Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 155438 times)

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Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #540 on: June 18, 2022, 02:11:09 PM »
I read every post when it's new. I've tried to contribute occasionally to keep notes on something I've never heard before, but not often enough. (EDIT: in fact, not in the last three years at all.)
« Last Edit: June 18, 2022, 02:25:18 PM by Brian »

Offline The new erato

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #541 on: June 21, 2022, 06:28:09 PM »
Yes, I'm one of the regular readers.
Me as well.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #542 on: June 25, 2022, 04:38:45 AM »


Here’s something new, a blending of South American and Japanese musical influences, along with the centuries-old classical tradition.  Esteban Benzecry is an entirely new name to me, so this whole disc is like a miniature world of musical discovery.  Since I went the download route, I did not end up with the liner notes, but that never distracts from just listening.

The recording opens with the nearly half-hour Violin Concerto, and it sounds dandy.  Strangely, one name that comes to mind listening is the rather non-South American, non-Japanese Einojuhani Rautavaara, though in a general sense in how orchestral colors are drawn out.  One needn’t strain to hear rhythmic elements found in the works of some other South American composers, and one also needn’t strain to hear both the virtuosity of violinist Xavier Inchausti and the knotty yet accessible writing in the cadenza.  The short second movement, Évocation d’un tango, is a languid and freely unfolding piece that sounds exotic and familiar, dissonant yet gorgeous, and truly captivating.  The final movement means to evoke pre-Columbian South American traditions, and as such it ends up having hints of Revueltas in it, either by chance or on purpose.  It definitely does not sound merely derivative.  The low brass and the percussion are used to superb effect in a slow-motion movement of no little drama and impact, with the violin floating above the band.

The second work is a five song, well, Song Cycle.  It mixes poems by four different female poets, including the composer’s wife Fernanda Victoria Caputi Monteverde, Nobel prize winner Gabriela Mistral, and ends with a setting of ancient text by the Quecha people.  The first song has a very Queen of the Night style opening, and then each piece mixes the closely recorded soloist delivering somewhat cool but precise singing, backed by colorful and blended orchestral music, with hints of the piano version in the end of the third song.  It was impossible not to be reminded in a vague way of Peter Lieberson’s Neruda Songs, but this work does not match that qualitatively, and as good as Ayako Tanaka is, she cannot match the great Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, but the works shoot for different things, and this definitely works very well indeed.

The disc ends with the Clarinet Concerto, which launches with almost two minutes of just the clarinetist playing before the strings enter.  The soloist, like in the Violin Concerto, seems to float above the orchestra, due partly to the recording, but also due to what sounds like shifting musical pictures in quasi-programmatic music.  It works best when the orchestral music sounds quiet and continuously shifting, but in the percussion heavy stretches of Danzas volcánicas it also works well.  One also gets treated to a blending of the folk and the academic in Baguala enigmática, which displays its folk origins but has some hints of Wagner (or something similar), and then in the concluding movement one hears something reminiscent of Leonarda Balada in its blending of old and new, and one also gets another nice and very easy listening cadenza in the final movement.  Perhaps the piece does not equal the Violin Concerto for overall impact, but it offers much to the listener.

This Naxos disc immediately brings to mind two other similar blockbusters from the label: Vivian Fung’s Dreamscapes and Stephen Hartke’s Clarinet Concerto.  Here’s contemporary music that can hold every second of the listener’s attention.

All sorts of wow.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #543 on: June 29, 2022, 10:34:48 AM »


Carl Vine is best known by me as a composer of piano music, especially the one monster piano sonata which has become a competition favorite of young virtuosos worldwide, and which has even been adopted by eminences like Sergei Babayan. This new Australian release offers an opportunity to meet Vine the orchestral composer, in works written since 2003.

The album starts with V, a 5-minute fanfare concert opener which Vine says came from his longtime wish to give a piece a one-letter name. He then says that he wants to give it an equally short liner note, and stops describing it. All I'll say is that it perfectly fulfills the fanfare opener brief, sounding like a rambunctious Aussie cousin of Shostakovich's Festive Overture.

The Concerto for Orchestra brings us back to the Carl Vine I know from the piano sonatas: energetic, fierce, virtuosic, wild, thrilling, fun. It's an unusually literalist approach to the idea of an orchestral concerto, as everyone takes turns having big solo moments. The drums' solo around 2' is especially fun. Instruments converse in duets and trios, bounce off each other in fun ways, and in general, cool stuff happens. The bassoons get to duet with the contrabassoon. It's an attractive, engaging, very fun 20 minute arc that succeeds totally in its goal of letting all the orchestral players show off.

