Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Re-up link for the Stanley Bate and W.H. Bell Viola Concertos

A few people commented recently that the zshare had expired for this fantastic disc, so here it is again for those who missed it and those new to it entirely:

Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

"Fast Jump": New Music for Piano - Caleb Burhans, David Lang, Lona Kozik, Graham Fitkin, Jascha Narveson - Danny Holt, Piano - Innova Recordings 2009

I was listening to a broadcast focusing on contemporary piano music a couple years ago and the piece that was playing at the time I tuned in was "In Times of Desperation" by Caleb Burhans. This piece immediately gripped me with it's simplicity, darkness, emotional clarity. To a degree the piano writing reminds me of Tori Amos when she was at the height of her compositional and song-writing powers during the 1990's. So of course I had to get the disc. "In Times of Desperation" was a composed  reaction to Luciano Berio's death in 2003, and is dedicated to Berio and to Burhan's father who had passed away some years earlier.

The title piece "Fast Jump: Etudes & Interludes for piano" by Lona Kozik is a captivating work I think, and the level of virtuosity that is necessary is a bit astonishing - I know it would make me run and hide. It runs the gamut from gentle impressionistic moments of beauty to spiky aggressiveness and wild energetic outbursts. I especially like the final movement ("Fast Jump") which inhabits a world of twisted ragtime - with perhaps some boozing at a speakeasy! Quiet a memorable listen! 

After "Fast Jump" we swing around 180° for Jascha Narveson's "Ripple" which is a quiet, meditative short piece. It is rather like ripples upon otherwise still water; I for one would prefer gazing at the water itself. 

Graham Fitkin's "Relent" describes exactly what this work refuses to do - and I'm happy it doesn't! It's a frantic ride well worth trying to hold onto, pianism with an intensity that makes imo for a perfect musical depiction of 21st century life - trying to attain peace yet hopelessly sucked into its currents.

David Lang's "Memory Pieces" is another superb exploration of juxtaposition not unlike "Fast Jump".
There are minimalist tendencies yet the music is not wholly repetitive; there is a mesmerizing electricity here (try "spartan arcs") as well as periods of limpid quietude ("cello" etc.)  and the work is altogether full of textural surprises. Through both calm and storm do we trek.  I find the opening of "spartan arcs" especially beautiful! 

Enjoy everyone!

There's nothing like a good Stravinsky quote

Eloquent Igor was at the same time a master of taking jabs at his fellow man - especially if that fellow man happened to write music. Always witty and sardonic, there are enough Stravinsky
one-liners to fill a book!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Bohuslav Martinů: "Maxim Rysanov plays Martinů" Rhapsody-Concerto for Viola & Orchestra - Three Madrigals for Violin & Viola - Duo No. 2 for Violin & Viola - Sonata for Viola & Piano - Maxim Rysanov, Viola BBC S.O., Jiri Belohlávek - BIS 2015

This fine Martinů disc was a wise purchase by my father. The "Rhapsody-Concerto" for Viola and Orchestra is his favorite work by one of his favorite (like father like son) Czech composers. It's a late work that practically marks the beginning of his final major stylistical development towards Neo-Romanticism. It's a beautiful work and in the Hands of Jiri Belohlávek with the BBC Symphony Orchestra it receives a knock-out performance. The three other works are duos for viola & violin and viola & piano, respectively. Now I want to go back and listen to my other recordings of these three delights for comparison's sake, however I'm pretty sure that these are the finest performances of all three pieces! Without any doubt if you are a Martinů fan you are in for one hell of a treat! The sound is as outstanding (what one expects from BIS) as the playing from all artists involved. I believe I have posted all four of these works before, so no further comments are really needed.. 



