Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 148493 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #520 on: October 16, 2021, 04:43:45 AM »



If you're gonna listen to one version of Kalabis' Second String Quartet, you might as well listen to two.  The Panocha strip away some of the bite and harshness and deliver a smoother, more meticulous rendition.  The slower music generally sounds more beautiful here.  So outta the gate, one can hear contrasting styles.  Best to have both, of course.  (The Panocha barely gets the nod.)  Ladislav Kubík short String Quartet in One Movement follows.  The early 80s era work is at times a taut, nervous ball of energy, at others an almost grim, nervous slow grind.  Astringent and dissonant, packing in all the string quartet tricks in a short span - think Webern, Bartok, and nameless avant garde composers mashed together - the piece moves along with striking logic, with no musical idea coming close to wearing out its welcome.  Vladimír Sommer's String Quartet in D Minor ends the short recording.  It starts off gently, beautifully, harking back to late 19th Century music, but after little more than a minute, the music adds some intensity.  It never really sounds harsh or modernist as its mid-50s vintage might imply.  In that it's sort of like Martinu, but it sounds nothing like Martinu.  The Adagio ends up upping the beauty and the tension, somehow, and the concluding Vivace adds more energy and pulsating energy alternating with playful, light music that again harks back to the 19th Century, or maybe the early 20th.  One may detect whiffs of Korngold, too, which is no bad thing.  All things considered, it works rather well.

Of course the Panocha deliver the goods, and sound is better than expected given vintage and source.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #521 on: October 23, 2021, 06:15:34 AM »



A second disc of chamber music by Jia Daqun.  The disc opens with Flavor of Bashu for two violins, piano, and percussion.  A blend of western and eastern styles and sounds, one can easily think of it as an even more eastern Bartok, with hints of John Cage thrown in.  That doesn't really do justice as a description, but it's decent shorthand, and fans of dissonant music and some aggressive percussion may very well dig this piece a whole lot.  Counterpoint of Times switches over to a wind ensemble written using the golden section ratio in parts.  The bright piece sounds more vaguely avant-garde French than Chinese, but that's OK, too.  It lacks the impact of the opener, but it ain't too shabby.  Next is the String Quartet from 1988, and it offers a basically perfect merging of Chinese folk tune inspired music and avant garde string quartet writing one hears more commonly.  You get the night music pizzicato thing and glissandi, and so forth, but here it emerges even more colorful and varied than is often the case.  Muy bueno.  The disc closes out with the brief The Prospect of Coloured Desert, for Violin, Cello, Percussion, and both the Sheng and Pipa, so this work has the most decidedly eastern sound to it.  Jia, does not fall back on straight up folk music at all.  Instead, the instruments play fully contemporary, abstract music, like an up to date Bartok.  The more distinctive and unusual sound makes it stand out more than the other works, which says something.  Overall, the music sounds most compelling and makes the listener want to seek out yet more works by the composer. 

Tip-top playing.  Tip-top sound.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #522 on: October 31, 2021, 06:10:59 AM »



Picked up on a lark when spotted on closeout, this disc ended up far surpassing any reasonable or unreasonable expectations I may have held.  The pleasant surprises start with Korngold's Unvergänglichkeit.  Tuneful, yes, as expected.  Lush, kinda, yeah.  But more than that.  The theme of immortality sparked the composer to write music that presages Messiaen's later religiously themed good stuff.  Karl Goldmark offers good, (literally) old-fashioned German lied in the Schubert and Brahms tradition, never daring to tread an original path.  But that doesn't matter a whit since the songs works so darned well, melodic and unchallenging but unyieldingly inviting and lovely.  Cornelia Hübsch nails her part, singing with beauty and superb diction, with Charles Spencer tickling the ivories in a most becoming way.  Superb in every way.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #523 on: April 30, 2022, 05:57:25 AM »



When two of the best instrumentalists recording today put out a duo recording, especially when one is William Youn and the other is Nils Mönkemeyer, then it’s only a matter of time before listening.  This recording, entitled Whispers, is devoted to the music of Konstantia Gourzi, and she also plays some percussion in some pieces and penned the brief intro.  The pieces are all inspired by nature and were written for Youn and Mönkemeyer specifically. 

The listener gets to hear tip-top shelf playing from two artists at the top of their game, and production values are high end as well.  The music does not quite work as well as I had hoped.  wind whispers for solo piano opens, and the overall mood is set.  A blend of minimalism and almost New Age inspired music has multiple beautiful parts, all but guaranteed with Youn playing, but doesn’t really engage this listener.  The second piece, evening at the window II, for viola and percussion, leaves a similar impression.  With call of the bees, starting with a beefy piano ostinato underpinning some more gnarly but lovely viola playing, one gets to something more enjoyable, a bit closer to chamber music with oomph.  The back half of the recording, comprised of messages between trees, a love song, and melodies from the sea, inhabits a stylistically similar world as the first couple works, with the brief duo a love song the strongest piece.  While the earnestness of the project can plainly be heard, the recording as a whole does not match up to the best from either main artist.  Others may very well love Ms Gourzi’s style, of course. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #524 on: April 30, 2022, 06:10:33 AM »
Why don't you just start a blog, Todd? Seems like that would be a better idea rather than take up GMG real estate.
“I am hitting my head against the walls, but the walls are giving way.” - Gustav Mahler

Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #525 on: April 30, 2022, 06:35:49 AM »
Why don't you just start a blog, Todd? Seems like that would be a better idea rather than take up GMG real estate.
Wtf is this? These are substantive, descriptive posts about music most of us have not heard. They're some of the most valuable (and relevant) posts here. We have lots of "real estate" taken up by one-word posts, politics, TV, every topic under the sun (all of which is good), and when someone posts about music you want them to leave?

