"New" Music Log

Started by Todd, April 06, 2007, 07:22:52 AM

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Brian

#580


Alexander Veprik is a name little-known in music history and little-discussed even here on GMG, where the only previous post to mention his name was the announcement of this 2019 release. Well, we need to talk about him now! I want to stand up and yell at nearly everyone on the board: listen to this guy!

Veprik's dates, 1889-1958, tell a story. He was in roughly the same generation as Prokofiev, a bit older than Shostakovich. Unfortunately, Veprik was a Ukrainian Jew, so when Stalin's anti-semitism reached its peak, he was thrown in jail and then the gulag, accused of "Jewish nationalism." (Weinberg would have known and been chilled by Veprik's example.) Veprik was released shortly before his death, a tired, broken, and malnourished man who lived on to compose only a handful of pieces.

You'd think that recent political events would make Veprik fashionable to program, especially since his pre-gulag orchestral language is overtly melodic, even Hollywoody, more crowd-pleasing than even Bloch. But this appears to be the only widely available album of his orchestral music. Multiple symphonies are unrecorded. This disc is divided into two parts: charming, Jewish-inflected miniatures from early in his career, and darker late pieces from after his years in the gulag.

First up, we get the Dances and Songs of the Ghetto (written before the Nazis added a darker meaning to that word), a sort of reverse Dances of Galanta: softer, calmer, more lyrical, with a quiet ending, but with lively dance interludes and plenty of fun. Toscanini once conducted this at Carnegie Hall. Then there are Two Symphonic Songs, of mourning and joy, with strong religious character, big tunes, and colorful orchestration (I like the ending's use of both stopped and open French horns). Finally, the Five Little Pieces form an 11-minute set of folksy dances and songs, with a touch of klezmer clarinet. In total, the fun, tuneful, traditionally Jewish stuff makes up a joyous 36 minutes of the program. The 38 minutes after it are a different story.

The first of the two late, fatalistic pieces is titled Pastorale. Its main melody is overtly lyrical, like a minor-key version of the third movement from Scheherazade, but the orchestral colors are dark and interesting, with lots of cello, viola, and bass clarinet. Lament might be a more appropriate title, but it is not a religious lament like the one in Two Symphonic Songs.

Finally, there are Two Poems. Their names are just Poem 1 and Poem 2, and they add up to 27 minutes, but despite their length they are the most enigmatic, episodic, "tough" works here. They remind me of Havergal Brian or Arnold Bax, actually, in their weird mix of tunefulness, "easy" orchestration (often severely lacking in bass or counterpoint), and deliberately opaque, obscure structure. There is a martial attitude about parts of Poem 1, from the snare drum at the start to the weird triumphant military march at 10', which sounds a lot like the end of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, right down to the way that the bass drum eventually joins into the one-two-one-two counting. Then everything falls right apart again and the poem ends seemingly mid-phrase.

Poem 2 opens searchingly, with despairing strings and flute reaching around trying to find a chorale-like melody to guide them. Like the first poem, it's ambiguous, enigmatic, and structured around a blaring Soviet climax with piercing trumpets. Eventually, this gets turned around into a seemingly triumphant, "I'm back!" ending. It's hard to ignore the backstory behind the work and wonder if Veprik's gulag stint had damaged not just his spirit but his attention span as well.

I'm not sure that everyone on GMG will like everything on this album. The Two Poems are a very hard sell for me. But I'm pretty sure everyone on GMG will like something from it, whether it's the moody late stuff for the doom 'n' gloom brigade or the populist dances for the more lighthearted folks. Orchestra and sound are good enough that I hope they get to recording the remaining Veprik works: two symphonies, a sinfonietta, and a suite on Kyrgyz themes.

Brian

#581


Olli Mustonen, it turns out, has composed not just chamber music but three symphonies, a triple violin concerto, and several pieces for piano and orchestra. Here we get two recent chamber works. The String Quartet No. 1 (2016) is in a "darkness-to-light" emotional arc over four movements, from an impassioned beginning with lots of unisons (makes me think of the Weinberg piano trio) to a furious finale that deliberately evokes Mustonen's composer-hero, Bartók. There's a quick, angry second movement that will definitely make you think of the famous movement from Shostakovich's Quartet No. 8.

