Francesco Cilea

Francesco Cilea (1866-1950) was an Italian composer. Today he is particularly known for his operas L’arlesiana and Adriana Lecouvreur. Cilea wrote relatively few works, and only one, Adriana Lecouvreur, is performed with any kind of regularity. Musically and dramatically, he hovered between the nineteenth (Romantic) and twentieth centuries, writing verismo operas with a lightness that is somewhat reminiscent of bel canto. If his writing did not show musical genius, it showed mastery of his chosen style and a gift for pathos and lyricism.
Composer full Name: Francesco Cilea
Date of Birth: 23 July 1866
Date of Death: 20 November 1950
Nationality: Italian
Period/Era/Style: Romantic/20th century

Biography: Born in Palmi near Reggio di Calabria, Cilea gave early indication of an aptitude for music when at the age of four he heard a performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s Normaand was greatly affected by it. He was sent to study music at the Conservatorio di San Pietro a Majella in Naples, where he quickly demonstrated his diligence and precocious talent, earning a gold medal from the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione (Department of Education).

In 1889, for his final examination at the end of his course of study, he submitted his opera Gina, with a libretto by Enrico Golisciani which was adapted from the old French play Catherine, ou La Croix d’or by Baron Anne-Honoré-Joseph Duveyrier de Mélésville (1787—1865). This melodramma idilico was performed in the college theatre, and it attracted the attention of the publishers Sonzogno, who arranged for a second production, in Florence, in 1892.

Sonzogno also then commissioned from Cilea La Tilda, a verismo opera in three short acts along the lines of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana. With a libretto by Angelo Zanardini, La Tilda had a successful first performance in April 1892 at the Teatro Pagliano in Florence, and after performances in a number of Italian theatres, it arrived at the Vienna Exhibition on 24 September 1892, alongside other works from the firm of Sonzogno. The composer never showed much sympathy for this work, the subject of which he reluctantly agreed to set to music in order to please Sonzogno and to avoid throwing away a rare professional opportunity. The loss of the orchestral score has prevented the modern revival of this work, whose fresh and catchy melodies can nevertheless be discovered in the transcription for voice and piano.

In 1897 (27 November), the Teatro Lirico in Milan saw the première of Cilea’s third opera L’Arlesiana, based on the play by Alphonse Daudet, with a libretto by Leopoldo Marenco. Among the cast was the young Enrico Caruso, who performed with great success the Lamento di Federico: È la solita storia del pastore, the romance which was to keep alive the memory of the opera even to the present day. In reality L’Arlesiana was a failure which Cilea, being convinced of the work’s value, tried repeatedly to remedy, making drastic and detailed alterations throughout the remainder of his life. In the score which we hear today, it is hard to find a single bar which is completely unchanged from the original. The revised opera was however still not successful, apart from a brief period in the 1930s when it benefited from political support which the composer established through personal contact with Mussolini.

Again at the Teatro Lirico in Milan, in 1902 (6 November) and again with Enrico Caruso, the composer won an enthusiastic reception for Adriana Lecouvreur, a 4-act opera with a libretto by Arturo Colautti, set in 18th century Paris and based upon a play by Eugène Scribe. Adriana Lecouvreur is the opera of Cilea which is best known to international audiences today, and it reveals the spontaneity of a melodic style drawn from the Neapolitan school combined with harmonic and tonal shading influenced by French composers such as Massenet.

As a performer there are a number of examples of Cilea’s art. At the piano Cilea accompanied (none too elegantly) Caruso in a recording of a part of the duet Non piu nobile and made another recording with the baritone De Luca at the same time (November 1902). In 1904 for the Gramophone (and Typewriter Company) he accompanied the tenor Fernando De Lucia in L’anima ho stanca from Adriana Lecouvreur and in the song Lontananza, an effort which critic Michael Henstock (in his biography of De Lucia) declares is hardly inspired by De Lucia’s fine performances. Even given the crude recording techniques of the day Cilea’s piano playing (put charitably) seems square and lifeless. (see Henstock).

