GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Great Recordings and Reviews => Topic started by: Todd on April 06, 2007, 06:22:52 AM

Title: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 06, 2007, 06:22:52 AM
[I plan on continuing this for a while - indeed, I got a big ol' stack of new music in my to-hear pile - so I figured I'd bring this thread over too.]


New to me at least.  As my journey through complete cycles of Beethoven’s piano sonatas winds down (though it may take months to get everything written, if I go that route), I began to wonder what will become my buying and listening focus.  And no, it (probably) won’t be Beethoven’s symphonies.  Debussy’s piano music would be good, I suppose, but I’ve been buying and listening to that in rather copious quantities over the last couple years as well, so that wouldn’t work.  Then it occurred to me: I must listen to more “new” music, or in other words, music I’ve not heard before.  While I’ve listened to a pretty wide variety of music over the decade or so that I’ve been seriously listening to classical music, I’ve not listened to anywhere near enough music.  There are thousands upon thousands of works, and I’ve heard perhaps thousands.  Not enough. 

So I’ve decided to listen to as much new music as I can over the next year or two or three or whatever.  From time to time I’ll write about said new music.  Keep in mind that this is music new to me, and so I may end up covering not only modern (ie, post-war) music, but also music going all the way back to the Baroque, or earlier.  Mostly, though, I expect most of the music to come from my favorite century, musically speaking: the 20th Century.  There’s so much variety that it seems the best place to start.

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000M2DNOG.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

Or not.  I ended up selecting music from the 21st Century for my inaugural post.  Specifically, I selected Huang Ruo’s Chamber Concerto Cycle from 2000-2002 on Naxos, as played by the International Contemporary Ensemble conducted by Ruo himself.  Ruo is a name completely new to me.  He’s a young (born 1976) Chinese born, now American domiciled composer who, according to the liner notes, some of which were written by Ruo, has been influenced by just about everything.  It shows.  The four concertos are brief works for ensembles ranging from five to fifteen players, with a few more instruments than that as some players double (or more) instruments.  They all blend Eastern influences and Western traditions, including jazz and everything avant garde.  One can detect whiffs of Bach, most notably in a cello part in the third concerto; Lutoslawksi, in the more astringent, densely written instrumental parts; and gobs of Stravinsky.  I thought I detected some transformed quotes from a work or two, and many portions sound like lost Stravinsky works from the 60s.  Even the jazz infused elements remind me more of Stravinsky’s approach to this idiom than of the idiom itself.  That may be bad or good, depending on one’s preferences.

People who like percussion will love this music, because there’s a lot of it.  All but the third concerto have parts for percussion, and it’s here where Ruo shines.  The writing and playing are vibrant, physical, and visceral.  Drums and cymbals and gongs (including one big old honkin’ “bass” gong, if there be such a thing) show up everywhere, in speedy, energetic, and nimble music.  Winds and strings are plentiful too, often exploring their higher registers to good, tangy, dissonant effect.  And there’s that whole “exotic” Eastern thing, too, sort of like adrenalized, mandarin Takemitsu.  Ruo and company also include spoken and sung parts in the piece, all of which involve Chinese texts.  Truth to tell, I find the instrumental writing more compelling than the vocal writing, and sometimes it doesn’t seem as well integrated as a Mozart aria or a Lutoslawski orchestral song.  But I like it.  Perhaps most promising is the fact that Ruo was only in his mid twenties when he wrote the music, so as he matures he may write something even better.  As it is, this disc will receive multiple spins.

Sound is close and clear and quite good, though some low frequency noise and rumble is audible through most of it. 

(A note: I anticipate many Naxos discs will be covered.  Revisiting the Naxos catalog reveals many enticing titles.  Too many, in fact.) 


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 06, 2007, 06:24:02 AM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000LC4B4I.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_V45732140_.jpg)


It’s new to me.  It took me a while to get in to Italian opera, then a little more time to get into Gioacchino Rossini, and then a bit more time until I figured I might want to try his Stabat Mater.  His comic operas, or at least some of them, are wonderful, and even Guillame Tell has some magnificent parts.  But a Stabat Mater?  I decided to try a “safe” conductor in the great Carlo Maria Giulini, well aware of what such a comparatively late recording means in terms of tempo (slow or slowish) and approach (devout).  I selected at least reasonably wisely.

The work very definitely sounds operatic in approach, at least when compared to liturgical works by, say, Haydn or Bach.  Rossini’s music works splendidly for the soloists at all times, with just the right accompaniment for each of the members of the quartet.  And the tenor, well, he gets some special music, even if it sounds more buoyant that I would have expected in such a work.  The choral contribution is magnificent as well, never more so than in the last two movements.  Alternatively delicate and enchanting and powerful and driven, it helps the work.

The soloists all sound well, though since I’ve not heard any other versions, I can’t make any comparisons.  Giulini leads the work much the way I though he would, and thus I was very pleased.  I can’t really say that this is my favorite such work – not with works by Bach and Haydn and Szymanowski out there – and it certainly doesn’t strike me as particularly devout, but I’m glad I heard it, even if I’m not really compelled to collect too many (if any) other versions.

The early digital sound is better than I anticipated – maybe it got a makeover – if it still displays patches of glassiness and congestion at times.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 06, 2007, 06:24:48 AM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B0002BXO50.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

Here’s a composer new to me.  To the extent I’d even seen Leonardo Balada’s name before it was only in ads.  That’s a shame.  I picked up the Naxos disc devoted to his Guernica, Homage to Sarasate, Homage to Casals, Fourth Symphony, and a suite derived from his opera Zapata, appropriately entitled Zapata: Images for Orchestra

In many ways Balada is what I’m looking for in new music, and here that means music from as recent as 1992 (the symphony).  He blends folk music a la Bartok and Ives, intense modernism, and avant garde elements calling to mind Ligeti, among others.  The music on this disc never sounds academic or merely analytical; there’s the spark of life to all of it.  Guernica, from 1966, opens the disc, and the piece is inspired by Picasso’s work of the same name, and both depict, rather gruesomely, the Spanish Civil War.  The piece does about as good a job translating the image to music as I can imagine, though perhaps others can imagine a better visual-to-aural transcription.  (If so, they should write it down.)  It’s chaotic and violent and confused and ugly and vibrant, and has the musical equivalent of an explosion right in the middle.  It’s a dense, short work of just over 11 minutes, and while it’s not easy listening, it’s immensely gripping.

The two homages are more deliberately avant garde, what with spooky high string notes and tremolos and disjointed elements coming and going.  They seem somewhat less focused than the first work, but they are likewise compelling.  The Fourth Symphony is an interesting work in that it was written for Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (hence its title “Lausanne”), and contains, the excellent liner notes report, elements of Swiss folk music.  Again, it’s a very modernist piece, but one informed by many moments of levity and textural lightness and even beauty.  In some ways, the two homages and the symphony sound the same – a critique anti-modernists would no doubt level – but there’s much more than enough musical food for thought in each piece.

The final work is the suite derived from Zapata.  What a collection!  The first movement, a Waltz, sounds just like a 19th Century waltz and falls beautifully on the ears, with delicate string writing.  The piece slowly transmogrifies into grotesque, almost chaotic music meant to symbolize a firing squad.  It’s very effective.  The March starts and stays grotesque in the best Expressionist-cum-trippy-avant-garde fashion, at times sounding like (disturbed) cartoon music.  The wonderful Elegy is apparently lifted straight from the opera, with a solo cello taking Zapata’s part and a solo violin his dying brother’s part.  The work closes with a Wedding Dance using Jarabe Tapatio (which pretty much everyone knows) as its recurring theme, which Balada then spins out in different directions while weaving in his own music most expertly.  It’s sort of like what Ives did, but more sophisticated.

This is one heck of a disc, and I now know I must explore more of Balada’s music.  Pronto.

Excellent sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 06, 2007, 06:26:37 AM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000I2IUWA.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

My experience with Alan Rawsthorne has been quite limited thus far.  I’ve heard a Naxos disc dedicated to various chamber works by the composer, which includes the superb Viola Sonata among other fine works, as well as another Naxos disc of various concertos, which I find rather bland.  Given that, I decided it couldn’t hurt to try more of his chamber music, so I opted for the Maggini Quartet’s recording of the three String Quartets and Theme and Variations for Two Violins, again on Naxos.  It falls somewhere between the two other discs, though much closer to the prior chamber music disc.

The disc opens with the Theme and Variations for Two Violins, and it’s a pretty nice work.  It falls rather easily on the ear overall, though some spicy dissonant passages crop up, and the variations themselves are nicely varied stylistically and in emotional impact.  It’s not a towering masterpiece perhaps, but it’s not bad.  (Then again, it may be a towering masterpiece.)

The core of the disc starts off with the first quartet, another theme and variations work.  Compact and concise at about 10’, it moves along swiftly from idea to idea, never hovering over one idea too long.  Even so, it doesn’t pack quite the wallop I’m looking for in music of the era (1939).  Better is the second quartet from 1954.  It’s likewise compact and concise at under 18’, but from the start it’s more intense and thorny and vital.  Stinging and biting while still maintaining some lyricism and vigor, it really works.  Not that it’s all that way; Rawsthorne let’s silence and extremely quiet playing add to the impact of the music.  The third quartet (1965) goes a bit further down the same path and maintains tension throughout.  I suppose one can detect hints of other great quartet writers, but Rawsthorne is distinctive enough.  No, he can’t quite match up to, say, Bartok or Shostakovich, but I’m glad I got this disc nonetheless.  Looks like Rawsthorne’s up my alley in smaller scale fare.  Duly noted.

Sound is generally excellent, though it can be just a tad bright at times.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 06, 2007, 06:27:19 AM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000003G39.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

Moving on to the next work finds an opera I’ve been meaning to hear for a while but have never gotten around to.  I write of Carl Maria von Weber’s Oberon.  I rather like Der Freischutz, so it’s somewhat surprising to me that it took as long as it did to get to this one.  But it did. 

I was able to pick up a used copy of Marek Janowski’s 1996 recording, so no more delays would be tolerated.  First I’ll just comment on the SOTA sound: It’s glorious.  Everything is clear and warm and presented in realistic perspective.  Special mention must be made of the sound of the choral singing.  The words they sing are usually clear, their placement easy to discern.  That’s a bonus. 

The opera itself is pretty good, though not of Freischutz quality.  The elf king and his love’s bet on the devotion of humans in love and Oberon’s machinations to help the heroes and heroines is opera-silly, and it doesn’t really seem meaty enough to support the proceedings at times, but it’ll do.  (Really, Der Freischutz, is pretty silly, too.)  The spoken dialogue is comparatively lame – at least when compared to the occasionally compelling dialogue in Der Freischutz – and it sure sounds like closely-miked actors do the speaking rather than the singers, but what ya gonna do?  The singers generally do well.  The late Deon van der Walt makes a fine elf king, Peter Seiffert a brave Huon, and Inga Nielsen makes a pleasant sounding Rezia.  (Which is a good thing given how much she sings.)  Vasselina Kassarova’s Fatime and Bo Skovhus’ Scherasmin are also pleasant enough to hear.  Janowski leads a tightly controlled, rhythmically sprung, lively, and orchestrally transparent account of the music, though I can’t comment on how he (or the singers) compare to others.

The music is good enough so that I will return to it.  Weber’s inventive writing and orchestration – a flute melody flying above a string accompaniment, undulating clarinets with low strings supporting them, etc – and the general energy level make it a fun listen.  I’ll probably program out the dialogue next time, but really, I have no complaints.  Now I have to give Kubelik a try.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 07, 2007, 02:24:07 PM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B0000ACY0Q.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_V45223415_AA240_.jpg)

I figured it was about time to try another disc of Leonardo Balada’s music, so I opted for the Naxos disc with his second Cello Concerto, entitled New Orleans, along with his Concerto for Four Guitars and Orchestra, as well as two shorter orchestral works, Celebracio and a Passacaglia.  Again, it was a good choice. 

The disc opens with the Cello Concerto (2001), which is heavily influenced by “folk” sources, here a combination of spirituals and jazz.  The opening movement entitled Lament is influenced rather obviously by spirituals; it fairly oozes with the stuff.  But it works.  The music is still dense and layered and surprisingly modern while retaining an immediately accessible neo-romantic sound.  One may even be able to detect very faint whiffs of American-era Dvorak in the mix, along with hints of jazz.  The cello part is well written and superbly played by Michael Sanderling.  The second movement, called Swinging swings!  Here the obvious spiritual references are replaced by jazz elements that sound more than jazzy enough.  It’s more a Gershwin or perhaps Schulhoff style of jazz than an Ellington or Davis style, and it appears in a strangely surreal, dream-like setting; the music flows along, with jazzy bits popping in and out at random, or seemingly so.  (Of course it’s not really random.)  So much sounds so familiar, but it’s all new invention.  One can’t place the exact influence because it’s a blend of many, and it just jells.  Another superb work.

I approached the Concerto for Four Guitars and Orchestra (1976), with the Versailles Guitar Quartet doing the small ensemble honors, with some trepidation.  Truth to tell, I’m not a big fan of acoustic guitar music, in its classical guise or any other guise.  A little bit goes a long way.  Electrify and amplify the instrument, and, well, the same holds true.  But here I must say that I was pleasantly surprised.  First things first: this is a decidedly “modern” work, all knotty and dense and avant garde, so some may run for cover just reading that.  I almost did.  But I stuck it out.  When the guitars enter, they play with a nice degree of tension and simple repetitiveness, then something quite striking happens – they blend seamlessly into the pizzicato high strings that bring the orchestra in full bore.  Throughout the work the transitions between orchestra and soloists sound perfect, and Balada never lets the orchestra overpower the four instruments, which could very easily happen.  The second movement (the movements are titled I, II, and III) is slow and eerie, with some tangy and delicious high register playing on the guitars and various intriguing devices elsewhere.  The nine minutes sail by, and then the final movement just appears, with more energy and bite and some satisfying tuttis sprinkled throughout.  That makes yet another winner.

Next up is Celebracio from 1992.  It opens very slowly and quietly and has a distinctly baroque sensibility.  It quickly expands into a denser, more modern sounding piece, with Balada’s writing highlighting different sections of the orchestra to spectacular effect.  It takes a little time, but the piece develops into full, grand, celebratory music that works as both a thought-provoking musical essay and easily accessible public showpiece. 

The disc closes with a Passacaglia from 2002.  It sounds spare and lovely to open, and it immediately evokes the same type of quasi-dream state that the Cello Concerto does.  And that wind writing!  I know I’ve heard something like it before.  Or have I?  Various musical ideas dance in and out of the piece fluidly, yet there’s an effortlessness and inevitability to how the music progresses.  It starts off abstract and hard to pin down, but slowly turns into a folk passacalle.  Another little gem.

All parties involved do a superb job, with Colman Pierce showing himself to be a fine conductor and the Barcelona orchestra a rather fine regional ensemble.  Excellent sound rounds out a superb disc.  At full price it would be worth every cent; at the Naxos price it’s a veritable steal.  I need more Balada.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Guido on April 08, 2007, 07:23:11 AM
Thanks for these - all very interesting reads. I do not share your enthusiasm for Balada, but it is good to read nonetheless. You should try the Naxos disc of the Rawsthorne Cello concerto again - even if the thematic material isn't always first rate, there are many moments of real beauty, and it is a very good work. The Symphonic Studies on the same disc is similarly brilliant.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 09, 2007, 05:00:37 AM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000053W4E.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

For years I planned on getting this disc, yet I only recently got around to doing so.  I didn’t really miss a whole lot.  Don’t get me wrong, the disc isn’t terrible or even bad – hell, it’s okay or better – but it doesn’t really offer anything that really catches the attention for long in two of the three works.  The best of the lot is the trio by Gunther Schuller, which is dense and layered and rhythmically complex, all while being subtle.  The Lalo Schifrin and Gerald Shapiro trios both bring to mind that famous Stravinsky quip: “Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.”  Both works are too long, and while both have some appealing elements, I just cannot get into them.  It’s not that they’re especially difficult, “modernist” pieces, mind you, they just don’t hold my attention.  Indeed, the Shapiro has some decidedly romantic aspects, including a creamy beautiful Adagio, but it still just doesn’t do it for me.

Sound is generally excellent and spacious, especially with HDCD decoding.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: karlhenning on April 09, 2007, 05:12:55 AM
Thanks for carrying the thread on, Todd.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 21, 2007, 06:18:28 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/P/B00009NJ1D.01._SCLZZZZZZZ_V44287645_AA240_.jpg)

Heitor Villa-Lobos isn’t a composer new to me, but aside from The Baby’s Family and one other miniature played by Nelson Freire on an Audiofon recording of a 1984 recital, I’ve not listened to his piano music.  So I figured why not give one of Sonia Rubinsky’s discs of the composer’s piano music a shot?  Ms Rubinsky apparently is recording a complete set of Villa-Lobos’ piano music, so if one disc is good there may be more goodies to be heard.  Plus the discs have been well-reviewed, so I figured the music and playing should be at least pretty good.  They’re much more than that.

If the third volume in the series is anything to go by, this is one heck of a series, and Villa-Lobos is one heck of a composer for solo piano.  The disc opens with the Suite Floral, and it’s an absolutely lovely little work.  Much of it sounds like a missing piece by Faure, though the third piece betrays its non-French heritage with some verve not often found in the piano works of the more famous French composer.  Next up is Ciclo Brasileiro, which is another collection of miniatures that at times sounds like a modern-day Latinization of other composers: The third piece sounds like virtuosic, Latin Chopin; the fourth sounds very much like a tropical Prokofiev.  That’s not to say that Villa-Lobos doesn’t have his own voice.  He does.  Indeed, the opening miniature is simply wonderful, with its ubiquitous right hand ostinato underpinning lyrical left hand playing, and the second piece sounds like a waltz-meets-tango dance.  The next work is Brinquedo de Roda, which one can think of as Villa-Lobos’ version of Children’s Corner.  It’s largely delightful, but such a suite invariably invites comparison to Debussy’s more famous, and better, work, and at times the material just doesn’t rise to the same level as the other music on the disc.  The next work is a trio of pieces called  Dancas Caracteristicas Africanas, and while there’s a “folk” element to it, it ultimately sounds abstract and rhythmically complex, and really invites the listener to listen carefully.  The disc ends with four miniatures – Tristorosa and three Choros – and all of them display the same traits, to one degree or another, of the preceding works.  On the basis of this music, I can’t quite say that Villa-Lobos should be considered alongside the very greatest composers for the keyboard, but he deserves far more attention, and I intend to here more discs in this series.

To the pianist: she is quite fine indeed!  Perhaps because she’s Brazilian, or perhaps because of her training and technique, or perhaps because of all of that and more, Ms Rubinsky really delivers the goods.  She seems to understand the music well, and she masterfully handles the rhythmic aspects of the music and brings out delicate and varied tonal colors throughout the disc.  I’d very much like to hear her in some standard rep – above all, Chopin and Schumann – and I know I must hear more of her Villa-Lobos. 

Sound is superb, though some pedaling is perhaps a little more noticeable than ideal.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 22, 2007, 05:38:01 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/519F9Y0TRWL._AA240_.jpg)

I figured it was time for two things: some new Mozart, and a brief Brazilian aside in my on-going journey.  How to do both?  Follow up new music by Heitor Villa-Lobos with music by Mozart Camargo Guarnieri.  Guarnieri, who according to the Naxos notes is “universally recognized as the most important Brazilian composer after Villa-Lobos,” is entirely new to me.  If I’d even seen his name before, I’d forgotten it.  But this disc stuck out in the “G” rack, what with its bright, colorful cover and its unfamiliar name.  That the disc contained a trio of piano concertos convinced me to buy.

The disc contains the first three of Guarnieri’s six piano concertos.  I decided to start with the first.  The opening movement – Salvagem – bursts into being, with bright, colorful, dense and slightly opaque orchestral writing very much outside the standard European tradition.  It’s infused with local folk music, or an intellectual abstraction of Brazilian folk music, and has a vital, swinging rhythm to it.  The piano writing varies nicely between a bravura, virtuosic style and a more delicate, color-conscious approach.  The slow movement, here called Saudosament, displays sparer writing for both band and soloist, and perhaps even a dash of despair.  The closing Depressa is back to showy concerto mode, with especially appealing wind writing of the Latin variety.  A fine opener.

The second concerto opens with a Decidido that sounds more sophisticated musically as well as grander and more sweeping.  Whereas the piano is largely integrated with the orchestra in the first concerto, here the piano is more prominent.  Bright and substantial and showy, the piece shares definite stylistic similarities with the earlier work.  The second movement Afetusoso is rich and complex and comparatively exotic.  It sounds very much like a Latin piece in the style of, well, Villa-Lobos, with, again, the winds adding unique textures and vibrancy to the music.  The piece closes with a Vivo that opens with rapid-fire piano playing and then moves along with an irresistible drive to the end. 

The third piano concerto opens with an Allegro deciso that is frenetic and propulsive out of the gate, but which slows up a bit to allow exceedingly colorful orchestral writing to shine through, and also some dazzling asides for various instruments and exhilarating exchanges between soloist and orchestra.  The slow movement – here labeled Magoado – is slow a sparse with chamber music-like textures and a lovely duo involving the piano and flute.  The work closes with a Festivo that’s tangy and robust, with, yet again, especially attractive wind writing.  The piano part is again relatively integrated into the whole, but it also displays nice virtuosic flashes.  The music occasionally sounds languid and humid, if you will, but mostly it’s vibrant and celebratory.

So, here’s a disc filled with vibrant, exciting music making.  In some ways, I guess one could draw parallels to Bartok’s three piano concertos, though any such action would do justice to neither composer.  It would also point out one weakness in the music on this disc: it’s almost all about show.  These are largely virtuosic showpieces and lack the depth of the greatest (or even greater) piano concertos.  Since Deep and Heavy music isn’t always needed, I do know I’ll come back to these pieces again, and I’d even like to hear not only the remaining piano concertos, but also some other music by this composer.  The pianist, Max Barros, acquits himself quite nicely here, playing with flair and panache, and Thomas Conlin and the Warsaw Philharmonic support him very well indeed.  Excellent sound.  A winner.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: johnQpublic on April 22, 2007, 05:58:16 AM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000053W4E.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

but it doesn’t really offer anything that really catches the attention for long in two of the three works.  The best of the lot is the trio by Gunther Schuller, which is dense and layered and rhythmically complex, all while being subtle. 

Yeah, that's kind of my assessment too, although I have not played the disc in a while. Wasn't the Schifrin sort of a hommage to Ravel and therefore he toned down his atonal tendancies for it?
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 28, 2007, 05:42:14 PM
Wasn't the Schifrin sort of a hommage to Ravel and therefore he toned down his atonal tendancies for it?


I believe so.  I think I'd rather listen to Ravel.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 28, 2007, 05:43:48 PM
(http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Kx4q-977L._AA240_.jpg)


How does one approach a recording like Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s final recording of orchestral love songs written for her by her husband?  There’s certainly the potential for hagiography and exaggeration given the tragic circumstances, but I opted just to listen and gauge whether I like the music for what it is.  Previously I’d only heard the late Mrs Lieberson in two other works: Handel’s Theodora under William Christie, and Mahler’s Second under Michael Tilson Thomas.  In both cases she more or less made the recording, the former especially.  In this disc she is the recording.  Everything about it is very clearly meant for her and she delivers the goods.  The disc contains settings of five love poems penned by Pablo Neruda, which the Liebersons selected together.  The great care I imagine they devoted to the project pays off.

The first two names that jumped immediately into my mind within the first few notes are Mahler and Berg.  Since I like Mahler and Berg, that’s quite alright with me.  My first overall impression of the music and performance, and one that stayed as I listened to the whole work, was one of intense, personal music.  These are not necessarily grand orchestral songs, but rather are intimate selections, and Mrs Lieberson nails every song with such delicate nuance and subtle inflection and communicative power that one just sits and revels in the music.  The close miking helps bring out every last expressive gesture in her voice.  The orchestral writing is mostly “modern,” in an early-20th Century kind of way, though there are more than a few moments of exquisite beauty.  All of the songs work well, with the absolutely wonderful My love, if I die and you don’t that closes the disc a rather obvious and moving farewell, which brings to mind Strauss’ closer to the Four Last Songs.  And this song is as good as that one.  For me, though, the highlight is the third song – Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because – which is a perfect synthesis of text, music, and interpretation.  The winding, gripping music and lyrics set the stage for singing of a very high order indeed.  At times throughout the disc it may be possible to hear hints of excess or self-indulgence, but if there is any subject that not only withstands but benefits from such things, it’s love, especially in the circumstances here. 

I very much like this disc.  When it comes to orchestral songs I still prefer some other works – by the three other composers mentioned here for starters – but this disc is superb.  For me it serves as a primer to explore more of Peter Lieberson’s music, and it also obviously stands as a monument to the late Mrs Lieberson.  Here’s a work where it may be fine if no other recordings are ever made.  Really, what would be the point, and who could ever compare?


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 11, 2007, 04:31:37 AM
(http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/4150DP9FRML._AA240_.jpg)


Something entirely new seemed warranted.  You know, music by a composer I’d never so much as read a sentence about.  Stephen Hartke fit the bill.  I’d seen the name, but knew nothing beyond how to spell his name.  When I stumbled upon this disc at a local store I decided to buy based on two things: the fact that it was so new to me, and the fact that no less than Richard Stolzman plays the solo part in the main work on the disc, the Clarinet Concerto from 2001.

And that seems a good place to start.  The work is apparently influenced not only by jazz and blues, but also by the music that was the root of much jazz and blues, western African music.  Since I’m not an ethnomusicologist, I can’t really vouch for how significantly this piece resembles said music, but I can report than the opening movement, Senegambia, is bright and vibrant and has a pulsating energy to it, all premised on a five-note ostinato bass-line.  It has a very groovy, dance-like feel to it, and it reminds me of proto-jazz rather than proto-blues.  (An exploration of the roots of the blues is what it’s about.)  Stolzman, well, as I expected, he handles all with panache and ease, infusing his part with life.  Now, the second movement, Delta Nights, it’s something different.  It’s slower and darker, but still relatively bright and lively for something trying to evoke night.  Or is it?  (Sorta depends on what type of night life one has in mind, I guess.)  The clarinet adds a drowsy, decidedly bluesy feel to the music.  At times the playing and the music brought Erwin Schulhoff’s Hot Sonata to mind.  It has that same composed spontaneity and directness that the earlier work does.  There’s nice, light, transparent support from the small orchestra, too, with luxuriant string writing, and at times, for a slow movement, the whole thing is a bit dazzling.  The final movement, Philamayork, opens with muscular playing from the orchestra, and slinky and groovy playing from the soloist.  The music picks up in both speed and energy, and becomes a bit denser along the way.  After a while it seems rather like a more modern, more vital Gershwin.  It’s just plain dandy, too.  A definite winner.

The rest of the disc is given over to shorter works.  The Rose of the Winds, a string octet from 1998, is a darker hued though not dark toned work, with rich, lush low strings supporting shimmering high strings in a sort of abstract musical journey.  There are of course lighter parts that have the buoyancy from the first work, and the whole thing unfolds effortlessly as idea after idea comes forth.  Gradūs, a sextet from 1999, sounds surprisingly “big”, and the up-close recording brings the piece to vibrant life.  The double bass provides the springy rhythm, and the rest of the ensemble add tight, bright playing over that, with the bass clarinet adding some most welcome texture.  Pacific Rim, from 1988, is an orchestral work that is rather obvious in showing its eastern influences (a comment, not a criticism), and it sounds bright and crisp and snappy, with a sure rhythmic sense – something Hartke seems intent on imbuing every work with.  The orchestration is diverse and novel, and some combos work very well, and when one considers all the textural changes and even the fugue, one can only conclude that is a fine work.

I’m definitely glad I got this disc.  It’s fresh-air contemporary music, by which I mean it’s decidedly modern in its use of disparate influences and techniques, but it’s also as un-stodgy as can be, and is immediately accessible.  No deep-thought is necessary to enjoy this work – in contrast to, say Charles Wourinen – but listening with an analytical ear only increases one’s appreciation of the music.  I look forward to hearing more from this composer.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: karlhenning on May 11, 2007, 05:03:15 AM
Wasn't the Schifrin sort of a hommage to Ravel and therefore he toned down his atonal tendancies for it?

Schifrin had atonal tendencies?
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: karlhenning on May 11, 2007, 05:04:29 AM
Very interesting review of the Hartke, Todd, thanks!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 12, 2007, 05:54:06 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/410VXCRJQZL._AA240_.jpg)


I’d had two positive experiences with discs of Leonardo Balada’s music, so I decided to try a third disc.  I’ve had three positive experiences with discs of Leonardo Balada’s music.  This new disc is of his first Violin Concerto (1982) and three smaller works, Folk Dreams (1994-98), Sardana (1979), and Fantasías Sonoras (1987).  I’ll just dive right in,

The Violin Concerto is the meat of the disc.  The very modernist sounding work opens with an almost quasi-Messiaen orchestra-sounds-like-an-organ sound with blocks of music thrown out, though the sound is harder and darker than the Frenchman’s music.  The violinist enters with slashing playing to meet the challenge of the orchestra, but soon the soloist is truly going solo, and the music is involving and suits the instrument well.  It also takes on a dance-like character.  The orchestral writing largely alternates between big blocks of sound and tingly, spiky, but always intriguing and inviting and novel little spurts of sound.  The music becomes lighter as the movement progresses.  The second movement – II – is the standard slow movement, and here the violin gets some gloriously gorgeous melodies to play.  I thought more than once of Samuel Barber here.  As the movement progresses, the music gets tangier, and the soloist still keeps one riveted.  The music bleeds attacca right into the final movement, which is a suitably conventional fast ending, complete with a jaunty, saucy dance-like feel for the violin, and groovy and beefy orchestral music, with some nice thundering right before the humorous little end.  All involved do a swell job, but Andrés Cárdenes is worthy of special praise for his fine fiddlin’.  I wouldn’t mind at all hearing him play something else.  So, another winner from the Spaniard.

The next work, Folk Dreams, is a collection of three work written throughout the 90s for different conductors and orchestras (rather like Elliot Carter’s Symphonia), and all are inspired by folk music (whodda guessed?), though put through the surrealist treatment.  The first piece, Line and Thunder, based on a Latvian theme, has a reasonably attractive melody coursing through the work, with heavier, more rhythmically syncopated music interrupting the flow to good effect.  Shadows, based on a Catalan theme, is slower and darker and richer, with at times eerie high strings put to good use.  The music is varied and layered and falls invitingly on the ears.  Echoes, based rather obviously on an Irish theme, is vigorous and jaunty and has slightly sinister overtones to it.  All told, another fine work.  Not Symphonia good perhaps, but good all the same.

The next work, Sardana, is yet another folk music inspired, dance-like piece.  It takes a traditionally small ensemble piece and fleshes it out with nice wind writing, nice rhythmic flair, and a generally light though sometimes sharp sound.  That written, it does sound a bit too long.  Fantasías Sonoras is a brief work where one cell is continually transmogrified throughout the work.  Generous textural and dynamic contrasts, copious orchestral colors, and an at times boisterous sound all lend themselves to a good time. 

Balada is three-for-three for me. 

Excellent sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: BorisG on May 12, 2007, 02:23:58 PM
Todd, who is the distracting effeminate-looking fellow in your posts?
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 12, 2007, 06:41:14 PM
That's a young Val Kilmer in the great comedy Top Secret!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: XB-70 Valkyrie on May 12, 2007, 08:18:15 PM
Thanks Todd. Your reviews are always interesting and helpful.

If you want to get into Debussy's piano music some more, you MUST buy this set:

(http://www.membran.net/img/223500_front.jpg)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on May 13, 2007, 12:04:11 AM
Any comments on the sound on this? No dubt on artistic quality though.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: XB-70 Valkyrie on May 13, 2007, 02:22:51 AM
These range from terrible to decent. The first two CDs have a disclaimer saying that the historical value of these recordings makes them worthwhile despite lousy sound quality. The worst ones include the Beethoven Sonata no 3, Three Chopin Mazurkas, Mozart and Schumann piano ctos. The other ones I've heard so far are all OK IMO. Given the fact that these are all live recordings made in various venues over a long span of time, I doubt that the sound quality would be much better on other (much more expensive) releases on other labels. Still, for about $40, you're getting 10 CDs with some very interesting material. The Debussy preludes are actually not bad sounding at all (in terms of sound quality). I've still not listened to the other 7 CDs in this set.

You might encounter a problem obtaining these. The first set (on Membran), I just happened to find in a bookstore in Victoria BC (Canada) back in July of last year. The other set (pictured above), I had to order through a local retailer, but it took about three months to arrive. (Amazon didn't carry them.)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on May 13, 2007, 03:39:17 AM
currently listed on mdt.co.uk
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 13, 2007, 04:54:14 AM
If you want to get into Debussy's piano music some more, you MUST buy this set:


Already covered on the Gaspard thread, but here goes: Already did!  And it's companion 10-disc set.  Arkiv had them on sale for $15 each last month or the month before, so I figured $30 for 20 discs of Michelangeli - how could I go wrong?  I already had six individual discs from the set, including the complete Preludes (to augment the studio DG recordings), but those discs found a deserving home.  Sound is variable, with poor sound marring an otherwise deliciously sinister (in a cartoon-ish way) Liszt firs piano concerto on the one hand, but a fine Carnaval on the others.  Anyway, both sets should still be at Arkiv.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 13, 2007, 07:14:00 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000031W5A.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)


I was so impressed by the Naxos “sampler” of various works by Conlon Nancarrow that I determined I should hear more of his music as soon as possible.  With this composer that means one thing: his Studies for Player Piano.  Now, at first glance, the idea of listening to dozens of studies for a comparatively poor sounding instrument that, by its very nature, lacks any intimate, human artistic element in its utilization may seem a bit daunting or even downright uninteresting.  (The problem regarding sound can probably be overcome by recordings on MDG, which use a customized Bösendorfer.)  Where’s the emotion in such music to be found?  It’s all so mechanical, right? 

Not so right.  From the outset it’s clear that Nancarrow’s works for player piano are almost certainly as good as can be written for that instrument.  It’s also clear that the music is anything but mechanical.  It’s funny and probing and invigorating and challenging.  It’s so human.  It has been freed of the limitations of human digital dexterity.  The only limit is the imagination of the composer.  And that seems almost boundless.  Through the course of the dozens of studies, Nancarrow displays an amazing range.  He throws in so many ideas, tries so many things, explores rhythmic patterns that cannot otherwise be realized, and so expertly probes the possibilities of aleatoric music, that by the end the listener is left more than a little dazed.  How to assimilate all the music?  One can’t, at least not in a few sittings, or perhaps many sittings.  There’s so much on offer.  Indeed, one can’t possibly cover the highlights of five discs of nothing but highlights.  Whether one considers the seemingly simple repeated patterns in some works, or the impossibly insistent and steady notes that flow through entire works (think one note repeated permanently at exactly the right tempo even though literally thousands of notes flurry around it), or the dizzying paths some of the music takes, it’s all so much.  And then when one ends up listening to the third “movement” of the three part study 41, for two player pianos, where thousands upon thousands of notes per minute (perhaps an exaggeration, but only slightly) come hurling out of the speakers in a precise yet potentially random fashion (depending on just how one syncs up the two pianos), one can only marvel at such creative genius.  Yes, genius. 

This set cements Conlon Nancarrow’s standing for me: he’s among the greats of the 20th Century.  His music is unique, and there’s just so much there.  Were I a musicologist, I could probably devote years to analyzing the music.  I’d rather listen to it, though.  I’d rather listen to the myriad ideas bursting out of the archaic, almost silly instrument.  Nothing else is like it.  This is an amazing set, certainly one of the best purchases of the year for me, and one I shall return to time and again.  If you are even remotely adventurous, do consider some of this music.  The set is available in separate volumes, and as referred to before, MDG is recording a “competing” cycle played on a Bösendorfer.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting that, too. 

Sound is close and dry and analytical and reveals everything.  While I was able to listen to two discs straight through, I usually had to split up listening sessions to allow for some aural relaxation.  But I always came back for more. 

Amazing stuff.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: dtwilbanks on May 13, 2007, 07:22:10 AM
Thanks for that, Todd. This is a thread I always check.

Your post on Nancarrow and player pianos brings Zappa to mind. As a side note here, when Frank Zappa got fed up with musicians who were too expensive, not talented or not interested enough in his music, he began composing on the synclavier, which is some sort of programmable synthesizer, I guess. I believe he has several recordings using this instrument. For what it's worth, here's a video of him composing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77pDQceiUus
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 13, 2007, 07:46:01 AM
Ah, yes, Mr Zappa - what a guy.  I'm more partial to his pop/rock stuff (Joe's Garage is a classic!), but I have a very young Kent Nagano leading a disc of his music from the early 80s as well as Jazz from Hell (complete with the original G-spot Tornado) which is an all synclavier disc.  Stylistically, I'd have to say Nancarrow is more sophisticated and unique; Zappa tended to be derivative outside of rock music, and seemed to rather like serial-era Stravinsky.  For good reason.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: BorisG on May 13, 2007, 01:23:49 PM
That's a young Val Kilmer in the great comedy Top Secret!

I thought it might be. Lately, Val is sporting a very large beer belly.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 19, 2007, 02:39:35 PM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51B1J67PDQL._AA240_.jpg)


I so enjoyed the third volume of Sonia Rubinsky’s ongoing series dedicated to Heitor Villa-Lobos’ piano music that I figured I ought to try another disc.  I opted to back up one and try volume 2.  A wise choice.

The disc opens with three small pieces – A Lenda do Caboclo, Ondulando, and Valsa da Dor – all of which make fine if short representations of the composer’s style.  The first and last pieces are lovely but somber, the third even more so.  (When it’s not a fine waltz, that is.)  The second work is a fine little etude.

Moving to the meat of the disc finds the second of Villa-Lobos’ suites entitled A Prole do Bebê, or The Baby’s Family.  This longer of the two suites encompasses musical evocations of children’s toys, but only at an abstract level.  There’s nothing child-like about the music.  It’s sophisticated indeed, replete with myriad textural, tempo, dynamic, and coloristic effects.  One can hear, at times, a sense of wonder at the musical images of the critters, much like what one might assume a child might think about the fanciful traits his or her imagination bestows on said fake critters.  The music is widely and deliciously varied, and it sounds sort of like Debussy and Falla mashed together, combined with a New World flair.  It’s quite something.

The last work is yet another work given over to children’s themes.  Cirandinhas is a collection of twelve works based on children’s songs.  Again, the music far transcends the child-like.  While generally lighter and more fun, and even truly delightful, the more somber final two pieces aside, the music is also more rhythmically challenging and exciting.  One can detect a few hints of Prokofiev without listening very hard.  Nothing wrong with that!

As in the previous disc, Ms Rubinsky plays positively splendidly, with subtle (or not so subtle as necessary!) gradations of tempo and dynamics, and here tonal palette is quite impressive.  Superb sound.  A peach of a disc.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 03, 2007, 05:35:30 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51nU7kBwfGL._AA240_.jpg)


I’ve always found Bohuslav Martinů to be a reliable composer.  His works may not always be of Great Composer quality – though some certainly are – but his works always have some interesting ideas and usually sound quite appealing.  So I figured the new Naxos release of his piano quintets would be a safe bet.  So it proved to be.

The disc opens with the first Piano Quintet from 1933.  Despite being labeled a neo-classical work, as played here it’s big, sweeping, and more neo-romantic sounding, at least at times.  The opening Poco allegro just carries one along, though it has some mildly jarring dissonances common to the time.  The Andante sounds downright beautiful most of the time, with only milder dissonant music occasionally thrown in.  The Allegretto is quicker and quite forceful, though it remains energetic and upbeat.  The work closes with an Allegro moderato that that maintains the same style to the end, with a few darker moments thrown in.  A very fine piece.

The second piano quintet also opens with a Poco allegro, but this one’s even more sweeping than before.  It’s also more astringent and larger in scale.  It sounds almost quasi-orchestral, rather like some of Brahms’ chamber music, though the music doesn’t sound at all like Brahms.  For contrast, some ripe, romantic melodies are thrown in to counter the harsher (though not harsh!) modernity of much of the writing.  The Adagio is simply lovely, with light string writing that almost glows at times.  The Scherzo has a vigorous, fun chase flanking a relaxed middle section, and the final movement alternates between a slow, rich Largo and vibrant Allegro.  Another very fine piece.

The disc closes with the Sonata for Two Violins and Piano from 1932.  This little ditty opens with a carefree and fun Allegro poco moderato, moves on to a darker, somewhat sad, texturally rich Andante, and ends with a vibrant, strongly voiced Allegro.  That makes three fine works.

The artists – the Martinů Quartet with Karel Košárek at the piano – all play positively splendidly, and the sound is top notch.  In short: An outstanding disc of 20th Century chamber music.



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on June 03, 2007, 07:24:57 PM
Thanks for the thoughtful review, Todd.

As usual, highly informative!

Speaking of the Martinu Quartet, their set of string quartets by their namesake (again on Naxos) makes for another fine bargain.

Glad to hear they're continuing the tradition, here.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 04, 2007, 02:09:43 PM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/41u+xPLEHIL._AA240_.jpg)


I’m the first to confess that I’m not much of an Aaron Copland fan.  His “Americana” or “Populist” or at least popular works (whatever you want to call them), in particular, just don’t do it for me.  I have heard some of his less popular music, and found that more to my liking, and his opera The Tender Land as conducted by erstwhile local conductor Murry Sidlin at a venue I know is worth a listen or two.  When I saw that Robert Silverman’s 1970s recordings of four of Copland’s piano works had been reissued at Naxos price by Marquis Classics, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give old Aaron a shot.

The disc opens with Copland’s piano sonata from 1941, and this work falls squarely into Copland’s modernist compositions.  The piece opens with some nicely appealing, if it’s your thing, angular (or spiky or jagged) music played with crisp, hard staccato by Silverman, something he’s adept at.  The music and playing eases up a bit after a while, but it doesn’t exactly become Rach-like.  It remains dense and difficult.  And that’s just the Molto moderato opening section.  (The work is one long movement.)  The Vivace section sounds a bit lighter, at least for a time, but it remains spiky, and the louder passages come across nicely as Silverman hits them keys hard.  The piece closes with a long Andante sostenuto that manages a very complex trick, and one I’ve heard very rarely: it stays resolutely modern and abstract and difficult, but it also sounds beautiful, at least at times.  Much credit must be given to Silverman for this, of course, but the music does sound attractive and supremely serene.  The music almost pulls off that time-suspension trick, and in some ways it sounds like a modern equivalent of the second movement of LvB’s 111.  I still prefer the Bonn master’s work – it is, after all, one of the supreme masterpieces of all music – but this work exceeded expectations.  It’s quite good and will earn repeated listens.

The rest of the disc isn’t up the same standard.  The Passacaglia from 1922 sound very formal and serious and never really offers the type of musical nourishment I hunger for.  It’s rather plain.  The Four Piano Blues, written between 1926 and 1948 for four different pianists including Andor Foldes and William Kapell, are better.  The first is heavy, probing, and deliberate; the second lighter, more lyrical, and more playful; the third sounds beefy yet warm and glowing, while retaining a serious formality; the fourth is rhythmically spry and angular.  All have jazzy elements.  The disc rounds out with The Cat and the Mouse from 1920, which is jaunty, scampering, fun, and fresh, with a broad dynamic range.

This very short disc (46’ or so) is thus mostly about the sonata, which is quite a work.  The younger Robert Silverman trumps the older Robert Silverman in terms of technique, and his musical sensibility is assured.  The only problem with the disc is the sound.  Extraneous noises interrupt the music throughout.  I can’t tell if it’s someone breathing really heavy, or something scraping along the ground or a wall, or just tape distortion or deterioration, or all that and more, but it does become a bit bothersome at times.  So does the occasional post-echo from the analog tapes.  Those caveats aside, this disc proved to be a nice, ear opening experience.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 09, 2007, 05:48:59 AM
(http://www.mdt.co.uk/public/pictures/products/standard/8555282.jpg)

After a few moments I fumbled around my CD pile to make sure I hadn’t put in a disc of Dvorak’s string quartets rather than Bax’s.  The opening Allegretto semplice of the first quartet sounds like nothing if not a lost Dvorak gem, one written while the Czech was on a secret sojourn to the British Isles.  It sounds rhythmically lively, buoyant, fresh, and “rustic,” if you will.  Okay, on to the less Dvorakian Lento e molto expressivo: it sounds beautiful and mushy romantic, with a somewhat forlorn air, a feeling the quieter moments only reinforce.  The concluding Rondo is sunny and rustic like the opener, but here it’s more Irish, with some of the music purportedly premised on an Irish folk tune.  The work is quite splendid, even if it sounds like something of an anachronism for its own time. 

The second quartet is more of its time.  The opening Allegro opens with the solo cello immediately establishing a tense, serious mood, a feeling only intensified when the viola enters.  As the movement unwinds, a few lyrical passages offer a rest from the somewhat darker, more dissonant music around it.  (Though one couldn’t really call it too intense.)  The Lento, molto espressivo (with espressivo spelled properly) reveals that a proclivity for romantic music hadn’t fled Bax by the time he wrote this.  The music is richly layered and sounds achingly beautiful and emotive at times.  The work closes with an Allegro vivace that opens with a transformed take on the first movement, with the whole ensemble going full bore for good sections of the movement.  The movement does alternate between robust, thrusting music, and relaxed, lyrical music, and caps off a fine work.

I really enjoy this disc.  Arnold Bax’s first two string quartets are wonderful little works.  If they don’t rise to the same level as the greatest examples in this genre, they still deserve to be better known, and are accomplished.  The Maggini Quartet plays splendidly.

SOTA sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Bunny on June 10, 2007, 04:43:32 AM
(http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Kx4q-977L._AA240_.jpg)


How does one approach a recording like Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s final recording of orchestral love songs written for her by her husband?  There’s certainly the potential for hagiography and exaggeration given the tragic circumstances, but I opted just to listen and gauge whether I like the music for what it is.  Previously I’d only heard the late Mrs Lieberson in two other works: Handel’s Theodora under William Christie, and Mahler’s Second under Michael Tilson Thomas.  In both cases she more or less made the recording, the former especially.  In this disc she is the recording.  Everything about it is very clearly meant for her and she delivers the goods.  The disc contains settings of five love poems penned by Pablo Neruda, which the Liebersons selected together.  The great care I imagine they devoted to the project pays off.

The first two names that jumped immediately into my mind within the first few notes are Mahler and Berg.  Since I like Mahler and Berg, that’s quite alright with me.  My first overall impression of the music and performance, and one that stayed as I listened to the whole work, was one of intense, personal music.  These are not necessarily grand orchestral songs, but rather are intimate selections, and Mrs Lieberson nails every song with such delicate nuance and subtle inflection and communicative power that one just sits and revels in the music.  The close miking helps bring out every last expressive gesture in her voice.  The orchestral writing is mostly “modern,” in an early-20th Century kind of way, though there are more than a few moments of exquisite beauty.  All of the songs work well, with the absolutely wonderful My love, if I die and you don’t that closes the disc a rather obvious and moving farewell, which brings to mind Strauss’ closer to the Four Last Songs.  And this song is as good as that one.  For me, though, the highlight is the third song – Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because – which is a perfect synthesis of text, music, and interpretation.  The winding, gripping music and lyrics set the stage for singing of a very high order indeed.  At times throughout the disc it may be possible to hear hints of excess or self-indulgence, but if there is any subject that not only withstands but benefits from such things, it’s love, especially in the circumstances here. 

I very much like this disc.  When it comes to orchestral songs I still prefer some other works – by the three other composers mentioned here for starters – but this disc is superb.  For me it serves as a primer to explore more of Peter Lieberson’s music, and it also obviously stands as a monument to the late Mrs Lieberson.  Here’s a work where it may be fine if no other recordings are ever made.  Really, what would be the point, and who could ever compare?




Well said.  I don't listen to this without the tears as I hear the words,

No estés lejos de mí un solo día, porque cómo,
porque, no sé decirlo, es largo el día,
y te estaré esperando como en las estaciones
cuando en alguna parte se durmieron los trenes.

No te vayas por una hora porque entonces
en esa hora se juntan las gotas del develo
y tal vez todo el humo que anda buscando casa
venga a matar aún mi corazón perdido.


Sublimely beautiful words, music and performance; how rare when all three are present in a single work.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 24, 2007, 06:42:02 AM
(http://www.mdt.co.uk/public/pictures/products/standard/8557628.jpg)


Poor us!  I’ve read a number of laments on the net about how much music fans have lost because Juan Arriaga died at the terribly young age of 19.  He was, or could have been, the next Mozart!  Or something like that.  Since I like string quartets, and since I’d never heard Mr Arriaga’s music before, and since he is apparently all that and then some, I figured the Naxos disc of his string quartets was worth investigating.

It certainly was (and is).  The three quartets all share certain traits in common.  They all, on the whole, sound lively, wonderfully melodic, and energetic.  One could never say they possess the depth of Beethoven’s late quartets, or the sophistication of Haydn’s quartets from around Op 20 on.  (Or maybe even Op 9 on.)  Nor do they display the absolute melodic mastery displayed by Schubert.  But they do have enough there to warrant further listens.

A bit more detail seems warranted.  The first quartet shows some nice range.  The opening Allegro starts off slightly dark before moving onto more sparkling music, with a beautiful slow movement and jaunty Menuetto to follow.  The closing movement opens with forceful chords reminiscent of Beethoven and, especially, Schubert.  The second quartet is generally lighter and sunnier.  At times, one might get the feeling that the musical development isn’t meaty enough, but the effortless lyricism pretty much compensates.  The final quartet is the most substantive of the three.  The opening movement is much the same as other swifter movements on the disc, but in the second movement Pastorale one hears something new.  Or maybe not so new.  It seems a tribute to the rather famous symphony sharing the same name, with it’s stormy tremolos.  There’s no explosive tutti here, of course, but the effect is quite nice.  The Menuetto sounds quite pleasant, and the concluding Presto agitato displays a certain compositional density that some of the other movements display.

