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"New" Music Log

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

  1. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    First Finzi! It took me until late 2020 to finally snag a disc of Gerald Finzi's music, and then because it was on clearance. Starting things off, the hefty forty-fiveish minute (as recorded here) setting of most of Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood presents a big intro, with textual quality guaranteed. The music starts off sounding stereotypically British in that it sounds pastoral, with soaring strings, though Finzi mixes things up. Truth to tell, the music is at its best when the chorus sings above the strings. The use of percussion sounds a bit crude, or at least not at all to my taste in the third movement (too many cymbal crashes, among other things), for instance, but the blending of voice and orchestra generally works well. So, too, does Philip Langridge as the soloist. Few of the vocal works in my collection are in my native language, so when one comes along, and one with a solo part, and with a singer of the caliber of Philip Langridge, I sort of pay closer attention to the text. He delivers, and the chorus delivers, and the work sounds substantive and generally quite good overall, quibbles about orchestration notwithstanding.

    The disc closes out with the Grand Fantasia and Toccata for Piano and Orchestra. Pianist Philip Fowke is new to me, and he acquits himself well in the work, but the work itself is overwrought in a generic sort of way, with neither of the movements particularly gripping. A definite meh.

    All forces concerned do good work, but the 80s vintage digital recording needs a fresh remastering/re-EQ, because this one sounds hard and glassy during tuttis.

    I know I won't be collecting the Grand Fantasia, and I would write that I doubt I go for another version of the main work, but I see that James Gilchrist serves as tenor in the Naxos recording. His Schubert song cycles far exceeded expectations, so who knows?
     
  2. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Until I purchased this closeout disc, I had not listened to Kurt Weill in fifteen or more years. The last time I listed, it was to Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny in its first recording. This el cheapo disc seemed like a good excuse to listen to his music again. Songs, some extracted from stage works, comprise roughly half the disc, while the Second Symphony makes up the back half. The symphony was the main draw, which ended up being a good thing, because the songs do not really work for me. Diane Dufresne clearly is not and was not an opera singer and she is recorded much too closely here. Her singing holds no allure for me, and each song kind of couldn't end quickly enough. As with the full production of Mahagonny, the Alabama Song suffers in proper setting when compared to the vastly superior version from The Doors.

    Now to the main attraction. Weill's neo-classical symphony has a lot more appeal. The opening movement sounds simultaneously breezy yet substantial, with a concerto for orchestra style segment for pretty much each section to gets its due, with the winds, in particular, delivering some tuneful music. Partly a result of the recording technique - ample space - and Yannick Nézet-Séguin's theatrical conducting, one gets a blend of Stravinsky and less cholesterol-rich Korngold. The Largo, not especially slow sounding here, has an almost movie soundtrack feel and some really superb brass writing. (Maybe Honeck and Pittsburgh can take it up.) Though the textures often seem somewhat light, a certain darkness pervades the transfigured march, weaving in and out. This becomes more evident in the bolder, march-like closing movement, though Weill's bright orchestration, including doubled piccolos, sort of mask that fact. The rhythmic verve is obvious, but the overall smoothness of delivery sort of doubles down on masking the darker overtones. Not a complaint. The work is good enough that I would not be averse to hearing one or two more versions.

    Atma delivers good if spacious sound, though one must adjust volume rather significantly between songs and symphony. All instrumentalists involved do excellent work, and young YNS shows that he had conductorial chops even early in the century.
     
  3. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Until I spied this closeout disc, I don't think I'd even seen the name Giovanni Platti. A younger contemporary of Bach, he appears to have written a sizable slug of standard baroque fare. Among his compositional output are these six Flute Sonatas bundled together in opus number three. All six of the sonatas, and all twenty-three movements, blend together nicely. It's one big, long, laid-back, beautiful, largely undifferentiated blob o' flute music. It's pleasant. And it makes for lovely background music.

    None of this takes away from the artists. Headliner Alexa Raine-Wright plays with a warm, beautiful tone and exemplary breath control, and her three musical partners play their various instruments (harpsichord, baroque cello, archlute, and baroque guitar) with aplomb. Sound quality is just dandy. I will never listen to this disc frequently, but I can see myself listening whilst performing some mundane and quiet chores.
     
  4. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    A themed disc about female madness. Clare McCaldin pens her rationale for the program in the liner notes, which may inspire or not, but for me, the whole point of such an endeavor is to see if such a collection compels.

    The disc opens with a pair of short, English-language works, one by Henry Purcell and finished by Benjamin Britten, Mad Bess, and one by Hariett Abrams, Crazy Jane, both informed by various famous works, and both make for a somewhat tepid opening to the disc. McCaldin and accompanist Libby Burgess do nice enough work, but the music falls flat.

