David’s choice – Shostakovich Symphony No. 5

Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Op. 47

Monday 21st November 2016 marks 69 years since the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Yevgeny Mravinsky, gave the world premiere of Symphony no. 5, op. 47 by Dmitry Shostakovich.

‘Shos 5’ (as it’s often referred to) is one of my all time favourite pieces of music. I feel like I know it very well (and not just the cello part!), having rehearsed it at length and having performed it several times over the years. The first time I performed it, and probably the most memorable for me, was with my youth orchestra, the Lancashire Students Symphony Orchestra (LSSO for short), as it was known then, under the baton of Malcolm Doley. What an amazing experience. Aged 15, we went on tour to Tuscany in Italy and performed this incredible symphony several times over the 10 days that we were away, in some amazing places. Also in the programme was another one of my favourite pieces, Elgar’s concert overture ‘Cockaigne’.

Concerts in Italy didn’t start till 9.30pm and Shostakovich symphony no. 5 is around 50 minutes long and was always in the 2nd half of the concert. Therefore, concerts didn’t finish till very late indeed! I do remember closing my eyes briefly one evening, during the 16 minute ‘Largo’,  letting the still, calm yet desolate sounds wash over me…….and then struggling to open them again! (I think anyone who has been on any sort of residential youth orchestra course/tour will empathize with this!) There was no danger of dozing however in the fierce and powerful fourth movement, using full bows on each fortississimo quaver for a whole of the last page or so of music! (See image of score below). Referring to this ending, Erik Levi explains in the CD sleeve notes to Vol. 22, No. 8 of the BBC Music Magazine CD, “Whether this resolution is genuinely optimistic remains an open question given the music’s lugubrious tempo”.

Dmitry Shostakovich, Symphony no. 5, op. 47 Edition Eulenburg No. 579 (minature score) London, (Ernst Eulenburg, 1967)

Dmitry Shostakovich, Symphony no. 5, op. 47 Edition Eulenburg No. 579 (miniature score) London, (Ernst Eulenburg, 1967)

It is interesting to listen to various and vastly different interpretations of the end of the fourth movement and hear the massively contrasting speeds this passage is taken at and how this affects the whole mood of the final movement. Personally, I prefer the slower tempo for the end of the symphony, closer to the actual metronome mark of ‘quaver = 184’ as shown in the example above. This is expertly demonstrated on a live recording, with Mstislav Rostropovich conducting the LSO in 2005, (shelved at ORC: SHO in the library). This contrasts considerably with the 1969 LP recording of the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, (LP no. 167d in the library)

Prior to the composition of his 5th Symphony, it was a difficult time for Shostakovich. He’d had a couple of unfavourable editorials, one of which was entitled, ‘Muddle instead of Music’, and subsequently decided to pull his 4th Symphony on the morning of the premiere. There was a lot resting on the 5th Symphony, which Shostakovich composed in a short space of time, between April and July 1937. He went back to the conventional 4 movement structure for the first time since his 1st Symphony and reduced the orchestra to a more conventional size, only adding celesta and piano, rather than the huge additional forces which were needed for the 4th Symphony.

It is interesting to note how well received the 5th symphony actually was. As Roy Blokker puts it in his book, ‘The Music of Dimitri Shostakovich – The Symphonies’, (shelved at 789 SHO), “In 1937 they did not want tragedy in art, yet the Fifth is tragic…..The Soviet leaders wanted folk music and nationalistic ideas; the Fifth contains none. The second movement is a grotesque dance based upon themes from the still unperformed Fourth Symphony that had parodied the very critics who had ostracised the composer in 1936. Yet the score was such a massive tour de force that it melted away all the opposition”

“The première of the Fifth Symphony on 21 November 1937 was the scene of extraordinary public acclamation. There was open weeping in the slow movement and a half-hour ovation at the end”. Grove Music Online.

