was completed at the composer’s residence, Senar, on the shores of Lake Lucerne. The premiere performance was given by the Philadelphia Orchestra on 7 November 1934. It was conducted by Leopold Stokowski with Rachmaninoff as soloist.

The piece is not actually a ‘rhapsody’ as such but a set of variations on the well-known theme from Paganini’s 24th Caprice for solo violin. This tune is only alluded to in the Introduction but is presented in full in the first variation. In the succeeding twenty-three variations, the theme is subject to a wide variety of transformations – “harmonically, melodically, rhythmically, atmospherically.” The famous 18th variation is well-known as a standalone piece, often heard on Classic Fm. Rachmaninoff is supposed to have said that this “voluptuous, tender…variation was a love episode” was there to please his manager and guarantee the work’s success.” The work ends with massive chords played ‘ff,’ before the Rhapsody ends in a quiet A minor perfect cadence.

The manager and programme note annotator of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Donald L. Engle, gives a splendid story about Sergei Rachmaninoff and the Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini:-

“Benno Moiseiwitsch [1] …friend and admirer of Rachmaninoff, tells an anecdote about the composer's troubles in practicing the final variation for concert performance. The episode occurred in 1934 at the home of Mrs. Steinway, following one of Rachmaninoff’s superb Carnegie Hall recitals. [2] During dinner, he discussed with Moiseiwitsch a new work which he would soon introduce for the first time, a Rhapsody and Variations on a Theme by Paganini, but he seemed worried while describing it. Moiseiwitsch recounts the conversation thus:

‘I wrote the Rhapsody down,’ he said in his slow drawl, ‘and it looked good. Then I went to the piano and tried it, and it sounded good, but now, when I am practicing it for the concert, it all goes wrong!’

He was referring to the twenty-fourth variation, and his difficulty was in getting through the chord jumps, always a formidable problem in the Paganini variations. I did not know the work at all and could not offer any suggestions but just then the Steinway butler came to my rescue. He had just entered with a tray full of a wonderful array of liqueurs. Everyone helped himself to a drink, but Rachmaninoff, as was his custom, refused. Here I stepped in, saying: ‘Sergei Vasilievich, do have a glass of this beautiful crême de menthe.’

He waved the butler aside and said to me: ‘You know I never drink any alcohol.’

‘Yes, I know that’ I replied, ‘but do you know that crême de menthe is the best thing in the world for jumps.’

The 'Jumps'

‘Do you mean it?’ he asked dubiously.

‘Definitely,’ I replied. So, he called back the butler and helped himself to a generous portion of crême de menthe.

Afterwards, when we joined the ladies in the drawing room, he sketched some of his variations, including a faultless execution of the one with the jumps. I reminded him of my inspired suggestion, and he thanked me very seriously for my help.

Eyewitness accounts and Rachmaninoff's own assertions have it that he always had a glass of crême de menthe before playing the Rhapsody in public. Hence the superscription to the final variation: ‘The Crême de Menthe Variation!’”

Donald L. Engle Philadelphia Programme Notes.

[1] Benno Moiseiwitsch was a Ukrainian-born British pianist. He made a world tour immediately after the end of the First World War. Much of his concertising was done in the United Kingdom, where he was extremely popular. He specialised in nineteenth century and “modern” romantic repertoire, especially Chopin, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff.

[2] In his Rachmaninoff: Composer, Pianist, Conductor, (London Routledge 1990), Barrie Martyn gives another version of this tale. This time it is set in London, during the composer’s tour in the spring of 1935. Rachmaninoff gave the British premiere of the Rhapsody in London on 21 March 1935. Thomas Beecham conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Monday 25 September 2023

Symphony Hall Sorcery: Organ Music From Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Everyone knows and loves Paul Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1897). Made famous in Walt Disney’s Fantasia (1940) featuring Mickey Mouse, this work has retained its place in the repertoire. The story goes back to the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata’s Lover of Lies, which scorned the magicians and alchemists of his day. The tale was taken up by Goethe in 1796 as a comic ballad. A hundred years later, Dukas created his “one hit wonder” for full orchestra. The progress of the “tone poem” needs no explanation. The present soloist made this organ transcription in 2012 for the Symphony Hall’s 21st birthday celebrations. The instrument’s registrations perfectly match the brilliant orchestration of the original. As an aside, I do wish that Dukas’s small catalogue could be re-investigated by listeners: especially the Symphony in C, the ballet Le Peri and the Piano Sonata in E flat minor. I think that folk would find them rewarding. 

This wonderful tone-poem is followed by a movement from Charles-Marie Widor’s Symphonie No.5, op 42 (1879): it is not the ubiquitous Toccata. Here Trotter plays the opening Allegro vivace. This is an excursion through a set of variations that reveals the tonal colours of the organ. It opens with a “balletic” main theme and progresses through a “goblin-like” dance before turning more serious. The movement ends in a blaze of “power and energy.” Trotter’s performance is superb. He is correct in identifying that this movement is “much more satisfying, entertaining and original” than the Toccata.

A contemporary review of John Gardner’s Five Dances for organ, op.179 (1988), remarks that they “showcase the composer's love of jazz and contrapuntal ingenuity.” This is as it should be: Gardner’s two musical loves were jazz and the baroque. The five numbers include a lively Lavolta (Italian dance with high springs and bounds), a noble Pavin, a nonchalant Irish Jig, a profound Lament and concluding with an increasingly extrovert “Highland” Fling. Once again Trotter’s imaginative registrations make this a delightful set of dances that can be performed as a set, or individually.

Camille Saint-Saens’s Fantasie in E flat major was finished in 1857 and used to inaugurate the rebuilt organ at his church, Saint-Merry in Paris. The piece is in two sections. Witchery and style are characteristics of the first part of this “diptych.” The second “demonstrates the power and majesty of the full organ.”  It is rightly popular.

Derek Bourgeois’ short Serenade is new to me. This is best known in the brass band world, but originally started life for the organ. It was devised as a “cheerful recessional for his own wedding in 1965.” This is a catchy, rhythmical miniature, which suggests the bride and groom must have skipped down the aisle. It is certainly just as welcome as Mendelssohn’s Wedding March.

