While the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2019/2020 Season has been unexpectedly cut short, our musicians are still finding comfort in the art form in new ways. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing a curated list of the various types of music Orchestra members have been turning to during the prolonged intermission we’re all experiencing. Our ‘Quarantine Listening’ blog series, which kicked off with an entry from Music Director Rune Bergmann, will feature a new entry every few days — check back regularly or follow our social channels for real-time updates.
16 June 2020
“I collect recordings and occasionally buy the entire series when an orchestra starts a project of the major works of a composer. Every one of the top orchestras in the world are capable of great things on any night, but the Boston Symphony under Andris Nelsons are having a ‘moment’ — a great partnership between orchestra and conductor. I have been enjoying their Shostakovich Symphonies, and the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies arrived just as we started sheltering at home.
“The Seventh Symphony is the longest and largest (orchestration) of Shostakovich, and was written during the siege of Leningrad by Nazi forces, which lasted about 900 days. It is dark subject matter, and much of the music reflects that — especially the ‘invasion theme’ where he takes a childish theme over a relentless snare drum and creates more complex and aggressive variations on it. It’s kind of a Bolero nightmare!
“The first theme of the symphony is very crisp and military in nature, and then comes back quite peacefully after the ‘invasion.’ Finally, it returns with full orchestral forces as a triumphant finale. This is music that truly depicts overcoming adversity.
“This symphony reminds me of what is so great about the orchestral literature — in 75 minutes it brings the listener through the entire gamut of emotions. Shostakovich lived through the siege, and many say that the invasion theme is really about Stalin, not the Nazis, and represents Shostakovich’s lifelong struggle to be free to express himself. With all that he survived, and all the issues that have gripped the world in the last few months, it’s comforting to embrace those peaceful and triumphant moments that he chose to end the first and last movements with. Let’s hope that the coming months bring a nice dose of both of those. ”
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 7 in C Major, Op. 60 “Leningrad”
12 June 2020
“Eclectic, multifarious, and varied are perhaps just a few words that describe my tickle trunk of music. I guess you could say that the music I listen to is the playlist to my life. From Meynberg, C.P.E. Bach, Cecilia Bartoli, and Kathleen Battle, to Bert Kaempfert, Ahmad Jamal, and Julien Pastel, there’s something for everyone. Happy listening!”
Listen: Steven’s Spotify Playlist
9 June 2020
“With some time on my hands, I’ve decided to take a good hard look at my trumpet playing and be really honest with myself about what I can do to be better. One important way that all musicians do something like this is to listen to the greats and be honest about what the differences are.
“One particular player I’ve been listening to a great deal is Matthias Höfs, one of the great virtuosos of the trumpet. I’ve been listening to his 1996 trumpet and organ disc Un Concerto Italiano, which my first trumpet teacher gave me back when I was in Grade 11. I was floored by it then, and as I’ve grown as a musician, I’ve only been more and more awed by it. The artistry is amazing, and it is without a doubt a supreme feat of trumpet playing. What a masterclass.
“My four-year-old child has been enjoying the ‘Madagascar’ family of movies, and he was particularly interested in “the New York song,” which is featured. I’m pleased to report he has shown similar enthusiasm for the rest of Sinatra’s work.”
8 June 2020
“My choice is very different from anyone else’s! I grew up very proud of my Ukrainian heritage. My mom’s mom came to Canada from Ukraine when she was seven years old. Despite having never been there myself, the culture and language is something that is very important to me. My first cousins on my mom’s side have a polka band, Tyt i Tam, and in what seems like another lifetime, so did my brother and I, called Zhyto. At the end of April this year, I was supposed to play with Tyt i Tam in Thunder Bay, but unfortunately that gig was cancelled. I’ve been listening to a lot of polka music to make up for it!”
This is one of my favourite tunes, played by Tyt i Tam. You can also visit their YouTube channel here.
My polka band from eight years ago (my brother on accordion):
3 June 2020
“Outside of the classical world, I’ve recently taken a deep dive into ’70s soul/funk. Sly and the Family Stone, Larry Graham, and James Brown are good examples. Also, I’ve found this amazing YouTube channel, Rook Records. Each video is basically 30 minutes to an hour of someone spinning vinyl tracks within a theme: ‘Turkish 70s Funk’ and ‘Brazillian Funk, Jazz, and MPB’ are examples. I’ve found these videos intensely enjoyable not only to discover cool, obscure music, but also to watch an expert artfully DJ through an hour-long set. Much more enjoyable than most Netflix series! Haha.