It’s not at all hard to really enjoy this disc.  The Camerata Boccherini play splendidly, the sound is superb, and the music is delightful.  I’m not sure I can say that Arriaga could have been the next Mozart or anything like that, but then how could one make such a claim?  I can say that other composers wrote more compelling music while as young or younger.  Mendelssohn’s great String Octet, for instance, is superior to these three works, and Mozart wrote a number of better works.  Same for Schubert.  So I guess I can’t join the vocal enthusiasts prone to exaggeration.  I can say that I like this disc, will listen to it again, and may even try more of Arriaga’s music.  He strikes me as a lightweight Mendelssohn, with all that implies, good and bad. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brewski on June 26, 2007, 01:08:05 PM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/P/B000031W5A.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

This set cements Conlon Nancarrow’s standing for me: he’s among the greats of the 20th Century.  His music is unique, and there’s just so much there.  Were I a musicologist, I could probably devote years to analyzing the music.  I’d rather listen to it, though.  I’d rather listen to the myriad ideas bursting out of the archaic, almost silly instrument.  Nothing else is like it.  This is an amazing set, certainly one of the best purchases of the year for me, and one I shall return to time and again.  If you are even remotely adventurous, do consider some of this music.  The set is available in separate volumes, and as referred to before, MDG is recording a “competing” cycle played on a Bösendorfer.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be getting that, too. 

Sound is close and dry and analytical and reveals everything.  While I was able to listen to two discs straight through, I usually had to split up listening sessions to allow for some aural relaxation.  But I always came back for more. 

Amazing stuff.

Just bumping this up with a "thank you and well done" to Todd (somehow I missed it earlier) for calling attention to Nancarrow, whom I would agree is one of the greats.  His exploration of varying meters and textures (many astoundingly difficult to even imagine) not to mention his affinity with jazz, all add up to one of the great bodies of piano literature, even if not playable by a "conventional" pianist.  (Although I have heard at least one of these arranged for piano four-hands, and wouldn't be surprised if some of the others follow suit.) 

I also agree that anyone listening could be excused for not hearing the entire thing straight through -- it's way too intense.  (And the sound is a little dry, but it's good for this particular music.)  But there is a huge amount of imagination on display, and some of his ideas are astonishing. 

--Bruce
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: gomro on June 26, 2007, 05:04:25 PM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/P/B0002BXO50.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg)

Here’s a composer new to me.  To the extent I’d even seen Leonardo Balada’s name before it was only in ads.  That’s a shame.  I picked up the Naxos disc devoted to his Guernica, Homage to Sarasate, Homage to Casals, Fourth Symphony, and a suite derived from his opera Zapata, appropriately entitled Zapata: Images for Orchestra

In many ways Balada is what I’m looking for in new music, and here that means music from as recent as 1992 (the symphony).  He blends folk music a la Bartok and Ives, intense modernism, and avant garde elements calling to mind Ligeti, among others.  The music on this disc never sounds academic or merely analytical; there’s the spark of life to all of it.  Guernica, from 1966, opens the disc, and the piece is inspired by Picasso’s work of the same name, and both depict, rather gruesomely, the Spanish Civil War.  The piece does about as good a job translating the image to music as I can imagine, though perhaps others can imagine a better visual-to-aural transcription.  (If so, they should write it down.)  It’s chaotic and violent and confused and ugly and vibrant, and has the musical equivalent of an explosion right in the middle.  It’s a dense, short work of just over 11 minutes, and while it’s not easy listening, it’s immensely gripping.

The two homages are more deliberately avant garde, what with spooky high string notes and tremolos and disjointed elements coming and going.  They seem somewhat less focused than the first work, but they are likewise compelling.  The Fourth Symphony is an interesting work in that it was written for Lausanne Chamber Orchestra (hence its title “Lausanne”), and contains, the excellent liner notes report, elements of Swiss folk music.  Again, it’s a very modernist piece, but one informed by many moments of levity and textural lightness and even beauty.  In some ways, the two homages and the symphony sound the same – a critique anti-modernists would no doubt level – but there’s much more than enough musical food for thought in each piece.

The final work is the suite derived from Zapata.  What a collection!  The first movement, a Waltz, sounds just like a 19th Century waltz and falls beautifully on the ears, with delicate string writing.  The piece slowly transmogrifies into grotesque, almost chaotic music meant to symbolize a firing squad.  It’s very effective.  The March starts and stays grotesque in the best Expressionist-cum-trippy-avant-garde fashion, at times sounding like (disturbed) cartoon music.  The wonderful Elegy is apparently lifted straight from the opera, with a solo cello taking Zapata’s part and a solo violin his dying brother’s part.  The work closes with a Wedding Dance using Jarabe Tapatio (which pretty much everyone knows) as its recurring theme, which Balada then spins out in different directions while weaving in his own music most expertly.  It’s sort of like what Ives did, but more sophisticated.

This is one heck of a disc, and I now know I must explore more of Balada’s music.  Pronto.

Excellent sound.


I don't have this one, but I do have two others:
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/41VSBVDVSRL._AA240_.jpg)
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/410VXCRJQZL._AA240_.jpg)

very fine work. Some of it is more "avant" (in a sort of Lutoslawskian manner, more than any other composer I can think of) than other pieces, but all of it has that pungent touch of folk influence that apparently defines Balada's approach to music.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: BorisG on June 29, 2007, 08:42:14 AM
For the Schnittke-lover, who may have overlooked last year's reissuing.

(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51A16KB2R5L._SS500_.jpg)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 02, 2007, 02:12:55 PM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/5158SHMHQQL._AA240_.jpg)


Time for some more.  This time I went for a more recent volume – volume four.  This disc opens with the solo piano setting of the fourth Bachianas Brasileiras.  The opening Preludio is quite somber, very serious, and decidedly formal.  And romantic!  It sort of sounds like Bach meets Rach.  The Coral is again quite serious, and is richly textured and comparatively “heavy.”  Rubinsky keeps things moving along quite strictly until after 3’30,” when pounding chords juxtapose against tinkly arpeggios and other contrast-y devices until the end.  The Aria alternates between slow, somber music and vigorous, lively music, and the concluding Dansa sounds very much dance like.  Imagine that.

Next up is another of Villa-Lobos’ numerous little pieces – Poema Singelo.  It sounds lovely and lyrical and romantic – almost a little song without words.  Next is another children’s piece, the Carnaval das Criancas.  The overall demeanor is light and bubbly, but the overall style is decidedly complex.  Modern children, I guess.  After that is yet another children’s piece, Francette et Pia.  Here the subject is of a little Brazilian boy meeting a little French girl.  A charming conceit, to be sure, and it’s charming music charmingly played.  (The ending duets in both this and the preceding piece are as well done as the solo pieces.)  Were Villa-Lobos not so good at writing such works, one could tire of them quickly.  As it is, one cannot.  A series of little pieces finishes off the disc.  A Fiandeira is a lyrical, perpetual motion piece; Simples Cloetanea is itself a collection of three unrelated yet irresistible little pieces; and Valsa Romantica is, you guessed it, a romantic waltz.

As with the prior two discs, sound is superb and Sonia Rubinsky’s playing is simply top-notch.  Another winner in the series.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 03, 2007, 05:25:40 AM
(http://www.mdt.co.uk/public/pictures/products/standard/E8805.jpg)


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. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: karlhenning on July 03, 2007, 05:50:33 AM
Just a note, Todd, that I much enjoy lurking here.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 04, 2007, 06:06:08 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MSX3G9W8L._AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 05, 2007, 05:46:27 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/513C38VE45L._AA240_.jpg)


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.




Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: gomro on July 05, 2007, 09:02:23 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/513C38VE45L._AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 08, 2007, 05:43:55 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ZZMZMJASL._AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Don on July 08, 2007, 06:09:11 AM
(http://www.mdt.co.uk/public/pictures/products/standard/E8805.jpg)


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?
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Maciek on July 09, 2007, 03:56:47 PM
What? Don, am I to understand you did not bring back Wladyslaw Klosiewicz (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Klosiewicz-Wladyslaw.htm)'s Froberger disc from your trip to Poland?
(http://www.cdaccord.com.pl/images/covers/035.jpg) (http://www.merlin.com.pl/frontend/browse/product/4,189380.html)

I suppose you missed out on his Goldbergs and Scarlatti Sonatas as well? ::)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 22, 2007, 01:35:59 PM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Xt00tecHL._AA240_.jpg)
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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Don on July 22, 2007, 04:58:01 PM
What? Don, am I to understand you did not bring back Wladyslaw Klosiewicz (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Klosiewicz-Wladyslaw.htm)'s Froberger disc from your trip to Poland?
(http://www.cdaccord.com.pl/images/covers/035.jpg) (http://www.merlin.com.pl/frontend/browse/product/4,189380.html)

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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: mjwal on July 23, 2007, 03:34:19 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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 23, 2007, 05:19:49 PM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/41R3t7aXs4L._AA240_.jpg)

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.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Maciek on July 24, 2007, 12:46:16 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... :-\
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on July 24, 2007, 12:57:46 PM
Thank you Todd for maintaining this thread; the most interesting thread on the GMG-forum.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 17, 2007, 07:35:54 AM
(http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/612JDPD0E1L._AA240_.jpg)


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.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Anne 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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: gmstudio on November 17, 2007, 05:21:23 PM
(http://g-ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/612JDPD0E1L._AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd 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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 21, 2007, 11:36:15 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/51E4PXPBGJL._AA240_.jpg)



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.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brewski 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
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd 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. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brewski 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. 

--Bruce
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 24, 2007, 01:18:39 PM
(http://www.qualiton.com/mm5/graphics/00000001/413/413_0161.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 31, 2008, 09:19:15 AM
(http://ec1.images-amazon.com/images/I/313Y7MXF5ZL._AA240_.jpg)

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. 



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Maciek on June 09, 2008, 02:26:35 AM
(http://www.qualiton.com/mm5/graphics/00000001/413/413_0161.jpg)

How on earth did I manage to miss this post? One of my favorite composers (here (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,608.0.html)'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:)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 16, 2008, 01:11:41 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51S01HxKHuL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 17, 2008, 02:21:58 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518SG15WJVL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 20, 2008, 10:06:55 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51SGFXU%2BPSL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 06, 2008, 01:56:54 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41fn0MMy9PL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 10, 2008, 12:30:09 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/210SFJSWTRL._SL500_AA130_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 13, 2008, 06:19:27 AM
(http://www.orfeo-international.de/covers/16813g.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on September 20, 2008, 06:18:58 AM
(http://www.mdg.de/cover/1030rc.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 12, 2008, 07:46:29 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513MJMVXXRL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: karlhenning 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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on October 12, 2008, 08:04:46 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513MJMVXXRL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

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!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Grazioso 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:

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51aoKJXkwXL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 22, 2008, 05:45:24 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/510Dks9Z9GL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 03, 2008, 01:53:46 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51hJAEPxxuL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: karlhenning 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!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brewski on November 03, 2008, 02:05:22 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/510Dks9Z9GL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)

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
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 06, 2008, 07:51:01 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/413YPANN6YL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Time for another work of High Art!  After such a success as the Henze disc, another heavy-duty, intellectual, superbly crafted work should be the ticket.  There are many choices out there, of course, but I determined that I should try an opera this time around (for no particular reason), and that something by Ferruccio Busoni would be nice (again, for no particular reason).  This led me to Kent Nagano’s late-90s recording of Doktor Faust.  Would musical lightning strike twice in succession?  No.

I’ll just offer my verdict right now: this opera is too slow, too long, and boring.  Why, you ask?  Well . . .

First off, the opera has a decidedly unusual structure.  Rather than Acts, this one is carved up into an opening Symphonia, a long, spoken introductory poem (with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau almost inevitably the speaker), then two Prologues, an Intermezzo, and then the principal action, divided into three scenes, with a spoken Epilogue to wrap it all up.  Whew!  Novel structures are neither here nor there for me, but it’s clear from the opening Symphonia what this will be like.  The music is somewhat subdued for a dramatic work, but it’s rich, fastidiously constructed, rather attractive in parts – and ultimately a bit boring.  It never really grabbed my attention the way it should.  The spoken dialogue is well delivered, but the text (or at least the translation of it) is heavy-going: it’s definitely “intellectual,” and perhaps just a bit ponderous.  Busoni himself wrote the text – shooting for the Gesamtkunstwerk thing of course – so this is his take on the legend, not Goethe’s or Marlowe’s.  Let’s just say that Busoni isn’t quite the literary talent of those two.  The Prologues and Intermezzo offer a mixture of rarely compelling, occasionally interesting, and often boring music paired to mostly uninteresting text that doesn’t really roll of the tongues of the singers in the same fashion as, say, something written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. 

The Principal action, well, it offers more of the same.  Plus an organ solo!  As to the plot, well, it’s a convoluted take on Faust.  Mephistopheles – he’s there.  (Beelzebub, too.)  Faust makes his bargain.  There’s Faust’s love interest – here the Duchess of Parma.  There are singing students, soldiers, a philosopher, and an assistant named Wagner.  Truth to tell, I found the plot a little too plodding even for a slow opera. 

Back to the music: though written mostly in the 1920s, it’s not modern in the sense of Wozzeck or Jonny spielt auf or other works of the era.  There are definitely some “modern” elements, but it sounds rather formal and somewhat conservative most of the time.  Hints of Mahler, Wagner, and even Dvorak (in one place) can be heard, and no doubt others if one listens closely enough.  I couldn’t and didn’t. 

I really wanted to like this work, but it ended up missing the mark for me.  Others may find it more compelling, and I can certainly see some reasons why, but I just can’t see myself listening to this again.

Sound is quite fine and Kent Nagano, his band, and the singers all acquit themselves nicely. 

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 08, 2008, 07:23:31 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51fPr1pbgjL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I’ve never been a huge fan of Camille Saint-Saëns.  His music is often pleasant enough, or at least what I’ve heard of it is, and it can be exciting at times, but at least some of it is too slight for my tastes.  I’ve mentioned before that I find him the finest fourth rate composer.  Well, I’ve  never tried his big ol’ honkin’ opera Samson et Dalila before, so I figured I might as well give the guy another shot. 

As with Busoni’s disappointing Doktor Faust, I’ll just come out and offer my verdict: I thoroughly enjoy this opera, and the few quibbles I have are related to the recording and cast and not the work itself.  And really, what’s not to like?  The story is pretty well known, of course.  The mighty Samson manages to slay the governor of Gaza and free the Hebrew slaves from the Philistines.  The sultry and vengeful Delilah seduces the big lug and determines that his hair is the source of his strength and chops it off.  The Philistines plan on killing the strongman, but after repenting for his lusty ways, God imbues him with enough strength to destroy the temple and all the Philistines there gathered, along with himself.  Really, it seems the perfect type of story for an opera. 

And, perhaps almost ironically, Saint-Saëns seems the perfect man to set the story.  The music for this story could easily have been Very Dramatic, thick, even ponderous.  While there’s more heft than I associate with Saint-Saëns in places, he keeps things generally brisk, reasonably clear and transparent, and at times light and crisp.  There are (light) hints of earlier Wagner, a bit more obvious influence of Verdi, and even perhaps some Berlioz, but what strikes one is the music’s innate Frenchness.  The instrumentation is dazzling and sparkling at times, especially in the third act instrumental interludes, and everything sounds elegant and well proportioned, especially given the subject matter.  The whole thing fairly breezes by.  The first act, in particular, even though it’s around 45 minutes, seems over almost as soon as it starts.  The second act, with the seduction scene, could have been a bit more sultry, I suppose, but it’s quite attractive as is.  And the extended celebration in the third act is just plain good stage music.  Beyond that, the text is quite good.  No, it’s not Da Ponte or Hofmannsthal good, but Ferdinand Lemaire’s libretto works well. 

Now my quibbles.  To the sound: 1962 was a long time ago now, and this recording can’t hide its age.  It’s very good, as many similar vintage recordings are, but the dynamic range is limited, there’s some congestion during the loudest passages, and there’s some breakup in the loudest sung passages, especially those where Jon Vickers is at the center of the action.  Rita Gorr, while her French is superb and her tone very attractive, sounds a bit too rich and mature for my ears; her tone isn’t seductive enough.  (Perhaps a recording with Veronique Gens could be made; she jumped immediately to mind while listening.)  Vickers is perhaps just a bit too rough at times, too.  I’ve no issues with the conducting and orchestral playing, both of which seem quite fine.  I may very well end up buying a newer recording in better sound to meet my needs, but this is a surprisingly good opera and one to which I know I shall return.  No, it’s not quite a work at the same level as, say, Tristan or Otello or Les Troyens, but it’s quite fine.  Saint-Saëns has moved up the compositional ladder a rung or two. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: T-C on November 08, 2008, 08:07:41 AM
An excellent modern recording of Samson Et Dalila (and now quite cheap) is the EMI recording that is conducted by Myung-Whun Chung:


(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/418RJplRwlL._SS400_.jpg)


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 12, 2008, 10:26:04 AM

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Tmyghvh0L._SL500_AA280_.jpg)


Who doesn’t like some syrupy, late Romantic music every once in a while?  I know I do.  And rarely have I heard composers who took this art form to such exalted heights as Erich Wolfgang Korngold.  Some of the man’s music is so aurally gooey and rich that I think you can gain weight just by listening.  For whatever reason, I never got around to listening to this disc with Leon Fleisher and friends playing music for the piano left hand and strings until now, a full decade after its release.  (Since the project took seven years for Sony to publish, I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad.)  In addition to what is essentially a piano quartet from the Wunderkind, the disc also boasts a piano quintet by Franz Schmidt, who makes his first appearance in my collection.

The disc opens with the Korngold work, and it’s a doozy.  Thick, rich harmonies.  Glorious, rich melodies.  Beautiful, rich slow passages.  Vibrant, rich fast passages.  This work embodies Korngold’s writing.  The first two movements in what is called the Suite for 2 Violins, Cello, and Piano Left Hand, Op 23, display large-scaled, expertly crafted string writing, where the players get to (almost) let loose, and strong, nicely articulated writing for the pianist.  (Both works, like most works for piano left-hand, were penned for Paul Wittgenstein.)  Fleisher more than holds his own with the string players, and the lushness of the music is intoxicating.  The third movement – Groteske – is more biting and purposely over the top, though even it has an achingly beautiful middle section.  The last two movements more or less continue on the basic approach as the first couple movements.  This is definitely syrupy and Very Romantic music, but it is also tinged with modernity.  There’s more to it than just beauty, but beauty sticks in the mind’s ear.  Be careful, though: if you have high cholesterol, this may be one to steer clear of.

Franz Schmidt’s Piano Quintet isn’t quite as good, but it’s good nonetheless.  For the most part, it reminds me a lot of Brahms.  It’s somewhat formal and meticulously crafted, though it lacks Brahms’ genius.  But there’s more to it.  It’s even more romanticized.  If one could take a work from Brahms, throw in some works by other late romantics, let the whole thing ferment for a couple decades, then one might end up with this work.  It’s a bit languid, more than a bit lovely (especially the gorgeous Adagio), and rather comfortable sounding.  And perhaps just a bit predictable, too.  Still, it ain’t shabby.

The artists all play quite well.  Fleisher, in his pre-Botox resurrection days, delivers some exceptionally fine piano playing.  Joseph Silverstein, Jaime Laredo, and Joel Smirnoff deliver fine fiddling, and Michael Tree is very good on the viola.  Yo Yo Ma is predictably good on the cello.  The only thing I should say is that these decidedly modern players still make the music sound rich and gooey.  I can only imagine what it would sound like if a good old-fashioned, portamento-loving ensemble were to tackle these works.  It’d be something to cherish, I think.

Sound is essentially SOTA, even though the oldest recording is seventeen years old now.  Were that all recordings this nice sounding. 

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Grazioso on November 14, 2008, 05:03:24 AM
Todd, thanks for the detailed reviews. A few discs you may enjoy now:

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61JAFA6EKML._SL500_AA240_.jpg)
Worth it for the septet for trumpet. piano, and strings alone, never mind the other fine pieces. This is civilized, melodious, charming music.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51200EPZ8YL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)
One of the great large-scale Late Romantic symphonies, from c. 1950
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 14, 2008, 07:59:51 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51200EPZ8YL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)
One of the great large-scale Late Romantic symphonies, from c. 1950



Already have this one in its original guise.  Superb stuff.  The Saint-Saens does indeed look interesting.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 15, 2008, 02:07:12 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Yi7Pytm3L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Time to give Leonardo Balada another listen, this time in the realm of opera, or rather operetta.  This disc contains two brief operettas, one being a sequel to the other.  Generally, when I go in for opera, I like ‘em big (Wagner or Berlioz, say), or I like ‘em to pack a wallop (Wozzeck or King Roger), and little itty bitty ones generally don’t do it for me.  Alas, these two fall into this category.

The first work is Hangman, Hangman!!, from 1982, a work purportedly based on a cowboy folk-song.  (I’d like to hear said song.)  Here, the main character Johnny is slated to hang until dead for the ghastly crime of horse theft.  Poor Johnny, he don’t want to die, y’see, so he hollers out for his mother, his father, and finally his Sweetheart.  He begs to know whether they brought silver or gold.  (If this sounds rather like Led Zeppelin’s more famous song Gallows Pole, it is, it’s just ten times longer.)  But here things are different.  A rich, slick Irishman (in the Old West?) ends up literally buying the town and freeing Johnny.  No satisfactory explanation for said actions is given.  Not that one is needed, I suppose.  The music is surreal and modern, with twisted attempts at American “folk” music, and it’s definitely got rhythmic verve, but it’s a bit slight and the English doesn’t fall very well on the ear, especially when it takes on a sort of Sprechstimme.  This ain’t no world class stage work.

Neither is its sequel, The Town of Greed, from 1997.  Here the story picks up twenty years later.  Now Johnny’s a big shot, y’see, and somehow he uses his Sweetheart, along with his mom and pop, to cut exciting, lucrative business deals.  To maintain a proper operatic façade, there is a love duet between Johnny and his Sweetheart, but the special appearances of Ford and Toyota let you know the point of this work.  Rather like Weill’s The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany and Luigi Nono’s Al gran sole carico d’amore, Capitalism and greed are the big villains.  Also, like in those two works, the idea is presented just a bit too obviously.  Balada does take things a bit further, though.  In this opera there’s a recession!  As a result, the previously beloved big shot Johnny falls from favor, and the townsfolk want to – wait for it – hang him!  But as in the first opera, a magic man comes along to save the day.  But this one is from Wall Street!  And he shoots Johnny!  And he turns the town into a toxic dump!  Johnny’s Sweetheart, well, what do you think happens?  The moral of the story: Money corrupts.  (Wow!)  Given the continuity of the story, it should come as no surprise that the music is very similar, mixing the obviously modern and the supposedly folksy in an especially adroit way.  However, both works fall short of what Mr Balada is capable of in his best works.  His strictly orchestral works are far better.

Sound is quite good for both works, with a suitably small venue obviously the setting, and the conductor and band and singers all do well enough.  Alas, the music and storylines just don’t do it for me.  Social critique is fine – hell, it needs to be encouraged – I just want something better.



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Guido on November 16, 2008, 04:55:25 AM
Glad you liked the Korngold Suite - it's probably my favourite chamber work of Korngold's - not just incredibly beautiful as you say, but also very finely crafted and thought out. Also, the one handed piano part really makes the piano seem like an equal partner to the string players rather than the traditionally more dominant role that it takes in much chamber music that includes a piano.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 18, 2008, 03:01:28 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/216QTJQQ3EL._SL500_AA130_.jpg)


I so enjoyed my first disc of music by Stephen Hartke that I determined I should try another.  Alas, there aren’t tons of recordings, but a decent selection is out there.  I decided to go “safe” and go with more orchestral music, so I settled on his Violin Concerto, nicknamed Auld Swaara, paired with his Second Symphony on New World Records.  ‘Twas a wise choice. 

The disc opens with the concerto, and right from the start it is fresh and individual.  Drumsticks striking each other offer the only support to the swaying violin at the start, while the orchestra enters in bursts.  Tart dissonances and surprising tunefulness combine with an infectious, throbbing, subtle rhythm to keep the listener involved.  As the piece unfolds a bit, one gets the sense that this is something of a pastiche, in a Stravinskian sort of way: rude blasts from the brass, a chaotic cacophony of percussion, and a Copland-on-narcotics string sound blend in a modern sonic cauldron.  And that’s just the first section of the opening movement.  The middle section is dominated by the violin, and the music takes on a brooding feel.  The third section offers something of a return to the first section, but it also sounds more like a “conventional” concerto in that the violin and orchestra have obviously contrasting parts.  The second movement is actually a Fantasy tacked on to the first movement, and it’s a fantasy on an old Shetland fiddle tune called, not surprisingly, Auld Swaara.  It’s a lament for a lost fisherman, and so it only makes sense that the music is slow, rich, and more than slightly mournful.  Strings dominate the proceedings, but winds peek through here and there, and then the soloist enters to play the main theme.  It’s definitely sad, and at times intense and vibrant, and to keep the mood appropriate, the movement is slower than most concerto closers.  Michelle Makarski was the dedicatee of the work, and she plays it extremely well here.

The disc closes with the (chamber) symphony, which is dedicated to the composer’s memory of his father (this distinction is italicized in the notes), and it is also something of a slow, mournful piece.  The work opens with an Andante con moto that kicks off with searing strings that quickly transition to a bright, biting, confused sound world.  It’s a subtly angry pavane.  (It’s a pavane per the composer; the subtle anger is my take.)  As the piece develops, percussion and winds dance in and out of the music, but once again the strings form the intense core.  (And can one detect hints of Berg?)  Next up is the Scherzo, and it jumps into being.  Bright, punchy, and “chunky,” it is indeed something of a twisted joke, and the music contains transfigured elements from the first movement.  Somehow it sounds a bit grotesque, in the most satisfying way.  The work closes with an Adagio sostenuto, and here the percussion starts things off, with the winds following shortly thereafter.  Not too long into it, the strings lurch into the sonic picture, and the music assumes a dark, mournful tone; it’s quite moving.  A little further in the strings sound searing once again, in a Mahler 10th sort of way.  (Hartke never apes anyone or anything, though; the influences are more discreet than that.)  As the work winds down there is an extended piano-horn duo that plays up the emotional content of the music before finally giving way to a resigned ending. 

Once again, I must report that I really dig the music Mr Hartke writes.  This time the music is more abstract than on the prior Naxos disc, but it seems even better constructed.  There are a lot of musical ideas packed into these conventionally timed works, but the ideas are not conventional.  Modern they may be, but they also respect the past, and most important of all, they are original.  I’m definitely going to be sampling more of this composer’s music.

As to the sound, well, it’s very good if perhaps a bit bright.  The conducting and playing offer nothing to quibble about.  The Riverside Symphony apparently relies on soloists from New York to fill its ranks, and New York obviously has a deep talent pool.  George Rothman does a fine job conducting, too.  A winner.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 25, 2008, 03:57:31 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51x9QIv34JL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I’ve generally steered clear of “early” music in my exploration of the classical canon.  I start off with early baroque figures like Louis Couperin, and then rarely.  I’m familiar with some early music via the excellent syndicated radio series Millenium of Music, and while I find some interesting, until now I’d never dropped a dime on a CD.  But I was milling around a (most likely) soon-to-be toast Borders and a four CD set of John Dowland’s complete solo lute music caught my eye.  Four CDs of BIS engineered music on Brilliant Classics for a paltry $14 – how could I go wrong? 

Well, I couldn’t, and I didn’t.  The set contains 92 individual works, so I shan’t really delve into detail, but the overall impression the music made on me was hugely positive.  I don’t think I can say solo lute music is quite as compelling as solo piano music, but there’s enough variety and, especially, beautiful melodic content here to compel me to return to this set again and again.  A good number of the pieces are spritely dances or dance-like pieces full of charm.  Some are simple, short little trifles, as titles like Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe and Mrs White’s Nothing might imply.  But an even larger number of works are more serious, more introspective, and more melancholy, all while being supremely melodic.  Again, titles like Forlorn Hope Fancy or the better known Loth to depart give away the essence of the music.  It’s in these pieces that Dowland reveals his musical skill.  Many pieces don’t sound especially complex (of course I don’t play lute), but the music effectively conveys what words cannot.  It’s quite possible to simply plop on one of the CDs, press play, and then just let the whole disc run though while one savors every nugget.  And though Dowland’s music often possesses a certain Renaissance-y sound, there’s a timelessness to much if it.  The beautiful musical line of many pieces could be lifted whole and used by a folk or rock band today.  Indeed, I believe I’ve heard modern music inspired by A Musicall Banquet and Come Away before. 

This set originally coming from BIS, the sound quality is stupendously good.  The lute always comes across with wonderful clarity and, with the instruments using all gut strings, with amazing warmth and body.  One gets the sense of a lutenist sitting right between one’s speakers happily (or perhaps slightly morosely) plucking away.  Jakob Lindberg plays splendidly, and his three instruments all sound exquisite.  I do confess a preference for the all gut-stringed instruments, though the wire stringed instrument is necessary for some works.  For some reason this set reminded me of the distinctly dissimilar “jazz” disc Beyond the Missouri Sky by Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny; there’s a simplicity and unaffected directness to the music that cuts through labels and genres and time and just sounds comfortable and right.  It’s as though I’ve heard this music forever, and yet the joy of discovery remains.  A superb set – I may have to investigate more Dowland.



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 28, 2008, 12:10:23 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61VGCHQVHAL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


It’s been a while since I picked up the Danel Quartet’s excellent traversal of Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s string quartets, and it’s been years since I picked up the Koch recording of Saygun’s piano concertos, so I figured another dose of the Turk’s music was due.  CPO appears to be in the midst of releasing a good number of his works, so I opted for a mixed program disc – the Fourth Symphony combined with the Violin Concerto and an orchestral suite. 

The disc opens with the symphony, and in many respects it’s a conservative work for its time – 1976.  Hardly an avant-garde or even advanced fusion style work like, say, works from Ligeti or Rautavaara, it instead looks back to the inter-war era.  Saygun, as is his wont generally based on my listening, seems to mix in some “folk” influences, though not directly, and a traditional, fast-slow-fast overall structure.  The robust Deciso opening movement seems almost overstuffed at times.  Hordes of instruments blaring out, occasionally thick orchestration, vibrant and intense rhythmic drive, and grand scale all mix together effectively enough, and Saygun even allows for some lighter moments and some individual instruments to take center stage.  The Poco Largo is a melancholy movement, but again its orchestration at times is a bit thick, and the overall forward momentum never really lets up here, either.  (That’s a nice trick in slow movements.)  The concluding Con anima e molto deciso offers even more vibrant music than the opener, with blatting brass and more overtly eastern influences.  (And one simply cannot escape the influence of Bartok and other inter-war era composers.)  There’s much to enjoy here, but this does not enter the canon alongside Beethoven’s Fourth.  That written, it’s even better the second time around.

The Violin Concerto is next, and it, too, harks back in time from its 1967 provenance.  (Many people will find this a good thing, of course.)  Again using a moderately-fast-slow-fast approach, the piece opens with a large-scaled, long Moderato.  Flexible, inventive orchestration, and a generally lighter feel than with the symphony, makes this a smoother, gentler (though not gentle) work.  Brief dreaminess is brought on by some expertly deployed harps, and various instruments again come to the fore.  Most to the fore is the violin, of course, and Saygun offers something a bit unexpected.  Nary an overtly virtuosic flourish occurs; rather, the soloist plays more slowly, serving up some rich, thoughtful music, and near the last part of the movement, an extended, careful, searching cadenza of no little attractiveness.  The Adagio is an attractive but notably mournful movement, sort of an extended, rich dirge.  Not too thick and heavy, though some brass shows up, it is quite fine.  The concluding Allegro is brief, quicker, again rhythmically incisive, and massive.  It also possesses stereo-testing bass.  Not Gee-Whiz!, chest pounding bass, but bass drum filling the hall from the ground up and out type bass.  (Saygun also makes sure to offer some bass drum thwacks in the symphony.)  There’s a “chunky” feel to some of the music, but that’s quite alright with me.

The disc closes with brief, three movement suite.  This is unabashedly folk-music influenced, the composer’s Turkishness not subsumed by anything.  Yes, he blends these influences with Occidental devices, but the attractive thematic material is as distinctive as any I’ve heard.  The opening Meseli, in particular, offers a rhythmically arrhythmic (in a PVC sorta way) theme.  The slow second and faster, bolder third movement likewise tickles one’s ears with new, bold ideas.

I enjoyed this disc quite a bit, though I can’t really say that the two main works will enter the standard repertoire.  Enjoyable as they are, they aren’t quite inventive or catchy enough to become concert or recording mainstays.  That written, I do believe I need to investigate yet more music by Mr Saygun.  As to sound, well, it’s extremely good, though a minor, slightly glassy sheen is present in the loudest passages.  Ari Rasilainen and his Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz handle the music extremely well.  Of particular interest to me is the violinist Mirjam Tschopp.  She plays the concerto extremely well and possesses a rich, always attractive tone.  She never really gets to display her chops in a flashy sort of way, but I want to hear more from her. 


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 02, 2008, 05:38:40 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51i8JedCc2L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Joseph Canteloube was not a composer I was looking to explore.  But I noticed that one of my favorite singers, Véronique Gens, recorded a disc of his music for Naxos a few years back.  So I figured why not?  Canteloube is a “modern” composer in that he lived from 1879 to 1957, but the works for voice and orchestra presented in these excerpts from Chants d’Auvergne sound decidedly old-fashion.  All of the works are influenced by folk-music, but all are original.  Apparently, in the north of France, there were still a lot of stories about sheppards and, especially, sheppardesses early in the 20th Century, and there was a lot of focus on love songs (which I’d buy), as well as frequent use of words like la and lo. 

Okay, so the song texts aren’t necessarily Profound, but they don’t necessarily need to be.  And indeed, when one listens to the music, profundity would be out of place.  The music is generally light, bright, and clean, with delicious wind writing.  Indeed, the flute, oboe, and clarinet all get their chance to shine in different songs, and the overall orchestration is usually breezy and always beautiful.  Also always beautiful is Ms Gens’ singing.  Her command of French is absolute, of course, and she knows just how to deliver the words, whether strongly or with a tantalizing breathiness.  I just can’t get enough of her voice.  Jean-Claude Casadesus and the Orchestre National de Lille lend a satisfying Gallic touch to the music, and sound is good, but a bit brighter and glassier than Ms Gens gets from Virgin engineers.  A delightful disc.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on December 02, 2008, 05:56:07 PM
Be sure to check out CD 2 in Gens' series of Canteloube songs, which came out a couple of months ago. (Serge Baudo takes over conducting duties.)
I feel bad about not reading this thread more often - had a chance to buy the Dowland today but missed it.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Bunny on December 04, 2008, 06:31:01 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51i8JedCc2L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Joseph Canteloube was not a composer I was looking to explore.  But I noticed that one of my favorite singers, Véronique Gens, recorded a disc of his music for Naxos a few years back.  So I figured why not?  Canteloube is a “modern” composer in that he lived from 1879 to 1957, but the works for voice and orchestra presented in these excerpts from Chants d’Auvergne sound decidedly old-fashion.  All of the works are influenced by folk-music, but all are original.  Apparently, in the north of France, there were still a lot of stories about sheppards and, especially, sheppardesses early in the 20th Century, and there was a lot of focus on love songs (which I’d buy), as well as frequent use of words like la and lo. 

Okay, so the song texts aren’t necessarily Profound, but they don’t necessarily need to be.  And indeed, when one listens to the music, profundity would be out of place.  The music is generally light, bright, and clean, with delicious wind writing.  Indeed, the flute, oboe, and clarinet all get their chance to shine in different songs, and the overall orchestration is usually breezy and always beautiful.  Also always beautiful is Ms Gens’ singing.  Her command of French is absolute, of course, and she knows just how to deliver the words, whether strongly or with a tantalizing breathiness.  I just can’t get enough of her voice.  Jean-Claude Casadesus and the Orchestre National de Lille lend a satisfying Gallic touch to the music, and sound is good, but a bit brighter and glassier than Ms Gens gets from Virgin engineers.  A delightful disc.




Did you know that Gens is a native of the Auvergne so the dialect flows so naturally when she sings; there are no awkward phrasings nor pronunciations. 

The only other recording of the songs that I turn to is by Netania Davrath, whose voice had the most wonderful quicksilver quality.  She worked very hard to master the pronunciations so that the singing would be as natural as possible, and I believe, succeeded very well.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 06, 2008, 08:17:07 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61i4azIA9dL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I’ve only tried a few works by Ernest Bloch to this point, and they’ve all been quite good.  So it was with high expectations that I bought this disc of his Violin Concerto coupled with Baal Shem and the Suite Hébraïque.  In many ways I enjoy this disc quite a bit, but something is also just a bit askew, if you will.

The disc opens with the concerto, from 1938, and there’s much to enjoy, but also some things that detract from enjoyment.  The opening Allegro deciso kicks off with music purportedly inspired by Native American music.  (Not being an ethnomusicologist, I cannot say for sure if that’s the case, but it sure sounds like it superficially.)  It’s really quite nice, but the music quickly transforms into an epic, music equivalent of Cinemascope®, with religious elements more obviously thrown in.  It blends the sacred and profane, in other words; sure, it’s serious and perhaps even devout, but it also has a movie soundtrack quality to it.  The violin writing is big, bold, and soaring, and the orchestral writing is very rich and colorful.  It rather reminds me of the music of Korngold, though it’s not quite as lyrical or catchy.  Bloch throws some “mystical” elements in, though those didn’t really work for me.  The Andante is more mystical yet!  The sound is certainly “exotic,” with perhaps hints of Scheherezade, or maybe something older tossed in.  The music is leisurely, relaxed, and beautiful.  It may even conjure images of lazing around in the Aegean sun.  A plain old Deciso closes the work, and it’s back to soundtrack territory, though pious overtones become more evident.  It manages to sound subdued yet immediately striking.  There are many fine elements to this concerto, but I’m not sure how well the whole thing jells.  It has something of an episodic quality, and it simply doesn’t sound as compelling as other, standard repertoire 20th Century concertos, or even some undeservedly lesser known concertos like Walter Piston’s 1st.

The next work, Baal Shem, from 1923, is more overtly religious in nature, and as such it seems a more purposeful, coherent work.  The three pieces are all strongly written.  Vidui is devout and very beautiful, especially the violin part.  It’s a powerful, very human prayer and lament.  Nigun is firm, more energetic, and almost ecstatic at times.  Simhat Torah is bright cheery, yet also very formal and respectful.  Taken together, the three pieces seem to fit extremely well.

The Suite Hébraïque, from 1952, again has more overt religious elements, but it also has more of that movie soundtrack quality to it, including some melodramatic sappiness in the final movement.  I find the version for piano and violin to be far more satisfying.  The larger forces here turn it into something too garish for my taste.

So I’m not exactly bowled over by this disc.  Zina Schiff violin playing and José Serebrier’s conducting and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s playing is all very good, but the music is not what I had hoped for.  I’ll give the disc a few more spins, but frankly I can see this one disappearing from my collection before too long. 


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 12, 2008, 07:52:15 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51WGK7YDKYL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I rather enjoy Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma, but until now I’ve never tried anything else written by him.  I figured it was time to give another work a shot, so I settled on I Capuleti E I Montecchi, here in the recording conducted by Donald Runnicles from the late ‘90s.  I mean, come on, if ever a Shakespeare play screamed to be recast as an opera, Romeo and Juliet is it.  Except that this version isn’t the Shakespeare version.  There are a number of differences, though the same basic thrust of the story is the same, and of course both young lovers buy the farm at the end.

I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but perhaps after years of listening to Tristan, I wanted something extremely dramatic with a searing, emotional ending.  Well, I didn’t exactly get that.  The opera is in two acts, the first establishing the conflict of the two families and the complicated plot to marry the young heroine to the wrong dude.  The second act leads inexorably to their demise.  Should be pretty conflict ridden and intense, and so forth.  Well, the first act is kind of weak.  It’s got lots of choral singing, martial music, and remains reasonably clear.  What’s lacking, to my ears, is sufficient drama.  It is an early 19th Century, Italian opera, so it doesn’t quite pack the wallop of later, predominantly Germanic works, so it never achieves what later works achieve.  I can’t hold that against the work, but it just seems too crisp, too vigorous, too upbeat at times for me.  The second act, though, is good.  Here is a sort of prototype for what Wagner wrote, though without the harmonic daring, sweeping scale, or perfect orchestration.  (Also absent is the sometimes bloated text.)  The entire mood of the work darkens as the final tragedy approaches.  Bellini’s music seems to belong to a slightly later period, and it effectively communicates the action.

I can’t say that I’m particularly enamored with this work, at least as presented in this recording.  Oh, sure, Jennifer Larmore and Hei-Kyung Hong are fine in the leads, and the rest of the cast seems acceptable or better, and the orchestral playing is fine, and the sound is excellent.  This just never really clicked with me, even in the superior second act.  Maybe a better recording would bring the score to life better, but then again maybe not.  I’ll probably give this opera another go in the future, but not for a while. 


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 14, 2008, 09:35:12 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/417Pmk4gadL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Recently, I’ve been slowly expanding my exposure to early Baroque music, and now even earlier eras, and in that vein I decided to finally try some music by Claudio Monteverdi.  I didn’t feel like an ancient opera, but an ancient liturgical work, well, that’s something different.  So I opted for his Vespro Della Beata Vergine from 1610.  This is apparently another of those works where a lot of academic questions exist.  How many voices should be in the choir – one per part, something more like a chamber choir, etc – and, more importantly, should all of the music be presented at once?  There is chant mixed in, a couple magnificats, and so on.  What all should be included in a performance, and in what order?  I can’t say because I don’t study any music academically, let alone four hundred year old music, but I can listen to what others have decided to do.  Since I’ve had uniformly positive experiences with Paul McCreesh’s recordings thus far, I decided to rely on his approach for my first outing.

Once again I’m very pleased with the results.  McCreesh uses a small, light ensemble, and single voices for the choral parts, and he seems to adopt relatively quick tempi a lot of the time, though I can’t make comparisons at the current time.  Whatever the merits or demerits of his approach, everything works well.  I’ve never been a big fan of chant, but the passages in this work come off quite well, don’t last especially long, and are part of the work and not the only aspect of it.  The choral singing is very attractive, as are the solo parts.  The light, discreet continuo parts supporting the singers are all attractively ascetic, and when multiple instruments and singers all join forces, the sound they generate and the effect they create are mesmerizing.  This work does sound somewhat like a hodge-podge, everything plus the kitchen sink type of work at times, but it always captivates.  “What’s next?” One wonders while listening.  Chant, organ, soloist with harpsichord continuo, some choral music – Monteverdi mixes things up constantly, and while obviously ancient music, the sounds one hears are surprisingly rich and varied.  It’s a big work, an ambitious work, and a beautiful work.

I have but one complaint about the recording: the sound.  The church used in the recording lends some authenticity to the proceedings, I suppose, but it also adds quite a bit of reverberation, which may or may not have been aided by the engineers.  There’s a great sense of depth in the recording, with some voices close and some far away, but clarity suffers.  On the plus side, when “large” forces play, the sound blends together fantastically, creating aural soundscapes I’ve not yet experienced.  I think I need to explore some more early Baroque (and earlier music). 





Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 19, 2008, 08:15:34 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31wEGIvhYRL._SL500_AA180_.jpg)


I figured it was about time that I took a listen to DG’s latest wunderkind conductor Gustavo Dudamel.  There are a few choices, but I decided to pass on his Beethoven and Mahler recordings and instead focus on works by, or inspired by, Latin American composers.  I did this not so much because I wanted to stereotype the conductor, but more because I have very serious doubts that a twenty-something conductor, however gifted, could possibly deliver readings of core rep that rivals, say, Bruno Walter or the Kleibers or, well, you get the idea.  That and the program on the Fiesta disc looked tempting: a host of short works by composers I’ve not even heard of for the most part. 

The disc opens with a work that I actually am familiar with, Sensemayá, by Silvestre Revueltas.  I’ll just note here that this is the best work on the disc and that Dudamel leads a very fine, colorful, and vibrant reading of this Latin Rite of Spring.  Esa-Pekka Salonen’s recording, due partly to how it was recorded, is more ominous and thunderous, but I’ll gladly welcome this newcomer.

Now to new works.  Inocente Carreńo’s Margariteña is next, and as played here it’s a vibrant, generally upbeat dance, with some nearly pensive parts and an almost tone poem feel.  Antonio Estévez’s Mediodia en el Llano is a musical evocation of Venezuela’s high plains.  It’s somewhat spare and brooding, and suitably arid in some parts, and mercurial in others.  It’s almost a neo-impressionist piece, if such a thing exists, and sort of has hints of Debussy in it.  Arturo Márquez’s Danzón no. 2 has a slow, rich opening, but then erupts into an intensely vibrant, bright dance.  Some almost obligatory introspective and sentimental music offers some contrast a few times, but this is, rightly, mostly about the dance.  Aldemaro Romero’s Fuga con Pajarillo is up next, and it combines dance and fugue with a modern sensibility to create an energetic, sunny, fun, but also formal and rigorous work.  It’s one of the best works on the disc.  It’s not quite as good as Alberto Ginastera’s dances from the ballet Estancia, though.  These four brief works are all crafted in a masterly fashion, and, along with the Revueltas work, just seem to represent a slightly higher level of composition than the others on the disc.  (A few more listens may very well add Romero’s work to this list.)  I’m familiar with other Ginastera works – piano concertos and string quartets – and as with them, his music just works for me.  Anyhoo, the dances are fast, intense, and vibrant; slow, lilting, laid-back and lovely; fast, fiery, and potent; and vivacious and fun, in that order.  The last new work for me is Evencio Castellanos’ Santa Cruz de Pacairigua, which blends “folk” elements and more elegant, formal music into a rich celebration.  Both musical approaches – signifying the common folk and the rich, apparently – eventually combine into a somewhat raucous, everyone-is-welcome shindig.  Some slower, more nostalgic music also makes itself known.  All of the works contain instrumentation and musical styles that are identifiably “Latin,” or at least not French or German, so the music on offer is potentially refreshing to ears accustomed to nothing but Old World writing.

(Oh, the disc closes with Bernstein’s Mambo.  It’s quite energetic, but I think Lenny does it better.)

The Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (whew, that’s a name) play extremely well – this is one well-drilled group of pampered, upper class Venezuelan kids – and DG engineers deliver some fine sonics.  Dudamel seems to know what he’s doing, so I look forward to hearing more from him.  I probably still won’t try his LvB or Mahler, but I’d like to hear him lead some other music.  Perhaps some Carter (doubtful) or, since next year is a Haydn year, some Papa Haydn.  Will the A&R folks at UMG see the synergy?  I hope so. 


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 27, 2008, 08:59:55 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518X49E6G3L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Sergey Tanayev isn’t a new composer for me.  I’d heard one work by him before – the Suite de concert for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 28 from the Oistrakh Edition a few months ago.  So this is something of a Tanayev year for me.  Anyway, this star-studded disc from DG, anchored by Mikhail Pletnev at the piano, seemed like a nice enough disc to sample.  After listening to the Suite and these two works, one word comes immediately to mind: Brahms.  The liner notes go to great lengths to point out how Tanayev isn’t merely a “Russian Brahms,” but that is in fact how the music often sounds.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Both the Piano Quintet and Piano Trio are cut from the same musical cloth.  The quintet is the bigger, longer work, and the opening Adagio mesto hints at all the music to come.  It’s grand in scale – it’s reminiscent of some Brahms chamber music if you will – and rich and luxuriant, and rigorous and formal, too.  The Scherzo is appropriately clever and fun, and displays some sparkling piano writing which Pletnev delivers quite nicely.  The grand Largo is powerful, and perhaps just a tad overly emotive (which is taste-dependent, of course), yet retains rigorous formality.  The Finale is somewhat predictable in that it is large, lush, romantic and rigorous.  If this all reads like faint praise, it isn’t meant to.  Much the same can be written about the trio, though here there’s a variation movement thrown in, and some of the playing sounds almost schmaltzy at times.

I really did enjoy this disc, though I can’t say that Tanayev emerges as quite the major figure the notes try to portray.  Between this and the Suite, I think it makes sense to slowly sample a few other works from this composer, though I’m not sure I’ll ever start buying multiple versions of his works.  Of course, doing so may point out even greater strengths in the music.  Sound is fine, and playing is generally very good, though one must wonder if chamber music specialists might make even more of these works.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Bulldog on December 27, 2008, 01:13:09 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518X49E6G3L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Sergey Tanayev isn’t a new composer for me.  I’d heard one work by him before – the Suite de concert for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 28 from the Oistrakh Edition a few months ago.  So this is something of a Tanayev year for me.  Anyway, this star-studded disc from DG, anchored by Mikhail Pletnev at the piano, seemed like a nice enough disc to sample.  After listening to the Suite and these two works, one word comes immediately to mind: Brahms.  The liner notes go to great lengths to point out how Tanayev isn’t merely a “Russian Brahms,” but that is in fact how the music often sounds.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Both the Piano Quintet and Piano Trio are cut from the same musical cloth.  The quintet is the bigger, longer work, and the opening Adagio mesto hints at all the music to come.  It’s grand in scale – it’s reminiscent of some Brahms chamber music if you will – and rich and luxuriant, and rigorous and formal, too.  The Scherzo is appropriately clever and fun, and displays some sparkling piano writing which Pletnev delivers quite nicely.  The grand Largo is powerful, and perhaps just a tad overly emotive (which is taste-dependent, of course), yet retains rigorous formality.  The Finale is somewhat predictable in that it is large, lush, romantic and rigorous.  If this all reads like faint praise, it isn’t meant to.  Much the same can be written about the trio, though here there’s a variation movement thrown in, and some of the playing sounds almost schmaltzy at times.



The performers are responsible for that "schmaltzy" playing.  I'm not a big fan of the Pletnev & All-Stars recording.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 09, 2009, 12:11:48 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/416HxsN1gkL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Until recently I’ve resisted the pull of early music, and in particular a cappella music, since my occasional exposure to it was usually, though not always, less than satisfying.  (Of course there are more modern a cappella works, but I tend to associate the form with pre-Baroque works.)  Well, last year I sampled a compelling modern a cappella work, and I decided to try something new, or rather something really old.  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.  The last time I stumbled across something similar is when I heard Wozzeck for the first time, and that launched me into a journey of the world of opera that has not yet ended.