    Things improve with Brahms' Ophelia. Brahms' familiar and comfortable idiom works nicely, though the German diction does not sound quite so accurate as German singers produce. As usual, it does not really bother me, it just must be mentioned. Things improve yet again with a handful of Hugo Wolf's Mörike-Lieder. Echt-romantic, properly proportioned and structured, and perfectly expressive, both composer and musical duo deliver the goods. While some of the upper register piano playing delights, the limitations of the efficient rather than sumptuous sound make one wish for more mixing desk tomfoolery. Still, as with all Wolf lieder I've heard, it works supremely well. (I really do need to systematically explore the composer's oeuvre.)

    Turns out, though, that more modern music is where it's at on this disc. Ned Rorem's Ariel, setting texts from Sylvia Plath, finds the duo, joined by clarinetist Catriona Scott, delivering songs both lyrical and tartly dissonant, and unabashedly modern, with a fluidity and sense of ease that seems to indicate true fondness for the style. The near matching of clarinet and voice in pitch and sound at times works well. Predictably excellent, given Rorem's high hit rate.

    The disc closes with Vivienne, composed by Stephen McNeff for the singer, with texts by Andy Rashleigh, the work is about Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot. The roughly half hour work sets a half dozen poems exploring brief segments of the subjects life. The music sounds more like show tunes than heavy-duty art songs, but here it is the text that carries the weight. Mostly narrative and direct, and reliant upon sharp allusions and turns of phrase, with bitterness and condescension and sorrow permeating the piece, it unexpectedly packs a wallop. Here's a work I didn't know I wanted to add to my collection. Given that the work was written for the singer, and that the singer and pianist premiered the work, it seems a bit lived in, in the best way - like Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's performance of the very different Neruda Songs by her husband.

    So a couple duds to start, but a rock solid program overall. I can always start listening with track three from now on.
     
  5. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Various artistic forces in Poland conspired around the Chopin bicentennial to record works by various young(-ish) Polish composers as a national homage to the greatest of Polish composers. The composers and works bear no resemblance to the master of piano compositions. Instead, it's just new stuff, exploratory and potentially pushing boundaries. One such composer is bear no resemblance Agnieszka Stulgińska, who was in her 20s and 30s when she composed the works presented on this disc. It's a grab bag of five short works for various ensembles with no underlying theme of note.

    The disc starts off with Let's meet, for two prepared pianos, something new in my collection. Such a composition must sound modern, in a post-Cageian way, and Stulgińska shows a way to sound different. The short piece includes rapid, repeated figurations, ample string strumming, hefty tone clusters, exaggerated low registers, shrill vocalization, and clashing musical ideas between the two instruments. The Lutosławski Piano Duo possess real chops and dispatch the piece with ease. An unexpectedly strong start to the disc, to be sure.

    Next comes Ori, for the unusual combo of accordion, electric guitar, cello, and clarinet. This marks another first in my collection. Thinking I sort of knew what to expect, I got something I did not expect. Apparently inspired by DNA replication, the first movement slowly gestates into existence, nothing but sound and occasional harmony (?) and blurred soundscape, where instrumental doubling creates new sounds fit for an avant-garde movie. The second movement skitters along bizarrely, with the electric guitar adding a distinctive texture, and the third movement returns to a different variant of avant-garde movie soundtrack. Not as strong as the opener, but unique.

    In Credo follows, and the brief work for strings and percussion slowly expands as it is one big crescendo, and it sounds vaguely like various, severe post-war modernists with helpings of chaos thrown in. There's no music center, no tune, nothing but gradually building music to the climax, followed by a disappearing coda.

    Stara Rzeka (Old River), for chamber orchestra is, for all intents and purposes, a musical stream of consciousness, not inspired by a body of water but by a river of thought, with musical figurations, fragments, and outbursts fading in and out in the continuous, cacophonous, yet still tightly focused piece. It's sort of like Berio married to Webern. Nice.

    The disc closes with Flying Garbage Truck, for saxophone, accordion, violin, cello, and piano - and tape. Whereas other works use conventional means to simulate electroacoustic music, here one gets a small chamber ensemble and chaotic sounds, be they digital creations or altered - heavily and lightly - sounds of the streets, blurring together in a cacophonous racket. Once gets the sense that one could mix in any recorded sounds to achieves the desired results. My general reaction to electroacoustic music is essentially meh, and this probably rates a meh+.

    Overall, the disc offers a mixed bag of contemporary music, but the strongest music indicates that Ms Stulgińska warrants further consideration.

    Fine playing from all involved, and Dux delivers its typical high quality recorded sound.
     
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    André Riotte is a composer entirely new to me. Born the 20s, he grew up in the post-war avant-garde, and it shows. The liner notes indicate that he follows in paths of Messiaen, Xenakis, and Barraque, and it shows. The name Messiaen emerges as on obvious inspiration, as it does with so much post-war piano music. Riotte work presented here, Météorite et ses métamorphoses, a massive 54'+ piece that is a theme and variations - or rather theme and musical metamorphoses - is a big old avant-garde sonic blob. Inspired by mathematical and computer compositional models, as well as various schools of atonality and other forms of high modernism, the piece staggers and punches and bites and clangs and hammers at the listener. It is hard listening start to finish, though the music does display some fine invention with very oblique references to composers older and newer. Ultimately, though, even when compared to the much longer Vingt Regards, this work seems too long and too stylistically repetitive to satisfy enough to warrant many listens. One or two more will suffice. Thérèse Malengreau, something of a specialist in obscure fare, plays well, and sound is just fine.
     
