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Tag Archives: 1990s

Joseph Schwantner (b. 1943) is an American composer and teacher.  He grew up in Chicago playing guitar and tuba.  He had early success at composition, winning the National Band Camp Award in 1959 when he was just 16.  He went on to undergraduate studies at the American Conservatory in Chicago, then masters and doctoral work at Northwestern University, which he finished in 1968.  He has served on the faculties of the Eastman School, the Juilliard School, and Yale.  His compositions have won him the Pulitzer Prize (1979), several Grammy nominations, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  He is known for his eclectic combination of compositional techniques and his mystical orchestrations.  His important wind band works include …and the mountains rising nowhere (1977), From a Dark Millennium (1980), and In Evening’s Stillness (1996).

His Percussion Concerto first came into being as the Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra in 1994.  It was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for their 150th anniversary, and written with the percussionist Christopher Lamb as its intended soloist.  Lamb and the Philharmonic premiered the piece at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City on January 5, 1995.  It has subsequently been transcribed twice: once for two pianos and percussion, making it accessible to the recital repertoire, and again (by Andrew Boysen) for wind ensemble and percussion.  In both cases, the solo part is unaltered from the original.  The soloist uses an entire world of equipment in two different setups (behind the ensemble in the first and third movements, and dramatically in front in the second).  The three movements are motivically unified, making the piece a long development of a small amount of material.

Here is the wind band version by the University of Michigan Symphony Band (in three parts):

And the orchestral version, with Lamb as soloist:

Finally, here is the two piano version, with Bryan Hummel as soloist.  I had the privilege of conducting Bryan and the Arizona State University Symphony Orchestra in the first movement of the orchestra version on February 4, 2015.  He’s a pro, and it shows here!

Bonus: the composer and percussionist Evelyn Glennie discuss the piece, with some performance and rehearsal footage:

To learn more about the concerto itself, visit the Schott page, read the LA Philharmonic’s program notes, read Shawn Michael Hart’s dissertation about it, or see what the Boston Conservatory has to say.  Joseph Schwantner has a biography on Wikipedia and his own website.

Educated at the University of Michigan, composer Frank Ticheli (b. 1958) has become one of the biggest names in new wind band repertoire.  Since 1991 he has been a Professor of Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music and, until 1998, Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony.  He is the recipient of many awards, including first prize in the 2006 NBA/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest for his Symphony No. 2and a 2012 Arts and Letters Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Rest came about in two stages.  It was originally written as a choral piece, There Will Be Rest, composed in 1999 and based on a poem of the same name by Sara Teasdale.  According to Ticheli it was “dedicated to the memory of Cole Carsan St. Clair, the son of my dear friends, conductor Carl St. Clair and his wife, Susan.”  The band version came about in 2010, the result of a commission from Russel Mikkelson and his family in memory of their father, Elling Mikkelson.  Ticheli provides the following program note:

Created in 2010, Rest is a concert band adaptation of my work for SATB chorus, There Will Be Rest, which was commissioned in 1999 by the Pacific Chorale, John Alexander, conductor.

In making this version, I preserved almost everything from the original: harmony, dynamics, even the original registration.  I also endeavored to preserve carefully the fragile beauty and quiet dignity suggested by Sara Teasdale’s words.

However, with the removal of the text, I felt free to enhance certain aspects of the music, most strikingly with the addition of a sustained climax on the main theme.  This extended climax allows the band version to transcend the expressive boundaries of a straight note-for-note setting of the original.  Thus, both versions are intimately tied and yet independent of one another, each possessing its own strengths and unique qualities.

The original poem:

There will be rest, and sure stars shining
Over the roof-tops crowned with snow,
A reign of rest, serene forgetting,
The music of stillness holy and low.
I will make this world of my devising
Out of a dream in my lonely mind.
I shall find the crystal of peace, – above me
Stars I shall find.

The band version:

And the choral original:

You can look at a virtual score and hear a recording at the same time here.

Frank Ticheli’s personal website, Frankticheli.com.

Ticheli bio on Wikipedia.

Frank Ticheli’s Facebook fanclub.

A video interview with Ticheli in which he talks about composing.

