Rolling Classical 2021

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A recording of Bach's six Cello Suites by ex-Arditti Quartet cellist Rohan de Saram came out yesterday. 2021's off to a promising start.

Speaking of the Ardittis, I also look forward to their studio recordings of Georg Friedrich Haas's 4th and 7th String Quartets for NEOS.

pomenitul, Saturday, 2 January 2021 19:09 (one year ago) link

this Helge Sten and Ståle Storløkken/Trondheim Voices collaboration is beautiful.

calzino, Friday, 15 January 2021 11:37 (one year ago) link

Love me some new Hubro.

pomenitul, Friday, 15 January 2021 13:23 (one year ago) link

This video is labelled as audio of Villa-Lobos playing his first Prelude, which I've never heard before. He did it much slower than I'm used to, assuming it's legitimate! Some images of him playing guitar, although I don't think it's the same piece.

Inside there's a box and that box has another box within (Sund4r), Sunday, 17 January 2021 05:35 (one year ago) link

Hilary Hahn describes her new album:

In the meantime, here’s some info on the pieces and album. ❤️

Earrings (mine) by @satelliteparis.

— Hilary Hahn (@violincase) January 25, 2021

Inside there's a box and that box has another box within (Sund4r), Monday, 25 January 2021 01:41 (eleven months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Might as well xpost the classical titles from the rolling favourite tracks and albums 2021 thread:

Behzod Abduraimov – Debussy, Chopin, Mussorgsky [two warhorses and a half, Children's Corner, 24 Preludes and Pictures at an Exhibition, incredibly well played by this young Uzbek pianist]

Johann Sebastian Bach – Well-Tempered Clavier (Piotr Anderszewski) [just a single disc: excerpts from Book II, played piecemeal and out of order yet oh so well]

Ludwig van Beethoven – Missa solemnis (René Jacobs, et al.) [a notoriously impossible work, yet Jacobs, a countertenor-turned-conductor, pulls it off because he gets that it's all about the balance of voices]

Marc Monnet – En pièces (François-Frédéric Guy) [supposedly a jokey composer yet most of these piano etudes are light-absorbing, with a predilection for the lowest registers]

Olga Neuwirth – Solo (Klangforum Wien) [all solo works, duh, including one for flute and typewriter; best album I've ever heard by this Austrian composer who once turned Lost Highway into an opera]

Thibaut Roussel, et al. – Le Coucher du roi. Musiques pour la chambre de Louis XIV [Renaissance ambient music for the Sun King to go to bed to; a bit weird, because some of it is more upbeat than you'd expect]

A few extras:

Alfred Schnittke – Works for Violin and Piano (Daniel Hope & Alexey Botvinov)

Elliott Carter – La musique (Swiss Chamber Soloists)

Florent Boffard – Beethoven, Berg, Boulez

Johann Sebastian Bach – Partitas, Part 1 (Evgeni Koroliov)

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Sol Gabetta & Camerata Bern – Plaisirs illuminés

Stefano Gervasoni – Muro di canti (Monica Bacelli, Aldo Orvieto, Alvise Vidolin, Marco Liuni)

Toshio Hosokawa – Solo (Klangforum Wien)

Vagn Holmboe – String Quartets, Vol. 1 (Nightingale Quartet)

pomenitul, Thursday, 11 February 2021 03:21 (eleven months ago) link

You had me at "flute and typewriter". I see Klangforum Wien is releasing five 'solo' thingies in total?!? Sciarrino, Saunders and Aperghis too.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 11 February 2021 06:18 (eleven months ago) link

Saunders and Sciarrino are two of my favourite living composers but I found their sets a bit disappointing, alas. The Aperghis is quite good, however, and I probably should have included it, I’m just a bit biased because I don’t love the rest of his output.

pomenitul, Thursday, 11 February 2021 14:41 (eleven months ago) link

This seems like it's actually serious:

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Thursday, 11 February 2021 17:12 (eleven months ago) link

This seems like it's actually serious:🕸

melodic classical music that is full of passion


Mosholu Porkway (Boring, Maryland), Thursday, 11 February 2021 20:38 (eleven months ago) link


The first and only festival of its kind in the world with the mission to promote and showcase high-quality orchestral music that is tuneful, accessible, universally appealing and created by a diverse number of living composers attending the events.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Thursday, 11 February 2021 20:44 (eleven months ago) link

I've listened twice to Abduraimov's recording of the Chopin Preludes. I've been conditioned by Pollini and Argerich to expect v expressive rubato interpretations of these so Abduraimov's comparative restraint and precision was almost disorienting at first. On the second listen, though, I could appreciate the elegance of how he was letting the lines and the pulse speak for themselves.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Friday, 12 February 2021 14:16 (eleven months ago) link

Interesting. I wasn’t particularly struck by his restraint – he seems to have taken his cues from the Russian school above all – but now that I think back on Pollini’s and (especially) Argerich’s recordings, I see what you’re saying.

pomenitul, Friday, 12 February 2021 16:01 (eleven months ago) link

You know it sucks that people with corny-ass taste in music are still banging the (obviously incorrect) drum that “academia and the classical music Establishment is trying to shove atonal noise down audiences’ throats.” It may have had a grain of truth once in the 50s-70s (and at that, manly in Europe but definitely not North America or the UK where the warhorses are beaten into a pulp anew every subscription season). But the most popular living classical composers today are mostly melodic and tonal, and audiences seem to react well to the somnambulant Post-Minimalism that is being churned out by the yard these days, so I don’t know what those “let’s bring good music back” chuckleheads are reacting against unless they think like Nico Muhly or Jake Heggie is too avant-garde or something.

