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"New" Music Log

Discussion in 'classical' started by Todd A, Dec 27, 2008.

  1. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    Just been listening to the 21st Symphony.... will be a while before I return to it I suspect but I did enjoy it a lot more than almost anything I've heard by Schnittke, who I suppose is a near contemporary of Weinberg and was composing symphonies in 1980s and 90s in the Soviet Union. Also it sat better with me than what I've heard of Andrei Tchaikovsky, another cold-war-era Soviet composer.

    The conductor here also sings the wordless soprano part in the final movement. Wonder if she did that at same time as conducting or overdubbed it later?

    I also have a Chandos disc of Weinberg's 1st and 7th symphonies which I had forgotten about but one of them was quite good - will have to listen to it again to remember which!
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  2. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    From the DHM long box, some motets from Pachelbel and two lesser Bachs. Stylistically similar - attractively melodic, light, clear, and often upbeat - the collection of works is successful start to finish, with one caveat. Countertenors are used instead of women to fill the alto roles. I always prefer women up high, and that holds here, but a lot of the time it doesn't really matter much. I couldn't help but notice that I tended to prefer Pachelbel's works more than those from the Bach boys, but all are nice. Superb sound.



    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B000001TY7/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
  3. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    [This will be cross-posted in The Asian Invasion]


    Most of my listening for The Asian Invasion has been geared toward CKJ artists. But there's more to the continent than those three countries. Thanks to the seeming randomness of Amazon Add-on discounts, something from a Iranian composer caught my eye. For a few measly bucks, why not try something from another extra-ancient civilization, I thought. I mean, some of Karol Szymanowski's best work is inspired by Persian poetry, so there must be something else out there to inspire. Amir Mahyar Tafreshipour is a name new to me. He identifies with the land of his birth and early childhood, but he is also steeped in the ways of the West, so he is uniquely positioned to offer a hybrid approach. He also penned the liner notes, so the lucky reader is not beholden to possible misinterpretations by an another author of the composer's intent. Another Iranian, Alexander Rahbari, conducts the ECO in the main work. It has been many, many moons since I heard it, but Mr Rahbari has conducted some Debussy for Naxos in the past, so he, too, knows east and west. As it happens, Rahbari also composes, and Naxos will be releasing a disc of his music in the very near future.

    The disc opens with the title piece. I set the volume knob about where I typically do, and that ended up a problem at the start as the harp is miked way too close and bursts forth with a boldness I don't typically associate with the instrument. As the three movement concerto moves along, it ends up being basically a modernist concerto in three movements, with a conventional fast-slow-fast approach. The solo part could have been a violin or piano or whatever. That's not to say that the music isn't good, because it is; rather, I don't really hear the special value of the harp, specifically. Tafreshipour clearly knows both Iranian music and Western music, because both are obvious, and Western music dominates. The Eastern components sound attractive and lend what I'll describe as quasi-exotic feel to the music. The remaining structure, textures, instrumentation, and so forth, evoke music I've heard before. The names Bartok and Mahler came to mind more than thrice, especially in the dissonant string writing. The harp ends up working most effectively in the Tranquillo second movement, and in the third movement, soloist Gabriella Dall'Olio demonstrates what I have to gather are impressive chops as she strums away at widely divergent dynamic levels, including almost ridiculously quiet and sweet pianissimo arpeggios. There's a lot to enjoy here, and if I know this will not receives many spins, it was certainly good to hear.

    The next work is the quintet Alas. It almost immediately brought to mind Berg's Chamber Concerto and Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, though it does sound different than either and decidedly contemporary. Unabashedly so. The piano part serves a sort of anchor, and there's precious little in the way of light or charming melodies, something reinforced by the other instruments. That's not meant as criticism, because there's something more immediately gripping, something more vital in the music. It's sophisticated and appealing, but not simply beautiful for the sake of beauty.

    The last two pieces are briefer works. The trio Lucid Dreams for harp, cello, and violin is as unabashedly modern as Alas. The basically rhapsodic piece unfolds in a sort of organized chaos way, sometimes sounding attractive, especially with the strings, and sometimes astringent. And here the harp generates a sort of crazy guitar sound here and there. Cool. The disc closes with Yearning in C. Influenced by childhood memories of Scandinavia and largely improvisational (which I hope means it could sound different in person), it is a continuously unfolding work that sounds close enough to older forms of music while being much more modern. This is precisely the type of work I would love to hear in a chamber recital of some sort as an opener.