  7. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    https://www.prestomusic.com/classical/articles/3661--interview-gunnar-idenstam-on-metal-angel

    As someone drawn to 70s and contemporary heavy rock... I didn't know that what I was missing was a classical/hard-rock fusion organ symphony. Now I do. Its great fun, really enjoying this disc:

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08D51CGBJ/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21

    However, I wouldn't take Mr Idenstam's booklet notes too seriously unless you read similar comics to my 14-yr old.

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    The CD, and downloads are considerably cheaper at Presto than at Amazon.
     
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2020
  8. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Alexander Asteriades is another name I'd never even seen until I spied this el cheapo disc from the Audio Max sub-label of MDG. A set of variations for Piano Trio and a dozen songs seemed like something to try for a few bucks from this apparently German based composer. (His bio is thin and I didn't do any digging.)

    The short set of variations for Piano Trio starts the disc, and one name immediately comes to mind: Shostakovich. So much so, that it might be possible to pass it off as a newly discovered work. Dissonant, often darkly hued, yet also kinda tuneful, it sounds nice enough, but ultimately it made me want to listen to DSCH. That's no bad thing.

    The dozen songs, with German text only in the liner notes, break away stylistically a bit more, but though modern, the music is not avant garde. It sounds like a blend of Rorem and DSCH, with cold, hard piano music and mostly dark writing for the baritone. The variety and mix works better than the work for piano trio, but I do not see myslef spinning the songs a whole lot.

    Meh+.

    MDG can't help but release recordings in superb sound.
     
  9. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Who doesn't like lieder? Of course, Schubert looms gigantic in this field, and other later romantics of some fame seem to dominate the field, but when I stumbled upon a closeout of a disc of songs by Peter Cornelius, a name I may have seen but definitely forgot, I thought it could be a good time to explore a nook of the repertoire. His age and homeland apparently placed him in thrall to Liszt and Wagner, quite understandably, but at least based on the evidence of this disc, they did not dominate his composing. Also, Cornelius was apparently a poet-composer, having penned something like 700 poems and he set a big chunk to music, as did some other composers, notably Liszt. A couple of his songs close the disc, but a couple works by Heine aside, the rest of the texts are by German poets I do not know. The works were penned when the composer ranged from his 20s to his 40s. In general, the music sounds very much of its time, namely mid-19th Century Germany. It sounds squarely and unabashedly romantic, but a couple things become clear, at least for these songs. First, the earlier songs tend to sound a bit more dramatic whereas the later works sound more economical and contained, though Reminiszenz from 1862 contains a bit of drama. That's not to say they lack expressiveness, but rather that the compositional technique sounds more developed and more refined, and often simpler. While lyrical, Cornelius does not match Schubert in this regard, an impossible feat, and he doesn't sound as daring and intricate as Wolf, but his music works well. So well that I think I will probably plump for another recording or two.

    The singers all do good work, and pianist Matthias Veit plays nicely, though as recorded, he can sound a bit strident in places. The co-production with BR Klassik yields high quality sound.

    A nice little discovery.
     
  10. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The second disc of music by Ēriks Ešenvalds in my collection more or less continues on from the first. The disc contains seven short pieces, all sounding like a blend of modern spiritual composers like Gorecki or Part or Taverner, informed by older religious traditions and newer secular ones. There's a slight difference with this disc, though, and that is that aural beauty dominates everything. While contemporary, the music flows gently and washes over the listener. In some ways the label "easy listening" could suit it, but that would be a disservice. While not achieving the same type of transcendent, suspension-of-time feel that historical composers of note could achieve - Morales or Monteverdi, say - this disc does come close to achieving that in places. The composer's use of harmony, reinforced by frequent wordless choral work, creates a billowy, haunting, and enveloping sound. Come the fifth work, Vineta, with eleven singers augmented by percussion, Ešenvalds creates a masterful soundscape, evoking the mythic, sunken Baltic city, with the instruments adding both a eerie sound and a massive, thundering sound. The second best work on the disc is the closer, In Paradisum, set for cello, viola, and choir, and it offers music that perfectly suits the text and use, which makes sense since the composer wrote it for his grandmother. There's a John Tavener like quality, except the music sounds more immediate, more gripping, more real, less saccharine, and it sounds achingly beautiful and mixes sorrow and resignation and acceptance.

