Friday, July 31, 2015

Florence Price - The Oak - Mississippi Suite - Symphony No. 3 - The Women's Philharmonic, Apo Hsu, Director - Koch Classics 2001

Hello everyone. I'm in a rush as usual, although this time it's a pleasant 'rush' as I'm going away for the weekend. Leaving in 30 minutes in fact and still need to pack. So...I wanted to quickly leave all
of you with an interesting and important recording-Florence Price was the first African-American female composer to be recognized seriously as a symphonist. Her music is in many ways "all-American", and not unlike William Grant Still she often incorporated 'negro' folk spirituals and other folk musics into her own works, which are delightful and substantial both. This Koch recording is fantastic from start to finish. I must run and thus cannot supply more info at this time. The mp3 files however do contain a bio about Price, that should help for now..

Enjoy this special release and good weekend to everyone!

Monday, July 27, 2015

English Music for Viola & Orchestra (Track No. 4 encoded for "blue" and "franz"..see comments) - Arnold Bax - Vaughan Williams - Theodore Holland - Richard Harvey - Roger Chase, Viola - BBC Concert Orchestra, Stephen Bell/Richard Harvey - Dutton Epoch 2012

I am quickly posting this great Dutton Epoch gem motivated by all the enthusiastic comments I received for the Ben-Haim post; that makes me very happy and although I'm running late here ya go everybody :) I will have to write notes tonight. Enjoy!



Saturday, July 25, 2015

Paul Ben-Haim: Chamber Works - Clarinet Quintet - Two Landscapes - Canzonetta - Improvisation & Dance - Piano Quartet - ARC Ensemble - Chandos Records 2013

Here we have a superb survey of Ben-Haim's chamber music played by the flawless ARC Ensemble
of Canada and recorded with Chandos sound-it doesn't get much better than this :)

The Piano Quartet, composed in 1921 by the young Paul Frankenburger (birth name) while still in Munich, is in a sense the next piano quartet Brahms would have written had he lived another 24 years. Everything about the piece-the gestural language, the melodic material, the thematic development, and the piano patterns and figurations-evokes the spirit of Brahms, except for one thing. The harmonic context, with its somewhat more liberal application of dissonance, parallelism, and freer approach to progression, suggests that Ben-Haim had received some exposure to Faure, Debussy, Ravel, and, according to the note, Richard Strauss and Max Reger. Nonetheless, for all its youthful susceptibility to the musical influences that would have been part of Frankenburger's German world, his Piano Quartet is a masterful and powerful work, at times turbulent and tragic, and at other times meltingly poignant. In three large movements, it's a big, late romantic work of nearly 30 minutes' duration. The performance is nothing short of magnificent. Written when Ben-Haim was just 24 years old,  this early work really should be in the standard piano quartet repertoire. 

By the time Ben-Haim came to compose the Two Landscapes for viola and piano, respectively titled "The Hills of Judea" and "The Spring", in 1939, he'd been living in Israel for six years, and his style had already radically changed as a result of adapting to his surroundings and embracing his Jewish culture. We now hear in these two short musical sketches the familiar sounds of nomads in the desert and the exoticisms we tend to associate with the Hebraic melos. 

The "Improvisation and Dance" was also composed in 1939. The Improvisation movement, marked Molto rubato, is free-flowing and sorrowful in feeling, evoking perhaps a camel caravan wending its way across the desert dunes. The Dance movement, is an animated, spirited, strongly accented rhythmic piece that sounds like a bunch of riled-up Klezmorim going after a marauding mob of Bartok's Rumanian peasants. 

In 1944, Ben-Haim composed a set of five piano miniatures, published as "Five Pieces for Piano", Op. 34. Here we get but one of the pieces from the group, No. 4, titled "Canzonetta". The style Ben-Haim adopts for these pieces is best characterized as Impressionistic. 

Originally written in 1941, the Clarinet Quintet was revised in 1965, and Ben-Haim rescored its last movement, a set of variations, for clarinet, harp, and string orchestra, assigning it the same opus number, but with a "b" appended. Like the Piano Quintet that opens the disc, the Clarinet Quintet is a large three-movement work lasting over 27 minutes, but unlike the much earlier Quartet, the Quintet is in a dissonant, occasionally (almost) atonal language that's more difficult to penetrate in just one or two hearings. But the score's romantic impulses do break through to the surface now and then, reminding us once again of Ben-Haim's musical roots. 


