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San Francisco Symphony: Keeping Score Concerts

Michael Tilson Thomas As a companion to the second season of Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony's nationally broadcast PBS series Keeping Score, the label SFS Media has released the "soundtrack" concerts for all 6 series – featuring music by Beethoven, Berlioz, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Ives, and Copland. PBS will premiere the Keeping Score segment on Ives and Copland on October 22 and the segment on Shostakovich on October 29. Classical Archives is pleased to present each concert with easy 1-Click buttons for streaming or downloading, along with the brief Liner Notes accompanying each album release. We also include a few video promos from the PBS series. Look for the complete videos on our site soon!

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The second series of Keeping Score began with Berlioz' masterpiece Symphonie fantastique, the program for which first aired on PBS on Oct. 15, 2009. Berlioz' symphonic epic reflects the composer's intense passion for the English soprano Harriet Smithson, and his dream-like struggles to free himself from this consuming obsession.

Liner Notes

The 24-year old Hector Berlioz, happily enrolled at the Paris Conservatory after a desultory sojourn in medical school, fell madly in love with Irish actress Harriet Smithson—or at least with his idealized image of her and her onstage roles. The real Harriet found him offputting—there's something wrong about his eyes, she said—and kept her distance, leaving his torrent of passionate letters unanswered. Hector's persistence won out and the two were married in 1833, despite their obvious incompatibility. But before the wedding bells came a period of anguish for the hypersensitive young composer, who in 1830 poured his yearning and frustration into the programmatic Symphonie fantastique, telling of a morbidly amorous young man's fatal attraction to an idealized young lady. The gruesome plot leads inexorably to the Symphonie's delectably sacriligeous finale, in which Berlioz exacted his gleeful revenge by morphing Harriet Smithson into a rowdy, cackling witch.

Liner notes by Scott Foglesong for the SFS Media release, Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique

Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique
San Francisco Symphony

CDs: 1 Tracks: 5 Length: 55:48

San Francisco Symphony
Rel. 3 Nov 2009
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1 1.Rêveries. Passions 15:16
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2 2.Un bal: Valse 6:45
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3 3.Scène aux champs: Adagio 17:33
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4 4.Marche au supplice 6:38
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5 5.Songe d'une nuit du Sabbat 9:36
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Recorded live: December 2007, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA

The second series of Keeping Score continues with focus on the great American musical maverick, Charles Ives, and his nostalgic and highly inventive Holidays Symphony – too inventive for many when it first appeared in 1919; this segment, which premieres on PBS on Oct. 22, 2009, also includes discussion on Aaron Copland's perennial favorite ballet score, Appalachian Spring.

Liner Notes

Folk music played an important role in shaping the musical styles of both Aaron Copland and Charles Ives, a pair of American originals—one French-trained, the other stubbornly home-grown—who are both noted for weaving alluring sonic tapestries of American life. For New Englander Ives, the key to authenticity lay in a kaleidoscopic pageant of tunes, dances, evocative sounds, and wildly unorthodox harmonic idioms. The Holidays Symphony, beginning with "Washington's Birthday" and ending with "Thanksgiving," occupied him on and off for more than fifteen years. New Yorker Aaron Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Appalachian Spring, a ballet score for Martha Graham written thirty years after the Ives, approaches the American scene quite differently, blending folk-inspired melodies, energetic dances, and evocative landscapes within a sophisticated Stravinskian language, the whole trimmed and buffed to a wiry yet colorful idiom that has become for many the quintessential sound of modern American music.

Liner notes by Scott Foglesong for the SFS Media release, Ives: Holidays Symphony; Copland: Appalachian Spring

Ives: Holidays Symphony; Copland: Appalachian Spring
San Francisco Symphony

CDs: 1 Tracks: 5 Length: 1:16:13

San Francisco Symphony
Rel. 3 Nov 2009
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1 1.Washington's Birthday 10:00
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2 2.Decoration Day 9:24
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3 3.The Fourth of July 5:48
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4 4.Thanksgiving and Forefather's Day 15:55
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5 Appalachian Spring, concert suite after the ballet 35:06
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Recorded live: November 30-December 3, 2007 (Ives) and September 17, 2005 (Copland), Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA

The second series of Keeping Score concludes with focus on Dimitri Shostakovich's most overtly political musical statement, the Symphony No.5, written in 1937, at the height of Stalin's oppressive regime. The question remains, however, what exactly is the work saying politically – is it contrite compliance or coded defiance? The PBS segment premieres on Oct. 30, 2009.