The MicroSymphony (Symphony No. 1) is very very similar, but with less overt soloistic showing off. The bass drum helps to pound out an opening motto theme which animates the rest of the piece. It's just 12 minutes long - the length of some Röntgen symphonies - but full of variety. It really feels like a shorter version of the Concerto for Orchestra (and therefore might be preferred). It would make an exciting concert opener, at least as exciting as V, despite the surprise quiet ending.

The title piece, The Enchanted Loom, is subtitled Symphony No. 8 (wow, I've been missing out) and is about 25 minutes long. The title is a metaphor from the 1930s, describing the function of the human brain. Each of the five short movements is supposed to depict a different brain function - creativity, euphoria, trying to imagine infinity, etc. Whether those images are successful is debatable, although the euphoria movement is pretty intoxicating ("trying to imagine infinity," it turns out, sounds like Debussy gamelan music but in the desert). In general, this is an optimistic, extroverted contemporary-tonal piece which will sound familiar to people who listen to Aaron Jay Kernis, Jonathan Leshnoff, Stephen Albert, or Jennifer Higdon. It's not especially deep, challenging, structured, or memorable, but it is varied, colorful, and would be interesting enough to hold my attention for 25 minutes in the concert hall. Vine is an immensely colorful orchestrator, although Andrew Davis smartly buries some of the unneeded extra percussion in the balance.

All in all, a pleasant album with a lot of smartly-scored music. This is crowd-pleasing stuff, meant in both a complimentary and a slightly derogatory sense - what tunes do show up are sometimes a little bit easy-listeningy.

I have to get to the store; tomorrow or another day I'll listen to the 17-minute bonus track (that's a long bonus), Smith's Alchemy for strings.

Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #544 on: June 30, 2022, 11:00:14 AM »
Update on the last track from that one: Smith's Alchemy turned out to be the most "modern," "tough" piece, less spangly and contemporary-chic than the rest. Still, it kind of follows along in the modern English string tradition of guys like Walton, Tippett, etc. Not bad.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #545 on: July 02, 2022, 04:30:15 AM »


Now here’s something a bit different, but also a bit familiar.  Alexander Kastalsky was a Russian composer who studied under Tchaikovsky and Taneyev, worked with Rachmaninoff, and specialized on religious music for most of his career, though he changed course after the revolution.  This work, Requiem for Fallen Brothers, was written in response to the Great War.  Writing religious works in response to war is not new and was not at the time, but the style and approach with this work is a bit different.  It’s a gigantic musical collage that blends musical styles from the allies, so one is treated to Russian, English, French, Italian, Greek, Serbian, American, and of course Latin sources and inspirations.  It’s like Mahler, Ives, and Scriabin in their grandest styles all mushed together and written in a most serious way.  The work also went through several versions, with this recording the first of the complete, final version.

The work opens with Russian music and style, and the name Mussorgsky pops into one’s consciousness immediately, but Kastalsky ends up weaving in multiple musical inspirations, including Orthodox sources, the familiar and ancient Dies Irae, which goes through nifty variations, and various folk and religious melodies, including the Rock of Ages, which gets paired with the funeral march from Chopin’s Second Sonata.  Some of the music sounds gorgeous, filled with luscious melodies, while some sounds pastoral and gentle.  Indeed, this sprawling work for massive forces almost always emphasizes beauty and gentleness, sort of coming off as a scaled-up Faure Requiem.  Upon first reading about the work, it came off as a bit kitschy, but it is not.  It is as earnest a piece of religious or religiously inspired music as one can imagine.  That earnestness, combined with the immense beauty, ends up producing something more effective and affecting than a written description may indicate.

That this version of the work has a champion in Leonard Slatkin is fortuitous.  He was able to put together the massive forces needed and have it recorded on a single day in DC.  The sound is distant and resonant, but then that is what is needed for something of this scale.  The whole thing comes off better than anticipated, and one hopes that others may take it up in the future. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #546 on: July 08, 2022, 08:52:04 AM »


Spicy, folksy, dissonant, tuneful. If you created a chart of Brazilian music from the knottier works of Claudio Santoro and late-period Camargo Guarnieri to the more simplistic populist fare of "Batuque," Francesco Mignone, or early-period Camargo Guarnieri, then César Guerra-Peixe would be all over the chart from middle-left to middle-right. This is just a first listen, and I'm not yet sure if any of it will hold up to repeated listens as well as some of those other composers. I also don't think the craftsmanship gets to as deep of a level of orchestral genius as Mignone or Guarnieri show. But the mix is absolutely charming.

