Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 73581 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #60 on: November 21, 2007, 11:48:47 AM »
I've heard his Steel Symphony (the Maazel recording) and liked it, but don't know any of his other music.


I suggest the disc with Guernica on it: that's still the best work I've heard by Balada.  To my ears, he's one of the best living composers. 
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Offline Brewski

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #61 on: November 21, 2007, 11:59:05 AM »

I suggest the disc with Guernica on it: that's still the best work I've heard by Balada.  To my ears, he's one of the best living composers. 

Thanks, I looked up the disc and recognized the cover, and it looks right up my alley.  Got some good reviews elsewhere, too. 

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #62 on: November 24, 2007, 01:18:39 PM »



I’ve always had a weak spot for 20th Century string quartets.  Bartok’s supreme masterpieces were among the works that got me seriously interested in classical music to begin with, and since then I’ve acquired a reasonable collection of recordings spanning the whole of the century.  So why not try someone new?  So I settled on Marek Stachowski, a composer new to me, and the Dux recording of all of his works written for string quartet through 1995.

The disc opens with his first string quartet from 1963, and the piece sounds of its time.  It’s very avant-garde.  The opening Animato is comprised mostly of flitting figures and not-too-harsh dissonance delivered in a lively, um, animated fashion.  The Tranquillo opens with the cello laying on some thick glissando (though not Gloria Coates thick) before the other instruments fade in and out.  It’s tranquil, yes, but also a bit eerie at times, with controlled outbursts to pierce the nearly pervasive tranquility.  The Scherzando is brief and puckish, yet serious, or at least seriously constructed.  It’s tight and dense and gnarly.  The concluding Risoluto is likewise tightly structured, and some music literally scraped out.  It’s a nice, vibrant, somewhat inaccessible work.

The second string quartet from 1972 is, if anything, even harder to get into.  The single movement, amorphous, mostly quiet blob of sound of a quartet is interrupted at times by ruder, rougher outbursts to add contrast.  It sounds quasi-aleatoric, and it seems that Mr Stachowski was impressed and influenced by Ligeti’s second quartet.  Simply reinforcing this is the round-robin pizzicato playing, which sounds new yet familiar.  For the rest of the work, the piece develops along similar lines.  It’s not bad, but it’s not as compelling as, say, Ligeti’s second quartet.

The next work is Quartetto da ingress from 1980.  Again, Stachowski favors a quiet overall sound – all the better to emphasize dynamic contrasts.  This piece is also a single movement work, and it too unfolds continuously, with fine unison writing and appealing tremolos and glissandi and even hints of tonality thrown in.  It lacks traditional melody, of course, so it might be very rough to get into; indeed, this isn’t going to be plopped in my CD player for any easy listening sessions.

The next work is the third string quartet from 1988.  Again, the music starts off slow and quiet, and very slowly develops with terse outbursts piercing the somewhat static soundworld.  But here the style is more accessible, closer to tonal.  The second movement has tons of fun pizzicati before moving on to the third movement which sounds quite a bit like the first. 

The disc ends with Musica festeggiante per quartetto d’archi from 1995.  Another single movement work, it unfolds in a fast-slow-fast fashion, with the same basic approach and devices mentioned previously. 

While this disc is a success overall, I have to admit that there is a certain sameness to the music.  Stachowski uses the same devices over and over, and while his music does demonstrate progress, I was hoping for greater stylistic diversity.  Still, I’ll keep the disc and spin it on occasion.  The Jagiellonian Quartet is more than up to the challenge of the music, and the sound is spacious and metallic, though I wouldn’t doubt if that merely reflects on the music itself.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #63 on: May 31, 2008, 09:19:15 AM »


I find Einojuhani Rautavaara a reliable composer.  I’ve picked up a number of recordings of his music over the past five or six years, and with the exception of his dull opera Rasputin, I’ve always like what I heard.  So I picked up the Naxos disc of his second and third piano concertos and the small orchestral work Isle of Bliss with relatively high expectations.  I was satifisfied.