“Since the season was shut down, I’ve set myself on learning and recording the Bach Cello Suites, which means I’ve been listening to a variety of recordings of this great music in search of ideas and inspiration. I’ve come across the Netherlands Bach Society recordings on YouTube, and absolutely fallen in love. They have a broad collection of beautifully produced recordings of not only the Cello Suites, but many other Baroque works for solo instruments and full ensemble.”
(The Netherlands Bach Society’s All of Bach videos are also available directly and for free at: www.bachvereniging.nl/en.)
Sly and the Family Stone “If You Want Me to Stay”:
Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, performed by Cellist Reinier Wink, Netherlands Bach Society:
29 May 2020
“I haven’t practised piano regularly since high school, but I’ve been using my mandated free time to painstakingly earn back some of my old skills. It’s been lovely to practise an instrument purely as a hobby, without the associated stress and frustration of it being my livelihood in this unstable time. To go along with that, I’ve been listening to a lot of solo piano music, including some of the pianistic composers that, as a string player, I don’t come into contact much in my daily life. I’ve come to appreciate Liszt in particular in the past few weeks. In my internet trawling I’ve learned so much about the subtleties of how great pianists express and interpret on their instrument, with timing, voicing, and articulation playing a much larger role than it does on the violin.
“I’ve also been trying to focus on looking forward to all the great music we are going to get to play next Season. One under-appreciated gem that I am super excited to perform in the 2020/2021 Season is Alban Berg’s Seven Last Songs. This is one of my favourite pieces, but it’s a little outside of the orchestral standards, so I was surprised and excited to find it on the Season schedule! It’s a surreal, mystic, and intoxicatingly beautiful song cycle. Listening through it makes you feel like you really have been away for a while in a different world, a quality which is especially compelling during a shelter-in-place order.”
Franz Liszt’s Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, performed by François-Frédéric Guy:
Berg’s Sieben frühe Lieder — 1. Nacht, performed by Anne Sofie Von Otter, Claudio Abbado, and the Vienna Philharmonic:
26 May 2020
Associate Principal Horn
“As things quickly shut down as a result of COVID-19, there was an outpouring of music and art through social media. Musicians shared live individual and group performances, along with many orchestras sharing streams of past performances — many of which may not have been shared or accessible otherwise. I found myself first enjoying many of these new and more recent performances, in particular a Seattle Symphony stream of Brahms music. Brahms writes beautifully — particularly for the horn — and his music has always been a favourite of mine. I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear a performance of his music that I had not experienced before. I unfortunately cannot link to this Seattle concert, as it was presented as a “live,” one-time-only performance online, but for recordings of Brahms, I enjoy the Cleveland Orchestra recordings under George Szell from 1955, and also more recent performances from the Berlin Philharmonic under Vonductor Simon Rattle.
“I also have a six-year-old and a two-year-old at home, and they have enjoyed some of the children’s material many orchestras are releasing as well!”
J. Brahms Complete Symphonies & Orchestral Works (Szell, Cleveland Orchestra (1955–67):
22 May 2020
“Honestly, I’ve pretty much only been listening to kids’ music with my daughter! My favourite album at the moment is Snacktime! by the Barenaked Ladies!”
Barenaked Ladies’ “Snacktime” (SelfieCamJam):
20 May 2020
“I always look forward to a Calgary Philharmonic guest pianist performing Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, especially for its Second Movement (Adagio Assai). The orchestra is tacet during the first two and a half minutes, leaving the musicians temporarily free to simply enjoy listening along with the audience to this exquisitely crafted music. I like to relax to this movement in the evenings and will put on the YouTube recording by the pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. His pacing seems just right to me — not too fast, not too slow.
“If any of our piano-playing patrons might enjoy giving this music a try themselves during the stay-home time we’re all having, here’s a good YouTube link you can use for the sheet music: https://youtu.be/p-u6BGAvmFY.”
Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, 2nd Movement (Adagio Assai), performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet:
14 May 2020
“Ever since we have been unable to perform concerts, I have found myself unable to even listen to orchestral music as it just makes me sad that I cannot be a part of an orchestra right now. Lately, I have found comfort in re-listening to Claude Frank’s deeply moving interpretation of the Beethoven piano sonatas. These recordings have brought some much-needed comfort in my life, and I highly recommend them to anybody interested in becoming familiar with Beethoven’s solo piano works. I hope you all stay safe and healthy, and I very much look forward to sharing music with you again onstage at the Jack Singer Concert Hall before too long!”
