Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Alan Hovhaness - Magnificat Op. 157 for Chorus & Orchestra and Other Choral Works - Eric Plutz, Organ - The Choirs & Orchestra of St. John's Cathedral Denver, Donald Pearson - Delos Records 1995

Here is a glorious recording of Alan Hovhaness's choral masterpiece, a setting of the Magnificat. This is a treasure, as only Hovhaness could create and set. In superb digital sound I might add. 

I will be late for work if I try to write anything at this time, so please check out my earlier post that includes a classic account of the Magnificat, with other works, on First Edition:

I will try to post another version of AH's Magnificat (coupled with "Saturn") on Crystal Records tonight if I can.


Cute and Punny

The quirkiness of UK zoologist/artist Simon Drew. I have many of his postcards :)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Alan Hovhaness - Symphony No. 1, "Exile" - Song of the Sea for Piano & Strings - Armenian Rhapsodies Nos. 1, 2, & 3 - Concerto for Soprano Saxophone & Strings - Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose - BMOP/sound, 2011

This is an important Hovhaness release, and an extremely well executed project by all concerned (top-notch performances, excellent booklet notes and artwork to treasure, thoughtful and high quality packaging and so on..). It is also quite special to me as it brings together (the exception being the inclusion of the oddball but enjoyable Concerto for Soprano Saxophone & Strings - Op. 344 - from 1980) some of Hovhaness's best early works - admittedly well-known and documented in the case of the sultry, splendidly modal and ethnic Armenian Rhapsodies which are based on actual Armenian material including dances and folk songs. As far as I am aware these are the *only* works from Hovhaness's massive output that are not original melodies. The Symphony No. 1 subtitled "Exile" is a tribute to the exile and murder of the Armenian people at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. This grand symphony with it's early exoticism (it does technically predate AH's actual "Armenian" period that comes to be a few years later - but then it was partially revised by the composer, perhaps a decade later, and once again in the 1970s. I confess I'm not sure of the actual dates or years) is exciting and fresh. I especially love its slow introduction, lithe and slithering with the sounds of a hypnotic harp, plucked strings and a melancholy, searching clarinet. The calm is only broken periodically by explosive brass fanfares - this volcanic energy returns in the epic powerful third movement finale. I almost forgot to mention the real curiosity here, which is "Song of the Sea" which AH penned in 1933 (at 22!). Yes Hovhaness composed even during his childhood but to have a work that dates from his twenties when he was really unsure of himself and the directions that he wanted to take - is something really special. The work is for piano & strings and it is simple and beautiful. The main theme from the first movement is (or should) be recognizable: Hovhaness later used it not only in a piano piece but of more significance is that it reappears in the third movement of the sublime Symphony No. 22 "City of Light".

When this disc was released I wasn't sure if I loved this performance of the Exile Symphony as I do the Schwarz account with the Seattle Symphony. The tempos are generally slower under Gil Rose, and altogether it's a difference of an extra 3.5 minutes I believe. Turns out it is a win/win. Both performances are indeed amazing I think - and not to be missed!

(some) of the album packaging:

I am including the superb booklet notes which include a priceless Hovhaness interview from 1981 with Charles Amirkhanian and Dennis Russel Davies.


Over The Water - Music for Recorder & String Orchestra Franz Reizenstein - Arnold Cooke - Arthur Butterworth - Gordon Crosse - Elis Pehkonen - Michael Hurd - Antony Hopkins - Francis Jackson - Anthony Hedges - Dutton Epoch 2007

A summation of this Dutton Epoch release in 3 words: delightful, delightful, and delightful. I should add "surprising" as the real discovery here for me was the Concerto for Recorder and String Orchestra by Elis Pehkonen; a composer who was totally unknown to me until this recording. It is the most substantial work here, and in more ways than one; I am grateful for it's duration however it's the sheer beauty and craftsmanship of this concerto that makes it a home run for me. Pehkonen is an original musical personality.

Given the surname "Pehkonen" I confess that I anticipated music that might depict Norse legends and icy landscapes. Elis Pehkonen was born in Norfolk in 1942 but is of Finnish ancestry; his father was born in Karelia, Finland. All of the music that I have heard by Pehkonen I find simply breathtaking. "Over the Water", the only concerto on this all around delightful program - is also the most serious composition as most of the other music is light-hearted, jaunty, charming. Right from the get-go of Elis Pehkonen's Concerto I am transfixed, every time - I feel as if I am indeed boating over the water enveloped in a mysterious mist. The string writing is gorgeous and almost foreboding. The concerto is fascinating and displays an original voice til the very end. Arnold Cooke is one of my favorite English composers, and like Franz Reizenstein he was a pupil of Hindemith. I tend to enjoy any composer who spent time studying with the German master! Cooke's "Divertimento" is also a rather meaty, sinuous affair although it's sunny and optimistic (think Moeran, but with a touch of Hindemith)  compared to Pehkonen's dark and intriguing Concerto. Needless to say it is another  highlight of this generous compilation. Arthur Butterworth's short Reverie "Farewell Manchester" (which is the tune this piece is based on) is lovely. Butterworth (d. 2014), was of no relation to the great and tragically short-lived George Butterworth, although both studied initially with Vaughan Williams. Other highlights imo are the "Partita for Recorder and String Orchestra" by Franz Reizenstein which displays especially fine writing for the strings as well as Michael Hurd's "Three-Piece Suite". As above mentioned, the whole disc is charming, and the other pieces too are worth knowing and tuneful! 