The disc opens with Isle of Bliss, which is based on a poem by the Finnish poet Aleksis Kivi.  (The inspiration for one of Rautavaara’s finest works, the opera Aleksis Kivi.)  The compact tone poem opens vigorously and joyously, and quickly segues into a lush, dreamy, and appropriately slower sound world, with the winds carefully and delicately evoking bird calls, something so dear to this composer and critical in this work, what being based on the poem Home of the Birds.  As the work continues to unfold, the work seems to take on a calm, and, well, blissful feel.  It’s a fine work, and almost strikes me as something a cooler Richard Strauss may have written had he been informed by 1990s ideas.

The next work is the third piano concerto, Gift of Dreams, originally dedicated to Vladimir Ashkenazy, who has recorded it.  Here the pianist is Laura Mikkola.  Anyhoo, the opening Tranquillo, as the title suggests, opens calmly, with lovely, soothing string playing of a New Age-cum-Romanticism sort – but in a good way.  The piano enters gently, with sparse notes, but then it picks up until a long run ushers in the winds then brass.  I detected the rather obvious influence of Bartok’s Third Piano Concerto (a very good thing!) and even hints of Rachmaninov.  (It was written for Ashkenazy, so that only makes sense.)  The piano writing becomes dazzling, though never over the top.  The Adagio assai is slow, calm, and a bit cool at the open, with the pianist this time coming right to the forefront.  In such an environment excess would not do, so excess there is not.  As the movement progresses the music becomes more vigorous, with especially tasty swirls in the high strings and drive in the lower strings, with rumbling timpani helping to ratchet up the intensity in the middle.  Then it calms down a bit, revealing a conservative overall structure.  The concluding Energico is more, um, energetic, with both the soloist and band getting to let loose a bit.  With drum thwacks aplenty, and pulsing string playing, and virtuosic piano writing and playing, the work ends with a standard concerto finale, though one that fades away nicely at the end.  All the while the work possesses that unique Rautavaara sound, with lush sounds informed by prickly compositional devices, all merged into a most satisfying package.  Having heard all three of Rautavaara’s piano concertos, I must say that I like this one the most.

The disc closes with the fine second piano concerto.  The opening In Viaggio starts of sparse, with a bass emphasized orchestra underpinning shimmering piano figurations that continue while the whole orchestra begins to play.  The first solo part for the pianist isn’t much more than a continuation of the opening material, though as the orchestra reenters and the whole work develops, the piano part also develops.  The orchestral writing itself becomes more potent, with prominent percussion and swelling strings.  A nice, beefy opener.  The Sognando e libero opens with comparatively gentle, ruminative piano playing and orchestral playing to match, though the strings sting a bit, hints of unease in the air.  Then everything speeds up, building to a powerful climax before subsiding.  The concluding Uccelli sulle passion finds Ms Mikkola playing knotty, almost neo-Schoenbergian piano music solo, and then when the orchestra plays, it’s in a gliding, undulating fashion, with the strings notable again for their beauty and bite.  The piano plays in a similar fashion throughout, in what sounds to be challenging writing.  It’s hard to tell if the soloist is now the accompanist at times, but both band and soloist take to the fore from time to time.  Rautavaara’s distinctive wind writing (usually ascending solo bursts) pop up here and there, and the whole thing fades away to nothingness.  This is a very knotty piece, but it’s also very approachable.

Indeed, that may be the key to the success of this disc and of Rautavaara generally.  His music is both modern and respects (and borrows from) tradition.  He’s not afraid to write something dense, gnarly, and rigorous.  But he’s also not afraid to write beautiful music.  And he has the ability to make even serial music conventionally beautiful.  These three works all reinforce his talents.  That’s why I find him to be one of the greatest of composers active in the last two or three decades.

As to the performers, Ms Mikkola does a superb job, and Eri Klas and his Dutch band far more than ably support her.  Superb sound rounds out a superb disc. 



