Thursday, September 25, 2014

Instrumental Variations on La Traviata by DR. VON LYRIC

It is certainly no wonder that composers, enchanted with Verdi's poignantly tender melodies, soaring lyrical outburst, and bracing striding rhythms, were inspired to write variations, arrangements, and fantasias on themes from La Traviata. Now we have the bel canto voicings of trumpets, flutes, and guitars to set beside the more familiar vocal outpourings.

First a "fantasy" by fellow operatic composer Amilcare Ponchielli (La Gioconda).

In all of these selections we also get to hear virtuosic performances by some of contemporary Europe's finest young musicians - in this case trumpeter Giuliano Sommerhalder.

Next Jérémy Jouve plays Francisco Tárrega's "Fantasía sobre motivos de La Traviata."

There seems to be some dispute as to whether this piece is indeed by Tárrega (1852-1909) - some say it was composed by Julián Arcas (1832 -1882) a fellow Spanish guitarist and composer - but in any case it is a favorite and exciting show piece for the classical guitarist.

Now flute – Swiss-born Emmanuel Pahud in a "Concert Fantasy" by the Italian flautist and composer Donato Lovreglio (1841 - 1907) known as "the Paganini of the flute."

A bit of a change of pace - a more percussive, extravagant (almost Lisztian), take on La Traviata by the contemporary Tajik, Russian, and Soviet composer Tolib Shakhidi. His compositions embrace a wide stylistic range and have been performed extensively (including performances at the BSO). Performing here is the young virtuoso Andrey Gugnin.

Following up on our last posting, which celebrated La Traviata with a "Brindisi," here is a charming informal video of Licia Albanese (always remembered for her Violetta) and Richard Tucker (often her Alfredo) performing at a party in honor of the Canadian-born conductor Wilfrid Pelletier in Montreal in 1969 (he was a prominent figure at the Met from 1929 to 1950 conducting mostly French repertory). Joining in the chorus are such Met stalwarts as Bidu Sayão, Patrice Munsel, Rose Bampton (Pelletier's wife), Thelma Votipka, and Theodor Uppman.

Licia Albanese died recently at the age of 105. I am always intrigued and moved when a person's long life seems to somehow directly connect us with eras which appear to have long receded into the distance. She was born in 1913 - the year of Le Sacre du Printemps...the year Benjamin Britten and Albert Camus were born...the year Thomas Mann wrote Death in Venice...Woodrow Wilson was president and the cataclysm of WWI still a year away...and she died last August.

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