Author Topic: The Roger Sessions  (Read 11740 times)

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Offline Leo K.

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The Roger Sessions
« Reply #20 on: January 27, 2013, 07:51:48 AM »
I just acquired the symphonies of Roger Sessions on a whim, haven't heard Session's music, but I have a good feeling about these works, don't have the disks in front of me at the moment, but will report back when I can.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #21 on: January 27, 2013, 09:24:37 AM »
I just acquired the symphonies of Roger Sessions on a whim, haven't heard Session's music, but I have a good feeling about these works, don't have the disks in front of me at the moment, but will report back when I can.

Ahh, I was JUST listening to Symphony No.3, the first American 12-tone Symphony. Sessions's trademark is a 'rocking' theme that can be discerned at the beginnings of Nos.3 and 5, and the Piano Concerto.

I assume you also got the Davies set of 6/7/9? That is ONE meaty record there! ;)

Also, No.8 is a perfect distillation of his style.

Also, 4-5 on NewWorld.

No.2 is a wonderful Symphony from the '40s. Non-fans would do well to look here (Blomstedt on Decca!). No.1 I don't like at all.


I find a lot of similarities between Sessions and Pettersson, though, Sessions has NONE of the lyrical interludes,... yet, Sessions's tumult is a lot more controlled than AGP's. I hope you 'take' to Sessions: no one else around here seems to like him.
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Offline Leo K.

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #22 on: January 27, 2013, 09:48:33 AM »
Ahh, I was JUST listening to Symphony No.3, the first American 12-tone Symphony. Sessions's trademark is a 'rocking' theme that can be discerned at the beginnings of Nos.3 and 5, and the Piano Concerto.

I assume you also got the Davies set of 6/7/9? That is ONE meaty record there! ;)

Also, No.8 is a perfect distillation of his style.

Also, 4-5 on NewWorld.

No.2 is a wonderful Symphony from the '40s. Non-fans would do well to look here (Blomstedt on Decca!). No.1 I don't like at all.


I find a lot of similarities between Sessions and Pettersson, though, Sessions has NONE of the lyrical interludes,... yet, Sessions's tumult is a lot more controlled than AGP's. I hope you 'take' to Sessions: no one else around here seems to like him.

Thanks snyprr, this is going to be a very interesting journey based on what I'm hearing now, this is my introduction to Sessions:



I am listening to the First Symphony on this recording. The first movement was a mind-blower. Instantly accessible, great rhythms, and good and loud. We need a modern recordings of these works, but this will fill the bill in the meantime. The piccolo drives the finale by dancing demonically over staccato horns and trading solos with oboe and clarinet. The Largo features a heart-rending string theme developed with patience and sensitivity. A pastoral theme for oboe lightens the mood somewhat until the string theme returns to end the movement in despair. His neoclassical First (1927) shouldn't scare away anyone even mildly familiar with American symphonists like Piston. The energetic opening is rhythmically complex, yet contains the surreal woodwind interlude that I read would become a Sessions trademark.

Onwards to No.2 (1946)...The music contains solid statements of intent from a master of symphonic forces, no throwbacks to an old-fashioned musical tradition, nor a perverse anti-symphony meant to deconstruct the definition of vision, invention, and optimism for a more spacious artistic century. Can't wait to explore more!
« Last Edit: January 27, 2013, 09:58:23 AM by Leo K. »

Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #23 on: January 27, 2013, 03:27:48 PM »
Thanks snyprr, this is going to be a very interesting journey based on what I'm hearing now, this is my introduction to Sessions:



I am listening to the First Symphony on this recording. The first movement was a mind-blower. Instantly accessible, great rhythms, and good and loud. We need a modern recordings of these works, but this will fill the bill in the meantime. The piccolo drives the finale by dancing demonically over staccato horns and trading solos with oboe and clarinet. The Largo features a heart-rending string theme developed with patience and sensitivity. A pastoral theme for oboe lightens the mood somewhat until the string theme returns to end the movement in despair. His neoclassical First (1927) shouldn't scare away anyone even mildly familiar with American symphonists like Piston. The energetic opening is rhythmically complex, yet contains the surreal woodwind interlude that I read would become a Sessions trademark.