Cilea’s last opera, premièred at La Scala in Milan on 15 April 1907 under the baton of Arturo Toscanini, was the 3-act tragedy Gloria, again with a libretto by Colautti, based on a play by Victorien Sardou. The opera was withdrawn after only two performances; and the failure of this work, even though the composer attempted a later revision, was enough to drive him to abandon the operatic stage for good. There are however indications of some later unfulfilled operatic projects, which survive as parts or sketches of libretti, such as Il ritorno dell’amore by Renato Simoni, Malena by Ettore Moschino, and La rosa di Pompei, also by Moschino (dated “Naples, 20 May 1924”). Some sources also refer to an opera of 1909, completed but never performed, called Il matrimonio selvaggio, but no copy of this survives and Cilea himself made no mention of it in his volumes of memoirs (“Ricordi”).

Nevertheless, he continued to compose chamber music, and some orchestral music. In 1913 he produced a symphonic poem in honour of Giuseppe Verdi with verses by Sem Benelli, which was first performed at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa. After this he devoted himself principally to education and became director of the Conservatorio Vincenzo Bellini in Palermo, and then at his alma mater, the Conservatorio San Pietro a Maiella in Naples, where he ended his teaching career in 1936.

In his last years Cilea’s eyesight failed but his mind was active enough to encourage and work with singers of the day. Among his last musical activities was his championship of the soprano Magda Olivero (1910–2014), whose performances in the title role of Adriana Lecouvreur he especially admired. Cilea died on 20 November 1950 in Varazze, a town near Savona in Liguria which offered him honorary citizenship and where he spent the last years of his life. The Conservatorio di Musica and the Teatro Communale of Reggio di Calabria were renamed in his memory, and his native town of Palmi built a mausoleum in his memory, decorated with scenes from the myth of Orpheus.


Playlists: 

Adriana Lecouvreur
L’arlesiana
Other Operas
Chamber Works
Piano Works

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Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian late-Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 his compositions were rediscovered by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a position he has sustained into the 21st century. In 2016, a BBC Music Magazine survey of 151 conductors ranked three of hissymphonies in the top ten symphonies of all time.


Composer full Name: Gustav Mahler
Date of Birth:  07 July 1860
Date of Death: 18 May 1911
Nationality: Austrian/Austro-Bohemian
Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic/20th Century
Biography: Born in Bohemia (then part of the Austrian Empire) as a German-speaking Jew of humble circumstances, Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler—who had converted to Catholicism to secure the post—experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Operaand the New York Philharmonic.

Mahler’s œuvre is relatively limited; for much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor. Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet composed when he was a student in Vienna, Mahler’s works are generally designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists. These works were frequently controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval; exceptions included his Second Symphony, Third Symphony, and the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony in 1910. Some of Mahler’s immediate musical successors included the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler. The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955 to honour the composer’s life and work.

Early life: Family background   |   Childhood   |   Student days
Early conducting career 1880–88: First appointments   |   Prague and Leipzig   |   Apprentice composer
Budapest and Hamburg, 1888–97:   Royal Opera, Budapest   |   Stadttheater Hamburg
Vienna, 1897–1907: Hofoper director   |   Philharmonic concerts   |   Mature composer   |   Marriage, family, tragedy
Last years, 1908–11: New York   |   Illness and death


Playlists: 

 

Symphonies
Song Cycles
Chamber Works

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Richard Strauss

Composer full Name: STRAUSS, Richard Georg
Date of Birth: June 11, 1864
Date of Death: September 8, 1949
Nationality: German
Period/Era/Style: Late Romantic / 20th Century
Contribution(s): Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der RosenkavalierElektraDie Frau ohne Schatten and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; his tone poems, including Don JuanDeath and TransfigurationTill Eulenspiegel’s Merry PranksAlso sprach ZarathustraEin HeldenlebenSymphonia Domestica, and An Alpine Symphony; and other instrumental works such as Metamorphosen and his Oboe Concerto. Strauss was also a prominent conductor in Western Europe and the Americas, enjoying quasi-celebrity status as his compositions became standards of orchestral and operatic repertoire.