Ben-Haim_Chamber_Music(ARC Ensemble)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ivan Eröd - Violin Concerto - Sonata for Violin & Piano No. 1 - Three Pieces for Violin Solo - Sonata for Violin & Piano No. 2 - Israel Chamber Orchestra, Martin Sieghart - Thomas Albertus Irnberger, Violin - Michael Korstick, Piano - Gramola 2014

Here's another "unheard/unopened" discovery for everyone, including myself (<---'duh' moment..); the music of composer Ivan Eröd. Born in Budapest in 1936, he studied composition with Ferenc Szabo, and the great Zoltan Kodaly. As I write this I am listening to the Violin Sonata No. 1, which is quite impressive; it's really beautiful music, and memorable-and I'm only half way through the second movement. I am enjoying the Sonata possibly even more than the engaging Violin Concerto, although who knows what future listens shall bring! Eröd's music here is quite accessible, with lyrical passages (he writes superbly for the violin) and a generally cheerful nature (the Violin Sonata No. 1). The first movement of the Sonata starts things off with clear classical form patterns, and the technique of the developing variation. The lovely second movement is a variation movement of sorts on a calm and later agitated tripartite theme, with the last section of the theme forming a synthesis of the first two.

As for the last movement, I haven't gotten there yet :) I think most listeners will agree that this is a Violin Sonata that deserves to be in the repertoire! Great stuff..

So far, a thrilling listen imo..

See what you think, tell me what YOU think-and as always enjoy


Meredith Monk - String Quartet, "Stringsongs" American Contemporary Music Ensemble - Meet The Composer Series

"Stringsongs" is Meredith Monk's first string quartet. Written in 2005, the piece was premiered by the Kronos Quartet. Until now, surprisingly, no recording of this entire work has been available to the public. The "Meet the Composer" series from Q2/National Public Radio has made several programs about Meredith Monk, and this one is wonderful as it offers her String Quartet in a world-premiere recording/performance by members of "ACME" (American Contemporary Music Ensemble). 

In the first few minutes of the program we hear Meredith speaking enthusiastically with the musicians as they prepare to play the work; a nice way I think to get ready to listen in, as it adds a bit of warmth and revealing humanity to the proceedings.

Meredith Monk had this to say about "Stringsongs":

"In Stringsongs, my first piece for string quartet, I explored using instruments to create unexpected textures and sounds in much the same way that I have worked with the voice over many years.  I was inspired by the profound musicianship and passionate commitment of the Kronos Quartet. During the rehearsal period, as I got to know the players, the music came to life in surprising ways, colored by the distinctive "voice" of each musician".  

Members of ACME

Thus far I am enjoying Meredith Monk's String Quartet; I have only listened to it 5 times so far but surely it's a trip well worth taking over and over again!



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Vittorio Rieti - Music for Harpsichord and Instruments Triptych - Concertino - Sonata Breve - Pastorale e Fughetta - Sonata All'Antica - Variations on Two Cantigas de Santa Maria - New World Records 2014

The desire to compose modern music inspired by the baroque and classical styles was adopted by many composers in the first half of the twentieth century. The wonderful yet neglected composer Vittorio Rieti absorbed neo-classicism from Stravinsky in Paris, embraced it with all the passion of his youth and of the period, but unlike his contemporaries, Rieti never let go of it. He continued to write in this mode throughout his life, long after most composers had abandoned or transformed the style. As Rieti himself remarked in 1973, "I maintain the same aesthetic assumptions I have always had. I have kept evolving in the sense that one keeps on perfecting the same ground." Modern music inspired by earlier, often archaic forms has always held a special place in my heart (Bloch, Hovhaness, Rosner, Harrison, Cowell, Martinu, Part, etc. etc...) and Rieti's music is a charming and
important example of this compositional pursuit. The disc at hand offers up such definitive pieces for chamber ensemble.

Although an Italian native, composer Vittorio Rieti (January 28, 1898 - February 19, 1994) was born in Alexandria, Egypt; his early music studies were taken as secondary to a course in economics at the University of Milan, where Rieti earned his diploma in 1917. Conscripted for a short time into the Italian army during World War I, he resumed his music studies with Alfredo Casella after the war and composed his first works in an experimental, near atonal style. His work gained the attention of Arnold Schoenberg, who frequently programmed them at ISCM concerts and helped Rieti win a publishing contract with Universal Edition. However, by the time he joined the staff of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russes in Paris in 1925, Rieti had shifted to a more neo-classical vein in the manner of Stravinsky, who became his close friend. Rieti enjoyed a high profile in the years leading up to the Second World War, but its outbreak caused him to flee to the United States in 1940. 

