Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vasily Kalinnikov - Tsar Boris - Epic Poem - The Cedar & The Palm - The Nymphs

Vasily Kalinnikov is a composer that I'm extremely fond of. The most frustrating thing about that is his output is rather small; Two Symphonies (both excellent), the orchestral music on this disc, plus (I think) another five orchestral works, some piano music, and some vocal and choral music. If he hadn't died so very young (shortly before his 35th birthday) there would have surely have been a wealth of colorful and richly crafted works to be cherished. He was a Russian Nationalist composer in spirit, and I do so love that whole (slightly earlier) school of composers (Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin...) very much. Kalinnikov remained in poverty for his entire life (He was to attend the Moscow Conservatory but could not afford the tuition fees for example) He played violin, bassoon and timpani in local orchestras and made a meager amount of money as a music copyist. Tchaikovsky admired Kalinnikov and warmly recommended Kalinnikov to be the director of the Maly Theater, and later that same year to the Moscow Italian Theater. But due to his worsening health, Kalinnikov had to resign from his theater appointments and move to the warmer southern clime of the Crimea. He lived in Yalta for the rest of his tragically short and fragile life.

Kalinnikov_ Tsar_Boris_Epic_Poem_Tz.zip


Charles Koechlin - Music for Flute

This Hyperion disc is among the finest Koechlin discs out there, or at least I think so. Everything here is just so lovely- Koechlin seemed to add a certain indescribable "magical touch" to everything that he penned. Even the Sonata for two Flutes I find highly engaging! Enjoy...

Entrancing, enthralling, and entertaining … I shall not part with my copy until the Sheriff knocks at the door, and then only grudgingly!' (American Record Guide)

An absolute classic, not only for Koechlin enthusiasts but for lovers of the flute and deft artistry' (Fanfare, USA)



Monday, September 29, 2014

Charles Koechlin - Oeuvres pour Ensembles

As an old man Koechlin wrote: "One of the most dreadful diseases of our day is the desire to be modern", but he was not a stuffy conservative himself. Far from it, in fact - he counted among his friends virtually all the leading French musicians of his day, old and young, adventurous and less so, and acknowledged and even assimilated all the trends. He does not really sound like Debussy or Ravel; perhaps one can only say that he is a composer that has his own version of being French, like Satie. His music, consequently, is a highly appealing blend of late-romanticism and impressionism, though he does not hesitate to blend in other styles where appropriate. In fact, his oeuvre is a veritable treasure trove of melodies - Koechlin's ability to conjure up lyrical passages that seem to have always existed must rank alongside Tchaikovsky's; in the context of the 20th century he may be unrivaled. 

Michel Fleury's remarks on Koechlin in the Timpani booklet bear the title 'Open Air Music', alluding to the idea that Koechlin was an 'outdoor' kind of composer. Certainly in this splendid recording nature's big, bold canvases are very much in evidence, nowhere more so than in the retrospective Paysages et Marines ('Landscapes and Seascapes'), one of Koechlin's key works. The same can be said of the spirited Wind Septet. These are all lovely, often unusual chamber works
("Sonate a Sept" as an example is scored for Piano, Flute, Oboe, 2 Violins, Alto (stringed instrument, somewhere between a cello and a viola), and Harpsichord). Enjoy!

Koechlin_ Œuvres_Pour_Ensembles_Tz.zip


Ernest Bloch - Concerti Grossi 1 & 2 - Concertino for Flute, Viola, and String Orchestra - Four Episodes

Ernest Bloch's Concerti Grossi are in my opinion two of his finest works. They are both small masterpieces, and the Concerto Grosso No. 1 for String Orchestra and Piano Obliggato is I think the greatest example of a 20th century take on the concerto grosso. The Concerto Grosso No. 2 for Strings (divided strings) too is just gorgeous and indeed more strongly Neo-Baroque than No. 1, however in the Concerto Grosso No. 1, the fourth and final movement is one of the most impressive five-part fugues *anywhere* in music. J.S. Bach would have been nothing if not proud. The Concerto Grosso No. 1 is an extremely inspired work and rather uplifting and life-affirming. Beauty and intensity in the perfect marriage. 