I have a couple other pieces (also thanks to the folks at Dutton) by Elis Pehkonen that I will post.
Otherwise it is difficult to find his music. The label Merlin Classics has released 3 discs of his music, including the "Russian Requiem", which is supposedly something quite special. I believe all three discs are only available from the Merlin website. I simply haven't had the $$ to spend. 

Although no real information is provided, these recordings can be found here if you care to take a look:

Enjoy everyone!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Lubomyr Melnyk - The Lund-St.Petri Symphony (for Solo and Double Piano) - Double LP, Apparition Records 1981 (2 CDr reissue, 2008)

WARNING: if you listen to the two-hour Terry Riley String Quartet followed by Ukrainian composer Lubomyr Melnyk's "The Lund-St.Petri Symphony" your head will, without a doubt - either explode or cave in. I sure as HE(double hockey sticks) will not attempt such a feat, and that is fo' sure and certain. Do not be alarmed though; this music does have something to offer besides a week's stay at a psychiatric facility. This will certainly be the case if you are a devotee of minimal music. Melnyk writes virtuosic piano works, with notes that shoot with the speed of a modern-day gatling gun. He plays them himself, blazingly fast as is needed - the stamina required is something I cannot imagine. A great example, which is NOT minimalism but rather lyrical and beautiful with its violin accompaniment, is the "Concert-Requiem" for Violin & Piano. I urge you to check it out on youtube, it -really- is lovely and a different side of the composer: 

It is worth getting to know his music. It just happens to be, in this case, that the piano symphony is absolutely bonkers.

Lubomyr Melnyk has set two world records, documented on film and with full audio, at the Sigtuna Stiftelsen in Sweden. He sustained speeds of over 19.5 notes per second in each, and played between 13 and 14 notes per second for one full hour. (!!!)   This is according to his website as well as wikipedia. Realllllllllly impressive!

So Melnyk (b. 1948) often composes what he terms "Continuous Music" (I am guessing that he isn't fond of the well-worn word "minimalism") and this technique is practically trance-inducing, yet it is beautiful in a way that reminds me of ripples upon an ocean with the reflection of a blazing sun. The question is, for how long does one want to gaze before hypnosis sets in? Listening to this "symphony" in it's entirety is like getting really stoned and watching endless rainfall (I haven't tried this, but I think I am correct). I happen to like all of Melnyk's music that I have heard, but I cannot always take too much at one time of this large work. I will remind you again that Melnyk does compose smaller pieces that are more agreeable to the ears and mind, and really gorgeous at that.

Here "Continuous Music" is explained:

And, pasted here from Melnyk's site, just some excerpts from the joyously nutty and enthusiastic notes - screwy font and all - about the the composer, mostly in his own words I would think:

LUBOMYR MELNYK is one of the most innovative and fascinating pianists/composers of this century. During the 1970's he developed a totally new îlanguageî for the piano, called Continuous Music, and with it, a stupendous physical and mental technique that is totally unprecedented in the history of the piano.
Using this remarkable technique, ,Lubomyr Melnyk has set 2 world records for pianistic achievements:

the FASTEST pianist in the world --- sustaining speeds of over 19.5 notes per second in each hand, simultaneously, and
the MOST NUMBER of NOTES in ONE HOUR --- in exactly 60 minutes, Melnyk sustained an average speed of over 13 notes per second in each hand, yielding a remarkable total of 93,650 INDIVIDUAL notes.
This music has indeed given the piano a fresh new voice: never before has the piano shown such a brilliant face and such a beautifully tender îsingingî voice! --- creating a richly flowered landscape of overtones!
Lubomyr's artistry at the piano has in fact introduced a totally new dimension to the instrument --- as one critic put it î the piano was always meant to sound this way î ( Edward Bond of the Kingston Whig-Standard ).
Lubomyr Melnyk has shown a remarkable and religious devotion to the piano, always striving to discover new horizons in the physical process of playing the instrument. ñ and as a result, he has carried the art of the piano to unknown and uncharted territories ... where the mental and physical activities of the piano become blended in a meditative and metaphysical dimension!
Without regard for fame or fortune, he has steadfastly devoted his life to the pursuit of pianistic love and excellence, which in turn have created these marvellously magical and never-before experienced landscapes.
Once, asked about îfame and fortuneî, Melnyk replied : îWho needs money, when every piano is your friend?î
And indeed, love for the piano seems to be a very important part of this music --- and the piano responds ! People have often said that, during live performances, they heard trumpets, horns, entire string orchestras emanating from the piano ... for Melnyk's music turns the piano into a veritable orchestra of sound. (Unfortunately, this extraordinary sound experience is lost in the digital processing, since the overtones no longer can live freely in their high dimensions, but are, as Melnyk puts it, îplucked out like random feathers off a chicken, leaving the once so beautifully feathered surface, splotched and scabbed with tiny soresî. (see more about this problem in îSounds ën Thingsî)

