Monday, February 7, 2011

Fantasy Orchestral Season

Dearest Classical Music Blogosphere,

Being from the provinces as I am, productions of exotic operas (let alone their libretti) are difficult to find and video recordings are expensive to order online. So instead, I’ve decided to do an ideal orchestral season, which I find more sympathetic to what’s within my means to study.

Let’s just imagine, for the moment, that we have an orchestra with enough money to employ a 1000 of the world’s most extraordinary musicians (perhaps the Lucerne Festival Orchestra x10) and to keep a season that goes for 52 weeks of the year. Furthermore, let’s imagine that the orchestra has a mammoth endowment that allows itself to form infinite permutations of subgroups for whatever music is being performed any week. Any week a musician is not needed, he or she goes on paid vacation. Therefore, one sub-orchestra can rehearse the Mahler Symphony of a Thousand while another rehearses the Gurrelieder while a third rehearses the Busoni Piano Concerto. Still furthermore, let’s imagine that this orchestra has an audience of such devotion and stamina that it goes every week expecting concerts the length and challenge of a Wagner opera. There could be two or three intermissions between segments that can last as long as ninety minutes. The audience would arrive at 6 in the evening and be prepared to stay until midnight.

This would be an orchestra so large and demanding that no conductor who cares for his health could possibly oversee it’s concerts for longer than two weeks. Therefore, famous conductors are invited for two weeks out of the year with the expectation that they’ll be too exhausted to continue for any longer than that.

The scheduling of the orchestra would be like an art gallery. One station would lead you organically into the next, with the expectation that the orchestral programming would be on the most enormous possible canvas and that the audiences would be devoted enough to see all the facets of the evolution of a particular program

In this case, let’s just imagine that the orchestra doing a survey of the major orchestral works of the 20th century in roughly chronological order so that people would see the evolution. Each concert would be considered a separate station in the exhibit. In year 1, I got things roughly up to the late 20’s. I fully admit that at week 44, I got orchestra fatigue. If I’m still sick as a dog tomorrow, I will continue with season 2, which I suspect would get us little past World War II. So without further ado..........

The All-Star Super Duper Twentieth Century Music Orchestra!!!!:

Year 1:

Week 1: Where do We Leave the Kids?: Herbert Blomstedt
Humperdink: Hansel und Gretel Act III
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker Act II
Mahler: Des Knaben Wunderhorn

Week 2: When Nature Calls: Herbert Blomstedt
Mahler: Gesellen Lieder
Wagner: Siegfried Forest Murmurs
Mahler: Symphony no. 1
Sibelius: Kullervo Symphony

Week 3: Death and Ressurrection: Alan Gilbert
Strauss: Tod und Veklarung
Verdi: Quattro Pezzi Sacri
Sibelius: Symphony no. 2
Mahler: Symphony no 2

Week 4: Embracing the World: Alan Gilbert
Scriabin: Mysterium Preamble
Ives: Symphony no 4
Mahler: Symphony no. 3

Week 5: Seasick: Mark Elder
Mendelssohn: Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
Wagner: Flying Dutchman Overture
Sibelius: The Oceanides
Britten: Four Sea Interludes
Elgar: Sea Pictures
Delius: Sea Drift
Debussy: La Mer

Week 6: Stiff Upper Lip: Mark Elder
Elgar: The Dream of Gerontius
Elgar: The Apostles
Elgar: The Kingdom
Elgar: The Music Makers (encore)

Week 7: Less is More: David Zinman
Elgar: Enigma Variations
Sibelius: Symphony no. 3
Mahler: Symphony no. 4

Week 8: How I Spent My Vacation: David Zinman
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Debussy: Images
Webern: Im Sommerwind
Rachmaninov: Isle of the Dead
Delius: Florida Suite
Elgar: In the South

Week 9: Lost to the World: Bernard Haitink
Mahler: Ruckert Lieder
Debussy: Pelleas et Melisande (excerpts)
Strauss: Don Quixote
Mahler: Symphony no. 5

Week 10: Intimations of Mortality: Bernard Haitink
Ravel: Pavane for a Dead Princess
Mahler: Kindertotenlieder
Janacek: Jenufa - Act II
Puccini: Tosca - Act III
Mahler: Symphony no. 6

Week 11: Night Vision I: Simon Rattle
Debussy: Nocturnes for Orchestra
Szymanowski: Symphony no. 3
Mahler: Symphony no. 7

Week 12: Size Matters: Simon Rattle
Busoni: Piano Concerto
Mahler: Symphony of a Thousand
Schoenberg: Gurrelieder

Week 13: Orientalism: Riccardo Chailly
Ravel: Scheherezade
Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Week 14: And Now, For My Final Thought: Riccardo Chailly
Mahler: Symphony no. 9
Hans Rott: Symphony in E
Mahler: Symphony no. 10 (Cooke III)

Week 15: Forbidden Planet I: Jonathan Nott
Wagner: Tristan Prelude (Act I)
Mahler: Todtenfeier
Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra
Mahler: Symphony no. 10 (Adagio)
Schoenberg: Last Movement to String Quartet no. 2 (augmented for String Orchestra)

