All posts by Philidor

IMSLP Orchestra

Alonso del Arte has started the IMSLP Orchestra! From the IMSLP Forums:

I would like to start the IMSLP Orchestra, and to have them make the world-premiere recording of the Symphony in C major by Franz Asplmayr. It would be like the YouTube Orchestra, except the players would not necessarily have to meet, and some players could play multiple instruments (e.g., a bassoonist could play both bassoon parts). These would all be synchronized by a mechanical playing of my figured bass realization; each player would listen to the continuo through headphones, which would hopefully not bleed into the recording of their playing. Later on a skilled harpsichordist could give a less mechanical performance that would be integrated into the finished recording…. More

The continuo realisation can be found here. If you would like to get involved please contact Al via the thread.

NB Franz Asplmayr, 1726-86, was an Austrian composer and violinist, best known for an opera on Greek myths.


Magic and Mendelssohn at St James’s


Walk a few yards from London’s Piccadilly Circus and you reach St James’s, a fine Wren church where William Blake was baptised in 1757. It was hit during the first phase of the London Blitz on 14 October 1940:-


High explosive bombs fell on the eastern corner of the churchyard gardens and on Piccadilly itself, in the process demolishing the Vestry. The Rectory was also smashed to pieces, trapping the Verger and his wife in the kitchen beneath. The blast severely weakened the Church’s brick and Portland Stone fabric: the north wall was fractured and pieces of shrapnel lacerated the building’s east end. The stained glass east window was blown out: fragmentation marks are still visible on the exterior Corinthian stone columns.

Several incendiaries then hit the Church roof and set it ablaze. The burning roof, spacious vault and wooden gallery all collapsed. The interior of St James’s – pews, plasterwork, decorations, six rows of gallery piers and supporting Corinthian and Doric columns – was rapidly consumed by fire. Although the Tower survived, St James’s Gothic steeple toppled, crashing down with its two bells. Heavy debris fell onto the Church floor, causing major structural damage.

The Verger of St James’s and his wife were trapped in the Rectory rubble for over twelve hours. Rescue teams were forced to drill through large blocks of stone and three thick masonry walls to reach them. Tragically, both died of their injuries. On the opposite side of Piccadilly – the road had been disfigured by a large bomb crater – a branch of the Fifty Shilling Tailor’s chain was also struck by an incendiary at 8.15pm and caught fire. Molten wax tailors dummies fell into the street. Nearby, the roofs of buildings around Piccadilly Circus glowed red with incendiary fires.

When the smoke cleared, early on 15 October, St James’s was a burnt-out ruin, open to the elements. It remained a roofless shell for nearly seven years. Source

I ran a market stall at St James’s yesterday, and in a quiet moment was thinking about the October raid when, suddenly, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream drifted across the courtyard. I walked into the church and there, magically, was the Orchestra of the City rehearsing for a concert that evening. Unfortunately, I only had a camera phone:


Mendelssohn was vilified by the Nazis for being a Jew and his music banned. So, a few days short of the 71st anniversary of the raid, St James’s poked Hitler in the eye with a good dose of Mendelssohn (they also performed his third symphony). It was quite gratifying.


I couldn’t stay for the concert but, in some ways, rehearsals are preferable. The orchestra stops and starts, the conductor explains what he wants, the players make notes on their scores, people in the audience come and go. I stayed for a while, the orchestra was very good, then returned to the market.

St James’s 2
Hitler 1



Surveying Current Perceptions of Porgy and Bess

The controversy surrounding the upcoming production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess is merely the latest stir generated across the storied history of George Gershwin’s “folk opera.” Since Porgy and Bess premiered in 1935, debate has ensued over its portrayal of African Americans and over the restrictions requiring all sung roles, at least for staged productions in the United States, be assigned to Blacks. Even the very nature of the work itself has raised questions – is it opera, musical, or some hybrid of the two?