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Offline Maciek

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #64 on: June 09, 2008, 02:26:35 AM »


How on earth did I manage to miss this post? One of my favorite composers (here's his thread, BTW), and I am especially partial to his writing for strings - but definitely prefer when they are larger ensembles (though I do like the SQs). I have a nice Warsaw Autumn recording of his Divertimento. I think I'll put it up. 0:)

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #65 on: June 16, 2008, 01:11:41 PM »



I had immense success when I picked up the Naxos Nancarrow “sampler” and the complete works for player piano on Wergo, so I figured I might as well go for the new-ish disc of his string quartets (and other works) played by the Arditti Quartet on Wergo.  While this is a fine disc it’s not quite as good as the other recordings I mentioned.  The reason is plain enough; the bottom line is that Nancarrow was simply better at writing for the player piano and other small ensembles than he was at writing for the more conventional string quartet medium. 

Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty to enjoy.  The music is gnarly and modern in a nice heavy duty way, but it also maintains Nancarrow’s generally lighter, sunnier overall feel.  Competition for late LvB these works are not.  Meticulous attention is paid to each instrument, and the musical arguments are dense.  Some fun music pops up here and there – as one would expect from Nancarrow – but I guess I wanted more.  The fillers, including arrangements of some of the player piano studies made by Nancarrow and others, fall into the same category.  There’s a really nice, brief Toccata for violin and player piano which seems to jump to life a bit more, and the closing Trilogy for Player Piano shows where Nancarrow is most at home.

The Arditti play superbly, as one would expect, and sound is superb too.  I definitely rate this disc a success and think that Nancarrow fans will like it.  It just doesn’t match up to his (formidable) best works.  That’s a tall order, though.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #66 on: June 17, 2008, 02:21:58 PM »



So far in all my listening I’ve heard very little Michael Tippett – only the symphonies.  I wasn’t uniformly impressed, particularly with the one with faux voices or breathing or whatever in it.  (It’s been years since I listened to it.)  But I figured I might as well try something else, and this disc of two of the piano sonatas and the Piano Concerto was quite handy.  I enjoy John Ogdon’s pianism for the most part, so I figured he’d make the most of the works here.

The disc opens with the first Piano Sonata, and it’s quite good in a generic, modernist sort of way.  It’s complex and dense, with nice contrasts in rhythm and dynamics, along with some bite, yet it retains enough traditional melodic and harmonic elements (and four movement structure), or something approximating them, to be quite accessible.  It’s not of Prokofiev quality, say, but it’s a nice listen.  The next work is the second Piano Sonata, which is a more complex yet, more avant garde, with harsh dissonance and ragged rhythm.  A less comfortable listen, and a bit less persuasive, too.  If I go this route, I’m thinking Schoenberg is more to my taste.

The disc ends with the Piano Concerto, which is the best work on the disc.  Again, it’s definitely “modern,” but it’s also approachable.  The overall feeling is on the upbeat side, and there’s energy aplenty.  Orchestration is handled deftly, with some nifty wind writing; some rather, well, British sounding brass parts (hard to describe, but I don’t think anyone would say some of the fanfares sound French); and string writing that is both attractive and piquant.  In the opening movement one can hear the influence of Bartok in places, as well as some other composers, though the Hungarian’s influence is most audible.  I’ll definitely give this work a spin in the future, but I must say that it’s not quite up to the Bartok and Prokofiev level.

The 60s era sound quality is very good, and Ogdon plays with notable command of the music.  Colin Davis and the Philharmonia more than ably accompany in the concerto.  So, a good disc, maybe a very good one, but really one for intrepid repertoire explorers.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #67 on: June 20, 2008, 10:06:55 AM »



Up until I bought this disc, I believe the only work by Jean Françaix I had heard was his Piano Concerto.  A fine work to be sure, but surely there is more to the composer.  There is!  I’m not sure why this disc caught my attention – perhaps the bright colors on the cover, perhaps the unusual instrumental combinations (winds aplenty, strings, and piano) – but I’m sure glad it did because it’s one heck of a charmer.