Saturday, April 9, 2016

Vesna Children's Choir: "Chants Du Monde" - Vesna Children's Choir, Moscow - Alexander Ponomarev, Director - Opus 111 - 1996

I have always had a soft spot for the rich folk music tradition and the special sound-world of children's choirs from around Easter Europe. Particularly those from Czech, Hungarian and Russian lands. My favorite works written for children's chorus are those by the great Zoltan Kodaly, who penned original songs and lovingly arranged some of the most memorable Hungarian folk songs. 

The Vesna Children's Choir is one of the finest ensembles in Europe and the winner of the most prestigious international choral competitions in Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Canada and France, as well as the holder of the highest European award for choirs of all types and ages "The Grand Prix of Europe" in 2000. Annually they give concerts in the best concert halls of Moscow, and have toured more than 50 cities within Russia. The choir has also toured at least a dozen other European countries, as well as Canada, Japan and China. The Choir collaborates with professional musicians, orchestras and conductors (such as V. Fedoseyev, G. Rozhdestvensky, M. Pletnev, S. Sondeckis, L. Marquis, T. Sanderling, S. Bychkov, etc.) and they have made (I think) at least 15 recordings. Prokofiev's complete "Ivan the Terrible", music for Eisenstein's film is on Nimbus as a 2-cd set and features the Vesna Children's Choir. Of course now I will have to dig around for it to post :)

The program is a real delight and it lives up to it's title; we get a taste of songs from everywhere (well, perhaps not everywhere - that would be a 100 box-set!  there are several disparate styles however):

From Moscow, with loveliness

At the moment I have on the Japanese folk song "Kisobushi" which is track 25 - one of the real standouts I think!

Enjoy the trip!


American Breeze: American Music for Woodwind Quintet - Steven Stucky - Jenni Brandon - Bruce Adolphe - Amy Beach - Jennifer Higdon - David Maslanka - Musical Arts Woodwind Quintet - Albany Records 2012

I am up, although barely awake as it is very early. I'm getting ready to drive family to the airport and this extremely fine disc of Contemporary (with the exception of the Amy Beach) American woodwind music is what I have playing. I'm enjoying it as much as my French press so it is share time. Practically everything is excellent listening here, and I am especially fond of Jenni Brandon's playful and exciting "Five Frogs", David Maslanka's Quintet No. 4 and Amy Beach's utterly enchanting "Pastorale". I find it difficult to listen to Beach's little woodwind gem but once; it's really gorgeous and it's elegant lines move me greatly. Ah and I cannot leave out Jennifer Higdon's attractive and moody "Autumn Music" (inspired perhaps by Samuel Barber's wind quintet masterpiece that celebrates the warmer months?).

Fantastic music abounds...and to all wind music fans, this will be your candy shop! 

Enjoy everyone

Friday, April 8, 2016

Domenico Scarlatti - Little-Known Harpsichord Sonatas Mayako Soné, Harpsichord - Apex/Warner 2007 re-release (Erato 1994)

I really adore Scarlatti's sonatas for harpsichord. Literally it is a treasure-trove as he wrote so many of them (550+, all for harpsichord except a handful for organ, and a few to be played on the fortepiano courtesy of it's inventor Bartolomeo Cristofori). Scarlatti's sonatas are short, single movement gems and are typically arranged/played in pairs or sets. The sonatas are played here with diamond-cut precision and elegance by Mayako Soné, one of the finest keyboardists that I'm aware of (check out her (J.S.) Bach recordings and you will hear what I'm talking about!). It is baffling then, that there are otherwise so few recordings of Soné's perspicacious artistry. Perhaps I should to do a bit of 'homework' but I'm most certain I have everything. The sonatas are presented here as Scarlatti's "Little-known" sonatas, however even the booklet notes speak of the indeterminate identity of the creator - I believe, going only by what I know of Scarlatti's personal and oft eccentric musical language, that many of these are indeed authentic. Some seem to be Solerian, and likely were penned by (guess who??!!) Soler, or a contemporary. Composed by "the Dom" or not, these gorgeous and esoteric sonatas are at the top of my "Scarlatti stack".

