Category: Music

Stamp of the Month: April 2021


Australian Antarctic Territory 16.3.2021
 
Alice Giles

The Australian harpist Alice Giles was born in Adelaide in 1961. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the first Australian Antarctic expedition in which her grandfather took part, she took part in an Antarctic expedition in spring 2011, during which she gave concerts at the Mawson and Davis research stations as part of the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship.
 
Since Alice Giles won the 8th International Harp Competition in Israel in 1982 at the age of 21, she has been considered one of the world’s leading harp soloists. She has given solo concerts around the world, worked with many large orchestras and was a guest artist at numerous festivals. In the course of her career she was a member of the jury and artistic director of several international harp competitions and has an international reputation as a teacher. Alice Giles has given masterclasses at the Salzburg Mozarteum, in The Hague, London, San Francisco, Milan, Toronto, Bayreuth and at the Juilliard School in New York. She currently teaches at the Sydney Conservatory of Music.
 
The video shows Alice Giles performing a live performance at the Davis Research Station during the Antarctic expedition in 2011. She plays the composition “Ice” by the Australian composer Mary Doumany.
 

Stamp of the Month: March 2021


Argentina 8.5.2018
 
Astor Piazzolla

The Argentine bandoneon player and composer Astor Pantaleón Piazzolla was born on March 11, 1921 in Mar del Plata and died on July 4, 1992 in Buenos Aires. March 2021 will mark his 100th birthday.
 
From 1929 Piazzolla learned to play piano and bandoneon. Despite an encounter with the tango legend Carlos Gardel he was captivated above all by jazz and the music of J.S. Bach. Only ten years later he did perfect his bandoneon playing and joined an orchestra, for which he also made arrangements. The pianist Artur Rubinstein encouraged him to pursue further music studies. From 1940 he took composition lessons and in 1946 founded his first “Orquesta Tipica” with which he also made a few recordings. In the early 1950s Piazzolla wrote some orchestral and chamber music works, for which he won national critics’ awards in 1953 and 1954. He distanced himself from his early tangos of the 1940s, for he wished to be taken seriously as a composer, and he considered that impossible at the time as the tango was held in ill repute by the country’s upper class. The 1954 critics’ prize enabled him to travel to Europe. He went to Paris to study composition with Nadia Boulanger and conducting with Hermann Scherchen. Boulanger recognized in Piazzolla’s works the influences of Ravel, Stravinsky, Bartók and Hindemith, but missed an individual style. She encouraged him to return to the tango. In 1955 Piazzolla returned to Argentina, founded the “Octeto Buenos Aires”, and with this ensemble made the transition from the traditional “Tango Argentino” to the “Tango Nuevo”. Initially his works were met with criticism and disapproval, but despite all the hostility he composed and performed with enormous productivity. Over the years Piazzolla composed more than 300 tangos, and music for some 50 films. Many of his tangos are not ‘danceable’ in the traditional sense, but first and foremost music for listening. He enlarged the harmony of the tango with stylistic elements of jazz, the baroque suite, opera and the popular music of the 1970s.
 
The video shows Astor Piazzolla and his band performing “Libertango” (composed in 1974). The recording was made during a European tour on May 18, 1977 on a Swiss television program.
 

Stamp of the Month: February 2021


Sweden 1.10.1983
Wilhelm Stenhammar

The Swedish composer, pianist and conductor Carl Wilhelm Eugen Stenhammar was born in Stockholm on February 7, 1871. He died on November 20, 1927 in his hometown. February 2021 will mark his 150th birthday.
 
Wilhelm Stenhammar studied piano, organ and composition in Stockholm from 1887 to 1892 and then continued piano studies in Berlin. From 1893 he worked as a concert pianist.
In 1897 he went public for the first time as a conductor. From 1900 to 1901 he was Kapellmeister at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, in 1907 he became chief conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. He held this office until 1922. From 1923 to 1925 he was again Kapellmeister at the Royal Opera in Stockholm. During his lifetime, Stenhammar was a highly respected figure in Scandinavian musical life and was friends with many well-known musicians. In 1916 the University of Gothenburg awarded him an honorary doctorate.
As a composer, Stenhammar was first stylistically influenced by the late romantic works of Anton Bruckner and Richard Wagner. Influenced by his friends Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen, he tried from around 1910 to find a “Nordic” tone. From then on, his works were more and more characterized by folk melodies and the use of church modes.
Stenhammar is one of Sweden’s most important composers. His work, which includes 3 symphonies, 2 piano concertos, chamber and piano music, 2 operas, cantatas, several choirs and around 60 songs, is unfortunately largely unknown outside of Sweden.
 
