Rolling Classical 2018

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NB: Spectropol Records of Bellingham, WA, is having a half-price sale that ends tomorrow: . I just bought Bruce Hamilton's Lanes, the Frets of Yore comp, and the last Marco Oppedisano. Some interesting EA and new chamber music stuff.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Sunday, 7 January 2018 21:19 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Prediction: This will be the year Barbara Hannigan wins the Sonning Prize. I don't know exactly what that means, but I'm fairly confident.

Frederik B, Sunday, 7 January 2018 21:33 (two weeks ago) Permalink

To kickstart the year, here is, uh, Helmut Lachenmann's Marche fatale:

(Yes, this is an actual piece by Helmut Lachenmann.)

pomenitul, Monday, 8 January 2018 23:39 (one week ago) Permalink

haha wow thanks

anatol_merklich, Tuesday, 9 January 2018 09:20 (one week ago) Permalink

Haha wtf

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Tuesday, 9 January 2018 13:03 (one week ago) Permalink

He penned a little note (in German) explaining (?) his thought-process:

My German is too limited to fully grasp what he's getting at but he's mostly interested in raising new questions, which is thoroughly in keeping with his persona. Not to mention Lachenmann literally means 'the laughing man'.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 9 January 2018 13:35 (one week ago) Permalink

hello classical music friends -- if you have a little extra time/goodwill, please bookmark my thread:

help me with my class?

you wouldn't have to do anything more than contribute your existing knowledge :)

weird woman in a bar (La Lechera), Wednesday, 17 January 2018 16:33 (four days ago) Permalink


This morning: walking to train, the weather was right on the razor's edge between rain and snow and I watched it change from one to the other and back again while listening to Enescu's Cello Sonata which I just noticed yesterday is completely killer.

Other ecstasies from the past few days:

Norgard - Voyage Into the Golden Screen - could not believe my ears at several points during this.
Pehr Henrik Nordgren - symphony op. 20 - grabbed me by the collar, bold and arresting. Radio recording downloaded from the Symphonyshare google group.
Prokofiev Symphony 2 - A pet piece of mine for a couple of decades now, why are this and his 3rd so undervalued? Big feral modernist engines with unbelievable orchestration. #2 formally modeled upon beethoven's Op. 111 supposedly? Op. 111 has come down with rabies, it seems.
Liszt Symphonic Poems, early 1950s Westminster LP, Dean Dixon conducting the Royal PO - Dixon was the first well-known african-american conductor and he spent most of his career leading german radio orchestras. Very underrecorded. This is my first hearing of any of his work. Right here is one of the best Liszt orchestral albums ever put down. A shame it was a few years too early for stereo or its rep would surely be higher. Very good mono sound though, heard in a transfer which can be downloaded for free from the ReDiscovery Records website.
Beethoven sonatas 5-7 Op. 10 - Alfred Brendel (from his first Philips cycle) - please be careful never to overemphasize late beethoven. Early beethoven is no less unique and rich and slays just as much, albeit more swashbucklingly. Confirming for the milionth time that Brendel owns this trilogy (same for op. 32).

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Wednesday, 17 January 2018 17:51 (four days ago) Permalink

Oh, speaking of Nørgård, my choir is doing his Wie Ein Kind, it's pretty amazing. Spotify-link to an album with my choir singing it (though I wasn't in the choir then):
It's the last three tracks.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 18:35 (four days ago) Permalink

There can never be too much Nørgård. Every single one of his periods is incredible in its own right.

Btw Jon, which of Enescu's cello sonatas are you referring to? The first is Brahmsian and big-boned; the second is less immediate but utterly spellbinding once you've taken it in. Few things move me as much as Enescu's late music.

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 20:08 (four days ago) Permalink

Op. 26.

I need to look for the second one ASAP

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Wednesday, 17 January 2018 20:26 (four days ago) Permalink

They're both op. 26, heh (an Enescu quirk: he tended to gather compositions of a given type under the same opus number).

Laura Buruiană and Martin Tchiba's Naxos disc pairing the two sonatas is pretty solid, with a major caveat: the recording is uncharacteristically imbalanced. Valentin Răduțiu and Per Rundberg on Hänssler are worth hearing as well.

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 20:43 (four days ago) Permalink

Buruiana appears to have also recorded that piece (but not the other sonata) in a mixed recital on Avie, maybe that one is better engineered?

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Wednesday, 17 January 2018 21:00 (four days ago) Permalink

The one with Alexandra Silocea? I think it only contains a fragment from an unfinished cello sonata that he worked on prior to op. 26/1.

There's also this live performance of op. 26/2, which I haven't heard yet:

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 21:08 (four days ago) Permalink

On eMusic, I'm also seeing both of the Op. 26 by Alexandre Dmitriev and Alexandre Paley on the french label Saphir.

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Wednesday, 17 January 2018 22:35 (four days ago) Permalink

I don't recall those being any good but it's been a while.