The third, slowest movement is the emotional heart of the work (8 of its 22 minutes), and although it threatens to get repetitive, with the musicians all stating a specific rhythm repeatedly, there's also a hopeful chorale-like melody with a religious shape to it, like a prayer, which builds to several climaxes. The color of that tune is hard to explain - it's like a mix of Orthodox chant and American blues. Overall, the quartet is an exciting piece with memorable ideas, an easy-to-digest structure, that beautiful tune, some riotous Hungarian fiddling near the end - a winner that stands a good chance of getting applause in a concert hall from any audience. Superb.

Mustonen joins the energetic Engegard Quartet for the Piano Quintet (2014), which is in three parts of equal lengths, follows a similar emotional journey, and employs a similarly old-fashioned language that is not of any particular "school." The second movement passacaglia is based on almost exactly the same passacaglia motif from Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto, though the movement proves to be more like a theme-and-variations with lots of polyphonic departures from the original idea. There's even a Glass-like trance climax of repeated figures. In the finale, the players recycle all the previous ideas, kind of squandering about 4 minutes, before launching into a fun, victorious feeling conclusion that proves, like the quartet, that Mustonen is really good at writing fast music that packs in the ideas and the excitement.

A short disc - just 44 minutes - but with a lot of good, memorable material into that timeframe. If some of it is memorable because it resembles things we've heard before, that's okay. Really accomplished, enjoyable music that whets the appetite for more of Mustonen's original work. Performances are top-notch and sound is loud but clear and undistorted.

(Edited to add: I have long known and enjoyed the Mustonen cello sonata recorded with Steven Isserlis on BIS.)

Brian



Whole lot of contrabassoon in this light, colorful 14-minute work. Not sure why Mustonen is composing half-length concertante works - a genre which is even deader than classical's average - but the result is another delight. I did not previously know of cellist Timo Veikko-Valve but he tears it up (in a good way). ACO stands for Australian Chamber Orchestra; this is a live concert broadcast excerpted on Qobuz.

Todd







Why sample one symphony by a composer when one can sample a nice, even dozen?  Leopold Koželuch is not new to me.  I've worked my way through one and one-third keyboard cycles and listened to a couple discs of string quartets.  In each instance, Koželuch impressed me as a classical era composer a cut above most I have heard, though not rising to the level of the best by Haydn or Mozart.  And so it goes here.  Really, the most concise way to describe the symphonies is that all twelve are basically on par with Haydn's Sturm und Drang era works, or Mozart's that number in the high 20s or low 30s numerically.  So very high quality indeed.  He seems to have written about thirty symphonies.  I should like to hear more.

Superb playing and sound.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

SonicMan46

Quote from: Todd on December 11, 2022, 05:04:46 AM 

Why sample one symphony by a composer when one can sample a nice, even dozen?  Leopold Koželuch is not new to me.  I've worked my way through one and one-third keyboard cycles and listened to a couple discs of string quartets.  In each instance, Koželuch impressed me as a classical era composer a cut above most I have heard, though not rising to the level of the best by Haydn or Mozart.  And so it goes here.  Really, the most concise way to describe the symphonies is that all twelve are basically on par with Haydn's Sturm und Drang era works, or Mozart's that number in the high 20s or low 30s numerically.  So very high quality indeed.  He seems to have written about thirty symphonies.  I should like to hear more.

Superb playing and sound.

Thanks Todd for your comments - big Koželuch fan myself - the 3 symphony discs are about to arrive from JPC - also obtained half of the Kemp English set from them for $8 each and listening to the last ones this morning - will await more discounts hopefully on the other six CDs?  Dave :)

Brian

cross-post from the listening thread



Peter Friis Johansson presents three rare/new piano concertos, two by women. First up is a late romantic lost work by Laura Netzel, which PFJ completed with 116 bars based on her sketches and his own idea of creating a cyclical conclusion to make a satisfying resolution (and avoid having to wholly invent the ending). The booklet helpfully tells you the exact second of the finale at which the music passes from Netzel's original - which was fully orchestrated until she suddenly stopped writing - to Johansson's own creation.