    So, overall, this is a successful disc. The headline work is the most "conservative" of the bunch and the least compelling. When Tafreshipour goes for something more abstract, his music is even better. I don't know if I'll actively hunt down more works by him, but if I stumble across something else, I know his style and I will buy with confidence.

    Sound quality is excellent, and all performing artists do excellent work.


    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B078SNDBC2/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2019
  4. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Here's a disc of 21st Century choral works that I had no expectations for when I snapped it up. I don't recall even having seen the name Phillipe Manoury before, though I may have, but I most definitely have seen the name, and listened to recordings from, Laurence Equilbey and Accentus. The works, based on works as old as the philosophy of Heraclitus and as recent as the purpose written texts of Daniela Langer, all have a modern take on old time choral writing vibe. There's polyphony aplenty, with multiple voices massed together while others weave different melodic strands throughout. There's a dissonant, nearly (faux-) chaotic sound at times. It's entertaining, and it can best be described as Ligeti light. Not bad, not great, and well performed and recorded.



    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004J68H7E/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
  5. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

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    First time I've heard this.... recordings are few and far between of this 75 minutes set of variations on Shostakovich's signature motif, composed in the early 1960s. Its a fairly mighty piece of music. But although I have no yardstick to compare this recording too, on purely sonic terms it is a big disappoinment - very low level, lots of noise and bad distortion at the dynamic peaks - despite the low level! The performance is still worth hearing but I will be looking for another. I note that Igor Levit has been performing this work recently so please may he record it!
     
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Augusta Read Thomas is a name I've seen many times, but until now, I'd never listened to any of her music. This disc contains eight diverse works, and one movement from another work, on one fairly brief disc. It seemed like a nice way to sample both her music specifically, and a bunch of works from this very century.

    The disc opens with the nine minute Radiant Circles. At times very bright, and purposely so, and loaded with hefty percussion, one can hear a lot of influences (Ligeti, Berio, Ruggles maybe, etc) but a personal voice. It's modern and not tuneful, and while dissonant, it's not harsh. Alas, the University of Illinois Orchestra does not sound as though it has the best string or brass or winds in the world, and at times it seems like the music is missing some impact. I have to think when Pierre Boulez led some of Ms Thomas' works in Chicago the results were more satisfactory. The second piece is the movement Prayer-Star Dust Orbits from Resounding Earth, for Percussion Quartet. There's a lot of bells ringing in this piece, which sounds intrinsically aleatoric and comes off as a sort of super wind chime for its nine minute duration. It's nice enough, but I don't see myself listening to it a whole lot. Juggler of Day for women's chorus sets Emily Dickinson's brief text in a short six-and-a-half minute span. Each line is layered, with different parts singing over and around one another. It manages to marry hints of old style polyphonic delivery with contemporary voice blending, sort of like a 16th Century Spaniard and a modern Russian somehow mushed their music together. The light, bright, fun Capricci for Flute and Clarinet follows, and really, it's a charming piece. Twilight Butterfly, from 2013, for Mezzo and Piano is a fairly attractive song and sort of keeps with the feeling of the collection.

    Then comes a doozy: Bells Ring Summer for solo cello. Originally written for David Finckel, this short piece is a scorching, tight, taut work, until the last fifth or so. I would certainly like to hear how the dedicatee plays it. Euterpe's Caprice, a two minute fanfare for solo flute (its actual title), is back to lighter fare, and sounds fun. This is followed by Pulsar, for solo violin, which sounds as though it could be an extended cadenza for a violin concerto. Finally comes the closer, the title track, Astral Canticle. A double concerto for flute and violin, the piece opens with the violin, moves via some overlap to the flute, and then blends in an instrument or two from the orchestra here or there, for a couple minutes before the brass enter. While a concerto for the two main instruments, there's also a concerto for orchestra sound to it, as other sections move in and out of the picture, gradually building to a tutti as the piece draws to a close. The piece manages to be both unabashedly contemporary yet entirely approachable. Again, though, one wonders what A-listers might deliver. Daniel Barenboim conducted the Chicagoans in the first performance. I'd have to think the full impact of the piece could be heard with those forces.

    The disc is a success overall, but the takeaway for me is that I want to hear the big works played by world class ensembles, and that solo cello piece needs to cycle into the solo repertoire.