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 22:54 (four days ago) Permalink

Fiancée just texted that she just saw Braunstein play the Shostakovich Violin Concerto and it was amazing. Envious.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Thursday, 18 January 2018 01:51 (three days ago) Permalink

I assume it was the first (it's always the first). The second is painfully undersung, perhaps because very few violinists actually pull it off. I love Oistrakh's take on it (goes without saying) but every other recording I've heard falls short. Too bad, as I think I prefer the second to the first, all things considered.

pomenitul, Thursday, 18 January 2018 19:51 (three days ago) Permalink

the second violin concerto and second cello concerto both suffer from neglect and both RULE, imo

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Thursday, 18 January 2018 20:05 (three days ago) Permalink

Speaking of live video recordings and underperformed 20th century works, I recently stumbled on this amazing version of Wilhelm Stenhammar's second symphony, with Herbert Blomstedt at the helm:

pomenitul, Thursday, 18 January 2018 20:43 (three days ago) Permalink

Yeah, I meant Violin Concerto no. 1, which is a monster, sorry.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Thursday, 18 January 2018 21:01 (three days ago) Permalink

xp Ooh, I've seen Blomstedt conduct Stenhammar in that very hall! Second piano concerto though, last year.

Fascinating concert hall, btw -- rather than the seats rising in a steepish staircase toward the back, it felt like most of the audience were sitting below or level with the stage. Also, gf & me were impressed with the "resolution", or clarity of strands in the music. I don't know to what degree these two are connected.

anatol_merklich, Thursday, 18 January 2018 23:42 (three days ago) Permalink

Right, there it is

anatol_merklich, Thursday, 18 January 2018 23:45 (three days ago) Permalink

Lucky you! I'll check it out in a bit. I'm always happy to hear more Stenhammar.

pomenitul, Friday, 19 January 2018 00:43 (two days ago) Permalink

I’ve never listened to Stenhammar! Probably due to some comment I read in some record guide during the first year I was getting into classical music

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Friday, 19 January 2018 00:52 (two days ago) Permalink

If you're curious, I'd say that video I posted today happens to make for a great introduction. His string quartets are also quite wonderful, especially nos. 4-6 as performed by the aptly named Stenhammar Quartet.

pomenitul, Friday, 19 January 2018 01:08 (two days ago) Permalink

Wow, I never listened to Shostakovich's second violin concerto before tbh. That video is pretty striking. I'll be listening more.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Friday, 19 January 2018 02:56 (two days ago) Permalink

don't neglect cello cto 2 as well!

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Friday, 19 January 2018 16:41 (two days ago) Permalink

And the violin sonata! And the viola sonata! And the string quartets nos. 12-15! And the 14th and 15th symphonies! And the Seven Romances on Poems by Alexander Blok! And the Michelangelo Suite! And the Six Poems by Maria Tsvetaeva! Late Shostakovich is best Shostakovich, imho.

pomenitul, Friday, 19 January 2018 16:46 (two days ago) Permalink

absolutely otm

the 14th symphony is my favorite thing he ever did

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Friday, 19 January 2018 16:47 (two days ago) Permalink

you missed Execution of Stepan Razin on that list btw!

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Friday, 19 January 2018 16:47 (two days ago) Permalink

Yep, that's a good one too.

pomenitul, Friday, 19 January 2018 19:39 (two days ago) Permalink

And I completely agree with you regarding the 14th symphony – it's the purest expression of his vision. And there have been so many tremendous recordings of it in recent years: Currentzis, Petrenko, even Kremer.

pomenitul, Friday, 19 January 2018 19:45 (two days ago) Permalink

Just listened to the vimeo of Stenhammar's second piano concerto that anatol_merklich posted upthread. Wonderful stuff, as expected. I really wish Blomstedt would give us studio recordings of Stenhammar's complete works for orchestra (concertos included), as he has a much better grasp of this idiom than most other conductors I've heard, Stig Westerberg excepted.

As a side note, it's odd how sensitive I am to the performance variable when it comes to pre-WWII composers (in the broadest possible sense). For instance, Soviet-era takes on Shostakovich are almost systematically more convincing than what came after: you can feel the nerve-wracked wiriness behind the first Borodin Quartet's partial set (1-13), whereas the Emerson Quartet just sounds phony. Likewise, certain performances of Sibelius's symphonies do absolutely nothing for me, even as Vänskä's cycle with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra is one of my favourites of all.

By contrast, audibly different though they may be, I love most versions of Le marteau sans maître I've listened to, and I can't think of a single recording of Ligeti's violin concerto that I dislike, even though some strike me as more persuasive than others. Of course, there are also composers such as Richard Barrett who include extended improvisations in their scores, which means that no two performances are ever quite the same, but even there, due to the music's endlessly proliferating, often disorienting strata, it can be hard to tell the improvised sections apart from the composed ones, which I assume is part of the point.

Maybe there is a correlation between the scarcity of performances and the availability of 'authoritative' recordings? Newer music doesn't remain long (if at all) in the limelight, so a given composition will often only be associated with a particular musician or ensemble forevermore. It goes without saying that there are far fewer recorded performances of Saariaho's Près than of Bach's cello suites, in part because we assume that Anssi Karttunen, the cellist who premiered Près (as well as the closely related concerto Amers) 'perfected' (the French verb parachever is closer to what I'm getting at here) the work, since Saariaho explicitly dedicated it to him. Perhaps if we could hear the original Schuppanzigh Quartet's interpretations of late Beethoven, there would be (slightly) fewer sets available today (only 'slightly', though, because the more time goes by, the less performers feel compelled to respect the composer's supposed wishes). That said, LPs of Shostakovich's string quartets actually make for a good counter-example here, though I assume a relative dearth of availability in the West up until the 1990s, as well as lo-fi engineering, are partly to blame.