PFJ describes Netzel as "a woman who had much to express but, at the same time, was not necessarily in full command of the seasoned composer's complete toolkit so that one perceives that her grandiose musical ideas do not always yield the proper returns." This may sound a little patronizing on paper, but the listening experience suggests its truth. There are lots of striking ideas throughout the piece - particularly the attention-getting opening, which suggests Netzel was trying to outdo Grieg's concerto - but there are also melodies that end seemingly halfway, and development sections that do not really develop. On the whole, I'd say it is a much more rewarding listen than, say, Clara Schumann's concerto, and I will listen again, but the incomplete nature of the piece and the inadequate education which musical men of the 1800s saw fit to give Netzel are reminders that, in a different world, this could have been more.

Sven-David Sandström's Five Pieces are up next. When PFJ called Sandström and asked for a concerto, apparently the very first question the composer asked was "Do you want two tubas or none?", out of the endearing belief that no orchestral musician should have to sit alone. PFJ chose two, and accordingly this is a Big-scored piece, with a sort of cosmic feel. At the end of the first movement, if you feel like you've been blasted out to space on a rocket ship, the starry glitter of the tranquil second movement may confirm that belief. This is a really interesting and enjoyable concerto, with moments of great tenderness and conventional romantic warmth (the final movement) but also fun filmic color, virtuosic piano writing, and the occasional avant-garde sonic technique. I absolutely loved this piece.

The somewhat cosmic imagery in Five Pieces is made more explicit in the final concerto, Andrea Tarrodi's "Stellar Clouds," which has seven movements with titles like "star formation" and "hypernova." (OK, one is titled "solo cadenza.") Tarrodi, by the way, is the daughter of trombonist-composer Christian Lindberg, which helps explain her easy entree into both Scandinavian orchestras and BIS Records.

This is a more musically abstract piece, significantly more "contemporary" than Sandström. Maybe it is a little bit self-conscious about making sure that the sound pictures are all sci-fi and cosmic, with mystical Messiaenic chords taking the place of melodies, but they are all quite enjoyable. (Take it for what it's worth, but BIS CEO Robert von Bahr thinks Debussy would have written music like this if he was around today. Eh, whatever. No need to bring him into it.) The cadenza, which PFJ now frequently plays as a standalone piece at recitals, is a humdinger, and gives way to a short finale recapping all the material that has come before.

This is a delightful 79:43 of new or new-to-our-ears piano concertos. Loads of fun. Heck of an entertaining new release, and now I am going to start seriously exploring Sandström's other orchestral concertos and the album on Channel featuring his choral music.

Todd

Quote from: Brian on December 12, 2022, 10:22:29 AMTarrodi, by the way, is the daughter of trombonist-composer Christian Lindberg, which helps explain her easy entree into both Scandinavian orchestras and BIS Records.


Quote from: Kristjan JärviThere is no nepotism in classical music.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd



Rather like with the threefer of Koželuch symphonies, why sample only some of Josef Mysliveček's violin concertos when you can sample a big ol' slug of 'em?  Or more precisely, all of them.  This twofer contains all eight of the Czech composer's violin concertos, with soloist Shizuka Ishikawa fiddling away.  Ms Ishikawa won various awards way back when, up to a half century ago, and then she proceeded to make multiple recordings for Supraphon, with very good to excellent results.  I picked up a couple of her recordings of core rep early in the year, so this reissue of recordings made in the 80s seemed like a good idea.  Also like with the Koželuch works, these concerti do not ascend to the top of the repertory heap qualitatively.  The first concerto sounds rather ho-hum, for instance, but things pick up in the second, and more or less maintain a generally high level of quality, even if nothing stands out, and nothing emerges as a timeless masterpiece.  Everything is tuneful, attractive, fairly energetic, well structured, and well proportioned.  It all makes for a pleasant listen, and I mean that in a purely positive way.

