Modern classical and avant garde concert music of the 20th and 21st centuries forms the primary focus of this blog. It is hoped that through the discussions a picture will emerge of modern music, its heritage, and what it means for us.
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Friday, January 29, 2021
Beauty Crying Forth, Flute Music By Women Across Time, Sarah Frisof, Daniel Pesca
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Gene Pritsker, EroicAnization
is his brilliant unexpectedness, it seems to me. Last month (December) marked the 250th birthday of Beethoven. Part of the festivities honoring the occasion surely is Gene's album EroicAnization (Composer's Condordance), which selects musical passages from the 3rd Symphony and in one instance "Fur Elise" to rework them extensively into various stylistic exceptionalities.
"Eroica Erupted" takes an old recording of the Eroica and electronically manipulates it, while adding a sort of demonically lively Hip Hop for strings, drums, etc. As is the case throughout the album, it is not just what Gene does to the Beethoven lines, it is the how of the transformation, how it works as something unleashed anew.
"Eroica Extracted" makes lyrical ensemble sense out of another passage extracted from a recording and pulled apart as the ensemble puts it back together again differently, happily, contrapuntally engaging it and creating something wholly new amidst hypnotic counterlines that help put it all together.
"Erotic Eroica" makes up a slinky progressive heaviness that feels right, somehow.
"Eulogy Eroica" gives us a plaintive and thoughtful chamber ensemble movement, then a nicely engaged song with an expressive vocal in a Modern Contemporary Pop sort of way with an edginess that one might expect from Pritsker.
"Erroneous Eroica" works very productively with the scherzo--an orchestral excerpt as electronic source along with ensemble. It is wonderfully playful, wild and funny, too. Everything works together to conjure surprising variations and hairpin turns away from an expected destination.
"Eka Tala Eroica" gives us a sort of Indianization in ways that intrigue and delight.
Finally "Fur Elise Charleston"--is just what the title suggests. It has that old band 1920s sound and yet it is indeed "Fur Elise" in a lively disguise. Then just as one thinks one knows what is next, up comes rap from the MC! It is funny but brilliant, too.
So we have a homage to the great Ludwig that marks his milestone birthday in ways that are really quite fun and substantive, typically Pritzkerian in that it takes nothing for granted and traces a contemporary Modern set of ties back to dear old Beethoven without a conscious throwback sort of nostalgia. It is someth9ng stylistically possible only right now, today, and for that matter something nobody else but Gene Pritsker could quite pull off so convincingly. Bravo!
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Leslie Tung, Beethoven, Piano Sonatas Nos. 14, 8 & 13
The first thing that sets this apart from others is the fact that Maestro Tung makes use of a pianoforte built by Janine Johnson and Paul Poletti in 1983. It is based on a c.1795 instrument by Johan Lodewijk Dulcken, Munich. The date and province of the instrument means that it is one hopes characteristic of the sound of the pianos Beethoven played and composed upon in his prime. Of course the pianos from that period have a quieter and sweeter sound to them in general, making the pianissimo passages more delicate and fragile, the fortissimo passages less clangorous. I am no expert as to the hows and whys of such things but the less tempered tunings of period instruments is not a large factor in this particular reconstruction. Yet there is still a sort of shimmering sound to the notes, especially mid-register. And so much the better for it.
Leslie Tung gives us poetic readings of all three sonatas, readings that make creative and very musical use of the characteristics of the period-style piano. Listen to the adagio cantabile movement from Sonata 8 and you will be treated to a beautiful synergy of artist and instrument.
The misted mooniness of the opening movement of the "Moonlight Sonata" is also a rather remarkable melding of artist and piano. I cannot help but imagine that Ludwig would have approved. Maestro Tung has plenty of technique on display throughout, but the emphasis is on the actually sounding, the bringing to bear of the notes as Beethoven himself might have imagined them played when he wrote each sonata. What an extraordinary artist was this Beethoven, we inevitably think as we hear Maestro Tung put all three sonatas through their paces with care, imagination, reflectiveness and dash. Listen to the last movement of the Moonlight Sonata for the uncanny synchronicity of artist and instrument, the slight rubato to emphasize the inner connectedness and the heroics of the brilliant passagework. It all makes sense.
In Nietzsche terms these readings are more Apollonian than Dionysian. And nicely the better for that. You may not come away from this program thinking "what an amazing pianist." It is more "what an interestingly faithful representation of Beethoven."
I am glad to hear and have this one. I reminds me of course of the very happy part of birthday 250! Give this one a hearing. Recommended.
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Alexina Louie, Take The Dog Sled, Evie Mark, Akinisie Sivuarapik, Esprit Orchestra, Alex Pauk
The work was commissioned by Kent Nagano and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, completed in 2008 and first performed by the MSO during their tour of Nunavek in far Northern Quebec. After a good number of performances we happily have this worthy recording.
