Rolling Classical 2020

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I thought this essay on Wagner and his anti-Semitism (or, rather, anti-Judaism, as the author concludes) was really great, avoiding simplistic takes and looking in depth at the work, the ideas, and the history (and I often roll my eyes wrt discussions of this topic):

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 5 January 2020 20:31 (three months ago) link

(h/t Oor Neechy)

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 5 January 2020 20:33 (three months ago) link

It's five years old but new to me.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Sunday, 5 January 2020 20:41 (three months ago) link

Its not new but it is a very good read. I'm not really familiar with Wagners music though.


Dog Is Daed (Oor Neechy), Sunday, 5 January 2020 20:42 (three months ago) link

Good piece indeed, even though there are grounds for quibbling here and there. For instance, Mendelssohn was baptized and wrote quite a bit of explicitly Christian music, so Wagner's anti-semitism went beyond opposition to Judaism.

pomenitul, Monday, 6 January 2020 02:13 (three months ago) link

Alex Ross's big Wagner book is finally coming out this year, so I'll read this now and think about it again later, probably.

shared unit of analysis (unperson), Monday, 6 January 2020 02:28 (three months ago) link

Not sure if this fits in on this thread, but has anyone listened to Ekmeles: A Howl That Was Also A Prayer?

idgaf (roxymuzak), Tuesday, 7 January 2020 17:28 (three months ago) link

It definitely fits. I just started listening to it. I'd never heard of Taylor Brook but he is apparently a young Canadian composer and McGill grad? Cool.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Tuesday, 7 January 2020 20:10 (three months ago) link

Listening to a really cool solo organ album with terrible cover art. Some seriously swoopy prog-rock noises going on here.

shared unit of analysis (unperson), Wednesday, 8 January 2020 00:59 (three months ago) link

Sorry, here's the terrible cover art in question:

shared unit of analysis (unperson), Wednesday, 8 January 2020 01:00 (three months ago) link

There's far worse tbf. Anyway, I haven't heard the album but Finns are ever reliable composers.

pomenitul, Wednesday, 8 January 2020 01:10 (three months ago) link

The album's really good in a "let's freak out the neighbor's pets" sort of way. Not subtle stuff by any stretch.

shared unit of analysis (unperson), Wednesday, 8 January 2020 01:13 (three months ago) link

Roxy, I've listened to it a couple of times (always while doing something else) and am finding it interesting. There are definitely things to enjoy. The effects and resonances Brook gets from the microtonal motion of voices are very cool and reminded me a little of Qasim Naqvi's Fjoloy. Thw changing vowel shapes show a definite throat singing influence. I really liked the Gee piece: like choral clicks and cuts at times but juxtaposed with more sustained resonant material and those piercing overtones. Great range of timbres and to the point. I think I am still getting a handle on everything that's going on with the Trapani piece in terms of how the voices, electronics, and text are working together but there are pretty moments.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Wednesday, 8 January 2020 21:30 (three months ago) link

i find the spoken portions in Brook's portion sound almost...parodic? i don't know, they rubbed me the wrong way and took me out of it at times. love how all the microtonal stuff sounds juxtaposed with a kind of ars antiqua sound. i enjoyed the little tricks like the bird sounds, and the dial tone (i'm pretty sure that was vocal?) in Trapani's piece, i'm a nut for that kind of thing.

idgaf (roxymuzak), Thursday, 9 January 2020 17:53 (three months ago) link

Yeah, the connection between the text and music in the Brook isn't clear to me either. If I focus on the text, it does take me out of the music as well. If I listen for the sound, which is how I listen to it most of the time, the spoken word doesn't bother me but I'm also basically tuning out the text. Someone who knows more about contemporary literature than I do might be getting more out of it? I agree with your comment about the medieval allusions as well.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Thursday, 9 January 2020 20:27 (three months ago) link

I see New Focus are also putting out an album by Yale guitarist/composer Ben Verdery, with "Scenes from Ellis Island" as the featured track on Bandcamp here: . I had the opportunity to play in a performance of this piece last August and it's a little surprising to hear this version, which is notably different, with a more stripped down guitar 'ensemble' (I'm guessing overdubs of the two guitarists), a female singer, and no electric guitar solo. The version I played in (also led by Verdery) was closer to the style of these: + . New version sounds beautiful but seems too polite.

Un sang impur (Sund4r), Thursday, 9 January 2020 20:39 (three months ago) link

Coming up in March: Barbara Hannigan's take on Gérard Grisey's Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil. Yessss

pomenitul, Saturday, 11 January 2020 16:01 (two months ago) link

I have a download of her doing that live with the NYPO. It’s excellent.

