Dorothy Dorow, Vocal Interpreter of “Fiendish Works”

Des Hafis Liebeslider Op. 24, No. 5 “Der verliebte Ostwind” – Listen on YouTube

As her obituary in The Telegraph points out, Dorothy Dorow took on the most challenging works that “avant-garde composers could throw at her; awkward intervals, high notes, squeaks and squawks.”

Dorow had perfect pitch and a vocal range that could stretch four octaves, from coloratura to mezzo soprano. She performed works by Berg, Schoenberg and Webern and is thought to be the only singer to record three of Schoenberg’s most challenging works.

As if that weren’t enough, she learned to speak six languages and could sing in 13.

Dorothy Dorow, August 22, 1930 – April 15, 2017

“La lune solitaire” on Spotify

Thomas Brandis, Former 1st Concertmaster of Berlin Philharmonic

Beethoven Mass in D (Missa Solemnis) – Watch on YouTube

Between the years 1962-1983 and under the direction of Herbert von Karajan, Thomas Brandis was 1st concertmaster for the BerlinPhilharmonic. In noting Brandis’s death on the orchestra’s website, board member Knut Weber said: “Thomas Brandis’s extraordinary musicality has been documented in many recordings, from Mozart’s Haffner Serenade to Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra. His playing gives a condensed account of the qualities of the Karajan era: a rich, singing tone and an unerring sense of musical dramaturgy.”

In 1976 Brandis founded the Brandis Quartet, an ensemble that lasted for 25 years. He taught at Berlin University of Arts, the University of Music Lübeck and at the Royal Academy of Music, to name a few.

“The concertmaster must prepare bowings for everyone, and then they all shout at you, ‘This down bow is terrible.’ Orchestras are not easy…” –Thomas Brandis

Thomas Brandis,  1935-March 30, 2017

Schubert String Quartet No. 10 in E-Flat Major on Spotify

Louis Frémaux, French Maestro Led Birmingham And Sydney Orchestras

Beethoven Symphony No. 7 with Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Watch on YouTube

Louis Frémaux was a French-born conductor (and former French Foreign Legionnaire) who led the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1968-1978) and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (1979-1982). His first musical directorship was with the Orchestre Philharmonique Rhône-Alpes (1969-1971).

In Birmingham, he formed the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra Chorus with baritone Gordon Clinton as Chorus Master. He was awarded an honorary DMus from Birmingham University and joined the Royal Academy of Music. Unfortunately, his tenure ended due to deteriorating relationship with the musicians, and he was replaced by the then-25 year old Simon Rattle.

His discography includes over 50 works, including of John McCabe’s “Nottuni ed Alba” and Second Symphony, for which he received a special citation from the Koussevitzky Jury.

Louis Frémaux, August 13, 1921-March 20, 2017

Saint-Saens The Carnival of the Animals, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra – On Spotify

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Minnesota Maestro

Bruckner Symphony No. 9 with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony–Watch on YouTube

During the 60s and 70s Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was kind of a musical version of Harmon Killebrew of the Minnesota Twins: he helped the Minnesota Orchestra increase its standing in the big leagues.

During his tenure  (1960-79), he oversaw the change in name from the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra to the more state-embracing Minnesota Orchestra (1968). He facilitated the move from rented quarters (Northrup Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus) to Orchestra Hall, an architecturally and acoustically noteworthy home of its own (1974).* He expanded the Orchestra’s membership and season to 50 weeks a year. He conducted a concert at the U.N. on Human Rights Day (1965) and hosted a guest appearance of Stravinsky (1966).

Unlike the current music director, Osmo Vänskä, however, he does not appear to have had quite as distinguished a recording career. In my research of a number of classical guides, I only found one mention of a Skrowaczewski recording. It was as an “Additional Recommendation” in the Gramophone Classics Music Guide 2012 for Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 in D MinorThe Guide’s recommendation was for a version with the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra, not the Minnesota Orchestra’s recording, which I reference below. The Minnesota Orchestra uses the original 1894 version and the Nowak edition, which came out in 1951.

*Tonally it is one of the most remarkable concert halls in the world.”–New York Times, October 23, 1974

Symphony No. 9 in D Minor: I. Feirerlich, misterioso with Minnesota Orchestra on Spotify

Gervase de Peyer, Considered “World’s Greatest Clarinetist”

French Music for Clarinet and Piano, Gervase de Peyer and Gwenneth Pryor–Listen on YouTube

When he was performing Gervase de Peyer (April 11, 1926-February 4, 2017) was considered “the greatest living clarinetist” by many critics. He had a long association as Principal Clarinetist for the London Symphony Orchestra (1956-1973). He performed as a soloist and touring performer with many internationally acclaimed maestri, including Sir Thomas Beecham, Herbert von Karajan and Otto Klemperer. Composers Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland preferred him as a soloist, and he premiered a number of clarinet concerti, including works by Alun Hoddinott, Arnold Cook and Berthold Goldschmidt.

De Peyer was a founding member of the Melos Ensemble of London (1950), which later, due to its international reputation, was shortened to Melos Ensemble. The group was a variable ensemble that included a string quartet, wind quartet, harpist and pianist. Their mission was to perform larger chamber works, such as Schubert and Mendelssohn quartets.

While in the U.S., de Peyer formed the Melos Sinfonia of Washington and was a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He also befriended Benny Goodman, who, like de Peyer frequented Oscar, a seafood restaurant in the Upper East Side.

