Violin Concerto “Anne-Sophie” Played by Anne-Sophie Mutter, with the Composer Andre Previn Conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra

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This is what a string composition written by a loving colleague with a background in film music sounds like.

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So, My Beloved John Wilson, When Are You Going to Conduct Vaughan Williams’s 6th?

I see your master plan, pet. You did Symphonies 1 and 2 last year; this year you’re doing 3, 4, and 5 (but not in that order). And considering the rest of the year you’re going to be busying yourself with Massenet, then the Proms (if not there’ll be a riot on your hands), then I suppose you’ll go on tour with The JWO for the holiday season. So…I’m figuring sometime early next year for no. 6, right? If not early next year, sometime next year…?

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 6 in E Minor
Sir Roger Norrington, Conductor
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (1997)

Roger NorringtonNorrington is the conductor who believes in using NO vibrato. “Wobble” he calls it.

And what about 7, 8 and 9? Are we going to hear them next year, or the year after? But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s Vaughan Williams’s Symphony no. 6 I’m really after. What a truly nutzoid piece. A genuine WTF. Even without comparing it to Symphonies 1 through 5, it’s still a nutzoid piece. It’s intriguing enough for me to want to listen to it again and possibly again. (And of course I am eager to hear you, flame of my heart. What a wondrous thing you’ll make of it…)

William Walton Conducts His Viola Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, Frederick Riddle, 1937

The Viola Concerto by William Walton was written in 1929 for the violist Lionel Tertis at the suggestion of Sir Thomas Beecham; Tertis however rejected the piece, and composer/violist/teacher Paul Hindemith gave the first performance. The work was greeted with enthusiasm and brought Lancashire-born Walton to the forefront of British classical music.

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In February 2017 my beloved John Wilson conducted the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra in a rendition of the Concert with Canadian-born violist Lawrence Power. 

Schelomo by Ernest Bloch, Played by George Neikrug and the Symphony of the Air, Conducted by Leopold Stokowski

Counted among one of the greatest cellists in the Golden Age of String Players, George Neikrug is still with us at 99(!), teaching and playing—all the more remarkable for the fact that two years ago he was completely bedridden due to compression fractures in his back. Wonderfully his students, past and present, have rallied around him with financial help and words of encouragement, gratitude and praise. A student himself and chief proponent of the revolutionary string methods of DC Dounis, Neikrug’s students consider him to be the Einstein of string teachers.

Neikrug

Here he is performing “Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque”, the final work in Swiss composer Ernest Bloch’s 1916 Jewish Cycle. Stokowski recorded it with him and called Neikrug’s work “unforgettable”. (Part 2 here.)

Thanks to old friend, violist Vivi Erickson, for remembering her former Boston University teacher for me.

The Hollywood String Quartet and the Hollywood Sound

John’s striving for “The Hollywood Sound” may be a new thing for his popular audience in England, but over here it’s been part of our musical history since before the Second World War. In 1939 when violinist Felix Slatkin and his wife, cellist Eleanor Aller Slatkin, founded the Hollywood String Quartet. Their uniquely American style of playing strings quickly won the HSQ recognition and praise from critics around the world when they essayed works from the classical repertoire.

Said the Gramophone Classical Music Guide of their 1951 recording of Arnold Schoenberg‘s piece: “This was the first ever recording of ‘Verklärte Nacht‘ in its original sextet form and it remains unsurpassed.”

Hollywood String Quartet

In the liner notes of one of their other recordings, Paul Shure remembered: “Dynamics were a very big part of our work. Our discussions were always about dynamics and a little bit about tempi, and nothing else. We played with vibrato except where there was a particular effect to be had—no dead left hands were allowed.” This sounds so similar to what JWO concertmaster John Mills said in the web series Sarah’s Music (above): “John asks us, the strings, to play with so much vibrato that people’s family photos should fall off the TV sets. We’re effectively trying to recreate the sound of the studio orchestra.”

Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor: Jacqueline Du Pre, Cellist; Daniel Barenboim, Conducting the London Philharmonic

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Jacqueline Du Pre (1945-1987) and her husband Daniel Barenboim—the most romantic, tragic musical love story of my generation

Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, op 85, his last notable work, is a cornerstone of the solo cello repertoire. Elgar composed it in the aftermath of the First World War, when his music had already gone out of fashion with the concert-going public. The piece didn’t achieve wide popularity until the 1960s, when a recording by Jacqueline du Pré caught the public imagination and became a bestseller. This film recording is from a 1967 program from the BBC.