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Saturday, 11 January 2020 18:59 (two months ago) link

Oh, that's exciting.

One must put up barriers to keep oneself intact (Sund4r), Sunday, 12 January 2020 00:06 (two months ago) link

So these are the compositions up for a Grammy tonight. There are a few composers I like a fair bit but I haven't actually listened to any of these yet.:

Berme: Migration Series For Jazz Ensemble & Orchestra, Derek Bermel, composer (Derek Bermel, Ted Nash, David Alan Miller, Juilliard Jazz Orchestra & Albany Symphony Orchestra)
Higdon: Harp Concerto, Jennifer Higdon, composer (Yolanda Kondonassis, Ward Stare & The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra)
Marsalis: Violin Concerto in D Major, Wynton Marsalis, composer (Nicola Benedetti, Cristian Măcelaru & Philadelphia Orchestra)
Norman: Sustain, Andrew Norman, composer (Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic)
Shaw: Orange, Caroline Shaw, composer (Attacca Quartet)
Wolfe: Fire in My Mouth, Julia Wolfe, composer (Jaap Van Zweden, Francisco J.Núñez, Donald Nally, The Crossing, Young People's Chorus Of NY City & New York Philharmonic)

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Monday, 27 January 2020 03:20 (two months ago) link

And Higdon won, it seems. I remember liking her Zaka quite a bit. I'm interested in new harp music. Look forward to hearing this.

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Monday, 27 January 2020 03:27 (two months ago) link

I know the cellist from the Attacca Qtet, very cool that they got a nomination

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Monday, 27 January 2020 05:14 (two months ago) link

I don't know Higdon, but the Grammys nominating Norman, Shaw, Wolfe and Marsalis is honestly better than expected. Though there's probably still people out there complaining serialism got snubbed.

Frederik B, Monday, 27 January 2020 08:38 (two months ago) link

Though there's probably still people out there complaining serialism got snubbed.


*Well, not quite, insofar as serialism is hardly progressive these days and hasn't been for a long time – just another tool in the contemporary composer's shed – but I do find this list of nominees rather and safe and yawn-inducing and American-centric. Not that I expect anything else from the Grammy Awards regardless of category. As a side note, I will no doubt get eviscerated for including none of these composers in the upcoming late 20th/early 21st century decade polls, but when canonical consensus becomes more problematic than ever, I think it's best to own up to one's more subjective intuitions. But we should be fine up until the… 1990s, maybe?

pomenitul, Monday, 27 January 2020 09:24 (two months ago) link

*rather safe

pomenitul, Monday, 27 January 2020 09:27 (two months ago) link

You kinda have to have Partita and Play on there... And Beyond Ocean. Don't fill it up with US hipster stuff, but those three have to be on there imo.

No, it's definitely American-centric, but it's the Grammys, so. I think it's pretty amazing that Andrew Norman is considered safe, and you're probably right, he is, but Play to me is still wtf-just-hit-me incredible.

Frederik B, Monday, 27 January 2020 09:31 (two months ago) link

I don't like Partita and haven't heard Play but as a merciful poll god I will likely include them nonetheless (the former for sure, as its impact is undeniable).

Beyond Ocean will definitely make it – I'm a JLA fan.

pomenitul, Monday, 27 January 2020 09:34 (two months ago) link

I honestly think you might like Andrew Norman. It's pretty crazy. And he has been good at explaining what is new, I've used quotes from him in a couple of film reviews.

Frederik B, Monday, 27 January 2020 09:37 (two months ago) link

Sold. I've added him to my list.

pomenitul, Monday, 27 January 2020 09:43 (two months ago) link

We're talking about the awards given out by an organization of leading figures in the US commercial recording industry so, yes, it's going to be US-slanted and on the safer side. (They're notoriously stuffy even about pop music.) Maybe I should raise my standards but tbh I'm just impressed that they nominate new music at all every year. I've written two serial pieces in the last few years but you could definitely get MORE conservative than Norman/Shaw/Wolfe/Higdon.

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Monday, 27 January 2020 13:22 (two months ago) link

Maybe I should raise my standards but tbh I'm just impressed that they nominate new music at all every year.

