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"New" Music Log

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

  1. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


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


    My first-ever exposure to the music of Nikolai Kapustin. To be sure, I bought the disc because I was interested in hearing Sun Hee You play, and the disc was a four buck "Add On" at Amazon, but new music is something of a bonus. (I'm finding "Add Ons" to be useful and fun.)

    Ms You was born in Seoul, did the wunderkind thing in her home country, attended the Yewon School, and ended up moving to Italy and earning a diploma from the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia and working with Lazar and Valentina Berman, among others. Her bio cites a variety of collaborations with C-list artists and orchestras, but sometimes regional artists are as good as more famous artists.

    Kapustin is an honest to goodness living Ukrainian composer, and one heavily influenced by jazz. Indeed, he was apparently known as jazz pianist and composer in the 50s. This disc contains works penned in the 80s and 90s that betray that jazz influence.

    The First Sonata definitely sounds sort of jazzy, in a Dave Brubeck meets Oscar Peterson meets Gershwin meets Debussy meets (early) Scriabin sort of way. Much of the music sort of sounds like what might happen if a talented jazz pianist were hired to play piano at an upscale clothing store and decided to go off-program near closing time on a busy Saturday night. It's improvisatory-ish and not easy listening, but it could still fade into the background if the pianist didn't play too loudly. It's certainly not bad and makes for light entertainment, but I can't see listening to this very often. The four Etudes and Bagatelles that follow are more syncopated than the sonata and given their brevity make for a more compelling experience. The Seventh Sonata sounds like a jazzed up mix of Prokofiev and subdued post-war avant-garde writing, in a generic sense. There's ample virtuoso writing in faster passages of the opening Allegretto, and the Adagio amoroso, possessed of a slow overall pulse, is stuffed with notes that fall not always beautifully on the ear. That's perfectly alright, but I'm not sold on the amoroso bit. Nor am I sold on the almost jazz-infused Boulez-meets-Schulhoff march that is the Minuetto being a Minuetto, though it sounds intriguing. The concluding Allegro vivace is even more vibrant and intense than the opening movement. This more abstract work is the best thing on the disc. The concluding Variations take as their theme part of the opening of The Rite of Spring. The music subjects the original to syncopated, vibrant, and colorful treatment, and it makes for an enjoyable enough listening experience.

    Ms You most certainly possesses the technical equipment to play the music on offer here, and I would wager a whole lot besides. Her recordings to date have focused on lesser-known composers and works, which is one way to make a name in a crowded marketplace, but I'd like to hear her in more standard rep, even if it is lesser works by greater composers. Of course, I'd prefer to hear her take on more substantive fare even more. The Chopin Etudes, say, or maybe some late Scriabin.

    Superb sound.



    Amazon UK link
     
  2. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    I figured it was about time that I delved into some old liturgical music again, so I decided to try some more sacred music penned by Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. My guide would be the ever reliable Paul McCreesh.

    The disc includes both Biber’s Mass in B flat for six voices and his Requiem in F minor. However, apparently in accordance with period practice (I’ll leave that to experts), brief compositions by other composers are included, including some orchestral movements and polyphonic a cappella pieces. The other composers include Georg Muffat, Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Abraham Megerle, Orlando de Lassus, and the ubiquitous Anonymous.

    Anyway, the Mass is quite nice. It’s a bit sprightly and upbeat. No dour, heavy music here. It’s also nicely small scale. Here Biber’s pieces have movements by others intermingled, and if it can lead to a sense of discontinuity, it works well enough. The real attraction for me is the Requiem. It’s decidedly weightier, as befits the subject matter, but it, too, is infused with energy not always found in such works. It’s dramatic and tense without being too ponderous or draining. At under thirty minutes, it’s also taut. And as a bonus, the extra movements by other composers (Anonymous and Lassus) flank the work, rather than mix with it.

    Singers and instrumentalists all acquit themselves nicely, and Mr McCreesh, a real favorite of mine, seems in his element. The recording is spacious and warm creating a blended, not especially detailed sound that works well in this context. A superb disc.



    Amazon UK link
     
  3. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

    [​IMG]


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


    Noriko Ogawa is a name I've long been familiar with, but until now, I've never listened to her playing. Ogawa, in concert with repertoire advisor Yukihisa Miyayama, put together a disc comprised of a dozen short works or collections of works from eleven composers, with the works composed between 1900 and 1981. The works are presented mostly chronologically by year of composition.