Profound levity, that’s the best way I can describe the sound of the music on this disc.  The four works – two long-ish, two short – all display the same traits: an irresistibly light, upbeat mood (for the most part); snazzy rhythms; beauty; grace; clarity; meticulousness; informal formality; and undeniable Frenchness.  (No German or Briton could ever write this music!)  Even the slow movements more or less convey the same things, just at a more leisurely pace.  They are immediately and completely accessible works, yet they also scream out 20th Century.  These could never have been written in the 19th Century, yet strident, hard, jagged music is nowhere to be found. 

While all the works sound different, and all have different instrumental combinations, they all occupy the same overall sound world.  There’s no sense of the composer rehashing the same ideas, though, not by any means.  Some may find the music and ideas too trite, and this certainly isn’t chamber music of Beethoven/Bartok/Shostakovich/<add your favorite heavyweight here> caliber, but surely one can enjoy perfectly crafted musical bon-bons every once in a while.

The Gaudier Ensemble plays splendidly and Hyperion’s sound is top-notch. 

A delicious disc.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #68 on: July 06, 2008, 01:56:54 PM »



Here’s a composer entirely new to me.  Until I saw the Naxos disc of his complete solo piano music, I’d never even seen the name Dimitris Dragatakis.  My curiosity was piqued, though I’m not sure why.  So I have listened to the disc, and I must declare this a most exhilarating find! 

The disc opens with a trilogy of shorter works from 1949 and before – meaning they’re “early” works.  (The composer lived from 1914 to 2001.)  They are all pleasant enough works.  Nostalgia is a Greek-flavored, Iberia-esque piece, though not as complex as the Spanish masterpiece.  Butterfly is a light creation featuring tasty irregular rhythms  Little Ballade offers the first hints of what’s to come with a vigorous, intense, fiery, occasionally knotty and occasionally romantic sound.  One can detect faint whiffs of Bartok.

The early works then give way to the meat of the disc.  Dragatakis is revealed to be a thoroughly modern composer with a pronounced avant-garde streak, though he seems to be a few years behind the times with each work.  The two Piano Sonatinas exemplify this.  Written in the 60s, they are both angular, dissonant, driven pieces, and seem to hint at Prokofiev and perhaps Schoenberg.  Then comes Antiques, a collection of eight miniatures from 1972 that are often austere, occasionally violent, and display hints of both Minimalism and Ligeti.  The Anadromés are more austere yet, but somehow manage to maintain a rhythmic brio.  The two Etudes carry on in a similar style.  Inelia, from 1997, is a most fascinating piece.  Dragatakis maintains a thoroughly modern style yet injects more accessible harmonic and melodic components in places.  It’s a most remarkable piece.  The disc closes with the 11-minute long Monologue No. 4, from 2001, which wasn’t premiered until after his death.  It’s mostly a no-compromise type piece, knotty and occasionally unapproachable, but one hears wistfulness, and perhaps even bitterness and regret in a few spots. 

Lorenda Ramou plays all of the works, and she is fully up to the challenge.  She worked with the composer and premiered some of his pieces, and accordingly she seems to have the music down cold.  She plays with impressive command and feeling, something not always expected in such modern works.  Throw in fully modern sound, and this is one heck of a disc.  If you like modern piano music – think Schoenberg, Ligeti, or Nono – then this may be one to consider.


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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #69 on: August 10, 2008, 12:30:09 PM »



I’m not sure why I decided to try this disc.  It’s filled with pretty much nothing but miniatures – and transcribed miniatures at that.  Sure, the transcribers in question have names like Heifetz and Perlman for most of the works, but they’re transcriptions.  But why not? 