Once in the U.S., Rieti picked up right where he left off, writing ballets for George Balanchine and having his works performed by major conductors and orchestras. Unlike Stravinsky, however, Rieti's music began to experience an eclipse starting in the 1950s. Just before that, Rieti had begun to teach, first at Peabody and later in Chicago, concluding with professorships at Queens College and the New York College of Music. Rieti enjoyed a long retirement, and continued to compose right up until his death in 1994 at the age of 96. There is a handful of recordings of his music, mostly out of print however and I certainly hope New World continues to record his music, or better yet that other labels too will explore his output-imp his music deserves exploration in spades! 

Vittorio Rieti left an impressive body of work: seven operas, 11 symphonies, and 11 string quartets in addition to numerous ballets, chamber works, songs, piano pieces, and choral settings. In a stylistic sense, Rieti never wandered very far from the neo-classic sound he'd cultivated since 1925. Considerations of historical relevance aside, Rieti was a highly skillful composer with a great sense of concision and balance. In his American works, Rieti managed to bring an element of old-world charm into pieces that still successfully adopt some of the sass and bite typical to American concert music of the 1940s. His "Second Avenue Waltzes" (1942) beautifully evokes the feeling of being an immigrant in America, living in Hell's Kitchen, and perhaps the breeze lifting the curtain in a kitchen window..

I have included the extremely informative notes on the composer and his music from the New World disc.

Enjoy everyone


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Maurice Duruflé - Requiem Op. 9 for Chorus, Organ & Orchestra - Messe "Cum Jubilo" Op. 11 for Chorus, Organ & Orchestra - Notre Pere - Voices of Ascension Chorus and Orchestra, Dennis Keene - Delos 1995

This exquisite disc contains two of the finest works for Chorus penned during the 20th century. Maurice Duruflé's (January 11, 1902-June 16, 1986)  Requiem and 'Messe "Cum Jubilo" ' are high masterpieces of majestic beauty, and the Requiem is on par with the much better known Requiem of Gabriel Faure. The "Messe" (Mass) is my favorite work by Duruflé, and while I have many recordings of it, 20 years later this is still the finest that I have ever heard. Both works here are performed with organ and orchestra although the Requiem and the Opus 11 Mass can be performed with only organ accompaniment; I love both, however it's the blissful orchestral versions that I adore the most. This particular recording is a lofty number on my "desert-island discs"; it is simply perfection, with all the players involved evoking musical 'heaven' impeccably-and, to top it off, the sound engineering (this was released during 1995) is first-rate, my ears are as always convinced that this could have come out this year. 

It is safe to say that anyone and everyone who has fallen in love with Duruflé's music has at some point (in my case, multiple times!!) exclaimed "Oh how I wish he had written more!". Indeed, is there any other major composer that readily comes to mind who has published only thirteen (!) works? Needless to say it is because the quality of each and every one of these pieces is so high that his place in musical history is assured. One the finest moments for me is the opening, 'Kyrie' of the Messe "Cum Jubilo", it's just one of the most gorgeous things I have ever heard. But then, every moment is gorgeous in both works, and I discover new things (and thus more chills) with every listen-especially during the Requiem, mostly because it's a longer, more expansive work.

Maurice and Marie-Madeleine
The only back cover image I could find is this "bmg" version (remember the bmg club?) of the disc-I haven't owned a scanner for years now, and often had little reason to scan album art back then!

I am going to refrain from writing anything else for now...these works are so special to me that I know I would end up writing pages worth of information, which I simply don't have time for right now! I will come back to this post however-especially if people are interested in hearing about Duruflé's life and detailed info on these two works..

Enjoy everyone


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Erik Chisholm - Piano Concerto No. 1 "Pìobaireachd" Piano Concerto No. 2 "Hindustani" - BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Rory Macdonald - Danny Driver, Piano - Hyperion Records 2012

The recent revival of Erik Chisholm's music has won his compositions widespread critical acclaim, both in the UK and elsewhere. As part of this revival, the present recording of his two piano concertos calls not just for a reassessment of Chisholm, but of modernist music throughout the British Isles. These are both engaging and exciting works-if your ears are anything like mine, you will be playing this many o' times! The "Pìobaireachd" Concerto was recorded some years ago, but this is the first commercial recording of the Hindustani Concerto, which was Chisholm's own favorite. The two works are as highly contrasted as their titles would imply, but they share Chisholm’s profound understanding of the piano and, in their different idioms, his ability to engage with the classical music of the Highland bagpipes on the one hand, and the classical music of Hindustan on the other.