But what exactly IS îCONTINUOUS MUSICî ???
Melnyk's Continuous Music is based on the principle of a îcontinuousî and unbroken line of sound from the piano --- this is created by generating a constant flow of rapid (at times EXTREMELY rapid) notes, usually with the pedal sustained non-stop. The notes can be either in the form of patterns or as broken chords that are spread over the keyboard. To accomplish this requires a special technique, one that usually takes years to master --- this technique is the very basis of the meditative and îmetaphysicalî aspects within the music and the art of the piano.
Moreover, in his earlier works, Melnyk devoted much attention to the overtones which the piano generates, but in his more recent works, Melnyk has become more and more involved with the melodic potential of this music.
Melnyk's earlier music was generally classified as îMinimalismî, although Melnyk strongly refutes that term, preferring to call his music îMAXIMALismî, since the player has to generate so many, many notes to create these îFourth Dimensions of Soundî.
Because his piano music is so difficult and requires a dedicated îre-learningî of the instrument, no other pianists in the world (so far) have tackled his larger works --- and so, his recordings are truly collector's items (both as LP-s and CD-s).
He has however recorded extensively for the CBC in Canada, as well as various European stations. He has performed and given lecture-recitals across Canada and in Europe.
From 1979-1987, Bandura Records released several LP albums of Melnyk' s works ... two of which were among the list of îmodern recordings you shouldn't be without î by The Village Voice.

Here's another article to check out: 

The Lund-St.Petri Symphony

1) single piano
2) single piano
3) single piano  TT: 45:23

4) dbl piano
5) dbl piano
6) dbl piano
7) dbl piano  TT: 46:04

Enjoy, possibly

Concertos for Cello & Winds: M. Larsson Gothe, Concerto for Cello & Winds - Martinů, Concertino for Cello, Winds, Percussion & Piano - Ibert, Concerto for Cello & Winds - H. Rosenberg, Symphony for Winds & Percussion - BIS 2002

To those of you who woke up this morning thinking "oh, I am really going to need a cello mingling with a wind section to get through this day" I say do not worry; you will soon be satiated for sure. A lovely recording this, and as far as the actual music most of you will likely only know the Martinů, and the Ibert. I didn't know anything about Mats Larsson Gothe before this disc, and I have a handful of the neglected Swedish composer Hilding Rosenberg discs (I do recall a good one on CPO) someplace. In the booklet notes Gothe Larsson says that his concerto grew to be an homage to Lutosławski, and was inspired by the Polish master's cello concerto. It's the true 'contemporary' work here, and it's a good opener. The Martinů Concertino is an early work (another version can be heard on a Supraphon disc I posted some time ago), and it's a tie for "favorite" along with the charming and unorthodox Ibert Concerto. Favorites on this disc that is, not in the repertoire. Hilding Rosenberg's Symphony is...indeed a symphony and in no way a concerto. Although the Symphony imo is lacking in personality compared to the rest of the program, it is still a fine and engaging enough listen.

Enjoy everyone


Friday, June 24, 2016

Happy 81st Birthday, Terry Riley! - "Salome Dances for Peace" for String Quartet (2 CDs) - Kronos Quartet - Nonesuch, 1989

As far as contemporary string quartets go, Terry Riley's "Salome Dances for Peace" (which technically is a cycle of 5 string quartets) is like no other quartet. It is of epic proportions, clocking in at 2 hours; stylistically it explores practically every musical avenue and genre, which keeps this masterpiece of quartet literature in a class by itself. Whilst it commands complete and uninterrupted attention, I think one must listen to the work in it's entirety to attempt to grasp it (and that can take multiple listenings trust me - there is just so much that happens during the journey - it can be a tad perplexing, which I think is due to its size plus its patchwork brilliance - musically but also ethnically; the quartet interweaves Far-Eastern/Near-Eastern modes with spiky Bartokian counterpoint, bluesy accents, jazzy syncopations and yes.. even some minimalist leanings. It is a seamless, magical integration and really quite intoxicating and beautiful - from the moment bows are raised.

