Author Topic: The Roger Sessions  (Read 10728 times)

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Offline snyprrr

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The Roger Sessions
« on: March 16, 2009, 07:33:00 PM »
This is in response to the lack of interest in the Ralph Shapey thread.

Roger Sessions.
After my initial dislike (I didn't like ANY scary music back then), and my subsequent full circle, I found Sessions to be one of the few composers I could get my "complexity" fix from.

Still not a big fan of Black Maskers and Sym no.1, but starting with Sym. no2 (mid 40s) his style begins to congeal.

Then, in the 50s, he adopted the 12tone with the Solo Violin Sonata, Str. Qrt no.2, Sym no.3, Piano Cto, and Str Quintet. He developed a "rocking" motive that he used many times (Sym 3, Sym 5, Piano cto) to great effect, and I find this his "caling card." I believe there is also a chamber orch piece from this era (on Pheonix cd w/Crumb) which I've only heard snippets of.

The Argo cd with Sym. 6,7 & 9, to me, is a high point for this kind of stuff (4-5 on NewWorld). Really gritty, huge, 1960s symphonies written and sounding like they came from a post-JFK/Vietnam world. To ME, IMO, the complimentary composer is Pettersson of Sym 9 and 13, meaning, there seems to be about as many notes in each (a very lot!), and the same kind of angst.

Only Sym no8 have I not heard, though recently recorded on NewWorld.

All the chamber/piano music has been recorded on Koch (except qrt. no2) in committed performances. The first qrt (1937) has a very Germanic, dark 1930s sound...Hindemith, Krenek, Hartmann??...maybe still early Pettersson (1940s). If anyone wants, I'll itemize the chamber, but not right now. 
The masterpiece is string quartet no.2. Along with Carter's first...just compare the two to see the wealth of ideas in 1951-2. I just can't say enough about this qrt. It is my fav to listen to around early dusk. And the VoxBox is infinitely preferable to the Julliard's dry acoustic on CRI, though the Julliards have some interesting touches.

Lilacs and the opera I have yet to hear.

cto. for orchestra, his last piece, received an awesome Hyperion recording w/Ozawa. I DO appreciate composers who retain their crankiness to the bitter end!

I might be missing something here, but top 3:

Str. Qrt no2
Piano cto.
Sym. no3

and for accumulative effect, dig it, Sessions=Pettersson. There, I said it.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2011, 08:51:28 PM by snyprrr »
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Re: Roger SESSIONS
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2009, 08:02:25 PM »
Sessions=Pettersson. There, I said it.
That is such an odd juxtaposition in my mind... I will have to give it some thought.  :o

Offline springrite

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Re: Roger SESSIONS
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2009, 08:06:12 PM »
Sessions=Pettersson. There, I said it.

No.
Session: Cranky, but not much pain and suffering.
Pettersson: Lots of pain and suffering, but not that cranky.

Session is one of those composers I like but do not love. Have loads of his stuff. Only listened to some of his chamber music lately.
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Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger SESSIONS
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2009, 10:34:23 PM »
yes, i see what you say...cranky vs. suffrnin

but the general level of "tension" seems about...

and maybe the "monumental" aspects of both. though the monumental qualities of R. Simpson are totally different altogether (COSMIC)

maybe i was thinking to much of Pettersson's "Symph. Mvmt." (1979), only about 11min., not enough time for him to sad-out. however, i DO see a link between Honegger and Pettersson's Sym. 2-3 (of course).

i hope everyone does not hone in on that one quote, heehee.
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #4 on: March 17, 2009, 06:51:44 AM »
Roger Sessions...hmm :-\

I have tried very hard with Sessions. Collected all the symphonies, the piano and violin concertos, the Cantata 'When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd', the Idyll of Theocritus for soprano and orchestra. He was a composer and teacher of huge intelligence and considerable influence but his music, even during his lifetime, was more respected than loved I would guess. It is not easy music(no reason why it should be, of course) but not easy for orchestras to play either. And a lot more complex and intractable than Pettersson's too :)

I like the American symphonists-Harris, Hanson, Piston, Schuman, Mennin, Diamond etc-but Sessions I just find too hard a nut to crack, I am afraid :(

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #5 on: March 17, 2009, 07:03:14 AM »
I applaud your fairness, Colin!