    The disc opens with Two Piano Pieces by Rentaro Taki, who died at the ripe old age of 24. The brief pieces hark back to Beethoven or Brahms. Next comes Three Pieces after the Flower, by Shukichi Mitsukuri. The pieces sound more "Eastern", by virtue of the use of pentatonic scales, and one can sort of hear where a more minimalist Debussy might have been heading toward. Rather like with Yu Long's DG disc of Chinese compositions, from time to time one hears some music that would not sound out of place if it came from Eastern European composers, and here there are flashes of Janacek. Too, in the final of the three pieces, one hears an austerity that calls Mompou to mind. Apparently, the first movement was dedicated to Wilhelm Kempff, which makes sense. Meiro Sugawara's short piece Steam follows, and this is unabashedly French sounding, meaning one needn't strain to hear the influence of Debussy at all. Kunihiko Kasimoto's Three Piano Pieces, from 1934, follows, and it is even more Debussyan in approach, at least to start. It depicts three different scenes of three different women wearing kimonos in Tokyo. Vaguely impressionistic and programmatic, the work is more than just enjoyable, it is substantive, and more than imitative. Some of the music melds Debussy at his most "impressionistic" and his most daring with hints of Karol Szymanowski and a wholly original, not entirely Western sensibility. Next up are three brief Ryukyu Dances from Yasuji Kiyose, and here the name that immediately comes to mind is Bartok in a mix of his folk and didactic works. They are enjoyable if slight. Kikuko Kanai's Maidens Under the Moon, which is also a Ryukyu dance, follows, and her work is more bouyant and excited. Perhaps her study in Brazil imparted a sensibility, because this sounds more like Villa-Lobos or Granados. (Alternatively, one can imagine it as an even more caffeinated Charbrier of the Bourrée fantasque.) It's quite delightful.

    Fumio Hayasaka's Autumn follows, and once again Debussy is probably the closest Western analog. Kiyoshige Koyama's brief Kagome-Variation follows. The piece crams a brief theme and eight brief variations into just over five short minutes. Written in 1967, it's adventurous, simple-ish (it's meant for children), and folksy. Akio Yashiro's Nocturne, from 1947, is another work that brings French composers to mind, though Ravel in Pavane seems more the style here. Yoshinao Nakata's Variational Etude is a brief set of simple-ish Etudes meant for children, and in this case, Ogawa herself played it in public for the first time at the age of seven. I daresay this recording is a bit more accomplished than that early effort. The disc closes with works by Ryuichi Sakamoto. The Piano Suite, from 1970, is unabashedly modern. The booklet mentions Messiaen and Miyoshi as influences. I can vouch for the former, but not the latter, but it is not hard to hear echoes of Schoenberg, either. Some may find the music and playing simply clangorous and tuneless, but that would be a shame. It's one of the best works on the disc. The final piece is the title track, Just for Me. While not as formidable as the Suite, and despite being "Schumannesque" (though the composer means that he let the ideas take him wherever they lead), the piece is both somewhat sparse and somewhat angular and quite modern, which makes sense for a 1981 work. Not as compelling as the other piece by the composer, it makes for a strong end to the disc.

    Rather like with Long Yu's collection of orchestral works, I doubt any pieces presented here ever become core rep or oft heard pieces for me, but there's some good stuff packed in the seventy-eight minute running time, and I will return to the disc.

    The twenty-plus year old BIS sound is fantastic, as expected. I need to get me Ogawa's Debussy cycle.



    Amazon UK link
     
  4. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Yowza! I’d never heard the Missa Salisburgenis until now, and all I can say is Yowza! This vast, proto-Mahlerian choral work from the seventeenth century knocked my socks off. Apparently authorship isn’t certain, but Heinrich Biber is the generally accepted author. If so, this could be his magnum opus.

    A gigantic mass setting, with multiple choirs and groups of instruments, and plenty of trumpets, everything about this is, well, it’s grand, perhaps bordering on over the top. That’s understandable since it’s meant to celebrate Salzburg’s 1100th anniversary as a Christian center, something that doesn’t come along every day. Accordingly, the mass has a largely celebratory feel. No dour, heavy, somber mass here. No! It’s party time. The trumpets blare, the choirs unleash heavenly paeans to the Lord, the strings produce lustrous sounds. And while grand, perhaps even grandiose, the music is also more or less straight-forward. One needn’t marvel at the compositional mastery (though one can) to enjoy the work. It’s enough to just let the music envelope whatever listening space is in use. The performance is fully up to the great event, to boot. Singers and instrumentalists all perform superbly. Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Reinhard Goebel and the Musica Antiqua Köln join forces, along with hired guns I must assume, and it sounds like a great match.

    The only potential issue with the disc has to do with the sound. Recorded in a large church, this large work takes full advantage of the space, but that means there are some balance issues. The trumpets are largely in the back of the church, so as to not overpower everything else, but this makes them sound very distant. (In addition, the opening movement reveals this distance, and one is tempted to turn the volume way up, but the eruption of the Kyrie reveals the size of the forces and can threaten to deafen the listener.) Individual singers can sound small and distant and everything runs the risk of being overpowered by the choirs. The distant perspective also results in less detail than I generally enjoy, but the compromises are small and the overall benefits significant.

    This is a great work and great recording.



