Beijing (Peking), the capital of China, has been the site of various cities with different names. Under Kubla Khan, who established the Mongolian Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), a new city, Khanbalik (Cambaluc) was built, to be destroyed by the Ming Emperors, the second of whom made Beijing once again the capital. Many of the historical remains come from the period of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and the following Qing (1644-1911). These include the former imperial palace, known as the Forbidden City, and other palaces, parks and dwellings. The Great Wall is represented by the well known sight of the Jinshanling section of this ancient structure, built during the early years of the Ming dynasty.
The music chosen for this tour of Beijing is played on Chinese instruments, and makes use of traditional works and more modern arrangements, in traditional style. The instruments to be heard include the Chinese flute (dizi), the zither (qin), the Chinese lute (pipa), the three-string lute (sanxian) and the two-string Chinese fiddle (erhu). The Shepherd and His Flute , for example, is played on the Chinese dulcimer (yangqin), The Moon Over Guanshan on the sanxian and Song of the Tea-Pickers , taken from Yue Opera, is arranged for an instrumental ensemble. As...
Guilin, in Guangxi Province, is famous for its scenic beauty, in which nature seems to imitate Chinese art in a remarkable way. Other districts too boast the extraordinary rock formations that are a feature of the area, set against the lakes and rivers. The region is the home to a number of the 56 ethnic minorities of China, with glimpses of the Yao and Tong peoples, of the spectacular Dragon Spine terraced hillsides where rice is grown in Longsheng Country and the thin ribbon of rushing water that forms the Longsheng Waterfall.
The music chosen for this tour of Guilin is played on traditional Chinese instruments. Performing the music are wind and string ensembles known as 'silk and bamboo', from their silk strings and bamboo pipes, and ensembles that also include percussion. Instruments given prominence include the dizi, a transverse bamboo flute, its characteristic timbre produced by a vibrating membrane over one of the holes, the yangqin, a Chinese dulcimer whose strings are struck with two bamboo sticks. Happy Family and Three Five Seven feature the Chinese shawm, or the suona, and the sheng, a free-reed mouth organ, can be heard in the music that accompanies Longsheng Waterfall. Traditional Chinese music, like Chinese painting, is largely...
Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, held a position of importance from the time of the Sui dynasty (581-617 C.E.), and is sited at the end of the Grand Canal, with linked waterways that provided communication between the provinces of China. It was the capital of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1276), visited by Marco Polo in the following Mongol Yuan dynasty. He compared Hangzhou to Venice, praised its traditional arts and crafts, and commented on its great importance in the spice trade and on the beauty of the West Lake with its bordering pavilions and temples. Historical monuments abound, with temples and pagodas, and buildings that recall ancient China.
The music chosen for this tour of Hangzhou is played on traditional Chinese instruments. Unusually there is a Bach Minuet , transcribed for the Chinese dulcimer, the yangqin, used to accompany a visit to a silk museum. Other instruments heard include the dizi, the Chinese bamboo transverse flute, and ensembles of wind and strings, known as 'silk and bamboo' from their silk strings and bamboo pipes. Traditional Chinese music, like Chinese painting, is generally associated with a scene or poem, as revealed in its evocative titles.
The city of Shanghai, China's most important port, owes some of its prosperity to the so-called unequal treatises forced on China during the 19th century. The place had its origin as a settlement during the Tang dynasty (618-906 C.E.), but the Treaty of Nanking in 1842 ceded Hong Kong to the British and made possible the development of foreign trade through the five 'treaty ports', of which Shanghai became the most important. The growth of Shanghai into an international trading centre and the concessions made to various foreign countries explain the interesting mixture of architectural styles, continued today with the high-rise buildings of recent years.
The music chosen for this tour of Shanghai is played on traditional Chinese instruments. Performing the music are the wind and string ensembles known as 'silk and bamboo', from their silk strings and bamboo pipes, and ensembles that also include percussion. Instruments given prominence include the dizi, heard first in Moonlight Autumn Night by the Lake , a transverse bamboo flute, and the yangqin, a Chinese dulcimer whose strings are struck with two bamboo sticks. Traditional Chinese music, like Chinese painting, is largely representational, its character indicated in its titles, although these may...
This Naxos China Travelogue tour of Shanxi starts with the ancient walled city of Pingyao, once a thriving commercial center. The former wealth of the province is witnessed by the Courtyard Houses of the Qu and Wang families, extensive compounds dating principally from the 18th century. Shuanglin Temple, part of the Pingyao world heritage site, is seen, with its collection of 2,000 painted statues from the Song and Yuan dynasties. There are views of Mount Wutai, the first of the Four Sacred Mountains for Chinese Buddhism, with some of its many monasteries and temples, and other Buddhist monuments at the Chongsan Monastery and Jinci Temple. The most remarkable of all is the Hanging Monastery at the foot of Mount Heng, one of the Five Sacred Mountains of Taoism, apparently hanging on a sheer cliff-face. The Yingxian Wooden Pagoda of Fogong Temple, dating from the 11th century, is the oldest and highest in China. Still earlier are the carvings of the Yungang Grottoes, some 51,000 statues of the Buddha in 252 caverns, dating originally from the 5th and 6th centuries. The tour ends with the sight of the remarkable Hukuo Waterfall, with its 50-metre descent in a gorge on the Yellow River. The journey is accompanied by traditional Chinese instruments and music.
This Naxos China Travelogue tour of Sichuan (Szechwan) takes us to a land of lakes and snow-capped mountains, with a fertile central plain. The tour starts in Chengdu in a park, where there is a replica of the thatched cottage in which the Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu (Tu Fu) took refuge for years. Temples in the province include the elaborate Wuhou Memorial Temple, the temples on Qingcheng Mountain and the legendary Fulong Temple. Most impressive of all, however, must be the natural scenery the rivers, lakes and waterfalls, and the mountains that protected the province from invasion for so many centuries. The tour is accompanied by music played on traditional instruments.
Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, continues to exercise a strange fascination over visitors, traditionally through its very remoteness. This Naxos China Travelogue tour starts with views of the Potala, the White Palace and the Red Palace, built in the 17th century on the site of a palace built a thousand years before. The Jokhang, dating from the 7th century, houses a revered image of the Buddha. Some five kilometers north of central Lhasa is the Sera Monastery, founded in the 15th century, with its colleges, statues and relics of former lamas. Fifty kilometres to the north-east is the Ganden Monastery, founded in the same period and holding important religious relics. The tour ends with a visit to Yumbulagang, said to be the oldest building in Tibet, consecrated to its ancient kings. The tour is accompanied by Tibetan music, the chanting of monks and other vocal and instrumental music matched with remarkable views of the country, its buildings and mountain scenery.
The capital of Shaanxi Province, Xi'an, its name translating as 'Western Peace', was the Chinese capital during the Tang dynasty (618-906 C.E.). The Big Wild Goose Pagoda, completed in 704 on the orders of the Empress Wu Zetain during her period of rule as Empress of the Zhou dynasty, soon replaced by the restored Tang, is one of the oldest such structures in China. Of particular interest is the tomb of the Emperor Huang, regarded as the founder of the unified Chinese nation, and the remarkable terracotta warriors and horses discovered around the mausoleum of Qin Shi Huang Di, founder of the Qin dynasty who died in 210 B.C.E.. The tour ends with views of the precipitous Huashan (Flower Mountain), so called from its five peaks, grouped in the shape of a great flower.