Dr. Edward Green is an award-winning composer and music educator, as well as a prolific scholar in the field of music history.  He currently sits on the faculties of both the Manhattan School of Music and the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.  He has received numerous awards for his work.

He provides his own extensive notes, plus some additional biography, for his 1999 orchestral suite, Music for Shakespeare:

This orchestral suite was composed in 1999 and premiered by the Minnesota Sinfonia early in 2000. In 2013, Andy Pease gave it a parallel form for concert winds.

This suite grew out of incidental music Dr. Green had originally written to accompany Shakespearian productions by the Aesthetic Realism Theater Company—and throughout the writing of this music, he explained, he was inspired by this principle of Aesthetic Realism, which he learned from the great American philosopher Eli Siegel:  “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”

A key pair of opposites is old and new; in this music, the composer has said, he wanted to be true to both the Elizabethan spirit and the music of our own times.  With melody always in the forefront, the suite evokes the dances of Shakespeare’s day, and the rhythms of our own. As a result, the style is both heartfelt and surprising: serious, yet filled with warmth, charm, humor.

“Love Music” is the title to the opening movement, and its long-arched melody is in the bright tonality of E Lydian. “When I wrote this melody,” the composer has said, “I had in mind Shakespeare’s heroines and also my wife, the actress Carrie Wilson.  In fact, I wrote this melody immediately after seeing her in the role of Desdemona with the Aesthetic Realism Theater Company.”

The second movement is in five parts: a complete “Dance Suite” unto itself. It begins with an Elizabethan “Gigue”—only written not in the traditional 12/8 meter, but in a modernistic 11/8—which gives it delightful irregularity. It is followed by an “Air,” and then three dances which flow into each other: a “Galliard”—depicting some of Shakespeare’s more comic (and slightly drunken) characters, such as Sir Toby Belch—a “Pavane,” and then a “Rigadoon,” which is written in rousing five-bar phrases.

Music for Shakespeare is perhaps Edward Green’s most frequently performed orchestral work. But hardly his only one—for orchestras across the US and also in England, Russia, Argentina, Australia, the Czech Republic and several other countries have also performed such works as his Piano, Trumpet and Saxophone concertos, all three of which have appeared on commercial CDs. He has also written much chamber and choral music, and a Symphony for Band, which was jointly commissioned by a consortium of thirteen of America’s leading concert wind ensembles.  He is currently at work on a ballet based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, and on a symphony commissioned by the Catskill Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to his creative activities—which likewise includes work as a film composer in collaboration with the Emmy Award-winning director Ken Kimmelman—Edward Green is also an active music educator.  He teaches at Manhattan School of Music, where he is a professor in the departments of Composition, Music History, and Jazz, and also at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation. Trained in Ohio (Oberlin Conservatory) and New York (NYU), he has appeared as a guest composer and lecturer throughout Europe and both North and South America.  He is editor of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington, and was editor of China and the West: The Birth of a New Music (Shanghai Conservatory Press).

Among his many professional honors is the Zoltan Kodaly Composers’ Award, and a 2009 Grammy nomination for his Piano Concertino (Best Contemporary Classical Composition). He also was the recipient, in 2004, of the highly sought-after Music Alive! Award from the American Symphony Orchestra League.

In putting together the wind band version of Music for Shakespeare, I retained the opening “Love Music” as a separate movement and split the second “Dance Suite” movement into its five component dances: “Gigue”, “Air”, “Galliard”, “Pavane”, and “Rigadoon”, of which the last three run together attacca.  I made several key adjustments, so that the “Love Music” is now in E-flat rather than E, and the final four movements are down a whole step from where they began, putting them in more wind-friendly keys.  I also rebarred the “Gigue” from 11/8 to a mix of 5/8 and 6/8, making it easier for players (and hopefully conductors) to interpret the length of each beat.  At every step, I was in contact with Dr. Green, who approved all of the changes and endorsed the final product.

Listen to a MIDI mock-up below.  Feel free, also, to read along in the score (.pdf):

Here is the Arizona State University Concert Band performing the first movement, “Love Music”, on March 1, 2014.  Please excuse the trumpet-heavy mix, owing to the camera placement:

As Green said, the orchestral version has been performed around the world.  The band version will have its first partial airing by the Arizona State University Concert Band on Saturday, March 1 on the ASU campus.  Anyone else who is interested performing it should contact me: misterpease “at” gmail.com.

