Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 113436 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Jo498

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 4922
  • Location: Germany
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #460 on: July 04, 2020, 07:22:04 AM »
I think all or most of the tunes (not only Auld lang syn, God save the King etc.) were provided by the publisher. Still, Beethoven (and before Haydn) took comparably great care with these settings. I like them a lot, think they are extremely underrated and have a complete? recording on DG with some famous singers but my two favorite recordings (especially Daneman, Agnew, Harvey) are anthology discs that may entice listeners who do not want to get the whole bunch.

Struck by the sounds before the sun,
I knew the night had gone.
The morning breeze like a bugle blew
Against the drums of dawn.
(Bob Dylan)

Offline Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 21441
    • Brian's blog
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #461 on: July 04, 2020, 07:24:39 AM »
The new album of Haydn's Scottish Songs on BIS is a total delight.

Offline Todd

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 18078
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #462 on: July 11, 2020, 04:34:26 AM »



The Creatures of Prometheus.  Beethoven's ballet.  I hadn't heard it until I got this recording in the Naxos big box.  How could that be?  I don't really know.  I've heard bleeding chunks, and that more or less worked for me, but now the whole thing is mine.  And it's pretty spiffy.  Now, Segerstam takes his sweet time, and I know that, so I don't know what someone like Mackerras, who takes fourteen fewer minutes to finish the work, might sound like, but Segerstam makes his conception work.  I have a strong hunch that the additional length stems from the slower music, though maybe others make cuts.  Whatever the case, the music sounds resoundingly like Beethoven in the opening movements of the Overture, and throughout the work.  But there's more.  I cannot remember harps playing so prominent a role in other Beethoven works, for instance.  The wind writing in some individual pieces is light and lovely and very clearly meant to accompany stage action.  That's pretty neat.  There's drama and grace in equal measure, where typically drama is the focus, and least in orchestral music.  And, man, Beethoven really liked that Eroica theme.  This vast expanse of Beethovenian music thus hits the spot and fills a musical void I didn't know existed.  Segerstam and his Turku band do good work, and Naxos delivers fully up to snuff modern sound in this recent recording.  I don't think I'll be building a collection of this work, though.  I mean there is the Mackerras set, and Kent Nagano does superb work for the stage, and - ah, crap.
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 Brian

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 21441
    • Brian's blog
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #463 on: July 11, 2020, 05:16:56 AM »
Speaking of that Naxos Beethoven box, I'm not sure how they treat the four works he composed for mandolin and piano, but there's a new Naive disc dedicated to that repertoire which features Vanessa Benelli Mosell on piano and adds a few bonus mandolin arrangements and variations by latter-day composers. Just got a rave review on ClassicsToday from our own Jens... "so much superior to rival recordings that in-depth exploration is warranted."

Offline Todd

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 18078
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #464 on: July 11, 2020, 05:41:04 AM »
The mandolin works are tacked on to the disc of variations for Cello and Piano.  I've been following Mosell since I first spied her Decca Italia debut, and I saw this disc when it came out.  Amazon was selling it for something like $4 for a while.  I just could never muster up much excitement for the disc.  I'll give the Naxos disc a spin and maybe that will entice me to buy the Mosell disc, though I think I will buy her new-ish Ravel first.  Generally speaking, the more recent the composition, the better she is.
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

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 18078
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #465 on: July 15, 2020, 03:22:56 AM »



Buried in the Naxos Beethoven box is this twenty minute recording made in 2018.  The four short pieces all sound just swell, with Alon Sariel sounding quite fine on the headline instrument.  Somewhat unexpectedly, the use of fortepiano seems just about ideal here.  The two instruments compliment each other nicely, and Michael Tsalka does very fine work.  Some of the music sounds recycled, or like it was recycled, and the "big" work, the Andante and Variations, is mucho fun.  This is light Beethoven, sort of on par with the String Trios qualitatively, but it sure is nice to here.  Superb sonics.

(The music surrounding the new stuff is for Cello and Piano and Violin and Piano, and all that is quite nice, too.)
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

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 18078
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #466 on: July 18, 2020, 04:47:03 AM »



About a year ago, on a whim, and thanks to now defunct Amazon Add-ons, I picked up Sofya Melikyan's concept disc called Women.  The concept is that a female pianist plays works by four female composers.  Melikyan selected works by two biggish names - Gubaidulina and Saariaho - to anchor her disc, and it was and remains a knockout, musically, pianistically, and sonically.  What were and are the odds that something similar could happen again?  (I mean from another pianist, of course; last year, Ms Melikyan performed eleven works by eleven Spanish female composers at a festival in Spain.  It's kinda her thing.)  Well, pianist Mary Kathleen Ernst, Juilliard alum and friend of contemporary composers, had done something similar a few years before by recording a disc of seven works by seven female composers, and in some cases, the composers themselves provide brief descriptions of the works on offer.  The big name here is Jennifer Higdon, though for me, Vivian Fung served as the biggest draw.  Well, the $1.10 price tag for the disc served as the biggest draw, so I just had to snag it.  At that price, it can be good or bad and it doesn't matter.