    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00V68DL74/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
  7. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    It's never a bad idea to try something new from Georg Philipp Telemann. This Reformations-Oratorium, Holder Friede, heil’ger Glaube, dates from 1755, just a year before the composer's late period started. Penned to celebrate something or other - perhaps the two hundredth anniversary of the Peace of Augsburg - the long lost work gets its premiere here, led by Reinhard Goebel. Mr Goebel's Tafelmusik recording is just dandy, so I came in with high-ish expectations. That Mr Goebel is obviously very serious about Telemann and this work - he personally owns the manuscript - heightened expectations a smidge. My expectations were almost met, with two caveats.

    The first caveat pertains to the recorded balance. The soloists are recorded too closely, and they dominate the recording, while the chorus is a bit more diffuse. Such close focus on the voices means that there's nowhere to hide for the singers, though that's not a bad thing here. Indeed, one of the benefits of the disc is that it offered me a chance to hear some hot young talents for the first time. Regula Muehlemann basically steals the show for me, but the three other male singers all do good enough work. Benjamin Appl shows some promise. Maybe he can do something more up my alley at some point. The modern instrument band plays very well, though one might be able to argue that a HIP ensemble would be more appropriate. I don't care, either way. To the second caveat, I do rather wish that the performance had a bit more snap, more energy, more theatricality. Given the (potentially) potent subjects involved - Peace, Devotion, Religion and History - a bit more oomph seems appropriate. I don't know how may other artists may take up the work, but another version, someday, somewhere, may be a good thing. In the meantime, if I want snazzier late-ish or late Telemann, I can always revisit the Ino Cantata. Still, this is a nice addition to my small but sure to grow Telemann collection.



    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01N2UXAK6/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
  8. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    What's this now, a mass from Rossini? I mean, come on, it's Rossini.* Well, here it is, the Petite Messe Solennelle. 'Cept it ain't petite. Nor solemn. OK, so the forces are petite, with the soloists joined by a small choir, two pianos and a - a harmonium. Say huh? Yes, a harmonium, because, it's Rossini, old, rich Rossini, so what'd he care? The eighty-four minute recording launches with the harmonium forcing one to adjust the ear, and the effect is of a liturgical work performed in a French bistro. If that sounds negative, it's not meant to. You see, Rossini delivers a Rossini-type trick and makes the work purt near irresistible. The tunes, oh yes, the tunes, they are most certainly Rossini quality. Only Schubert and Dvořák could pen catchier ditties, and this mass is chock full of melodic goodness, though the composer never goes all out in creating something like one hears in his most famous operas. The tunefulness means the work, at least in this performance, doesn't have much gravitas, but that's quite alright. Something it does have is unabashedly operatic solo parts. Here I thought Verdi's Requiem was operatic, but some of the numbers here seem like reworkings of discarded music from some of the composer's operas. When the Domine Deus starts, I chuckled a bit at the sheer theatricality of the vocal writing, though the chuckle was born of pure delight. Indeed, the vocal writing throughout is masterful, benefitting mightily from Rossini's ability to craft music for singers at the highest attainable level. The musical support is just right given the light, comparatively playful, yet still devout material. It's unique and uniquely effective. It zips right by. Maybe Rossini was right, it really is petite.

    The performers, with Françoise Pollet the big name here, all do good work, and sound is fully up to snuff even though the recording is a generation old.

    After listening, I looked around a bit to see if there are other versions, and sure enough there are more than a few. Apparently, Wolfgang Sawallisch's early-70s recording is the bomb, so maybe I'll give that a shot at some point. And though I don't really think I'll collect a lot of versions, this is the type of work where I can nonetheless easily see myself buying another one here, another one there, and so forth because it's so much fun.



    * I know, I know, Rossini also wrote a Stabat Mater, but that's more serious - and operatic.
     
  9. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    This is my first foray into the music of Cyril Scott. As I listened, I couldn't help but think some of the music sounds a whole lot like Debussy, some sounds almost identical to Mompou, some seems more than reminiscent of Satie, and some sounds like a blend of the three. There are many quite lovely moments, and thankfully the pieces are all short, because the music really isn't much to listen to. Scott is nowhere near as inventive or compelling as Debussy or Mompou, though I do like him more than Satie, but that is setting a low bar.

    Truth to tell, I bought the disc to hear more from Ms Gvetadze. She's one of those contemporary pianists I make a point to hear every time a new release pops up, and her playing is quite fine, and recorded sound is superb, so the disc reinforces my very positive overall impression of her artistry. I'm glad she sees fit to explore lesser known repertoire, and I eagerly look forward to her next release.