The works on this disc are unfailingly wonderful.  The first thing I noticed was the sheer aural beauty of all of the works.  All are “small,” in that only a few voices are used, but the sound is ravishing and the music at times spellbinding.  All of the singers display what sounds to my ears like mastery of their parts.  The individual melodies that one can pick out are all lovely and captivating, and the mastery of polyphony Morales displays is remarkable.  I enjoy all of the works on the disc, with the Magnificat and Motets all perfectly scaled, but for some unexplainable reason, it is the three Lamentations that most capture my fancy.  They are, in a word, glorious.

I know essentially nothing about Renaissance music, and have heard very little of it, so perhaps this disc of Morales’ music is a fluke.  (Given that I like Dowland as well, I don’t believe that to be the case.)  Perhaps I wouldn’t like other music by him, or by other early composers, and maybe this is really the exception in terms of a cappella works.  I know I’ll be finding out if that is the case going forward.

SOTA sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 15, 2009, 08:06:21 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pz3qv04VL._AA240_.jpg)

I decided to take my current exploration of early music as far back as I plan on going, right to Hildegard von Bingen.  Medieval music is quite old enough for me, almost assuredly, as I have no real interest in listening to how people think the Romans may have listened to music.  I’ve been aware of Bingen for years of course, but the thought of near-millennium old music didn’t get my blood racing.  But my recent positive experiences with Dowland and Morales led me to take the plunge.  I’m glad I did.

The first thing I noticed about the music, particularly on the tracks where women sing, is the beauty of the music.  It is somewhat delicate and light, with beautiful and seemingly simple melodies, and the use of only four voices brings a temptingly spare, comforting feel to the music.  The female voices nearly float in the acoustic they were recorded in, and the soaring high parts, well, they soar.  But not too high.  The works performed by male singers fare quite well also, but the music seems better suited to female voices.  (Not being an academic, I can’t say whether Bingen intended these to only ever be performed by fellow nuns or not, and frankly I don’t care.)  Compared to the more advanced works by Morales, these pieces just don’t seem as compelling.  Over 74 minutes of unison chant doesn’t offer the same excitement of the advanced polyphony on the Morales disc, and the melodies aren’t quite as striking.  Bingen also seems to have suffered from an early, mild case of Wagneritis, in that her texts are long and rambling and indulgent.  I can live with that. 

Jeremy Summerly and his Oxford Camerata do a quite fine job, at least to these ears, of bringing the music to life.  Sound is very good, though here the Morales disc also wins.  Still, a most enlightening purchase. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on January 15, 2009, 09:04:39 AM
Thank you for this fine series. May I respectfully suggest you try this:

(http://www.mdt.co.uk/public/pictures/products/standard/HMC901831-32.jpg)

(currently on offer at mdt)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 20, 2009, 08:06:23 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41AVTHBKZCL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Dietrich Buxtehude is another early baroque stalwart I hadn’t yet sampled.  I suppose I should have tried (and should try) his organ music, but organ music ain’t my thing, so I opted for some chamber music, namely the seven opus 1 sonatas.  As played here they appear to be a precursor to the modern piano trio, with a violin, cello, and harpsichord.  Apparently there are divergent performance traditions, and the music can be played with a pair of violins instead, but I think for my purposes the current line up is sufficient.

The music is nicely varied.  There are plenty of nods to dance music, but there’s also more.  There’s occasional fugal writing, and some music that practically seems to beg for improvisation, or at least colorful embellishment.  There’s a sense of somewhat muted joy at times on this disc; the playing is generally lively, but it’s also quite proper.  No one seems to really push any boundaries.  That’s more an observation than a criticism, but one must wonder if a more vigorous approach would do these works some good.  There’s also quite a bit of polish to the playing.  Would a rougher approach make the works even better?  Well, these works are quite fine, so it may be worth investigating alternative takes in the future, though I think I’ll absorb these performances a few more times before trying.

The ensemble Convivium plays quite nicely, with the few “too good” reservations I mentioned, and the sound is generally quite good, with all three instruments generously represented – nothing sounds recessed here.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Bunny on January 20, 2009, 10:03:53 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pz3qv04VL._AA240_.jpg)

I decided to take my current exploration of early music as far back as I plan on going, right to Hildegard von Bingen.  Medieval music is quite old enough for me, almost assuredly, as I have no real interest in listening to how people think the Romans may have listened to music.  I’ve been aware of Bingen for years of course, but the thought of near-millennium old music didn’t get my blood racing.  But my recent positive experiences with Dowland and Morales led me to take the plunge.  I’m glad I did.

The first thing I noticed about the music, particularly on the tracks where women sing, is the beauty of the music.  It is somewhat delicate and light, with beautiful and seemingly simple melodies, and the use of only four voices brings a temptingly spare, comforting feel to the music.  The female voices nearly float in the acoustic they were recorded in, and the soaring high parts, well, they soar.  But not too high.  The works performed by male singers fare quite well also, but the music seems better suited to female voices.  (Not being an academic, I can’t say whether Bingen intended these to only ever be performed by fellow nuns or not, and frankly I don’t care.)  Compared to the more advanced works by Morales, these pieces just don’t seem as compelling.  Over 74 minutes of unison chant doesn’t offer the same excitement of the advanced polyphony on the Morales disc, and the melodies aren’t quite as striking.  Bingen also seems to have suffered from an early, mild case of Wagneritis, in that her texts are long and rambling and indulgent.  I can live with that. 

Jeremy Summerly and his Oxford Camerata do a quite fine job, at least to these ears, of bringing the music to life.  Sound is very good, though here the Morales disc also wins.  Still, a most enlightening purchase. 


I don't think Sr. Hildegarde was trying for excitement.  I think that she was creating music to enhance the contemplative life.  It also helps to know that the early Church did not allow polyphonic music because they felt it contradicted the idea of "One God." I'm pretty sure polyphony existed back then, only consider the strong traditions of polyphony in European folk music; it just wasn't used for religious music until much later. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 26, 2009, 11:44:34 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41zB%2Bs-1WZL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

I believe I’ve seen York Bowen’s name mentioned a time or two in reviews or articles, and what not, but until now I’d never taken the time to listen to his music.  Why I’m not sure; he was born in 1884 and there are quite a few great or at least extraordinary composers born within a matter of years either way of that particular one.  So when I came across this two-disc set of works for viola and piano I figured I might enjoy what was captured on those little plastic and aluminum discs and took the plunge.  What a delightful treat!

The set opens with the first of two Viola Sonatas, written when Mr Bowen was a lad of 20.  It’s a vibrant, energetic, and often just fun piece.  It also displays a rich, romantic feel, aided no doubt by the rich sound of the viola.  It’s conventional in form, but that doesn’t mean it ain’t fun to listen to.  A short Romance in D Flat follows, and it’s quite similar.  Next up is a sort of string quartet, though this one is a short Fantasia four violas!  I was expecting a monotonous sound, but that’s not what composer and players deliver.  The versatility of the instrument is brought out, with rich lower registers supporting some higher than often heard writing for the viola.  The next work is a forgettable and somewhat lamentable retake of the slow movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique with viola obbligato.  Next.  The Phantasy in F Major closes the first disc, and this returns to the same sound world and approach of the first two works, though it’s generally slower and more languid.  The second disc opens with the second Viola Sonata, and it is stylistically similar to the first, though if anything it’s even happier and brighter.  Heck, it’s just plain old good fun.  The next four works all offer much the same style of music, either plucky and fun (in the Allegro de Concert) or a bit more languid and overtly “romantic” (the Romance and two Melodies).  Only the concluding Rhapsody in G minor from the late date of 1955 offers something a bit mote challenging, dense, and complex, though it never quite sheds the earlier traits.  All told, with the exception of the LvB work, all of the pieces work very well.

Sound is absolutely top-flight, and all artists involved acquit themselves most expertly.  Lawrence Power is a heck of a violist, and Simon Crawford-Philips is a fine accompanist.  Indeed, his playing shows that the accompaniment isn’t meant to be pushed to the background and that Bowen was a creative and intriguing author for 88 keys.  A superb set.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 29, 2009, 09:45:45 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51OurN1F%2BTL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Thus far in my listening I’ve only made time for one work by Charles Wuorinen, and that was when I was fortunate enough to attend the world premiere of his Fourth String Quartet years ago.  I enjoyed it and decided I should listen to more of his music, but I just never got around to it.  Now I have, and I must say I waited a bit too long. 

This outstanding disc opens with a single movement string sextet that sounds unequivocally “modern,” no doubt unpleasantly so to some, but at the same time it is really rather accessible.  Harsh dissonance and jagged rhythmic changes are kept somewhat at bay, and a smooth, appealing, at times attractive, almost traditional sound emerges.  I mean this in relative terms; this is modern music, but one can almost hear the tradition of pre-war composers shining through.  This isn’t radicalism for the sake of radicalism.  It’s almost contemporary Brahms.  Anyway the music unfolds nicely, is tightly constructed, and has interesting musical ideas popping out throughout, with some exciting, vigorous, rhythmically catchy portions.

The Second String Quartet is similar in most ways, though it’s in four movements, labeled movements 1-4, and displays the same traditionally modern sound.  The opening movement alternates between fast and slow, and has a nifty ticking sound at the start, and some infectious, vibrant, slashing playing throughout.  The second movement is somewhat deceptive.  It starts slow, much of the movement is quiet, with tasty tremolos and plucky pizzacatti, but it also continuously evolves.  The third movement is more vigorous, and deliciously dissonant.  The final movement starts slow but quickly evolves into a more striking, intense, satisfying conclusion. 

Next is the single movement Divertimento for string quartet, and it’s apparently the same music as Wourinen wrote for piano and saxophone.  The overall tone and feel of the work is light and fun – a heavy divertimento would seem a bit unusual – but the music is nicely tense and propulsive.

The disc ends with a Piano Quintet that sounds like a standard “modern” work, by which I mean it displays much of the difficult, knotty goodness of, say, some of Schoenberg’s works.  It’s less accessible, perhaps, but it’s no less satisfying.  There are some standard elements.  The long second movement is the slow movement, and it offers a sonic and (perhaps also) an emotional element not present in the other movements.  This first, by contrast, is a somewhat standard, nicely driven opener, the third movement is an intermezzo, and the fourth movement is swift, rapidly changing, and vigorous, with audience-pleasing elements.

This is extraordinarily fine CD.  I enjoy every work on the disc completely and have already played it a couple times and plan on doing so a couple more times in the next couple days.  Charles Wuorinen writes some mighty fine music.  I really need to investigate his output a bit more. 

Sound is excellent, and all of the players are far more than up to the challenge.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 30, 2009, 09:46:01 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41RZUTeG-6L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


It’s been years since last I bought a disc of music by William Alwyn, so I decided to try his string quartets, a medium I often find composers give their best effort to.  Perhaps that’s the case with Alwyn, perhaps not, but one thing’s for sure, this is a nice disc.

The disc opens with the First String Quartet naturally enough, and it at once seems an anachronism.  It was written in the 1950s but it sounds more like a work written a half-century to three-quarters of century earlier.  It’s decidedly “romantic,” and it’s lush at times.  It also sounds more than faintly Czech, though nowhere near as much as Bax’s First Quartet.  There’s a bit more to it.  Some of the music is perhaps a bit more acidic than works from the time frame it alludes to, and the more than occasional peppiness keeps one listening closely, as does the overtly old-fashion slow movement. 

The Second Quartet, subtitled Spring Waters, is from the mid-70s, and while it sounds much more modern, it’s still behind the times.  That’s quite alright.  More astringent, more challenging, it still sounds attractive, as though Alwyn didn’t want to write ugly music.  The first movement is constantly changing with some nifty rhythmic changes; the second movement, a scherzo, sounds somewhat like a lighter and less serious Bartok; and the final movement is mostly slow, brooding, and serious.  Not having read Turgenev’s novel of the same name, I can’t say that Spring Waters evokes any imagery from the book or even is supposed to.

Next is the Third Quartet from 1984, and it’s both “modern” and “romantic” at the same time.  In its two movements it manages to blend gentleness and contemplation, frisky dances, intensity, abstract harshness, and syrupy sentimentality into a cohesive whole.  It seems somewhat personal, if you will, or at least more so than the prior two works, and it’s the most compelling work on the disc.  The disc closes with a Novellette that’s fun and brisk and offers a nice contrast to the final string quartet.

The Maggini play well, as always, and the sound is excellent.  I don’t think I can say these are among the great string quartets of the last century, but they are very good and will receive future spins. 

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brewski on January 30, 2009, 09:56:09 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51OurN1F%2BTL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

This isn’t radicalism for the sake of radicalism.  It’s almost contemporary Brahms. 

My favorite part of your most interesting review, which shows yet again that some composers are much less daunting than some might think.  I wonder (out loud) what Wuorinen thinks of Brahms.  My hunch is that he probably listens to quite a bit of his music.

--Bruce
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 09, 2009, 08:15:05 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51TG8TDAMKL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I so enjoyed my first disc of Morales’ music that I decided to try another post-haste.  Whilst browsing the local classical specialist I came upon this disc, with the Requiem a 5, or Missa Pro Defunctis, along with some shorter motets on the Spanish label Cantus.  In short, it’s another stunner.

The Requiem is the main work, and what a glorious one it is!  Once again the melodies are stupefyingly gorgeous, and the polyphony beyond masterful.  The entire work unfolds in a most, well, natural way.  Everything fits perfectly, and nary an ugly sound or misplaced note can be heard.  The liner notes state that the work evokes terror.  I don’t really hear that, but mixed in with the astounding beauty is profound sorrow and solemnity.  Is this not what a requiem should be?  This work does have five voices, allowing for even more interesting interactions than on the Hyperion disc, and the soprano generally leads the melodies.  In addition, there is an organ accompaniment.  It’s quite effective; sometimes voices and instrument blend together in perfect harmony and produce a larger, more beautiful sound.  The three, multi-part motets all occupy a similar sound-world and all depend to an extent on the organ.  I’d say the Requiem is my favorite work on this disc, and probably my favorite work so far from the composer, but all of the works are simply marvelous.

Sound and performance standards are extremely high.  I’d probably give a slight edge in both instances to the Hyperion recording, but make no mistake, Raúl Mallavibarrena and the Musica Ficta do exceptionally well.  I’ll definitely have to explore more music by Morales, and given my prior antipathy regarding these types of works, that’s quite something. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 17, 2009, 08:49:29 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51oLa6VWo1L._SL500_AA280_.jpg)

Missing Ravel piano concerto discovered!  That’s what I thought a few times while listening to Ned Rorem’s Second Piano Concerto from 1951.  It’s a decidedly “French” sounding work, with a light, clear, at times almost delicate sound and feel.  The work never becomes heavy or opaque, which allows some rather nifty wind writing to show up, and the piano writing is often dazzling and fun.  The long opening movement seems like a concerto in itself, with some fast, vibrant sections and slow, (almost) contemplative ones.  I guess that makes sense given that the movement is labeled “Somber and Steady.”  I’ll leave it to the reader to guess what the second movement, labeled “Quiet and Sad” sounds like, but that Gallic flair is still there.  Ditto the concluding “Real Fast!” movement.  Okay, maybe I was too hard on Rorem for ripping off Ravel; it also sounds like he knew his Poulenc, too.  But he also knows how to write some attractive, fun, creative orchestral music, even if it ain’t the Deepest Music Ever Written. 

The second work on the disc is his much more recent Cello Concerto, from 2002.  This work strikes me as altogether more substantive and serious, but not a whole lot “heavier.”  (This is definitely not DSCH’s third cello concerto.)  It’s also more unabashedly “modern.”  One thing I enjoy about Rorem is his ability to write nearly harsh, dissonant music that still sounds attractive, and this works offers up some of that.  There’s also a sparser overall feel, using less to somehow evoke more.  The work is more probing, more intense, yet it’s also a bit subtler.  Rorem’s influences are also a bit less obvious – perhaps a bit of Liszt, maybe some Prokofiev, and almost certainly some Messiaen – and his writing more sophisticated.  The multiple, brief movements also keeps the piece moving right along, not dwelling on anything.  I really enjoy this work.

As with much Rorem, I find much to admire.  Perhaps these works aren’t the greatest in their respective genres, but they are by no means lightweight works, the Cello Concerto especially.  The disc reminds me why I like to pick up a Rorem disc every now and again: he writes really good music.  As to performers, Simon Mulligan does a fine job tickling the ivories and Wen-Sinn Yang does an excellent job on the ‘cello.  José Serebrier and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra do some fine work as well.  Superb sound rounds out an excellent disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 18, 2009, 06:50:25 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51YWP3PN2NL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Having enjoyed all of the recordings of music by Ahmed Adnan Saygun, I figured I could go for another one, and I settled on a CPO disc devoted to his Third and Fifth Symphonies.  It’s another winner.

The disc opens with the Third, and it’s got all manner of Saygunian goodness in it.  There’s the “exotic” writing, with novel orchestration creating ear-tickling effects.  There’s an astringent, muscular sound to much of the music – no wimpy symphony this.  There’s an affinity for low strings that regularly crops up.  There are brilliant fanfares.  There are attractive melodies intermingled with knottier fare.  One can hear folk influences, but this ain’t no paean to folk music.  There is some ever so slightly eerie quiet music; some cool, manly marches; some nice little parts for bassoon.  It’s Big, it has a nice 38 minute length.  It sounds swell.

So does the Fifth.  The work is both quite similar and quite a bit different.  It occupies a similar overall soundworld as the Third, with comparatively exotic music and novel orchestration, but it is also more refined, less folk-inspired, and more ethereal.  The work unfolds in an almost Sibelius-like way, and it’s sparser and more austere much of the time.  It’s more “abstract,” as well, not that the Third can be described as a programmatic piece.  It just seems more accomplished and more assured overall.  And it’s better than the Third, too. 

Ari Rasilainen does an excellent job directing, and the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz do an equally excellent job playing.  Excellent sound, too.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 25, 2009, 08:32:59 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51XJ5dgbXfL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I had a hankerin’ for some more Early Music, and given my success with Morales, I figured I might want to try another 16th Century Spanish polyphony master, so I turned to one of Morales’ students, Francisco Guerrero.  Again, I knew nothing of the composer or his music going in (and barely more than nothing now), but once again I have to rate my exploration a success, if not quite as much a success as my forays into the music of Morales.

At the core of the this disc is the Missa Super flumina Babylonis.  It’s a large scale work, relatively speaking, and comprises all of the main elements of a mass – the Kyrie, Gloria, et al.  Also thrown in are brief Aleluya and Ofrenda movements.  Much like the works of Morales, beautiful melodies and masterful polyphony permeate the music, as does some masterful antiphony.  The Aleluya and Ofrenda are plainchant interludes.  Also thrown in is some fine music making by sagbutt and cornett players.  Everything is very good, but I just never got as caught up in the music as I did (and do) with the works of Morales.  The older Spaniard’s melodies are just more beautiful, his polyphony more bewitching.  It’s just that simple, at least for me.  Others may feel differently.

The disc also contains other works, including a couple of nice, brief instrumental pieces performed by the sagbuttists and cornettists (?), and some more substantial pieces.  The opening Ave virgo sanctissima is superb, for instance, and the moderately large-scaled In exitu Israel is also quite captivating. 

Given the nature of the works, two different choral ensembles were used for the different works, the British Ensemble Plus Ultra taking the mass and some other works, the Spanish Schola Antiqua taking some of the smaller works.  Both perform admirably, if not quite to the same standards as the Brabant Ensemble on the Hyperion Morales disc.  His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts play well enough, as well, but are there better ensembles out there?  I don’t know.  Michael Noone seems to have a firm grasp of the music and conducts well, and the sound is excellent.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 27, 2009, 07:01:58 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/611HZ9PQ65L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Time to move forward in time a little, but not really too much.  I’ve long enjoyed Heinrich Ignaz Biber’s Rosary Sonatas, so I though I ought to try something a bit bigger.  I settled on his Missa Christ resurgentis in a recording by Andrew Manze and the English Concert and The Choir of the English Concert.  What a splendid disc!

The disc opens with a brief, snazzy, well played fanfare before moving into the mass itself.  And the mass itself is really rather spiffy.  Biber, or Manze and his band, or both, inject a rhythmic life into the music.  It’s not like the music is jazzy, but it moves forward with inexorable drive, and I swear it sounds groovy at times.  It’s also superbly orchestrated, with crisp cornets and trumpets cutting through ensemble from time to time, and sweet strings.  The standard texts come to life as well.  So far, so good, but then some additional instrumental music is thrown in, in the form of some sonatas, as well as one sonata attributed to Johann Heinrich Schmelzer.  Why this was done, I don’t know, but it blends in nicely enough.  To wrap up the work another snazzy fanfare is played.  The cumulative effect of the mass is to perk the listener up – or this listener at any rate. 

Once the main work is done, the disc moves on to instrumental works, particularly four sonatas from Fidicinium sacro-profanum.  These works not too surprisingly display many of the same traits as the instrumental pieces used within the mass, which means they are quite fine.

Manze and his band play splendidly, and the chorus certainly sings well enough.  No complaints about sound quality, either.  A superb disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Dr. Dread on February 27, 2009, 07:27:06 AM
Manze

There's a name we can trust.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 16, 2009, 07:08:51 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4177PZWN2HL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


So far I’ve tried two Morales discs, and so far I’ve had two big successes.  This one makes it three for three.  This is simply a marvel of a disc.  The disc opens with a smaller but still substantial work by Morales, and ends with a short work by Alonso Lobo, but the core of the disc is the great Missa pro Defunctis, written for the funeral of Philip II.  It’s just under an hour long as presented here, and is austere, serious, profoundly solemn and breathtakingly gorgeous.  By ‘breathtakingly gorgeous’ I mean that this listener found himself breathing a bit shallower than normal so as not to sully the wonderful sounds falling on my ears.  Gone is the almost dazzling, in a Renaissance sorta way, polyphony of the earlier Morales pieces, but in it’s place is something perhaps even better.  Here is a blend of voices and sole instrument to create an otherworldly, dare I write heavenly, masterpiece.  It’s the cumulative effect that matters.  Throw in a truly marvelous setting of the ancient plainchant Dies irae (think the tune from Liszt’s Totentanz), and one can easily be transported to a different, better world.  The work is, I believe, written for five voices and bajón, but it appears from the notes that eleven different singers are used during the mass.  Perhaps they are alternated, but whatever the case, the spacious venue adds a certain heft to the singing, and the emphasis on lower voices adds a richness and seriousness that can never be accomplished with higher voices.  The bajón accompaniment is discreet and effective. 

The opening Officium defunctorum: Invitatorium is another masterful work, more in line with some earlier Morales works, and the closing piece by Mr Lobo is quite fine as well.

Sound is spacious, allowing for superb blending of voices, and suits the music perfectly.

A great disc. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 18, 2009, 02:08:06 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51EJV4ZZTZL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Exploring the Renaissance a bit more, I figured I should listen to Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina.  I’ve read about him, of course, and seen reference to his works, and I even worked my way through Hans Pfitzner’s deadly dull opera Palestrina, but I’d never tried his music.  Perhaps waiting was needed for me, I don’t know, but the music is worth the wait.  This is music on pat with Morales, and no doubt many might say it is better than Morales.  (They’d be wrong, but you get the idea.)

In many ways, all the praise I’ve heaped upon the works of Morales applies here.  The polyphony is masterful, the melodies gorgeous, the harmonies enthralling.  But there are critical differences.  Whereas Morales strikes me as more adventurous in some of his works, Palestrina strikes me as more conservative and concerned with mastery of existing forms.  His works are also even clearer, and often lighter than the works of the Spanish master.  Too, they sound even more devout, more spiritual, if that’s possible.  They also have a more soothing effect, at least for me.  All of the works in this two-disc set are wonderful, but special mention must be made of the Missa Papae Marcelli, which is a work of such quality that it surely ranks alongside the greatest liturgical works ever written.

The Tallis Scholars sing splendidly, and sound is generally very good, though there is a slight digital glare at times in some of the recordings.  More great stuff.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 24, 2009, 07:00:39 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41fW61QeLfL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Continuing on with yet more Cristóbal de Morales finds the first disc that if it doesn’t exactly disappoint, then it surely doesn’t live up to high expectations.  But I think I know why.  It’s not the music.  The collection of works on the disc – five motets and the Missa Queramus cum pastoribus by Morales, and the brief Queramus cum pastoribus by Jean Mouton – are all quite nice, and all of those traits that I of Morales’ music that I so enjoy are still there: the beautiful melodies, the striking harmonies, the brilliant polyphony.  It’s the performance.  Two things stand out.  First, the music is never taken too fast, yet it all seems to be pushed forward a bit too much.  It doesn’t sound as controlled and smooth and relaxed as the other discs I’ve tried.  This is because, second, the singers, as a whole, don’t sound quite as good as the singers I’ve heard thus far.  They’re not bad, but compared to the Brabant Ensemble or Gabrieli Consort, they don’t have the degree of refinement and tonal grace I prefer.  A somewhat glassy and hard recorded sound doesn’t help things, either.  I’ll listen again, no doubt, but I need to look elsewhere for my ultimate Morales fix.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (: premont :) on March 24, 2009, 08:30:53 AM
Dietrich Buxtehude ... I opted for some chamber music, namely the seven opus 1 sonatas.  As played here they appear to be a precursor to the modern piano trio, with a violin, cello, and harpsichord.  Apparently there are divergent performance traditions, and the music can be played with a pair of violins instead, but I think for my purposes the current line up is sufficient.

The proper scoring is violin, viola da gamba and continuo.

.. but one must wonder if a more vigorous approach would do these works some good.  There’s also quite a bit of polish to the playing.  Would a rougher approach make the works even better?  Well, these works are quite fine, so it may be worth investigating alternative takes in the future, though I think I’ll absorb these performances a few more times before trying.

The former DaCapo release, now on Naxos, with John Holloway, Jaap ter Linden and Lars Ulrik Mortensen might be worth for you to seek out. But remember this is essentially rather introvert music.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 05, 2009, 02:18:08 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51I6fuBNriL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


Continuining on with more Renaissance music, I decided to move north a bit and try some Orlande de Lassus.  (Though not the recording recommended earlier in this thread.)  Philippe Herreweghe has recorded enough music by Lassus to seem a safe bet, and so I grabbed his latest offering, the Cationes Sacrae for six voices.  The recording is both spectacular and a bit disappointing.  Let me ‘splain.

To the spectacular parts: the sound is as close to perfect as can be imagined.  Voices are ideally clear and still blend beautifully.  If only all recordings could sound as good.  The quality of the singing is also quite extraordinary.  Collegium Vocale is an exceedingly talented ensemble, no doubt of that.

But these two positives can’t make up for music that, while incredibly beautiful much of the time, isn’t quite as good as what I’ve heard from Palestrina and, especially, Morales.  The fourteen works are mostly sacred, though the opener is not, and the polyphony is nearly as masterful as Morales’, and the melodies as beautiful as anything either Morales or Palestrina conjured.  For reasons I just can’t explain adequately, it just doesn’t hit the spot.  I will definitely give this disc several more listens on top of the ones it has already received, and I most certainly will explore more Lassus, but this disc just didn’t wow me.



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo 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:)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 19, 2009, 04:14:16 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/415F4FSKP8L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Grazioso 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:

(http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/28/b9/346ec060ada0b70bda169110.L._AA240_.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 21, 2009, 03:23:03 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51G9Pd4CKZL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

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.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 30, 2009, 01:12:13 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51N2bwkcKmL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 13, 2009, 07:09:25 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/510DZD63CPL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Diletante on May 13, 2009, 07:24:06 AM
Hi. I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading your posts very much. :)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd 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.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 19, 2009, 01:28:56 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/6170ZYb4QDL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 29, 2009, 11:04:14 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pnqlAlqmL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Bulldog on May 29, 2009, 11:45:24 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pnqlAlqmL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd 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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Bulldog 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
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd 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!)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Bulldog 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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 17, 2009, 06:52:04 AM
(http://www.arkivmusic.com/graphics/covers/non-muze/full/220002.jpg)


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. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 30, 2009, 10:57:15 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51i1Q1S7K3L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 08, 2009, 10:36:42 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41NT9V48M5L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

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.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Drasko 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):

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41TYPVDB2WL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)

Tacchino/Pretre Aubade is fantastic.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: George 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? (http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Saens-Music-Piano-Orchestra-Complete/dp/B001F8NMJ2/ref=dm_cd_album_lnk)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: George on July 08, 2009, 06:38:04 PM
You may find this of interest:

(http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/ciu/28/b9/346ec060ada0b70bda169110.L._AA240_.jpg)

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.

Indeed, that one's a keeper for sure.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 09, 2009, 05:15:38 AM
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)



Interesting, I don't know Poulenc's output well, so I assumed the twofer was complete.  Who knows, maybe I'll go for that bigger set sometime and trade-in my smaller one . . .
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 10, 2009, 06:53:02 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4168GC2PVVL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I love Schubert’s solo piano music, particularly the sonatas, but also some of the smaller works.  But how about all of the dances?  The relatively few I’ve heard on disc and in recital have all been nice, some more than that, but until recently I never really gave much thought to listening to all of them.  Dozens of works comprising hundreds of dances could be a long slog, even if they are from the pen of Schubert.  And who would be a good guide for such an undertaking?  Michael Endres recorded one of the better extant sonata cycles in the 90s, and he also recorded the complete dances around the same time.  Yes, he would do.

And do nicely.  Endres obviously has an affinity for Schubert, and it shines through in every work.  No, he can’t make every piece sound profound or great or even remarkable, but the better pieces in the set are superb.  I can’t really pinpoint the best works in such a large collection, though in general the “later” works do tend to be more sophisticated.  I will say that Schubert’s single Diabelli variation sounds just about how one would expect it to.  Throughout the set, gorgeous melodies abound, and Endres delivers them with assurance.  Too, Endres’ rhythmic sense is well nigh flawless throughout.  And his tone is perfectly sumptuous and subtle.  No, these are not Schubert’s greatest works, and the set is not mandatory listening for even devout Schubertians, but it is thoroughly enjoyable.  Endres confirms his formidable Schubert credentials.

Top-notch sound.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 16, 2009, 08:51:48 AM
(http://ec2.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ESECZT21L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I rather enjoy the Spanish solo piano music I have sampled thus far, however limited the number of composers.  Albéniz (especially), Granados, Falla, Turina – all wrote some pretty spiffy music for 88 keys.  And of course others have written music inspired by the Iberian Peninsula.  So I decided to try Joaquín Rodrigo’s solo piano music, all of which fits neatly onto two CDs.  There aren’t exactly gobs of recordings of the complete works, so I went with the first such compilation, recorded by one Sara Marianovich for Sony Spain in 2001 to celebrate the composer’s centenary.  The then young Ms Marianovich (she’s still not exactly old) apparently worked with, and played for, Mr Rodrigo, so one can conclude she was and is well versed in the music.

The set contains twenty works written between 1923 and 1987.  Many of the works are comprised of multiple small movements.  In other words, it’s basically a collection of miniatures.  That’s quite alright, particularly given the quality of the music.  In brief comments by the composer, he mentions how he tried to avoid Albéniz’s style and purposely wrote smaller, clearer works.  And so they are.  Many of the pieces display a beautiful simplicity devoid of all virtuoso flashiness.  Some of the music is slow and almost static at times, but it is the more powerful, the more contemplative for it.  There are some snazzier pieces, too, that display some of the rhythmic freedom his fellow countrymen also displayed.  Some of the earlier pieces sound of their time; that is, they have a slightly “modernist” sound, though they avoid expressionist angst.  They’re more impressionist.  At times, one can hear Rodrigo’s influences.  Albéniz ends up being unavoidable, as does Turina.  In the Tres Evocaciones one can hear distant echoes of Debussy.  These are all good things.

Ms Marianovich plays splendidly.  Her dexterity and command seem quite strong, and she plays with a broad tonal palette and great sensitivity.  Of special interest is her quite playing.  It’s really good stuff.  Sony provides some fine sound, though it can be a bit bright at times.  It’s too bad there aren’t many more recordings available by this pianist – I’d love to here her in Debussy, for instance.  An altogether successful purchase.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 31, 2009, 11:43:33 AM
(http://www.solstice-music.com/img_articles/gde/recto80.jpg)


I so enjoyed my earlier discovery of Albert Roussel’s three symphonies that I knew I should try something else.  Since I rather fancy piano music, it seemed natural to try that.  Roussel’s piano music is even harder to come by than his orchestral music.  I ended up going with a 1979 Solstice Records disc devoted to what is reported as the composer’s complete piano works, though I don’t know if that’s the case.  What I do know is that music is generally light, crisp, clear, light-hearted and a bit slight.

Only a half dozen works are included, and many of those are suites and collections.  The first work, Des Heures Passent.. is a nice little collection of pieces, and each one successfully depicts the title – things like Joyeuses and Tragiques.  The Rustiques is similar.  The Suite and Sonatine and Prelude and Fugue strike me as more formal and better structured, but even so I can’t say these are anything other than lightweight pieces.  The disc closes with Three Pieces, all untitled, and all three display similar traits to the other works.

This disc offers some nice if slight works.  Perhaps another pianist could make them sound more substantive that Alain Raës does, but then again maybe not.  Sound is definitely not particularly good, but then it’s not particularly bad.  Overall, this is a nice disc, but not a major find.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 31, 2009, 07:17:10 AM
(http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2004/Jun04/mompou6515-n.jpg)


Federico Mompou is been a composer I’ve long thought about looking into.  Sure, I’ve heard a piano piece here and there on the radio, and I think I may have a disc or two with his music as an encore, but I never sat down and listened to his music at length.  Now I have, and I’m glad I did.

Mompou being Spanish, I expected his music to sound similar, at least to an extent, to some of the other Spanish composers I’ve listened to, and, to an extent, it does sound similar.  But it also sounds unique.  When I spun disc one, which has the Música Callada, the impression I got was one of a Spanish Satie.  Generally slow, simple, and hypnotic, the collections of miniatures are my least favorite of the works in the set, but they are still good.  The remaining three discs are devoted to other collections of miniatures, including dances, preludes, and variations, including a compelling set based on Chopin’s fourth prelude.  All of these works are more to my liking, have a bit more verve (though never in the same category as Albéniz), and display rhythmic and harmonic originality, all while remaining somewhat understated.  Flashy and vacuous the music is not.

The pianist here is the composer himself.  Mompou, despite being aged when he recorded the works, seems to play well, handling the trickier and faster passages with what sounds to be at least adequate control.  Perhaps more youthful virtuosi could play with more brilliance (I may very well find out), but the composer delivers the goods.  One can also surmise that Mompou has the meaning of the music down.  Alas, the early 70s Ensayo sound is too metallic, harsh, and bright.  It’s not as bad as the likewise Antonio Armet produced recordings by Esteban Sánchez of the same period, but it’s not up to date sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 07, 2010, 09:46:05 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61-vdfZm4VL._SL500_AA240_.jpg)


I’ve always had a soft spot for Erich Korngold.  Gorgeous melodies; impossibly lush harmonies; dense, rich textures: Korngold’s music is so heavily romantic as to clog one’s aural arteries.  He’s the deep fried butter of classical music! 

Not having heard anything new from him in a while, I decided to give the Aron Quartett’s recording of the complete quartets and piano quintet a try.  Now, I’m not a newcomer to the First Quartet, having enjoyed the Franz Schubert Quartett’s Nimbus recording for over decade.  Still, I was glad to try a new ensemble.  (I never got around to the few other recordings out there.) 

The set starts with the Piano Quintet, and what a delightful piece it is!  The three traits I cited previously are all there in spades.  The piece sounds huge, as far as chamber pieces go, more like a chamber symphony than a chamber ensemble piece.  So dense is the music that great clarity of voices seems lost.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you, I’m just sayin’.  It’s a swooning piece.  And it’s just wonderful.  The first quartet is a joy from start to finish no matter what, but the Aron differentiate themselves from the fine Franz Schubert ensemble by shaving minutes off the piece.  The result is more youthful and vibrant, though also lush.  The decadently lush approach of the earlier ensemble is more my speed, but I fancy the newcomer.  The Second Quartet is infected with dances, particularly (not surprisingly) waltzes, and what nicely exaggerated waltzes they are!  It also boasts one of the most lively, joyous scherzos ever, though it’s called an intermezzo.  The Third Quartet is the latest work on the disc, and it is the most informed by both more modern musical ideas and Korngold’s own film music.  Big on invention and lushness married to occasional tartness, it works quite well.

Yes, I really dig this twofer.  It reaffirms for me, as if reaffirmation were needed, Korngold’s talents, and it brings some underplayed gems to light.  Throw in some superb sound and top notch playing from all involved, and it’s a winner.  I wouldn’t doubt if it ends up one of my favorites for the year.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 25, 2010, 08:15:56 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51mPskcXe1L._SL500_AA240_.jpg)



Over the years I’ve picked up a variety of discs of the music of Heitor Villa-Lobos, and I’ve always enjoyed what I heard.  The Bachianas Brasileiras, the piano music, the string quartets: All are supremely enjoyable.  So when I stumbled upon the CPO recording of his complete symphonies, conducted by Carl St Clair and played by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, for a reasonable price (ie, cheap), I decided to give it a try. 

I am most certainly glad I did.  This set offers an invigorating seven disc journey through lesser known, though not necessarily lesser, music.  To be sure, not all of the works are equally good, but the best of the best are very good indeed.  All of the symphonies come across as a pastiche of styles, if not necessarily other works.  One can hear some Brahms, some Wagner, some Beethoven, some Mahler, and in the Third and Fourth symphonies, some Ives.  (Actually, I don’t know if one is hearing an Ivesian blending of multiple genres and styles in the same work, or just Villa-Lobos arriving at a similar approach.)  Back to the Third and Fourth, and also the Fifth – they represent Villa-Lobos’ “War Symphonies”, though here the war is the Great War, not the even worse one from a couple decades later.  In addition to Ivesian blending, there’s great intensity and focus.  They are quite something.

But there’s more than war.  There are two good old fashioned “big” symphonies: the not quite an hour Second, and the over an hour Tenth.  They are quite different.  The Second is wonderfully melodious and filled with beautiful string writing, and it’s a bit immature when compared to the later works.  The Tenth is a gigantic oratorio that blends Brazilian influences, including wordless chorus and Tupi Indian texts, and Old World influences, including text by Jesuit Jose de Anchieta, in a compelling package.  I’m not saying for sure that this homage to Sao Paulo was influenced by Mahler’s 8th, but the use of decidedly different texts, vast scale, and even the organ, seems to imply just a bit of influence.  No, it’s not quite as masterful as Mahler’s 8th, but it’s still quite good.

The other symphonies run the quality gamut from good to exceptional, and generally speaking, the later works are more readily identifiable as being by Villa-Lobos; they blend influences deftly and ultimately sound like Villa-Lobos and no one else.  Throw in a couple nice short works and a lush, romantic Suite for Strings, and this is quite a fine set indeed.  Excellent playing and conducting, and generally superb sound round out a most attractive package.  Definitely one of my purchases of the year.  Great stuff.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Lethevich on February 25, 2010, 08:45:09 AM
I second your opinion of the very high quality of Korngold's chamber music. His string sextet and piano trio are also top-drawer :)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: abidoful on February 27, 2010, 11:50:32 PM
(http://www.solstice-music.com/img_articles/gde/recto80.jpg)

This disc offers some nice if slight works.  Perhaps another pianist could make them sound more substantive that Alain Raës does, but then again maybe not.  Sound is definitely not particularly good, but then it’s not particularly bad.  Overall, this is a nice disc, but not a major find.
Wow- thats interesting, i guess Roussel is worth exploring (he has been on my mind for sometime now- never heard a single piece by him)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 16, 2010, 11:29:01 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/6189wFYuIFL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)  (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61jvpvEikCL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


A couple years ago I sampled the first volume in the Danel Quartet’s one day to be complete cycle of string quartets by Mieczysław Weinberg.  It was one of my favorite discs of 2008, so surely I had to try the subsequent volumes.  So I have.

The second and third volumes contain the quartets 7, 11 & 13 and 6, 8 & 15 respectively.  Rather than go into specifics, a few brief generalizations will suffice to describe the music.  The quickest though not completely accurate way to describe the music is as DSCH-lite.  Weinberg was a disciple of Shostakovich, and it shows.  All of the quartets sound quite a bit like the older master, and some might even be taken as lost works.  This isn’t a criticism so much as an observation.  (Since I love the Shostakovich quartets, I have no problem with other works that sound similar, provided they are of high quality.)  The writing in these quartets never rivals the intensity of DSCH, though the sophistication does.  One can also discern a similar change over time from tonal, dissonant and ultimately structurally conservative early works to more complicated, exploratory later works (like the nine movement 15th).  One can detect a more subtle and sophisticated use of Jewish music, and some of the music sounds more influenced by other folk music, at least in a very indirect way. 

The Danel Quartet, whose Shostakovich cycle is my favorite modern (ie, up-to-date digital) cycle, does extremely well in this music.  They handle all the densest, most complex music easily, and they always sound attractive, no matter how harsh the music.  This is intense Russian music delivered with French sensibilities.  Superb sound just adds to the allure of both volumes.  Another couple of winners from CPO.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 26, 2010, 11:47:07 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51y-FK%2BVmSL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)

The under-recorded pianist Andrea Lucchesini has not let me down yet.  Whether playing Beethoven, Chopin, or Liszt, he has delivered the goods.  So it only made sense for me to try his recording of Luciano Berio’s piano music on Avie.  Throw in the fact that Lucchesini worked extensively with the composer while he was composing the Sonata, and one could assume he would be intimately familiar with the composer’s idiom.  (This assumption is only reinforced by the fact that Berio wrote Lucchesini and his wife and the bride’s parents piano four hands works as wedding gifts.) 

Berio’s piano works are generally knotty and dense, with notes aplenty, and few hummable melodies to speak of, yet his music is “lighter” and less daunting than the piano works of, say, Pierre Boulez.  And though shorn of tunes in the standard sense, there is some attractive music in the mix.  As to individual works, the Sonata has hints of, of all composers, Ravel, in repeated notes reminiscent of Gaspard.  One may even be able to detect whiffs of Prokofiev buried in the mix.  Long stretches of quiet, repetitive music is mixed with thrilling flurries of notes.  The Six Encores are small, almost Webern-sized works, and are surprisingly varied.  The third, for instance, is beautiful and almost neo-romantic, and all are surprisingly accessible.  One needn’t be a glutton for modern music to appreciate even the most “modern” of these pieces.  Rounds, Sequenza IV, and Cinque Variazioni are heavier fare.  Touch and Canzonetta, the wedding gifts, are short, seemingly simple, but still compelling and surprisingly modern.  No sweet, romantic bon-bons these.  All told, the disc offers a healthy dose of quite fine works.  I dare say the Sonata and Sequenza IV are substantially more than that.

The fine music is aided by Lucchesini’s playing.  His tone is as attractive as ever, and his technique is easily up to the challenges of the music.  The man cannot, it appears, make an ugly sound, and can make gnarly music sing.

A supremely fine disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brewski on March 26, 2010, 11:56:34 AM
Thanks for that good description.  This looks quite interesting, since I don't know any of Berio's piano pieces, and don't recall ever hearing any of Lucchesini's recordings.

--Bruce
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 29, 2010, 01:25:49 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/516XYiXpueL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

Having rather enjoyed Roussel’s orchestral music, I figured it made sense to try his opera Padmâvatî.  Surely the lovely, lush writing displayed in the symphonies would reappear.  And so it does.  But.

First to the suitably operatic story.  Lucky Indian regent of some sort Ratan-Sen is married to the exquisitely beautiful Padmâvatî.  She so smokin’ hot that she keeps covered, presumably to prevent men from going bonkers upon seeing her.  Or something like that.  Then the Mogul leader Alaouddin bursts on the scene.  He’s been told of Padmâvatî’s legendary beauty, and he wants to see for himself.  After some cajoling, he gets to see her.  Yep, she’s smokin’.  And so Alaouddin goes bonkers.  He wants her.  There will be war.  Shenanigans ensue.  Ratan-Sen ends up dying, and the heroine commits suttee at his funeral.  So the story is there.

The music is there, too.  It’s lush.  It’s beautiful.  It’s “exotic,” or at least it’s a Frenchman’s slightly impressionistic take on music of the mysterious East.  The winds are deployed quite nicely, and the strings are quite fine.  There’s some nice wordless choir work, and then the choir will repeatedly call out for Shiva, and there’s dance music, and so on.  It’s a fully formed stage work.  Some of the music veers into a modern realm, but more in a Debussy than a Schoenberg kind of way.  Nothing surprising so far.

Now to the singing, playing, conducting, sound.  EMI used marquee names for the three main roles.  Marilyn Horne is the title character, and she does well so far as I can tell.  Nicolai Gedda is Ratan-Sen, and if perhaps he doesn’t sound like he’s at his peak here, he’s still nice.  Jose Van Dam fits the role of Alaouddin well.  Michel Plasson and his French orchestra (from Toulouse) both do well, creating lovely sounds and playing in a secure manner.  The early digital sonics are better than the recording date (1983 as far as I can tell) would suggest.

The issue for me is the work as a whole.  Such a dramatic story deserves more intensity, or at least a more vibrant overall feel.  Maybe it’s the performance, maybe it’s the score, I don’t know.  It just never really catches fire for me.  Even though it’s relatively short (under two hours), the time doesn’t fly by.  Rather, beautiful moments come and go, and less compelling stretches fill the gaps.  It’s not bad, not at all, but it doesn’t measure up to even Leo Delibes’ Lakme, to choose a similar work.  Perhaps Christoph Eschenbach can be persuaded to conduct the work, given his success (for me) in the orchestral works of the composer.  As it is, this is a disappointment for me.  The lack of an English language libretto, even online, didn’t help.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: MN Dave on March 30, 2010, 09:43:55 AM
Always a pleasure reading these, Todd.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: karlhenning on March 30, 2010, 09:47:38 AM
What Dave said, Todd.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Opus106 on March 30, 2010, 10:13:39 AM
First to the suitably operatic story.  Lucky Indian regent of some sort Ratan-Sen is married to the exquisitely beautiful Padmâvatî.  She so smokin’ hot that she keeps covered, presumably to prevent men from going bonkers upon seeing her.  Or something like that.  Then the Mogul leader Alaouddin bursts on the scene.  He’s been told of Padmâvatî’s legendary beauty, and he wants to see for himself.  After some cajoling, he gets to see her.  Yep, she’s smokin’.  And so Alaouddin goes bonkers.  He wants her.  There will be war.  Shenanigans ensue.  Ratan-Sen ends up dying, and the heroine commits suttee at his funeral.  So the story is there.

This is perhaps an irrelevant quibble, but facts of history must be set right: Ala-ud-din Khilji was, as the name suggests, from the Khilji dynasty; the Moghuls arrived about 200 years later. :) And it's Ratan Singh. Of course, if all the information you have are through the liner notes, then shame on EMI for not getting the facts right.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Opus106 on March 30, 2010, 10:23:56 AM
This is perhaps an irrelevant quibble, but facts of history must be set right: Ala-ud-din Khilji was, as the name suggests, from the Khilji dynasty; the Moghuls arrived about 200 years later. :) And it's Ratan Singh. Of course, if all the information you have are through the liner notes, then shame on EMI for not getting the facts right.

I just visited the Wikipedia page for the opera and learnt that the libretto is based upon a work with the incorrect information. Well, shame on Théodore-Marie Pavie, then. ;D
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 01, 2010, 02:34:18 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31E3eNAnEeL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Good old reliable Bohuslav Martinů.  Over the years I’ve sampled a decent numbers of his works, and while not all have been home runs, nary a one has been bad.  His best stuff is top tier for me.  So I came to his complete works for violin and piano with high expectations.  Said expectations were heightened further since violinist Bohuslav Matoušek is one of the artists.  His cycle of Martinů’s works for violin and orchestra, paired with Christopher Hogwood and friends, is superb, so surely this would be at least good.

My expectations were more or less met.  The sixteen works spread across four discs range from juvenilia from Martinů’s teen years to (comparatively) late in life works of more substance.  That written, this set is filled with a few didactic works not really meant for the stage.  Anyway, the earliest works, including two violin sonatas, are romantic in nature, and the influence of others – most notably Franck and Dvořák – is easily heard.  The works are enjoyable in any event.  A bit further on the works begin to become more structurally rigorous, more neo-classical, and have that Martinů sound that is hard to describe, at least for me.  And here’s the thing: the didactic works ain’t so bad.  The Rhythmic Etudes are just plain nice sounding, and at times fun.  Ditto the Seven Arabesques and Five Madrigal Stanzas.  The later sonatas are much more substantial and original than the earlier ones, and the other works all tickle the ear.  I cannot say that the works reach the same heights as the violin sonatas of Beethoven or Bartok or perhaps even Schubert, but they are extremely fine.  How fine?  Well, a couple times, when one disc ended, I just automatically plopped in the next disc.  I don’t exactly do that all the time.

The playing on the set is to a nice, high standard.  Mr Matoušek plays well, and his accompanist Petr Adamec is more than up to snuff.  Sound is variable, with some recordings a bit more distant that others, and all of the recordings a bit more reverberant than my ideal, but overall Martinů Hall serves the music well enough.  A winner.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Guido on April 03, 2010, 03:10:19 AM
His ... piano trio (is) also top-drawer :)

Really? Much though I love Korngold, the piano trio is the work of a 12 year old and astonishing thoiugh that is, its not one of his better chamber works - the best of course being the Suite for piano left hand, two violins and cello.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 20, 2010, 06:39:06 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518tijTbzSL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)



Krystian Zimerman playing Strauss, now there’s something I thought I should get around to hearing, so I bought the DG Galleria reissue of Strauss’ and Respighi’s Violin Sonatas played by Mr Zimerman and Kyung Wha Chung.  Aside from hearing Mr Zimerman perform more chamber music, this disc also offered the first chance to hear this music.  Really, when I think Strauss I think huge orchestral works, and when I think of Respighi at all, it’s usually about Pines of Rome, and how little I like the piece. 

This is a fine disc.  Both pieces are unabashedly romantic in nature, the Strauss in a youthful, smaller than normal scale kind of way, and the Respighi in an almost gaudy, oversized sort of way.  The Strauss is filled with beauty everywhere, and the slow movement is filled with tender – perhaps too tender – music and both Chung and Zimerman deliver rich, tonally lustrous playing.  The Respighi almost makes Korngold seem reserved in comparison, and the writing isn’t as elegant as Strauss’ (no surprise, really), but it is easy enough to listen to, and can almost be seen as a guilty pleasure.  Again, both Zimerman and Chung play splendidly.