Mosholu Porkway (Boring, Maryland), Friday, 12 February 2021 16:34 (eleven months ago) link

It’s been all downhill since the tritone imo.

pomenitul, Friday, 12 February 2021 16:45 (eleven months ago) link

Happy birthday Fernando Sor!

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 14 February 2021 01:31 (eleven months ago) link

Anyone who misses the arch-high modernist complexity of old should check out contemporary British composer Sam Hayden's piano works as played by the indefatigable Ian Pace. Disc 1 is devoted to a fittingly protean recent cycle, Becomings, that sustained my interest throughout despite my somewhat waning interest in the subgenre, while disc 2 focuses on older, more approachable yet equally relentless works, including one, Piano Moves (1990), that engages with post-minimalism.

pomenitul, Sunday, 14 February 2021 22:10 (eleven months ago) link

I'm not averse to minimalism or even post minimalism it's just very easy to become car commercial music.

Mosholu Porkway (Boring, Maryland), Sunday, 14 February 2021 22:12 (eleven months ago) link

Definitely, and Sam Hayden manifestly agreed as far back as 1990: Piano Moves sounds like post-minimalism for people who hate post-minimalism (my feelings towards it are not as belligerent, I just think it takes up way too much cultural space). Anyway, the other pieces are all at the furthest possible remove from US-style minimalism.

pomenitul, Sunday, 14 February 2021 22:16 (eleven months ago) link

Thanks for the recommendation will check out.

Mosholu Porkway (Boring, Maryland), Sunday, 14 February 2021 22:19 (eleven months ago) link

it's just very easy to become car commercial music.

Haha. I once found myself uttering "Can we switch to something else? We appear to have entered a merchant banking advertisement" while being driven through a deserted business district to a soundtrack of... not exactly sure now, some CD of numbingly circular orchestral music. It was too real.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Sunday, 14 February 2021 23:55 (eleven months ago) link

I listened to the seven movement piece "Becomings". Oddly, I found myself more able to get into it after a couple of drinks, when I could let myself fall into the space of the piece(s) and give time to all the dynamics and textures without trying too hard to pick out the formal logic. I'm still not sure I completely have a handle on it but it's interesting and there's a lot happening, a bit like some of the early Boulez integral-serialist piano works.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 15 February 2021 04:23 (eleven months ago) link

We were listening to Thomas Demenga's 2017 ECM recording of the six Bach cello suites this morning. The dark and smooth tone he got by using historically-informed instruments (18th- and 17th century cellos, apparently, Baroque-style bow, unwound gut strings tuned down a whole tone; not that much vibrato, compared to what I usually expect) is really pleasing, esp with the ECM recording.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 15 February 2021 04:43 (eleven months ago) link

Glad you enjoyed the Hayden! I tend to approach self-consciously complex notated music in much the same manner as free improv (and composers/performers like Richard Barrett have explicitly sought to bridge that gap) so the moment-to-moment energy is what draws me in first and foremost. The underlying theory comes later, provided I’m even able to grasp its logic, which is almost never the case beyond the basics and, occasionally, the extramusical material that Inspired the work.

As for Demenga, that set was a pleasant surprise when it came out. I had enjoyed his previous series for ECM, pairing Bach with various contemporary composers, and found his takes on the latter as persuasive as his readings of the former were not. The re-recordings are something else entirely, just marvellous stuff.

pomenitul, Monday, 15 February 2021 16:58 (eleven months ago) link

As a final addendum to 2020, two albums I missed out on last year:

David Chaillou’s Légendes as played by Laura Mikkola, a beautiful piano cycle that melds post-minimalism (that word again!) with the post-Debussyan French tradition, so you’ll hear echoes of Dutilleux and, to a lesser extent, Grisey. Lovely and accessible yet never simplistic.

Four recordings from the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2019 that only just popped up on streaming services despite their official (physical) release last October: works by Mark Andre, Johannes Boris Borowski, Eva Reiter and Alberto Posadas. Andre – a French (ex-French?) student of Lachenmann’s who makes residually ‘religious’ music inspired by his Lutheran faith and his fascination with etymological word-fragments – and Posadas – a Spanish post-spectralist with a gift for poetically imaginative writing – are among my favourite living composers, so this one was a no-brainer for me, but all contributions here are very much worthwhile if you care for the continental European scene.

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 February 2021 15:10 (eleven months ago) link

I listened to the Chaillou disc in the background. It seemed pretty and well-crafted but didn't make an extremely strong first impression - that's not necessarily a bad thing, though. I will come back to it since it's the kind of thing I've been wanting more of.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Wednesday, 17 February 2021 20:53 (eleven months ago) link

It’s nothing earth-shattering but I’m partial to this idiom and Chaillou does justice to it, I think. Also, fwiw, I liked my second encounter with it better – my first was closer to your assessment (and, who knows?, perhaps my third as well).

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 February 2021 21:11 (eleven months ago) link

György Kurtág just turned 95!

To mark this, a new recording of The Saying of Péter Bornemisza, with Tony Arnold and Gábor Csalog, was released today.