It was clear that the audience at the premiere had identified the ‘tragic struggle’ in the music and how this paralleled their own daily struggles at the time.

november-item-of-the-month-2016-shostakovich-cabinet-photo

Library display cabinet showing – ‘David’s choice’ –  Shostakovich Symphony No. 5, Op. 47

For students and staff who want to find out more, why not start with Quicksearch, for articles, recordings, reviews and much more. Why not have a read of ‘Testimony: the memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovich as related to and edited by Solomon Volkov’ which you can find at 789 SHO or check out the DVD of ‘Testimony : the story of Dmitri Shostakovich’ shelved at DVD / FILM : TES

 

Roy Blokker with Robert Dearing, The Music of Dimitri Shostakovich, The Symphonies London : Tantivy Press, (Rutherford : Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1979)

Dmitry Shostakovich, Symphony no. 5, op. 47 Edition Eulenburg No. 579 (minature score) London, (Ernst Eulenburg, 1967)

David Fanning and Laurel Fay. “Shostakovich, Dmitry.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, (accessed November 9, 2016) http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/52560pg3.

 

 

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Faculty of Music performances now available to stream

At present, the service in this blog post is only available to current Trinity Laban staff and students.

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance eStream logo

We’re pleased to announce that TL’s Music Tech team are now making Faculty of Music performances available for online streaming via eStream. Please note that most recordings are audio only.

To browse the available recordings, check out the Student Performances Music category on eStream and enter your usual TL login (same as for Moodle). Alternatively log in to eStream via the Library Links menu on Moodle and then browse Categories > Student Performances Music.

If you know the exact performance you’re after, we recommend searching eStream for it by date (in the format dd/mm/yyyy e.g. 22/06/2015). You can also search eStream by performer/ensemble or repertoire but this is less precise – ask us in the library for advice if you can’t find what you’re looking for.

Once you’re listening to a recording, in many cases you can browse the different pieces in the performance via the Chapters tab, or download the programme via the Related Media tab. Current students/staff can download the original recording file via the Details tab (Download button). You can also share a link to the recording with other students/staff via the Share button.

Screenshot showing the location of different eStream features on the page

So far recordings of several lunchtime concerts from this academic year are available, plus a selection of recordings from last academic year to whet your appetite, including a TL Symphony Orchestra concert of Rachmaninov and Mahler and a Senior Jazz Ensemble gig from the Inside Out Jazz festival.

Do get in touch with us or the Music Tech team if you have feedback on this new service. If you have technical difficulties with eStream please contact Ian Peppiatt in the Laban Library (who we are very grateful to for all his assistance in getting this up and running). Happy listening!

Library item of the month, Sep 2015: ‘Somebody loves me’

The Item of the month for September 2015 is George Gershwin’s Somebody loves me (words by Ballard MacDonald and Buddy DeSylva).

Between 1920 and 1924, Gershwin wrote music for five of George White’s Broadway reviews including George White’s Scandals of 1924 which contained the hit number Somebody loves me. According to Ean Wood, in his biography George Gershwin: His life and music [shelved at 789 GER], this song is the first to show the ‘authentic’ Gershwin sound. However, the composer had already had a hit with Swanee, recorded in 1920 by Al Jolson which made the composer $10,000 in royalties, closely followed by success with Rhapsody in blue in 1924. Premièred in a concert entitled ‘An Experiment in Modern Music’, Rhapsody established Gershwin’s place in the history of music as ‘the man who brought ‘jazz’ into the concert hall’ [Grove online].

Photo of the Gershwin item of the month displayThis month’s display includes only a small selection of scores and recordings featuring Gershwin’s song, Somebody loves me.

Dick Hyman’s Professional chord changes and substitutions for 100 tunes every musician should know [shelved at: 780.28 HAY] offers chords choices to compare with those shown in the other displayed score, The Real book (European : 6th edition) [shelved at J 781.REA] – clearly, there is always more than one harmonic solution to be found!

Somebody loves me has been an inspiration for many singers and composers since its composition and we have included the score of Earl Wild’s Etude, no. 2 for piano [shelved at 781.4 WIL], as an example of a work inspired by the song.

A CD with CD shelves reflected in itBesides scores, we have chosen a handful of recordings by a variety of artists – Bud Powell, Tommy Dorsey, Zoot Sims, Lester Young, Art Tatum, Johnny Dankworth and Dinah Washington – plus Ferde Grofé’s Whiteman Orchestra arrangements and original Gershwin orchestrations (Gershwin by Grofé… [shelved at JAZZ : GER].  For staff and students at Trinity Laban, there are, of course, many other recordings of this song available online via our music streaming subscriptions. These can be found using the Quicksearch link in the ‘Library Links’ menu on Moodle.