The clock is turned back nearly four hundred years with Antwerp-based composer and publisher Tielman Susato’s Dances from Danserye. These date from about 1551. Trotter explains that much of Susato’s work was designed for singing: madrigals, chansons, psalms, masses, and motets. Amongst some fifty books of music was a volume of sixty-six popular tunes - dances and “rustic peasant songs.” Trotter has arranged five of these for the present charming Suite.

Hungarian composer, theorist, and organist Zsolt Gárdonyi’s Mozart Changes (1995) is based on “two dance like motifs” from the finale of Mozart’s last Piano Sonata in D minor, K572. After the first few bars, which are purely “classical” it moves into “the groove.” Blue notes, jazzy episodes, and swing shifts Mozart Changes into the 20th century. The registration at times nods to a cinema organ. It would make a great, if quiet, encore.

The final track on this CD is Rachel Laurin’s sophisticated Sweelinck Variations, op. 96. Written to celebrate Thomas Trotter’s 800th recital as Birmingham City Organist, it was premiered shortly before lockdown during February 2020. Laurin takes as her theme from Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck’s (1562-1621) Ballo del Granduca for harpsichord or organ. It is possible that this piece may have been by his pupil Samuel Scheidt. That said, the actual melody was composed in Italy in 1589 by a certain Emilio di Cavalieri. No matter. The Variations explore a vast range of musical “texture mood and colour.” It has moments “that are light, humorous, meditative, expressive, impressionistic, exuberant, and dramatic.” The entire work concludes with a massive fugue.

The liner notes are devised by David Gammie and provide all the information needed to enjoy this CD. The all-important organ specification is included. This four-manual instrument was built by Johannes Klais Orgelbau based in Bonn and was commissioned on 19 October 2001. It is the largest mechanical action organ in the United Kingdom. The booklet also features several stunning photographs of the instrument and one of the soloist. Details of the soloist can be found at his agent’s webpage, here.

Thomas Trotter has chosen a splendidly diverse repertoire for this recital. I have noted above the impressive and creative registrations that he has chosen for these pieces. Equally extraordinary is his technique and irrepressible enthusiasm which is apparent in every bar that he plays.

Track Listing:
Paul Dukas (1865–1935)
, arr Thomas Trotter (b. 1957)
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (1897, arr. 2012)
Charles-Marie Widor (1844–1937)
Symphonie No.5, op 42, No 1: I. Allegro Vivace (1879)
John Gardner (1917–2011)
Five Dances for organ, op 179 (1988)
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921)
Fantaisie in E flat major (1857)
Derek Bourgeois (1941–2017)
Serenade, op. 22 (1965)
Tielman Susato (c.1510–c.70), arr. Thomas Trotter
Dances from Danserye (1551)
Zsolt Gárdonyi (b. 1946)
Mozart Changes (1995)
Rachel Laurin (b. 1961)
Sweelinck Variations, op. 96 (2020)
Thomas Trotter (organ)
rec. 21-22 August 2021, Symphony Hall, Birmingham, UK
Regent Records REGCD566

Friday 22 September 2023

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on Decca Eclipse

At high school, one of the ‘set’ ‘A’ level music works was Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons (Le Quatro Stagione). Looking back now, after more than 50 years I cannot recall what “seasons” were chosen for study. The LP that was used, I think, was the violinist Michel Schwalbé with the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. It had been released on the Deutsche Grammophon label (2530 296) in 1972. 

As an impecunious teenager, I could not afford this version, so after a visit to Cuthbertson’s music shop in Cambridge Street, Glasgow (long closed), I ended up purchasing the Decca Eclipse version (ECS 506) which featured Reinhold Barchet, violin, and The Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, under the auspices of Karl Münchinger. This recording had been made during March 1951, at the Victoria Hall, Geneva. It was originally issued on Decca’s Orange/Gold Label (LXT2600) in August of that year. It has been subject of several repackagings over the years.

As always with Decca Eclipse records, I was impressed by the sleeve cover which featured photograph of Penrhyn Castle. This is an impressive country house in Llandygai, Bangor, Gwynedd, North Wales. It was constructed in the style of a Norman castle. Sadly, more than forty years elapsed until I managed to visit this impressive pile.

When excerpts from this work are played on Classic fM, the presenter rarely explains that the entire The Four Seasons are four violin or concerto grosso taken from a larger collection entitled Il Cimento dell′ Armonia e dell′ Inventione (The Contest Between Harmony and Invention). It was not until 1927 that The Seasons were first published in a modern edition, by Bernardino Molinari. He later gave the first full performance in the United States during January 1928, accompanied by the St Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Equally omitted from any spoken introduction to these works on the wireless, is reference to the accompanying literary text. All four concertos are prefaced by a sonnet, written by an anonymous poet, but quite possibly Vivaldi himself.

Each concerto is a tone poem, or literal programme music which musically suggests the texts of the sonnets:

  1. 1.      La Primavera (Spring)
  2. 2.      L’Estate (Summer)
  3. 3.      L’Autumno (Autumn)
  4. 4.      L’Inverno (Winter)

As each work unfolds, they “evoke and imitate many a vignette of pastoral life and landscape – peasant dances, sleeping goatherds, gentle breezes, flowing streams, thunderstorms and other miniatures.”

Reviewing the initial release, The Gramophone (August 1951, p.51) declared that the performance was “done with considerable finesse and quality.” Lionel Salter, (The Gramophone, October 1951, p.101) considers that previous versions of The Seasons “cannot hold a candle to the present set, played in remarkably authentic fashion by this remarkable ensemble, who seem to be able to satisfy musicologists and the ordinary music lover alike.” Whether current day practitioners of authentic instruments, would entirely agree, is another matter.

Tuesday 19 September 2023

It’s not British but…George Antheil’s Orchestral Music

This present CD does not display the revolutionary side of George Antheil. This music would not cause riots in the Parisian salons or New York’s Carnegie Hall. There is nothing of the ‘bad boy’ in these five interesting pieces. They are all from the last two decades of Antheil's life and reflect a rapprochement with more conventional sounds. To understand where this CD fits into the oeuvre it is necessary to give a brief outline of his life, works and influences.