And Gramophone says: 

It's a bit daft of Erato to label this disc ''Unpublished sonatas'' when the publishers of eight of the present 14 are actually listed: if they meant 'recently discovered sonatas', why not say so? Apart from this, however, a certain scepticism is called for by the claim that these are by Scarlatti. A few may well be by him; the majority, to differing extents, are of doubtful authenticity; about three are most unlikely to be his. Can I make clear which is which, when of course they all fall outside the (already confusing) four different numbering systems (Longo, Kirkpatrick, Pestelli and Fadini)? 'Probables' are Henle's D major, which is a shorter version of the well-known cheerfully athletic Kk96, an engaging 'Lisbon' A major and two sonatas in the Catalonian Library (both with some typical key-shifts) that were once arranged by Granados.

The most convincing 'possibles' are the robustly exuberant Yale C major (which some experts attribute to Soler) and three sonatas (two of them longer than usual) found in Valladolid and published by UME in Madrid. The Fandango has been worked up by the player here from a sketch (an impression of Scarlatti's improvisation?) in a private collection in Tenerife: shorter than the famous example attributed to Soler but closely resembling it in style. It is played with tremendous gusto—like everything else on this disc—on a Blanchet copy by Mayako Sone, a young harpsichordist who is making quite a name for herself. Her experience as a continuo player (she is, among other things, a member of the Israel Chamber Orchestra) has doubtless been a contributory factor in her splendidly strong rhythmic sense; and her crisp articulation is a pleasure to hear. Regardless of the genuineness or not of these pieces, this is a very attractive disc.'

The boney-fingered wizard himself, "the Dom"

Actual portrait of Scarlatti composing these sonatas at his beloved Raphael harpsichord.

I hope everyone enjoys these sonatas as much as I do!

Get to know your fellow visitors, Vol. 1: Scraps

Just like you, Scraps loves the world-wide-web and is uncontrollably drawn to music blogs!

When he spends too much time with his computer downloading music, his bombshell wife gets jealous-thinks he's cheating ('this is WHO you prefer Scraps??). Yes, short wired and stout makes this hourglass pout!!

The marital conflicts and stress in his life is often sublimated through his infamously wild Herbie Hancock improvisations

...or by visiting his younger brother who always offers real emotional guidance

Scraps is strongly opposed to anything farm-raised and can often be found fishin' down by the river

Although a lover of classical music, Scraps has a 'soft' spot for harder music including metal and spent two years in the 1980's touring with Def Leppard. Here he is during an encore - he is so grateful for his fans!!

Initially this fame meant money was no option; this was short-lived however as like a sudden jolt of rock n roll lightening from his electric guitar,
Scraps fell on hard times - doing time. He "didn't know" about the back taxes!! 

Released early due to his exemplary behavior, Scraps used both his talent and unrelenting resolve to reinvent himself. Long story short, he ended up becoming the first "hybrid-conductor" appointed to the Detroit Symphony!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Jean Françaix - Music for String Orchestra - Symphony for Strings - Ode sur 'La Naissance de Vénus' de Botticelli - Die Kamelien: Pantomime - Sir Georg Solti Chamber Orchestra, Kerry Stratton - Toccata Classics 2012

Greetings all. Here is a quick post before I head out to work. I have always thoroughly enjoyed the music of Jean Françaix, especially his chamber and concertante works. Everything he composed displays a tight and thoughtful craftsmanship. His style is loosely neoclassical, almost always charming and exuberant; there is a lightness of touch and the moods are typically cheerful and full of play, not unlike his compatriot Poulenc.

Here's a blurb from the Toccata page:

Jean Françaix (1912-97) has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the happier composers, his Gallic charm and breezy good humour obscuring the superb craftsmanship of his writing. Françaix once observed that 'I live in exile in my own country and am nourished from abroad' — Plus ça change, he then might have thought, with this CD presenting an Hungarian ensemble led by a Canadian conductor on a British label, with two first recordings and a rare hearing for one of his more substantial scores.