Strauss, along with Gustav Mahler, represents the late flowering of German Romanticism after Richard Wagner, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

Biography: Early life and family   |   Career as composer   |   Solo and chamber works and large ensembles   |   Tone poems and other orchestral works   |   Solo instrument with orchestra   |   Opera   |   Lieder and choral   |   Strauss in Nazi Germany    |   Reichsmusikkammer   |   Friedenstag   |   Metamorphosen   |   Last works   |   Death and legacy


Playlists: 

Vocal Works
Opera & Overtures
Piano Works, Vol. 1
Piano Works, Vol. 2
Orchestral Works
Chamber Works
Album
Top Tracks

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Carl Nielsen

Composer full Name: NIELSEN, Carl August
Date of Birth: 09 June 1865
Date of Death: 03 October 1931
Nationality: Danish
Period/Era/Style: Romantic / 20th Century Transition
Contribution(s): Nielsen was a Danish musician, conductor and violinist, widely recognized as his country’s most prominent composer.

Brought up by poor but musically talented parents on the island of Funen, he demonstrated his musical abilities at an early age. He initially played in a military band before attending the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen from 1884 until December 1886. He premiered his Op. 1, Suite for Strings, in 1888, at the age of 23. The following year, Nielsen began a 16-year stint as a second violinist in the Royal Danish Orchestra under the conductor Johan Svendsen, during which he played in Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff and Otello at their Danish premieres. In 1916, he took a post teaching at the Royal Academy and continued to work there until his death.

Although his symphonies, concertos and choral music are now internationally acclaimed, Nielsen’s career and personal life were marked by many difficulties, often reflected in his music. The works he composed between 1897 and 1904 are sometimes ascribed to his “psychological” period, resulting mainly from a turbulent marriage with the sculptor Anne Marie Brodersen. Nielsen is especially noted for his six symphonies, his Wind Quintet and his concertos for violin, flute and clarinet. In Denmark, his opera Maskarade and many of his songs have become an integral part of the national heritage. His early music was inspired by composers such as Brahms and Grieg, but he soon developed his own style, first experimenting with progressive tonalityand later diverging even more radically from the standards of composition still common at the time. Nielsen’s sixth and final symphony, Sinfonia semplice, was written in 1924–25. He died from a heart attack six years later, and is buried in Vestre Cemetery, Copenhagen.

Nielsen maintained the reputation of an outsider during his lifetime, both in his own country and internationally. It was only later that his works firmly entered the international repertoire, accelerating in popularity from the 1960s through Leonard Bernstein and others. In Denmark, Nielsen’s reputation was sealed in 2006 when three of his compositions were listed by the Ministry of Culture amongst the twelve greatest pieces of Danish music. For many years, he appeared on the Danish hundred-kroner banknote. The Carl Nielsen Museum in Odense documents his life and that of his wife. Between 1994 and 2009 the Royal Danish Library, sponsored by the Danish government, completed the Carl Nielsen Edition, freely available online, containing background information and sheet music for all Nielsen’s works, many of which had not been previously published

Biography: Early years   |    Studies and early career   |   Marriage and children   |   Mature composer   |   Final years and death


Playlists: 

Works
Chamber Works
Organ Works
Orchestral Works
Opera, Incidental & Overtures

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Edward Elgar

Composer full Name: Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet
Date of Birth: 02 June 1857
Date of Death: 23 February 1934
Nationality: English
Period/Era/Style: Romantic / 20th Century
Contribution(s): Elgar was an English composer, many of whose works have entered the British and international classical concert repertoire. Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the Enigma Variations, the Pomp and Circumstance Marches, concertos for violin and cello, and two symphonies. He also composed choral works, including The Dream of Gerontius, chamber music and songs. He was appointed Master of the King’s Musick in 1924.