Antheil's most famous (or certainly most notorious) composition is the Ballet Mechanique; this may be the most important example of modernism from the 1920’s.  The composer wrote in his autobiography that ‘he played in Paris for the first time…rioting broke out almost immediately. I remember Man Ray punching somebody on the nose in the front row. Marcel Duchamps was arguing loudly with somebody else in the second row.’  

The Ballet Mechanique was scored for an outré ensemble that included a small aeroplane propeller, a large aeroplane propeller, gongs, cymbal, woodblock, triangle small and large electric bells etc. I listened to it again as a part of my thoughts for this present review. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since its first performance on that fateful night in Paris; no longer seen as being extremely avant garde, it is quite obviously a tour de force of its time. A suitable reference point for all the music that was to follow.

George Antheil was born in Trenton, New Jersey on 8th July 1900 although he was of Polish descent. After studying with Ernest Bloch at the Philadelphia Conservatory, his early career was that of a concert pianist in Europe. He wrote several pieces for inclusion in his recitals; the most famous of these are the Airplane Sonata, the Sonata Sauvage and Mechanisms. At this time his work was regarded as being avant garde and certainly, considering the cultural context of the early twenties, it must have seemed ‘ahead of its time.’  

Antheil fitted well into European society at that time. He was friends with virtually everyone that mattered. The list is impressive – James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Ernest Hemingway. He received support from Eric Satie and Igor Stravinsky. At this time, he lived in Paris above the Shakespeare & Co bookshop which had recently published Joyce’s Ulysses to considerable controversy.

His entire catalogue includes more than 300 compositions including six symphonies, lots of chamber music, film scores and operas. Most of these have not yet entered the popular repertoire. But the reason is not his dalliance with the extreme avant garde.  One of the strange things about Antheil is the fact as he got older his style changed- and in a more conservative direction.  In the mid 1930’s he left Germany and returned to the United States. There he adapted his music to a neo-romantic and loosely neo-classical style. It is to this part of his career that the works on this present CD are from.

I am not sure that we can regard the Third Symphony as a masterpiece. For one thing the form itself is a little loose. It is easier to regard it as a collection of four tone poems played end to end than as a unified symphony. In fact, the third movement, the Golden Spike was successfully excerpted from the symphony in 1945 by Hans Kindler and the National Symphony Orchestra. Yet, on the other hand it is not fair to condemn it because it may lack a little cohesion.

It is quite definitely an American composition. Antheil assures us that it is not backward looking; here we find no slaves singing across the waters by the orange groves (Delius) or cakewalks in Kentucky or old-time renditions of Moody and Sankey. This is modern America - the land of opportunity, skyscrapers, steel, freeways, and broad horizons. The third movement epitomizes the mood of the work. The Golden Spike is not a mythical or legendary artifact - it is a symbol for the ‘American Dream.’ It originates in the spike that was driven into the track on the completion of the trans-American railway. But Antheil's imagery is more Route 69 than Casey Jones! There are four movements: Allegro, Andante, The Golden Spike and Back to Baltimore. This last movement is the most interesting from a musical point of view. Quite neo-classical in its form, it refuses to jump onto any kind of jazz or swing bandwagon. It is full of lively and powerful tunes that drive the music on relentlessly. Yet, it is this last movement that makes me most feel that the symphony lacks stylistic consistency. That said, it is quite clear that this symphony is a fine work that will stand against much that has been composed over the last hundred years so. It has an exuberance that excuses any minor defects in formal construction.

I have always been a fan of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. So, it came as a pleasant surprise to discover this attractive overture based on the young lad’s exploits.  If only I had known about this work 50 years ago it would have added magic to my explorations of Mark Twain’s remarkable stories. As it is, this overture is full of a kind of ‘all American’ sound. Lots of interesting melodies and rhythms topple over each other as this exuberant overture unfolds its merry and slightly mischievous way. One melody in particular asserts itself in an almost Ivesian way. Great stuff – it should and could be an encore at any orchestral concert. It shows Antheil at his approachable best.

The Hot-Time Dance is reputed to be the only surviving movement of the American Dance Suite written in 1948. This attractive ‘rhapsody’ was premiered in 1949 by the Boston Pops Orchestra. It is just a romp from start to finish. Lots of slightly jazzy riffs and rhythms underscore this tightly formed score. If ever there was any doubt about Antheil's ability to write for orchestra, then listen to this sparking score. Echoes of da Falla and Enescu are probably coincidental.

For a good bit of ‘Americana’ the overture McKonkey’s Ferry is hard to beat. It is based on George Washington’s heroic crossing of the Delaware on Christmas Night 1776. This was composed in 1948 and is one of a series of concert overtures on American historical or literary themes. There are allusions to the Tom Sawyer Overture and listeners who know the 6th Symphony will see similarities in the use of ‘vigorous motor rhythms.’ An attractive piece that has in places all the iciness of that fateful day all those years ago.

The Capital of the World is the last work on this CD. It is a ballet based on the depressing story by Ernest Hemingway about the life of a young man called Paco who is determined to go to the big city, Madrid and become a bull fighter. There he meets several people who challenge his view of the heroism of the toreadors. Unfortunately, Paco is killed in an accident in the kitchen of a hotel where he is temporarily employed. The Ballet was a huge success. It is best summed up in the words of Virgil Thomson. “[I have] rarely heard music for dancing with so much real energy in it. It is no mere accompaniment to dancing; it generates physical activity on the stage, moves the dancers around. It is colourful, too, bright, and dark and full of contrasts that are Spain. Its tunes are broad and strong; its harmonic structure is clashingly dissonant…it is the most powerful American ballet score with which I am acquainted.” There is not a lot to add to this. I was amazed at the sheer power of this score. The themes just seem to tumble over each other. I have rarely heard such invention. If this was the only work to have been composed by George Antheil it would have entitled him to a huge reputation. Do not spend time looking for influences and contrasts with other works of the period; it is quite eclectic whilst having a satisfying unity of its own. Nonetheless, a nod to Bernstein or Khachaturian may be worth keeping in mind. It was composed in 1952 and received its first performance a year later. Interestingly, it was transmitted live on television.

