7.8.09

S vs T: mendelssohn, what do you want?


5:11 Ramon Tebar, Orquesta de RTVE
5:20 Yoel Levi, Atlanta Symphony
5:23 Klaus Tennstedt, Berlin Phil
5:29 Gardner, Vienna Phil
5:36 Reinhard Seifried, National Symphony of Ireland
5:37 Karajan, Berlin Phil
5:44 Abbado, London Symphony
5:44 Claus Peter Flor, Bamberg Orch
5:46 Toscanini, New York Phil
5:46 Mario Rossi, Turin Symphony Orch
5:50 Richardo Muti, Vienna Phil
5:53 Georg Solti, Chicago Symphony
6:07 Alexander Rahbari, Slovak Phil
6:10 Pablo Casals, Malboro Festival Orch
6:11 Iona Brown, Norwegian Symphony

ones that i wanted to find out but havent yet:
1. Sinopoli with London Phil
2. Mackerras with Orch AGe of Enlightenment
3. Norrington with Stuttgard Radio Symphony

what are these numbers? well, these are the different track lengthes of mendelssohn's forth symphony, italian, the last movement: saltarello-presto.

mendelssohn is a composer that i used to dislike, but am slowly warming up to. i still have reservations for some of his works, like the hebrides overture (stop stop stop this monothematic madness!) or the annual butchering of the violin concerto. oh the things that piano monkey gets to hear sometimes.. grr. haha. anyways.

this genius man had a very short life span (1809-1947), but did many things. and some things im very thankful for: including bach revival of 1829, berlin singakademie under mendelssohn brought back matthäuspassion, the first performance of it since bach's death. since then it remains a very popular work. i even have heard the the opening number, coro: kommit ihr toechter, helft mir klagen (cheerfully translated as: come, ye daugheters, share my mourning) as part of background music for tv chocolate commercial. now that's popularity.

the italian symphony was inspired during mendelssohn's grande tour (it literally pays to have wealthy gene pools, sigh) which he leisurely enjoyed from 1829-31. however, finished in 1833 in berlin for london phil society (now called the royal phil society), it is one of the best orchestral works of romantic period. period.


“The ‘Italian’ symphony is making great progress. It will be the jolliest piece
(mendelssohn) have ever done, especially the last movement. I have not found
anything for the slow movement yet, and I think that I will save that for
Naples.” (genius boy to sister who stayed home, sigh)
the funny thing is that the last mvt, saltarello is really a tarantella. most of the time. from the verb saltare 'to jump,' it is a fast triple meter medieval dance, back to 15th century really. initiated in 13th century naples, by 15th century, it was fused with a bit of german character, hence earning the name saltarello tedesco. The initial dance step is lost forever, however, it did become somewhat of a folky favorite, especially during the carnival times. (raucous)

it was probably the roman carnival of 1831 that young mendelssohn had seen a live version of 19th century saltarello. berlioz also incorporated saltarello in his roman carnival overture (damn. must get to roman carnival one of these days). but let's keep it in mind that it was a court dance, not a folk dance in its origin. with all those expensive jewelery and frou dresses etc., court dances tend to be.. ahem... weightier. in general (not to mention that they were ahem.. heavier sets of people as well compare to your pre-industrial era farming stocks).

tarantella, often accompanied by tambourines, is one of the most famous italian dance. loosely described as fast 6/8 folk dance, it also started from naples, as a mash between spanish fandango and folk dance that was to cure either the spider bites or general 'unwellness' of neurotic women (italian men still kept that somewhat sexist stance to the date in my opinion). one of the most striking cultural highlight of tarantella is actually in ibsen's play: a doll's house (and also the recent gogol bordello's album: super taranta). it can even be far-reached up to danse macabre, but that's another genre of it's own im afraid (and im getting sleepy)

what intrigues me is why did mendelssohn chose to call it a saltarello inst. of tarantella? just because that's what it was called during the roman carnival? but surely, having spent a chunk of time in sicilian area, he mustve realized what he wrote is tarantella? anyways.

as i was listening to the prom 29, i was struck by this amusement; mr. salamander have sent a short text in the morning about the particular italian flying through the movement. and yep, it was definately closer to a tarantella than a saltrello. it was a very italian program (i still remember this italian making toronto debut with tso what seems eons ago, doing pines of rome, a piece that i still think it's more amusing than amazing) (hey but that's just my opinion. not a fact), and mr. n was quoted in the interval review that yep, he's italian and (they) do everything fast, so putting everything together it was only natural to assume it'll fly away. mad dancers. mad musicians. i can see the resins flying and spits drooooping from the silvery flutes.. haha.

so then i was curious. tickled. curioser. PO was commenting that last mvt is a b@#$%! of a piece and that (at least for the lower strings; forget the fact that it's frequently used for orch auditions for the flutes. recent youtube orch audition would help to illustrate its popularity..) it must sit at a certain range of tempo for it to work at all. and that's true, there are always some sort of mean tempos (after all we are still talking about gaussian distribution anyways), so monkey started to look up some tempos.

the difference? amazing! some 'slower' conductors took it 'fast,' vice versa, and some 'slower' conductors took it 'slower' as well. it's all over the bloody place. i mean, excluding the three renditions i couldnt find today, the largest gap between the fastest and the slowest is a whole minute! if anyone sneers, i say one minute is a very long time to sit still and silent on a stage. or if you are drowning, or your zipper is stuck. the matter of minute can determine microwaved eggs being edible to squash-strength bounce.

so something to chew on. i think it's hilarious that for either extremes, the movement can truly be a saltrello or a tarantella. and that's what makes the world exciting. and boy a minute is a long time. well played bbc phil today and that also means it's one day closer for mr. salamander's projectile journey across the atlantic. yay. for that, i would gladly dance. preferrably at tarantella tempo.

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