Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 158814 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #560 on: August 27, 2022, 04:47:23 AM »


I'd seen the name Ye Xiaogang before when Naxos released various prior titles, and I recognized it from the DG release of Das Lied von der Erde, played by the Shanghai SO and conducted by Yu Long, where for filler Ye reset the poems in the original Mandarin.  Turns out he also composed one of the works played to open the 2008 Olympics.  I won’t hold that against him.  When this brand-new recording became available for a few bucks, I figured I’d go with the latest release just because. 

Twilight in Tibet opens the recording, and it’s something else.  Just shy of nineteen minutes long, it has an extended, sparse, beautiful opening, with percussion gently pairing with winds and strings, before the tenor sings his part, and then the piece transforms into an at times dissonant as all get out musical behemoth, though the score often veers back to sparser, more beautiful support.  The horn soloist blats out his part effectively, and Yijie Shi sings everything in at least adequate manner, but some of the gentler singing really sounds affective.  Various influences can be heard, and the much-welcomed eastern influences are obvious but also transformed.  Mahler and Strauss and Puccini (La Boheme) can be heard, but this is no mere pastiche or copycat work. 

Seven Episodes for Lin’an follows.  An over half-hour song cycle for soprano, tenor, and baritone and orchestra, it marries some light, clear music to some occasionally thunderous and wonderfully dissonant music.  And who can resist marimbas, properly deployed?  The wonderfully named Song Yuanming (to these western eyes) sings her songs splendidly and offers a bright, lovely contrast to the musical background, though all singers sound quite good.  The whole mixed song cycle really works well, with an at times very operatic feel.  Think of it as a Chinese Canteloube meets Chinese Mahler meets Chinese Strauss. 

The Tianjin Suite concludes the recording, and it sounds like a mix of a film soundtrack and orchestral arrangement of various operas.  The second movement also sounds like Debussy and Stravinsky blended together – at last.  Ye deploys all orchestral forces deftly, at times providing heaping helpings of strings, at others sparser orchestration focused on winds, and at others massive, colorful, tuneful tuttis sure to satisfy many, most, but never all listeners.  As each piece progresses, the feeling of operatic extracts grows.  Indeed, I can’t recall another case where hearing a disc of music has made me so keen to hear what the composer can do with opera, but I surely want to hear an opera written by Ye.

For some reason, two conductors are used and split the Seven Episodes between them, and the recordings were made between 2014 and 2016.  A belated release is a welcome release. 

Sound is excellent if not quite SOTA, and the orchestra does excellent work. 

A most excellent disc.
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Offline springrite

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #561 on: August 27, 2022, 05:05:08 AM »
Ye Xiaogang is one of those first generation of Chinese composers after the Cultural Revolution. Other notables include Tan Dun, Qu Xiaosong, Chen Yi and Zhou Long. They are all about the same age and were classmates.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #562 on: August 27, 2022, 05:35:16 AM »
Tan Dun I know, but the others are new to me, and so expand the list of composers to explore.  Many thanks.
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Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #563 on: August 30, 2022, 07:15:39 AM »


Two big, long, silly cello concertos from different centuries, clearly intended as amusing diversions.

The Offenbach is from the composer's early days, before he became an operetta legend. It's enormous (42 minutes), especially the sprawling 18-minute rondo finale, which has some very big, chunky, full episodes for "military" percussion. As you'd expect from Offenbach, the tunes are immediately catchy throughout, and the cello gets to sound cantabile most of the time.

The overall effect is quite surprising. I think this is because Offenbach writes in the Rossinian "light"/operatic early romantic mode - the orchestral style sounds like Rossini overtures, Paganini concertos, or Adam ballets. And not only are cello concertos already rare enough from the early romantic era, but cello concertos in this style? It's kind of hard for my brain to compute. I don't think this is any great masterpiece, it's certainly too long and episodic for that, but it is a load of fun to listen through.