As always with CPO I cannot fault the presentation of this disc. There is an impressive closely written ten-page essay by Eckhardt van der Hoogen. This is extremely illuminating and essential bearing in mind that there is comparatively little available to better understand Antheil’s music. The disc itself has superb sound quality that allows us to hear every nuance of these fascinating works. Hugo Wolff and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra are powerful advocates of this largely undiscovered repertoire.

The cover picture is by Californian post-impressionist Alfred Richard Mitchell and is entitled ‘La Jolla Cove.’ It is a well-chosen picture that somehow seems to sum up the neo-classical and neo-romantic mood of the music.

George Antheil is a distinguished American composer. That said, he will never compete with Copland, Barber, and Bernstein in the public imagination. Yet for sheer inventiveness, interest, musicality, variety, and often sheer fun he cannot be bettered.

I feel that with the CPO symphonic cycle and Naxos contributions on the ‘American Classics’ series we have the basis for a major reappraisal. To be honest, I enjoy George Antheil’s music as much as that of the above-named ‘greats.’ He may not have been the promised genius, but he is certainly a major composer and a master craftsman to boot.

Track Listing:
George Antheil (1900 -1959)

Symphony No.3 “American” (1936-39/revised 1946)
Tom Sawyer Overture (1949)
Hot-Time Dance (1948)
McKonkey’s Ferry Overture (1948)
Capital of the World Suite (1953)
Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt/Hugh Wolff
rec. 3-6 July and 28 August 2001, Sendesaal, Bremen
CPO CDs 777 040-2

Saturday 16 September 2023

Frank Bridge’s Suite: The Sea for large orchestra (1911)

I want to dispel the notion that Frank Bridge’s Suite: The Sea for large orchestra is in some way an English response to Debussy’s La Mer (1903-05). It is not. It could be argued that this music is an evocation of the sea and often an impressionistic one at that. But if you play the two works back-to-back, one will notice the difference. Frank Bridge uses and develop themes, whereas Debussy is more driven by motives.

There are four movements, all of which contribute to the magic of this impressive tone poem. Let Bridge’s words give us some idea of the mood evoked in this score:

Seascape paints the sea on a summer morning. From high drifts is seen a great expanse of waters lying in the sunlight.  Warm breezes play over the surface.  Sea-foam froths among the low-lying rocks and pools on the shore, playfully not stormy. Moonlight paints a calm sea at night. The first moonbeams are struggling to pierce through the clouds, which eventually pass over, leaving the sea shimmering in full moonlight. Finally, a raging Storm. Wind, rain and tempestuous seas, with the lulling of the storm an allusion to the first number is heard and which may be regarded as a sea lover’s dedication to the sea.”

It is interesting to note that Frank Bridge composed much of this music in Eastbourne, with the seascape of the English Channel in view. Strangely it was at an hotel in the same town the Debussy put the final touches to his masterpiece, La Mer.

The score was begun in 1910 and was completed on 5 July 1911. It was published under the Carnegie Music Publishing scheme, being included in the first list of works chosen by the committee.

The Sea was premiered on 24 September 1912 during a Queen’s Hall Promenade Concert. The resident orchestra was conducted by Sir Henry Wood.

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (25 September 1912, p.6) notes that “The subject has frequently tempted, and, in some cases inspired composers, for the ocean and its many and constantly varying moods bear a close analogy to the ebb and flow of human emotion, added to which it possesses a grandeur peculiarly its own. The possession of so many different attributes makes the task of the composer who would suggest them very difficult. It is well to remember this when listening to a sea piece, especially the one produced last night, for, truth to tell. Mr. Bridge does not seem to have sufficiently realised the possibilities of his subject. Apart from this, the work is well-considered and musicianly composition.”

The young Benjamin Britten was totally bowled over when he first heard this work performed at a Norwich Triennial Festival concert in 1924. He was particularly impressed with the ‘sensuous harmonies’ in the Moonlight movement.

Frank Bridge’s Suite: The Sea can be heard on YouTube, here. The Ulster Orchestra is conducted by Vernon Handley.

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Kenneth Hamilton Plays Liszt: Volume 2 Salon and Stage

The second volume of Kenneth Hamilton’s survey of Franz Liszt’s piano music is entitled Salon and Stage. Volume 1, Death and Transfiguration, was reviewed here. It is important to explain Kenneth Hamilton’s ethos in approaching this music. The record company’s webpage states that “[he] has sought out Liszt’s oft-ignored recommendations on their interpretation and studied the reminiscences and recordings of his students. He has, in effect, tried to think like a Liszt pupil, and to immerse himself in a performance tradition that goes well beyond the printed text.”

In the liner notes, Kenneth Hamilton elaborates:” If…all the scores of 19th century opera and song were to vanish…then the arrangements made by Franz Liszt would still preserve some of their finest passages.”  These scores balance originality as well as creativity. They “effectively constitute original works in their own right.” 

The contents of this CD can be grouped under various headings: Wagner, Schubert, Verdi, and then the rest, including Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Gounod, and Eduard Lassen.

The Overture to Tannhäuser, S442 balances a “straight forward” pianistic transcription of the score, supplemented with a couple of cadenzas. The Song to the Evening Star, S444 has a “languidly chromatic” coda, which provides a dreamy conclusion. Liszt wrote to Wagner that “As to the former, I believe that it will meet with few executants capable of mastering its technical difficulties, but the scene of the Abendstern should be within the reach of second-class pianists…[!]” The next bit of Wagner is Am stillen Herd from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, S448: this is not a straight “arrangement” but more of an improvisation. It is heart-rendingly beautiful. Equally gorgeous is the wayward Spinning Song from The Flying Dutchman, S440, with its “sparklingly iridescent” ending.

There are nine Soirées de Vienne, S427 (1846-52), which are arrangements of Schubert’s eminently playable waltzes. The sixth has long been a favourite of pianists (and concertgoers). Liszt subjected it to various revisions. The present recording is Hamilton’s conflation of the 1879 and the 1882 versions. Lasting just over ten minutes it is a sheer joy. The other Schubert arrangement here is the Ständchen: Leise flehen meine Lieder (My songs fly softly through the night to you), S.560/7a. It is the fourth number of Schubert’s Schwanengesang.