BMC records, the Hungarian label, is hosting a four-day Kurtág festival:

Amsterdam's Muziekgebouw and Pierre-Laurent Aimard will also be streaming several works of his:

pomenitul, Friday, 19 February 2021 17:14 (eleven months ago) link

Livestream concert at 8:30 Eastern time by Twin Cities new music org 113 Composers:

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Saturday, 20 February 2021 23:05 (ten months ago) link

It's at a significant remove from my own preferences, but I'm glad they're doing this. The O'Rourke in particular is incredible.

pomenitul, Friday, 5 March 2021 14:11 (ten months ago) link

Characteristically terrific, semi-improvised electroacoustic duos between Richard Barrett (composition and electronics) and five musicians: Daryl Buckley (electric lap steel guitar and electronics), Ivana Grahovac (cello), Lori Freedman (bass clarinet), Anne La Berge (flute) and Lê Quan Ninh (percussion):

Rewards, even requires close listening, of course. Tim Rutherford-Johnson wrote about it on his Rambler blog:

pomenitul, Sunday, 14 March 2021 20:51 (ten months ago) link

Wow, "Dysnomia" is certainly promising, for starters...

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Sunday, 14 March 2021 22:25 (ten months ago) link

Dudamel's Ives set won the Grammy for orchestral performance.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 15 March 2021 02:42 (ten months ago) link

A deserving winner, especially since Concurrence by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra & Daníel Bjarnason came out in 2019…

pomenitul, Monday, 15 March 2021 02:48 (ten months ago) link

Dudamel's Ives set won the Grammy for orchestral performance.

Still haven't gotten around to listening to it but oi tlk be hard to dislodge Bernstein and MTT from their leading positions. We as a culture are only getting further away from the kind of soumdworld that Ives drew on, and I feel like Bernstein, although of a different background, understood that world.

Bruno Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Boring, Maryland), Monday, 15 March 2021 03:19 (ten months ago) link

A covid-era concert of chamber music by the Ensemble InterContemporain, featuring works by Debussy, Kurtág, Saariaho and Sinnhuber:

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 00:48 (ten months ago) link

A few more Q1 favourites if anyone's interested:

Alberto Posadas – Veredas (Ricard Capellino Carlos)

Daniele Pollini – Schumann, Brahms, Schoenberg

Danish String Quartet – Prism III

Ferenc Stnétberger & Keller Quartett – Hallgató

György Kurtág – The Sayings of Péter Bornemisza (Tony Arnold & Gábor Csalog)

Johannes Brahms – Sonatas op. 120 (Antoine Tamestit & Cédric Tiberghien)

José Luis Hurtado – Parametrical Counterpoint (Talea Ensemble, José Luis Hurtado)

Jurgis Karnavičius – String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2 (Vilnius String Quartet)

Michaël Jarrell – Orchestral Works (T. Zimmermann, R. Capuçon, Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, P. Rophé)

Richard Barrett – binary systems

Toshio Hosokawa – Works for Flute (Yoshie Ueno)

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 17:08 (ten months ago) link

Posadas: six bottomlessly inventive pieces for solo saxophone that I shouldn't care for on paper but that sustain my interest throughout because Posadas is just that good.

Pollini: the son of you-know-who, also a pianist of note and no less remarkable an interpreter, here tackling Carnaval, the Klavierstücke op. 119 and three sets of piano pieces by Schoenberg. Incredible stuff.

Danish String Quartet: the first couple of volumes, pairing Beethoven with Bach and another composer were EOY highlights, and this third entry (featuring Bartók's early 1st SQ) is no exception.

Snétberger (apologies for the typo in my previous post) & Keller Quartett: features excellent performances of weepy classics by Shostakovich (8th SQ), Barber (Adagio) and Dowland, as well as more recent, equally wistful pieces for guitar and string quartet by Snétberger himself. One for the Weltschmerz heads.

Kurtág: a seemingly definitive performance of one of his most important early song cycles, somewhere between Bartók, Webern and Beckett. Hungarian is a notoriously difficult language, and Tony Arnold is astounding here.

Brahms: one of the best living 'star' violists paired with an excellent pianist takes on Brahms's late sonatas, which I personally can't get enough of. The bonus lieder with none other than Matthias Goerne are a nice touch.

Hurtado: MODERNISM'S NOT DEAD says this Mexican-American composer who studied under Davidovsky, Czernowin, Lindberg, Ferneyhough and Lachenmann, and he's damn right about that if these typically demanding works for chamber ensemble are anything to go by.

Karnavičius: an obscure early 20th century Lithuanian composer presented as the missing link between Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. I was skeptical at first but these are very good works in that late Romantic / early modernist vein I love so much.

Jarrell: Swiss composers are stupidly underrated and Jarrell is no exception, yet there is so much to like about the aesthetic liberalism of these works, which draw as much upon the postwar French tradition as upon its German counterpart. This is music that aspires towards the condition of poetry (whatever that means!).

Barrett: one of my favourite living composers, just relentlessly exploratory in his approach to music-making and one of the few imo whose interest in the intersection between aesthetics and politics comes across as genuinely thought out and convincing. Follow that Rambler link I posted upthread if you're curious.

Hosokawa: another year, another Hosokawa release (in fact the second this year for Kairos), which is of course a very good thing if a less lush and more austere Takemitsu sounds appealing to you (it certainly appeals to me!).

pomenitul, Wednesday, 17 March 2021 18:55 (ten months ago) link

Re: Kurtag is there any legal way to hear or watch fin de partie with English translation/subtitles?

Bruno Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Boring, Maryland), Thursday, 18 March 2021 01:32 (ten months ago) link

Not to my knowledge, I'm afraid. You could follow along with a copy of Beckett's own English translation (Endgame), but that's hardly ideal.

pomenitul, Thursday, 18 March 2021 01:37 (ten months ago) link

Hope ECM or someone gets on that.