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  5. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    I'm not particularly into lute music, though I have a few recordings, mostly of Dowland, that I listen to on rare occasion. I wasn't really in the market for a new lute recording, but when this one popped up as a free download at CD Baby, I figured I couldn't really go wrong. Oleg Timofeyev, who also plays and records guitar music, put together thirty-two tracks from ten composers I don't recall seeing the names of before, three tracks from Michelangelo Galilei, and a nice helping of works from that most prodigious of all composers, Anonymous, from all around Europe. Hence, the wandering part. The recording was made in a church in Iowa in the late 90s using a period lute. The recording captures a nice sense of the recording space as well as the instrument, leading me to think it was a minimalist microphone set up. It also has low level hiss, indicating an analog recording. Timofeyev generates a warm and clear sound throughout, and he exudes a sense of comfort with the material. He's in no rush while he plays, he doesn't try to make the largely simple sounding music more than it is, and the effect is welcoming and relaxing. It's sort of ancient easy-listening. The only pieces that stand out do so because of their length (over five minutes) in this collection of shorter pieces and movements. The night I first listened to the disc, there was a nice cricket accompaniment between movements which seemed to fit. This is one of those rare recordings that feels completely right from the first note of the first listen. The disc it most immediately called to mind was the Charlie Haden and Pat Metheny disc Beyond the Missouri Sky, not because of the music, but rather because it's one of those discs that I could have sworn I've known all my life; though the music was new as I heard each note, it felt old. (Portions of the Lady Ann Gordon Lilt and Port Preist do actually sound familiar.) I doubt I listen to this disc with great frequency, but listen to it again I will. This begs to be listened to early on a Sunday morning while drinking coffee and reading the paper.
     
  6. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Until I spotted this disc as an Amazon Add-on, I don't think I'd seen the name Ursula Mamlok. Recorded for her 90th birthday in 2013, the now deceased Ms Mamlok was born in Germany in 1923 and started her musical education there, but had to flee in the 30s, and eventually she wound up in New York and studied at the Mannes School of Music, and then, in 2006, she returned to Germany. She counts the Second Viennese School as the biggest influence on her musical style, and it shows. People who don't like that style of music may not like this disc. I happen to be fond of most of what I've heard, so it posed no issues for me.

    The disc opens with an interview with the composer where she discusses some general items and some of the music on the disc, and it makes for an intriguing if not entirely necessary intro.

    The first musical piece on offer is Confluences for Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano, from 2001. Mamlok marries a lot of jagged, clustery piano playing to more sustained, neo-expressionistic string writing, to often striking effect. The slow final movement has sparse piano music and nice contrapuntal music played by the other three instruments, with the cello and clarinet making striking partners. The next work, for solo piano, is called 2000 notes, with the first movement named Gruff. More sparse music jumps from the speakers in a Berg meets Mompou meets Ligeti type piece. Mamlok packs a pretty nice array of ideas into the four compact movements, with a tendency to move between slow and contemplative and almost old-time melodic content with some more astringent dissonance. It works well. Next is Polyphony I for solo clarinet, from 1968, which seems an odd title for a work for a solo wind instrument. The music's polyphonic nature comes together from tying together various strands mentally, per the notes. As a listener, there are a fair amount of higher than normal notes of long duration mixed with shorter middle and lower notes, and purposeful trills. The piece could conceivably outstay its welcome, but like every work on the disc, it is short at just over nine minutes. Sort of like Webern, but not to that extent, Mamlok knows to keep her pieces short. From My Garden, for solo Viola, from 1983 follows. In its compact timeframe, there's more use of quiet, extended notes (the direction is Still, as if suspended) interrupted by more jagged notes and chords. The piece ends up an attention devouring dodecaphonic fantasia, and one which ends with pianissimo pizzicati, something one doesn't necessarily hear every day. Here's a case where I wouldn't have minded if the piece were either longer, or part of a larger work. A Rhapsody for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano, Viola from 1989 follows. In five sections, alternating fast and slow, the individual musical ideas are brief yet appealing; the music is uncompromisingly modern and jagged and dissonant and difficult, but it is neither ugly nor disjointed. It actually flows. It's somewhat Carteresque. The disc closes with Mamlok's String Quartet No 1. Unabashedly serial and expressionistic, it sounds very influenced by the Second Viennese School. The louder and faster music is fast and dense, but Mamlok shows her penchant for delivering slower, gentler music of surprising expressiveness even here. As with the solo viola piece, I would not have minded if it lasted longer than its nine minutes, thirty-eight seconds.

    Mamlok's music shows that there's some life left in serial and serial-inspired music. It also turns out that Bridge has a series devoted to Mamlok's music, and that no less a pianist than Garrick Ohlsson has recorded 2000 Notes. I'm not sure that I need another recording of the work. At least not yet. But now that Mamlok's name is on my musical radar, I won't be surprised if I listen to more of her stuff.

    The artists all acquit themselves expertly, and sound is pretty close to top shelf.



    Amazon UK link
     
  7. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Over the years I have heard a lot of exquisitely beautiful music. There are moments and whole works of astounding beauty from composers like Debussy and Faure and Delibes, Mozart and Schubert and Mendelssohn, and others. But nothing, and I mean nothing, is more beautiful than the Invitatorium from Cristóbal de Morales’ Officium Defunctorum. It is eleven minutes of sonic beauty that cannot be surpassed. How can this be, coming as it does from a piece of music dependent on only a few voices and discreet instrumental support? Well, it is surely attributable to the genius of the composer. The entire six movement work is almost indescribably beautiful, but the heavenly second movement is one of those pieces that compels me to breathe shallowly, abandon any and all thoughts of anything else, and listen to every note with unyielding attention. And I’m not exaggerating in any way. It is difficult to overstate the impact this music has had on me on repeated listens. Very few pieces of music achieve this. It is a wonder of art. Apparently the work was first performed in Mexico, after the composer’s death, to commemorate the death of Charles V, and the manuscript remained there. Talk about sequestered treasure. It is a great work, there is no doubt.