Anyway, the disc opens with an original work by called Four Rags by John Novacek, Ms Josefowicz’s accompanist.  It’s a pretty good throwback to the early 20th Century ragtime music the rest of the disc is devoted to.  After that, things move back in time to works by Charlie Chaplin (!), Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, Stephen Foster, and Manuel Ponce (?).  Most are mildly entertaining but fade from memory once the music stops.  Even Heifetz’s arrangement of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, interesting though it is to hear, isn’t exactly gripping. 

There are a couple interesting works.  Henri Vieuxtemps’ work Souvenir d’Amérique,  a set of variations on Yankee Doodle, is great fun.  The main melody is given the hyper-virtuoisic treatment and it works.  The Porgy and Bess suite also works well as arranged.  But these two works total about 20 minutes of a 60+ minute disc.  That’s not enough. 

Leila Josefowicz plays quite nicely, with a pleasant but not gorgeous tone, and a slightly small sound, at least as recorded here.  Novacek plays his part superbly.  Sound is major-label top-flight.  Even so, this is lightweight disc that doesn’t seem to be something to listen to very often.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #70 on: August 13, 2008, 06:19:27 AM »


I’ve sampled a variety of lieder by a number of composers over the years, but until this disc I never got around to listening to the songs of Hugo Wolf.  So when I stumbled on this old disc of an even older recital by that estimable duo of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore I figured it was time.  The disc contains a recital from 1961 and has 20 of Wolf’s Mörike lieder, all penned in 1888.  On the evidence of this recital, I really need to investigate more of Wolf’s music. 

As I expected, Fischer-Dieskau and Moore work perfectly together, with Moore generally supplying the steady base from which Fischer-Dieskau can launch into interpretive flights of fancy.  Many of the songs have a dark or somewhat dark mien, and they sound unusually rich.  The texts are all quite good, and some more than that.  And sometimes it’s the smaller works that hit hardest.  For instance, Bei einer Trauung is extremely brief, yet it’s unsettling piano part and condensed verse describing an unhappy wedding packs a wallop.  There are a number of other similar moments through the disc, and Fischer-Dieskau digs in.  His mannerisms do show through here and there, and he is histrionic in the last two works in the recital (Zur Warnung and Abschied), so those who do not like him probably wouldn’t like this disc.  Me, I do, and need to hear more.

Sound is definitely not modern: it sounds like a live recital recording from its time and the volume and scale of both singer and pianist varies a bit more than one would ideally prefer.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #71 on: September 20, 2008, 06:18:58 AM »



I must confess that Resphigi is not a composer I’ve ever really cared for much.  The Roman Trilogy?  Rather snooze inducing if you ask me.  And what else is there?  Well, I also tried his opera La Fiamma.  Kinda the same thing.  But being at least somewhat intrepid, I figured I could try some more, and so when I stumbled upon this disc of four even lesser known orchestral works on MDG, I figured I could give it a shot.

The disc opens with a work entitled Metamorphosen mod. XII from 1930.  It’s sort of a re-imagining of Gregorian Chant, if you will, one filtered through a mix of modernism and late romanticism.  The late romanticism shows up in the Andante theme, which possesses a positively Korngoldian lushness, though this is married to a devout seriousness.  The 12 variations, each in a different church mode, display the same traits, though they throw in hints of Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra in that each instrument gets its time in the spotlight.  The music is a bit too thick, heavy and (faux-) serious to take too seriously.

The next work is Rossiniana from 1925.  The four movements all evoke the namesake of the work, and that means a bright, fun, sparkling, witty sound for the most part, with just plain fun instrumentation.  The second movement is a bit more dramatic, and boasts a truly thunderous bass drum, and the final movement is perhaps  just a tad garish and boisterous, though it’s fun.  Overall, it’s a slight work, but an enjoyable one.

Next up is the first recording of the Burlesca from 1906.  It’s a free-form fantasy, with delicate strings and slightly bombastic brass and strings.  A nice enough bon-bon. 

