Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September 2015 - Featured Playlist: When We Wage War

One of the most important and beautiful functions of music is that it allows us another outlet to express what feels inexpressible, to say what we cannot put into words. It helps us to cope with the tragedies that are part of life, and to come to grips with our grief. For many composers, music was how they attempted to process the cruelties of war.

Twice in the twentieth century our entire world was engulfed in strife, and among the voices silenced too soon were many composers with great potential. Those that survived or could not fight also grappled with the previously unimaginable anguish left in the wake of battle. In these uncertain times today, when conflict continues to cloud our world, it is important to learn from the past, and to be aware of what we lose When We Wage War.

To hear the playlist, access NML as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Playlist of the Month folder under the Naxos Music Library Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.

1. Hugo Distler – Die Weihnachtsgeschichte: Meine Seele erhebt Gott, den Herrn – Wir bitten dich von Herzen – Hugo Distler was an organist, conductor, and teacher who was also considered one of the most important German composers of his generation, primarily because of his choral music. The constant air raids over Berlin, the loss of friends, and the threat of conscription into the Nazi military (a cause he could not support) led him to commit suicide in 1942.

2. Gustav Holst – The Planets: I. Mars, the Bringer of War – When World War I began, Holst attempted to enlist in the British army, but he was turned away for health reasons. Near the end of the war he received an opportunity to musically serve the British troops in Greece, and shortly before departing for his commission he gave the premiere of his most enduring work, The Planets.

3. George Butterworth – The Banks of Green Willow – Butterworth was a close friend of Ralph Vaughan Williams, and together they traveled across the English countryside to collect folk tunes, which would later influence their compositions. He volunteered to serve in World War I, and for an act of valor he was awarded the Military Cross. However, he was killed by a sniper in the Battle of the Somme before he could receive the award.
4. Benjamin Britten – War Requiem: Dies irae, dies illa – Britten was a pacifist granted status as a conscientious objector during World War II. The War Requiem was composed to mark the consecration of an English cathedral rebuilt after its destruction in the war, and it makes use of the traditional Latin text interspersed with poetry by Wilfred Owen, killed in World War I. It is dedicated to friends of his and his partner Peter Pears who died in the war.

5. Gideon Klein – String Trio: III. Molto vivace – Gideon Klein was born into a Jewish family in Czechoslovakia, and at 22 he was deported by the Nazis to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, one of the few where cultural activity was permitted. His String Trio was composed in 1944, shortly before he was transferred to Auschwitz and then Fürstengrube, where he died during the liquidation.

6. Ralph Vaughan Williams – Symphony No. 3, “Pastoral”: IV. Lento. Moderato maestos. Animato. Poco piu lento. Tempo I – When World War I broke out, Vaughan Williams was too old for conscription, but he volunteered as an ambulance driver for the British medical corps, later being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery. This experience inspired his Third Symphony, an elegy for the dead in the war.
7. Ethel Smyth – The Wreckers: Overture – Smyth’s opera The Wreckers saw its run canceled by the onset of World War I, and she joined the war effort, first with an ambulance outfit on the Italian front. Later she became a radiographer in Vichy, France, using these skills to assist doctors in finding shrapnel in wounded soldiers. She also worked for a time as an interpreter for the Red Cross in Italy.

8. William Grant Still – In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy – The League of Composers commissioned a work on patriotic themes from American composer William Grant Still during World War II, and he responded with In Memoriam. There is a certain irony in the title, as many African-American soldiers gave their lives defending a country that had not truly defended them.

9. Maurice Ravel – Le tombeau de Couperin: Toccata – Ravel was too old and sickly to fight in World War I, but he was able to serve as an ambulance driver. You can’t tell from the title, but the French Baroque-themed Le tombeau de Couperin was composed in memory of friends who died in the war. The Toccata is dedicated to Joseph de Marliave, whose wife Marguerite premiered the suite.
10. Ivor Gurney – By A Bierside – Gurney composed “By A Bierside” and other songs while serving in the trenches of World War I. He survived the war, but injuries from poison gas and shell shock, combined with a painful breakup and possible bipolar disorder, resulted in his admission to a mental hospital not long after the end of the war, and he spent the final fifteen years of his life institutionalized.

