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ClassicsOnline Home » CANTABILE - Classical Favourites for Relaxing and Dreaming
Relax at the end of a busy day with CANTABILE, a collection
of the most beautiful moments from classical music, compiled to create that
romantic world of dreams. The thirteen tracks have been selected from the extensive
Naxos catalogue of compact discs….
The Barcarolle by Jacques Offenbach creates a tranquil
mood. German by birth, Jacques soon tired of education at the Paris Conservatoire,
and used his brilliance as a cellist to join the orchestra at the Opéra-Comique.
It was his apprenticeship as a composer, though early attempts to write operettas
were a disaster. But in 1858, at the age of 39, he struck gold with Orphée
aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld), the beginning of a whole series
of frothy successes. Yet he wanted to be taken seriously, and from 1877 worked
on an opera, Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hofmann), which remained unfinished
at his death in 1880. The seductive second act soprano aria from the opera has
become famous as the Barcarolle.
Every pianist will recall that moment of achievement when they
successfully negotiate the lyrical Adagio Cantabile, from Ludwig van Beethoven's
'Pathetique' Sonata, one of the evergreens in the piano repertoire. First performed
in 1799, it is one of the thirty-two sonatas published in the composer's lifetime.
Antonio Vivaldi spent much of his later life teaching
at a school for orphaned and abandoned girls, and achieved such excellence that
musicians came to Pieta to hear the orchestra and soloists. It was also a place
where he experimented musically, leading to his finest group of compositions
including the Twelve Concertos for Violin and Strings, one of which represents
the various seasons. It has become today's top 'pop' classic, The Four Seasons.
From the third section comes a moment of repose, Autumn.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the most incredible prodigy
in the history of music. Born to a musical family in 1756, he was touring with
his sister as soloists even before they were teenagers. He was to live just
thirty-five years, by which time he had composed a catalogue of music that included
forty-one symphonies. The last one was composed three years before he died,
and gained the nickname 'Jupiter', the lyrical Andante cantabile forming the
slow movement. In the margin of the solo part, of his horn concertos, Wolfgang
wrote impolite comments regarding the playing of his friend, Joseph Leutgeb,
the recipient of his series of the concertos. The Romance, which comes from
the fourth concerto, sets long flowing melodies for the soloist against a quiet
The year was 1838 and marked both the composition of Mendelssohn's
famous Violin Concerto and the birth of Max Bruch. Thirty years later
Bruch composed his First Violin Concerto, which is now part of the standard
repertoire. The slow movement, Adagio, has an atmosphere of repose that looks
back to music of the previous generation.
Ignace Jan Paderewsky was born 22 years after Bruch,
and became the famous Polish pianist of his time, travelling the world to phenomenal
acclaim. He became the first Premier of the new Polish republic in 1919, but
returned to a musical life in 1922. A prolific composer, writing operas and
symphonies, together with a considerable amount of piano music, he is today
remembered by one work, the Melody in F, composed around 1888.
Antonin Dvořákis today's most popular Czech composer,
yet, unable to obtain performances of his music, his early years were far from
easy. At the age of thirty-six his life was to change with the publication of
the Moravian Duets and a commission to write a series of piano duets he called
Slavonic Dances. They were an immediate success, and later that year he produced
an orchestral version.
George Frederic Handel's impact on the musical world
found several royal courts vying for his services. In 1710 he went to London
and received such adulation that he decided to settle there, and served the
Royal Court with distinction. In 1747 he was commissioned by the King to write
a work to celebrate the Treaty of Aix-Ia-Chapelle, though the King "hoped
there would be no fidles". It accompanied a spectacular firework display
in London's Green Park on April 27, and though the fireworks failed, the audience
loved the music. In the section, La pa ix, there came a moment of respite.
Thought to have sold his soul to the devil to play with such
staggering brilliance, the lean, gaunt appearance of Niccolè Paganini
adding to the myth. To fuel his virtuosity he wrote music of incredible difficulty,
but in the delicate Cantabile we find a composer who could create a moment of
Born in 1685, Johann Sebastian Bach was part of a large
family of musicians working in Germany for over two hundred years. He become
the most famous of them, his massive output including the Four Orchestral Suites.
They were written in an elegant French style, and from the First Suite comes
the slow Venetian dance, the Forlane.
A dreamer who experienced the peaks of happiness and the troughs
of despair, Robert Schumann died in 1856 at the age of 46. He had been
a philanderer, interspersed with heavy drinking and smoking, yet at the same
time was composing music of exquisite beauty. In 1840 he married his pupil,
Clara, and in the years leading up to that happy event, he was to write the
group of piano works, Kinderszenen (Scenes from childhood), containing one of
his best loved melodies, Träumerei (Dreaming).
Georges Bizet's popular fame rests on just one work,
the opera Carmen. His short life of thirty-seven years was a financial struggle,
often spending sixteen hours per day making piano arrangements. Carmen was his
last opera, and it was savaged by the critics. Already a sick man, the failure
hastened his death a few weeks later. It was to become one of the best loved
of all operas, the orchestral adaptation of Michaëla's plea to Don Jose to return
home, called Nocturne in its orchestral version, comes from the third act.
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