The final work is the Passacaglia in C Minor.  Yes, it’s an orchestration of a Bach work.  It opens darkly, with lush strings creating a rich texture as well.  Once again it sounds faux-serious, but a bit too much so.  And it’s gaudy.  (One can only occasionally hear Bach straining through.)  And it’s too long.  Um, it’s not the greatest work.

So another stab at Resphigi, and it’s a decided mixed bag.  A couple of the works are fun enough, but slight.  A couple are heavy and overwrought.  In other words, it’s not a disc to spin very often.  At least it sounds magnificent!  MDG’s sound is about as good as it gets, with clarity, detail, and bass of Telarc-ian quality (when Telarc is at its best).  George Hanson leads the Wuppertal Symphony Orchestra far more than ably, and the band plays well.  They deserve better music.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #72 on: October 12, 2008, 07:46:29 AM »



Time for another completely new composer for me.  I’ve seen the name Edmund Rubbra before, and I’ve read some positive remarks about his music, so it seemed like a good enough time to give something by him a shot.  I opted for the Naxos ditty containing his Violin Concerto and other works.

First, the other works.  The disc opens with the Improvisations for Violin and Orchestra, Op 89.  The piece opens with the violin front and center with help only from the timps, offering for a nice contrast.  It also opens rather “slow,” only gradually unfolding until the orchestra enters with a dark sound that is not so much portentous as just plain serious.  About halfway in the piece begins to sound more vibrant and more extroverted before reassuming the dark mien and then back.  The orchestration is rich and really quite striking, to boot.  I’m not sure how improvisational it sounds, but I like it.

The next work on the disc is the Improvisations on Virginal Pieces by Giles Farnaby, Op 56.  It’s a collection of five short works based on ancient, or at least pre-baroque works.  They’re generally light and crisp and very much show their inspiration.  It comes across as a light divertimento, though the fourth piece, Loth to depart, is a bit more serious.

The final work on the disc is the aforementioned Violin Concerto, Op 103.  The first and endearing impression of the work is that it is very conservative, especially given its composition period – the late 50s.  The opening movement is excellent.  Its orchestration is meaty and heavy, and possesses a quasi-romantic quasi-grandeur.  The writing for the violin offers some superb, not too flashy writing (a plus), and Krysia Osostowicz plays very well indeed.  The winds also get some fine music to play, and the tart oboe rarely gets juicier parts.  The slow second movement is rich, varied, and expansive, and, well, poetic (it is labeled ‘Poema,’ so that seems appropriate).  The violin part becomes more pronounced against a calmer orchestral background, too.  The final movement is the expected (almost) bravura closer, with more nifty wind writing coupled to fun percussion writing to bring the work to close.  But for the obvious influences of even older music, the concerto would seem to be more from the Edwardian era than the Eisenhower era, but even so it’s a work worthy of more exposure.

As mentioned before, Krysia Osostowicz plays extremely well, and the Ulster Orchestra under Takuo Yuasa also acquit themselves superbly.  Throw in world-class Tony Faulkner sound and this superb disc.



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

karlhenning

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #73 on: October 12, 2008, 07:57:17 AM »
I always enjoy this thread of your'n, Todd. Thanks!

FWIW, I "met" the Rossiniana via the Naxos disc with Buffalo/Falletta.  A little work-a-day, struck me as.

Offline The new erato

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #74 on: October 12, 2008, 08:04:46 AM »


As mentioned before, Krysia Osostowicz plays extremely well, and the Ulster Orchestra under Takuo Yuasa also acquit themselves superbly.  Throw in world-class Tony Faulkner sound and this superb disc.

I wholeheartedly agree, and please try some more Rubbra, Tod. As you like 20th century string quartets, the two midprice Dutton discs are strongly recommended.

And keep up your fine thread!