Bruno Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Boring, Maryland), Thursday, 18 March 2021 16:20 (ten months ago) link

I assume Manfred Eicher is waiting for Kurtág to complete the work. Time's running out, though...

pomenitul, Thursday, 18 March 2021 16:24 (ten months ago) link

Vested interest since I'm involved with several events but I think the 21st Century Guitar Conference, entirely virtual this year and starting tomorrow, may be of general interest as well. A lot of performances, new premieres as well as talks and discussions:

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Sunday, 21 March 2021 19:20 (nine months ago) link

Looks cool. I'm too swamped to attend anything these days but thanks for the heads up and have fun!

pomenitul, Monday, 22 March 2021 14:25 (nine months ago) link

Speaking of the 21st (and 20th) century guitar, DaCapo just released a monograph devoted to Danish guitarist-composer Lars Hegaard and it's quite lovely, on the gentler, more impressionistic end of high modernism.

pomenitul, Monday, 22 March 2021 15:43 (nine months ago) link

Oh thanks, I'll look for that.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Monday, 22 March 2021 16:20 (nine months ago) link

Another recently released record that I feel the need to stan for is Caeli by Bára Gísladóttir & Skúli Sverrisson, which is an epic (2h+) sky-touched duo for double-bass and electronics that draws on Scelsi, spectralism, Stefano Scodanibbio, ambient and noise. I'll need to look into Sverrisson's other duos (there's one with Bill Frisell from 2018, for instance).

pomenitul, Monday, 22 March 2021 16:34 (nine months ago) link

Alejandro Tentor killing Murail's Tellur rn.

to party with our demons (Sund4r), Tuesday, 23 March 2021 17:30 (nine months ago) link

This album of solo piano pieces by Nordic composers, played by Ieva Jokubaviciute (d/k how to pronounce that), could be an aoty contender. Really hits the right intersection point of compositional integrity, approachability, and complexity and progressivism:

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Saturday, 2 October 2021 16:41 (three months ago) link

The sample track - the first movement of Poppe's Feld - is fantastic! Great colours and energy.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 3 October 2021 02:01 (three months ago) link

This is pretty cool, a string quartet by Vijay Iyer meant to be played attacca after an unfinished fragment by Mozart, that takes the final motif as its starting point:

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Monday, 11 October 2021 02:43 (three months ago) link

some new (old) Linda Catlin-Smith that I rather like.

calzino, Monday, 11 October 2021 13:22 (three months ago) link

“We’ve never dated before, but I wrote you this symphony about my vivid fantasies of our love and lust, how I drugged myself and dreamed I killed you, and how you then joined me in a diabolical witch orgy. Want to go out?” 🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩🚩

— Dr. Annika Socolofsky 🏳️‍🌈 (@aksocolofsky) October 16, 2021

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 17 October 2021 02:26 (three months ago) link

Lol. Never liked the Symphonie Fantastique but not necessarily because of the story.

Typo? Negative! (Boring, Maryland), Sunday, 17 October 2021 02:46 (three months ago) link

I probably am most likely to listen to Liszt’s solo piano arrangement of the fantastique these days tbh

Berlioz was genuinely nuts

covidsbundlertanze op. 6 (Jon not Jon), Monday, 18 October 2021 20:47 (three months ago) link

Listened to a ton of his live recordings today (live is where he really excelled IMO)

covidsbundlertanze op. 6 (Jon not Jon), Saturday, 23 October 2021 00:25 (two months ago) link

Very much contemporary, and not for everyone, but I just purchased and am listening to this for the first time and it is immense, expansive, and sort of frightening in a Deep Listening way. Like if Oliveros listened to black metal. two double bassists, one electric and one acoustic. Really intense and beautiful! I really love it.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Tuesday, 26 October 2021 20:23 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

I finally listened to the whole thing. I really like the sound, and it is really satisfying in doses, but I'm not sure I need over 2h of it, as there's not much variety. (Maybe it needs to be heard in higher quality?) What's going on compositionally? It mostly feels improvised to me.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Sunday, 14 November 2021 16:10 (two months ago) link

Fantastic album of contemporary piano music, often with preparations or extended techniques:

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Monday, 15 November 2021 19:41 (two months ago) link

Sund4r, I'm not totally certain, but it does seem like Caeli is mostly improvisatory. Both musicians involved also have their feet in the jazz world, so I think there's some overlap.

I do think that it has its repetitive side, but I treat it more as a drone or deep listening record to be left on, with my focus moving in and out as I please/am able.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Monday, 15 November 2021 20:10 (two months ago) link

Listening to Gregson's "Patina" right now. It's lovely, a bit mannered, but wow these strings are richer than butter. Enjoying it.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Monday, 15 November 2021 20:11 (two months ago) link

Makes sense, in many ways, but the Gregson record reminds me a bit of Jon Hopkins. It's beautifully composed and arranged and recorded, but almost feels a little *too* on the nose. Which can sometimes be a great balm, to be honest.

I'm a sovereign jizz citizen (the table is the table), Monday, 15 November 2021 20:51 (two months ago) link

New Emily Shaw album is great classical guitar, all pieces by women composers, ranging from new microtonal fretless guitar music by Amy Brandon to a transcription of Baroque keyboard music by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, with idiomatically appropriate improvisation:

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Tuesday, 16 November 2021 19:39 (two months ago) link

That makes sense re Caeli btw, table.