The work centers around an adaptation of traditional Inuit Game Songs, a unique musical pastime for two singers with greatly varying, aurally fascinating duet articulations of pitched throat singing and percussively breathed vocal twists and turns. There is nothing quite like this music in sound quality, the interlocking vocal bursts proceeding with unprecedented timbral depth through close repetitions of short call-and-response phrases.
Take The Dog Sled utilizes Game Song phrasing sung by the two throat singers, countered with a chamber orchestra that takes its musical form in part from Game Song phrasings and adds depictive open tonal passages that in the eight-part whole give a vivid impression of the plasticity of Inuit social and everyday life. It at times seems almost a concerto for throat singers and ensemble, yet it travels beyond that to instrumental tutti that take it all some distance from the short phrased vocals yet are shot through with their influence.
This is music both evocative and fun, seriously expressive yet filled with a joy of gaming in its own way. It is not your expected Modern Chamber fare and so refreshing in its somewhat independant cast. Very recommended.
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
David Claman, Gradus
So in this light we consider the recent music of David Claman, Gradus (Albany TROY1837). It is music like that, something for a discerning listener with a sense of attraction for the unknown, the unexpected.
The passage from beginning to end takes us through 13 separate parts, 13 tracks, 13 universes of sound that relate one to the other with enough sameness and enough difference that you feel a movement towards a destination place, musically.
Claman teaches at Lehman College, SUNY and earned degrees from Wesleyan, the University of Colorado and Princeton. He also studied Classical Indian music in South Asia for a time. That influence factors into the music nicely at times but then everything shows an individual stamp. He muses in the liner notes how initially NOT understanding, whether music or some other life experience element, can be influential in what one becomes, that the experience in fact can "rewire the brain." So composition for him is producing "a different way of hearing." So too for Claman different states, other different ways came about out of other specific experiences, for example Melville's Moby Dick (as especially an escaping from Western Civilization perhaps), as with Tamil sayings from the 1st Century AD, and so too out of hearing the music of South Indian composer Syama Sastri, as well as improvisation as a way of knowing. These and other forms of coming to know form a key part of the music we hear on Gradus.
One way or another the 13 segments that make up Gradus form a make-knowing out of the originally unknown so to say, this all made up in turn out of conventional instruments, the voice and electronics.
So relevant poetic and depictive spoken and sung texts mingle with tonal drone and primal tonality, very Post-Romantic, Indian and adagio expressiveness, shifting ratio temporality, in a very stimulating and fascinatingly contrasting program that exudes a lyricality without the trappings of sentimentality and so sounding futuristic in its own way, in an aurally singular way.
Emerging from extended listenings I do not hesitate to recommend this one heartily for you who seek another angle on the music happening right now. Claman has his own stylistic parameters and they are very nice to ponder. Bravo! Do hear this one.
Saturday, January 16, 2021
Gail Archer, Chernivtsi, Contemporary Ukrainian Organ Music
A nice example has come out recently--Gail Archer's Chernivtsi, Contemporary Ukrainian Organ Music (Swan Studios MM20042). On it some six contemporary composers give us seven works in all.
It follows on the heels of Ms. Archer's A Russian Journey, Music of the "Russian Five" (see my post on February 13, 2018 for information on that one). Both volumes are the first in a series of albums on the organ music of Eastern Europe. A third album covering Modern Polish Organ Music will be released shortly.
The current recording utilizes the Rieger-Kloss organ in the Armenian Catholic Church in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. It sounds powerful and full, fully appropriate for the very dynamic and detailed symphonic organ music we have the pleasure to hear. Ms. Archer happily was sent numerous relevant scores by her Ukrainian composition and organist colleagues and she chose these excellent examples to illuminate and enlighten us all.
Eastern European minor and chromatic Modern sensibilities dominate with a richness of imagination and dramatic flourish that mark the program out as notable and fascinating to hear in depth.
The album opens with two works by Bohdan Kotyuk (b. 1951), the "Fanfare" especially notable for its use of fourths to build harmonic spatiality. Listen also to the very chromatically full build up on the Mykola Kolessa (1903-2006) "Passacaglia." In contrast there is the end of the program, the firmly minor heritage of "Chacona" by Svitlana Ostrova (b. 1961) and a more extended, more freely unfolding "Fantasie" by Iwan Kryschanowskij (1867-1924).
In between there are interesting works by Tadeusz Machi (1922-2003) and Viktor Goncharenko (b. 1959).
This is a volume any organ music modernist-appreciator will gravitate towards, plus of course those wishing to explore what is happening organ-wise these days and what was happening a bit earlier in the Ukraine. Gail Archer casts a steady artistic light on the music in winning fashion.
For music lovers in the New York Metro area Ms. Archer is slated to perform a trio of concerts centered around Eastern European Organ Music--on February 7, 2021 at Church of St. Francis Xavier, 55 West 15th St in New York Coty, 2:30 pm; for more information contact the church at 212.627.2100 or visit sfxavier.org; on March 16, 2021 at 7 pm at the St. Jean Baptiste Church, 184 East 76th Street, New York City; for more information contact the church at 212.288.5082 or visit sjbny.org; and on April 10, 2021 at 3:00 pm at St. John Nepomucine, 411 East 66th Street in New York City, for more information contact the church at 212.734.4613 or visit eastrivercatholics.org. All concerts are free, donations accepted.