Onwards to No.2 (1946)...The music contains solid statements of intent from a master of symphonic forces, no throwbacks to an old-fashioned musical tradition, nor a perverse anti-symphony meant to deconstruct the definition of vision, invention, and optimism for a more spacious artistic century. Can't wait to explore more!

You'll be craving a digital No.3 when you're done. No.2 is well served on Decca.
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Offline Daverz

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #24 on: January 28, 2013, 03:01:43 AM »
You'll be craving a digital No.3 when you're done.

Really?  That RCA recording is very good, though I'm sure CRI's transfer is not the last word.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #25 on: January 28, 2013, 09:09:49 AM »
Really?  That RCA recording is very good, though I'm sure CRI's transfer is not the last word.

I'll admit that I came to the work through the LP, from the library, (can't remember), but the CRI transfer (if that's what it is) does make one long for DR Davies, and an Albany digital recording.

A digital 3rd might win Sessions some new listeners?
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Offline Daverz

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #26 on: January 28, 2013, 10:17:46 PM »
I'll admit that I came to the work through the LP, from the library, (can't remember), but the CRI transfer (if that's what it is) does make one long for DR Davies, and an Albany digital recording.

A digital 3rd might win Sessions some new listeners?

Yeah, I don't get it.  There are spectacular recordings of all the Gerhard symphonies, for example, on Lyrita and Chandos, but I just can't connect with his later works at all, for all their surface brilliance.  I find Sessions is much more accessible, but he seems to have acquired a forbidding reputation.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #27 on: January 29, 2013, 11:38:06 AM »
Yeah, I don't get it.  There are spectacular recordings of all the Gerhard symphonies, for example, on Lyrita and Chandos, but I just can't connect with his later works at all, for all their surface brilliance.  I find Sessions is much more accessible, but he seems to have acquired a forbidding reputation.

Well, around HERE :o... haha, it's you & me buddy!! ;) and Leo K., maybe springrite,... don't see MI here do ya?!?!?! ;D

Yes, if you can 'handle' Sessions, that's one thing, but to actively listen whilst driving and liking it, well, you are in an Elite Club fo' sho'!

(Do you have huge balls too? :o) :P

I'm about to pull for that No.8...
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Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #28 on: January 29, 2013, 01:44:53 PM »
I'm still wondering if even I have the testicular fortitude for that Divertimento/Idyll of Theocratus disc from the Lousiville(sic) folks? scurrred ???
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Offline Leo K.

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #29 on: February 02, 2013, 12:33:31 PM »
Still listening and amazed by Roger Sessions! Listeing to 3rd, 4th, and 5th symphonies (Dennis Russell Davies) at the moment.




Offline Daverz

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #30 on: February 03, 2013, 03:30:23 PM »
I'm still wondering if even I have the testicular fortitude for that Divertimento/Idyll of Theocratus disc from the Lousiville(sic) folks? scurrred ???

I saw rather nasty reviews, so I skipped that one.

Offline lescamil

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #31 on: February 03, 2013, 09:48:03 PM »
Yes, if you can 'handle' Sessions, that's one thing, but to actively listen whilst driving and liking it, well, you are in an Elite Club fo' sho'!

Actually, with me personally, I get my best listening done while driving. It also helps that I drive a few hundred miles a week and have plenty of things to listen to. Sessions has made its way on to my playlists on occasion. Great driving music!
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Offline Daverz

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #32 on: February 04, 2013, 07:02:44 AM »
Well, around HERE :o... haha, it's you & me buddy!! ;) and Leo K., maybe springrite,... don't see MI here do ya?!?!?! ;D

Yes, if you can 'handle' Sessions, that's one thing, but to actively listen whilst driving and liking it, well, you are in an Elite Club fo' sho'!