Erik Chisholm was born in Glasgow and brought up in what might be described as a conventional middle-class household; but it was hardly conventional of his parents to allow him to leave school at the age of thirteen to pursue composition, piano and organ, later studying and living with the leading Russian pianist Leff Pouishnoff. From the early days Chisholm was exploring the latest repertoire, premiering Bartok's first Piano Concerto in Glasgow, and also giving Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" its Scottish premiere. Despite differences of opinion about Chisholm's more modernistic tendencies, Pouishnoff was more than willing to recommend Chisholm for a degree course at Edinburgh University: "I beg to certify that Mr Erik Chisholm has studied with me the art of piano playing for a number of years and that in the course of our work together he proved to be the possessor of a keen brain and highly developed intelligence … I may add that my opinion of him as a musician is of a very high degree."

Chisholm obtained his Doctorate in music under the tuition of Donald Tovey. A fine pianist, Chisholm's understanding of piano texture and technique is evident in all his piano works, from the simplest to the most virtuosic. He was also an outstanding organist and an innovative conductor and concert promoter. In Glasgow he gave Mozart's "Idomeneo" and Berlioz's "The Trojans" their British premieres and, amongst others, he brought Hindemith, Casella, Szymanowski, Schmitt, Walton and Bartok to the city. He was dubbed "MacBartok" not because his music could ever be confused with Bartok's, but because he was pursuing a similar compositional course in his handling of Scottish traditional music as did Bartok with the Central European tradition.

Chisholm had started composing variations on Scottish folk-tunes at the age of six, but it was at the age of ten that he was given a copy of Patrick MacDonald's "A Collection of Scottish Airs" published in 1784. So influential was this gift that scarcely a single one of the two hundred airs remained un-arranged by Chisholm in one form or another. Patrick MacDonald was not Chisholm's only source of Scottish traditional music, and he made use of early Scottish lute manuscripts and many published sources, and had a broad knowledge of pìobaireachd (pipe music), examples of which were published in MacDonald's collection.

While Chisholm's primary influence was that of his own native music, he was also greatly influenced by Hindustani music, following his friendship with Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, and a period of service in the Far East during the Second World War. He founded a symphony orchestra in Singapore, and from there went straight to Cape Town, where he was Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Music until his untimely death.

Piano Concerto No. 1 "Pìobaireachd"

Pìobaireachd literally means "pipe music" but refers exclusively to the classical music of the Highland bagpipes, also known as ceòl mór—"the big music". Ceòl mór takes the form of variations on a theme or ùrlar. Ùrlar means "ground", but these themes and the manner in which they are varied are not in any way related to the concept of the ground bass. They are, however, of considerable structural interest, involving their own subtle symmetries, and the variations on them develop with increasingly virtuosic demands upon the fingerwork of the solo piper—for ceòl mór is always played as a solo. Chisholm was fascinated by the form, and composed many works based upon its structure, melody and style, as well as its unique forms of embellishment, which themselves have structural significance.

The earliest version of the Pìobaireachd Concerto dates from 1932. By December 1937 it was revised and, in 1938, first performed in a broadcast from Edinburgh with Chisholm as soloist and Ian Whyte conducting. The first public performance was in the St Andrew's Hall in Glasgow on 20 January 1940, with Chisholm again as soloist and Aylmer Buesst conducting the Scottish Orchestra. Unfit for active service, Chisholm spent the first months of the war painting white lines on the streets and blacking out windows:

"Well, in this painting business I don’t think that my musical training is altogether wasted. When painting lines on steps and along the edge of pavements I lay on the paint as a musical stave—in five lines with four spaces between—and this gives me an advantage over the man who lives as it were only from line to line, doing what must be one of the most monotonous jobs in the world. Looked at in this way, our gang must have ruled enough five lines and four spaces to write the complete works of Bach and Beethoven! … Nor can I complain that my life lacks variety—this morning, for instance, I was helping in blacking-out 1200 large windows in a large building & now I am going off to rehearse my piano concerto with the Scottish Orchestra."

The pìobaireachd on which the first movement—Molto moderato (tranquillo)—is based is Maol Donn, now known as MacCrimmon's Sweetheart. Maol Donn is a lament for the death of a favorite cow and it has an associated pìobaireachd song. Songs in praise of individual animals are common in the Gaelic-speaking world, and with good reason, for its economy has been focused on cattle for thousands of years. Such sentiments may seem odd to some readers in an orchestral context: but we are dealing here with a culture which has retained much of its closeness to nature and which still retained a degree of veneration for cattle, as is the case to this day in the East. Since his mother was a MacLeod, Chisholm would have welcomed the association of this tune with the MacCrimmons, who were the MacLeods's hereditary pipers.

