Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 59020 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #40 on: July 03, 2007, 06:25:40 AM »



Johann Jakob Froberger is a name I’d only read about up until I got this disc.  Those who’ve already discovered his music seem to hold him high regard.  Since the fine harpsichordist Blandine Verlet (she of the fine Louis Couperin recordings, among other things) recorded some of his music, I figured his music was worth a shot. 

On the evidence of this disc, Mr Froberger’s music is not really for those wanting showy, bombastic music.  Granted, the title ou l’tranquillité doesn’t promise the most extroverted works, but the style of writing present here, which includes excerpts from larger suites, is very much of a personal, introspective nature.  The music practically begs the listener to kick back, relax (but not too much), and simply get lost in the slow, delicate, intricate, and quite intimate musical ideas.  No Big Bang, no Flash, no Dazzle.  Just fine music.  Now, some may find such sustained intricacy and intimacy boring or hard to get into, and this certainly isn’t a disc I’ll just plop in for easy thrills, but if you’ve got a hankerin’ for this type of music, this disc seems quite a fine choice.  Perhaps Froberger’s other music is more obvious and extroverted, though what I’ve read about him doesn’t lead me to believe he’s another Scarlatti, but I rather fancy this music.  It’s refreshing in a way.

Ms Verlet’s playing is superb – nuanced, precise but not at all clinical, and imbued with life, all without any overstatement.  Or understatement.  Sound quality is top notch, too, and one gets some fine accompaniment from some birds in this springtime recording. 
« Last Edit: July 03, 2007, 09:10:39 AM by Todd »
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

karlhenning

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #41 on: July 03, 2007, 06:50:33 AM »
Just a note, Todd, that I much enjoy lurking here.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #42 on: July 04, 2007, 07:06:08 AM »



Another entirely new composer for me, though the music on this disc sounds suspiciously familiar.  Boris Tishchenko lives and studied in Russia, and studied with Shostakovich himself.  It rather shows, at least here.  That’s not to say that his music is completely derivative, but it seems to be heavily influenced by his one time teacher. 

The symphony on this disc is a big, long, at times loud affair, but it is also accomplished and varied.  Abandoning traditional notions of using descriptive labels for movements, Tishchenko instead labels the movements I-V, but much remains familiar.  The opening movement starts off with some rather playful winds dancing over pizzicato strings, but even amid the jollity one senses something a bit darker.  Not sinister really, just darker.  Time and time again, this darkness comes to the fore, especially with loud, astringent string writing, and in the grotesque, circus-like music in the latter half of the movement.  The second movement continues with this duality as the music sounds bold, boisterous, and clangorous, with seething rage all but erupting into the open.  All the while, a peculiarly happy veneer remains.  The third movement is the slow movement, and it is characterized by a slow, introspective, woodwind-led sound that rather reminds me of the slow movement of Suk’s A Summer’s Tale.  The fourth movement begins a return to the music that came before, with edgy strings, a purposefully blatty sound to the tuttis, and an at times “cartoonish” sound.  It’s ironic and eerie and bitter, yet it pulses with life.  The closing movement opens with peculiarly quiet tom-toms underpinning a vibrant, melodic piccolo and orchestra exchange.  As the movement progresses, it maintains a happy-but-not-really sound as the music evolves into a cacophonous, tension-filled series of climaxes. 

In some ways in almost sounds like Shostakovich’s 16th or 17th symphony.  There is enough stylistic uniqueness here to make sure one knows it’s not DSCH, but the influence looms large.  The colorful, varied orchestration; the superb section writing; the seamless transitions and fluid development: Tishchenko is quite a skilled composer, there’s no doubt.  I’m actually interested in investigating more of his music to see if he’s more original elsewhere in his output.  Even if he’s not, there’s enough there to tickle one’s ears.

Dmitry Yablonsky and the Moscow Philharmonic do an outstanding job, and the sound quality is superb.  In fact, I neglected to read the notes prior to listening and was thus surprised to hear the audience applauding at the end.  Slips and noise are kept to a minimum.  More good stuff.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #43 on: July 05, 2007, 06:46:27 AM »



How much more exotic than a blend of East and West can one get?  (Perhaps Mongolian throat singing or Gambian folk music I suppose.)  Surely then Tan Dun should be worth a listen.  I mean, I inaugurated this thread with a recording of similar (well, not really) works by Huang Ruo, so another success should be assured.