Eduard Lassen (1830-1904) was a Danish/Belgian composer who succeeded Liszt as Kapellmeister at Weimar. Barely recalled today, his Six Lieder, op.6 was dedicated to the composer. Liszt made concert-arrangements of two of these songs, “Ich weil’ in tiefer Einsamkeit,” S495 and “Löse, Himmel, meine Seele,” S494/2. The liner notes mix the catalogue numbers up here. Hamilton explains that in this version, Liszt made “a subtle, improvisatory transition between the songs, marrying them musically together.” These rarities deserve to be better known: they are quite lovely. Liszt’s arrangement of Mendelssohn’s On the Wings of Song is a potboiler.

There are several arrangements of Giuseppe Verdi’s operas. First up is the popular Rigoletto Paraphrase de concert, S434. This was written between 1855 and 1859. It was based on the famous quartet, “Bella figlia dell'amore" (Act III) between Rigoletto, Gilda, the Duke and Maddalena. The Aida Paraphrase, S436 – Danza sacra e Duetto finale, was produced sometime before 1879. The liner notes sum up this work as “encompassing the priests’ hymn to their god Phtha, the temple dances and the opera’s unforgettable final duet.” But Liszt has been extremely creative in the last section where he presents “an ecstatic Wagnerian love-death for which we will search the opera’s original score in vain.”

The final Verdi offering here is the Ernani Paraphrase, S432 is based on the King of Spain’s aria O Sommo Carlo and the chorus at Charlemagne’s tomb. The original music is presented in complex pianistic terms complete with a dramatic coda and intricate cadenzas.

The Polonaise from Eugene Onegin, S429 is full of sparkle and wit and us a souped-up version of the Tchaikovsky’s original well-known melody. Less well known in its original incarnation is Hans von Bülow’s Dante Sonnet, “Tanto gentile e tanto onesta” (How kind and honest my lady looks), S479. Liszt’s arrangement is seductive in its straightforward repristinating of the tune. It is a truly romantic piece in the “love and affection” meaning of the word.

Liszt wrote two Illustrations from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s posthumous opera L’Africaine. The first, S415/1, is heard on this CD. The liner notes explain that this is a fantasia on the Prière de Matelots from Act 3 rather than a direct transcription. It is by turns stormy and meditative.

Clara Schumann’s “Geheimes Flüstern hier und dort” (Secret Whispers here and there) is the tenth number of Zehn Lieder von Robert und Clara Schumann, S569. It is a short, restrained transcription of the third song from Schumann’s Six Lieder from Jucunde, op. 23 to a pantheistic poem by Hermann Rollett (1819–1904).

Charles Gounod is represented here by two transcriptions: the Hymn to St Cecilia, S491, and the Waltz from Faust, S407. The former is a “luxuriously re-upholstered [hymn to the saint] which is nearly twice the length of Gounod’s unassuming original, and of considerably greater sophistication.” Whilst the second is a reworking of the original Waltz in sonata form, complete with an interpolated middle section reminiscent of the moment that Faust met Gretchen. I have never been a fan of Gounod, but in the hands of Liszt he becomes a giant!

Finally, it is good to have some “self-transcriptions” – the three Liebestraumes, S541. Originally songs setting texts by Ludwig Uhland and Ferdinand Freiligrath, there were transformed into “luscious nocturnes” by Liszt in 1850. The first and second are rarely performed, the third is ubiquitous. Little more need be said.

The booklet is superlative. Kenneth Hamilton provides an essay length introduction to the repertoire. This is hardly surprising as he accomplished his doctoral dissertation, The Opera Fantasias, and Transcriptions of Franz Liszt; A Critical Study, in 1989. The gatefold cover shows a stage design by Heinrich Maximilian Bruckner for Act 3 of Wagner’s Tannhauser. I was delighted to see that the track-listing in the booklet includes the “S” numbers (given to each work by the English composer and scholar, Humphrey Searle): this allows the listener to track down exactly what version of these pieces are being played. I would have liked to see the dates given in the track listing.

This double-CD is an album to explore slowly. I assessed it by working through the “arrangements” by composer. However, the actual batting order does give a varied and satisfying recital.

I have not had an opportunity to contrast and compare Kenneth Hamilton’s performance of these works from Salon and Stage with the two main contenders for this repertoire. I have occasionally dipped into Leslie Howard’s magisterial Liszt: Complete Piano Music on the Hyperion label and the massive multi-artist series on Naxos (at least sixty volumes). Equally, listeners will be aware that much of this repertoire has been recorded by many other pianists. From my point of view, my reaction to Hamilton’s superb playing is an appreciation of the hugely diverse emotional impact created this music, and to gain a sense of the numinous which should always be present in Liszt’s music. One must not overlook the sheer technical wizardry of these performances. In all these cases, Kenneth Hamilton satisfies my expectations.

I understand that Volume 3 will include Book 3 of Années de pèlerinage and associated pieces such as À la Chapelle Sixtine. A further volume is in planning entitled Demonic and Divine and may incorporate the Mephisto Waltzes, the St Francis Legends, etc.