*As the Concertino and "Four Episodes" are lesser known I'm here adding longer (mostly quoted) info on them:

Commissioned by the Juilliard School, the Concertino for Flute, Viola, and Strings is in three movements, of great contrast. Bloch's daughter Suzanne describes the Concertino perfectly in her book "Ernest Bloch: Creative Spirit": The opening movements is full of what could be called "affectionate freshness", an easy going, flowing melodic and tonal Allegro Commodo.
The Andante is modal and contrapuntal, with its two motives intertwined between the two soli and the orchestra in various ways, in Passacaglia style where Bloch's craftmanship is evident. The last movement is again in contrast, as Fugue based on a subject he had written years before but discarded as unsatisfactory. When he took it up later, realizing why he couldn't find a good counter-subject, he sent me several pages of his studies in transforming the theme rhythmically so it would work with logic and balance. His long work on Renaissance counterpoint, on Bach fugues and on Beethoven's sketches had served him well! However academic his studies had been, in this fugue after a short stretto, (for no logical reason whatsoever) suddenly the theme appeared to him in the form of a Polka into which he went whole-heartedly with gusto ending the work rather suddenly.  
Four Episodes is scored for eleven instruments, string quintet, wind quintet and piano, and the work is fascinating also in its orchestration. Each of the four short, individual and virtuosic episodes includes the sounds of solo writing, chamber music and the richness of a symphony orchestra.
The first episode, Humoresque macabre, reminds us of the Jewish period in Bloch's music, with its sense of drama, rhythmical excitement, sadness, mystery, grotesquerie and enthusiasm. Although Bloch had probably in his mind a certain narrative programme while composing, it is a piece in which each listener may imagine something different.
In the second episode, Obsession, the same five-bar tune is repeated, with 24 continuous variations. Like the bass of a passacaglia, or Ravel's orchestration of his Bolero, the theme starts with one instrument, the piano, and in each variation a new instrument is added. A short strict Bach-style fugue appears at the centre of this movement. The general humour and spirit of the episode is similar to that found in music by Jacques Ibert and Darius Milhaud, who belonged to the same circle and were subject to the same influences of the period. The obsessive rhythmical melody long haunts the memory.
In Pastoral the peaceful flow of nature starts with the shepherd pipe. Then a dialogue between the various colors and nuances of nature is played out by the solo instruments, which evoke the human sensibility for the mysterious creation of nature, and nostalgia for love.
Bloch was fascinated by the Chinese Theatre. He admired the background, the décor, the heroic contrasts, the smells and the magic that take you to distant worlds. Once again we encounter earlier images, such as the Jewish figure that appeared in the first episode. Bloch's prophetic intuition succeeded in attaining a deep understanding of Israeli and Chinese music, without even visiting both those lands. Enjoy!

Track list:

1-Concerto Grosso No.1, for string orchestra & piano: 1. Prelude
2-Concerto Grosso No.1, for string orchestra & piano: 2. Dirge
3-Concerto Grosso No.1, for string orchestra & piano: 3. Pastorale and rustic dances
4-Concerto Grosso No.1, for string orchestra & piano: 4. Fugue
5-Concertino, for flute, viola & strings: 1. Allegro comodo
6-Concertino, for flute, viola & strings: 2. Andante
7-Concertino, for flute, viola & strings: 3. Allegro
8-Episodes (4), for chamber orchestra: 1. Humoresque macabre
9-Episodes (4), for chamber orchestra: 2. Obsession
10-Episodes (4), for chamber orchestra: 3. Calm
11-Episodes (4), for chamber orchestra: 4. Chinese
12-Concerto Grosso No.2, for string quartet & strings: 1. Maestoso - Allegro - Maestoso
13-Concerto Grosso No.2, for string quartet & strings: 2. Andante
14-Concerto Grosso No.2, for string quartet & strings: 3. Allegro
15-Concerto Grosso No.2, for string quartet & strings: 4. Tranquillo - Animato

Bloch_ Concerti_Grossi_CPO_Tz.zip


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lou Harrison - Symphony on G - Carl Ruggles - Organum - Men & Mountains