Such is not the case.  The disc Bitter Love, which is a series of extracts from Tan Dun’s opera Peony Pavilion, is the first flat out dud I’ve come across in my current exploration of new music.  Only a few things work – but more on those in a bit.  Pretty much everything else is bad.  Horrid at times.  The midi “horns” certainly fall squarely into the ‘horrid’ camp, as does the nonsensical caterwauling by some tortured male singer that pops up from time to time.  (I guess it may not be nonsensical to Mandarin speakers, presuming the words are in Mandarin, but screeching in English can kill even Shakespeare, so text quality matters not a whit.)  The baritone chorus, with its Gregorian chant informed sound, adds a measure of New Age-y sound that almost induces snickers.  Alright, ignore the word ‘almost.’  The spoken parts – they’re dreams, you see – are just shy of being horrid, but not by much.  There are also long stretches of songs and music that annoy fiercely. 

I don’t want to be purely negative.  As stated before, there are some good things about the recording.  The soprano Ying Huang is one of them.  She has a very lovely, soft, airy, feminine voice.  If I can’t imagine her as, say, Salome, she did make me dislike the recording less when she was singing.  Another good thing is the pipa playing of Min Xiao-Fen.  She adds a fluidity to her playing that I’ve not heard before.  (Okay, my exposure to the pipa is very limited, but still.)  And some of the “Eastern” sounding music does sound compelling from time to time.  Perhaps the most striking thing about this recording is the sound quality: It is simply amazing, demonstration quality stuff all the way.  Sort of.  Timbral accuracy, detail, and scale are absolutely amazing – instruments sound life size for sure – but it’s also obviously processed.  The soundstage literally expanded beyond the boundaries of my rear and side walls.  This should be used by hi-fi dealers to demo gear.

But a good singer, good instrumentalist, and world-class sound cannot save this recording from being a world-class dud.  I suppose one might conclude that I’m just not open to different cultural influences, but my positive experiences with Huang Ruo and Bright Sheng lead me to a different conclusion: Crap knows no international boundaries.  Blech.




The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

gomro

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #44 on: July 05, 2007, 10:02:23 AM »



How much more exotic than a blend of East and West can one get?  (Perhaps Mongolian throat singing or Gambian folk music I suppose.)  Surely then Tan Dun should be worth a listen.  I mean, I inaugurated this thread with a recording of similar (well, not really) works by Huang Ruo, so another success should be assured.
(snip)
But a good singer, good instrumentalist, and world-class sound cannot save this recording from being a world-class dud.  I suppose one might conclude that I’m just not open to different cultural influences, but my positive experiences with Huang Ruo and Bright Sheng lead me to a different conclusion: Crap knows no international boundaries.  Blech.


I bought this thing when it first appeared in the stores, and having it all that time has never changed my opinion, which is exactly the same as yours, believe me. And I don't mind MIDI horns or orchestration; in fact this afternoon I've played and enjoyed several vintage discs from electronic ensemble Tangerine Dream and some 1980s stuff from Philip Glass, which is in no way lessened by the electronic palette. Tan Dun just didn't have anything memorable to play with his MIDI equipment.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #45 on: July 08, 2007, 06:43:55 AM »



When I first learned that Naxos had commissioned ten string quartets from Peter Maxwell-Davies several years back, my curiosity was piqued.  I’d never actually heard anything by the composer, but some new string quartets seemed a fine idea, even if a record label commissioning them seems a bit commercial.  (Oooh, commercial – bad!)  It’s been a few years since the first disc was released, and I just got around to trying it.  It ain’t half bad.

The very first quartet isn’t really what I expected, though I wasn’t sure precisely what to expect.  At some level, I expected an avant-garde work – something Ligeti-like, perhaps – but what’s on offer is a bit different.  The opening Adagio is lovely and appealing in late-19th / early-20th Century sort of way, an obvious homage to times past, but things pick up quickly and change with the Allegro, which is possessed of forward drive, tangy dissonances, rhythmic concision, broad dynamic and expressive range, and an admirable directness.  It’s more modern, but not hard to listen to modern.  Hints of Haydn and Bartok seem buried in the music.  The music bleeds right into the slow, slow Largo which manages the neat trick of sounding both lovely and challenging.  Piercing violin playing continual pops up, and a rather twisted dance theme shows up around 5’45” to add a bit more color.  The Allegro molto closer is brief and light and mostly very quiet, ending the work with haunting, whispered pianissimo playing.  It’s a very obvious homage to the end of Chopin’s second sonata (and by extension, perhaps LvB’s Op 26?), and works quite well.  A fine work.