Liner Notes

As of 1936 Dmitri Shostakovich faced a cloudy professional future due to the displeasure of the Stalinist government, which had condemned his work as "muddle instead of music." In the wake of the terrifying purges emanating from Stalin's dictatorship and the clear message that even Russia's most prominent composer was not exempt from scrutiny, Shostakovich was compelled to refashion his musical style in an attempt to avoid official censure. He succeeded both politically and artistically in 1937 with his Fifth Symphony, a profoundly moving expression of sorrow that culminates in "an enormous optimistic lift," as Alexei Tolstoy stated in an early review. While Russian audiences cherished the symphony from its inception, many Western critics derided it as a hollow concession to political pressure. But time and distance have made it abundantly clear that the Fifth panders to nobody and speaks to all people, at all times, and in all places.

Liner notes by Scott Foglesong for the SFS Media release, Shostakovich: Symphony No.5

Shostakovich: Symphony No.5
San Francisco Symphony

CDs: 1 Tracks: 4 Length: 50:51

San Francisco Symphony
Rel. 3 Nov 2009
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1 1.Moderato 17:01
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2 2.Allegretto 5:31
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3 3.Largo 16:17
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4 4.Allegro non troppo 12:02
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Recorded live: November 2007, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA

The first series of Keeping Score began with a discussion on the "making of a performance" – from score preparation to rehearsals to performance – where the subject of the journey was Tchaikovsky's magnificent Symphony No.4. Here Maestro Tilson Thomas explores the intense emotional landscape that the composer unflinchingly shares with his audience. This PBS segment first aired in June 2004.

Liner Notes

Two markedly different women bookend the story of the Tchaikovsky Fourth. Wealthy widow Nadezhda von Meck became Tchaikovsky's patron in 1876, not long after he had begun work on the symphony. Her financial contributions stabilized Pyotr's typically threadbare finances, while her sympathetic correspondence provided a valuable outlet for the often-troubled composer. The next year, former student Antonina Ivanovna Milyukova was doomed to suffer through a brief and disastrous marriage with Tchaikovsky that ended with her homosexual husband fleeing in panic. It was during the emotional wreckage of the (unconsummated) marriage's aftermath that Tchaikovsky put the finishing touches on the Fourth. Precisely how that mental turmoil ultimately shaped the symphony remains a matter of conjecture, but clearly the Fourth represents a watershed in Tchaikovsky's symphonic evolution, as he brought the innermost secrets of his psyche to a genre traditionally associated with the logical development of musical ideas within established structural principles.

Liner notes by Scott Foglesong for the SFS Media release, Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.4
San Francisco Symphony

CDs: 1 Tracks: 4 Length: 45:15

San Francisco Symphony
Rel. 3 Nov 2009
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1 1.Andante sostenuto. Moderato con anima 19:02
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2 2.Andantino in modo di canzona 10:51
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3 3.Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato 5:47
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4 4.Finale: Allegro con fuoco 9:35
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Recorded live: May 2002, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA

The first series of Keeping Score continued with a segment on among the most famous of all musical revolutions, Beethoven's Symphony No.3 ('Eroica'), written in the wake of the composer's realization, struggle, and acceptance of his growing deafness. The PBS segment on the meaning behind this "heroic" masterwork first aired in November 2006.