    Also undoubtedly great is the five part Missa Pro Defunctis. Based on the liner notes, this is the same work that Raúl Mallavibarrena and his Musica Ficta recorded on the Cantus label, but it sounds radically different. It relies more on male voices and sounds darker. The melodies sound different, and the way the different parts weave together sound different. As in the Mallavibarrena recording, the voices and instrumental support blend together in perfect harmony, and it is a glory of beauty first note to last. Given how different the two versions sound, the only sensible approach is to listen to and cherish both.

    After such a great first disc, it is not surprising that the discs given over to the other two composers aren’t quite as good. Don’t get me wrong, there is much to enjoy and savor in the discs, they just aren’t quite at the same level. The disc given over to eleven Cantica Beatae Virginis by Tomás Luis de Victoria is to my ears the better of the two discs. Victoria strikes me as every bit as masterful as Morales in terms of formal structure and such, but his music lacks that indefinable something that makes Morales that much better. That means that listening to the disc of Victoria’s music is merely a great pleasure, as beautiful melodies and exquisite accompaniments tickle the ear. The sixteen works on the disc devoted to Francisco Guerrero are likewise beautiful and display a high level of formal mastery, but as has been my previous experience, Guerrero isn’t quite as good as the other two composers. Of course, that’s just to my ears, and ultimately I’m the lucky one because I get to listen to all the works.

    Sound is quite good, though it doesn’t quite match more recent outings by Savall and crew, and the Catalan and his players and singers all deliver at a predictably high level. A great collection with at least two masterpieces of the highest order.



    Amazon UK link
     
  8. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

    Your post was a good opportunity to listen to the Morales again. My favourite parts of the Officium Defunctorum are the first two lessons (in Primo Nocturno, tracks 3 and 4), but the whole piece is magnificent in a minimalistic sort of way. This is the only version I have, so I wonder how much of the attraction is due to the impeccable execution and artistry of Savall and the small Capella Reial. I am slightly less enamoured of the Missa Defunctorum. Montserrat Figueras & Co. are prominent in the Victoria and Guerrero but there are no female voices in either of the Morales pieces.
    The 2009 remastering sounds good to my ears.

    You may also be interested to check out Savall's 2015 version of Biber's Missa Salisburgensis (he had previously recorded a live version of the Requiem and Missa Bruxellensis in 1999 and 2002). Although Savall performed the work in Salzburg cathedral in 2015, the recording took place a few days before in the chapel of Cardona castle in Catalonia. In his notes Savall explains his respect for the challenges of recording 54 parts of intricate counterpoint with a mix of strings, brass etc. He uses a relatively small crew (1 or 2 musicians per part for most parts) and places the loud bits (4 brass, tympani) as far as possible at opposite ends of the chapel.
    Perhaps because of the very wide dynamic range, the overall effect can paradoxically feel a bit muted. I find that for best results I have to crank up the volume so that the loudest parts are way above my preferred SPLs.
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Biber-Baroque-Splendor-Missa-Salisburgensis/dp/B0123UDI62/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1509191127&sr=1-2&keywords=missa+salisburgensis
     
  9. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    I'm tempted to say a combination of both.




    On the wish list. Biber and Savall both have basically 100% hit rates, as it were, so I suspect I will end up with it at some point. The McCreesh/Goebel recording of Salisburgensis has a similar issue with volume, but that's not such a major problem.
     
  10. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    [This disc contains two new works, so I will shoehorn it into this thread.]

    A marketing success. I'll come right out and admit that the cover glamour shot of Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez was instrumental in my buying this disc. Well, that, and the under $4 price tag. The booklet contains three very well done, professionally photoshopped glamour shots and one "action" shot of the artist. She recorded her first disc in 2014 for release on Delos in 2016. She was able to procure the production services of David Frost. This recital includes two core rep works (LvB 10/3 and Rach 16/1), one lesser work (Szymanowski Op 3), and two contemporary works, White Lies for Lomax (2007) by Mason Bates, and Amplified Soul (2014) by Dan Visconti, written on commission for the pianist.

    The Beethoven starts the disc. The Presto is kind of middle of the road tempo-wise, but nicely played and peppy enough. The Largo is also middle of the road in terms of tempo, boasts some phenomenally delicate pianissimo playing, but it lacks something in atmosphere, and the seemingly compressed dynamic range (more on that later) prevents the climax from having any real impact. It does sound uncommonly beautiful, though. The Menuetto is lovely in the outer sections, and quite peppy, with nicely terraced dynamics and distinct voices in middle section. The Rondo gets back to the middle of the road peppiness peppered with some very finely shaded piano and pianissimo playing. This is a soft-edged take on this piece.