Offline Grazioso

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #75 on: October 16, 2008, 04:30:43 AM »
I've yet to hear Rubbra's violin concerto, alas, but have heard and greatly enjoyed his viola concerto, which in many ways matches your description of the other work:



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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #76 on: October 22, 2008, 05:45:24 PM »



How many flute aficionados are out there?  They’re there, but I don’t know of too many of them.  I’m not really one, though every once in a while I like to give a listen to a flute work.  Or three.  Emmanuel Pahud impressed me a few years ago when I first heard his playing of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Music for Flute, Strings and Percussion, so when I saw this new-ish disc filled with three even newer works for flute and orchestra I went for it.  It was a pretty good decision.

The disc opens with the Flute Concerto by Marc-André Dalbavie.  The brief concerto opens with potent chords from the orchestra and flute, and then the flute is off on an extended, front and center run, rising and falling throughout, with plenty of snazzy rhythms and gobs of more than ably played notes flitting by.  The orchestra offers supremely transparent support in a neo-Bartok-cum-Berg sorta way.  Here and there the flute blends into the orchestra, and then after the first several minutes the whole piece slows way down, and quiets down a bit, too.  At such times, Pahud displays what I can only assume is dazzling breath control (flute aficionados would have to jump in here).  The piece then alternates between the two styles somewhat, though the slower music predominates.  There are definitely plenty of highlights to this very well crafted work, but it will take more listens to determine whether I’d consider it of the same quality of Gubaidulina’s work.

The next work, Michael Jarrell’s …un temps de silence…, though, strikes me as the best work on the disc.  The piece opens with percussion and flute offering tonal and textural contrast, and it sounds a bit more than faintly Boulezian.  It’s darker, more uncompromising, and more unyieldingly avant-garde.  There’s aggression in some of the writing, with grinding tuttis, and a few piercing notes from the soloist.  It then cools off a bit to flute-centric writing allowing Pahud to play with as much tonal luster and beauty as he can (or maybe not!), though the music retains a slightly mysterious feel.  That is, it stays on the dark side, and throws in a searching intensity.  The work ends slowly, dissolving into near nothingness, with the flute and orchestra twitching near the end.  This work is definitely complex and dense, but it also is surprisingly easy to listen to, at least for me.  If you don’t like post-war works, it may be best to avoid it, though.

Matthias Pintscher’s Transir for flute and chamber orchestra closes the disc, and it is perhaps the most unusual work of the three.  The piece opens slowly and quietly, and from very early on there’s a lot of emphasis on creating sounds out of the instrument and Pahud’s breath, by which I mean you hear both quite clearly.  No more tonal luster; it’s more like parlor tricks.  Anyway, after a focus on the flute, the orchestra gradually returns with a bright, clear sound permeated with unusual sounds.  I don’t know if Pintscher opted for unusual instrumentation or simply combines the instrument brilliantly, but there are sounds here I ain’t heard before.  The piece just seems to build tension, and Pahud really displays his ability, truly screeching out high notes in short bursts, until at about 7’30,” the full orchestra bursts into life relieving the tension.  The piece then alternates and unfolds in a most intriguing manner.  The piece also boasts a huge dynamic range, this slightly exaggerated by the almost unbelievably quite pianissimos Pahud delivers.  Is it a great work?  Don’t know, but it is an interesting one. 

So, here’s a disc with three contemporary works that is quite listenable, as far as avant-garde type discs go, and Emmanuel Pahud shows that he’s got some serious chops.  Throw in some superb modern sound, and amazingly precise playing from the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France under three conductors – Peter Eötvös, Pascal Rophé, and Matthias Pintscher for his own piece – and one has a surprisingly effective collection of modern works for flute.  Not everyone will like it, though.  Adventurous sorts very well may.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #77 on: November 03, 2008, 01:53:46 PM »



Time for some decidedly Heavy Duty, High Art-type music.  Hans Werner Henze should work.  I’ve had mixed feelings about the Henze works I’ve heard, but I figured he was worth another shot, and this Naxos disc of two of his violin concerti and a work for violin and piano seemed a good bet.  I was right. 