I can’t say that either of these violin sonatas rates among my favorites, but both are quite enjoyable, and hearing two top flight performers play them is nice.  Throw in excellent sound, and this is a nice little disc, one to return to from time to time.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: abidoful on April 21, 2010, 12:06:19 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518tijTbzSL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)



Krystian Zimerman playing Strauss, now there’s something I thought I should get around to hearing, so I bought the DG Galleria reissue of Strauss’ and Respighi’s Violin Sonatas played by Mr Zimerman and Kyung Wha Chung.  Aside from hearing Mr Zimerman perform more chamber music, this disc also offered the first chance to hear this music.  Really, when I think Strauss I think huge orchestral works, and when I think of Respighi at all, it’s usually about Pines of Rome, and how little I like the piece. 

This is a fine disc.  Both pieces are unabashedly romantic in nature, the Strauss in a youthful, smaller than normal scale kind of way, and the Respighi in an almost gaudy, oversized sort of way.  The Strauss is filled with beauty everywhere, and the slow movement is filled with tender – perhaps too tender – music and both Chung and Zimerman deliver rich, tonally lustrous playing.  The Respighi almost makes Korngold seem reserved in comparison, and the writing isn’t as elegant as Strauss’ (no surprise, really), but it is easy enough to listen to, and can almost be seen as a guilty pleasure.  Again, both Zimerman and Chung play splendidly.

I can’t say that either of these violin sonatas rates among my favorites, but both are quite enjoyable, and hearing two top flight performers play them is nice.  Throw in excellent sound, and this is a nice little disc, one to return to from time to time.
Agreed- one of my fav. recordings. And the Respighi sonata is the only Respighi i have enjoyed...!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 22, 2010, 10:48:09 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41VE4F5CC9L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

I figured it was about time that I delved into some old liturgical music again, so I decided to try some more sacred music penned by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber.  My guide would be the ever reliable Paul McCreesh.

The disc includes both Biber’s Mass in B flat for six voices and his Requiem in F minor.  However, apparently in accordance with period practice (I’ll leave that to experts), brief compositions by other composers are included, including some orchestral movements and polyphonic a cappella pieces.  The other composers include Georg Muffat, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Abraham Megerle, Orlando de Lassus, and the ubiquitous Anonymous. 

Anyway, the Mass is quite nice.  It’s a bit sprightly and upbeat.  No dour, heavy music here.  It’s also nicely small scale.  Here Biber’s pieces have movements by others intermingled, and if it can lead to a sense of discontinuity, it works well enough.  The real attraction for me is the Requiem.  It’s decidedly weightier, as befits the subject matter, but it, too, is infused with energy not always found in such works.  It’s dramatic and tense without being too ponderous or draining.  At under thirty minutes, it’s also taut.  And as a bonus, the extra movements by other composers (Anonymous and Lassus) flank the work, rather than mix with it. 

Singers and instrumentalists all acquit themselves nicely, and Mr McCreesh, a real favorite of mine, seems in his element.  The recording is spacious and warm creating a blended, not especially detailed sound that works well in this context.  A superb disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 26, 2010, 06:58:59 AM

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51cSGA6qA3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


About a decade or so ago I went through a brief phase of buying recordings of works by Erwin Schulhoff, which was augmented by a couple recordings later on.  I sampled chamber works and orchestral works, and even his opera Flammen, a modern, jazz-era retelling of the Don Juan story with a bit of Faust thrown in.  Much of Schulhoff’s music is jazz infused or jazz inspired, and some is Dadaistic as well.  Some of the jazz inspired works are quite good – the Hot Sonata for saxophone and piano is a real favorite of mine, for instance – but it is for strings where he shines most, whether one considers his works for string quartet or sextet.

I recently got an itch to try more of his music, and since I haven’t tried any of his piano music, I decided to go for some.  I settled on a budget twofer on the mighty Phoenix Edition label with Margarete Babinsky the soloist, paired with Maria Lettberg and Andreas Wykydal for some of the works.  Alas, this set is a dud.

One might be tempted to say the problem is the music itself, and that may very well be the case, but I’m inclined to think it’s the performances.  The set includes both more “formal” works like two of the sonatas, as well as collections of miniatures.  The sonatas fare best.  Ms Babinsky displays fine technique and clean articulation, and the sonatas come across as nicely serious, if perhaps a bit disjointed and of less than, say, LvB quality.  In other words, the sonatas sound emphatically OK. 

The other works, or collections of works, have titles like Burlesken, Grotesken, Ironien (for piano four hands), Vortragsstuke (including an almost two minute silent movement predating Cage’s 4’33” by many years), and a set of jazz improvisations for two pianos.  All of them share one thing in common: all sound mostly dull and heavy handed.  Only in the jazz improvisations, and then only rarely, do the pieces sparkle with life.  That’s not to say that the pianists play poorly.  It just seems that they aren’t in their element.  Where is the bite and sparkle and boogie?  And even though the jazz improvisations do sound a bit better at times, they don’t sound jazzy.  To be sure, Schulhoff’s other jazz inspired works sound a bit formal to be proper jazz, but performances in other recordings have more life and jazz-like energy.  In some ways this brings back memories of the Schoenberg Quartet’s recording of Schulhoff’s string quartets in comparison to the Petersen Quartet’s recordings.  The Schoenberg Quartet play well, but their recording is leaden, dull, lifeless and ponderous.  (Awful doesn’t begin to describe it.)  The Petersen, in contrast, are vital and sharp and buoyant.  I get the feeling Babinsky and company are the pianistic equivalent of the Schoenberg Quartet. 

In addition, the sound is rather poor for a recording made in 2008.  The high frequencies are noticeably rolled off for some reason.  As a result, definition and bite are a bit lacking, though dynamics and lower register heft are not. 

Blech.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 28, 2010, 07:02:28 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AN2FQTB6L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

Yowza!  I’d never heard the Missa Salisburgenis until now, and all I can say is Yowza!  This vast, proto-Mahlerian choral work from the seventeenth century knocked my socks off.  Apparently authorship isn’t certain, but Heinrich Biber is the generally accepted author.  If so, this could be his magnum opus. 

A gigantic mass setting, with multiple choirs and groups of instruments, and plenty of trumpets, everything about this is, well, it’s grand, perhaps bordering on over the top.  That’s understandable since it’s meant to celebrate Salzburg’s 1100th anniversary as a Christian center, something that doesn’t come along every day.  Accordingly, the mass has a largely celebratory feel.  No dour, heavy, somber mass here.  No!  It’s party time.  The trumpets blare, the choirs unleash heavenly paeans to the Lord, the strings produce lustrous sounds.  And while grand, perhaps even grandiose, the music is also more or less straight-forward.  One needn’t marvel at the compositional mastery (though one can) to enjoy the work.  It’s enough to just let the music envelope whatever listening space is in use.  The performance is fully up to the great event, to boot.  Singers and instrumentalists all perform superbly.  Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Reinhard Goebel and the Musica Antiqua Köln join forces, along with hired guns I must assume, and it sounds like a great match.

The only potential issue with the disc has to do with the sound.  Recorded in a large church, this large work takes full advantage of the space, but that means there are some balance issues.  The trumpets are largely in the back of the church, so as to not overpower everything else, but this makes them sound very distant.  (In addition, the opening movement reveals this distance, and one is tempted to turn the volume way up, but the eruption of the Kyrie reveals the size of the forces and can threaten to deafen the listener.)  Individual singers can sound small and distant and everything runs the risk of being overpowered by the choirs.  The distant perspective also results in less detail than I generally enjoy, but the compromises are small and the overall benefits significant. 

 This is a great work and great recording. 

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 02, 2010, 03:51:30 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/512ZB%2BE2U3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Having a hankerin’ for some more early Baroque music, I decided to try the now super-cheap recording of three oratorios by Giacomo Carissimi led by Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort and Players, formerly on the Meridian label, now on the mighty Brilliant Classics label. 

Each of the three oratorios is a based on biblical stories, as the titles indicate: Jephthah (with an organ intro written by Frescobaldi), The Judgment of Solomon, and Jonah.  Each of the works has a light, theatrical feel, and each is well proportioned.  Not one of the works seems too long, and each one moves along at a nice clip.  The small forces for each works also lend a very intimate air to the proceedings.  Dare I say, given the serious nature of the works, that the recordings sound fun?  They do.  And the sound of birds in the background of Jephthah  even adds a nice, if unplanned touch.  (This was not recorded in a sterile studio).  As expected, McCreesh and his forces generally do fabulously, with only one of the sopranos not sounding maximally appealing to my ears in Jonah.  Sound is spacious and blended, with only occasional hardness giving away the mid-80s recording vintage. 

A delightful disc.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 06, 2010, 10:45:13 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/418knIijw9L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


I like modern music.  I am enjoying vocal works more as time goes by.  Why not try something that combines both?  As luck would have it, Stephen Hartke has written just such music, and given how much I’ve liked the other discs of his music that I’ve heard, I figured I should give this one a shot.

The disc contains two works.  The first, Tituli, is written for five male voices, violin, and two percussionists.  The seven movements are based on different, fragmentary, really ancient Latin, Etruscan, and Greek texts – ancient as in BC composition dates – covering topics like the First Punic War, sacred law, oracles, and so on.  Hartke himself performed some of the translations, and if the texts can be a bit wanting in their translated form, in the context of the music they are quite entertaining.  The first thing to note about this piece is that it is slow and quiet and soothing.  Had a rough, stressful day?  This may calm you down some.  The instrumental writing is generally spare (how could it be otherwise?) and while nicely “modern,” it doesn’t overpower the singing. 

The second work, Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain, for four male voices (one of which is a countertenor) is an English translation of a Japanese poem about being awed by Notre Dame cathedral during, yes, a rainstorm.  The text is ecstatic in a Messiaen sort of way, and so is the setting, though with four voices, there isn’t much in the way of grandeur.  The work is notably more vibrant that Tituli, and surprised me in how affecting it is.

No, this isn’t the best music by Hartke I’ve heard, and it isn’t something I’ll listen to very frequently, but it is quite good and offers a nice, calming detour.  The Hilliard Ensemble sings superbly, as one would expect, and ECM delivers fine sound. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 12, 2010, 06:12:51 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61GVSqLNEsL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


It’s been a while since I last tried some Cristóbal de Morales, so it seemed a good time to try some more.  Paul McCreesh seemed a good guide, so I went with the Brilliant Classics reissue of the DG recording of the Mass for the Feast of St Isidore of Seville. 

First things first: the music is not all by Morales.  Rather, this is a reconstruction of how a celebration for St Isidore may have gone in the 16th Century, which means there are musical preludes and interludes composed by various other composers, a motet by Francisco Guerrero, and some Gregorian chant along with the mass by Morales.  The mass setting is not a standard liturgical mass, either; it is a parody mass.  So, all told, only about half the music is given over to music by Morales. 

Now to the music itself.  The accompanying musical pieces and Gregorian chant are all nice, but Morales is really the main attraction, and it’s abundantly clear that his music is more than a cut above the other music, with only Guerrero’s motet approaching the same level of perfection.  Whenever the glorious polyphonic choir starts up one is transported to a world of unyielding sonic beauty and grace, with the harmonies and melodies washing over the listener in a most pleasing way.  Alas, one must return to the more mundane music of the celebration before enjoying more Morales.  Fortunately, CD players come with program functions, so one can bypass all the music by others and focus only on Morales. 

So I suppose I must gripe mildly about the inclusion of lesser music, but I cannot help but reveling in the glory of the main attraction.  Sound is like many other McCreesh recordings in that it is a bit distant, creating a blended sound, but that’s quite alright.  All players and singers do a superb job.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 15, 2010, 09:45:39 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/410304Q94ZL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


I needed another Morales fix, and I figured it made sense to try the Tallis Scholars in this repertoire, so the disc of the Missa Si bona suscepimus seemed the way to go.  This time the disc centers around a Morales mass without interruption, but the work is flanked by a couple smaller works by other composers. 

Most important is the opening work, called Si bona suscepimus, by one Philippe Verdelot.  This small work serves as the thematic inspiration for Morales’ mass setting.  The small work is quite appealing, with beautiful harmonies and melodies – I can hear why Morales chose to write a parody mass based on the piece.

The mass itself is predictably beautiful and displays Morales’ mastery of polyphony, though in a more restrained subtle way than in some of the other works I’ve heard.  It doesn’t quite create the nearly hypnotic beauty and otherworldly feel of some of Morales’ other work.  It seems more earthbound, as it were.  That’s not really a criticism so much as an observation.  The piece still hits the spot.

The closing work on the disc is Andreas Christi famulus by Thomas Crecquillion, a name new to me.  Apparently, this work used to be attributed to Morales, and it’s easy to understand why: it sounds eerily close to Morales’ style.  As a result, I think it is supremely fine, and I may very well be investigating more music by Mr Crecquillion.

Excellent sound and superb singing round out another fine disc anchored by an extraordinary work by Morales.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 21, 2010, 06:53:08 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/410VSA9ZKTL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


I’ve been on a mini-Biber binge this year, so I decided to add to add one more recording.  Since I really liked Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr’s recording of the great Rosary Sonatas, I thought I ought to give Andrew Manze, John Toll, and Nigel North, collectively known as Romanesca, a shot in the Violin Sonatas.  I’m immensely glad I did. 

As with the Rosary Sonatas, the eight violin sonatas are scored for different mixes of instruments, though here the variety is wider.  Organ, harpsichord, lute, theorbo: all get there shot, sometimes more than one at a time.  A couple of the sonatas even use scordatura for the violin as well – shades of the Rosary Sonatas.  The music is generally vibrant, often exciting, and at times just plain fun.  Sometimes one gets the feeling that Biber was writing purposely showy, virtuosic music, but that’s quite fine in this context.  No unduly solemn music here.  (Apparently Biber also lifted some tunes in one of the additional included works as a way of (possibly) mocking rival composers.)  Oh, and those other works.  In addition to the sonatas, a solo lute piece is thrown in, and yes it is fine, as well as a couple other sonatas, and a passacaglia for solo violin that was an additional Rosary Sonata that was never finished.

Messrs Manze, Toll, and North all acquit themselves quite nicely indeed.  Sound, too, is quite fine.  This is one of my purchases of the year.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 01, 2010, 09:24:34 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/515Gwf01crL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


I needed a bit more religion, so I figured I might as well sample some music by Tomás Luis de Victoria.  I settled on the new release of the Lamentations of Jeremiah by the Tallis Scholars.  As expected, it’s good stuff.  The harmonies and melodies are quite beautiful, and not a little haunting in some cases.  There’s a bit of variety in sound as well since the works are written for different sizes and mixes of ensemble, from five to eight voices, with a general tilt toward the higher end of the spectrum.  There’s also a Lamentation for Maundy Thursday by Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, a name new to me, that’s of equally high quality. 

While I enjoyed the disc quite a bit, I must say that I am noticing a trend.  I seem to like Cristóbal de Morales more than any other Renaissance composer I’ve heard, and any comparisons, whether intentional or not, always favor him.  The only potential exception for me thus far is Palestrina.  Anyway, that doesn’t so much detract from the quality of this release as show how good Morales is.

Sound and singing are top notch.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: karlhenning on July 01, 2010, 09:29:42 AM
Very interesting, Todd; I need to check de Morales out.  I've often felt similarly about de Victoria (comparisons, without devaluing others, favoring de Victoria).
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: petrarch on July 01, 2010, 10:26:13 AM
I seem to like Cristóbal de Morales more than any other Renaissance composer I’ve heard

The Pie Jesu Domine closing segment in the Sequentia from Morales' Missa Pro Defunctis sung by Jordi Savall's vocal ensemble La Capella Reial de Catalunya brings tears to my eyes. Outstanding 2 minutes of music.

The original CD is rare and expensive:
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41AN3FWSJEL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

Reissued more recently in a 3-CD box:
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wg3F2GVvL._SS400_.jpg)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 16, 2010, 08:36:16 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51n0rP-gLbL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

This is my first exposure to the music of baroque composer Marin Marais.  I didn’t even know the name until a few weeks ago, when I decided to try some Jordi Savall recordings and noticed that Marin Marais shows up several times in Savall’s discography.  I opted for the Suitte d’un Goût Etranger for no other reason than it offered more music than the other discs.

This twofer turned out to be quiet fine.  The suite is a collection of dances for Viola de Gamba and various other instruments in various combinations, Jordi Savall playing the Viola de Gamba and, presumably, leading the ensembles.  Apparently, Marais is something of a labor of love for Savall, and it shows.  Savall’s playing strikes me as supremely fine, though I could be wrong given that my collection has no other recordings of Viola de Gamba to compare to.  (No, I’m pretty sure his playing is of extremely high quality.)  All of the other artists, including the fine harpsichordist Pierre Hantaï, play superbly and everyone seems to be in sync.  There’s also a somewhat leisurely overall feel to the music making; no one seems out to outshine the other players, and everyone seems to luxuriate in the music.  Perhaps this is the one, true, “authentic” approach, or perhaps not, but I enjoy it.  Indeed, I think I shall try some more Marais.

Sound is amazing.  It is a bit close, and some hard breathing can be heard, but it is incredibly detailed and warm sounding.  No etched, harsh brightness is to be heard at any time.  Each instrument shines through with timbral distinction and individuality.  If only all chamber recordings were this good.

Top notch stuff.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 20, 2010, 07:44:12 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61BBA3SYSKL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


After years of hearing only (some of) his keyboard works, I figured I should try something a bit larger in scale from François Couperin.  I settled on Les Concert Royaux as played by Le Concert Des Nations and led by Jordi Savall.  It ain’t too shabby. 

The disc contains four chamber concerts written for the Sunday entertainment of no less a personage than Le Roi Soleil.  The works can be thought of almost as French Brandenburg Concertos, though they are decidedly lusher and calmer, indeed calming, in nature.  They don’t sound as rigourously structured, either, and the instrumentation changes markedly between movements, but it seems an apt comparison.  Really, these are quite fine works, and Savall and crew play with admirable virtuosity, albeit in a (presumably suitably) languid way.  It does seem like the kind of music one could enjoy whilst also enjoying Sunday brunch. 

Sound is as good as it gets.

Another peach from Savall and crew.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 20, 2010, 08:16:41 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61YxPXRhgAL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)


Repeated cravings for Heinrich Biber’s music keep popping up, and I just got to satisfy the cravings.  To satisfy the most recent craving, I bought this disc of Battalia à 10 and Requiem à 15 in Concerto performed by Jordi Savall and his musicians.  Yet again, Maestro Biber’s music is hard to resist.  Nay, impossible to resist. 

The disc opens with the small Battalia à 10, which is an early baroque musical depiction of battle, but one that is more focused on delivering light (at least at times), lively entertainment than something heavy-duty.  As with many other works I’ve heard, Biber shows his mastery of mixing and matching instruments in unusual combinations.  And he shows himself to be ahead of his time.  The second movement weaves eight then popular tunes together in a most dissonant form.  It sounds very much like something Ives would have written, but it’s a few hundred years older.  Astonishing.  Then there’s some snappy pizzacati later on that one could swear would have been penned by Bartok.  The entire little work is a delight first note to last, and is startlingly, well, modern.

The main work, the big old honkin’ Requiem, is not as ear opening, and does not necessarily match up to some of Biber’s other choral works, but it is something to hear nonetheless.  Written for the death of Archbishop Maximilian Gandolph, the work is not as dark and grim as some requiems.  Rather, it strikes me as more of a serious, almost stately, celebration of life and the heavenly rewards due such a personage as the Archbishop.  That doesn’t mean the work sounds trite or pandering in any way; it’s just another way to write a requiem.  The work is somewhat gimmicky, if you will, in that the forces are divided into five different spaces in the cathedral.  The resulting sound is unique, and the spatial effects quite compelling.  The gimmick works.

This disc is another winner.  Biber is fast becoming my go-to composer for early Baroque music.  Nary a bad work have I heard, and each new disc makes me want to hear more.  What more can one ask for, other than more?

Savall and crew do a fine job, as expected, and sound is sumptuous.  Why, oh why, can’t all recordings sound at least this good?
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 26, 2010, 10:56:20 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51LSSEOv7nL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


I’ve been listening to a fair amount of Renaissance and early Baroque music lately, so I figured I should sample something from a different era.  I decided to try something earlier.  I settled for some ballades by Guilluame de Machaut as performed by Ensemble Musica Nova on the Aeon label.  The disc includes twelve works by Machaut and a work by that most prolific of composers, Anonymous. 

The ballads on this disc are all pretty much about courtly love, and they are quite fine examples, showing that at least one subject matter hasn’t changed in the last seven centuries.  The works are polyphonic, but they don’t sound as sophisticated as the works of the Renaissance and later masters.  That written, most of the melodies are quite appealing, if a bit strange sounding to modern ears.  The instrumental accompaniment is spare and very antique sounding; for those who find Baroque era instruments too modern sounding, the ancient flutes, harps, and vieles add a sound you just really don’t hear very often.

Sound is good if perhaps a smidgeon bright, and the performers all seem to do a good job, though I have nothing to compare to at this point.  While this isn’t music I’ll listen to frequently, it’s something I’ll pop in from time to time to chill.  Not bad, not bad at all.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on September 02, 2010, 06:38:25 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51QzTFGyADL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Jordi Savall is turning out to be as reliable a guide of early and/or lesser known baroque music as Paul McCreesh.  It’s hard to think of a bad disc from either artist.  The latest Savall disc to catch my ear is the second book of pieces for viola de gamba by Marin Marais.  This disc contains two long suites, one dedicated to Jean-Baptiste Lully, and one dedicated to Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe (whose first name is apparently a mystery).  Both offer varied instrumentation for the various movements, both alternatively boogie or move along languidly in an early 18th Century sort of way, and both display high levels of virtuosity married to plain old good taste.  No, it’s not Earth Shakingly great music, but it is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

Sound is perhaps a bit too close, offering perhaps a bit too much insight into breathing patterns, but is otherwise SOTA. 

Yep, another superb disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 18, 2010, 11:46:53 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/4152D1AXQFL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Continuing on with ancient liturgical works, I decided to try some Guillaume Dufay for the first time.  I settled on the Pomerium recording of the Mass for St. Anthony of Padua and Veni creator spiritus.  It ain’t none too shabby.  Both pieces move along slowly and mostly rather quietly, with attractive melodies and quite fine singing.  It is a very calm, and calming, piece.  It’s like profound 15th Century chill music.  When I think of near-ish contemporaries, I cannot say that I find Dufay quite as compelling as Morales or Palestrina, but that is setting the bar pretty high. 

The singing is all quite fine, and the sound is warm and blended and generally very good. 

A nice little disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Clever Hans on October 18, 2010, 01:33:22 PM

Continuing on with ancient liturgical works, I decided to try some Guillaume Dufay for the first time.  I settled on the Pomerium recording of the Mass for St. Anthony of Padua and Veni creator spiritus.  It ain’t none too shabby.  Both pieces move along slowly and mostly rather quietly, with attractive melodies and quite fine singing.  It is a very calm, and calming, piece.  It’s like profound 15th Century chill music.  When I think of near-ish contemporaries, I cannot say that I find Dufay quite as compelling as Morales or Palestrina, but that is setting the bar pretty high. 

The singing is all quite fine, and the sound is warm and blended and generally very good. 

A nice little disc.

Dufay has variety, secular chansons and motets as well as masses. Personally, I love earlier Franco-Flemish polyphony. All these discs are pretty amazing and up to date, plus you have the Gothic Voices selections on The Garden of Zephirus, The Medieval Romantics, etc.

(http://www.signumrecords.com/images/sigcd023.jpg)(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51aGDBGVi1L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51PmXNzDNSL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)(http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/02/ciu/34/a7/96f7e10e22a0a0dfcbaee110.L._AA300_.jpg)(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61lza17DBSL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51l1aNxEm%2BL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)

This one received a great review in Early Music. Haven't picked it up yet but intend to.
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41lf2lrBV6L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 23, 2010, 02:11:05 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51nCr24M6IL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)

For my first purposeful foray into solo organ music, I decided to start with Maurice Duruflé’s complete works.  They all fit nicely onto a single disc, in this case the CPO recording of one Friedhelm Flamme playing on the Mühleisen Organ.  It seems I found a good place to start.  The music is all easily accessible.  Nothing is too stern or hard or stereotypically organ-y (by which I mean uncompromisingly religious and heavy).  Indeed, the sound world is a rather dreamy, romantic one.  There’s a warmth and beauty to the music that makes one want to simply sit and listen to the music.  That’s what I did.  I can’t say that I have a favorite work on the disc; I enjoy them all. 

Mr Flamme’s playing strikes me as rather impressive.  The registration produces some intriguing sounds, and the recorded sound is superb, with plenty of color and room energizing bass.  I cannot say that this disc makes me want to listen to nothing but organ music, nor do I think the organ will supplant the piano in my listening, but it got me off to a nice start.  New wonders await, I’m sure of it.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 31, 2010, 06:29:07 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51vCV0B-D6L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

Jordi Savall and crew have done it again, this time introducing me to the music of one William Lawes, a 17th Century English composer of some note.  So noteworthy was he that he apparently earned the nickname “Father of Musick.”  I don’t know if I’d say he’s quite that good, but his music is quite nice in a mid-1600s English sort of way.  First things first, the music displays a high degree of craftsmanship and not a little contrapuntal mastery.  Second, the music is surprisingly languid, at least as performed here, belying the rather turbulent times in which the music was written.  (Lawes bought the farm during the Civil War, so he was no stranger to the danger of the time.)  The small ensembles are meticulously blended while allowing each instrumental voice a bit of breathing room.  This is intimate music to be cherished.  Third, the sound is top flight, as is to be expected from this source.

All told, this is a very fine twofer.  I confess that I prefer the similar type of music from Marin Marais, who is more refined and opulent, but Mr Lawes makes a most welcome addition to my collection.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 05, 2010, 09:45:56 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51BXcJL8W1L._SL500_AA280_.jpg)


I’ve never quite warmed up to the music of Max Reger.  Granted, I’ve not listened to a lot of it, but it’s fair to say that I’ve noticed a few recurring traits in his music.  First, his music strikes me as painstakingly crafted, with each note in its proper place.  As an exercise in compositional meticulousness it is impressive, but as a more, um, musical, experience, it’s a bit less impressive.  Second, the dude knows how to write a fugue.  Really, he’s right up there with the best, you know, Bach and Beethoven.  Well, maybe not quite that good, but darned close.

As part of my initial explorations of organ music, I figured I should at least give Reger a shot, particularly considering the man wrote a good amount of music for the instrument.  I must say that the traits described above once again shine through.  Every work on this ninth volume is pretty much what I would have expected, just for the organ rather than another instrument or ensemble.  The variations on God Save the King sound interesting, if not especially compelling.  The excerpts from Op 65 are very serious and formal, but not especially ear tingling.  The Chorale Preludes are a bit more interesting, but again retain a certain stiff formality.  The closing Chorale Fantasia is a masterful fugue, to be sure, and while at times it is intriguing to follow the musical lines, it just didn’t get my musical juices flowing.  None of the music is bad, it’s just not my thing.

Josef Still sure sounds like he knows how to play the organ quite well, the instrument sounds nice enough, and the sound is none too shabby.  Still, I can’t say this makes me want to rush out to buy a lot more of Reger’s music.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 21, 2010, 11:39:18 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/515m34qUYjL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

Next up in my exploration of organ music is a disc of works by Charles-Marie Widor.  There’s a decent selection of recordings out there, so I somewhat randomly settled on this sixth volume of the complete works on MDG.  The organist is Ben van Oosten, and he plays the Cavaillé-Coll organ in Saint-Sernin, in Toulouse.  The works on the disc are the Romane Symphony and the Suite Latine.

If the symphony is meant to sound like a romantic symphony transcribed for organ, it works.  The formal four movement structure has all the elements one might associate with a work of a French composer inspired by the model of Schumann.  In addition to the “symphonic” structure, the organ as played and recorded, offers a superb range of sound, credibly approximating strings and winds, indeed, the whole shebang.  That written, the work is a bit on the slow side, and it did hold my attention quite as effectively as Durufle’s works.  The suite is similar, though here, in the nature of a suite, the movements are more varied and seemingly unconnected.  Of special interest for me are the nicely severe Lamento and the Ave Maria Stella, which at times reminds me of Bruckner transcribed for the organ.  Not bad, not bad at all.

Oosten’s playing and sound are both quite fine, and there’s a decent chance I may sample more music by Widor in the future. 

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 27, 2010, 04:37:21 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41pqw5m4M7L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Not having any Giovanni Pergolesi in my collection, it seemed almost a no-brainer to try the new budget three disc set of Pergolesi’s music conducted by Claudio Abbado.  The set comprises all three recent releases by the now aged maestro and the Orchestra Mozart, yet another new, young (and period) ensemble he has helped to build.  The works included in the set are all liturgical, save the Violin Concerto with Giuliano Carmignola as the soloist.  The set opens with a very nice Stabat Mater.  There’s much to enjoy in this Baroque meets Classical work, but I have to say it just didn’t catch my fancy like, say, Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater.  The Violin Concerto follows, and it, too, is a nice enough work.  The first of three (!) Salve Reginas concludes the first disc, and again, it’s quite pleasant.  Nothing earth-shaking, nothing profound.

Then I listened to the second disc.  It opens with a brilliant missa brevis, the Missa S. Emidio, inspired by, apparently, a trembler that struck Naples.  It’s a corker!  Though written around the time Haydn was born, it sounds like a prototype for all Classical era liturgical works, only it’s better than more than a few similar works.  The melodies are captivating from start to finish, the use of the larger forces compelling as can be.  Though short, it packs a wallop.  It’s much my favorite work in the set.  It even sounds in parts like it inspired Mozart, by which I mean it sounds like Mozart may have stole some ideas.  The second Salve Regina follows, with Sara Mingardo the soloist, and it is in a different category than the first one.  The music is more compelling and the soloist a bit better.  A couple lesser works fill out the disc, though they are both executed in most musical fashion. 

The third disc is much like the first in that it has multiple liturgical works, and most of them are quite nice, if not especially noteworthy.  The concluding Dixit Dominus is, for me, the best of the lot. 

So, a nice enough mixed bag, with two fine works, one of them a great, or near great work.  Abbado and crew all perform quite well, which is no surprise, and the sound quality is high grade indeed.  All this and it comes in DG’s new, lush Prestige Edition packaging, for those who care about such things. 



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 08, 2010, 03:10:17 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519klTAnE-L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)   (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518sY10ELzL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)



About two discs into Helmut Walcha’s set devoted to most of Bach’s organ music it became clear that I would need another set to compare it to.  Walcha’s interpretations didn’t seem to lack for much, it was just so obvious that I had hit upon the apex of organ music that I figured additional interpretations were needed.  I took the easy way out and opted for another substantial box set, in the form of Simon Preston’s slightly more comprehensive set from the 80s through the end of the last century.

Bach has long been one of my favorite composers, as he seems to be for most classical fans, and he is usually at or near the summit of every genre in which he wrote.  (Quick, name another composer who wrote better music for solo violin or cello.)  In keyboard music he’s in the same realm as Beethoven and Debussy for me.  In liturgical music he’s up there with Morales, Palestrina, Haydn, and Mozart.  But in organ music, based on what I have heard thus far (not all of which I have written about), he stands alone.  He is to the organ what Scarlatti is to the harpsichord or Chopin is to the piano when it comes to writing ‘naturally’ for the instrument, and his musical sensibilities are timeless and well nigh perfect.  This is not too surprising.

Working through both sets it became clear that my two favorite sets of works are the Trio Sonatas and the Organ Mass, and they are of course quite different.  The Trio Sonatas are lighter and more purely entertaining.  Both organists play superbly, but my preference here is for Preston, who plays with more verve and freedom.  The great Organ Mass, though, demands the serious mien and impeccable taste of Walcha, who delivers a performance that left me mesmerized.  Most of the rest of the works being Preludes, Toccatas, Fugues, and Chorales, and various combinations thereof, it’s hard to pinpoint this or that specific work and say that it is better than the others, or that Walcha surpasses Preston, or vice versa.  That written, the works are not of uniform quality – some are merely astounding while others are stupefyingly great.  To my ears, Walcha delivers the better overall set, playing more seriously and with more attention to form, though Preston’s more staccato heavy style and greater rhythmic variegation offers different rewards.  Sonically, both sets are quite good, though Preston’s much more recent set is in better sound, and definitely delivers more in the low frequencies.  Still, it’s surprising that Walcha’s set holds up as well as it does; the 1956 stereo recordings are really quite amazing sounding. 

So far, for me, the only composer who is anywhere near the same level is Olivier Messiean, and his music is, um, rather different in style.  Looks like Bach is the man in organ music.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Opus106 on December 09, 2010, 12:06:40 AM
Most of the rest of the works being Preludes, Toccatas, Fugues, and Chorales, and various combinations thereof, it’s hard to pinpoint this or that specific work and say that it is better than the others

I hope you don't mean to include the Passacaglia in C minor, BWV 582, in such a list of sundry works.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 10, 2010, 09:25:41 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AgxHMlAoL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)


For some reason I just never got around to listening to Vagn Holmboe’s music.  I figured it was time to rectify that, so I decided to buy the Dacapo recording of the four Sinfonias for string orchestra, which when combined in a specific order become Chairos.  I’m not sure this was the best way to get to know Holmboe’s music.

The four works, ranging between ten and twenty minutes each, all sound quite similar.  Using only strings limits what the music can do, and while Holmboe is quite adept at solo writing, throwing in a nifty pizzicato, writing some nicely dissonant music for the upper strings and heavy and ominous music for the lower strings, it all ends up sounding pretty much the same; it becomes tedious to listen to.  None of the works are bad, but neither are they especially compelling.  When rearranged into Chairos, the same thing holds true, but for over an hour.  It’s a pretty hard slog.  I don’t see myself listening to this music too terribly much going forward, by which I mean I probably won’t listen to it again.

Sound and playing are extremely fine.  If only the music were more compelling.  And why, I wonder, did Dacapo decide to release this as a twofer, one disc with the sinfonias, and one disc with Chairos?  The tracks could simply have been programmed to play the bigger work.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on December 10, 2010, 12:37:13 PM
  None of the works are bad, but neither are they especially compelling. 

That has largely been my experience with Holmboe. However, I do think the 8th Symphony is quite a powerful score, and would suggest you try it out if you're willing to give him another chance.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 19, 2010, 08:26:36 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ODs4XIdyL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Late Romantic French organ music.  Now that I gotta hear.  Since Jeremy Filsell’s recording of Louis Vierne’s complete Organ Symphonies is now available on the cheap on Brilliant Classics, I figured it was worth a shot.  There are certainly some nice things here, and some things not so nice.  Nice things first.  These works do indeed sound like large scale symphonies transcribed for organ.  The lovely instrument produces a tantalizingly wide array of sounds, credibly (in so far as is possible) imitating orchestral sections.  There’s a romantic sweep to much of the music.  One is reminded more of (laid back) Brahms or Schumann or Magnard than music from earlier periods, let alone later periods.  I cannot say that one work really stood out for me, but all are nice enough.

But, I must say that two things detracted from the set for me, and one may be the cause of the other.  The symphonies all sounds a bit too much alike and it’s not particularly energetic much of the time.  It’s lovely, but it can sound like sonic wallpaper.  This may be because of the way it was recorded.  I’ve heard relatively dry, close organ recordings, and more distant recordings, and I tend to prefer slightly more distant recordings, but this one takes things to extremes.  It sounds like the microphones were placed as far away from the instrument as possible, with the engineers adding extra reverb for good measure.  Some of the decays at the end of movements seem to take several minutes.  (I exaggerate, yes, but not as much as the statement implies.)  Too, there is way too much hall noise.  And it’s of the low frequency, hear everything in the cathedral variety.  It detracts from the proceedings.  Everything sounds mushy and too blended together.  I suspect this interferes with the music. 

Anyway, this set is not a great success, but I may end up investigating another recording of some of the music.  Something rather good is there.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 30, 2010, 10:33:22 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61PAJHD67ZL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


It just seems to make sense that Brahms would write good organ music.  His absolute mastery of form, his unyielding seriousness, his devout dedication to music of days past (while still being innovative): Yep, he seems a good fit.  And so he is.  The works may be few in number, but they are of high quality.  The influence of Bach seems present quite a bit, but there’s more there than that.  I was continually reminded of the opening movement of the First Symphony at times, not because the organ music sounds anything like it, but because there is that same forceful, forward moving, inevitable drive to a good portion of it.  Some of the music is rather attractive, thankfully, and the fugues are written at a Bachian level it seems to me.  I cannot say that I like Brahms as much as Bach in organ music, but he’s the best of the romantic era composers I’ve heard thus far.

Rudolf Innig’s playing strikes me as superb, though I don’t have anything to compare it to.  Sound is just about perfect.  The perspective is neither too close nor too far, which allows the full scale of the music and instrument to be captured (well, to an extent, I guess), the timber sounds natural, and the low frequencies pack a wallop without overpowering the rest of the music.  A rather nice disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on December 30, 2010, 06:31:08 PM
*Hmmm...scratching chin...mulling over*
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 01, 2011, 02:15:48 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ulZbnfYiL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Generally speaking, I’m a fan of Olivier Messiaen’s music, but unlike with many other composers, I have to be in the right mood to listen to his music.  (This is not the case, with, say, Mozart or Debussy.)  The length, the scale, the droning: it can be too much at times.  But at other times it hits the spot.  Knowing that Messiaen was an organist, and that he composed for the instrument over decades, I figured I get a nice overview of his composing career, but that it might take me a while to listen to all of it.  I was half right. 

The works do seem to reflect his career as a whole, with some of the earlier works easily accessible, and some of the later works long and harder to get into.  I started with the Prélude, and was greeted with a wash of color and sound.  I’m not sure what end the music has, but I was hooked then and there.  I jumped around the set, though I left the dense Livre d’orgue and the long Livre du Saint Sacrement until the end.  No other composer creates the sounds Messiaen does, with only Marcel Dupré offering something close.  At times it seems as though Messiaen just wanted to create novel sounds.  A few of the pieces also exploit the ability of the organ to holds notes for extended periods, with some notes and chords stretching on for crazy long periods of time.  Yes, there is droning, and yes, some of the pieces seem to go on and on, but in most cases his organ music displays that same giddy ecstasy that many of his other pieces display, and that makes it hard to stop listening.  His organ music is certainly unique, and thus far only Bach readily surpasses Messiaen’s output for me.  I listened to entire set in barely a week the first time through; I couldn’t wait to hear what came next.

Olivier Latry plays splendidly throughout, and the Notre Dame organ is one of the most glorious sounding I’ve yet encountered.  Great stuff.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 18, 2011, 09:01:04 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51JA94tx6BL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)  (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51-TNwpuAjL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Marcel Dupré wrote a whole lot of organ music, so I figured I should try some.  Naxos and MDG are both recording his entire output, but here I decided that Naxos had the advantage because of the nice low price (about $7 a disc, shipping included, at Amazon Marketplace).  I really just picked two discs at random, having little idea what to expect.

What I got was some virtuoso organ music with plusses and minuses.  The plusses first: Dupré could play the instrument well, and he could write for it well.  There are many moments on both discs where the instrument and artist produce some unique and captivating sounds.  Dupré was not afraid to exploit the extremes of the instrument, and the combinations of sounds that it could produce.  (One can detect more than a whiff of Dupré’s influence in Messiaen’s organ music.)  Some of the passages possess dazzling output from the manuals and the pedals.  Dupré even managed to write an interesting set of variations on Adeste Fidelis (aka, O Come All Ye Faithful), which appears on volume four. 

Now the minuses.  The music can blend together if taken in large doses.  For me, particularly on the second run-through, the music started to become a sort of sonic wallpaper.  It’s lovely and accomplished, but it just doesn’t grab my attention as fully as, say, Bach’s organ music.  Really, that’s the only musical minus.  The other minus has more to with the sound of both recordings, which while not bad, is a bit distant and tends to add to the sonic wallpaper effect. 

The playing from both artists is quite good, and the instruments sound quite fine, though I could have done with better recordings.  I’ll be sampling more of Dupré’s organ music, but at this point he’s not quite up there with the best for me.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: abidoful on January 19, 2011, 01:18:41 PM
Why is everybody talking about organ works?
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Lethevich on January 19, 2011, 06:13:15 PM
If you want something a little different from Dupré, try vol.3 in the Naxos series (works for organ and orchestra) - it's rather more lively than much of Dupré's organ output, which is largely funtional, meditative music based around chorales and such.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 06, 2011, 10:38:24 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51jy%2BC1aBIL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Why not?  I found Rudolf Innig’s traversal of all of Mendelssohn’s organ works for a pittance (around $20), Innig delivered a fine disc of Bach’s organ music, and I do enjoy a bit of Mendelssohn’s music from time to time, so it seemed safe enough to splurge.   

First things first, this is apparently a really complete set, with the final version of the six organ sonatas and the early versions of the same works.  Throw in a couple discs of fragments and short works, and this set appears to contain every last note Mendelssohn wrote for organ.   

Second things second, Mendelssohn was not really a great composer for the organ.  His six sonatas are quite enjoyable, but they also strike me as somewhat lightweight and, if not forgettable, they do not stay with one like, say, Bach’s music for the same instrument.  I found the early versions of the sonatas entirely dispensable, and doubt I will spend much time listening to them again, and only a handful of the smaller works really caught my attention, most particularly the striking Allegro in D minor.  I will say that almost all of the works sound fluid and graceful and definitely have a Mendelssohn sound, as it were. 

Rudolf Innig plays splendidly throughout, and the sound is quite good.  I’ll probably explore an additional version or two of the organ sonatas, but for the most part Mendelssohn’s organ music presents a case where a complete set is not needed one bit.



Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 15, 2011, 08:24:33 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41K9DVV64FL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)   (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51rjNf%2Bdb2L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Holy crap!  Does Bach have a rival in the realm of organ music?  Well, maybe.  I’d read that even Bach himself made it a point to hoof a pretty great distance to hear Dietrich Buxtehude in person, and after listening to two sets of the complete organ works of the Northern European master (Is he Danish? Is he German?  Who cares?), I can hear why.  That I ended up listening to two sets rather than one indicates that, for me at least, Buxtehude’s got it; much as with Bach, I determined very early on that one set just would not do.  The music is so good and so diverse that I had to hear more than one take. 

Anyway, whereas Bach’s organ music for me represents formal perfection, Buxtehude’s music seems a bit more lively and unpredictable, almost as though the composer wrote down and refined improvisations after he played them.  I doubt that’s the case, but whatever the case, there’s a freedom and exuberance to much of the music.  With gobs of smaller works and pretty much no big ones, it’s fun to listen to Buxtehude just simply because one needn’t wait long for a different piece written for a different purpose.  The music can be somber at times, devout at others, and is almost always colorful, and it’s always original and energetic.  It’s quite easy to hear Buxtehude’s influence in Bach’s music.  Ultimately, Bach is still the greater organ composer, and his works do strike me as more “perfect,” but it’s clear that there is at least one other super-heavyweight in this arena.

The two sets are both rather long in the tooth now.  The Kraft set is from the 50s and shows its age.  There is some distortion, some instances of tape damage, and some pretty heavy-handed edits.  Walter Kraft’s playing is very serious, a bit leaden here and there, but is generally excellent.  The organ sounds pretty good, but it cannot compare to the roughly contemporaneous Bach recordings of Helmut Walcha.  René Saorgin’s set for Harmonia Mundi is from the 60s, is in better sound, and uses different instruments throughout.  All of them sound fantastic, and the most ancient of all, from the 15th Century, is a charmer.  Saorgin’s playing is a bit smaller in scale than Kraft’s, but it’s also freer rhythmically and makes the music sound more improvisatory.  I prefer the Saorgin, though I do enjoy the Kraft.  One thing is for certain, I will be sampling more Buxtehude.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on February 15, 2011, 08:54:45 AM
Or Swedish - as he was born in what today is Sweden, but was then a part of Denmark.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Bulldog on February 15, 2011, 11:10:33 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41K9DVV64FL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)   (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51rjNf%2Bdb2L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Holy crap!  Does Bach have a rival in the realm of organ music?  Well, maybe.  I’d read that even Bach himself made it a point to hoof a pretty great distance to hear Dietrich Buxtehude in person, and after listening to two sets of the complete organ works of the Northern European master (Is he Danish? Is he German?  Who cares?), I can hear why.  That I ended up listening to two sets rather than one indicates that, for me at least, Buxtehude’s got it; much as with Bach, I determined very early on that one set just would not do.  The music is so good and so diverse that I had to hear more than one take. 

Anyway, whereas Bach’s organ for me represents formal perfection, Buxtehude’s music seems a bit more lively and unpredictable, almost as though the composer wrote down and refined improvisations after he played them.  I doubt that’s the case, but whatever the case, there’s a freedom and exuberance to much of the music.  With gobs of smaller works and pretty much no big ones, it’s fun to listen to Buxtehude just simply because one needn’t wait long for a different piece written for a different purpose.  The music can be somber at times, devout at others, and is almost always colorful, and it’s always original and energetic.  It’s quite easy to hear Buxtehude’s influence in Bach’s music.  Ultimately, Bach is still the greater organ composer, and his works do strike me as more “perfect,” but it’s clear that there is at least one other super-heavyweight in this arena.

The two sets are both rather long in the tooth now.  The Kraft set is from the 50s and shows its age.  There is some distortion, some instances of tape damage, and some pretty heavy-handed edits.  Walter Kraft’s playing is very serious, a bit leaden here and there, but is generally excellent.  The organ sounds pretty good, but it cannot compare to the roughly contemporaneous Bach recordings of Helmut Walcha.  René Saorgin’s set for Harmonia Mundi is from the 60s, is in better sound, and uses different instruments throughout.  All of them sound fantastic, and the most ancient of all, from the 15th Century, is a charmer.  Saorgin’s playing is a bit smaller in scale than Kraft’s, but it’s also freer rhythmically and makes the music sound more improvisatory.  I prefer the Saorgin, though I do enjoy the Kraft.  One thing is for certain, I will be sampling more Buxtehude.

I also prefer Saorgin to Kraft.  Concerning sampling more Buxtehude, I'd be interested in your take on the Bryndorf series on DaCapo; she's much more celebratory than Saorgin (a good or bad feature depending on personal preferences).

One more thing.  I congratulate Todd for starting this thread and keeping up with it.  Also, congrats. to the membership here for respecting the thread and not trying to change its thrust or nature.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 26, 2011, 12:56:15 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Bl8D7BAcL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


John Dowland and William Byrd aside, my collection woefully lacks for music by English Renaissance composers.  For instance, I have nary a recording of music by Thomas Tallis!  I decided to rectify this situation some by sampling some keyboard works of Orlando Gibbons played by a much younger Christopher Hogwood.

It ain’t a bad disc.  The three Cabinet Organ pieces are quite nice, the harpsichord pieces even more so, what with their general rhythmic verve where called for.  But the pieces for Spinet are probably nicest of all.  Whether slow or a bit spritelier, they sound crisp, inviting, and tickle the ear, without the wear that can accompany a harpsichord recording.  I can’t say that Gibbons is my favorite Renaissance composer (that would be Cristóbal de Morales), or even my favorite English Renaissance composer (that would be Dowland, at least so far), but this disc makes me think it may be a good idea to try a bit more from Mr Gibbons. 

Playing is rather fine, and sound is quite good, though the harpsichord, as is so often the case, is too closely miked.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Oldnslow on April 28, 2011, 07:53:43 AM
Todd---do you know Glenn Gould's famous recording of Gibbons and  Byrd? It's wonderful
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 28, 2011, 08:02:11 AM
Todd---do you know Glenn Gould's famous recording of Gibbons and  Byrd? It's wonderful



No, I don't, but that's mostly because Bach aside, I don't really care much for Gould.  I may consider this recording, though.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on April 28, 2011, 08:20:44 AM
I second Gould's Gibbons/Byrd recording. It's totally unHIP of course, but it's the recording that got me interested in early keyboard music in the first place, and I still like to listen to it.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Oldnslow on April 28, 2011, 03:08:16 PM
As I think Szell said of Gould, "That nut's a genius."  For Gould to explore Gibbons and Byrd 50 years ago on the piano is pretty remarkable.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: petrarch on April 28, 2011, 11:19:27 PM
For Gould to explore Gibbons and Byrd 50 years ago on the piano is pretty remarkable.

This is part of a much longer video I have somewhere where he plays from Gibbons and Byrd to Webern:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WULDLz-WUxM
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Mandryka on April 29, 2011, 01:18:58 AM
Thanks for that Gould vid: I hadn't seen it before.  I guess this is the DVD you have in mind:



I will get that.

Sokolov plays a half hour long sequence of music by Byrd, music representing a battle-- all on youtube I expect.

Try the Sokolov: it's  fun.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 29, 2011, 09:05:08 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51YK1FTaXXL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


I needed something new and fresh, and seeing that Naxos had releaseds a new disc of new music by reliable Leonardo Balada, I figured I’d go for it.  The disc contains three of the composers Caprichos – suites, apparently – written between 2004 and 2007.  As with many of his post-avant garde works, the music is influenced heavily by other genres, here Latin dance music, jazz, and Spanish folk music.  Sounds tempting!

The disc opens with Caprichos Number 2, for violin and double bass and orchestra.  The influence is Latin dance music.  Sure enough, the dance elements are obvious, and expertly crafted.  But there’s much, much more to this music that danceability.  The orchestration is novel – You like prominent harp?  I like prominent harp! – the writing tonal yet dissonant and decidedly contemporary.  It’s both immediately accessible and thought inducing.  It is not easy listening music, yet it’s music that’s easy to listen to. 

Next up is the jazzy Caprichos Number 4, with the double bass taking the spotlight.  If anything, this is even better.  Mr Balada is certainly familiar with jazz, yet this is not “jazz”.  It is very formal and meticulous, yet lively.  Balada has pulled off this trick before.  Special mention must go to soloist Jeffrey Turner, principal double bassist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  He’s got mad skills.  He does things with the double bass I don’t believe I’ve heard before.  Nothing sounds challenging for him.  And dig the up-close sound; things were a-rattlin’ in my listening room when this piece was being played a bit too loudly. 