11 May 2020
Assistant Principal Second Violin
“I’d like to share a fabulous concert series that has been the focus of my Quarantine Listening pleasure last couple of weeks. Some good friends who were part of the adopt-a-musician program years ago with the Calgary Philharmonic (and adopted me!) told me about this great series. While my friends lived in Calgary for many years, they attended (almost!) every Classics concert. They have since moved to Vancouver, but they keep me in the loop on many different things — they know me well enough to know I would enjoy listening to these concerts.
I particularly enjoy this series not because I’m a violinist, but because the concerts are so entertaining. They are hosted by Daniel Hope, final violinist in the history of The Beaux Arts Trio. He hosts the Hope@Home concerts from his Berlin living room and each concert is about 30 to 40 minutes long, broadcast through Arte tv. He has teamed up with fellow pianist Christoph Israel (composer/arranger/friend) and the concerts are televised every evening. Every couple days, they invite artists into his home and, while social distancing, perform chamber music. Those guests are quite an eclectic offering — some are his friends from the Berlin Philharmonic (BP) and others are singers. So far, some of my favourites have been Simon Rattle at the piano with his opera mezzo soprano wife, Magdalena Kozena; Principal Violist of BP, Amihai Grosz; Sarah Willis, horn player from the BP; and Till Bronner, jazz trumpeter (who also plays a fine rendition of Autumn Leaves that’s one of Rune’s favourites). The concerts are archived, and even though they’re numbered, you don’t need to follow the series in order, so just hit the ‘more’ button and hope you enjoy the impromptu concerts as much as I do. Really superb!
“I grew up listening to a lot of jazz (thanks to my dad), so I also really enjoy the lighter classical concerts, and especially film music. Hope@Home is exactly what we need right now. This has really been a terrific way to take a break from all the unhappy news and is the perfect antidote during this crisis.”
7 May 2020
“Although I love classical music like nothing else, I’ve taken some time to listen to a lot of my favourite folk artist, The Tallest Man on Earth. He’s an amazing Swedish musician who’s been doing live-streams of his different CDs, which has been very inspirational. I also missed out on a ton of pop music in the ’90s when I was listening to tuba CDs, Mahler, and Bruckner, so I’ve been going through all of Pearl Jam’s recordings and some Nirvana. Kinda fun!”
4 May 2020
Maria has created her own Spotify playlist for quarantine listening, which includes:
Debussy, Ravel, and Dutilleux string quartets, performed by Juilliard Quartet. “If there’s any recording that will send you over the deep end with string quartets, it’s this one! Here are three stunning works performed by one of the greatest and most prolific quartets. Enjoy with a glass of red wine at sunset, and save Dutilleux for dusk.”
Ravel’s Piano Trio, performed by Rubinstein, Heifetz, and Piatagorsky. “This is a recording that changed my life when I first heard it. To be enjoyed in complete silence in a dark room where you can dream.”
Schubert’s Piano Trio No. 1, performed by Cortot, Thibaud, and Casals. “I’m a sucker for old recordings, and this one from 1927 is an all-time favourite — it will transport you to another world. Schubert’s music is wonderful in the literal sense of the word, and it’s something that we need these days. If you have time for just one thing on this list, make it the second movement on a rainy night.”
Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems by Blok:, performed by Galina Vishnevskaya. “This set for soprano and piano trio was written for Galina Vishnevskaya and her husband, the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. Shostakovich finds a way into the darkest places with such beauty, and the intimacy between the performers and composer is almost tangible in this recording. Listen with the text — Blok’s imagery will leave you haunted and questioning for a very long time.”
1 May 2020
“We have an old set of Metropolitan Opera’s Aïda on records, with Leontyne Price, Rita Gorr, Jon Vickers, and Robert Merrill, conducted by Georg Solti. Not everyone in our household loves opera (full disclosure: I may be the only person in our household who loves opera), but the music of Act II gets us all marching, swaying, dancing, and grinning — it’s just so gloriously over-the-top. For anyone looking for a dose of emotional release, you could do a lot worse than Side 3 of Aïda.”
Verdi’s Aïda / Act II, Metropolitan Opera — “Gloria all’Egitto, ad Iside”:
28 April 2020
“I have two go-to pieces that I love to listen to, and especially now in the situation we‘re all facing. In terms of classical music, I turn to Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, and for the trumpet, I listen to Chet Baker’s Autumn Leaves. I have many other favourites as well, but these two are my top choices — they always give me comfort and hope.”
Mahler’s Symphony No. 2:
Baker’s Autumn Leaves:
Submissions collected by guest contributor Jill Girgulis
Jill Girgulis is a native Calgarian and classical music lover who attempts to spend as much time as possible writing, watching movies, and attending concerts when she’s not busy at her job as an emergency veterinarian.