    The Rach sounds similar in approach and tone, but it works better. It's radiantly beautiful. Not one rough edge or anything even remotely approaching a rough edge is to be heard. It is burnished and polished to the Nth degree, and Ms Martinez plays it just fine, with a luscious legato, and haunting harmonic richness.

    The Bates piece is inspired by the work of ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, who made many blues recordings, and the composer's notes makes clear, as does the music, that it is blues inspired, and one might say jazz, too. Almost formless and sounding improvisatory at times, it's most appealing, and Martinez's beautiful tone tames the harshest dissonances.

    The title track, at a hair under five minutes, is the shortest on the disc, and per the composer, is inspired by early medieval music. It is largely quiet, gentle, sparse, simple, and beautiful. It calls to mind Marie Luise-Hinrichs' transcriptions of music by Hildegard von Bingen, except that it ends up including some much louder, almost intense, and more modern music in places, and it lacks the transcendental quality in the German's disc. Martinez again shows herself a master of playing at the quiet end of the spectrum.

    The Symanowski has a sort of dark haze hanging over it, and Martinez produces a warm, rich sound that works very well in this piece. It's been a while since I listened to Sinae Lee's take, but Martinez is fuller and richer where Lee is leaner and cleaner. (It's been so long since I listened to Martin Roscoe's take that I can't remember it.) It's snazzy.

    To the sound. Something strikes me as just a bit off. It's beautiful and warm. Part of that is due to very generous pedaling by the pianist, but it also sounds processed. The dynamic range seems limited, and while the pianist's touch may indeed be the sole source of the resulting sound, the almost total lack of edge seems unreal. Also, while clear, there's a sort of opacity. The effect isn't unpleasant, but it just strikes me as less than ideal.

    Martinez certainly has talent. Even conjuring a mental idea of what I think her playing might really sound like in person, it's clear that delicate, tonally nuanced playing is her thing. Her website lists pretty broad concert and chamber repertoire, though solo isn't listed. I think I'll keep an eye out for new recordings from her.



    Amazon UK link
     
  11. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Since I enjoyed Paul Hindemith's String Quartets earlier this year, and since this particular disc of the sonatas was available for peanuts as an Add-on, I decided to finally give Paul Hindemith's Piano Sonatas a try. Oh sure, there are other versions out there, including most famously Glenn Gould's, but I'd rather have hangnails on all my fingers than have Gould be my introduction to any composer's music, so it took until now for the stars to align.

    Maurizio Paciariello is the latest graduate of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory to pop up on my radar and have a disc end up in my listening pile. He undertook additional studies with both Aldo Ciccolini and Paul Badura-Skoda, and has displays an interest in both HIP performing and recording, as well as performing and recording non-core rep. He has also started in on a Beethoven piano sonata cycle.

    To the sonatas. The disc presents them chronologically. The First, inspired by Friedrich Hoelderloin's poem Der Main, and written after Hindemith had left Germany for Turkey, contains more than hints of sorrow and darkness in the first blocky chords. Though the first, brief movement sets up the rest of the sonata, and the Second movement is a march, they blend together seamlessly. The first few minutes of the second movement are kind of bland, sounding like soft-edged and blocky Prokofiev, but as the movement progresses, the music becomes more powerful, underscored by an insistent, simple bass line. The third movement continues the somewhat blocky sound, with little in the way of lyrical content, and the bass becomes more powerful. Both the fourth and fifth movements revive material from the first movement in more robust, almost aggressive fashion. The combination of artist and music proves more compelling whenever the playing becomes more robust. The three movement Second Sonata, at a brief twelve-ish minutes, is more compelling. With greater bursts of lyricism as well as more aurally pleasing dissonant writing, the work epitomizes neo-classical style. The Third Sonata seems to sort of marry the more expressive nature of the First to the neo-classicism of the Second, resulting in something more satisfying than the First and perhaps slightly less so than the Second. There's a seriousness to the first movement, and a bit less in the rambunctious second movement that sounds very Prokofiev influenced. The third movement is fast for a slow movement and has fugal sounding elements pointing to the concluding fugue, which sounds about what one would think a piano fugue written by Hindemith might sound like.

    The piano sonatas do not succeed for me like the string quartets, but part of that may be the pianist (somewhat doubtful), and some may just be that the formal structure of the works ironically do not offer the best compositional vehicles for Hindemith's style when it comes to keyboard music. Recent, more successful exposure to other of Hindemith's keyboard works played by Joyce Yang and the Schuchs indicate this is the more likely scenario. That written, the Second is most enjoyable, and the Third is not without its charms. This is not a great set, and it's certainly not music I'm terribly interested in obtaining multiple copies of, but I'll spin this again when I get a hankerin' for Hindemith.