Realistically speaking, it's pretty cool that they even so much as acknowledge the field.

pomenitul, Monday, 27 January 2020 13:30 (two months ago) link

I reviewed a new album of organ music - Susanne Kujala's Organ Music of the 21st Century. It's really good.

shared unit of analysis (unperson), Tuesday, 28 January 2020 13:25 (two months ago) link

Yeah, I remember you mentioning it upthread. I'll check it out, thanks.

pomenitul, Tuesday, 28 January 2020 13:37 (two months ago) link

Peter Serkin just passed away. He was an extraordinary pianist, as comfortable in Webern, Messiaen and Takemitsu as he was in the mainstream canonical classics. I don't think I've ever heard a recording of his that I didn't like. He will be missed.

toilet-cleaning brain surgeon (pomenitul), Sunday, 2 February 2020 10:25 (two months ago) link

Just saw that news myself
A rather underrecorded pianist unfortunately

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Sunday, 2 February 2020 18:49 (two months ago) link

Unsuk Chin wins the Sonning award for 2021. They continue their good run, after Hans Abrahamsen in 2019 and Barbara Hannigan in 2020.

I think I have a ticket for the Hannigan award gala. She is doing most of Crazy Girl Crazy, both Berg and Gershwin.

Frederik B, Monday, 3 February 2020 18:19 (two months ago) link

Happy to hear it! I haven't kept up with her recent work at all but she remains an incredible composer.

toilet-cleaning brain surgeon (pomenitul), Monday, 3 February 2020 18:20 (two months ago) link

i need her to record schoenberg op. 10. I have a live capture but the sound has probz

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Monday, 3 February 2020 18:25 (two months ago) link

Sweet premise:

― pomenitul

if they're not grossly underrehearsed it shouldn't count!

quick nerd question, Sveshnikov's recording of "All-Night Vigil", there's only one of those from '65, right? the recordings i'm finding are dated '73 but i don't know if that's just when they released it in the west...

you know my name, look up the number of the beast (rushomancy), Wednesday, 5 February 2020 01:04 (two months ago) link

I'm fairly confident it's the same recording.

toilet-cleaning brain surgeon (pomenitul), Wednesday, 5 February 2020 09:28 (two months ago) link

i sort of figured so, thanks!

in between superficially checking out some of the decade poll stuff i am unfamiliar with (there's too much for me to absorb it all!) i've been getting more into ars subtilior... at least the quantity of this stuff is more manageable, as far as i can tell most of it comes down to the codex chantilly. lots of different recordings, but that's all for the better.

you know my name, look up the number of the beast (rushomancy), Wednesday, 5 February 2020 14:27 (two months ago) link

Fascinating to see/hear the Ensemble Intercontemporain play Takemitsu:

toilet-cleaning brain surgeon (pomenitul), Friday, 7 February 2020 14:28 (two months ago) link

Cool. Do you think you might go to any of those festival concerts?

jmm, Friday, 7 February 2020 15:55 (two months ago) link

The Saturday night Perroy concert would probably be easiest since I work during most of the others. Friday night possibly but Feb 14 is, uh, not necessarily the best day to make plans to bro down over nylon strings.

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Friday, 7 February 2020 16:12 (two months ago) link

Cool article, and I enjoyed the YT embeds as well.

toilet-cleaning brain surgeon (pomenitul), Friday, 7 February 2020 16:39 (two months ago) link

A couple nights ago I saw this piece by Quebec composer Jacques Hétu, based on the occupation of France. I thought the choral movement (4. Liberté), with text by Paul Éluard, was really gorgeous. Julie Payette was in the choir, randomly.

jmm, Saturday, 8 February 2020 14:16 (two months ago) link

I've always been a bit wary of him as he is championed by reactionaries such as Le Devoir's resident classical music critic, and I have little patience for straight Neo-classicism in general, but I'll check it out anyway.

toilet-cleaning brain surgeon (pomenitul), Saturday, 8 February 2020 14:24 (two months ago) link

Went to the P2 Award Gala last saturday. It opened with the winner of the Talent award, 24-year old Gustav Piekut, playing Debussy's L'Isle Joyeuse, and I think the video works:

Other award winners included Event of the year going to Hans Abrahamsens 'Snedronningen', which, duh. Best New Music album was Nordic String Quartet for a recording of string quartets by Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgren. I'm not saying what won Best Danish Album, because you can all figure it out, even more duh. Yeah, that album, an Abrahamsen opera, Piekut beginning to break through. Classical is doing pretty damn well in Denmark at the moment.

Frederik B, Monday, 10 February 2020 10:58 (one month ago) link

I got his 2010 Bach CD on Naxos. It's been sounding v good so far.

With considerable charm, you still have made a choice (Sund4r), Sunday, 16 February 2020 17:37 (one month ago) link

absolutely bracing stuff here, very worth your time

she carries a torch. two torches, actually (Joan Crawford Loves Chachi), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 02:02 (one month ago) link


Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 04:12 (one month ago) link

Thanks for the heads up – I'll listen to anything released by the JACK Quartet.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Tuesday, 18 February 2020 09:32 (one month ago) link

Is anyone familiar with Hermann Abert's enormous book on Mozart?