The music chosen for this tour of Xi'an is played on traditional Chinese instruments. The excerpts include, to accompany the terracotta warriors, a contemporary composition inspired by Zhang Ji's poem Night at the Maple Bridge giving particular prominence to the zhongruan, a form of Chinese lute of ancient origin. Other instruments heard are the Chinese transverse bamboo flute, the dizi, the Chinese plucked zither, the guqin, and the Chinese lute, the pipa. A glimpse of operatic stage...
This Naxos China Travelogues tour of Xinjiang (Sinkiang) starts in the old town of Kashgar, with its Uighur shops and alleys. Travelling to Tianchi (Heavenly Lake) in the Tianshan Mountain range, we see Kazakh yurts and flocks of sheep, and something of the varied flora and fauna of the area. In Kashgar again, the tomb of Abakh Khoja, a famous local ruler in the early Qing dynasty, makes a contrast with the busy city life of the capital, Urumqi. Some 30 kilometres take us to the geographical centre of the continent of Asia, while back at the heart of Kashgar itself is the 15th century yellow-tiled Id Kah Mosque. There are views of strange rock formations in the countryside and the colourful Lake Sayram, with the alpine scenery of Kanas Lake and the fertile vineyards of Grape Valley. The tour of this varied region, with its Uighur, Mongolian, Kazakh, Tatar, Uzbek, Han and other ethnic groups, ends with the snow-capped Tianshan Mountain, with its great glaciers. The tour is accompanied by traditional music and instruments.
A region of mountains and lakes, the province of Yunnan lies to the south of Sichuan. This Naxos China Travelogue tour starts with the Old Town of Lijiang, with its narrow cobbled streets and closely packed traditional buildings. Later the tour moves to Shuhe, otherwise known as Longquan Village, which is a few kilometers north of Lijiang but boasts comparable traditional buildings as a place where the minority Naxi People have long lived. Mountains in Yunnan include Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, its name that of a legendary defender of the region, transformed with his brother into thirteen peaks. The tour visits the historic capital of Yunnan, Kunming, now home to some five million inhabitants. Scenes of Yunnan are matched with traditional music.
This selection of music for Christmas brings together East and West in the collaboration of Winchester College Chapel Choir and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Recorded live in Hong Kong in December 2004, this disc features a selection of perennial favourites from the Baroque period, including Bach cantatas and Handel's Messiah , and three exquisite modern carols.
Made for the 1939 New York World's Fair ("The World of Tomorrow"), The City is a seminal documentary film distinguished for the organic integration of narration (scripted by city planner Lewis Mumford), cinematography (Ralph Steiner and Willard Van Dyke), and music (Aaron Copland). The score, arguably Copland's highest achievement in film, was also his ticket to Hollywood; it has been called "an astonishing missing link not only in the genesis of Copland's Americana style but in American music and cinema" (Mark Swed, The Los Angeles Times ). As the film contains no dialogue, it is possible to create a fresh soundtrack and discover musical riches inaudible on the original monaural recording. As Copland created no suite from The City , the present video at the same time marks the world premiere recording of this music in its entirety.
- The City with the original soundtrack (1939) featuring Morris Carnovsky (narrator) and an orchestra conducted by Max Goberman
- Which Playground for your Child: Greenbelt or Gutter? (2000): a documentary film from the Greenbelt Museum featuring interviews with three Greenbelt "pioneers"
- George Stoney in conversation with Joseph Horowitz (2007): a legendary documentary film-maker revisits The City
Based on Victor Hugo's most sensational play, Lucrece Borgia, a scandalous tale of murder, torture, incest, homosexuality, drunkenness and orgies, Donizetti's opera is one of the great masterpieces of Italian bel canto repertoire. While omitting some of its more excessive elements, the libretto by Felice Romani inspired Donizetti to compose superb arias, duets, ensembles and choruses, bringing each act to a stirring conclusion. Beautifully costumed and designed, brimming with high drama and pathos, this production stars in the infamous title role Greek diva Dimitra Theodossiou, praised for her stupendous acting and singing in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux.
In Donizetti's opera Maria Stuarda the roles of the doomed queen and her cousin, Elizabeth I, have been taken by some of the greatest divas, from Malibran to Gruberova and Tosi to Baltsa, each revelling in the high drama of their tragically linked fates. "Contributing greatly to the success of the work, the young Maestro Riccardo Frizza revealed himself as a deep and sensitive interpreter of this score, managing to capture all the nuances of Donizetti's music… Laura Polverelli portrayed with elegance and pride the character of Elizabeth, her furies, doubts and jealousies; Maria Pia Piscitelli was a wonderful Maria Stuarda, passionate, sorrowful, proud, dignified when sentenced to death, recalling her past sins yet conscious of her innocence" (MusiCulturA) .
One of Donizetti's most emotionally raw operas, Roberto Devereux ossia Il conte di Essex was also the third to be loosely based on episodes in the life of Queen Elizabeth I. It deals with the love of Elizabeth and her favourite, the Earl of Essex, perhaps most tellingly expressed in the Act I duet, Nascondi, frena i palpiti, o misero mio core (Hide, hold back your palpitation, oh my wretched heart!). Elizabeth's subsequent abdication is, however, a matter of dramatic licence, yet provides a memorable operatic conclusion to this tragedy of love and jealousy as she despairs at the death of her lover – Quel sangue versato al ciel s'innalza (The blood that is spilt rises up to Heaven). Directed by Francesco Bellotto, this was the inaugural production of the Bergamo Music Festival 2006, featuring the Greek soprano and leading Donizetti specialist, Dimitra Theodossiou, and the young American baritone Andrew Schroeder, both in superb voice.
This centenary performance of Umberto Giordano's Marcella was prepared from the composer's manuscript, the score and parts having been destroyed during World War II. Recalling Verdi's La Traviata and Puccini's La Rondine , as well as Giordano's own Andrea Chenier and Fedora , Marcella is the story of a poor girl and a painter whose idyllic affair is shattered when events reveal that her true love is actually a prince incognito.
Well-used technical exercises enable cellists to master great cello works. Yet many pieces still contain their own peculiar stumbling blocks and there are many obstacles that can only be overcome with a certain expertise.
In her book and video project Using Technique and Imagination to achieve Artistic Expression , "Quintessence" in three parts, the famous cellist Maria Kliegel opens up a new avenue that is intended to help advanced cellists over these obstacles. Through her concert performances as well as in the recording studio and as a teacher, she has gathered considerable experience of specific aspects and pitfalls of the cello technique. Using numerous examples from the cello repertoire, the book is a distillation of her experience, while the videos provide a demonstration of the cello techniques described in the book. She also plays and analyses the "infamous" passages from the Cello Concertos by Haydn (D) and Schumann and from Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations . Frequent sources of errors are exposed, tricks shown, and various tips on how to get more out of practising are given along with helpful interpretative suggestions.