And speaking of loads of fun, Friedrich Gulda's concerto runs the gamut of pastiche. The second movement "Idylle" is actually very similar to Offenbach in mode, with operatic soft brass (shades of Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel), an arioso cello, and a strumming acoustic guitar serenade a la "Beatrice et Benedict". But it's preceded by an "Overture" with rock music guitar/drum interludes, where Edgar Moreau is, I must say, extremely persuasive laying down a memorable rock cello tune.

He also has a pensive, melancholic, phantasmagorical 7-minute cadenza (!) to get through before the final dances: a Boccherini-tribute minuet with a tinge of Spanish sadness and an extremely silly polka with oompah tuba and perpetuum mobile cello dancing. Overall, the piece is a load of fun, and honestly, I think you could convince me that the three middle movements are "great." But the finale's light-hearted romp makes it clear that Gulda is not going for "great." He's going for "fun." Even though polka is going out of style in the concert hall, I feel like this kind of polystylistic, extremely melodic, witty mashup music would still be successful before a live audience. Probably a lot of people don't know classical music can be like this.

Recorded sound is very flat, bright, and close, as if we are all either in a studio room or in an opera house pit. The ensemble sounds a lot like opera pit orchestras, in fact, especially in the Offenbach, with its "military" cymbals and triangle. The volume level is very high, too, so I guess this was recorded like a pop album. The cover photo was shot that way, too, I guess.

Offline Florestan

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #564 on: September 02, 2022, 08:40:04 AM »


Gulda is not going for "great." He's going for "fun." [...] Probably a lot of people don't know classical music can be like this.


Amen, brother!

I know and love both concertos but not this specific performance which your review made me set in seek-and-capture mode. Thanks.

Incidentally, Offenbach was an accomplished, professionally trained cellist and wrote some beautiful music for cello and piano. Worth checking out as well, should be right up your salon-music-fan alley.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2022, 08:45:21 AM by Florestan »
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #565 on: September 03, 2022, 03:19:28 AM »



The name Jon Deak did not enter my consciousness until I spotted this 2019 Naxos release on clearance.  Turns out the recordings themselves were made in 1993 and 1998.  I’m guessing this got released because Marin Alsop conducts the two orchestral works.  The conceit with all the works here is that they are narrated by the performers. 

The disc opens with Jon Deak the double bass soloist for a snarky tribute to wildlife by offering an apology for the big bad wolf in B.B. Wolf  (An Apologia), with the text provided by the composer’s friend Richards Hartshorne.  Deak can play his instrument very well indeed, and his narration works well enough.  It’s not bad, overall.  The next work, Bye-Bye!, for flute and piano and based on a Haitian folktale, offers a tribute to immigrants.  It works marginally less well musically, but the instrumentalists both handle their parts well.  The 1993 recordings sound almost like some audiophile recordings of the era, with what sounds like minimal microphones, very clear sound, and clear spatial presentation.

The big works come next.  The Snow Queen Finale: The Ice Palace, based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale.  The music is unabashedly modern, pastichey, and not bound by any stylistic constraints.  Boisterous, clangy, romantic (I hear some Wagner in there), rough, chaotic, and offering homage to cartoons, the music sort of wanders all over the place in an ADHD sort of way.  The last work is The Legend of Spuyten Duyvil, originally influenced by the body of water the bridge connecting Manhattan and the Bronx covers, but per the composer’s notes, that in turn is influenced by ancient New Amsterdam folklore.  It, too, rapidly wanders all over the place, but it sounds more serious and occasionally darker.  Ms Alsop ends up an excellent narrator, with clear diction and impeccable enunciation.

Deak’s compositional ability seems clear enough, so I perused his other compositions and available recordings, and everything is like the compositions here.  I’d prefer more traditional, or at least more serious, music-only forms for further exploration, so this disc probably represents the only thing I’ll hear.  I’ll probably spin it again once or twice.

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Offline Florestan

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #566 on: September 03, 2022, 03:56:33 AM »


Two big, long, silly cello concertos from different centuries, clearly intended as amusing diversions.

The Offenbach is from the composer's early days, before he became an operetta legend. It's enormous (42 minutes), especially the sprawling 18-minute rondo finale, which has some very big, chunky, full episodes for "military" percussion. As you'd expect from Offenbach, the tunes are immediately catchy throughout, and the cello gets to sound cantabile most of the time.