Liner Notes

"On its very first page Beethoven threw his hat into the ring and laid his claim to immortality." Thus H. L. Mencken on the Third Symphony. But there's a big hole in that very first page, put there by a boiling-mad composer as he brusquely scraped off the dedication to Napoleon in response to the erstwhile First Consul's having been proclaimed Emperor in May 1804. Beethoven retitled the work as Sinfonia eroica, "composed to celebrate the memory of a great man." With that, the Buonaparte Symphony became the Eroica, a milestone along Western music's journey from Viennese Classicism to Romanticism. Constructed on an epic scale and exploring an emotional range unprecedented in symphonic music, the Eroica thrilled some and alienated others. "If this symphony is not by some means abridged," sniffed a London critic in 1829, "it will soon fall into disuse." Happily for posterity, his advice was ignored.

Liner notes by Scott Foglesong for the SFS Media release, Beethoven: Symphony No.3 ('Eroica')

Beethoven: Symphony No.3 ('Eroica')
San Francisco Symphony

CDs: 1 Tracks: 4 Length: 51:40

San Francisco Symphony
Rel. 3 Nov 2009
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1 1.Allegro con brio 16:39
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2 2.Marcia funebre: Adagio assai 16:46
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3 3.Scherzo: Allegro vivace 5:53
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4 4.Finale: Allegro molto 12:22
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Recorded live: May 2004, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA

The first series of Keeping Score concluded with an examination of perhaps the iconic work of musical revolution, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, the ballet that re-framed the question of what music could be in the early 20th century – frenetic rhythm, aggressive dissonance, melodic anarchy. Maestro Thomas also includes a presentation on sections of its less controversial predecessor, the Firebird. The PBS segment first aired in November 2006.

Liner Notes

Stravinsky's early ballets The Firebird and The Rite of Spring are soaked in the folklore of the Russian people. Parisian arriviste Stravinsky, collaborating with flamboyant impresario Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, brought out The Firebird in 1910. Supercharged with bewitching melodies and luscious orchestration, it established Stravinsky as the rising star of the Paris music scene. A few years later came The Rite of Spring and the audience riot that disrupted its premiere ("just what I wanted!" crowed Diaghilev.) The plot—a human sacrifice set in a prehistoric culture—reflected the contemporary "fauvist" movement, which employed sophisticated technique to create the illusion of primitivism. Stravinsky's music, despite its barbed fauviste rhythms and dissonant harmonies, is shot through with Russian folk melodies that add a whiff of tradition to the full-throttle sprint that Aaron Copland declared to be "the most astonishing orchestral achievement of the twentieth century."

Liner notes by Scott Foglesong for the SFS Media release, Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, The Firebird Suite (selections)

Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, The Firebird Suite (selections)
San Francisco Symphony

CDs: 1 Tracks: 17 Length: 45:26

San Francisco Symphony
Rel. 3 Nov 2009
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1 21.Infernal Dance of the Kashchei's Subjects 4:42
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2 22.Lullaby (the Firebird) 4:06
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3 26.Dissolution of the Palace and Kashchei's Spells. 27.Animation of the Petrified Warriors. 28.General Rejoicing 3:24
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4 1.Introduction 3:31
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5 2.The Augurs of Spring, Dances of the Young Girls (Les augures printaniers, Danses des adolescentes) 3:06
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6 3.Mock Abduction (Jeu du rapt) 1:18
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7 4.Spring Round Dances (Rondes printanières) 3:32
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8 5.Ritual of the Rival Tribes (Jeu des cités rivales) 1:44
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9 6.Procession of the Sage (Cortège du sage) 0:40
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10 7.Adoration of the Earth: The Sage (Le sage) 0:20
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11 8.Dance of the Earth (Danse de la terre) 1:11
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12 1.Introduction 4:20
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13 2.Mystic Circles of the Young Girls (Cercles mystérieux des adolescentes) 3:14
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14 3.Glorification of the Chosen One (Glorification de L'Élue) 1:28
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15 4.Evocation of the Ancestors (Évocation des ancêtres) 0:38
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16 5.Ritual of the Ancestors (Action rituelle des ancêtres) 3:37
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17 6.Sacrificial Dance: The Chosen One (Danse sacrale: L'Élue) 4:35
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Recorded live: September 2004, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, CA
 
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