Vivian Fung's Keeping Time gives the disc its title and opens it.  It's an extended etude mixing steady accompaniment and varying staccato right hand playing that sort of emulates a gamelan orchestra.  It makes for a solid opener.  Jennifer Higdon's Secret and Glass Gardens offers a stark contrast in that it is a slow, introspective, meandering piece, like a musical stream of consciousness.  Katherine Hoover's Dream Dances comes next, and it represents a qualitative step up.  Fairly brief, it moves through various dance themes, with a premium on rhythmic and dynamic control.  It sounds vaguely French, meaning Debussy married to lighter Messiaen, with hints of Ned Rorem tossed in.  I would not mind at all if other pianists took up this piece.  Jing Jing Luo's very Stravinsky-meets-Ligeti Mosquito follows.  At times jittery and almost spastic music filled with little ostinatos depicts a modernist rendition of an insect.  Not bad. 

The big work follows, Judith Shatin's Chai Variations, which clocks in at almost twenty-one minutes.  Sort of aleatoric in that the pianist can play the variations in any order, the piece is based on Eliahu HaNavi, with the theme sounding vaguely Handelian, before moving into almost Brahmsian variations.  I mean Handelian and Brahmsian very loosely, as those are the first names that popped into mind; make no mistake, the music is a modern theme and variations on something ancient, and it carries some real weight.  The variations each have plain English descriptive titles ('Sly', 'Pensive', 'Tender', etc), and both composer and pianist do a fine job of evoking the titles.  Some of the pianistic effects, like the layered trills in 'Shining', beg for a bona fide Big Name pianist to take up the work.  Whether the piece ever makes it as a recital staple is unknown, but it should. 

The next big work follows, Spontaneous D-Combustion by Stefania de Kenessey, in bleeding chunk form.  The complete work is a concerto in seven movements, all in D Major, for various instruments and again the movements can be played in any order.  The three movements here take up sixteen-ish minutes and though modern in conception, the music is unabashedly tonal and neoclassical and light and fun.  The Vivace e giocoso lives up to its title in a tuneful manner, as does the strikingly beautiful Molto tranquillo that follows.  The ending Vivace is a light but motoric Toccata which seems to quote or allude to works by Prokofiev and Grieg, as well as some folk music (or something that sounds like folk music).  Nice, if not Shatin nice.

The disc closes with A Recollection by Nancy Bloomer Deussen.  It's a brief, simple, lovely reminiscence of childhood, evoking wistful memories in the composers and potentially feelings of the same in the listener.  It makes for a gentle close.

Overall, Melikyan's disc is more to my liking, not least because the pianist comes across as more of a pianistic heavyweight, but this disc works better than anticipated.  The paltry price tag makes it a steal.

Sonics are efficient, if not SOTA, and the Steinway sounds like a Yamaha more than a little of the time.
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

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 18078
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #467 on: July 25, 2020, 03:50:25 AM »













The Naxos Beethoven edition ends with a half dozen dozen fully packed CDs that contain music from eight other CDs from two labels, Capriccio and Naxos.  The first three discs are mostly just a repackaging of the Capriccio lieder set where the big draw was and remains Hermann Prey.  While the other two singers in that set do very good work, Prey sticks out like a sore thumb.  He sounds so much better and so much more familiar with the music that it can jar a bit at times as the music transitions between singers.  In the lied, it is clear that my tastes lean more toward Schubert, and I'm perfectly fine with that, but it is also clear that Beethoven could write some fine songs if so inclined.  On the first disc, Op 52 pops out.  Here are some old German texts supported by young Beethoven's piano writing from the time of the first piano trios and piano sonatas, and the combination sounds every bit as compelling as that implies.  And the fourth of them, the best of them, Maigesang, is a setting of Goethe.  Not too surprising.  One also gets some settings of Rousseau (yeah, that one) for those interested in such things, and WoO 118, from 1795 with what I will guess is the first appearance of themes later used in the Ninth.  (And yes, Prey sings it.)  Throughout the discs, it becomes clear that the works with opus numbers are just better.  Op 48 sounds very fine, and Op 75 sounds delightful, as Beethoven basically sets songs to piano bagatelles.  They must be good.  Es muss sein. Some of the works mix piano and chorus as well as soloists, and I'm not particularly keen on those, instead preferring the greater intimacy and directness of true lied.  Still, some of the individual pieces are nice enough.  Since Naxos jumbled the discs around a bit, one jumps in time, space, and recording venue, as well as recording style, and some of the switches are mildly jarring, but whatchagonnado?  The disc of full-scale orchestral songs led by Leif Segerstam includes Ah! perfido, which he leads in a slow performance, and the performances generally seem a bit broad but nonetheless well done, and certainly worth listening to. 