Actually, I think you conflate two different concertos: the Concerto militaire and the Concerto-Rondo.  The former is about 25 minutes long, the second indeed about 19 minutes. ;)
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #567 on: September 10, 2022, 06:01:10 AM »



Years ago, I picked up the first volume of Edmund Rubbra’s string quartets and thought to myself I should pick up the other volume.  It took a while, but I finally got around to it.  The disc opens with the second quartet, and it is an arch-conservative, neo-romantic piece.  It flows quite nicely, often sounds quite beautiful, particularly in the gorgeous and at times haunting Adagio, and rhythmically vital.  At times it has a dark and mysterious hue to it, but it sounds out of time.  Forgetting that, this work sounds fine and would snuggle right in with a recital including Dvorak and Szymanowski.  OK, it would be better to mix and match with more diverse styles, but it sounds old-fashioned. 

The disc then moves to works for voice and string quartet, starting with Amoretti, which sets Edmund’s Spenser’s poems in the collection of the same name to music.  Charles Daniels has a pleasing sounding voice, though his diction is not perhaps ideally clear.  The string quartet writing underpins the music in retro arch-conservative style very well, thank you.  The disc closes with a Piano Trio in a single movement, though Naxos provides individual tracks for the different sections.  Beautiful for sure, but often almost morose sounding in the long opening, it does not invigorate except in the brief middle section, instead bathing the listener in nearly opulent musical introspection.  I doubt it becomes core rep for performing Piano Trios, but it is nice to hear.  It’s the highlight of the disc, which while not great, has more than a few good moments.

The Maggini play well, as does Martin Roscoe, with Charles Daniels not coming off as ideal to my ears. 
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #568 on: September 17, 2022, 07:00:02 AM »


The first recordings of Alessandro Striggio’s Mass for 40 Voices eluded me back in 2011 when it first came out, and again in 2012 when Glossa released another recording, paired to the same composer’s Mass for 60 Voices.  That recording can be streamed from my streaming vendor of choice, but this Decca recording cannot, so I opted to spend some dough for a download.  The composer was apparently the son of a well-to-do nobleman, and he ended up writing works for the Medici family, so he had a pretty cushy gig.  Seeing such a massive mass from the Renaissance of course conjures thoughts of Thomas Tallis, and indeed that composer’s more famous Spem in Alium closes out the disc. 

The recording opens with Striggio’s Ecce beatum lucem, which includes period instrument support.  It sounds lovely in a generic Renaissance music sort of way.  The main attraction comes next, the Missa Ecco si beato giorno.  Again, aided by orchestral forces, the work starts off in a leisurely and lovely fashion, but the Kyrie sounds rather smaller scaled than expected.  The Gloria dispels any concerns of scale.  True, it’s not full force all the time, which of course helps, because when the full forces sing and play the polyphonic goodness, it adds an almost physical component to the piece.  The relatively brief work then proceeds along similar lines through to the end.  It sounds lovely and luxuriant, but it does not pack the punch that Tallis’ masterpiece does.  In some ways, it resembles the later, even grander Missa Salisburgensis by Biber, but it obviously lacks the punch of that work.  Part of it stems from the recording, which renders the massed voices as an almost too blended, indistinct sonic blob. 

The next work is a little instrumental piece by Vincenzo Galilei, which sounds quite pleasant, and then the disc moves on to an assortment of short pieces by Striggio, with varying numbers of singers and instruments, giving it a grab bag feel.  Each piece sounds nicely realized, and the smaller works have a more pleasing recorded balance.  The penultimate piece is a bass only Spem in Alium, and then the Tallis setting of the same text closes things out, with some instrumental support, in a shorter than normal performance.  While influenced by Striggio, per the liner notes, there is no question, from the very first notes, that the Tallis work is the greatest work on offer.  Denser yet easier to follow, more gripping and immediate, and more transcendentally beautiful, the well-known (in relative terms) piece almost hypnotizes.  So good is it, so great, that immediately after finishing this, I listened to the Jeremy Summerly led version and then the Paul van Nevel led version.  The Summerly, by adopting slower than normal tempi, has an even more transcendental feel, while the Nevel has a more immediate feel.  All three kick ass, in a heavenly way.

