Symphony No. 3 “Simfoniya-poema”; Triumphal Poem / Caucasian Sketches (1994) by BBC Philharmonic conducted by Fedor Glushchenko

Categories: 1894, 1947, 1950, 1994, and Music.

This is a bizarre pairing of a Khachaturian symphony, one of his symphonic poems and an orchestral suite from another Russian composer from the 1890s. The fact that they don’t sound so out of place suggests how conservative Khachaturian was as a composer. I have hear the Triumphal Poem before, though I’m not sure where. (In a movie?) It’s big and bombastic like much of Khachaturian’s music, and generally lacking in subtlety. It is catchy, though. I remember it from whenever I heard it before. Catchy, obvious, easy. The first Caucasian Sketches is a moody late Romantic piece with strong Read More

Ives: The Symphonies; Orchestral Sets 1 and 2 (2000) by Various Artists

Categories: 1901, 1902, 1910, 1911, 1916, 1919, 1929, 1973, 1976, 1994, 1995, 2000, and Music.

This is one of those Decca compilations that takes recordings from all over its catalogue (in this case from the mid ’70s and the mid ’90s) to create an ostensibly “complete” collection of a composer’s works in a given field, in this case Ives’ work for large orchestra. Of course it’s not complete, as it’s only the first four symphonies (Ives wrote 5 plus an unfinished one) and only two of the three” orchestral sets” (sort of American tone poems, though that description isn’t entirely  accurate…). And, to fit on the disks, the sequencing is totally out of whack as Read More

HONEGGER: Symphony No. 3, ‘Liturgique’ / Pacific 231 / Rugby et al. by New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Takuo Yuasa

Categories: 1920, 1924, 1928, 1933, 1946, 2004, and Music.

This is a collection of some of Honegger’s works, pairing his three most famous pieces – the “symphonic movements” with one of his symphonies and a symphonic poem. The third symphony begins with a loud, fast movement that has been aptly described as “stormy.” It’s the kind of thing that makes me think maybe I was wrong to not invest more time in Honegger. Sure, it’s rather traditional for the era, but it’s the kind of thing I like. The second movement is considerably softer, more lyrical, though not exactly as somber as I might have expected (though it gets Read More

Symphony in F; Suite No. 2; etc. (2002) by Gustav Holst, performed by Munich Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Bostock

Categories: 1899, 1900, 1911, 1922, 1934, 2002, and Music.

This is a collection of both short and long orchestral works by Holst. It’s a scattershot collection, like so many others. The ‘Cotswolds’ symphony intrigued me because I heard an excerpt from it on another collection (the elegy, to be precise). It’s a nice late Romantic symphony. Like so much other British work, it fails utterly to be revolutionary, but at least it’s pleasant. I think the elegy is the highlight of the work, which is slightly disappointing. “Walt Whitman” is one of those overtures without a main piece. It’s jaunty but, not knowing about Whitman the man or his Read More

Symphony No. 9 (2009) by Hans Werner Henze, performed by Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski

Categories: 1997, 2009, and Music.

Like Beethoven’s 9th and Mahler’s 8th, Henze’s 9th symphony is a choral symphony. And much like his eighth, it’s highly programmic (even more so this time). I am, at this stage of my life, a real sucker for choral symphonies, for reasons I cannot quite articulate. Henze’s 9th remains in the more traditional mode of his other later symphonies, and I cannot help but wonder if he adopted the choral mode in part of a conscious tribute to Beethoven, perhaps thinking his 9th would be his last. (It wasn’t, but there’s that infamous theory that composers always die after completing Read More

Symphonies Nos. 7-8 (2009) by H.W. Henze, performed by Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski

Categories: 2009 and Music.

This set pairs two of Henze’s later symphonies, from a time which he had embarked on a more conservative path. Though the performances are excellent (as far as I know), I find these symphonies to be less interesting than his earlier work. Henze’s first symphony in twenty years, the seventh, is a markedly more traditional piece (and admittedly so, apparently, as Henze claimed he was trying to write in the tradition of Beethoven). The work is is very pleasing and, as these things go, is something I enjoy listening to, but I cannot shake the conservativeness of it. Certainly it Read More

Symphonies 3-5 (2011) by H.W. Henze, performed by Rundfunk-Sinfoniorchester Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski

Categories: 2011 and Music.

This is an excellent set of three of Henze’s symphonies, showing him at perhaps his most radical stage. This is the kind of modernist “classical” that I just love; bonkers writing and bonkers arrangements. Henze’s third symphony starts off on a decidedly pastoral note, before sounding an ominous foreboding about 15 seconds in. Though the first notes might have convinced us this is something light and fluffy, we’re utterly relieved of that so quickly, it’s almost impossible to believed. In fact, the first movement ends up sounding more like a horror movie soundtrack than traditional classical music. I suspect that Read More

Haydn: London Symphonies (2010) by Les Musiciens du Louvre conducted by Marc Minkowski

Categories: 2010 and Music.