*This was a request by Tapirman* Lou Harrison's Symphony in G (1966) may surprise those who think of his music primarily as a blending of East and West. Here, Harrison is a relatively young composer writing in the earnest manner of the time. In his words: "The whole work, though serially composed . . . is nonetheless tonally centered on the note G. In the first three movements the technique is classical 12-tone procedure, but in the finale I have . . . written freely in the "grand manner". The outer movements have dramatic urgency typical of contemporaneous symphonies by Peter Mennin or William Schuman. Only in the third movement do we have a hint of the extended eclecticism that was to become so much a feature of Harrison's later works. Entitled "Scherzo," it consists of four successive pieces: a nervous "Waltz" for strings; a barrel-house "Polka" for solo clarinet balanced by sassy brass licks; a gorgeous "Song" for the cello section accompanied by harp arpeggios and evoking comparison with Saint-Saens' "Swan"; and a scholarly "Rondeau" for piano, tack piano (plucked resonance), and harp. This impressive work is given an outstanding reading by Gerhard Samuel who premiered the work, and according to the composer, played an important part in its gestation.

Undoubtedly a factor in the continuing popularity of Carl Ruggles's music is its association with certain aspects of our mythical, composite American character. Ruggles (1876-1971) typifies uncompromising "individualism" and "ruggedness." Organum (1945) and Men and Mountains (1924-1935) are excellent representative pieces from his few compositions. Organum is a shorter, one-movement work. Men and Mountains is divided into three parts: "Men," "Lilacs," and "Marching Mountains." Ruggle's style is singular and confined. Moving from piece to piece, one has the impression of hearing a continuing work, with new themes subjected to the same process: a waxing and waning of definable but nevertheless amorphous motives, each contrapuntal line propelled at its own pace. Amid these powerfully surging sections are quiet interludes, and dissonance prevails in both. Enjoy.



Friday, September 26, 2014

Walter Piston - Symphony No.6 - Concertino for Piano & Chamber Orchestra - Concerto for Orchestra - Concerto for String Quartet, Wind Instruments & Percussion

This post is by request (for Piston in general) and it's a fantastic, rare disc on Citadel with varying works. I almost forgot how much I like Piston's music! Been a long while since I spent some quality time with him :)

The range covered on the CD is wide. It takes in two works from the 1930s, adds the 1950s symphony (surely the disc's raison d'etre) and concludes with a work from his very last year. The Symphony is in four movements of which the second and fourth are very short. In the early 1960s the Soviets seem to have taken to recording foreign orchestral works. They recorded the Alan Bush and Rawsthorne Second Symphonies and are also reputed to have done Roy Harris's Fifth Symphony. The Piston Symphony was written for the 75th anniversary of the Boston SO as also was the Martinu Fifth Symphony (the two were coupled together on an LP and toured together during the mid-1950s).
The Sixth does not have the direct access to lyricism which you find in the Second or Fourth Symphonies. The work dazzles with refinement (harp and strings in first movement) and with virtuosic scampering figures (I thought of Walton's Britten Variations). The masterly adagio sereno opens with a prominent sombre cello lament leading to the searing starlight of the strings and then rising to a brassy statement of contorted and impassioned grandeur. The concluding allegro energico is a hailstorm of brightness - recalling some of the propulsive energy of the second symphony's finale.
The Piano Concertino is neo-classical with the piano constantly in Stravinskian spate apart from in the middle section where a cello solo looks forward to the same instrument's work in the adagio of the sixth symphony. The Concerto for Orchestra sounds very much like a concerto grosso unwittingly summoning up echoes of the Bach Double Violin Concerto and the De Falla Harpsichord Concerto. In the central movement the orchestra crows, slides and slews over the scenery after a commanding Hary Janos type 'sneeze'. The finale is memorable for a colloquy for the deep resinous brass and a gaunt drizzle of a fugue. The single movement quartet concerto is clean and clear, busy and brusque, dissonantly chattering - letting up only for a solo violin serenade in the central section.

