Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 92168 times)

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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #120 on: April 18, 2009, 03:40:42 AM »
  I settled on a new disc of music by Cristóbal de Morales, a composer entirely new to me.  This disc offers one of those ear-opening experiences that come along all too infrequently. 

A note of thanks for this review - because of it I bought this Morales disc on Hyperion, and have been enjoying it a lot  0:)
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #121 on: April 19, 2009, 04:14:16 PM »



After listening to so much ancient liturgical music, it seemed time to move forward in time a bit.  I decided to move all the way to the present – well, the early 90s at any rate – and sample Sven-David Sandström’s High Mass, with Herbert Blomstedt conducting the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.  The work is a large scale, nearly 90 minute long work, with vocal parts for three sopranos and two mezzo sopranos, in addition to a massive chorus, orchestra and organ. 

Sandström’s work offers quite a contrast to the works I’ve been listening to.  Gone is the beautiful polyphony, and in its place is a hardened, modern sensibility, though one informed by Romantic impulses.  The Kyrie eleison erupts violently, with piercing percussion, and a foreboding and ominous feel, only to be followed by a calmer, dreamier Christe eleison where the ladies come to the fore.  But that darkness never fully dissipates.  In stark contrast, the long Gloria is ecstatic and celebratory in a Messiaen-meets-Glass sort of way.  I wouldn’t have though I’d like such a mixture, but it ain’t half bad.  The Credo, while maintaining its modernity, also infuses a bit more traditional beauty and solemnity into the mix.  The Sanctus, with its bright opening fanfare, and jubilant chorus, is more in the celebratory vein.  The Agnus Dei is solemn and devoutly respectful and possessed of not a little beauty.  These summaries of course offer only the briefest description of what the work is like, but it seems that there is more life in the old mass, even after all these years.  That written, I cannot say that this compares to, oh, say, Bach’s towering masterpiece, or to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, or to the best of the ancient music I’ve been listening to lately.

But that’s not the only work in this two-disc set.  Ingvar Lidholm’s brief Kontakion is also included.  Apparently inspired by an ancient Orthodox rite, and written for performance in the Soviet Union in the late 70s, the work opens with a screechy, decidedly “modern” sound before gradually and gently moving to a slower, sometimes quieter, and occasionally prettier sound world, though astringent strings are never far away.  Delius this not, though; it could be tough going for those not enamored of post-war music.  The work is a bit harder to get into, and while inspired by events of the day, is a bit more abstract.  Overall, it’s quite good, but another half dozen listens are needed to really get into the piece.

Blomstedt does a superb job leading the forces involved in these live recordings, and the forces themselves do a more than commendable job.  Sound is excellent, though not the best that modern recording techniques can produce.
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Offline Grazioso

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #122 on: April 20, 2009, 02:56:44 AM »

After listening to so much ancient liturgical music, it seemed time to move forward in time a bit.  I decided to move all the way to the present –


You may find this of interest:



Arvo Pärt's Berliner Messe, which, like much of his work, seems to blend the ancient and the modern. A beautiful piece, recorded to the usual exemplary ECM standards.
There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. --Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #123 on: April 21, 2009, 03:23:03 PM »


I’ve been neglecting romantic music for a while, so I decided to try something new when a sale at a local retailer prompted me, for some unknown reason, to grab the Naxos disc of Amy Beach’s Gaelic Symphony and Piano Concerto.  It’s a nice disc.

It opens with the decidedly large-scale piano concerto.  Over thirty-six minutes in length, and scored for a big ol’ band, this is a late-romantic work through and through.  Cast in four movements, with lovely string writing, some beautiful melodies, dazzling cascades of piano notes from time to time, this work sounds quite Brahmsian in some ways, but also a bit anonymous in others.  It seems rather interchangeable with a number of obscure works from Hyperion’s Romantic Piano Concerto series.  Indeed, I wonder why Hyperion didn’t record it.  That written, it’s better than a number of works I heard from that series, though it doesn’t come close to matching the great works of the genre.