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #526 on: May 07, 2022, 05:06:05 AM »



Brahms is basically the end of the road for me when it comes to piano concerto gigantism.  I love 'em and listen to 'em rather frequently.  There are a handful of other big beasts out there, like Henze's Second or, at the end of the concerto rainbow/nightmare, Feruccio Busoni's bloated monstrosity of interminable musical notes strung together in almost music.  (Henze was lucky to have a champion in Christoph Eschenbach, back when he tickled the ivories with the best of them, so the piece remains listenable for that reason.)  I wasn't really looking for a really, really long piano concerto, but then I found Kimmo Hakola's fifty-six minute monster for a few bucks, I figured it couldn't hurt, not really, to give it a shot.  I believe I've seen Hakola's name before, as he's part of the Finnish musical scene, and that this recording was made by Ondine ensured some spiffy sonics, so it seemed worth trying.

The concerto starts off with hints of Ravel's D Major, with growling low strings laying the foundation, but that's essentially the only similarity.  The work unfolds over nine movements, and it's a journey, and something of a chore to sit through.  It's from the clang-boom pastiche school of contemporary classical composition.  Alternatively, one could say it's an everything but the kitchen sink style work, with the kitchen sink being tunes.  Tunefulness is most definitely not needed to make a work successful, but it often doesn't hurt.  The work manages to flit from idea to idea, with homages to jazz and Bach and Rachmaninoff and Puccini and Harrison and Ligeti and Klezmer music and organ and almost everything else.  There are multiple assaults by percussion instruments, and passages of oodles of piano notes with no discernible purpose.  And it seems to more or less just unfold as one long, flowing wall of sound, like a piano concerto modelled on Coma by Guns N' Roses.  As an instrumental exercise, it does actually work well enough.  The pianist has a ton to do, and every section of the orchestra gets a workout.  All involved give their all; Hakola is lucky modern conservatories pump out grads who can play anything.

The disc also comes with the Sinfonietta from 1999, and it's more to my liking, and not just because it's only fourteen minutes long.  The string heavy sound, though percussion gets lots of love, is more accessible and nearly tuneful, albeit in a strident, pungent way.  It betrays influences of Lutoslawski and Bartok and various and sundry others, and it just kind of cruises along.  In many contexts, it would be the hard-hitting piece, but following a nearly hour long piano concerto, it's the light entertainment.

Fine playing and predictably fine sound for a disc I listen to maybe once more in my lifetime.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #527 on: May 14, 2022, 04:34:01 AM »



This disc marks the third appearance of Huang Ruo in the New Music Log thread.  The disc includes multiple, diverse works inspired by multiple artistic and cultural and historical influences, which the composer outlines in his own liner notes.  The works date from roughly 2000 through 2019, so some of the music is super fresh.

Shattered Steps opens the disc, and it starts with the composer himself singing a manufactured language in a Chinese style before segueing to a full-scale orchestra that adopts the overall pulse of the music as set forth by the singing and merging Chinese music, Aaron Copland, and movie soundtrack style music.  That sounds derivative, but it's not really derivative, as I've not heard anything quite like it.  The relentless forward drive and at times chaotic, cacophonous feel works rather well.  It's formless yet focused.  Nice.  Becoming Another, derived from a Chinese saying, combines rich strings and colorful percussion in a Strauss meets Streitenfeld kind of piece, with eastern sounds generously thrown in.  As with the opener, it kind of unfolds continuously throughout its modest length, though it sounds smoother and more continuous, thanks to the low strings.

Next come two excerpts from Ruo's opera An American Soldier, which sets the tragic tale of Private Danny Chen to music.  Mezzo Guang Yang sings two pieces as the soldier's mother, and it immediately calls to mind Britten, Berg, and Zimmermann in overall mien, though it sounds distinct from any of those.  The two pieces amount to only a short interlude and make at least this listener most interested in hearing the whole opera.  The disc turns back to orchestral music with Still/Motion.  Commissioned as a modern companion piece to The Butterfly Lovers violin concerto, Ruo relies on Chinese Opera and Tang Dynasty court music as inspiration, as well as motives from The Butterfly Lovers and Emperor’s Princess Flower.   While the eastern influences are obvious, the western tradition offers the overall structural and technical framework for the music.  It's incredibly cohesive, and marks one of the finest blendings of East meets West in my collection.  This melding of styles and Chinese influences continues in Two Pieces for Orchestra, the oldest piece on the disc.  Eastern influences sound less pronounced in the opening Fanfare, with (unabashedly) modernist style pervading, though it sounds much more noticeable in Announcement, including in this Chinese singing that the orchestral players offer up in the coda.

Finally, the disc closes out with Folk Songs for Orchestra.  The songs come from different portions of China, including, quite purposely, Xinjiang, in the closer The Girl from Da Ban City.  The pieces all fall into the folk-music inspired category, with no question whatever where the influences come from, even if western ears may not be familiar with the source material.  Ruo manages to orchestrate most successfully, evoking the appropriate feel from a modern orchestra using regular instrumentation.  It ends up a crowd pleasing closer for a concert and reinforces Ruo's formidable talent.

The disc is taken from a single concert by the Shanghai Philharmonic from October 2019.  Conductor Liang Zhang appears to have had plenty of prep time with the band because they put in some good work. 

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

People would rather believe than know - E.O. Wilson

Offline The new erato

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #528 on: May 14, 2022, 09:35:34 PM »
Why don't you just start a blog, Todd? Seems like that would be a better idea rather than take up GMG real estate.
No No No No No. This is really valuable real Estate and goes to the core of this board.