The concerto opens with bassoons supplying the drone, and a solo oboe playing the bagpipe line verbatim. Chisholm's treatment is, however, entirely his own, and one can hear immediately how effectively he has translated the idiom pianistically. The first variation is a much more energetic affair than would be the case in a normal pìobaireachd, the piano soon stamping out the rhythm in the bass, with the tune in the violins and upper wind. There follows a return to the opening tempo with the piano in rhapsodic mood. This, though rarely done at this point in modern pìobaireachd playing, used to be an integral part of the tradition in the eighteenth century. The ensuing variation (Allegretto scherzando) is a jig that brings out a totally different character in the tune. This is followed by a thoroughly joyful passage leading to the cadenza, which runs the jig to ground and, via a ruminative section, prepares us for a return to the opening, but in different guise.

There is no conventional recapitulation of the main theme or, as would also occur in the tradition, the ùrlar. A brief up-swell of feeling—it is marked appassionato—is more in the classical than in the traditional mould, but it captures and extends that moment which, in pìobaireachd, hovers between the elaborate and the simple as the ùrlar returns. For all its liveliness, there is much that is thoughtful and lyrical in this movement, honoring the gentle and beautiful shape of the ùrlar itself.

The second movement, Allegro scherzando, is a wonderfully energetic Scottish dance. It is delivered with a splendid mix of Stravinskian neoclassical techniques and more volatile Bartokian twists, twice grounding itself in a slow powerful passage in the lower register which, on its second appearance, is summarily dismissed with the last gesture of the movement. The tune itself is a lively variation on the pìobaireachd Fàilte Uilleim Dhuibh Mhic Coinnich—The Earl of Seaforth’s Salute.

The slow movement, Adagio, is based upon the famous Cumha Dhomhnuil Bhain Mhic Cruimein—The Lament for Donald Bàn MacCrimmon, for which Chisholm has marked the solo piano to be played 'very distant and impersonal'. This pìobaireachd is reputed to have been composed by Malcolm MacCrimmon on the death, in 1746, of his younger brother, Donald Bàn. Donald Bàn is also the subject of Cha Till MacCruimean. Even if it is not by his brother, we know that when Donald Bàn was previously captured, the pipers on the opposing side refused to play until their own leaders released him, which was duly done. So it is anything but an impersonal pìobaireachd. Indeed, it is written of the famous piper John MacDonald that it 'was almost sacred to him'.

If it was sacred to Chisholm, it was in a very different way. He has enshrined it as though it were indeed a sacred object from the past, announced and concluded by a stroke on a gong, and veiled in mysterious textures. Low flutes set the tone, over which the piano introduces the ùrlar, like a bird in the night, uttering complex cries, brief but haunting, derived from the pìobaireachd. This is then taken up by the oboe and bassoon.

The sense of mystery is continued in the first variation, with the veiled tonal wash of the piano and horn, against which a solo violin, followed by solo clarinet, draws out a long thin line of sound as if from another world. The harmonic and orchestral textures here are rich and strange—sometimes coming like waves of water or light. Throughout it all, phrases from the ùrlar emerge and sink back into the texture. As the music gathers strength, the muted trumpet sings its own lament against rising arpeggios from the soloist, and the inherent riches of the whole burgeon into a climax which suggests a vastness beyond. There is a close similarity between this movement and the latent and sometimes terrifying power of Chisholm's "Night Song of the Bards" for solo piano.

The finale, Allegro con brio, starts as a reel—a quintessentially Scottish dance form which has traditionally involved rhythmic twists as part of its repertoire of tricks. Chisholm is quick to exploit this, with syncopations and notes picked out by additional emphasis, achieved through declamatory orchestral chords where the traditional fiddler would use bow attack or double-stopping. Into this repertoire of standard tricks Chisholm throws chromatic displacement of chords and spirited orchestration, tossing around from section to section fragments of rhythm. And 'rhythm' is the operative word. When asked whether melody or rhythm came first in his music, Chisholm responded: "I rather think the rhythmic impulse is strongest; a definite body stimulus which, by its continued reiteration, induces a feeling of magnetic attraction (or sheer monotony) is a characteristic of the pìobaireachd, and also in my music." The tune is number 16 in the Patrick MacDonald collection, and demonstrates that even a quite uniform pattern, when related to pitch with skill, becomes wonderfully provocative rhythmically.

A more lyrical section follows, with solo piano and woodwind seemingly anticipating Bartok’s third Piano Concerto, anticipations which keep surfacing as the piece gathers energy on its way back to the reel. One moment stamping a foot, the next swirling and turning, with a final fusillade of off-center chords, it ends—anything but exhausted, but with a flourish as if to say 'that is enough for now'.