Although Elgar is often regarded as a typically English composer, most of his musical influences were not from England but from continental Europe. He felt himself to be an outsider, not only musically, but socially. In musical circles dominated by academics, he was a self-taught composer; in Protestant Britain, his Roman Catholicism was regarded with suspicion in some quarters; and in the class-conscious society of Victorian and Edwardian Britain, he was acutely sensitive about his humble origins even after he achieved recognition. He nevertheless married the daughter of a senior British army officer. She inspired him both musically and socially, but he struggled to achieve success until his forties, when after a series of moderately successful works his Enigma Variations (1899) became immediately popular in Britain and overseas. He followed the Variations with a choral work, The Dream of Gerontius (1900), based on a Roman Catholic text that caused some disquiet in the Anglican establishment in Britain, but it became, and has remained, a core repertory work in Britain and elsewhere. His later full-length religious choral works were well received but have not entered the regular repertory.

In his fifties, Elgar composed a symphony and a violin concerto that were immensely successful. His second symphony and his cello concerto did not gain immediate public popularity and took many years to achieve a regular place in the concert repertory of British orchestras. Elgar’s music came, in his later years, to be seen as appealing chiefly to British audiences. His stock remained low for a generation after his death. It began to revive significantly in the 1960s, helped by new recordings of his works. Some of his works have, in recent years, been taken up again internationally, but the music continues to be played more in Britain than elsewhere.

Elgar has been described as the first composer to take the gramophone seriously. Between 1914 and 1925, he conducted a series of acoustic recordings of his works. The introduction of the moving-coil microphone in 1923 made far more accurate sound reproduction possible, and Elgar made new recordings of most of his major orchestral works and excerpts from The Dream of Gerontius.

Biography: Early years   |   Marriage   |   Growing reputation   |   National and international fame   |   Last major works   |   Last years   |   Music: Influences, antecedents and early works   |   Peak creative years   |   Final years and posthumous completions   |   Reputation   |   Honours, awards and commemorations


Playlist: 

Orchestral Works
Chamber Works
Choral Works
Piano Works

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Isaac Albéniz

Composer full Name: Isaac Manuel Francisco Albéniz y Pascual
Date of Birth: 29 May 1860
Date of Death: 18 May 1909
Nationality: Spanish
Period/Era/Style: Romantic / 20th Century
Contribution(s): Albinez was a Spanish virtuoso pianist, composer, and conductor. He is one of the foremost composers of the Post-Romantic era who also had a significant influence on his contemporaries and younger composers. He is best known for his piano works based on Spanish folk music idioms.

Transcriptions of many of his pieces, such as Asturias (Leyenda), Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz, Córdoba, Cataluña, and the Tango in D, are important pieces for classical guitar, though he never composed for the guitar. The personal papers of Albéniz are preserved, among other institutions, in the Biblioteca de Catalunya.

Biography:    Life   |   Music: Early works   |   Middle period   |   Later period   |   Impact   |   In film


Playlists: 

Piano Works: Vol. 1
Piano Works: Vol. 2
Piano Works: Vol. 3
Piano Works: Vol. 4
Piano Works: Vol. 5
Piano Works: Vol. 6
Piano Works: Vol. 7
Piano Works: Vol. 8
Piano Works: Vol. 9
Les Trésors de la Musique Classique
Orchestral Works
Popular Videos

 

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Hugo Alfvén

Composer full Name: Hugo Emil Alfvén
Date of Birth: 01 May 1872
Date of Death: 08 May 1960
Nationality: Swedish
Period/Era/Style: Romantic / 20th century
Contribution(s): Alfvén was a Swedish composer, conductor, violinist, and painter.

Biography: Alfvén was born in Stockholm, Sweden, and studied at the Royal College of Music (Kungliga Musikhögskolan) from 1887 to 1891 with the violin as his main instrument while receiving lessons from Lars Zetterquist. He also took private composition lessons from Johan Lindegren, a leading counterpoint expert. He earned a living by playing the violin at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. He also played the violin in the Royal Swedish Orchestra.