Folk influences are more important than European ones on this album. Although the orchestration and harmonies show the author was trained in Euro musical styles (and was part of a clique which introduced serialism to Brazil, although he quickly turned against it), the Suites especially are based almost entirely on folk idioms and dances. The "Round of Friends" is a short suite honoring his woodwind soloist friends by giving each of them a solo that reflects that individual friend's personality. (The bassoon's solo is called The Grumpy One.)

This will absolutely get repeat listens from me, but only when I want to have a little bit of fun. Perfect Friday afternoon disc. Oh, look, it's Friday afternoon!

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #547 on: July 09, 2022, 04:47:34 AM »
      
      
      


Last year, I finally stumbled upon some chamber music written by Krzysztof Meyer.  It was revelatory, in that it revealed to me a composer who writes chamber music every bit as good qualitatively as some core rep greats.  The music sounds dense, knotty, gnarly, uncompromising, and brilliant.  Perusing offerings at various recording vendors, I found other available recordings, but I waited until now to go for something else.  That something else is the composer’s set of thirteen string quartets since very often composers write some of their best music for that ensemble.  With a Naxos sale, I scooped up the set for the princely sum of $14 and change.  Even if the quartets ended up sounding lousy, something I thought essentially impossible, I’d be out of pocket next to nothing.  If they met expectations, well, now we’re talkin’.

Listening proceeded in volume order, so quartets 5, 6, and 8 came first.  The Fifth starts off with an opening movement where the cello plays almost every note, and the music sounds dark and brooding and unforgiving, like Shostakovich minus the laughs.  Things get more intense from there.  The second movement is a nervous, grueling piece of music, like an Allan Pettersson symphony but in string quartet, but good.  Meyer never lets up on the tension in the faster second and slower third movements, though maybe he does just a bit in the fourth movement, which ends with heaping helpings of solo cello, but the dark but not overwhelmingly heavy fifth movement returns to unremitting seriousness.  This is one heckuva of a way for an ensemble to launch a quartet series.  The Sixth sounds lighter in mood to start, but its dissonance and reliance on pizzicato and Sul ponticello lend it a modern sound, which remains whether music is fast or slow, and Meyer returns to unremittingly serious music in the concluding Lento.  The Eighth can hardly be considered light, and the somewhat tart, slow, and serious opening gives way to intense and unwaveringly serious sounding music.  It just never lets up for its duration, but it never sounds anything less than absolutely compelling, forcing the listener to await every note with something approaching aural avarice.  A monumentally great opening to the cycle. 

Volume two includes the Ninth, Eleventh, and Twelfth quartets.  The Ninth, closely and airlessly recorded, which aids the work, starts off with high voltage stridency which doesn’t let up for the duration of the movement, and then the second wallops the listener’s ear with some superb harmonic invention that is at once hard to hear and impossible not to devour as greedily as possible, and the third dances around with all those pizzacati.  The work continues along on a similar trajectory, returning to high voltage playing in the final, fifth movement, revisiting styles from earlier and revealing influences, but sounding distinct from them.  The single movement Eleventh follows, and the dark, intense work fills a void, a void of music for those who think some of DSCH’s quartets sound too lightweight.  The tension never really yields in this work, yet it does not wear the listener down.  The massive Twelfth goes on and on, taking the listener on a ride, with much debt to DSCH, on whom the Meyer is a published expert.  The movement names end up properly descriptive as well.  The Vivo perks up, with nifty tremolos, and the Dolente expresses sorrow as well as any quartet has, and the Prestissimo is truly prestissimo.  The whole thing works and hides its duration as the listener gets absorbed in every musical moment.

The third volume opens with the Seventh Quartet, and it continues on with the supremely high quality from the first note.  The single movement work sounds like a discombobulated, almost unsteady musical representation of a troubled dream, though not quite a nightmare.  The individual instruments at times sound uncannily distinct, and though they are playing the same piece, it sounds purposely disoriented, and the tension never lets up – fast, slow, those are just variations in how quickly the tension assaults the ears.  Yet it never sounds too harsh or oppressive.  Neat.  The slow Lento that opens the first movement of the Tenth Quartet sounds like late DSCH in its desolation, but it transitions to an Allegro assai that switches to biting playing, and then it alternates styles seamlessly.  The long, slow second movement likewise alternates between slow and slower music, yet it maintains tension such that its over fourteen-minute length doesn’t matter, and it does so while not feeling quick or feeling long – it feels like fourteen minutes well spent.  The brief Scherzo starts off plucky and sort of playful, but Meyer ratchets up the intensity significantly in the middle section, and then in the long final movement, the music veers between melancholy and tense and fast and intense playing, again with transitions so seamless and old Lou would have approved.  A big, beefy, weighty work.  The disc closes with the composer’s Thirteenth.  The five-movement quartet played attacca has four descriptive titles for the first four movements (Calmo, Impetuoso, Appassionato, Feroce) and then a perpetuum mobile Prestissimo closer.  The second and fourth movements are brief, while the other three are more standard.  It’s almost like a valedictory work, with every compositional device crammed in, in perfect proportion, in each movement, and at times it takes on an almost neo-romantic feel, in an uncompromisingly modern way.  It’s a peach. 

