Paine: The Tempest – A Recording Session

Recording sessions have a unique vibe. They require a mindset different from concerts and different from rehearsals. Recording takes as much mental focus as playing a concert, but it doesn’t usually summon the adrenaline like a concert does. It also takes stamina; musicians want to give their best to every take, but they can’t afford to exhaust themselves too soon. The special demands of recording mean that studio musicians tend to be some of the best, most experienced musicians in the world. And when you watch a fine orchestra in a recording session you often see the things that distinguish professionals: their confidence, their quickness, their ability to relax while focusing on the work.

This video shows part of a recording session by the Ulster Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta. They are playing The Tempest, a symphonic poem by John Knowles Paine, inspired by Shakespeare’s play. Though this video does not include the complete piece, it’s worth watching because JoAnn Falletta and the Ulster Orchestra make a strong case for the music. (If you’d like to hear the entire piece you can find a complete but somewhat inferior recording here.)

Paine was the first American to make a strong mark as a composer of concert music. The Tempest dates from 1877. Paine got his musical education in Germany, and his music sounds thoroughly nineteenth-century German. Placed alongside European composers of the period, he would rank in the second tier–not quite distinctive enough to rise definitively above the rest, but a fine craftsman sparked by interesting ideas. The Tempest has some of his best music.

Performed by the Ulster Orchestra, conducted by JoAnn Falletta (13 minutes)

Rota: Concerto for Double Bass, 3rd mvt.

Nino Rota, the great composer of film music, also wrote a huge amount of music for the concert hall. Here is the last movement of his Double Bass Concerto, from 1973, in a performance at the 2016 ARD International Music Competition in Munich.

Performed by Dominik Wagner (double bass) and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (5 minutes)

Elgar: Cello Concerto–Du Pre and Barenboim

Du Pre Barenboim 2This video documents two remarkably talented young musicians who were starting their careers–one of which would be very long and distinguished, and the other brilliant but cut too short.

In 1967, Jacqueline du Pré and Daniel Barenboim got married. Twenty-two-year-old du Pré was Britain’s most celebrated young classical musician. She played the cello with such feeling and assertiveness that she was an instant sensation at her debut five years earlier. Twenty-four-year-old Barenboim was making the transition from prodigious childhood to confident maturity. He had been playing piano concerts since the age of ten, and now he was just starting to conduct as well.

In that year–1967–du Pré, Barenboim, and the New Philharmonia Orchestra filmed a studio performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto, (more…)