11. Kurt Weill – Das Berliner Requiem: Marterl / Grabschrift – Das Berliner Requiem was composed for the tenth anniversary of World War I, and possibly to honor the noted pacifist Rosa Luxemburg. Weill would go on to further be impacted by World War II, as his music was repressed by the Nazi regime for being “degenerate”, and he later had to flee Germany because of his Jewish heritage.

12. Ivor Novello – Keep the Home Fires Burning – Ivor Novello was one of the most successful entertainers in Great Britain during the first half of the twentieth century, having considerable success on both screen and stage. His song “Keep the Home Fires Burning” was his break-out hit, becoming a patriotic anthem during World War I.

13. Lili Boulanger – Pour les funerailles d’un soldat – Despite her poor health, Lili Boulanger poured herself into the war effort as best she could. Many musicians had been drafted to fight for France in World War I, and she and her sister Nadia worked to serve them however they could, mostly through helping them keep in contact with their families.

14. Jehan Alain – Litanies – Best known for his compositions for organ, Alain served as a dispatch motorcyclist in the French Army during World War II. He was killed on reconnaissance when he encountered a group of German soldiers on the road, but he managed to take down sixteen of them before he died. For his bravery, he was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre.

15. Ernest Farrar – Heroic Elegy – British composer Ernest Farrar volunteered for the Grenadier Guards in 1915, but was not sent to the front in France until September 1918, where he was killed after only two days. First performed while on leave two months before his death, the Heroic Elegy was Farrar’s final work for orchestra.

16. Charles Ives – Orchestral Set No. 2: III. From Hanover Square North, at the End of a Tragic Day, the Voice of the People Again Arose – The sinking of the Lusitania was a major catalyst for the United States’ involvement in World War I, and From Hanover Square… was Ives’ depiction of an incident the day the news broke. As he awaited a train at Hanover Square, the crowd spontaneously sang the hymn The Sweet By And By, a melody Ives incorporated in the work.

17. William Charles Denis Browne – To Gratiana Dancing and Singing – Denis Browne joined the British military in World War I alongside his close friend, the poet Rupert Brooke. Together they were sent to join the Gallipoli landings, but Brooke became ill and died along the way. Denis Browne went on to fight, but he was fatally wounded during an attack on the Turkish trenches at the Third Battle of Krithia.

18. Frederick Septimus Kelly – Shall I Compare Thee? – Besides being a composer, Frederick Septimus Kelly was a skilled rower who picked up a gold medal at the 1908 Olympics. He was a friend of William Charles Denis Browne and Rupert Brooke both, and he was present with Denis Browne as Brooke lay dying. Kelly managed to survive the carnage of Gallipoli, but he was killed charging a machine gun at the Battle of the Somme in France.

19. Dick Kattenburg – Flute Sonata: III. Fughetta: Allegro vivo – Kattenburg’s Flute Sonata was composed when he was only 18, and until 2004 it was thought to be the only surviving work of his. That year, a relative went through his late sister’s possessions and found many more equally inspired compositions. Kattenburg was only 25 years old when he was killed at Auschwitz.

20. Francis Purcell Warren – Five Short Pieces for Violoncello: Sunday Evening in Autumn –Warren (nicknamed Bunny by his friends) disappeared at the Battle of the Somme. Of him, composer Hubert Parry wrote, “It is a peculiarly tragic case…(He had begun) to show characteristic qualities as a composer which were quite surprising…One of humanity’s tenderest possessions was ruthlessly destroyed.”

Each month, Naxos Music Library presents a themed playlist for our subscribers to enjoy. We know that a database of over 1.6 million tracks can be a bit daunting, so we'd like to highlight some of the amazing music that is available to you. Let it kickstart discovery!

Monday, August 3, 2015

August 2015 - Featured Playlist: Leading Ladies

Every good part of history has its dark points, and while there are so many wondrous developments throughout the history of music, it certainly has its tragedies as well. One of the most glaring errors is that for most of Western music history, women composers have been dismissed, neglected, or outright repressed. Composition was seen as a man’s world, and women were often confined to roles as dutiful housewives who might play a little piano for friends.