"Salome Dances.." was composed for the Kronos Quartet, whom Riley has been working with for 36 years now. "Cadenza on the Night Plain" was the first full-length album of Riley's music that the Kronos Quartet recorded back in 1985. I posted it in honor of his 80th birthday, here:

Originally conceived as a ballet in which Salome, reincarnated 2,000 years after her run-in with John the Baptist, would use her ''alluring powers to actually create peace in the world,'' as Terry Riley puts it in the liner notes, ''Salome Dances for Peace'' grew into a loosely programmatic string quartet based largely on native American mythology.

According to the composer, such multicultural evocations arise in an entirely natural way: ''It's not something I attempt to do. I guess because I've listened to a lot of music from all over the world for 30 years, these things just seem to come through.''

David Harrington of the Kronos has an even simpler explanation: ''All the kinds of music Terry loves are in that piece.''

Terry Riley on "Salome Dances for Peace":

"The idea for Salome Dances for Peace came out of improvisation
theme from The Harp of New Albion. I realized this was potentially
a whole new piece. Around that time, David Harrington called
me and asked me to write another string quartet.
I thought that it should be a ballet about Salome using
her alluring powers to actually create peace in the world. So
Salome in this case becomes like a goddess who—drawn out of
antiquity, having done evil kinds of deeds—reincarnates and is
trained as a sorceress, as a shaman. And through her dancing,
she is able to become both a warrior and an influence on the
world leaders’ actions.
What I do is to make many, many minute sketches of ideas
and file them away, and at some point as I’m writing, one of
those ideas will be the right one for the time. I trust the fact
that anything that occurs to me is related to whatever occurred
to me before.
All of the kinds of music that appear in my string
quartets are the kinds of music that I personally love, and I
don’t necessarily keep them in separate cabinets. One of the
challenges, in fact, is to bring things you love together to
live harmoniously. It also creates an understanding of how
the notes work. These styles all have their particular flavors
and expressions but they can be united. Notes all work under
certain universal laws, they observe laws just like everything
else in the universe does.
To me it’s all a unified field. It’s the general search we’re
going through now in physics, trying to find a unified theory.
I think for a musician that is also relevant and works towards
evolving new, deeper and richer musical traditions.
I’m always trying to find ways that I can, besides doing
music, contribute to world peace, or maybe neighborhood
peace or home peace. I told David that when we first started
that I thought we ought to create a piece that can be played at
the United Nations on special holidays. It would not be just a
concert piece but a piece that could be played as a rite."

—Terry Riley, from a conversation with Mark Swed

Terry Riley (or possibly my great grandfather back in Ukraine??)

Haha, great photo: Terry Riley celebrates his 50th birthday with the Kronos Quartet

"Salome Dances for Peace for String Quartet"

Anthem of the Great Spirit       33:00
Conquest of the War Demons   34.47
The Gift                                    15:24
The Ecstacy                              18:21
Good Medicine                         13:25

Disc 1

1) I. Anthem of the Great Spirit: 'The Summons' (4:55)
2) I. Anthem of the Great Spirit: 'Peace Dance' (10:57)
3) I. Anthem of the Great Spirit: 'Fanfare in the Minimal Kingdom' (4:29)
4) I. Anthem of the Great Spirit: 'Ceremonial Night Race' (4:42)
5) I. Anthem of the Great Spirit: 'At the Ancient Aztec Corn Races Salome Meets Wild Talker'(2:02
6) I. Anthem of the Great Spirit: 'More Ceremonial Races' (0:50)
7) I. Anthem of the Great Spirit: 'Oldtimers at the Races' (3:48)
8) I. Anthem of the Great Spirit: 'Half Wolf Dances Mad in Moonlight' (8:12)
9) II. Conquest of the War Demons: 'Way of the Warrior' (5:08)
10) II. Conquest of the War Demons: 'Salome and Half Wolf Descend Through the Gates to the Underworld' (4:35)
11) II. Conquest of the War Demons: 'Breakthrough to the Realm of the War Demons' (2:37)
12) II. Conquest of the War Demons: 'Combat Dance' (3:52)
13) II. Conquest of the War Demons: 'Victory: Salome Re-enacts for Half Wolf Her Deeds of Valor' (0:43)
14) II. Conquest of the War Demons: 'Discovery of Peace' (3:36)
15) II. Conquest of the War Demons: 'The Underworld Arising' (10:08)

Disc 2

1) III. The Gift: 'Echoes of Primordial Time' (11:13)
2) III. The Gift: 'Mongolian Winds' (4:12)
3) IV. The Ecstasy: 'Processional' (2:09)
4) IV. The Ecstasy: 'Seduction of the Bear Father' (3:11)
5) IV. The Ecstasy: 'The Gathering' (5:40)
6) IV. The Ecstasy: 'At the Summit' (5:22)
7) IV. The Ecstasy: 'Recessional' (2:02)
8) V. Good Medicine: 'Good Medicine Dance' (13:25)


Disc 1:


Disc 2:


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Latvian Music Series Vol. 2 - Juris Ābols, Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano - Arturs Grīnups, Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano - Vilnis Šmīdbergs, Trio-sonata for Flute, Violin and Piano - Imants Zemzaris - Marvel Pieces for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano - Bulavs Chamber Ensemble - Angelok1 2005

Hello everyone. To break il silenzio around here I am Quickly posting Vol. 2 in Angelok1's Latvian Music Series, this time we get great yet unknown chamber music. Volume 2 includes more music by Imants Zemzaris. The other composers here are not represented on the 1st Volume. While everything here is chock full of goodness, great ideas and matching creativity,  it is indeed the "Marvel Pieces" by Zemzaris that I most enjoy. Such multifarious moods to be relished during its 16+ minutes!

