Saturday, January 7, 2017

Toru Takemitsu - Rain Coming for Chamber Orchestra Archipelago S for 21 players - Fantasma/Cantos II for Trombone & Orchestra - Requiem for Strings - How Slow the Wind for Orchestra - Tree Line for Chamber Orchestra - BIS 2000

This BIS recording of Takemitsu orchestral works is one of my absolute favorites and it's on par with the must-have Denon recordings. The other Takemitsu discs on BIS are also splendid. Plenteous riches!!

I'm sticking with 'lazy' for now so here's a review from CT:

It is rare to find a disc as creatively programmed as this BIS release. Enhanced by lovely performances, played with great devotion to the memory of the recently-deceased Japanese master, the repertoire was chosen by conductor Tadaaki Otaka and producer Robert Suff, who organized it not only in the most effective succesion, but in a manner that illustrates the works' individual meaning and illuminates Takemitsu's career.

All but one of the compositions are from Takemitsu's late period. The other, the Requiem for Strings, is one of the earliest works to win him fame. Fantasma/Cantos II, for trombone and orchestra, is among the last Takemitsu compositions. Both it and the Requiem provide considerably more forward harmonic motion than the other four works, which are in Takemitsu's typical "Japanese garden" meditative style, a kind of revival of French impressionism using harmonies that are more like Messiaen's than Debussy's.

Christian Lindberg is well known to fans of the BIS label as one of the greatest masters of the trombone, seemingly undaunted by any challenge. He also is a musician of wide interests who has recorded all sorts of music for that instrument. Although his part in Fantasma/Cantos II no doubt is quite difficult, it is not written to make a virtuoso effect, and Lindberg shows that the loudest instrument in the orchestra is capable of unexpectedly subtle, gentle singing. And when Takemitsu permits loud sounds, Lindberg stays within the composer's undemonstrative aesthetic.

The nearest conducting competitor Otaka has in this music is Oliver Knussen, who has recorded four of these pieces for Virgin Classics and Deutsche Grammophon. Otaka gets the nod by banishing (except in Requiem, where it belongs) the hard-edged modernist feeling that slightly impairs Knussen's accounts.

The Kioi Sinfonietta of Tokyo is a select group of top-flight Japanese orchestral players plus some of their most talented younger counterparts. In this age where "training orchestras" frequently are first-rate ensembles, the Kioi sounds like an experienced group of long-term pros. Woodwind soloists beautifully play the short melody fragments that are so common in the descriptive pieces, and the whole ensemble seems to float effortlessly into Takemitsu's trademark meditative mood. The most lovely piece is How slow the wind, which has a gorgeous six-note melody. Tree Line, a more austere and static piece depicting a row of acacia trees near Takemitsu's studio, is impressively dark and mysterious.

The sound is absolutely clear. The disc is an SACD hybrid comprising two stereo music programs (one a standard CD, the other DSD) but no surround-sound, which would have been particularly desirable for the spatially conceived Archipelago S. Overall the SACD offers a substantially more natural sound than the standard CD layer.

In his own field Takemitsu was as important an artist as Kurosawa was in Japanese cinema. This disc is an excellent demonstration of the reason why, and is highly recommended to those who already understand this, but especially to those who have not yet realized it.
--Joseph Stevenson,

Enjoy everyone!

Toru Takemitsu - "Between Tides & Other Chamber Music" - Fujita Piano Trio - ASV 2001

I have been listening to (or I could say that it's been a necessary ingredient for living lately) a lot of Takemitsu, so, here are a couple of Takemitsu uploads for everyone to enjoy and bathe in. This disc opens with some rather early pieces and moves right on to works penned towards the end of his life.

No time for babble today, I present you with the music alone ;)


Making a request on my own blog 😁

Ok really I never do this - but I cannot find any of my recordings of the Schubert Sonatinas - I love them - if you can help - I will love you too

I would joyously flip my wig and then do a happy dance if anyone has this recording in particular:

If not, I will simply carry on with the perfect-pitched humming..

The three stooges errm...make that felines

oh silly silly fun fun

Friday, December 30, 2016

First Takes: Music for String Orchestra - Chris Theofanidis, "Visions and Miracles" - Paul Moravec, "Morph" - Lisa Bielawa, "Trojan Women" - Michael Gatonska, "Transformation of the Hummingbird" - New York City String Orchestra - Albany Records 2007

This is a marvelous survey of music written for string orchestra by contemporary composers and a disc I have been listening to a lot lately. Christopher Theofanidis's "Visions and Miracles" is an energetic and exciting piece and a great disc opener. I predict many listeners hitting "repeat" here. It is Paul Moravec and Lisa Bielawa that will be the most familiar names here I would think, however all four composers here deserve a closer look by anyone interested in contemporary music - and it's quite accessible at that. Michael Gatonska's "Tranformation of the Hummingbird" is the most "challenging" piece here however most listeners will find it agreeable. If you find say Penderecki listenable (and you should!) your ears won't shy away here. Needless to say I'm not comparing the substance of Gatonska's piece to those penned by the Polish master (and fellow countryman, as it happens). Oh and Gatonska studied with Penderecki among others - I just stopped by his website. So there you go. This album is all-around a knock-out for lovers of sumptuous strings - and the impressive ensemble from NYC deliver all of the perfect punches. 