The video shows “Göteborgs Symfoniker” conducted by Herbert Blomstedt with Wilhelm Stenhammar’s 2nd Symphony, recorded on December 20, 2013 in the Gothenburg Concert Hall.
 

Stamp of the Month: January 2021

Ramón Vinay

The Chilean opera singer Ramón Mario Francisco Vinay Sepúlveda was born on August 31, 1911 in Chillán. He died on January 4, 1996 in Puebla, Mexico. January 2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of his death.
 
During his vocal training he sang mainly bass parts from 1930, but then made his debut in 1931 with the baritone part of Don Alfonso in Donizetti’s opera “La favorita”. From 1931 to 1944 he sang mainly at the Teatro de las Bellas Artes in Mexico City and on Mexican radio.

Chile 15.10.1997
After switching to tenor, he made his debut in 1943 as Don José in Bizet’s opera “Carmen” and in 1944 for the first time in the title role in Verdi’s “Otello”. In 1946 he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, in 1947 at La Scala, in 1950 at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and in 1952 he appeared as Tristan for the first time at the Bayreuth Festival. After switching to the baritone again, Vinay sang numerous roles in Wagner operas as well as in Tosca, Otello, La Traviata, Aida, Carmen, Pagliacci and La Bohème.
Ramón Vinay is best known for four legendary interpretations: the title role in Verdi’s “Otello” under the direction of Arturo Toscanini (1947); Tristan in “Tristan und Isolde” under the direction of Herbert von Karajan (1951) as well as Siegmund in “Walküre” and the title role in “Parsifal” under the direction of Clemens Krauss (1953).
Ramón Vinay gave his farewell performance on September 22, 1969 at the Teatro Municipal in Santiago in Verdi’s Otello, where he took over the baritone role of Iago in the first two acts and was on stage in the third and fourth act in the tenor role of Otello.

The video shows Ramón Vinay with Pedro Vargas in the 1943 film “Fantasia Ranchera” under the musical direction of Manuel Esperón.

Stamp of the Month: December 2020

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized on December 17th, 1770 in Bonn and died on March 26th, 1827 in Vienna. December 2020 will mark his 250th birthday.
 
Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most important composers of all time and is still one of the most performed composers in the world today. In addition to the world-famous symphonies and piano works, the opera “Fidelio”, the “Missa Solemnis” and numerous chamber music works, Beethoven also created numerous small pieces of music. Out of this oeuvre one small piece that every piano student has probably played before, is standing out: the short, rondo-like piano piece in A minor (WoO 59) “Für Elise” composed in 1810.

Romania 28.7.2020
 

Netherlands Antilles 22.10.1997

The video from 2019 shows the Chinese pianist Lang Lang (* 1982) with his interpretation of “Für Elise”. Of the piece, Lang Lang says: “For me it is very romantic, and light, like a feather. It has to come from nowhere and it has to touch people. It can’t just be treated as background music. I’ve tried to play the piece as the masterpiece that it is, and I hope that children who begin learning ‘Für Elise’ will treat it the same way.”


Stamp of the Month: September 2020

John McCormack

The Irish tenor John McCormack was born on June 14, 1884 in Athlone, Ireland; he died on September 16, 1945 in Dublin. September 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of his death.
 
John McCormack received his first musical training as a member of the Palestrina Choir of Dublin Cathedral. He studied in Milan and made his debut in Savona in 1906 in the opera “L’Amico Fritz” by Pietro Mascagni. In 1907 he received an engagement at the Royal Opera Covent Garden in London, where he triumphed

Ireland 9.5.2019
in 15 different roles until 1914. Guest appearances took him to the Manhattan Opera House in 1909 and to Chicago, Philadelphia and the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1910, where he was also engaged in 1912–1914 and 1917–1918. In 1911 he went on a tour of Australia with the world-famous Australian soprano Nellie Melba. Due to the huge success at his concerts, he withdrew from the opera stage in 1923 and only sang in concerts in which he also performed Irish folk songs. In 1938 he gave his farewell concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall, but still appeared occasionally at charity concerts during World War II.
Alongside Enrico Caruso and Beniamino Gigli, John McCormack was considered the most important tenor of his time. Caruso held him in high esteem and saw him as his greatest rival. The great popularity made John McCormack one of the best-earning classical stars of his time. His recordings were real sales hits.
 
“O Danny Boy”, written by Frederic Weatherly in 1910, is sung to the old Irish folk tune “A Londonderry Air”. The song was part of the standard repertoire at the concerts of John McCormac.
 