Pietro Mascagni explored many different musical styles, from the verismo of his ever-popular Cavalleria rusticana to the sentimental lyricism of Lodoletta . Amica was composed at breakneck speed, reaching completion only a month before its Monte Carlo première in 1905 conducted by the composer, and combined a return to 'realism' with a more sophisticated style of writing. Its extravagant scenic and vocal demands contributed to the opera's neglect until recent times. Set in the Savoy mountains around 1900, Amica is a 'dramatic poem in two acts' involving two brothers, Giorgio and Rinaldo, whose love for the same woman, Amica, culminates in tragedy. While today numbering among his least performed works, Amica was initially a triumph, praised for its 'passionate accent' and 'impulsive sincerity' by a contemporary critic, and deemed 'most worthy of re-evaluation' according to the composer's biographer Roger Flury.
Claudio Monteverdi's Fourth Book of Madrigals (1603) explores differing emotional states of abandoned lovers through the most dramatic and amazingly modern music for vocal ensemble. The Full Monteverdi follows the simultaneous break-up of six couples through shocking revelation, vengeful anger and erotic longing for reconciliation. Vulnerable and disarming, this ensemble film will draw you into its emotional journey and intensely moving portrait of contemporary love.
The tour starts in Vienna at the Christkindl Market and other Christmas scenes include the grotesque Krampus masqueraders, with St Nicholas, in Steyr. In Switzerland we see the great monastery church at Einsiedeln and in Bavaria the Abbey Church at Ottobeuren. In Austria scenes of Salzburg and its Christmas market are followed by Christmas cribs at Steyr and in the great cathedral at Linz, ending gazing upwards at the great Christmas fresco that decorates the dome of the monastery church at Einsiedeln.
The music chosen for this tour is principally taken from the works of Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach, including excerpts from the former's Messiah and from two organ concertos, and from Bach's Christmas Oratorio , with the carol Silent Night heard in its original setting at the little church in Oberndorf, for which it was written.
In the peace treaty of 1919 the Tyrol was divided into three regions, Southern Tyrol being ceded to Italy. The Eastern Tyrol, Austrian territory, is bounded to the south by the Lienz Dolomites, with the town of Lienz the regional capital. The region is popular with summer visitors, its climate relatively mild, in spite of its height above sea level. There is also a glimpse of the Earth Pyramids at Ritten (Renon) in the Italian Southern Tyrol.
Music for the tour is by Franz Schubert, the son of a schoolmaster who had settled in Vienna. Although his life was chiefly spent in Vienna, he was, nevertheless, able to enjoy the Austrian countryside, during country holidays spent with friends. The beauty of the landscape is reflected in his music and, in particular, in his songs. The tour of the Lienz Dolomites is accompanied by music by Schubert for piano trio, written towards the end of his short life.
This tour of Austria takes us from the historic towns of Stein-Krems and Salzburg to the former imperial country residence at Laxenburg, the Imperial Treasury in Vienna and the vivid contemporary architecture of Fritz Stowasser, better known as Hundertwasser.
The music for this tour of Austria is taken from two concertos by Mozart, his Clarinet Concerto , written in Vienna a month or so before his death in 1791, and his Oboe Concerto, K.314 , written in Salzburg in 1777.
The musical tour starts in the Bernese Alps, which offer some of the finest scenery in Switzerland, with glaciers and snow-covered expanses, waterfalls, mountain lakes, and the towering Matterhorn. The Nymphenburg Palace and Park, in Munich, present a contrast in their baroque elegance. The tour ends with glimpses of the Chiemsee, the largest of the Bavarian lakes, with its three wooded islands, on one of which Wagner's patron, King Ludwig II, built his folly, the Schloss Herrenchiemsee.
Music for the tour is taken from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor , one of the best known of all romantic concertos. This is followed by his Souvenir d'un lieu cher , three pieces originally for violin and piano, but here orchestrated by the composer Glazunov, a gentler memento of a stay at the country estate of his generous and unseen patron, Nadezhda von Meck in Ukraine at a time of some personal difficulty, after the failure of his marriage.
Brittany and Normandy, one Celtic in origin, culture and language, the other taking its name from the conquering Norsemen, have an enchantment all their own. The landscape, tinged by the magic of history, the ancient buildings and, above all, the sea, combine to
offer an unforgettable panorama of the two regions.
The French composer Claude Debussy suggested new paths for the future, introducing innovations in harmony, structure and orchestral colouring, the last often with a large orchestra delicately used. The music used here includes the evocative Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune , later transformed into a ballet by Nijinsky, the three Nocturnes , orchestral pieces that again suggest the beauty and variety of the landscapes and views of the sea that they here accompany, and finally La mer , in all its changes from dawn to dusk.
The great chateaux and country houses of the Loire arose largely from the decision of Francois I, who came to the throne in 1515, to move his court for part of the year to the Loire valley. This coincided with a period of French architecture in which the Italian Renaissance style was notably influential, often combined with the existing Gothic. An extraordinarily large number of imposing chateaux resulted, from Chambord and Blois to Azay-le-Rideau.
The music accompanying this tour of the Loire is all by Fryderyk Chopin. Born in Poland of a Polish mother and emigre French father, Chopin settled in Paris and his liaison with the writer George Sand (Aurore Dudevant) allowed him generally to spend summer months with her at her Chateau de Nohant in the upper valley of the Indre, the so-called Black Valley. The music chosen here is taken from his many Waltzes , a popular dance that he elevated from the ball-room to the concert salon.
Our tour of the Czech Republic takes us through the countryside, following the River Vltava to Prague, the capital city, visiting some of the great buildings that lie on its course.
The music chosen for our tour starts with the first great Czech nationalist composer, Bedrich Smetana, who left a monument to his country in his cycle of orchestral pieces, Ma Vlast (My Country). The younger composer, Antonín Dvorak, established a still greater reputation in music that reflected his native Bohemia in all its variety.
Our tour takes us to three great English houses. The first, near Oxford, is Blenheim Palace, built for the first Duke of Marlborough by Sir John Vanbrugh. The second is the romantic Leeds Castle, in Kent, known for its spectacular setting, and the third is Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, designed for the Howard family by Vanbrugh.
The music chosen to accompany our tour is by George Frideric Handel, who finally settled in England in 1712, assuming a dominant position in English music. His Water Music was written to entertain King George I, probably in 1717, as he sailed up the Thames, and the second, the Music for the Royal Fireworks was commissioned to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1749, accompanying a firework display in Green Park.
The tour of London takes us to the best known parts of the British capital, with views of the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Hampton Court and down river to Greenwich.
The music for this tour of London is taken from the last two of Joseph Haydn's twelve London Symphonies , the last such works that he would write, composed specially for a series of concerts he gave in London in the 1790s, during two extended visits.
The places visited are principally in the west of England, the heart of 'Elgar country', with its half-timbered houses, great cathedrals and churches, rivers and verdant landscape. There are glimpses of the Malvern hills, of Hereford and Worcester, and excursions to London and to Scotland, in views largely associated with the life of the composer Edward Elgar.
The music of Elgar was rooted in his own part of England. His Enigma Variations offers portraits of his friends and neighbours, the enigma lying in the unrevealed melody that he claimed would be generally known and that would go with the whole set of variations. The puzzle remains unsolved. Other music used includes Elgar's Serenade for Strings, Pomp and Circumstance March, No. 1 and Salut d'amour .
Scenes of Finland, its capital Helsinki and its countryside, are intercut with the work of the painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who, like his contemporary Jean Sibelius, captured the spirit of his country and its legends in his work.
