New and recent recordings of interest.
— Liszt, Transcendental Etudes, Concert Etudes, Grandes Études de Paganini; Daniil Trifonov (DG, released Oct. 7)
— Liszt, Transcendental Etudes; Kirill Gerstein (Myrios)
— Bacewicz, Complete String Quartets; Silesian Quartet (Chandos)
— Kristin Norderval, Ida Heidel, Nusch Werchowska, Parrhésie (Losen)
— Jürg Frey, String Quartet No. 3, Unhörbare Zeit; Quatuor Bozzini, Lee Ferguson, Christian Smith (Edition Wandelweiser)
— Peter Adriaansz, Attachments, Phrase, Fraction, Enclosures; Saskia Lankhoorn, Ensemble Klang, Trio Scordatura (Ergodos)
— Mozart, Piano Concertos K. 413-415; Kristian Bezuidenhout, Freiburger Barockorchester (Harmonia Mundi)
— Palestrina, Missa Papae Marcelli, Guerrero, Regina coeli, Victoria, Missa O quam gloriosum, Gaudent in coelis; New York Polyphony (BIS)
— Brahms, Violin Sonatas; Christian Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt (Ondine)
August 12, 2016 | Permalink
In yesterday's New York Times David Segal complained about the arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that is being played at the Olympics in Rio. Ordinarily, I'm all for harmonic analysis in the mainstream press, but the article takes an irritatingly jingoistic tone, arguing that the presence of a few minor chords creates a "defeatist" atmosphere. To my ears, the harmonization reflects the influence of pop arrangements created for Whitney Houston and others. Listen, for example, to the chord under "free" in the version by that defeatist melancholic Mariah Carey. There is, of course, a long history of hysteria over allegedly unpatriotic treatments of "The Star-Spangled Banner," going back to the police action against Stravinsky's ill-fated arrangement. Yet John Philip Sousa got away with his blatant Wagnerization of the anthem.
More: Tim Smith, of the Baltimore Sun, recalls that we have been down this road before, in the kerfuffle over Peter Breiner's arrangement of the anthem in 2004. Philip Kennicott wrote a thoughtful Washington Post piece on the subject.
August 12, 2016 | Permalink
The German composer, a poet of tense simplicity, will appear at Café Oto, in London, on Aug. 30, playing her works for piano. On CD, Andy Lee's recording of abgemalt, on Irritable Hedgehog, is a good point of departure for an exploration of Houben's spare, spacious world. The composer and organist Carson Cooman has recorded several of Houben's large-scale works for organ; on YouTube, you can hear his renditions of drones and finished — unfinished. Edition Wandelweiser has the composer's own account of her Orgelbuch. The double-bass piece Nachtstück, excerpted above, has been recorded both by Dominic Lash, for Another Timbre, and by Scott Worthington, for Bandcamp.
August 10, 2016 | Permalink
This segment of John Oliver's show Last Week Tonight is far too brutally accurate to get the laughs that it deserves. Even the throwaway jokes are precisely sourced: for example, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution indeed cut its full-time film critic in 2007, along with the remainder of its arts-critic staff. (Pierre Ruhe, at one time the AJC's excellent classical critic, is now the director of artistic planning at the Alabama Symphony.) One irony missed in the Spotlight parody at the end: the Boston Globe took great pride in that film, and yet it has been cutting back on arts criticism because it's not "clicky" enough.
August 08, 2016 | Permalink
At the first public Dada-Soirée, at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich, on July 14, 1916, Hugo Ball read aloud his Dada manifesto — "How does one achieve eternal bliss? By saying dada. How does one become famous? By saying dada" — and recited several of his sound poems, including "Karawane," reënacted above. This week critics of the New York Times have an overview of Dada's influence. Esa-Pekka Salonen's recent choral-orchestral work Karawane, an elegantly barbaric setting of Ball's poem, is one sign of Dada's lingering presence.
July 14, 2016 | Permalink
Photo: Jonathan Bachman / Reuters.
Will Robin writes in The New York Times about a Dream Unfinished concert in New York next Wednesday, titled Sing Her Name. The program, under the direction of James Blachly and John McLaughlin Williams, includes music of Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and Ethel Smyth, together with a new work by Courtney Bryan, to a text by the African-American poet Sharan Strange. Listen here to Bryan's Sanctum, premiered last year, which features the voices of Ferguson activists.
Also worthy of note is Tyshawn Sorey’s Josephine Baker: A Portrait, which Zachary Woolfe described in the New York Times as "one of the most important works of art yet to emerge from the era of Black Lives Matter." The première, with the remarkable soprano Julia Bullock, took place in Ojai in June; a video is available on YouTube. Mostly Mozart will present the piece at Lincoln Center on August 24.