 

Stamp of the month: August 2020

Pietro Mascagni

The Italian composer Pietro Mascagni was born in Livorno on December 7, 1863. He died in Rome on August 2, 1945. August 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of his death.
 
Mascagni broke off his music studies with Amilcare Ponchielli because it was too dry for him. Instead he initially joined a traveling opera company and in 1885 he became conductor

Uruguay 30.3.1995
of the municipal orchestra in Cerignola. This engagement left him enough time to compose. For his first major opera “Guglielmo Ratcliff” (1888) he did not find an opera house that wanted to perform the work. In 1889 he took part in an one-act opera competition by the Italian music publisher Sonzogno with “Cavalleria rusticana”. The opera received first prize and when it premiered was one of the greatest successes in music history. Overnight Mascagni became the star of the Italian opera scene and with the royalties for “Cavalleria rusticana” he had no financial worries until the end of his life. He composed several other operas that were highly valued by connoisseurs and he also was able to premiere “Guglielmo Ratcliff” with great success in 1895, but for the general public and posterity “Cavalleria rusticana” remained the composer’s unreached stroke of a genius.
Alongside Ruggero Leoncavallo and Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni is one of the most important representatives of verismo.
 
The video shows the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Valery Gergiev with the intermezzo from the opera “Cavalleria rusticana”, recorded at a concert during the Wiener Festwochen in the garden of Schönbrunn Palace.
 


Stamp of the Month: July 2020

Amália Rodrigues

The Portuguese singer Amália da Piedade Re-bordão Rodrigues was born in Lisbon on July 23, 1920. She died on October 6, 1999 in her hometown. In July 2020, her birthday turns 100.
 
Amália was one of ten children of a poor green-
grocer. As a young girl, she helped to sell fruits in the Alcântara docks. In 1939 she started her career as a Fado singer in the nightclub “Retiro da Severa”.

Portugal 3.10.2011
In 1944 and 1945 she was on tour in Brazil, where the first of her more than 170 recordings took place. Her international breakthrough came in the 1950s with the song “Coimbra”, written by Raul Ferrao in the late 1930s. The song later became a worldwide success under the title “April in Portugal”. In the 1940s and 50s, Amália Rodrigues also starred in about a dozen films.
Amália Rodrigues, the “Queen of Fados”, is considered the most important Fado singer. Through her worldwide tours and numerous television appearances all over the world, she shaped the international image of this genre like no other.

 
The video shows Amália Rodrigues at her last concert in Lisbon. A week before her death in September 1999, she reinterpreted the song “Coimbra”, with which she achieved her international breakthrough in the 1950s.


In Memoriam: Vera Lynn (“We’ll meet again”)

On June 18, the British singer Dame Vera Lynn (real name: Vera Margaret Welch) died at the age of 103. Vera Lynn reached the peak of her career during the Second World War, when she was nicknamed “The Forces’ Sweetheart” because of her popularity with the British troops.
 

 
On the occasion of her 100th birthday Jersey Post released a set of Post and Go Labels with the additional printing “We’ll meet again” and symbolic music notes. The song “We’ll Meet Again” of 1939 (text/music Ross Parker and Hughie Charles) is one of the singer’s most famous songs and one of the most famous songs from the period of WW2.
 
More details about the singer can be found at Wikipedia
 

Stamp of the Month: June 2020

Heino Eller

The Estonian composer and music educator Heino Eller was born on March 7, 1887 in Tartu. He died 50 years ago on June 16, 1970 in Tallin.
 
Heino Eller received violin lessons as a child. From 1907 he studied violin, composition, music theory and law in Saint Petersburg. From 1920 to 1940 he taught composition and music theory at the higher music school in Tartu and shaped the so-called “Tartu composition school” during

Estonia 7.3.2012
this time. From 1940 until his death, Heino Eller was a lecturer at the State Conservatory in Tallinn, today’s Estonian Music and Theater Academy. The focus of Eller’s compositional work was on instrumental music. He is considered the co-founder of Estonian symphony and chamber

 

Soviet Union 7.3.1987

music.In his work, he was inspired by traditional Estonian folk tunes as well as impressionism, expressionism and other music trends of the 20th century. Frédéric Chopin, Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius also influenced his work. Eller’s oeuvre comprises three symphonies, several symphonic pieces, a violin concerto, five string quartets, four piano sonatas, two violin sonatas and over 200 smaller pieces.

 
The video shows the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Risto Joost with Heino Eller’s orchestral piece “Kodumaine viis” (homeland melody). Soloist: Age Juurikas (piano), recorded at the Laulupidu (Song Festival) 2019 in Tallinn.