Jean Sibelius is the greatest of all Finnish composers and it is his music that accompanies scenes from his native Finland, its landscape and legends. He drew inspiration from the ancient stories of his country included in the great collections of legends that make up the Kalevala , and from the Finnish landscape.
Florence grew rich and powerful on the silk-trade and banking, evidenced by an incredible wealth of cultural history preserved in its buildings and other works of art. The city is dominated by its great cathedral and adjacent bell-tower and the famous Baptistery. Running through it is the River Arno, crossed by the old bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, and around rise the Tuscan hills.
Ranging from Palestrina to Puccini, the music includes an excerpt from the latter's opera Gianni Schicchi , set in Florence, and arias from Verdi, instrumental excerpts by Rossini, a poignant extract from Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp and his mock-serenade from Don Giovanni , ending with a transcription for guitar of a Caprice by the Demon violinist Paganini.
The region of southern France known as Provence has enjoyed a varied history, occupied by Ligurian and Celtic tribes, followed by Greek settlers, and finally by absorption into the Roman Empire. The succeeding centuries brought invasions, then rule by the Counts of Toulouse, before the region became, by inheritance, part of France. The local language, the langue d'oc , reflects something of this history, as do surviving popular customs. The Roman period is represented by surviving buildings, the Middle Ages by the Romanesque and Gothic.
Music for the tour consists of string quartets by Claude Debussy and by Maurice Ravel, thirteen years his junior. Debussy's String Quartet, Op. 10 , dates from 1893, while Ravel's single string quartet was written in 1902. Both works are highly characteristic of their relative composers.
Starting from the great Cathedral of Chartres, our tour takes us to Brittany and Normandy in Northern France, and to Franche Comté and Burgundy. Many of the scenes chosen match closely the music of Fauré and in particular that of his Requiem , with a wide range of corresponding images, from the calvaries of Brittany to the startling architecture of Le Corbusier in his church of Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp, and from The Last Judgement by Roger van der Weyden in Beaune to the tapestries of Jean Lurçat at Angers.
The music chosen for this tour of France is by Gabriel Fauré. It includes his Requiem , the evocative Pavane , his Sicilienne , probably originally intended as part of incidental music for Molière’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme , and the Berceuse .
This musical tour of France starts in Paris with scenes that reflect the modenisation of the city in the 19th century under Baron Haussmann. From Paris the tour passes to Burgundy, with its vineyards, to Provence, with its Fête des Gardiens in Arles and Roman aqueduct, thence to the Loire, with its great castles and country-houses. The tour ends with a visit to Brittany and Normandy, the northern coasts and the great monastery of Mont Saint-Michel.
Music for the tour is taken from Fryderyk Chopin's two piano concertos. The son of a French émigré and a Polish mother, Chopin left his native Warsaw in 1830, settling in the following year in Paris, where he lived until his death in 1849. His piano concertos were written and first performed in Warsaw in 1830, and seemed a necessary part of his stock-in-trade for a planned career as a virtuoso. In the event Chopin found a more congenial role in Paris as a performer in private society salons and as a fashionable teacher.
This tour of Germany and, in particular, Thuringia, takes us to places associated with Johann Sebastian Bach, to his birth-place, Eisenach, to Arnstadt where he had early employment, and to Leipzig, where he spent the last 27 years of his life. We also see the historic town of Gotha with Schloss Friedenstein and its surviving baroque theatre, Erfurt, and Naumburg, with its Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul.
The music for this tour of Germany is taken from three keyboard concertos by Bach, originally written for harpsichord but here heard on the piano, an instrument only beginning to develop in Bach's time. Bach's keyboard concertos, many of them arrangements of earlier works for other solo instruments, were written in Leipzig, where, in 1729, Bach took over direction of the University Collegium Musicum. This ensemble of talented amateurs and professionals met on Wednesday afternoons at Gottfried Zimmermann's coffee-house or in summer on Friday evenings in his garden outside Leipzig.
The tour visits four notable baroque churches in Bavaria, the Monastic Church of the Assumption at Rohr, the Benedictine Abbey Church of Ottobeuren, the Alte Kapelle in Regensburg and the Monastic Church of St George and St Martin at Weltenburg near Kelheim.
Music for the tour is by Johann Sebastian Bach and is taken from the works Bach wrote for the organ. He had been familiar with the instrument from childhood, and apart from a short period from 1717 to 1723 as Court Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen, remained a respected performer on the instrument, a composer of organ music and an expert on the construction of the instrument.
Bavaria, in south Germany, in earlier times ruled by an Elector whose capital was Munich, is a region of the greatest variety. The places seen here start with the Bavarian Forest and its traditional craft of glass-blowing. Other scenes are of the great palace of the Thurn und Taxis Princes at Regensburg and the fine baroque monastery church of St George and St Martin at Weltenburg.
Music for the tour is by Telemann, a friend and contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach, founder of the Leipzig Collegium Musicum later directed by Bach, godfather to Bach's second son and for many years in charge of music in Hamburg, where he was later succeeded by his godson. The music here includes a Suite for recorder and strings, and two concertos from his Tafelmusik , one for three violins and the other for two horns.
The Road of Romance, in South Bavaria, leads through the countryside to the great castle of Weikersheim, former residence of the Counts and Princes Hohenlohe. Further exploration of Bavaria and the Bavarian Forest leads to Prunn Castle on its rocky eminence, and finally to Würzburg on the River Main and the Marienberg Fortress.
Max Bruch, a native of Cologne, enjoyed a career that took him, as a conductor, to Liverpool, Coblenz, Breslau and Bonn, before his final years in Berlin. His first Violin Concerto remains among his most popular works. Carl Maria von Weber led an even more varied life that took him to musical centres in Germany and Austria. He was a pioneer of German romantic opera, and three opera overtures are chosen here. Der Freischütz (The Marksman) evokes the spirit of the German forest, while Euryanthe explores more exotic territory, as does Oberon , Weber's final opera, written for London in 1826, the last year of his life.
Bavaria has a place of its own in Germany, both geographically and culturally. The tour stars with the Alpine lake known as Königssee and explores the surrounding landscape, including the Berchtesgaden National Park and the gardens of Ludwig II's answer to Versailles, his grandiose Schloss Herrenchiemsee. The tour ends with the Chiemsee, its islands and its tranquil waters.
The music for the tour is by Johannes Brahms and his colleague and collaborator, the violinist Joseph Joachim. Brahms' Second Symphony , which accompanies the earlier parts of the tour, was described by some contemporaries as Brahms' Pastoral Symphony and provides, in its generally cheerful serenity, an apt accompaniment to views of the Bavarian countryside. Joachim's Overture In memoriam Heinrich von Kleist , written probably in the same year as Brahms' symphony, 1877, commemorates the centenary of the birth of the great German writer.
Northern Italy has been ruled by various powers over the centuries. The Southern Tyrol, seen here, retains much of its Austrian past, with some regions predominantly German-speaking and others Italian. Scenes are shown of the Dolomites, the strangely shaped rock formations, a typical castle and mountain lakes. There are also views of the neighbouring Swiss-Italian canton of Ticino.