You guessed it...the String Orchestra of New York City.

Here is a review by the always authoritative Walter Simmons:

"The Albany disc presents the leaderless String Orchestra of New York City (SONYC) in impeccable performances of a varied program of recent works. The most recent—and most impressive—is Moravec’s Morph (2005), which reveals a rather different sort of expression from that reflected in the works just discussed. Associated in his mind with both the myth of Apollo and Daphne and with Morpheus, the god of dreams (Moravec is fond of mythological and literary references), this through-composed 17-minute work “morphs” continuously and with great subtlety through a variety of moods, attitudes, and activities, from an abrasively dissonant opening to a sensitive and delicate final conclusion. With its broader range of expression and more consistently serious demeanor, not to mention some brilliantly intricate counterpoint, I find it to be a somewhat “meatier” work than most of the Moravec I have heard, and one that invites repeated audition. 

The other works on the Albany disc warrant attention as well. The three other composers—Christopher Theofanidis, Lisa Bielawa, and Michael Gatonska—are each about 10 years younger than Moravec. Although I am not as familiar with his music, Theofanidis seems to be another of the post-modern neo-tonalists. Born in Dallas, he studied at Yale, Eastman, and the University of Houston, and is currently on the faculties of both the Peabody and Juilliard Schools, and has enjoyed many awards, commissions, and performances. His Visions and Miracles was originally composed for string quartet in 1997. The first movement, “all joy wills eternity,” is high-spirited and jubilant, with an interestingly non-toxic use of dissonance. With its modal, dance-like melodies, in its recasting for string orchestra it almost suggests the familiar and much-beloved genre of English string music, although I suspect that this is far from the composer’s own conception. The second movement, inspired by a quotation from Timothy Leary, explores the implications of a major scale through fragmentation and modal mixtures. But it is the last movement, entitled “I add brilliance to the sun” that I find most interesting, with its middle-Eastern-sounding heterophony, and some novel and very effective techniques of ensemble writing. As a whole, this intriguing piece is likely to be enjoyed by a wide range of listeners, especially those receptive to tonal string music that gently pushes the conventional limits of the genre.

Lisa Bielawa is the daughter of composer Herbert Bielawa, and was associated for some time with the Philip Glass Ensemble, although she has been engendering considerable interest in her own work. The Trojan Women also began as a work for string quartet, based on music originally written in 1999 for a theatrical production of Euripides’s tragedy. Each of the work’s three sections seeks to convey an expression of grief associated with the three respective tragic heroines. As with Theofanidis’s work, the musical means used in the first two sections remain largely within the general vocabulary of early/mid-20th-century tonal string music: the first is dolorous and lugubrious; the second draws upon lively, irregular rhythmic patterns. The third section, however, dispenses with audible rhythmic pulse and displays much use of slow portamentos and other microtonal techniques, creating a very eerie effect, and giving the entire work a broader compass.

The final piece is Transformation of the Hummingbird, by Michael Gatonska. Gatonska, who appears to have been born in Poland, is another figure on the scene who has received a variety of auspicious grants and commissions. Though not an invariable guide, pretentious and deceptively meaningless program notes so often signal pretentious and meaningless music that I approached this work with a strong negative bias, which was initially confirmed by my listening experience. However, further immersion changed my impression considerably. Showing some influence of the leading Polish composers of the late 20th century, the 14-minute piece unfolds as an extremely varied and imaginative series of brief episodes that embrace a wide range of musical vocabularies. Some of these episodes are not terribly appealing, and I wasn’t always sure I detected an over-arching aesthetic meaning to the work, but the more I listened to it, the more convinced I became. It is certainly a much better piece than the program notes suggest; he should do himself a favor and junk them.

This is my first exposure to the ensemble SONYC, and I am extremely impressed by their vigorous, committed, and incisive playing, as well as by their flawless precision. The CD is an excellent overview of some of the intriguing and appealing music composed in America during the past few years, in this case highlighting repertoire for string orchestra. It provides a most encouraging impression of an especially fertile creative period."

FANFARE: Walter Simmons 

I have include a pdf of the booklet.

Do enjoy!