(Do you have huge balls too? :o) :P

I'm about to pull for that No.8...

Hmmm, I don't remember saying anything about listening to Sessions while driving.  I did mention in another thread that I had a tape of the Martin Violin Concerto in the car for a while.  I don't drive as much these days.

Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #33 on: February 04, 2013, 08:34:53 AM »
Hmmm, I don't remember saying anything about listening to Sessions while driving.  I did mention in another thread that I had a tape of the Martin Violin Concerto in the car for a while.  I don't drive as much these days.

I'm the driving listener!

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Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #34 on: February 05, 2013, 08:25:35 PM »
Again pulled out the Concerto for Piano (Piano Concerto?),... I do love Sessions's 'rocking' theme. It figures just about everywhere is his music, most notably here, Sympgies (?!?!?!) 3, 5, 8, and... mm...
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Offline Daverz

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #35 on: February 06, 2013, 05:32:16 PM »
Again pulled out the Concerto for Piano (Piano Concerto?),... I do love Sessions's 'rocking' theme. It figures just about everywhere is his music, most notably here, Sympgies (?!?!?!) 3, 5, 8, and... mm...

His music often reminds me of bebop.

Offline Leo K.

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The Roger Sessions
« Reply #36 on: February 07, 2013, 04:09:08 PM »
His music often reminds me of bebop.

That is a fantastic insight! Thanks for
that :)

Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #37 on: February 08, 2013, 09:07:07 AM »
His music often reminds me of bebop.

Whaaaaat?????? 'Splain. Isn't his music a little to jagged for that? That Ralph Shapey cd on CRI does have what sounds like... oh,... nevermind,... please, 'splain. :-[
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Offline Daverz

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #38 on: February 11, 2013, 05:33:32 PM »
Whaaaaat?????? 'Splain. Isn't his music a little to jagged for that? That Ralph Shapey cd on CRI does have what sounds like... oh,... nevermind,... please, 'splain. :-[

I'm talking about the post-Swing Jazz style called Bebop, not Gene Vincent, if that's the confusion.  It's probably a combination of Sessions use of brass, the rhythms he uses, and the the nervous energy of the music.

From Wikipedia:

"Bebop differed drastically from the straightforward compositions of the swing era, and was instead characterized by fast tempos, asymmetrical phrasing, intricate melodies, and rhythm sections that expanded on their role as tempo-keepers. The music itself seemed jarringly different to the ears of the public, who were used to the bouncy, organized, danceable tunes of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller during the swing era. Instead, bebop appeared to sound racing, nervous, and often fragmented."

« Last Edit: February 11, 2013, 05:38:20 PM by Daverz »

Offline snyprrr

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Re: The Roger Sessions
« Reply #39 on: May 18, 2013, 08:07:42 AM »
Symphony No.8 (1968)

At 14 minutes, this is Sessions' most concentrated work (in two movements). It begins with the most curious sounding shakers, sounding like a rake through sand, with the foreboding strings. I think there is another work where Sessions used these 'shakers'.

Apparently it is his only total serialist work? It certainly has no time to waste on anything, and is marked by an extreme tightness, which sometimes loosens its texture to reveal a little violin solo, or what have you. All the same Sessions signposts are here, including the xylophone, the etched orchestrations, with punctuating bass drum, the angular melodies and tight strings.

Symphonies 6-8 were Sessions' 'War Symphonies' (Vietnam), and one certainly hears the darkness in all three. No. 8 has a particular foreboding which feels like the aftermath to some great nuclear accident.

I realize as I'm writing that I can't tell one apart from the other (6-9; Concerto for Orchestra (Symphony 10)) because Sessions' language is so integrated that he obviously has to reuse all his tricks all the time. The main reason I used the last of my unemployment money on Sessions is because there's enough MEAT here to keep me busy so I don't fret about not having anything new to listen to. When the chips are down, go for a tough nut!
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