Music for the tour is by Beethoven, with his Violin Concerto , written and first performed in Vienna, and one of his two Romances for solo violin and orchestra, independent pieces perhaps intended as slow movements for another concerto that was never completed.
The Southern Tyrol was in earlier times part of the Habsburg Empire, governed from Vienna, and ceded to Italy in 1919. The region remains largely German-speaking and enjoys a considerable degree of autonomy. Of particular interest are the rock-formations of the Dolomites and the many castles and fortified houses of the province. The tour shows two historic buildings, Scholss Velthurns and Schloss Runkelstein.
Music for the tour is by Mozart, born in Salzburg in 1756. With his father, Leopold Mozart, Vice-Kapellmeister in Salzburg, he made three notable visits to Italy, and on various occasions broke his journey at Bozen (Bolzano) and visited Brixen (Bressanone). The music heard here is the Posthorn Serenade , written in Salzburg in 1779, and the Notturno , another serenade, written there in the winter of 1776–77.
The tour starts at the great Augustinian foundation, Kloster Neustift (Novacella), at Brixen (Bressanone) in Southern Tyrol, with its rococo church interior and collection of late medieval paintings. This is followed by a visit to Innsbruck, the capital of the Tyrol, with its famous Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) and rococo Wilten Basilica and Collegiate Church.
The music chosen for this tour of Brixen and Innsbruck is by Mozart and includes two symphonies, with other works. Symphony No. 40 is the second of the group of three final symphonies, written in Vienna in 1787, and Symphony No. 28 was written in Salzburg in 1773 or 1774. Other works included are overtures to the early opera Il rè pastore , to The Abduction from the Seraglio , Mozart's first operatic success in Vienna, and the overture to La clemenza di Tito , written in 1791, a few months before his death.
Our tour of Italy stars in Verona, with its reminiscences of Romeo and Juliet. Then to Florence, for some 300 years, from 1434, the seat of the powerful Medici family, whose artistic patronage has left an impressive cultural legacy. The tour ends in the south, with Naples, originally a Greek colony and later a Roman port, and then capital of a kingdom, ruled by Normans and later from Spain. Briefly a Habsburg possession, from 1734 it belonged to the Bourbons, before the unification of Italy in 1860.
Tchaikovsky stayed in Florence on two occasions in 1878, after the disaster of his marriage, hastily contracted, had led him to seek respite abroad. A visit to Rome in 1880 led to the composition of the Italian Capriccio and his opera The Queen of Spades was written in 1890 in Florence, recalled in the same year in his Souvenir de Florence . The other music heard here is the Fantasy Overture, Romeo and Juliet , written in 1869 and based on Shakespeare's play, set in Verona.
Scenes from London include major sights, from Big Ben to Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, with glimpses of St. Paul's Cathedral, Piccadilly and memorials to Wellington and Queen Victoria. From Oxford comes a panorama of the city, and visits to Christ Church and to Blenheim Palace.
The music here included ranges from Byrd to Elgar, by way of Handel, with excerpts from Haydn's London Symphony , Beethoven's Wellington's Victory , Verdi's Macbeth and Mendelssohn's music for A Midsummer Night's Dream .
We explore the streets, palaces and parks of Madrid, the capital of Castile and of Spain, before turning south to La Mancha, the country of the immortal Don Quixote, and to Toledo, the home of Cervantes and of the great painter known as El Greco.
The music of Spain held an exotic attraction for composers from other lands. The Russians Glinka and Rimsky-Korsakov found inspiration here, as did the French composers Lalo, Massenet and Ravel, who claimed Basque descent on his mother's side, and Bizet, whose opera Carmen is imbued with the spirit of the country. Spain provided Verdi with a narrative source, and another Italian, the demon violinist Paganini, was equally a master of the quintessential Spanish instrument, the guitar.
Scenes from Moscow and the Golden Ring, the cluster of historic towns to the north-east of the city, including Vladimir, Suzdal, Rostov and Zagorsk, show the historic heart of Russia in winter and summer.
The music included here ranges from folk-song and extracts from the Russian Orthodox liturgy to works by Russian nationalist composers of the later nineteenth century, including Balakirev, Arensky and the more cosmopolitan Tchaikovsky.
The tour starts in Northern Italy, in the city of Mantua, once the domain of the Gonzaga family. We visit Cremona, the centre of violin-making, and Milan, where Mozart stayed on more than one occasion during his Italian journeys. Sicily has a remarkably varied history, held by Phoenicians and Carthaginians before becoming part of Roman territory, later to be occupied by Ostrogoths, recaptured by the Byzantines, ruled by Saracens, and held by Normans, Germans, French and Spanish. Only in the mid-nineteenth century was Sicily drawn into the unified country of Italy.
The music chosen for this tour is by Mozart and includes his final Symphony No. 41 , known as the "Jupiter", written in Vienna in August 1788, and the earlier Symphony No. 25 , completed in Mozart's native city of Salzburg in early October 1773. Mozart had made three extended Italian tours between 1771 and 1773, and his father Leopold had hoped that his family might be able to settle there, if a position could be found for his son. In this, however, they were unsuccessful, and the third Italian tour was Mozart's last.
The tour of Norway takes us from the capital, Oslo, with its harbours, parks and imposing buildings, to Bergen, the birthplace of Edvard Grieg, and its surrounding countryside, with a glimpse of Grieg's house at Troldhaugen. Trolls make their presence known, before a final return to Oslo and to the sculpture display of Vigeland Park.
The music chosen for this tour of Norway is by Norwegian composers, of whom the best known is Edvard Grieg. Included are excerpts from his incidental music for Ibsen's drama Peer Gynt and for Bjornstjerne Bjornson's Sigurd Jorsalfar . Other composers featured are Christian Sinding, composer of the famous Rustle of Spring , and Johan Halvorsen.
The tour of Norway takes us from the countryside between Gaupne and Sogndal to Bergen, the birthplace of Edvard Grieg, and its surrounding countryside. Trolls make their presence known, and there are views of traditional farm buildings and stave churches from the open-air museum at Maihaugen.
The music chosen for this tour of Norway is by Norwegian composers, of whom the best known is Edvard Grieg. His Holberg Suite, , Norwegian Dances and "Erotikon" from his Lyric Pieces are heard on this video. Other composers featured are Christian Sinding, composer of the famous Rustle of Spring , and Johan Svendsen.
In addition to characteristic scenes from Paris, its buildings and its people, there is a glimpse of the Château at Chantilly, the magnificent palace of Versailles, and the Cathedral at Chartres.
The music included here is largely associated with Paris, although not all by French composers. It includes a movement from a symphony that Mozart wrote in Paris in 1778 and excerpts from Verdi's opera La Traviata , set principally in the city. Other music ranges from that of the seventeenth-century French viol-player Marais to works by Debussy and the eccentric Erik Satie.
The tour of Paris starts with the Eiffel Tower and includes the famous landmarks of the French capital, the Churches of Notre-Dame and the Sacré Coeur, the Opéra Garnier and the great river, the Seine, that runs through the city. The tour ends with a nocturnal view of Paris and an excursion to Chartres, with its magnificent cathedral.
Music for the tour is by Beethoven, who at one time seemed to hope for employment in Paris. His Eroica Symphony was at first intended as a celebration of his one-time hero, Napoleon, but reflected, in the end, his disillusion when Napoleon had himself crowned as Emperor. The music used also includes Beethoven's Coriolanus Overture , written, not for Shakespeare's play, but for a contemporary drama by Heinrich von Collin.