Track Listings:
Franz Liszt (1811-86)

CD 1
1. Richard Wagner (1813-83)/Franz Liszt: Overture to Tannhäuser, S442 (1848)
2. Richard Wagner / Franz Liszt: “Song to the Evening Star” from Tannhäuser, S444 (1849)
3. Franz Schubert (1797-1828)/Franz Liszt: Soirée de Vienne, no.6 (revised version), S427/6ii/6b (1879/83)
4. Franz Schubert/Franz Liszt: “Leise flehen meine Lieder” (with late cadenza) (S560/7a) (1880)
5. Richard Wagner/Franz Liszt: “Am stillen Herd” from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, S448 (1871)
6. Eduard Lassen (1830-1904)/Franz Liszt: “Ich weil’ in tiefer Einsamkeit” S495 (1872)
7. Eduard Lassen / Franz Liszt: “Löse, Himmel, meine Seele” S494/2 (1872)
8. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47)/Franz Liszt: “Auf Flügeln des Gesanges” S547/1 (1840)
9. Richard Wagner/Franz Liszt: “Spinning Song” from Der fliegende Holländer S440 (1860)
10. Charles Gounod (1818-93)/Franz Liszt: Hymn to St Cecilia S491(1866)
CD 2
1. Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-93)/Franz Liszt: Polonaise from Eugene Onegin S429 (1879)
2. Hans von Bülow (1830-94)/Franz Liszt: Dante’s Sonnet S479 (1874)
3. Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)/Franz Liszt: Rigoletto Paraphrase S434 (1885-59?)
4. Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)/Franz Liszt: “Illustration” no.1 from L’Africaine S415/1 (1865)
5. Giuseppe Verdi/Franz Liszt: Aida Paraphrase S436 (1876?)
6. Franz Liszt: Liebesträume no.1, “Hohe Liebe” S541/1 (1850)
7. Franz Liszt: Liebesträume no.2, “Seliger Tod” S541/2 (1850)
8. Franz Liszt: Liebesträume no.3, “O Lieb” S541/3 (1850)
9. Giuseppe Verdi/Franz Liszt: Ernani Paraphrase S432 (1859)
10. Clara Schumann (1819-96)/Franz Liszt: “Geheimes Flüstern hier und dort” S569/10 (1874)
11. Charles Gounod/Franz Liszt: Waltz from Faust S407 (1861)
Kenneth Hamilton (piano)
rec. 18 July 2019, 22 August 2020, 5-6 February 2022, Cardiff University School of Music, Wales.
Prima Facie PFCD 210/211

Sunday 10 September 2023

Frank Bridge: Summer (1914-15)

The tone poem, Summer must rank as one of my all-time favourites. It would certainly feature as one of my Desert Island Discs. I understand that it was completed whilst Bridge was living in Bedford Gardens in Kensington. However, he had recently (1914) moved from Chiswick. It was written at a time when the composer was extremely disturbed by the effect the Great War was having on the lives of his friends. Bridge was too old to be involved in the fighting himself; besides, he was an unrepentant pacifist. He was uneasy with the apparent jingoism that was in the air at that time. Rather than write a ‘troubled’ work depicting in musical terms the clash of the Titans, he resorted to a kind of escapism. It is this context that we are to listen in Summer and the Two Poems which were also composed at about this time. 

It would be easy to see Summer as a kind of parody of Delius. However, it is a cleverly constructed work with an obvious ternary form to it. The skill that Bridge brings with his orchestration and harmonic structures tends to blur the underlying form. This is one of those pieces of music that need to be listened to with a kind of relaxed concentration. By this I mean that it is not to be listened to in the background whilst discussing the holiday snaps over a glass of Chianti. Neither, though, should it be an intellectual exercise. Switch off the light, open the window, enjoy the cool evening breeze, and just fall into the delicious harmonies and counterpoints. Let the music wash over you. Lose yourself in the summer’s day haze. Think of Matthew Arnold’s evocative lines “All the live murmur of a summer’s day!” It is nine minutes and forty seconds of Heaven. There is plenty of time to evaluate and analyse the score the next morning.

Summer was premiered on 13 March 1916 during a Royal Philharmonic Society Concert at the Queen’s Hall: the composer conducted the resident orchestra.

Paul Hindmarsh, in his Frank Bridge Catalogue quotes a letter from Frank Bridge to his friend Marjorie Fass. It was penned as an update on the composer’s tour of the United States and refers to the American premiere by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Hence the (sadly disingenuous) generalisations about Americans:

This piece ‘Summer’ goes at a snail’s pace, comparatively; it has a peace in it which I wish I could find and rest in at the moment. It reflects nothing that the average American has in his or her life. It has nothing to do with any material aspect of life. It has nothing to do with twenty-storey buildings or the concrete roads which run throughout the country. Only to the lover of the footpath which winds through the woods and over brooks with the aid of old-fashioned foot bridges, or with stepping-stones, can this piece arouse a sympathetic understanding. (From a letter to Marjorie Fass, dated 17 October 1923)

Frank Bridge must have the final word. He is quoted as saying in a letter to his wife, ‘…only if there is such a thing as rest in the soul of the listener and in the sweetness of a summer day faraway in the heart of the country will my piece Summer make any impression.’ 

My favourite version of Bridge’s Summer is the recording by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Charles Groves on HMV ASD 3190, (1976) (LP): EMI Studio CDM 7 69870-2 (1989) (CD). This version has been uploaded to YouTube. Other good accounts have been made on Chandos (Hickox) and Naxos (Judd).

Thursday 7 September 2023

Kenneth Hamilton Plays Liszt: Volume 1 Death and Tranfiguration

The advertising blurb insists that “This is a Liszt recording with a difference: repertoire reflecting love, death and transfiguration, memory and nostalgia.” This implies a virtual cross section of the human condition, which leaves me wondering what element has been omitted. It states that Kenneth Hamilton has “sought out and taken seriously Liszt’s often ignored recommendations on their interpretation, passed down from the many reminiscences and recordings of students who worked closely with the composer. He has, in effect, tried to think like a Liszt pupil, to immerse himself in a performance tradition that goes beyond the printed text, and to respect Liszt’s long legacy of teaching his own music.”

I will consider the major items on this 2-CD set as well as several numbers that caught my ear.

The magnum opus here is the Sonata in B minor, S.178 (1852-53), dedicated to Robert Schumann. There are some 200 recordings currently available on disc or download. It is therefore imperative to understand that Kenneth Hamilton is competing here with all the ‘greats,’ including Martha Argerich, Daniel Barenboim, Emil Gilels, Van Cliburn and Vladimir Horowitz.

Here, Liszt moves the goalposts of Sonata form. This work is in a single movement, with four sections that are all played without a break. Liszt created his piano masterpiece using one principal theme, with several subsidiary ones. These are subject to constant melodic and rhythmical transformations as the music progresses. The idea is to make the entire Sonata appear as an “artistic unity.” From a romantic era notion, the work can be argued to depict the struggle of an artist who pits his or her noble aspirations against “relentless destiny.” After much effort the music ends in peaceful melancholy. Every human emotion can be found in these pages. And this is the problem with which the pianist must contend with. These sentiments must be realised with a deep understanding of how Liszt transforms his themes and creates a satisfying unity. The technical demands range from “tumultuous octaves at breakneck speed, a powerful exposition of melodies, accurate and detailed part-playing in the fugato sections.”