Finally, there’s the Caprichos Number 3, a tribute to volunteers during the Spanish Civil War.  A bit more somber and intense than the other pieces, and understandably so, it still displays perfect blending of folk influences, novel orchestration, tasty dissonance, verve, and attractive melodies.  Here the solo instrument is the violin, and Andres Cardenes plays rather well. 

All of the instrumentalists sound highly skilled and play that way, the Pittsburgh Sinfonietta plays superbly (as I would guess it would given that some of its members are part of the PSO), and Lawrence Loh directs things most excellently.  My only complaint is that the recorded sound is artificially bright.  I can live with that.  A superb release.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 04, 2011, 10:27:40 AM
(http://ec5.images-amazon.com/images/I/51o3ZFwVjUL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)


I don’t think I’ve heard music by Bax that I didn’t enjoy, and this disc continues that trend.  A half dozen chamber works fill out the disc, and each is quite good.  The earlier works – two works for clarinet and piano and one for clarinet, piano, and violin – are all romantic and vibrant and lushly beautiful.  The late Clarinet Sonata and Piano Trio both continue on in the romantic vein, but they are richer and more advanced, rather like the composer’s symphonies.  And the little folk tale for cello and piano is a charming work.  This is one of those discs where I just hit play and let it go.  No reason to listen to only one or two works.

The Gould Piano Trio and clarinetist Robert Plane play splendidly, and the sound is excellent.  A most delightful disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 09, 2011, 08:29:55 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51sS%2BM4dtvL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


I was recently thinking to myself that I really needed to try some Dutch Renaissance and/or Baroque music.  Who better to sample than Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck?  This nifty little disc of various keyboard works by said composer, and played by one Siegbert Rampe, seemed just the thing.  It’s a mix of works played on organ, harpsichord, virginal, and clavichord.  On top of that, four of the organ works are performed on the oldest organ still in use, a relatively small little contraption from 1425. 

Well, the whole disc is excellent from start to finish.  The disc opens with the four works played on the ancient organ, and it and they sound smaller than organ works often due, but the registration is unique and quite attractive.  The music is pretty good, too, all vibrant and smooth.  The smaller keyboard works all sound exceptionally fine.  The harpsichord works, here recorded in a pleasingly natural way rather than too close and too bright, are buoyant and rather fantasia-eqsue or improvisational sounding.  All of the works are, really, rather like Buxtehude’s music.  Anyway, the clavichord sounds absolutely delightful and the virginal sounds musical, with a bit less mechanical noise than I’ve heard in the few other virginal recordings I’ve heard.  The last works, played on a rather larger organ, are pretty much the same as all the others, but one must be careful when listening, because the sound blasts forth, fully revealing how small in scale all the preceding instruments were.

Mr Rampe plays most excellently, and the sound is top notch.  I think I will have to explore more Sweelinck.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (: premont :) on May 09, 2011, 09:12:01 AM
I think I will have to explore more Sweelinck.

This is almost too good to be true, recorded on harpsichord as well as a large number of historical organs by some of the most outstanding Dutch keyboard players.

http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/art/Jan-Pieterszoon-Sweelinck-S%E4mtliche-Werke-f%FCr-Tasteninstrumente/hnum/5650697
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Marc on May 09, 2011, 10:24:34 AM
This is almost too good to be true, recorded on harpsichord as well as a large number of historical organs by some of the most outstanding Dutch keyboard players.

http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/art/Jan-Pieterszoon-Sweelinck-S%E4mtliche-Werke-f%FCr-Tasteninstrumente/hnum/5650697

WOW!
Great tip!
Thanks, mr. P.!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on May 09, 2011, 10:37:05 AM
I think I will have to explore more Sweelinck.

I have 2 Sweelinck discs that I enjoy:

1. The Naxos disc of harpsichord music, played by Glen Wilson; and

2. more eccentrically, the selections on Andrew Rangell's "Bridge to Bach" album, which includes several Sweelinck hits on a varied program of early Baroque keyboard music played on a modern piano.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (: premont :) on May 09, 2011, 11:28:36 AM
I have 2 Sweelinck discs that I enjoy:

1. The Naxos disc of harpsichord music, played by Glen Wilson; and


This is among my top five Sweelinck keyboard music CDs.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 25, 2011, 06:30:46 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/515u%2BEyKpTL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


About eight or nine years ago I picked up a disc of music by Bechara El-Khoury that included a variety of contemporary orchestral works, including one evocatively titled The Ruins of Beirut.  It was and is good, if not exactly ground-breaking stuff.  I decided it had been long enough that I should try another disc of music by this Franco-Lebanese composer (and poet).  Alas, the disc is not as successful.

The works were all written in the 1980s, when Mr El-Khoury was in his 20s.  Even so, the accomplished Pierre Dervaux conducted all of the works of this young man in concert in the 80s.  (The disc is sourced from micro-label Forlane).  There’s a Méditation poétique for violin and orchestra, a piano concerto and two shorter Poèmes for piano and orchestra, and a couple Sérénades for string orchestra.  The violin concerto is so-so in a generically neo-romantic cum modern way.  The works for piano and orchestra are perhaps a little less than so-so.  Same with the string orchestra works.  I listened to the disc twice, and both times I came away with nothing.  I basically spent a couple hours of my life listening to background music.  El-Khoury certainly can create a lush sound, but it’s derivative.  One hears some Ravel, some Prokofiev, even some Messiaen, and in the piano writing one hears a lot of Rachmaninoff.  But one listens in vain for something interesting; compelling, original ideas are in short supply.  The orchestra plays well enough, the violinist, too, and Abdel Rahman El Bacha – he of bland and mechanical Beethoven – even acquits himself nicely enough.  Sound is small in scale and slightly glassy and boxy. 

A forgettable disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 28, 2011, 07:30:44 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51rwuw%2BTzfL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Over the years I have heard a lot of exquisitely beautiful music.  There are moments and whole works of astounding beauty from composers like Debussy and Faure and Delibes, Mozart and Schubert and Mendelssohn, and others.  But nothing, and I mean nothing, is more beautiful than the Invitatorium from Cristóbal de Morales’ Officium Defunctorum.  It is eleven minutes of sonic beauty that cannot be surpassed.  How can this be, coming as it does from a piece of music dependent on only a few voices and discreet instrumental support?  Well, it is surely attributable to the genius of the composer.  The entire six movement work is almost indescribably beautiful, but the heavenly second movement is one of those pieces that compels me to breathe shallowly, abandon any and all thoughts of anything else, and listen to every note with unyielding attention.  And I’m not exaggerating in any way.  It is difficult to overstate the impact this music has had on me on repeated listens.  Very few pieces of music achieve this.  It is a wonder of art.  Apparently the work was first performed in Mexico, after the composer’s death, to commemorate the death of Charles V, and the manuscript remained there.  Talk about sequestered treasure.  It is a great work, there is no doubt.

Also undoubtedly great is the five part Missa Pro Defunctis.  Based on the liner notes, this is the same work that Raúl Mallavibarrena and his Musica Ficta recorded on the Cantus label, but it sounds radically different.  It relies more on male voices and sounds darker.  The melodies sound different, and the way the different parts weave together sound different.  As in the Mallavibarrena recording, the voices and instrumental support blend together in perfect harmony, and it is a glory of beauty first note to last.  Given how different the two versions sound, the only sensible approach is to listen to and cherish both.

After such a great first disc, it is not surprising that the discs given over to the other two composers aren’t quite as good.  Don’t get me wrong, there is much to enjoy and savor in the discs, they just aren’t quite at the same level.  The disc given over to eleven Cantica Beatae Virginis by Tomás Luis de Victoria is to my ears the better of the two discs.  Victoria strikes me as every bit as masterful as Morales in terms of formal structure and such, but his music lacks that indefinable something that makes Morales that much better.  That means that listening to the disc of Victoria’s music is merely a great pleasure, as beautiful melodies and exquisite accompaniments tickle the ear.  The sixteen works on the disc devoted to Francisco Guerrero are likewise beautiful and display a high level of formal mastery, but as has been my previous experience, Guerrero isn’t quite as good as the other two composers.  Of course, that’s just to my ears, and ultimately I’m the lucky one because I get to listen to all the works.

Sound is quite good, though it doesn’t quite match more recent outings by Savall and crew, and the Catalan and his players and singers all deliver at a predictably high level.  A great collection with at least two masterpieces of the highest order.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 28, 2011, 11:31:54 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/419-juG7YzL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

Frederick Delius isn’t exactly new to me, but I can’t say that I’ve listened to a whole lot of his music until now.  I have a Naxos Historical disc of Thomas Beecham leading a few works, and I have a nice disc of works for piano and cello, paired with works by Grieg, played by Julian Lloyd Webber and Bengt Forsberg.  I like to revisit them from time to time, the latter especially.  When I saw the recent issue of all of Beecham’s “late” EMI Delius recordings along with a disc of music by other English composers at a nice, low price, I figured I might as well give it a shot.  It should be nice, I figured.

The five discs of music devoted to Delius all have one thing in common: they are almost unyieldingly pleasant.  They all sound lovely, and they all are mostly calm.  No real rough stuff here.  On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring is probably the nicest of the works, but Summer Evening is pretty nice, too.  Heck, most of the music is pretty nice.  Only A Village Romeo and Juliet really wears out its welcome, due mostly to the length of the work, but also partly due to the text, which is not exactly the most brilliant in the English language.

The sixth disc is given over to works by other composers.  The Triumph of Neptune, by Lord Berners, is a clunker, sounding like fourth rate cartoon music, but the other works are all nice enough.  Bax’s The Garden of Fand strikes me as the best of the bunch, though I must say that it is not quite Bax’s best work.

Sound is obviously dated, though the 1940s recordings sound better than I thought they would.  Playing is generally quite good.  A nice set of nice music at a nice price, but that’s about as far as it goes. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 05, 2011, 06:32:00 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/315AXXT3N7L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


In the Violin Babes thread I posted a shot of violist Jitka Hosprová.  Until now I had no idea if she was a good violist or not.  Turns out she’s pretty good.  Really good, actually. 

The disc starts with a work I’m familiar with, Bohuslav Martinů’s Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola and Orchestra.  I did an A-B-C comparison between Ms Hosprová’s recording, Josef Suk’s recording with Vaclav Neumann, and Bohuslav Matousek’s recording with Christopher Hogwood.  (Ms Hosprová conducts the Prague Chamber Orchestra on her recording.)  Of the three I prefer Messrs Suk and Neumann, but Ms Hosprová holds her own with Matousek and company, and really isn’t that far off from Suk/Neumann.

Anyway, to the new works for me.  First up is the Viola Concerto of Zdeněk Lukáš.  It’s a dandy.  Mr Lukáš’s work is all modern, yet it’s tonal and approachable.  At times it sounds inspired by Martinů, but it’s not at all derivative, or at least not from only a couple easily identifiable sources.  There’s enough dissonance and rhythmic verve and complexity and just plain good sounding tunes to make for many fine listens.  It may be the best work on the disc.  The other new work for me is Carl Stamitz’s Viola Concerto.  A nice little classical work, it offers a stark contrast to the other two works.  It sounds very Mozart-y, which is not in any way a criticism.  How could it be?

Ms Hosprová plays splendidly throughout, and her band does as well.  Sound is close, beefy, and warm.  Overall, a most enjoyable disc.  I do rather hope Ms Hosprová gets to record Bartok’s Viola Concerto one day.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 29, 2011, 06:41:52 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51xPI7HrOeL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


What an enjoyable work!  Reinhold Gliere is another of those composers I’ve neglected to listen to up to now.  However, a few weeks ago, my local classical station played a work by Mr Gliere (the Red Poppy Suite, I believe, but I can’t recall for sure), and it was pretty good, but what really caught my ear was how the DJ said he really liked the Third Symphony, though he did caution about its possibly forbidding length.  Now that seemed to me to be the ticket.  I poked around on Amazon and found the Edward Downes version for a nice price and snapped it up. 

The work is long and sprawling and lush and dense and beautiful.  It very much fits its time, what with works by Scriabin and Strauss and Zemlinsky being written around the same time.  It’s a glory of mashed up musical ideas and soundworlds.  I hear Wagner and Strauss and Ippolitov-Ivanov and Scriabin and Rimsky-Korsakov all blended in a meandering programmatic work inspired by ancient tales of heroism.  The huge orchestra is generally utilized quite well, with rich, sumptuous string writing, big blasts of brass here and there, and nifty wind writing.  Yes, it is a bit sprawling, and from time to time some passages seem to go on too long, but so what?  This is an enjoyable work if not a towering masterpiece. 

Mr Downes and his BBC band do quite well and sound is very good and matches the spaciousness of the piece.  I don’t know if I need another version of the work, but I will need another spin of the disc.  In fact, I’m listening again as I type this. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 12, 2011, 02:05:55 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61zumB-pgVL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)


A while back I tried Chairos, aka Sinfonias I-IV, by Vagn Holmboe, and was underwhelmed.  Determined to push on, I figured I could try his string quartets.  It’s not uncommon for composers to do some of their best work in this genre.  Besides, the Kontra Quartet’s cycle is available for a pittance. 

Alas, the string quartets, too, are underwhelming.  Oh, sure, they sound modern and vaguely serious, but they just sort of blend together.  I listened to the cycle twice, and a couple times, when I went to put in a new disc, I didn’t know which one I listened to last or which to try next.  Nor did I really care.  I did not have a similar experience when first listening to, say, Shostakovich’s similarly large output of string quartets the first few times.  Or Haydn’s even larger output, for that matter.  I guess the works get more sophisticated as the set progresses, but not one stands out from the somewhat gray mass of sound.  I have a hard time thinking that I will revisit these works.

Sound is generally okay, though it can be a bit steely in the earlier recordings.  The Kontra Quartet do seem to play well and in a committed fashion, but I just don’t care much for the music.  I can’t like everything.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on December 13, 2011, 04:53:04 AM
. . .  I have a hard time thinking that I will revisit these works.

Sound is generally okay, though it can be a bit steely in the earlier recordings.  The Kontra Quartet do seem to play well and in a committed fashion, but I just don’t care much for the music.  I can’t like everything.

Good on you for giving so much new stuff (to you) a go!

I understand all these sounding like they fade into a unform grey on an initial listen.  And of course, maybe it's simply true that these will never do much for you.  But if you're game two, three years hence, pay them a fresh visit; you may find more variety than has impressed you on this go-through.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 04, 2012, 09:59:45 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ByY-Njz-L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

I’ve been vaguely aware of Don Carlo Gesualdo for a while.  Recently, Alex Ross wrote a couple articles in The New Yorker that really piqued my interest.  A Renaissance OJ Simpson who was also batshit crazy should have written some interesting music.  Okay, okay, I was intrigued for non-musical reasons.  So?  Yes, I needed to sample some of Gesualdo’s Madrigals.

To the music: It ain’t too shabby, but it’s not what I was expecting.  The articles by Mr Ross made it seem as though the music would be disconcerting or hard to appreciate for its chromaticism.  Not so.  Perhaps I’ve listened to a wide enough variety of music that nothing seems especially “difficult”, but nothing was shocking or hard to get into.  The disparate vocal lines are quite captivating, if not perhaps as compelling as the polyphony of Morales or Victoria.  Apples and oranges.  Even the texts are better than average.

The only thing that I can’t really get into on this disc is the use of countertenors.  I don’t like countertenors.  I never have, and to the extent my opinion has changed over the years, it’s to like them less as time passes.  Don’t get me wrong, Delitiæ Musicæ perform splendidly.  I just don’t like countertenors.  So I should probably look into a different recording using women for the high parts, presuming they exist.  Sound is excellent.  A nice disc that makes me want to explore more.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on January 04, 2012, 10:11:23 AM
The Gesualdo chromaticism mainly kicked in from the 4th or 5th Madrigal book IIRC. La Venexiana recorded both of those for Glossa, and it probably would be more of your thing.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 04, 2012, 10:19:14 AM
La Venexiana recorded both of those for Glossa, and it probably would be more of your thing.



Duly noted.  I think I shall try the fourth book.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on January 04, 2012, 10:29:49 AM
. . .  A Renaissance OJ Simpson who was also batshit crazy [....]

Is that a vote of confidence in Simpson's reason? ; )
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 26, 2012, 09:39:19 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51-nJ3UZ2oL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)



This is more like it!  My first foray into the perhaps slightly demented world of Carlo Gesualdo’s music was successful, but not as successful as it could have been due to the reliance on nothing but countertenors for the high parts.  This 2000 recording by La Venexiana of the fourth book of madrigals by the murderous Don has one countertenor and relies on the ladies for the high parts for the most part.  Wise choice.

All of the singers, lutists, and the harpsichord player acquit themselves quite well in this set.  The startling chromaticism I’ve read about is definitely on display, though it’s not particularly startling.  In some ways, it seems like it meshes an older style (Machaut, say) with polyphonic trends of the day.  The music falls quite easily on my ears.  Indeed, the whole disc sounds quite marvelous.  The texts, a bit dark at times, are pretty good, too.  This is some good stuff.  I think I need some more.

Thanks to the new erato for suggesting this one.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: mc ukrneal on January 26, 2012, 11:20:56 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61YxPXRhgAL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)


Repeated cravings for Heinrich Biber’s music keep popping up, and I just got to satisfy the cravings.  To satisfy the most recent craving, I bought this disc of Battalia à 10 and Requiem à 15 in Concerto performed by Jordi Savall and his musicians.  Yet again, Maestro Biber’s music is hard to resist.  Nay, impossible to resist. 

The disc opens with the small Battalia à 10, which is an early baroque musical depiction of battle, but one that is more focused on delivering light (at least at times), lively entertainment than something heavy-duty.  As with many other works I’ve heard, Biber shows his mastery of mixing and matching instruments in unusual combinations.  And he shows himself to be ahead of his time.  The second movement weaves eight then popular tunes together in a most dissonant form.  It sounds very much like something Ives would have written, but it’s a few hundred years older.  Astonishing.  Then there’s some snappy pizzacati later on that one could swear would have been penned by Bartok.  The entire little work is a delight first note to last, and is startlingly, well, modern.

The main work, the big old honkin’ Requiem, is not as ear opening, and does not necessarily match up to some of Biber’s other choral works, but it is something to hear nonetheless.  Written for the death of Archbishop Maximilian Gandolph, the work is not as dark and grim as some requiems.  Rather, it strikes me as more of a serious, almost stately, celebration of life and the heavenly rewards due such a personage as the Archbishop.  That doesn’t mean the work sounds trite or pandering in any way; it’s just another way to write a requiem.  The work is somewhat gimmicky, if you will, in that the forces are divided into five different spaces in the cathedral.  The resulting sound is unique, and the spatial effects quite compelling.  The gimmick works.

This disc is another winner.  Biber is fast becoming my go-to composer for early Baroque music.  Nary a bad work have I heard, and each new disc makes me want to hear more.  What more can one ask for, other than more?

Savall and crew do a fine job, as expected, and sound is sumptuous.  Why, oh why, can’t all recordings sound at least this good?

I find your listening comments quite interesting, and I decided to pick one that you listened to that piqued my intererest. So I picked a composer I knew nothing about, but had other discs out in case I liked him and wanted more, landing on Biber (and being at Berkshire didn't hurt either). It's been a while since you played this, but I really love it. Your description of the second track is what really caught my attention and you've described it perfectly - Astonishing! The idea of an old piece being modern in some way really got my attention. Fascinating disc in fantastic sound. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 23, 2012, 05:49:16 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41WmsRGIUxL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)  (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61JTY209AWL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)



I’ve never really listened to too much Luigi Boccherini.  The little I’d heard always struck me as a lightweight alternative to Mozart and Haydn.  Then about a month ago or so, for no particular reason, I picked up an early ‘90s recording of some string quartets and quintets played by the Petersen Quartet.  This particular ensemble, long a fave of mine, always plays with high energy.  Music and musicians get along well.  The pieces display verve, polish, and eminent good taste.  Nothing strikes me as daring or formally perfect as similar works by Haydn or Mozart, but then I didn’t expect that to be the case.  (Really, who could?)  No, this well played and generally well recorded set is good for just sitting back and listening to, just because. 

The Jordi Savall-led disc is an altogether different animal.  He and his forces deliver on Boccherini’s formidable charm and polish, but they take it one further and imbue some of the music with more gravitas than one might expect.  It still comes across as Haydn-lite in some regards, but the supremely masterful playing and dedication shine through.  These are more serious and more significant pieces.  The two sinfonias are just dandy, but the Fandango that opens the disc and La Musica Notturna di Madrid which end it are more sophisticated and inventive.  On top of all of that is some of the finest recorded sound I’ve ever heard.  Possibly the finest.  The opening Fandango comes as close to sounding like live music as I have heard in a long time. 

I don’t think I’ll be going on a Boccherini binge, or anything, but these two sets make welcome additions to my collection.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: kishnevi on May 23, 2012, 07:26:24 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41WmsRGIUxL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)  (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61JTY209AWL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)



I’ve never really listened to too much Luigi Boccherini.  The little I’d heard always struck me as a lightweight alternative to Mozart and Haydn.  Then about a month ago or so, for no particular reason, I picked up an early ‘90s recording of some string quartets and quintets played by the Petersen Quartet.  This particular ensemble, long a fave of mine, always plays with high energy.  Music and musicians get along well.  The pieces display verve, polish, and eminent good taste.  Nothing strikes me as daring or formally perfect as similar works by Haydn or Mozart, but then I didn’t expect that to be the case.  (Really, who could?)  No, this well played and generally well recorded set is good for just sitting back and listening to, just because. 

The Jordi Savall-led disc is an altogether different animal.  He and his forces deliver on Boccherini’s formidable charm and polish, but they take it one further and imbue some of the music with more gravitas than one might expect.  It still comes across as Haydn-lite in some regards, but the supremely masterful playing and dedication shine through.  These are more serious and more significant pieces.  The two sinfonias are just dandy, but the Fandango that opens the disc and La Musica Notturna di Madrid which end it are more sophisticated and inventive.  On top of all of that is some of the finest recorded sound I’ve ever heard.  Possibly the finest.  The opening Fandango comes as close to sounding like live music as I have heard in a long time. 

I don’t think I’ll be going on a Boccherini binge, or anything, but these two sets make welcome additions to my collection.

I have that Savall recording, and Night Music is indeed rather special.  However, overall I prefer the series of three CDs by Biondi/Europa Galante,  the first one of which includes the Fandango and the Night Music quintets;  Virgin has now re-issued two of the CDs together in its budget line of double CDs.  If you ever do feel like expanding your Boccherini,  I suggest them.  And there's also a series on Brilliant devoted to the string quintets (Magnifica Comunita is the name of the ensemble),  but that seems to have stalled out after about 8 installments.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 20, 2012, 06:21:05 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CxZy-JixL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Hans Rott went bonkers and died of consumption in his 20s.  His life is a perfect romantic tragedy.  How could one not want to at least sample his big ol’ honkin’ Symphony in E Major?  With a new recording from Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt RSO out, I figured I should give it a shot.

As I listened to the first two movements, one word came to mind: Wagner.  As I listened a bit more, another word popped into my head: Bruckner.  Finally, the word Mahler joined them, though for a different reason.  But it is Wagner who permeates the work.  At times it’s like listening to discarded excerpts from Lohengrin, or early sketches for Das Rheingold.  The way the brass is (excessively) deployed, the string figurations, the huge, bombastic tuttis – the influence of old Dick is omnipresent.  Bruckner’s influence is also obvious in some of the writing, but not the same extent.  And Mahler, well, Mahler is not an influence; rather, one can hear where Mahler got some of his ideas.  The third movement here – Frisch und lebhaft – sounds like a veritable sketchbook for Mahler’s Second.  In short, this is a large scale, bombastic, hefty, but quite derivative work.  It’s not bad, but I’d rather listen to the other three composers listed, or to other late romantics, than to Rott’s First.  The two movements from the B major Suite for Orchestra leave a similar impression.  I’ve listened to the disc twice, and will make sure to listen again a couple more times this year, but I seriously doubt that this disc will get much more than that.

Järvi and his band acquit themselves quite nicely, and the sound is generally good, though it seems to lack low frequency heft.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Oldnslow on June 20, 2012, 05:50:41 PM
Todd, do you know the three symphonies of Rickard Wetz (CPO)? Very Brucknerian, and I like them quite a bit......
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 21, 2012, 07:19:33 AM
Todd, do you know the three symphonies of Rickard Wetz (CPO)? Very Brucknerian, and I like them quite a bit......



I do not.  I may have to look into Mr Wetz a bit.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 09, 2012, 10:11:23 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/515PS1nqsnL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)   (http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61Mw7URKtjL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)



Until now I pretty much avoided Georg Philipp Telemann’s music.  Most comments I’ve seen are that his music is uninspired if well crafted.  Well, a disc of Paris sonatas as played by Gustav Leonhardt and associates is included in the Sony Leonhardt box-set, and well, I must say that I rather enjoyed what I heard.  The works are masterfully crafted.  They are nice to just listen to.  So then I decided to try something else, opting for the reissue Reinhard Goebel leading the Musica Antiqua Köln in the Tafelmusik.  I got the same impression.  The writing is meticulous, delightfully melodious, and just plain fun to listen to.  No, I cannot say that Telemann rises to the same level as Bach or Biber, but then, not everyone has to, and based on these recordings, he strikes me as far more interesting than Vivaldi.  I can’t say that I’m going to rush out and buy dozens of discs of Telemann’s music, but another disc or two can’t hurt.

Playing and sound for both sets are exemplary.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Scarpia on August 09, 2012, 10:22:48 AM
My favorite Telemann is this



I also have a nice recording of the Paris Quartets by Sonnerie on Virgin, but that would duplicate the recording you already have.  I agree that Telemann is very rewarding to listen to.  He was a master of beautifully crafted counterpoint.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Est.1965 on August 10, 2012, 02:22:01 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CxZy-JixL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Hans Rott went bonkers and died of consumption in his 20s.  His life is a perfect romantic tragedy.  How could one not want to at least sample his big ol’ honkin’ Symphony in E Major?  With a new recording from Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt RSO out, I figured I should give it a shot.
As I listened to the first two movements, one word came to mind: Wagner.  As I listened a bit more, another word popped into my head: Bruckner.  Finally, the word Mahler joined them, though for a different reason.  But it is Wagner who permeates the work.  At times it’s like listening to discarded excerpts from Lohengrin, or early sketches for Das Rheingold.  The way the brass is (excessively) deployed, the string figurations, the huge, bombastic tuttis – the influence of old Dick is omnipresent.  Bruckner’s influence is also obvious in some of the writing, but not the same extent.  And Mahler, well, Mahler is not an influence; rather, one can hear where Mahler got some of his ideas.  The third movement here – Frisch und lebhaft – sounds like a veritable sketchbook for Mahler’s Second.  In short, this is a large scale, bombastic, hefty, but quite derivative work.  It’s not bad, but I’d rather listen to the other three composers listed, or to other late romantics, than to Rott’s First.  The two movements from the B major Suite for Orchestra leave a similar impression.  I’ve listened to the disc twice, and will make sure to listen again a couple more times this year, but I seriously doubt that this disc will get much more than that.
Järvi and his band acquit themselves quite nicely, and the sound is generally good, though it seems to lack low frequency heft.

 >:(  It's not that bad and not as bombastic and derivative as the reviewer suggests.  The Bruckner and Wagner influences are indeed very evident in Rotts symphony, even some Brahms, capturing in its entireity the Zeitgeist of a musically changing, artistically rich Vienna.  This is probably why Brahms called his music 'vulgar' - because it was a quality tabloid in a room full of broadsheets.  I do agree though, that the sound quality in the recording could be better.  For anyone who wants to hear a better rendition with greater dynamic range and clarity, Segerstam with the Norrkopingers is still the best release out there.  This Jarvi disc is not even in my top three Rott performances, live and otherwise.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 10, 2012, 05:16:12 AM
This is probably why Brahms called his music 'vulgar'



I'm sure Brahms knew why he called it vulgar.  Can't say I disagree completely with that verdict.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 13, 2012, 06:28:00 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61GfLydNoML._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

Hilary Hahn is pretty adventurous as far as A-listers go.  I mean, in the last few years she’s recorded Schoenberg and Ives.  Of course, she produces and owns here own recordings now, and then licenses them to DG, so she can afford to explore as much as she wants to.  It looks like she wanted to do something new and, per the liner notes, improvisational. 

So Ms Hahn schlepped her violin up to Iceland (Silfra being a rift in the tectonic plates up in that remote land), and proceeded to work with Hauschka, aka Volker Bertelmann, a German composer/pianist/prepared pianist.  With the assistance of a producer who has worked with Björk, among others, the two of them recorded a bunch of short pieces that were apparently all first takes and all improvised.  There’s lots of little percussive sounds, courtesy of the prepared piano, and presumably some other objects and instruments just lying around.  It’s all very Cage-y.  Hahn shrinks her sound, and she was also clearly recorded very close up.  And the two musicians jam.  It works pretty well.  It’s not the greatest thing I’ve heard, but there is no predictable flow, and some of the music is novel, or close to it.  I can’t say this is the most original thing I’ve heard, because literally the whole time I was listening, I kept thinking this sounds like Sigur Rós unplugged.  Maybe there’s something in the water up in Iceland. 

Very nice if obviously manipulated sonics. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on September 24, 2012, 05:30:55 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61Z4oBahjzL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


Another hit from Biber.   Seven more works for violin and assortment of other instruments, each one vibrant, almost insanely inventive, beautiful, and just plain fun to listen to.  Should classical music ever be this much fun?  Yes, yes it should.  Push comes to shove, the Mystery Sonatas and Violin Sonatas are probably better, but these are top flight.  Reinhard Goebel and his Musica Anitqua Köln play superbly, and sound is generally excellent, if perhaps a bit hot here and there.  Biber is definitely my go-to guy for pre-Bach baroque, and the heaviest hitter between Cristobal de Morales and old JS. 

I guess I’m a Biber believer. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 21, 2012, 04:13:54 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51lrCNbUUNL._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

A month or two ago, I picked up David Greilsammer’s Naïve recording of two Mozart piano concertos and was most impressed.  Here’s a young-ish pianist – he’s 35, though the recording is a few years old – who plays with distinct style and made me listen to the old works with fresh ears, as it were.  He plays with great clarity, beauty, and, above all, delicacy.  He’s no barn-storming virtuoso, or at least not in Mozart.  I decided to hear him play something else, and this disc of two rarities and one war horse fit the bill. 

I’d never read of, let alone heard, Alexandre Tansman until I found this disc.  His second piano concerto, from 1927, in its world premiere recording, opens the disc.  It’s very much of its time and place, with two influences looming quite large: Gershwin and Ravel.  There are also a few hints of jazz, more than a few dashes of Prokofiev, and lush, inventive orchestral accompaniment.  Greilsammer plays the music quite well, displaying the traits I mentioned earlier.  There are no thundering crescendos, no dizzying flashes of brilliance.  Instead, there is control, precision, and subtle expression when playing diminuendo.  If the work doesn’t match up to Ravel qualitatively, it’s quite good nonetheless, and Greilsammer shows his stuff.

Nadia Boulanger’s 1912 Fantaise for Piano and Orchestra follows.  This live recording also appears to be a world premier recording.  The work is darker, richer, and heavier to open, with strains of late 19th Century romanticism permeating the music.  It’s hard not to hear the influence of César Franck, and the orchestration sounds a bit dense, but the work has an immediate appeal somewhat lacking in the Tansman.  The piano part is not especially dazzling and is rather formal, which may make sense given the composer.  Again, Greilsammer shows his stuff throughout, and here he generates some heat and volume when needed.

The disc closes with Rhapsody in Blue.  Greilsammer plays in more overtly virtuosic fashion here, as suits the piece, and he gracefully backs off to give the limelight to other soloists where appropriate.  The whole thing works quite well, I must say.  (Okay, this isn’t new for me, but the other works sure are.) 

So Mr Greilsammer seems like the real deal.  I see that he has another Mozart disc coming out, on Sony, this month, as well as some other discs.  I have more to hear.  Based on what I’ve heard so far, I do hope I get to hear him in Schubert and Debussy, and even Rachmaninov and Ligeti. 

Steven Sloane and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France lend superb support for Mr Greilsammer, and sound is excellent throughout. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 02, 2013, 01:59:10 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/515FjZ83W6L._SL500_AA300_.jpg)


I’m not quite sure how, but up until now I’ve never bought, nor even heard, as far as I can remember, the Violin Sonatas, even the famous Third, of George Enescu.  This is particularly odd in light of the fact that I really dig the composer’s orchestral works and his masterful opera Oedipe.  Anyway, I finally got a recording, and I must say that I am most satisfied.  The first two works are meaty, somewhat heavy, but always attractive and substantive violin sonatas.  Sort of mildly updated Brahms, which is plenty fine by me.  The great Third is, well, great.  Infused with folk and/or ethnic influences, the piece is dense, allows for virtuosic display for the violinist (especially Enescu himself, I’m guessing), is decidedly large in scale, and is immaculate in design.  I’d say it’s Brahms meets Bartok, but that’s not right at all; it’s Enescu to the core.  A most enjoyable disc, in very nice modern sound.

As good as the music is, probably the bigger thing here for me is the discovery of violinist Antal Szalai.  The young man has chops aplenty, with a big ol’ fat tone, and warmth and beauty to spare.  I looked up his recordings, and there is little else that really grabs my attention now, but if and when he records something more up my alley, I shall investigate further.  Pianist Jozsef Balog is pretty darned good, too. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 02, 2013, 02:41:28 PM
As good as the music is, probably the bigger thing here for me is the discovery of violinist Antal Szalai.

Whoa whoa whoa. Any chance his biography mentions coming from a musical family? I saw an older violinist named Antal Szalai "and His Gypsy Band" playing at a Hungarian nightclub in Sydney, Australia a few years ago. Yes, that's a very peculiar combination - there's a Hungarian nightclub in Australia, and I was at it - but Antal Szalai was quite good and I wouldn't be surprised if there was a connection between the two. As opposed to there being two classically-trained Hungarian violinists named Antal Szalai a generation apart.

Naturally, the cembalom (dulcimer) player did a song blindfolded and the evening ended in crazy old Hungarian ladies trying to dance with the clarinetist as everybody drank and sang their favorite folk-tunes in unintentionally Ivesian fashion.

(http://www.cairns.com.au/images/uploadedfiles/editorial/pictures/2008/08/13/Cairns-WebWide-CP14AUG08P999-CC113634-TIMEOUTAUG.jpg)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 02, 2013, 03:21:56 PM
Any chance his biography mentions coming from a musical family?


No, and the English Wikipedia page doesn't mention it, either, though that doesn't really mean a whole lot.  Whatever the case may be, the younger Mr Szalai (he's 32) is pretty darned good.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 05, 2013, 12:37:41 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/612zU-4atJL._SY300_.jpg)



Got a couple listens to this under my belt, and well, it is a different type of disc. 

The first work, a piano concerto entitled Echoing Curves, is played here by Andrea Lucchesini, a master of Berio’s idiom, and conducted by the composer himself.  This is the reason I bought the disc: I wanted to hear how Lucchesini handled the concerto given how well he does in the solo stuff.  Well, as expected, he doesn’t seem to have any problems navigating the music, but truthfully, I find the music less compelling than the solo stuff.  The piano part is given over to lots of trills and ostinato underpinning occasional flourishes, and the orchestral music is very modern, in a disappointingly generic way.  Sure, it’s well crafted, etc, but it just doesn’t work for me.  I don’t dislike it, but I don’t like it, either.  Meh.

Turns out the next work was the real reason to get the disc, because haven’t you asked yourself what Schubert’s Tenth Symphony might have sounded like?  You see, Berio took the sketches for D936a and, in his word, set out to “restore” it.  (Restoration, completion; po-tay-to, po-tah-to.)  The work is called Rendering.  For the most part this sounds just like a missing Schubert work, and a very substantial one, hinting at what might have been.  It is grand, larger in scope and ambition than even the Great C Major, lovely, and filled with tunes aplenty.  It also starts moving toward a Mendelssohnian and, dare I say it, even (early) Wagnerian type soundworld.  There are obviously gaps, which Berio backfills with his own music, and surprisingly enough, it works well.  When it comes to the outright Schubertian music, I can’t say how much is Schubert and how much is Berio, but I can say that I like it. 

The concluding work is a mushing together of four transcriptions of Ritirata notturna di Madrid by Boccherini.  Brief and a bit gaudy, it’s not bad at all.  In fact, it’s pretty good.

But the Schubert is the reason for me to keep this disc.

The LSO play very well, and Tony Faulkner’s recorded sound is what one expects it to be.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 24, 2013, 01:14:20 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51%2BaY485uTL._SX300.jpg)



I needed me some more 20th Century string quartets, so I decided to try the pair from one Jesús Guridi on Naxos.  I've spun the disc twice now, and I must report that while there is certainly nothing exceptionable about the composer's music, there is nothing exceptional about it, either.  The music is melodic and attractive, and it's well crafted, infused with folk music (real or faux, I do not know), and some nice contrapuntal writing, but I find it basically impossible to remember anything about the music other than broad impressions.  No movement, no passage stuck out for me, and no tune stuck in my aural memory.  The music also seems a bit out of place chronologically.  The name I thought of immediately was Dvorak, which for a contemporary of Bartok doesn't seem entirely right.  That's not to say that Guridi needed to write works like Bartok, it's just that Guridi's music reminds me of older styles.  Perhaps I'll investigate more of the composer's music, perhaps I won't, but I'm not in a hurry to do so.

The Breton String Quartet play superbly and sound is excellent.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 06, 2013, 09:19:58 AM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ehvJ-jPNL._SL500_AA280_.jpg)




Just shy of two years ago, I picked up some madrigals by Don Carlo Gesualdo, the crazy, wife murderin’ fiend from Venosa.  The set was from Naxos, and it was good, but not quite good enough.  Then on The new erato’s suggestion, I tried the fourth book of madrigals from La Venexiana on Glossa, and was bowled over.  This past summer I picked up the complete set from Quintetto Vocale Italiano on Newton Classics, but so far I haven’t made it past the first book: the singing and sound are not my cup of tea, though I will return to the set eventually.  However, I decided to try La Venexiana’s recording of the fifth book of madrigals and La Compagnia del Madrigale recording of the sixth book, released just this year, both on Glossa.  Let me just say that I was bowled over again.

As great as the fourth book is, Gesualdo’s truly astounding adventures in harmony and dissonance begin in the fifth book and culminate in the sixth book.  The density and complexity of the works match or surpass those of polyphonic masters like Morales or Victoria or Palestrina, and some melodies are striking in their beauty and intensity.  This is evident in the fifth book, and what holds true for the fifth book holds truer for the sixth.  It helps that both ensembles are more than up to the task of delivering these works, and Glossa’s production values are typically stellar.  Both discs are corkers.  Perhaps I was too hasty in not including them in my 2013 purchases of the year post, though posts can be edited . . .



(I’m beginning to think that Glossa may be a corporate agent of the devil.  Even on their “weak” discs, the production values are crazy high, and the performers are world class.  Yes, only the devil could throw together an outfit that makes me want to pay traditional premium prices for new recordings, thus thinning my wallet.)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on December 06, 2013, 09:24:00 AM
I guess you know your next port of call then, the first 5-voice book of Marenzio with La Compagnia del Madrigale, I think even higher of it than of these Gesualdo discs.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 06, 2013, 09:26:43 AM
I guess you know your next port of call then, the first 5-voice book of Marenzio with La Compagnia del Madrigale, I think even higher of it than of these Gesualdo discs.



Dammit, stop! 

First, I need to finish up with the big ol' box of Sweelinck Psalms by the, um, Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 19, 2014, 08:31:51 AM
https://www.youtube.com/v/GwgpsEQUTr4


(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/411hmjoSnDL._SY300_.jpg)


After years of neglect, I recently became a big fan of YouTube.  There are so many recordings of largely forgotten artists in standard repertoire, and just as important, there is so much modern repertoire, that one can listen and listen and listen and never hear the same thing twice - unless that is desired.  I’ve been sampling quite a bit of modern music I might not otherwise listen to, but Pascal Dusapin’s Seven Etudes for Piano is the first modern work I’ve listened to on YouTube that really caught my fancy.  There is only one recording of the work that I can find, the one by Ian Pace, and the seven videos on YouTube are from that set.

The work is magnificent.  It is unabashedly modern – nay, contemporary – but it is easily accessible in a way that, say, Boulez is not.  One can also hear many different influences.  There are hints of jazz, Scriabin, Mompou, Debussy, the Darmstadt school, Messiaen, and others, but Dusapin’s music is wholly his own.  Ian Pace acquits himself well, and if sound is a bit less than ideal, given the source, it conveys the quality of the playing and the music.  I may very well have to buy a copy of the disc.  I do hope other pianists take up the work.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Mandryka on August 01, 2014, 10:44:17 AM
https://www.youtube.com/v/GwgpsEQUTr4


(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/411hmjoSnDL._SY300_.jpg)


After years of neglect, I recently became a big fan of YouTube.  There are so many recordings of largely forgotten artists in standard repertoire, and just as important, there is so much modern repertoire, that one can listen and listen and listen and never hear the same thing twice - unless that is desired.  I’ve been sampling quite a bit of modern music I might not otherwise listen to, but Pascal Dusapin’s Seven Etudes for Piano is the first modern work I’ve listened to on YouTube that really caught my fancy.  There is only one recording of the work that I can find, the one by Ian Pace, and the seven videos on YouTube are from that set.

The work is magnificent.  It is unabashedly modern – nay, contemporary – but it is easily accessible in a way that, say, Boulez is not.  One can also hear many different influences.  There are hints of jazz, Scriabin, Mompou, Debussy, the Darmstadt school, Messiaen, and others, but Dusapin’s music is wholly his own.  Ian Pace acquits himself well, and if sound is a bit less than ideal, given the source, it conveys the quality of the playing and the music.  I may very well have to buy a copy of the disc.  I do hope other pianists take up the work.

I've been playing Dusapin's second quartet, it's enormous, in 24 sections,  and is called for reasons I don't fully understand, Time Zone. It's very good - I'd be surprised if you didn't enjoy it (in truth I prefer it to the Etudes I think.) You can hear Ferneyhough's music exerting an influence, Ferneyhough is turnng out to be a favourite composer. There's a recording by Arditti.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 01, 2014, 11:01:33 AM
It's very good - I'd be surprised if you didn't enjoy it (in truth I prefer it to the Etudes I think.)



I do.  I've had the Arditti recording for quite a long time now.  I believe it is called Time Zones to reflect the 24 standard time zones on earth.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: torut on September 13, 2014, 09:33:48 PM
(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61GfLydNoML._SL500_AA300_.jpg)

Hilary Hahn is pretty adventurous as far as A-listers go.  I mean, in the last few years she’s recorded Schoenberg and Ives.  Of course, she produces and owns here own recordings now, and then licenses them to DG, so she can afford to explore as much as she wants to.  It looks like she wanted to do something new and, per the liner notes, improvisational. 

So Ms Hahn schlepped her violin up to Iceland (Silfra being a rift in the tectonic plates up in that remote land), and proceeded to work with Hauschka, aka Volker Bertelmann, a German composer/pianist/prepared pianist.  With the assistance of a producer who has worked with Björk, among others, the two of them recorded a bunch of short pieces that were apparently all first takes and all improvised.  There’s lots of little percussive sounds, courtesy of the prepared piano, and presumably some other objects and instruments just lying around.  It’s all very Cage-y.  Hahn shrinks her sound, and she was also clearly recorded very close up.  And the two musicians jam.  It works pretty well.  It’s not the greatest thing I’ve heard, but there is no predictable flow, and some of the music is novel, or close to it.  I can’t say this is the most original thing I’ve heard, because literally the whole time I was listening, I kept thinking this sounds like Sigur Rós unplugged.  Maybe there’s something in the water up in Iceland. 

Very nice if obviously manipulated sonics.

Thanks for the review. It's very interesting. I listened to it today and liked it a lot. The pieces are mostly minimalist. I have not heard this kind of prepared piano before. It sounds sophisticated and well controlled compared with the Cage's, but I felt the power and the fun are diminished a bit, which is not a problem since the goals are different.

Hahn is certainly an advocate of new music. For the album In 27 pieces, 26 contemporary composers were commissioned short encore pieces for violin and piano, and the last piece was chosen from more than 400 entries for the contest. I greatly enjoyed this album. The composers are Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Somei Satoh, Du Yun, David Lang, Bun-Ching Lam, Paul Moravec, Antón García AbrilAvner Dorman, David Del Tredici, Mason Bates, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Gillian Whitehead, Richard Barrett, Jennifer Higdon, Christos Hatzis, Jeff Myers, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Valentin Silvestrov, Kala Ramnath, Lera Auerbach, Tina Davidson, Elliott Sharp, Michiru Oshima, James Newton Howard, Nico Muhly, Søren Nils Eichberg, Max Richter.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 02, 2016, 10:21:23 AM
Bump!

I've been thinking about doing something like this with all the new listens I've been doing this year. Mind if I post thoughts here, or if this is "your" thread I'll happily keep doing so elsewhere (like in the Holmboe & Tubin threads in January).
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 02, 2016, 10:43:19 AM
Mind if I post thoughts here, or if this is "your" thread I'll happily keep doing so elsewhere (like in the Holmboe & Tubin threads in January).



Post away.  I hope I'm not the only person interested in exploring new music from time to time.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 02, 2016, 11:39:39 AM
Thanks; here goes nothing!

This week I've been diving into the back-catalogue of Lyrita Records, more or less alphabetically.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/SRCD226.jpg) (http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/SRCD249.jpg) (http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/SRCD250.jpg)

First up: an exploration of Lennox Berkeley, a composer I'd previously known only from a couple small chamber pieces and an excellent orchestration of Poulenc's Flute Sonata. That Poulenc arrangement might still be my favorite Berkeley - but the Serenade for String Orchestra gives it a run for its money. The Serenade is a short piece, only about 13 minutes, and a totally winning one. There's a whole great English tradition of this kind of easygoing but deeper-than-expected string music, and Berkeley's contribution is one of the best I've heard so far. If it was coupled on a disc with Vaughan William's Tallis Fantasia and the Elgar string stuff, it would not suffer too much in the comparison.

"Mont Juic" is a suite of Catalan folk dances jotted down and orchestrated with considerable panache (in fact, maybe a bit too much panache) by a young Berkeley and his equally youthful friend, Benjamin Britten. Britten wrote the last two, Berkeley the first two. There's not a clear difference between their contributions, aside from Britten drawing the lucky straw and writing up the slow, sad, more-interesting third dance. This is a fun piece. The all-Berkeley Divertimento did not really stick in my memory.

I listened to the piano concerto on Monday, as a big fan of pianist David Wilde, but already can't remember anything about it except that the slow movement was fairly pretty and well-scored. So far I've only listened to Symphony No. 1, not 2 or 3, but No. 1 is the sort of basically-conservative yet slightly-gnarly-so-as-to-prove-its-unwimpiness music that a lot of British composers turned out in the 1930s-50s. Dave Hurwitz compares it to Roussel but that makes no sense to me - it lacks the joie de vivre and memorable tunes. The same goes for the First Symphony by...

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/SRCD203.jpg)

...Arnold Cooke, but he can be forgiven that, because he was a student of Hindemith's. I really liked Cooke's admirably concise Third Symphony, and will maybe write about it later. The Suite to Jabez and the Devil, while maybe not quite as colorful as it sounds, is nevertheless plenty extroverted and entertaining, and if you're hoping the devil will pull out a country fiddle and play a tune, you're in luck.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/SRCD243.jpg)

My favorite discovery of the week so far, by far, is Frank Bridge's Dance Rhapsody, a truly exuberant piece from early in his career (1908) which is all masquerades, fizzing glasses of Veuve, and big bubbly tunes. Its episodes are fairly clearly delineated, too, so you always have a handle on the piece's structure. Dance Poem takes more of a sour turn - the last section is actually marked "Disillusion" - but if you want a cynical take on a Viennese waltz, there's only one standard-setter and that's by Maurice Ravel. Dance Rhapsody is the keeper, a ton of well-made fun.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/SRCD241.jpg)

Overall, though, the composer who's most promising as a potential new personal favorite is John Ireland. Simply put, I liked everything here. The piano concerto may not be the most promising example of its kind, but the Legend, which has a piano soloist playing a fairly minor supporting role, is much more atmospheric and intriguing, with a beginning that bodes well for the disc. The Satyricon overture's a lot of fun, and the Symphonic Studies are decent enough filler (orchestrated by Geoffrey Bush). Boult and the LPO are mighty fine throughout. In fact, all these composers are quite lucky to have attracted Lyrita's support, since the label seems to have invariably hired good-to-great conductors and top-notch London orchestras. Plus very well-engineered for their times.

My explorations will no doubt continue. For now, taking a break to try some things discussed on previous pages of this thread. The Bax string quartets are indeed very enjoyable.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 02, 2016, 12:01:43 PM
Hahn is certainly an advocate of new music. For the album In 27 pieces, 26 contemporary composers were commissioned short encore pieces for violin and piano, and the last piece was chosen from more than 400 entries for the contest. I greatly enjoyed this album. The composers are Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Somei Satoh, Du Yun, David Lang, Bun-Ching Lam, Paul Moravec, Antón García AbrilAvner Dorman, David Del Tredici, Mason Bates, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Gillian Whitehead, Richard Barrett, Jennifer Higdon, Christos Hatzis, Jeff Myers, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Valentin Silvestrov, Kala Ramnath, Lera Auerbach, Tina Davidson, Elliott Sharp, Michiru Oshima, James Newton Howard, Nico Muhly, Søren Nils Eichberg, Max Richter.