Prague is the ancient capital of Bohemia and now of the Czech Republic. Its history is reflected in its buildings, recalling the splendours of the past under changing dynasties and the 400 or so years as part of the Habsburg Empire, until the establishment of the new republic of Czechoslovakia in 1918. At the heart of Europe, the region has always been a fertile ground for musicians.
The music included here is associated in one way or another with Prague or Bohemia. It includes works by the Bohemian composers Smetana and Dvorak, by the Moravian composer Janacek, and by Fibich who, with Mozart, always found a ready welcome for his music in Prague.
The tour starts in Northern Italy, in Ravenna, once the capital of the Roman Emperor Honorius, who moved there from Milan with his court in C.E. 402. The place is famous for its mosaics. The tour also takes us to Faenza, famous for its majolica ware, known as faïence, and to the great Basilica of San Marco in Venice and its Carnival.
The music for this tour of Italy is by Mozart and includes his two Flute Concertos , written for a patron during a visit to Mannheim in 1777–78. The Andante, K.315 , is thought to date from the same period. Mozart had made three extended Italian tours between 1771 and 1773, and his father Leopold had hoped that his family might be able to settle there if a position could be found for his son. Northern Italy had become part of the Hapsburg Empire, but attempts to find a place in Milan or Florence were unsuccessful. 1777 found him again anxious to find a position away from his native Salzburg, but it was only in 1781 that he was able to make a break with his patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, thereafter settling in Vienna for the last decade of his life.
Scenes are shown of the glory that was Rome in monuments of the great Empire that ruled Europe and the Near East in its heyday. There are also glimpses of St. Peter's and of the modern city.
The music included here is all associated in one way or another with Rome and its traditions. It ranges from the overture to Mozart's Roman opera La clemenza di Tito to Wagner's Tannhauser , whose hero seeks pardon for his sins in the Eternal City, from Puccini's opera Tosca , set in Rome dominated by a corrupt chief of police, to Berlioz's evocation of the city in the age of Benvenuto Cellini, his Roman Carnival Overture .
Starting from the Pantheon and the Colosseum, our tour takes us to the Forum of Augustus and the Forum of Trajan, the Arch of Constantine and the Capitol, with the later city represented by the Piazza di Spagna, the Trevi Fountain, and the great piazza before St Peter's in Vatican City.
The music chosen for this tour of Rome is by Franz Liszt, who divided the last 25 years of his life between Rome, Hungary and Weimar, after an early career as a travelling virtuoso, one of the greatest pianists of his time, and a period settled in Weimar as Director of Music Extraordinary to the Grand Duchy. In Rome he took minor orders and developed further his interest in the music of the Church.
Our tour of Russia starts in St. Petersburg, including churches and palaces, and, above all, the River Neva, on the banks of which Peter the Great's city stands. We visit Tchaikovsky's house at Klin, near Moscow, and travel south to Ukraine to see Sebastopol in the Crimea and Odessa. Finally we return to St. Petersburg, seeing the surrounding countryside, the city by night, the bridges and the people.
Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky succeeded in uniting strands of Russian musical nationalism with music in the cosmopolitan forms of his training. He spent his childhood and adolescence in St. Petersburg, later moving to Moscow and finally finding some refuge in the country at Klin, where his house is preserved. The music accompanying our tour is Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and his Serenade for Strings .
Starting in St Petersburg, once the capital of Russia under Peter the Great, our tour takes us to Ukraine and to Uzbekistan before returning first to Moscow and then to St Petersburg and the famous Marïinsky Theatre, where Tchaikovsky's The Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker were first performed.
The Russian composer Tchaikovsky had a mastery of the smaller forms demanded by ballet, with its series of relatively short scenes. Excerpts from his three famous ballet scores, The Sleeping Beauty , Swan Lake and Nutcracker , provide the music to accompany a tour of Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.
Mozart's father Leopold settled in Salzburg in 1737 and in 1744 entered the service of the city's ruling Prince-Archbishop as a violinist. The city underwent various changes of regime in the first years of the nineteenth century, but in 1825 Schubert could express his wonder at the fine churches and palaces of the place.
The music includes movements directly connected with Salzburg, compositions for distinguisbed local families, members of the Mozarts' social circle, and works resulting from his visit in 1777-78 to Mannheim. Other compositions come from the remarkable final decade of Mozart's life, when he was living in Vienna, culminating in the Lacrimosa from the unfinished Requiem of 1791, a movement that he is said to have tried to sing, with his friends, on his death-bed.
Scotland's rugged landscape has a unique quality that marks it out from the rest of Britain, contrasting most clearly with England, the traditional enemy and occupier. We visit the remote Hebrides, travelling through wild scenery to the mellower Lowlands and to Edinburgh, Scotland's capital, with its royal palace and castle.
Although none of the pieces are Scottish in origin, they complement beautifully the places visited. A Mass by Byrd accompanies the old Abbey of Iona. Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony and Hebrides Overture draw respectively on historical Edinburgh and the wild scenery of Fingal's Cave. And Donizetti's opera Lucia di Lammermoor is based on the novel The Bride of Lammermoor by the great Scottish romantic novelist Walter Scott.
Our tour of Scotland takes us from Edinburgh, with its castle, Scott monument and Palace of Holyrood, to the Highlands and then to The Hebrides, recalling the journey undertaken by the young Mendelssohn.
In 1829 Mendelssohn visited England and, after the summer season, travelled north to Scotland, accompanied by his friend Karl Klingemann. In Edinburgh he visited the Palace of Holyrood, recalling the tragic story of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the murder there of her secretary David Rizzio. Further north he took the steamer to the island of Staffa, where he saw Fingal's Cave and in spite of sea-sickness immediately sketched the opening theme of his Hebrides Overture . It was not until 1842 that his Scottish Symphony was completed, a work inspired by memories of his visit to Scotland
Andalusia, in the south of the Iberian peninsula, is one of the fifteen autonomous administrative regions of modern Spain. It includes the provinces of Sevilla and Granada, which have their capitals at the cities of the same name.
Spanish composers are represented here by Granados and Albeniz, whose successful careers extended into the 20th century. Music by other composers reflects various connections with Spain. Seville is the setting for Mozart's operas The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni , and for Rossini's Figaro opera, The Barber of Seville . Bizet's Carmen is centred on Seville, while Verdi's tragic opera The Force of Destiny , set in Spain and based on a Spanish play, ranges over a wider area.
Sicily has a remarkably varied history. From the ninth century BC it served as a Phoenician outpost and was later colonised by the Greeks, then became part of the Carthaginian Empire until absorbed by the Romans in the third century BC. After occupation by the Ostrogoths, in AD 353 it was reconquered by the Byzantines and subsequently ruled in turn by Saracens, Normans, Germans, French and Spanish. Only in the mid-nineteenth century was the island drawn into the unified country of Italy. The historical changes that Sicily has undergone are reflected in its culture.
The music chosen for this tour of Sicily is largely Italian, ranging from the Vienna Court Composer Salieri to Verdi and Leoncavallo. Other composers included are Mozart, Mendelssohn and Bach, the last represented by a characteristic Sicilian dance, and the Italian violinist and composer Paganini.