Kenneth Hamilton has given an interpretation which fully encompasses Liszt’s vision. Finally, he adopts a strikingly moving revised reading of the Sonata’s final page.

I have never quite fully bought into to Liszt’s Harmonies poétiques et religieuses (S.173). I accept that these ten works were written at a time of emotional stress: the death of his father, his struggle to make a living to support his mother and himself, his unrequited first love, and his youthful desire to enter the Catholic Church. The elegiac Funérailles, lasting twelve minutes, is given a dramatic performance here. Commemorating the loss of three friends killed during rioting in Hungary during 1849, this is a “heroic lament” exploiting several “takes” on March form. Yet, this is transfigured by strong “harmonic clashes, stark fanfares and an abrupt ending.” Here and there, moments of beauty emerge to cast a beam of light on the deep despair of Liszt’s loss. The second, Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude, has a title that Messiaen might have dreamt up. I accept that this is a truly gorgeous work. If at times despondent, this music is full of nobility and acquiescence of the soul. Contrasting moments of hymn like beauty compete with a massive climax full of arpeggios. It is one of the loveliest of Liszt’s piano pieces and deserves to be heard more often. Pensée des Morts is also an elegy, composed in memory of his late father, the mother of his first love, and after the trauma of illness which left Liszt as good a dead. An obituary notice was even prepared. I find it too depressing and far too long. Yet, other commentators find it the “core of the set.” Equally gloomy is the final movement that Hamilton has chosen, Ave Maria.

The Csardas’ Macabre S.224 (1881-82) or Dance of Death is full of “forbidden” parallel fifths. Certainly, Bartok knew this work, and it may well have influenced him. The version heard here represents Liszt’s concluding thoughts.

Nuages Gris is remarkable. Full of unresolved harmonies and soft dissonances, this enigmatic work presents a musical evocation of its title - Grey Clouds. The liner notes explain that “Liszt once said that his ambition was to cast a lance into the future of music. It hit the mark.” I sense a forthtelling of musical impressionism here. It is hardly surprising that Debussy was a fan of this piece.

The second disc opens with the Ballade No.2, S.171 completed in 1853. Like many examples with this title, Liszt does not give a clue as to a possible underlying narrative. The chances are there was none. Yet a world of meaning emerges from these pages. The Ballade is written in the “grand manner” with a good balance between passages of great drama and considerable beauty. The success of this piece depends not only on huge technical skills but on the soloist providing the details of a story that does not (probably) exist. From dark and stormy moods to pleading and longing, this Ballade provides a roller coaster of emotion. The pianist splendidly develops and envelops it here.

I loved the Schubert/Liszt: Impromptu in Gb major, S.565b. This is perfect in Schubert’s own original version, but here the sheer romanticism is exaggerated in the closing bars. Scrumptious.

I doubt many visitors to Venice will relate to the La Lugubre Gondola, S.200 (1884). “Lugubre” = “Dismal,” and refers to the funereal gondolas draped in black which are sometimes seen on the canals. Most tourists will not regard a trip on this mode of transport as anything other than sheer pleasure and delight unless the gondoliers’ bill takes them by surprise. It was written for Richard Wagner. The first version was completed during December 1882, when Liszt was staying at Palazzo Vendramin on the Grand Canal. The German composer was unwell, and Liszt regarded this music as a premonition. Three months later, Wagner was dead. Kenneth Hamilton notes that La Lagubre Gondola “underwent several revisions before reaching the version heard on this disc, which was likely composed shortly before Liszt’s own death in 1886.” This remarkably sad and melancholic piece has echoes of Tristan and Felix Mendelssohn’s Venetian Gondola Songs. Spookily, it ends with thunder, signalling Wagner, with all his faults, entering Valhalla.

En Reve (Nocturne), S.207 (1885) may nod towards the “inventor” of the Nocturne, the Dublin-born John Field (1782-1837). It begins in dream like trance, before developing into a “thicket of surprisingly complex and delightful harmonies.” The ending is enigmatic.

The final work in this recital is the wonderful transcription of Isoldes Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, S.447. I am not a Wagner enthusiast, except bizarrely for the orchestral excerpts from his operas. I can happily leave the five-hour show for future consideration (ha!) and enjoy Liszt’s beautiful piano re-working. It must rank as one of his finest and most successful transcriptions.

The playing here is superb. Kenneth Hamilton brings a numinous quality to Liszt’s music that is often absent in other performances. Sometimes this is intangible, as it ought to be. The recording compliments this in every way.

The booklet is essay length and provides most of the details that the listener needs. It includes a brief biography of the pianist. I do wish that Prima Facie had included the S (Searle) numbers in the track listing. Liszt enthusiasts will know that often several versions of each piece exist. These numbers make identification so much easier. Interestingly, they are included on the track information encoded on the actual CD. The dates in the track listing would have been helpful too, to avoid scanning the small print of the notes. I have added these, hopefully correctly.

Kenneth Hamilton has told me that this is the first CD in a series. However, he does not intend to make it into a complete cycle such as Leslie Howard did on the Hyperion label. It is envisaged that it may reach ten volumes. I understand that the second and third volumes have already been recorded. No. 2 is subtitled Salon and Stage and features several arrangements and transcriptions of music by Richard Wagner, Franz Schubert, Charles Gounod and Guiseppe Verdi, amongst others. The third will include Book 3 of Annise de Pelerinage and associated pieces such as A la Chapelle Sixtine. A further volume in planning is entitled Demonic and Divine and may incorporate works such as the Mephisto Waltzes, the St Francis Legends, etc.

Altogether an illuminating and enjoyable release from Prima Facie that ticks all the boxes of excellence.