So, this recording is most welcome in my collection, even if it is not perfect.  The music is glorious and beautiful, and that’s enough.
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 #569 on: September 24, 2022, 05:07:44 AM »


Always read the fine print.  This disc reminded me of that.  You see, I saw the name Franck attached to a pair of string sextets and thought that César Franck had composed them, so I happily plumped down the four bucks needed to procure the physical disc.  Only when I received the disc and read the name on the cover did I see that the German composer Eduard Franck composed these two works.  Oops.  Fortunately, the purchase did not end up a waste of money.  Ed, it turns out, led a life of privilege, which included studying under Felix Mendelssohn, and his music is very much of its time and place.  There’s really not that much to write in describing the music.  Take Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, mash the music together, stir a bit, and presto, Eduard Franck pops out.  The music does sound derivative, but when it derives from composers like that, it’s really not bad at all.  The music sounds beautiful and tuneful, properly structured, and proportional.  The only potential complaint one could level is that it often sounds almost too relaxed and beautiful.  Almost.  A HIP ensemble could take care of that, but nobody wants that.

The augmented Edinger Quartett plays splendidly and Audite delivers superb sound in this now twenty-year-old recording.  A most pleasant purchasing mistake.
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Offline Florestan

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #570 on: September 24, 2022, 08:15:15 AM »


Always read the fine print.  This disc reminded me of that.  You see, I saw the name Franck attached to a pair of string sextets and thought that César Franck had composed them, so I happily plumped down the four bucks needed to procure the physical disc.  Only when I received the disc and read the name on the cover did I see that the German composer Eduard Franck composed these two works.  Oops.  Fortunately, the purchase did not end up a waste of money.  Ed, it turns out, led a life of privilege, which included studying under Felix Mendelssohn, and his music is very much of its time and place.  There’s really not that much to write in describing the music.  Take Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms, mash the music together, stir a bit, and presto, Eduard Franck pops out.  The music does sound derivative, but when it derives from composers like that, it’s really not bad at all.  The music sounds beautiful and tuneful, properly structured, and proportional.  The only potential complaint one could level is that it often sounds almost too relaxed and beautiful.  Almost.  A HIP ensemble could take care of that, but nobody wants that.

The augmented Edinger Quartett plays splendidly and Audite delivers superb sound in this now twenty-year-old recording.  A most pleasant purchasing mistake.

You might want to explore more oif his music, because there is more and it's all on the same level.
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Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #571 on: September 26, 2022, 11:42:59 AM »


Richard Dubugnon (b. 1968) had a reputation early in his career as a continuance of the French late romantic school of music-making, particularly influenced by the dark lyricism of Fauré. To judge from the chamber symphonies and piano concerto on this disc, he has evolved forward in time since.

Chamber Symphony No. 1 begins in bustle, with the chamber orchestra chopped and scattered into individual parts and everyone given something to do. It reminds me of fast Messiaen, especially with burbling hyperactive winds, and Dubugnon also says he was very strongly influenced by Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No. 1, which is audible too. At the halfway point, there is a long solo cadenza for violin which slows down the momentum of the piece and includes some alternation of bowed and plucked notes. This leads next to a cello cadenza with a little bit more expressive shape. Things build back up from there; the piece (which has essentially no repeated thematic material, though lots of interesting sounds and instrumental solos) is structured like a V, going from more active to calm and back to active again. (There is, though, a quiet ending.) By the way, the world premiere was conducted by Leon Fleisher.