Libor Pešek conducts the Dvořák Chamber Orchestra expertly, and the band plays expertly.  Sonics are excellent for the era, and the engineers obviously favored heavy multi-miking, with ample spotlighting, and that works just fine. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd




A little over a decade ago, I listened my way to Renaissance liturgical music via the great composers of the Spanish Golden Age.  Cristóbal de Morales emerged as my clear favorite.  He's perhaps my favorite pre-LvB composer.  He's not the heavyweight from the era and group of composers in terms of recordings and accolades, though.  That's obviously Tomás Luis de Victoria.  He's pretty darned good, too.  The big box of liturgical music led by Michael Noone came at just the right time, and I devoured the box whole and have dipped into it from time to time since.  There are other notable Victoria recordings, not least being Jordi Savall's recording of Cantica Beatae Virginis, which sounds gorgeous and affecting.  Given all these factors, when I saw that Mr Savall had led performances of Victoria's Passion, well, yeah, I knew I'd buy it.

The work is comprised of music meant to be consumed over an entire week, not in one afternoon, which is of course how I listened the first time around.  It's more than three and a half hours of music.  When consumed in one sitting, Rossini's quip about Wagner very much comes to mind.  When one considers specific sections, or listens in smaller chunks, things improve.  First, this is an everything recording, with Savall using a variety of ancient instruments throughout, so one hears some sumptuousness.  Second, as evidenced by the use of instruments, this is not just gorgeous a cappella polyphony, but rather a grab bag of music, including instrumental sections, chant, and vocal polyphony.  Third, this recording comes from live performances, so there are some imperfections but also some small felicities that seem to crop up more in the moment.  It's hard to pinpoint them, but they are there.  And the female voices very often beguile.  This is not at all austere music, dryly performed.  There's some, well, passion in the performance.  The only negative thing I can report is that the sound is a bit too compressed for something so recent.

I will not listen to this collection frequently, but this is one of those recordings that I like owning, so I can listen anytime, anywhere, without having to worry about internet connectivity.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd




For no particular reason, I decided I wanted to give a listen to a bunch of modern Requiems, meaning penned in the post-war period.  To start this voyage of musical discovery, I opted for a pretty recent take in the form of António Pinho Vargas' setting from 2012, paired with the 2002 work Judas.  Mr Pinho Vargas is a Portuguese composer of no little renown, per the Naxos bio, and on the basis of this disc, I have no reason to doubt that. 

The disc starts with the beefy, just over half-hour Requiem, and it's a hard-hitting, unabashedly modernist take.  One needn't wait more than the opening notes for the drama to arrive.  All throughout, the composer is not shy about using oodles of percussion, high-tension string writing, and vigorous, at times angry sounding choral writing.  This is not a peaceful, calming work.  This is a work that grabs the listener by the metaphorical lapels.  The work thunders and grates, the singing soars, with the sopranos occasionally  almost shrieking, in a controlled and appealing way, and in one passage this segues right into the dissonant string playing.  The piece sounds unique, sort of blending dark, late DSCH symphonies, a bit of Kabeláč in the use of percussion, and the spirituality of Ešenvalds but in a more intense package, especially in the very wrathful Dies Irae.  The whole piece is not quite so intense: the Lacrimosa sounds more poised, more beautiful, more Ešenvaldsian (in the best possible way), and brings in hints of ancient musical traditions and a soundworld rather reminiscent of some of the Iberian music Savall has recorded.  Come the Agnus Dei, and the composer delivers musical beauty, though with no little astringency attached, that, in a couple fleeting passages, approaches no less than Cristóbal de Morales in terms of transportive beauty, before changing up to a Libera Me of drama and impact.  This here piece is just a whole buncha wow.  Just wow. 

Turns out that Judas very much inhabits a similar soundworld and uses a similar approach, though now one can add the name Frank Martin to the names of composers one can associate this music with.  The piece is very much a dramatic, almost theatrical work.  It sounds slower, more somber, darker, and less impactful, and while not qualitatively equal to the Requiem, it very much works extremely well on its own terms.   I had no expectations coming to this disc, but man, this is one heckuva a way to start a small survey of new works.  If all the other recordings are like this, I will be exceedingly pleased. 

Conducting duties are split between Joana Carneiro for the Requiem and Fernando Eldoro for Judas.  I should like to hear more from both.  Band and singers deliver in these live recordings. 