The disc opens with the First Violin Concerto, from 1946, and the very young Mr Henze displays some great skill in this composition.  The opening movement, designated Largamente, rubato – Allegro molto starts off with a searching violin part contrasted with a hefty, clangorous, spiky orchestral part.  The continued interplay between these two parts is quite intriguing, and better than any 20-year-old ought to be able to write.  (Mozart obviously excluded.)  The movement tapers off near the end, with slow, austere, and haunting music.  Yes, the influences of Berg and Bartok are obvious, and he seems to channel the Hungarian almost directly in places, but what better composers to imitate?  Anyway, the Vivacissimo second movement is more vibrant and energetic, with a more prominent orchestra playing along with an incredibly slick, piercing soloist.  The Andante con moto opens with beautiful dodecaphonic music – yes, it’s possible – and as the movement unfolds the soloist flits near the upper reaches of the instrument at one point, and slashes at his fiddle violently, and that’s before the music transforms into something almost ugly and oppressive, while maintaining a dark, funereal mien.  The concluding Allegro molto vivace explodes angrily into being, with a slight grotesqueness to it.  But Henze knows to offer something else, so some nearly serene, almost beautiful music arrives just in time.  The juxtaposition of the two styles continues on throughout, for the most part.

The second work is the much later Third Violin Concerto, from 1997.  Apparently inspired by Thomas Mann’s Dr Faustus, the work again offers many contrasts.  The first movement, Esmerelda, opens very slowly, quietly, and almost mournfully: astringent, sorrowful music nearly pours out of the violin.  When the orchestra finally enters full force at around 2’20” or so, it’s in a deliciously dissonant, almost harsh, yet smoothly crafted way.  There’s some manipulation going on, and Henze’s orchestration is rather impressive.  Das Kind Echo is next, and it’s light in texture to start, but becomes playful and robust in short order.  A few moments of sorrow creep back in, but the most impressive aspect of the music is the masterful pianissimo writing, with some notes hanging on endlessly into silence.  The work closes with Rudi S., which opens with a soaring solo line before coming back to earth.  Some of the music sounds simultaneously confused and contemplative, and once again I was reminded of Berg’s Violin Concerto as I listened. 

The disc ends with the brief Fünf Nachtstücke, from 1990, for violin and piano.  The brief pieces all sound unique and strongly characterized: Elegie is slow and elegiac, and heavy on the violin until the coda; Capriccio is lighter and prodding fun; Hirtenlied I is potent yet sorrowful; Hirtenlied II offers more of the same in a more poignant package; and Ode is relaxed yet extroverted, with a few hard-hitting passages thrown in.

So, here’s a disc comprised of more or less High Art.  I’d be surprised if musicologists found many hints of folk music in any of the pieces.  It’s a bit abstract, if you will, and a bit difficult.  It may even be “intellectual” music.  But whatever else it is, it is also more than a little enjoyable.  Not, perhaps, listen-every-week enjoyable, but enjoyable nonetheless.  Violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved plays brilliantly, and Christopher Lyndon-Gee leads the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony Orchestra more that ably.  My only quibble is with the sound quality: it can be a little glassy during tuttis.  Otherwise, another winner from Naxos.
The universe is change; life is opinion.   Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

karlhenning

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #78 on: November 03, 2008, 01:56:31 PM »
There you are: High Art doesn't mean you can't enjoy it.

Thanks for the review, Todd!

Offline Brewski

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #79 on: November 03, 2008, 02:05:22 PM »


Thanks for the interesting comments on this, Todd.  I am eager to hear it, ever since a flutist friend said she heard it and "almost fainted."  (Meaning, she liked it.  A lot.)  I like Dalbavie and Pintscher quite a bit, but don't know Jarrell's music at all. 

There you are: High Art doesn't mean you can't enjoy it.

Thanks for the review, Todd!

I'll sign on with that opinion, and yes, thanks for review no. 2, as well.

--Bruce
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