1. Sym No.6: Fluendo Expressivo - Moscow RSO/Alexander Gauk
2. Sym No.6: Scherzo: Leggerissimo Vivace - Moscow RSO/Alexander Gauk
3. Sym No.6: Adagio Sereno - Moscow RSO/Alexander Gauk
4. Sym No.6: Allegro Energico - Moscow RSO/Alexander Gauk

5. Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra: In One Movt - Marjorie Mitchell

6. Concerto Orch: Allegro Moderato Ma Energico - Polish Nat Radio Orch/William Strickland
7. Concerto Orch: Allegro Vivace - Polish Nat Radio Orch/William Strickland
8. Concerto Orch: Adagio-Allegro Moderato - Polish Nat Radio Orch/William Strickland

9. Concerto for String Qt, Winds, and Percussion: In One Movt: Confuoco-Lento-Allegro Energico -Emerston Str Qt



Members Of The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra - Paul Creston - Alan Hovhaness - Norman Dello Joio - Julius Chajes - Vincent Persichetti

This has always been one of my favorite discs, and like many others (years ago) I bought it for the Alan Hovhaness, although I did already quite like Paul Creston, Dello Joio, and Vincent Persichetti.
At the time Julius Chajes was new to me, and his "Israeli Melodies" really did it for me; simple, lyrical, gorgeous string writing. 

Each movement in Chajes's suite (there are six) is based on Israeli melodies/songs, although Chajes treats each in a unique fashion: "Song of the Well" is a dorian tune followed by 4 variations each with increasing tempi, and a coda restates the theme accompanied by it's fragments in diminution. "Song of the Pioneers" which is also in the dorian mode, is completely in canon. "Song of the Night" is a two-part melody, both parts being treated in a free contrapuntal style. "Song of the Desert" is also a two-part melody, employing canonic techniques. "Song of Canaan" is a melody containing free counterpoint and canon. "Song of Galilee" is similar to "Song of the Well" really, in technique anyhow, with four variations, each displaying different rhythmic and contrapuntal arrangement of the theme. I can listen to this suite over and over again; although it's inspiration is Israeli/Ancient Hebrew tunes, adding an element of "exotic" I suppose, it also has a simple beauty not unlike (imo) Holst's St. Paul's Suite or Warlocks's Capriol Suite. 

Hovhaness's  "Armenian Rhapsody No.2" is performed here perfectly, I have never heard a recording that can top it. Based on a "dagh" (Armenian sacred song) and two peasant songs, the opening is both somber and majestic. A melody in faster tempo is developed in canon, and then after a climax, the music recedes into dark passages for violas and cellos. Suddenly a dancing song is heard accompanied by a plucked version of the preceding melody. A new, livelier theme enters (and it's so damn good, so ecstatic!) the polyphonic vortex projecting a whirling fugue of fiery rhythms. 
"Celestial Fantasy" is dedicated to an Armenian saint and mystic poet (circa 1100) and is a solemn fugue, surrounded by lyrical melismatic passages in the violas and cellos. The fugal development becomes contrary motion, canon with augmentation (large notes) and then the full strings bring it all to a close. 

Paul Creston's "Chant of 1942" I'm not too impressed with. Creston was one of the great American composers and I enjoy most of his output. "Chant" was described by the composer as "one person's moods in the contemplation of events" (events being of course the war, as well as the "tragedy of the Jews" and Lidice which is mentioned specifically). Perhaps you will like it, for me it's all too lugubrious. Creston's "Suite for String Orchestra" is a lighter and lively affair, with lovely contrapuntal string writing and a couple rather playful dances (especially in the last movement "Cumulus", it's a real beauty)

Norman Dello Joio descended from three generations of Italian church organists and was himself an organist by age 14. Dello Joio went to Julliard graduate school and then after studied with Paul Hindemith. "Air for Strings" was composed in a simple ternary form, and is an uncomplicated piece exploring basic string sonorities. 

Vincent Persichetti began his musical life at 5 years old studying piano, followed by organ, double bass, tuba, theory and composition. By 11 he was performing professionally and his earliest published compositions are from when he was 14. "Introit for Strings" is a quiet, introspective work which like the Dello Joio piece, explores the sonorities and textures of a string ensemble. I will add that I will be posting in the future works by Dello Joio and Persechetti that are much more impressive and powerful. Same goes for Creston although his works on this disc are at least representative.




