What are YOU listening to today?

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RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Wed Feb 11, 2015 11:03 am

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

Volume 9 of the 10 CD set of Shostakovich Symphonies by Oleg Caetani and Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, both recorded @ the Auditorium di Milano, July, 2005.

Tr. 1-4.....Sym. 12 in D Minor, Op. 112 "The Year 1917" (1961) (35:04)

Tr. 5-7.....Sym. 2 in B Major, Op. 14 (1927) (16:56)--Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.

These two works are among Shostakovich's agitprop ouvre, and fine examples of that genre they certainly are, and nowhere better performed or in better sound than here. These works rumble and shake the floors and actually make these two works exciting, even though the 12th, at least, is not much more than socialist realist boilerplate. Highly recommended for both performance and sound, though perhaps not for the quality of the works, esp. the 12th.


Vol. 33 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of Hector Berlioz:

Tr, 1-4.....Harold en Italie, Op. 16 (42:02)--Carlton Cooley, solo vioist, rec. CH, 29 NOV 1953, and @ a rehearsal the day before.

Tr. 5-9.....Romeo et Juliette, Op. 17, Part II excerpts (26:45)--rec. CH, 17 FEB 1947.

This CD has all the trademarks of the Toscanini style--orchestral precision, sharp climaxes, and plenty of energy and without the deadness of the Studio 8H recordings, since these works were recorded in Carnegie Hall. Highly recommended.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

maestrob
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by maestrob » Wed Feb 11, 2015 12:56 pm

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Yannick Nezet-Seguin is a rising star in the classical music world, and he proves it here in his latest Strauss release with the Rotterdam orchestra. Rotterdam doesn't play with the authority of Berlin or Vienna in this repertoire, but the Four Last Songs with soprano Dorothea Roschmann are a standout, lushly and lovingly served by Nezet-Seguin's sympathetic accompaniment. Ein Heldenleben is well-served by Bis's sonics as well. One note of caution: don't be fooled by the low volume of the recording: the dynamic range is excellent if you just turn up the volume a bit. Four stars.

Seán
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by Seán » Thu Feb 12, 2015 6:00 pm

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Joseph Haydn
Symphony No 45 & 60

Concentus musicus Wien
Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting.

I bought this set in 2009 when I was in my initial Haydn phase and it has never failed to impress me ever since. The performance of number 45 is splendid and that of one of my favourites, the 60th, is pure joy from start to finish, oh those beautiful, baying horns are delightful.
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Sat Feb 14, 2015 8:33 am


Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

Adams, John Coolidge (b. 15 FEB 1947): The Death of Klinghoffer, an opera in 2 acts with prologue (1991) (135:13)--Libretto by Alice Goodman--Orch. of the Opera de Lyon, Kent Nagano, conductor, The London Opera Chorus, Richard Cooke, director, James Maddalena, baritone (The Captain), Thomas Hammons, bass-baritone (The First Officer) ("Rambo," a Palestinian terrorist), Janice Felty, mezzo-soprano (Swiss grandmother) (Austrian Woman) (British Dancing Girl), Thomas Youg, tenor (Molqui, Palestinian terrorist), Eugene Perry, baritone (Mamoud, Palestinian terrorist), Sanford Sylvan, baritone (Leon Klinghoffer), Stephanie Friedman, mezzo-soprano (Omar, Palestinian terrorist), Sheila Nadler, contralto (Marilyn Klinghoffer, wife, then widow of Leon)--2 CD Elektra Nonesuch NON79281--Rec. April and July 1991 @ Auditorium Maurice Ravel, Lyon, France.

This is a controversial opera, centered around the murder of an elderly, chairfast American Jew named Leon Klinghoffer by Palestinian terorists who had seized control of an Italian cruise ship, the Achille Lauro, and its passengers hostage. The resulting seige in Port Said, Egypt, lasted from 7-9 OCT 1985. And now it is time for two paragraphs from the liner notes:

"'Klinghoffer' has important things in common with Adams first opera, 'Nixon in China (1987).' The composer worked with the same librettist, Alice Goodman, and with the same director, Peter Sellars. Goodman and Sellars had been contemporaries at Harvard, where Adams had been a student a decade earlier, and it was Sellars who got the trio together and who proposed the subjects of both operas. Several of the 'Klinghoffer' roles were written with members of the orignal 'Nixon' cast in mind: Sanford Sylvan, the Chou En-Lai, is Leon Klinghoffer; James Maddalena, the Nixon, is the Captain; Thomas Hammons, the Henry Kissinger, is both the First Officer and Rambo, one of the terrorists; and Stephanie Friedman, Second Secretary to Mao, is Omar, another terrorist.

"Both operas deal with brief but emblematic events in recent history. Richard Nixon visited Beijing from 21-25 FEB 1972; the hijacking of the...'Achile Lauro,' when the wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer was murdered, lasted from 7-9 OCT 1985. In his 'New Yorker' review of 'Nixon in China,' Andrew Porter pointed out that the Nixons, Kissinger, and Madame Mao (had she been released from prison), could all have attended the premiere of that opera; likewise, though Marilyn Klinhoffer had died, most of those who were involved in the hijacking of the 'Achille Lauro,' whether as perpetrators or victims, could have gone to Brussels or Brooklyn for one of the early performances of this work."

This is a minimalist opera. The whole minimalist style, especially as applied to opera, seems a radical departure from musical, or at least, operatic tradition, which often in the past has depended on sudden dynamic shifts for its sense of drama and excitement. It is especially important, therefore, that we recognize connections to the past as well. As British critic Hugh Canning, has pointed out, "If Adams’s Nixon in China seemed like a modern equivalent of Handelian heroic comedy, Klinghoffer resembles a Handel opera in its juxtaposition of aria and choral commentary. The opening choruses of Palestinians and Jews in exile recalls Handel’s opposition of Israelites and Babylonians in Belshazzar."

This is a controversial opera. Many have accused its progenitors of anti-Semitism, mostly, though not exclusively, because of what they alllow one of the Palestinians to say. Other characters, including Palestinians, however, make it clear they do not share all his sentiments, and the best voice and most powerful singer in the work, is that of Sheila Nadler, who portrays Marilyn Klinghoffer, who literally gets the last word in this work. You can count me as one of those who deny that this work is anti-Semitic, and who agrees with Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that this is a meritorious work.

I intend to follow this post with a post of an article about Ginsburg's reaction.

Strauss, R: (1864-1949): Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 (1896) (33:31) | Don Juan, Op. 20 (1888) (16:37) | Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28 (1895) (14:36)--Charles Mackerras, cond. Royal Phil. Orch.--RPM 29260--Released 8 MAR 2011, no information on recording date or location.

I am a big fan of Charles Mackerras generally; he is superb in anything by Janacek, and his 1966 Handel Messiah is, to me, by far the greatest performance of that work on record.

These performances are good ones, but not, to me, great ones. For me, the standard for these works and really all of the Strauss orchestral works, with the single exception of Metamorphosen, has been set by Rudolf Kempe. End of story.

Last edited by RebLem on Sat Feb 14, 2015 9:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Sat Feb 14, 2015 8:59 am

On ‘The Death of Klinghoffer,’ Justice Ginsburg Finds for the Defense

By Jess Bravin | The Wall Street Journal | Oct 28, 2014

WASHINGTON—
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday pronounced her verdict on “The Death of Klinghoffer”: Not guilty.

The John Adams opera opened last week at New York’s Metropolitan Opera amid accusations that the 1991 work is anti-Semitic and glorifies terrorism. While former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Gov. David Paterson joined protests outside Lincoln Center, Justice Ginsburg took her seat inside.

“It was tense in the beginning because there were demonstrators, hundreds of them, and there were about 40 who had bought seats and began by heckling, by shouting, ‘Boo,’ and some obscenities,” Justice Ginsburg said during a wide-ranging talk at the University of California’s Washington Center.

The modern opera depicts the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists. The terrorists shot the disabled Leon Klinghoffer, who was on the cruise celebrating a wedding anniversary with his wife, Marilyn, and threw him and his wheelchair overboard.

Faced with controversy, the Met agreed to include a message from the Klinghoffers’ daughters, Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, in its playbill and on its website. They wrote that the opera “presents false moral equivalencies without context and offers no real insight into the historical reality and the senseless murder of an American Jew…it rationalizes, romanticizes, and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father.”

Justice Ginsburg, who is Jewish, said she sympathized with the daughters, but disagreed about its depiction of their parents. The opera “is a most sympathetic portrayal of the Klinghoffers. Both of them come across as very strong, very brave characters….There was nothing anti-Semitic about the opera.”

Justice Ginsburg also disputed claims that the opera glorified terrorism. “The terrorists are not portrayed as people that you would like. Far from it,” she said. “They are being portrayed as bullies and irrational,” yet the work does help illustrate their mindset.

“There is one very dramatic scene of a Palestinian mother raising this child, his toy is a gun from when he’s five years old, and she’s raising him so that he will one day do a very brave act that will result in his own death and then he will go to paradise,” she said. “It was chilling.”

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/10/ ... e-defense/
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

Seán
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by Seán » Sat Feb 14, 2015 11:42 am

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Mily Balakirev
Symphony no. 1

USSR State Symphony Orchestra
Evgeny Svetlanov conducting.


This recording from 1973 is a some times raw, harsh, brash, powerful, biting, occasionally pretty and a simply wonderfully evocative performance of Balakirev's gorgeous symphony.
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

Seán
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by Seán » Sat Feb 14, 2015 2:19 pm

I am a creature of habit! :D

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Mily Balakirev
Symphony No. 1

Russian State Symphony Orchestra
Igor Golovschin conducting.
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

Seán
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by Seán » Sun Feb 15, 2015 10:11 am

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Mily Balakirev
Symphony No. 1

Philharmonia Orchestra
Evgeny Svetlanov conducting.
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

maestrob
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by maestrob » Sun Feb 15, 2015 1:13 pm

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This is still a demonstration disc for your hi-fi system, brilliantly conducted by Tilson-Thomas, and sung to perfection by the shining silvery-voiced Judith Blegen and tenor Kenneth Riegel. Carmina Burana is fiendishly difficult to prepare (I sang it in Carnegie Hall w/David Randolph), and in this recording, Tilson-Thomas engaged Robert Page, then director of the Temple University Choir (which often performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra) to handle the choral preparation for the Cleveland Chorus featured on the disc. It's a stunning rendition, full of sensitive and effective musical ideas. Five stars. This is one for the ages.

RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Sun Feb 15, 2015 3:28 pm

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

CD 7 in the 14 CD ABC set of Beethoven piano sonatas and concerti by Australian pianist Gerard Willems on Australian Stuart & Sons superpianos.:

Tr. 1-4.....PS 15 in D Major, Op. 28 "Pastoral" (1801) (24:29)
Tr. 5-7.....PS 21 in C Major, Op. 53 "Waldstein" (1804) (25:20)
Tr. 8-9.....PS 22 in F Major, Op. 54 (1804) (11;36)
Tr10-11...PS 24 in F Sharp Major, Op. 78 "Fur Therese" (1809) (9:56)

The project continues. These are all sprightly works, with lots of dynamic shifts, tempo changes, and sharp accents. Willems, unlike Richard Goode, for example, takes advantage of them all to keep our attention and to reveal Beethoven's genius for unique, galumphing rhythms.


CD 12-13 of 13 in the hanssler set of the Mahler Symphonies by Michael Gielen, cond. SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg:

Sym. 9 in D Major (1909) (84:05)--rec. 30 JUNE-04 JULY 2003 Konzerthaus Freiburg--Mvts 1-3 (61:35) on CD 12, Mvt. 4 on CD 13 (22:30)
Sym. 10 in F Sharp Major: Adagio (22:14)--rec. 16-17 NOV 1989 Hans-Rosbaud-Studio, Baden-Baden. CD 13, Tr. 2.

This Ninth is one of the very best. It has excellent sound engineering, and it is a skillfully executed, emotive performance. Still, the best performance on records, IMHO, is the January, 1938 recording by Bruno Walter and the Wiener Philharmoniker. Everyone in the orchestra knew that the Anschluss with Germany was coming and that Walter would soon be an exile, and they played their hearts out for him. It is the most ancient recording of anything that represents, for me, the best performance of the work in question. Obviously, it is no great shakes sonically, but it should be in the collection of every Mahler lover. This one by Gielen should, too.

The Adagio from the Tenth is even better, if that is possible. This is the first recording of the piece I have everh heard that I find impressive at all. Truth is, I really never have liked it much, until now. It is a dynamic and passionate performance in excellent sound. Highly recommended, as is the Ninth.

Now, I retire the Gielen Mahler set to my shelves. My next report will include the last CD of the Manderling Shostokovich Quartets. Next down in the chamber music pile is a complete set of the Vainberg String Quartets. After that, the next item will be the last CD in the Caetani set of the Shostakovich symphonies, so, in the next week, two more boxes will be retired to my shelves. We march on!
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

Seán
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by Seán » Sun Feb 15, 2015 4:06 pm

Schubert.

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Franz Schubert
String Quintet

Belcea Quartet and Valentin Erben


Superb
Seán

"To appreciate the greatness of the Masters is to keep faith in the greatness of humanity." - Wilhelm Furtwängler

maestrob
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by maestrob » Mon Feb 16, 2015 10:21 am

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Bruckner II is a confusing symphony: revised by Bruckner (along with his other early symphonies), II in this version presented by Giulini and the Vienna Symphony has major cuts and revisions which must be respected, as they were done by the composer himself. HVK, in his Berlin version, opens some of the cuts Bruckner made, which I find makes the case for Bruckner's final revision most compelling. Here, the Vienna Symphony and GIulini take a lyrical approach to the score, with softer strings and careful phrasing, only to explode convincingly in the climaxes. A superior disc, also issued on Testament, btw. Four and a half stars.

RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Wed Feb 18, 2015 1:58 pm

Since my last report, I have been listening to Shostakovich. I am a bit impatient today to get on to other personal business, including listening to the next round of CDs. So I have decided just to rely on carefully edited Wikipedia quotations for my commentary.

CD 5 of a 5 CD set of the complete Shostakovich string quartets performed by the Manderling Quartet on the audite label.

Tr. 1-7......String Quartet 11 in F Minor, Op. 122 (16:18)
Tr. 8.........String Quartet 6 in G Major, Op. 101 (21:38)
Tr. 9-14....String Quartet 15 in E Sharp Minor, Op. 144 (32:38)

From Wikipedia, on SQ 11:

The piece has seven movements, all of them in continuous playing, without pause:

1.Introduction: Andantino -
2.Scherzo: Allegretto -
3.Recitative: Adagio -
4.Etude: Allegro -
5.Humoresque: Allegro -
6.Elegy: Adagio -
7.Finale: Moderato - Meno mosso - Moderato

Even though Shostakovich was a prominent pianist, he is well known in the chamber music field for his string quartets, together with Schoenberg and Bartók. In this quartet, Shostakovich portrays his fears with dark and grim moods. The quartet begins with a violin which introduces the main theme; this will be developed all along the quartet, with the rest of the group accompanying it somewhat subtly. It is immediately followed by the second movement which suggests a more sinister atmosphere with its mechanical and repetitive conception, always with a dialogue in two voices and adorned with glissandi; this movement is in a structure similar to that of a canon. The second movement leads to the dissonant beginning of the third, which jolts the whole quartet into a series of fast notes and long, dissonant chords. The fourth movement and the fifth form a diptych in which fast melodies and repetitive motions are present. In the fourth, the first violin plays fast notes while the rest of the group plays menacing chords; in the fifth, the ostinato in the first violin simplifies the motion presented in the previous movement.

From now on, the general mood of the quartet changes and turns more elegiac and tragic. The sixth movement is much longer and consists of long chords and short melodic lines. Finally, the last movement is a recapitulation of all the themes presented in previous movement but, like the previous one, calm and profound.

From Wikipedia on SQ 6:

Dmitri Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 6 in G major (Op. 101) was composed in 1956, and consists of four movements:

1. Allegretto
2. Moderato con moto
3. Lento
4. Lento-Allegretto

The Allegretto first movement creates a carefree mood using nursery tunes. The second movement is a cheerful round dance in E-flat major, the third movement a chaconne in B-flat minor. The final movement leads into a complex Allegretto showing the influence of both Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite and Richard Strauss’s Metamorphosen. The quartet also features the only vertical appearance of the DSCH motive (the notes D, E-flat, C, and B played at the same time). This happens at the cadence at the end of each movement.

From Wikipedia, on SQ 15:

The String Quartet No. 15 in E-flat minor, Op. 144, was Dmitri Shostakovich's last quartet. It was completed on 17 May 1974 and premiered in Leningrad by the Taneiev Quartet on 15 November (one of only two Shostakovich quartets not premiered by the Beethoven Quartet). Like most of the composer's late works, it is an introspective meditation on mortality.

The piece consists of six linked movements, all marked Adagio:

1.Elegy: Adagio –
2.Serenade: Adagio –
3.Intermezzo: Adagio –
4.Nocturne: Adagio –
5.Funeral March: Adagio molto –
6.Epilogue: Adagio

The playing time is approximately 36 minutes, making it the longest of Shostakovich's string quartets.

Shostakovich told the Beethoven Quartet to play the first movement "so that flies drop dead in mid-air, and the audience start leaving the hall from sheer boredom."


Volume 10 of the 10 CD set of Shostakovich Symphonies by Oleg Caetani and the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, both recorded @ the Auditorium di Milano, APR and JUNE 2006..

Tr. 1-6.....Sym. 3 in E Flat Major for orchestra and chorus, Op. 20 "The First of May" (1929) (27:30) to a Text by Semen Isaako Kirsanov--Coro di Milano Giuseppe Verdi, Erina Gambarini and Ruben Jais, Chorus Masters.

Tr. 7-17...Sym. 14 in G Minor for Soprano, Bass, and Chamber Orch., Op. 135 (1969) (47:15)--Texts after poems by Federico Garcia Lorca, Guillaume Apollinaire, Wilhelm Kuchelbecker and Rainer Maria Rilke--Marina Poplavskaya, soprano, Mikhail Davidov, bass.

From Wikipedia, on the Third Symphony:

The Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (Opus 20; subtitled First of May) by Dmitri Shostakovich was first performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and Academy Capella Choir under Aleksandr Gauk on 21 January 1930.

Similar to the Second Symphony, it is an experimental choral symphony in four continuous sections:

1.Allegretto - Allegro
2.Andante
3.Largo
4.Moderato: 'V pérvoye, Pérvoye máya' (On the very first May Day)


The finale sets a text by Semyon Isaakovich Kirsanov praising May Day and the revolution. Interpretation is difficult: in a letter to Boleslav Yavorsky, Shostakovich said that the work "expresses the spirit of peaceful reconstruction"; on the other hand, most of the material preceding the finale is dark and sometimes sardonic in tone.

The symphony is scored for mixed chorus and an orchestra of 3 flutes (3rd doubling piccolo), 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horn, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle, snare drum, cymbals, bass drum, tam-tam, glockenspiel, xylophone, and strings.

From Wikipedia on the 14th Symphony:

The Symphony No. 14, Op. 135 by Dmitri Shostakovich was completed in the spring of 1969, and was premiered later that year. It is a work for soprano, bass and a small string orchestra with percussion, consisting of eleven linked settings of poems by four authors. Most of the poems deal with the theme of death, particularly that of unjust or early death. They were set in Russian, although two other versions of the work exist with the texts all back-translated from Russian either into their original languages or into German. The symphony is dedicated to Benjamin Britten (who gave the UK premiere the following year).

Besides the soloists, the symphony is scored for a chamber orchestra consisting only of strings and percussion. The strings consist of ten violins, four violas, three cellos, and two double basses, and the percussion section (three players) includes wood block, castanets, whip, soprano, alto and tenor tom-toms, xylophone, campane, vibraphone, and celesta. Interestingly, the percussion section does not include common instruments such as timpani, bass drum, cymbals, or triangle.

The work has eleven linked movements, each a setting of a poem:

1. Adagio. "De profundis" (Federico García Lorca)
2 Allegretto. "Malagueña" (Federico García Lorca)
3. Allegro molto. "Loreley" (Guillaume Apollinaire)
4. Adagio. "Le Suicidé" (Guillaume Apollinaire)
5. Allegretto. "Les Attentives I" (On watch) (Guillaume Apollinaire)
6. Adagio. "Les Attentives II" (Madam, look!) (Guillaume Apollinaire)
7. Adagio. "À la Santé" (Guillaume Apollinaire)
8. Allegro. "Réponse des Cosaques Zaporogues au Sultan de Constantinople" (Guillaume Apollinaire)
9. Andante. "O, Del'vig, Del'vig!" (Wilhelm Küchelbecker)
10. Largo. "Der Tod des Dichters" (Rainer Maria Rilke)
11. Moderato. "Schlußstück" (Rainer Maria Rilke)
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

ContrapunctusIX
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by ContrapunctusIX » Thu Feb 19, 2015 12:17 am

Beethoven: String Quartets
Alexander Quartet
Foghorn Classics

A nice newish set, what gorgeous sounding instruments and sound quality!

Image

piston
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Fri Feb 20, 2015 8:57 pm

Vittorio Rieti, with his Ph.D. in Economics, dropped that discipline to compose neo-classical music. He's a great contributor to the 20th-century harpsichord repertoire and his music was good enough to consume some of Toscanini's precious time:

Partita (1945) Excellent!
Concerto for harpsichord and orchestra (1957)
Symphony no. 4 (1944), with Toscanini conducting the NBC orchestra.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:52 pm

Since my last report, I have decided to pick up the pace at which I listen to the remaining CDs in the Toscanini set. I still have, before listening to these, 32 CDs in the series, and a massive buildup in the pile of other boxes to listen to, including a 6 CD box of Toscanini's British recordings for EMI. So from now on, I will report, on this part of my cycle, on a few more CDs that usual.

Volume 32 of the Toscanini RCA set, devoted to music of Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936), all recorded in Carnegie Hall:
Tr. 1-4.....Pines of Rome (1924) (20:53)--rec. 17 MAR 1953
Tr. 5-8.....Fountains of Rome (1916) (17:05)--rec. 17 DEC 1951
Tr. 9-12...Roman Festivals (1928) (23:58)--12 DEC 1949

Despite their age, these performances are in excellent sound for the period. I have found that the harshness of some of the Toscanini CDs is relieved a great deal if you set near the back of your personal listening hall. I listened to the first half of this in fron of the speakers and they sounded a bit harsh. For the second half, I moved into my office, about 20 feet away with a wall intervening, and they sounded much mellower; all the orchestral detail, however, was still there.

Volume 31 of the Toscanini RCA set:
Tr. 1.........R. Strauss: Don Juan, Op. 20 (17:24)--rec. 10 JAN 1951, CH.
Tr. 2-6.....R. Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Op. 28 (15:15)--rec. 4 NOV 1942, CH.
Tr. 7........R. Strauss: Salome: Dance of the Seven Veils (9:51)--NBC broadcast, 8H, 14 JAN 1939.
Tr. 8........Wagner: Die Gotterdammerung: Dawn & Siegfried's Rhine Journey (10:19)--rec. 17 MAR, 14 MAY 1941, CH.
Tr. 9........Wagner: Siegfried Idyll (16:05)--rec. 11 MAR 1946, CH.

These recordings sound amazingly close to recordings made in, say, the late 1960's as far as sound quality is concerned. Carnegie Hall makes a difference. The performances are top-knotch, too.

Volume 30 of the Toscanini RCA set, both recorded in Carnegie Hall.
Tr. 1-13.....Strauss: Don Quixote, Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character, Op. 35 (1898) (39:31)--Frank Miller, cello soloist.--rec 22 NOV 1953.
Tr. 14-17..Strauss: Death & Transfiguaration, Op. 24 (1889) (24:49)--rec. 10 MAR 1952.

Frank Miller (1912–1986), the cellist in the Don Quixote, is one of my favorite musicians of all time. Here is just part of his resume:

At age 18, in 1930, Miller joins Philadelphia Orchestra, under conductor Leopold Stokowski.
1935, he joins Minneapolis Symphony as principal cellist under conductor Eugene Ormandy.
1940-1954 NBC Symphony Orchestra, cello (principal) under conductor Arturo Toscanini.
1957-1959 Casals Festival Orchestra in Puerto Rico, under Pablo Casals.
1959-1985 Chicago Symphony Orchestra, cello (principal).

I have had the pleasure of hearing him play on many occasions, both with the CSO, and as the cellist of the CSO String Quartet at free public concerts sponsored by the Chicago Public Library. He was a superb musician. May he rest in peace.

Again, Carnegie Hall makes a diffeence. Both these performances are among the very best, along with those of Rudolf Kempe and, in the case of the D & T, George Szell and the Cleveland Orch. It has one of the greatest orchestral climaxes in music, worthy of comparison with the Mahler 2nd and the Beethoven 9th.
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Sun Feb 22, 2015 9:56 pm

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

Pan Classics CD10178, rec. Schloss Grafenegg Haitzendorf, Austria.
Tr. 1-4.....Bruckner: String Quintet in F Major, WAB 112 (1879) (42:30)--rec. 18-19 FEB 2004.
Tr. 5-9.....Wagner: Wesendonk-Lieder for soprano & string sextet*, WWW 91 (1858) (10:42)--Michelle Breedt, soprano, arr. for string sextet by Rudolf Leopold, a cellist in the performing ensemble--rec. 18-19 MAY 2004.

Weiner Streichsextett--Violins--Erich Hobarth, Peter Matzka; Violas--Thomas Riebl, Siegfried Fuhrlinger; Cellos--Rudolf Leopold, Susdanne Ehn.
I do not know whether the Bruckner Quintet leaves out one of the cellists or not. I can find no clue anywhere in the liner notes on this point, but since the CD is very specific on most other points, I assume it was played by the entire sextet.

From Wikipedia:

The Wesendonck Lieder, WWV 91 is a song cycle composed by Richard Wagner while he was working on Tristan und Isolde. This and the Siegfried Idyll are his only two non-operatic works that are still performed regularly.

The cycle is a setting of poems by Mathilde Wesendonck, the wife of one of Wagner's patrons. Wagner had become acquainted with Otto Wesendonck in Zurich, where he had fled on his escape from Saxony after the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849. For a time Wagner and his wife Minna lived together in the Asyl (German for Asylum in the sense of "sanctuary"), a small cottage on the Wesendonck estate.

It is sometimes claimed that Wagner and Mathilde had a love affair; in any case, the situation and mutual infatuation certainly contributed to the intensity in the conception of Tristan und Isolde; there was also certainly an influence on Mathilde's poems.

Wagner initially wrote the songs for female voice and piano alone, but produced a fully orchestrated version of "Träume", to be performed by chamber orchestra beneath Mathilde's window on the occasion of her birthday, 23 December 1857. The cycle as a whole was first performed in public near Mainz on 30 July 1862 under the title Five Songs for a Female Voice.

The orchestration of the whole cycle was completed for large orchestra by Felix Mottl, the Wagner conductor. In 1972 the Italian composer Vieri Tosatti entirely re-orchestrated the cycle. In 1976 the German composer Hans Werner Henze produced a chamber version for the whole cycle. Each of the players has a separate part, with some very unusual wind registration. In 2013 (the bicentennial of Wagner's birth) the French composer Alain Bonardi released a new version for voice, piano, clarinet and cello, including instrumental interludes with oriental resonant percussions.

I have never heard the Bruckner Quintet before, but it is quite an accomplished work. Sad and contemplative through the first three movements, it picks up enthusiasm and purpose in the last movement. An interesting work.

As for the Wagner, Michelle Breedt is the real star here. She is a wonderful soprano whose high notes are secure and confidently executed. Bravo.

Honegger (1892-1956): Tr. 1-3 of 4--Sym. 2 in D Major for strings and trumpet ad libitum (1941) (24:35)--Soloists of the St. Petersburg Phil | Tr. 4 of 4--R. Strauss (1864-1949): Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings. (1945) (28:52)--Baltic Chamber Orch. (from St Petersburg Phil. players), Emmanuel Leduq-Barome, cond.--Phaia PHU 041--rec. 2002 in St. Petersburg.

From Wikipedia:

The Symphony for strings and trumpet in D (Symphony for Strings), Arthur Honegger's second, was commissioned in 1937 by Paul Sacher to mark the tenth anniversary of the chamber orchestra Basler Kammerorchester. Progress was slow, however, in part due to the interruption of the Second World War. The music is primarily for strings alone and is very turbulent and troubled until the trumpet soloist enters near the end of the music, giving this mostly tragic work a hopeful ending.
The first performance was given by the Collegium Musicum of Zurich under Sacher on 18 May 1942.

The work is for string orchestra, except for the addition of a trumpet in the concluding chorale: "like pulling out an organ stop", according to the composer. The finale inspired Robert Hall Lewis' concerto for four trumpets.

Now for Metamorphosen. From Wikipedia:

Strauss completed the composition of Metamorphosen, a work for 23 solo strings, in 1945. The title and inspiration for the work comes from a profoundly self-examining poem by Goethe, which Strauss had considered setting as a choral work. Generally regarded as one of the masterpieces of the string repertoire, Metamorphosen contains Strauss's most sustained outpouring of tragic emotion. Conceived and written during the blackest days of World War II, the piece expresses Strauss's mourning of, among other things, the destruction of German culture—including the bombing of every great opera house in the nation. At the end of the war, Strauss wrote in his private diary:
The most terrible period of human history is at an end, the twelve year reign of bestiality, ignorance and anti-culture under the greatest criminals, during which Germany's 2000 years of cultural evolution met its doom.

Strauss cooperated with the Nazis for a time because he was vulnerable. His daughter in law was Jewish, and, although she and their children survived the war, the rest of her family was all killed. Although he cooperated with the Nazis at first, he was never favorably inclined toward them and, in fact, continued to work with a Jewish librettist, Stefan Zweig, on Strauss attempted to ignore Nazi bans on performances of works by Debussy, Mahler, and Mendelssohn. He continued to work with a Jewish librettist, and friend, Stefan Zweig on a comic opera, Die schweigsame Frau, . When the opera was premiered in Dresden in 1935, Strauss insisted that Zweig's name appear on the theatrical billing, much to the ire of the Nazi regime; it was only allowed three performances and subsequently banned. He once drove to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in order to argue, albeit unsuccessfully, for the release of his son Franz's Jewish mother-in-law, Marie von Grab. Strauss also wrote several letters to the SS pleading for the release of her children who were also held in camps; his letters were ignored.

At any rate, Metamprphosen is both a remembrance and a lament, and different interpretations put different emphases on these two characteristics. Those of Karajan and Kempe emphasize the remembrance, without much thought given to what had been lost. My favorite performance, though, is that of Otto Klemperer, for whom is almost entirely a lament. Marriner takes a similar view. The recording at hand seems to seek a synthesis of these two views, and it is an impressive attempt. It belongs in any Strausian's record library. But I still love the Klemperer most.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by maestrob » Tue Feb 24, 2015 1:07 pm

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Simone Dinnerstein exceeds expectations in this carefully thought out release. Her Bach is sensitive, well-prepared and thoughtful, inspiring respect and five stars on Amazon. This disc will bring me great pleasure for years to come, as I'll be returning to it frequently. Thank-you Sony!

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Tue Feb 24, 2015 8:55 pm

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

CD 8 in the 14 CD ABC set of Beethoven piano sonatas and concerti by Australian pianist Gerard Willems on Australian Stuart & Sons superpianos.:

Tr. 1-3.....PS 23 in F Minor, Op. 57 "Appossionata" (1806) (25:19)
Tr. 4-6.....PS 25 in G Major, Op. 79 (1809) (10:12)
Tr. 7-9.....PS 26 in E Flat Major, Op. 81a "Les Adieux" (1810) (17:40)
Tr. 10-11.PS 27 in E Minor, Op. 90 (1814) (15:06)

The cycle proceeds. These performances are of a piece with the others--very fine, not as good as Annie Fischer, but then no one is, and I've just ordered the newly issued Pollini set, too.


CD 1-2 of the 6 Warner Classics CDs, licensed from EMI, of the Beethoven Symphonies conducted by Herbert von Karajan with the Philharmonia Orchestra. This is his first cycle, recorded 1951-3, and includes a never before released on CD recording from 1955 of the 9th Symphony in stereo. All recordings except the 9th were made in Kingsway Hall, London.

CD 1-- Tr. 1-4.....Sym 1 in C Major, Op. 21 (23:15) | Tr. 5-8.....Sym 2 in D Major, Op. 36 (31:38) | Tr. 9.........Leonore Overture 3, Op. 72b (14:59)
CD 2--Tr. 1-4.....Sym 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55 "Eroica" (48:41) | Tr. 5-8.....Sym. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 (STEREO) (26:23).

Karajan is not one of my favorite conductors, though he was a man of prodigious talents and did some things extraordinarily well. And I have a somewhat nostalgic relationship with the particular set since, in its LP incarnation, it was my very first set of the Beethoven Symphonies. I used to play these versions quite frequently on my radio show when I was in college, on our campus radio station. It was a closed circuit system which could only be heard in the dorms. It was not broadcast radio. Its was called KDLX and was at 560 on the AM dial; you may note that DLX is 560 in Roman numerals.

I generally prefer a Solti-esque approach to these first two of Beethoven's symphonies; that is, treating them as fully mature Beethoven symphonies, not mere student symphonies preparatory to the Eroica. But here, Karajan adopts the more traditional approach. This is not, per Karajan, fully mature Beethoven.

The Leonore Overture, on the other hand, is much better. Karajan's is an energetic performance of a mature work.

Beethoven wrote four overtures to his only opera. It was first performed as Leonore, and there is a recording of that original version available, but he revised it several times, and finally renamed it Fidelio. He wrote three Leonore Overtures and one Fidelio Overture. Generally, the one at hand, Leonore # 3, is considered the most sophisticated and complicated of the overtures--too complicated in fact; in performance, it tended to overwhelm the main body of the work itself, which is why Beethoven ultimately rejected it.

From Wikipedia:

While some believe that Gustav Mahler introduced the practice of performing "Leonore No. 3" between the two scenes of the second act, something which was common until the middle of the twentieth century, Cairns states that it goes back to the middle of the 19th century and was therefore prior to Mahler. In this location, it acts as a kind of musical reprise of the rescue scene that has just taken place. A new, modern-styled production that premiered in Budapest in October 2008, for example, features the "Leonore No. 3" overture in this location.

Karajan's Eroica is a more or less standard, MOR recording. Very good technically, it exhibits the conductor's absolute control of the orchestra. But the marcia funebre celebrates a grand, heroic funeral, and reveals none of the well justified angst found in Furtwangler's account from the same period. This is the Karajan who regrets nothing, and it leaves me with a chill in my spine.

HvK's 8th is a standard account in which there is no humor or irony. Most conductors, from Szell at one end to Solti at the other, treat it as self-parody, full of humor and musical jokes. Szell treats it as a small piece, Beethoven having famously referred to it as "my little symphony in F," contrasting it with his big symphony in F, the 6th. In Szell's account, it sounds like a small chamber orchestra straining to sound grand, like a chihuahua trying to intimidate a pit bull. Casals, too, takes the same approach, though somewhat less successfully than Szell, I think. Solti, on the other hand, plays it as a grand symphony trying to sound louder and grander (though shorter) than the other symphonies--it is Beethoven's shortest symphony. In any event, I think Szell and Solti are the greatest interpreters of this work, though they represent radically different approaches to the score.
Last edited by RebLem on Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Thu Feb 26, 2015 12:53 pm

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

CD 1 of a 6 cpo set of the complete string quartets (17) of Moisei Vainberg (1919-1996) performed by the Quatuor Danel (Marc Danel, 1st vn, Gilles Millet, 2nd vn., Vlad Bogdanas, viola, and Guy Danel, cello).

Tr. 1-4.....String Quartet 4 in E Flat Major, Op. 20 (34:52) (1945)
Tr. 5-8.....String Quartet 16 in A Flat Minor, Op. 130 (30:18) (1946)

From Wikipedia:

Much confusion has been caused by different renditions of the composer's names. In the Polish language (i.e. prior to his move to the USSR), his name was spelled as 'Mojsze (Mieczysław) Wajnberg, whereas in the Russian language (i.e. after the move) he was and still is known as 'Моисей Самуилович Вайнберг' (Moisey Samuilovich Vaynberg). In the world of Yiddish theater of antebellum Warsaw he was known as Moishe Weinberg (Yiddish: משה װײַנבערג), which is analogous to the Russian Moisey.[3] Among close friends he would also go by his Polish diminutive 'Mietek'. Re-transliteration of his surname from Cyrillic (Вайнберг) back into the Latin alphabet produced a variety of spellings, including 'Weinberg', 'Vainberg', and 'Vaynberg'. The form 'Weinberg' is now being increasingly used as the most frequent English-language rendition of this common Jewish surname, notably in the latest edition of Grove and by Weinberg's biographer, Per Skans.

So, why am I using Moisei Vainberg even though the CD set lists him as Mieczyslaw Weinberg, I hear you ask. I wasn't sure which version I should use, so I posted on it at my favorite classical music site, asking for advice and guidance. The consensus seems to be that it should be Moisei Vainberg, because that is how the Library of Congress lists him. OTOH, the liner notes for this issue allege that the composer himself preferred the version they use, which is Mieczyslaw Weinberg. Considering the historic enmity between Russians and Poles, not to mention Russian anti-Semitism, however, one can understand why he might say that without meaning it.

The 4th String Quartet was written during a remarkably productive period in this form in Vainberg's life. His 1st quartet dates from 1937, the 2nd from 1940, the 3rd from 1944. Both the 4th and 5th are from 1945, and the 6th from 1946. After that, there was a long hiatus until his 7th in 1957, though he was very productive in other forms during that time.

The following is a heavily edited (by me) version of the section of the liner notes describing this quartet.

The 1st movement is in a broadly conceived sonata form with exposition repeat and an allegro comodo marking, lilting six-eight rhythms and straightforward E Flat Major tonality. Yet the metronome marking is swift; the second theme, on the first violin over block chords, is marked agitato, and the third theme, on cello with a quiet violin accompaniment, seems impatient to move into the development phase even before the exposition is complete. Constantly urging the musical drama forward are fast scale patterns that adapt throughout the movement both melodically and in articulation and tone color. The interaction of all these ideas reaches peaks of intensity not only in the development but also in the recapitulation, to which a short solo cello passage forms the bridge.

The 2nd movement is an A Minor toccata, as close to Prokofiev in spirit as it is to Shostakovich. Implacably driven and phenomenally inventive in its textures, it comes with a vein of mischief, but an even more pervasive one of defiance, not least in the trio section, which features a determined muted viola and a fervently singing cello.
The 3rd movement is a largo, and the shadow of war looms more obviously. Textures are pared down, with both intrumental solos and funeral march rhythms appearing stark and unadorned.

The finale is Vainberg's individual response to the previous movements, and to the "finale problem" in general. Beginning with unclouded arpeggio figurations rather reminiscent of Mendelssohn's Octet (and in the same key), its textures soon fragment as does its self-confidence, their integrity only to be regained by by dint of urgent struggle. As in Shostakovich's 2nd Quartet, the conclusion finds a refuge in the tonic minor, not a common outcome for a work in the major mode, yet an emotional and truthful one, sealed by a final crescendo gesture.

Vainberg's last 5 string quartets (Nos. 13-17) were composed between 1977 amd 1986, after a 7 year hiatus between #s 12 and 13. All seem to brood darkly over the fate of humanistic music after the deaths of Shostakovich and Britten. The 16th quartet was composed in a short period between 1 JAN and 15 FEB 1981. It is dedicated to Vainberg's sister Ester, a Holocaust victim who would have turned 60 in 1981 if she had lived. It follows a traditional 4 movement layout, but with the scherzo placed second (standard practice for Shostakovich, in order to provide sufficient contrast with his usual moderately paced 1st movements.) In each movement, he makes intriguing and suggestive diversions from the paths he leads the listener to expect, as if describing the very human and contradictory life his sister might have been destined to live. This quartet is more a sweet, longing reminiscence than a kaddish.


Membran CD 232749 MONO--Tracks 4-6 are transcriptions for cello and piano. The pianist is Alexander Dedyukhin, and they were recorded in 1956. All were originally for piano solo except the Rachmaninoff Vocalise which was intended for high voice (either soprano or tenor, but dedicated to a soprano) and piano.

Tr. 1-3.....Dvorak: Cello Conc. in B Minor, Op. 104, B. 191 (1895) (39:19)--USSR State RTSO, Boris Khaikin, cond., Mstislav Rostropovich, cello, rec. 1957.
Tr. 4.........Chopin: Intoduction and Polonaise Brillante in C Major, Op. 3 (8:59)
Tr. 5.........Rachmaninoff: Vocalise, Op. 34, # 14 (6:34)
Tr. 6.........Schubert: Impromptu in G Flat Major, D. 899 # 3 (transcribed by Heifets & Rostropovich) (4:57)

First, the good news. Tracks 4-6 are interesting and fun to listen to and pretty well recorded, to boot. Of course, none of them is as its composer would have had it, but its still fun.

The Dvorak concerto, however, is very poorly recorded. I do hear the germ of a decent performance here, but the recording engineers seem to have irrepairably compromised it. The cello is as loud--sometimes louder--than the full orchestra. It is much too closely miked. It sounds as if they might even have put a mic inside the cello. One can almost sense the recording engineer fiddling with knobs as the playing continues. Very artificial, unreal sound, like nothing you would ever hear in a live concert performance. This is an awful recording. Stick with Rostropovich's first recording of this work from 1951 with Vaclav Talich and the Czech Philharmonic, or check out the Fournier/Szell/Berlin Phil. recording.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by josé echenique » Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:37 pm

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Well aria recitals keep coming like if we were in 1910, but since it´s ever more difficult to hope for complete opera recordings [though Warner is recording in Rome this week an Aida with Kaufmann and Pappano] we might as well enjoy them.

Piotr Beczala is a sound, reliable and likable tenor with an attractive voice. He does well in the French repertoire, perhaps even better than in the Italian, and though the aria from La Dame Blanche was a mistake, everything else is well sung. The Don Carlos aria is especially lovely, in general I liked this CD better than his other recitals.

Bryan Hymel is if anything, even more interesting. A rare voice that is sizable, powerful, but also capable of stratospheric high notes. He is fearless in his chosen and very demanding repertoire. The great Arnold scene from Guillaume Tell is both beautiful and exhilarating, I couldn´t detect any edits, so maybe the whole thing was recorded in a single take. He has the rare gift of making every character different from the next, so it´s never the same guy from Aeneas to John the Baptist, to Faust. His recital also includes some rarities that are welcome, Beczala plays it more safe.

Both recordings are good, hope to hear these guys in complete audio opera recordings while they are in their prime.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by Lance » Sat Feb 28, 2015 2:54 am

I saw information on the release of the Bryan Hymel disc. Oddly, I know nothing (or can't recall at the moment) if I've heard Piotr Beczala. But, as always, you have whetted my appetite to hear both of these singers ... your comments are well written and defining. Thank you! By the way, Pepe, I put up a notice on Gigliola Frazzoni - and have become exceedingly fascinated with her voice. There aren't that many recordings (a Fonit Cetra, which I expect any day, and a Fancilla del West following). Like you, I long for complete recordings, though I could live for another century with what is already amassed! Am curious about your thoughts on Frazzoni.

You said:

Well aria recitals keep coming like if we were in 1910, but since it´s ever more difficult to hope for complete opera recordings [though Warner is recording in Rome this week an Aida with Kaufmann and Pappano] we might as well enjoy them.

Piotr Beczala is a sound, reliable and likable tenor with an attractive voice. He does well in the French repertoire, perhaps even better than in the Italian, and though the aria from La Dame Blanche was a mistake, everything else is well sung. The Don Carlos aria is especially lovely, in general I liked this CD better than his other recitals.

Bryan Hymel is if anything, even more interesting. A rare voice that is sizable, powerful, but also capable of stratospheric high notes. He is fearless in his chosen and very demanding repertoire. The great Arnold scene from Guillaume Tell is both beautiful and exhilarating, I couldn´t detect any edits, so maybe the whole thing was recorded in a single take. He has the rare gift of making every character different from the next, so it´s never the same guy from Aeneas to John the Baptist, to Faust. His recital also includes some rarities that are welcome, Beczala plays it more safe.

Both recordings are good, hope to hear these guys in complete audio opera recordings while they are in their prime.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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josé echenique
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by josé echenique » Sat Feb 28, 2015 11:39 am

There is unfortunately very little available of Frazzoni to get the whole picture dear Lance. The Fanciulla is very good, the Tosca slightly less interesting. She had the misfortune of living in an era when Callas, Milanov, Olivero, Tebaldi, Steber, Kirsten, and so many others dominated the World stages, but on the evidence of the few recordings available, she seems to have been a solid and dedicated singer.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by scififan » Sat Feb 28, 2015 4:39 pm

Seán wrote:I am a creature of habit! :D

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Mily Balakirev
Symphony No. 1

Russian State Symphony Orchestra
Igor Golovschin conducting.
This is the CD I have. I note that you have two by Svetlanov. Do you think those interpretations have a special quality that makes them stand out?

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Sun Mar 01, 2015 1:14 am

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

Vol. 29 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of Mozart and Beethoven:

Tr, 1-4......Beethoven: Sym. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55 "Eroica" (46:14)--rec. NBC broadcast from CH, 6 DEC 1953.

Tr. 5-8......Mozart: Sym. 40 in G Minor, K. 550 (22:59)--rec. Studio 8H, 12 MAR 1950.

I was surprised that I was disappointed by this CD. The Beethoven seemed a rushed and routine performance, with little attention paid to orchestral balances--very untypical of Toscanini. And, despite the fact that it was allegedly recorded at CH, it sounded more like 8H, and the Mozart, supposedly recorded in 8H, sounded more like CH. Could it be that RCA got the notes wrong? Perhaps. But still, the Mozart sounded rushed, too, without Toscanini's usual loving care. I love a great many Eroicas, too many to allow for a general survey of alternatives here. As for Mozart 40, however, I find the clear winner and the clear winner of the Complete Mozart Symphonies set competition is the Christopher Hogwood. He recorded every scrap of music Mozart ever thought of putting into a symphony, with lots of alternative movements here and there, and in superb, solid period instrument performances.


Vol. 28 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to the music of 5 Russian composers.:

Tr. 1-4......Prokofiev: Sym. 1 in D Minor, Op. 25 "Classical" (13:48)--rec. 15 OCT 1951.
Tr. 5-8......Shostakovich: Sym. 1 in F Minor, Op. 10 (26:59)--rec. Studio 8H, 12 MAR 1944.
Tr. 9........Glinka: Kamarinskaya (6:05)--rec. Studio 8H, 12 DEC 1940.
Tr. 10.......Liadov: Kikimora, Op. 63 (8:07)--rec. CH, 29 JULY 1952.
Tr. 11-19...Stravinsky: Petrouchka excerpts (19:11) from Tableaus I and IV--rec. Studio 8H, 21 DEC 1940.

This CD is an absolute delight from beginning to end; not a dud anywhere. The Prokofiev 1st is as sprightly as any recording of this work I have ever heard. However, a caution is in order: well over a dozen recordings of this work are in the top rank. It is one of those works which has been very well treated on CD; there a lots of top knotch recordings to choose from, and this current one loses out on the sound front. The performance, however, is wonderful. Ditto with the Shostakovich 1st; most recordings deal with the broad sweep of the piece; this one emphasizes all sorts of intriguing details you may swear you never really heard before. The Glinka and Liadov excerpts are lovely, and the Petrouchka i lively and full of melodic interest. All together, a delightful, highly recommended CD.

Vol. 27 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of Cherubini and Cimarosa:

Tr. 1-4......Cherubini (1760-1842):: Sym. in D Minor (26:08)--rec. CH 10 MAR 1940
Tr. 5........Cherubini: Ali Baba Overture (6:06)--rec. 8H 3 DEC 1949.
Tr. 6........Cherubini:Anacreon Overture (10:05)--rec. CH, 21 MAR 1953.
Tr. 7........Cherubini: Medee Overture (6:52)--rec. 8H, 18 FEB 1950

Tr. 8........Cimarosa (1749-1801):: Il matrimonio segreto Overture (5:50)--rec 8H 13 NOV 1943.
Tr. 9........Cimarosa: Il matrimonio per raggiro Overture (4:53)--rec. 8H 12 NOV 1949.

Beethoven is said to have regarded Cherubini as the greatest of his contemporaries. He was wrong, of course. Schubert was far more important. The popular image of Schubert is that he was a struggling artist in a garrett, who had a few loyal, but no-account friends. But that does not square with the fact that Schubert was one of Beethoven's pallbearers.

The first work here, and the largest, by far, on this CD, sounds a tad Beethovenian, which should be no surprise, since it was composed in 1815, three years after the premiere of Beethoven's 8th Symphony. It just doesn't impress me that much. It seems a pale imitation. Far more exciting, I think, is the Anacreon Overture. This is a sort of guilty pleasure for me. I hear lots of bombast, little in the way of real musical substance. Put it in the same category as Beethoven's Wellington's Victory and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

Much more exciting to me were the two Cimarosa Overtures, esp. the first. It sounds a lot like Beethoven, too, but Cimarosa died in 1801, when Beethoven was just beginning his career. And this first overture is from 1792, before Beethoven had published anything. He is a far less well known composer than Cherubini, but, if we are to judge by the evidence on this CD, that is a grave injustice.

Sound quality is very good for the period.


Vol. 26 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of Johannes Brahms (1833-97)

Tr. 1-4......Sym. 1 in C Minor, Op. 68 (41:41)--rec CH, 10 MAR, 14 MAY, & 11 DEC 1941
Tr. 5-9......Serenade 2 in A Major, Op. 16 (29:38)--rec. 8H 27 DEC 1942.

This Brahms 1st, recorded partly on the Thursday after Pearl Harbor, makes a powerful case for keeping all the players out of the Army. Morale is important, too, of course, and these folks provided it. This is a magnificent performance, and the sound quality is amazing; it sounds like it could have dated from the late 1950's; its much better than many other recordings made in 1941 or 1942. This is also pretty much an MOR performance, much more so that the version from 1951, I think it was, that went into his last set of the Brahms Symphonies, which is fleet and emphasizes melody over pulse. Here, the pulse is average, perhaps even a tad slower than the median, and it is powerful. Impressive and highly recommended.

The Serenade is a bit less impressive, partly because the music is not as great, but also, though it was made a year and 16 days after the last date on which the Sym 1 was recorded, it was made in Studio 8H, a notoriously dead-sounding studio, while the Sym 1 was made in CH.

Let me close with a bit of trivia: As far as I know, only three conductors have recorded all the Brahms Symphones and both Serenades--Toscanini, Adrian Boult, and Istvan Kertesz. If anyone knows of another, please let me know.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

piston
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Mon Mar 02, 2015 4:49 pm

Lev K. Knipper and his multiple artistic personalities or, to put it more bluntly, as Shostakovich once said, his "flabby eclecticism." At the same time, Knipper was respected by many of his contemporaries such as Myaskovsky, Khrennikov, Svetlanov, and interpreted by great artists such as Kogan, Rozhdestvensky, Gauk and Rostropovich. But the fact remains that most of his works, including the majority of his twenty symphonies, all of his operas, and much chamber music have never been recorded (and some of what was recorded on LP, such as the symphony no. 13, dedicated to Myaskovsky, which he directed, is no longer available). Was he too old, at 25 years of age, when he began his formal training with Glière? Was he too much involved in Soviet music propaganda (and espionage) to discover his own, clear-cut, artistic path? He is, in the end, a good composer who lacks originality, his own distinct voice. Often writing in a mass-appealing lyrical vein, he was also known for his much more modern sounds and language, such as in the short third string quartet.

--Sinfonietta for strings (1953) and Concerto for bassoon and string orchestra (1969), Terjan, Moscow Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, Valeriy Popov, bassoon.
--Concerto monologue for cello, seven brass instruments and two kettledrums (1962), Rozhdestvensky, USSR State Symphony Orchestra, Rostropovich, cello.
--Symphony no. 4 "Poem for the Komsomol Fighters" after Guseyev, for soloists, chorus and orchestra (1933-34) Dudarova, Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Russian Academic Chamber Chorus.
--Violin Concerto no. 1 (1943) and Symphony no. 8 (1941) Titov, St. Petersburg State Academy Symphony Orchestra.
-- String Quartet no. 3 (1973) Novosibirsk String Quartet.
I also listened to excerpts of his film music for The Private Life of Petr Vinogradov (1934).
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:07 pm

Complete ballet performance of The Seven Beauties by Kara Karayev, from the Azerbaijan 1982 film production (no reference to orchestra and conductor). It is undoubtedly his greatest commercial chef-d'oeuvre. Karayev often writes his slow ballet music in a conservative vein evocative of Rimsky-Korsakov or Tchaikovsky. His faster, more action-filled music moves beyond the romantic period to sound in many ways like Prokofiev's or Shostakovich's. Even though he was taught by Shostakovich, I get the feeling that Prokofiev is a greater influence, especially for ballet music.

This work remains very popular, in direct competition with Khachaturian's ballets. Last October, the 1952 ballet received its first complete U.S. premiere in San Diego; it drew some three thousand consumers! Believe it or not, it's inspired by a multi-cultural work written in 1197, a work which describes female beauties from India, Byzantine, Central Asia ("Khorezmian"), Slavonia, Maghreb, China, and the "most beautiful" of them, the seventh, who also embodies the oppression of her people, from Russia. Nizami Ganjami, the author of this feudal work, wrote a passion play on a well-intended but often neglectful ruler more interested in the sexual pleasures provided by his harem's six beauties from different cultures than anything else. It's actually a story with a moral objective about fair and just rule over the people. You'll have to watch this ballet to know what happens to the seventh beauty....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UatYLXW5fkM

I am not sure how much the ballet strays from the original story but here's the plot of Ganjami's story:
Bakhram Gur sincerely wishes to bring happiness to his people, punishes his enemies and oppressors and revokes many punishments. The author also shows the weak sides of his hero with all the vicious passions typical for the feudal Oriental rulers. Bakhram Gur creates a gorgeous harem, spends his time hunting, at the feasts and enjoyments, quite often forgetting about his duty. Using this opportunity, his first councilor Rast Rovshan wreaks havoc, robs the peasants, plunders the people and betrays the country to the enemies. Bakhram realizes his mistake only when he meets a wise herdsman who opens his eyes upon the arbitrariness and iniquities. The herdsman gave the shah a splendid lesson of real life. The history of creation: The poem was ordered to Nizami by the Seldjuk sultan Suleiman to whom the author dedicates a special chapter - there is praise and edification by comparing him with the wise Solomon-Suleiman. The main goal of the work is the disclosure of the image of Bakhram Gur (his prototype was the legendary Sasanide shah Bakhram or Varakhran V who ruled in 421-438). By this the poet tried to express his understanding of the ruler's mission. The ruler, asserts Nizami, must be humane and educated, must care about the people and while ruling the state he must rely upon the wise lesson of real life. There in the poem the magic number seven is constantly in circulation: these are the stories in seven days of the week of the seven wives of the legendary ancient Irani shah Bakhram Gur taken by him from the seven zones of the Earth and living in seven palaces, each of which is dedicated to the seven planets known at that time. Of edification are the stories of the seven prisoners imprisoned by the treacherous councilor. Their narration urges the king to give up the thoughtless corporeal joys and return back to the management of the country, organizing it on the spiritual basics of justice and amicability. It is notable that there in the poem for the first time in the history of Oriental poetry was created the image of the Russian girl. She is a clever, educated, dauntless beauty possessing a will. By the way, "beauty" can be translated as "portrait" or "planet", "star". The poetical masterpiece of Nizami became alive in the ballet "The seven beauties" (1952) which brought world fame to the Azerbaijani composer, the people's artists of the USSR K.Karayev (born 1918).
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Thu Mar 05, 2015 10:51 am

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

Toccata Classics TOCC 0005--Havergal Brian (1876-1972)--Tr. 1-17...17 Songs for Baritone and Piano--Brian Rayner Cook, baritone, Roger Vignoles, piano | Tr. 18...Legend, for violin and piano (5:47)--Stephen Levine, violin, Peter Lawson, piano. Rec. 14 MAR & 13 APR 1982 @ Wigmore Hall, London.

Following is a list of the first 17 tracks, all songs, and the provenance of their texts:

Tr. 1.....When icicles hang by the wall (1919) (2:11)--Wm. Shakespeare, from "Love's Labours Lost"
Tr. 2.....Take, O take those lips away (1921?) (1:05)--Wm. Shakespeare, from "Measure for Measure"
Tr. 3.....Sorrow Song (1906) (3:52)--John Donne (1572-1631)
Tr. 4.....The Message (1906) (2:22)--John Donne (1572-1631)
Tr. 5.....Farewell (date unk) (4:42)--Reginald Heber (1793-1826)
Tr. 6.....Care-charmer sleep (1919) (4:42)--Samuel Daniel (1562-1619)
Tr. 7.....Since love is dead (early 1920's) (2:50)--Fred G Bowles (dates unknown; liner notes describe him only as "a minor poet active during the First World War)
Tr. 8.....The Soul of Steel (1921) (4:52)--Christopher M Masterman, a poet described by the liner notes only as "Brian's landlord in Brighton between 1920 and 1922."
Tr. 9.....Why dost thou wound and break my heart? (1919?, rev. 1912?) (2:53)--Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
Tr. 10....On parting (1918) (2:11)--Wilhelmina Mary Ayrston, who wrote using the pseudonym Temple Keble, is described only as "an intimate friend of Brian's during his sojourn in Birmingham between 1916 and 1919; her poetry inspired him to musical settings oin May, 1918 with a group of five songs. This recording presents the four that are suitable for male voice."
Tr. 11....Lady Ellayne (1918) (1:51)--Wilhelmina Mary Ayrston aka Temple Keble.
Tr. 12....Renunciation (1918) (3:34)--Wilhelmina Mary Ayrston aka Temple Keble
Tr. 13....Love is a merry game (1918) (1:45)--Wilhelmina Mary Ayrston aka Temple Keble.
Tr. 14....Piping down the valleys wild (1914) (2:03)--Wm. Blake (1757-1827)
Tr. 15....The Chimney Sweeper (1914) (2:56)--Wm. Blake (1757-1827)
Tr. 16....The Land of Dreams (1919) (4:01)--Wm. Blake (1757-1827)
Tr. 17....The Defiled Sanctuary (1919) (2:57)--Wm Blake (1757-1827)

Track 18, the Legend, is a pleasant enough minor work, and this performance seems a capable one. Almost all the songs, though, are pretty tough going. This is really only for hard core Havergal Brian completists, IMHO. Only two of the poems had settings which I enjoyed--the first two by Wm. Blake, Piping down the valleys wild, and The Chimney Sweeper. Most of the poems weren't all that interesting either, including, I am sorry to say, the Shakespeare ones. I did like the Temple Keble poem, Renunciation, though. It is a lovely and sad poem about a woman used and abandoned, who still carries a torch for her beloved. But the setting is not appealing at all, IMO.

4-naive V5176 Haydn Syms 93-104 "The London Symphonies", Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble, cond. by Marc Minkowski. live in June, 2009 @ the Wiener Konzerthaus.

CD 1--Tr. 1-4....Sym. 96 in D Major "The Miracle" (1791) (22:49) | Tr. 5-8....Sym. 95 in C Minor (1791) (19:58) | Tr. 9-12.....Sym. 93 in D Major (1791).

CD 2...Tr. 1-4....Sym. 94 in G Major "The Surprise" (1791) (22:28) | Tr. 5-8....Sym. 98 in B Flat Major (1792) (25:09) | Tr. 9-12....Sym. 97 in C Major (1792) (23:33)

CD 3...Tr. 1-4....Sym. 99 in E Flat Major (1793) (26:05) | Tr. 5-8....Sym. 100 in G Major "Military" (1794) (22:46) | Tr. 9-12....Sym. 101 in D Major "The Clock" (1794) (25:35).

CD 4...Tr. 1-4....Sym. 102 in B Flat Major (1704) (22:38) | Tr. 5-8....Sym. 103 in E Flat Major "The Drum Roll" (1795) (28:37) | Tr. 9-12....Sym. 104 in D Major "London" (1795) (26:47).

Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble is a period instrument ensemble headquartered in Grenoble, France, an Alpine city close to the Swiss border. CD 1 is unexceptional. These are fine, stylish performances I generally prefer to all others except those of La Petite Bande under Sigiswald Kuijken.

CD 2 is a little different with regard to the Surprise Symphony and # 98. The second movement of the Surprise Symphony is the movement in which the surprise occurs. Actually, there are two surprises here, in this performance. The movement starts at a moderate tempo and sound level, but quickly, the orchestra becomes barely audible under even the highest volume settings that won't blow out your speakers in the loud pasages. Then it gradually increases in volume just a bit and at exactly 50 seconds into the movement, we hear a very loud and startling verbal shout by all the members of the orchestra. This is the only point in the set where decorum is breached, and the audience laughs nervously. Then, later on, at about 1:11 we hear a sudden loud instrumental burst from the orchestra, and then the rest of the movement proceeds in a conventional manner.

In Symphony 98, there is a brief entry of a harpsichord continuo for just 6-7 seconds close to the end of the last movement, at 6:42-c. 6:49; The movement ends at 6:54. Otherwise, its a pretty conventional period instruments performance.

As I continued through the set, a pattern seemed to become evident re: Minkowski's approach to these works and to their place in Haydn's ouvre. They seem gradually to become grander from 99 on, until in the London Symphony, we have a performance of truly Beethovenian proportions. The Military Symphony, my personal sentimental favorite of all the Haydn Symphonies, since it was one of the first works I really learned to love when I was just beginning to learn about classical music in the late 1950's, is curiously unmilitary. The Turkish music seems rather more brief than in other versions. This is not one of my favorite performances. For all its big orchestra Haydn, my personal favorite, after the Kuijken, is the Klemperer recording. I have said it before and I'll say it again--Klemperer's divisi violins make a big difference, and for that I can forgive almost all manner of excesses. He also does a really superb 102; his recording of it made it one of my favorites. The Drum Roll in 103 is rather longer and more elaborate in Minkowski's version than in most recordings.

All told, this is an important and very interesting set; every Haydn lover should become familiar with it; Minkowski's approach in several of the symphonies--94, 99, 101, 103 and 104 especially--challenge long cherished beliefs of how these pieces should go. And yet, Minkowski is a man of great talent and vision, whose views--not matter how far they depart from convention, are worthy of respect and consideration.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

piston
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Fri Mar 06, 2015 2:50 pm

Complete performance of D. Shostakovich's first ballet, The Golden Age, op. 22, written in 1930, when the composer was 24 years old. The original libretto concerning a Russian football team confronted with decadent bourgeois values, crimes, etc., in a western city (perhaps Berlin) was bound to be artistically problematic for the young composer. As he himself wrote in the 1930 ballet program notes:
"Throwing into contrast the two cultures was my main aim in the ballet. I approached this task in the following way: the West European dances breathe the spirit of depraved eroticism which is characteristic of contemporary bourgeois culture, but I tried to imbue the Soviet dances with the wholesome elements of sport and physical culture.... I strove to write music that was not only easy to dance to, but that was dramatically tense and underwent symphonic development."
Incidentally, Shostakovich appears at first to have been in agreement with this Soviet agenda and his ballet's first 18 performances were clearly successful! But the western music (jazz, tap-dance, tango, polka, can-can) proved inspiring to the composer and fascinating to his audience, thus defeating the whole ideological purpose of the libretto. Not surprisingly, the outcome of a Russian public warmly applauding dancers performing to such a decadent music raised a storm of criticism; the ballet was withdrawn from the repertoire and Shostakovich vowed to never again associate his music to a libretto and a choreography he disapproved.

The renewal of The Golden Age proved a success in the 1980s thanks to a completely different libretto. In this second version, the decadent western city is gone and so is the football match. But librettist and choreographer Yuri Grigorovich, himself a Soviet ballet icon, still associated crime and decadence with bourgeois private enterprise under Lenin's New Economic Policy.
In his story, The Golden Age is the name of a restaurant in a southern Russian seaside town where the NEP has given rise to a gang of thieves and criminals. In this version, however, western music does not have to be synonymous with the decadent bourgeoisie. At The Golden Age
a young dancer, Rita, who appears under the name of Mademoiselle Margot, and her partner, Jacques, in point of fact Yashka, leader of a local gang of bandits, entertain a mixed public of “fast livers”. Helping Yashka with his ’jobs’ are his bandit cronies and his friend, Lyuska.
During the town festival and general rejoicing Boris, a young fisherman, member of the satirical agitprop theatre for working youths, meets Rita. They begin to fall in love. But, suddenly, Rita disappears into the crowd, Boris rushes after her. Boris’s search brings him to The Golden Age Restaurant. To his astonishment, he recognizes the dancing Mademoiselle Margot to be Rita, the girl he is looking for.
Boris and Yashka fight over Rita. She is attracted by both young men, by the sincerity and depth of their feelings for her. Boris’s young fishermen friends start a brawl with members of the gang of bandits. Yashka tries to make a run for it, but he is caught. Rita is free: leaving the restaurant forever, she goes off with her beloved Boris to start a new life.
While the moral of the story is still communist (free enterprise leads to crime), the entertainment value of cabaret music is now universal.
The Golden Age, choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, Bolshoi Ballet and Orchestra, Paul Klinichev, conductor.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLIdi6fet8Q
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Fri Mar 06, 2015 9:45 pm

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

CD 9 in the 14 CD ABC set of Beethoven piano sonatas and concerti by Australian pianist Gerard Willems on Australian Stuart & Sons superpianos.:

Tr. 1-4.....PS 28 in A Major, Op. 101 (1816) (21:09)
Tr. 5-8.....PS 29 in B Flat Major, Op. 106 "Hammerklavier" (1818) (48:09)

These two sonatas by and large sound significantly slower and more relaxed than in other versions. Total times for the two sonatas from the classic Annie Fischer, for example are 19:28 for PS 28 and 45:16 for the Hammerklavier. Exceptions are the last movements of both sonatas; actually, both are longer than the Fischer recordings, but they sound fast. These are relaxed, more approachable performances, I think, and I will return to them when in a contemplative mood. Somehow, they--especially 29--sound less formidable and intimidating here than elsewhere, and they will help you deconstruct what these pieces are about.

CDs 3-4 of the 6 Warner Classics CDs, licensed from EMI, of the Beethoven Symphonies conducted by Herbert von Karajan with the Philharmonia Orchestra. This is his first cycle, recorded 1951-3, and includes a never before released on CD recording from 1955 of the 9th Symphony in stereo.

CD 3
Tr. 1-4.....Sym. 4 in B Flat Major, Op. 60 (1806) (33:59)
Tr. 5-8.....Sym. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1808) (30:49)
Tr. 9.........Coriolan Overture, Op. 62 (1807) (9:09)

CD 4
Tr. 1-5.....Sym. 6 in F Major, Op. 68 "Pastoral" (1808) (37:28)
Tr. 6-9.....Sym 7 in A Major, Op. 92 (1812) (37:37)

Karajan's 4th is an MOR performance that is a little better than routine, but not by much. You will look in vain for the powerful sense of drama and contrast displayed by Klemperer, the delightful, loving attention to melody that Monteux gives this work, or the relentless driving pulse of Rene Liebowitz. This is a work that demands a point of view and which favors interpreters with a cohesive overarching vision. Karajan just doesn't have it.

Sym. 5 is a totally different story. This is the best performance in the set so far. Karajan is in total control of the orchestra, It is an energetic, modern performance with lots of drama, movement, energy, and fast tempos.

The Coriolan Overture is interesting in that it is dramatic. Perhaps overly so. Some of the pauses seem forced and artificial. This is not a very sensitive performance, IMO.

Syms. 6 and 7 are both pretty good performances. Not among my favorites, but still pretty good. The Pastoral is contemplative, peaceful and,,,well, pastoral in feeling. On a left-right spectrum, from most lyrical to most rhythmic, here is how I place it: Toscanini, Karajan, Monteux, Szell, Solti. Exceptions are the last two movemnts, which are very energetic. As for 7, this is also not one of my favorites--that would be Szell in all but the second movement, and Solti and Liebowitz.

Another thing. Someone at EMI is getting very sloppy. Someone has gotten the idea that all symphonies have four movements, so the back note on this set shows the 6th symphony as being on tracks 1-5, but then 7 is listed as track 5-8. In other words, two track 5's! I have encountered this anomaly on other recent EMI releases as well, though I can't recall which ones. Its getting to be part of their style. Very unfortunate.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

piston
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Sat Mar 07, 2015 9:23 pm

So, "Chout." Or as the Russians put it, "Tale about a jester." Prokofiev's first ballet and one on which he worked a long time, from 1915 to 1921. It has a rather interesting story which I hope I understand correctly. This is when Prokofiev was trying to make an impression on Diaghilev but the ballet producer didn't like the first draft. Prokofiev modified about forty percent of his original music and, eventually, his ballet was accepted and premiered in Paris, where people were appreciative, and in London, where they were not. Then, the music gets lost, for many decades, and Gennady Rozhdestvensky is the one who manages to get it back together. But what about the original choreography? I'm not sure how often this ballet was staged before 2011 but there are reasons to believe that it was not performed often, if at all. Wiki:
The ballet was only presented once in the Soviet Union, in January 1928 under the Ukrainian title Blazen at the Kiev Theatre of Opera and Ballet under A. S. Orlov. The music had to be reconstructed from the symphonic suite, minus the entr'actes, resulting in prolonged pauses. Other attempts to stage it in the Soviet Union failed – Prokofiev refused to allow any changes. The suite has been recorded a number of times and has often been performed in concert, but it was not until the mid-1980s that Gennady Rozhdestvensky made the first recording of the entire music for the ballet.
Enter a young Ukrainian choreographer, Alexey Miroshnichenko, who, at first, runs into obstacles with Sergei Prokofiev, jr., who demanded that
Mr. Miroshnichenko used the full score and retained the libretto from the original ballet, composed for the Ballets Russes and first performed in 1921
Even Gergiev was called upon to intervene on behalf of the Ukrainian choreographer but Sergei held his ground. That libretto is not exactly politically correct these days:
Wielding a ‘magic’ whip, a young village buffoon tricks his elders into believing that he has killed his wife and then brought her back to life. Convinced by the stunt, seven old buffoons each buys a ‘magic’ whip and kills his wife, only to find that they cannot be brought back to life as promised. In order to escape the wrath of the older men, the young buffoon disguises himself as a [female] cook. Meanwhile, a merchant who has been invited to select his bride from one of the seven old buffoons’ daughters mistakenly chooses the ‘cook’, who escapes but leaves in his place a goat, which the merchant kills. The young buffoon returns, dressed as himself and accompanied by soldiers, to request that the non-existent cook be brought forward or that he be compensated by the merchant. The ballet ends with the young buffoon and his wife celebrating their extorted prosperity as the soldiers woo the seven old buffoons’ daughters.
Miroshnichenko, director of the Perm Ballet and Opera Theatre, a city of less than one million people near the Ural Mountains, kept that libretto and got Sergei's permission to stage this ballet once again. It has been performed in Russia, Ukraine, Spain, etc., and "Chout" lives again on stage:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJdnmnemppg
My personal impression is that Prokofiev had some work to do before becoming a famous ballet music composer. In contrast to Shchedrin who, out of the conservatoire, became successful with his little humpbacked horse, an artistic marvel, and who "grasped" his Maya Plisetskaya along the way, one of the most famous Russian ballerinas, Prokofiev really struggled with this work. Yet, it has historical significance and is worth watching.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

RebLem
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Sun Mar 08, 2015 7:43 am

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

CD 2 of a 6 cpo set of the complete string quartets (17) of Moisei Vainberg (1919-1996) performed by the Quatuor Danel (Marc Danel, 1st vn, Gilles Millet, 2nd vn., Vlad Bogdanas, viola, and Guy Danel, cello).

Tr. 1-3.....String Quartet 7 in C Major, Op. 59 (1957) (28:10)
Tr. 4-7.....String Quartet 11 in F Major, Op. 89 (1966) (21:26)
Tr. 8........String Quartet 13 in one movement, Op. 118 (1977) (14:07)

After having listened to this CD, I think I have finally figured out what it is that separates Vainberg from Shostakovich. They had similar views of the Soviet regime, their music seems often to be a protest against it, but their approaches seem somehow different in significant ways. I think I know what it is. Shostakovich was most concerned with what the Soviet system did to human freedom, how it distorted the naturalness of human relations, how it made the body politic sick, dysfunctional, and circumspect, discouraging honest, frank, and straightforward exchanges of views. Vainberg, on the other hand, concentrates on how it affects the individual psyche, the inner life of the individual, creating a sense of hopelessness, powerlessness, and anomie, making each person far more solitary than nature means us to be.

Balada, Leonardo (b. 1933)--Malaga Philharmonic Orch., Edmon Colomer, cond., *World Premiere Recording, *Emmanuel Abbuehl, oboe, *Juan Enric LLuna, clarinet--rec. 21-23 November 2012 Auditorio de la Diputation de Malaga, Spain. NAXOS CD 8.573047

Tr. 1-4.....Symphony 1 "Sinfonia en Negro: Homage to Martin Luther King (1968) (21:32)--Mvt. 1--Oppression (6:03) | Mvt. 2--Chains (5:40) | Mvt. 3--Vision (7:11) | Mvt. 4--Triumph (2:38)

Tr. 5.........Double Concerto doe Oboe, Clarinet, and Orch. (2010)* (18::13)

Tr. 6-9.....Columbus: Images for Orchestra (1991) (22:06)--Mvt. 1--The Port of Palos (5:07) | Mvt. 2--Admiral! Admiral! (6:51) | Mvt. 3--Where is the Will of God? (4:59) | Mvt. 4--Dawn in the Indies (5:09)

From Wikipedia:

"Leonardo Balada (born September 22, 1933, in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain), is a Catalan American composer....After studying piano at the Conservatori Superior de Música del Liceu in Barcelona, Balada emigrated to the United States in 1956 to study at the Juilliard School in New York, from which he graduated in 1960. He studied composition with Vincent Persichetti, Alexandre Tansman and Aaron Copland. and conducting with Igor Markevitch. In 1981, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Since 1970 he has been teaching at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania."

The back-note on this CD says, in part,

"A strong opponent of oppression in all its forms, Leonardo Balada met Martin Luther King in 1967. His 'Sinfonia en Negro' is a powerful response to King's subsequent murder as well as a description of the black journey in the Americas from slavery to freedom. Both the Sinfonia and the virtuoso Double Concerto use Balada's pioneering blend of ethnic music with avant-garde techniques, while 'Columbus: Images for Orchestra' is a free adaptation of four contrasting themes from his opera 'Christopher Columbus.'
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Sun Mar 08, 2015 10:44 am

About Weinberg, this is how David Fanning characterizes his lack of anti-Soviet agenda, RebLem:
Tempting though it may be to set Weinberg up as some kind of moral beacon, his message has nothing - or almost nothing - to do with pro- or anti-communism, or with political engagement of any kind. He would have answered to the label of 'anti-fascist', but not to any other. His message, if we want to call it such, has to do with what it is to be a human being and artist living close to the turmoils of the mid-20th century.
And, even though Weinberg was arrested and incarcerated on the ridiculous charge of bourgeois Jewish nationalism, Fanning nevertheless maintains that
Weinberg had plenty of opportunity later in life to claim victim/hero status. But he never did so. Asked in the era of glasnost for his recollections of the events of 1948, he echoed the Khrennikov line: that the oppression was not as bad as history has painted it, and that composers who claimed victim status were merely being self-serving.

In the end, it is the job of critics and polemicists to make their case, and the job of scholars to assemble evidence and critique conclusions. No one has the right to judge. Pending further revelations, my own opinion is that Weinberg continued to believe in the fundamental justness of the Soviet system, knowing full well that it harboured absurdities and individuals of ill-will; and that he did his best to negotiate a path that would enable him to retain individuality and (increasingly as he moved into middle age) to address the moral issues that burned within him.
Fanning completed Per Skans' biography of Weinberg which was published at the time he wrote the essay from which these excerpts are drawn:
http://www.signandsight.com/service/2056.html
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Sun Mar 08, 2015 7:12 pm

I listened to, and viewed, Prokofiev's second performed ballet, Trapèze, based on a 1970 production that relied on the quintet music. The story of his professional relationship with the ballet producer and choreographer, Boris Romanov, is extremely complicated and I won't try to summarize here. What is out there on youtube is not what was performed, from Gotha, Germany, to Turin, Italy, in 1925-1926, because it's based on the "ballet quintet" music and Romanov, in considerable financial difficulties as a Russian "modernist" expatriate in Germany, requested several changes and additions (two movements) for the original performances. In any case, light has been shed on this story thanks to recent archival research and, while it's not on youtube, London has produced, in 2003, what is believed to be an accurate rendition of the 1925-26 Trapeze.
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So, we are talking about Prokofiev's second ballet score, much of which was written fairly rapidly on France's Atlantic Ocean shores in June-August 1924, and to which he later added two movements because of Romanov, and that work, too, did not survive perhaps three performances, the choreography and the full-ballet music was lost, and it had to be reconstructed through archival research, in the early 21st century. More evidence that Prokofiev spent a good while finding his genre as a ballet music composer.

I'm sure that those who have heard the quintet music to Trapeze have recognized a huge debt to Stravinsky's influence. But that of course is not what built Prokofiev's ballet fame in later years!
Here's the 1970 "quintet" performance I watched which is, as I said, quite far from the original production:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af_ainM ... 15107410A1
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Tue Mar 10, 2015 8:29 pm

What to say about The Prodigal Son, Prokofiev's fifth ballet score and his fourth performed ballets? The Pas d'Acier, or Steel Step, had not been successful in Paris and in the new Soviet Union, for different ideological reasons. Thanks to Princeton University, we now have a better understanding of what he tried to do and it was his last attempt at writing modernistic ballet music. Prokofiev, single son of a highly-protective artistic widow, was trying to please whoever he worked for, so that he could find satisfaction in himself (Prokofiev was quite narcissistic). But the idea of celebrating a rapidly industrializing Russia with ballet dancers moving like machine pieces was unpopular, if not laughable, in France, and rejected as capitalist propaganda in Russia. One more failure, along with his second symphony and operatic angel, and Sergei had no opportunity to please himself by pleasing other people.
Longing to return to his homeland, this fundamentally apolitical artist, extremely naive in Stravinsky's words, conceived his new ballet project as a way to be understood, accepted, and forgiven by his countrymen: the prodigal son returns! Of course, the story involves the same theme of pure Russian behavior being abused by corrupt western values and, in this regard, The Prodigal Son is a very fine communist work by an apolitical artist. BUT, in contrast to the Pas d'Acier, it's far more than a historical document: it's a foundational work on his way to the lyrical Cinderella and Romeo and Juliette, a step in his gradual rejection of Stravinsky's and any other ultra-modernist influence.
Sergei Prokofiev didn't care about political regimes. All he wanted is a safe environment to compose what he wanted to compose, a supportive artistic elite that would publish his work before the ink dried, and plenty of performances! And, in the late 1920s, his compass turned to the USSR as the one place where that could be achieved.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Gu1PMfLO8g
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Tue Mar 10, 2015 10:59 pm


Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

Vol. 25 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of Beethoven:

Tr, 1-4.....Sym. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (1808) (31:22)--rec. 27 Feb & 1, 29 Mar 1939 in 8H.

Tr. 5-15...Septet in E Flat Major, Op. 20 (1799) (35:05), rec 26 Nov 1951 in CH.

Tr. 16......Egmont Overture, Op. 84 (1810) (7:47), rec. 19 Jan 1953 in CH.

The Fifth here sounds almost as if it were recorded in an anechoic chamber. The combination of the fact that 1939 technology was being used and the fact that this was in Studio 8H, one of the world's most notoriously poor recording venues make this inevitable. Not one of the better recordings of this work, certainly.

The Septet, from 1951, is much better recorded and is a lovely, lyrical piece. I found no information on the provenance of the orchestration.
The Egmont Overture is a real rouser. Very strong 1953 performance. Unfortunately, at some points, the horns are too closely miked and we get a very harsh sound.

Vol. 24 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of two Czech composers & one Hungarian composer:

Tr, 1-4.....Dvorak: Sym. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95 "From the New World" (1893) (36:59)--rec. 2 Feb 1953 in CH.

Tr. 5-10...Kodaly: Hary Janos Concert Suite (1926) (23:32)--rec. 29 Nov 1947 in 8H.

Tr. 11......Smetana: Vltava (The Moldau) in E Minor (1875) (11:05)--Mvt. 2 of Ma Vlast (My Country), a cycle of six symphonic poems completed in 1879).

The Dvorak was carefully prepared, but is, in my opinion, not one of the better Ninths. Toscanini is at his best, I think, in the last movement. It is known that Dvorak composed some of this work while visiting the little village of Spillville, Iowa on a summer vacation. Liner notes for this symphony used to say the town no longer exists, but it does. The old liner notes usually also said Spillville was right by the Mississippi River. Wrong again. The northern border of Winneshiek County is on the Minnesota state line, and it is one county west of the Mississippi. Spillville is about 12 mi SW of Decorah, the county seat, was originally named for its funder Joseph Spielmann, but the name got misread and it morphed into Spillville. St Wenceslaus Church in Spillville is the oldest Czech Catholic Church in the US. It had 437 residents in the 2010 census.

People seem to identify all the movements except the third as having American themes and roots, but most commentators think the third movement is somehow more Czech that American. Personally, it conjures up images of a county fair for me, with the Czech residents selling their preserves, quilts, and other folk goods to their neighbors in other parts of the county. Don't know why, but that's just what I have always imagined when I hear it.

My favorite Ninth, as I have said before, is one few people even know exists. Its on the British mid-priced Classics for Pleasure series, and is performed by the London Philharmonic conducted by Zdenek Macal.

Hary Janos is both an opera and a suite of music selected from the opera. This, of course, is a performance of the suite. From Wikipedia, about the basic story:
Kodály wrote in his preface to the score: "Háry is a peasant, a veteran soldier who day after day sits at the tavern spinning yarns about his heroic exploits... the stories released by his imagination are an inextricable mixture of realism and naivety, of comic humour and pathos." He also comments that "though superficially he appears to be merely a braggart, essentially he is a natural visionary and poet. That his stories are not true is irrelevant, for they are the fruit of a lively imagination, seeking to create, for himself and for others, a beautiful dream world." Háry János embodies the poetic power of folklore to go beyond political frustrations; Kodály intended to bring his national folk music to an operatic setting.

The opera, and the suite, begin with an orchestral 'musical sneeze', best explained in Kodály's own words: "According to Hungarian superstition, if a statement is followed by a sneeze of one of the hearers, it is regarded as confirmation of its truth. The Suite begins with a sneeze of this kind! One of Háry's group of faithful listeners … sneezes at the wildest assertions of the old tale-spinner."

Toscanini's is a straightforward performance, but without the idiomatic sensitivity of Istvan Kertesz.

Vltava, ditto. Straightforward, but without the idiomatic sensitivity of some other artists. My personal preference is for Karel Ancerl.

Vol. 23 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of Beethoven, recorded in Studio 8H:

Tr, 1-4.....Sym. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 55 "Eroica" (1804) (46:33)--rec. 28 Oct. 1939.

Tr. 5-8.... Sym. 8 in F Major, Op. 93 (1812) (23:48)-- rec. 17 Apr. 1939.

The Eroica is a grand performance which eschews tempo and other interpretive extremes. The whole disc is better recorded than most from 1939, and I detect little of the harshness I found in Vol. 25 from the same year. But, alas, there is nothing terribly distinctive here to make it worth our while despite the sound.

The Eighth is a MOR performance. It avoids interpretive extremes, but again, there is nothing terribly distinctive about it.

Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by Lance » Wed Mar 11, 2015 2:33 am

Interesting to see Symphony #53 ("Imperial") in this set. I loved the work since I first heard Stokowski's RCA Victor recording of the work (I think the only Haydn symphony he recorded). It is one of the symphonies that has alternate endings. Is it that way in Harnoncourt's set as well? My standard for Haydn has been Antal Dorati - love his complete Haydn symphonies set on Decca.
Seán wrote:Image
Joseph Haydn
Symphony No 45 & 60

Concentus musicus Wien
Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting.

I bought this set in 2009 when I was in my initial Haydn phase and it has never failed to impress me ever since. The performance of number 45 is splendid and that of one of my favourites, the 60th, is pure joy from start to finish, oh those beautiful, baying horns are delightful.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by maestrob » Wed Mar 11, 2015 8:41 am

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This is Ormandy and the Philadelphians at their best, with good recorded sound NOT from the Academy of Music. Disc One includes La Mer, Daphnis et Chloe Suite, and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by Ravel. All are first-rate, but I miss the trumpet call in the last movement of La Mer, as Reiner put it in. This excellent set is available for barely $21.00 on Amazon: Highly recommended!

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by piston » Wed Mar 11, 2015 7:26 pm

In contrast, to Stravinsky or Shchedrin, Prokofiev was not successful with his first several ballets but he did repackage much of this ballet music into an orchestral suite and two symphonies.
Could it not be that Prokofiev was simply burnt out? Had the Roaring Twenties with their insatiable appetite for new things to tickle the taste buds brought him to the outer limits of his ability to invent?
His last ballet for Paris, under the direction of Serge Lifar, who had replaced Diaghilev, was written without any initial direction or objective. The music that came to be known as On the Dnieper or Sur le Borysthène was the product of no particular idea:
The fact was, neither Lifar nor Prokofiev had any really bright ideas. Thus they approached the project in the most abstract way imaginable. "We took the choreographic and musical structure as our starting point, with the actual theme of the ballet taking a back seat.
From this artistic construction of "stormy ascensions" and "lyrical dying away" eventually emerged the simple story of love's struggle with an arranged marriage:
A soldier falls in love with a country lass. There are tender encounters between the lovers and sentimental duets. But the father intends the girl for another man. The engagement takes place. The rejected soldier comes to the wedding feast and agrees to a duel with the bridegroom: this fight is the dramatic climax of the ballet. The soldier is seized and bound to a tree. In the finale, accompanied by calm, dreamy music, he is freed by his sweetheart.
A story which could have taken place anywhere, without any geographical point of reference. It's the painters , two Russians, Mikhail Lorionov and his wife Nathalyi Goncharova who, in setting the stage for the production, placed it on the Dnieper!
After two years of problems due to more financial difficulties by the ballet producer, On the Dnieper was staged, with the French name Sur le Borysthène (ancient Greek for the Dnieper) to draw more people, in December 1932. Shortly afterwards, the work disappeared from the scene, another failure.
The music, though, accurately reflects Prokofiev's complete turn to neo-romanticism for his ballet music and it is, once again, foundational for great ballet works to come.
So many failures! It's amazing that he persisted in composing ballet music.
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Source: Liner notes by Eckhardt van den Hoogen.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by Lance » Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:58 am

Have this and fully agree with your comments. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in Ormandy. Too frequently he is not held in the highest lights that he should be.
maestrob wrote:Image

This is Ormandy and the Philadelphians at their best, with good recorded sound NOT from the Academy of Music. Disc One includes La Mer, Daphnis et Chloe Suite, and Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition orchestrated by Ravel. All are first-rate, but I miss the trumpet call in the last movement of La Mer, as Reiner put it in. This excellent set is available for barely $21.00 on Amazon: Highly recommended!
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by maestrob » Thu Mar 12, 2015 9:33 am

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Brought this excellent disc out to hear after years of neglect, and am finding it to be as wonderful as I remembered it. John Eliot Gardiner is a first-rate Brahms conductor as he is in Bach, with a perfectly prepared chorus and soloists in the Brahms Requiem. The recorded sound level is a bit low, so you'll have to turn up the volume, but the glories of this recording lie in the subtle moments, as in all of Brahms. If you don't know this or are put off by the idea of a modern HIP version of this masterpiece, don't be fooled. This is as red-blooded an account as HVK, just a tad faster in places, and the "no-vibrato" moments and style are not at all intrusive. Recommended!

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Thu Mar 12, 2015 12:08 pm

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

Vol. 22 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of Dmitri Shostakovich, rec. 19 July 1942 in Studio 8H:

Tr, 1-4.....Sym. 7 in C Major, Op. 60 "Leningrad" (1941) (72:18)

This recording was played often on NYC radio during WW II to help encourage solidarity with the Soviet Union against the Nazis. Many learned the symphony from this recording, but this is my first listen to it after having heard many others.

I can see why, based on this performance, this work was often denigrated as one of DSCH's lesser works. It is poorly recorded in parts, or perhaps the performance itself is at fault. In the first movement march, for example, we do not hear the kind of bass notes in the beginning that we hear in more recent performances. The record from which the transfer to tape was done has serious scratches. The last two movements are better performed and sound better recorded, too, than the rest. Still, it has taken many years to overcome the impression left on American classical music lovers left by this recording. Only in the last twenty years or so has this symphony's reputation improved as more passionate DSCH advocates have presented their interpretations to a candid world.

Vol. 21 of the RCA Complete Toscanini set, NBC Sym Orch, devoted to music of Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Sibelius's last work was published in 1926. After that, he retired, apparently to devote most of the rest of his life to drinking himself to death; he did some musical journalism, and some revisions of earlier works in this period as well.

Tr. 1-4.....Sym. 2 in D Major, Op. 43 (1902) (38:33)--NBC broadcast from 8H, rec 7 Dec 1940
Tr. 5........Pohjola's Daughter, Op. 49 (1906) (12:36)--from above broadcast.
Tr. 6........The Swan of Tuonela, Op. 22/3 (1895) (9:19) (from Lemminkainen Suite)--rec. 27 Aug 1944, NBC broadcast from 8H.
Tr. 7........Finlandia, Op. 26 (1899, rev. 1900) (8:54)--rec 5 Aug 1952 in CH.

Lemme see. I have a whole bunch of Sibelius 2nds. First of all, there are the ones in the 8 sets that I own--by Barbirolli, Berglund (not yet listened to), both Davis sets, Gibson, Sanderling,Vanska, and Vollmer. Then there are individual performances by Koussevitzky, Anton Nanut, and 2 by Szell, the one referenced above and the one below by Mackerras.

So far, I'd have to say Toscanini's is the worst. ALL the others are better, of those I have listened to. Favorites ae Barbirolli, both Davises, and the Szell Concertgebouw performance. Monteux LSO is good, too, as is the set by Arvo Vollmer and the Adelaide Sym Orch.

The Toscanini is from 1940 and in poor 8H sound; only the last movement seems to have much life here. The other works fare a little better, esp. Finlandia, the only performance from the 1950's, but even that is not competitive with any number of other recordings of that work. Toscanini was, I am sorry to say, just not a Sibelian.

Sibelius ((1865-1957): 3 works cond. by Sir Charles Mackerras with the Royal Philharmonic Orch. on RPM 28920. No information on recording dates or location is provided with this CD. However, I Googled "Charles Mackerras discography," and went to same at discogs.com and was able to find that this program was originally issued on the Membran label as an SACD, and that it was recorded January 1994 @ CTS Studios, London.

Tr. 1-4.....Sym. 2 in D Major, Op. 43 (1902) (43:04)
Tr. 5-7.....Karelia Suite, Op. 11 (1893) (15:24)
Tr. 8........Finlandia, Op. 26 (1899, rev. 1900) (8:33)

Last night, I found a block of time of only 35 minutes for listening. So, instead of listening to the first three movements of Sym 2 and letting the last movement go til today, I listened only to Tracks 5-8, leaving the symphony for today. The Karelia Suite was lovely, and the Finlandia superb, but then these are two oft-recorded pieces that have been well treated on records, esp. Finlandia, which, IMHO, is still not as good as the Karajan.

The Second Symphony is a fine performance; personally, I love the last movement the best, but following the development of the first movement, where a single short phrase is extended with each repetition is something I find absorbing. And the problem is, again, that most performances of this work are good, and its hard to choose from among, say, your top ten. It just is one of those works which has had a fairly fortunate history on disc.
Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
"We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
"Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by josé echenique » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:14 pm

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Musique de Femme!

Marianna Martines was the first woman ever admitted to the prestigious Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, she was a singer and harpsichord player, and among her teachers was no other than Joseph Haydn himself.
In this well planned CD we get 2 cantatas and a "scena" for mezzo-soprano, plus a charming cembalo concerto and a cembalo sonata. Enjoyable, well-made music, marvelously performed by Anna Bonitatibus and La Floridiana. This is volume 2 of Marianna Martines´music, the first was with soprano Nuria Rial.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by josé echenique » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:17 pm

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This is Fabio Biondi´s third recording with his Stavanger Symphony Orchestra. The previous one, Alessandro Scarlatti´s marvelous opera Carlo Re d´Allemagna sounded splendid in spite of only a few period instruments among a modern but reduced symphony orchestra. Maybe because Caldara´s instrumental writing is more exposed the density of modern instruments is more noticeable here. The performance itself can´t be faulted, under Biondi´s tutelage it´s magnificent, and the music is just oh-so- exquisite.
So it can be recommended of course, but we miss the gorgeous textures of Europa Galante.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by josé echenique » Fri Mar 13, 2015 7:56 pm

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Another great vocal recording. De Lalande´s Lecons de Tenebres are not as well known as Couperin´s but they are exquisite and Sophie Karthäuser´s singing is heavenly.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Mar 14, 2015 9:24 am

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by josé echenique » Sat Mar 14, 2015 11:55 am

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Mezzos and countertenors keep coming. Blandine Staskiewicz is definitely one to watch. A high mezzo with a flawless technique, she sings with passion and taste at the same time. In this recital of "storm" arias she proves equal to all the demands put on her. Vivaldi´s Agitata da due venti gets a model performance. Bartoli should hear this, coloratura can be musical and pleasing, not AK-47.
Glossa gave their new diva the luxury treatment with the wonderful ensemble Les Ambassadeurs, playing that matches the singer in flawless execution.

Don´t miss this one, it´s very, very special.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by maestrob » Sat Mar 14, 2015 12:10 pm

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For lovers of the violin, Wieniawski stands out as a master craftsman, under-appreciated in the concert hall, and with few recordings (Heifetz only recorded the Second Concerto). In this outstanding release, Gil Shaham fully equals Heifetz in virtuosity and style, playing both concerti with elan and great attention to detail. Lawrence Foster provides able, sensitive accompanyment with the much-heralded London Symphony. This disc is a must-have in every violin-lover's collection.

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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by RebLem » Sun Mar 15, 2015 2:09 am

Since my last report, I have been listening to the following:

CDs 10 & 11 in the 14 CD ABC set of Beethoven piano sonatas and concerti by Australian pianist Gerard Willems on Australian Stuart & Sons superpianos.

CD 10

Tr. 1-3.......PS 30 in E Major, Op. 109 (1820) (19:33)
Tr. 4-6.......PS 31 in A Flat Major, Op. 110 (1822) (19:51)
Tr. 7-8.......PS 32 in C Minor, Op. 111 (1822) (27:55)
Tr. 9..........Andante in F Major, WoO 57 "Andante favori" (1804) (8:02)

CD 11

Tr. 1-19......Thirty-two Variations on an Original Theme in C Minor, WoO 80 (1806) (12:29)
Tr. 20..........Bagatelle in A Minor, WoO 59 "Fur Elise" 1808 or 1810) (3:21)
Tr. 21-54....Thirty-Three Variations on a Waltz by Diabelli, Op. 120 (1819 & 1823) (57:27)

CD 10 is excellent. Although he makes interpretive choices, as every pianist must, he makes his view of the last three sonatas seem inevitable and oh, so natural, especially, it seems to me, in Op. 109.

I don't have much to say about CD 11, except that I find the playing lovely, esp in the last three movements of the Diabelli Variations.


Brian, Havergal (1876-1972): Sym. 1 in D Minor "The Gothic" (1919-27) (114:48)--Rec. live at the BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London, 17 July 2011 with Martyn Brabbins, cond., David Goode, organ. 2 CD set from Hyperion.

Performing forces: BBC National Orch. and Chorus of Wales, BBC Concert Orchestra, London Sym. Chorus, The Bach Choir, Huddersfield Choral Society, Brighton Festival Chorus, City Of Birmingham Sym. Orch. Youth Chorus, Southend Boys' & Girls' Chorus, Côr Caerdydd (Cardiff Chorus), Eltham College Boys' Choir, Susan Gritton, soprano, Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano, Peter Auty, tenor, and Alistair Miles, bass.

Brian's name at birth was William Brian, say the liner notes of this release, but he adopted the name Havergal after the Victorian hymn collector, W. H. Havergal, in his twenties when he was seeking to make a career as a church organist. H was largely self-taught as a composer.

The work at hand is a massive six movement work--the first three instrumental, the last three choral and instrumental. The accompanying booklet lists every single performer by name under the ensemble they are in; it takes up four pages of text, in smaller type than the rest of the booklet. I counted them up. I may have made a few small errors in counting, but it looks like this recording employs 229 instrumentalists if you include the 7 people who are accompanists for the various choruses, and 741 singers, for a total of 970 musicians--NOT including the conductor or any of the Chorus Masters.

And yet the scheme of this work is fairly simple. It is sacred music, first of all, written to a religious text, which begins, in Movt 4, with a Te Deum, and proceeds to the 16'13" second movement, which keeps repeating one sentence: Iudex crederis esse venturus (You are believed to be about to come as Judge)--in other words, the Last Judgment is in the immediate future of most of those currently alive. The last movement, lasting 35'47". begins, "Therefore, we beg You, help Your servants...." to remain safe and unharmed even as the End Times proceed. It is, in other words, a millenariast work, and I suppose much of the modest increase in the popularity of this work is due to the rise of millenarianism in our public life.
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maestrob
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Re: What are YOU listening to today?

Post by maestrob » Sun Mar 15, 2015 9:20 am

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Gunter Wand was indeed at the height of his powers when he was leading the Cologne Radio Symphony in then West Germany in the 1970's, as exemplified by this recording of Bruckner VI. Equal to Solti's Chicago rendition of the same symphony, I find Wand's no-holds-barred approach dynamic and fully satisfying. Wand keeps a steady tempo throughout, allowing the music to build in a natural way. Like the rest of his cycle, this is a VI to treasure. Five stars for this disc and for the entire cycle, which overall I prefer to Solti.
Last edited by maestrob on Mon Mar 16, 2015 10:33 am, edited 2 times in total.

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