Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 116509 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #480 on: September 26, 2020, 04:43:57 AM »



In this unfortunately blighted Beethoven year, not just Beethoven deserves attention, and Sony Germany's Beethoven's World series offers a decent marketing tie-in opportunity to package up recordings of lesser composers from the era.  There are several discs in the series, but the one with works by Antonio Salieri, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and Jan Václav Voříšek caught my eye because of one of the soloists, so I figured here's a fun chance to explore some classical era orchestral works by people not named Lou or Francis.

The disc opens with Antonio Salieri's Twenty-Six Variations on La follia di Spagna.  Here I thought Handel owned this theme, but no, Salieri does some pretty darned tootin' things with it.  Starting with a bold statement of the theme, the composer takes the listener through an early 19th Century work that sounds like an orchestral showpiece akin to the later and more sophisticated Concerto for Orchestra by Bartók.  Every instrument in the band gets some love, be it the strings (of course), the timps, the bassoons, or the harp, here spotlit a bit.  Aided no doubt by the modern recording, the orchestral color and texture are quite striking, and in some passages one can hear the influence of Ludwig van himself, which I suspect is something of an homage.  The WDR Sinfonieorchester are far more than up to the task, delivering a crackerjack performance.  A delight.

Next comes the reason I bought the disc, Johann Nepomuk Hummel's Concerto for Piano and Violin, Op 17, with the great Herbert Schuch paired with Mirijam Contzen, who have worked and recorded together before.  The work immediately sounds even chipperer than the Salieri, and closer to Mozart and Haydn than Beethoven.  Light, transparent orchestration sounds quite wonderful.  Schuch enters first, forcefully but tastefully, and he quickly backs off for Contzen, who generates a somewhat thin sound that matches the massed strings, but the effect is not deleterious.  The brisk, springy tempo fits, too.  Make no mistake, though, this is the Schuch show.  Every time he takes center stage, his playing is on another level, one that makes one, well, kinda pissed that he hasn't made more concerto recordings.  On evidence of this disc, he needs to record Mozart and more Beethoven pronto.  And then the rest of the core rep.  Back to the concerto at hand, rather than fast-slow-fast, it goes fast-variations-fast.  The variations sound rather inspired by Mozart, and then by Die Zauberflöte.  If anything, here Schuch stands out even more than before.  The concluding Rondo is charming late-Classical era music with all that implies.  While not one of the great concertante works, it is nonetheless quite fine and well done here.

The disc ends with Jan Václav Voříšek, a composer who pops up here and there in my collection, and the Symphony D Major, Op 24 makes its second appearance in my collection.  The great Thomas Hengelbrock leads the other recording.  Goebel does good work, making the work sound weighty yet classical, but Hengelbrock is in a different class.  Much swifter, with a much more buoyant feel, the piece bristles with energy and life and sounds like a missing masterpiece.  Still, Goebel's inclusion of the work is nice to see and makes for a fine closer to the disc.

Sounds is excellent, if a bit artificial and compressed.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #481 on: October 04, 2020, 05:41:57 AM »



Gloria Cheng is new to me, though she really ought not to be.  A specialist in contemporary works and works by composers she has personally worked with, she covers all manner of tasty modernist, post-war, and current century works.  Yet this disc represents the first recording of hers to make its way into my collection.  Very clearly my bad.  Ms Cheng, as the album covers indicates, worked directly with Steven Stucky, who also wrote the liner notes, and the great Esa-Pekka Salonen, though for me the greatness derives from his conducting more than his still quite formidable composing.  Some Lutosławski gets dropped in the mix for good measure.  Time to listen.

The disc opens with Four Album Leaves by Stucky, from 2002.  The miniatures explore limited ideas, like lengthy ostinatos in Meccanico or Messiaen-like hypnotic sound in Serno, luminoso, and all sound quite nice.  The niceness is reinforced by Cheng's tone, which lacks edge and brittleness as recorded.  Next is the world premiere recording of Lutosławski's Piano Sonata, though it is the third to end up up in my collection.  (Fun fact: women have recorded five of the six available commercial recordings.)  Cheng sort of splits the difference between Ewa Kupiec's more romantic take (think Szymanoski) and Corinna Simon's leaner, more angular take (think Ligeti).  Cheng's tone evokes the former, and her clean playing evokes the latter, while she also plays with an affecting gentleness in some passages.  Kupiec sets the standard for me, but it's nice to have yet another version. (Maybe I end up with all of them.)

Next comes a trio of works by Salonen.  Yta II is a starkly modernist piece, forcing Cheng to skitter along the keyboard for effect, and while not deep or heavy, the surface textures and discernible musical line make it well worth listening to.  The Three Preludes are a bit more substantive.  The first starts off conventionally beautiful, only to move into harmonic development that renders the piece knottier yet still pleasing by the end.  The surprisingly Janáčekian second Prelude, or Janáček meets the avant-garde, belies the Chorale designation.  The last is a perpetuum mobile piece of note.  But it's Dichotomie that is the non-Lutosławski star of the show.  In the extended perpetuum mobile piece titled Mécanisme, Cheng deploys glissandi most effectively to create washes of sound from which clusters of sound emerge, creating a piece that's more about surface sheen and immediate, dissipating effect than depth.  It produces nothing concrete, per the composer.  Organisme blends trills and ostinatos into a better than Glass type Glass, with new ideas occasionally and almost randomly emerging from the busy surface.  Cheng seems ideally suited to produce the optimum sound the piece demands, though I would not be averse to hearing what Herbert Schuch may do with it.

