Monday, March 30, 2009
Tin Hat, Blind Paper Dragon, Sad Machinery of Spring: Playlist for Beethoven's Breakfast, March 30, 2009
Tin Hat: Old World, Blind Paper Dragon, Dionysus, The Book, and The Comet from The Sad Machinery of Spring (Hannibal)
Here's the astounding list of personnal and instruments on this CD: Ara Anderson: trumpet, baritone horn, piano, pump organ, toy piano, celeste; Mark Orton: guitar, dobro, piano, banjo, pump organ, autoharp, bass drum, bass harmonica, marxophone; Ben Goldberg: b-flat clarinet, alto clarinet, contra-alto clarinet; Carla Kihlstedt, violin, viola, trumpet violin, voice, piano, celeste, bowed vibes, bass harmonica,ukelin, bul-bul tarang; Zeena Parkins, harp.
Marxophone? Ukelin? Google them for some interesting reading. And what do they do with all that paraphernalia? They play lovely and uncategorizable "chamber music for the 21st century" much of which sounds mysterioiusly and pleasantly familiar, although at the same time I know I have never heard anything quite like it. I think music writers' lengthy descriptors for cross-genre music are getting a bit dull because everybody knows you can meld any two or more kinds of music these days, but I will accept this one describing Tin Hat: "...interweaving Old World Europe with post-modern America, south-of-the-border sensuality with concert-hall propriety, and odd-metered syncopation with deeply soulful grooves" (The New York Press, from the Tin Hat website).
Gryphon Trio: Trio in C Major, from Mozart Piano Trios (Analekta)
The Gryphon Trio is based in Toronto and they do a lot more than play the standard classical repertoire: they won a Juno in 2004 for a recording of music by contemporary Canadian composers, they tend to seen playing jazz clubs, they have made a recording of tango music, they are artists in residence at the University of Toronto's music faculty, and they have tried their hands at multimedia production. They are Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin; Jamie Parker, piano; Roman Borys, cello.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Oliver Schroer: Santiago Street Sounds, In Memory of Friends Past, Cowbarn Bells, and Forest Walkby from Camino (Big Dog)
Canadian violinist Oliver Schroer said his music consists of "prayers, incantations, whimsies, melismas, mysteriosos, fractal reels, forest blues, blessings." There is a lot of celtic influence in his music, but it is really quite uncategorizable. He took a recording studio in his backpack when he walked the El Camino pilgrimage trail in Spain and recorded himself playing solo violin in churches along the way. He also recorded church bells, people walking and talking, sheep and goats, and other sounds. In the last years of his life Oliver Schroer lived in Smithers, B.C. He died of leukemia in 2008.You can watch him playing beautifully at his farewell concert.
Lang Lang: Piano Sonata in C Major (Mozart) from Memory (Deutsche Grammophon)
The classical music blogger Alex Ross writes: "In the classical-music world of ten or fifteen years ago, you heard intermittent murmurs of unease about the number of Asian performers who were showing up on the rolls of conservatories, in the ranks of orchestras, and on concert stages. The oft-repeated criticism was that these players showed great technical dexterity but lacked the mysteries of “depth” and “soul.” Such talk had an unsavory taste; Wagner used to say the same thing about musical Jews. In any case, the muttering has died down. When Yo-Yo Ma entrances audiences through the force of his personality, when Mitsuko Uchida delves deeper into Mozart and Schubert than almost any pianist alive, and when the virtuosos Lang Lang and Yundi Li conquer crowds with youthful bravado, notions of an “Asian type” can be filed away in the archive of dumb generalizations. The huge popularity of classical music in the Far East, and particularly in China, has created a talent pool a billion deep, from which a disarmingly varied group of musicians is emerging.
"Listening to Lang Lang, I think of the absurdist pundit Stephen Colbert, who promises not to read the news to his viewers but to feel the news at them. Lang Lang feels the music at you, in ways both good and bad. He advertises his love of performing simply by the way he charges onstage, and he creates a giddy atmosphere as he negotiates hairpin turns at high speed...."
Wendy Sutter: Tissues 1, 2, 3, and 4 from Philip Glass: Poems and Songs for Solo Cello (Orange Mountain Music)
See previous post. I had to play more of this.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Wendy Sutter: Songs 1, 2, 3, and 4, from Philip Glass: Songs and Poems for Solo Cello (Orange Mountain)
This music was written by Philip Glass and Wendy Sutter collaboratively in 2007. In addition to the six songs/poems, we have a series of four pieces called Tissues, for cello, piano, and/or percussion. I find the pieces with just cello and percussion especially wonderful.