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Jørgen Bentzon - Chamber Music (added link for track #1)

Jørgen Bentzon, who was a pupil of Carl Nielsen and Sigfrid Karg-Elert, was one of the most significant Danish composers of the generation after Carl Nielsen. In the 1920s and 1930s he developed a distinctive instrumental texture known as character polyphony, which he tried out and developed in his six Racconti. Alongside his composing activities Bentzon taught at Københavns Folke-Musikskole, a school for "people's Music" that he had helped to found in 1931. Bentzon was the cousin of the better known Danish composer Niels Viggo Bentzon and the flautist Johan Bentzon.

Bentzon’s output is small and exclusive, characterized by a confident sense of form and solid musical craftsmanship. Bentzon’s chamber pieces are typified by a kind of polyphony where the individual instruments to some extent express themselves freely according to their instrumental characters – the so-called "character polyphony" – a characteristic inherited from Carl Nielsen’s Wind Quintet. That was to be the hallmark of Bentzon’s chamber music. I happen to enjoy the "Sonatatina for Flute, Clarinet and Bassoon" and the "Divertimento for Violin, Viola and Cello" the most. But, find out which piece you enjoy the most :) Enjoy.

This is an ideal recording for listeners who want to explore the rich Danish musical world beyond Nielsen. (ArkivMusic.com)


http://www48.zippyshare.com/v/81961669/file.html (tracks 2-9)

*Track #1 was missing before, I have no idea why.  Here it is:

01 Bentzon_ Sonatina - Allegro.m4a

http://www39.zippyshare.com/v/56319757/file.html (track 1)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Eight Visions - A New Anthology for Flute and Piano

Here's a rather cool and varying disc from Naxos (American Classics) of mostly unknown works for Flute and Piano, by mostly "contemporary" composers (exception being, at least as far as age, Ned Rorem). My personal favorites are Kenji Bunch's "Velocity", a skitterish, then funky, then quiter, and once again skitterish work that is (as you can tell from the above) full of refreshing unpredictability.
Then Eve Beglarian's  "I will not be sad in this world" which is for Flute and Beglarian's pre-recorded track of her voice/singing-given an "electronic transformation" as she refers to it, and it's quite subtle and ethereal. I heard this work on a long-running late night radio show a few years ago, was transfixed, and thus sought out the disc. And Lastly the "4 Prayers" by Ned Rorem. Rorem is one of the great American composers and this piece is a nice example of his smaller instrumental compositions. Enjoy the program.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Boris Tchaikovsky - Symphony No.1 - The Murmuring Forest - After the Ball

Boris Alexandrovich Tchaikovsky (no relations to Pyotr Ilyich) was born in Moscow on September 10th, 1925. His father was a capable self-taught violinist, and his mother was a medic (and it was she who urged him towards a musical career). He entered the Gnessin Primary Musical School at the age of nine,  and among his first musical teachers were Alexandra Golovina, and Elena F. Gnessina. Boris Tchaikovsky's first teacher in composition was Eugeny Messner. Then in due course he proceeded to the Gnessin's Specialized Musical School, where he studied with Vissarion Shebalin, Igor Sposobin, and A. Mutly. 

In 1943 Boris entered into the Moscow Conservatory where he studied the piano under Lev Oborin and composition under other prominent teachers - Vissarion Shebalin, Dmitry Shostakovich and Nikolay Myaskovsky. During the anti-formalist campaign of 1948 Shostakovich was banned from teaching and his students were deemed to have been "contaminated". But Tchaikovsky refused to renounce his teachers, proving the integrity and strength of his character. He graduated from the Moscow Conservatory in 1949 and was awarded  the USSR State Prize in 1969, for  his Second Symphony. Boris Tchaikovsky became the People's Artist of USSR (in 1985). Shostakovich held
B Tchaikovsky in very high esteem and in his music there's more than a hint of DSCH, and to my
ears Prokofiev at times. Enjoy.