“Clarinet Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2: Allegro amabile” by Johannes Brahms–Listen on Spotify

Heinrich Schiff, Austrian Cellist And Conductor

J.S. Bach Solo Suite No. 3 in C major–Watch on YouTube

Heinrich Schiff’s 1985 recording of Bach’s Cello Suites stood out to many reviewers for its individuality.

James Leonard’s AllMusic review contrasted Schiff’s version favorably to Yo-Yo Ma’s “fay and fragile” interpretation. “In Schiff’s performance, Bach’s Cello Suites are not the neurasthenic music of a composer supine with dread and despair in the dark midnight of the soul, but the forceful music of a mature composer in full control of himself and his music.”

Gary S. Dalkin, writing for musicweb-international.comfound them perhaps too “brisk,” clocking in at just under 125 minutes for all six pieces compared to the 13o or even 140 minutes that many other cellists required.

Jed Distler gave a reissue of the recording a 10 for both Artistic and Sound Quality in ClassicsToday.com, calling it “arrestingly individual, musically profound, and sonically sumptuous.”

Schiff (November 18, 1951-December 23, 2016) said “Bach saved my life.” After suffering a stroke, the cellist repeated the fingerings of the famous Prelude to Suite No. 1 for 20 hours a day, according to a recollection reported in The Guardian. He believed this saved him from paralysis and from losing his speech.

Prelude to Bach Suite No. 1 on Spotify

Karel Husa, Emigre Czech Composer

“Music for Prague 1968″–Watch on YouTube

Karl Husa was a Czech composer and conductor who emigrated to the United States in the 1950s. He is perhaps best known for “Music for Prague 1968,” a composition that he was inspired to write after he heard news of the Soviet invasion of his home country.

As explained on the LA Philharmonic website, the piece employs a 15th century Czech song, “Ye Warriors of God and His Law,” and uses the symbolism of various instruments throughout. The sound of bells, both as a sign of victory and distress, appear as a major theme in the piece. (Prague is known as the “City of A Hundred Spires.”) A piccolo solo represents a bird, itself a symbol for the liberty that has been so fleeting in Prague history.

“Music for Prague 1968” was originally scored for concert band and later transcribed for full orchestra.

Husa (August 7, 1921-December 14, 2016) was on the faculty of Cornell for nearly 40 years. He received a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1969 for his “String Quartet No. 3.”

“String Quartet No. 3: Allegro Moderato” on Spotify

 

Russell Oberlin, American Countertenor

“Vivi, tiranno” from Handel’s Rodelinda–Watch on YouTube

Russell Oberlin was America’s first well-known countertenor. According to The Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music, a countertenor is a high “male [voice] not to be confused  with male alto, falsetto, or castrato, and with a strong, almost [instrumental] purity of tone.” Countertenors were popular in Handel’s and Purcell’s time, and had a revival in the mid-20th century.

Oberlin (October 11, 1928-November 26, 2016) performed extensively during the 1950s and 1960s and gained exposure through the new medium of television as well as film. He stopped performing in the mid-60s to devote his time to teaching. He was on the faculty at Hunter College  for 30 years.

Leonard Bernstein selected Oberlin for a 1955 recording of Handel’s Messiah, and he was cast in the role of Oberon for Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Oberlin was a founding member of the Pro Music Antiqua (now New York Pro Musica), a vocal and instrumental ensemble devoted to medieval and Renaissance music.

“Quand Vei La Laudeta Mover” on Spotify

Roland Dyens, Classical Guitarist, Composer and Teacher

“Tango en Skai”–Watch on YouTube

Roland Dyens (October 19, 1955-October 29, 2016), a Tunisian-born French guitarist, is difficult to peg to a genre. He played jazz, tango, folk, pop and classical with equal mastery. In an interview with Classical Guitar, he admitted “I’m most complicated to define. But my ‘homeland’ is classical music.”

A performer, composer, transcriber and arranger, Dyens was also a teacher. He held the same teaching chair at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris that was once held by Alberto Ponce, the renowned Spanish guitarist with whom Dyens first studied at age 13.

Atypical for classical guitarists, Dyens would often begin performances with an improvisation. In his interview with Classical Guitar, he says it was once said of him that he was “a jazz musician in my head and a classical one in my hands.”

“Variations on a Theme by Handel, Op. 107” on Spotify

 

Sir Neville Marriner, Founder & Conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields

“Piano Concerton No. 20 in D Minor, K.466”

I would be falling down in my role as civic booster if I did not mention that Sir Neville Marriner was music director of my hometown orchestra, The Minnesota Orchestra, between 1979-1986.

But it was as founder and conductor of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields that Sir Neville is most remembered. Begun in 1958, the Academy was made up of 12 of the best musicians in London, hand-picked by Sir Neville. Marriner (April 15, 1924-October 2, 2016) was an accomplished musician at the time, serving as principal second violinist in the London Symphony Orchestra.

According to his obituary in The Telegraph, Sir Neville made some 600 recordings of 2,000 musical works and the Academy is the world’s the most-recorded orchestra. Among their recordings was the soundtrack for the Mozart biopic Amadeus for which they won a Grammy. The Academy was known (quoting The Telegraph) for its “fresh, technically brilliant, interpretations of the pre-classical and classical repertoire,” but it moved on to Romantic and early-modern music. In the process, the ensemble grew to about 70 musicians.

“Requiem, K. 626. Rex Tremendae Majestatis” on Spotify