    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07WFJ9JTJ/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
  10. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    A disc that portends good things for the future. Both the conductor and soloist were in their twenties when this recording was made, and they remain in their early thirties now. Sebastian Bohren is not new to me. I picked up a closeout of his Op 2 disc, which includes Mendelssohn (the unfamous concerto), Hartmann (soft-edged; more on that later), Respighi, and Schubert. Conductor Luca Bizzozero is new to me. The disc isn't really since I noticed it upon release, but I saw no reason to buy at full price. Upon listening, maybe I should have.

    Neither Johann Baptist Vanhal and Ignaz Pleyel are new to me, though I can hardly be said to have large collections of their works, and all these works are new to my collection. With the Vanhal and Pleyel symphonies that would have to be the case since these are world premiere recordings. Both are quite delightful classical era pieces. If one can hear the influence of Haydn, in particular, one is neither surprised nor displeased. Both works are brief, crisp, attractive and fun. The Pleyel sounds a bit snappier, a bit more refined, a bit more streamlined, but both works delight. Mr Bizzozero does creditable work directing the chamber orchestra.

    The draw on this disc is the last work, the big work, the well north of a half-hour Pleyel Violin Concerto. And Mr Bohren is the reason why. To be sure, Bizzozero does generally good work as one expects by this point, but Bohren's playing is so incredibly beautiful, his upper registers so smooth, and not hampered by too much or too little vibrato, that it beguiles - most especially in the gorgeous Adagio cantabile. As with his Hartmann, one can say Bohren's playing sounds soft-edged, but here it fits. The recording technique makes sure he gets a lot of love, though not to the point of making his violin sound as large as even the reduced first desk. That's OK, that's what one wants here. Even though this work is new to me, one gets the sense, coming after the more vibrant symphony and in the context of the concerto itself, that the fiddling should be more vigorous, but one just doesn't care, not one iota. The whole thing is carried by that playing. I can't say whether it is note perfect, but it sounds just swell. After the first listen, I perused for more recordings from the violinist, and he has some solo Bach. The Gramophone review is interesting in that in praises the substantial aural beauty and basically states that's the draw. After hearing this, I understand why. I may have to get it.

    Overall, very nice playing and superb sound. Sony's Central European branches keep cranking out the good stuff.


    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00WYA9W7Q/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
  11. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla knocked it out of the park in her DG debut of Weinberg symphonies, and the good folks at UMG know it. Here's a quick follow up. It's an all-Lithuanian ladies special, with works by the composer Raminta Šerkšnytė, and with not just the estimable MGT waving a stick, but also the even younger Giedrė Šlekytė getting her shot at Yellow Label glory.

    The recording has three works, MGT leading the first two with the Kremerata Baltica, and Šlekytė leading the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, with choir, in the disc closer. Vasarvidžio giesmė, or Midsummer Song, from 2009, for string orchestra and slight percussion, is up first. Yet another woman's name pops into mind while listening, and that's Gloria Coates, because of the extensive use of glissando. That written, Šerkšnytė's piece is more my speed in its uncompromising modernisn, with no real tunes or center, but rather a sort of textural and colorful unfolding of musical ideas through the roughly thirteen minute length. MGT and her strings do the work full justice, and it strikes me as a piece perfectly suited to Carlos Kalmar, who routinely programs exactly this type of thing in his concerts. Perhaps I should write him a letter encouraging advocacy of the composer. Pairing it with a healthy sized check might be more potent. Sort of like the De Profundis, from 1998, that follows. Spikier, more intense, and with some very affecting, even gorgeous passages, especially in the Andante rubato section, Šerkšnytė delivers what might be considered an updated, refined, more modern take of something Honegger would have written. Good stuff.

