A serendipitous moment.

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RE: A serendipitous moment. RE: A serendipitous moment.

No single moment but a series of cumulative eye-openers, about 40 years ago:


  1. Spending a weekend at a mate’s house in Bolton, his dad showing up after a hard day’s work, all dirt-caked and sweaty, complaining to anyone who’d listen, “They’ve taken off Beethoven’s Emperor tonight for some bleedin’ football match!” Not appreciated. We were both football-crazy, on the same team in fact. But later his dad put on a record of Oistrakh playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto (with a Scandanavian orchestra, can’t recall the exact details) and I was absolutely transfixed. Joined the Uni record library as soon as we got back to Liverpool and that started everything.
  2. Lying in bed on a Saturday morning, hanging over no doubt, listening to that programme that used to compare all the available recordings of a particular work. They were doing Brahms PC2, and I seem to recall Backhaus and Arrau got top marks. It was when they played an excerpt from the Solomon that the work suddenly clicked for me, and how! I got on a bus down to NEMS in Whitechapel and bought a copy which is still amongst my 10 all-time desert island discs.
  3. Soaking in the bath half-listening to a programme dissecting the last movement of Mozart’s K491. Up to then, I wouldn’t have given Mozart house room. From then on, he became one of the loves of my life. I bought all the old Turnabouts of the mid to late concertos played by Brendel. During the summer I was life-guarding at a pool and couldn’t leave for work without first playing one of those discs. Ever since, I’ve worked through the Mozart PCs every summer, and never tire of them.


Opera took much longer, a very gradual process. My only knock-on-the-head moment was hearing Pavarotti for the first time in Boheme.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

Great to hear all your stories, makes your anonymous lives more real. Interesting how most of us had that 'tingle factor' and then the obsession of not being able to consume enough of this newly discovered passion.

One of the early works I remember thinking 'what the hec is this?' is Concerto for Piano Trumpet and Strings by Shostakovitch. I only heard part of the last movement and was interrupted before I heard the announcer declare what it was. I wrote to Radio 3 and full marks to them I recieved a postcard reply a couple of weeks later informing me of its title etc.

Now of course we have the brilliant BBC website to view immediately the schedule.

Thanks to the internet we never stop finding new intriguing works to listen to. Gramophone posted on Facebook today about recordings of 2 symphonies new to me that I am now listening to on Spotify. Franz Scmidt symphony 4 Malmo SO and Berwald symphony 3 LSO. Both composers' names I recognise but have never listened to their music before.

Pause for thought.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

Atonal wrote:

Thanks to the internet we never stop finding new intriguing works to listen to. Gramophone posted on Facebook today about recordings of 2 symphonies new to me that I am now listening to on Spotify. Franz Schmidt symphony 4 Malmo SO and Berwald symphony 3 LSO. Both composers' names I recognise but have never listened to their music before.

Both works are really worth the time - the Berwald symphonies in particular are really splendid works; when ever I hear them they feel fresh and sparkling, like the Mendelssohn symphonies. The Schmidt symphony is one of those that falls too often under the radar and exists on the fringe of the repertoire - undoubtedly others will give you more information.

Wish we had spotify in my neck of the woods...




RE: A serendipitous moment.

Atonal, Berwald, as a Swedish composer didn't manage to make the name he deserved. Perhaps, because his music sounds so...German, most of the time, somerthing moving between Mendelssohn, Weber and beyond. There are quite a few good and very good recordings. The best is a rather old one, on the yellow label, with N. Jarvi. His Chamber music is also very interesting and more original: There are some nice recordings of the Piano Quintets on Explore Recordings, a comprehensive double CD (at the price of one) on Hyperion and the Complete String Quartets on BIS, plus a rather extended discography of other works as well.

Franz Schmidt is one of these cases of composers who fell on the shadow of their mentors and predecessors. He was a very significant Austrian composer, who, initially, was considered as the natural successor to Bruckner. However, his music proved to be a kind of hybrid, a conservative-progressive outcome, which was too complex for the former and too strict for the avant-gardist. In any case, the fact is that his music is truly difficult, with, often, very impressive orchestration.

For some scholars and experts, his very original masterpiece is his Oratorio "The Book of the Seven Seals" based on the Book of Apocalypse. There are, surprisingly, quite a few impressive recordings, the latest, in SACD sound (on Chandos), the oldest with Mitropoulos, existing on different labels.

However, his most popular and, for many musicians and conductors in particular, most important work is the 4th Symphony, a heartbreaking masterpiece he composed for his untimely departed daughter (Requiem for my daughter). There are plenty of very good and impressive recordings: Jarvi on Chandos, Sinaisky on Naxos, Kreizberg on Pentatone (very good and moving indeed), Luisi on Querstand and a live recording with Bonn Philh. with a less known conductor (but in SACD sound on MDG), to mention the most notable I can remember.

So, you have some food for...listening,


RE: A serendipitous moment.

