August 13, 2012. More mid-August birthdays. This week is full of anniversaries, even if most of them are of minor composers. Still, we think they should be noted. Sorabji (Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji), born on August 14, 1892, was an English composer of Parsi descent. He was quite controversial in his time and still is – among the people who’ve actually heard his music: some of Sorabji’s pieces are of extreme length. His piano sonata no. 5 runs for about five hours, and that’s not even his longest composition. Some critics think of him as one of the most interesting composers of the 20th century, while others, like The Guardian’s Andrew Clements, feel that Sorabji’s talent never matched his musical ambition. We have a piece by Sorabji, Pastiche on Habanera, but it is not very representative, so here is the first movement of his piano sonata no. 1 played by Marc-André Hamelin (courtesy of YouTube). If Hamelin though it worth studying and performing, that probably means that the sonata is not musically insignificant.
A totally different composer, the delightful Jacques Ibert, was born on August 15, 1890. He studied at the Paris conservatory, and took private composition and instrumentation lessons with André Gedalge; his fellow students were Arthur Honegger and Darius Milhaud, both influential members of Les Six. Ibert, though friendly with both, never joined the group. Ibert wrote operas, a ballet, several concertos, and a good deal of instrumental music. His songs are among the best in his output. Here’s Chanson à Dulcinée, from Chanson de Don Quichotte. It’s performed by the bass Liam Moran; Renate Rohlfing is on the piano.
Two other French composers were also born this week: Gabriel Pierné and Benjamin Godard, Pierné was born on August 16, 1863, Godard on August 18, 1849. Like Ibert, Godard studied at the Paris Conservatory, and like him, also won the prestigious Prix de Rome. He wrote operas, ballets and instrumental music, but not much of it is performed these days. But here is the first movement of his Sonata op.36 for violin and piano, and it sounds very nice. It’s played by the French violinist Elsa Grether; Eliane Reyes is on the piano. Benjamin Godard also studied at the Paris conservatory, and wrote an enormous number of compositions during his rather brief life (he died at the age of 45). There are recordings of his music on the market, but they’re few and far between. Here is a charming little morsel, Abandon. It’s performed by Albert Markov, violin, his son Alexander Markov, violin, with Dmitry Cogan on the piano.
And finally, from a totally different era, Antonio Salieri. He was born on August 18, 1750 in Legnano, Italy but spent most of his productive years in Vienna. Some day we’ll dedicate a whole piece to Salieri, but right now you can listen to part of his 26 Variations on the theme of La Folia. It’s performed by the London Mozart Players, Matthias Bamert, conductor (here, courtesy of YouTube).
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