    Saulėlydžio ir aušros giesmės, or Songs of Sunset and Dawn, from 2007, closes out the recording. A sorta cantata-oratorio (apparently, the composer hates the oratorio form as it is typically understood) based on Indian raga structures and utilizing poetry by Rabindranath Tagore, it opens with Day, Evening, and one hears a wonderful blend of influences that result in something new. Take the perfumed excess of Szymanowski, the harmonic daring of Debussy, some slight hints of Wozzeck just before the murder, and an aleatoric feel mixed with solo and choral parts that bring to mind Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, along with something that comes close to sounding like Mongolian throat singing, and, well ladies and gentlemen, this here's the shit. It's as lush and beautiful as one could hope for, but also simultaneously very post-post-modern and/or avant-garde-y. And that's just the first movement. The second piece, Night, offers an updated take on "night music" (duh) and introduces updated and refined Ligetian influences. How about that? As nicely as Lina Dambrauskaitė sings her part - and it is very nice indeed - I couldn't help but wonder what Isabel Bayrakdarian might do with the part, I mean other than reduce me to a puddle of goo. The instrumental introduction to Morning, Eternal Morning has a Rossinian flair to it - as in William Tell, of course - though with unabashedly modernist sound, and the final piece itself has that Martinůesque feel to it, and the flute work seduces the ear. The spectral violin writing and delicate percussion adds a sense of staying in a dreamlike state rather than awaking from one. If the name dropping makes the music sound derivative, it is not meant to; rather, it is the easiest way to describe the formidable music Ms Šerkšnytė hath wrought. On the strength of just this piece and recording, Ms Šlekytė emerges as another young talent to watch. And Ms Šerkšnytė joins Vivian Fung as a contemporary female composer of no little interest to me. I love recordings like this.

    I went the hi res download route, and as in MGT's debut, sound is tip top. DG had best not dally in getting something else from their new stars out to the public.


    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07Y1XYG61/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
  12. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    I'll just get it out of the way and admit up front that the only reason I even contemplated buying this recording is because Jamina Gerl plays the works. Prior to seeing that she had released not one, but two new recordings at the same time, I'd neither heard of nor seen the name Ferdinand Pfohl. Mr Pfohl was a music author and critic first, and a composer only second, somewhat like Gustave Samazeuilh, covered previously in this thread.

    Turns out there are reasons Pfohl is better remembered in German speaking lands as a critic than he is remembered anywhere as a composer. The piano music just isn't really that great. It's not awful, or anything, but it's often fairly heavy and thick and modestly adventurous. Some of the time, the music sounds like something Brahms may have eked out when hungover one Sunday morning before realizing that it was not up to snuff and duly tossing the paper in the fire. Other times it sounds like what Brahmsian impressionsim might have sounded like - or rather what early, discarded attempts at Brahmsian impressionism would have sounded like. At still other times, it sounds like Brahms and Grieg got together to mashup ideas for four-hands works, and then Brahms reedited them to standard solo fare. And this is not just because one of the works is based on a theme of Grieg's. If the gentle reader gets the impression that Brahms looms large, it's because he does. It's sort of like how one can't help but notice the massive influence of Debussy on Samazeuilh, though the Frenchman ended up crafting better works.

    Ms Gerl is a fine advocate of this music, and possibly the best the composer will receive, sort of along the lines of the great Ragna Schirmer's advocacy of Clara Schumann. Indeed, in her uncompromising, often hard-hitting, and never dainty approach, Ms Gerl very much reminds me of her older fellow countrywoman. This recording, along with her two other, better efforts, is something to tide me over until she records something else. She's already got Op 111 under her belt and on YouTube, so she really ought to just get down to business and record a big old slug of her fellow Bonner's music for 2020. Maybe all 32. She needs to hurry; I am understandably impatient.

    Sound is what one expects nowadays and the 86 minute playing time is, if anything, too generous.


    Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07W6CF7HZ/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
     
  13. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    I figured I might as well go local again, this time employing the choral forces of the local commuter college. The work needed something more spacious than Lincoln Hall on the campus of PSU can offer*, so it was recorded in St Stephens in the Hawthorne District, just off Cesar Chavez Blvd (39th to old timers). Sound quality assessment will be more important than normal since no less than John Atkinson, Editor in Chief of Stereophile, performed engineering duties. Eriks Ešenvalds is new to my collection, and had this disc not been brought to my attention when it came out a few years back, I would probably not have heard of him yet. When I found the 24/88.2 download available for a whopping $3.60, I nibbled.

    The short disc is comprised of four works written between 2005 and 2015. The opener, The First Tears, is based on an Inuit creation story reimagined by the composer. Set in English, and throwing in Native American flute, percussion, and Jew's harp, Ešenvalds evokes something of a modern Eastern European sound (as in Pärt or Górecki or Gubaidulina), though it is quite distinctive. And the composer has his forces create a wonderful, blended sound from which the soloists emerge clear as day. The use of percussion teeters on the verge of being too much at the end, but the use of drums in a mid-sized venue results in some satisfying heft. The second work, Rivers of Light, including Sámi folk songs and a blend of other sources, is brief, colorful, and both measured of tempo and yet somehow swift, focused yet centerless. A Drop in the Ocean follows, blending the Lord's Prayer, St Francis, and Mother Theresa in another brief and effective work.