Klavieriana starts out with an "Allegro febbroso" - feverish! And it's true. The toccata begins immediately, as a perpetual motion piano part is overlaid on lots of nervous tremolo strings. It's a real striking, hyperactive, memorable beginning to a 26-minute concerto with another interesting feature: an obbligato celesta which frequently acts as a "shadow" to the piano. The celesta is a critical part of the fabric of the slow movement, which is an interesting mood piece, somewhat of a nocturne, with slightly "off"-seeming sicilienne dance rhythms at times. As colorful as it is, Dubugnon clearly wants to get back to the good stuff (i.e., the fast stuff), so the piano sets off into a rocket of a cadenza and then, with a big bass drum roll, into a furious finale. The interesting thing about the chamber orchestra scoring is that as kinetic as the music gets, it never feels truly Big. This is a bit of a weakness at the very end, where the last orchestral flourish sounds more like an angry robot than a vision of doom. But this is a really fun little concerto with loads of energy.

Chamber Symphony No. 2 is very different from No. 1. The structure is this: slow chaconne, fast fugue, slow chaconne, fast fugue. It's inspired by the artwork on the cover of the album, an early religious depiction of musicians in the Swiss town of Winterthur. The Musikkollegium thought it would be a natural thing for a commission. I am not sure that the chaconne structure is kept too strictly; the textures are very transparent and light, and prioritize soloistic lines rather than counterpoint. There are distant, echo-like evocations of Bach throughout the first movement. I wish the ending had less triangle/cymbal, but then we launch into the first fugue, and it is delicious, with lots of snapping French horns, snarling violas, and pounding timpani. The second set of chaconne and fugue follows the pattern of the first, but shorter all around, and with a little bit of jazzy syncopation sneaking into the Bach tributes of the final fugue.

Overall, an interesting listen and an engaging hour spent in the company of a composer who tends toward a modernist sound language but neoclassical forms and shapes. His skill at fast, energetic, rhythmic music is unusual among "popular" contemporary orchestral composers, who tend to excel most at slow, atmospheric stuff. Not in my personal stylistic wheelhouse and not likely to be a favorite disc of mine, but that's a personal thing. Interesting dude.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #572 on: September 26, 2022, 11:48:18 AM »
It reminds me of fast Messiaen


This combined with Zehetmair conducting piques interest.
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Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #573 on: September 28, 2022, 10:53:54 AM »


Wow, this is cool stuff. Mayuzumi was a contemporary of Takemitsu, but his international reputation never took off in the same way. Bugaku is a two-part ballet, not even 25 minutes, with extraordinary character. The first part starts with long, creepy lines of string instruments slowly building up in a way that's evocative, captivating, and reminiscent of both traditional Japanese instruments and the European avant garde. The second movement, meanwhile, is more of a folk dance, with banging drums, wavering piccolos, clicking col legno strings, and a strong rhythmic sense. It all gets mixed up with complex chords and harmonies reminiscent of, say, early Ligeti. Although the fast movement is a little episodic, with long pauses between sections, Bugaku as a whole makes a great impression.

Mandala Symphony is a tougher nut, a more modern work that's full of percussion (I wonder how many players it takes). It also has exactly the opposite structure of Bugaku: still short (18 minutes), but this time the short fast bit is first and the long slow bit is second. The long slow bit reminds me a lot of the 5 minutes or so of lull at the beginning of part II of the Rite of Spring. It builds to an impressive climax before fading out to darkness. It is based on the Buddhist principles - how Buddha descended to teach man, and how man can ascend - though the most recognizable product of this, sonically, is the use of tone rows derived from the overtones of temple bells.

The Rumba Rhapsody is more interesting for its backstory than its musical material. During WWII, music from Allied countries was banned, but South America was perfectly OK, creating a brief fad for Latin dance. This is a student work which the young Mayuzumi immediately discarded, reworking the melodic material into Symphonic Mood instead. The recording rehearsals were the first ever performances. He was clearly an accomplished student, but the music moves in fits and starts, without the cohesion or imitative skill of fake Latin stuff by, say, Gershwin or Copland.

Symphonic Mood, that resulting work - still a product of early student years - is an intriguing mishmash of styles, much like Bugaku, but with a totally different mix of ingredients. Here, instead of Stravinsky, Ligeti, Japanese folk tradition, and ritual drumming, the main contributors are French impressionism a la Debussy, South American dance music, and the Ballets Russes. It's a lot like Respighi's Brazilian Impressions or maybe Camargo Guarnieri.