    Sonics again take front and center since Stereophile Editor-in-Chief engineered the recording. This time around, the PSU forces left Stumptown for the rural community of Mt Angel and the larger St Mary's Church, placing the crew a short walk from where they must one day record, Mt Angel Abbey. The larger venue sounds larger, with an even more blended sound than on the last disc, and with even broader dynamic range. When the instrumental music hits full force in Vineta, one feels it when played through floorstanders, but the spatial balancing seems slightly more focused through headphones. Superb sound, but I am not entirely convinced it can be called SOTA, what, with some Glossa productions of choral works out there showing exactly how it should be done.
     
  11. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Isaac Albéniz is well represented in my collection, what with that little ditty named Iberia, as well as some other rather notable works, like, say, España. His piano sonatas, on the other hand, are much rarer, though as it turns out, the great Esteban Sánchez, arguably the finest overall Albéniz interpreter on record, recorded the Fifth. So when the chance arose to hear all three completed sonatas on one disc for a few bucks (I still prefer to buy copies of my music, whether physical or download), I figured I might as well do so.

    The disc opens with the Third Sonata. The first two movements are fairly straight-forward and pleasant nods to classical era sonatas, with Chopin seeming to be an influence, and they make for pleasant listening. The work comes alive in the Allegro assai closing movement, which sounds like nothing less than a missing Lied Ohne Worte, and a rather robust one, at that. Now, is this the score or the pianist? I pose that question because the first Suite ancienne sounds like more missing Mendelssohn. That's no bad thing, though it is neither a necessarily great thing.

    The Fourth Sonata sort of soups up the Chopin-Mendelssohn sound with some more overt Spanish-sounding music, by which I mean music that looks forward to what Albéniz wrote later. The rhythmic vitality is there, and the harmonies really endear and seduce. Get to the second movement Scherzo, and one hears the makings of a mini-symphonic work, a feeling that lasts through the end, with the lilting dance rhythms and forward drive. Nice. The second Suite ancienne harks back to classical miniatures more, though the slightly darker hue and feel seems to evoke Chopin more. That's OK.

    Now to the Fifth. A fairly languid, Albénizian Allegro non troppo opens things up, before moving to a snappy Minuetto, and then the gorgeous Rêverie, which is the heart of the work. At times tender, at times displaying a Debussyian sound and feel, it hints at later works even more strongly. The work wraps up with a lively Allegro that seems influenced by the acciaccatura from Beethoven's Op 79, though here the device is used repeatedly. The pianist here does nice enough work, but when an A/B can be done, it can be instructive, and here the result is that one appreciates just what Sánchez can do. His rubato is fluid, his touch so minutely variable and precise, his rhythmic sense so unerring, that one sort of just wallows in the playing and the music, whereas with the present pianist, one can dig the note hitting, but one misses what is missing. Quite a bit. One also ponders what Sánchez playing Debussy may have sounded like.

    Sebastian Stanley, apparently of Spanish birth, plays nicely enough, though one not infrequently wonders what a more interventionist pianist might bring to the table in these works.
     
  12. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Gonna listen to the daughter, might as well listen to the father. Jia Daqun first ended up in my collection with an encore performed by his daughter on one of her Schubert discs, so he was on my radar, and now was the time to sample something else.

    The disc opens with the Rondo for Clarinet and Piano. Decidedly modern, and alternating fast and slow music, the piece sounds very French. It's light, rhythmically snappy in the fast movement, and quite colorful, with clarinetist He Yemo displaying some fine chops. Ran Jia plays piano here, and her hard hitting Schubert style translates nicely to this work as she plays with verve, and no little left hand solidity in places. Here's a fairly light modern work. Next comes Intonation for a fourteen member chamber ensemble. More colorful yet, with more texture, and lots of Gloria Coates-like glissando, just done to my taste a bit more, the piece blends some lighter passages with hard modernist outbursts. The music sort of unfolds continuously, and one hears abstracted Chinese (one assumes) elements blended into the mix quite nicely. The cymbal crashes aside, the instrumentation works extremely well. Nice.

    Three Movements of Autumn follows, and here Jia is all about applying modern techniques to Chinese music. Traditional Chinese instruments are used exclusively, and while inspired by Chinese opera, one can definitely hear the western academic influences as well. While the soundworld varies widely from Western music, the rhythmic component sounds vibrant and it ties together very well. It's not my first exposure to Middle Kingdom music, and it definitely won't be my last. The disc closes with Three Images from Ink-Wash Painting. Here, Jia uses western instruments to create a modernist impression of Chinese paintings, in a sort of Eastern Pictures at an Exhibition. The compact work appeals to me more than any orchestration I've heard of Mussorgsky's work. Again, Jia's writing sounds colorful, and it creates a soundworld both abstract and evocative of the underlying subject matter. Whether delicate and smooth, or, in the last piece, inspired by splashed ink, with the potent percussion exploding with near violence, coming in waves, and an edgy thrashing sound, the piece engages and energizes. More like this, please.

    All instrumentalists do fine work, all the more so since these are concert performances. Ms Zhang conducts the chamber ensembles nicely.