Scenes of Provence, with its ancient Roman remains and ancestral traditions, mingle with the coast of the Cote d'Azur with its blue seas, rocks and islands, and the great nature reserve of Camargue, land of wild bulls and horses.
Chopin and Puccini may seem outsiders in a gathering of French musicians. The former, however, was the son of an emigre French father and spent the greater part of his life in Paris, while Puccini finds a place here with his transformation of the Abbe Prevost's novel Manon Lescaut into an immensely moving opera. Other composers reflect a French tradition ranging from Berlioz to Ravel.
From Caserta and Naples in Southern Italy we travel to Sicily, an island with a remarkably varied history, held by Phoenicians and Carthaginians before becoming part of Roman territory, later to be occupied by Ostrogoths, recaptured by the Byzantines, ruled by Saracens, and held by Normans, Germans, French and Spanish. Only in the mid-nineteenth century was Sicily drawn into the unified country of Italy.
The music is by Mozart, his Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K.467 , written in Vienna in March 1785, and the second of his two piano concertos in a minor key, the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491 , composed in Vienna in the following year. Mozart had made three extended Italian tours between 1771 and 1773, and his father Leopold had hoped that his family might be able to settle there, if a position could be found for his son. In this, however, they were unsuccessful, and the third Italian tour was Mozart's last.
The ancient city of Seville, capital of Andalucía, was an Iberian settlement, of importance during the period of Roman domination and, after the Moorish conquest of the 8th-century, part of the Caliphate of Córdoba. It retained importance under other Moorish rulers until its reconquest by Fernando III in 1248. It enjoyed the height of prosperity after the discovery of America in 1492.
Music for the tour includes two of the suites drawn from the French composer George Bizet's opera Carmen , first staged in Paris in 1875 and drawing on Spanish traditions for its plot and setting and for its transformation of traditional Spanish dances. There are also Spanish Dances by the composer Enrique Granados.
Our visit to Spain centres on the old capital of Castile, Toledo, historically famous for its steel and swords, the home of the great painter known as El Greco. There are views of Cordoba, with its relics of Moorish occupation and a brief glimpse of the windmills on the plains of La Mancha, buildings Don Quixote once mistook for giants.
The music of Spain held an exotic attraction for composers from other countries. The French composer Lalo was of remote Spanish origin himself, and his Symphonie espagnole , written for the great Spanish violinist Pablo Sarasate, evokes the spirit of the country. Sarasate himself is represented here by a gypsy piece, Zigeunerweisen , and the versatile and prolific French composer Saint-Saens, who also dedicated a number of works to Sarasate, by his Spanish Havanaise .
St. Petersburg, the former Russian capital, established in 1712 by Peter the Great, represented an era of modernisation. Built around the River Neva, which flows into the seas of the Gulf of Finland, its palaces, streets and parks, reflect the age of its construction and wider European influences to which the Tsar sought to direct his country.
The composers whose music is here included - Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, Liadov and Ippolitov-Ivanov - were themselves closely associated with Russian music of the later nineteenth century and, inevitably, with St. Petersburg and its Conservatory.
The canton of the Graubünden, the Grey Leagues, covers the largest territory of all Swiss cantons, while remaining the most sparsely populated. Geographically it borders the Southern Tyrol, Austria and Liechtenstein, and linguistically has a population in part Romansch-speaking, while other languages used include German, Italian and, to a much lesser extent, French. The canton has traditional importance as a crossing-point between south and north in Europe.
Music for the tour is taken from four Concerti grossi by Handel. Born in Halle in 1685, Handel had his first musical employment there and then in Hamburg, before moving in 1706 to Italy, where he remain until 1710, when he was appointed Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hanover. He travelled almost at once to London, where he had been engaged to compose an Italian opera, and from 1712 until his death in 1759 settled in England, winning fame first as a composer of Italian opera and then as the creator of English oratorio.
The Museo Vela is at Ligornetto in the Swiss-Italian canton of Ticino. The galleries have remarkable collections of the works of the Vela family, Lorenzo, Vincenzo and his son Spartaco. The principal part of the collection includes works in gesso of Vincenzo (1821–1891), plaster-cast figures later reworked in stone. The Museo Vela houses the largest such exhibition in the world.
Music for the visit is by Chopin, with his piano Preludes , written principally during the winter of 1838–39 that he spent in Mallorca with his mistress, the writer George Sand. The stay there brought many difficulties, not least the early signs of illness that was to bring about Chopin's death ten years later. Other music included is Chopin's Variations brillantes , written in 1833, based on a melody from an opera by Hérod and Halévy.
The musical tour starts in Zürich and moves to the hill-top village of Regensberg. The farmland of Emmental is seen, with Lake Thun and the waterfalls of Lauterbrunnen. Still more impressive is the great Matterhorn and a tribute to mountaineers who have lost their lives there. Zermatt, a popular ski resort as well as a base for climbers, is also seen in the milder days of summer.
Music for the tour is taken from the first two of Mozart's Violin Concertos , written in Salzburg in 1773 and in 1775 respectively. Mozart composed his five Violin Concertos either for his own use or for the Italian violinist Antonio Brunetti, who was employed, with Mozart, in the musical establishment of the Prince-Archbishop in Salzburg.
The places visited range from the icy slopes of the Jungfraujoch, approached by the highest railway in Europe, to the tranquility of Lake Thun, the imposing waterfalls of Trümmelbach and the distinctive French, German, Italian and Romansch regions of the country.
The music for this tour of Switzerland is by Franz Schubert, a composer who spent his life largely in his native Vienna. His famous Unfinished Symphony , the two movements of which were written in 1822, were not performed until 37 years after Schubert's death, when the manuscripts were discovered at the home of Schubert's friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner. The music continues with Schubert's Fifth Symphony , written in the space of a few weeks in 1816, when the composer was nineteen.
Tuscany (Toscana) draws its modern name from the ancient kingdom of Etruria and its inhabitants, the Etruscans, whose early history is inextricably entangled with the rise to power of Rome. The region stretches from the Apennines to the Tyrrhenian Sea and includes, among its nine provinces, Pisa, Siena and Lucca.
The music chosen for this tour of Tuscany is largely Italian, ranging from the sixteenth-century Milanese lutenist Francesco Canova da Milano to the Venetian Vivaldi, the Genoese-born violinist Paganini and the opera composers Donizetti, Verdi, Catalani and Puccini. Place is also found for appropriate music by the Italian-trained Gluck and from Mozart's Italian opera Don Giovanni .
This tour of Uzbekistan takes us to Bukhara and to Khiva, former oases on the old Silk Road that joined East and West. Their great buildings, mosques and medrese, reflect their former importance under successive rulers, with monuments of Islamic architecture and decorative art.
Nikolay Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov held a leading position among the Russian nationalist composers of the nineteenth century. His symphonic suite Sheherazade , based on episodes from The Arabian Nights , provides an apt accompaniment to a tour of Uzbekistan. The music chosen also includes the musical picture Sadko , based on a watery legend that takes the hero of the title into the depths of the sea.
Venice is one of the most famous of all cities, its buildings reflecting its former commercial importance and wealth. Its canals and its position at the head of the Adriatic have given it a unique character that has continued to attract visitors.