Starting in 1897, Alfvén travelled much of the next ten years in Europe. He studied violin technique in Brussels with César Thomson and learned conducting in Dresden as sub-conductor under Hermann Ludwig Kutzschbach. In 1903-4 he was professor of composition at the Royal Conservatory, Stockholm. From 1910 Alfvén was Director musices (music director) at the University of Uppsala (a post he held until 1939). There he also directed the male voice choir Orphei Drängar (or ‘O.D.’) (until 1947). He conducted in festivals at Dortmund (1912), Stuttgart (1913), Gothenburg (1915), and Copenhagen (1918–1919). He toured Europe as a conductor throughout his life. He received a Ph.D. honoris causa from Uppsala in 1917 and became a member of the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm in 1908. Alfvén recorded some of his orchestral music in stereo late in 1954 (the first classical stereo recordings made in Sweden); the recordings were issued on LP in the U.S. by Westminster Records. A three-CD collection of Alfvén’s recordings as a conductor has been issued.

Hugo Alfvén, plaque at the Stockholm City Hall

Music: Alfvén became known as one of Sweden’s principal composers of his time, together with his contemporary Wilhelm Stenhammar. Alfvén’s music is in a late-Romantic idiom. His orchestration is skillful and colorful, reminiscent of that of Richard Strauss. Like Strauss, Alfvén wrote a considerable amount of program music. Some of Alfvén’s music evokes the landscape of Sweden.

Among his works are a large number of pieces for male voice choir, five symphonies and three orchestral “Swedish Rhapsodies.” The first of these rhapsodies, Midsommarvaka is his best known piece.

Alfvén’s five symphonies, the first four of them now several-times recorded (with another cycle in progress), give a picture of the composer’s musical progress. The first, in F minor, his Op. 7 from 1897, is an early work, tuneful in a standard four movements. The second, in D major (1898–99), his Op. 11 (and in a way his graduation piece, as interestingly recounted) concludes with a substantial, even powerful chorale-prelude and fugue in D minor. The third symphony in E major, Op. 23 (1905), also in four movements, more mature in technique though light in manner was inspired by a trip to Italy. The fourth symphony in C minor, Op. 39, of 1918–9 “From the Outermost Skerries” (there is also a tone-poem, A Legend of the Skerries) is a symphony in one forty-five-minute movement using wordless voices, inspired by Carl Nielsen’s Sinfonia Espansiva. The 5th in A minor, begun 1942, is one of the composer’s last works, and has only been recorded twice in full (recordings and performances of the 5th, while rare enough, are usually of its quarter-hour first movement).

 Naxos Records and BIS Records among others have either collections or groups of individual recordings covering all of his symphonies and a range of his works. Brilliant Classics has licensed and re-issued the 5-CD set from BIS devoted to Alfvén that includes the symphonies and other orchestral works.

Swedish Rhapsody No. 1: The first rhapsody – Swedish Rhapsody No. 1, also known as Midsommarvaka (Midsummer Vigil) – was written in 1903 and is often simply called the “Swedish Rhapsody.” It is the best-known piece composed by Alfvén, and also one of the best-known pieces of music in Sweden.


Playlists: 

Symphonies
Swedish Rhapsodies
Orchestral Suites
Individual Orchestral Works
Cantatas

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Albert Roussel

Composer’s full name: Albert Charles Paul Marie Roussel
Date of Birth: 05 April 1869
Date of Death: 23 August 1937
Nationality: French
Period/Era/Style: 20th Century, Impressionism, Neo=Classical
Contribution(s): Roussel was a French composer. He spent seven years as a midshipman, turned to music as an adult, and became one of the most prominent French composers of the interwar period. His early works were strongly influenced by the impressionism of Debussy and Ravel, while he later turned toward neoclassicism.