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

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

SonicMan46

Quote from: Todd on December 18, 2022, 10:58:42 AM

Rather like with the threefer of Koželuch symphonies, why sample only some of Josef Mysliveček's violin concertos when you can sample a big ol' slug of 'em?  Or more precisely, all of them.  This twofer contains all eight of the Czech composer's violin concertos, with soloist Shizuka Ishikawa fiddling away.  Ms Ishikawa won various awards way back when, up to a half century ago, and then she proceeded to make multiple recordings for Supraphon, with very good to excellent results.  I picked up a couple of her recordings of core rep early in the year, so this reissue of recordings made in the 80s seemed like a good idea.  Also like with the Koželuch works, these concerti do not ascend to the top of the repertory heap qualitatively.  The first concerto sounds rather ho-hum, for instance, but things pick up in the second, and more or less maintain a generally high level of quality, even if nothing stands out, and nothing emerges as a timeless masterpiece.  Everything is tuneful, attractive, fairly energetic, well structured, and well proportioned.  It all makes for a pleasant listen, and I mean that in a purely positive way.

Libor Pešek conducts the Dvořák Chamber Orchestra expertly, and the band plays expertly.  Sonics are excellent for the era, and the engineers obviously favored heavy multi-miking, with ample spotlighting, and that works just fine.

I'll second the recommendation of the Mysliveček Violin Concertos - I bought the two CDs separately (inserted above) before the 2-disc set was available; although recorded in the 1980s, the sound is excellent.  Dave :)

Todd



If you're gonna do modern Requiems, you might as well make sure BAZ gets in the mix nice and early.  Requiem für einen jungen Dichter is Zimmermann at his most Zimmermannian.  The work is gigantic, for two speakers, two soloists, three choirs (because yes), jazz band, organ, accordion, tape, orchestra, and kitchen sink.  It combines the Latin mass and multiple texts.  This recording was released in surround sound, to approximate what a proper avant-garde staging should sound like.  I listen through stereos and stereo headphones only, so I did not get the whole aural experience.

Now, I have listened to my share of hodge-podge avant-garde nonsense, where music sometimes is comprised of noise, some new music, and a pastiche of others' compositions, and often it sucks.  BAZ, though, more than even Berio or Schnittke, has got my number.  Why that is, I just don't know.  The work unfolds as pure chaos, moving beyond aleatoric music to something seemingly nihilistic and pointless, yet very serious and pointed.  As tracked here, the first movement is nearly forty minutes.  What happens in it?  Well, nothing and everything.  It's an experience, not music.  It's like some little snippets from Sgt Pepper's blown up to something massively scaled.  And as it happens, The Beatles make their appearance in the piece.  Imagine a swirl of sound and chaos where bits of Tristan emerge and fade and so does Hitler.  The musical borrowings are extensive, the literary ones highest of highbrow.  It's all terribly pretentious and overbearing and ridiculous and daffy – and all-consumingly bewitching.  Seriously, I have no idea how BAZ does it.

Now, this is most definitely not a piece to listen to frequently.  This is a once every five-to-ten-year kind of work.  But Michael Gielen believed in it enough to record it twice, and Gary Bertini recorded it once.  I will listen again, and I doubt I wait five years.  António Pinho Vargas' Requiem is far more musically satisfying, and is a piece that deserves more attention, but this makes a great and very, very different follow-up.  As mentioned before, this work is an experience, one I am most glad to have had, and one I will have again.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd



I recently revisited Winston Choi's mixed rep disc on Honens, which includes works by Debussy, Schmitt, Griffes (which is strikingly good), Szymanowski, and Scriabin.  That's quite the mix.  Choi displays a sensitive touch married to extremely fine technique and delivers a knock-out set.  I decided I must follow up with something else pronto, so I settled on a disc of piano music by Thomas Adès entitled Illuminating from Within.  I've long owned Adès' opera Powder Her Face and the assortment of works contained on the Living Toys release.  More recently, I have focused on Adès as performer.  His Beethoven symphony cycle is one of the greats of the 21st Century, and surely the best small band version I've heard.  The accompanying John Barry pieces are fine, too.  His disc of Janacek piano music on Signum is a very clean, austere take on the music, indicating he knows his way around the piano.  So clearly his piano works deserve a listen.