The second quartet opens where the first left off, with an almost devout Lento distinguished by gobs of delicately variegated quiet playing.  The following Allegro is fast, dance-inspired, but also “angular,” which is to say spicily modern.  But it’s not too hard to listen to.  The Lento flessibile (I love the description) has searing, dramatic, pained playing, which is followed up by an Allegro that sounds grotesquely playful.  It’s vividly varied in terms of both dynamics and texture.  The ending Lento flessibile portion opens slowly and quietly, with an endlessly (well, almost) repeated two note pattern carried on in different registers by the different instruments.  The repetitiveness creates an aura of abstract pensiveness, while fitful, intense, brief outbursts offer contrast throughout.  Another fine work.

I like this disc.  The quartets are obviously very “modern” works, but I find them immediately accessible if still tastily complex.  While I was initially expecting something different than what I got, I don’t mind at all what I heard.  My guess is that these works, while perhaps not as monumental as Beethoven’s quartets, will yield more secrets upon more repeated hearings.  I should probably try some more.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Don

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #46 on: July 08, 2007, 07:09:11 AM »



Johann Jakob Froberger is a name I’d only read about up until I got this disc.  Those who’ve already discovered his music seem to hold him high regard.  Since the fine harpsichordist Blandine Verlet (she of the fine Louis Couperin recordings, among other things) recorded some of his music, I figured his music was worth a shot. 

On the evidence of this disc, Mr Froberger’s music is not really for those wanting showy, bombastic music.  Granted, the title ou l’tranquillité doesn’t promise the most extroverted works, but the style of writing present here, which includes excerpts from larger suites, is very much of a personal, introspective nature.  The music practically begs the listener to kick back, relax (but not too much), and simply get lost in the slow, delicate, intricate, and quite intimate musical ideas.  No Big Bang, no Flash, no Dazzle.  Just fine music.  Now, some may find such sustained intricacy and intimacy boring or hard to get into, and this certainly isn’t a disc I’ll just plop in for easy thrills, but if you’ve got a hankerin’ for this type of music, this disc seems quite a fine choice.  Perhaps Froberger’s other music is more obvious and extroverted, though what I’ve read about him doesn’t lead me to believe he’s another Scarlatti, but I rather fancy this music.  It’s refreshing in a way.

Ms Verlet’s playing is superb – nuanced, precise but not at all clinical, and imbued with life, all without any overstatement.  Or understatement.  Sound quality is top notch, too, and one gets some fine accompaniment from some birds in this springtime recording. 


I agree.  Verlet's disc is quite stunning and dives right into the introspective nature of Froberger's keyboard music.  Other worthy Froberger discs include those from Rampe on Virgin Classics/MDG, Cates on Wildboar, Remy on CPO, Mortensen on Kontrapunkt, Leonhardt on DHM and van Asperen on Aeolus.

What I haven't yet heard is the current series of Froberger keyboard music on Globe with Egarr at the helm (4 volumes so far).  Anyone familiar with the Egarr?

Offline Maciek

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #47 on: July 09, 2007, 04:56:47 PM »
What? Don, am I to understand you did not bring back Wladyslaw Klosiewicz's Froberger disc from your trip to Poland?


I suppose you missed out on his Goldbergs and Scarlatti Sonatas as well? ::)

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #48 on: July 22, 2007, 02:35:59 PM »

A few years ago I picked up a fine disc, from Naxos, of decidedly obscure music.  It’s entitled Norwegian 20th Century String Quartets – see what I mean about obscure – and has four surprisingly good works on it.  The first composer represented on the disc is one Klaus Egge, and since his work left a good impression, when I saw that Naxos recently opted to release a similarly themed disc, this time as part of the 20th Century Norwegian series, with more works by Mr Egge, I jumped.  It was a good call.