Bohuslav Martinů - The Epic of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh is the first "known" hero apparently. The story goes back about 3,000 BC. It is a story
about "he who saw the deep" that is, death. Gilgamesh is not a traditional hero. He is depicted as a tyrant who uses his kingly right to deflower the bride-to-be at the wedding. Still, the epic celebrates him. The goddess Aruru creates Enkidu from the desert sand so that there might be someone to protect the people from Gilgamesh (not such a hero after all). Well Enkidu and Gilgamesh fight so that the men's brides will be safe. Gilgamesh wins and Enkidu becomes his sidekick. They travel around fighting beasts and monsters. One of the beasts has been sent by a goddess that Gilgamesh dumped. Gilgamesh kills it but the gods decide to kill Enkidu as revenge. Enkidu dreams of death ("who, my friend, is not defeated by death"?) and slowly fades away. Gilgamesh, in his grief, continues his journeys and sails across the waters of death. He races against time but realizes he cannot defeat sleep and will also die. He calls forth the spirit of Enkidu and they embrace. Gilgamesh (and the chorus) speak with the spirit of Enkidu asking questions about death, but Enkidu's replies are enigmatic. So it goes. With its mix of modally based orchestral themes, long-spanned rhythmic ostinatos, and phrases chanted by a bass soloist on a single note, this Oratorio sounds at times like a Martinů transmutation of Eastern Orthodox sacred services. It is a powerful work, deftly drawing upon three sections from the neo-Assyrian redaction of this sprawling and fragmentary religious cycle. Good stuff. Enjoy.



Krzysztof Penderecki - A Portrait

This is an album from 1972 courtesy of Vox. It's a collection of (some of) Penderecki's works composed between 1958-1965. As it's a good ol slice of vinyl there are some "pops" that are
audible during the first minute of the first track ("Emanationen" for 2 String Orchestras) and
after that it's smooth sailing all things considered. It happens to be a great recording all around,
I especially like the way the "Miniatures for Violin and Piano" and the brief String Quartet from
1960 are performed. This is nmr, I was lucky enough to find this some years back on a now
defunct blog. Enjoy.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Hovhaness - **Janabar - Talin - Shambala (Concerto for Sitar, Violin and Orchestra)**

This is one of the most important Hovhaness releases ever from some years back. It contains "Shambala", a Concerto for Sitar, Violin, and Orchestra and was the very first "classical" composition to include the sitar. Ravi Shankar attempted to do so also a year later, no wonder he was inspired-but the result was not impressive. Shambala however is a long, mystical journey; at turns meditative, mysterious, quiet, powerful, sweeping...I could go on and on. "Janabar" is subtitled "Five Hymns of Serenity for Trumpet, Violin, Piano and String Orchestra". It is too a remarkable work. -Here, however, is where the annoyance begins- this is a 126-minute 96kHz|24bit DualDisc (one side is CD, other is DVD audio) and for some reason that I can't imagine, only the DVD side contains ALL three works in their entirety. So, "Janabar" on cd is only one of the five movents (!) the whole work only on the DVD side. What bothers me the most, is that the same is the case with "Talin" (a Concerto for Viola and Strings) which is one of Hovhaness's greatest achievements. Until this release, it was almost impossible to get hold of any documentation of "Talin" in it's original form (Viola). *I have posted earlier on, a version of Talin for Clarinet and Strings which you should check out. But it's just mot the same. Puzzling is that Talin is really considered one of the best works by an "American" composer yet it's been hidden away really like buried treasure beneath the ocean floor. Thus I find it crazy to finally have a first rate recording of it, where all three movements once again are *only* available on the DVD side(!)
****If anyone has ideas about how I can extract/import the DVD side PLEASE let me know; I have googled it, tried a couple things with NO results. I of course can play the whole thing on my mac or dvd player. But that sucks.

-So, enjoy the complete "Shambala" and the excerpts from "Talin" and Janabar".