I must say this is a superlative recording; I hope you agree!

I will provide information on this recording when I can - I still need to do the same so for Vol. 1  : /

Track list:

Juris Ābols - Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano

1) Allegro
2) Tranquillo, Alla improvisatione
3) Moderato

Arturs Grīnups - Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano

4) Andante mosso; quasi moderato
5) Allegro molto
6) Andante con moto

Vilnis Šmīdbergs 

7) Trio-sonata for Flute, Violin and Piano

Imants Zemzaris - Marvel Pieces for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano

8) Crazy Love
9) Floridian Beaches
10) Melanchaholic Waltz
11) Loves' Craziness



Re-Up for esperverany - Paul Ben-Haim: Chamber Music for Strings

...And of course for anyone else who missed this superb disc the first time around!

I know it's been quiet around here (well, 6 days) again but lately I have been insanely busy. Sorry people - I will once again bring you nothing but the finest offerings, especially during the weekend :)

The original post is here (if you want to bother reading my brief babble ;)

New link:



Friday, June 17, 2016

Latvian Music Series Vol. 1 - Jermaks, Five Latvian Folk Songs - Keninš, Sonata for 2 Pianos - Mežaraups, Deux Postludes aprés Chopin - Mence, Songs for 2 Pianos - Zemzaris, "Three Sisters" Fantasy for 2 Pianos - Aperans, Haiku for 2 Pianos - Vecumnieks, Quasi Campanella, & Paraphrase - Angelok1, 2003

This is a really great survey of music written for one and two pianos by Latvian composers. I bought this disc for the Imants Zemzaris piece, the composer from the last two posts. The opening work by Romualds Jermaks "Five Latvian Folk Songs" (one piano, four hands) is one of my favorites on here, and I imagine that most of you will be immediately taken and drawn in from the first bars! 

*I will have to write more on this disc and the composers later, it's getting late and I have to go out for a few hours!

Again I shall finish the post (hopefully) tonight if it's not 3 a.m. etc..


Imants Zemzaris - Before the Snow, for String Quartet & Prepared Piano - Gaišie avoti, for Alto Flute & Violin - Pastorales for Summer Flute, for Organ - Riga String Quartet - Hans-Ola Ericsson, Organ - (Gaišie avoti, artists unknown)

Here are three very different works by Imants Zemzaris. I really like "Before the Snow" for String Quartet and Prepared Piano, and it's a great example of Zemzaris as musical chameleon. Every conceivable emotion ends up flowing from this work; there are astringent sections, lyrical sections and everything in between - indeed, the pastorale-like opening theme reminds me somewhat of Lou Harrison! The prepared piano doesn't have a prominent role here, but nonetheless is a nice touch in this quartet that's brimming with personality and distinctive style. "Gaišie avoti" for Alto Flute and Violin is a quieter, smaller piece and rather entrancing. The solo organ piece "Pastorales for Summer Flute" flows with several sections that are soft meditations focusing on the flute pipes, and then all is dramatically and abruptly shattered by the booming, energetic central section - great stuff I must say - and then we return to the calm with gentle arpeggios and the meditative stream, which closes the the work as it opened. 

A small section of Cēsis castle, a Livonian castle in Cēsis, Latvia

Another section of the former headquarters of the Livonian knights
Latvian woods and fog - perhaps a nice place to listen to "Gaišie avoti"

The castle at night - I just happen to like this Latvian castle - for all I know the composer might like it as well but really is has nothing to do with the music ;)


Imants Zemzaris - Varšavas triptihs (Warsaw Tryptich) for Piano - Imants Zemzaris, Piano - Melodiya

When you think of composers from Latvia,  Pēteris Vasks is likely the first to spring to mind, followed by the early 20th century composer Jānis Ivanovs. A while back I posted a fine disc of music by the contemporary composer Peteris Plakidis courtesy of Toccata Records - check it out if you haven't thus far.  Ēriks Ešenvalds (born in 1977 I think) is a young Latvian composer to watch - he is known primarily for his many choral works although he has written in other genres as well. Lush romanticism can be heard in the music of Jazeps Vitols - there is a lovely disc of his orchestral works on Marco Polo, and he is known too for his contribution to Latvian choral music - although recordings are hard to find. Georgs Pelēcis is another name that comes to mind, although If I recall he wrote mostly piano music, although I do also have a recording that includes his lively concerto for piano and strings, on an old Erato disc (have no idea where it is). Arturs Grīnups (1939-1989) wrote 10 symphonies, orchestral music, chamber music and instrumental works as well - Unfortunately I don't think that much of his music is currently available; I had a cd of two of his symphonies once but I dunno where it is. *If anyone has any recordings of his music - and feels like sharing - let me know!! It's clear that there is a wealth of superb music from lesser-known composers from Latvia; I have mentioned but a few. 