The disc opens with a non-20th Century work by that most famous of Norwegian composers, Edvard Grieg.  The reason is pretty clear when one considers the programming.  The miniature that opens the disc is from Grieg’s compilation of 25 Norwegian Folksongs and Folkdances, and is based on the theme from Solfager og Ormekongen, or Sun-Fair and the Snake-King.  Since Grieg made such a specialty of piano miniatures, it’s not at all surprising that this work sounds wonderful.  It also leads right into the next work: Klaus Egge’s second piano concerto, Op 21, from 1944, which is alternatively titled Symphonic Variations and Fugue on a Norwegian Folktune.  The same folk tune that Grieg used.  But one wouldn’t really be able to tell short of reading the score, because the music is decidedly different.  Both the soloist and band alternate between neo-romantic lyricism and (almost) lushness and craggier, spikier, more modern music more of its time.  The work winds through the variations quickly and tautly – the whole piece is around 20’ – and the concluding fugue is possessed of intense energy and virtuosic but not flashy playing from all involved.  It’s a fine work.

The next work continues on with the folk music inspired theme, which is the overriding theme of the whole disc, with a first of the Op 12 piano pieces from Mr Egge.  This work is called Halling Fantasy and it is quite appealing.  It’s knotty and craggy and most decidedly vigorous, with independent rhythmic patterns for each hand.  It sounds rather like Bartok had a long-lost cousin up north who was pretty much as adroit as he at writing gnarly folk-inspired pieces.

The last work by Egge is a biggie: the first piano sonata, Op 4.  Once again the folk element pervades, and once again the music is tastily modern.  The work is based on the Draumkvædet, or a folk tale about a lengthy dream that leads a young lad through heaven and hell and such forth.  The opening Grave is thus dark and brooding and boasts potent, thundering bass at times.  The Allegro moderato seems perhaps more Allegro than moderato, what with its flowing cascades of notes, delivered both smoothly and with a sense of urgency.  The Adagio ma non troppo is a bit slower, though hardly truly slow, and possesses a somewhat sharp edge to the sound, and discordant rhythms aplenty.  The music remains dark and assumes a ruminative tone to boot.  And that’s just in the opening couple minutes, because after that, at just after 2’, the music becomes fiery and stinging for a brief while.  It settles back down, though it remains just a bit unsettled.  The third movement is labeled Scherzo infernale, and it sounds rather like Grieg-meets-(diabolical) Liszt.  It’s beefy and bold and driven, if not quite up to the same dizzying level as Liszt’s most over-the-top concoctions.  (Some may say that’s a good thing.)  The concluding Allegro in halling is more upbeat – almost celebratory – as it seems as though the imaginary protaganist is emerging from the long, intense, frightful dream in overjoyed fashion.  The music and playing have an effortless, slipstream quality to them, and ends the work in a most satisfying manner.

The disc winds down with three miniatures by three different composers.  Sverre Bergh’s Norwegian Dance Number 2, Gamel-Holin is another folk-based work, and it sounds unfailingly lovely, delicate, and light.  Alf Hurum’s Aquarelles, Op 5/2 is a vigorous little work, with a really vibrant middle.  The final work on the disc is Geirr Tveitt’s Brudlaups-Klokker, or Wedding Bells, which was written on the afternoon of a colleague’s daughter’s wedding as a wedding present.  For something written on the spot, it actually sounds quite lovely.  It’s sweet, wistful, gently melodic, and most beautiful.  A fine present indeed!

I like this disc quite a bit.  No, none of the works ranks among the best examples of their respective genres, but there’s more than enough there to come back to again and again.  And I think this definitely indicates that I should sample more of Egge’s music.  (Tveitt’s, too.)

The pianist for all the works is Håvard Gimse, a pianist I’ve neglected for too long.  I’ve mulled over buying a few of his other discs, and now I think I’ll have to reprioritize some of my future purchases.  The man has a superb technique, can extract a broad tonal palette from his instrument, and has a wide, powerful dynamic range.  I definitely would like to hear him in Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, and Debussy.  The Trondheim Soloists, conducted by Håvard’s younger brother Øyvind, acquit themselves nicely in the concerto.