Week 16: Forbidden Planet II: Jonathan Nott
Wagner: Parsifal Prelude (Act I)
Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Stravinsky: Fireworks
Ives: Three Places in New England
Schoenberg: Pelleas und Melisande
Stravinsky: Scherzo Fantastique
Scriabin: Poem of Ecstasy

Week 17: Rule Brittania I: Paul Daniel
Elgar: Violin Concerto
Vaughan Williams: Sea Symphony
Elgar: Symphony no. 1

Week 18: Rule Brittania II: Paul Daniel
Elgar: Cockgaine Overture
Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance Marches
Vaughan Williams: Symphony no. 2
Elgar: Symphony no. 2

Week 19: Ballet Russes I: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Stravinsky: Firebird (1911 version)
Debussy: Jeux
Strauss: Josephlegende (symphonic fragment)
Stravinsky: Petrushka (1913 version)

Week 20: Night Vision II: Esa-Pekka Salonen
Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit (Orchestration)
Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle
Stravinsky: The Nightingale (original version)

Week 21: Atonal Musik: Daniel Barenboim
Schoenberg: Five Pieces for Orchestra
Berg: Three Pieces for Orchestra
Webern: Six Pieces for Orchestra
Webern: Five Pieces for Orchestra
Webern: Five Movements for String Orchestra
Berg: Altenberg Lieder
Schoenberg: Der Gluckliche Hand

Week 22: Identity Crisis: Daniel Barenboim
Strauss: Elektra (abridged)
Strauss: Sinfonia Domestica
Strauss: Alpensinphonie
Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier Waltzes (encore)

Week 23: Dances of Death: Ingo Metzmacher
Strauss: Salome (abridged)
Schoenberg: Erwartung
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring

Week 24: Go Greek: Ingo Metzmacher
Roussel: Bacchus et Ariadne
Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex
Ravel: Daphnis et Chloe (complete)

Week 25: Nordic Blues: Osmo Vanska
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Sibelius: Symphony no. 4
Sibelius: Symphony no. 1

Week 26: Nordic Sun: Osmo Vanska
Nielsen: Symphony no. 3
Sibelius: Symphony no. 5
Nielsen: Symphony no. 4

Week 27: The Kids Are Alright: Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos
Debussy: L’Enfant Prodigue
Ravel: Mother Goose Suite
Debussy: Children’s Corner
Ravel: L’Enfant des Sortileges

Week 28: Spanish Caravan: Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos
Ravel: Alborada del Graziozo
Falla: Nights in the Gardens of Spain
Ravel: Rhapsodie Espagnole
Falla: The Three Cornered Hat
Ravel: L’Heure Espagnole

Week 29: New Beginnings: James Levine
Schoenberg - Pierrot Lunaire
Berg: Chamber Concerto
Webern: Two Songs for Soprano and Eight Instruments
Webern: Six Songs for voice, clarinet, bass clarinet, violin and cello
Hindemith: Kammermusik no. 1
Stravinsky: L'Histoire du Soldat

Week 30: Small Packages: James Levine
Strauss: Le Bourgois Gentillhomme Suite
Schoenberg: Kammersymphonie no. 1
Hindemith: Kammermusik no. 2
Prokofiev: Symphony no. 1
Stravinsky: Pulcinella (complete)

Week 31: Ballet Russes II: Charles Dutoit
Satie: Parade
Stravinsky: Renard
Stravinsky: Song of the Nightingale
Poulenc: Les Biches
Auric: Les Facheux

Week 32: Living in the Past: Charles Dutoit
Ravel: La Valse
Stravinsky: Les Noces
Orff: Carmina Burana
Janacek: Glagolitic Mass

Week 33: The Wave of the Future: Vladimir Jurowski
Honneger: Pacific 231
Varese: Arcana
Mosolov: Iron Foundry
Antheil: Ballet Mechanique
Prokofiev: Symphony no 3

Week 34: Bad Boys (East): Vladimir Jurowski
Prokofiev: Chout
Bartok: The Mirculous Mandarian
Shostakovich: Symphony no. 1

Week 35: Bad Boys (West): Michael Tilson Thomas
Milhaud: Le Beuf sur le Toit
Hindemith: Kammermusik no. 2
Stravinsky: Ebony Concerto
Satie: Relache
Milhaud: La Creation du Monde

Week 36: Le Jazz: Michael Tilson Thomas
Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Milhaud: Creation du Monde
Ellington: Harlem
Shostakovich: Jazz Suite
Antheil: Jazz Symphony
Weill: Excerpts from The Threepenny Opera (in German)

Week 37: Make it New: Donald Runnicles
Hindemith: Kammermusik no. 3
Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
Ravel: Le Tombeau de Couperin
Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances
Reger: Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Mozart
Schoenberg: Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra

Week 38: Counting to Twelve: Donald Runnicles
Berg: Wozzeck (excerpts)
Schoenberg:Von Heute auf Morgen
Schoenberg: Die Jakobsleiter
Webern: Symphony (encore)

Week 39: Songs of the Earth I: Leonard Slatkin
Stravinsky: Symphonies of Wind Instruments
Bartok: Cantata Profana
Sibelius: Tapiola
Janacek: Amarus

Week 40: Modes of Production: Leonard Slatkin
Sibelius: Symphony no. 6
Vaughan Williams: Symphony no. 3
Bartok: Piano Concerto no. 2
Janacek: Sinfonietta

Week 41: Mythic Proportions: Michel Schonwandt
Nielsen: Helios Overture
Sibelius: Pohjola’s Daughter
Sibelius: En Saga
Langaard: Music of the Spheres
Holst: The Planets

Week 42: To the Glory of God: Michel Schonwandt
Debussy: Martyrdom of St. Sebastien
Messiaen: L’Ascension
Stravinsky: Symphony of Psalms
Szymanowski: Stabat Mater

Week 43: Russian Short Stories: Valery Gergiev
Stravinsky: Mavra
Janacek: Taras Bulba
Shostakovich: The Nose (excerpts)

Week 44: Dances of the Earth: Valery Gergiev
Bartok: Dance Suite
Bartok: The Wooden Prince
Bartok: Romanian Folk Dances
Rachmaninov: The Bells
Scriabin: The Divine Poem
Scriabin: Prometheus

Week 45: Modern Eroicas: Gustavo Dudamel
Strauss: Ein Heldenleben
Roussel: Symphony no. 3
Nielsen: Symphony no. 5

Week 46: Great Moments in Orchestration: Gustavo Dudamel
Ravel: Pictures at an Exhibition
Respighi: Fountains of Rome
Messiaen: Les Offrandes Oublies
Respighi: Pines of Rome
Ravel: Bolero

Week 47: The Modern Piano I: Christoph Eschenbach - Yefim Bronfman
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto no. 1
Bartok: Piano Concerto no. 1
Szymanowski: Symphony no. 4
Stravinsky: Concerto for Piano and Winds

Week 48: The Modern Violin I: Christoph Eschenbach - Leonidas Kavakos
Ravel: Kaddish
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto no. 1
Bartok: Violin Concerto no. 1
Szymanowski: Violin Concerto no. 1
Ravel: Tzigane

Week 49: The Roads Not Taken: Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Sibelius: Symphony no. 7
Nielsen: Symphony no. 6
Poulenc: Concert Champetre
Janacek: Cunning Little Vixen (symphonic suite)

Week 50: Passing the Torch: Jukka-Pekka Saraste
Hindemith: Kammermusik #4
Poulenc: Aubade
Copland: Organ Symphony
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto no. 3
Honegger: King David

Week 51: Over Hill, Over Dale: Sakari Oramo
Vaughan Williams: Norfolk Rhapsody no. 1
Delius: Brigg Fair
Holst: Egdon Heath
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad
Grainger: Country Gardens
Butterworth: Two English Idylls

Week 52: Dulce et Decorum Est: Sakari Oramo
Schoenberg: Variations for Orchestra
Honegger: Rugby
Elgar: Cello Concerto
Prokofiev: Piano Concerto no. 2
Ives: They Are There
John Foulds: World Requiem


  1. I would attend that season....but..but...WHERE IS BANTOCK'S OMAR KHAYYAM? :)

  2. Oh my god, you just gave me the perfect aperitif to John Fould's World Requiem and Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony!

    I was considering commissioning an orchestration of Sorabji's Opus Clavicembalisticum as an encore.

  3. I would go! But forget about the orchestra needing time off, with concerts that long and substantial the audience is going to need to take sick nights too. I mean that in the best sense.

    I would swap Hänsel for Königskinder, though. Also add some Schreker and Schmidt, but I live in Vienna, so.

    The really big orchestra thing is already done, sort of. The Wiener Philharmoniker is officially the pit orchestra at the Staatsoper, but playing at the opera doesn't stop them from touring or playing their own concerts on the same nights. (It's a big group, but the Staatsoper director also occasionally alludes to "helpers.")

  4. hehe, it's an ideal audience. One far more curious than I am.

    I've never actually heard Konigskinder. The actual truth of the matter is that most of Hansel and Gretel is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me. But I needed something substantial that would go well with Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

    Being from Baltimore, I don't get many opportunities to hear Schrecker. Though I hear wonderful things 'about' his music all the time. Schmidt is not a favorite of mine, though leaving off the Book of Seven Seals is certainly a mistake on my part.

    The really big orchestra thing is done in Dresden and Leipzig too for their respective opera houses, I think it's now done in Amsterdam too (Netherlands Philharmonic musicians comprise the mainstays of the Netherlands Opera) and probably in other places I'm not thinking of. Maybe we could combine all those opera house orchestras to make the Super-Duper Orchestra. I can certainly think of worse things than combining the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Weiner Philharmoniker and Staatskapelle Dresden.