I've long been curious about Sessions, but his music and I have simply never happaned to be in the same place at the same time.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2009, 05:49:23 PM »
I recommend the Argo disc with syms. 6,7, & 9, though, there IS nothing easy to it.

Still, the most communicative pieces are Str. Qrt. no2, Sym. no3, and the Piano cto, and to a lesser extent, Sym. no2 (great recording by Blomstedt on london).

If Ferneyhough is the "New" complexity, is Sessions the "old"? I am surprised that not more people are....

Is there a composer MORE unfriendly? Is Sessions the last word in tuff nutz? I'm confused, cause i kind of think of him as a walk in the park (albeit during a thunderstorm).  I'm not THAT out there, am I?
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Offline some guy

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2009, 09:27:30 PM »
The Concertino for chamber orchestra (the one coupled with the Crumb Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death) is a very nice piece indeed. Both pieces are, for that matter.

As I hear it, Sessions is the easiest of the American symphonists to listen to over and over again. I love Piston dearly, but I have to leave long stretches in between listenings, or it just gets tedious. Same with Schuman. Schuman has the one or two tricks, tricks I love very much, but I can't listen to two pieces by Schuman back to back without getting restless. "Yes, yes, I've heard that already."

I don't know if what I just said about me is any help or not for someone else approaching Sessions. It's not difficult, I don't find. Various and interesting. Always some new little surprise.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2009, 12:48:01 AM »
ahh, finally...

see? Sessions IS the easiest u.s. composer to listen to!!!!!
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Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2009, 09:23:41 AM »
ahh, finally...

see? Sessions IS the easiest u.s. composer to listen to!!!!!

I beg to differ ;D

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2009, 09:33:43 AM »
I don't mind a little push-back from the music  0:)

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2011, 07:49:46 PM »
I don't mind a little push-back from the music  0:)

mmm... 2 years :(


I was enjoying his Piano Sonata No.1,... wondering how it might compare with Persichetti...






I'm liking RS more than Pettersson these days,... I feel they 'sound' alike to me,... but Sessions is detached,... I'm having a hard time with those time spans and RS fits the bill with densely packed movements of reasonable length.

I'm listening to RS about 3-5 times a year,... was enjoying the Concerto for Orchestra (Ozawa/Hyperion), it's not really any mellower than the rest, but the closing pages do reveal an autumnal poetry, in the Sessions vernacular of course. The sound is is ripe!
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2011, 08:32:51 AM »
I'm very fond of Roger Sessions's music, particularly the symphonies.  I actually find his music fairly easy to follow and enjoy, in contrast to, say, Carter or Gerhard.  Perhaps Sessions is just more on my wavelength.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2011, 06:41:33 PM »
I'm very fond of Roger Sessions's music, particularly the symphonies.  I actually find his music fairly easy to follow and enjoy, in contrast to, say, Carter or Gerhard.  Perhaps Sessions is just more on my wavelength.

Thinking back to '60's Carter, and yea, he is pretty gnarly then. I am gearing up for the Gerhard Symphonies... haven't heard them yet,... but I can't imagine me not liking them.

Would you care to tell your fav Sesssions Symphonies? 3 & 5 HAVE MY FAVORITE 'ROCKING' THEME (whooops!). No.4 is just a touch lighter, and I do struggle a bit with 6,7 & 9, which are on that Argo disc. No.8 is on YouTube in both recordings, and that one may be the best of all.
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Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #14 on: October 03, 2011, 06:01:25 AM »
tap tap tap tap tap...