Dr. Green has an extensive website that includes his full biography.  I recommend exploring the site a good deal.  His scholarly articles are probing and very accessible.  The site also has mp3s of several of his compositions, including this recording of the orchestral Music for Shakespeare (scroll to the bottom to find it).  These are very much worth a listen as window into his style.

Dr. Green’s faculty page at the Manhattan School of Music.

His faculty page at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.

Larry Daehn (b. 1939) is a composer, teacher, and music educator from Wisconsin.  Daehn’s program notes for As Summer Was Just Beginning (Song for James Dean) (1994) are moving and descriptive, so I defer to him:

I liken him to a kind of star, or a comet that fell through the sky, and everybody talks about it yet today. – Julie Harris

He seems to capture that moment of youth … where we’re all desperately seeking to find ourselves. – Dennis Hopper

He is not our hero because he was perfect, but because he perfectly represented the damaged but beautiful soul of our time. – Andy Warhol

James Byron Dean (1931 – 1955) experienced the brightest and briefest movie career ever. In 16 months he made three movies: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. Only the first had been released when he was killed in a car accident at age 24. His death on September 30, 1955, sparked an unparalleled outpouring of sorrow. For three years after his death, Warner Brothers received more letters to him than to any living actor.

And the James Dean phenomenon has never really ended. Thousands still come to the little town of Fairmount, Indiana, to see the farm where he grew up and to visit his grave there. His familiar image appears worldwide on posters and T-shirts. He has been the subject of many books, songs, TV documentaries, plays, movies, and hundreds of magazine articles. Forty years after his death, James Dean is still a hero to his own generation and to succeeding generations who keep his legend alive.

People were robbed of him. Whenever you’re robbed of something, it lingers with you. – Martin Landau

A bronze bust of James Dean by artist Kenneth Kendall stands near Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, California. There is a Greek inscription on the right shoulder which, when translated reads, “As Summer Was Just Beginning.” This sentiment, from a painting by John La Farge, is a Greek epitaph concerning the death of a young person. I chose it as the title for this piece.

I loosely based the main melody (heard at the beginning and at measures 33 and 57) on an old British Isles folksong, “The Winter it is past, and the Summer’s here at last.” I chose it because Dean’s Quaker heritage goes back to England, Ireland and Scotland, and because this simple bittersweet song about summer seemed appropriate for remembering James Dean.

The North Texas Wind Symphony presents As Summer Was Just Beginning with near perfection, as usual:

More on the piece at Literature for Small Bands (an excellent resource!) and a University of Michigan report (.doc).

As he says in the program notes, Daehn based As Summer Was Just Beginning on the British Isles folk song “The Winter it is past“.  Here is a sung rendition of that:

David Holsinger was born in Hardin, Missouri, December 26, 1945. His compositions have won four major competitions, including a two time ABA Ostwald Award. His compositions have also been finalists in both the DeMoulin and Sudler competitions.  He holds degrees from Central Methodist College, Fayette, Missouri, and Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg. Holsinger has completed course work for a DMA at the University of Kansas. The composer was recently honored by Gustavus Adolphus College with the awarding of a Doctor of Humane Letters Degree for lifetime achievement in composition and the Gustavus Fine Arts Medallion, the division’s highest honor, designed and sculpted by renowned artist, Paul Granlund. Holsinger, as the fourth composer honored with this medal, joins a distinguished roster which includes Gunther Schuller, Jan Bender, and Csada Deak. Holsinger is the Conductor of the Wind Ensemble at Lee University, in Cleveland, Tennessee.

(short biography courtesy http://americanbandmasters.org/award/HOLSINGER.HTM)

Some more of my own thoughts on Holsinger: he is nothing if not a prolific composer for band. While he has his occassional tics (ostinatos, an “everything including the kitchen sink” approach to percussion), his music is consistently thrilling to play. His faster pieces blaze by in a whirlwind of excitement, and his slower numbers are thoughtful and genuinely beautiful. It is for these reasons that he is a favorite of players and audiences alike.