    Amazon UK link
     
  12. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Another Amazon Add-on snag of no little value. It's always a good time to try something new from Biber, and the budget price made the short playing time (forty minutes and change) even more of a non-issue than it otherwise would be. The disc includes two instrumental sonatas flanking five Pslams, each preceded and followed by an Antiphon, and a Magnificat flanked by Ad Magnificats. With four soloists, a small choir, and only ten instrumentalists, the music lacks the grand (or grandiose) sound of some of Biber's other religious works, but it still displays some of the same snap, crackle, and pop of Biber's music. While not rhytmically wild and crazy, it's not staid, either; while not garish, it's not solemn to the point of dourness, either. It's comparatively light and devout at the same time, and undeniably attractive. The light scoring allows for superb musial clarity, and all the forces are up to the task. (The first violinist here is Anita Mitterer, the violist of Quatuor Mosaïques.) Recorded by Austrian Radio in 1986 at the University of Salzburg, the sound is spacious and warm and amply detailed, if not SOTA by 2017 standards. A most enjoyable disc.


    Amazon UK link (only 81 pounds): https://www.amazon.co.uk/Biber-Mari...1510668906&sr=8-2&keywords=biber+marienvesper
     
  13. PsB

    PsB Citizen of Nowhere™

  14. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member


    Oh, yeah. In the US, Amazon has an "Add-on" program where products of all sorts go for bargain basement prices provided the total expenditure for an order is $25. I picked this disc up for about $4.00. I max out at $20 for new discs distributed in the US, and $25-30 for select Asian market discs, and I pay such prices rarely.
     
  15. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    This recording marks the first full disc devoted to the music of Josef Martin Kraus added to my collection. Given that it was a new-ish (2013) DHM recording available for under $3 new, it seemed like the fates intervened or something, so I bought it. Mozart's almost exact contemporary in both life and death wrote the two works on this disc in official response as Swedish Court Kapellmesiter to the assassination of Gustavus III of Sweden, the same political murder that inspired Verdi's Un ballo in maschera. Given the somber circumstances surrounding the composition of the works, somber music is expected, though Kraus, no doubt under a time crunch, saw fit to recycle some of his earlier music to meet the urgent deadline. So how did Kraus honor dead royalty?

    With some somber, serious, and dramatic music of no little accomplishment. Okay, so the cantata text, written by the King's private secretary, might not be great literature and is both too melodramatic and hagiographic - or not, maybe ol' Gus was immensely beloved by all, conspirators excepted - but it was an official piece and everything had to be appropriate to the setting. Kraus' music strikes me as more accomplished. While it doesn't sound quite as refined or powerful as the masses and other liturgical music of Mozart and Haydn, that's a mighty tall order for, well, everyone, and Kraus' cantata is really very effective in an almost operatic way. The cantata is more overtly and unabashedly dramatic than the symphony, and at around forty-ish minutes, in two parts, it is substantial without overdoing it. The vocal parts are fetching, the accompaniment expert, and the orchestra-only passages are expertly written. I recently experienced a major success with the Telemann Ino Cantata - also on DHM, not coincidentally - and while this work doesn't reach that level of excellence, excellent this Begräbnis Kantate most certainly is. The symphony, which was written to be heard before the cantata during the funeral services, is more subdued and darker toned, with gentle and funereal timpani taps sprinkled through its four slow movements. This is a properly solemn and somber work befitting an 18th Century personage.

    The production values of the disc are world-class, and all performers are up to snuff which more or less seems to be the case with every DHM disc I've heard.
     
  16. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Songs of fire and ice. Not from George RR Martin, but from Spanish baroque composer Cristóbal Galán, who lived from 1624-ish to 1684. This disc of a dozen songs, for solo, duo, or trio of varying combinations of one tenor and two sopranos, with some spoken word tossed in, is a delight. Though written during a religious period of Spanish history and ostensibly religious in nature, the song subjects and words tip more to the profane side of the sacred-profane continuum, though by modern standards the texts are elliptical and not really racy. And they are all pretty much peppy. Even the slower, more somber-ish pieces have rhythmic verve. Galán basically took Renaissance forms (eg, madrigals), used some then contemporary texts, and wrote some lightly but expertly scored, often dance-like, often triple time music. The effect is unexpectedly energizing, and unquestionably attractive. It appears that the song selection and order was put together by violinist and Accentus Austria director Thomas Wimmer. Whatever the case, as assembled and performed, everything works. The instrumentalists are all very fine, and the singers sound just nifty.

    As with every other DHM recording I've heard, extremely high production standards are evident throughout. Sound quality rivals the good stuff from Jordi Savall on Alia Vox, with true timbers and superb, often realistic dynamics. The oft used baroque guitar sounds very fine, and the occasionally used baroque harp sounds so good that it almost successfully pulls off the "you are there" trick.

    (Disc is OOP and was picked up as an Add-on. It is included in the new DHM 100 CD box.)
     
  17. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Some local fare! The Oregon State University Wind Ensemble put together its own disc of four works, recorded on campus down in the Corn Valley. (Rarely are Graduate Assistants mentioned in disc credits.) The four pieces by four composers were written between 2008 and 2013, with the last, The Vistas of America, written on commission by the Ensemble's leader Christopher Chapman.