SOTA sound all around, though the concerto, which was recorded earlier and with a different engineer, has some analog hiss, or something that sounds just like analog hiss, running throughout.  It’s only audible during the quiet passages, and even then it’s very low in level, but it seems that an analog tape was used somewhere in the recording and/or mastering process.  No matter, a fine disc.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Don

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #49 on: July 22, 2007, 05:58:01 PM »
What? Don, am I to understand you did not bring back Wladyslaw Klosiewicz's Froberger disc from your trip to Poland?


I suppose you missed out on his Goldbergs and Scarlatti Sonatas as well? ::)
Didn't buy any cds in Poland; never happened to run across a record store.

Offline mjwal

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #50 on: July 23, 2007, 04:34:19 AM »
Just a note on your Maxwell Davies review, Todd: I found it very interesting as written so to speak with an "innocent ear" (you say you don't know Max's work). The description of the 2 quartets is very just and much better than anything I am capable of - and I love that illuminating Chopin reference, but it is important to note that there is some pretty knotty, difficult music coming on later issues, like #3 and #6 - I haven't heard the latest coupling #7 and #8.. I'd definitely recommend 8 Songs for a Mad King to get an idea of where this composer is coming from, and then try the symphonies #2 and #5. Most of his music is available at a very decent price from his website, MaxOpus.
The Violin's Obstinacy

It needs to return to this one note,
not a tune and not a key
but the sound of self it must depart from,
a journey lengthily to go
in a vein it knows will cripple it.
...
Peter Porter

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #51 on: July 23, 2007, 06:19:49 PM »


When Rzewski Plays Rzewski first came out early this decade, I was interested in getting it, but for some reason I never quite got around to it until now.  In some ways I can’t say that the wait was such a bad thing.  Sure, Frederic Rzewski keeps alive the whole pianist-composer thing, but that really works only if the pianist’s compositions are really compelling.  Other pianist-composers of the recorded age have apparently recorded relatively little of their own works.  (Horowitz- and Volodos-like transcriptions not included.)  Kempff, Casadesus, Schnabel – to name just three – all focused their recording efforts on more standard fare.  Perhaps for good reason.  (The little I’ve heard from the latter two hint strongly at them being better pianists than composers.)  Rzewski, though, was afforded the luxury of recording seven discs worth of music by Nonesuch.  Was such a luxury warranted?

The first disc seems to indicate it was.  The disc is given over to music inspired by North American folk music, and here Rzewski’s obvious penchant for improvisation, or composition closely mimicking improvisation, really pays off.  The North American Ballads sound like folk-music that has gone through an intellectual’s mental meat grinder and come out quite well.  Whether playing with heavy, droning ostinato, or dark, hardened boogie-woogie, or a throbbing, brittle rhythmic sense, the music jumps from the speakers.  The Housewife's Lament , the disc’s closing work, has moments of beauty, though it more or less carries on in the same style as before.  The set starts off strongly.

The second disc is nearly as good.  It opens with Mayn Yingele, a set of variations that sounds rather like Beethoven-meets-Schoenberg.  Gnarly and knotty much of the time, Rzewski still manages to leave room for some passages of outright beauty.  The music also seems to wander almost aimlessly at times, and it certainly seems as though at least some of the music is truly improvised.  Based on Rzewski’s own ideas, the long cadenza certainly seems made up on the spot.  The work ends with an industrial strength trill variation.  It’s good, and worth several listens.  The next work, A Life, is a work of around 4’33” that was written as a memorial to, not surprisingly, John Cage.  Knotty, again, and chaotic, it is a fitting tribute.  The disc ends with Fouges, a collection of 25 Schoenbergian miniatures, with all that implies.  Those wanting endless streams of lovely melody need not listen.  More adventurous souls will find to more to enjoy.  Alas, this is where something that pops up over and over through the rest of the set also appears: the use of non-musical means to convey ideas.  Here that means Rzewski banging on something with something else.  (Hitting the piano with a stick?)  That doesn’t get me worked up.

The third disc is devoted to more traditional compositions: a Fantasia and a Sonata.  The Fantasia is a modern day take on the old stand-by, and Rzewski’s is heavy and blocky and thick and spiky.  Again, it sounds improvised at times, and it makes for a stimulating listen, if not a very relaxing listen.  The Sonata is even harder going.  Truth to tell, I find it too long.  The opening movement is over 25’ in length, and while one can enjoy the alternating harsh, pounded out notes and the rounded chords and the slower music with snatches of fun and melody, it just doesn’t seem to end.  The second and third movements are shorter, but are still long, and how much a variations on Taps can one take?  The concluding Agitato is yet another set of variations, here 27 of ‘em, and again, how much is enough?