Biography: Life: Albert (Charles Paul Marie) Roussel was an outstanding French composer and teacher. Orphaned as a child, he was educated by his grandfather, mayor of his native town, and after the grandfather’s death, by his aunt. He studied academic subjects at the College Stanislas in Paris and music with the organist Stoltz; then studied mathematics in preparation for entering the Naval Academy; at the age of 18, he began his training in the navy; from 1889 to August 1890 he was a member of the crew of the frigate Iphigénie, sailing to Indochina. This voyage was of great importance to Roussel, since it opened for him a world of oriental culture and art, which became one of the chief sources of his musical inspiration. He later sailed on the cruiser Devastation; received a leave of absence for reasons of health, and spent some time in Tunis; was then stationed in Cherbourg, and began to compose there. In 1893 he was sent once more to Indochina.

Albert Roussel resigned from the navy in 1894 and went to Paris, where he began to study music seriously with Eugène Gigout. In 1898 he entered the Schola Cantorum in Paris as a pupil of Vincent d’Indy; continued this study until 1907, when he was already 38 years old, but at the same time he was entrusted with a class in counterpoint, which he conducted at the Schola Cantorum from 1902 to 1914; among his students were Satie, Golestan, Le Flem, Roland-Manuel, Lioncourt, and the young Edgard Varèse. In 1909 Roussel and his wife, Blanche Preisach-Roussel, undertook a voyage to India, where he became acquainted with the legend of the queen Padmavati, which he selected as a subject for his famous opera-ballet. His choral symphony Les Evocations was also inspired by this tour.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Albert Roussel applied for active service in the navy but was rejected, and volunteered as an ambulance driver. After the Armistice of 1918, he settled in Normandy and devoted himself to composition. In the autumn of 1930 he visited the USA. Another student of Roussel’s was Bohuslav Martinů (after the war and his own apprenticeship, and starting in 1923). Roussel died in the town of Royan, (Charente-Maritime department), in western France, in 1937, the same year that his countrymen Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Pierné died.

Music: Albert Roussel began his work under the influence of French Impressionism, with its dependence on exotic moods and poetic association. He eventually found a personal style which was more formal in design, with a strong rhythmic drive, and with a more distinct liking for functional tonality than is evident in the work of his more famous contemporaries (for instance Debussy, Ravel, Satie, and Igor Stravinsky). The sense of formal design asserted itself in his symphonic works; his Suite (1926) signalizes a transition toward neo-Classicism; the thematic development is vigorous, and the rhythms are clearly delineated, despite some asymmetrical progressions; the orchestration, too, is in the Classical tradition. Roussel possessed a keen sense of the theater; he was capable of fine characterization of exotic or mythological subjects, but also knew how to depict humorous sitUations in lighter works.

Image result for Albert RousselAlbert Roussel’s training at the Schola Cantorum, with its emphasis on rigorous academic models such as Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and J.S. Bach, left its mark on his mature style, which is characterized by contrapuntal textures. In comparison with the subtle and nuanced style of other French composers like Gabriel Fauré or Claude Debussy, Roussel’s orchestration is rather heavy. While the stylistic and orchestral aesthetic of so-called “French” music was one which Roussel did not fully share, it is nevertheless true that Roussel was never a mere copyist of Teutonic models. Certainly, in contrast with the sound of the German romantic orchestral tradition (such as Anton Bruckner or Gustav Mahler), Roussel’s manner could hardly be called heavy at all.

Roussel was also interested in jazz, and wrote a piano-vocal composition entitled Jazz dans la nuit, similar in its inspiration to other jazz-inspired works such as “Blues” second movement of Maurice Ravel’s Violin Sonata, or Darius Milhaud’s La Création du Monde).

Roussel’s most important works are the ballets Le festin de l’araignée, Bacchus et Ariane, and Aeneas and the four symphonies (of which the Third, in G minor, and the Fourth, in A major, are highly regarded and epitomize his mature neoclassical style). His other works include numerous ballets, orchestral suites, a piano concerto, a concertino for cello and orchestra, a psalm setting for chorus and orchestra, incidental music for the theatre, and much chamber music, solo piano music, and songs.

Arturo Toscanini included the suite from the ballet Le festin de l’araignée in one of his broadcast concerts with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. René Leibowitz recorded this suite in 1952 with the Paris Philharmonic, and Georges Prêtre recorded this same music with the Orchestre National de France for EMI in 1984.