I'm wondering if I should give it a shot (not that I need be starting more large books right now.)

jmm, Tuesday, 18 February 2020 18:14 (one month ago) link

(Not sure if this belongs on this thread but) I really enjoyed Robert Haigh's newest on Unseen Worlds, called Black Sarabande. Anyone else? Minimal piano-led pieces.

idgaf (roxymuzak), Tuesday, 25 February 2020 19:03 (one month ago) link

Yeah, I kinda love it? Much better than I expected, though I can't really explain why

Frederik B, Tuesday, 25 February 2020 19:28 (one month ago) link

it's the first thing this year that i've felt compelled to listen to repeatedly

idgaf (roxymuzak), Friday, 28 February 2020 16:00 (one month ago) link

will test drive!

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Friday, 28 February 2020 17:38 (one month ago) link

Nikolai Lugansky's take on César Franck's piano works is predictably excellent, although no transcription of the Prélude, Fugue et Variation could ever match the organ original:

Fitting music for this semblance of the end times…

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Monday, 9 March 2020 21:59 (one month ago) link

Come to think of it, the piano & harmonium duo version is even better (the variation at 6:04 just slays me):

(The Chamayou/Latry recording easily tops this one btw.)

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Monday, 9 March 2020 22:05 (one month ago) link

Always nice to see Han Reiziger (the presenter, rip) pop up. A lovely rendition indeed.

Le Bateau Ivre, Tuesday, 10 March 2020 15:04 (four weeks ago) link

since everything has to tie in to COVID-19 right now, Brett Dean (australian composer and violist, I've always meant to listen to him since I adore the viola) has been diagnosed. First person from the CM world that i've seen news of.

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 10 March 2020 15:08 (four weeks ago) link

Fuck, I hope he'll be alright. And I can't wait for this to be over.

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Tuesday, 10 March 2020 15:10 (four weeks ago) link

there will certainly be more as CM is so very travel-heavy :(

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 10 March 2020 15:14 (four weeks ago) link

That blows. Hope he gets better soon.

Le Bateau Ivre, Tuesday, 10 March 2020 15:15 (four weeks ago) link

someone posted about Víkingur Ólafsson -- he has a new one out this year, Debussy / Rameau

idgaf (roxymuzak), Tuesday, 10 March 2020 18:26 (four weeks ago) link

How COVID-19 is going to fuck over opera singers

but also fuck you (unperson), Wednesday, 11 March 2020 17:36 (four weeks ago) link

Just got the Cenk Ergün/JACK Quartet disc mentioned above in yesterday's mail; looking forward to checking it out.

Reviewing the new Darragh Morgan/John Tilbury recording of For John Cage for The Wire.

And as promised, here are links to my interview with violinist Isabelle Faust:


but also fuck you (unperson), Friday, 13 March 2020 13:35 (three weeks ago) link

was gonna see the local symphony orchestra do berio's sinfonia but that was obviously cancelled. flip side is that the portland baroque orchestra, who of course also aren't going to be able to put on a public concert, has just decided to livestream their concert instead. i'm down with that!

Kate (rushomancy), Saturday, 14 March 2020 01:39 (three weeks ago) link

Along the same lines as the blog post unperson linked to upthread:

romanesque architect (pomenitul), Sunday, 15 March 2020 01:17 (three weeks ago) link

berliner philharmoniker making their digital archive free for a bit:

ogmor, Monday, 16 March 2020 11:24 (three weeks ago) link

the st. paul chamber orchestra’s free concert library:

budo jeru, Wednesday, 18 March 2020 22:14 (three weeks ago) link


coco vide (pomenitul), Monday, 23 March 2020 16:16 (two weeks ago) link


coco vide (pomenitul), Sunday, 29 March 2020 13:41 (one week ago) link

I still struggle with his post-1970s output, even as I am sympathetic to the aesthetic conversion he underwent – it just seems as though he never figured out where to go with it. His iconoclastic early material, however, is bound to remain.

coco vide (pomenitul), Sunday, 29 March 2020 14:10 (one week ago) link

I listened to the Naxos recording of the St Luke Passion this morning. Not only is my understanding of his work colored by hearing "Threnody For the Victims of Hiroshima," but it's colored by only really hearing the first minute or two of the piece, and thinking the guy had made a career out of microtonal sludge and writing him off. St Luke Passion was amazing, and I'll have to make time to hear his other music.