The controversial nature of the “folk opera” has undeniably affected its popularity over the decades. However, has the equally undeniable beauty and power of Gershwin’s music, DuBose Heyward’s story, and Ira Gershwin’s lyrics finally earned for Porgy and Bess the status as America’s greatest contribution to 20th-century opera?

Have attitudes about Porgy and Bess and interest in performing the work finally reached a level where it can become a staple in the standard repertoire of vocal studios and opera houses?

Author Randye Jones explored current perceptions of Porgy and Bess through a survey of singers, vocal instructors, opera directors and others with an interest in the opera. She analyzed the participants’ responses to questions related to their knowledge of the opera, their depth of experience with the opera as either performers or listeners, their views about the characterization of African Americans in the opera, and their thoughts about the opera’s future, especially regarding the assignment of singing roles to non-Blacks.

The article includes numerous, insightful comments made by the survey respondents, as well as excerpts from interviews Jones conducted with five singers who have performed in the opera.

Surveying Current Perceptions of Porgy and Bess


The LPO Four, Music & Politics

A row is fizzing in the London classical music world over the suspension of four musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO). Their crime? To have used the letters “LPO” after their names in a letter published in The Independent newspaper:-

Proms exploited for arts propaganda campaign

As musicians we are dismayed that the BBC has invited the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra to play at the Proms on 1 September. The IPO has a deep involvement with the Israeli state – not least its self-proclaimed “partnership” with the Israeli Defence Forces. This is the same state and army that impedes in every way it can the development of Palestinian culture, including the prevention of Palestinian musicians from travelling abroad to perform.

Our main concern is that Israel deliberately uses the arts as propaganda to promote a misleading image of Israel. Through this campaign, officially called “Brand Israel”, denials of human rights and violations of international law are hidden behind a cultural smokescreen. The IPO is perhaps Israel ‘s prime asset in this campaign.

The Director of the Proms, Roger Wright, was asked to cancel the concert in accordance with the call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI). He rejected this call, saying that the invitation is “purely musical”.

Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians fits the UN definition of apartheid. We call on the BBC to cancel this concert.

Derek Ball (composer)
Frances Bernstein (community choir leader)
Steve Bingham (violinist)
John Claydon (saxophonist)
Malcolm Crowthers (music photographer)
Raymond Deane (composer)
Tom Eisner (violinist LPO)
Nancy Elan (violinist LPO)
Deborah Fink (soprano)
Catherine Ford (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)
Reem Kelani (Palestinian singer, musician and broadcaster)
Les Levidow (violinist)
Susie Meszaros (violinist, Chilingirian Quartet)
Roy Mowatt (violinist, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment)
Ian Pace (pianist)
Leon Rosselson (singer-songwriter)
Dominic Saunders (pianist)
Chris Somes-Charlton (artist manager)
Leni Solinger (violinist)
Sarah Streatfeild (violinist LPO)
Sue Sutherley (cellist, LPO)
Tom Suarez (violinist, New York)
Kareem Taylor (Oud Player/Guitarist and Composer)
Miriam Walton (pianist, organist and French horn player)

When LPO management suspended them they (the management) made the claim: “music and politics do not mix”.

Presumably, if Henryk Górecki was alive, he would immediately tear up his Third Symphony, and we’ll hear shortly that Daniel Barenboim is to cease all work with the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and devote his energies to “non-political” musical activities, e.g. conducting jingles for children’s TV programmes.

Mozart & Mice at Spitalfields‘s stall at Old Spitalfields Market now carries IMSLP stock, so if you live or work in London, or are visiting, come along and buy your IMSLP merchandise direct. IMSLP receives a donation from each item sold so you’d be helping support the project.

Photos below taken at Spitalfields yesterday. There was even a pianist playing, believed to be Leif Ove Andsnes. Suddenly a large mouse appeared, hung about watching for a while, then sat in the audience.

The audience, being English, ignored the mouse.