The disc closes with Three Little Variations for David, as in Zinman, and originally played by Yefim Bronfman.  Small trifles, though they can pack an outsize punch in terms of dynamics, they make a fine end to a very fine disc of mostly contemporary music. 

While it seems unlikely Ms Cheng will record much core rep, I would not mind if she did, and in particular I'd like to hear what she could do with Debussy.  Sticking more with her musical milieu, I would surely love to hear her take on the Vingt Regards, any and all Ligeti, Gubaidulina, and hope against hope, Mompou.  Her Messiaen and Saariaho disc looks destined to enter my collection.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #482 on: October 10, 2020, 05:34:30 AM »



I very rarely listen to non-Bach solo cello compositions, and I rarely venture into chamber works for cello beyond core rep.  So when I spied this closeout disc entitled Violincello Italiano, consisting of four works by Italian composers, two of whom I'd never even read the names of before, I figured why not?  It's on Genuin, after all, and Genuin has a high hit rate.  The star of the show is Paolo Bonomini, winner of the Bach prize, and student of Antonio Meneses, Mario Brunello, and Enrico Dindo, among others.  That seemed to guarantee at least good playing.

The disc opens with four caprices by Joseph Marie Clèment dall'Abaco, selected from a larger set of Capricci for solo cello.  The composer was born in 1710, so these works come after Bach, but they sound more baroque in style than classical.  And they sound quite fine.  As a first recorded appearance of the cellist, one can hear absolute control of the instrument, outstanding intonation, and an ability to generate a big, fat tone, or a lean upper register as needed.  The music sounds pleasant enough, though it will never become core rep.  Next up comes the vastly different Ciaccona, Intermezzo, e Adagio from Luigi Dallapiccola.  The unabashedly modernist, immediate post-war work revels in dissonance and tunelessness, stark dynamic shifts, harsh accenting, and only occasional bouts of beauty.  Anger and sorrow rush toward the listener.  Here's a piece I really should have investigated before.  It sort of sounds like a solo cello equivalent to Memorial to Lidice or Nanking! Nanking!.  A familiar name follows, in the form of Luigi Boccherini.  I've got several Boccherini cello compositions in my collection, but not this work, the C Major Sonata for Violincello and Basso Continuo.  Here, Polish cellist Magdalena Bojanowicz joins Bonomini, and on evidence of this, she also has chops.  The standard fast-slow-fast sonata is tuneful, light on its feet - even in the Largo - and delightful, especially in the stupid virtuosic coda.  It has the Boccherini feel, which I mean positively.  The disc closes with four short works by Carlo Alfredo Piatti, including one world premiere recording of the Canzonetta.  Japanese pianist Naoko Sonoda (I don't know if she's related to Takahiro) joins Bonomini, and the duo deliver archetypal romantic miniatures, with the front and center Bonomini reveling in vibrato and cantabile playing of a very high order, indeed. 

All in all, this recording reveals a highly talented cellist who really ought to record more.  Heck, his musical partners should, too.

High end Genuin production values, though people strongly averse to hearing cellists breathe may dislike the recording.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #483 on: October 17, 2020, 05:39:26 AM »



When I recently listened to Gloria Cheng's disc of modern piano music, I read Steven Stucky note that Magnus Lindberg referred to the piano as a compositional lie detector.  I endeavored to try some of Lindberg's piano music, and as luck would have it, this disc popped up for under five bucks.  The Lindberg quote is included in the liner notes, so he meant it.  Fearless pianist-composer George King sets out to play Lindberg's Jubilees, and works by two other composers, and then a selection of his own Etudes, which reflect his background in classical and jazz piano.

The disc starts with the Lindberg.  That Lindberg plays piano seems obvious here, as he wrote Etudes with musical qualities that seem to descend from Debussy, with hints of Stravinsky, Szymanowski, and maybe Ligeti thrown in, all while sounding geared toward someone who actually plays piano.  While harsh and dissonant more than a little of the time, they are mostly, clear, clean, and linear, though the fourth opens in hauntingly beautiful fashion.  Next comes Philip Cashian's Six pieces by paintings by Ben Hartley, a world premiere recording.  Think of it as a severely miniaturized and modernized take on Mussorgsky's conceit, with Messiaen looming so very large.  The writing is not derivative, but the use of harmony, the occasional sparseness, and the bright colors all remind one of the French composer, with the fixations stripped away.  The Webernian brevity results in a neat trick: the listener just settles in to each piece, and then each piece ends.  Always leave 'em wanting more applies here, too.  It's the best thing on the disc.  George Benjamin's Shadowlines, or six canonic preludes for piano, follow.  The most uncompromisingly "avant-garde" composition on the disc, the canonic form often gets purposely buried under stark, terraced dynamics, harmonic clusters, and blurs of atonality.  It's something of a hard listen, though when, in a few instances, the canons emerge clearly from the din, the effect actually sounds exciting, which sort of makes no sense, but there you go.  Finally, King's Etudes sound like a mashup of Debussy, minimalism, Jarrett, and generic post-war avant-garde music.  The composer's intent is to make the pieces more accessible, even playable, and the mashup nature doesn't mean they don't sound good, because they do.  They do fall just a smidge outside traditional classical music expectations, which is just fine.

My biggest takeaway is that I need to explore more Philip Cashian.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Everything dies - Alien Bounty Hunter, The X-Files

Everyone dies - William Barr, United States Attorney General