Taken as a whole, this four-movement work not only introduces a new idiom to the world of the concerto, but also a new type of virtuosity. The piano concerto as a form is riddled with cliche, but in the twentieth century, particularly in the concertos of Bartok, there emerged a new kind of pianism. Chisholm had played the solo part of Bartok's Piano Concerto No 1 in Glasgow, but Bartok had only just completed his Concerto No. 2 on his second visit to Glasgow in November 1933. Chisholm's piano-writing is totally different from both of these works. If there is a Bartok concerto which might be placed alongside Chisholm's No. 1, it is the Third—composed after Bartok had twice stayed with the Chisholms and, intrigued by what he had heard, travelled home with as much pìobaireachd as he could carry, and a bagpipe chanter under his arm.

Piano Concerto No. 2 "Hindustani"

The Hindustani Concerto was completed in 1949 and dedicated to Adolph Hallis. It was first performed at an International Society of Contemporary Music concert in the University of Cape Town on 22 November 1949, with Hallis playing the solo part and Chisholm conducting. The next day it was broadcast by the South Africa Broadcasting Company and, in 1950, by the BBC Scottish Orchestra, again with Hallis as soloist and Chisholm conducting. Schott published a two-piano score in 1951, with several cuts following the 1950 performance, and it was re-orchestrated in 1953 and other alterations made for a further broadcast that year.

In relating Chisholm's music to any particular raga, it should be remembered that a raga is not so much a tune as a melody-type. Each raga has its appropriate season, or time of day or night, and carries with it emotional and even ethical significance, and may be associated with particular colors, or symbolic pictorial associations. Each note has its own character in the context of the particular raga, and the sequence of notes is approached differently according to whether in "aroha" (ascending) or "avaroha" (descending) mode, and according to the mood of the player and the development of the improvisation. The improvisation itself follows fairly strict rules and makes use of important melodic, rhythmic and 'ornamental' formulae; but ultimately it is the player and none other who makes the music, who brings to the ancient formulae life, meaning and originality, as Asad Ali Khan has written: "Each raga has its own character which must be understood and developed in presentation. But the raga itself is only a structure for musical discipline, and to come alive it must be steeped in rasa, the essence of emotion. An artist can invest the notes with any rasa, and the true listener will understand and respond to the musician."

In many of the characteristics listed above, raga resembles pìobaireachd, and to a composer such as Chisholm, who had studied pìobaireachd, the transition from making use of the one to the other, in a Western classical context, will have been relatively easy. The Hindustani Concerto makes use of a different raga for each of its three movements. The Hindustani singer Prakriti Dutta maintained that Chisholm's understanding of these ragas revealed that he had studied them intensively and with real appreciation of their structures and significances.

The first movement (Poco maestoso e con fuoco) is at times troubled and even aggressive in its passions; but there is also mystery, especially in the dialogue between the piano and the timpani. It is based upon Raga Asavari, which is usually played in the morning at about 9 o'clock. The accompanying image is of Asavari, adorned with peacock feathers, seated on top of Mount Malayagiri. Chisholm emphasizes the darker aspects of this raga, the expression of which centers around words such as grave, dignified, melancholy, wise, sober, as well as very tender and loving. Asad Ali Khan describes it as "full of bhakti rasa, devotional and contemplative". Chisholm's own direction of con fuoco—with fire—cannot be easily reconciled with these traditional associations; but as the movement develops, so the music reveals both grave and melancholy aspects, especially in the second subject, enunciated by the piano, and also at the start of the recapitulation in which the theme is given to the clarinet against a throbbing rhythm on the piano.

The piano's opening statement is derived directly from the raga, but almost immediately breaks away into chromatic coloring of the material, which one might construe as Chisholm's way of suggesting the various microtonal inflections that would be part of the expressive technique of a Hindu musician.

Motifs from the raga appear in many guises, sometimes delicate, sometimes dramatic, and the Meno mosso makes use of a transposed version of the aroha (rising motif), but it is part of a complex texture which uses the predominant intervals of the raga (semitones and major thirds) in different transpositions simultaneously. The central climax is in a mood more of desperation than anger. As the storm passes, it leaves behind the rumblings of the timpani, and the soloist falls back in halting rhythms, as though emotionally drained. The music then settles on a pulsating drone in E flat, over which a solo clarinet returns to the opening theme. It is a moment of beauty and mystery which soon reveals that passions are anything but spent. The movement ends with an extended cadenza for the soloist, and a brief orchestral coda.

