My primary goal for including recordings in this project is to expose users to a wide breadth of musical interpretations for each excerpt. Presenting such variety is possible by including:
French bassoon recordings are included for most of the excerpts originally written for that instrument; likewise, period instrument recordings are included for most of the eighteenth and nineteenth century works originally composed for them. Listening to and observing the differences in these performances can be an eye-opening experience. For example, one is struck by how closely the French bassoon resembles the sound of a saxophone in the first movement of Ravel’s G Major Piano Concerto, or how the eighteenth century bassoon adds a distinctive and dark coloring to the opening of Mozart’s Figaro.1 Finally, and perhaps most significantly, a number of the included recordings feature performances conducted by the composers themselves, providing rare insight into these composers’ own preferred interpretations.2
These recordings also make it possible to chart the evolution of tone and vibrato over the course of the last century. Vibrato alone has changed enormously over the past fifty to sixty years, from a fast and narrow coloring of the sound to a more vivid expressive tool available to the player.3 This difference can be clearly observed by listening to the following three recordings from Donizetti’s “Una furtiva lagrima,” which go from using no vibrato at all to using a vibrato that varies in both speed and width:
- Unknown orchestra (1911)
- Hollywood Bowl Orchestra (1947)
- Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (1989)
Listening to these orchestral performances will also help students better understand the context of each excerpt, which in turn will help them better prepare for auditions and concerts. For example, imagining the E♭ clarinet line before the first excerpt from Symphonie fantastique’s “Dream of a Witch’s Sabbath” can help prevent a nervous player from starting off at an unsustainable tempo. Likewise, understanding that the strings move from pizzicato notes to sustained notes during the famous solo in Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony can help inform a player’s phrasing decisions.
At least five recordings are included for each of the twenty-five primary excerpts; the number of recordings for the additional excerpts varies, however the majority of these excerpts have at least five recordings as well. The recordings appear in the left sidebar on each page of the corresponding part, score, and autograph score. The examples on the site come from both CDs and LPs, with the CD recordings appearing inside a dark gray module on the sidebar, and the LP recordings (when included) appearing inside a black module below the CD recordings. The date that each example was recorded is listed in parentheses ( ); some recordings do not list the actual recording date, and for these the date of publication is indicated in brackets [ ].4 Unfortunately, many vinyl records do not even include a publishing date, and in these cases only the decade of publication is listed.
1 On the other hand, modern instruments are so easily—and to some extent, purposely—enveloped by the sound of the strings.
2 However, it is worth noting that some of these composers did not have reputations as particularly effective conductors. Pianist Marguerite Long, for example, partly blamed her lackluster premiere performance on the fact that Ravel’s “conducting from a piano score was very uncertain.” (Long, At the Piano With Ravel, 39)
3 See Vibrato for a further discussion.
4 Although many vinyl records only contain information for the year of publication, in most cases it can be assumed that the recording was made within the previous 1-2 years of the publication date.