The three Mazurkas from 2009, written for Emmanuel Ax, sound nothing like Chopin or Szymanowski, but in them Adès adds a striking, often jarring rhythmic component that very clearly hints at dance, even if there is no notable melodic component in the first two brief Mazurkas.  The longer, slower, darker third Mazurka does introduce some easier to discern melody and a rich, somber feel.  It's really quite wonderful and would make a great out of nowhere encore.  Thrift, from 2012, billed as a mazurka-cortege follows, and it sounds like a mazurka sketched by Gustave Samazaeuilh and completed by someone with more modernist sensibility.  It's extremely fine.  Darknesse Visible, from 1992, a transcription of Dowland's In Darkness Let Me Dwell, immediately brings to mind Marie-Luise Hinrichs' transcription of Hildegard von Bingen's music in that parts of the transcription very clearly evoke the earlier composer's works, but Adès makes the music agitated, almost angry and despondent.  (That of course means the intent and the music is worlds apart from Hinrich's.)  Still Sorrowing, also from 1992 and also informed by Dowland, follows.  It retains an agitated feel, and it adds a somewhat jazzy feel, and it has flurries of notes propelling the music forward.  The disc closes with the almost twenty minute Concert Paraphrase of Powder Her Face.  Comprised of four movements, it is both dense and light, contains tons of rhythmic drive and complexity, extended flurries of notes that seem to go nowhere until they end up at a logical end point, some dark and rich music, some bright and agitated music, some downright beautiful music that manages to flow and sound blocky at once.  It's a tour de force.  I've not listened to the opera in years, but this makes me think I should.  I know I must listen to more Adès.

Choi ends up an ideal interpreter.  He brings his sensitive touch to music that could end up sounding purely gnarly and edgy.  It retains gnarl and edge, but it also falls easy on the ear.  Quite the feat.  He maintains clarity throughout and delivers both the minutest details and the structure of the works.  I will be listening to more Choi.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd

#593


Pierre Bartholomée is another new to me composer, and he will definitely not be the last in this survey.  He's Belgian, he's a conductor and composer and teacher, he's won various accolades, and he's still alive and kicking.  This Requiem, from 2006, was inspired by the composer learning the story of a girl who survived the Rwandan Genocide. 

The piece is announced with big bass drum thuds, which appear throughout, and then it adopts a very Stravinskyesque sound, colored up with ample accordion playing.  The scoring is much sparser than the prior two works, with some nifty percussion and lithe, clean choral writing.  The music displays tension throughout, but never becomes intense.  It is smaller, lighter, cleaner, and unyielding.  The singing overall is on a very high level, better than the prior recordings.  The use of a Renaissance specialist ensemble ends up playing a big part of the success of the recording.  This lacks the impact of the prior two recordings, but it works on its own terms.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd



I've of course known the name Danny Elfman for decades, and heard big blobs of his music, mostly in the form of film scores and the theme to The Simpsons, but also as part of Oingo Boingo and in his more recent solo work.  When I learned that his Violin Concerto Eleven Eleven has received its second recording by dedicatee Sandy Cameron, I figured I might as well listen to the first recording with John Mauceri leading the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.  A Piano Quartet is also included.

The big concerto, clocking in at over forty-four minutes, starts with a fourteen-minute movement with both Grave and Animato designations.  The slow, dramatic open certainly meets the Grave designation, and Cameron delivers a rich tone in long passages where instrumentation is otherwise sparse.  The cadenza is likewise more slow than fast.  But there are some big tuttis, with virtuosic writing and playing, dark low strings, percussion hovering high above, and even some snare drum.  Not surprisingly, one can hear hints of some of Elfman's film scores (how does one hear snare drums and not think of Batman?), but it sounds more like a neo-romantic concerto with nods to film scores.  It's a slightly gnarlier, brighter, updated Korngold in some respects.  The Spietato, acting just like a Scherzo, is much more energetic overall, with virtuosic part writing everywhere, and lots of percussion.  Again, Elfman does not rely on full orchestra for extended periods.  And Ms Cameron, well, she has got chops.  She can and does play as lovely as all get out, but she also delivers some harsh and shrieking high notes, right when she should.  The third movement Fantasma starts slow, rich, beautiful, very string-heavy, and almost like a threnody.  More instruments enter the mix, and the sound picks up energy, and Cameron gets to shine, playing delicately in the upper registers.  The Giacoso-Lacrimae closing movement starts off with lots of pep, lots for Cameron to do, with varying degrees of accompaniment as she romps forward through the movement.  Some very film-scorey passages and gestures pop up, but they all blend in well.  The movement builds to a gallery pleasing climax before switching to a slow coda, ending with the soloist fading out.  I did not come to this work with particularly high expectations, so I am pleasantly surprised by how good is.  I will listen to Ms Cameron's second recording, and perhaps other soloists might take it up.