    The first work, and title track, is OSU prof Dana Reason's Currents, inspired by the Northwest Pacific Ocean (meaning the Oregon and Washington coasts). Almost a stylistic throwback to some 19th Century fare, the brief work is tumultuous and vibrant. One can almost envision the Devil's Punchbowl at high tide, or waves pounding Haystack Rock during a winter storm. The piece is entertaining enough, if not necessarily a masterpiece. The composer uses the instruments at her disposal quite effectively and extracts more color than one might expect.

    The second work, Upriver, by Dan Welcher, is an historically informed programmatic work. Inspired by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and using tunes found in Meriwether Lewis' journals, Welcher crafts a continuous 14'31" piece infused with folk tunes, old style fiddling from the solo violinist, and proto-Copland soundscapes. It sounds like a movie soundtrack, but one well crafted to accompany an historically accurate flick.

    The third work - the Double Concertino for Tenor Saxophone, Tuba, and Band by Luis Cardoso - is the only non-programmatic piece on the disc. Very heavily influenced by jazz, the piece has some rhythmic swagger to it in the first movement, a sort of hymnal-like quality to the second in the first half, swelling to a powerful climax, and a return to rhythmic swagger in the third. The piece also allows the listener to hear the tubist play the higher registers of his instrument, something one doesn't encounter every day. Stylistically, it very much sounds like tightened up, more idiomatically informed Erwin Schulhoff. I can't say it's better than Schulhoff's wind music, because the Czech blended in other traditions and then popular ideas, but it is probably the best overall work on the disc.

    The disc closes with The Vistas of America, by Billy Childs. In five movements, each representing a different "section" of the US, it moves west from the Pacific to the Atlantic. One can hear some jazz, some grandiose, juiced-up Copland (or maybe trimmed down Ruggles), some Stravinsky, and other not quite generic, not quite readily identifiable influences. It's pretty good, but it ain't a masterpiece, neither.

    Sound is generally very good, but it cannot be called SOTA. Efficient is probably a better word. Playing is generally excellent. This was one of a trio of three buck discs that I figured I could ditch if they weren't up to muster. I'll be keeping this around for a while, but I doubt it ends up being listened to dozens of times. This disc might motivate me to make the short drive down to Corvallis to hear what the ensemble sounds like in person.
     
  18. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    Another of the trio of three buck contemporary music discs I snagged, this one contains five short works by Yotam Haber in a disc coming in at under fifty minutes. Now in his early 40s, these pieces all date from his 30s. The composer himself wrote the liner notes, so there's no interpretation needed by an author to determine what was meant with each piece.

    We Were All opens the disc. In it, Haber sets part of the poem "Cherries" by Andrea Cohen. The dozen lines quoted in the booklet are sparse and simple, and Haber repeats the line "We Were All" throughout his piece to good effect. The lightly scored, transparent music doesn't contain any catchy tunes in the normal sense, but there are snippets that do. The combination of instruments played constantly shifts, creating unusual and fleeting harmonies. (I also believe this marks the time I've listened to a work with an egg shaker in it.) The recorded sound, which is most definitely fully up to date, is a bit artificial in that it doesn't lay out a realistic soundstage, but the clarity of the instruments, and occasional lack of clarity of the voices, works well. I don't recall ever hearing pianissimo marimba playing of such delicate clarity before. Various styles of music blend together, with some passages sounding like different instrument combinations playing different minimalist pieces simultaneously to create something decidedly unminimalist.

    On Leaving Brooklyn, based on an extract from Julia Kasdorf's Eve's Striptease follows. A very striking piece, for vocal ensemble and sparse string support, Haber uses polyphonic repetition of lines as a backdrop for solo and combinations of voices working through the poem, which, when blended with the vaguely ancient/Jewish/Middle Eastern playing, creates an effective modern lamentation. It's the shortest work on the disc, but it's the best, with outsize impact.

    The longest work on the disc, the two part Last Skin, follows. The piece uses eight violins total, with two groups of four violins each. Each group of four tunes the violins such that when playing open strings the quartets can create sixteen pitches. The first movement is fast, the second is slow; the first movement is aggressive and abrasive (and on can hear some Bartok brought forward in time), the second is droning and quiet (one can hear some late DSCH brought forward, and some Glass, and others). The starts off as kind of standard modern fare, but, particularly in the second part, takes on a more complex, effective sound.

    The title work Torus, for string quartet, follows. Per the composer, the players use different filters for their instruments to change the sound, and it starts in a manner that makes the conclusion of Bartok's Fourth sound tame, and heads straight to thrash metal transcribed to string quartet territory. The sound generated by the quartet, as recorded, sounds overloaded and distorted, though obviously on purpose. The music backs way off after the opening minutes, gradually shifting to still swift, but quiet playing interrupted by lengthy pauses.

    The final work is From the Book of Maintenance and Sustenance, based on the litany Avinu Malkenu. Scored for viola and piano, the Jewish music influences are obvious, as the composer intended, with the viola very much sounding like a sorrowful singer. The sound is purposefully contrived, close and dry to the point that it sounds as though the microphones are inside the viola and piano. The effect is not unpleasant, but there'd be no way to hear the music sound this way in person.