    A disc good enough to make me think I need to here more from the composer.
     
  13. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Over the years, I've listened to gobs of Chopin. But until now, I'd never listened to a recording of the Op 74 songs. How embarrassing. This closeout 2018 reissue of a 1988 recording thus seemed a must buy. Marrying Chopin's melodic genius to songs in what to my ear is the most beautiful Slavic language, at least when it comes to singing, seemed to all but guarantee enjoyment. There's a lot to enjoy. Basically, these almost all very short songs basically sound like delightful poems set to small, light mazurkas, which Chopin knew how to write rather well. Perhaps the works lack the heft of the great German and French song writers, but man, this disc just flies by, one lyrical delight following another. Henryka Januszewska sings quite splendidly, and of course she sounds right at home in her native tongue. Marek Drewnowski accompanies more than ably, and the aged sound, which appears to have had analog action somewhere in the recording or mastering chain, is quite fine. A peach of a disc.
     
  14. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    BAZ is growing on me. Slowly, but surely. When I could get this Ondine recording for a song, I went for it, and it's mostly new to me, which excites.

    The opening work is not new to me, though. That's fine. The Violin Concerto just sort of explodes into being, a cacophonous, aggressive, musically violent racket, merging Berg and Prokofiev and Stravinsky and lethal doses of caffeine. Musically jagged and really kind of ugly, it nonetheless grabs the listener and does not let go. The Sonata moves forward relentlessly, with percussion exploding and strings slashing, the soloist navigating a precarious path. It seems a vigorous, Germanic precursor to Bright Sheng's Nanking! Nanking!. The Fantasia starts off slower and more aurally pleasing, but quickly assumes a nervous, twitchy mien, though the soloist gets to float some beautiful and sometimes not so beautiful notes right in the middle of the mess. The Rondo returns to a relentless, constantly forward moving style, with the violinist rushing forward through another musical racket, with different instrumental combinations jumping into and out of the music frame. Strings sound massed and frenzied yet hushed, the piano belches notes, percussion instruments rattle out discordant rhythms because they must, and the brass attack the listener's ears, all trying to distract, but failing to do so, from the soloist's progress. (The almost randomness of the music and the use of percussion adds in a Cage-meets-Zappa element that delights.) And so the soloist must put on a show. Leila Josefowicz certainly does that. She dispatches the music with ease and at times a lightness that offers a stark contrast to the music surrounding her, especially in the opening movement. (She pulls off a similar feat in Scheherzade.2.) Her tone remains pure and easy on the ear at almost all times, those highly dissonant double stop passages obviously excepted. The Fantasia sounds, well, fantastic, in an intense, expressionistic, wrenching kind of way, though it would be well nigh impossible to not be seduced by the fiddler's trills. Josefowicz frolics and romps and tears through the Rondo, and the band follows her. Her cadenza sears but still sounds fun, and she and the band elevate the work to a qualitative level at least on par with Stravinsky's. Susanne Lautenbacher, while no slouch, does not play as effortlessly, and sounds more serious, which the piece really doesn't need. The bigger relative letdown of her take is the backing band, which is amplified by the now aged and constricted sound. It is still a nice recording, but Josefowicz is in a different league.

    Now to some new stuff. Photoptosis is a massive, continuously unfolding piece in three parts that sounds like a lot of post-war avant-garde music, but with more punch and focus. Being brief, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and the tonal color and scale and judicious theft of other people's music creates a fabulously entertaining pastiche, something Zimmermann mastered. I mean, how can one not like the seamless transition from quotations from the Ninth straight to Le Poéme de l'Extase? It's some of the best pastiche in the business.

    I've been meaning to listen to Die Soldaten for years, but I just never have. My bad. While I thought of it as a poor man's Wozzeck, right down to a similarly old pay on similar themes, the music is a bit more, um, intense. Which is saying something. Die Soldaten Symphony offers almost half of the opera's music, and it starts with a pulverizing Prelude which then transitions to bleeding chunks with singers and with nasty 'n' harsh dodecaphonic writing to rival to Lulu. With the briefest of musical germs exploding and fading away here and there in support of the singers, one hears Webern, and in the grandiose and almost grotesque orchestration, one hears Schoenberg and Strauss duking it out for the listener's attention - attention given freely and greedily. The unyielding style, even in quieter music, and the pastiche approach add to the appeal. I will have to give the full opera a proper listen, but it seems unlikely to have quite the impact that Wozzeck does - a tall order - but it's no knock off, either. This "symphony" makes a fine closer to a corker of a disc.

    Mr Lintu extracts world-class playing from his Finnish band and sound is up there with Ondine's best. As I write every time I hear something new from BAZ, I need me some more BAZ. May need me all the BAZ.
     
