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December 2021

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

Donald Macleod delves into the operas of Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini was man of the theatre to his fingertips. Born in Lucca in 1858, into a distinguished family of church musicians, Puccini was never destined to follow in his forebears’ footsteps. His fate was sealed when as a teenager he walked thirty miles to hear Verdi’s Aida. He knew immediately that theatre was his calling and from that point on he wrote almost exclusively for the stage.

A perfectionist and an often unreasonable taskmaster, Puccini agonised over each of his operas. Beginning with Manon Lescaut, the opera that launched Puccini internationally, this week Donald Macleod follows the off and the on-stage dramas of La Boheme, Tosca, Madam Butterfly, La fanciulla del West, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi, Il tabarro and the opera he left incomplete at his death in 1924, his final masterpiece, Turandot. The stories on stage are interleaved with events in his personal life, from an early scandal over his affair with a married woman and some very dodgy skulduggery in his business dealings, to the suicide of one of his servants, a tragedy of such proportion, he was plunged in to a deep depression, haunted by the events for the rest of his life.

This week, Donald Macleod celebrates a composer whose music expresses every human emotion, there’s a host of landmark recordings, including the voices of Jonas Kaufmann, Angela Gheorghiu, Anna Netrebko and Roberto Alagna. We’ll hear Mimì’s touching calling card from La Boheme, in the classic Victoria de los Angeles version, while Renato Scotto pours all Madam Butterfly’s hopes into the heart-breaking Un bel dì. There’s the raw pain of Sister Angelica mourning her dead son, and the dark desperation of a jealous husband in Il tabarro. On Wednesday Callas and Gobbi’s anguished, sadistic torture scene in Tosca still has the power to shock us as much as it did on its first night in 1900. It’s high stakes and nail-biting tension in La fanciulla del West as Minnie trades the life of her outlaw lover on the outcome of a card game. Joan Sutherland’s icy Princess Turandot, a magnificent pairing with Luciano Pavarotti’s Prince Calaf comes on Friday along with a certain aria made famous by the 1990 world cup, heard here in the hands of another Puccini specialist, Jussi Björling.

Music Featured:

Manon Lescaut, Act 1: Donna non vidi mai
Le Villi, Act 1: Preghiera: Angiol di dio
Messa di Gloria (Credo)
Manon Lescaut, Act 2: Dispettosetto questo Riccio!; In quelle trine morbide
Manon Lescaut, Act 4: Sola, perduta, abbandonata; Fra le tue bracce amore
La Bohème, Act 1: Mi chiamano Mimì
La Bohème, Act 1: Pensier profondo!; Legna!; Si può
Capriccio sinfonico
La Bohème, Act 3: Donde lieta uscì; Dunque è proprio finita….Addio, dolce svegliare
Tosca, Act 1 (excerpt)
Tosca, Act 1: Ah! Finalmente (excerpt)
Vissi d’arte, Act 2 (excerpt)
Tosca, Act 2 (excerpt)
Tosca, Act 3 (excerpt)
Madama Butterfly, Act 1 (excerpt)
Madama Butterfly, Act 1: Viene la sera; Vogliatemi bene
Gianni Schicchi (O mio babbino caro)
Gianni Schicchi (excerpt)
Il tabarro (Nulla silenzio!)
La fanciulla del West, Act 1 (excerpt)
La fanciulla del West, Act 2: Una partita a poker!
Suor Angelica (excerpt)
Turandot (Nessun Dorma)
Madam Butterfly, Act 2: Un bel dì vedremo
Madam Butterfly, Act 2: Una nave da guerra; Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio; Or vieni ad adornar
Turandot, Act 1: In Questa Reggia; Ascolta straniera; Gloria o vincitore!
La Boheme, Act 4: Fingevo dormire

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Johannah Smith

For full track listings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here:

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Donald Macleod explores Mozart’s prolific final years.

Five years before Mozart’s premature death aged 35, the composer felt at the top of his game. He was performing regularly in Vienna and his music was beloved throughout the city. However, the Austro-Turkish War between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire would soon have a negative impact on Mozart’s prospects, along with changing musical taste in the Austrian capital. The nobility had more important things to do than hold concerts and commission new music. Money was in shorter supply. As a composer for hire, Mozart had to change tack and write chamber music for publication and for performance in middle class homes, rather than concertos for the nobility.

Music Featured:

Horn Concerto No 4 in E flat major, K 495 (I. Allegro maestoso)
Piano Concerto No 24 in C minor, K 491 (I. Allegro)
Sonata for Piano 4 Hands in F major, K 497 (I. Adagio – Allegro di molto)
Symphony No 38 in D major, K 504 “Prague” (I. Adagio – Allegro)
Symphony No 39 in E flat major, K 543 (I. Adagio – Allegro)
Adagio in B minor, K 540
Divertimento in E flat major, K 563 (II. Adagio)
Clarinet Quintet in A major, K 581 (II. Larghetto)
Piano Sonata No. 17 in B flat major, K 570 (I. Allegro)
Gigue in G major, K 574, “Leipziger Gigue”
Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), K 492, Act 1 (excerpt)
Symphony No 41 in C major, K 551, “Jupiter” (II. Andante cantabile)
Don Giovanni, K 527, Act II (excerpt)
Così fan tutte, K 588 (excerpts)
Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), K. 620, Act II: Allegro
Ave verum corpus, K 618
6 German Dances, K 600 (No 1 in C Major; No 3 in B-Flat Major; No 6 in D Major)
Kyrie in D minor, K 341
Piano Concerto No 27 in B flat major, Op 17, K 595 (I. Allegro)
String Quintet No 6 in E flat major, K 614 (I. Allegretto di molto, IV. Allegro)
Fantasia in F minor for mechanical organ, K 608 (arr. for wind quintet)
La Clemenza di Tito, K 621, Act I: Quintetto con poro)
Clarinet Concerto in A major, K 622 (I. Allegro, II. Adagio)
Requiem in D minor, K 626 (completed by F.X. Sussmayr)(except)

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Iain Chambers

For full track listings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here:

from Composer of the Week

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