The cycle ends with the first four quartets, and here one can hear a younger composer at once expressing music in his own, unabashedly modernist voice, and some influences, including a bit of Bartok, to name one, which includes some near quotations.  (Might as well borrow from the best.)  The first two almost sound like apprentice works, but an apprentice destined to greatness, as it takes only until the single movement Second for the composer to hit his stride, where the intensity factor gets ratcheted up with some fierce unison writing and searing tension.  The Third and Fourth sound like qualitative steps closer to the quartets that follow, with transitions nearly as seamless, scale just about as large, harmonies just about as dense, and every compositional technique included in just about as satisfying a manner.  I do not want to make these seem like lesser works, because they are humdingers and hold the listener’s attention more than almost any quartets, it’s just they the quartets that follow offer even more.

For these recordings, I had high expectations going in.  They got smashed.  For the first time in a long time, probably since I discovered the music of Cristóbal de Morales, listening to these works provided experiences where I listened as excitedly and intensely as I did when I first started discovering core rep classics.  I cannot think of a body of post-war quartets that sound better, more significant, more immediately impactful than these, and Meyer’s achievements immediately rival the works of the Holy Tetrarchy.  This is great music; these are masterpieces.  For real.  Clearly, I need to explore more of the composer’s music.  He needs to have some Big Name conductors, artists, and ensembles take up his cause.  In the meantime, in the cycle, the Wieniawski String Quartet delivers the goods at a world class level and Naxos delivers up to snuff if not always SOTA sound.  I need to see about getting the Wilanów Quartet’s recordings. 

One of my purchases of the century. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Offline André

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #548 on: July 13, 2022, 04:30:01 AM »
The Wilanows are hard to find, but just as good as the Szymanowskis. Meyer is easily my favourite modern Polish composer.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #549 on: July 16, 2022, 04:54:56 AM »


After decades of collecting, this recording marks my first purchase of a recording containing only works of Mario Catelnuovo-Tedesco.  I have a few of his works sprinkled across compilations, but not these.  I bought this disc for the composer only secondarily.  The main reason I bought it was to hear something new from Tianwa Yang, and to hear Pieter-Jelle de Boer’s conducting.  The single disc of de Boer playing Rachmaninoff in Etcetera’s complete set of the composer’s piano music was one of the highlights, along with that from Nino Gvetadze, which was the reason I bought that set.

As a showcase for Ms Yang’s fiddling, this disc works very well.  Yang belongs to that elite group of modern young-ish artists who can play anything without ever seeming to have any difficulties.  Her tone is unfailingly lovely, she plays perfect highs, perfect lows, and everything in between, with perfectly executed vibrato of just the right amount.  She presents the same sense of ease that Hilary Hahn does.  Seriously, these neo-romantic works seem to offer no challenge to her, and in return she delivers just about as good playing as can be imagined.  Given her Brahms Concerto and Rihm chamber music, this does not surprise.  The conducting of de Boer sounds entirely satisfactory, with the conductor acting as second fiddle and letting the soloist shine.  I’d like to hear him conduct some core rep.

As to the music itself, well, the Concerto Italiano sounds lush and movie soundtrack-y, with lovely tunes and nifty orchestration.  One might almost swear that the Violin Concerto No 2 is a movie soundtrack from the height of the 50s, with the violin the musical stand-in for Charleton Heston from some movie that was never released due to contractual issues.  The music often achieves a downright Korngoldian level of lushness, and in addition to the supreme opulence, the solo writing sounds technically accomplished and satisfying to listen to.  Still, this does not stand with the great violin concertos of the last century. 

These are not great works, and I will not listen to them frequently, but I will listen to them again to hear top notch violin playing for its own sake.

