Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 152327 times)

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Online 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

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

Online 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.

Online 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