Friday, July 5, 2013

Preview: It's Fantasy Week at Sunday Classics!

Homero Francesch is the piano soloist in this performance of Beethoven's Choral Fantasy with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna Jeunesse Choir.

by Ken

We have a great musical fantasy coming up Sunday -- Max Bruch's Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra, so I thought tonight we would review the two wonderful fantasies we've already heard.


We first heard it in the August 2010 post "The piano-and-orchestra Liszt -- the orator meets the poet."

LISZT: Hungarian Fantasia for Piano and Orchestra

Sviatoslav Richter, piano; London Symphony Orchestra, Kiril Kondrashin, cond. Live performance, 1961 (mono)

Jorge Bolet, piano; Symphony of the Air, Robert Irving, cond. Everest, recorded c1959

Michel BĂ©roff, piano; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Kurt Masur, cond. EMI, recorded June 1979


"Rudolf Serkin was once asked, jokingly of course, if Beethoven had composed the Choral Fantasy for Marlboro. The piece has everything Marlboro could have wanted for its final concert: an orchestra in which everyone could play; solos within the orchestra; ensemble playing among various instruments; piano solo; and a chorus for everyone else in the Marlboro community. Rudolf Serkin responded, with his characteristic smile, 'No, Beethoven didn't compose it for Marlboro. . . . But he approves.'"

We heard not one, not two, but three performances of the Choral Fantasy by Christopher Serkin's father in a large-ish March 2010 Beethoven piano concerto post.

BEETHOVEN: Fantasy in C for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra, Op. 80
The most obvious observation to be made is that the Choral Fantasy of 1808 (thus at roughly the time of the Sixth Symphony, the Pastoral is a dry run for the monumental finale of the Ninth Symphony, which culminates in a setting of Schiller's Ode to Joy including four vocal soloists and chorus, composed more than a decade later. As in the finale of the Ninth, Beethoven takes us through a winding, surprise-filled landscape before we reach the unexpected choral destination. Wikipedia has German and English texts in a pleasantly sympathetic article on the Choral Fantasy, at Here's Decca's translation:

Enticingly fair and lovely sound
the harmonies of our life,
and from a sense of beauty arise
glowers that bloom forever.

Peace and joy flow hand in hand
like the changing play of the waves;
what was crowded together in chaos and hostility
now shapes itself into exalted feeling.

When music's enchantment reigns
and poetry's consecration speaks,
wondrous things take shape;
night and storm change to light.

Outer peace, inner bliss
are the rulers of the happy man.
But the spring sun of the arts
causes light to flow from both.

Great things that have penetrated the heart
blossom anew and beautifully on high,
and the spirit that has soared up
is always echoed by a chorus of spirits.

Take them, then, you noble souls,
gladly, these gifts of noble art.
When love and strength are wedded together
mankind is rewarded with divine grace.

Rudolf Serkin, piano; Westminster Choir, New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond. Columbia-CBS-Sony, recorded May 1, 1962

Rudolf Serkin, piano; Nan Nall (s), Beverly Morgan (ms), Shirley Close (ms), Gene Tucker (t), Sanford Sylvan (b), David Evitts (b); Marlboro Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Peter Serkin, cond. Sony, recorded live, Aug. 9, 1981

Rudolf Serkin, piano; Faye Robinson (s), Mary Burgess (s), Lili Chookasian (c), Kenneth Riegel (t), David Gordon (b), Julien Robbins (bs); Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa, cond. Telarc, recorded Oct. 2 and 4, 1982


As I said, we'll be hearing Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, divvied up among four mighty good violinists -- supported, as it happens, by four mighty good conductors.

No comments:

Post a Comment