My publisher, fellow composer Mark Gresham, submitted a vn/pf piece for the Hilary Hahn Encores composition contest.  His Café Cortadito won an Honorable Mention, and is included as a bonus track on the Japanese release of Deutsche Grammophon / Universal UCCG-1642/3.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 08, 2016, 11:28:23 AM
(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/HCD32728.jpg)

Moór was a favorite composer of Pablo Casals, who frequently tried to program his music. But 90 minutes after this CD ended, I honestly can't remember a single thing about it. I think both the concertos had scherzo movements, and I know it was all written in an 1870ish romantic idiom. Also, uh...well, the guy clearly had great taste when he was picking painters to paint his portrait, right? Here's another one:

(https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Em%C3%A1nuel_Mo%C3%B3r.jpg)

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/ODE1281-5.jpg)

Magnus Lindberg's post-2010 style has been a big shift toward a more old-fashioned tonal language and an emphasis on making the orchestra sound splendiferous. True to form, these three pieces sound fantastic, especially the endings, which he seems to have a gift for. (I mean the last 2-3 minutes of each piece, not just the literal conclusion.) At its conclusion, the cello concerto seems to turn back the clock and reach a sudden place of romantic-era lyricism.

My problem is that I don't know how, or if, these works are organized. They seem to exist moment-to-moment, as compelling soundscapes, like a tasting menu of tiny plates of food that's meant to provide your palate with something new and different at every course. What brings the tasting menu together as a coherent whole? Well...I don't know. Maybe this is the kind of music where you need to read the score to "get" it. But I don't much like music where you need to read the score to have a chance with it.

Fortunately, Lindberg's music is compelling enough to avoid that trap entirely. I think the concerto, in three movements but played without pause, might be my favorite of this trio, even though Era is the most old-fashioned (there's a R. Strauss quote in there, and it starts out imitative of the Sibelius Fourth).

Great playing and sound. The composer was present at the recording sessions.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/CHAN10891.jpg)

I'm skipping the Britten, a sort of Frankenstein creation assembled by Colin Matthews after Britten died. The Finzi is Five Bagatelles, arranged for string orchestra and clarinet. The Bagatelles are certainly charming and pleasant enough - mostly slow, all pretty, wouldn't be a bad choice to play before bedtime. (Though it is too fast and too varied to be Delius!)

Arnold Cooke's first clarinet concerto begins so unobtrusively - quietly, with the clarinet spinning a melody-that-doesn't-seem-like-a-melody - that at first I thought we were still on the Bagatelles. (The Cooke work is for string orchestra only.) Again, the student of Hindemith thing seems like a really important trait.

To be continued......
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 09, 2016, 11:22:22 AM
(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/8.573402.jpg)

Luiz Costa turns out to be a late romantic composer through-and-through; the trio is from 1937 and features Germanic-type melodies accompanied by a fluid piano part. (For the most part, the violin and cello have the melodic lead, and they often play together, rather than in conversation.) It's undeniably an attractive piece, and I respect it all the more for being so modest in scale (19 minutes). Although the booklet notes praise the adagio as being super gorgeous, I thought it was just OK. Work ends decisively in the C minor key - no happy ending here.

Dukas student Claudio Carneyro's piano trio (1928) has a short intro and then jumps straight into a quasi-fugue. And then we get a beautiful Francophile violin aria. In general, this is a piece built of interesting, unusual parts, like an "Interludio Romanesco" and a funky Rousselian theme-and-variations "on Syrinx." The giant first movement dwarfs the other too - unsurprisingly, since the fugue turns out to be its primary theme. Not only is this fun to listen to, it's also admirably and brazenly wacky. Not a masterpiece, but certainly sticks out among the usual "obscure music" crowd.

Sergio Azevedo will soon turn 50, and his Hukvaldy Trio (2013) advertises its inspiration in a bunch of Janacek sketches, but you really can't glean Janacek from it very easily. There are flashes of his style occasionally (7:15ish), and also hints of the kind of rustic East European folk music that Szymanowski, Bartok, and others have mined. Starting around 14:00 we get a minute of Shostakovich, too. Honestly, this is a pretty cool piece overall. I cite all those comparisons to previous composers to give you an idea, but Azevedo seems to have an interesting voice, and the Hukvaldy Trio is unusually successful at the ol' "old meets new" style. This is the only Azevedo piece available on Naxos Music Library.

Good, not great, playing by the Trio Pangea [sic], and good, not great, recorded sound. Carneyro seems like a fun composer to get to know, and I like the Azevedo trio too; Costa's work is pedestrian. It's very interesting that not one of these composers is working in a "Portuguese" style: one is clearly Germanic, one clearly French, one clearly inspired by Moravian and Carpathian folk style.

As a follow-up...

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/adw7238.jpg)

...I decided to try Claudio Carneyro's piano work "Poemas em prosa" (Poems in prose). This was a bit of a mistake. The two-minute intro is a Schumannesque melody, but rhythmically square and with a totally dull thud-thud melody-echoing left-hand accompaniment. A couple of later sections might stand on their own as encores, but not interesting ones. Oops.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 09, 2016, 11:29:04 AM
(Though it is too fast and too varied to be Delius!)

(* chortle *)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on March 09, 2016, 11:39:43 AM
My problem is that I don't know how, or if, these works are organized. They seem to exist moment-to-moment, as compelling soundscapes, like a tasting menu of tiny plates of food that's meant to provide your palate with something new and different at every course. What brings the tasting menu together as a coherent whole? Well...I don't know. Maybe this is the kind of music where you need to read the score to "get" it. But I don't much like music where you need to read the score to have a chance with it.

I am a big proponent of knowing works from score if you have the training to read scores and want to use them both to study the composer's language and to help you judge the performance. But I don't think there is any style of music that requires knowing a score more than any other; besides which, copyrighted modernist scores of a composer like Lindberg (if even readily available) would likely set you back a hundred dollars or more. Perhaps in a case like Lindberg's, repeated listenings are needed to grasp the architecture. Be that as it may, the work of his I've previously heard makes me think that this is a CD I'd like to have.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 11, 2016, 09:14:44 AM
Cross-posting;

First-ever listen to this Pulitzer Prize winner: Caroline Shaw's Partita for 8 Singers.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/NWAM041.jpg)
WOW. I feel like a revolution just happened in my ears.

I mean, the Partita isn't exactly revolutionary. It uses a lot of techniques that have been pioneered and gimmickized elsewhere: nonsensical spoken-word text, bustling conversation alternating with vocalise, gasping, eerie vocal effects (in mvt. 2 the men become a didgeridoo). Except that here, after the prologue math lecture (!) ends, the next 24 minutes are sheer magic, a carpet ride through a sound-place that I didn't know could exist. It's joyous, exultant, unhinged, bewitching. Wow, did I love that listen. Might be the most exciting new thing I've heard this year. (Sorry, Brahms  :P .)

Searching GMG, it looks like Rinaldo, GSMoeller, and a couple other people are fans of this work. Ken B had the best description of all, one I can't top:

TD, Caroline Shaw, Partita for 8 Voices

Which I really like.  It's like Philip Glass and Virgil Thomson got together and rewrote Stimmung.

---

But I don't think there is any style of music that requires knowing a score more than any other;
There are a number of pieces from the 1960s on forward that I've listened to with total incomprehension, only to learn that it was based on some sort of mathematical principle or otherwise inaudible organizational mechanism...

The Lindberg disc is good, I do recommend it. I'm excited for the NYPO/Gilbert's next CD, which comes out in April - new symphonies by Christopher Rouse.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 11, 2016, 09:38:35 AM
I'm excited for the NYPO/Gilbert's next CD, which comes out in April - new symphonies by Christopher Rouse.

That should be interesting. I heard a broadcast of the 3rd Symphony some time ago and liked it (discussed it on the Rouse thread). I find Rouse very uneven, but this one sounded solid to me.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on March 11, 2016, 10:13:03 AM
I find Rouse very uneven . . . .

I do as well. In fact, the one piece I can endorse without qualification is Gorgon, which uses the hammer to even greater effect than Mahler 6, and is about as over-the-top as any music I know. One thing I find amazing about Rouse is that he apparently composes with rock music blaring or the Jerry Springer show on. When I was a composition major at Oberlin in the class of 1970, Rouse was one year behind me and his interest in rock music at the time made him appear kind of suspect among the students. Of course, he became Christopher Rouse, and let's just say I didn't . . . .
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 11, 2016, 10:27:18 AM
Hah!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Archaic Torso of Apollo on March 11, 2016, 10:31:30 AM
One thing I find amazing about Rouse is that he apparently composes with rock music blaring or the Jerry Springer show on.

Well, the great composers have traditionally drawn from the pop culture of their times. And so have the not-so-great composers...
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 11, 2016, 11:05:45 AM
Bloom where you're planted, they say . . . .
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 11, 2016, 11:17:31 AM
I do as well. In fact, the one piece I can endorse without qualification is Gorgon, which uses the hammer to even greater effect than Mahler 6, and is about as over-the-top as any music I know. One thing I find amazing about Rouse is that he apparently composes with rock music blaring or the Jerry Springer show on. When I was a composition major at Oberlin in the class of 1970, Rouse was one year behind me and his interest in rock music at the time made him appear kind of suspect among the students. Of course, he became Christopher Rouse, and let's just say I didn't . . . .
Wow. Can't imagine getting music from your brain to paper while there's other music blaring in the background. That must require a mental facility that my brain is missing.

I love the Flute Concerto, or at least, did the last time I heard it. Now listening again to confirm. There's a particularly touching story about the Flute Concerto, from recording magnate Robert von Bahr:
Here is BIS CEO Robert von Bahr talking about the Flute Concerto:

"OK, time for a personal confession. When I was laid up on the cut-up table for an operation for pancreatic cancer (which, after the very extensive operation, it was ascertained that I didn't have in the first place...) I had negotiated with the doctors' team that I was allowed to listen to something when they put me under - against regulations - this because the operation itself was quite risky and I was stubborn. So I chose the Christopher Rouse Flute Concerto, played by my wife, Sharon Bezaly, the Royal Stockholm PO under Alan Gilbert as the piece I wanted to be the last thing I heard, should I not wake up. In a similar situation I would still choose that piece, a requiem over a small British boy that was tortured to death by two other small boys - a horrible thing. The music is simply fantastic and something I would urge anyone to really listen to, but with closed eyes and mobiles turned off. Music at its very best."
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on March 11, 2016, 11:35:33 AM
Wow. Can't imagine getting music from your brain to paper while there's other music blaring in the background. That must require a mental facility that my brain is missing.

I love the Flute Concerto, or at least, did the last time I heard it. Now listening again to confirm. There's a particularly touching story about the Flute Concerto, from recording magnate Robert von Bahr:

Well, though I don't think so, maybe I'm misremembering about composing to rock music. I can't find any confirmation right now, other than the fact that Rouse was always strongly devoted to rock, and that's how I remember him (though I never knew him at age 18 other than to say hello). But from the NYTimes: "Asked about their daily routines, the four advisory composers could say only what worked for them: in Mr. Rouse's case, composing while half-listening to the ''Jerry Springer Show.'' Television, he explained, kept his adrenaline level up."

I have that flute concerto and will try it again.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on March 11, 2016, 11:37:50 AM
Hah!

Now, Karl . . . .
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 11, 2016, 12:17:08 PM
I haven't met Karl in person, but I hope that he really does laugh in one single, gigantically loud Hah!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on March 11, 2016, 02:00:54 PM
I haven't met Karl in person, but I hope that he really does laugh in one single, gigantically loud Hah!

Only on special occasions.

(But you're probably off to Seattle by now.)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 21, 2016, 12:34:56 PM
First time ever listening to music by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/8.554295.jpg) (http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/8.554456.jpg)

According to the booklets, Boismortier wasn't a court musician, or a virtuoso, nor did he receive many commissions - he was writing purely for profit. Well, bully, I say. "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

Ballets de Village is accordingly a series of ultra-charming, high-energy rustic suites, here performed on an eclectic range of period instruments, including the hurdy-gurdy and the musette (which is the droning thing that sounds a lot like a bagpipe). The "Simphonie francoise" is less colorful, because it's limited to a more conventional ensemble, but it still shows a lot of imagination (there's a movement called "Choeur imaginaire"). I love the sarabande flute trio.

The next CD starts with a chaconne from Daphnis et Chloe, which Le Concert Spirituel later recorded in full for the Glossa label (sadly this is not streaming on NML). This is more glorious baroque music - honestly, I think anybody who loves listening to Rameau, or Handel's Water Music, would love this stuff. "Fragments melodiques" brings back the hurdy-gurdy and musette, and have I mentioned that Le Concert Spirituel is a wonderful-sounding HIP band? Like the OAE or Anima Eterna, their ensemble sound is am attraction on its own.

The Fragments are another suite of simple pleasures and bright, chipper, major-key amusements, showing considerable invention and populist joviality. (Was Boismortier the 1700s Johann Strauss?) (Knowing the low reputation Strauss has on this board, maybe I shouldn't say that!) I'd love to hear our French GMGers explicate the piece called "Entrée des génies élémentaires". Not knowing anything of the plot of the opera from which it is taken - an opera Google has no information or synopses on - I can only assume it's about a bunch of clever children, or maybe the first-year wizards at Hogwarts. ;)

Bunches of fun.

One side note: there's a pleasant irony to the location of the old church (Notre Dame des Bon Secours) in which these two CDs were recorded. It's in the 14e, Paris - right along Rue Giordano Bruno.

Having enjoyed this stuff, I decided to try a bit of Boismortier's flute music. There's a solo suite on this album:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/BIS-CD-1259.jpg)

In E minor, and more formal/Bachian than the orchestral music. Slight at only 10 minutes, but it's hard to listen to anything Sharon Bezaly does and be unsatisfied.

Now, Boismortier also wrote a few "concertos" (quintets) for five flutes! This seems like a truly unique instrumentation, and I decided I had to hear at least one or two of 'em. There is a Concert Spirituel album on Naxos, and Accent has a formidable all-star HIP lineup including a Kuijken and a Hantai, but I decided to go with this...

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/BIS-CD-8.jpg)

...because that cover photograph is just plain ridiculous. I mean, geez. And it's not Clas Pehrsson's most ridiculous album art, oh no, not by a long shot:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/BIS-CD-334.jpg) (http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/BIS-CD-335.jpg) (http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/BIS-CD-202.jpg)

Uh, anyway, back to Boismortier, right?

That first Pehrsson disc up there has "Concertos" 4 and 6. Each is 8 minutes long and in minor keys (B minor and E minor). Here they're played on recorders. The first starts with a canonic adagio, a pretty superb movement of music that at 2:25 is precisely the right length. The rest is a little more generic - and the sound of five recorders can get monotonous.

Overall, though, I'd say this exploration is a rousing success. The orchestral music seems most promising!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Jo498 on March 21, 2016, 01:00:55 PM
Just guessing, but "génies élémentaires" could be "spirits of the elements", "elementals", like the ones you summon in role playing game (Faust tries them as well when treating with Mephistopheles in guise of a black poodle)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on March 21, 2016, 01:49:21 PM
I'd love to hear our French GMGers explicate the piece called "Entrée des génies élémentaires". Not knowing anything of the plot of the opera from which it is taken - an opera Google has no information or synopses on - I can only assume it's about a bunch of clever children, or maybe the first-year wizards at Hogwarts. ;)

Dude, how's your French?

http://operabaroque.fr/BOISMORTIER_VOYAGES.htm
http://imslp.org/wiki/Les_Voyages_de_l'Amour,_Op.60_(Boismortier,_Joseph_Bodin_de)

Hogwarts wizards enter on pp. 77 of the imslp score (Act Two), though what the hell they're doing there I have no idea. In the opera, Cupid comes to earth in disguise and visits a village, a town, and the court to find someone who loves him sincerely. Apparently it wasn't a success and wasn't repeated.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Jo498 on March 21, 2016, 02:06:15 PM
It's apparently a scene where one lover consults an astrologer and in his grotto or cave the elementals appear:

On voit arriver les Génies élémentaires, Sylphes [air], Gnômes [earth], Ondains [water], Salamandres [fire].
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on March 21, 2016, 02:12:00 PM
It's apparently a scene where one lover consults an astrologer and in his grotto or cave the elementals appear:

On voit arriver les Génies élémentaires, Sylphes [air], Gnômes [earth], Ondains [water], Salamandres [fire].

Ah. Once we put our heads together, all mysteries are solved.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 21, 2016, 06:12:11 PM
Thanks! 'Tis a luxury having a cultured community like this that will read my listening-habit-ramblings.

(Also, I do love early 1700s opera/ballet scenarios. They're so relentlessly fanciful.)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on March 21, 2016, 06:22:04 PM
Thanks! 'Tis a luxury having a cultured community like this that will read my listening-habit-ramblings.

We'll send our bill.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on March 22, 2016, 03:05:50 AM
Let fancy play without relent!
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on May 26, 2016, 10:18:22 AM
"One work that you'd like fellow GMG members to discover." (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,25805.0.html)

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/SOMMCD034.jpg)

Jean-Michel Damase is a French composer born in the 1920s and still around. He was pointed out to me by GMG's own vandermolen. The '50s Piano Sonata is objectively weird: a blend of Bartók, jazz, and (at the ends of the last two movements) a little bit of easy-listening nicety. I kinda liked it, most of the time, while recognizing that it's kind of a bizarre piece. The 1977 Eight Etudes are overtly jazzy, but not as aggressively fake-jazz as Kapustin's stuff. There's a light touch, and they're just plain fun. I'd love to have them in my repertoire if I was playing piano on Saturday nights at a wine bar. The 1991 Sonatine ain't Ravel, and it could have been written in 1921, but it's okay.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/HCD31550.jpg)

Damase's Concertino for Harp and Strings, on the other hand...yikes. Simplistic, amateurish orchestration; basically only one melody repeated ad infinitum over 13 minutes. Bad, bad, bad. Sylvia Kowalczuk is a good performer, though, and the conductor's name is fun.

Next up: recommended by EigenUser, "Ars Moriendi":

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/BCD9257.jpg)

Starts out with the same chord repeated over and over, very slowly. At 2:05, I was reaching to turn the piece off in frustration when the cello finally entered doing something else, which caused a rush of happiness just because finally, something happened! Over the rest of the 25 minutes, things do happen with regularity, and some of them are things/harmonies that I like a lot, but not enough to listen twice. The ending came as a relief, honestly. I wish I could pluck out a few excerpts to form a mini-string quartet.

Next up: recommended by Bruce. Surely I've heard this piece before, right? I must have listened in college a couple times?! If so, it's disqualified from this thread. Tsk tsk.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/CA-21004.jpg) (http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/INNOVA758.jpg)

Left: Bang on a Can (45:30); right: Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble (20:43)...slightly different track timings.

Groovy  8) As many GMGers know, the performers can move from one phrase to the next, or repeat, at their will, and the result is a huge allowance for spontaneity and repetition. Bang on a Can takes 45 minutes and GVSU takes 21, but that doesn't mean Bang on a Can is playing more slowly - this is a pretty fast, upbeat, high energy piece, and in some places you really appreciate it when the intensity dials back just a little bit. I will say that, by the end, I was ready for the experience to be over.

Putting the GVSU recording on immediately afterwards - 70 minutes of Riley! - was risky, but in different performances this essentially becomes a different piece, and the GVSU scoring is more percussive, more immediate. This is in-your-face, but, like, a nice person getting in your face, not a mean person. Patterns emerge and fade much more quickly, and all in all there's an electrical energy that only seems to intensify. If you only have 20 minutes to spend with a minimalist masterpiece, you sure ain't missing out. In fact I think I prefer it this way... (GVSU's Music for 18 Musicians is terrific too.)

Nominated by North Star:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/HMA1957166.jpg)

Abel Decaux's Clairs de lune. After the frantic hyperactive energy of In C, the slow, soft, impressionistic Decaux is as opposite as you can get. It's also stunningly modern for four miniatures that were done by 1907. They remind me of Schoenberg's little piano pieces, or very late Scriabin, or maybe some of the Debussy etudes.

Speaking of giant contrasts, here comes Rinaldo's pick:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/PC10124.jpg)

Never heard of Albicastro before at all. But this is sheer baroque bliss. Ahhhh  0:) 0:) 8)

Tomorrow!
- Britten's cello sonata
- Arnold's Ninth Symphony (going out of order here; I recently first-listened to 1-4)
- Marenzio's "Solo e pensoso"
- Schoeck's "Elegie" (this might be disqualified from the thread too; I may have heard it before)
- Schmitt's Symphonie concertante
- Hovhaness's Symphony No. 50 "Mount St. Helens"
- Machaut's Nostre Dame Mass
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on May 26, 2016, 10:39:03 AM
(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/HCD31550.jpg)

Damase's Concertino for Harp and Strings, on the other hand...yikes. Simplistic, amateurish orchestration; basically only one melody repeated ad infinitum over 13 minutes. Bad, bad, bad. Sylvia Kowalczuk is a good performer, though, and the conductor's name is fun.


Somehow the idea of hearing Gershwin on the harp is more than I think I can handle (though he might be interesting on a quartet of contrabassoons), so I'll leave it to you. But as for my own pick, much as I love the Marenzio, I wish I had changed that to the Shapero Symphony or Meyer Kupferman's Little Symphony. Or for that matter the thrilling "Caressant l'Horizon" by the young Catalan composer Hèctor Parra. Make of that what you will.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on May 27, 2016, 11:21:33 AM
Somehow the idea of hearing Gershwin on the harp is more than I think I can handle (though he might be interesting on a quartet of contrabassoons), so I'll leave it to you. But as for my own pick, much as I love the Marenzio, I wish I had changed that to the Shapero Symphony or Meyer Kupferman's Little Symphony. Or for that matter the thrilling "Caressant l'Horizon" by the young Catalan composer Hèctor Parra. Make of that what you will.
I listened to the Shapero Symphony a few weeks ago, but did not connect with it on that first listen.

Today I'll skip over the nominations of Schmitt and Henning, because these aren't "new" works to my ears. Well, I might listen anyways, but not to write a tome about...  8)

From Dancing Divertimentian: Britten's cello sonata

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/00028942185920.jpg)

I liked this. I don't have much to say about it, honestly, but I liked it. The list of Britten I like is maybe shorter than it ought to be (Simple Symphony, Grimes, cello suites, piano concerto, Carols) but this will have a spot on the list too, now.

Now it's Mirror Image's turn:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/8.553540.jpg)

The first movement seems to be an attempt to write a "vivace" movement that's as quiet as possible. Its mood is kind of dithery: emotionally ambiguous, not ready to commit to a mood, which seems to be a common Arnold thread. Another common thread in the Arnold symphonies I've heard (now 1-4 and 9): I just don't get them. The third movement here is called "Giubiloso," which is a lie, because like most of the Arnold I've heard, it's mostly melancholy and bitter about some unspecified hurt. Maybe he was just depressed.

I loved my first listen to the Arnold guitar concerto, and of course the folk dances are a lot of fun. But so far the symphonies have defeated me continuously. The only movement of the Ninth that makes sense to me, the only movement that seems successful, is the finale, a lento lamento that stretches to 23 minutes but somehow doesn't feel as glacial as it is. Although it does feel derivative; essentially, it's the last 4 minutes of Tchaikovsky's Sixth [which gets quoted-ish at 12:30 and again near the end], or the last 4 minutes of the first movement of Shosty's Sixth, stretched out to six times the length. This is not to doubt Arnold's sincerity! He is sincere as hell. But there's not much in the first three movements that impels me to return, compared to the two works cited above, or, say, Bruckner's Ninth. Not sure of my feelings about the re-entry of the percussion and woodwinds at the end of the symphony.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/DOR-90154.jpg)

Marenzio. Fear not, Sfz, I also listened to the Deller Consort version. This is almost unbearably gorgeous music - so beautiful. I'm struck by the fragility/vulnerability of the voices at the start of the Deller performance; I'm also struck by how "new" the music sounds. Well, it doesn't sound like it was written yesterday, but in places (and in the Deller version moreso) it sure doesn't sound 425 years old.

I really, really need to learn more about this kind of music, being essentially 100% clueless on it.

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/NCA60186-215.jpg)

The main thing that this journey through the "One work that you'd like fellow GMGers to discover" thread has taught me is just how crazy-diverse our tastes are. There's a GMGer interested in everything. Schoeck's Elegie is a Mahlerian song cycle, but with a tiny chamber ensemble of what sounds like a dozen players, instead of an orchestra. The longest song is 4 minutes long; many are 60-70 seconds. There's a lot of variety and I love the lullaby-ish ending. As so often with these two days of listening, the piece has been well outside my comfort zone but rewarding, or at least diverting. Guess I need to keep exploring!

(Schoeck is a good composer; I've admired some of his chamber music for a few years.)

Ken B's nominee:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/8.553833.jpg)

Now, this is a genre of music that I know diddly squat about. Nada. Zip. So my impressions are spectacularly ill-informed things like (a) it's pretty, (b) it feels kinda long, (c) damn, it takes these guys a LONG time to finish saying the word "Kyrie"!

Bizarre to think about the huge timespan between Machaut and Marenzio. It's roughly the same as the timespan between us and Beethoven's First Symphony.

The last adventure for this week, cuz I'm gonna need to close my listening on some kind of Old Favorite after all these ear workouts:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/8.559717.jpg)

Hovhaness's Symphony No. 50 "Mount St. Helens"
Best to think of this as a set of symphonic poems, maybe, atmosphere pieces rather than examples of tight development. The music is consistently old-fashionedly tonal, "attractive" (ugh. does that word mean anything?), and intermittently even catchy. The volcano interruption is depicted mostly by timpani, timpani, brass fanfares, and also timpani. It's fun! A goofy low-calorie dessert symphony before the weekend arrives.

Still, before the weekend proper, I think I need a right proper symphony - something bracing, icy-cold, stripped down to the bare bones of strict classical form. Something ferocious but tautly controlled, catchy but uncompromising. Something that I might nominate for the title of "One work that you'd like fellow GMGers to discover", if I had to choose.

Something like J.W. Kalliwoda's Fifth Symphony. See y'all later  8) 8) 8)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on May 27, 2016, 03:57:08 PM
I listened to the Shapero Symphony a few weeks ago, but did not connect with it on that first listen.

Then please keep trying. But the Bernstein, not the Previn.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Mirror Image on May 27, 2016, 04:02:39 PM
Now it's Mirror Image's turn:

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/8.553540.jpg)

The first movement seems to be an attempt to write a "vivace" movement that's as quiet as possible. Its mood is kind of dithery: emotionally ambiguous, not ready to commit to a mood, which seems to be a common Arnold thread. Another common thread in the Arnold symphonies I've heard (now 1-4 and 9): I just don't get them. The third movement here is called "Giubiloso," which is a lie, because like most of the Arnold I've heard, it's mostly melancholy and bitter about some unspecified hurt. Maybe he was just depressed.

I loved my first listen to the Arnold guitar concerto, and of course the folk dances are a lot of fun. But so far the symphonies have defeated me continuously. The only movement of the Ninth that makes sense to me, the only movement that seems successful, is the finale, a lento lamento that stretches to 23 minutes but somehow doesn't feel as glacial as it is. Although it does feel derivative; essentially, it's the last 4 minutes of Tchaikovsky's Sixth [which gets quoted-ish at 12:30 and again near the end], or the last 4 minutes of the first movement of Shosty's Sixth, stretched out to six times the length. This is not to doubt Arnold's sincerity! He is sincere as hell. But there's not much in the first three movements that impels me to return, compared to the two works cited above, or, say, Bruckner's Ninth. Not sure of my feelings about the re-entry of the percussion and woodwinds at the end of the symphony.

Arnold's 9th, for those not familiar with his musical language, can be a tough nut to crack, but there's, of course, always the possibility that you just don't like the music, which is completely understandable. Personally, I think the whole symphony is successful and it's my favorite symphonic utterance from this quite well-known Brit. Sometimes we have to look past the flaws in the writing (whatever those may actually be to a given listener) and accept the music as it is. (Sorry to end the last sentence on a preposition, but I just couldn't help it.) ;)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on May 27, 2016, 04:22:49 PM
Now, this is a genre of music that I know diddly squat about. Nada. Zip. So my impressions are spectacularly ill-informed things like (a) it's pretty, (b) it feels kinda long, (c) damn, it takes these guys a LONG time to finish saying the word "Kyrie"!

a) I think you will find the Deller Consort again (though not HIP) takes a far more vital approach, along with their motets by Perotin. But please stay away from the Peres, which is downright ugly.
b) Half an hour?
c) No different in essence than in the masses of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, or Beethoven. The 3-part structure (Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison) is standard, as a reflection of the Trinity.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on May 27, 2016, 04:26:36 PM
(Sorry to end the last sentence on a preposition, but I just couldn't help it.) ;)

But you did not. You ended it on a form of the verb "to be." Which is nothing, in my opinion, to worry about.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Ken B on May 27, 2016, 04:27:59 PM
Marenzio is quite wonderful. Almost no one has heard of him.

Machaut is passing strange. When I first heard it it sounded like an assault from another universe. I like the sense that this is both my culture and as remote from it as can be imagined, at the same time.  It's the first complete mass we have actually, and some of the earliest polyphony. Originality on an epochal scale.

Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Mirror Image on May 27, 2016, 04:38:41 PM
But you did not. You ended it on a form of the verb "to be." Which is nothing, in my opinion, to worry about.

Whew...that was a close one. ;D
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Dancing Divertimentian on May 27, 2016, 04:48:20 PM
From Dancing Divertimentian: Britten's cello sonata

(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/00028942185920.jpg)

I liked this. I don't have much to say about it, honestly, but I liked it. The list of Britten I like is maybe shorter than it ought to be (Simple Symphony, Grimes, cello suites, piano concerto, Carols) but this will have a spot on the list too, now.

Cool, Brian! Glad it worked out.


Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on May 27, 2016, 04:58:54 PM
Whew...that was a close one. ;D

Nothing wrong with ending sentences with prepositions, split infinitives, or other such phony rules. Professional writers do such things all the time. Use what sounds right to your ear.

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/grammar-myths-prepositions/
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Ken B on May 27, 2016, 05:03:57 PM
Nothing wrong with ending sentences with prepositions, split infinitives, or other such phony rules. Professional writers do such things all the time. Use what sounds right to your ear.

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/grammar-myths-prepositions/

The split infinitive prohibition is especially foolish, being deduced from a study of Latin and applied to English!

Ending a sentence with a split preposition is bad though.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on May 27, 2016, 05:28:11 PM
The split infinitive prohibition is especially foolish, being deduced from a study of Latin and applied to English!

Ending a sentence with a split preposition is bad though.
Hm, a split preposition. Like "anyfreakingwhere"?

Nothing wrong with ending sentences with prepositions, split infinitives, or other such phony rules. Professional writers do such things all the time. Use what sounds right to your ear.

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/grammar-myths-prepositions/
This. The split infinitive, ending with preposition stuff is myths propagated by domineering language teachers.

c) No different in essence than in the masses of Bach, Mozart, Haydn, or Beethoven. The 3-part structure (Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison) is standard, as a reflection of the Trinity.
This is true! But often Mozart, Haydn, etc. seem to achieve this by repetition of the words, rather than stretching each syllable out to 45 seconds  ;D ;D

Then please keep trying. But the Bernstein, not the Previn.
The Bernstein is what I have (the gigantic box set).
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on May 27, 2016, 06:24:01 PM
Hm, a split preposition. Like "anyfreakingwhere"?

That's a split adverb . . . . "Beyoncétween" or "underwearneath" would be split prepositions.

This is true! But often Mozart, Haydn, etc. seem to achieve this by repetition of the words, rather than stretching each syllable out to 45 seconds  ;D ;D

Be glad it's not 46.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: (poco) Sforzando on May 27, 2016, 06:42:56 PM
Somehow the idea of hearing Gershwin on the harp is more than I think I can handle (though he might be interesting on a quartet of contrabassoons), so I'll leave it to you. But as for my own pick, much as I love the Marenzio, I wish I had changed that to the Shapero Symphony or Meyer Kupferman's Little Symphony. Or for that matter the thrilling "Caressant l'Horizon" by the young Catalan composer Hèctor Parra. Make of that what you will.

This is the Kupferman I'd like people to know:
http://www.classical.net/music/recs/reviews/s/ssp00119a.php

The reviewer is I think unjustly harsh, but it's a delightful piece, a kind of American counterpart to Prokofiev's Classic Symphony. I spoke with Kupferman briefly while I was in high school, and he said of the performance either that he liked the strings but not the winds, or he liked the winds but not the strings, I can't remember which. But he's a very good composer even though his name ends with an N.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Ken B on May 28, 2016, 05:11:33 AM
We need a new thread: Melismata: The Ultimate Evil
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on January 30, 2017, 07:53:54 AM
(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/RR-139SACD.jpg)

After very much enjoying two piano works by Adam Schoenberg, Picture Etudes and Bounce, on a recital a couple of years ago, I looked forward to his first orchestral album with great anticipation. The piano works suggested a composer with organizational skills, a deep understanding of music history, and a sense of fun.

Unfortunately, this new disc is pure cheese. Sidebar: since when is cheese an insult? Cheese is delicious. Few things on earth are better than cheese. In terms of "insults that are actually compliments," cheese has gotta rank way high up there. Imagine if we said music was "pure chocolate" but meant it denigratingly.

Anyway, I do mean to denigrate this disc. What's a better term than cheese? Hmm. Schlock. Puffballs. The American Symphony, composed after Obama got elected with stupid platitudes from the composer ("I was excited about ushering in this new era in our nation’s history, and for the first time, I truly understood what it meant to be American." maybe there's a reason he's not an author), is so naive and treacly that Donald Trump's election, I hope, will erase it off the face of the earth. It might be Trump's most positive legacy. Lacking any kind of spine, and with the flat, undynamic engineering making it seem even more pasty-white, the piece reflects Young Schoenberg's studies with Corigliano and his respect for names like Copland and Glass, but without any sense of the longform structures any of them might have used to write a symphony.

"Finding Rothko" is better, including an aleatoric movement (!) that remains tenuously connected to old-school tonality, but it has a lot more in common with Jennifer Higdon's populist orchestral concert openers, rather than, say, "Rothko Chapel".

"Picture Studies" is the newest and most advanced work here, a response to a Kansas City Symphony commission for a "21st century Pictures at an Exhibition". The promenade is not gonna win anybody over - it sounds like the soundtrack to an indie Hollywood weepie starring Meryl Streep as a cancer-stricken matriarch - but there are some legitimately fun, descriptive movements describing various artists, including Kandinsky, Calder, and Miró. In place of The Great Gate of Kiev, though, we get Pigeons in Flight, which I think pretty much summarizes the relation of young Adam's orchestral music to the predecessors by whom he is so clearly inspired. Harsh, I know. This one disappointed me.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on January 31, 2017, 11:14:23 AM
(http://cdn.naxosmusiclibrary.com/sharedfiles/images/cds/hires/DSL-92211.jpg)

American Contemporary Music Ensemble presents:

Caleb Burhans - "Jahrzeit"

A plaintive work for string quartet written in memory of the composer's father (Jahrzeit is a time for remembering the dead and reciting the Kaddish), this has the sort of open harmonies and earnest melodic feeling that are commonly associated with American "folk" populist composers (see: Schickele writing under his own name). In the first few minutes, the piece threatens to get cloying, but eventually Burhans reveals a sort of progressive minimalism in which the music slowly moves downward in register to the end. A complex piece built to sound simple; time will tell if it rewards repeated listening, but it may well not.

Caroline Shaw - "In manus tuas"

That Caroline Shaw is a goddamned supergenius will never be in doubt, thanks to her amazing grab-you-by-the-ears-and-throw-you-into-the-next-century "Partita for Eight Voices," which might maybe be my favorite classical piece composed in my lifetime. "In manus tuas" is for solo cello, which forces her away from her greatest strength - hyperimaginative counterpoint and "conversation" - towards a style that evokes Bach and Tallis. This ain't the mindblowing earsplosion of "Partita", but it's a respectable little piece.

Caroline Shaw - "Gustave Le Gray"

Inspired by Chopin's mazurka Op 17 No 4 in A minor. This is both good news - that's one of the most extraordinary piano pieces ever - and bad news - let's face it, pieces "inspired by" and "translating" great masterworks are almost always less interesting than the original. (How many counterexamples are there, really? Variations don't count. Hindemith's Metamorphoses? Finale of Brahms Symphony No. 4?) Well, anyway, the same is true here. Lots of repeated notes, an extended direct quote of the intro in the middle of Shaw's rewrite, some more repetition. After 6:00 we finally get some of that Caroline Shaw goodness: the misdirection as to where a musical line is going, the restless addition of new motifs and rhythms. The piece feels like it was improvised by a great improviser who needed a few minutes to figure out what she wanted to do, but left the warmups in along with the "real" work.

Timo Andres - "Thrive on Routine"

This one's inspired by Charles Ives's morning routine of farming potatoes and practicing Bach. There's a movement called "Potatoes". As usual with the silliest contemporary composer "inspirations", it's best to ignore the movement titles rather than wondering what potatoes sound like, or why Ives's "morning" starts with such loud shrill notes (alarm clock?). I actually enjoyed most of this, to be honest. It's a little generic "American conservatory c. 2010," but it's not bad.

John Luther Adams - "In a Treeless Place, Only Snow"

Great title. Great pairing of two vibraphones, celesta, and string quartet. Like all of the John Luther Adams I've heard, this is basically a very slow, slow-moving, meditative minimalist piece. It's pretty, very well-scored for the various instruments, and knows when to adjust the dial to generate a little change (the piano moves in and out like a dream-dancer). But, as with all of the John Luther Adams I've heard, it's just too damn long. At 11 minutes, the piece would be very good; at 17, it's...

A disc of interesting listens, I'll say. I don't regret hearing any of them. But I do plan to return to Caroline Shaw's "Partita" immediately.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: k a rl h e nn i ng on January 31, 2017, 11:21:43 AM
John Luther Adams - "In a Treeless Place, Only Snow"

Great title. Great pairing of two vibraphones, celesta, and string quartet. Like all of the John Luther Adams I've heard, this is basically a very slow, slow-moving, meditative minimalist piece. It's pretty, very well-scored for the various instruments, and knows when to adjust the dial to generate a little change (the piano moves in and out like a dream-dancer). But, as with all of the John Luther Adams I've heard, it's just too damn long. At 11 minutes, the piece would be very good; at 17, it's...

Interesting, thanks.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 25, 2017, 07:06:42 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/512r7jVEX2L._SX425_.jpg)


My first full disc devoted solely to the music of Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel, and my first disc played entirely by Lauma Skride, regular accompanist of her more famous sister.  The work was composed after a trip through Italy, rather like Liszt was inspired to write his second year of his Annees, and her music and style is very much of the time and place.  To be sure, the music is not of the same caliber of Liszt's masterpiece, but then I had no expectation that it would be.  It is generally a bit more intimate in scale, though it is not limited to being a set of salon pieces.  There are some sunny, vibrant passages, but there are also some darker, more introspective passages.  It is not surprising that one can hear the influence of her younger brother from time to time, with A Midsummer's Night Dream making an appearance a couple times, and a few passages sound rather like some Lieder Ohne Worte.  Mendelssohn-Hensel does have her own voice, and it is in that introspection mentioned before that one hears it most.  This is some fine music, and I wouldn't be averse to hearing another version of, especially from a very interventionist pianist.

Skride does an excellent job.  Her style is often very straight-forward, and her tone is generally pleasant, but she does not go in for histrionics.

Sound is excellent, as what one would expect from a major label release ca 2007.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 28, 2017, 07:20:45 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41pVQqx%2BmpL._SS425.jpg)


I enjoy Sofia Gubaidulina's music from time to time, and I have sampled her work in a variety of genres - orchestral, choral, chamber, even accordion - but until now, I had never tried her piano music.  Marcela Roggeri recorded all of Gubaidulina's piano music, written in the 60s and 70s, in 2007 for Transart.  There's a Chaconne, Musical Toys, the Sonata, a Toccata-Troncata, and the Invention.  One can hear bits of Shostakovich and Ligeti in her writing, along with a healthy dollop of Bartok (especially in the Sonata), and an even healthier dollop of Prokofiev (in Musical Toys).  The mysticism and uncentered nature of some of her bigger works is not as evident here; the music tends to be more pointed.  The Chaconne and collection of miniatures Musical Toys are compact and Roggeri plays with great vigor and force, while never sounding unduly harsh.  The more substantial Sonata, complete with strings damped on the fly by hand and a bamboo stick dragged across the piano pegs, mixes quasi- or pseudo-folk elements, Prokofievian modernism, and jazz to good effect.  The short Toccata-Troncata, and especially the Invention, are tossed off with aplomb, the latter sounding somewhat improvisational in nature.

Roggeri acquits herself quite nicely here, and though I doubt these works ever achieve core rep listening frequency for me, I will be returning to this disc.  I may even opt to try another of the handful of discs out there devoted to the music.

Sound is close and clear, as usual with Transart, but there is a bit more weight here.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 30, 2017, 04:28:20 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/6175pnD-1rL._SS425.jpg)


It has been a good long while since I last bought a new disc of Leonardo Balada's music, and since this ditty was available for five bucks, I snapped it up.  It contains five works composed between 1962 and 2010, with most penned in the 70s.  That means it covers all of Balada's compositional styles.  Per usual in this series, the composer's notes definitively explain what he wanted to do with each work. 

The disc opens with the Cumbres, from 1971, an avant-garde period work that explores the high reaches of most of the instruments in the ensemble and blends the instruments to create "electronic" effects.  It is not unlike some of Ligeti's music in some regards, and its brief length means the music does not overstay it welcome.  Next is the Concerto for Piano, Winds, and Percussion, from 1973.  The opening sounds light and fun, in an avant garde way, and obviously evokes Stravinsky.  (The composer also mentions Poulenc.)  The single movement work more or less conforms to a fast-slow-fast style, and the second, slow portion is a bit more relaxed much of the time before reverting to a very Bartok First Piano Concerto style ending.  Again, Balada keeps the length of the piece just right for the music.  Listeners open to avant garde stylings are left wanting more.  The Concerto for Cello and Nine Players from 1962/1967 is from Balada's neo-classical style, and again Stravinsky is the first name that comes to mind.  That's not to say the work is derivative, just that it's stylistically similar to some Stravinsky.  The music's rythmic incisiveness and lean textures are most compelling, and the cello writing sounds daunting for the soloist and thrilling for the listener.  Next comes the Viola Concerto from 2010, which means it is avant garde infused with folk elements, though the folk elements are not always especially obvious to people unfamiliar with the source material.  What is obvious is that Balada like to explore the high registers of the viola here, and both the solo part and the orchestral accompaniment demand highly skilled players.  While not tuneful in the Mendelssohn or Tchaikovsky manner, it harks back to an extent to some string concertos from the first half of the 20th Century.  Given the paucity of concertos for the viola, I would think this would be taken up readily by violists, and it deserves a wide audience; it's some of the good stuff.  The disc closes with Sonata for Ten Winds from 1979.  Works for winds alone aren't generally my thing, so when I write that Balada's piece has some nice ideas and music in it but doesn't really work for me, that's down to my tastes.  Fans of wind ensembles may very well find a lot to love here.

Sound is immediate and clear, and performances are all excellent.  Another peach of a disc of Balada's music.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 13, 2017, 04:19:52 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61pLISeVFJL._SY425_.jpg)


A new to me ensemble playing a not new to me, but still obscure, composer: the youthful Alauda Quartet play the two string quartets of Roffredo Caetani in world premiere recordings.

The disc starts off with the Second Quartet, from 1907 when the composer was around middle age, and it is a conservative example of quartet writing for its time.  A thick, rich sound resplendent with beautiful harmonies and attractive melodies, the slow moving quartet sounds very fin de siècle Viennese, a merger of Brahmsian formal style with Zemlinskyian richness.  It's not a top tier composition, but it's a lovely one that makes for a fine piece on disc and likely in concert.  The First Quartet, Opus One, Number One, written when Caetani was only seventeen, lacks the same formal exactness of the later work, but it sounds similarly beautiful and even more conservative and indebted to composers who came before.  The one continuous movement unfolds at a slightly slow overall pace and sounds a mite too long, but nothing so bad as to cause one's attention to wander.

The Alauda Quartet plays splendidly, with superb intonation and ensemble playing and, at least as recorded, a warm sound.  Turns out cellist Elena Cappelletti has taken part in master classes with Korean cellist Sung-Won Yang, he of the Asian Invasion.  Since the group has already shown that they can play rich and romantic, a brand spankin' new Zemlinsky cycle would be most welcome, as would some French quartets of the period.  If they go more standard rep, I wouldn't mind hearing it, and if they go more obscure rep, I wouldn't mind hearing that, either.  Of course, they've already changed one member, so any recordings going forward may or may not sound a bit different.

Superb sonics, but St Andreas Church in Hannover is not sound-proof.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on July 13, 2017, 04:54:41 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61eKjhBu3rL._SS425.jpg)


Here's a major label, major artist release I hadn't even seen until recently.  Since Amazon's pricing algorithm dropped it down to six bucks and Prime eligible, I went for it.  Howard Blake has written hundreds of pieces, and is most famous for his soundtrack work.  His magnum opus appears to be The Snowman, a British TV special, followed by The Duellists, one of the few Ridley Scott movies I've not seen.  The only films I've see where he composed the soundtrack are Flash Gordon (though all I remember are the Queen contributions), The Lords of Discipline, and Amityville 3-D.  Ahem.  I can't say that the last two soundtracks stuck with me, either.  It also turns out Mr Blake has been friends with Vladimir Ashkenazy for decades, has composed pieces for him before, and did so specifically for this album.  The two worked together to cobble together enough works for the disc, and Blake includes notes for all of the works, which range from teenage enthusiasms written in the 50s, including one work that was a gift for a girlfriend, up to the 2013 piece Parting, Op 650a. 

The first three pieces are from film work: Walking in the Air from The Snowman, Music Box from The Changeling, and Laura from The Duellists.  All three are pleasant enough and sound like piano transcriptions of film music.  They are anodyne and not particularly challenging.  They are the least interesting pieces on the disc.

Track four, Prelude for Vova [Ashkenazy] from 2012, is more obviously pianistic in nature.  It's not a virtuosic showpiece, but dynamics are utilized better, and there are passages where Ashkenazy shows that even in his late 70s (the disc was recorded in 2013), he could play well, as if anyone needed that reassurance.  The next piece, commissioned by Ashkenazy for a piano competition, is Speech After Long Silence.  It starts off also sounding anodyne, but adds some nice dissonant passages and ratchets up scale and volume and intensity and complexity until the satisfying coda.  If not a modern masterpiece, it's substantial enough that I wouldn't mind hearing it in person.  The next eight pieces are the first eight pieces of the two-decades in gestation twenty-four piece Lifecycle.  I'll leave it to the gentle reader to determine why there are twenty-four pieces.  Apparently, these early pieces were partly inspired by the composer seeing Ashkenazy play Scriabin in recital.  The pieces are not at all Scriabinesque, but they are again satisfyingly pianistic, and if not dazzling, they are serious and one can detect some serious influences (maybe some Grieg and Faure) along with some soundtrack sensibilities and some jazz.  Next, the disc switches to two works for two pianos, with Vovka Ashkenazy joining his father.  The Dances vary in style and content and are well done.  I can see these potentially entering the repertoire of piano duets.  Same with the Sonata, which is altogether more ambitious and intriguing.  Blake writes that he randomly selected Beethoven's Op 22 as a model, but that other than four movements, they have nothing in common.  That's true.  I'd say the music has more in common with Bartok or Prokofiev, with its rhythmic drive and somewhat angular phrasing and stark sound.  That written, there are some soundtrack-y elements that work their way in to the music.  Overall, this is the best piece on the disc and would definitely be nice to hear in recital, if only I went to duo recitals.  The disc closes with five short pieces, all around four minutes or less.  The substantial Piano Fantasy actually understays its welcome, and the remaining pieces are small in scale, intimate and soundtrack-y.

This disc won't receive many serious listens, the Sonata for Two Pianos possibly aside, but it would make for good background music, especially when guests who enjoy classical music come over.  A guessing game of sorts could be played to general merriment.

Sound is excellent and rich, if not completely SOTA.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 08, 2017, 04:20:41 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51y7%2BUp0UOL._SY425_.jpg)


Until this disc, I had managed to avoid the music of John Tavener.  I remember when The Protecting Veil was real hot stuff, at least in Gramophone, but it didn't interest me.  Truth to tell, the only reason I ended up with this disc is because it is part of the twelve-disc compilation of Steven Isserlis' RCA recordings.  The probability I would have bought this on its own was basically nil.

Part of my early aversion to sampling Tavener's music decades ago was my then aversion to liturgical music.  I'm over that, but I couldn't quite shake my prejudice when I started spinning the disc.  It opens with Svyati, a setting of a Russian Orthodox funeral text.  There's a solemn, dark feel to the choral singing, which is excellent, and Isserlis plays beautifully and somberly, and the work is more haunting and less New Age-y than I thought it would be.  Next up is Eternal Memory, for cello and string orchestra, written for Isserlis.  The solo writing is good and the playing is world-class, and though it might sound a bit derivative at times (eg, one might hear Dvorak, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, older polyphonic music), it works well and some passages are achingly beautiful and the sentiment behind the music seems genuine and profound.  The Akhmatova Songs, for cello and soprano, a rare but not unknown combo in my collection, follows.  The austere, purposely constrained yet expressive mix works well.  Patricia Rozario certainly can sing well and hit those high notes, and Isserlis offers perfectly judged support.  This is the best work on thie disc.  Next up is The Hidden Treasure, a putative string quartet, but one where the cello is very clearly the lead instrument, with prominent solo parts as well.  There's a vaguely "eastern" sound to some of the string writing, and a "mystical" aspect as well.  While the playing is all predictably excellent, the piece goes on too long at over twenty-five minutes.  The concluding Chant for solo cello lets Isserlis shine by himself.  Clearly, even not knowing about Isserlis' association with the composer, it would be clear that he was (and is) earnest and serious about and devoted to the music.

So, the music and the disc are pretty good, the Akhmatova Songs especially.  However, if I go for modern Eastern Orthodox-inspired music, I have to say that Sofia Guibadulina is much more my speed, with a more satisfying and daring musical language.  Tavener strikes me as too artistically conservative, though his music is better than anticipated.  Still, when I don my Helmet of Prognostication®, I do not see myself building a large Tavener collection.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 24, 2017, 04:21:38 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61hRj9V0XbL._SS425.jpg)


This is my first exposure to the piano music of Gian Francesco Malipiero, and I believe it's also my first exposure to any of his music.  This disc contains six works, three of which receive world premiere recordings here, and one of which is a really big surprise. 