The same pretty much holds true for the so-called Gaelic Symphony.  Informed by Irish folk-tunes in place, according to the notes, this grand symphony again possesses a simultaneously Brahmsian and anonymous sound.  Once again, beautiful strings and beautiful melodies show up with some regularity, and once again it doesn’t compare to the great works in the genre.  It’s an enjoyable work, though.

Sound is a bit less than ideal, but Alan Feinberg plays the piano well, and Kenneth Schermerhorn leads his Nashville band more than ably.  A good, if not perhaps overly distinguished disc.


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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #124 on: April 30, 2009, 01:12:13 PM »



Albert Roussel is one of those composers I’ve routinely thought to myself I should investigate some more, but for some reason never did.  Until now.  Seeing that Christoph Eschenbach has recorded the symphonies for Ondine, all but guaranteeing wonderful sound for music that surely deserves it, I decided to try some more Roussel.  It was about time.

The disc opens with the gorgeous, wonderful First Symphony, subtitled Le Poème de la forêt (Poem of the Forest.)  On more than one occasion I found myself thinking ‘this is what Debussy would have written had he penned a symphony.’  It’s got that “impressionist” thing going on.  It’s got superb orchestration, ranging from gorgeous tuttis of ample strength to gorgeous passages scored for few instruments.  It’s got plenty of time for the flute, and for the harp.  It’s gorgeously languid, or languidly gorgeous, in many places.  It’s sophisticated.  It’s very Frenchness is undeniable and irresistible.  It’s a plum of a piece.

The much shorter, even more sophisticated Fourth is at least as good, and quite possibly better.  It’s more serious, a bit darker, and more tightly constructed.  But it’s also supremely beautiful, which seems to be something of a Roussel specialty.  And the strings are sumptuous. 

Eschenbach leads the Orchestre de Paris in two fine performances.  I have nothing to compare them to, but I can see trying another version or two of each work, and if even better recordings are available, all the better.

Superb sound, as expected.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2009, 03:25:56 PM by Todd »
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #125 on: May 13, 2009, 07:09:25 AM »



Where have you been all my life?  I pondered this question, not exactly seriously, while listening to another disc of music by Roussel conducted by Mr Eschenbach.  This disc, with the large-scale, serious symphony, and two suites from Bacchus et Ariane, made for a perfect follow-up to the prior disc of Roussel’s music.  This is some great stuff.

The disc opens with the two Bacchus suites, and what fine suites they are.  The music conveys all manner of moods, from fun and playful, to wistful, to sad, to boisterous.  More important, it’s inventive and fresh throughout, and just about everything is masterful.  The orchestration, the melodies, the harmonies: everything is superbly crafted.  There’s nary a weak spot.  Now, this isn’t my first time hearing the second suite; I have Eugene Ormandy’s recording as well, but Eschenbach rather handily bests him here.

But the raison d'être for this disc is surely the second symphony.  With its extended, slow, mysterious open, its colorful orchestration, its beautiful and soaring and occasionally slightly searing strings, and its decidedly attractive oomph in places, it tickles the ear.  And that’s the opening movement!  The second movement is slower and generally “quieter,” but it’s possessed of a tension and nervous energy that’s quite appealing, and the string writing takes on a certain Mahlerian or Shostakovichian sound at times.  Oh, and it stays resolutely attractive.  The final movement is bold, at times almost cacophonous, and definitely is the most animated movement of the work, though it has moments of relative serenity.  Again, the orchestration is inventive and appealing, and never can an ugly sound be heard.  It seems to be the perfect combination of symphonic rigor and elegance.  Perhaps it is, or perhaps it is not a masterpiece, but whatever the case, it’s a knockout, and I suspect I’ll have to explore other recordings.