Seconded, re. both Berwald and Schmidt's 4th. EMI produced a comprehensive set of Berwald's orchestral music with the RPO conducted by Bjorlin back in 1977. I think it's still available but it was recorded in a heatwave and the playing sounds rather siesta-like.

The old Schmidt 4 with the VPO conducted by, of all people, Mehta, was a landmark recording in its day and still sounds excellent to my ears. If I'm not mistaken, Naxos started issuing other Schmidt orchestral works. I'd be very interested in hearing from people who've sampled them.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

Intrigued by Parla's reference to Bruckner in the context of Schmidt's 4th Symphony (a work I'd not come across before), I listened to the Naxos/Sinaisky recording via Spotify. Thank you too, Atonal for the original reference. 

What an intriguing and very listenable work! Many thanks for pointing this out, Parla. I see exactly what you mean by your Bruckner reference - there are many points where there are very fleeting moments of a bar or so which remind one almost subliminally of Bruckner, rather in the way that Wagner's leitmotifs and their variations are sometimes only hinted at in the Ring, but nonetheless leave a very deep impression. 'Melodic moments of feeling', or something similar, was what I recall Deryck Cook described them as. And, as you say, there are passages which are very much more modern.

At first I thought the last movement was somewhat directionless, but it has an intriguing ending which, on first listening, perhaps highlights its intentionally irresolute nature. I shall certainly be returning to this and very soon.

Thanks once again to all.


RE: A serendipitous moment.

Hi JKH - Yes I shall be re-visiting this and the Schmidt again very soon. Didn't have time to give them both justice.

This is what Gramophone's Facebook post said: 'It was on this day in 1905, that Franz Berwald’s Third Symphony, the lovely 'Symphonie singulière' received its belated premiere in Stockholm. This wonderfully original Swedish composer had written it in 1845 and it’s generally considered his greatest work. If you don’t know it – imagine a blend of Mendelssohn and Sibelius, if you can – sample this fine recording (once on Decca and now on Bluebell) by the London Symphony Orchestra and Sixten Ehrling.'

Pause for thought.

RE: A serendipitous moment.

Going gack to Berwald and Schmidt, some additional points:

Berwald was rather controversial and even bizzare in composing some of his works, if we have to judge the titles he gave to his four surviving Symphonies : Singuliere, Serieuse, Naive. However, they don't sound so strange, serious or naive. In any case, they can't possibly sound as Sibelius at all, if we consider he died in 1865.

Schmidt, because of his Hungarian descent, he had his first influence, as a musician if not as a composer, from Brahms and Liszt. Bruckner was his teacher in Counterpoint and Harmony, while, when he became a mature composer, he demonstrated sheer interest in the Second Vienna School, performing some of the key works of Schoenberg, gaining so his appreciation. His Chamber Music lies mostly in the strict style of Reger, but it is more flowing and smooth, despite the very demanding writing form. The String Quartets on NImbus and one of the Qlarinet Quintets on Orfeo are "must" of his music.

Apart from his great Fourth, there are three more superb Symphonies, on different grounds: the First is the closest to Bruckner with strong Romantic form; the Second is less Brucknerian, with more references to early R. Strauss and even Mahler (enormous orchestration, complex score, long movements leading to a great Symphony, after all); the Third is looking to the past composers (Weber, Schubert, Mendelssohn), with a more modest orchestration but marvellous development of ideas, making a very advanced, in musical terms, symphonic work.

Finally, we should not neglect his Romantic Opera Notre Dame. There is a rather mediocre and  a bit old recording on Capriccio and a much older on Gala. His Organ Work is also significant and impressive. Rather recently, Capriccio issued a 4CD-set of his complete organ works, at an almost budget price.

Good exploration. Schmidt is worth indulging in. Berwald, at least, it's worth a try.



RE: A serendipitous moment.

Thank you, Parla. The Bruckner information explains a lot and I'm looking forward to exploring the other works you kindly highlighted.



RE: A serendipitous moment.

I have enjoyed reading responses to this post and it is a pleasure to observe some hatchets being buried over the past few days at last. Lets hope we can have some genuine cordial exchanges and respect for each others points of view.

My personal epithany, if I may call it that, began when our Benjamin Britten loving music teacher at grammar school played Boult's 1970's recording of Ralph Vaughan William's Sea Symphony. I recall being immensly impressed by the power of the opening fanfare chords followed by the glorious entry of full chorus on the words "Behold the sea!". I don't recall how long Mr Smith, the teacher, played the record before asking for our comments but I remember telling him I had never heard anything like it and asked him to play it again, which he did. After class, one of my classmates commented that I didn't really like it and was only trying to get in the teacher's good books. I told him he was wrong and that I absolutely loved it. The next lesson I remained behind after school and was introduced to other works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Britten and Elgar and having heard me in class during singing practice singing in descant, I was offered a place as a soloist in the town's leading Parish choir. This was the beginning of a life devoted to performing, sharing and listening to music.


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