  15. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Up to this point, I've had far more experience with the company that Tamsin Waley-Cohen's father used to run than I have with the violinist's playing, which is to say this is the first recording of hers that I have purchased. For $9 bucks, I was able to get all of CPE Bach's Violin Sonatas, so, you know, it would have been silly to not buy. Now, late baroque and very early classical chamber music ought properly to use a period keyboard, but fortunately James Baillieu and Ms Waley-Cohen could not be bothered to observe HIP niceties, so instead the lucky listener gets a modern instrument take. Which is just fine with me, because - and I know this makes me a philistine - I prefer modern instruments for all Violin Sonatas, including, not at all incidentally, those of CPE's father.

    The set opener finds the pianist playing with clean articulation, sensitive touch, and a nice if not too plucky rhythmic sense. Ms Waley-Cohen starts off as vibrato-free as any HIP player, but she delivers a delicate purity of tone that sounds both arresting and haunting in the D Major work. At first, and for a few moments, I feared this could be a somewhat dull affair, even if exquisitely beautiful one, but fortunately with the second work, in D Minor, more peppy writing and playing appears, though the playing remains of the extremely refined variety. And then comes the C Major, which is all playfulness and sunshine. Heck yeah! Again, the clean lines and purity of tone, and very fine piano and pianissimo playing from the violinist catches the ear. In many ways, including weight and recorded balance, the piano is the center of the action, but the violinist keeps drawing attention to her instrument, not because of flash or showiness, but because of musical merit. Really, the three discs end up providing one delight after another. In download form, one gets a continuous set of tracks to listen to, so when the F Major starts the second disc equivalent, one doesn't even notice, but for the splendid keyboard part sounding, perhaps somehow, more delightful than before. (And seriously, who would want something other than a modern grand here?) The last disc starts off with a very fine C Minor sonata before moving to an Arioso and Variations and then Fantasia to close. The former is mostly slow and gentle, with Baillieu displaying finely varied pianissimo-piano style, and the latter work has fairly significant contrasts, almost sounding proto-Beethovenian at times. Overall, there's not a single dud in the set.

    Now that I've given Ms Waley-Cohen a shot - and she was the reason I purchased the set - I think I should probably try something else. The Hahn and Szymanowski disc looks most appealing. And when she finishes her LvB Violin Sonata set, I think I shall snap that up.

    Mr Baillieu does his thing quite well, and Signum delivers high quality sound as per usual.
     
  16. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    When I got this disc, I figured it would be my Saint-Saëns year tribute. It's got his two piano version of the Danse Macabre, along with a transcribed one with input from Liszt, Vladimir Horowitz, and Arthur Ancelle. And of course it's got the French composer's transcription for two pianos of Liszt's Sonata. Ancelle's two piano transcription of the Dante Sonata is thrown in the mix, too. The two takes on the Saint-Saëns piece, his to open, the even more showy virtuoso transcription to end, both sound fine, though, somewhat unusually for me, the three artist transcription works better yet.

    The Sonata is the Sonata. It sounds like the Sonata. It feels like the Sonata. Except. Except it sounds weightier and faster. By reallocating piano duties, some transitions sound sleeker and swifter, less effortful. The piece, even more than normal, sounds weaved together as one gigantic whole. It also sounds scaled up, quasi-orchestral in nature, as if Liszt had written some lost, phantasmagorical orchestral tone poem that even Wagner and Berlioz would have blanched at, and then, to distribute it more widely and earn some scratch, transcribed it down to two pianos to spread its musical gospel. Only in some of the even sleeker, lighter passages does the impact of Saint-Saëns himself appear, as one thinks Liszt may have done something beefier. True, the writing goes right up to the point of garishness, and may cross it for some or many, but it works very well, and both Berlinskaya and Ancelle nail their parts.

    The show stealer on the disc is Ancelle's transcription of the Dante Sonata. I like my Dante Sonata to sound super-heated, intense, swelling, dynamic, and this has all that and more. The more is mostly in scale and weight, as both pianists bear down on the work, but that doesn't end up being all. When the two pianists both dispatch upper register playing simultaneously in a stretch before the coda, the effect is both hyper-colorful, as way too many notes are being hit at once, and spatially unique. Sounds emanate from a big cloud of piano. The coda itself sounds extraordinary in scope and scale, though here, one can appreciate the massive dynamic range and variation that some solo pianists can bring, like Julian Gorus.

    So there are some takeaways. First, Arthur Ancelle, a most excellent pianist, may very well be an even more excellent transcriptionist. He should put some more together and see what happens. Second, Ancelle and Berlinskaya make a very fine piano duo. Third, I didn't know it, but I probably wouldn't mind another take on the two piano Sonata. Perhaps one day Schuch and Ensari could record it, or perhaps Bax and Chung, but in the meantime, the Kolodochkas and Paratores have recorded competing versions. But the Silver Garburg Piano Duo have recorded it and they are on Berlin Classics, which is notable because the label execs believe in producing perfect sounding piano recordings. And who knows, I may very well end up with more Saint-Saëns this year, though in transcription form. (Ah, hell, maybe that Chamayou/Capucon/Moreau disc, mainly/solely because of Chamayou.) Hopefully, other pianists take up Ancelle's transcription of the Dante Sonata. That would be sweet.
     
  17. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    The Ancelle-Berlinskaya duo's Liszt 'n' Saint-Saëns ditty was so nifty that this collection of French works entitled Belle Époque should certainly be worth hearing, I thought. OK, both were bargain basement priced, so it seemed a simple decision to buy both. Since only the Debussy was known to me, it also offered a fine chance to hear potentially choice new things.

    Cécile Chaminade's Valse carnavalesque starts off the disc, and the brief work glitters and swirls and contains nice hints of a waltz-like lilt in a few places, and as performed and recorded has a bit of lower register weight underpinning the lighter fare. It's fair to write it offers a delightful Chabrieresque opening - and that is most certainly a good thing. Charles Koechlin's Suite for two pianos follows, and it sounds gentle and tuneful and lovely, very centered on limpid melody. Quite impressively, these traits dominate the opening Andantino, only to become more pronounced yet in the Andantino con moto. It's ridiculous. The piece does swell in scale and energy in the closing movement, though it never sheds its focus on beauty. Louis Aubert's Suite Brève receives it world premiere recording here, and it comes off as souped-up salon music, dance inspired trifles turned into something aurally weightier yet unyieldingly charming. It also sounds like a Chabrier-Ravel hybrid, which turns out to be something the world needs.

    Reynaldo Hahn's Le ruban dénoué follows, and it forms the core of the disc. While ostensibly twelve waltzes, the opening Décrets indolents du hasard sounds so ridiculously beautiful and enchantingly languid, that any notion of a waltz is more or less imaginary. Something similar happens in the third piece, Souvenir...avenir..., where one hears Johann Strauss as more of something dreamt about. There are some nice contrasts in tempo and style between the first four pieces, but then the end of the fourth just blends seamless right into Le demi-sommeil embaumé. A couple tracks later Danse du doute et de l'espérance and then La cage ouverte offer something springier, more energetic, and more waltzy, but the melodic beauty moves rather past something like those written by futzy old Austrians. Ancelle and Berlinskaya draw out Le seul amour to over six miuntes, which takes its innate beauty and hypnotic quality to a most satisfying level. This is a corker of a piece. Now that I've heard the work, I must hear another take, and I have my eye on the one from Huseyin Sermet and Kun Woo Paik.

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    The disc rounds out with a much better known work, at least for me, in the form of Debussy's En blanc et noir. This offered as good an opportunity as any to perform some comparative listening. The duo starts off with an Avec emportement imbued with a rather vibrant feel, which contrasts nicely with the slow, somber, almost heavy Lent. The duo create some nice basically super-legato sound in the Scherzando, creating a lovely, shimmering musical surface.

    Mr and Mrs Casadesus offer an even more potent Avec emportement, with the duo slightly desynchronized for effect, before moving on to a more serious Lent that contains even broader dynamic contrasts, and it ends with a lighter, cleaner sounding Scherzando. They've got the music down cold. Mr Richter and Mr Britten go for a comparatively leisurely opening Avec emportement which sounds spontaneous but not as well coordinated as the studio efforts. The slower than average Lent stretches the musical line to the point of breaking, the dynamic contrasts are not so hot, and the whole thing kind of just moves along slowly but not impactfully. The Scherzando comes off probably best of all, though one of the pianists seems less steady than the other. I don't think this will be a top four choice going forward. Mr and Mrs Kovacevich imbue ample energy in their opening Avec emportement, but they also, aided by fine major label recorded sound, offer much gentler and more nuanced playing than one may typically expect from this pairing. The Lent, taken at a slow overall tempo to almost exaggerate contrasts, has very nice momentary effects, and the Scherzando comes off swift yet light. The whole piece ends up sounding less coherent and more about really nifty moments, though. Mr and Mrs Schuch, benefitting from basically SOTA sound, take the opening movement at a well-judged clip, and they deliver something more flexible, more fluid in terms of tempo changes and less effortful in terms of dynamics. Of particular interest are the widely divergent dynamics between pianists. And I will surmise that it is Mr Schuch who delivers the more finely nuanced upper register rubato. (I could be wrong.) The Lent stretches the line wonderfully, and displays the benefits of two pianists playing with finely honed dynamics, and the duo make sure to deliver an austere, hymn-like playing. The Scherzando, benefitting from some extremely fine digital dexterity, flits along, clearly demonstrating the influence of some of the composer's earlier works, and sound light yet weighty at once. Nice. So in this work, the Casadesuses and Schuchs deliver equally compelling, if stylistically different takes. The Ancelle-Berlinskaya duo make for a fine addition to my small but still growing collection of the work.

    Only sonics detract from the Ancelle-Berlinskaya recording. Distant, efficient, and metallic, it could have benefitted from some better Steinways or Bechsteins in a proper, high end studio paired with mixing desk tomfoolery, which would have accentuated beauty even more.
     