Eschenbach and his band play superbly, and sound is outstanding.  A winner.
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Offline Diletante

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #126 on: May 13, 2009, 07:24:06 AM »
Hi. I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading your posts very much. :)
Orgullosamente diletante.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #127 on: May 17, 2009, 10:24:07 AM »
Whilst browsing a local used LP hut, I stumbled upon a CBS recording by Robert Casadesus that I didn’t have, which meant that I simply had to have it.  The LP, a low-price CBS Odyssey reissue of a late 50s recording of Vincent D’Indy’s Symphony on a French Mountain Air for Piano and Orchestra, finds Casadesus partnered with Eugene Ormandy and his Philadelphia Orchestra.  I’m not sure why this recording didn’t make it into the complete Casadesus Edition, because it is well played, sounds superb, and is an enjoyable piece.

How is it enjoyable?  Well, it has some decidedly French traits that tickle the ear.  Much of the time it’s light and swift.  The wind writing, especially for flute and oboe, is fun and piquant.  There’s a somewhat breezy feel to much of the music.  And it usually sounds elegant and beautiful.  The crescendos are sufficiently weighty and grand, given the mountain motif, and the piece never tips into orchestral excess.  The only real weakness for me is the somewhat trite ending.  The piano part is largely integrated into the music rather than being front and center as in a concerto, but even so there some fine moments for the soloist to shine.  Given the soloist involved, the shine is bright indeed.  In some ways the music of Joseph Canteloube came to mind, meaning, I assume, that Canteloube knew his D’Indy.  I can’t quite say that this long titled work is a relatively forgotten major masterpiece, but it is a very enjoyable work, and one I’ll spin every once in a while.

Though the LP is 20-30 years old, sound is superb.  Casadesus sounds fuller and richer than he does on CD, while retaining his litheness and elegance.  The Philadelphia strings sound absolutely gorgeous.  Only the sound of the brass is somewhat disappointing.

The other work on the LP is Cesar Franck’s Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra.  Since I have that work on CD, I decided to do an A-B comparison to hear which one sounds better.  The LP does, and rather handily.  Ironically, the CD is noisier than the LP.  This is due to the analog hiss, which is muffled on LP.  I suppose this means that the CD is more accurate, but what it translates to is a harder-edged, sharp, and at times unpleasant sound.  Casadesus’ piano playing sounds more metallic, and the orchestral strings harsher.  The brass is cleaner, and the low bass is tighter on the CD, but the overall effect is much less pleasant to listen to, and certainly sounds no more like real music.  The only clear advantage the CD has is in dynamic range.  And this is comparing the sound to a LP budget pressing.  I wonder what an original pressing might sound like.  Perhaps better, perhaps the same, perhaps worse, who knows?  Anyway, the $3 and change I paid for the LP was money well spent.


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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #128 on: May 19, 2009, 01:28:56 PM »



I figured I might as well finish off Christoph Eschenbach’s Roussel cycle, so I grabbed the disc devoted to the Third Symphony and the ballet Le Festin de l’araignée (The Spider’s Feast).  Not too surprisingly, at least for me, it’s quite a nice disc.

The symphony opens the disc, and it’s got all of those attributes I like about Roussel’s music.  It’s masterfully orchestrated, and at times plenty of fun, but it’s got more to it than that.  First, it’s nicely varied.  Imposing tuttis, a bit of 20s jazz influence, some searing strings, serene calmness, mildly violent outbursts, intriguing small solo turns, it’s a grab bag of musical goodies.  Second, it’s compact and economic in its means.  No idea wears out its welcome, as it were.  I can’t say it’s the best of the four symphonies, but it’s certainly on of the four best out of four superb works.

The ballet offers more luxurious, beautiful, at times languid and at times energetic music.  String writing, yep, it’s quite good.  Fun, yep, that’s there, too.  In general terms, it like the other pieces I’ve described.  I guess I can just say it Rousselian at this point.

Excellent sound and performances.  Eschenbach’s Roussel cycle is most enjoyable.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #129 on: May 29, 2009, 11:04:14 AM »



Once again I thought I’d try some music by Michael Tippett, to hear if there’s something in his output that really got me going.  String quartets seemed a good bet, so I went for the Naxos recording of Tippett’s string quartets 1, 2, and 4 played by The Tippett Quartet.  Meh.