Here's a few reviews:

The performance of the double concerto for violin, sitar and orchestra Shambala (1969) is the first of any kind. The work was commissioned by Mehuhin to play with Ravi Shankar but was never performed. Intensely Indian in spirit (unsurprisingly as Hovhaness was an Indian music scholar), Shambala (a mythical Himalayan realm) plays as a substantial, structurally freewheeling span for 45 minutes, with improvised passages for the sitar alternating with notated ones for the violin and dialogues between the two. It is played superbly here, ironically, by Shankar pupil Gaurav Mazumdar, partnered by Christina Fong, who plays in all three concertos on OgreOgress's DualDisc and has a long history of Hovhaness performances to her credit. --Guy Rickards, Gramophone, April 2009

Janabar means Journey. It is classic Hovhaness and very appealing. Janabar was the big discovery for me; it has become a favorite piece. I have known Talin since 1959, when I discovered the MGM recording with Emanuel Vardi. The only other recording I know of in all these years used the clarinet in place of the viola. I like the music enough not to mind too much, but I am really glad to have an excellent new recording on viola. I have always thought of it as a viola concerto. The soloist in the third work (Shambala) plays the sitar, so it sounds very Indian. If you like Indian classical music and the sound of the sitar, you are bound to like this long, rather diffuse work. --Don Vroon, American Record Guide, July/August 2008

What proves to be the most outstanding aspect of the release is the work called Janabar, or 'Five Hymns of Serenity.' Hovhaness enthusiasts who have become disillusioned by the shockingly high proportion of dross within the composer's output, especially during the last three decades of his life, have cause to rejoice. Talin … is revered among Hovhaness admirers as one of his most profoundly inspired works … Shambala is said to be the first orchestral work to incorporate the sitar, although the following year Shankar composed his own 'Concerto for Sitar and Orchestra,' which I heard at the time and recall as abysmally bad. --Walter Simmons, Fanfare, 2008



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Robert Muczynski - Complete works for Flute

Robert Muczynski (March 19, 1929 – May 25, 2010) was an American composer, on the neglected side like so many others who deserve/deserved higher visibility. He was born in Chicago and studied composition with Alexander Tcherepnin at DePaul University in the late 1940s. At age 29 he made his Carnegie Hall debut, performing a program of his own compositions for piano. The 35 movements of various works on the disc average under two minutes each; he is obviously terse--he tosses an attractive idea out and then goes on to the next thing. His mid-20th-century idiom is consistently engaging, and he writes very well for winds. The brief Movements for Wind Quintet is gorgeous, as is the Flute Duets Imo. If you are a fan of flute repertoire in general (I really am) I think you will really enjoy everything here. This was originally released on Marco Polo. Enjoy!



Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bohuslav Martinů - Flute Trios - Promenades - Madrigal Sonata

I'm rather frustrated trying to locate many Martinů discs that I must have stored away. I felt a 
"Martinů flood" coming on but I guess that will have to wait. As much as I love the symphonies I won't bother posting any as I think several blogs already have done justice there. I will continue to post other orchestral/concertante/chamber/solo/vocal and of course any rarities. 

This Naxos disc is simply joyous;
the Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano,  the Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano (the 3rd movement, track 6 marked Allegretto is too effervescent for words, I just love it!), Promenades for Flute, Violin and Harpsichord and the Madrigal Sonata for Flute, Violin and Piano are all charming charming charming works, really some of the sweetest and (for the most part) happiest of Martinů's neoclassical chamber works. And dear Bohuslav wrote *alot* of chamber music (and a lot of everything else; Martinů was
almost too prolific for his own good).  No matter the genre, when Martinů is neoclassical in his writing I'm always enchanted. Enjoy!



Bohuslav Martinů - Fantaisies symphoniques (Symphony No. 6) - Bouquet of Flowers

Historic recordings from 1955 and 1956 of Martinů's Symphony No. 6 and the "Bouquet of Flowers" a cycle of works to folk texts for mixed and children's choirs, soloists and small orchestra. Czech Philharmonic Orchestra & Chorus (and the Kuhn Children's Chorus) are conducted by the wonderful Karel Ancerl. Enjoy.



Bohuslav Martinů - Piano Quintets Nos. 1 and 2 - Sonata for Two Violins and Piano

Naxos continues their impressive series of Martinů chamber music with this immensely rewarding disc of one of Martinu's indubitable masterpieces, coupled with two rewarding but less well-known works. The masterpiece in question is of course the second piano quintet, dating from 1944. It is immediately recognizable as Martinů (more accurately the Martinů of the middle symphonies) with the appealing blend of impressionism and sleekly elegant neo-classicism. Sporting wonderfully, almost dream-like melodies, the first movement is one of Martinů's most appealing creations, and the following Adagio is one of his most memorable slow movements. The finale, with its juxtapositions of buoyant and busy fast parts with lyrically reflective slow tempos is utterly unforgettable as well; in short, the piano quintet is one of the true masterpieces of the medium and should be known by any music lover.