Sequel to Sadness (Sund4r), Tuesday, 16 November 2021 19:40 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

the first of a 7 volume Julius Eastman anthology performed by the Wild Up collective.

calzino, Sunday, 5 December 2021 11:34 (one month ago) link


let's make lunch and listen to five finger death punch (Noodle Vague), Sunday, 5 December 2021 11:57 (one month ago) link

it's a stunner!

calzino, Sunday, 5 December 2021 12:02 (one month ago) link

This is just the thing.

Vanishing Point (Chinaski), Sunday, 5 December 2021 13:04 (one month ago) link

I was at a live performance of Femenine by Wild Up and it was a high pint of my life no exaggeration. By then end I felt elated and cleansed and was in tears. The picture on the record cover is apropos.

A Pile of Ants (Boring, Maryland), Sunday, 5 December 2021 19:22 (one month ago) link

This piece is hilarious:

Meet the Pianist Revolutionizing Classical Music
The radical artistry of Key Playerson
by Sharon Su

Offstage, wearing ironed jeans, polished dress shoes, and a dark blazer, Key Playerson looks more like a regular Joe than a new talent changing the world of classical music. Earlier this year, Playerson sent shockwaves through the industry when he famously swept the Queen Elsa International Piano Competition. He not only won every prize in every category, he also inspired the judges to revoke the medals of every previous champion who ever competed. When I mention this, Playerson laughs it off—refreshingly down to earth, he quickly sets the record straight on his reputation as a wunderkind.

“I wasn’t a prodigy,” he insists, curling his award-winning fingers around his latte. “I started playing piano at age three, like everyone else, and didn’t win a major competition until I was 12. I’ve always thought of myself as a late bloomer, really.”

Although Playerson was born with a natural ear, picking out the harmonies of Mahler’s symphonies on his family’s Steinway D, he’s not from a family of musicians. His parents, a professor of neurolinguistics and a practicing oncologist, are amateur lovers of classical music; in their spare time, they run the New Bramble Music Festival, currently in its 30th season. (This festival’s residencies this summer include Stephen Isserlis, Mitsuko Uchida, and Jonathan Biss.) With some coaxing from me, Playerson starts sharing intimate musical memories from his childhood.

“When I was five, I had this cassette tape of Maurizio Pollini playing Beethoven’s ‘Emperor’ with the Vienna Philharmonic,” he says, “and the first time I heard that first E-flat major chord in the piano…wow. I kept rewinding the tape just to hear that E-flat major chord, and I’d do it for hours, rewinding and replaying, ‘til I wore the tape out. I didn’t even know there was a second theme until I was seven,” he chuckles. (Such is Playerson’s modesty and down-to-earth charm that he doesn’t even mention that Pollini, an old family friend, is his godfather.)

Soon after, Playerson started lessons with the neighborhood piano teacher, Pedha Gough. I asked Gough for her thoughts on her pupil. “Key is a bright, singular talent—you don’t get that level of excellence very often in a generation,” says Gough, whose students include every winner of the Chopin and Tchaikovsky competitions of the last six years and last year’s Grammy winner for Best Solo Classical Album.

Despite his childhood seeped in classical music, Playerson is refreshingly fluent in current pop culture. In the course of our conversation, he compares Franz Liszt’s star power to that of the Beatles. I’m taken aback, but then realize that I shouldn’t be surprised that Playerson has heard of the Beatles; he’s a self-professed voracious user of the internet. Later in the conversation he mentions Audrey Hepburn, and I don’t even bat an eye.

At one point, I have to ask the question on everyone’s mind: As an emerging artist with barely any accolades to his name, how does he plan on charting his nascent career? Playerson—who is a Deutsche Grammophon exclusive artist, has soloed with the New York Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Philadelphia Orchestra; substituted last minute for Jean-Yves Thibaudet to resounding acclaim; and headlined Ravinia and Aspen in the same year—looks thoughtful as he ponders the question.

“I think the key to starting out is playing music that you love and care about, not just the music everyone expects you to play,” he confides. “Like, everyone wants to hear me play Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ but I want to branch out, challenge the status quo. If you always give people what they want, then you establish yourself as someone who just follows in the footsteps of others. The New York Philharmonic tried to book me for ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and I held firm. I said, ‘I’m not doing that. I’m going to do Gershwin’s Concerto in F.’”

In fact, Playerson has developed a reputation for unabashedly speaking his mind. In 2019, he sent music lovers reeling when he expressed his support for gay marriage. He is unafraid to weigh in on other controversial political topics too; late one night, at 8 p.m., he took to Twitter to share his belief that Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation was, on the whole, a good thing.

“I just feel a duty to set the record straight,” he says, the faintest note of exasperation in his voice betraying his impatience. “I mean, classical music is a universal language; from the music of 18th century Austria to the music of 19th century Germany, it represents the entirety of what human civilization has to offer. No one who’s studied or appreciated classical music has ever gone on to oppress or hurt other people.”

With his powerful moral convictions and modern sensibilities, it’s no wonder Playerson is so appealing to a hip new generation of classical music listeners. I ask him what he plans on doing next.

He smiles shyly, pushing his empty latte cup across the table before he answers. “I’d really love to shine a light on underrated music,” he says finally, with the same coy vulnerability that the New York Times praised in his Carnegie Hall debut. “I’m working on learning all of Beethoven’s 32 sonatas; they’re criminally underplayed. The ‘Hammerklavier’ is such a diamond in the rough, for example. And Beethoven was such a passionate yet difficult man, I really identify with him. I’m hoping to eventually record them all.”