 I am posting music by one of my favorite Latvian composers, Imants Zemzaris (b. 1951, Riga) who writes in varied styles and is hard to pigeonhole, which I think is always a good thing, and to the composer's creative credit. -The "Warsaw Tryptich" for piano is in 3 movements, and it is one of his finest works for piano. There is beautiful contemplation and melancholy, but also the joyous, dance-like second movement (which I often play over and over). I am posting the videos - original source was youtube - I find that this piece is well worth "owning" and think that you will too. Plus the piece is hard to find otherwise; there is an old Melodiya lp from the 80's, which is one of the recordings I have here - as well as a version played by the composer himself (each mvt is a separate mp4, the Melodiya is one file) Open this wonderful work in VLC etc. and enjoy... no point in going on youtube each time!

Imants Zemzaris

I'm not sure if the composer is the pianist on the non-Melodiya recording; the tempi are slower, however I like it that way. Hope everyone enjoys!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sergei Prokofiev - The Complete Symphonies - Scythian Suite - Suite from The Love for Three Oranges (4 CD Box Set) LPO, LSO - Walter Weller - Decca 1975-1979, (latest) remaster 2014

What a great cycle of the Prokofiev symphonies. It is considered a classic, yet it still seems underrated somehow; is it because the name Walter Weller (Austrian conductor, spend most of his years in England) is not quite familiar to some audiences? I think so. There isn't much that needs to be said about Prokofiev's symphonies - clearly most visitors here already cherish them (not *everyone* is keen on all seven, but I sure am!!) and know them well. All that really needs to be said, then, is satisfied by my first sentence. These are some of the best interpretations around. A pleasant bonus it is to get the Scythian Suite and The Love for Three Oranges included here as well.

Here's a review for the hell of it, from ArkivMusic:

Among 20th-century composers, Sergei Prokofiev has probably fared best when you consider the number of his works that are held in public affection -- Peter and the Wolf, the Lieutenant Kijé Suite with its sleigh ride 'Troika'(this motif from the suite was also used in the song I Believe in Father Christmas by the English rock group Emerson, Lake and Palmer), The Love for Three Oranges, and the ballets Romeo and Juliet (who doesn't know the 'Dance of the Knights'?) and Cinderella. His opera War and Peace is a staple of the opera repertoire. Also firm favourites are the witty, deliberately Haydnesque First and Fifth Symphonies, both welcomed into the symphonic repertoire of the 20th century in a way only matched by Sibelius, and in the UK Vaughan Williams, in their popularity. The other five symphonies, however, remain relatively neglected. This highly acclaimed cycle conducted by Walter Weller was only the second recording of the elusive revised version of No.4. The greatest of the cycle, No.6 receives an extraordinary performance. It is a work full of huge, truly memorable tunes -- epic, lyrical and highly personal. The 'Classical' Symphony, No.1, predates Stravinsky's neo-Classical period, and is all the more remarkable for that. The iconoclastic Second symphony is very much of its time, being contemporaneous with The Iron Foundry by Mosolov, Stravinky's Rite of Spring and Honegger's Pacific 231. Schoenberg commented that there is still 'plenty to be said in C major', and this certainly applies to the seven symphonies of Prokofiev. 

Further information (the recordings were reissued in 1992 and in 2009 as well)

- Superb Decca recordings from the late 1970s. Critically acclaimed when first released, they are still state of the art.
- 'This newcomer is by far the best recorded. It is every bit as impressive as earlier releases in the Weller/Prokofiev series. The LPO respond to the demands made on them with fine musicianship and good ensemble.' Gramophone on the Fourth Symphony
- 'This new Decca release is absolutely first-class and reveals this densely packed texture with realism and great transparency. Weller is sensitive to detail and dynamic nuance.' Gramophone on the Second Symphony
- 'unfailingly crisp and refined ensemble and with recording quality that reveals every strand in the score with richness and clarity.' Gramophone on the Fifth Symphony.

(You will) Enjoy,

A moment without music - for the victims of the Orlando massacre

Friday, June 10, 2016

Carl Nielsen: Complete Organ Works - Rued Langgaard: Selected Organ Works - Friedhelm Flamme, Organ - CPO 2010

I was listening to Nielsen's grand and expansive "Commotio" for Organ around 2 a.m. last night (incidentally "after-hours" or the middle of the night are great for organ music; this is not fact but my own general experience (oh give it a try, drink too much coffee perhaps late in the day if needed!) This disc couples Nielsen's complete organ music with pieces for organ by the oft wonderfully eccentric Rued Langgaard. I have to leave the house for a while so I will (possibly) babble/type more on this disc later - I tend to be ummm.....'flakey' and forgetful when it comes to resuming posts as some of you may have noticed it the past! But perhaps I will...