The second movement is a set of seven variations on a theme based on Rag Shri. It is associated with the months of December and January and with the early evening. The image that goes with it is of a youth of such beauty that women become infatuated, and anger is soothed. But it can also be spiritual in its effect, like a call to evening prayer. In Chisholm's opening statement, the notes of the aroha (ascent) and avaroha (descent) are combined, and accompany a melodic line similarly derived. The movement is a wonderfully compelling exploration of mystery, sensuousness and allure. In particular, the fifth variation draws close to the mood and the mode of Rag Shri, extruding a sinuous line against a rippling ostinato that breaks upon the shores of this exotic music in gentle but urgent waves. The beauty with which Chisholm embellishes the line, with subtle use of repeated notes and tremolo, would surely have created sensations down Sorabji’s spine, and Sorabji might well have preferred to receive the dedication of this work rather than Pictures from Dante, with its vision of Beatrice's heavenly purity. Sorabji was profoundly in love with Chisholm and (although not reciprocating that love) Chisholm's true musical homage is here, for it is in passages such as this that the scent-laden sensuality of Sorabji's own Djâmi drifts into the more austere world of Chisholm and, as the Song of Solomon would have it, steals like little foxes into the heart of the beloved.

In the following variation, the bass clarinet and strings release a rush of passion which, in the final Variation 7, relapses into a dialogue between solo cello and piano—a beautiful submission to, and admission of, irresistible desire.

The third movement is based upon Raga Vasantee, which heralds the coming of spring, and is suggestive of color and celebration. At first, the piano and orchestra seem almost capricious, even bird-like in places, mixing delicacy, wit and energy. But it is the energy that soon takes command of proceedings, leading the movement into a concluding section marked Allegro barbaro, in which Chisholm lets loose the piano and orchestra in a riot of festivity. 

Grrrrrreat stuff

Monday, July 13, 2015

Contemporary Music For Guitar - Ilkka Turta, Etudes I-X Leo Brouwer, El Decameron Negro - Toshio Hosokawa, Two Japanese Songs - Ilkka Turta, Guitar - MSR Classics 2013

This is one of the finest guitar discs to surface from the last couple years,  and I find it extremely satisfying from start to finish..if you are a fan of guitar music I'm most certain you will agree. Turta's own Etudes are the highlight (for me) of the recording, although everything here is extremely fine (guitar freaks will already know and love the Brouwer I assume)..

Ilkka Turta is a Finnish guitarist and composer who plays music dating from the Renaissance to current times. He composed his superb "Etudes I-X" in 2011 and this is their premiere recording. 
He has this to say of his work: "My Etudes I-X were written in 2011 as a part of my thesis for the Turku University of Applied Sciences. The idea was to write new material for talented young guitarists studying at the conservatory and the music institute level. While composing each etude, I had my basis on different subjects feeding me the mental images found around the subject in case, and helping the process of composing. The etudes are also named after these subjects. One of the goals in my compositions is that the players could find the imagery existing in music, and also to learn how to use it, as a supporting element of one's interpretations and practicing".

Turta's 10 pieces range from soft and lyrical to strong and dramatic. They show the full measure of the guitarist's ability. Turta has an incredibly beautiful tone when he plays lyrical music and his studies reveal the lyric palette of a master colorist. Some of these short works begin as though rain or snowflakes are falling softly onto the surface of a lake. There are contrasting dramatic sections and passages that could encourage meditation. As a composer and guitarist Ilkka Turta is a fine craftsman and it would be easy to become addicted to his lyrical sonorities. Although his name will be new to most, he has total mastery of the guitar and this program is something very special indeed.

Cuban composer Leo Brouwer has reminded us of Giovanni Boccaccio's 14th-century Decameron by naming his suite for guitar "El Decameron Negro" (The Black Decameron). Brouwer based his program on African folk tales published by the German anthropologist Leo Frobenius. In the first section, "El arpa del guerrero" (The Warrior'’s Harp), a young man is banished from his tribe because he spends too much time playing his harp. When invaders attack the tribe, he returns to lead them to victory, but the tribe still wants him to be exiled and he leaves with his lover. In telling this part of the story, Brouwer contrasts lyrical interludes with rhythmic and dramatic passages. His second section, "La huida de los amantes por el valle de los ecos" (The Flight of the Lovers Through the Valley of Echoes), follows them on their flight. One can hear the rhythms of their galloping horses as they venture into the black oblivion of the African night. When they stop to rest, they make love to seductive melodies. When they continue their journey, one can hear the sound of their horses's hooves echoing from hill to hill. The third part, "Balada de la doncella enamored" (Ballad of the Young Girl in Love), describes a young girl's awakening to passionate love in a ballad that uses one of the lover's tunes from the previous section. Elena Papandreou made a comparable recording on Naxos in 2002, on which she plays Brouwer's music exactly as he wrote it with no further interpretation. It's interesting, but is second choice to Turta'’s well-thought-out version here.