July 10, 2016 | Permalink
This recording of Vagn Holmboe's Tenth Symphony, with Sixten Ehrling conducting the Gothenburg Symphony, appeared in 1977 on a Caprice LP; on the flip side was Nystroem's Sinfonia Breve. A decade later I picked up a copy for my WHRB radio show "The Twentieth-Century Symphony." Sadly, the pairing never seems to have made it to CD, although you can find a fine reading of the Tenth in BIS's complete survey of the Holmboe symphonies, with Owain Arwel Hughes conducting. I love the work's opening gesture, a kind of tremor that turns into sound.
July 10, 2016 | Permalink
— Taylor Brook, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, Andrew Greenwald, A thing is a hole in a thing it is not, Kate Soper, Nadja; Mivos Quartet (New Focus)
— David Lang, the national anthems, the little match girl passion; Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon cond. (Cantaloupe)
— Ursula Mamlok, vol. 5 (chamber works); Holger Groschopp, Kolja Lessing, Parnassus, Heinz Holliger, Spectrum Concerts Berlin (Bridge)
— Michael Pisaro, Continuum Unbound; Pisaro, Greg Stuart, Patrick Farmer, Joe Panzner, Toshiya Tsunoda (gravity wave)
— William Lawes, Complete Music for Solo Lyra Viol; Richard Boothby (Harmonia Mundi)
July 02, 2016 | Permalink
The Sound of Hate. The New Yorker, July 4, 2016.
There are considerable resources online devoted to the dark subject of music, torture, and violence. This page at Social Musicology has links to important articles by Suzanne Cusick, M.J. Grant, and others. Grant recently wrote a powerful overview of the music-and-torture question for VAN magazine, which has rapidly established itself as a venue for unfettered music writing. On music torture at Guantánamo and other American prisons, see Cusick's “You are in a place that is out of the world...," Tony Lagouranis and Allen Mikaelian's Fear Up Harsh: An Army Interrogator’s Dark Journey Through Iraq, Moustafa Bayoumi's "Disco Inferno," and David Peisner's "Music as Torture," among other sources. The log of the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani can be read here.
Some significant books that I was unable to discuss in the piece: Jonathan Pieslak's Radicalism & Music, examining the musical tastes of Al Qaeda militants, racist skinheads, Christian radicals, and eco/animal rights militants; Steve Goodman's Sonic Warfare; and the anthologies Music, Politics, and Violence, Music and Conflict, and Music and Genocide. Pieslak recently wrote a piece on the music of the Islamic State.
June 27, 2016 | Permalink
President Obama said in Orlando today: "You can't make up the world into 'us' and 'them,' and denigrate and express hatred towards groups because of the color of their skin, or their faith, or their sexual orientation, and not feed something very dangerous in this world."
June 16, 2016 | Permalink
The GVSU New Music Ensemble, which won nationwide notice back in 2007 with their buoyant recording of Music for 18 Musicians, have launched a project celebrating the centennial of the National Park Service. Eight composers — Alexandra Gardner, Molly Joyce, Betsey Biggs, Patrick Harlin, Rob Deemer, Jeff Herriott, Paula Matthusen, and Phil Kline — have been commissioned to write works related to one or another of the parks; performances at the designated sites will begin on July 1. Watch a video preview.... On a similar theme, Michael Gordon's Natural History will receive its first performance on July 29 against the backdrop of Crater Lake National Park, in Oregon. Teddy Abrams, the director of the Britt Festival, will conduct.... The twelfth edition of the Dog Star Orchestra, Michael Pisaro's annual festival of experimental music, is under way in Los Angeles.... The happy pandemonium of Make Music NY descends again on June 21; this year's Mass Appeal events feature accordions, bagpipes, cymbals, harmonicas, mandolins, and music boxes, among others.... The New England Conservatory's Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice (SICPP), affectionately known as Sick Puppy, runs this year from June 19 to 25, with Vinko Globokar as composer-in-residence.... The NY Phil Biennial's Ligeti Forward series — the master's three concertos alongside various other works — can now be seen and heard online. Don't miss Pekka Kuusisto's furiously vibrant account of the Ligeti Violin Concerto, with Alan Gilbert leading alumni of the Lucerne Festival Academy.... Pierre-Laurent Aimard has added the Étude No. 2, "Cordes à vide," to his online project exploring Ligeti's piano music.
June 11, 2016 | Permalink