The only downside to the recording is sound quality, which is a bit opaque, but otherwise fine.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2022, 04:59:16 AM by Todd »
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 #550 on: July 23, 2022, 05:16:32 AM »


The word dreadful does not begin to describe this disc of non-music.  Forty-five minutes of electronic noise, starting off with over six minutes of tweeter-only exercises, it slowly and excruciatingly unfolds, grating and annoying for the duration.  Apparently, it was meant to be Xenakis’ equivalent of a Gesamtkunstwerk, merging in performance with architecture, mirrors, texts – and laser beams.  And laser beams!  This is as good an example of (quasi-) intellectualism as art run amok (or maybe ‘a muck’) as exists.  This is so bad it couldn’t even be included in a Rob Zombie movie.  Rather than stream this, I paid $1.49 for the download.  I feel like requesting a $17.99 refund. 
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 #551 on: July 30, 2022, 04:40:18 AM »


New to me Stephan Krehl was a music teacher of no little renown in his day, ultimately ending up as Rector of the Leipzig Conservatory, a position first held by Mendelssohn.  He also wrote several influential textbooks.  Born in the same decade as Mahler and Strauss and Debussy, his music, or at least the music here, has none of their forward-looking or revolutionary qualities.  The two works included are the very definition of backward-looking musical conservatism, proudly and competently bringing forward the music of the German romantics.  The opening Op 17 String Quartet sounds like a well-crafted melding of Brahms, one of Krehl’s teachers, and Mendelssohn, with the latter most evident in the third movement Vivace.  It does not rise to the level of the works of the greats, and it sounds sort of academic in that some writing seems to be illustrating exactly what an aspiring composer might do to write a successful string quartet.  It sounds relaxed and tuneful and beautiful and unchallenging.  The Op 19 Clarinet Quintet, not too surprisingly, sounds very similar.   

While the music contained in the recording will not receive too many airings around here, I would not be averse to hearing more from the artists involved.  The all-female Larchmere String Quaret, out of Indiana – Evansville, not Bloomington – play splendidly, and two of the members co-wrote the liner notes.  As recorded, they produce a most pleasing, warm sound that would work well with Szymanowski or Debussy or early Schoenberg, and Wonkak Kim, born in Korea but now hailing from Tennessee, can certainly play the clarinet well.  The Larchmere have hustle as they used a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the recording, and in using the performance hall at the University of Evansville, they chose a fine sounding venue.  Perhaps they can go that route again. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #552 on: August 02, 2022, 11:54:04 AM »


I've done a lot of GMG things over the years. I've met almost a dozen GMGers in person. I've been to concerts, collected CDs based on GMGer recommendations, hosted blind listening games, gotten in flame wars.

But there was one thing I never did. An initiation ceremony, uncompleted.

I've never listened to Hans Rott's notorious, GMG cult favorite symphony "No. 1." (Haven't heard anyone mention No. 2, although Wikipedia says it's just a sketch.)

Well, that ends today. Let's see what all the fuss is about.

First impression, just halfway through the first movement: I thought people said this was popular because it foreshadowed Mahler. What I'm hearing here is imitation of Bruckner. He's got the repetitive tics, brass writing, expansive orchestral palette (I hear the contrabassoon at like 5:20), trumpet calls, etc. It sounds less forward-looking than I was expecting, and more like a secular Bruckner or a bloated Raff.

Second impression, in the slow movement: Rott's main weakness here is his melodic material. It's all "feel-good," with simple emotional manipulation harmonies. The tunes sound like Christmas carols. He's constantly stretching for high notes. And although it was reasonably subtle in the first movement, the fact that the slow movement is pretty much full of triangle parts...must have been a symptom of his mental illness.  ;D Toward the end of this movement, the Frankfurt timpanist has a great time pounding away, and then the trumpets come in with a recap of the...oh wait...now I get it...this does sound like the trumpets recapping the main melody at the end of the slow movement in Mahler 3! And then the triangle comes in at the end like Will Ferrell holding a cowbell hahahaha what a joke.

Scherzo: this sounds like the scherzo to Mahler's First until the last bar of the main melody, when we hit another of those trite "easy listening" cop-out phrases. The way the melody ends, and the way the counter melody dances along (with triangle) - it's too sweet. If Mahler is like dropping a shot of schnapps into a pint of beer, these Rott melodies are like making an ice cream sundae. The triangle is a real problem here again - it makes the waltz sections sound like carnival rides. I was wondering why the scherzo was so long, but it's because there's an extensive quote from the slow movement.

Finale: Okay, the middle two movements were quite un-Brucknerian, but now we are back in Brucknerland. The slow introduction, with its mysterious horn calls and wind solos, made me check how many symphonies Bruckner had written at this time - he was done with 5, though it hadn't been performed; perhaps Rott, as his organ student, got to see parts of it. Around 5:00, the massed French horns do bring to mind moments in Mahler 2 and 3.