Track Listing:
Franz Liszt (1811-86)

CD 1:
Funérailles (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S.173/7) (1849)
Bénédiction de Dieu dans la solitude (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S.173/3) (1851)
Csárdás Macabre S.224 (1881-82)
Pensée des Morts (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S.173/4) (1834, rev.1851)
Nuages Gris, S.199 (1881)
Sonata in B minor, S.178 (1852-53)
CD 2:
Ballade No. 2 in B minor, S.171 (1853)
En rêve (Nocturne), S.207 (1885)
Abschied (Farewell): Russian Folksong, S.251 (1885)
Die Zelle in Nonnenwerth, S.274 (1841)
Dem Andenken Petofis, S.195 (1877)
Ave Maria (Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, S.173) (1846)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)/Franz LISZT: Impromptu in Gb major, S.565b (1840)
Prelude on Weinen, klagen, Sorgen, Zagen S.179 (1859)
La Lugubre Gondola, S.200 (1884-5)
Romance "O pauraque donc," S.169 (1848)
Romance Oubliée, S.527 (1880)
Die Lorelei, S.273 (1856) [6:29]
In Festo Transfigurationis Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, S.188 (1880) [2:31]
Richard Wagner (1813-83)/Franz Liszt: Isoldens Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde, S.447 (1867)
Kenneth Hamilton (piano)
rec. 25-26 January 2020, 22-23 August 2020, 30-31 January 2021, 15-16 May 2021, Cardiff University School of Music
Prima Facie PFCD167/168

With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.

Monday 4 September 2023

Frank Bridge: Enter Spring (1927)

I believe that Frank Bridge’s masterpiece is Enter Spring. Furthermore, I consider it to the finest tone poem in the repertoire of British music. Fulsome praise indeed!

Despite its ‘Georgian’ title, there is no way that it can be described as a purely pastoral piece. It is not a cow leaning over a gate. There is a pastoral element, but as Rob Barnett (MusicWeb International) has said, “tempered with the more serious stirrings of [Bridge’s] more avant-garde style.”

Although Bridge’s life centred on London he was able to spend much time in his native county. In the nineteen twenties Bridge and his wife built a house, Friston Field, near West Dean in Sussex. It overlooked a large panorama of the downs. Bridge’s earlier master work, The Sea was inspired by the English Channel. The South Downs were to provide the backdrop to Enter Spring. Originally it was to have been called On Friston Down but this name was abandoned. The short-score was composed between August 1926 and January 1927. The full score is dated 27 May 1927.

It would be easy to play ‘spot the influence’ with this piece. There are echoes of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or Arnold Bax’s Spring Fire. Barnett alludes to John Fould’s great but neglected work April-England. Ravel and Debussy and even Alban Berg are never far from mind. But Bridge is beholden to no man; this is a synthesis of all that he had composed up 1927.

Enter Spring was premiered on 21 October 1927 at that year’s Norwich Triennial Festival. The Queen’s Hall Orchestra was conducted by the composer.

The critic of the Morning Post (28 October 1927) was impressed: “[Frank Bridge] ...carried the arms of a commissioned composition with remarkable success. The work has a fluent inspiration, meticulous in detail yet seemingly spontaneous, graphic yet not wholly realistic, complex yet persuasive. The programme is spring as a full experience rather than a vague prescience, and at every point the finally wrought music conveys this experience urgently and generously.”

This is not the place to analyse the details of this work. It is the forum to pile up the adjectives. This work is rich in development, subtle in its remarkable scoring. There is a superabundance of invention and imagination here – from the first to the last bar. There is a “formal mastery” that makes this work a paragon of its type. It is sunny, turbulent, colourful, exuberant, and melancholic all in the space of twenty minutes. At the end of the work Spring is truly ushered in. Would that I was on the Sussex Downs at Chanctonbury or Firle Beacon or West Dean to see it!

Listen to Frank Bridge’s Enter Spring on YouTube, here. It is played by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Richard Hickox.

Friday 1 September 2023

Arthur Honegger: Mouvements symphoniques No.2 Rugby (1928)

It is hardly surprising that Swiss composer’s Arthur Honegger’s (1892-1955) “symphonic movement’ Rugby was inspired by the ever-popular game. In his youth, he was an enthusiast of the game. The story is told that Honegger was in conversation with the sports editor of a Paris journal. He told the correspondent that “he could imagine a symphonic poem which would picture in musical equivalents the impression of a football game.” Impressed, the journalist printed that Honegger was at work on the score. The news crossed the Atlantic and “was subject to comments more of less jocose.” Seemingly the composer was amused by the “fake news,” but then took the idea seriously. 

Honegger wrote, “I'm very fond of football, but rugby is closer to my heart. It seems to me more spontaneous, both direct, closer to nature than football, which is more scientific. Certainly, I'm not insensible to football's, prepared moves, but I'm more keenly attracted by rugby 's rhythm, which is savage, abrupt, chaotic, and desperate. It would be wrong to consider my piece as programme music. It simply tries to describe in a musical language the games attacks and counter attacks, and the rhythm and colour of a match at the stade de Colombes. I thought I ought to be honest and indicate my sources. That's why the short composition has the title Rugby.” (Cited Halbreich, Harry, Arthur Honegger, 1999, p.354)

Equally helpful to the listener is the work’s underlying formal concept of “a movement of teams (a melee of bodies = counterpoint, two supporters camps = two themes.”  “[Rugby] opens and closes in D major, but between these initial gambits there are many “passes” and “tries.”

The entire work is a vibrant scherzo that can be enjoyed by all, even those not enthusiastic about rugby league or union. It can be viewed as “incisive exchanges between orchestral groups imply a sense of opposing forces trying to secure the upper hand, culminating in the affirmative return of the chorale-theme to impart a sense of victory, though who has triumphed over whom is left.” (Liner note Naxos 8.55794). On the other hand, it can be conceived as a game or as a mirror of life itself.

The work was premiered at Theatre de Champs Elysees, Paris on 19 October 1928. The Orchestre Symphonique de Paris was conducted by Ernest Ansermet.

Listen to Arthur Honegger’s Rugby (Mouvement symphonique No. 2) played by the Orchestre de Chambre de la Radiodiffusion-Television Française, conducted by Michel Plasson