What a wild, diverse trip this CD is! Exceptional playing and leadership from Takuo Yuasa. Tops sound. A total blast.

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #574 on: October 01, 2022, 05:22:00 AM »


This marks the second appearance of the Lysell Quartet in this thread, and the first appearance of Dag Wirén in this thread and my collection.  The Swedish composer lived a big slug of the 20th Century, but one wouldn’t necessarily guess that on evidence of the music alone.  While I long ago abandoned the notion that all modern music must be unpleasant or dissonant or modernist, Wirén goes one step further.  Always wanting to appeal to rather than challenge the listener (apparently), the first couple quartets here sound almost easy listening light, as though some British pastoral composers might sound too intense.  The music does not fail to please.  The Fourth and Fifth quartets maintain a surface approachability, but somewhat like some of Schubert’s music, though sounding nothing like the Austrian’s music, a generally sunny mien allows for tenser, darker elements to be heard at the same time.  It’s quite a nice result, almost like a smiling Schnittke, shorn of the unyielding modernist style without sounding antiquated.  Overall, it’s quite a nice disc with four excellent works.

The Lysell Quartet play splendidly, and the recorded sound is exemplary.
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Offline Brian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #575 on: October 01, 2022, 05:45:48 AM »
Wiren's string serenade is notorious(ly light and fluffy) and the CPO two-disc symphony cycle is well worth investigating. 2 and 3 on the lighter side, 4 and 5 on the darker/more abstract (1 was withdrawn).

Offline Dry Brett Kavanaugh

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #576 on: October 01, 2022, 06:28:58 AM »


Wow, this is cool stuff. Mayuzumi was a contemporary of Takemitsu, but his international reputation never took off in the same way. Bugaku is a two-part ballet, not even 25 minutes, with extraordinary character. The first part starts with long, creepy lines of string instruments slowly building up in a way that's evocative, captivating, and reminiscent of both traditional Japanese instruments and the European avant garde. The second movement, meanwhile, is more of a folk dance, with banging drums, wavering piccolos, clicking col legno strings, and a strong rhythmic sense. It all gets mixed up with complex chords and harmonies reminiscent of, say, early Ligeti. Although the fast movement is a little episodic, with long pauses between sections, Bugaku as a whole makes a great impression.

Mandala Symphony is a tougher nut, a more modern work that's full of percussion (I wonder how many players it takes). It also has exactly the opposite structure of Bugaku: still short (18 minutes), but this time the short fast bit is first and the long slow bit is second. The long slow bit reminds me a lot of the 5 minutes or so of lull at the beginning of part II of the Rite of Spring. It builds to an impressive climax before fading out to darkness. It is based on the Buddhist principles - how Buddha descended to teach man, and how man can ascend - though the most recognizable product of this, sonically, is the use of tone rows derived from the overtones of temple bells.

The Rumba Rhapsody is more interesting for its backstory than its musical material. During WWII, music from Allied countries was banned, but South America was perfectly OK, creating a brief fad for Latin dance. This is a student work which the young Mayuzumi immediately discarded, reworking the melodic material into Symphonic Mood instead. The recording rehearsals were the first ever performances. He was clearly an accomplished student, but the music moves in fits and starts, without the cohesion or imitative skill of fake Latin stuff by, say, Gershwin or Copland.

Symphonic Mood, that resulting work - still a product of early student years - is an intriguing mishmash of styles, much like Bugaku, but with a totally different mix of ingredients. Here, instead of Stravinsky, Ligeti, Japanese folk tradition, and ritual drumming, the main contributors are French impressionism a la Debussy, South American dance music, and the Ballets Russes. It's a lot like Respighi's Brazilian Impressions or maybe Camargo Guarnieri.

What a wild, diverse trip this CD is! Exceptional playing and leadership from Takuo Yuasa. Tops sound. A total blast.

Nice disc. “Bugaku” is the name of ancient music in Japan around the 7th century.