Structurally, I don't understand this movement at all. There's the long slow introduction, then some kind of random faster episodes, then at 8:30 there is a Grand Finale Theme stolen straight from Brahms' First. It reminds me a little bit of the triumphal marches in George Lloyd's Fourth Symphony, which succeed each other in an insane cavalcade of successive emotional climaxes. Only this theme has a lot more triangle. The big climax and sudden key change at 16:25 or so do sound more like Mahler than Brahms.

At risk of annoying some people...
This is a very youthful symphony. A stereotype that older people have about younger people is that younger people are always experiencing emotions like joy and heartbreak for the first time, and they're completely bowled over by the impact of all those emotions and feel them more strongly than experienced people do. It's a total cliché but you can see it depicted in things like Romeo & Juliet or an Austen novel (both written by an older, wiser, gently kidding author). Hans Rott's symphony is a total expression of that youthful emotional excitement, by somebody living in it. Today, he'd be a YouTuber talking about his emotions or an indie songwriter singing break-up ballads in bars. Honestly, I should have listened to this at age 18; it would have spoken to me much more strongly then. It's like a musical equivalent to The Catcher in the Rye.

Rott pushes all the emotional buttons, hard and fast. The biggest contrast with Bruckner, for example, is that Rott doesn't want to spend loads of time with the buildup. He wants to go straight to the payoff. Even the first movement's first theme feels like an emotional landing place, rather than a taking-off. The biggest contrast with Mahler is probably the melodic simplicity.

So, is it good?

I see both sides. The jury which looked through the first movement and thought that it was trash (except Bruckner, who liked it) had a point. It's trite, simplistic music. But Rott's death, mentally ill beyond repair at age 25, was still tragic. Some day, if he really followed Bruckner's example, he was going to grow out of this and revise the symphony 7821 times. And at the end of that revision, maybe there was a good piece to come out at the end. It's easy to see a mentally normal Rott growing older, gaining experience, and using the obvious skills and obvious influences to put together a really epic symphony. There are a lot of individual moments in this one that are really great! The Frankfurt Radio Symphony plays the heck out of it - truly an outstanding performance.

But at the end of it, I feel like I've watched a Hollywood movie that's made up of nothing but emotional climaxes. Like if you watched 53 straight minutes of lovers being reunited and loyal dogs rescuing kids and heroes sacrificing themselves for noble causes, without watching any of the lovers getting separated or kids falling down wells or noble causes being betrayed first. To watch the full movie, with the emotional struggle before the payoff...well, you have to go to Bruckner or Mahler.

And god...that triangle  ;D ;D ;D ;D you guys have talked about how much triangle there is in this symphony for 16 years now, and STILL I was not prepared for how much triangle there is. Wow.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #553 on: August 02, 2022, 01:12:30 PM »
So, is it good?

Not particularly.  I detected a good bit of Wagner as well when I covered this a decade ago - https://www.good-music-guide.com/community/index.php/topic,31.msg638371.html#msg638371

I never did get around to listening to it two more times.  Maybe I should revisit it.  Later.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Offline Jo498

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #554 on: August 02, 2022, 11:22:25 PM »
I think some conductors edited the triangle part and damped it down; I am pretty sure the very first? recording ony Hyperion with a US university orchestra did this when the symphony became a dark horse recommendation in the early 1990s?

It has been a bit overhyped in the 25-30 years since having become better known through recordings but in addition to stemming from a 20-22 year old composer, one should also consider that it is contemporary with Brahms 2nd and Bruckner's 5th. For me, the scherzo certainly sounds more like between Bruckner and Mahler than like a poor copy of Bruckner. The rest is rather uneven and I also think it is much closer to Bruckner than to Mahler. (And as mentioned elsewhere, I think "Das klagende Lied" shows that the young Mahler didn't need Rott as an inspiration.)

However, there was also a Volume of the German musicological journal "Musik-Konzepte" praising Rott in 1999. This is a journal originally launched by two Darmstadt-avantgardist, far leftist (and gay couple) Heinz Klaus Metzger and Rainer Riehn (who finished Schoenberg's chamber version of LvdE). I am not sure how much these original editors were still involved at the time of the Rott volume but they are usually not the type jumping on to any dark horse of musical history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinz-Klaus_Metzger
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainer_Riehn
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 ultralinear

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #555 on: August 03, 2022, 01:36:22 AM »
As an inexpert and very amateur listener, I draw a distinction between quality and enjoyability.

In another thread I mentioned that one of my favourite novels is a book which, by any objective measure of quality, has to be considered a failure – and certainly is, by most of the few who have ever tried to read it – in fact it fails in just about every possible direction.  But nonetheless there is a small minority who, while not being blind to its faults, find it a fascinating and enjoyable read.  In my case I think it’s probably due to the authorial voice which comes through strongly, and which I find congenial.  You have to forget what you think it should be, and enjoy it for what it is.