Singers of the Golden Age

One of the strengths of the large sound recordings collection we have at the Jerwood Library is the large number of CD reissues of historic recordings of singers from the early days of recording. We have been lucky to receive several significant donations of these CDs and are proud to have finally finished cataloguing and making them available on the shelves for staff and students to browse through and borrow. So it was with some excitement that we heard that the Vocal Department planned to invite Martin Lindsay, singer and voice teacher from the State Music Conservatory in Cologne to give a presentation on just these kinds of historic recordings. Here was a perfect opportunity for us to promote this aspect of our collection, to hit, as it were, a few high Cs of our own. In the course of one of his preparatory visits for this session, Martin visited the library to discuss the contents of our planned supporting display Singers of the Golden Age and while he was with us we quizzed him a little about his enthusiasm for these historic recordings.

Q.  Martin, you’ve been singing and teaching professionally for 25 years, what is your main musical area of activity?

ML I work primarily in the field of contemporary music – it’s a great passion. But my other great passion is the human voice in all of its facets.

Q. Who would you choose as your Top 5 favourites among the Golden Age singers?

ML …My favourite 5 singers… (a very difficult choice!)… if pushed, they would be:

  1. Rosa Ponselle
  2. Ebe Stignani
  3. Toti dal Monte
  4. Giuseppe Anselmi
  5. Conchita Supervia

Q.  Which Golden Age singer would you say has been your greatest influence?

ML  Rosa Ponselle – for the absolute mastery and seamlessness of technique, combined with a sure interpretative and emotional instinct.

Q.  How did you get into listening to these great singers of the past?

ML I started listening to the old recordings on the instigation of my then singing teacher, Peter Harrison, who was of the opinion that the most perfect and technically pure singing was to be heard in the singers of this period. After the first examples I was hooked, fascinated by the voices and vocal personalities, and the insights the old recordings gave me into the workings of the voices I was hearing.

Q.  How have these insights influenced your professional work?

ML Those years were crucial in the forming of ideas I was later to develop in my own teaching, and these singers played an integral part in that process. I am looking forward to introducing these recordings to the young singers at Trinity Laban!

Singers of the Golden Age

For our Singers of the Golden Age ‘lending’ display[1], Martin has selected recordings made in the first couple of decades of the last century. These demonstrate all the voice ranges and, as he suggests, offer insights into the technical aspects of singing – phrasing, breath control, choice of tempi and other expressive techniques – employed by singers of that ‘Golden Age’.

Glimpses into the past….

Listening to and comparing performances is always a fascinating activity – BBC Radio 3, after all, devotes a good chunk of its Saturday mornings to just that activity in its CD Review programme – and using recordings of other musicians in this way is now common practice for student performers. Among the rewards of listening to very early recordings are the tantalising glimpses of how performances might have sounded in the late 19th century, although, as Steane points out (1974, p. 4-12) these glimpses must be treated with caution. How many of us have longed to time-travel back to the premières of the great works of the Bachs, Mozarts and Beethovens of yesteryear to hear how the music really sounded and what the concert-going experience was really like? These historic recordings are able to provide some tiny pointers as they preserve, often imperfectly, the voices of many of the singers who sang in the premières and worked with the composers of the major operatic works of the late 19th century. An example: Puccini’s choice for the ‘coveted’ role of Cavaradossi in Tosca was not Caruso, but the older and more experienced singer Emilio De Marchi (1861-1917) and his voice is preserved in two scratchy cylinder recordings[2] of excerpts from that opera (Trinity Laban staff and students can listen to those here[3]) and reissued as Creator Records, vol. 1: Puccini and Mascagni (1891-1926) by Symposium Records (SYMP1379).

What about vibrato?

Students of ‘historically informed performance’ have started to mine early recordings for evidence in the argument over the now ubiquitous use of vibrato in both vocal and instrumental performance, suggesting that, as recordings in the first decade of the 20th century appear to demonstrate a more restricted use of vibrato, this must have been normal performance practice in earlier times (Day, 2000, 184-5). Discussions have been heated on this topic, and Katz (2004, 85-98), for example, offers a convincing argument in relation to the violin for what he terms the ‘phonograph effect’ on the rapid development of violin vibrato during the early years of recording. He suggests that violinists used vibrato to counteract on the one hand the technical insensitivity of the recording machines to their instruments and on the other the loss of the visual element in performances. Vibrato also provided a means for players to differentiate their own violin sound from that of other players. All very interesting ideas, which may be tested by careful listening and comparison of recordings.