A final hypothesis: a relative increase in compositional complexity may also have diminished performers' agency. Merely 'getting the notes right' is sometimes a feat in and of itself, whereas in a musical paradigm intent on expressivity, that worships virtuoso figures such as Liszt, Paganini, Alkan, etc., but whose repertoire is comparatively 'simpler' (mark the scare quotes), there's more leeway to compress or distend the phrasing whichever way one deems fit, rubato-style.

pomenitul, Saturday, 20 January 2018 15:40 (yesterday) Permalink

hmmmm. i was thinking something somewhat similar just this week regarding "authoritative" recordings.

i am not sure the presence of an "authoritative" recording is a factor of the number of recordings, myself. my thoughts were regarding the rite of spring. i'd argue that the "authoritative" recording there was bernstein's 1958 recording, which took place 45 years after its premiere. since then, pretty much all recordings have followed that one, reducing the latitude for interpretation. before bernstein's, one hears the rite performed in all sorts of ways, many of which would be thought of as "wrong" today

so i would argue, really, that the absence of an "authoritative" recording in a difficult work gives one _more_ latitude for interpretation, insofar as one person's "interpretation" is another person's "fuckup". i find that the most difficult works tend to sound far more different between versions, at least in part for precisely this reason. (how many different ways has "scarbo" been played?)

Arnold Schoenberg Steals (rushomancy), Saturday, 20 January 2018 15:51 (yesterday) Permalink

To be fair, I doubt Bernstein's Rite of Spring was ever viewed as authoritative in Russia. Authoritativeness varies quite a bit from place to place.

As for 'Scarbo', it's a fiendishly difficult piece within that paradigm, sure, but is it harder to play than, say, Carter's Night Fantasies or Michael Finnissy's solo piano pieces? It doesn't sound that way to me, a layman, so I'd be curious to hear a pianist's thoughts on this.

pomenitul, Saturday, 20 January 2018 15:57 (yesterday) Permalink

By contrast, audibly different though they may be, I love most versions of Le marteau sans maître I've listened to,

Boulez was loosening up compared to his earlier work but surely this piece is still more strictly notated than virtually any pre-war music?

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Saturday, 20 January 2018 16:31 (yesterday) Permalink

Yeah, that's definitely a major factor.

pomenitul, Saturday, 20 January 2018 16:33 (yesterday) Permalink

oh lord, i'm not a pianist but i wasn't ever intending to make a direct comparison between "gaspard de la nuit" and "english country-tunes"! i mean there's a lot of other stuff going on there that makes a direct comparison of those scores in terms of "technical difficulty", i would argue, counterproductive. these are works which were created, and exist, in entirely different sociocultural contexts!

is stravinsky in general thought of highly in russia? i have a wonderful russian recording of "les noces" but stravinsky doesn't really seem to have been celebrated in russia as a "russian".

Arnold Schoenberg Steals (rushomancy), Saturday, 20 January 2018 16:37 (yesterday) Permalink

My bad, Bernstein apparently played a major role in the Rite's Russian reception:

The Rite of Spring had a very different trajectory in Russia than it did in Western Europe. Though conceived in St. Petersburg by a trio of Russians - choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, with a libretto and set design by Nicholas Roerich, and music by Stravinsky - the famous original ballet was never performed in Russia itself. Serge Koussevitsky gave performances of the concert work in 1914 in St. Petersburg, and afterwards the ballet had a spotty Russian history. Stravinsky never found the favor in Soviet Russia that Prokofiev or Shostakovich did. When Leonard Bernstein led the New York Philharmonic in The Rite on a tour to Moscow in 1959, it was the first time the work had been performed in the city in thirty years.

pomenitul, Saturday, 20 January 2018 16:44 (yesterday) Permalink

My view was informed by Gergiev's – a reassessment more than anything:

pomenitul, Saturday, 20 January 2018 16:46 (yesterday) Permalink

clearly stravinsky was russian - outside of russia one can hardly help but think of him in this way - but he was never soviet, and whatever russia is under putin, he wasn't that either. at some point the russians may "rediscover" him as one of their own... but he currently has no apparent value as a cultural symbol to the russian oligarchs.

Arnold Schoenberg Steals (rushomancy), Saturday, 20 January 2018 17:00 (yesterday) Permalink

For curiosity's sake, I checked out the Bolshoi Theatre's upcoming shows. Par for the course:

I love how La Traviata, Manon Lescaut, Billy Budd and The Taming of the Shrew, among others, are billed as for 'adults only'.

The Mariinsky Theatre is considerably more adventurous and incidentally features The Rite of Spring (along with a lecture) and Petrushka:

pomenitul, Saturday, 20 January 2018 17:11 (yesterday) Permalink

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