    The main work is the composer's setting of the Passion, Passion and Resurrection, blending soprano soloist, vocal quartet, choir, and string orchestra. Mixing biblical passages, Byzantine liturgy, and Responsories, it's a compact, continuously unfolding work spanning about half an hour, and again it offers a blended sound, augmented very nicely by strings. The composer uses dissonance most effectively, though listeners who rarely venture beyond the 19th Century may like it less than I do. This is a major, or at least near-major work from this century. No, it doesn't have the same elevated impact as the great liturgical works of the baroque era, let alone the Renaissance, but it shows there are still musical gems to be mined from the source material.

    To sound, this is probably the best engineered recording I've heard from Mr Atkinson. There are no recording hardware artifacts as in Robert Silverman's Diabellis, and the sound isn't too close, with too small a hall as in Robert Silverman's LvB sonatas or some of the Stereophile discs. The sound is exceedingly natural and clear, when the composition allows it to be so.

    It turns out that the same forces on this disc have just recently released a second disc of Eriks Ešenvalds' music entitled Translations. They changed venues to St Mary's in Mt Angel for the new disc, which means they were just down the road from where they must record at some point: Mt Angel Abbey. I'll probably buy the new disc, too.


    * The large auditorium in Lincoln Hall is where I hear most visiting pianists. It is near ideal for a Steinway B, with nary a bad seat in the house.
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2020
  14. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Whilst Qobuz had its Naxos sale, I took the opportunity to pick up this recording, in hi-res, for a whopping $3.60. I always mean to get more Harrison, but I never do. The only other recording I own is the Concerto for Organ and Percussion under the baton of MTT, and it's a doozy. This disc is a bit less of doozy, but then Organ Concertos have a certain scale factor. The Violin Concerto, pairing violinist Tim Fain with a gamelan orchestra, has many of the same features as the larger scale work, and it is just as successful. Rhythmically incisive, bright, necessarily colorful, the lyrical string offers a stark and effective contrast to the clangorous but effective support. It's unlike any other non-Harrison concerto in my collection, and it is something. The Grand Duo for Violin and Piano from the late 80s, at about a half hour, is another beast. It can best be described as a marriage of Prokofiev and Ives. I happen to like such a musical marriage, though obviously others might not. It would likely fall fairly easy on the ear of any 20th Century chamber music fan, and if maybe Fain uses a bit too much vibrato at times, such thoughts are fleeting. Michael Boriskin's accompaniment is just dandy here. The disc closes with Double Music with Harrison teaming up on compositional duties with John Cage. It's a brief, repetitive swirl of percussion. It's hardly a masterpiece, but it is nice enough for an occasional listen. Performances and sound are all up to snuff. It would be swell if Naxos did a complete Harrison collection. It would force me to buy more.
     
  15. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    It's been a while since I last bought a new Leonardo Balada recording, so this hot off the presses one seemed like as good a recording as any. With the Hipgnosisesque cover, it actually looked better than most. The brief disc contains three brief works for clarinet. Ivan Ivanovs plays the clarinet throughout. The first work, Caprichos No 7, "Fantasies of La Tarara", is a chamber concerto where right from the outset the soloist must explore the upper reaches of his instrument, play some demanding sounding trills, and otherwise have, at minimum, kick-ass chops to pull off. The accompaniment is standard Balada fare. A mash-up of folk influences and every modern compositional technique under the sun, the music unfolds in an orderly, very highly structured way, with every section seeming both inevitable and yet almost aleatoric at times. Balada blends so many influences and techniques so fluidly that one doesn't even notice the dissonance, the potentially disorienting soundworld, the lack of pretty much any hummable tune. It's like easy listening and off-kilter Elliot Carter at once. Caprichos No 6 for Clarinet and Piano follows, and this quite brief four-movement work sounds knottier than the chamber work, sounding more potentially forbidding and uncompromising. Yet even so, as the pianist works his way up an down the keyboard, and the clarinetist soars uneasily above it, the music creates a sort of Darmstadt School meets psychedelic music vibe. Nice. The closing work, a chamberfied version of the Double Concerto for Oboe and Clarinet, here for flute, clarinet, and piano, ends up perhaps the most surreal of all. The sharper, tangier sound of the clarinet is offset by the warmer, at times delicate flute, with some occasionally groovy piano playing. (I don't have the liner notes, but the piano sounds like a detuned upright.) It moves beyond a fantasy into a musical dreamscape, changing moods, palettes, and rhythmic structures in almost cartoonish manner, all while sounding very un-cartoon-like. The use of Mexican folk-tunes, some many or most listeners have heard, sort of enhances the dream-like state. It's probably the most accessible work overall, though I doubt the bluehair donor crowd would go wild for it. Once again, Balada's music hits the spot. He's remarkably consistent qualitatively.