For similar reasons, I much prefer the 1874 original version of Bruckner’s 4th Symphony to the standard 1878/80 revision.  Critics and musicologists can argue until doomsday about the structural superiorities of the revision – all of which I readily concede – but the thing is, as a listener, I just find it, well … rather dull.  Compared with the original, which rambles all over the place and down many blind alleys, but along the way presents much to delight in that simply isn’t there in the revision.  It may not get from A to B in the most efficient fashion, but sometimes it’s nice to take the scenic route and stop to smell the flowers.  I feel much the same about Vaughan Williams’ 2nd symphony.  I can well see how the revisions may create a tighter structure, but still I miss what gets lost in the process.

So far I haven't been a cheerleader for Rott’s Symphony, but I’ve pre-ordered the new Hrusa recording on the basis that if anyone can convince me, it’s probably him.  Part of what makes his recording of the 1874 4th a good one is that he presents it fairly on its own merits, without overstatement or trying to make it into something it isn't.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #556 on: August 06, 2022, 05:49:31 AM »


It’s been a while since I last tried something new from Bright Sheng.  That’s a shame and my bad.  His masterful concerto Nanking! Nanking!, for pipa and orchestra, rates as one of my favorite concerti from the last quarter century, so I have no real excuse.  So, I went for something else.  As per usual, Naxos is the go-to label for this composer, so this disc of three works got the nod.

The disc opens with Let Fly, a violin concerto that was originally a triple commission by the Detroit Symphony, the Singapore Symphony, and the London BBC Symphony.  The dedicatee was no less than Gil Shaham, who premiered it on three continents.  (I mean, really, a Shaham/Slatkin recording would be the dream recording with this piece of info.)  The nearly half-hour piece is big, brash, bold, loud, colorful, and sounds like an Americana infused work with passing elements from other cultures, not the least of which is Chinese, which provided the folk song that partially inspired the work.  Oh, and Mexican, with the trumpet parts sounding like ‘roided out Mariachi music.  The orchestration is over the top, but except in a few big tuttis, where that five-foot tam-tam and bass drums roar, it is expertly deployed.  The violinist has lots to do, whether rushing through virtuosic passages or a beautiful slow movement where Chinese influences are obvious at times, and per Sheng’s instructions, the soloist is encouraged to come up with a cadenza before, well, letting fly in the playing-to-the-gallery finale.  Dan Zhu plays nicely for the most part, but some of the top registers do not sound ideal.  The work lacks the impact of Nanking! Nanking!, but it is fun enough.

Zodiac Tales, a commission by the Philadelphia Orchestra when under the direction of Christoph Eschenbach and premiered partially by Slatkin and then in total by Eschenbach, follows.  Comprised of six movements, each referencing a different zodiac animal, the piece is another big piece, scored for tons of instruments, including four cowbells, surely enough to please Christopher Walken.  It has that joyous, cacophonous, not at all bothered with Western traditions feel to the music, combined with rigor of western forms.  The second movement, Of Mice and Cats sounds like it pays homage, however loosely, to Bartok, especially in the string writing.  The fourth movement, The Elephant Eating Serpent, has the same intensity as Nanking! Nanking!, and sort of just steamrolls over the listener.  Awesome!  That is followed by The Tomb of the Soulful Dog, an elegy for the composer’s mother who was born in a year of the dog.  It is quite lovely and solemn to open and includes grander scaled tuttis, very reminiscent of Mahler, but with a much less Western sound.  And if one wants to hear a nice trombone solo, there’s one in the final movement, The Flying Horses.  Overall, this is a most satisfying work and one that hopefully gains traction in concert halls.

The disc closes with the Suzhou Overture, commissioned by the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra, and played by the orchestra here, the piece pays homage to the three-thousand-year-old city.  Gobs of beautiful string writing, with some of it sounding like luxuriant reworkings of discarded extracts of the Turangalîla-Symphonie, and more playful passages, some sounding like a Chinese equivalent of Copland, make the work a very fine concert opener. 

Sheng himself conducts the works, with the Suzhou Symphony Orchestra also covering Let Fly and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra doing the honors in Zodiac Tales.  Hopefully, other conductors take up the works and record them.  Sound and playing are both up to modern standards.


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As a fun little bonus, I have attached a snippet of a Microsoft Word Editor suggestion I received when reviewing my scribbled text: Sensitive Geopolitical References.