"Glass has remarked frequently on the comparison of the range of the cello to that of the human voice. While thoroughly composed for the voice of the cello, a certain singing quality pervades his solo writing. The work itself, at once introspective, pensive and self-analyzing flows with timelessness and unrepentant musicality ..." (from the notes by Richard Guerin)
Maria Schneider Orchestra: Sky Blue from Sky Blue (ArtistShare)
Gil Evans: Where Flamingos Fly from Out of the Cool (Impulse)
Two pieces from teacher (Evans) and student (Schneider, who studied with him). She carries on his tradition of careful, complex, and stately compositions and arrangements for large jazz group. Gil Evans is the man who did the orchestrations for Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain. These two pieces are vehicles for two beautiful soloists: Steve Wilson, soprano saxophone on Sky Blue, and the late and under-appreciated Jimmy Knepper, trombone, on Flamingos. Watch Maria Schneider conducting on You Tube.
Janos Starker: Cello Suite #1 from J.S. Bach Suites for Solo Cello (RCA)
"I was often asked why, at age 70, I am recording Bach's Suites for the fifth time when previous statements have been received with praise....Playing Bach is a never-ending quest for beauty, as well as in some sense, the truth. One only hopes to get near to it..." That's Janos Starker quoted from the notes of this 1992 recording.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Joanna MacGregor: Hugh Ashton's Ground, Incarnation II, Endgame, Even Tenor, and Forlorn Hope Fantasy from Playing (Sound Circus)
"I heard it (Incarnation II by Somei Satoh) first being performed to a tiny audience in London one freezing January about twelve years ago," writes Joanna MacGregor.
"I wrote to the pianist, who turned out to live in Vienna, who kindly sent me a photocopy of the piece, a single sheet of simple harmonic progressions, with figures underneath and dynamics-- no metronome mark, no written instructions, no biographical material, nothing. No dictionary contained any information about Somei Satoh; apparently Sony publishes his music but whenever I rang the voice at the other end of the phone had never heard of him. I was forever putting in orders for CDs that never arrived.
"However, after years of picking up snippets of knowledge (usually in casual conversations or on the internet) I began to uncover that Satoh's work often uses Buddhist chant and quasi-electronic effects. In 1981 he placed eight speakers high on a northern Japanese mountain range above a valley, and waited for the fog, sound, and laser lights to move the clouds in various formations...."
That was written in 2001. Satoh is not so obscure now. You can read about him in Wikipedia or here. Joanna MacGregor is a British concert pianist who does not stick entirely with the classical repertoire. The music in this CD spans 6 centuries (from William Byrd and John Dowland to John Cage) and includes a duet with tabla player Talvin Singh and South African jazz pianist Moses Malelekwa.
Jacqueline du Pre with the London Symphony conducted by Daniel Barenboim: Boccherini: Cello Concerto in B flat from Hadyn and Boccerhini Cello Concertos (EMI)
There are some musicians who are so talented at an early age and so mature in their attitudes to their art that people say they were born fully formed.
The violinist Pinchas Zukerman, who worked with Jacqueline du Pre a lot, said she seemed to have practiced and perfected a piece before she sat down to rehearse it. "It was done," he said. "It was done before she came in. In fact I think she was done before she was born." Watch him talking about this in the second video link below.
From her teenage years she was a soloist on the world stage, playing with many of the worlds most renowned orchestras and conductors. She stopped playing at age 28 because she was ill with multiple sclerosis. She died at the age of 42.The feature film Hilary and Jackie is about her. Watch her on You Tube playing or in a trailer for a documentary film.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Ravi Shankar and Philip Glass: Prashanti, Sadhanipa and Ragas in Minor Scale from Passages (Private Music Inc.)
I played this excellent collaboration again because I couldn't help it-- see previous post.
Hans-Martin Linde and Collegeum Aureum: Flute Concerto in D Major from Franz Joseph Haydn, Flute and Horn Concertos
This is not available anywhere as far as I can tell-- one more perfect-condition vinyl LP from the donated collection of classical albums at Kootenay Cooperative Radio.