Carl Nielsen: The Three Concertos - Violin, Clarinet, and Flute - Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Kees Bakels - Naxos, 2000

Like Carl Nielsen's Symphonies, his three concertos are an important addition to the repertoire and there are several superb recordings to choose from. The pickings are slimmer compared to the symphonies, but that doesn't matter much as what is available ranges from very good to excellent. There are complete sets yet a nutcase collector (like myself) will definitely want to pick up all recordings that feature just one or two of the concerti, often paired with one of the symphonies, or ballet music in some cases. Or coupled with another composer, needless to say. One of the finest I think is Mogens Wöldike leading the Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra on Decca, for the Flute & Clarinet Concertos. From around late 2009 I think. 

This Naxos offering is one of the best available. My long-standing favorite, which I was looking for (but finally gave up because it must be packed in a box still) is the brilliant Chandos disc (1990) with the Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Michael Schønwandt. I personally find all three accounts on that disc flawless. When I dig it up I will certainly offer it here!  
The concertos are not as well-known as the symphonies, which is a shame; they should be on concert programs frequently (I have heard the Violin Concerto and the Flute concerto performed live but once in all of my years) yet they really aren't. Nielsen's Violin concerto has always received the highest exposure, and there's no denying that it is an exquisite work. There's a chance I will be considered a heretic among fellow hardcore Nielsen fans but.... I happen to prefer the Flute Concerto and the single-movment quirky Clarinet Concerto. Make no mistake I adore the Violin Concerto as well; it's simply one of the finest penned during the 20th century.

See? Even this butterfly prefers the Flute Concerto. Actual performance..

Enjoy everyone

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Happy 151st Birthday Carl Nielsen! The Complete Symphonies: (3 CDs) London Symphony Orchestra, Ole Schmidt - Regis (re-re-issue of classic Unicorn-Kanchana)

I just checked to see how many Nielsen discs I have shared on here and I am almost astonished to see that I have only posted ONE all-Nielsen disc, and then Nielsen appears on a couple compilations. And that's it. As he's one of my favorite composers I am almost ashamed - almost - I do after all have quite a healthy Nielsen collection and, I know Nielsen himself would approve of that. Pretty sure he would be really flattered as well. All in all I think the great symphonist would want to be my pal. Ok maybe not, but he is indeed one of many many figures that I wish I could have met in this lifetime. I'd put the Great Dane (or Great Dean of Danish music) near the top of the list. 

This was the first recording cycle of all six symphonies (1974) and it is still one of the finest around. The original Unicorn LP was issued later on cd by Unicorn, but the sound is even better on this Regis disc as it has been marginally cleaned up. Ole Schmidt is spot-on throughout, and his take on Symphony No. 4 ("Inextinguishable") and Symphony No. 6 ("Sinfonia semplice") in particular are candidates for best recorded versions around I think. I have many other favorite accounts, including (but not limited to) Bryden Thomson on Chandos, Gennady Rozhdestvensky also on Chandos, Herbert Blomstedt on Decca, and Michael Schønwandt on Dacapo being my next top picks. Actually, I will add Adrian Leaper's accounts with the NSO of Ireland from the mid-1990s on Naxos too; I used to play those versions all the time and they are quite fine - and I need to locate them now that I'm thinking of it! 

One of the original Unicorn LPs

Complete symphony cycle gets its premiere - this is one of two diff. covers

(I confess that it's now half past midnight - but still I stand behind this Bday post's authenticity ;)

Gramophone had this to say about the cycle:

'The Inextinguishable' and No.5 are amongst the best-paced on record, No. 4 preferable to Karajan on DG... devastating account of Sinfonia Semplice (No. 6) is surely Schmidt's greatest achievement... No-one should jump to conclusions about this symphony before having heard the burning intensity Ole Schmidt brings to it. --Gramophone

Enjoy all!

Disc 1

Disc 2

Disc 3

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Recording triumph! Arnold Rosner on Tocatta Classics with the LPO

Now this is/was news that lifted my spirits. As I have been dealing with so much I really have been ignoring everything, including my email as I haven't gone online until recently. Much to my surprise and joy there was an email waiting for me from Arnold's sister, Irene Rosner-David. She wrote to me about the literally just released (available now on Toccata Classics, Amazon on June 7th) recording of Arnold's Orchestral music on Toccata, recorded at Abbey Road, and with the LSO no less. I had no knowledge of the project whatsoever! It brings together a few major works, including one of my favorites, "Gematria". I have been waiting (impatiently) for many years for it's premiere recording. The Piano Concerto No. 2 was written when Rosner was all of twenty years old, and it's a beautiful, big-boned concerto from the pen of a young man still searching and paving his path to brilliance. Not unlike Rosner's gorgeous "Five Meditations", The early "Six Pastoral Dances" takes its inspiration from Renaissance dances and Baroque forms. Extremely tragic and touching, "From the Diaries of Adam Czerniaków" for narrator and orchestra is powerful both as a musical depiction of Jewish life within the ghetto at Warszawa and of course as a first-hand account. This is a major work,  and although I have only just heard it this morning, it's impact was instantaneous and profound. Rosner would have been so very proud of this project! 