Living between 1882 and 1973, and composing the works recorded here between 1908 and 1959, Malipiero lived and worked in a time of fairly notable changes in music, and some new and exciting possibilities.  The piano music he produced is unique in that it largely seems to eschew many compositional trends and more than occasionally looks back.  One can hear some baroque and impressionistic influences.  Much of the music is fairly simple and at times austere.  At first, it sounds strikingly old-fashioned and conservative, but as the disc spins, the music's at times fantasy-like sound grows on the listener.  The best shorthand way to describe is as a blend of Mompou and Bartok.  One can also hear pre-echoes of Messiaen in the repetition and harmonics here and there, too.  But it's not really derivative.  It's not easy listening music, but it's not especially challenging.  It's not very exciting most of the time, the more vibrant Hortus Conclusus often excepted, but nor does one's attention wander.  I'm going to need some more time and listening sessions with this one.  If the music's appeal fades, that's fine, but if it does not, there are a handful of other discs of the composer's piano music to explore.

Now to that big surprise.  The last track on the disc is not what it is supposed to be.  It is supposed to be the 1959 work Variazione sulla pantomima dell'Amor brujo di Manuel de Falla.  It is Vladimir Ashkenazy's Decca recording of Chopin's Barcarolle.  I've never experienced anything like this before.  How such an error occurred in the pressing is beyond me.  I guess I could request a replacement item, but I picked it up as an Add-On for a few bucks, so I'm not going to sweat it.  (I spot checked the other works on YouTube and confirmed that they are all Malipiero, and the missing piece is also available.)

Pianist Sabrina Alberti plays well.  Sonics are not up to modern snuff.  The sound is close and dry, lacks edge and bite in all but the loudest passages, when it almost sounds overloaded, and sounds dominated by the middle registers.  This is odd for a contemporary recording touting 24 bit recording technology.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Omicron9 on August 24, 2017, 04:47:24 AM
Greetings, Todd...

Thank you for this great thread and for keeping it updated for 10 years running.  I am always on the lookout for new (to me) music, and your thread is most helpful and informative in this regard.

Kind regards,
-09
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 28, 2017, 04:52:22 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/911vkfVLXKL._SX425_.jpg)


[This will be cross-posted in The Asian Invasion]


This disc is the first I've imported from mainland China.  I spotted this disc of Chinese compositions whilst hunting for new and exotic things to listen to, albeit only on a very expensive JVC disc at first.  Fortunately, I found the disc for a very reasonable $7 on eBay, as opposed to $37+ on Amazon.  While I would not be surprised if I bought a gray market disc, especially given the price, I don't know for sure, and I don't care.  The seller from Shunde got it to me in just over a week, for about $10 all-in.  The copy I received advertises the XRCD2 pedigree as opposed to the K2 mastering on the front of its cardboard cover, though the inner cover shows the full (advertising) flow chart of the remastering process, which includes the K2 Rubidium Master Clock, so you just know it's some heavy-duty, ultra-serious stuff.  This is the same flow chart as found in the JVC reissue of the Paul Badura-Skoda Beethoven piano sonata cycle previously on Astrée.  This leads me to believe it is a Japanese market release.  Did I mention the remastering process uses Rubidium in the master clock?  The recording was made in China in the year 2000, with some DG A-list producers and engineers. 

The disc includes eight short works by ten composers - two of the works are collaborations or reworkings.  The works all rely on Western instrumentation - no pipas, erhus, or liuqins here - though from time to time, the percussion section sounds like it could be augmented by a non-standard instrument.  Most of the music is also generally Western in conception in that it usually sounds conventionally tonal, but some more "exotic" approaches (eg, pentatonic scales) are used as folk music is an influence.  There is certainly nothing that comes across as especially alien to Western ears nowadays to people who listen to classical music, pop music, or soundtracks.  Much of the music has very rough Western analogs, and those will be included in the descriptions as a sort of shorthand.  This is not meant to imply that the music is all derivative, but to communicate a sense of what is on the disc.

The disc opens with He Luting's under three minute Senjidema, from 1945.  Based on Mongolian folk tunes, it starts slowly and then picks up the pace.  It's generically "Eastern", and one can imagine Aaron Copland having written something similar. 

Next up is Bao Yuankai's Five Orchestral Pieces. The first piece, Zouxikou, based on a popular provincial ballad is mostly Western sounding, but has an identifiably Chinese sound in part, especially in the violins.  Green Willow, the second piece, sounds more or less like a missing Tchaikovsky piece reliant on pizzicato throughout.  Lady Lan Huahua follows, and it is based on an ancient ballad as well, and sounds lush and romantic and what one might wish Puccini could have worked into his Eastern themed works, and given it's tragic theme, it seems like a prelude or interlude from an opera. The Murmuring Brook follows, and it sounds something like a leisurely, gorgeous mash-up of Debussy, Vaughn Williams, and something vaguely Eastern.  Duihua ends the suite, inspired by a folk song.  Alternating between boisterous, rhythmically alert tuttis and gentler, Griegian music, it ends the work beautifully.

Next up is Wang Ming's Haixia Suite, where the composer includes three movements called Childhood, Weaving Fishnets, and Harvest, and she blends her own experience and idealized experiences.  One can hear whiffs of Debussy and Sibelius and Dvorak, and other Western influences, along with more obvious Eastern influences, with traditional Western orchestration used to evoke a more concrete Eastern sound.  The different elements blend together to make something new and beautiful, and if perhaps a bit too sentimental, that's quite alright.

Li Huanhzi's Spring Festival Overture, from 1955-56 follows, and once again, folk music serves as a foundation, and the music is robust yet light and festive (duh).  It sounds like Chinese Dvorak, which I definitely mean as a compliment.

Beijing Tidings by Zheng Lu and Ma Hongye, is up next, is folk music based, and here one can hear Borodin in Polovtsian Dances mode, or perhaps Enescu at his most rhapsodic, with dashes of Copland and DSCH (the Ninth), in a brief, colorful, vibrant, buoyant, and maybe slightly garish piece.  This would make for a good surprise concert opener.

Liu Tieshan and Mao Yuan's Yao Dance from the 1950s follows.  Formalized folk music - a dance, as it happens - starts slowly and unfolds somewhat episodically, with wonderful rhythmic flair and expert orchestration.  This almost sounds like what Bartok himself might have written had he ventured farther East in his exploration of folk music.  It is expertly done, and is possibly the best work on the disc. 

Next is Liu Tingyu's Susan Suite.  (Should it be Su-San?)  At just shy of thirteen minutes, it's the second longest work, though it is contained in a single track since it unfolds more or less continuously.  The suite is drawn from the composer's ballet Escorted Lady Convict, which itself is based on the Peking opera The Escorted Susan.  The tale is suitably operatic, to be sure, and the music brings five names to mind: Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Janacek, and Bright Sheng.  The use of percussion falls outside the norm for Western compositions at times (and happily so), but it blends in with the music well, and the composer demonstrates an ability to transition between some starkly different music basically seamlessly, with the orchestra executing it superbly.  Liu really seems to have a grasp of theatrical material on the basis of this piece, and he might be worth more exploration in the future.

The disc closes with Lu Qiming's Ode to the Red Flag, from 1965.  An ode to revolutionary success, with fanfares and bombast and a generally too much feeling, it might just be enough to make a dyed in the wool commie tear up.  The DSCH-like march married to music that foreshadows John Williams' Superman soundtrack elicited something of a chuckle.  (Yes, I know this was composed before the film soundtrack was written, but the aural connection is there.)  I've yet to hear Erwin Schulhoff's musical setting of The Communist Manifesto (I'm not sure it has been recorded), and I think this not quite brief enough piece - it's over nine minutes long - will have to do.

Most of the music is really quite lovely and entertaining, and I can easily see enjoying one or two of the pieces in a well-mixed concert.  That written, it is hard to see these specific works becoming either core rep in the West, or oft listened to by me.  YMMV.  One thing strikes me as certain: composers in the East are creating some fine music, and they are blending different traditions in new ways, and the probability of great works existing now is quite high, and will only grow with time.

Playing is excellent throughout.  Sound is likewise excellent, but it sounds a bit bright some of the time.  How much of that is the recording itself, and how much the remastering and potential re-EQing, I can't say.  I can say that the sonics are not worth any premium price.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on August 28, 2017, 05:28:07 AM
Now to that big surprise.  The last track on the disc is not what it is supposed to be.  It is supposed to be the 1959 work Variazione sulla pantomima dell'Amor brujo di Manuel de Falla.  It is Vladimir Ashkenazy's Decca recording of Chopin's Barcarolle.
This reminds me of something that happened to me in 2009 (http://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,13.msg339831/topicseen.html#msg339831): a new copy of Abbado's "Rome" Beethoven cycle included an album by the band Extreme.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on August 30, 2017, 04:24:37 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51HfiIYPt7L._SX425_.jpg)


What a delightful disc!  Here are fifty short tracks combined into eighteen sonatas, the longest of which is just six-and-a-half minutes.  Some of the individual movements are less than a minute.  All of them are fun, most of them are fast, light, and slight.  They basically sound like Scarlatti shorn of pesky ornamentation and too-thoughtful invention.  Every work is over too soon, leading to a sort a avaricious desire to listen to the next.  Victor Sangiorgio plays splendidly and sound is superb.  I may very well have to buy the second volume, and at the very least I will find a way to hear it.  It looks like there are a couple other sets of Cimarosa's keyboard music floating around, too. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on September 12, 2017, 04:38:54 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71HB4A3tkGL._SX425_.jpg)


Luise Adolpha Le Beau is a rarity in my collection: A female composer from the 19th Century.  (Well, 19th and 20th.)  To be sure, I have more than a few discs by women composers, and have heard a decent number of works by women composers, but most are 20th and 21st artists.  Ms Le Beau was born in 1850 in the Grand Duchy of Baden, appears to have received a bourgeois education, became a well known pianist and teacher, and hobnobbed with various musical personages of the late 19th Century.  She composed a wide array of works in most genres, so this disc contains only the tip of the iceberg.

The disc opens with Three Piano Pieces, Op 1.  The pieces are light and tuneful and attractive, and they sound like Mendelssohn study pieces.  Next up is a set of Variations on an Original Theme, Op 3.  Mendelssohn again pops into one's mind, and it is an OK piece, filled with a lot of chords at the end.  The Op 8 Piano Sonata follows, and at around fourteen minutes, it's the largest scale work on the disc.  Here one can hear some Schumann and early Brahms.  There's plenty of energy and drive.  Arpeggio lovers will likely adore the somewhat rushed sounding Andante, which in some sections is just one arpeggio after another.  The concluding Allegretto, perhaps too rushed by Markovina, sounds too dense and opaque and, well, uninteresting, and at the same time not worked out enough.  Next are Eight Preludes, Op 12.  All are very brief, and in the context of sets of Preludes, not musically challenging.  They make for comfortable listening.  The Improvista Op 30 follows, and sounds like the composer lifted some discarded passages from Mendelssohn, though the piece is OK+.  Of the remaining pieces on the disc, all sound like pleasant romantic era character pieces, the Three Old Dances, Op 48 aside, which sound like romantic miniatures inspired by the baroque.

But wait, there's more!  Purchasers of the disc receive a super-secret user name and password to login and download three additional tracks in MP3 format from Genuin, bringing the total music available to just shy of ninety minutes.  Of course I downloaded the extras.  They include the Op 2 Concert Etude, the one missing Op 57 piano piece not included on the disc, and Im Walde, Op 63.  The Concert Etude is bold and extroverted and mostly forgettable, and the other two works blend in with the rest of the disc.

The disc and extras make for a decent introduction to the composer, but the disc contains no hidden gems.  It seems very unlikely that any of the works ever become core rep.  The music was conservative for its time.  Maybe one or two pieces would make for a nice surprise work in a recital here or there, though.  There's nothing here to indicate that Le Beau had musical ideas on par with Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn - and not to take anything away from those two, I have to think that being around actual geniuses must have inspired them to up their games, bringing out more of their innate talent and exploiting the benefits of the upscale upbringings they experienced.

Ana-Marija Markovina plays very well, displaying fine fingerwork, an ability to project, and high levels of energy.  Somewhat like in her CPE Bach, she seems to be somewhat assertive, not displaying a great deal of tonal or dynamic nuance or delicacy, though the music may not call for it.  Here she plays a Steinway, yet her sonority is closer than anticipated to that found in her CPE Bach set, which used a Bösendorfer. 

The liner notes start off with an insufferable, academic-ish mini-essay on women in music and interpretation.  I got through some of the writing. 

Sound is superb, as per normal with Genuin releases.  The disc is cleaner, with less glare, but the MP3 tracks sound fully acceptable.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on September 19, 2017, 04:09:01 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61DhuwuwQ1L._SX425_.jpg)


My first major (to me) Amazon Add-on related discovery.  Gustave Samazeuilh is a name I don't recall having seen before, and I may very well have gone on for the rest of my life without hearing him had it not been for Olivier Chauzu's discounted Schumann disc I snapped up.  Whilst browsing the pianist's discography, I found a few enticing items, including this ditty.  My curiosity piqued, I moseyed on over to YouTube, did a search, found some tracks from the disc, and proceeded to listen to one.  About ten or so seconds in, my mind was made up: I had to buy this disc, pronto.  I'm always on the lookout for some new or obscure piano music that for some reason is neglected, and this is a perfect example of such music.  Here is piano music of the Frenchest variety, at times merging Debussy and Ravel into one enormously satisfying whole.  But let me back up a second.  The extensive liner notes offer clear indications as to why and how this is.  Samazeuilh's mother was a pianist, and the family counted among its friends such people as Chausson, Duparc, Faure, and Ysaye.  Samazeuilh studied under d'Indy and later Dukas, and was friends with Ravel.  He attended various musical goings-on in Paris, and was selected by a variety of composers, including Debussy, to write piano transcriptions of other various works.  He was also a notable critic, and one with an ear to the future, as he identified young Messiaen as a talent to watch.  Samazeuilh was veritably steeped in the music and culture of the early decades of 20th Century France.  In this context, it is not surprising that he might write some decent music. 

This disc contains eight works spanning the time period 1902 to 1947, and one of the works, the Nocturne, from 1938, receives its premiere recording here.  The disc opens with the Nocturne, and it sort of sounds like a mashup of Debussy and Ravel, with older, slightly lesser French composers in the mix - Chausson, perhaps.  It's lovely and atmospheric yet possessed of clean melodic lines; it's unique yet immediately accessible.  This was the piece I sampled on YouTube that convinced me almost immediately to buy the disc.  The six movement Piano Suite in G from 1911 follows.  Each short piece is distinctive and nicely characterized, but they flow one to the other in a logical procession.  As played by Chauzu, they mostly sound like charming, modern salon pieces, and one might be able to detect hints of Chabrier, though Samazeuilh may or may not have been influenced by him.  The direct yet strangely effective playing in Prelude alone makes me think that Chauzu's recording of Iberia might be worth buying.  The Chanson à ma poupée (1904) is a bon-bon and Naïades au soir (1910) a brief, more impressionistic work that never quite abandons a cleaner, more Ravelian sound.  The 3 Petites Inventions from 1904 doesn't even bother hiding its inspiration, here Bach's BWV784, updated and Gallicized.  Rhythmically alert and subtle, tuneful and breezy, and infused with a bit of fugal Franckism, the five minutes of music fly by.  The Quatre Esquisses (1944) opens with the Dédicace that at first recalls the opening to Estampes, but transcribed down, before moving to a very Engulfed Cathedral like piece.  The Luciole is the French Bumblee flying about, the Sérénade for left hand only evokes Spanish music (again making me think I should try Chauzu's Iberia), while Souvenir for right hand only sort of blends Ravel, Liszt, and Messiaen into a lovely little piece.  The Evocation (1947) is a solo piano transcription of a work originally written for violin and piano for Georges Enescu.  Very much an impressionistic, hazy, and gentle piece, never seeming to rise above mezzo forte, if even that far, it falls beautifully on the ear.

The big work closes the disc: Le Chant de la Mer from 1918-19.  At twenty minutes and change, it's a proper recital-scaled work.  It also blends together a wide array of influences, always to superb effect.  The first movement, Prelude, is relatively calm and simple, with repeated chords used as a nice hypnotic, expressive device.  The second movement, Clair du lune au large, starts off tenderly and beautifully, and builds up gradually, exposing a passionate core, and one that blends late Liszt, perhaps some Scriabin, and an amalgam of French influences into a heady, sensuous fantasy.  It works better through headphones than speakers, strangely enough, unlike the rest of the disc.  The piece closes with Tempête et lever du jour sur les flots, and here one hears the Debussy of the Preludes, the Liszt of the Harmonies, and the Ravel of Gaspard.  Swelling climaxes, challenging and uneven rhythm, forceful forward movement, cutting melodies, it's a veritable musical maelstrom.  While Chauzu plays the piece splendidly, this is a work that I would very much like to hear one of today's lions of the piano play: Chamayou would be splendid.  Grosvenor, Lifits, Abduraimov, and Trifonov, too.  But this has Herbert Schuch's name written all over it.  (Of course, one can imagine what Arcadi Volodos might be able to do with it, but that seems less likely than winning the lottery.)

The music on the disc is all immensely enjoyable, and a few pieces are borderline or actual masterpieces, Le Chant de la Mer, in particular.  That written, it's easy enough to hear why these works have not become repertoire staples.  They do not hide their influences well or at all, and while not simply derivative, they seem to rely on knowledge of other piano composers and works for their success.  The music strikes me as music for connoisseurs, meaning pianophiles who listen to too much piano music.  Even given that this will likely remain permanently obscure music, there is one other disc of most of the piano music by Stéphane Lemelin out on Atma, so I may end up giving that disc a try at some point, and the smattering of recordings of other Samazeuilh pieces may end up finding their way to my ears.

Sound for the 2014 recording is very close and exceedingly clear.  The drawback to the closeness is that Chauzu's pedaling is often way too obvious and damper mechanism noise is audible throughout.  Both of these traits are worse through speakers, the former in particular, as it produces palpable low frequency thuds.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on September 26, 2017, 04:18:13 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81z32UjnpGL._SX425_.jpg)


Here's fresh evidence of why I continue to collect recordings of both core rep and more obscure works.  Now, I've got me a bit of Telemann, namely some Tafelmusik and the Paris Quartets.  That music is very nice, extremely well crafted, and makes for enjoyable enough listening, though perhaps more of the background type.  It did not prepare me for the Ino Cantata.  Here's a work by the elderly, mid-80s Telemann, that sounds fresher, more vibrant, and groundbreaking than the earlier fare.  Written in the 1760s, it sounds more forward-looking, pointing the way to Mozart, rather than merely retreading Baroque era conventions.  Brisk, crisp, nicely dramatic but not overdone, everything clicks for me.  The setting of the text relates to the whole Zeus/Semele/Dionysus thingy and is specifically set as Ino tranforms into a sea goddess.  That matters far less than the absolutely captivating quality of the music and the vocal writing.  This recording purportedly is the first that accurately reflects Telemann's autograph score.  Whatever the case may be, it is an astoundingly good work.  It may just be my early enthusiasm, but this strikes me a straight-up masterpiece.  All of the artists involved with the recording are new to me.  Ana Maria Labin sings superbly in the cantata, bringing home the drama.  I suppose some could consider her style better suited to classical era proper pieces, but I have no reservations about her singing.  This is a dramatic cantata, after all.  Michael Schneider and La Stagione Frankufurt deliver superb playing, pristinely and vibrantly executed.  The disc also includes the Orchestral Suite in D and a Fanfare to close the disc, both also from later in Telemann's career.  While not as gobsmackingly great as the cantata, they are quite good and maybe a cut above at least some of the Tafelmusik.  I really didn't need to find another musical rabbit hole to go down, but maybe late Telemann is worth further exploration.  I mean, just a bit, not a lot.  La Stagione Frankfurt is definitely worth another listen, and as luck would have it, they have recorded other Telemann works for CPO.  Hmmm.

SOTA sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 02, 2017, 05:42:51 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51%2BnF6NJnRL._SS425.jpg)


[This will be cross-posted in The Asian Invasion]


My first-ever exposure to the music of Nikolai Kapustin.  To be sure, I bought the disc because I was interested in hearing Sun Hee You play, and the disc was a four buck "Add On" at Amazon, but new music is something of a bonus.  (I'm finding "Add Ons" to be useful and fun.) 

Ms You was born in Seoul, did the wunderkind thing in her home country, attended the Yewon School, and ended up moving to Italy and earning a diploma from the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia and working with Lazar and Valentina Berman, among others.  Her bio cites a variety of collaborations with C-list artists and orchestras, but sometimes regional artists are as good as more famous artists. 

Kapustin is an honest to goodness living Ukrainian composer, and one heavily influenced by jazz.  Indeed, he was apparently known as jazz pianist and composer in the 50s.  This disc contains works penned in the 80s and 90s that betray that jazz influence.

The First Sonata definitely sounds sort of jazzy, in a Dave Brubeck meets Oscar Peterson meets Gershwin meets Debussy meets (early) Scriabin sort of way.  Much of the music sort of sounds like what might happen if a talented jazz pianist were hired to play piano at an upscale clothing store and decided to go off-program near closing time on a busy Saturday night.  It's improvisatory-ish and not easy listening, but it could still fade into the background if the pianist didn't play too loudly.  It's certainly not bad and makes for light entertainment, but I can't see listening to this very often.  The four Etudes and Bagatelles that follow are more syncopated than the sonata and given their brevity make for a more compelling experience.  The Seventh Sonata sounds like a jazzed up mix of Prokofiev and subdued post-war avant-garde writing, in a generic sense.  There's ample virtuoso writing in faster passages of the opening Allegretto, and the Adagio amoroso, possessed of a slow overall pulse, is stuffed with notes that fall not always beautifully on the ear.  That's perfectly alright, but I'm not sold on the amoroso bit.  Nor am I sold on the almost jazz-infused Boulez-meets-Schulhoff march that is the Minuetto being a Minuetto, though it sounds intriguing.  The concluding Allegro vivace is even more vibrant and intense than the opening movement.  This more abstract work is the best thing on the disc.  The concluding Variations take as their theme part of the opening of The Rite of Spring.  The music subjects the original to syncopated, vibrant, and colorful treatment, and it makes for an enjoyable enough listening experience.

Ms You most certainly possesses the technical equipment to play the music on offer here, and I would wager a whole lot besides.  Her recordings to date have focused on lesser-known composers and works, which is one way to make a name in a crowded marketplace, but I'd like to hear her in more standard rep, even if it is lesser works by greater composers.  Of course, I'd prefer to hear her take on more substantive fare even more.  The Chopin Etudes, say, or maybe some late Scriabin.

Superb sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 09, 2017, 05:18:10 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51W6z2HRl8L._SS425.jpg)


[This will be cross-posted in The Asian Invasion]


Noriko Ogawa is a name I've long been familiar with, but until now, I've never listened to her playing.  Ogawa, in concert with repertoire advisor Yukihisa Miyayama, put together a disc comprised of a dozen short works or collections of works from eleven composers, with the works composed between 1900 and 1981.  The works are presented mostly chronologically by year of composition.

The disc opens with Two Piano Pieces by Rentaro Taki, who died at the ripe old age of 24.  The brief pieces hark back to Beethoven or Brahms.  Next comes Three Pieces after the Flower, by Shukichi Mitsukuri.  The pieces sound more "Eastern", by virtue of the use of pentatonic scales, and one can sort of hear where a more minimalist Debussy might have been heading toward.  Rather like with Yu Long's DG disc of Chinese compositions, from time to time one hears some music that would not sound out of place if it came from Eastern European composers, and here there are flashes of Janacek.  Too, in the final of the three pieces, one hears an austerity that calls Mompou to mind.  Apparently, the first movement was dedicated to Wilhelm Kempff, which makes sense.  Meiro Sugawara's short piece Steam follows, and this is unabashedly French sounding, meaning one needn't strain to hear the influence of Debussy at all.  Kunihiko Kasimoto's Three Piano Pieces, from 1934, follows, and it is even more Debussyan in approach, at least to start.  It depicts three different scenes of three different women wearing kimonos in Tokyo.  Vaguely impressionistic and programmatic, the work is more than just enjoyable, it is substantive, and more than imitative.  Some of the music melds Debussy at his most "impressionistic" and his most daring with hints of Karol Szymanowski and a wholly original, not entirely Western sensibility.  Next up are three brief Ryukyu Dances from Yasuji Kiyose, and here the name that immediately comes to mind is Bartok in a mix of his folk and didactic works.  They are enjoyable if slight.  Kikuko Kanai's Maidens Under the Moon, which is also a Ryukyu dance, follows, and her work is more bouyant and excited.  Perhaps her study in Brazil imparted a sensibility, because this sounds more like Villa-Lobos or Granados.  (Alternatively, one can imagine it as an even more caffeinated Charbrier of the Bourrée fantasque.)  It's quite delightful.

Fumio Hayasaka's Autumn follows, and once again Debussy is probably the closest Western analog.  Kiyoshige Koyama's brief Kagome-Variation follows.  The piece crams a brief theme and eight brief variations into just over five short minutes.  Written in 1967, it's adventurous, simple-ish (it's meant for children), and folksy.  Akio Yashiro's Nocturne, from 1947, is another work that brings French composers to mind, though Ravel in Pavane seems more the style here.  Yoshinao Nakata's Variational Etude is a brief set of simple-ish Etudes meant for children, and in this case, Ogawa herself played it in public for the first time at the age of seven.  I daresay this recording is a bit more accomplished than that early effort.  The disc closes with works by Ryuichi Sakamoto.  The Piano Suite, from 1970, is unabashedly modern.  The booklet mentions Messiaen and Miyoshi as influences.  I can vouch for the former, but not the latter, but it is not hard to hear echoes of Schoenberg, either.  Some may find the music and playing simply clangorous and tuneless, but that would be a shame.  It's one of the best works on the disc.  The final piece is the title track, Just for Me.  While not as formidable as the Suite, and despite being "Schumannesque" (though the composer means that he let the ideas take him wherever they lead), the piece is both somewhat sparse and somewhat angular and quite modern, which makes sense for a 1981 work.  Not as compelling as the other piece by the composer, it makes for a strong end to the disc.

Rather like with Long Yu's collection of orchestral works, I doubt any pieces presented here ever become core rep or oft heard pieces for me, but there's some good stuff packed in the seventy-eight minute running time, and I will return to the disc.

The twenty-plus year old BIS sound is fantastic, as expected.  I need to get me Ogawa's Debussy cycle.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 17, 2017, 05:17:52 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51jy5yOD-AL._SX425_.jpg)


I'm not particularly into lute music, though I have a few recordings, mostly of Dowland, that I listen to on rare occasion.  I wasn't really in the market for a new lute recording, but when this one popped up as a free download at CD Baby, I figured I couldn't really go wrong.  Oleg Timofeyev, who also plays and records guitar music, put together thirty-two tracks from ten composers I don't recall seeing the names of before, three tracks from Michelangelo Galilei, and a nice helping of works from that most prodigious of all composers, Anonymous, from all around Europe.  Hence, the wandering part.  The recording was made in a church in Iowa in the late 90s using a period lute.  The recording captures a nice sense of the recording space as well as the instrument, leading me to think it was a minimalist microphone set up.  It also has low level hiss, indicating an analog recording.  Timofeyev generates a warm and clear sound throughout, and he exudes a sense of comfort with the material.  He's in no rush while he plays, he doesn't try to make the largely simple sounding music more than it is, and the effect is welcoming and relaxing.  It's sort of ancient easy-listening.  The only pieces that stand out do so because of their length (over five minutes) in this collection of shorter pieces and movements.  The night I first listened to the disc, there was a nice cricket accompaniment between movements which seemed to fit.  This is one of those rare recordings that feels completely right from the first note of the first listen.  The disc it most immediately called to mind was the Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny disc Beyond the Missouri Sky, not because of the music, but rather because it's one of those discs that I could have sworn I've known all my life; though the music was new as I heard each note, it felt old.  (Portions of the Lady Ann Gordon Lilt and Port Preist do actually sound familiar.)  I doubt I listen to this disc with great frequency, but listen to it again I will.  This begs to be listened to early on a Sunday morning while drinking coffee and reading the paper.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 24, 2017, 05:44:44 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51hpNOtrMuL._SS425_.jpg)


Until I spotted this disc as an Amazon Add-on, I don't think I'd seen the name Ursula Mamlok.  Recorded for her 90th birthday in 2013, the now deceased Ms Mamlok was born in Germany in 1923 and started her musical education there, but had to flee in the 30s, and eventually she wound up in New York and studied at the Mannes School of Music, and then, in 2006, she returned to Germany.  She counts the Second Viennese School as the biggest influence on her musical style, and it shows.  People who don't like that style of music may not like this disc.  I happen to be fond of most of what I've heard, so it posed no issues for me.

The disc opens with an interview with the composer where she discusses some general items and some of the music on the disc, and it makes for an intriguing if not entirely necessary intro.

The first musical piece on offer is Confluences for Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano, from 2001.  Mamlok marries a lot of jagged, clustery piano playing to more sustained, neo-expressionistic string writing, to often striking effect.  The slow final movement has sparse piano music and nice contrapuntal music played by the other three instruments, with the cello and clarinet making striking partners.  The next work, for solo piano, is called 2000 notes, with the first movement named Gruff.  More sparse music jumps from the speakers in a Berg meets Mompou meets Ligeti type piece.  Mamlok packs a pretty nice array of ideas into the four compact movements, with a tendency to move between slow and contemplative and almost old-time melodic content with some more astringent dissonance.  It works well.  Next is Polyphony I for solo clarinet, from 1968, which seems an odd title for a work for a solo wind instrument.  The music's polyphonic nature comes together from tying together various strands mentally, per the notes.  As a listener, there are a fair amount of higher than normal notes of long duration mixed with shorter middle and lower notes, and purposeful trills.  The piece could conceivably outstay its welcome, but like every work on the disc, it is short at just over nine minutes.  Sort of like Webern, but not to that extent, Mamlok knows to keep her pieces short.  From My Garden, for solo Viola, from 1983 follows.  In its compact timeframe, there's more use of quiet, extended notes (the direction is Still, as if suspended) interrupted by more jagged notes and chords.  The piece ends up an attention devouring dodecaphonic fantasia, and one which ends with pianissimo pizzicati, something one doesn't necessarily hear every day.  Here's a case where I wouldn't have minded if the piece were either longer, or part of a larger work.  A Rhapsody for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano, Viola from 1989 follows.  In five sections, alternating fast and slow, the individual musical ideas are brief yet appealing; the music is uncompromisingly modern and jagged and dissonant and difficult, but it is neither ugly nor disjointed.  It actually flows.  It's somewhat Carteresque.  The disc closes with Mamlok's String Quartet No 1.  Unabashedly serial and expressionistic, it sounds very influenced by the Second Viennese School.  The louder and faster music is fast and dense, but Mamlok shows her penchant for delivering slower, gentler music of surprising expressiveness even here.  As with the solo viola piece, I would not have minded if it lasted longer than its nine minutes, thirty-eight seconds. 

Mamlok's music shows that there's some life left in serial and serial-inspired music.  It also turns out that Bridge has a series devoted to Mamlok's music, and that no less a pianist than Garrick Ohlsson has recorded 2000 Notes.  I'm not sure that I need another recording of the work.  At least not yet.  But now that Mamlok's name is on my musical radar, I won't be surprised if I listen to more of her stuff.

The artists all acquit themselves expertly, and sound is pretty close to top shelf. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on October 31, 2017, 05:48:16 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91Gj6X3DRwL._SY425_.jpg)


[This disc contains two new works, so I will shoehorn it into this thread.]

A marketing success.  I'll come right out and admit that the cover glamour shot of Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez was instrumental in my buying this disc.  Well, that, and the under $4 price tag.  The booklet contains three very well done, professionally photoshopped glamour shots and one "action" shot of the artist.  She recorded her first disc in 2014 for release on Delos in 2016.  She was able to procure the production services of David Frost.  This recital includes two core rep works (LvB 10/3 and Rach 16/1), one lesser work (Szymanowski Op 3), and two contemporary works, White Lies for Lomax (2007) by Mason Bates, and Amplified Soul (2014) by Dan Visconti, written on commission for the pianist. 

The Beethoven starts the disc.  The Presto is kind of middle of the road tempo-wise, but nicely played and peppy enough.  The Largo is also middle of the road in terms of tempo, boasts some phenomenally delicate pianissimo playing, but it lacks something in atmosphere, and the seemingly compressed dynamic range (more on that later) prevents the climax from having any real impact.  It does sound uncommonly beautiful, though.  The Menuetto is lovely in the outer sections, and quite peppy, with nicely terraced dynamics and distinct voices in middle section.  The Rondo gets back to the middle of the road peppiness peppered with some very finely shaded piano and pianissimo playing.  This is a soft-edged take on this piece.

The Rach sounds similar in approach and tone, but it works better.  It's radiantly beautiful.  Not one rough edge or anything even remotely approaching a rough edge is to be heard.  It is burnished and polished to the Nth degree, and Ms Martinez plays it just fine, with a luscious legato, and haunting harmonic richness. 

The Bates piece is inspired by the work of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, who made many blues recordings, and the composer's notes makes clear, as does the music, that it is blues inspired, and one might say jazz, too.  Almost formless and sounding improvisatory at times, it's most appealing, and Martinez's beautiful tone tames the harshest dissonances.

The title track, at a hair under five minutes, is the shortest on the disc, and per the composer, is inspired by early medieval music.  It is largely quiet, gentle, sparse, simple, and beautiful.  It calls to mind Marie Luise-Hinrichs' transcriptions of music by Hildegard von Bingen, except that it ends up including some much louder, almost intense, and more modern music in places, and it lacks the transcendental quality in the German's disc.  Martinez again shows herself a master of playing at the quiet end of the spectrum.

The Symanowski has a sort of dark haze hanging over it, and Martinez produces a warm, rich sound that works very well in this piece.  It's been a while since I listened to Sinae Lee's take, but Martinez is fuller and richer where Lee is leaner and cleaner.  (It's been so long since I listened to Martin Roscoe's take that I can't remember it.) It's snazzy.

To the sound.  Something strikes me as just a bit off.  It's beautiful and warm.  Part of that is due to very generous pedaling by the pianist, but it also sounds processed.  The dynamic range seems limited, and while the pianist's touch may indeed be the sole source of the resulting sound, the almost total lack of edge seems unreal.  Also, while clear, there's a sort of opacity.  The effect isn't unpleasant, but it just strikes me as less than ideal.

Martinez certainly has talent.  Even conjuring a mental idea of what I think her playing might really sound like in person, it's clear that delicate, tonally nuanced playing is her thing.  Her website lists pretty broad concert and chamber repertoire, though solo isn't listed.  I think I'll keep an eye out for new recordings from her.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 07, 2017, 06:08:15 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61wCFcI1FbL._SY425_.jpg)


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

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

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

The piano sonatas do not succeed for me like the string quartets, but part of that may be the pianist (somewhat doubtful), and some may just be that the formal structure of the works ironically do not offer the best compositional vehicles for Hindemith's style when it comes to keyboard music.  Recent, more successful exposure to other of Hindemith's keyboard works played by Joyce Yang and the Schuchs indicate this is the more likely scenario.  That written, the Second is most enjoyable, and the Third is not without its charms.  This is not a great set, and it's certainly not music I'm terribly interested in obtaining multiple copies of, but I'll spin this again when I get a hankerin' for Hindemith.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 14, 2017, 06:13:44 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61zZWjUFn0L._SX425_.jpg)


Another Amazon Add-on snag of no little value.  It's always a good time to try something new from Biber, and the budget price made the short playing time (forty minutes and change) even more of a non-issue than it otherwise would be.  The disc includes two instrumental sonatas flanking five Pslams, each preceded and followed by an Antiphon, and a Magnificat flanked by Ad Magnificats.  With four soloists, a small choir, and only ten instrumentalists, the music lacks the grand (or grandiose) sound of some of Biber's other religious works, but it still displays some of the same snap, crackle, and pop of Biber's music.  While not rhytmically wild and crazy, it's not staid, either; while not garish, it's not solemn to the point of dourness, either.  It's comparatively light and devout at the same time, and undeniably attractive.  The light scoring allows for superb musial clarity, and all the forces are up to the task.  (The first violinist here is Anita Mitterer, the violist of Quatuor Mosaïques.)  Recorded by Austrian Radio in 1986 at the University of Salzburg, the sound is spacious and warm and amply detailed, if not SOTA by 2017 standards.  A most enjoyable disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 21, 2017, 06:28:16 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/910pFJoLIJL._SX425_.jpg)


This recording marks the first full disc devoted to the music of Josef Martin Kraus added to my collection.  Given that it was a new-ish (2013) DHM recording available for under $3 new, it seemed like the fates intervened or something, so I bought it.  Mozart's almost exact contemporary in both life and death wrote the two works on this disc in official response as Swedish Court Kapellmesiter to the assassination of Gustavus III of Sweden, the same political murder that inspired Verdi's Un ballo in maschera.  Given the somber circumstances surrounding the composition of the works, somber music is expected, though Kraus, no doubt under a time crunch, saw fit to recycle some of his earlier music to meet the urgent deadline.  So how did Kraus honor dead royalty?

With some somber, serious, and dramatic music of no little accomplishment.  Okay, so the cantata text, written by the King's private secretary, might not be great literature and is both too melodramatic and hagiographic - or not, maybe ol' Gus was immensely beloved by all, conspirators excepted - but it was an official piece and everything had to be appropriate to the setting.  Kraus' music strikes me as more accomplished.  While it doesn't sound quite as refined or powerful as the masses and other liturgical music of Mozart and Haydn, that's a mighty tall order for, well, everyone, and Kraus' cantata is really very effective in an almost operatic way.  The cantata is more overtly and unabashedly dramatic than the symphony, and at around forty-ish minutes, in two parts, it is substantial without overdoing it.  The vocal parts are fetching, the accompaniment expert, and the orchestra-only passages are expertly written.  I recently experienced a major success with the Telemann Ino Cantata - also on DHM, not coincidentally - and while this work doesn't reach that level of excellence, excellent this Begräbnis Kantate most certainly is.  The symphony, which was written to be heard before the cantata during the funeral services, is more subdued and darker toned, with gentle and funereal timpani taps sprinkled through its four slow movements.  This is a properly solemn and somber work befitting an 18th Century personage.   

The production values of the disc are world-class, and all performers are up to snuff which more or less seems to be the case with every DHM disc I've heard.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: ritter on November 21, 2017, 06:46:51 AM
Very interesting, Todd. Thanks. I recall seeing some CDs of Kraus's music on sale at the Drottningholm palace outside Stockholm, but passed on them at the time. Must explore.

... Okay, so the cantata text, written by the King's private secretary, might not be great literature and is both too melodramatic and hagiographic - or not, maybe ol' Gus was immensely beloved by all, conspirators excepted - but it was an official piece and everything had to be appropriate to the setting.
As bad as Severin Anton Averdonk's text for LvB's Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II? That one is downright awful!  >:(

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


That's one LvB work I've not heard, so I can't say.  If I do listen to it, I think I shall ignore the text, which is what I did during the second listen to the Kraus.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on November 28, 2017, 06:19:37 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71IvT-%2BynVL._SX425_.jpg)


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

As with every other DHM recording I've heard, extremely high production standards are evident throughout.  Sound quality rivals the good stuff from Jordi Savall on Alia Vox, with true timbers and superb, often realistic dynamics.  The oft used baroque guitar sounds very fine, and the occasionally used baroque harp sounds so good that it almost successfully pulls off the "you are there" trick. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 05, 2017, 06:21:56 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71J1gOUxNUL._SY425_.jpg)


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

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

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

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

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

Sound is generally very good, but it cannot be called SOTA.  Efficient is probably a better word.  Playing is generally excellent.  This was one of a trio of three buck discs that I figured I could ditch if they weren't up to muster.  I'll be keeping this around for a while, but I doubt it ends up being listened to dozens of times.  This disc might motivate me to make the short drive down to Corvallis to hear what the ensemble sounds like in person. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 12, 2017, 06:23:47 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81NqYmkUvIL._SY425_.jpg)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also of note, the composer's wife created the cover images, front and back, making the disc something of a family affair, artistically speaking.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Omicron9 on December 12, 2017, 07:07:40 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61wCFcI1FbL._SY425_.jpg)


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

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

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

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

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

-09
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 18, 2017, 06:13:29 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81orQRaMK2L._SY425_.jpg)


[This will be cross-posted in The Asian Invasion]


The last of the trio of three buck discs of contemporary music.  This disc fits squarely in both The Asian Invasion and "New" Music Log threads because of the participation of three Asian artists, and all of the works are contemporary and by five composers I'd never even seen the names of prior to buying this disc.  It could also fit into a women's thread since all three performing artists, and one of the composers, are women.  Pianist Sang Hie Lee, born and partly educated in South Korea, formed Ars Nostra to explore and cultivate new music for two pianos which she plays along with Martha Thomas.  Both Lee and Thomas are academics with multiple advanced degrees from various universities, and Ms Lee also does research into health and biomechanics pertaining to musicians.  Kyoung Cho joins the duo in the first work, and she is likewise a Korean born academic-musician, currently teaching at the University of South Florida. 

The first work is Chera in Nain (2009) by Eun-Hye Park, for two pianos, soprano, and gong.  It is based on the story in Luke of Jesus raising a widow's son from the dead.  The vocal parts, performed by Kyoung Cho, are in Greek and Korean and alternate between narration and a sort of singspiel.  The music is modern, with angular phrasing, some tone clusters, and a generally clangorous sound.  It's not terrible, but it's not a great work.

Next is ...Aber Jetzt Die Nacht... (2013) by Lewis Nielson.  The work is based on a journal entry by a concentration camp victim, and at a bit over nineteen minutes, it the longest piece on the disc.  It is jagged, dark, at times quite intense, and a reasonable short-hand description would be to think of Schoenberg and Messiaen blended together, with perhaps hints of Prokofiev thrown in.  If that blend sounds appealing, then this piece might appeal; if not, probably not.  Additional devices are used to extract novel sounds from the piano (eg, soft head hammer, horsehair brush, and E-bow), and for the most part the effects add to, rather than detract from, the proceedings.  The use of two pianos does allow for a more powerful sonority and greater weight than a single instrument could achieve, and had the set been recorded to SOTA standards, the impact would likely be greater.

Celestial Phenomena (2008) by Gerald Chenoweth follows.  An "intuitive" tone poem for two pianos, it strives to depict things like the Big Bang, a black hole, starshine, and the like in its ten or so minutes.  The massive lower register tone clusters than open the Big Bang do a fine job of opening the work, and the often thick harmonies take maximum advantage of the two pianos in use.  (One can envision what a duo like Michel Dalberto and Michael Korstick might be able to deliver in the opening.)  The description "tone poem" ends up be pretty accurate, because the piece flows from one brief section to the next logically and smoothly.  This is a very modernist piece, with some big dollops of minimalism, some more hints of Messiaen, and it's definitely not a first choice work for people who want traditional melodies in their music. 

Paul Reller's Sonata for Two Pianos (2008) is more formally structured than the preceding works, and is divided into three movements played attacca.  Influenced by American musical forms - jazz, blues, and rock, as well as American composers of days gone by like McDowell and Ives - the piece is weighty, dense, and though new to my ears, the more formal approach of the piece made it sort of predictable in overall arc.  That's neither a good nor bad thing, it just is.  It's more accessible than a fair chunk of post-war piano music, sounding more like it could have been written in the 20s or 30s.   

The concluding work is Windhover (2009) by Daniel Perlongo.  The piece is an extended work inspired by a poem inspired by the Eurasian Kestrel.  Unsurprisingly, given the inspiration, Messiaen once again comes to mind, but only rarely, and Perlongo is no mere copycat.  The hints at birdsong are not as dynamically wide ranging as the Frenchman's music, nor is the writing quite as unpredictable.  Perlongo's harmonic invention often falls much easier on the ear, too, with more than a few lovely sounds to be heard, and he does a creditable job creating a sort of static sound, creating a musical image of the depicted bird hovering.  The work sort of overstays its welcome, though.

Overall, this disc is good, the pianists and the vocal artist (who doesn't really sing here) all do good work, but really, for me, only Celestial Phenomena held my interest sufficiently to warrant more than a handful of listens.  Others could very well be much more enthusiastic about the disc as a whole. 

The disc is taken from a single live performance at the University of South Florida in Tampa in March 2016.  Sound quality is more of the efficient reporting than aural luxury type. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on December 19, 2017, 06:29:52 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71RXFGPjw-L._SX425_.jpg)


I figured it was time to try some more music from Francisco Guerrero, and as luck would have it, this Hyperion reissue was available for peanuts.  Unfortunately, I forgot that the Choir of Westminster Cathedral is a boys' choir when I bought the disc, and this issue became evident immediately.  I don't like boys' choirs.  I truly dislike boy trebles.  They grate on my nerves.  The altos, too.  The music itself sounds as lovely and meticulous as the other Guerrero works I've heard from Savall and Noone, but the singing doesn't work for me at all.  The somewhat cavernous sound is good and about what one would expect to hear in a large cathedral.  A painless blunder. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 02, 2018, 06:32:15 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81ZVMa2SE2L._SX425_.jpg)


Mozart's Requiem transcribed for string quartet.  The Quatour Debussy play Peter Lichtenthal's 1802 transcription of the work, with a few alterations of their own.  No, this is not as good as the real thing, but that would be impossible.  It is naturally lighter, attractive, and it is moving from time to time.  Some movements work better than others.  The two main standouts for me are the Confutatis and Lacrimosa, which really jump out.  Both the Dies Irae and Agnus Dei work better than anticipated, too.  While I would not consider this a must listen, it's an interesting and fun enough diversion.  Truth to tell, this was really more of a test drive for the Quatour Debussy, to hear if they have got the right stuff.  They've recorded a DSCH cycle, and I figured if they can make this enjoyable, they can handle the Russian's music.  Sure enough, the playing is superb, as is the sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 09, 2018, 06:20:59 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/614gqm96GUL._SY425_.jpg)


It took a while, but I finally purchased a disc devoted solely to the music of Henry Purcell.  I've got a sprinkling of Purcell works in my collection in some anthologies, but that's it.  This disc of fourteen songs and dialogues, plucked from operas and stand-alone collections, features a much younger Emma Kirkby and bass David Thomas singing an array of love songs alone or as a duo, with lutenist Anthony Rooley backing them up.  All of the songs are written in 17th Century vernacular, but the basic themes are pretty much the same as now.  One needn't listen beyond the first dialogue, In all ouur Cinthia's shining sphere, to hear some racy lines about how the woman will not die a maid.  Goodness!  The songs are generally nice, the singing is splendid, the lute playing is predictably excellent, and a much younger Tony Faulkner proves to be as skilled at engineering SOTA recordings as his older self.  (That written, low level hiss is audible, indicating that mastering may have been analog for this 1982 recording.)  Coming relatively soon on the heels of the disc of music from roughly contemporaneous composer Cristóbal Galán, this music sounds too conservative and dowdy, though, and the Spaniard will receive more spins. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 16, 2018, 06:14:34 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71J465sciSL._SY425_.jpg)



This disc contains two works new to me.  I've got a version of the third Cello Concerto played by Pierre Fournier, which is predictably superb.  So is this version, as are the first two concertos on the disc.  There's no point in going into great detail by work.  Rather, in all three concertos, a similar musical style can be heard.  The fast movements are energetic and vivacious and bursting at the seams with invention.  CPE Bach saw no reason to write straight-forward movements when ones with more dramatic dynamic and tempo contrasts could be written, or when one could write music with twists and turns and unexpected passages.  The slow movements are all quite slow and lengthy and quite expressive.  The music doesn't tip into romantic excess, but it is not constrained by convention, either.  Overall, these concertos are freer and more inventive than even Haydn's from roughly the same era.  Truls Mork's playing is tip-top shelf, and the conducting of Bernard Labadie and the playing of Les Violins du Roy are both impeccable.  Combine all this with major label A-grade sonics, and this disc is a winner.   
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: The new erato on January 16, 2018, 06:33:50 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/614gqm96GUL._SY425_.jpg)


It took a while, but I finally purchased a disc devoted solely to the music of Henry Purcell.  I've got a sprinkling of Purcell works in my collection in some anthologies, but that's it.  This disc of fourteen songs and dialogues, plucked from operas and stand-alone collections, features a much younger Emma Kirkby and bass David Thomas singing an array of love songs alone or as a duo, with lutenist Anthony Rooley backing them up.  All of the songs are written in 17th Century vernacular, but the basic themes are pretty much the same as now.  One needn't listen beyond the first dialogue, In all ouur Cinthia's shining sphere, to hear some racy lines about how the woman will not die a maid.  Goodness!  The songs are generally nice, the singing is splendid, the lute playing is predictably excellent, and a much younger Tony Faulkner proves to be as skilled at engineering SOTA recordings as his older self.  (That written, low level hiss is audible, indicating that mastering may have been analog for this 1982 recording.)  Coming relatively soon on the heels of the disc of music from roughly contemporaneous composer Cristóbal Galán, this music sounds too conservative and dowdy, though, and the Spaniard will receive more spins.
I feel that what is most interesting from Purcell is his theatre music, i.e. Dido and Aeneas, The Fairie Queen, and King Arthur. Wonderful, vibrant and life affirming Music.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 23, 2018, 06:06:55 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51uW30E1oDL._SY425_.jpg)


Love me the lion's share of Schumann's solo piano output, so I figured I should try his organ output since I was able to snap up the disc for under five bucks. 

It was a nice buy.  All three works are all enjoyable.  The Six Studies in Canonic Form Op 56, originally for pedal piano, are colorful works that often sound like Schumann writing for a circus or, well, carnival.  The Four Studies, Op 58, also for pedal piano, are a built bolder in conception, and often sound like Schumann piano works scaled up, which more or less means good by default.  The Six Fugues on Bach, Op 60, are more formal and serious, as one would expect, and the registration results in a bit less color, but the music and playing is very nice nonetheless.