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Sergei Rachmaninoff

Composer full Name: Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff
Date of Birth: 01 April [O.S. 20 March] 1873
Date of Death: 28 March 1943
Nationality: Russian
Period/Era/Style: Romantic / 20th Century
Contribution(s): Rachmaninov was a Russian pianist, composer, and conductor of the late Romantic period, some of whose works are among the most popular in the Romantic repertoire.

Born into a musical family, Rachmaninoff took up the piano at age four. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1892 having already composed several piano and orchestral pieces. In 1897, following the negative critical reaction to his Symphony No. 1, Rachmaninoff entered a four-year depression and composed little until successful therapy allowed him to complete his enthusiastically received Piano Concerto No. 2 in 1901. For the next sixteen years, Rachmaninoff conducted at the Bolshoi Theatre, relocated to Dresden, Germany, and toured the United States for the first time.

Following the Russian Revolution, Rachmaninoff and his family left Russia; in 1918, they settled in the United States, first in New York City. With his main source of income coming from piano and conducting performances, demanding tour schedules led to a reduction in his time for composition; between 1918 and 1943, he completed just six works, including Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Symphony No. 3, and Symphonic Dances. By 1942, his ailing health led to his relocation to Beverly Hills, California. One month before his death from advanced melanoma, Rachmaninoff was granted American citizenship.

In Rachmaninoff’s work, early influences of Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and other Russian composers gave way to a personal style notable for its song-like melodicism, expressiveness and rich orchestral colors.[3]Rachmaninoff often featured the piano in his compositions, and he explored the expressive possibilities of the instrument through his own skills as a pianist.

Biography: Ancestry and early years, 1873–1885   |   Moscow Conservatory and first compositions, 1885–1894   |   Symphony No. 1, depression, and conducting debut, 1894–1900   |   Recovery, emergence, and conducting, 1900–1906   |   Move to Dresden and first US tour, 1906–1917   |   Leaving Russia, emigration to the US, and concert pianist, 1917–1925  |   Touring, final compositions, and Villa Senar, 1926–1942   |   Illness, move to California, and death, 1942–1943


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Maurice Ravel

Composer: Joseph Maurice Ravel
Date of Birth: 07 March 1875
Date of Death: 28 December 1937
Nationality: French
Period/Era/Style: Romantic / 20th Century
Contribution(s): Ravel was a French composer, pianist and conductor. He is often associated with impressionism along with his elder contemporary Claude Debussy, although both composers rejected the term. In the 1920s and 1930s Ravel was internationally regarded as France’s greatest living composer.

Born to a music-loving family, Ravel attended France’s premier music college, the Paris Conservatoire; he was not well regarded by its conservative establishment, whose biased treatment of him caused a scandal. After leaving the Conservatoire, Ravel found his own way as a composer, developing a style of great clarity, incorporating elements of baroque, neoclassicism and, in his later works, jazz. He liked to experiment with musical form, as in his best-known work, Boléro (1928), in which repetition takes the place of development. He made some orchestral arrangements of other composers’ music, of which his 1922 version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is the best known.

As a slow and painstaking worker, Ravel composed fewer pieces than did many of his contemporaries. Among his works to enter the repertoire are pieces for piano, chamber music, two piano concertos, ballet music, two operas (each less than an hour long), and eight song cycles; he wrote no symphonies and only one religious work (“Kaddish” [1]). Many of his works exist in two versions: first, a piano score and later an orchestration. Some of his piano music, such as Gaspard de la nuit(1908), is exceptionally difficult to play, and his complex orchestral works such as Daphnis et Chloé (1912) require skillful balance in performance.

Ravel was among the first composers to recognize the potential of recording to bring their music to a wider public. From the 1920s, despite limited technique as a pianist or conductor, he took part in recordings of several of his works; others were made under his supervision.

Biography: Life and career: Early years   |   Paris Conservatoire   |   Les Apaches and Debussy   |   Scandal and success   |   1910 to First World War   |   War   |   1920s   |   Last years


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