Divas on record

Alongside the Singers of the Golden Age display, we have also pulled out some dozen of our CD recordings featuring a single aria – Bellini’s Casta diva (from Norma) to form a ‘Divas on record’ display (pun intended!). The selected CD tracks range in date from Celestina Boninsegna’s 1904 recording through to Reneé Fleming’s of 1999, and include four Callas recordings (1937, 1949, 1957, 1961). Listeners can therefore not only compare different performances of the aria, but, in the case of the Callas recordings, study a single performer’s development in a role. So why not come up to the Jerwood library and have a look at (and listen to) the displays? To paraphrase the advertising cliché, hearing a recording is worth a thousand words!

(Very) Select bibliography

Day, T. 2000. A century of recorded music: listening to musical history. New Haven: Yale University Press

Katz, M. 2004. Capturing sound: how technology has changed music. Berkeley & London: University of California Press

Steane, J. B. 1974. The grand tradition : seventy years of singing on record. London : Duckworth

[1] ‘lending display’ – that’s a display of library materials you can borrow, not just look at!

[2] Opera Arias – PUCCINI, G. / MASCAGNI, P. (Creator Records, Vol. 1) (1891-1926)

[3] available to TL staff and students via: http://www.naxosmusiclibrary.com/catalogue/item.asp?cid=SYMP1379

Trinity Laban QuickSearch for online recordings and research

Trinity Laban Libraries have recently launched QuickSearch: a search engine for (most of) our online subscriptions, including recordings from Naxos Music Library and Alexander Street Press, and online journals, magazine articles and dictionaries from a range of publishers. The Laban Library catalogue is also included in QuickSearch.

Only current Trinity Laban students and staff can access QuickSearch.

What is QuickSearch good for?

  • Locating online recordings subscribed to by the library.
  • Finding information for writing assignments and programme notes: nearly all results are available immediately online in full, so it’s especially convenient if a deadline is looming!
  • Cross-disciplinary research: QuickSearch includes dance, drama, psychology, education and physiology resources as well as some general resources.

How do I access QuickSearch?

  1. Follow the link to QuickSearch via the Library Links on Moodle, or the tab on the Jerwood Library catalogue.
  2. When outside the conservatoire, enter your Trinity Laban login (the same as for Moodle and email).

How do I access the actual recordings/articles/dictionary entries?

Click the link below the item’s title and summary which will say something like ‘Check for Full Text at Trinity Laban’ or ‘Listen to recording in Naxos Music Library’ (see screenshot below). You may need to enter your Trinity Laban login the first time, then this will be remembered for the rest of your session.

QuickSearch screenshot

Have you got any tips for finding useful results?

  • On the results page, use the Source Types list (see screenshot above) to choose what types of resource you want e.g. audio, academic journals, books.
  • On the same page, click Show More under the Limit To heading (see screenshot above) for other options to narrow down your results, e.g. choosing the disciplines (subject areas) you are interested in.
  • Think carefully about the search you’re entering: what are the key terms? What words could someone else writing about your topic use? Try more specific or more general keywords if you’re not finding what you need.
  • You can use “double quotes” to search for an exact phrase, or a * for truncation to search for lots of words at once; for example, theat* will find ‘theatre’, ‘theater’, ‘theatrical’ and any other keyword starting with ‘theat’.

Where can I get help or further information?

  • Our research guides on Moodle (in the Jerwood Library information page) have been updated to include QuickSearch.
  • You can also contact us or come to the library for help. We offer a monthly drop-in surgery on the last Thursday of each month, 2-4pm, and you’re very welcome to come along for a demo of QuickSearch. The next surgery is on Thursday 28 November.

Background information

For those interested in the detail, we have a listing of online resources included and not included in QuickSearch on Moodle.

QuickSearch is an implementation of the EBSCO Discovery Service, and uses EDS CustomLinks and EBSCO LinkSource to link to resources not hosted by EBSCO. Any staff from other institutions who are interested in discussing our implementation are welcome to get in touch!