I have included the booklet notes, authored by the composer's son Jacques.


Birthdays & Events: yea or nay?

So some of you have likely noticed that I have not posted any 'birthdays & events' ever since the flooding. I'm not sure whether or not I should continue? It doesn't take terribly long really, however if the majority of people just scroll past these posts looking for recordings that interest them, which is fine needless to say, I might as well not bother. Let me know what you think, or rather reply IF you enjoy the events posts. You can leave a comment or just click "magnificent" so I know. If you have no interest, then **and this is the first and ONLY time you will ever 'hear' me say this**---> please just ignore ;-)

Monday, April 4, 2016

South African Orchestral Works - Gideon Fagan, Concert Overture in D - Ilala (Tone Poem) - W.H. Bell, A South African Symphony - National Symphony Orchestra of the South African Broadcasting Corp. - Richard Cock, Peter Marchbank - Marco Polo 1995

Here's a nice release that likely 99.9% of collectors never knew existed; make that double since there  is another "South African Orchestral Works" cd which although not labeled is considered Volume 1.
There isn't much music available by the composers at hand, although the aforementioned S.A.O.W. Vol. 1 contains Fagan's "Karoo Symphony" and there is a great recording of W.H. Bell's Viola Concerto, "Rosa Mystica" on Dutton Epoch that I posted quite awhile ago:

Gideon Fagan's "Concert Overture in D" sounds somewhat like early Sibelius (the opening main theme could fool many listeners in fact!),  and it's a whistle-worthy and tuneful work. The Tone Poem "Ilala" is mostly pastoral in mood. The notes describe Ilala as expansive with music that suggests the wide open spaces of Central Africa. That I can hear. The notes continue, and I'm quoting: "The work is also characterized by very strong African rhythms" This is puzzling and nonsense imo as I do not hear a single note that suggests African music whatsoever, indigenous or otherwise. It's a nice piece, but don't waste time looking for the "local flavor".

Gideon Fagan

W.H. (William Henry) Bell's "A South African Symphony" is a sweeping, energetic work and a worthy addition to anyone's library - not to mention important in that one would be hard-pressed to list almost any symphonies penned in South Africa. Bell wrote four symphonies (this is his 4th) however I don't know if the other three have been performed at all. I for one would be most interested  to lend an ear!

W.H. Bell

Here is a link to a good bio on Gideon Fagan:,_Gideon.html

And a small bio on W.H. Bell, although the liner notes here say mostly the same thing:


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Gerald Finzi: Chamber Music - Five Bagatelles for Clarinet & String Quartet - Elegy for Violin & Piano Romance for String Quartet - Diabelleries - Introit for Violin & Piano - Interlude for Oboe & String Quartet - Prelude & Fugue for String Trio - MDG 2015

Here's a quick post as I'm at my parent's house and once again I'm likely coming across as an uninterested, underwhelming specimen of a son; Damien is a saint by comparison. My father bought a few discs recently and they are good ones, including a recent (2015) Martinu recording on BIS and this Gerald Finzi that I am about to post now. I realized that I haven't posted any Finzi on my blog yet (along with other British composers I adore, such as Howells, Moeran etc.) so this fitting enough! This disc is entirely new to me and thus far it's impressive. I have only listened to the "Five Bagatelles" (which I have many recordings of; my favorite is a version for Clarinet and String orchestra) as arranged here for Clarinet and String Quartet; it's most effective in this guise! I will have to post more Finzi soon - now I am aching to listen to the oh-so-very gorgeous "Eclogue for Piano and Strings" which imo has its finest performance on a Naxos disc (with the Northern Sinfonia, from 2000 or 2001 I think). Another prize-winner of a disc, a companion cd also on Naxos, has a near perfect performance of the popular Clarinet Concerto. As far as the rest of this MDG program of Finzi chamber works - well I'm excited to give a real listen at home tonight!

Enjoy everyone, and good weekend to you :)