It’s a bold, innovative undertaking, but I have no doubt that Key Playerson can pull it off.

but also fuck you (unperson), Thursday, 16 December 2021 21:44 (one month ago) link

Very funny


Pretty much every single idea/fake quote in it is cribbed from an actual profile/interview/memoir of a Great Musician, it did not require much imagination on my part

— 🎹 Sharon Su 🎹 (@doodlyroses) December 16, 2021

flamboyant goon tie included, Thursday, 16 December 2021 22:08 (one month ago) link

Very good recent contemporary classical guitar album:

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Tuesday, 21 December 2021 02:22 (four weeks ago) link

Thanks. I'm listening to the nooon concert at Laurier now, and it has been interesting. It must have a great music faculty.

youn, Tuesday, 21 December 2021 04:36 (four weeks ago) link

Cool, this one?:

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Tuesday, 21 December 2021 14:48 (four weeks ago) link

Oh nice, he's doing the Chaconne!

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Tuesday, 21 December 2021 17:32 (four weeks ago) link

I listened to yesterday and today. I just realized there is more than one and am glad that you shared the second link and that I came upon them in the order that I did. I guess being a musician is different from being a performer and that as in everything there is the burden and pleasure of communicating and making a living.

youn, Wednesday, 22 December 2021 02:23 (four weeks ago) link

I guess being a musician is different from being a performer and that as in everything there is the burden and pleasure of communicating and making a living.

This is true but what made this come to mind for you?

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Wednesday, 22 December 2021 02:47 (four weeks ago) link

introducing a work to an audience; talking during performances

youn, Wednesday, 22 December 2021 02:50 (four weeks ago) link

program(me) choices

youn, Wednesday, 22 December 2021 02:55 (four weeks ago) link

If you're watching Daniel's videos, he just shared this, where he plays electric guitar with Naoko Tsujita on marimba on a piece by David John Roche. It's a fun piece, actually preserving the catchiness and rhythmic energy of riff-based rock in its fusion:

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Wednesday, 22 December 2021 03:19 (four weeks ago) link

(Thanks. I think there is also the joy of expression, the movement and the sound, why there are jazz clubs and festivals and raves and afternoon concerts and listening to rehearsals. Marimba goes surprisingly well with electric guitar.)

youn, Thursday, 23 December 2021 01:16 (three weeks ago) link

Why are the violin and piano favored? Does anyone know?

youn, Thursday, 23 December 2021 22:49 (three weeks ago) link

(For the piano, perhaps just for the acoustics as for the electric guitar in the late 20th century?)

youn, Friday, 24 December 2021 22:03 (three weeks ago) link

Thanks. I think there is also the joy of expression, the movement and the sound, why there are jazz clubs and festivals and raves and afternoon concerts and listening to rehearsals.

Yeah, the live performance, the act and practice of playing, is largely the thing with classical (although obv there is Gould, audiophile collectors, etc).

As for the piano and violin, before checking any history books, I can say both instruments project powerfully in a hall, esp if you're comparing to a classical guitar. The piano gives you almost the full range, in pitch, of an orchestra, at least closer than any other single acoustic instrument does, and a p much unparalleled ability to play multiple parts at the same time. Although it is quite limited in terms of range when it comes to timbre or articulation, as harmony and counterpoint became privileged in European music, the piano is probably the most powerful solo instrument from those points of view. The violin otoh does allow a great deal of expressive range wrt timbre, articulation, and dynamic expression, with no frets to block sliding between pitches, and allows for great sustain as long as the player keeps bowing, so is a powerful lyrical melodic instrument. The classical guitar is soft and has little sustain and has been traditionally relegated more to the status of a household or parlour instrument - otoh, it gives a balance of allowing for greater polyphony than the violin while allowing for greater timbral and expressive range than the piano, as well as a history with Spanish folk traditions.

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Tuesday, 28 December 2021 23:44 (three weeks ago) link

has been traditionally relegated more to the status of a household or parlour instrument

(I was also thinking of European predecessors to the guitar - lute, Baroque guitar, etc)

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Tuesday, 28 December 2021 23:59 (three weeks ago) link

Some notes from Nicolas Meeùs's article on the keyboard in Grove Music Online:

The keyboard probably originated in the Greek hydraulis, but its role in antiquity and in non-European civilizations appears to have remained so limited that it may be considered as characteristic of Western music. Its influence on the development of the musical system can scarcely be overrated. The primacy of the C major scale in tonal music, for instance, is partly due to its being played on the white keys, and the 12-semitone chromatic scale, which is fundamental to Western music even in some of its recent developments, derives to some extent from limitations and requirements of the keyboard design...

By the beginning of the 14th century, however, the development of polyphony had caused a widening of keyboard compass and the progressive addition of chromatic keys...

The most common keyboard compass in the second half of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century was from F to a″, often without F♯ or G♯. In Italy, upper limits of c‴ or even f‴ were common. The instruments reaching f′′′ were perhaps made at a lower pitch standard. The low limit was extended to C, often with short octave, in the 16th century. From then, the compass of string keyboard instruments increased more rapidly than that of the organ, as the latter had a pedal and octave stops that made a wide compass less necessary. However, organs with a ‘long compass’ keyboard, extending below C, were common in countries which had a tradition of single-manual organs, e.g. England and Italy from the 15th to the 18th centuries. Harpsichords reached five octaves, usually from F′ to f‴, about 1700. Pianos attained six octaves, often from F′ to f‴′, by 1800 and seven octaves, from A″ to a″″, by 1900. Pianos now usually cover seven octaves and a 3rd from A″ to c″″′ and some reach eight octaves. Modern organ keyboards rarely cover more than five octaves.