IMSLP Christmas Cards

IMSLP Christmas cards are now available featuring designs from the Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, the earliest-ever printed polyphonic music, published by Petrucci in 1501. Choose individual letters or all six designs in a mixed pack.

Available from Puffin Point Store

£2.00 from each pack purchased is donated to IMSLP to help fund server and other costs.

IMSLP Christmas Card - Petrucci A

IMSLP Christmas Card - Petrucci HIMSLP Christmas Card - Petrucci SIMSLP Christmas Card - Petrucci YIMSLP Christmas Card - Petrucci MIMSLP Christmas Card - Petrucci E

IMSLP ~ Petrucci Music Library Christmas Cards - Mixed Pack

Direct links to individual letters and to the mixed pack:

IMSLP ~ Petrucci Music Library Christmas Cards – Petrucci A
IMSLP ~ Petrucci Music Library Christmas Cards – Petrucci H
IMSLP ~ Petrucci Music Library Christmas Cards – Petrucci S
IMSLP ~ Petrucci Music Library Christmas Cards – Petrucci Y
IMSLP ~ Petrucci Music Library Christmas Cards – Petrucci M
IMSLP ~ Petrucci Music Library Christmas Cards – Petrucci E
IMSLP ~ Petrucci Music Library Christmas Cards – Mixed Pack

Current Perspectives on Porgy and Bess

With the 75th anniversary of the premiere of the opera Porgy and Bess – music by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward – Randye Jones has researched the changing opinions of singers, teachers and opera directors, to the opera’s controversial subject matter.

The article published by the IMSLP Journal focuses on interviews with singers George Shirley, Angela Simpson, Stephen Swanson, Adrienne Webster, and Simon Estes.

Current Perspectives on Porgy and Bess

Porgy and Bess deals with African-American life in the fictitious Catfish Row, based on the area of Cabbage Row in Charleston, South Carolina, in the early 1920s.

Projects Milhaud and Dupré

A message from Daphnis on the forums:

I’d like to briefly announce to everyone the availability of a couple new collections now hosted on the US server.

First, as of today, I’ve now finished adding all the US public domain works by Darius Milhaud (1892?1974). This project encompasses some 39 compositions, 72 scores, and 1,733 pages and roughly represents the opus numbers through 75 (with those higher numbers not having been renewed, expired, faulty, etc.). Of this nice (but small) chunk of Milhaud’s œuvre we have his famous surrealist ballet, Le bœuf sur le toit from 1920 (although unfortunately not the full score, which is still protected), several of his early piano works including the two sets from Printemps(1915?20), the first piano sonata (1916), 8 of his 18 string quartets (score and full set of parts), 5 chamber symphonies, and two violin sonatas. Although he won’t be public domain in the rest of the world for several years to come, the recent establishment of our own US server makes hosting these works possible. Milhaud, a member of (in)famous group Les six, was a pivotal figure in twentieth century France. Often remembered for his Brazilian influences, use of jazz and polytonality, he was an incredibly prolific composer with opera well into the 400s. So if you’re unfamiliar with his work, now is a good time to fix that with the availability of this modest collection. Go grab a recording with one of our scores here and start enjoying this music.

Second, the complete US-PD works by French organist Marcel Dupré (1886?1971) have also been added (14 compositions, 21 scores, and 525 pages). Many of these works are quite rare and long out of print, several never having been recorded. Dupré, a famous performer and pedagogue, studied with three of the biggest names in the organ during his student days: Alexandre Guilmant, Louis Vierne, and Charles-Marie Widor (all 3 of whom have large collections at IMSLP). Although well-known to other organists, Dupré wrote primarily for his instrument but also contributed works for piano, chamber, and orchestra with choir, some of which have been made available in this collection.

I’d like to personally thank and recognize Jonathan DePeri for his administration of the US server and for providing helpful advice and support in creating the necessary code generation for integration with the IMSLP wiki. Without this server and Jonathan’s time, IMSLP would be a much more barren place for musicians.

Happy listening, studying, and playing!