The next two discs are taken up by the first parts of an on-going composition called The Road.  And here’s where my patience wore thin.  The piece opens with the recorded sound of the pianist walking to the piano, and it concludes with him walking away.  In between, one hears long stretches of hard, dissonant, clangorous music interspersed with somber, barren slower passages, as well as some more lovely passages, and everything in between.  But one also has to sit through humming and banging and scraping and thumping and moaning and other non-musical, or rather, non-pianistic sounds.  The recitation of the last part of Gogol’s The Nose is an interesting conceit (I love that work), but in delivery it just doesn’t float my boat.  I’m all for adventurous art, but there comes a point where it just ain’t working.  The Road has a lot of these points.  Which is a pity, because some of the music is truly excellent and compelling. 

The sixth disc contains Rzewski’s take on his 36 variations on “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” , based on a song by Sergio Ortega.  In some ways this is the modern equivalent of the great Diabelli Variations by LvB himself.  The song, while nice, isn’t quite up to what follows, as Rzewski unleashes a torrent of emotions and pianistic techniques.  The variations vary widely, from lyrical to introspective to depressed to fiercely defiant, with the most heated music delivered with a most robust cutting intensity.  The two cadenzas do seem improvised on the spot and sound very much informed by his mood while playing.  The final restatement of the theme has an intensity and vitality that one may not have expected upon first hearing it.  Rzewski interjects some whistling here and there, and while I could have done without it, the work and the performance are still quite fine.

The set closes with the comparatively brief De Profundis, which includes lengthy spoken parts, with the text provided by Oscar Wilde in the form of a long letter he composed while in prison.  Again, random noises pop up all over, and again I just couldn’t derive much pleasure from them.  But when only the piano or the piano and text are mixed together, there are some fine things.  Wilde’s text, while a little incoherent at times as presented in the snippets here, have not a little power, and Rzewski’s music seems quite in tune with the spirit of the text.  Alas, when a bicycle horn is added to the mix, the demented Marx Brothers effect ruins the music.  Strip out the non-musical extras, and one would have a more compelling work.

What to make of this set?  The purely musical aspects are often, though not always, quite compelling.  Some works are too long, some too intense for extended listening sessions.  (I don’t think I could ever finish this set in less than two-three weeks.)  And Rzewski’s playing is quite good; he seems to have the inside scoop on the music, though he’d no doubt be the first to admit that there’s no “right” way to play his music.  But the non-musical aspects of the set bother and annoy and detract from the overall achievement, at least for me.  I simply don’t want to list to grunts and scraping sounds.  This doesn’t get added to the frequently played list.

Sound is dry and close but excellent.


The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Maciek

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #52 on: July 24, 2007, 01:46:16 PM »
Didn't buy any cds in Poland; never happened to run across a record store.

Yeah, now that you mention it I realize that I didn't see any record stores on my trip to Torun either... :-\

Offline The new erato

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #53 on: July 24, 2007, 01:57:46 PM »
Thank you Todd for maintaining this thread; the most interesting thread on the GMG-forum.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #54 on: November 17, 2007, 07:35:54 AM »



I figured it was time for another “exotic” import from the East, because such imports are always exotic to Western ears.  Or perhaps not.  The nice little Naxos disc of three works by Korean composer Isang Yun can expose one to something new, but not too un-Western.

The disc opens with Chamber Symphony I from 1987, and it’s a fine chamber symphony.  I came to the piece expecting, well, I don’t know what, but I got something that’s decidedly “modern” and familiar.  The winds add the strongest hints of “Eastern” sound, and some occasional string passages do too, but I hear what sounds to be the influence of DSCH, perhaps some modern Germans, and a Western-trained sensibility.  The piece seems to be a chamber orchestra fantasy, meandering through a maze of most appealing music, with taut writing and delivery, and bright, blaring brass to perk up one’s ears.  Monumental?  Nah.  Quite good.

Next up is Tapis pour cordes, also from 1987, and here in its string orchestra guise rather than its string quintet guise.  It’s compact, tense, and terse, with more obvious Eastern influences thrown together with a Bartok-cum-Lutoslawski sound that is searingly intense at times.  The blend works very well.