I didn’t find anything wrong with the music, but I didn’t find anything especially compelling, either.  The first quartet from the 30s and 40s has a nice enough combination of romantic and slightly “modern” elements, but it’s just kind of there musically.  Nothing particularly interesting happens.  The second quartet, from the 40s, is perhaps a bit more “modern,” but it’s likewise a bit dull.  The fourth quartet, from the late 70s is a bit more interesting.  It’s more avant-garde, which isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it has more interesting ideas.  Alas, it strikes me as a bit too long; my attention wandered frequently. 

The Tippett Quartet play very well, and sound is very good, but the music just doesn’t work for me.  Others may find it more interesting, though.
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Bulldog

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #130 on: May 29, 2009, 11:45:24 AM »



Once again I thought I’d try some music by Michael Tippett, to hear if there’s something in his output that really got me going.  String quartets seemed a good bet, so I went for the Naxos recording of Tippett’s string quartets 1, 2, and 4 played by The Tippett Quartet.  Meh.

I didn’t find anything wrong with the music, but I didn’t find anything especially compelling, either.  The first quartet from the 30s and 40s has a nice enough combination of romantic and slightly “modern” elements, but it’s just kind of there musically.  Nothing particularly interesting happens.  The second quartet, from the 40s, is perhaps a bit more “modern,” but it’s likewise a bit dull.  The fourth quartet, from the late 70s is a bit more interesting.  It’s more avant-garde, which isn’t necessarily good or bad, but it has more interesting ideas.  Alas, it strikes me as a bit too long; my attention wandered frequently. 

The Tippett Quartet play very well, and sound is very good, but the music just doesn’t work for me.  Others may find it more interesting, though.


I find these quartets become more interesting with repeated listenings - that's a very good sign.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #131 on: May 29, 2009, 01:27:26 PM »
I find these quartets become more interesting with repeated listenings - that's a very good sign.



I found the opposite, unfortunately.  I've listened to the disc four times and the last time I usually found myself wondering why I wasn't listening to other music.  I'll probably keep the disc for a while, but between this, the symphonies, and the piano concerto disc, I'm not sure I'm a Tippett guy.
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Bulldog

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #132 on: May 29, 2009, 01:33:45 PM »


I found the opposite, unfortunately.  I've listened to the disc four times and the last time I usually found myself wondering why I wasn't listening to other music.  I'll probably keep the disc for a while, but between this, the symphonies, and the piano concerto disc, I'm not sure I'm a Tippett guy.

That's okay as long as you're a Bridge guy. ;D

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #133 on: May 29, 2009, 01:41:34 PM »
That's okay as long as you're a Bridge guy.



The little I've heard certainly seems to indicate that I am.  (Whew!)
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Bulldog

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #134 on: May 29, 2009, 02:57:54 PM »


The little I've heard certainly seems to indicate that I am.  (Whew!)

I had a few back-ups just in case:  Berkeley, Bax, Holbroke and Arnell.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #135 on: June 17, 2009, 06:52:04 AM »



In my listening experience, Michael Endres has demonstrated himself to be a fine player of Germanic piano music.  His Mozart and Schubert sonatas are among the best I’ve heard, and his Schumann, while not of the same caliber, is still very good.  So I decided that Endres would offer a good introduction to assorted piano works of Carl Maria von Weber.  While I do have a few versions of the Perpetuum Mobile ending of the first sonata, and possibly a version of the entire first sonata (I honestly can’t keep track), it’s been a long time since I listened to the recordings, and this is the first time I purposely bought some Weber piano music.

As I expected, Endres delivers.  Endres’ style is generally understated, but here it’s hard to be understated.  Weber’s music is filled with gobs of notes obviously meant to be played in virtuosic fashion.  Endres clearly has the technique to play the music with a glittering, easy sound when needed, and he can play the slower parts equally well.  His tone and style seem to work extremely well.

