The DCD Classical 'Cast is also available as an enhanced podcast. When played through iTunes, the DCD Enhanced Classical 'Cast displays the album art of the works as they play, and provide links to webpages where you can find out more information and purchase the selections.

Monday, February 25, 2008

DCD 039 - Piano 4-Hands

This episode of the DCD Classical 'Cast we explore the repertoire for piano four-hands. Some composers wrote for the genre for practical reasons; others for artistic.

During his lifetime, most of Franz Schubert's music was performed by the composer in a salon setting (called "Schubertiads" by his friends). It was certainly easier to get someone to play alongside the composer for more complex pieces than to persuade a Viennese orchestra to give them a try.

Antonin Dvorak didn't have any problems getting his orchestral music performed. He, like many other 19th century composers, arranged his scores for piano four-hands so that the music could be performed in homes. More performances = more music sales = more income.

Vincent Persichetti and Wallingford Riegger composed for the combination for artistic reasons (and commissions). Persichetti's "Concertino" for piano four-hands is the most complex work on the podcast -- sometimes it seems like there are more than two pianists playing!

- Ralph

On this program we play:

Dvorak: Slavonic Dance Op. 72, No. 2
Howard and Frances Karp, piano four-hands
University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music

Riegger: The Cry
Margret Elson & Elizabeth Swarthout, piano four-hands
Laurel Records

Schubert: Andantino Varie, D. 834, Op. 84, No. 1

Howard and Frances Karp, piano four-hands
University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music

Persichetti: Concertino for Piano Four-Hands
Margret Elson & Elizabeth Swarthout, piano four-hands
Laurel Records

Thursday, February 14, 2008

DCD 038 - A Clutch of Concerti

This podcast we look at how three different composers treated the concerti form. By the early 1800's the concerto became a pretty standard type of composition -- a solo instrument playing with an orchestra.

But the roles of those two forces, soloist and ensemble, change depending on the needs of the composer. For Mozart, who toured Europe playing his own concertos, the orchestra was the back up ensemble. As the quality of musicians varied from town to town, he was faced with the challange of writing the orchestral part in such a way that it was simple to play, yet interesting to listen to.

Rachmaninov also performed his own concerti. But unlike Mozart, he didn't have to worry about the quality of the players on stage with him. In his concertos the orchestra takes a larger and somewhat more equal role.

And finally, there's the question of blend. A concert grand piano can hold its own playing with an orchestra -- and its timbre is distinctive enough to come through even when everyone's playing. A solo violin, however, can get lost in the string sound of the orchestra. So how does a composer keep the solo violin front and center? For Ernest Bloch the answer was keeping the solo instrument in a different (and usually higher) register.

Three different takes on the concerto form from three different composers.

And if you're wondering about the title, yes it is a little silly. But what is the proper form for a group of concerti, anyway?

- Ralph

This program we play:

Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 1 in F major, K. 337, first movement
Svlastislav Richter, piano; Japan Shinsei Symphony Orchestra; Rudolf Barshai conductor
Laurel Records

Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 18 – the second movement
Robert DeGaetano, piano; the Slovak Radio Orchestra; Kirk Trevor conductor

Bloch: The Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, final movement

Mischa Lefkowitz, violin; the London Philharmonic Orchestra; Paul Freeman conductor
Laurel Records