The Piano Quartet was very much an afterthought for me, but again Elfman surprises.  He manages to evoke a soundworld similar to his orchestral compositions, making it sound bigger than the instrumentation suggests.  (I guess the engineering helps with that.)  The music is all over the place in terms of tempo, dynamics, style and influences.  At times it sounds like turbo-charged minimalism, at others, syrupy neo-romanticism (especially in the cello part), at others a dreamy neo-impressionism.  And that's just the first movement.  The piano leads in the second, titled Kinderspott, filled with childhood tunes all grown up.  As the work moves along, the sheer capriciousness and inventiveness of it, and the multiple influences (I swear I heard some Prokofiev influence in there) makes it a feast for the ears.  This work, too, exceeded expectations.

All artists involved do excellent work and sound quality is tip-top.  I may just have to investigate more art music from Mr Elfman.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd



Time for more Winston Choi.  This time he plays a big slug of music by Jacques Lenot.  Mr Lenot is an out loud and proud practitioner of serialism, and a self-taught one at that, though the music on this disc hints at some other influences.  Jumping right in:   

The recording starts with four of the Six premières études. The opening Allegro frenetico, all 1'18" of it, certainly lives up to the frenetico designation.  It's a nervous blur of notes that sounds like a human imitating a player piano.  The Mesto (delirando) intersperses fast bursts of music with slow, pause-heavy passages, mostly in a boom-clang style.  The third piece, Vivo, stretto sounds like a missing Ligeti piece.  The last, Fantasque, is about seven minutes of continuous playing with no melody of any kind.  It leaves little impression.

The eleven minute We Approach the Sea, while very similar, does hold more interest.  First, there's a lot of dynamic variability.  Like, a lot.  As in Lenot and Choi will vary dynamic between individual notes, and left and right-hand playing will be played at differing levels.  The pregnant pause is used, and the beefy tremolos actually does evoke waves on the sea.  Not shabby.  Yes, there are lengthy passages of notes hurling at the listener, but the evocation of the sea, and the sense of desolation evident in the latter sections works well indeed.  Following this is truly one of the best musical representations of wind, matching Debussy, in the under two-minute Burrascoso.  Blurs of notes and glissandi and tremolos and runs work wonders.  Here's another out of nowhere encore. 

Next come eleven Préludes, ranging from about two minutes to about nine minutes in length.  Lenot pulls off a pretty neat trick in that here is serial impressionism that works.  Par temps gris truly evokes the title, and I don't write that because I listened to it on a standard January day in the Tualitan Valley.  If There Were the Sound of Water Only immediately evokes images of a rapidly running brook.  Un giugno mesto, sparse and quiet and dissonant, and having a constant sustain as played, the nearly nine-minute piece simultaneously seems to pass in a flash and render time irrelevant.  And somehow, in the last selection, Un chant retrouvé, despite little melodic content and simple, dissonant notes plunking out, the sketches of a non-existent song can be heard.  Quite impressive.

Choi once again displays his affinity for contemporary piano music, and his touch keeps some of the music from just sounding like big, ugly blobs of sound, and his deftness allows some of the music to flow very nicely.  At its best, basically the Preludes, the music offers evidence of modern piano music of no little accomplishment.  Hopefully more artists take up Lenot's cause.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd





I pretty much never listen to classical guitar recordings, and the only recordings of "classical" electric guitar I have heard have come from Frank Zappa (eg, In-A-Gadda-Stravinsky), so this recording by hot shot Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe is something new.  The only pieces on this mixed rep concept album I've heard, in decidedly different form, are the Bingen, the Messiaen, and the Evans.  To say that they sound different here is an understatement.