While full equality has yet to be achieved, the world of composition has come a long way in recent decades, with women like Joan Tower and Sofia Gubaidulina creating irrepressible music that has paved the way for a new generation of talent that cannot be ignored. This month we are highlighting the contributions of the women composers throughout history who have battled tremendous odds to become our Leading Ladies.

To hear the playlist, access NML as usual, go to the Playlists section, and select the Playlist of the Month folder under the Naxos Music Library Playlists tab. If you are on your institution's premises, you may also be able to access it if you CLICK HERE.
1. Alma Maria Mahler-Werfel – 5 Gesange: No. 2 Ekstase – When Alma Maria Schindler married Gustav Mahler in 1902, she agreed to his insistence that she cease composing so she could focus on raising their children. Years later, during a difficult point in their marriage, Gustav sought the advice of Sigmund Freud, who convinced him to stop curtailing her composition. They remained married until his death in 1911.

2. Dora Pejačević – Piano Concerto in G Minor: III. Allegro con fuoco – Pejačević was born in 1885 to a noble family in Croatia, and she is remembered as an important regional composer who helped introduce the orchestral song to Croatian music. Before she died at 37 from complications during childbirth, she composed over a hundred works, a number of which have been recorded in recent years.

3. Louise Farrenc – Symphony No. 1 in C Minor: IV. Allegro assai – Farrenc achieved fame first as a pianist, which allowed her to take a position as Professor of Piano at the prestigious Paris Conservatory. Of course, she was paid considerably less than her male counterparts, and it wasn’t until one of her compositions was triumphantly premiered by famed violinist Joseph Joachim that she was finally able to convince the school to pay her equally.  
4. Grażyna Bacewicz – Violin Concerto No. 3: III. Vivo – Bacewicz was a talented violinist who performed both as a soloist and as the principal violinist of the Polish Radio Orchestra, a position which facilitated the performance of many of her works. Her compositions were highly respected in Poland in her day, and she received several lifetime achievement awards through the 1950s.

5. Kassia – O Vasilevs tis doxis Christos – Legend has it that 9th-century Byzantine emperor Theophilos was about to select Kassia as his empress when he made a comment that through a woman (Eve) sin entered the world. Unfazed, she reminded him that through a woman (the Virgin Mary) salvation also entered the world. Embarrassed, the emperor selected another woman, and Kassia later joined a convent.

6. Amy Beach – Bal masque – New Englander Amy Beach was the first successful female composer in the United States. She was a child prodigy, able to sing dozens of songs by her first birthday and improvise counter-melodies by her second. Following her husband’s wishes, she limited her performance career, but she was then able to devote herself fully to composition, soon earning a place as one of the major American composers of her day.
7. Mélanie Bonis – Les gitanos – Mel Bonis was born into a family that did not understand her musical ambitions, and they forced her to marry a wealthy businessman. Much of her time was occupied running the household and performing her socialite duties, but she still found a way to compose. One telling response to her music came from Saent-Saëns: “I would never have believed that a woman could be capable of writing that.”

8. Florence Beatrice Price – Symphony No. 1 in E Minor: IV. –– - Price became the first African-American woman to be acknowledged as a symphonic composer, and to have music performed by a major orchestra. She was friends with writer Langston Hughes and singer Marian Anderson, and her music blended traditional European Romantic technique with the rhythms and other elements of African-American spirituals.

9. Nadia Boulanger – 3 Pieces for Cello and Piano: No. 3 Vite et nerveusement rythmé – Nadia Boulanger’s compositions, though excellent and well received, were overshadowed by those of her younger sister Lili. Shortly after her sister’s death at the age of 25, Nadia gave up composition entirely and focused on teaching, counting many of the greatest 20th-century composers as her students.

10. Sofia Gubaidulina – Serenade – Gubaidulina frequently pushed the limits of what the Soviet music establishment would permit, earning disapproval for her exploration of alternative tunings and for her unapproved participation in Soviet music festivals in the West. Nevertheless, she continued to follow her own muse, and in 1992 she was able to leave Russia and make her home in Germany.