The first quintet, from 1933, is - although recognizably Martinů - rather different in terms of his treatment of the material. More neo-baroque in style, the music is slightly more craggy and abrasive and the work sounds more like a concertante work for the piano - with the piano set in discursive opposition to a more unified string group. The melodies and figures are overall less memorable than those of the successor, but it is still a very appealing work. More or less the same applies to the playful and somewhat unpredictable Sonata for two violins and piano; overall an entertaining but hardly profound work with a great deal of charm. (GD) Enjoy.



Bohuslav Martinů - Who Is the Most Powerful in the World - Ballet Comedy

Here's an early~ish work by Martinů, his charm already fully apparent. It also happens to be the only ballet about the powerful kingdom of mice, surprisingly ;) Enjoy.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Brutal Reality - Richard Adams, Arthur Bloom, Evan Chambers, John F Rogers, Kamran Ince - Albany Symphony Orchestra

In Brutal Reality, Richard Adams attempts to communicate the sense of being overwhelmed by the enormous compositional and professional demands being placed on him at the time. The music itself isn't brutal in an obvious way, with crashing percussion and crunching tone clusters, but rather a different kind of brutality is implied by the relentless ostinato and its constantly evolving permutations. The music, basically tonal, is more invigorating than lacerating (as its title might imply).

Arthur Bloom renders the sweet morsels of Life is Like a Box of Chocolates in neo-baroque flavors, including a sugary harpsichord. A lively ritornello (constructed on modern-day harmonies) and a
 central section based on a funky R & B riff are just some of the surprises awaiting the listener. Evan Chambers' Concerto for Fiddle & Violin is a modern classic that would be a hit on any concert program. Unlike Mark O'Connor, whose similar concerto (performed last fall in Carnegie Hall) was little more than a bluegrass jam with sparse orchestral commentary, Chambers creates a real concertante work, ingeniously pairing off the serious and playful aspects of the solo instruments.

John Fitz Rogers drew upon the musical ideas of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition in composing his Verve. While the sonorities and textures of the music do bear a distant relationship to the world of the Ravel orchestration, you'd never guess their origin if you weren't told first. Regardless, this is a colorfully orchestrated and enjoyable little piece. Kamran Ince's Fest for Chamber Ensemble & Orchestra, in which he intermingles Anatolian folk music with modern Western elements, is the most diverse and wide-ranging work in this collection. The piece opens with an Eastern-sounding Prologue, followed by a cornucopia of Asian-accented but distinctly American musical idioms, from the echt rock'n'roll of Dance I, to the John Adams-style minimalism of Reflections, to the Coplandesque asymmetrical rhythmic patterns and bass drum syncopations of Dance III. Epilogue ends the piece in a grand rock-anthem style, replete with electric guitar and saxophones. Under David Alan Miller's firm yet fun-loving leadership, the Albany Symphony (joined by the Present Music Ensemble in the Ince work) plays each one of these pieces with palpable excitement and spine-tingling brilliance. And it's all captured in powerfully dynamic and vivid sound by Albany's engineers. Definitely a disc to liven up your listening room. [6/22/2001]
--Victor Carr Jr., ClassicsToday.com  

-I'm too lazy to write my own thoughts on the disc right now, except to say that it's a lot of fun! Enjoy...

1. Brutal Reality (6:22)
2. Life is Like a Box of Chocolates (9:00)
Concerto for Fiddle &Violin
3. I. (Jigs) (5:33)
4. II. (Air/Waltz) (8:00)
5. III. (Reels) (4:00)
Jill Levy, violin
Nollaig Casey, fiddle
6. Verge (8:45)
Fest for Chamber Ensemble &Orchestra
7. Prologue (2:37)
8. Dance I (2:53)
9. Dance II (5:38)
10. Reflections (6:54)
11. Dance III(6:27)

12. Epilogue (2:05)