Holsinger has his own website: davidrholsinger.com, which answers really ANY questions you might possibly have about him, including a fascinating testimonial about the search for his birth mother. There is much multi-media content as well, including videos of him ruminating on expressive performance.  Definitely check it out!  Also, Absolute Astronomy did an extensive profile on him that is worth a look.

Holsinger provides his own program notes for 1994’s Gypsydance:

Once again this composer draws inspiration from his admiration of the piano works of Bela Bartok for young players.  Many times in the early “Mikrokosmos“, we find Bartok attempting to free [his son] Peter’s mind from the “box” mentality by shifting accents in established meters or, as is done in Holsinger’s GYPSYDANCE, shifting keys within a single key signature.  The key signature says E-flat, but no… we obviously start in F minor, hop and skip our way through the home key… and end the piece in B-flat!  GYPSYDANCE also lets the student stylistically explore parallel staccato and full value melodic lines.

Holsinger goes on with learning objectives about style and tonality/modality.  To paraphrase: students should be able to play eighth and quarter notes in staccato, accented, and non-legato (regular, unmarked) style.  The piece explores modes, particularly F dorian and E-flat major (ionian), and it includes a scale exercise for wind players to help spell that out.

A middle school plays an admirable performance of Gypsydance:

For professional recording, see the J.W. Pepper page about the piece.  Also see GIA publications and this extensive lesson plan for more information about the piece.

Bartok’s Mikrokosmos, from which Holsinger drew his inspiration, is a progressive piano method spanning six volumes that begins with the very simplest melodies and progresses to full-fledged virtuoso concert pieces.  It uses Hungarian folk songs for much of its melodic material.  Here are some examples from volume 2:

Flautist and composer Anne McGinty (b. 1945) writes prolifically for bands of all levels, especially elementary and middle school.  She studied at Ohio State University and Duquesne University, where her teachers included Joseph Wilcox Jenkins.  Among many other honors in her career, she was the first female composer to be commissioned to write for the United States Army Band.  She has recently opened her own publishing company, McGinty Music.

From the conductor’s score of Clouds (1994):

   CLOUDS is an original composition based on the imagery of different cloud forms.  The first section depicts cirrus clouds, the white delicate clouds usually found at high altitudes.  Thunderclouds begin at measure 23 and the accents and tone clusters are used to symbolize the increasing electricity associated with these thunder and lightning producing clouds.  Eventually the sun comes out and the sky has the rounded cumulus clouds that gracefully float away.

See more about the piece at WynnLiterature and the Wind Repertory Project.  Also, watch this great performance by a sixth grade band:

Clouds  depicts three different types of clouds: the cirrus, thundercloud, and cumulus.  Cirrus are long, thin, and whispy:

What McGinty calls “Thunderclouds” are known scientifically as cumulonimbus clouds.  They are tall, dense, and unstable, which makes them produce rain, lightning and thunder:

Cumulus clouds are the cumulonimbus’s fluffier, happier cousins. They do not tend to produce rain:

See more about Anne McGinty at Queenwood, MySpace, Wikibin, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Conductor Leonard Slatkin described Ron Nelson (b. 1929) thusly:  “Nelson is the quintessential American composer.  He has the ability to move between conservative and newer styles with ease.  The fact that he’s a little hard to categorize is what makes him interesting.”  This quality has helped Nelson gain wide recognition as a composer.  Nowhere are his works embraced more than in the band world, where he won the “triple crown” of composition prizes in 1993 for his Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H).  An Illinois native, Nelson received his composition training at the Eastman School of Music and went on to a distinguished career on the faculty of Brown University.

Nelson wrote Courtly Airs and Dances in 1995 on commission from the Hill Country Middle School Band in Austin, Texas, and their director Cheryl Floyd.  It is dedicated to that same group.  About the piece, Nelson writes:

Courtly Airs and Dances is a suite of Renaissance dances which were characteristic to five European countries during the 1500s. Three of the dances (Basse Dance, Pavane, and Allemande) are meant to emulate the music of Claude Gervaise by drawing on the style of his music as well as the characteristics of other compositions from that period. The festival opens with a fanfare-like Intrada followed by the Basse Danse (France), Pavane (England), Saltarello (Italy), Sarabande (Spain), and Allemande (Germany).