11. Missy Mazzoli – Magic With Everyday Objects – Born in 1980, Missy Mazzoli has established herself as a prominent composer in New York City, and she’s had her music performed by the Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, Maya Beiser, the Minnesota Orchestra, and may other artists prominent today. In 2016 she is expected to premier a new opera based on Lars Von Trier’s classic film Breaking the Waves.

12. Elisabetta Brusa – Symphony No. 1: III. Allegro moderato – Italian composer Elisabetta Brusa composed her Symphony No. 1 towards the end of the 1980s, and it was her first work written for a large orchestra. She works within a generally tonal sound world influenced by composers of the late Romantic Era, and her work has a unique mystical melodicism that stimulates the imagination.

13. Clara Schumann – Piano Concerto in A Minor: I. Allegro maestoso – Clara Schumann was one of the more prominent figures in German music during her lifetime. Not only did she have a 61-year career as a pianist, during which she established the now-commonplace custom of performing from memory, but she composed alongside her husband Robert and was a noted champion and mentor of Johannes Brahms.

14. Ethel Smyth – Serenade in D Major: II. Scherzo: Allegro vivace – Allegro molto – Like many other female composers, Ethel Smyth first had to battle the opposition of her father, then the judgments of a musical world that would call her loud, powerful works unladylike, then dismiss her softer music as trivial. She was an active participant in the suffragette movement, even spending a couple months in prison for her activism.

15. Hildegard of Bingen – O magne Pater – Medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen was a nun in Germany who penned one of the largest known oeuvres from the twelfth century. Her melismatic melodies and wide pitch range were progressive for the day, and her Ordo Virtutum is possibly the oldest surviving morality play. Not only did she compose music, but she also wrote several books on theology, science, and medicine.

16. Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel – Das Jahr: No. 4 April – Growing up, Fanny Mendelssohn’s music teacher considered her to be more notable than her younger brother Felix, but due to prevailing attitudes towards women in that day, she was not permitted by her father and brother to pursue a career in performance or composition. Her husband was more supportive, at least of her writing, and she left us more than 460 pieces of music.
17. Germaine Tailleferre – Pastorale in C Major - Tailleferre changed her surname from Taillefesse as a little act of resistance to her father’s disapproval of her musical ambitions. Her work was championed by Ravel, and she was a member of the group of young composers known as Les Six. Her work from the 20s and 30s is best-known, but she composed right up to her death in 1983.

18. Maria Theresia Von Paradis – Sicilienne – Maria Theresia Von Paradis was blind from a very young age, though as a teenager her condition showed improvement until her doctor was fired by her family, either because of fear of scandal or loss of disability pensions. This didn’t prevent her from becoming a tremendous pianist who was able to commission works from Mozart, Haydn, and Salieri.

19. Rachel Portman – Oliver Twist: Fagin’s Loot – English composer Rachel Portman is primarily known for her film scores, which include Oliver Twist, Chocolat, Emma, and The Cider House Rules. She is one of only two female composers to win an Academy Award for a film score (for Emma in 1996), and she remains the only woman to receive multiple nominations in that category.

20. Jennifer Higdon – Amazing Grace – Higdon is one of the most frequently performed contemporary American composers, with her tone poem blue mountain alone earning performances from over 400 orchestras since its 2000 premier. Among a growing array of accolades, Higdon has won both a Grammy Award and a Pulitzer Prize. To close this playlist we selected her string quartet arrangement of the hymn Amazing Grace.

Each month, Naxos Music Library presents a themed playlist for our subscribers to enjoy. We know that a database of over 1.6 million tracks can be a bit daunting, so we'd like to highlight some of the amazing music that is available to you. Let it kickstart discovery!  

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Q2 2015 MARC .XML Records Now Available

MARC .XML records covering titles added to NML and NML-Jazz over the second quarter of 2015 are now available!

You can download only the latest set of records, or you can obtain the complete set combined by the month or year. As always, they are in .XML format, allowing you the freedom to process them to fit your system best.

Here are the links:

If you have any questions about these records, don't hesitate to contact us.