In the 18th and 19th centuries keyboard instruments gained a leading position in European musical practice. This led to attempts to provide all types of instrument with a keyboard mechanism. The most successful of these attempts were the harmonium and the celesta, and very many of the electric and electronic instruments produced in enormous numbers since the 1930s are controlled by means of a keyboard

From A History of Western Music (Burkholder/Grout/Palisca):

Ensemble music [ in the mid-18th century ] was written for numerous combinations. Very common were works for one or more melody instruments, such as violin, viola, cello, or flute, together with keyboard, harp, or guitar. When the latter play basso continuo, they serve as accompaniment to the melody instruments. But whenever the keyboard has a fully written-out part in the chamber music of the 1770s and 1780s, it tends to take the lead, accompanied by the other parts. The reason for this dominance lies in the role this music played in domestic music-making among middle- and upper-class families. The daughters were often skilled performers at the keyboard, since music was one of the accomplishments they were expected to cultivate, while the sons - typically violinists and cellists - devoted less time to practice. Therefore an evening's entertainment required works that would highlight the woman's greater expertise, while allowing all to participate.

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Wednesday, 29 December 2021 00:17 (three weeks ago) link

David D. Boyden and Peter Walls on the violin in Grove Music Online, sticking to the facts, clearly (I'm listening to a Carnatic violinist rn so they have something of a point wrt its dissemination globally):

The violin is one of the most perfect instruments acoustically and has extraordinary musical versatility. In beauty and emotional appeal its tone rivals that of its model, the human voice, but at the same time the violin is capable of particular agility and brilliant figuration, making possible in one instrument the expression of moods and effects that may range, depending on the will and skill of the player, from the lyric and tender to the brilliant and dramatic. Its capacity for sustained tone is remarkable, and scarcely another instrument can produce so many nuances of expression and intensity. The violin can play all the chromatic semitones or even microtones over a four-octave range, and, to a limited extent, the playing of chords is within its powers. In short, the violin represents one of the greatest triumphs of instrument making. From its earliest development in Italy the violin was adopted in all kinds of music and by all strata of society, and has since been disseminated to many cultures across the globe (see §II below). Composers, inspired by its potential, have written extensively for it as a solo instrument, accompanied and unaccompanied, and also in connection with the genres of orchestral and chamber music. Possibly no other instrument can boast a larger and musically more distinguished repertory, if one takes into account all forms of solo and ensemble music in which the violin has been assigned a part.

The most important defining factor of the Western orchestra, ever since it emerged during the 17th century, has been the body of ‘strings’ (i.e. violin-family instruments) playing together with (usually) more than one player to a part. The violin (and violin family), however, had originated well before the 17th century – the three-string violin was certainly in existence in the 1520s and perhaps even earlier – and by the early 17th century the reputation and universal use of the violins were such that Praetorius declared (Syntagma musicum, ii, 2/1619): ‘since everyone knows about the violin family, it is unnecessary to indicate or write anything further about it’...

At the dawn of the 17th century, the violin was beginning to develop a role as an expressive and virtuoso solo instrument. New idiomatic repertory appeared at a rate which suggests an almost feverish excitement in its possibilities. Already two towns, Brescia and Cremona, had emerged as pre-eminent in the manufacture of the instrument...

If violin making was virtually an Italian preserve at the beginning of the 17th century, so too was the development of an idiomatic soloistic repertory for the instrument. It is, of course, coincidence that the greatest stile moderno composer, Monteverdi, came from Cremona – though his realization of the violin's rhetorical power and his exploration of its technical resources in such works as Orfeo (1607) or Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (1624) may owe something to his origins. Works by other composers of the period also seem to be born of excitement at the possibilities of the instrument...

By the end of the century Italian violin composition had an enormous impact on English taste. Purcell three times acknowledged the importance of Italian models for his own work: in the prefaces to the Sonnata's of III Parts (1683) and Dioclesian (1691), and in the section on composition he contributed to the 12th edition of Playford's An Introduction to the Skill of Music (1694). In the 18th century London, as the largest and most cosmopolitan city in Europe, became a mecca for foreign virtuosos, many of whom (Geminiani, F.M. Veracini, Felice Giardini and Viotti) settled there at least for a time...

As a composer of violin works, J.S. Bach neglected the main genres of his age. The solo violin concertos (BWV1041 and 1042) and the concerto for two violins (BWV1043) are in the Vivaldian mould, though they far outstrip their models in musical content (especially in harmonic complexity). But with the exception of that contained in the Musical Offering there are no authentic trio sonatas involving violin, and there are just two continuo sonatas, dating from early in Bach's career. He did, though, invent new genres of his own. The six sonatas for harpsichord and violin (BWV1014–19) are the earliest such compositions, effectively trio sonatas in which the harpsichord acts as both second violin and bass. There is a significant repertory of unaccompanied violin music before Bach's (1720): by Thomas Baltzar (in
GB-Ob Mus. Sch. 573), J.P. von Westhoff (a suite for violin ‘sans basse’, 1683, and six partitas, 1696), Biber (Passacaglia, c1676) and J.G. Pisendel (unaccompanied sonata, ?1716). But nothing approaches the Bach solo violin sonatas and partitas (BWV1001–6) either for musical architecture or for a comprehensive exploration of the technical and expressive capabilities of the violin...