Ron Nelson’s website.

Ron Nelson on Wikipedia.

There are some great, free educational resources on Courtly Airs and Dances, including this article and analysis, this vocabulary sheet, and this quiz.  It is also featured on the Wind Repertory Project.

The San Francisco School of the Arts Wind Ensemble in a live performance:

Nelson uses a different Renaissance style for each movement.  The Intrada is entrance music, designed to begin a suite of music or serve for an entry procession.  This performance of an Intrada by German composer Christoph Demantius captures that spirit:

Nelson based his Intrada on Claude Gervaise’s Fanfare allemande (more on that later).

In general, a basse danse is in a slow and elegant 6/4 or 3/2, allowing for the use of hemiola.  Here is a reasonably authentic example of an early basse danse:

Nelson took his Basse Danse almost verbatim from Gervaise.  Here is another arrangement of it by the Belgium Brass:

The pavane is similar to a basse danse, being a slow and stately dance, but in duple meter and often faster.  Again, Nelson borrowed fairly directly from Gervaise:

The dance would have looked something like this:

The saltarello was a lively jumping dance whose specific steps have been lost.  Nelson wrote an original melody for his Saltarello, not relying on Gervaise.  Here is what a Renaissance saltarello may have sounded like:

The sarabande appears to have originated in the Spanish colonies in Central America before returning to Spain itself.  It was declared obscene and banned there in 1583.  It was in 3/4 time with the second and third beats often tied together, giving the rhythm a step-drag feel.  Nelson’s Sarabande relies on original material.  This sarabande example comes from the Baroque era, but it still demonstrates the rhythmic characteristics of the dance:

The allemande was a dance named in France for its supposed origin in Germany (the name means “German” in French).  It was a moderately fast duple meter dance that may have looked something like this:

Nelson again borrowed from Gervaise for this movement.  Here is a children’s flute choir version of Gervaise’s original:

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Eric Ewazen (b. 1954) is a composer and teacher at the Juilliard School in New York City, where he has been on the faculty since 1980.  He studied at Juilliard and the Eastman School of Music with Samuel Adler, Milton Babbitt, Joseph Schwantner, Gunther Schuller, and Warren Benson.  His works, which have won him many awards, have been performed and recorded by prestigious ensembles and artists all over the world.

Celtic Hymns and Dances was one of the very first pieces I conducted with the Columbia Wind Ensemble, and for that reason it holds a special place in my heart.  It is an entirely original work, not based on any specific Celtic folk tunes, but rather on a generally Celtic feel.  Says Ewazen in the score:

Celtic Hymns and Dances was commissioned by and is dedicated to James Fudale and the Berea (Ohio) High School Symphonic Winds who premiered the work in March 1990. The one movement work draws its inspiration from medieval and renaissance music. Although the melodies and themes are original creations, the modal harmony, the characteristically energetic rhythms and the use of colorful wind orchestration calls to mind music of ancient times. Within the piece one finds pastoral ballads, heroic fanfares and joyful dances culminating in a lively sonorous finale.

The recording that Ewazen’s publisher uses to promote the piece:

Eric Ewazen has a Wikipedia page and his own web site.  He is also featured in interviews with the Juilliard Journal and Bruce Duffie, and on the Luncheon Project.  There is a great entry on Celtic Hymns and Dances on the Wind Repertory Project.  It also features prominently in this extensive paper by Darren Brooks (scroll down to page 63 for the Celtic Hymns section).

Buffalo native Rossano Galante (b. 1967) is known for several short, energetic overtures for band including The Redwoods, Resplendent Glory, and Transcendent Journey.  He studied with Jerry Goldsmith at the prestigious film scoring program at the University of Southern California.  He continues to receive commissions from bands around the United States and to work as an orchestrator of film scores.

Galante wrote Raise of the Son in 1998.  From the score:

Galante likes music with variety and a lot of climaxes.  “With Raise, I wanted something to rise and fall and then rise again to exhibit a splendid reaffirmation of the work’s best moments.” There are two primary themes with a recapitulation of the first.