    Mr Ivanov is also an academic at UNLV and has written on Balada's surrealistic composition style, so he's spent more than a little time on these scores, and it shows. Everyone else involved in the project does good work, too.

    I went the hi res download route for this recording, and sound is SOTA. Sounds like Carnegie Mellon has a bitchin' recording studio.
     
  16. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Until I bought this recording, I had zero (0) Harmonica Concertos in my collection. How could that be? Well, David Hurwitz's very enthusiastic review, and Qobuz's bargain basement price, made me give this Villa-Lobos recording a go. It is something. The first listen offers one of those "What the hell is this?" type listening experiences. The structure of the work is conventional - fast, slow, fast - and the orchestral support has that Villa-Lobos rhythmic sensibility and colorful orchestration, though it also sounds informed by Korngold, but it also offers a weighty background against which the closely recorded harmonica contrasts. And wouldn't you know it, but Jose Staneck is a super-virtuoso on the instrument, at times making it sound almost like an accordion - and I mean that as a compliment! It's almost like a cowboy went to Juilliard, learned flute, then decided he just couldn't quit harmonica and applied all he learned to the instrument. It's remarkable and unique and fun.

    It's the third work on the disc, though. The disc starts with the Concerto for Guitar and Small Orchestra, and here the orchestral support sounds even more like what is on offer in the composer's symphonies, and the guitar is placed very forward so one can hear every note with clarity. Perhaps too much so, and it does become a bit too large in scale, with the low notes sounding almost like pizzicato cello notes on occasion, but otherwise it is as fine a Guitar Concerto as I have heard, which is not too terribly many. It turns out, though, that as good as the Harmonica Concerto is, it's the chamber music works that are the real draws. Both offer unique, not to say bizarre, instrumental combinations. The Sexteto Mistico does as good a job at creating a mystical soundworld I have heard in its brief, just under eight minute duration. Better yet, which is saying something, is the Quinteto Instrumental that closes the disc. Bright, colorful, light, open, eminently tuneful and achingly beautiful in parts, it entrances. Again, there's nothing quite like it.

    All performers do high-end work. I am not wild about the sound. It is incredibly detailed, to be sure, and it is close, which is fine, but it is also airless and sort of "artificial" sounding, and seemingly rolled in the highs. But that's a quibble. Wow!
     
  17. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Always on the lookout for some snazzy Renaissance liturgical music, Antoine Brumel's Missa Et ecce terrae motus caught my eye when I found it cheap. The fact that the work was recorded by Paul van Nevel and the Huelgas Ensemble sort of made it seem like a mandatory purchase. Brumel is either new to my collection, or I have something by him buried deep inside a big box and forgot about it. The main work is something a bit different: a mass with twelve parts. Having listened to a good amount of polyphonic music from the era, I had expectations. The expectations were not really met; they were rather handily exceeded. Rather than rely on intricate, endlessly beautiful, intertwined melodies, the work seems to rely on interlocked melodic blocks that combine to create unearthly harmonies that at times almost undulate like heavenly waves of music. It's dense yet ethereal. It's almost like Brumel prefigured aspects of minimalism by a few hundred years, too, with some repeated musical patterns that enhance the impact of the music. It's beautiful and elevated and moving and, yes, quite snazzy.

    The disc also includes the Sequentia "Dies Irae Dies Illa", with the famous Dies Irae music used so many times by so many composers. Here, the singers are joined by some olde tyme brass in this Requiem bleeding chunk which only makes me want to here the whole thing, though it is more conventional in sound and approach.