I'm not letting you go until you tell me how much you love Roger Sessions!! :-*
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #15 on: October 03, 2011, 01:03:43 PM »
Thinking back to '60's Carter, and yea, he is pretty gnarly then. I am gearing up for the Gerhard Symphonies... haven't heard them yet,... but I can't imagine me not liking them.

Would you care to tell your fav Sesssions Symphonies? 3 & 5 HAVE MY FAVORITE 'ROCKING' THEME (whooops!). No.4 is just a touch lighter, and I do struggle a bit with 6,7 & 9, which are on that Argo disc. No.8 is on YouTube in both recordings, and that one may be the best of all.

3 was the one that first grabbed me when I heard it on an RCA Lp.   After that, the New World CD with 4 & 5 is really good.  I think all the symphonies are now available on CD in stereo at arkivmusic and other places.  Collect them all.  There are also some broadcasts floating about, such as a broadcast of 2 by Previn and of 7 by Martinon. 

 
« Last Edit: October 06, 2011, 07:09:34 AM by Daverz »

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #16 on: October 03, 2011, 08:00:41 PM »
3 was the one that first grabbed me when I heard on an RCA Lp.   After that, the New World CD with 4 & 5 is really good.  I think all the symphonies are now available on CD in stereo at arkivmusic and other places.  Collect them all.  There are also some broadcasts floating about, such as a broadcast of 2 by Previn and of 7 by Martinon.

7 by Martinon sounds interesting.

Did I forget to mention that I really like No.2 also? Blomstedt is tops here. What a great '40s Symphony, with a slow movemenrt inspired by the death of Roosevelt.

I must say though that I didn't like No.1 at all and haven't returned to it.
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Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #17 on: October 05, 2011, 08:05:50 PM »
     I've been listening to Sessions all week, and, my, how the tensions so rarely lets up! I'm finding Sessions extremely lucid in his development, with each strand standing out. He seems to only have portions playing at a time, so things almost move by like a kaleidoscope.

The atmosphere may not necessarily always be oppressive, but is frankly astounding at the stringency Sessions evokes. The strings always seem to be coming from some overheated thriller, and Sessions like instruments like the xylophone, though, amazingly, he does not evoke your typical stereotypes. Sessions's peculiarities are unique, as his use of maracas and tambourine like sounds, lots of almost strange hissing sounds coming from the percussions and the winds and brass.

The emotions in Sessions always seem detached, like a meta-emotion, a yearning for the Nation in Time of Crisis. More and more he seems like the antipode to Pettersson.
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Offline Daverz

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2011, 11:23:14 AM »
7 by Martinon sounds interesting.

Did I forget to mention that I really like No.2 also? Blomstedt is tops here. What a great '40s Symphony, with a slow movemenrt inspired by the death of Roosevelt.

You might still be able to get the Previn here:

http://boomboomsky.blogspot.com/2009/06/roger-sessions-symphonies-nos2-7.html

If not, let me know.

Quote
I must say though that I didn't like No.1 at all and haven't returned to it.

This one is overdue for a new recording.  As are most of the symphonies, really.  I wonder why the usual suspects like Naxos, CPO, Chandos, Albany etc. haven't stepped up.  It's not like they haven't recorded difficult music before.  But perhaps the music is very difficult to play.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: Roger Sessions
« Reply #19 on: October 06, 2011, 08:40:08 PM »
You might still be able to get the Previn here:

http://boomboomsky.blogspot.com/2009/06/roger-sessions-symphonies-nos2-7.html

If not, let me know.

This one is overdue for a new recording.  As are most of the symphonies, really.  I wonder why the usual suspects like Naxos, CPO, Chandos, Albany etc. haven't stepped up.  It's not like they haven't recorded difficult music before.  But perhaps the music is very difficult to play.

Thanks, and yea, Davies should do No.3 at least for Albany most likely.

I was just listening to that 'Symphoniae Cum Fluxae'(?) :o by Carter and noticed a similarity to Sessions, though the difference was striking also. Sounded like Sessions No.13.
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