Turta writes about the Brouwer:

"El Decameron Negro by Leo Brouwer is the first piece I ever played that was composed to a written story. (Naturally, every song has its story, but this one I could actually read!). I immediately fell in love with it-both the written story and the musical one. El Decameron Negro illustrates the stories in the most beautiful way. I do not know if I have expressed the images in my interpretations as Leo Brouwer imagined them, but that is the beauty of music, is it not? We all find our own world when interpreting or listening to music, as in our dreams".

Composer Toshio Hosokawa writes: "I am searching for a new form of Japanese spiritual culture and music, one through which I can remain true to myself as well as to my origins". His "Two Japanese Songs", "Sakura" (Cherry Blossom) and "Komori-uta" (Lullaby) are simple and evoke an ethereal beauty that Turta fulfills with the overtly beautiful tone quality of his lyrical playing. This recording is a true gem that belongs in the home of every fancier of modern guitar music!

Turta writes about Hosokowa's Two Songs:

Toshio Hosokawa's Sakura and Komori-uta were introduced to me by my teacher, Timo Korhonen, several years ago. The works were totally different from anything I had ever played before. The peace and calmness that can be found in these songs and how it effects you is something that, I think, is a valuable treasure for today's hectic people in our harried world. Hosokawa's music is in space, but it also gives you space. The works breathe, allowing you to breathe. Based on Japanese folk songs, these pieces are in their own way the most beautiful I have ever played.

About the guitarist/composer:

Born in Turku, Finland, in 1987, Ilkka Turta began his musical journey with the guitar in 1997 with Matti Sillanpaa. He subsequently studied classical guitar with Risto Vuorinen at the Turku Music Institute, and afterwards at the Turku Music Academy under the guidance of Timo Korhonen, Ismo Eskelinen and Jyrki Myllarinen. Turta regularly gives both solo and chamber music recitals, and has performed in London, Athens, St. Petersburg, Brussels, Tallin and in his native Finland, among many others. His programs often consist of works by such composers as J.S. Bach, Brouwer, Da Milano, Giuliani, Hosokawa, Mertz, Moreno-Torroba, Mudarra, Sor, Suilamo, Tárrega, Turina and Villa-Lobos. Recent chamber music collaborations have included the Autio & Turta guitar duo with guitarist Kalle Autio and the Elise & Her Mans guitar trio with Elise Hermans and Kalle Autio. As a part of a tour of Europe 2012, the trio gave the world premiere of "Hitaita Rakeita" by Finnish composer Tapio Nevanlinna. Turta is also active in popular music as a member of the 'Proggae' group "Kaikukasti", and has worked as a theater musician in musical and puppetry projects. Ilkka Turta plays a Stauffer guitar from 1911, and a modern guitar made by Kauko Liikanen.

Track listing:

1) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Korsika / Corsica
2) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Ennustaja / The Prophet
3) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, La Traviata / La Traviata
4) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Merimatka / Crossing of the Seas
5) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Kleopatra / Cleopatra
6) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Poika / Kiddo
7) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Harharetket / An Odyssey
8) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Rahapata / The Pot of Gold
9) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Riidankylväjä / The Hate Monger
10) Ilkka Turta: Etudes I-X, Kuilu / A Gap

11) Leo Brouwer: El Decameron Negro, El Arpa del Guerrero
12) Leo Brouwer: El Decameron Negro, La Huída de los Amantes Por el Valle de los Ecos
13) Leo Brouwer: El Decameron Negro - Balada de la Doncella Enamorada

14) Toshio Hosokawa: Two Japanese Songs, Sakura
15) Toshio Hosokawa: Two Japanese Songs, Komori-Uta (Weigenlied)


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Animals for "Doctor T" Volume One - Cheerful, off-topic photographic fun

..Since Todavía no puedo localizar cualquier Lloyd George para usted (aparte de lo que ya tiene), sin embargo, me di cuenta de que te va a gustar una diversión alegre de otro tipo; algo que es tan querido para ti como música :)

..Since I still cannot locate any George Lloyd for you (other than what you already have) yet, I figured you would enjoy a lighthearted diversion of another kind; something that is as dear to you as music :)

Enjoy the carnival

That certainly cheered me up!