Sound of the 18th Century Riepp organ, transplanted to Winterthur Stadtkirche and oft updated over its life, including a rebuild by Walcker, sounds just lovely.  Hospach-Martini uses registration superbly to generally extract vibrant colors that never sound bright, and bass that never overwhelms.  Recorded sound is close to flawless, with only some room sound a potential distraction, or not, depending on taste.  I will never play this disc frequently, but it sure is nice to own.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on January 30, 2018, 06:17:56 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51gHfOmTfnL._SX425_.jpg)


Circling back to the composer who kicked off this thread, though somewhat belatedly as this disc was released in 2009.  (I could also post this in The Asian Invasion as Mr Ruo was born in China, but as it is part of the American Classics series, I shall limit it to this thread.)

The disc opens with the Drama Theater No 2, the second of five dramas comprising a cycle.  The piece is scored for Piano, Cello, Percussion, and 18 Beer Bottles.  The first movement opens with stark, bold timp thwacks, and it focuses on rhythmic pulse.  The music is often aggressive and insistent, yet simple, with repeated notes and sounds and patterns.  The inclusion of gongs and whistles and the like brings to mind Antheil, with slowed down Nancarrow tossed in.  The second movement is slower, and relies on novel sounds.  The use of beer bottles is actually handled more deftly than one might expect, sort of sounding like a flute, with the players relying on controlled, short bursts to generate sounds.  I would have liked it more had flutes been used.  The final movement is back to more aggressive stylings.  Bartok and Stravinsky are to be heard, but that's OK. 

Drama Theater No 3 follows, for pipa and voice.  (The concert version is for pipa, voice, and multi-media.)  Rather like Scelsi's Khoom, the artist does not sing words, but rather word-like sounds that are to disappear into the air.  I like Khoom, so I do rather like the effect here.  I also appreciate the pipa stylings of Min Xiao-Fen, who seems in absolute command of her instrument.  This may not be for everyone; think of it as an extended (thirteen minute-plus) aria from an Eastern opera with string accompaniment.  If that appeals, this may work; if not, probably not.

Drama Theater No 4, To The Four Corners, is meant to be a staged work with five instrumentalists, with the percussionist in the center, and flute, clarinet, viola, and violin in the four corners and rotating during performance.  Inspired by Chinese Nuo Drama, it is two short scenes combined into a twenty-one minute piece.  The first scene starts with a prolonged, insistent percussion solo, before handing the music off to other instruments, and then blending together in various combinations.  Sometimes, the music will be stark, angular, and decidedly avant-garde, and sometimes it will blend, if even briefly, more traditionally lovely playing of an instrument (the clarinet, in particular) with tetchy percussion playing.  The second scene starts with winds being used in unconventional ways to generate unconventional sounds, as well as what sounds almost like a didgeridoo.  It also includes whispered, spoken, and yelled words, in at least two languages, which, even in the context of an audio-only recording, presents a good sense of the theatricality of the piece. 

The disc closes with Ruo's First String Quartet, The Three Tenses, and it is a transcription of a work by the same name for brass.  The single movement work sounds more conventional in a post-war, avant-garde kind of way.  Even in this context, Ruo introduces some whistling to the piece, which I could have lived without.  The underlying string writing is gripping, though, making me wonder what later quartets may sound like.

I enjoy this disc, probably more than the Chamber Concertos disc.  The sound world here is more distinct and non-Western than the earlier disc, and it is novel and challenging yet easy enough to get into.  I wouldn't mind hearing how Ruo handles a full orchestra.

Sound and playing are superb.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 06, 2018, 05:58:17 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71knyD1hmpL._SX425_.jpg)


This is, I think, my first exposure to the music of Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer.  Born in Bohemia in 1656, he lived all the way until 1746.  He ended up working as a court musician and composer, ultimately doing a long stint for Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden.  He wrote a wide array of works in a variety of genres, with some of the works lost to the vagaries of time.  I ended up with this particular disc because it was on clearance.  The disc contains three works: the Orchestral Suite No 1, the Missa Sancti Michaelis Archangeli, and the Missa in Contrapuncto.  The Orchestral Suite is short, at a bit over ten minutes, and is comprised of six contrasting movements, predominantly of the dance variety.  Mostly jaunty and light, the instrumental writing falls nicely on the ear.  The Missa Sancti Michaelis Archangeli, at over thirty-three minutes, is the longest and beefiest work on the disc, with five soloists, chamber choir, orchestra, and organ.  The total forces still fit in St Marien in Lemgo, so it is not of massive scale, but it is satisfyingly sized.  The playing maintains a very dance-like rhythm in many places, though there's ample solemnity, too.  It seems to go by in notably less than half an hour.  The Missa in Contrapuncto is more intimately scaled, with four soloists, a smaller chorus, and limited bass continuo, and lasts just over twenty minutes.  It harks back to more of a Renaissance style in many places, and some movements evoke earlier monophonic music.  It makes for a most intriguing contrast in styles to the prior mass, and might even be more attractive overall. 

I did not know what to expect going in.  Fortunately, the disc offers a most enjoyable musical outing.  If not music of the caliber of Biber or Bach, it's nonetheless most enjoyable, and if I won't make it a point to hunt down numerous recordings of the composer's works, some of his keyboard music might be nice to hear.

Singers, the instrumentalists of Handel's Company, and conductor Rainer Johannes Homburg all do excellent work.  MDG's sound is predictably superb.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 13, 2018, 06:23:16 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61ISM6jwIiL._SY425_.jpg)


From the DHM big box.  You know a box-set promises good things when Thomas Hengelbrock conducts the first disc.  Mr Incisive is well known to me, and CPE Bach's keyboard music is no stranger to these ears, but this disc represents the first time venturing into some non-concerto orchestral music.  Much of the music is very energized, sometimes almost giddy or manic, sometimes dramatic in a Sturm und Drang fashion, and it always sounds fresh.  And can one detect some inspiration for Haydn's Bear Symphony in the Allegro assai of H660?  In the one Harpsichord Concerto on the disc, Hengelbrock is joined by Andreas Staier, who plays his part with ample energy and drive and tidiness.  The Oboe Concerto sees fine work from Hans-Peter Westermann.  The now somewhat aged digital sound is excellent. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 20, 2018, 06:17:45 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81VIPpQp1uL._SY425_.jpg)


Rupert Ignaz Mayr is another baroque composer new to me.  Born in what is now Austria, Mayr was a violinist and composer who held various positions in German speaking cities, including a stint in Munich.  This disc contains, as indicated on the cover, various Psalms, Motets, and Concerti.  The pieces all more or less sound like miniature baroque religious pieces.  There's a certain warmth and comfort to them, and the sound is quite pleasant.  There's nothing quite so challenging or vibrant as the recent JCF Fischer disc I listened to, nor anything of the magnitude of the bigger names of the era.  Playing is excellent, singing generally excellent but not as even, and sound is fully modern but not SOTA. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on February 27, 2018, 06:27:20 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/8103EG3KcoL._SX425_.jpg)


Vivan Fung is a name entirely new to me, but since this disc was available for less than the price of a cup of coffee, I figured it couldn't hurt to try it.  Ms Fung is a Canuck armed with a Juilliard PhD and Juno Award who has wrangled commissions from high grade ensembles. 

The disc opens with the Violin Concerto from 2011.  Szymanowski's name comes immediately to mind in the opening pages.  Then later comes big hints of Stravinsky.  Then some dabs of Gloria Coates.  And last, and certainly not least, Eastern music in the form of gamelan music.  That makes it sound derivative, and maybe it is, but it is also superb.  No ugly, harsh dissonance solely for the purpose of ugly, harsh dissonance here.  No, the music is light, the violin part largely fleet and virtuosic, the orchestration bright, colorful, and quasi-exotic.  It follows a broad fast-slow-fast model, though a big chunk of the slow portion is basically an extended cadenza that reveals violinist Kristin Lee to possess modern conservatory super-chops.  The Eastern influences, complete with folk sounding melodies and nice dollops of string glissando appear in the back third of the piece.  Really, the piece seems like a wonderful Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra. 

The second piece is the 2006 work Glimpses for prepared piano.  Of course John Cage comes to mind, but so does Lou Harrison in this gamelan-in-a-box piece.  Fung's writing is more focused and purposeful than Cage's, and pianist Conor Hanick has the music dialed in.  In the second piece, Snow, the instrument sounds like what can best be called an industrial harpsichord-player piano hybrid in the higher registers, married to a harp-like instrument to allow for captivating strumming.  But the show-stopper is Chant.  It opens with rosined twine being pulled across the strings, creating an almost electronic music effect, then relies mostly on plucking and strumming to create effects more akin to orchestral music heard in avant-garde sci-fi films than on classical music discs.  It rates a real Wow!, though the effect may not age well. 

Hanick also plays the Piano Concerto, Dreamscapes, from 2009, which gives the disc its title.  The piece evokes a "what the hell am I listening to?" kind of feel on first listen - but in a decidedly good way.  Quiet and somewhat languid, with Rautavaaraesque bird calls generated by the use of seven Vietnamese bird whistles spaced throughout the orchestra, it does indeed start off dreamy.  A couple minutes in, the orchestra joins in and the pianist plays more conventionally.  But nothing lasts for long.  Like the Violin Concerto, it is more fantastic, with everything thrown at the listener.  There's more prepared piano playing, there's some Bartok, there's some gnarly post-war avant garde writing smuggled in, there's some more Eastern-y music, some quotes from or allusions to other music, or something original that somehow manages to make the listener ponder where the tune comes from.  Fung hurls ideas and sounds at the listener at a breakneck pace, even in slow passages.  Every page, probably every bar brings something new. 

Conducting, orchestral support, and sound are all superb.

These non-Western music inspired pieces strike me as sort of a Pacific Basin equivalent and analog to the African and European folk music inspired pieces by Stephen Hartke, and they work at least as well.  This really is something new, at least for me.  Ms Fung has written not a few pieces, and there are some recordings of other of her works.  I would not be the least bit surprised if I sample more of her compositions.

A real find.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 06, 2018, 06:27:23 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51lUndDlX5L._SY425_.jpg)


Not even once have I thought about buying a disc of harp music on its own.  I don't recall ever having listened to any recordings of solo harp music on the radio or as an exceprt on disc.  But, having bought the hundred disc DHM box, I finally ended up with a disc of harp music in my collection.  This disc contains music from various seventeenth century English composers, with large dollops of works from Dowland and Byrd.  The pieces themselves are transcriptions of other solo instrumental pieces rather than purposely written harp music.  I must say, the disc is better than I thought it would be.  Harpist Andrew Lawrence-King uses two different instruments, an old Italian job with gut strings, and a cláirseach.  Both produce mostly gentle, lovely sounds.  The Italian instrument sounds almost like a richer, slightly more powerful clavichord, while the cláirseach has a vaguely gamelan-y sound.  It would be fun to hear such an instrument used to play transcribed prepared piano pieces by John Cage, or maybe Lou Harrison's limited output for keyboard.  The works presented, especially the Dowland, do not sound too far away from lute works, though the even warmer sound of the main Italian instrument makes the pieces sound more fantastic, as in fantasia-esque.  I do not see myself rushing out to buy more harp discs, but this one is none too shabby, and it's in superb sound.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: aukhawk on March 06, 2018, 11:00:49 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/614gqm96GUL._SY425_.jpg)
... All of the songs are written in 17th Century vernacular, but the basic themes are pretty much the same as now.  One needn't listen beyond the first dialogue, In all ouur Cinthia's shining sphere, to hear some racy lines about how the woman will not die a maid.  Goodness!  ...

The duet between Coridon and Mopsa from the Fairy Queen is a fine depiction of coercion, not very PC by current standards.  Does the 'lady' consent?  Well, eventually - maybe - depending on how it's sung.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 13, 2018, 05:22:30 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61JSXGmIRaL._SS425.jpg)


More Hengelbrock from DHM.  This disc contains fourteen tracks by nine composers, with four pieces from Monteverdi.  Hengelbrock selected and arranged the pieces to be played along with a stage production, but here it is a studio recording of the music only.  Opening and closing with music by Pietro Antonio Giramo, the vibrant opening piece gives way to music making more solemn than one would expect given the theme of the disc.  To be sure, it all sounds attractive, but it needs more snap.  Not too surprisingly, the best music on the disc comes from Monteverdi, and everything flows together nicely, what sounds like an abrupt edit the first of two Vecchi pieces notwithstanding.  Overall, the disc is longer on promise than delivery.

Playing, singing, and sound are all top shelf.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 20, 2018, 05:17:01 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91Qv4dgX85L._SX425_.jpg)


I very rarely listen to the music of John Adams, but this updated, modern sensibility, feminist take on the Arabian Nights heroine caught my eye.  This is no Violin Concerto, even though a big name fiddler plays the solo part.  No, this is something more ambitious: it is a Dramatic Symphony for Violin and Orchestra.  How about that?  The real question is can Mr Adams live up to his grandiose new label?  He comes pretty close.  It sounds like a modern, programmatic Violin Concerto to me, but if others prefer the other title, that's fine.  His work gives evocative/provocative titles to the four movements, the first being "Tale of the Wise Young Woman-Pursuit by the True Believers".  Here, the formidable Leila Josefowicz sometimes coaxes lovely tones from her instrument, but she more often extracts shrieks, slashing her way through her part as the heroine tries to elude the bad guys.  Adams creates an intense, at times almost violent orchestral backdrop for the soloist to play against, and the dulcimer adds an exotic, lightly percussive texture.  The second movement, "A Long Desire (Love Scene)" starts off almost throbbing, and not at all in a typically "romantic" sense.  Just shy of two minutes in, it slows down, becomes more flowing, and it calms down - but it does not become calm.  It remains charged.  Not until after four minutes in does it take on a more sensuous sound, with the violin offering some longing playing, but there seems to be a hesitance to the music.  Maybe the sensuality is feigned, the heroine playing a part convincingly to stay alive, and the music after nine minutes in sounds quite agitated, though the last several minutes are achingly beautiful.  The next movement, "Scheherazade and the Men with Beards", offers the opposite, with a grinding opening and a more biting, driving, angular, modern sound.  Josefowicz's playing sounds small and timid when she enters, and it retains a somewhat fearful feel, when it is not more frenzied, surrounded by savage orchestral music, the heroine fending for her life, ending with cries of terror.  The last movement, "Escape, Flight, Sanctuary", finds the heroine running for her life, Josefowicz bowing ferociously in places.  The pursuers are just behind her; she cannot rest.  Finally she arrives, but is it really a sanctuary that welcomes her, or is it death? 

The piece seems somewhat front-loaded, with two big movements followed by two shorter one, but it ends up well-balanced, and Adams uses the soloists and orchestra expertly, extracting much color and writing robust parts for every section.  It is at once fully modern and easily accessible, at least to people who like modern music.  I'm not completely sold on the composer's description of the piece, but I'm sold on the music.

Ms Josefowicz plays spectacularly well, and David Robertson and the St Louis Orchestra are fully up to the challenge.

I streamed this recording, and though streaming from Amazon is limited to 256 Kbps as far as I am aware, sound was completely satisfying.  Clarity is superb, low frequencies are weighty, and the highs don't seem materially rolled off.  I suspect a physical disc might sound slightly cleaner and probably would have broader dynamic range, which would be especially helpful in the tuttis, but it works fine this way.  Still, I may have to go optical to hear what I missed.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 20, 2018, 05:59:03 AM
How do you think it would pair with Fazil Say's "1001 Nights in the Harem" concerto?
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 20, 2018, 06:49:55 AM
How do you think it would pair with Fazil Say's "1001 Nights in the Harem" concerto?


I will have to listen to the Say to find out. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on March 20, 2018, 11:06:28 AM

I will have to listen to the Say to find out.
It's terrific. Of course, disclosure, according to family lore/legend, the absurdly Hollywoody folk song that blows up in the third movement was originally written about somebody on the Turkish side of my family. "Üsküdar'a Gider İken" is about an especially attractive clerk/bureaucrat who was, my grandmothers all think, a great-great-great-uncle or something like that. There is also a very bad cover by Eartha Kitt (!).
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 24, 2018, 06:52:38 AM
(https://img.discogs.com/j_TG_HcMPJSPbcvilUfPT_K9pUU=/fit-in/600x590/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-3246560-1344554330-1182.jpeg.jpg)


The first Savall Saturday covering the first disc from the Jordi Savall España Eterna box.  Eight hundred year old songs that still sound swell.  Comparatively lengthy, and sounding both ancient and folksy, and completely accessible to modern ears, the seven selections move along at a nearly always hypnotic pace.  One hears ancient roots of grooviness, too, as well as non-Western traditions.  There's a sense of dated exoticism, but the datedness only serves to enhance musical appreciation.  Montserrat Figueras anchors the set vocally.  She is joined by her sister Pilar in a duet in the especially appealing Na Carenza al bel cors avinen by Arnaut de Maruelh, and by the tenor Josep Benet in three of the songs.  In every case, Figueras delivers the goods.  So do the other singers, and the instrumentalists, including Christophe Coin.  But perhaps the star of the show is the sound quality.  The 1977 vintage recording sounds nearly SOTA by modern standards.  A most auspicious opener for the set.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 26, 2018, 05:17:17 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51uJ2qX%2B2nL._SS425.jpg)


[This will also be posted in The Asian Invasion.]


What an age we live in when not one, but two projects to record the complete keyboard sonatas of Leopold Koželuch are currently underway.  Kemp English is recording the cycle for Grand Piano* while Jenny Soonjin Kim is doing so for Brilliant Classics.  Mr English is further into his cycle than Ms Kim, but as Ms Kim's also satisfies my desire to listen to Asian artists, I decided to have this twofer be my first listen to an all-Koželuch release. 

Ms Kim was born in Korea and earned her bachelor's in music from Seoul National University before pursuing additional studies first at the Salzburg Mozarteum, then UCLA, and finally earning a PhD in Historical Performance Practices from Claremont Graduate University, where she teaches.  So she comes to this endeavor with a hefty academic background.  Unsurprisingly, given her background, she uses a fortepiano in what at times sound like live recordings made at Kresge Chapel on the campus of Claremont School of Theology.  As to the composer, Koželuch is one of those lesser known classical era composers whose name I've seen but whose music I've never really delved into.  Born in 1747 in what is now the Czech Republic, he studied for a while in his hometown before studying with his cousin, one František Xaver Dušek, a rather well known musical personage.  Koželuch apparently was quite famous in his day and cranked out many works in multiple genres, and when Mozart died, Koželuch took over some of his court functions. 

To the music.  This twofer contains the first eight of over fifty sonatas.  All but one are in three movements, with the outlier a two movement job.  All more or less adhere to the common fast-slow-fast structure.  I'd be exaggerating if I wrote that these sonatas rise to the same level as the best of Mozart's, or even the very best efforts from Haydn or CPE Bach, but they definitely have their formidable charms.  The best ones on offer best (sometimes handily) the lesser works from the bigger names.  Aided by the crisp sound of the fortepiano, the fast movements are clean and clear and generally ebullient, which is aided by Kim's obviously excellent playing.  Unsurprisingly, the slow movements lack the same degree of lyricism that modern grands can offer with their lengthier decays and greater sustain capabilities, but the softer sound of the instrument offsets that to a significant degree.  The first two sonatas sort of sound like elaborate background music, but come the opening Allegro con brio of Op 1, No 3, one encounters music as fun as anything by Haydn.  One also hears deft mood changes, including some music that satisfyingly dramatic without ever becoming heavy.  Nice.  The Poco Adagio that follows is fairly Mozartean and very nicely played by Kim, and the concluding Rondeau offers more contrasting material that moves beyond simple fast-slow-fast.  So one needs to wait until only the third sonata for something ear-catching.  The two movement Op 2, No 3 sonata starts off with a Largo - Poco presto movement that opens and closes with slow, dramatic music, with more spirited music in the Poco presto section, and ends with a fun Allegretto.  It's a piece that an interventionist pianist could potentially make a meal of.  The set ends with a nicknamed sonata, "The Hunt", and it's the best thing on the twofer.  The opening Allegro molto is rhythmically and dynamically bold.  The very long second movement - eleven minutes here - is an Andante and variations, with the theme an original one of not a little sophistication.  Kim demonstrates the dynamic range of her instrument with some unexpectedly pointed sforzandi (and this from streaming), and Koželuch's variations have some nice invention in them.  The concluding Rondeau is quick, dynamic, and fun.  Though Kim plays it splendidly and with plenty of dynamic range, this work begs to be played on a modern grand. 

This twofer does make me wonder what the second completed twofer offers - more of the same is my initial guess - as well as what Ms Kim sounds like in other repertoire.  As luck would have it, she recorded core rep items for Arabesque Records, so I can find out.  Also, it would be interesting to hear how these works fare when played on a modern grand, so I will give one or two or more of Mr English's discs a shot at some point.  I will almost certainly be listening to Ms Kim's second volume in the near future. 



(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/619HoU98YpL._SS425.jpg)


I enjoyed the first volume of Jenny Soonjin Kim's Koželuch's sonatas enough that I figured I should listen to her second volume right away.  Another twofer with another eight sonatas, it picks up where the prior volume left off.  Sonatas range from two to four movements this time around.  The pieces sound stylistically, and more important, qualitatively equal, or really close to, those of Haydn certainly, and maybe even Mozart.  Dynamic shifts are more pronounced in some of the sonatas than in the first volume.  While all the sonatas hold their appeal, lucky Number Thirteen stands out as especially enjoyable, and brimming over with ideas.  And if the Fourteenth seems something of a step down, with a slow movement that overstays its welcome, all is well again in the most excellent Fifteenth Sonata, in E Minor, Op 13, No 3, which has hints of drama in just the right places and proportions.  So does the tripartite opening the Sixteenth sonata, which has a more agitated K457 vibe that's almost proto-Beethovenian.  Kim again delivers all the sonatas with some very fine playing.  When she's done, if Brilliant issues the complete set, I may spring for it, provided the modern grand alternative is not better.  (The downside to having two ongoing complete sets is that both may be good enough to warrant purchase.) 



* Mr English also wrote his dissertation on Koželuch's keyboard sonatas.  It is available online: https://digital.library.adelaide.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/2440/84697/8/02whole.pdf
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on March 31, 2018, 05:42:53 AM
(https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/hM4AAOSwc2FaHzWX/s-l300.jpg)


The second disc from the Jordi Savall España Eterna box.  Savall is a bit player here.  The star is Victoria de los Ángeles.  This short LP length (~38') collection of seventeen songs from composers anonymous to famous-ish (eg, Morales and Guerrero) from the late medieval to Renaissance periods are all nicely sung and performed by the musicians.  It's not as good as the first disc, though the songs themselves boast accessibility.  The older recording is also not as aurally striking as the first disc, being about on par with other vocal discs of the middle analog stereo era.  A nice disc, but one lacking maximum Savallian goodness.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 01, 2018, 04:05:35 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/417mwdrf%2BLL.jpg)


Cipriano de Rore's setting of the St John Passion delivers something new for me.  I've listened to a fair amount of 16th Century polyphony, but it all sounds different from this.  Here is stripped down music.  Only five singers are used, with only the soprano part going to a woman.  Only a half dozen instruments are used for support, and usually sparingly.  Gorgeous polyphonic passages akin to Cristóbal de Morales are nowhere to be heard.  Beautiful ornamentation and complex, interweaving melodies give way to much simpler settings of the text, including some monophonic writing.  The sparse instrumentation often discreetly doubles the singers or discreetly replaces voices.  And discretion is a must.  This is among the most austere, stark pieces of music I've heard.  The work treats the subject matter in the most devout, serious way imaginable.  The music serves a purpose.  Excess is forbidden.  Even the brief instrumental interlude is austere.

As a setting of the Passion, the diminutive forces at first blush seem inadequate, but that notion is very quickly dispelled.  The music never assumes a sense of grandeur of later, similar works, nor does it sound as superficially beautiful as some contemporaneous, similar works, but it appeals in its own severe, devout way.  The work is barely over an hour long, but it packs a quiet wallop.

Singing and playing from Huelgas Ensemble under Paul van Nevel is what one expects it to be.  Sound is superb, and when listened to through cans the music and performance takes on an even greater degree of intimacy. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 07, 2018, 04:57:30 AM
(https://img.discogs.com/5tkORv0Qqly6VMklDAkKnaZtupQ=/fit-in/300x300/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(40)/discogs-images/R-2942969-1308426081.jpeg.jpg)


Disc three from Jordi Savall España Eterna box, Llibre Vermell de Montserrat.  Starting with a monophonic piece of no little beauty, the piece expands into full-on festival music in the second piece, with a flowing, rhythmically catchy sound.  Ancient instruments pepper the sound nicely, though based on what I read of the original work and this and subsequent Savall performances and recordings, Savall deviates from the more somber nature of the music and adds improvisatory elements that may or may not be intended.  Since I'm not a purist, I don't care about any of that, I only care that the music is groovy.  The third movement switches to multipart choral singing of no little beauty, though less sophistication than what came a couple centuries later.  That's quite alright.  The music then more or less alternates between the sacred and profane, or at least less sacred.  Savall and crew also blend in other, broader musical influences to superb effect.  Overall, the performance is most enjoyable and sound excellent, if not as good as the first disc.  Another hit by Savall and crew.  Maybe I'll try his 2013 recording. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 10, 2018, 04:05:48 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51gmMCWb-tL._SS425.jpg)


From the DHM long box, my first exposure to the music of Marianna Martines.  This is a disc devoted to music by a woman composer, directed by another woman, conductor and keyboardist Nicoleta Paraschivescu, and joined in by one of DHM's stars, Nurial Rial.  What a splendid disc!  Martines' style is very much of the classical era, and the pieces here are of the light and exuberant sort.  I immediately thought of Haydn in the opening Overture, and particularly of earlier, sunnier Haydn.  The music doesn't necessarily sound as refined as the master's best examples from the time (ie, the 1760s), but it does not shrink in comparison, either.  Apparently, Ms Martines lived in the same house as Haydn for a while, took keyboard lessons from him, and sang in some of his works, including The Creation.  She obviously learnt a thing or two.  (Perhaps he did, too.)  There are so many springy, fun tunes that it was hard not to have one's mood elevated while listening.  Ms Nurial's contribution in the title Il primo amore cantata is just lovely, her contribution to Berenice, ah che fai? is lovely and weightier.  The text was later set by Haydn, as well, so it had legs.  Throw in some top shelf DHM sound, as well as fine playing by all involved, and this is an extremely fine disc.  Now both Ms Paraschivescu and Martines are on my radar, and wouldn't you know, Ms Paraschivescu recorded another disc of the composer's music?  It seems like something I might have to investigate.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 14, 2018, 05:13:01 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51FJ9x3K%2BIL._SX425_.jpg)


A twofer from the Savall box.  The discs are fairly esoteric and specific in focus.  The first is devoted to "Court music and songs from the age of discoveries", while the even more specific second disc covers "Sephardic romances from the age before the expulsion of the Jews from Spain", meaning the music covers the century from the middle of the 15th to the middle of the 16th Century.

The discs were record in 1975, and right from the get-go, one hears the aural luxuriousness one often associates with Savall.  The castanets pop while the other instruments come into focus, and Montserrat Figueras materializes dead center to captivate and beguile the listener.  The first disc has two dozen short pieces, every one of which is small in scale.  Some are festive and fast, some more somber and slow, and all are most attractive.  It's like a regional Renaissance Greatest Hits collection, in outstanding sound.  The drum thwacks and plucked instruments all have an immediacy to them that even some modern recordings lack.

The second disc starts with a not unpleasant, in your face drum in the left channel (it switches channels later on) sounding more Eastern or at least unfamiliar than normal, and not unusual instruments produce mildly unusual sounds in many places.  I suppose the Saracen chitarra nearly qualifies as exotic, if a lute-sounding guitar can sound exotic.  Something less exotic is the inclusion of bagpipes, which I think make their first non-AC/DC appearance in my collection.  The music, especially the singing, often has a more lilting sound about it than the first disc.  Even the more vibrant music has a different rhythmic feel to it.  Figueras' style and delivery sounds especially well-suited to the tunes on the disc. 

How authentic everything is, I can't say, but it's all most excellent.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 17, 2018, 04:14:56 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91Ic6DoWJoL._SY425_.jpg)


More new to me music from the DHM long box.  This disc of six concerto grossi plucked from Opp 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7 by Francesco Geminiani and played by the Petite Band under Sigiswald Kuijken's direction.  All of the works sound nice, sport the occasional violin part of distinction, and make for a fine if not especially memorable listening experience.  There's nothing at all wrong with the pieces, it's just that other concerti grossi (Handel's) or concertos (Bach's) are more my speed.  It's not hard to hear why some of the more famous baroque composers are more famous today.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 21, 2018, 04:38:01 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/812NICfl5RL._SX425_.jpg)


The next disc from the Savall box is a themed grab-bag.  Pieces by various composers, ranging from well-ish known (Cabezón) to anonymous, the twenty-three tracks are divided into six categories, with different instrumental combinations and solo instruments taking their turn.  The music is all attractive and well played, but the concept aspect of it doesn't hold together spectacularly well.  It more than occasionally sounds like one nifty piece transitioning to the next.  That's fine.  Early 70s sound is excellent, but dynamic range and clarity is not up to the better sounding earlier discs.  When a middling disc in a box is this good, you know you've got a good box.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 23, 2018, 04:24:02 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61EBTXzN8gL._SY425_.jpg)


Another Amazon Add-on purchase.  The disc contains one work each by five composers, with Aram Khachaturian the only one I've heard a lick from in the past, though not the work offered here.  So this disc sort of has it all: bargain basement price, new repertoire, great sound.

The disc opens with Arno Babadjanian's Piano Trio.  It is no minor work.  Intense, romantic, emotional, and not hiding its "eastern" (ie, Russian) nor its local influences at all.  It is conservative given its time of composition - 1952 - but it is undeniably effective, whether the music is impassioned or sorrowful.  It's good enough to make me think I might want to hunt down other works by the composer. 

Next is Canadian-Armenian Serouj Kradjian's Elegy for Restive Souls for what amounts to a Clarinet Quartet.  Mr Kradjian, who also wrote the liner notes and plays piano on the disc, composed the piece in 2009 on commission from the Amici Chamber Ensemble.  The work commemorates the 1988 Armenian earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people.  The brief work starts off with the violin playing ticks of a clock, the clarinet playing a recurring theme of destiny, and the piano playing eleven tolling chords.  (The quake struck before 12:00, so only eleven tolls are to be heard.)  After a brief pause, the clarinet slowly starts in, and the strings follow, and then the piano, in a chamber music Requiem.  The music slowly becomes less somber, more disjointed, almost like a tragic folk dance version of Ravel's La Valse.  And since the music doesn't really sound especially energetic and intense until around eleven minutes in, it sounds almost ghostly for much of the time after the requiem portion ends.  The last third is more chaotic, with some superb effects, as when the clarinet doubles the violin occasionally before they split into different swirls of chaos, only to do it again.  All the while, the piano lays the foundation for the work, but it is not a solid foundation.  It is unsteady, it is sometimes rambling.  This, too, is no minor work, and I dare say it could make for a daunting piece in recital if the ensemble really digs in.

The brief central work is an arrangement of Parsegh Ganatchian's Oror for soprano, clarinet, and four cellos.  Mr Kradjian arranged the piece, no doubt with his wife, the soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, in mind.  She sings her part splendidly, fluidly, and beautifully.  Apparently, the original is a very popular work in Armenia, and its intrinsic beauty makes it obvious why.

Khachaturian's 1932 Clarinet Trio follows.  It is very much a piece of its time, dissonant but tonal, astringent but lovely, folk-infused yet mostly formal.  Ample energy is evident, and the clarinetist displays his chops in almost all registers. 

The final piece is the 1992 Suite for Clarinet Trio by Alexander Arutiunian.  The somber Dialog apart, the piece is brief, light, energetic, and often just plain fun, making for a much lighter close after some heavier going early on.

While I doubt I spin this disc a lot, it offers yet another perfect example of why I like to explore new repertoire.  There's some extremely fine music on this disc, and it gives me new ideas for music and composers and performers to explore.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 24, 2018, 04:12:56 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61%2BPFYHejHL._SY425_.jpg)


I enjoyed the disc of Armenian chamber music enough that I figured I might as well spend a musical (business) week in Armenia, if not a real one.  To that end, I opted for something even more serious on this Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. 

Armenian-born, Canadian-domiciled composer Petros Shoujounian wrote four string quartets, collectively named Noravank, named after a 13th Century Armenian monastery, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.  The music is based heavily on medieval Armenian chants, and each movement is named after an Armenian river, so the very core of the music is Armenian.  The Quatour Molinari, they of blockbuster Schnittke quartet recordings, play the works, thus ensuring world class playing.

The first movement of the first work immediately calls to mind the quartets of Shostakovich, but shorn of irony, hidden messages, and bitterness.  In place of those are forthright sorrow, devout faith, and tempered hope, and maybe hints of joy.  This is not angry, biting music, and it never simply copies DSCH, and indeed it veers away from his sound world, but it shares enough traits that the connection is there, along with other inspirations obvious and less obvious.

Partly due to the source material, the music does not sound as complex as most 20th and 21st Century string quartets.  There is a simpler, more direct feel most of the time.  None of this is to say that the music is simplistic, because it most certainly is not.  The music often sounds lovely, with melodies flowing one after the other.  Even the dissonant music avoids undue harshness.  Other times, it sounds solemn and deeply contemplative, and devoid of artifice.  The frequent pizzicati fall easily on the ear.  The folk music inspired writing, with its eastern feel, becomes more prominent in the last two quartets, but it never sounds alien; it sounds familiar.  And the music effortlessly and effectively exposes its spiritual heart.  While obviously one could choose to listen to the music one quartet at a time, in any order, they really do work together as a whole quite nicely.  An excellent recording that also verifies the Molinari's talent.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 25, 2018, 04:16:43 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/517flh2rkUL._SS425.jpg)


Isabel Bayrakdarian's brief contribution to the Armenian Chamber Music disc was enough to entice me to listen to this recording of sacred music of the Armenian Church.  The first word that popped into mind as Bayrakdarian's voice materialized was WOW!  As recorded here, her voice possesses almost overwhelming beauty.  Now, having heard her in MTT's Mahler 2 and that chamber music disc, this was not entirely surprising.  (I generally try to forget her involvement with Lord of the Rings.)  This recording spotlights her magnificent voice and the chamber orchestra accompaniment is light and transparent and cedes the spotlight to her.  Even when joined by some additional singers, it's about her, and it should be.  The best moments of the disc are when it is just her.  Pesky instruments cannot sound as beautiful as her voice.  Sometimes the music hints at eastern exoticism (to western ears), but everything sounds both sumptuous and devout.  The music is truly mesmerizing.  This music has the same stop-me-in-my-tracks, all-consuming gorgeousness and depth as Cristóbal de Morales and Marie-Luise Hinrichs.  I'm not certain I can say that the music is of the same ultimate quality as Morales' original works or Hinrichs' transcribed ones, but qualitative quibbles dissolve in the face of singing so beautiful that even Kathleen Battle would take notes.  Ms Bayrakdarian does use vibrato liberally, and some may find that a quibble, but for me it doesn't rate a quibble.  If I could be assured of hearing singing of this quality every Sunday, I might start attending church.  Bayrakdarian must record Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder.

I streamed this.  I am going to purchase it.  Right now.  It will be a purchase of the year.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 26, 2018, 04:29:51 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61xy7rnnNpL._SS425.jpg)


Next up, I found this 90s ASV disc devoted to the Piano Concerto of Loris Tjeknavorian and the Heroic Ballade and Nocturne from Armen Babadzhanian.  Loris Tjeknavorian serves as conductor for the disc.  The Piano Concerto opens the disc, and the first movement Allegro sounds very, very much like Bartok in the faster, more barbaro passages, though the orchestral writing and rhythmic complexity is less pronounced and sophisticated.  The quieter passages fare a bit better.  The Andante is vaguely oriental-ish and laden with brass and some angular piano playing in the cadenza.  The concluding Pesante is sort of Bartok-meets-Khachaturian and lighter than the opener, with a hefty dose of nice wind writing.  The work is decent.  Babadzhanian's Heroic Ballade is a pot-boiler exuding gigantic wafts of Rachmaninoff.  Some of the slow music sounds like it could have been taken from discarded drafts of the Russian's works, though one can hear traces of Gershwin, too.  The piece is so stirring that it would make people who heard it in concert downright proud to be Communist!  (It was written in 1950.)  Well, it would, if it didn't go on for what seems like five hours.  The Nocturne from the same composer offers something of a musical shock.  No heady, brooding, atmospheric piece here, no sir.  Starting with prominent double bass, it expands to become backing music for a bloated, over the hill, out of tune lounge act.  A few years ago or so, I encountered Ragna Schirmer's jazzified treatment of some of Handel's keyboard concertos and found them awful.  (That shocked, too, given the exceedingly high quality of Ms Schirmer's work otherwise.)  They are works of towering genius compared to this crap.

Armen Babakhanian tickles the ivories well and band and conductor all do good work.  There's a zero percent chance this recording becomes oft listened to by me.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Brian on April 26, 2018, 01:27:45 PM
There is a Naxos Azerbaijan piano concerto disc with a similar distribution of quality. One really cool concerto, one weird concerto worth a listen, one really terrible miniature placed on top like a cherry made of poop.

(But I think the good stuff on that CD is better than what you describe on this one.)
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 27, 2018, 04:22:13 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/611KGnaT%2ByL._SS425.jpg)


I decided to end the classical music portion of my exploration of Armenian music with something all but guaranteed to be superb: Esprit d'Armenie as conducted by Jordi Savall and played by Hesperion XXI.  It's superb!  This disc is a collection of eighteen miniatures based on traditional pieces and more recent compositions based on or influenced by traditional pieces.  Joining Savall and crew are joined by four Armenian musicians who play Armenian instruments.  The music generally sounds old or traditional or very heavily folk music influenced throughout.  It effortlessly evokes exotic eastern sounds more than the prior discs in this mini-survey, but in its earnestness and exquisite delivery, this is not gimmicky world music, this is the good stuff.  No piece really stands out as significantly better than the others.  That written, the music may be at its most compelling when the dark-ish overall timbre of the ensemble produces dark music.  The brevity of the pieces actually works to enhance the experience, in that the listener eagerly looks forward to what the next track brings.

Even via streaming, audio quality is obviously superb.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on April 28, 2018, 03:19:35 AM
(https://img.cdandlp.com/2016/05/imgL/118151850.jpg)


Next from the Savall box, music from 15th and 16th Century Naples, when it was ruled by Spanish kings - Alfons I, Ferdinand I, and Chucky Number Five.  A hodgepodge of short instrumental and vocal pieces for various ensembles by various composers, it listens like a sort of Olde Tyme Greatest Hits.  Each work is quite delightful, with very fine playing and singing.  It doesn't have the same impact as the troubadour disc and sort of becomes ultra-high-end background music.  Don't get me wrong, it makes for a most enjoyable listening session, it just ends up another case where Savall and crew deliver a middling disc by their standards, which means basically outstanding by most other performers' standards. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 01, 2018, 04:28:18 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61rRjqjESQL._SX425_.jpg)


From the DHM long box, a collection of mostly traditional and anonymous works from the 13th and 14th Centuries mixing Ottoman, Spanish, Italian, Arab works.  The works are obviously influenced by or rely solely on non-western traditions, and the sung texts are in different languages, including Arabic, and the instrumentation is almost exclusively Eastern.  I have no other recordings that use the zarb, for instance.  The music doesn't conform to western music norms, which of course makes sense.  The music sounds like the type of thing that one hears in travelogue shows or movies, unless, perhaps, one travels to regions of the world where this type of music or its current variants might still be played.  Some of the music is very vibrant, festive, and has irregular dance rhythms, while some other music is slower and more contemplative, in a playing to the crowd kind of way.  This is the type of disc that I would never buy on its own, but it's captivating in its rare (for me) sound, and the playing is obviously expert level and in SOTA sound.  I'll never listen to this frequently, but I will definitely listen again for something outside the (western) ordinary, and I may just explore other recordings by the ensemble.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 05, 2018, 04:54:01 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81FjVCCW3FL._SX425_.jpg)


The next Savall box disc is the first dedicated to a single composer, here Antonio de Cabezón.  The disc is billed as yet more music from the time of Chucky Number Five.  I've got some exposure to Cabezón from this set, some other collections, and a five disc Brilliant Classics set, though this particular compilation has some fresh material.  While not necessarily presented in an especially coherent thematic way, the music is stylistically similar throughout, is played stylishly and expertly, and partly through tunes and partly through intriguing instrumental combinations, entertains from first note to last.  The playing may not be to everyone's taste in that it is often of the laid back to the point of sounding languid.  Cabezón can be played with more pep.  I dig Savall's approach.  That the disc is in top shelf early 80s sound that doesn't really cede much to today's recording helps matters.  Superb.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 08, 2018, 04:20:00 PM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/510FipjKegL._SS425.jpg)


From the DHM long box, another compilation I almost certainly would never have purchased on its own.  Los Otros, a HIP trio consisting of Hille Perl, Lee Santana, and Steve Player, combined various string instruments - viola de gamba, theorbo, baroque guitars, etc - to play multiple works from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries by six composers.  I've not heard anything from any of them to the best of my recollection, and the only name I recall seeing is Girolamo Kapsberger.  The music mostly has a folksy feel to it and sort of blends Renaissance and early baroque styles quite deftly.  There's a definite Spanish flavor to much of the music, with its somewhat distinctive rhythm.  The aforementioned Kapsberger is represented by eleven short pieces, ending with one named Villa di Spagna, which sounds as though it served as inspiration for Tejano music.  The three instrumentalists all play splendidly, and sound is essentially SOTA.  The venue used is not soundproof as one can hear birds in the distance on multiple occasions.  Most enjoyable.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 12, 2018, 06:38:35 AM
(https://img.discogs.com/xuiZU1IJZR_7xpdfX9gGAaw82uk=/fit-in/600x600/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-6757909-1426017701-9930.jpeg.jpg)


The next grab-bag disc from the Savall box, this time of music from the time of Cervantes, and collected into four groups.  This disc succeeds more than a couple earlier discs by just jelling better.  There's some pep to a lot of the pieces, though some are more languid.  Ultimately, all sound just right.  Montserrat Figueras does her thing again, and superb sound again makes the whole thing a real joy to listen to.  A true Savall release. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 15, 2018, 04:10:49 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51V2O-6WhWL._SX425_.jpg)


Another all-Spanish disc.  Albert Attenelle was the main draw here.  I discovered his pianism via streaming, decided I had to listen to his playing in proper sixteen bit, and so snapped up all but one of his recordings.  (That's his Granados; I will be getting that at some point.)  Here, he is joined by Spanish violist Agustín León Ara in a recording of works by Spanish musicians better known as performers: there are world premiere recordings of the Violin Sonatas by cellists Pablo Casals and his student Gaspar Cassadó, and Sis Sonnets by conductor Eduard Toldrà.  León Ara not only performs on these first recordings, he resurrected the works in the 1970s, including partaking in the first performance of the Casals. 

The Casals starts the disc.  It's a lengthy work at just over 33' - and it doesn't include a finale.  Casals stopped with the Lento third movement.  While listening to the opening Allegro, French Violin Sonatas of the Franck or Faure variety, updated with a 1920s Paris vibe (though it was written in 1945) came immediately to mind.  The opening movement lasts for over seventeen minutes, and it's multi-sectional, with the end of each section sort of offering a false ending.  The music is nice, but it does seem a bit long.  The Scherzo is more robust, infused with some fast and slow quasi-dance like elements, and the Lento, save for a quick and robust coda, is lyrical and almost liturgical much of the time, with some stormy outbursts.  Overall, it's a nice work.

The Cassadó work comes in at under sixteen minutes, and it starts off with ample energy and sounds unabashedly romantic, belying its 1926 composition date.  The opening Fantaisie is very free flowing and at times passionate, and sounds sort of French with hints of generic Spanish and/or Italian influences.  The Pastorale is sheer delight, all fun or tender beauty.  (Cassadó dedicated the work to his brother, who died in 1914, so perhaps it transmutes memories to music.  Or not.)  The Finale is vibrant and fantastical, like the opener.  This compact work is really quite good and, though not groundbreaking, deserves a wider audience and more recordings.  It's the best thing on the disc.

Toldrà's Sis Sonnets has received other recordings, and it is easy enough to hear why.  Like Cassadó's piece, it was penned in the 20s (1922, to be exact), and it is quite romantic and conservative.  While big portions of the music are vibrant and extroverted and of the playing to the gallery sort, good portions are more intimate.  It's quite good.  Some fun Spanish music trivia: Toldrà himself debuted the piece playing violin, along with Federico Mompou's teacher Ferdinand Motte-Lacroix.

Sound for the 2002 recording falls just shy of SOTA, but it's fully modern and superb and offers a realistic representation of two musicians playing in what sounds like a modest sized venue.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 19, 2018, 04:30:18 AM
(http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-iXbbqf9aBVc/UerbFpY05NI/AAAAAAABoHM/42lhkC8SY0A/s1600/diego+ortiz+portada.PNG)


Next from the Savall box, the second single composer disc.  Three quarters of an hour of Savall front and center, sometimes solo, but mostly with a keyboard accompanist in twenty-seven tracks of Renaissance chamber music.  Savall plays his instrument superbly, sometimes as lyrically as one could hope for, which is not at all surprising.  His fellow musicians - Genoveva Galvez on harpsichord and positive organ, and Sergi Cassademunt on tenor viola de gamba - likewise play splendidly.  While every piece sounds superb, I particularly like the combination of viola de gamba and positive organ, with its at times piquant upper registers and generally small scale and light sound.  It's something either new or very rare in my collection and listening experience.  Ortiz's music lacks the same pop as Cabezon's, but it's nonetheless enticing.  Sound is excellent for its time (1969), but is not as good as the in the later recordings in the set.  This is another one of those discs one expects from Savall. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 22, 2018, 03:53:35 AM
(https://cps-static.rovicorp.com/3/JPG_500/MI0000/957/MI0000957746.jpg?partner=allrovi.com)


Prior to buying the DHM big box, I'd heard only one disc of music by Heinrich Schütz, Paul McCreesh's recording of the Christmas Vespers.  I liked it and figured I should try some more Schütz, but I failed to do so until now.  Fortunately, the DHM set has three Schütz recordings, and I opted to sample Anthony Rooley and The Consort of Musicke's recording of the madrigals first.  The disc offers fifty-three minutes of irresistible counterpoint.  The music doesn't exhibit the same beauty as Renaissance polyphony, and while the music is often quite attractive, that's not the most striking or appealing part.  No, the most appealing part of the music is the astonishing clarity of the vocal parts.  Mostly limited to five voices, or fewer, it doesn't matter how many parts there are: each part is always perfectly clear and superbly sung.  Listening offers more of an intellectual exercise than an aesthetic or emotional one.  I literally perked up to listen, sat up straighter, and focused on a point in between the speakers much of the time.  The headphone experience is less satisfactory here since the spatial presentation of the voices offers part of the appeal.  Superb sound adds to an immensely appealing disc.  It's something.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 26, 2018, 05:33:29 AM
(https://dreamingspiresquadraphonicarchive.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/hesperion-xx-el-barroco-espanol-dsc161p-front.jpg)


The box closer from the Savall box, El Barroco Español.  Another mid-70s kick-ass disc from Savall and crew.  Fourteen tracks by seven composers, all new to me, mostly anchored by Montserrat Figueras belting out tunes, and including superb work from Ton Koopman and Christophe Coin, this is another of those discs that one expects from Savall.  Nary a bum track is to be heard. 

The set overall is a humdinger, especially at its price.  Even the weakest discs are excellent and worth repeated listens.  Some are just plain stupendous. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on May 29, 2018, 04:09:57 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61mgme93eLL._SY425_.jpg)


From the DHM long box, more Purcell and more Hengelbrock.  Turns out this is a nice pairing.  This disc includes suites drawn from The Fairy Queen, Dido and Aeneas, King Arthur, and Abdelazer.  Some of the pieces are vocal pieces stripped of vocal parts, which may not be to everyone's taste.  What's left is music where a young Hengelbrock most effectively deploys his rhythmically incisive, super-precise conducting to often very exciting effect.  Even the slow music, while very lovely, maintains a just right degree of musical and dramatic tension.  All of the movements and all four works are just splendid.  Here's some Purcell that I can enjoy without reservation.  The disc reinforces what I already knew: Thomas Hengelbrock is one of the great living conductors.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 04, 2018, 03:57:56 AM
(https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/91RoHMHmqGL._SX425_.jpg)


After getting the delightful free disc The Wandering Lutenist last year, I kind of figured I didn't need a new lute disc for a while.  Well, the DHM long box has a few, including this one of music new to me by composer new to me (to the best of my knowledge) Esaias Reusner.  This is a really rather nice disc, with generally relaxed sounding music that is nonetheless painstakingly crafted.  The instrument used sounds quite beautiful and DHM provides lute sound bested only by BIS in my limited experience.  Konrad Junghänel plucks with the best of them.  A delightful treat of a disc.
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 11, 2018, 03:43:39 AM
(http://www.apesound.de/out/pictures/master/product/1/hndel74.jpg)


More from the DHM super-long box, two discs' worth of wind sonatas for recorder, flute, or oboe.  I went on a Handel mini-bender a few years ago, but that was focused on keyboard works and cantatas, so I still have a lot of Handel to explore.  This makes for a nice next step.  Typically, baroque wind sonatas aren't really my thing, and this twofer doesn't make them my thing, but the music is frequently charming, always entertaining, and well played and recorded.  I will say, that of the combos on offer here, the oboe sonatas offer the most.  The aural contrast between the woodwind and the often harpsichord dominated accompaniment makes for something quite ear-catching.  And does Handel rip off Bach in a few places?  Can't say that I blame him. 
Title: Re: "New" Music Log
Post by: Todd on June 17, 2018, 04:12:46 AM
(https://img.discogs.com/4XrzjSFXLpQD9Micx0FJRyxnd1A=/fit-in/600x595/filters:strip_icc():format(jpeg):mode_rgb():quality(90)/discogs-images/R-1392239-1215725260.jpeg.jpg)


From the DHM long box.  An hour of mostly moderately entertaining and occasionally boring harpsichord music.  The instrument sounds comparatively warm (or dark), and Bradford Tracy plays very nicely, but I can't say that the music really does a whole lot for me.  A few passages here or there are a bit vivacious, and Tracy generates some appealing sounds in some places, I guess, but this recording will soon slip from memory.