Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 60666 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #320 on: November 21, 2017, 07:00:58 AM »
As bad as Severin Anton Averdonk's text for LvB's Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II? That one is downright awful!


That's one LvB work I've not heard, so I can't say.  If I do listen to it, I think I shall ignore the text, which is what I did during the second listen to the Kraus.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #321 on: November 28, 2017, 06:19:37 AM »



Songs of fire and ice.  Not from George RR Martin, but from Spanish baroque composer Cristóbal Galán, who lived from 1624-ish to 1684.  This disc of a dozen songs, for solo, duo, or trio of varying combinations of one tenor and two sopranos, with some spoken word tossed in, is a delight.  Though written during a religious period of Spanish history and ostensibly religious in nature, the song subjects and words tip more to the profane side of the sacred-profane continuum, though by modern standards the texts are elliptical and not really racy.  And they are all pretty much peppy.  Even the slower, more somber-ish pieces have rhythmic verve.  Galán basically took Renaissance forms (eg, madrigals), used some then contemporary texts, and wrote some lightly but expertly scored, often dance-like, often triple time music.  The effect is unexpectedly energizing, and unquestionably attractive.  It appears that the song selection and order was put together by violinist and Accentus Austria director Thomas Wimmer.  Whatever the case, as assembled and performed, everything works.  The instrumentalists are all very fine, and the singers sound just nifty. 

As with every other DHM recording I've heard, extremely high production standards are evident throughout.  Sound quality rivals the good stuff from Jordi Savall on Alia Vox, with true timbers and superb, often realistic dynamics.  The oft used baroque guitar sounds very fine, and the occasionally used baroque harp sounds so good that it almost successfully pulls off the "you are there" trick. 
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #322 on: December 05, 2017, 06:21:56 AM »



Some local fare!  The Oregon State University Wind Ensemble put together its own disc of four works, recorded on campus down in the Corn Valley.  (Rarely are Graduate Assistants mentioned in disc credits.)  The four pieces by four composers were written between 2008 and 2013, with the last, The Vistas of America, written on commission by the Ensemble's leader Christopher Chapman.

The first work, and title track, is OSU prof Dana Reason's Currents, inspired by the Northwest Pacific Ocean (meaning the Oregon and Washington coasts).  Almost a stylistic throwback to some 19th Century fare, the brief work is tumultuous and vibrant.  One can almost envision the Devil's Punchbowl at high tide, or waves pounding Haystack Rock during a winter storm.  The piece is entertaining enough, if not necessarily a masterpiece.  The composer uses the instruments at her disposal quite effectively and extracts more color than one might expect.

The second work, Upriver, by Dan Welcher, is an historically informed programmatic work.  Inspired by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and using tunes found in Meriwether Lewis' journals, Welcher crafts a continuous 14'31" piece infused with folk tunes, old style fiddling from the solo violinist, and proto-Copland soundscapes.  It sounds like a movie soundtrack, but one well crafted to accompany an historically accurate flick. 

The third work - the Double Concertino for Tenor Saxophone, Tuba, and Band by Luis Cardoso - is the only non-programmatic piece on the disc.  Very heavily influenced by jazz, the piece has some rhythmic swagger to it in the first movement, a sort of hymnal-like quality to the second in the first half, swelling to a powerful climax, and a return to rhythmic swagger in the third.  The piece also allows the listener to hear the tubist play the higher registers of his instrument, something one doesn't encounter every day.  Stylistically, it very much sounds like tightened up, more idiomatically informed Erwin Schulhoff.  I can't say it's better than Schulhoff's wind music, because the Czech blended in other traditions and then popular ideas, but it is probably the best overall work on the disc.

The disc closes with The Vistas of America, by Billy Childs.  In five movements, each representing a different "section" of the US, it moves west from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  One can hear some jazz, some grandiose, juiced-up Copland (or maybe trimmed down Ruggles), some Stravinsky, and other not quite generic, not quite readily identifiable influences.  It's pretty good, but it ain't a masterpiece, neither.

Sound is generally very good, but it cannot be called SOTA.  Efficient is probably a better word.  Playing is generally excellent.  This was one of a trio of three buck discs that I figured I could ditch if they weren't up to muster.  I'll be keeping this around for a while, but I doubt it ends up being listened to dozens of times.  This disc might motivate me to make the short drive down to Corvallis to hear what the ensemble sounds like in person. 
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #323 on: December 12, 2017, 06:23:47 AM »



Another of the trio of three buck contemporary music discs I snagged, this one contains five short works by Yotam Haber in a disc coming in at under fifty minutes.  Now in his early 40s, these pieces all date from his 30s.  The composer himself wrote the liner notes, so there's no interpretation needed by an author to determine what was meant with each piece. 

We Were All opens the disc.  In it, Haber sets part of the poem "Cherries" by Andrea Cohen.  The dozen lines quoted in the booklet are sparse and simple, and Haber repeats the line "We Were All" throughout his piece to good effect.  The lightly scored, transparent music doesn't contain any catchy tunes in the normal sense, but there are snippets that do.  The combination of instruments played constantly shifts, creating unusual and fleeting harmonies.  (I also believe this marks the time I've listened to a work with an egg shaker in it.)  The recorded sound, which is most definitely fully up to date, is a bit artificial in that it doesn't lay out a realistic soundstage, but the clarity of the instruments, and occasional lack of clarity of the voices, works well.  I don't recall ever hearing pianissimo marimba playing of such delicate clarity before.  Various styles of music blend together, with some passages sounding like different instrument combinations playing different minimalist pieces simultaneously to create something decidedly unminimalist.