BLU SAPHIR, BUT WHY (Tom Violence), Sunday, 29 March 2020 14:18 (one week ago) link

He only really composed in that avant-garde 'sludge' style (which I think was brilliant) in the 60s. String Quartet no. 3 ("Leaves from an Unwritten Diary"), from 2008, was the first one I pulled out this morning. It's one I could listen to over and over, maybe closer to a Bartok-influenced style? Very expressive without being drippy Romanticism; still tonal and melodic but with a lot of dissonant chromaticism and folk references. It was great to see the Penderecki Quartet perform it a few years ago.

Sund4r, Sunday, 29 March 2020 14:59 (one week ago) link

Excellent, evenhanded obituary by Keith Potter:

coco vide (pomenitul), Sunday, 29 March 2020 15:35 (one week ago) link

Hm, that's kind of brutal, as obituaries go. I'm not sure i know the St Luke's Passion tbh.

Sund4r, Sunday, 29 March 2020 15:45 (one week ago) link

Yet those early works, which at the time struck so many as so arresting in their dramatic challenge to convention, now seem – for some listeners at least – shallow, simplistic, or even opportunistic.


ogmor, Sunday, 29 March 2020 15:50 (one week ago) link

Yeah, that was O_O. "Some people say"...

Sund4r, Sunday, 29 March 2020 15:52 (one week ago) link

Tbf the sentence that follows is just as tart. He seems to be writing from the point of view of über-modernists and musical populists both.

coco vide (pomenitul), Sunday, 29 March 2020 15:56 (one week ago) link

ppl who enjoy the comfort of their own enervating self-consciously cold judgement do seem esp drawn to classical music

ogmor, Sunday, 29 March 2020 16:00 (one week ago) link

the comfort of their own enervating self-consciously cold judgement

This seems fairer, since I have no idea what Potter's own position is after reading that obituary.

coco vide (pomenitul), Sunday, 29 March 2020 16:02 (one week ago) link

Well, as he notes, an über-modernist could hate both early and late Penderecki for the reasons he gives. After reading his Gorecki obit, though, I'm not sure that is actually where he comes from himself.

Sund4r, Sunday, 29 March 2020 16:05 (one week ago) link

A scholar of American minimalism? That could work:

Sund4r, Sunday, 29 March 2020 16:06 (one week ago) link

Ahahaha, it all makes sense now.

coco vide (pomenitul), Sunday, 29 March 2020 16:08 (one week ago) link

Anyway, what are everyone's favourite Penderecki recordings? As noted, I favour the Penderecki Quartet's SQ3. I have the Wit/Polish NSRO disc with Symphony 3 and Threnody but I feel like I've heard some more intense Threnodies. Good recordings of St Luke's Passion?

Sund4r, Sunday, 29 March 2020 16:08 (one week ago) link

Penderecki's own 60s recordings are where it's at. For the St. Luke Passion, I've only heard his 1989 take, which is as good as you'd expect. Of his works in a self-consciously tonal idiom, I vaguely enjoy his Violin Concertos (No. 1 with Isaac Stern & No. 2 with Anne-Sophie Mutter).

coco vide (pomenitul), Sunday, 29 March 2020 16:16 (one week ago) link

I really liked Utrenja, a huge piece recorded in Wit’s series on Naxos

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Sunday, 29 March 2020 19:01 (one week ago) link

Don't know that one. I'll have to binge on his complete works one of these days.

coco vide (pomenitul), Sunday, 29 March 2020 19:03 (one week ago) link

Listened to that St. Luke's Passion today but it ended up being broken up and sometimes distracted so I definitely will come back to it. A lot of really striking and intense moments, though.

Sund4r, Sunday, 29 March 2020 22:43 (one week ago) link

Listening to this disc now, which I bought as an undergraduate:
First string quartet still so striking.

Sund4r, Monday, 30 March 2020 00:10 (one week ago) link

I absent-mindedly heard said disc once, more than 15 years ago. Time to make up for that, especially now that the 1960s poll is on its way.

Another obituary worth reading, courtesy of Tim Rutherford-Johnson:

coco vide (pomenitul), Monday, 30 March 2020 16:36 (one week ago) link

some of the most emo music in the classical canon - that's more like it!

ogmor, Monday, 30 March 2020 16:48 (one week ago) link

National Arts Centre Orchestra musicians doing solo lunch break Youtube performances from home every day:

Sund4r, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:39 (one week ago) link

Something about the phenomenon of NACO players doing solo livestreams from their living rooms really impressed on me what a world-historical crisis we are living through.

Sund4r, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 18:50 (one week ago) link

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