Arnold's sister sent me an advanced copy of this major and invaluable release, and while I will most likely post it here at some point - I would like to strongly urge visitors of my blog to buy it and directly from Tocatta if possible. I plan to do just that. Tocatta is one of the finest labels that we have, and as far as musical exploration and steering clear of the "establishment" goes - this is a priceless source for adventure and discovery.

The page for this release is here:

I know of no other record label that is so very generous with their sound sampling; once on the page you can listen to each work, not for 30 seconds or a minute but almost in it's entirety. I might be getting carried away, but It seems that one gets to sample about 65-70% of each and every work. 

Re-up for César: Vítězslav Novák - Lady Godiva - De profundis - Toman and the Wood Nymph

The link is dead it seems, so if anyone else missed this also here you go:


And if you would like to read some babble the original post is here:

Alan Hovhaness - Lousadzak "Coming of Light" for Piano & String Orchestra - Four Pieces for Violin & Piano - Concerto No. 2 for Violin & String Orchestra - Annie Jodry, Violin - Hasmig Surmélian, Piano - Orchestre Léon Barzin, Jean-Jacques Werner - Marcal Prod. 1995

Here is yet another sublime interpretation of Hovhaness's popular Piano Concerto "Lousadzak" as well as an equally strong performance of the Concerto No. 2 for Violin and String Orchestra.  Actually, I have also posted a historic recording of the Violin Concerto No. 2 a while back, with violinist Anahid Ajemian. "Lousadzak" is practically as well known as AH's masterpiece, the Symphony No. 2 opus 132, "Mysterious Mountain" as well as "The Prayer of Saint Gregory" or "And God Created Great Whales". And rightfully so, this unconventional piano concerto is a small masterpiece itself! We also get four compositions for violin and piano: "Saris", "Oror", "Shatakh", and the "Khirgiz Suite". I believe these four pieces for violin and piano are also on an OgreOgress disc that posted some time back. The OgreOgress AH discs have all been superb and produced and played with great care. I have posted a few of them thus far. 

Enjoy, and experience!

Alan Hovhaness - Majnun Symphony (Symphony No. 24, opus 273) - National Philharmonic Orchestra of London - John Alldis Choir - Alan Hovhaness, Conducting - Crystal Records 1987

Here is yet another beautiful Hovhaness symphony - it was originally released as a Lp in 1974 on Poseidon Society, Hovhaness's own label. Thankfully Crystal Records "rerecorded" the release digitally in 1987. This is another disc that has been flowing from my speakers lately. "The Sword-Wind" for plucked strings and strings alone that opens the second movement (the Symphony was recorded as "having" two movements, anyhow) is a short yet memorable dance in Hovhaness signature style, and like many such passages it never fails to send me soaring joyfully :) 

Hovhaness says this about the Majnun Symphony:

With its mystical or Sufi overtones, the love story embraces earthly love to Divine Love. Majnun, exiled from his beloved, wanders in the desert and, surrounded by jackals, writes her name in the sand. As he writes, his soul in trance approaches his beloved and Divine Beloved. The symphony is scored for tenor solo, mixed chorus SATB, solo trumpet, solo violin, and string orchestra. the trumpet sounds the impassioned note of Majnun's love for Layla, the distant beloved. The solo violin sounds the note of Layla and the visionary, or Angelic Beloved.

Majnun and Layla

The Majnun Symphony, No. 24 opus 273, was composed in July, 1973 in Seattle. It was commissioned by the International Center for Arid and Semi-arid Land Studies for Focus on the Arts at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas (quite the exotic commission for AH's exotic score???).
It was there, on January 25th, 1974 that the work was given its premiere with the composer conducting. The poem derives from the epic "Salaman and Absal" by the Persian poet Jami, and was translated by Edward Fitzgerald. It refers to the famous love story Majnun and Layla, the Romeo and Juliet of Persia and the Near East.    

The text used in the Symphony is as follows:

One who travelled in the desert
Saw Majnun where he was sitting
All alone like a magician
Tracing letters in the sand.
"O distracted lover, writing
What the sword-wind of the desert
Undeciphers so that no one
After you shall understand"
Majnun answer'd, "I am writing
Only for myself, and only Layla,
Writing in that word a volume
Over which forever poring,
From her very name I sip in fancy
Till I drink her lip"