The four great composers of the classical Viennese School all studied the violin. Joseph Haydn did so at St Stephen's in Vienna during his childhood, and though he was to describe himself later as ‘no conjuror on any instrument’, his writing for the violin shows a player's understanding. W.A. Mozart doubtless began his instruction on the instrument with his father, whose Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (1756) was the most comprehensive work on violin playing yet to have been published. Mozart's abilities as a violinist were exceptional, even though after he settled in Vienna in 1781 he chose to concentrate as a performer on the piano (he continued to play the viola in informal chamber music gatherings). From 1789 to 1792 Beethoven was employed as a viola player in the Bonn court orchestra; Schubert, during his years as a pupil at the Imperial and Royal City College in Vienna, became leader of the first violins in Josef von Spaun's student orchestra. All four wrote works for violin and orchestra. The last three (K216, K218 and K219) of the violin concertos Mozart wrote in Salzburg in 1775 give cause to wonder what masterpieces might have ensued had he contributed to this genre during his Vienna years. The Beethoven violin concerto (op.61, 1806), a work driven by musical rather than virtuoso imperatives, has been a cornerstone of the repertory ever since Pierre Baillot and Joseph Joachim rescued it from near oblivion in the mid-19th century. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Viennese composers to violin repertory is in chamber music. The string quarters of all four are of exceptional importance. In his violin and piano sonatas Mozart transformed the accompanied sonata into the duo sonata. This development was consolidated and extended in the ten great sonatas by Beethoven, whose ‘Kreutzer’ sonata (op.47, 1803) establishes a new register both technically and musically for the genre; Beethoven described it as being ‘written in a very virtuoso style like a concerto’.

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Wednesday, 29 December 2021 00:27 (three weeks ago) link

The chaconne has some lovely dynamic and reflective sections. Was it written specifically for guitar? I should look this up. It's as if as an antidote to mourning you took up a very complex puzzle with 1 million pieces ... Who would have that self-discipline?

youn, Saturday, 8 January 2022 18:31 (one week ago) link

No, it's the last movement of Bach's Violin Partita II in D minor (BWV1004) but it's become adapted as a virtuoso repertoire piece for classical guitarists. (A bass voice or fuller chords are sometimes added on guitar but this is one piece that doesn't absolutely need it, which is rare!) There's a v fluid Julian Bream recording. If you want to stick with Ontario, Emily Shaw did a version on Vespers from 2019 where she played it straight from the violin score.

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Saturday, 8 January 2022 22:18 (one week ago) link

It works better on guitar imo! I've been waiting eagerly for Chris Thile to get to that Partita on the mando, even a shitty bootleg of it is transcendent

flamboyant goon tie included, Sunday, 9 January 2022 00:11 (one week ago) link

It works better on guitar imo!

Heh, not an opinion I expected from you! I'm not sure even I'd go that far.

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Sunday, 9 January 2022 01:18 (one week ago) link

The E major Prelude from 1006a otoh - even Bach clearly realized it would work better on lute.

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Sunday, 9 January 2022 02:55 (one week ago) link

Hard disagree there. You can have the chaconne but you can't have that one

flamboyant goon tie included, Sunday, 9 January 2022 14:10 (one week ago) link

The cello suites are, in comparison, consistently "cello music"; they are idiomatic to the instrument. With the violin sonatas and partitas, Bach was intentionally writing in styles that were unidiomatic, and making it work (usually). The three Adagios off the top of each Sonata are clearly "I am writing lute music, except for the violin"-- they would theoretically work better on lute, but that's not really the point. The C-major Adagio in particular is one of Bach's greatest feats of stylistic synthesis, in my opinion, it's both "lute music" and "violin music" and there is no other piece like it in the repertoire.

The Fugues that follow those Adagios are "keyboard music". I hold the less-popular opinion that these Fugues are bad music and don't really work. The g-minor one is amazing but the a-minor and C-major do not sound like music, they sound like a failed experiment. I would argue that all three fugues would sound better on a keyboard instrument, but Bach wrote oceans of fugues and these aren't top-drawer; why bother adapting them? (The g-minor one is excepted, it's an amazing thing.)

The chaconne is an outlier. It's doubtless one of the most brutally beautiful things that Bach wrote, but the 'experiment' of "polyphonic violin writing" is less interesting than the musical material itself. I think it is the movement of the entire opus that lends itself most readily to adaptation.

The rest of the work is often adapted-- I hear the E-major prelude on guitar as often as I do on violin-- but it's violin music, you can borrow it but it's not yours

flamboyant goon tie included, Sunday, 9 January 2022 14:31 (one week ago) link

Isn't the struggle and harshness of playing chordal music on the violin part of the point, though? Confession: I've never played it all. I sight-read the whole thing at half tempo (sometimes less) last night.

Prelude from Cello Suite 1 (BWV1007) one of my favourite guitar pieces.

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Sunday, 9 January 2022 20:23 (one week ago) link

Ultimately I think Bach was testing the limits of violinistic technique and certain movements cross a line into "this is too difficult to deliver anything really but accuracy" territory. The a-minor fugue, like, I enjoy Hadelich's and Shunsuke Sato's renditions but it's just too astronomically difficult in its writing for even the most brilliant of A-listers

flamboyant goon tie included, Sunday, 9 January 2022 22:15 (one week ago) link

Nice short new solo piano composition by Amy Brandon (perf Jennifer King):

Her programme note: Frost grows in two types of movements - a flash freeze, followed by the growth of slow fractal patterns of frost flowers. With Frost Moon I tried to capture this freezing effect in sound - a violent sudden crystallization, followed by intricate lattice-work, growing and overlapping in self-same patternings.

treat the gelignite tenderly for me (Sund4r), Saturday, 15 January 2022 18:01 (four days ago) link

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