    Since I first started listening to ancient liturgical music spanning the Renaissance and early Baroque periods, the twin colossi Claudio Monterverdi and Cristobal de Morales have emerged as my favorites for the unbridled creativity and vitality of the Italian's music and the unsurpassed and unsurpassable beauty of the Spaniard's music. Cipriano de Rore sort of came out of nowhere as offering something nearly as singular as those two, and now, at least with the big work, Brumel joins him. I will be investigating more music by the composer.

    Nevel and crew do exceedingly fine work.
     
  18. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Why not more Brumel? Here, the the big work is the Missa Berzerette Savoyenne, modeled on a chanson by Josquin des Prez, which opens the disc. It takes a bit of daring to take a chanson involving a bit of wooing and then weave that into a mass. The piece lacks the intricate, unearthly beauty of Morales, but Brumel's music sounds unfailingly beautiful, with a beautiful top melody mostly audible throughout, and wonderful harmonies. It's sort of punchy, in an a cappella sort of way, and gripping without being overwhelming or all-consuming. The accompanying motets are superb, as well. They may even be better than the main work.

    Chanticleer is the greatest all-male choir in the history of the world, and as such even the counter-tenors fill parts to perfection.

    I went a rare route to buy this recording, buying directly from Chanticleer in order to guarantee maximum income to the ensemble.
     
  19. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    More from Chanticleer. This time it's some music from the New World. Ignacio de Jerusalem wrote his Matins for the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1764 while residing in Mexico City. That's the extent of the New World influence. Ignazio Gerusalemme was Italian and changed his name, making it even easier to live under Spanish rule. This is my first exposure to his music, and it basically sounds like one of Handel's Italian Cantatas blended with Haydn. That's a pretty heady blend, and it's not surprising that he doesn't quite match up to either. That written, this work just sort of nonchalantly nestles right in with high end later baroque and early classical works qualitatively. That's noteworthy, and the music's almost unfailingly sunny sound, excellent part writing and choral writing, and small scale orchestral support, make it joy to listen to. But of course, the reason one buys or listens to a Chanticleer recording is for the ensemble, and as usual, they do not disappoint. More here, more than even in the Brumel, the high voices are most excellent, probably because they blend in more and stand out less. But every singer has his part dialed in just so, and the result is executive excellence of the highest order. As expected. The catalog does not exactly burst with recordings of Jerusalem's works, but maybe I will buy one of the few others some time. Another Chanticleer recording is more likely in my near future.

    I bought this directly from the ensemble again, just because.
     
  20. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


    In this grand Beethoven year I finally did something I never thought I'd do when I bought the Naxos complete Beethoven set. To be sure, I've purchased complete oeuvres of composers before. I've got the DG Webern edition, which is handy, and I have not one, but two complete sets of Decaux's output, but I never thought I'd go for a big old set of Beethoven, and then not from lowly Naxos. But then it turned out that Naxos offered the best mix of price and repertoire, including rarities. And Covid helped since I am bored, working from home, and able to listen to music all day long from my main rig. And so now I am in the enviable position of being able to listen to a whole boatload of Beethoven that is new to me.

    Determining where to start was easy enough. I've never heard the oft maligned Wellington's Victory before, so it got to go first. For this box, Naxos did a repackaging, so the image posted shows the original release of this much booed piece. The disc included pieces recorded between 1989 and 2019 by four conductors. Ondrej Lenárd gets does the duties for the main attraction, but it's the disc closer. Prior to that the listener gets to listen to Oliver Dohnányi direct 12 Menuette, WoO from 1795. They are nice enough trifles that sound like more somber Strauss family works than the most famous Beethoven orchestral music, as does the 6 Menuette WoO 10 conducted by Leif Segerstam that follows. (Though recorded three decades apart, the sonic differences are not as pronounced as one might expect. I wonder if Naxos remastered/re-equalized the older recordings.) Stanisław Skrowaczewski and the Minnesota Orchestra make a just under four minute appearance in the Gratulations-Menuet, which is much more distantly recorded and set at a lower level, but it sounds nice enough. And then it's the big show. The snare drum opener gives way to a fanfare and then popular tunes. The set up of the orchestra, with timps and bass drums on alternate sides of the stage exchanging musical fusillades is mildly entertaining. The second movement is filled with more exciting, middle period Beethoven music in its most triumphalist form, and in the inclusion of God Save the King, it's most patron-pleasing form. Now, I've heard it, and I can say I hear where Tchaikovsky got his inspiration for his even more awful 1812 Overture. Overall, the work is not as bad as I had feared, but I predict I listen to it in its orchestral guise perhaps once more in my life.
     

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