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
JunctQin Keyboard Collective, reTHINK
The works have in common a sense of adventure and a Modern slant. Schnittke's "Hommage a Stravinsky, Prokofiev & Shostakovich" brings out the rhythmic vitality of those composers and their very well developed melodic thrust. Schnittke sounds out that essentiality with some very masterful, stirring music.
Monica Pearce's "Chess Suite" makes lively use of two toy pianos and teases out the pulsative presence of such instruments well played, the beautifully fragile melodic possibilities and her own vital musical imagination.
Ravel's "Frontispice" hails from the end of WWI (1918) and is performed here for piano six hands. though it originally called for two pianos and five hands. I do not recall hearing it, ever, and it is very nice to hear at that--as done so well on this program.
Emily Doolittle's four-handed piano "Sorex (A Celebration of Untamed Shrews)" was inspired by Shakespeare in 2010 and thrives with nicely memorable pianisms throughout.
Tomi Raisanen "Insider" (as alluded to above) is the three mostly playing inside a grand piano. Pure adventure I suppose you could say it is, for it is.
Two works for piano six-hands follow, good things by Chris Thornborrow and Alex Eddington, both works ornate and nicely exploratory.
The program ends with an Elisha Denburg piece for piano, toy piano and Casio keyboard. "Welcome to the Warp Zone!" is nearly orchestral in scope. It leaves us with something truly fun, catchy, and "jazzy" if you will.
After all is said and done junctQin leaves us with a good reason why New Music remains a vital thing no matter what else the world may bring. The content is detailed and uniformly musical, the performances are bright and bristling with energy and sensitivity. If you seek something new and unexpected, here is a good one to grab.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Kenneth Gaburo Conducts New Music Choral Ensemble
It turns out that the program and the performances are very good. Two short but worthy Gaburo electro-acoustic works that came out on the Nonesuch LP originally--"The Wasting of Lucrecetzia" (1964) and "Fat Millie's Lament" (1965)--are included here, with the same electroacoustic tapes that made up that part of the LP. They still sound fresh to me.
The rest of the program consists of some High Modern classics and some interesting works not all that well-known at this point. In the latter category are brief works by Charles Hamm, Robert Shallenberg, and Leslie Bassett, all composed in 1966-67. Of great interest though perhaps also not very well known is the fascinatingly atonal Jazz shadings of Ben Johnston on his "Ci-Git-Satie" (1966).
The flowing advanced tonality of Nono's "Sara Dolce Tacere" (1960) and Webern's Op. 2 "Entflieht Auf Leichten Kahnen" (1909) shows the excellent musicianship of the choral ensemble and rings out with the advanced harmonic palette as it was meant to be expressed.
Pauline Oliveros' "Sound Patterns" (1962) was first introduced and made famous in an Odyssey LP at the time. This version is every bit as sturdy but perhaps a slight bit less percussive--so different enough to keep us interested.
The longest (eighteen minutes) and among the most interesting of the works is the Messiaen "Cinq Rechants" (1948). It has the sort of heightened rhythmic clout one might expect of the composer in this period. Gaburo and the New Music Choral Ensemble give this one plenty of energy and precision for a very satisfying conclusion to the program.
In the end there is a nice contrast between the various works. It all makes for a rather bracing portrait of choral Modernism as it stood in 1967.The audio and performance quality makes me glad this is now available some 54 years after it was performed. Listen to this one for sure! Very recommended.
Friday, January 8, 2021
Paolo Marchettini, The Months Have Ends, Orchestral Works
Today I am enjoying another new one and another new artist to me, a composer by the name of Paulo Marchettini. There is a worthwhile disk devoted to his orchestral works just coming out. It is named after one of the pieces, The Months Have Ends (New Focus Recordings FCR280).
The five works presented in this debut album have a great deal of gravitas, a seriousness of purpose and a dramatic richness that thrives within a balanced poise of expression.
Marchettini hails from Rome and currently makes his home in Manhattan. Interestingly he cites as influences Verdi, Frescobaldi and Morricone. The influences happily are realized obliquely in that the music itself stands on its own as a lyrical-tonal Modern Expressionism of an original sort.
A high point is the six movement "The Months Have Ends," an alternately reflective and brashly animated score for soprano Alda Caiello and Orchestra della Toscana. It is based on Emily Dickinson.
The seven movement "Concertino" features the composer on clarinet and the MSM Chamber Orchestra for a nicely wrought, wiry romp that sings out boldly and features beautifully intertwined clarinet-orchestral interactions.
"Notturno" is alternatingly a deeply mysterious and agitated descriptive work that shows us an eloquence that is far from the ordinary today.
The entire program is noteworthy and well performed.
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
Grossman Ensemble, Fountain of Time, New Music By Ran, Cheung, Dzubay, Ko, Mettens