The music itself is very entertaining, but it sounds a bit shallow.  Compared to the great works of Beethoven and Schubert, there’s an empty slickness and banal playing-to-the-gallery feel to some of the music.  The fast movements are fast and dazzling, designed to draw applause.  The slow movements, while often very beautiful, don’t offer much depth.  That written, the music is definitely attractive.  And it’s fun.  It is also undeniably of its age; it almost screams out early Romanticism.  It’s hard to hate fun, early romantic piano music.  As to specific works, the Second Sonata and Seven Variations on the Aria Vien’qua dorina bella are my favorites at this point, but the Fourth Sonata and Grand Polonaise also have a strong appeal.  While I can’t say that this music matches up to the best music of the age, this is still a very enjoyable set for not too serious listening. 

Sound is a bit bright and a bit bass-shy, but otherwise is very good. 
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #136 on: June 30, 2009, 10:57:15 AM »


I so enjoyed my first disc of Véronique Gens singing songs of Joseph Canteloube that I decided to try the second volume on Naxos.  Everything I wrote about the first volume applies here.  The music is generally light, bright, and clean, with delicious wind writing, and it’s always beautiful.  Likewise, Ms Gens sounds wonderful, as expected. 

The disc finishes up Chants d’Auvergne and adds the Tryptyque and Chants de France.  There’s an obvious similarity among all the works, but the Tryptyque is special.  It’s more languid ‘n’ lush than the other works, and closer in spirit to Ravel’s great Scheherazade.  That’s a good thing.  For some inexplicable reason, Naxos didn’t include texts of any kind with the disc.  Go figure.

Sound is good, but the orchestra is a bit muddy at times, and Ms Gens sounds more prominent than she would in person, not that I’m complaining about that.  The Orchestre National de Lille plays well again, but this time Serge Baudo takes up the baton and does a fine job.  Another delightful disc.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #137 on: July 08, 2009, 10:36:42 AM »


I’ve enjoyed the orchestral music of Francis Poulenc since I first heard the Concerto for Two Pianos, so I decided it was time to try something else.  I decided to try the piano music.  I looked around and there aren’t exactly tons of options.  When I came across the complete works performed by Gabriel Tacchino on EMI, I found the set for me. 

As I expected, Poulenc’s solo piano music is mostly great fun.  A total of 83 pieces spread across the two discs, with many grouped into collections – 8 Nocturnes, 3 Intermezzi, 15 Improvisations, etc.  There are no really big works, no formal, serious sonatas.  But the music makes for good listening.  Sounding like a cross between Chabrier and Faure at times (and even Scriabin in the first of the 3 Pièces), his pieces are mostly light, crisp, clear, and snappy.  (And the Nocturnes certainly do not sound like one might expect.)  There are a fair number of slower, more somber pieces, but even they never really plumb the depths.  The music seems to be more superficial and designed to sound improvised. 

Gabriel Tacchino, an artist new to me, recorded the works between the mid-1960s and early-1980s, and he seems to be quite at home.  Sound is good, with the early digital recordings sounding better than the analog.  That written, these are 1980s transfers; perhaps EMI can do new ones.  Anyway, a quite nice set worthy of more than a few listens.
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Drasko

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #138 on: July 08, 2009, 02:09:40 PM »
I really like Tacchino in Poulenc. He is very swift and unsentimental, trés sec. The pianist whose playing most reminds me of Poulenc's own. But I don't think those 83 pieces are complete piano music, I have 102 pieces on 3 CDs (plus one CD concertante works and one CD with two pianos stuff):



Tacchino/Pretre Aubade is fantastic.

George

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #139 on: July 08, 2009, 06:36:10 PM »
I really like Tacchino in Poulenc.

Me too. I have that set that Todd spoke of and it is excellent.

Anyone heard his Saint Saens Concertos on Vox?