On Leaving Brooklyn, based on an extract from Julia Kasdorf's Eve's Striptease follows.  A very striking piece, for vocal ensemble and sparse string support, Haber uses polyphonic repetition of lines as a backdrop for solo and combinations of voices working through the poem, which, when blended with the vaguely ancient/Jewish/Middle Eastern playing, creates an effective modern lamentation.  It's the shortest work on the disc, but it's the best, with outsize impact.

The longest work on the disc, the two part Last Skin, follows.  The piece uses eight violins total, with two groups of four violins each.  Each group of four tunes the violins such that when playing open strings the quartets can create sixteen pitches.  The first movement is fast, the second is slow; the first movement is aggressive and abrasive (and on can hear some Bartok brought forward in time), the second is droning and quiet (one can hear some late DSCH brought forward, and some Glass, and others).  The starts off as kind of standard modern fare, but, particularly in the second part, takes on a more complex, effective sound.   

The title work Torus, for string quartet, follows.  Per the composer, the players use different filters for their instruments to change the sound, and it starts in a manner that makes the conclusion of Bartok's Fourth sound tame, and heads straight to thrash metal transcribed to string quartet territory.  The sound generated by the quartet, as recorded, sounds overloaded and distorted, though obviously on purpose.  The music backs way off after the opening minutes, gradually shifting to still swift, but quiet playing interrupted by lengthy pauses.

The final work is From the Book of Maintenance and Sustenance, based on the litany Avinu Malkenu.  Scored for viola and piano, the Jewish music influences are obvious, as the composer intended, with the viola very much sounding like a sorrowful singer.  The sound is purposefully contrived, close and dry to the point that it sounds as though the microphones are inside the viola and piano.  The effect is not unpleasant, but there'd be no way to hear the music sound this way in person.

Sound for the disc as a whole is up to modern snuff, with noted caveats relating to production choices.  Balances sound a bit better with headphones than speakers.  Playing and singing are all up to modern snuff.  All of the music is at least reasonably successful, but for me, it's the vocal works that stand out.  I would not be averse to hearing more vocal works from Mr Haber.

Also of note, the composer's wife created the cover images, front and back, making the disc something of a family affair, artistically speaking.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Omicron9

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #324 on: December 12, 2017, 07:07:40 AM »



Since I enjoyed Paul Hindemith's String Quartets earlier this year, and since this particular disc of the sonatas was available for peanuts as an Add-on, I decided to finally give Paul Hindemith's Piano Sonatas a try.  Oh sure, there are other versions out there, including most famously Glenn Gould's, but I'd rather have hangnails on all my fingers than have Gould be my introduction to any composer's music, so it took until now for the stars to align.

Maurizio Paciariello is the latest graduate of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory to pop up on my radar and have a disc end up in my listening pile.  He undertook additional studies with both Aldo Ciccolini and Paul Badura-Skoda, and has displays an interest in both HIP performing and recording, as well as performing and recording non-core rep.  He has also started in on a Beethoven piano sonata cycle.

To the sonatas.  The disc presents them chronologically.  The First, inspired by Friedrich Hoelderloin's poem Der Main, and written after Hindemith had left Germany for Turkey, contains more than hints of sorrow and darkness in the first blocky chords.  Though the first, brief movement sets up the rest of the sonata, and the Second movement is a march, they blend together seamlessly.  The first few minutes of the second movement are kind of bland, sounding like soft-edged and blocky Prokofiev, but as the movement progresses, the music becomes more powerful, underscored by an insistent, simple bass line.  The third movement continues the somewhat blocky sound, with little in the way of lyrical content, and the bass becomes more powerful.  Both the fourth and fifth movements revive material from the first movement in more robust, almost aggressive fashion.  The combination of artist and music proves more compelling whenever the playing becomes more robust.  The three movement Second Sonata, at a brief twelve-ish minutes, is more compelling.  With greater bursts of lyricism as well as more aurally pleasing dissonant writing, the work epitomizes neo-classical style.  The Third Sonata seems to sort of marry the more expressive nature of the First to the neo-classicism of the Second, resulting in something more satisfying than the First and perhaps slightly less so than the Second.  There's a seriousness to the first movement, and a bit less in the rambunctious second movement that sounds very Prokofiev influenced.  The third movement is fast for a slow movement and has fugal sounding elements pointing to the concluding fugue, which sounds about what one would think a piano fugue written by Hindemith might sound like.

The piano sonatas do not succeed for me like the string quartets, but part of that may be the pianist (somewhat doubtful), and some may just be that the formal structure of the works ironically do not offer the best compositional vehicles for Hindemith's style when it comes to keyboard music.  Recent, more successful exposure to other of Hindemith's keyboard works played by Joyce Yang and the Schuchs indicate this is the more likely scenario.  That written, the Second is most enjoyable, and the Third is not without its charms.  This is not a great set, and it's certainly not music I'm terribly interested in obtaining multiple copies of, but I'll spin this again when I get a hankerin' for Hindemith.

I love Hindemith's string quartets, and I also quite enjoy his solo piano works.  I suspect they will grow on you as you continue to explore them.  Don't give up on them just yet.  :)

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