The box set as a whole ends with a heavily augmented Canons and Musical Jokes disc.  Not all of the works on the disc are by Beethoven, and some are questionable attributions, but most very clearly are by the Bonn master.  And one hears something new: a cappella Beethoven.  No foolin'.  And some of the pieces are late period Beethoven and the canons are very much informed by his massive, masterful fugues, just severely miniaturized.  Most of the pieces are less than a minute, and pretty much none of them are or can be deep, but one can marvel at the succinctness of Beethoven's canons, like small, lighthearted premonitions of Webern, with not a note wasted.  And for those who want a treat, and evidence that old Beethoven could poke fun and younger, more serious Beethoven, one of the pieces is called Es Muss Sein!, penned around 1826, with the singers chanting the phrase over and over with vibrance.  It really caught me off guard.  The singers and occasional accompanists all do good work.
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

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 18078
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #468 on: August 01, 2020, 03:41:52 AM »




Time for some choral Beethoven beyond the most famous few choral pieces.  These are yet more blended discs as presented in the big box, combining work from Leif Segerstam and from Thomas Holmes, the latter of which leads the Musical Canons and Jokes disc.

The two discs open with Beethoven's choral setting of Goethe's Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, which in turn ended up influencing Mendelssohn.  The brief cantata sounds very much from the same mold as the last movement of the Ninth, but with with more middle period muscularity.  It's brief and taut and rousing and quite good.  Given its brevity and the number of musicians involved, it's understandable why it is not performed more, but it would make for a good opening piece in a grand choral concert.  Next comes the big piece on the first disc, the Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II.  The death of European kings, queens, and emperors (especially the holy kind) is no joke (jk), and teenage Beethoven certainly took his commission seriously.  Heavy, dour, serious, with a funeral march vibe popping up more than once, Beethoven delivers the goods, and the work ends up both sounding a bit like other dour choral works of the time and offering hints of what Beethoven would later do.  It has more heft than his early orchestral efforts.  Segerstam again leads a fairly slow version, coming in at forty-four-plus minutes, but the recording serves its purpose.  If ever I get a hankerin' for another version, MTT will no doubt be the way to go.  The rest of the disc is filled with briefer, smaller-scaled choral pieces, and all sound nice enough. 

If a young composer is gonna make a thaler from an emperor croaking, he ought to make a thaler from a new one ascending to near papal greatness, and so the young Beethoven scribbled out the Cantata on the Accession of Emperor Leopold II that starts the second disc.  Unsurprisingly, the work for Leo is sunnier and more celebratory than the serious one for Joey.  One can hear very clear early indications of what Beethoven delivers later in the Choral Fantasy, and in other works.  I can't really say one cantata is better than the other, just that they are two sides of the Beethovenian musical coin.  A couple brief choral works follow, and then Segerstam takes on the the Mass in C Major.  This is not new to me, as I have relied on Carlo Maria Giulini's recording as my sole version for years.  Segerstam again does nice enough work, and while Giulini also was prone to a bit slowness, it is also unsurprising that Segerstam does not quite match the Italian master. 

These discs are very nice and are perfect examples of why I bought the box: I don't see myself spending much effort hunting down recordings of most of these works otherwise.
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

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 18078
Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #469 on: August 08, 2020, 03:45:05 PM »





The lucky buyer of the Naxos Beethoven edition gets not one, but two versions of The Creatures of Prometheus.  There's the orchestral one, and then the solo piano transcription.  I do dig the orchestral version, but the solo piano version seems just a bit too much.  It's too long, and it lacks dramatic impact.  That written, a couple intriguing things occurred while listening.  First, I heard big hints of Schubert, making me wonder if Schubert didn't study this score and get some of his ideas from it.  There are more than a handful of such instances.  Second, this piece, more than Liszt's transcriptions of the symphonies, demonstrates that Beethoven worked out ideas on the keyboard.  While the orchestral version sounds better, there are numerous passages, little figurations, big figurations, and so forth that sound exactly like Beethoven's solo piano music output.  He started here and then orchestrated later, that much is clear, at least for more than a few passages.  Kudos to Warren Lee for making it through the piece and sounding at least like a world class répétiteur.  To be sure, I think the piece could be more successful with a more indulgent pianist, one prone to more dynamic swings and more precise touch.  Volodos could make it sing and dance, but he would never do it.  Same with Schuch.  YES, too.  I mean, can you imagine?  Maybe one day some great pianist will tackle the work, but I have my doubts.

As if the sixty-seven minute piano reduction isn't enough, Naxos packs in another eighteen minutes of music for a massive CD.  Carl Petersson plays a couple miniatures and the Music for a Ballet of the Knights most handsomely.   
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