    Sound for the disc as a whole is up to modern snuff, with noted caveats relating to production choices. Balances sound a bit better with headphones than speakers. Playing and singing are all up to modern snuff. All of the music is at least reasonably successful, but for me, it's the vocal works that stand out. I would not be averse to hearing more vocal works from Mr Haber.

    Also of note, the composer's wife created the cover images, front and back, making the disc something of a family affair, artistically speaking.
     
  19. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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


    The last of the trio of three buck discs of contemporary music. This disc fits squarely in both The Asian Invasion and "New" Music Log threads because of the participation of three Asian artists, and all of the works are contemporary and by five composers I'd never even seen the names of prior to buying this disc. It could also fit into a women's thread since all three performing artists, and one of the composers, are women. Pianist Sang Hie Lee, born and partly educated in South Korea, formed Ars Nostra to explore and cultivate new music for two pianos which she plays along with Martha Thomas. Both Lee and Thomas are academics with multiple advanced degrees from various universities, and Ms Lee also does research into health and biomechanics pertaining to musicians. Kyoung Cho joins the duo in the first work, and she is likewise a Korean born academic-musician, currently teaching at the University of South Florida.

    The first work is Chera in Nain (2009) by Eun-Hye Park, for two pianos, soprano, and gong. It is based on the story in Luke of Jesus raising a widow's son from the dead. The vocal parts, performed by Kyoung Cho, are in Greek and Korean and alternate between narration and a sort of singspiel. The music is modern, with angular phrasing, some tone clusters, and a generally clangorous sound. It's not terrible, but it's not a great work.

    Next is ...Aber Jetzt Die Nacht... (2013) by Lewis Nielson. The work is based on a journal entry by a concentration camp victim, and at a bit over nineteen minutes, it the longest piece on the disc. It is jagged, dark, at times quite intense, and a reasonable short-hand description would be to think of Schoenberg and Messiaen blended together, with perhaps hints of Prokofiev thrown in. If that blend sounds appealing, then this piece might appeal; if not, probably not. Additional devices are used to extract novel sounds from the piano (eg, soft head hammer, horsehair brush, and E-bow), and for the most part the effects add to, rather than detract from, the proceedings. The use of two pianos does allow for a more powerful sonority and greater weight than a single instrument could achieve, and had the set been recorded to SOTA standards, the impact would likely be greater.

    Celestial Phenomena (2008) by Gerald Chenoweth follows. An "intuitive" tone poem for two pianos, it strives to depict things like the Big Bang, a black hole, starshine, and the like in its ten or so minutes. The massive lower register tone clusters than open the Big Bang do a fine job of opening the work, and the often thick harmonies take maximum advantage of the two pianos in use. (One can envision what a duo like Michel Dalberto and Michael Korstick might be able to deliver in the opening.) The description "tone poem" ends up be pretty accurate, because the piece flows from one brief section to the next logically and smoothly. This is a very modernist piece, with some big dollops of minimalism, some more hints of Messiaen, and it's definitely not a first choice work for people who want traditional melodies in their music.

    Paul Reller's Sonata for Two Pianos (2008) is more formally structured than the preceding works, and is divided into three movements played attacca. Influenced by American musical forms - jazz, blues, and rock, as well as American composers of days gone by like McDowell and Ives - the piece is weighty, dense, and though new to my ears, the more formal approach of the piece made it sort of predictable in overall arc. That's neither a good nor bad thing, it just is. It's more accessible than a fair chunk of post-war piano music, sounding more like it could have been written in the 20s or 30s.

    The concluding work is Windhover (2009) by Daniel Perlongo. The piece is an extended work inspired by a poem inspired by the Eurasian Kestrel. Unsurprisingly, given the inspiration, Messiaen once again comes to mind, but only rarely, and Perlongo is no mere copycat. The hints at birdsong are not as dynamically wide ranging as the Frenchman's music, nor is the writing quite as unpredictable. Perlongo's harmonic invention often falls much easier on the ear, too, with more than a few lovely sounds to be heard, and he does a creditable job creating a sort of static sound, creating a musical image of the depicted bird hovering. The work sort of overstays its welcome, though.

    Overall, this disc is good, the pianists and the vocal artist (who doesn't really sing here) all do good work, but really, for me, only Celestial Phenomena held my interest sufficiently to warrant more than a handful of listens. Others could very well be much more enthusiastic about the disc as a whole.

    The disc is taken from a single live performance at the University of South Florida in Tampa in March 2016. Sound quality is more of the efficient reporting than aural luxury type.
     
  20. Todd A

    Todd A pfm Member

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    I figured it was time to try some more music from Francisco Guerrero, and as luck would have it, this Hyperion reissue was available for peanuts. Unfortunately, I forgot that the Choir of Westminster Cathedral is a boys' choir when I bought the disc, and this issue became evident immediately. I don't like boys' choirs. I truly dislike boy trebles. They grate on my nerves. The altos, too. The music itself sounds as lovely and meticulous as the other Guerrero works I've heard from Savall and Noone, but the singing doesn't work for me at all. The somewhat cavernous sound is good and about what one would expect to hear in a large cathedral. A painless blunder.
     

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