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Beyond Bach, Beethoven And Brahms

  These three great German composers are often referred to as ":The Three B's ". Reportedly, the great 19th century conductor and pianist Hans Von Bulow coined this term .  And they are among the corenrstones of the classical reperoire . Their music is ubiquitous in concert halls around the world and there are countless recordings of the masterpieces they produced  from the early 1700s  to the late 19th century .

  There are other great composers whose names begin with B ; Berlioz, Bruckner, Bartok, for example .  But there are other very worthy composers whose surnames begin with B but who have unfortunately been overshadowed by the most famous  ones .Have you ever heard of such composers as Mily Balakirev of  19th century Russia ,  Arnold Bax , Havergal Brian and Arthur Bliss of England , or Franz Berwald of Sweden ?  Unless you are really into classical music , the chances are that you haven't . But alll have written highly enjoyable works which deserve to be heard more often .  There are a fair number of recordings available of their music , but  your chances of hearing them live are pretty slim . 

   I have some CDs of their music , and  I  think you might  find them as enjoyanble as I do .  Franz Berwald (1796 - 1968) , is one of Sweden's most important composers , best known for his four vivacious and inventive symphonies . There are also tow concertos,, one for violin and one for piano , and miscelaneous smaller orchestral works etc. His music is full of quirky turns of phrase and all kinds of surprising moments .  But onfortunately , outside of recordings, you almost never hear his music live , with the possible exception of his native Sweden .

   If you enjoy the colorful Russian music of  Rimsky-Korsakov , Borodin and Mussorgsky , you should definitely hear the music of their contemporary Mily Balakirev (1837-1910).  The recent centennial of his death passed almost totaly unnoticed by the classical music world . His best-known work is the fiendishly difficult piano piece Islamey , which is based on the folk music of the Caucasus , and only the most accomplished piano virtuosos would dare to play it in public .  It has also been orchestrated by the Russian composer Sergei Liapunov  and th eItalian composer Alfredo Casella .  Balakirev's symphony no 1 in C is a wonderfully melodious and sweeping work whic combines  Oriental exoticism with  evocations of of traditional Russian folk songs .  A number of prominent  conductors such as Herbert von Karajan and Sir Thomas Beecham have recorded it, but it's puzzling  that hardly any one performs it live .

   Arnold Bax lived from 1883 to 1953 and wrote among other things seven symphonies and assorted symphonic poems which are highly atmospheric  and full of  rhapsodic  abandon and  Celtic flavor .  His  tone poem Tntagel is an evocation of the famous ancient castle in Wales which was supposedly the seat of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table . I've already discussed the gargantuan Gothic symphony of Havergal Brian, which had one of its  extremely rare performances this Summer in London and was recorded by Hyperion records .

   Thank heaven for recordings !


Posted: Feb 22 2012, 08:52 PM by the horn | with no comments
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