The title is a play on words.  Without seeing the words, one would think of the morning sunrise and transcendent sun’s rays.  Upon seeing the words, however, one is immediately drawn to the Resurrection.  Both are very stimulating and dramatic images and fit nicely into the overall feeling of the music.

With its opening fanfare, the work evolves to an intense climax only to withdraw to a more melodic and flowing second theme.  At precisely the right moment, the second theme builds once more a final uplifting climax as in raising of the son, or sun.

Galante’s most extensive biography exists on Alfred.  He also has an IMDb page.

This band takes Raise of the Son at exactly the right tempo.  Any faster, and the 32nd-note subdivisions that pop up throughout the piece become nearly impossible to play either accurately or musically.  Any slower, and it loses the forward energy that it needs.

This piece is a senior choice for bassoonist Jimmy Caldarese ’13.

William Himes (b. 1949) is an American composer of works primarily for wind band, specializing in music for young bands.  He received his education at the University of Michigan.  He has been the music director of the Salvation Army‘s Central Territory since 1977, overseeing their operations throughout the Midwest and conducting the Chicago Staff Band.  This band, like much of Himes’s music, has been heard all over the world.

Barbarossa is one of those ideal young band (grade 2, in this case) pieces that doesn’t sound like it was written for young band.  The musical ideas unfold seamlessly and without sounding limited by technical considerations.  Himes wrote Barbarossa in 1995.  It is inspired by the World War II operation of the same name.  From the score:

By the summer of 1940, World War II was well under way.  Much of Europe was occupied by German troops, and resilient Great Britain was being battered by Germany at sea and from the air.  German dictator Adolf Hitler, along with his generals, now began making plans to invade the Soviet Union.  Germany’s invasion plan was named Operation Barbarossa.

The German invasion on the morning of June 22, 1941 went largely unchallenged, because Russian commanders had orders not to provoke the Germans.  Human casualties and equipment losses were high.  Quickly, however, Russian opposition became much more determined and ferocious, and on July 3, Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union, called upon all Russian citizens to fight fervently against the invasion.  The people responded unselfishly.

Adolf Hitler craved the capture of Russia’s capital, Moscow, but the autumn rains had begun to fall, and roads were turning to mud.  By the end of October, rivers had flooded and muddy roads and fields were next to impassable.  Cloudy conditions limited visibility and reduced the number of air attacks by German bombers.  The weather, and the reorganization of the Russian Air Force, helped to slow the German invasion to less than two miles per day.  Yet it was the spirit of the Russian people that continued to provide the strongest defense.

By November, the forces of winter began to prevail.  Hitler, hoping for a Moscow victory by the end of the year, risked sending his troops through the winter elements to advance on the Russian capital.  By the end of the month, the Germans surrounded Moscow 20 miles outside the city, but that was as close as they were able to get.  The Germans lacked warm clothing and food.  Their machine guns froze, and engines had to be kept running, wasting valuable food supplies.  The attack was called off on December 5, 1941.

The next day, the Russians went on the offensive.  Soldiers brought in from Siberia were well prepared for the harsh conditions.  Weapons were winterized with low-temperature oil.  Russian troops were equipped with white winter gear and thick boots, and could withstand -40 Farenheit temperatures for hours.  They achieved great success against the Germans, who were exhausted by the severe weather conditions.  By the end of December, the Russians had recaptured much of the territory lost in the previous months.

None of this would have happened if Hitler had just listened to the lessons of history, namely the very similar conditions under which Napoleon retreated from Russia with his French Army, famously dramatized by Tchaikovsky in the 1812 Overture.  Himes’s approach is not as literal as Tchaikovsky’s.  Barbarossa begins briskly and powerfully, with a unison minor-key shout.  It sustains a nervous energy until a slower, expressive melody takes over.  The agitation of the opening eventually returns, leading to a grandiose finish.

Read more about William Himes and Operation Barbarossa.  Fun fact: “Barbarossa” means “red beard” in Italian, so there was a Holy Roman Emperor with a red beard who went by that nickname in the 12th century.

A professional recording of Barbarossa: