Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Let's bracket the relation of this music and the Blues for now, for what matters is a nice album I have been enjoying, the music of Giuliani entitled Opere solistiche per voce e chitarra (Works for voice and guitar) (Tactus TC 780703), featuring the excellently ravishing voice of Rossana Bertini and the remarkable guitar of Davide Ficco.
The music itself is most tuneful and vibrant in the Italianate matter. There is a bit of coloratura brava and a ringing singability that Rossana Bertini handles with the soul of a poet and artist that she is. And the guitar parts are quite idiomatic in the best ways; they give Davide Ficco plenty of opportunity to show his considerably accomplished and expressive way with the guitar.
It is an album that keeps making me smile on winter days like this, or for that matter virtually any days! It is a delightful and unexpected treasure that those who appreciate a well-turned and well played-sung phrase among voices and guitars will find fits the bill quite happily. Recommended!
Monday, February 18, 2019
In the meanwhile we have this fascinating anthology of Brazilian music for violin and piano, played with flair and charm by violinist Francesca Anderegg and pianist Erika Ribeiro. It is as you can tell by the above an album called Images of Brazil (Naxos 8.573923). On it we are treated to seven works by seven composer, some perhaps not very familiar to most of us, the music all between 4 and 17 minutes in length.
When generalization cannot quite get specific enough on a Monday morning we still need to encapsulate, so let me say that all these works share in the melodic-harmonic light of the Brazilian legacy, which is to say that there is Modern tang and Neo-Romantic expression, what one might call "Brazilian Impressionism" and a lyricism that has something of the saudade of Brazilian musical sense to much of it if you know how that feels. And that as a whole is what makes Brazilian and Portuguese music Romantic in different ways than European Romanticism, at least part of the time. In all of this there is something of that in there to be found, surely.
So a not-so-familiar Villa-Lobos ("The Martyrdom of Insects") has a good feel to it, and some of us will recognize Mozart Camargo Guarnieri (1907-1993), at least by name. His "Violin Sonata No.4" is seriously played with a passion that it justly evokes and lots of content thematically.
From there we experience a huge helping of the unfamiliar but in the end the absorbing and timely. We have Cesar Guerra-Peixe, Les Freire, Ernani Aguliar, Edmundo Villant-Cortes and Radames Guattali. Of all of these three are among the living (Aguiar, Freire and Villant-Cortes). The rest have in common that they left this earth somewhere between 1988 and 1993--except Villa-Lobos, who died in 1959. So these are contemporaneous composers more or less of the recent past or the present.
None of this music is in a High Modern zone so much as it is Melodic Modern Mainstream I suppose you could say. Yet too there is music of depth and concentration to be heard throughout. Nothing is meant to ingratiate so much as to experience in full. And if we open ourselves we get music excellently performed and lacking nothing. It is a tribute to the fullness of this musical experience to note that on the sixth listen I am hearing more, and still more, so that has to be a good thing.
Those not content to settle in with the same names and the same categories will find this a bracing run through lesser-known music. It is not inferior, no, just not what we generally know. So now we can. Know. That's good! Recommended. Congrats to Anderegg and Ribeiro for a beautiful performance! And thanks to the composers, too, of course.
Saturday, February 16, 2019
Pianist Tanya Gabrielian shows herself a poetess of the ivories as we get a chance to hear her in REMIX// Bach Transcriptions (MSR Classics MS1594). Any Bach enthusiast who might also enjoy an exuberantly pianistic reading of some fairly exotic transcriptions of Bach classics will gravitate towards this very enjoyable program.
We get transcriptions by various people of things one might not at first blush think of in piano-centric terms, like the "Chaconne from Partita No. 2 for Violin," the "Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor BWV 1005," and the "Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor."
It is like getting an unexpected gift out of season, for the transcriptions reveal aspects of each work we might not have heard quite like this before. It is a joy!
Friday, February 15, 2019
We get to hear Karen's 15-minute "Violin Sonata in G minor Op. 1" (1947). It has an Armenian melodic quality; it has a rhapsodic air about it with memorable themes and a kind of earthy yet expressive way that make it quite worthwhile to hear.
The rest of the album is Aram in situations both quite familiar and then less so, but ever characteristic in his gift for crafting music one does not forget easily. His most well-known work, the "Sabre Dance" from his ballet "Gayne" appears here in its Heifetz transcription for violin and piano. It loses none of the excitement of the original and has a different sort of intimacy in the duo version that Kosemyan and Mnatsakanyan capture readily and fully. The same can be said for the beautiful "Andante Sostenuto" transcribed from the "Violin Concerto," haunting music that benefits from an alternate hearing in chamber terms.
It is nice to check out the less familiar pieces on here as well, a "Dance," the "Lullaby" and "Ayesha's Dance," the latter two from the ballet "Gayne." Good to hear also are the "Song-Poem" in Honor of Ashugs and the "Adagio" from the ballet "Spartacus," both in duo arrangements here that seem perfectly suited to the character of the music.
A key to the success of the program is the sensitive and artistic sensibilities of violinist Ruben Kosemyan and pianist Natalya Mnatsakanyan. They are in their element with this music and obviously relish the playing of it. Add to that the very low price of this Brilliant release and you have a very worthy disk that could serve as an excellent introduction to both composers or a welcome supplement if you already know their music. Recommended.
Thursday, February 14, 2019
A fully extended vibrancy of articulation and full-throated clarinet technique nicely play off against the furthering and effectively nuanced electronics Maestro Charles employs. Digital delay and layering, timbral extensions of harmonics, sound colors, etc are made full use of--quite happily. At times the clarinet becomes an orchestra of its own and at no time does the interface of acoustics and electronics seem in the least bit gratuitous or mechanical-perfunctory. True woodwind facility conjoins with a very lively musical imagination for a program that fascinates and makes for a most absorbing listen throughout.
This album may at first blush seem unassuming. But after a few listens it increasingly stands out as an excellent example of its kind. Very heartily recommended!
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
I Diletti di Mazzarino, Jessica Gould & Ensemble L'Aura Soave, Rossi Mazzocchi, Carissimi, Cavalli, Lulli
Like for example there is this Modern-day performance example of original instrument chamber music with vocalist, works from the Italian Baroque, on the recent I Diletti di Mazzarino (At the Pleasure of Mazzarin) (Cremona 018/44). It is a nice gathering of a few choice instrumental miniatures along with vocal numbers featuring the very robust soprano Jessica Gould and a beautifully period Ensemble L'Aura Soave. They tackle works by the likes of Luigi Rossi, Virgilio Mazzocchi, Giacomo Carissimi, Francesco Cavalli, and Giovanni Battista Lulli (the French spelled his name Lully).
Not every composer will be familiar to those who are not specialists in the period and place, but the music is quite fetching. Jessica Gould has a great deal of energy, enthusiasm and verve. You might even say that she "belts" this music out. The ensemble is a sweet one. They and Ms. Gould take us swiftly and readily to another time and place. A few listens and I was very well disposed to this program. I like the rough and tumble local edge to it all and the timbre of the music reminds us that there was a special sound to it that has much to offer us.
Perhaps this might not be your first choice if you know nothing of the period. But for those who already have their ears attuned, this is a nice addition.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
According to the jacket blurb Moyzes brings to us the most well known, most acclaimed it would imply Slovak symphony cycle in Modern times. And clearly from the standpoint of my ears the 7th and 8th Symphonies are quite in the thick of it. Both are reactions to Moyzes experience of tragic happenings, the 7th in memory of his young daughter, taken from him far too soon, and the 8th a response to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. Some 14 years separate the two symphonies--the 7th coming in 1954-55, the 8th in 1968-69.
The liners talk of a similarity to Shostakovitch in the 8th. In its brash cry of anguish, perhaps yes. And in the rhythmic passages of motor insistence, absolutely. All in all however what impresses me is Moyzes' own original tone-painting brightness. The liner blurb also mentions his two-fold expression of both Slovak strains and Modern orchestral trends in his compositional outlook. Again, I cannot say I disagree with that from my ear-take on the two works offered on this program. And yet again, he has certainly gone his own way on these symphonies at least. There are vividly descriptive passages, narratives in motif building and development. and in the 8th and parts of the 7th a long unwinding at times of musical pathways that sound like event-amental incidents getting retold in musical terms without being literally programmatic.
Then too the liners inform us that Moyzes studied at the Prague Conservatory and then in a master class program with Viteslav Novak (someone whose music I have just discovered as well), who gave him a mandate to pay attention to the Slovak heritage and in that way set him forward toward folkish expressions which we hear so poignantly expressed in the 7th.
Moyzes' 7th lays out a Slovak landscape of the countryside, the evocation of nature and peasant gatherings, dances and the like. It is not as a stark sadness that we hear Moyzes in this outing. The opening pastorale movement is a sort of Slovak response to Beethoven's 6th, really, but beautifully and originally so. The scherzo continues the rustic mood in most charming ways. Then the largo brings in a gentle sadness, a loss that seems as wistful as it is regretful, and then bursts out in time into a woeful mourning. It is extraordinary music. There is a bittersweet quality a times that reminds me of Prokofiev without directly evoking him, and perhaps even a bit of the epic Mahler depictions? The finale is energetic and dance-like, and not without a parallel of loss and nonetheless a pastoral mood alongside the whole of it. All that by way of a hint of what is being "said" in the music. It is the work of someone who knows what he wants to say and says it beautifully, personally well, very well. It is a rather extraordinarily likable symphony, to my mind.
The 8th, as alluded to above, has a more heightened Modern angst about it in keeping with the upheavals and heartbreaks of the Prague Spring. It is a stunning work as well yet a rather different kettle of fish than the 7th. I will leave it to you to listen and appreciate, which I certainly recommend you do.
This is music that is symphonic in the best of dramatically depictive ways. Like Smetana's Moldau each movement is a chapter in a story that has dramatic unification. Moyzes is less literal than Smetana perhaps and more "Modern" at times, surely. There would be no mistaking on close examination these symphonies for something from the 19th century. Yet the Slovak elements are more timeless than contemporary too.
So there you have it. I come away from listening to this volume with the wish to hear the earlier three volumes of the cycle and I look forward to to the next volume due out shortly. Moyzes has something of his own to offer us. Anyone who looks to Eastern European 20th Century developments might well want to explore this recording--the price is right and the performances are first-rate. Highly recommended.
Monday, February 11, 2019
Elliott Carter, Late Works, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Oliver Knussen
Today it is time to consider a program of some of his final works, written between 2003 and the year of his death, 2012. There are a good number of recorded premiers to be had on this CD and in any event all the works are well performed by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the BBC Symphony under Oliver Knussen, plus Pierre-Laurent Almard on piano, Colin Currie on percussion, Isabelle Faust on violin and Jean-Guihen Queyras on cello.
The album is aptly titled Late Works (Ondine 1296-2). On a Monday morning this seems a fitting description and alerts us as to what we will hear. The final decade shows Carter much in the same vein he had been in for some time, a kind of post-Darmstadt expanded atonality, a remarkably worked over musical geometry of great detail and exploratory zeal, a music very aware of each instrument's idiomatic qualities and a vision of how they can be amassed and apportioned. The complex rhythms had been developed to an advanced point where the absolute precision required of each player results in a timeless quality that bubbles and boils forward to an ultra-architectonic uber-chaos of exactitude? Something like that. It is sublime music indeed. Like fractals the great complexity of the whole may at first blush seem chaotic, yet underneath there is form subtly co-existing with an exploded. expanded music world. Perhaps it is interesting to contrast this kind of complexity with the Cagean one--there the composer allows chaos to enter his front door, so to speak, yet in the end we hear order and structure after all if we listen closely, repeatedly, intelligently.
We hear in all some seven works. In order of year of completion there is in sum the 2003 "Dialogues" for piano and chamber orchestra, the 2005 "Soundings" for orchestra, the 2007 "Interventions" for piano and orchestra, the 2010 "Dialogues II" for piano and chamber orchestra, the 2011 "Two Controversies and a Conversation" for piano, percussion and chamber orchestra, the 2012 "Instances" for chamber orchestra, and the 2012 "Epigrams" for piano trio.
It is a great deal of unfamiliar music and it does require close listens and perhaps several hearings for a full appreciation. That said however, there is no mistaking this music for something merely, generically "avant" so to speak. It is the profound set of final musical utterances by a master after more than 85 years of composing!
Anyone wishing to be exposed to High Modern masterpieces from the very decade we are currently within (give or take) should not hesitate about this one. Carter was undoubtedly among the greatest of the last really brilliant Serial/Post-Serial composers of our time. I suspect his music will be heard and loved by music appreciators for many centuries hence.
Friday, February 8, 2019
Chopin wrote and published eight of the waltzes during his lifetime; nine more were unpublished at his death out of which five were assigned opus numbers; four more were never "opused." I do not need to tell you of the virtues of Chopin's piano works. The Waltzes are vibrantly melodic and sensitively evocative. Chopin opened up a realm of piano expression that was as extraordinary as it was innovative, and too so naturally singing forth.
This is marvelous music and Peter Schaaf disarms us with an extraordinarily unpretentious reading of it all. You feel care and spontaneity in equal measure . Some of this music is of course as familiar as any piano music can be for those who have lived in the present-day musical culture for any length of time (e.g. with the "Minute Waltz"). So to make it all seem fresh is a challenge for any artist today who would wish to play them. Peter succeeds because he enters into the mood of each as if it were HIS mood, and so in fact it becomes so in his hands.
So if you do not know this music or if you do and would like to put a fresh reading in front of your ears, this one is a good thing, a very good thing! Recommended. To find out more about Peter Schaaf and his music and to order go to schaafrecords.com.
Thursday, February 7, 2019
Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) belongs in my mind to the first category. He was principally a viola player as a musical artist (though he played other instruments well, too). So we might expect what he wrote for the viola was potentially something special, something he well might play in public himself. That is certainly true of the four works that appear on the CD at hand today, on the album Complete Sonatas for Viola Solo (Brilliant 95413). We hear all four solo viola works played with dedication and I might say nearly self-effacing devotion by Luca Ranieri.
Hindemith turned to solo string works I would assert as one of those who had in mind how singular were the Bach works for solo violin and solo cello. Do not forget that Bach's unaccompanied works were entering the concert repertoire during Hindemith's lifetime, after years of being relegated to what the string players viewed as pedagogical studies of great value but not seriously considered "concert music." That all changed in the last century Fellow composers Max Reger and Bela Bartok, to name a few of his roughly contemporary colleagues, also devoted some attention to the unaccompanied world of solo stringed instruments. Both wrote notable examples still being performed today. For Hindemith this sort of "Extreme Chamber" milieu was an important realm that to him expressed something timeless yet too something very Classical-Modern.
On this CD we linger awhile with all four works, the "Sonata Op. 31, No. 4," the "Sonata 1937," the "Sonata Op. 11 No. 5," and the "Sonata Op. 25 No. 1." All are of course "serious" fare in ways that marked Hindemith as much or more than any contemporary composer of his time. This was viola music for the classical sake of it, ever expressive in a somewhat stoic and even slightly severe manner. There was a very powerful thrust forward, with an aim not to realize beauty per se but, as Nielsen asserted for his own music, to gain a kind of characteristic note-upon-and-after-note eloquence. Hindemith composed with a certain rigor no less central than those who in earlier times applied their own visions of note weaving in contrapuntal practice.
In the later '60s and early '70s when I first started listening to Hindemith there was a rigidly defined stylistic set of camps that existed between those that might favor Hindemith and those that were enthusiastic partisans of Webern and those that followed in his direct wake, the Serialist Dodecaphonic folks typified by the Darmstadt School. From the retrospective illumination of the present, when you listen to these rather fully abstract works you hear of course that Hindemith was constructive of his musical sequences in a more seminally tonal-structural world than Darmstadt yet his music and the Darmstadt High Modernists both favored an absolute musical-abstract stance that the experience of was and is not as far apart as one then imagined in the heyday of such controversies. In that way the largest, most general aesthetic aims of the Neo-Classicists and the High Modernists did in important ways converge. In contrast one might assert that these camps (in their earlier stages anyway) seemingly diverged more sharply than not from the Cage-and-followers US contingent.
When I say above that Luca Ranieri is nearly self-effacing in his performance of these works, I do not mean to suggest that his playing is not ultra-schooled and precise, very musically profound even. I only mean that his devotion to making the music sound as it was intended does not result in the sort of overtly performative showmanship one might possibly find in solo string realizations that call attention to the interpretive mannerisms of the artist. There is none of that to speak of here, yet in the end it is a pretty brilliant reading we experience of the music.
And in the end we are able to immerse ourselves in every turn of phrase on this program. We get the full Hindemith prescription undiluted and exactingly spelled out.
With the very low Brilliant retail price we can have this music for a song. I very much recommend that you spring for this one. It is Hindemith the way he saw himself, undoubtedly. And that is a very good thing!
Wednesday, February 6, 2019
And so today I have an example of a newness that is upon us and good for it, certainly. I speak of the chamber trio Bearthoven, the composer Scott Wollschleger, and their album American Dream (Cantaloupe 21146). The group consists of Karl Larson on piano Pat Svoboda on double bass and Matt Evans on percussion and vibraphone.
The music is appropriately dream-stoked, a closely knit alternatingly single (Karl alone) double (Karl and Matt) and triple-tiered interaction (Karl, Matt, Pat). The compositions call for a rather wonderful interplay of the instrumental voices in syncopated, complex coordination at a level rarely encountered.
The music is oft times in a sort of Minimalist zone that nods overtly or otherwise to what later Morton Feldman was doing and also at times the music of Mayuzumi. By that I mean that the patterns repeat and are constructed of something different from the interlocking lines of a Riley or a Reich. Lines are constructed more pointillistically or more specifically in a rapid hocket-wise fashion. And the way the patterns lay out are at times like a Persian Rug--the musical cells sequenced but too separated and contrasted in ways more like a sprawling rug design than a babbling brook. There is not a trance feeling so much as a sort of open mystery of different pattern-objects passing by our ears like an ethereal parade. Now all that is not simply that Wollschleger is some clone of things. Not at all. He contributes a great deal to the pattern op-art that has been put our way in years past. It is a furtherance, not a rehash.
And at the performance level the Bearthoven trio is extraordinarily focused on the Zen of the interactions so that magic is in the air always.
The music is a happy outcome, something very much Modern in one of the new ways that can be so today. I must say I love what is happening here and I recommend it very much. The path leads us out of thickets and we take it with some relief! And lots of pleasure.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
And so that is not always so bad a thing. I recently had a chance to hear and review another version and I am glad I said "yes" to the opportunity. It is a new release of cellist Kate Dillingham doing Dvorak's Cello Concerto and Other Works (Affetto 1806).
The Dvorak I most love is a kind of a folk music classicist. That of course is obvious in his New World but there is it seems to me often enough a kind of homespun Bohemian folk naivety in his melodies. The singing quality of the melodic content of the Cello Concerto is to me a good example of how Dvorak shapes melodic subject matter in his own way. consistent with the rootedness in the music of the land that surrounded him.
Ms. Dillingham chooses for the "other works" on this program two pieces for cello and orchestra that bring out that singing melodic trait in the composer. The "Silent Woods for Cello and Orchestra" Op. 68/5 and his "Rondo in G minor" Op 94 fit very much in this happy place.
And so too the way Kate Dillingham, the Brno Philharmonic and conductor Anthony Armore approach the Concerto is very much in a kind of homespun way. Tempos are relaxed, there is no hurry and no one seems bent on creating a spectacular impression of great Promethean superhumanity (as of course a Rostropovich was after in thrilling ways) so much it is as if they are walking leisurely down a rustic path in the Bohemian forest, in no hurry to get to a destination, lingering now here, now there and savoring every bar of music, as it were.
This is a Dvorak that is not so much after-Beethoven (though everyone was at that point in some ways) as a with-himself. The concerto and the rustic preamble pieces hang together in ways that clearly come out of a deep understanding and love for the music itself. Ms. Dillingham in many ways makes her cello sing beautifully more than exclaim dramatically. And that seems after a few listens how I would like to hear the concerto right now. So kudos! Bravo for this Brown Study of a reading.
Monday, February 4, 2019
The "Suite for Klavier" makes use of the idea of layering and bifurcation to assemble a complex multi-stranded pianism, to re-present some familiar Beethoven (the first theme from his Fifth). The results are a massive "making new," a de-sequencing and re-situating of the musical elements in complex ways.
"remiX IV" makes excellent use of the large chamber ensemble E-MEX and soprano Ruth Weber in the re-presentation of eleven German folk songs. I find this work especially invigorating. It is no mean feat to create a kind of High Modernism expanse out of on the surface of things rather earthy fare, from what one might think of as contra-Modern fare. That Wagner succeeds in creating an "other" is a tribute, surely, to his vision and musical acumen. And it is first-rate Contemporary music at that.
The other principal piece on the program in the "remiX V" combines piano (the composer), live electronics (Carter Williams) and pre-recorded loops to deconstruct and reconstruct some Scriabin source material.
All told this CD program gives us a deeply complex and expansive universe of very Modern sounds that allow us to open to an alternate perspective of what it is to do New Music today. I recommend this one surely for anyone interested in the advanced nether realms of the very contemporary right now.
Friday, February 1, 2019
Romuald Twardowski, Violin Concerto and Other works, Kinga Augustyn, Torun Symphony Orchestra, Mariusz Smolij
The music is not all that Modern with a capital /m/, yet it is not stuck in any kind of automatic replay of the past either. He puts forth a music of genuine integrity and original conviction. It is perhaps more Neo-Classic than Neo-Romantic. There is a definite lyrical side that we hear throughout, yet nothing is sentimental so much as singing and ringing forth. The "Violin Concerto" is the linchpin work as far as providing a soaringly singular voice for the solo violin that Augustyn responds to with angelic charm. All the concerted pieces serve to extend Twardowski's vision of the violin's role today in such things. Score and performance nicely conjoin in happy confluence.
Each work has a pronounced flavor, definite character, from the rhapsodous plainspokenness and then impish sprightliness of the "Violin Concerto" to the pronouncedly Jewish melodiousness of the "Niggunim 'Melodies of the Hasidim,'" the Gershwinian tang and tinge of "Capriccio in Blue," the lively and convivial Spanish tinge of the "Spanish Fantasia," it is all good. Then the string-orchestra-only "Serenade" gives us a more direct hearing of his pronounced ease over the falling of the melodic contours on the natural string-ly idiom, his capriciousness as it were. And there is a kind of gritty torque Smolij gets from the strings on "Serenade" that we then listen for all the more readily in the other works. And we then hear it all the more readily.
If you are a lover of strings you will appreciate what is done with them by Twardowski and the performers here. This is the student of Nadia Boulanger, another one who came away with a deft sense of possibilities, whose Lithuanian heritage comes through in his music without necessarily calling attention to itself. The music has Modernity without necessarily following the typical models of how that might come into play and harmonic-melodic strains are not so edgy as they are folk-like in some fundamental sense. There is a natural brilliance to his idea of what sorts of things the block of orchestral strings and the solo violin can do.
It all works wonderfully well and after a good number of listens I hear the full musical personality of this heretofore unknown composer and it seems like a very good thing. If you have the mental-aural space to add more music to your living experience this volume is a very pleasant surprise and well worth your time. And a big bravo to violinist Kinga Augustyn!