The music included here is either associated directly with Venice or familiar there in the heyday of the Serenissima. It includes music by the Venetian composers Vivaldi and Marcello, and by Domenico Scarlatti, Neapolitan by birth, who was sent to study there by his father.
A city built on an archipelago of 117 islets, Venice is remarkable in many ways. Unsullied by modern traffic, its buildings retain much of their historic character and something of the magic of the place is reflected in our tour which visits a number of the principal sites and reflects the changing light, which casts a spell of its own.
Violinist, priest and most prolific composer, Antonio Vivaldi was born in Venice in 1678 and spent most of his life there, associated for much of the time with the Ospedale della Pietà, a charitable institution for girls, with a strong musical tradition. The music for the tour is taken from his collection of twelve concertos, Il Cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Inventione (The Contest of Harmony and Invention) , published in Paris in 1725.
Scenes from Vienna include historical and modern buildings, monuments from the glorious past and the modern present, from the Emperor's Palace of Schonbrunn to the colourful buildings of the controversial artist Hundertwasser.
The music included here is all closely associated with Vienna, where Mozart spent the last ten years of his life, where Schubert was born in 1797, and where Beethoven, from 1792 until his death in 1827, was a dominant musical figure.
Filmed in Chester Cathedral during the National Youth Orchestra of Spain's 2007 European tour, this concert features Leopold Stokowski's inimitable and colourful transcriptions of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhbition and A Night on Bare Mountain , the latter made famous by its inclusion in the 1940 Walt Disney film Fantasia . Jose Serebrier's 'Symphonie mystique' , for strings, was written in the space of just one week in 2003. Serebrier's earlier recording of this work was hailed by FonoForum magazine as "a vital, elegant masterwork… a shimmering prism of tone… clearly formed and with a sure hand for reaching great heights of ecstasy".
The 19th century brought astonishing developments in instrumental skill, marking, with Paganini and his innovations in violin technique, the true age of the virtuoso. Earlier periods had seen great performers, but it was now combined with changes in technique and with the development of particular instruments, notably the piano, with which Liszt at first set out to rival Paganini. A distinctive feature of the age was the pre-eminence of performer-composers. Bach, Handel, Mozart and Beethoven had all been players, but now, changing technical demands and possibilities opened a new world of virtuosity, the world of Liszt and his successor Busoni, and of Sarasate, Ernst, Joachim and Ries.
Although one of his most consistently lyrical operas, La rondine (The Swallow) remains one of Puccini's least known. Dissatisfied with the result of his work, Puccini wrote three versions, with two different endings, and continued to make further revisions up to his death in 1924. The innovative 2007 production at the Torre del Lago Giacomo Puccini Festival, presented here, is in effect a fourth version, which combines Acts I and II of the first version (1917), with Lorenzo Ferrero’s 1994 orchestration of parts of the Finale of Act III of the incomplete third version (1921), some of which had survived only in piano score, as well as Ruggero's Act I romanza, Parigi e la citta dei desideri , from the second version (1920).
With a sparkling score reminiscent of Franz Lehar and Richard Strauss, La rondine , set in mid-19th century Paris, tells the story of Magda de Civry, a young courtesan who falls in love one evening with Ruggero Lastouc, the handsome son of a childhood friend of her protector, Rambaldo Fernandez. Although Magda believes that her compromised social position prevents their marrying, in Puccini's third version it is Ruggero who leaves Magda when he discovers that she is the mistress of Rambaldo.
The plot of La cambiale di matrimonio , which Rossini composed when he was just eighteen years old, revolves around the farcical attempts of Tobia Mill, a rich English merchant, to combine business with pleasure by forcing his daughter, the lovely Fanny ("the merchandise") to marry Slook, his rich colonial correspondent from America, by means of a bill of exchange. Eventually it is the gallant Slook himself who persuades Mill to allow Fanny to marry her true love, Edoardo Milfort. This Rossini Opera Festival – Pesaro production features two well-established singers, Desiree Rancatore and Saimir Pirgu, who are joined by three promising young singers: Fabio Maria Capitanucci, Enrico Maria Marabelli and Maria Gortsevskaya.
Filmed live in 2007 at the prestigious Rossini Opera Festival in the composer's birthplace, Pesaro, Il Turco in Italia is a madcap ensemble opera with an inspired score that boasts music of both comic genius and extraordinary beauty. Set in Naples, it spins a crazy tale around a poet who uses the romantic entanglements of the inhabitants with a Turkish prince as inspiration for the plot of his next play. Ultimately, life imitates art as all ends happily, but not before a planned abduction leads to a chaotic situation of mistaken identity…
Pare Lorentz's The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936) and The River (1937) are landmark American documentary films. Aesthetically, they break new ground in seamlessly marrying pictorial imagery, symphonic music, and poetic free verse, all realized with supreme artistry. Ideologically, they indelibly encapsulate the strivings of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 'New Deal'. Virgil Thomson's scores for both films are among the most famous ever composed for the movies. Aaron Copland praised the music for The Plow for its 'frankness and openness of feeling', calling it 'fresher, more simple, and more personal' than the Hollywood norm. He called the music for The River 'a lesson in how to treat Americana'.
- George Stoney on The Plow and The River
- The New Deal, The River , and Race
- Charles Fussell on Virgil Thomson
- Virgil Thomson on Virgil Thomson (audio only)
- The original ending of The Plow that Broke the Plains
- The original beginning of The Plow that Broke the Plains
Based on Schiller's Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love) , Verdi's tragic melodramma Luisa Miller revolves around the loves of the heroine of the title and Rodolfo, son of Count Walter, and the machinations of the Count's steward, Wurm, who wants Luisa for himself, resulting in the death of all three. Directed by Arnaud Bernard, who took as his inspiration Bernardo Bertolucci's 1976 film 1900 , this La Fenice production is led by the outstanding Bulgarian soprano Darina Takova whose intense characterisation of Luisa emphasizes the heroine's inner torture, and Giuseppe Sabbatini who brings a thrilling theatricality to the role of Rodolfo, especially in the most famous aria from the opera, "Quando le sere al placido".
Verdi was justifiably pleased with Macbeth, his tenth opera and his first on a Shakespearian subject – it would long remain his own favourite among his "early period" operas. Eighteen years later, at the invitation of the Theatre Lyrique in Paris, he substantially revised the score, and this version (sung in Italian) is presented here in Pier Luigi Pizzi's visually arresting 2007 production. The talented young cast is headed by Giuseppe Altomare as Macbeth, one of Verdi's most profoundly modern anti-heroes, a political animal driven to bloody regicide yet doomed by his very success. Olha Zhuravel plays his obsessively ambitious wife, driven to madness by her own guilt.
Wolf-Ferrari's comic opera La vedova scaltra (The Cunning Widow), is among the works he based on plays by Goldoni. It matches closely the conventions of 18th-century opera buffa in its witty if sceptical look at the mechanisms governing the interplay of human relations. Four hopeful suitors, English, French, Spanish and Italian, vie for the hand of Rosaura, the cunning widow of the title, who disguises herself to meet each wooer, eventually choosing the only one who can demonstrate his sincerity. This production, filmed live at the Teatro La Fenice in February 2007 in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of Goldoni in Venice in 1707, is the first to appear on DVD.