Thanks, Microsoft!
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #557 on: August 11, 2022, 07:31:26 AM »


I started streaming the 1797 symphony "La Paix" not realizing that that subtitle is laughably misleading. The real title: Grande Sinfonie caractéristique pour la paix avec la République française.

In other words, this is a program symphony, and the peace only happens at the end. We begin in C minor, with a menacing tone that captures Wranitzky's view of the French Revolution and its chaotic evils. Occasionally the proceedings are interrupted by marches representing different warring countries fighting against those nefarious French. There's a clarinet-led funeral march for Louis XVI (not often you see musical sympathy for him) and the scherzo is a full-on battle scene with extremely loud bass drum thwacking and piccolo piping. Finally at the end you get a pretty standard late-classical finale (think Haydn or a very young Schubert) with a slow, serene, "peace" introduction and then some victorious happy music. At 7' in the finale, Wranitzky clearly quotes the finale of Mozart 36. I think there are other Mozart quotes, too.

Although "La Paix" is all fun and charming, not everyone thought so. Archduke Max Franz of Austria listened to a performance and wrote detailed criticisms of the symphony, including that he thought the finale should have been in B flat minor rather than A major, that he thought the finale should have included a fugue, and that the performance would have been better if Haydn conducted it. (He did like the battle, "in which there was noise of every kind." By the way, this was the same Max Franz who was an early patron of the youthful Beethoven and who, before he died at age 44, was going to be the dedicatee of Beethoven's First Symphony.)

The other explicit program symphony here is "La Tempesta," where, you guessed it, the bass drum represents a thunderstorm. That's in the finale; the first two movements are a pretty standard Sturm und Drang symphony, before the Sturm becomes literal. (There's also some kind of primitive wind machine effect.)

The third symphony in this set is not programmatic, but it does still have a "Russian" movement and a "Polonaise." Which means that, between three symphonies and a bonus overture, there are only two slow movements in this 2-CD set. The Russian allegretto includes sleigh bells and vaguely martial music; the booklet thinks this is to represent janissaries (who are not Russian?) but I wonder if it's a reference to how their army has to tromp around in winter. Wranitzky is all about these colorful but meaningless effects. Just take it as a bit of fun and move on. The polonaise isn't Chopin, but it's thoroughly entertaining, and the finale is notable for giving the winds and brass such a prominent spotlight that the violins go silent for whole minutes at a time.

Overall, I would say this is definitely worth seeking out on a streaming service where the booklet is available, or in a physical copy where you can read the amusing notes. The conductorless Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin does terrific work and sounds very appealing, especially the piercing bassoons in the Tempest. I love the characterful sounds of their winds and the punch of their percussion. And the music, if ultimately not unforgettable or inspired, is a very entertaining example of the kinds of "character" pieces which were trendy in the 1790s.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2022, 07:34:31 AM by Brian »

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #558 on: August 13, 2022, 03:26:20 AM »


Krzysztof Penderecki pops up only a few times in my collection, and always in compilations, so I thought it about time I purchased at least one album dedicated to his music.  I opted for the string quartets played by the Tippett Quartet since I have had good luck with them before.  All four quartets fit easily on one disc, so the Tippett throw in a nice sized String Trio and the super-brief Der unterbrochene Gedanke as filler, and the disc still lasts just over fifty minutes.

The First quartet, coming in at just a smidge over six minutes, is compact and jittery and eerie and night-musicy and avant-garde, all of which is just fine, especially when the work is so properly proportioned.  The eight-ish minute Second offers a qualitative step up, and deploys some new techniques.  He uses the high strings to create and eerie and impactful whistling effect, and the music stays largely quiet, with only intermittent outbursts.  A big, beefy cello starts Der unterbrochene Gedanke, with everyone getting to do something, but it ends so quickly, and develops so little, that it’s like a sketch for an intro for a bigger work.  Finally, with the thirteen minute and change String Trio from 1990/91, the listener gets something bigger, and the work has slashing and thrashing action, back and forths between the strings, and some delicate and quiet playing, and that’s just in the first couple minutes.  The second movement Vivace sounds almost like DSCH and shows that a string trio can pack a wallop too.  The Third Quartet also reminds one of DSCH, and perhaps Schnittke.  More accessible, it nonetheless has extended passages of musical relentlessness, grinding away at the listener.  After the sixteen-minute Third comes the six or so minute, two movement Fourth.  Compact like the opener, and containing music much closer to the Fourth, it just gets going, especially when folk inspired music gets introduced, and then ends.  At least it leaves the listener wanting more.

As far as post-war quartets go, this set is pretty good, if not up there with the very best.  The Tippett Quartet play superbly, and Naxos delivers fine sound, if perhaps it sounds too close at times.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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