  18. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    I found my way to Allen Shawn's music via pianist Julia Bartha, who recorded a nice Debussy and Encke disc. The pianist clearly enjoys taking on contemporary works, and in the case of Shawn, the Fourth Piano Sonata is dedicated to her. The disc of the American composer's music starts off with Five Preludes from 1994. Brief, somewhat stark, and infused with pre-war modernism (hints of Prokofiev, as the composer himself notes), and though not one of his explicitly jazz-inspired compositions, the slower Preludes have a free, jazz-like rhythm to them. The Jazz Preludes (three of four are included) continue on with the slow jazz feel, infused with Berg and Schoenberg, in music that seems quite well suited for a high end bar around last call. Recollections maintains the free feel of the jazz pieces, but moves back to more abstract writing, and it keeps the nice, slow feel until the piece entitled Playful, which sounds, well, like the title denotes. The Fourth Sonata is structured fast-slow-fast, and offers a more abstract, less jazz-infused sound overall. The slow movement is the heart of the work, which, while very flexible as designated, sounds quite expressive, with repeated, dissonant chords hitting home, while the quicker outer movements have more energy and impact and a structured chaos sound. Valentine is, as one would surmise, a gentle, lovely piece, while Growl sounds predictably aggressive, gnarly, and spiky. The disc closes with Three Reveries, written while the composer's father was ill. They are all slow, quite contemplative, with a lot going on in p-pp range. While it seems unlikely to happen, Volodos could take this work and play it like a masterpiece for the ages.

    Mr Shawn's brother is - inconceivable - Wallace Shawn, with whom he collaborated on a chamber opera, The Music Teacher, which has been recorded. Maybe, maybe.

    Playing and sound is up to modern snuff.
     
  19. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Gabriela Demeterová is one of those violinists I've long meant to listen to far more than I actually have. I've heard some snippets on YouTube, but this is the first proper full-length recording I've heard, in this, its reissue guise. Looks like I have foolishly not been listening to a fine fiddler. The works, one from a composer I've at least heard and heard of before (Benda) and two I've not (Pichl and Vranický) are all classical era violin concertos of quite fine accomplishment. While not perhaps as much fun as the last couple from Mozart, or as well crafted as those of Haydn, or with as beautiful a solo violin part as that by Pleyel (though this is likely due to the stupid beautiful playing of Sebastien Bohren in the recording that I know), all three major key works sound bouncy and fun in the fast movements and deeper and more beautiful in the slow movements. The Benda, if perhaps predictable, benefits from Demeterová's ability to float a musical line nearly as beautiful as Bohren's in the slow music. The pretty, petite Pichl piece presents plenty of gently beautiful music for the listener to savor. While the last movement, in particular, has a bit of drive, as recorded and performed it's a light piece, and one that almost seems to presage romanticism with its meltingly beautiful music. The lion's share of the credit goes to Demeterová who never produces anything other than a beautiful, pure tone. She keeps things constrained yet expressive, contained yet exuberant. This is the very model of a chamber concerto. The more vibrant, vivacious Vranický verily veers into Mozartian territory. A fairly weighty, extended orchestral introduction segues to Demeterová's unfailingly lovely playing. That unfailing loveliness permeates the slow movement, which ends up sounding bold and rich such that one can easily tell this comes from the tail end of Haydn's era and the beginning of Beethoven's. Nice. The Alla Pollacca closing movement infuses some energy and some very dance-like rhythm into the mix. Not the last word in super-charged music, and not up as spunky as the closing of Mozart's last violin concerto, it nonetheless falls squarely in the smile-on-face composition category.

    Excellent support and sound cap off a delight filled disc.

    Since Ms Demeterová recorded the Rosary Sonatas, I now know I must get my hands on those recordings. I hope she sees fit to record Bach's Sonatas and Partitas, as well.
     
  20. alanbeeb

    alanbeeb pfm Member

    New to me.... Myaskovsky Symphony no. 27.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08VXF96LH/?tag=pinkfishmedia-21
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    Nikolai Myaskovsky (1881-1950) was good friends with Prokofiev but much more conservative in his idiom. There are many points in this symphony where I am reminded of Vaughan Williams, even of Finzi.... so maybe not so much of a coincidence following on from @George J 's thread about Petrenko & Oslo Phil's superb RVW 5th. Composed in 1949, This was his very last symphony, it posthumous performances restored his reputation in Stalinist USSR after the fierce criticism he suffered in 1948 alongside Prokofiev and Shostakovich from Chief Propagandist 2nd Secretary Andrei Zhdanov.

    It deserves to be much better known, in some ways its up there with other mid-c20th works despite its throwback romanticism. Would love to hear it live someday.

    The performance of Prokofiev's 6th, already well known to me through Neeme Jarvi's blistering SNO recording on Chandos, is also superb - and a stupendous recording too. IMO it might be greatest C20th symphony of them all.
     

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