The disc closes with Gong-Hu for harp and strings, which sounds similar aurally to Tapis (ie, more Eastern), but is broader and more leisurely.  There’s still some bite at times, and here it is the harp that adds the most non-Western sound to the music.  Of course, the harp isn’t the most enthralling instrument, so this may never make it into either the core repertoire or even my collection of frequently spun works, but it’s nice to hear.

Yun’s music offers some fine listening – enough, perhaps, for me to consider his symphonies next.  Conductor, band, and sound are all up to snuff.

The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Anne

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #55 on: November 17, 2007, 03:11:36 PM »
That's a young Val Kilmer in the great comedy Top Secret!

He looks like he's come straight out of a Dickens' movie.

Offline gmstudio

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #56 on: November 17, 2007, 05:21:23 PM »


Is this a part of their Japanese Classics series?  I've really enjoyed those, particularly the symphonies of Hashimoto, Yashiro and Yamada.  I'll have to keep an eye out for Yun.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #57 on: November 17, 2007, 05:28:16 PM »
Is this a part of their Japanese Classics series?

No – Yun is (or rather was) Korean.



He looks like he's come straight out of a Dickens' movie.

New avatar – it’s now the Waco Kid.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #58 on: November 21, 2007, 11:36:15 AM »




After three successful discs in a row, I figured I should go with a proven winner and try another disc of music by Leonardo Balada.  How about a nice, big choral work? I asked myself.  So I went with his “agnostic” requiem, No Res, written in memory of his mother, along with Ebony Fantasies.

The disc opens with No Res from 1974.  I’ll get right to the point: I don’t like this work.  It’s not terrible, mind you, and it’s expertly crafted, but I just don’t like it.  Balada, per his notes (it’s always helpful to have notes written by the composer), was angered as well as saddened by his mother’s death, and this work is a protest against death itself.  An interesting, potentially powerful conceit, but the specific devices here don’t work for me.  The piece is augmented by taped sounds throughout; indeed, it opens with the sounds of howling dogs.  The rest of the first part of this two-part work includes excellent choral singing that alternates between haunting and eerie, and is delivered in a smooth or blocky style, as the text and music requires.  Random, bizarre sounds appear and disappear throughout, and then there’s a narration that uses multiple languages.  Anger, confusion, bitterness, sorrow: all shine through at times, and at times the piece is effective.  But at other times it is not.  The disjointed feel just doesn’t jell, though clearly it is intentional – this is an angry, very personal requiem, after all.  The text ain’t the hottest, either.  The second part of the work is slightly better.  Informed mostly by rage, and displaying greater drama and vigor, it sounds more compelling, though the tape sounds detract from the piece, at least for me.  There are many fine moments and devices in the work, and some may very well like it much more than I do, and I can understand why, but this just won’t get too many spins around these parts.

The second work, Ebony Fantasies from 2003, is much more to my liking.  Balada resets four well known black spirituals to superb effect.  The set opens with Nobody knows the trouble I seen in a setting that doesn’t resemble the original at all.  It’s snappy, boisterous, and curiously uplifting and upbeat, with copious hints of jazz sprinkled throughout.  I got a crown follows, in a decidedly modern setting, with quasi-aleatoric “form” and an almost chant-like quality.  Were you there? opens with dark, elongated playing by the low strings, and the chorus sings in a very slow, somber, but ultimately touching manner.  It is haunting and beautiful.  The piece closes with War no mo’, which sounds vibrant and rhythmically alert and decidedly “modern,” though its message is timeless (and timely, I suppose).  Balada has written several times of his respect for spirituals and jazz, and his respectful, brilliant treatment of such music backs up his words.  A fine work indeed.  I hope to hear it in concert someday.

So, a mixed bag, with a hit and a miss.  Fine sound, fine conducting, and fine playing throughout.

The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Brewski

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #59 on: November 21, 2007, 11:45:30 AM »
So, a mixed bag, with a hit and a miss.  Fine sound, fine conducting, and fine playing throughout.

Thanks for those comments, Todd.  I might be interested in hearing this, even if not ultimately purchasing it.  I've heard his Steel Symphony (the Maazel recording) and liked it, but don't know any of his other music.

--Bruce
Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
     ~ Gustav Mahler

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

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