First things first, Mr Shibe can play.  Yep, there's not a moment of doubt about that.  He doesn't shred, though one senses he could; rather, he often plays slow, occasionally sounding a bit like Bill Frisell in the process.  Also, he pushes the boundaries of what guitar music can sound like.  In the opening piece, he takes the guitar-as-keyboard approach of Edward, Viscount of Halen and pushes it so far that the music sounds more like something Lord Wright of Hatch End might have written and performed.  It's so freakin' good that I kinda wish Shibe would just go ahead and pull a guitar/electric guitar version of what Marie-Luise Hinrichs did with piano in her monumentally great collection of Bingen transcriptions.  Other delights abound.  The Corea pieces charm in their tuneful simplicity, the Moondog pieces scarcely less so.  The Monk sounds of Parsifal in its opening and closing pages, flanking extended musical hypnotism.  The Evans may stretch out too far, sounding (sadly but appropriately) like it emerges from an opium haze.  The Messiaen works shockingly well, sounding sort of like Messiaen, but shorn of excess, bombast, and jarring sound.  Seriously, Shibe should transcribe more Messiaen as well.  The second Bingen piece reveals the secret effect mass can have on a saucer.  (Let's see if anyone gets that oblique mix of arcane references.)  The few more recent pieces from lesser-known composers all come off very well, seeming to have been penned for the guitarist. 

This is a not a recording to listen to frequently.  Had it been around when I was in college, I would no doubt have spun this in tandem with Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, though it would never have displaced Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar as my most listened to recording.  This does make me think I should listen to Shibe's more traditional recordings, just to see what he does unplugged. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Todd



Rebecca Dale, apparently the first female composer signed by Decca, is a young-ish British composer (under 40) who wrote this Materna Requiem in memory of her mother, who passed away in 2010.  This Requiem rates as the gentlest, most melodically beautiful one I've ever heard.  Even Faure sounds rough by comparison.  Indeed, the plush, string heavy writing, some prominent harp, and a saccharine movie soundtrack style ends up working against the composition.  It's not awful, but think of Delius or Rutter (apparently) writing a serious piece for a Ron Howard feel-good flick, and that's the vibe.  Seriously, the Ave Maria could be dropped into any number of schlock flicks, and no one would be the wiser.  A bit of drama comes in the Carmina Burana/action flick sounding Dies Irae.  Since Ms Dale has written extensively for the screen, her style comes as no surprise.  The accompanying When Music Sounds sets various poems to unabashed soundtrack style music.  Overall, this is not my kind of music, but others very clearly like it, and I'm happy enough to have listened once. 
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya

Florestan

Quote from: Todd on January 22, 2023, 05:32:38 AMRebecca Dale, apparently the first female composer signed by Decca, is a young-ish British composer (under 40) who wrote this Materna Requiem in memory of her mother, who passed away in 2010.  This Requiem rates as the gentlest, most melodically beautiful one I've ever heard.  Even Faure sounds rough by comparison. 

Wow! A must hear for me, thank you for the tip.

(See now why I am greatly reluctant to ignore you for good?  ;D  )


"Art is no excuse for boring people." - Jules Renard

"Melody is the essence of music." - Mozart

Todd



Here's something new, or rather quite old.  It's definitely entirely un-western.  Lebanese-Canadian singer Lamia Yared, joined by seven instrumentalists playing eastern instruments (oud, tombak, etc), sings songs from different Ottoman courts spread across what are now Turkey, Syria, Egypt, and Iran.  Now, I've heard songs and music from the orient before, but not so many all at once.  The music has a transfixing effect, especially as Yared's somewhat dark voice often seductively  pushes the words at the listener.  (Since I had to stream and had no booklet to refer to, I don't know precisely what she sings, though the gist is clear in some songs.)  Married to her voice is a rhythmic fluidity from the instrumentalists that really sounds fantastic, as in fantasy-like.  The instrumental support undulates and swings and curves around the singer.  It never sounds heavy, thick, sluggish, nor does it sound antsy or too energetic.  It blends perfectly together. 

This recording was produced independently and is distributed by CD Baby, and the sound quality is nice enough, though it is balanced to focus on Yared's voice.  Understandably.  More recently, she made a recording for Analekta.  I think I shall give that a shot.
The universe is change; life is opinion. - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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

Propaganda death ensemble - Tom Araya