This is an excellent collection of Haydn’s final symphonies, the “London symphonies”. The first (93rd overall) begins with a downright Romantic movement and that first movement plays around with tonality a little bit more than the average classical symphony. A later movement plays with the theme. Very interesting. One of the better of the bunch. It’s worth noting that he didn’t write it first. The second (94th overall) starts off very conventionally. But there’s a reason it’s known as the “Surprise” symphony, and that reason has got to be one of the most shocking moments in the Classical era, perhaps Read More

Symphonies Nos. 44, 88 and 104 (1989) by Joseph Haydn, performed by Capella Istropolitana conducted by Barry Wordsworth

Categories: 1989 and Music.

This is a pretty arbitrary collection of three of Haydn’s symphonies, one from the middle period, and two from the end of his career, including his famous final symphony, the “London”. I have heard both 88 and 104 before. The performances are fine. The “Trauer” is pretty good. The first movement doesn’t really fit the symphony’s nickname but is interesting and engaging. The second movement is where it gets interesting, with almost like a concerto gross type effect, only with a split between the strings and with the group playing off the beat (or whatever you call that in Classical). Read More

The Paris Symphonies (1989) by Joseph Haydn, performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Sigiswald Kuijken

Categories: 1989 and Music.

This is a collection of all six of Haydn’s “Paris” symphonies and is probably as close as one can get to a definitive collection of Haydn’s music on two discs, as he wrote so many damn shymphonies (104 I believe). The first symphony, No. 82 (aka “The Bear”), was apparently written last. And that seems relatively apparent. The opening movement is rather striking . But it’s the finale where Haydn really goes crazy: there’s a drone, a drone! A DRONNNNNNNNNE!!! It’s not much of one compared to, say, what you would find in Indian music of the time, but then Read More

Symphonies Nos. 45, 46, 47 (1994) by Joseph Haydn, performed by Tafelmusik conducted by Bruno Weill

Categories: 1994 and Music.

This disc collects three of Haydn’s “middle” symphonies, at a time when Haydn was getting more and “romantic” for lack of a beter word. Like all Tafelmusik recordings, they are played on period instruments. The “Farewell” symphony is just an incredible thing. The opening is out there for the time period (at least to my ears though apparently it is a pretty traditional form otherwise). And the middle parts are pretty traditional. But the finale is bonkers: it’s slow, for one thing, but it also features a gradual dimunition of instruments, till it’s down to just the violins. On stage, Read More

Symphony No. 3 (1992) by Henryk Gorecki, performed by Dawn Upshaw, London Sinfonietta conducted by David Zinman

Categories: 1992 and Music.

I think this is the ‘Adagio for Strings’ of the Polish avant garde / Holy minimalist schools, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s obvious why its popular (well, if you put aside its length) and its also obvious why so many music nerds hate its popularity or even hate it: it’s too easy to love for something written by a guy who’s supposed to be “avant”. I really like it, but I understand why it isn’t exactly forward-thinking. As someone else commented, ‘sometimes beauty transcends reason.’ Couldn’t say it better myself. 8/10 Read More

Elgar: Sympyhonies 1 & 2 (1968, 2007) by London Philharmonic Orchestra, Adrian Boult

Categories: 1968 and Music.

I guess Elgar gets his rep because he was perhaps the first really notable British composer in some time (or up until that point, I don’t know). But I think that reputation is inflated – at least based on my earliest listens to his music – by the general Anglophilia that is a consequence of Britain once ruling much of the world, and of growing up in an English-speaking society. Because frankly, when I put this stuff beside Debussy or Mahler or other great composers’ works of the first decade or so of the 20th century I find this to Read More

Dvorak: Symphony No. 8 / Brahms: Symphony No. 3 (1988) by Wiener Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Categories: 1988 and Music.

At first this seemed to me like an arbitrary combination (something which I generally dislike) but for some reason the two works seem to mesh well together, and it’s not just because they were written within five years of each other. They seem (at least on my first listens) to strike similar tones and so the combination doesn’t appear so odd. 7/10 Read More

Symphonies Nos 1-7; Kullervo (2009) by Silbelius, performed by London Symphony Orchestra, Colin Davis

Categories: 1892, 1900, 1902, 1907, 1911, 1915, 1919, 1923, 1924, 2009, and Music.

Sibelius’ symphonies range from really over-the-top late 19th century folk-inspired stuff to the kind of subtle innovation this unsophisticated listener might associate with Mahler. I am still a complete neophyte (tyro?) when it comes to discerning great symphonic writing from okay symphonic writing, so it’s the 1892 Kullervo that I notice the most, and it doesn’t seem like it has dated so well. So his other symphonies come as great relief. I can’t say I know why they are or aren’t truly great, but I do know that I’d rather listen to this than, say, 19th century pre-impressionist French symphonies. Read More

Creepy Classics or How I spent Halloween Eve

Categories: 2010 and Music.

On Saturday I went to TSO’s “Creepy Classics,” conducted by Alastair Willis. It began with Bach’s “Toccata” from his Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, as orchestrated by Leopold Sokowski. I didn’t realize how well I knew the Toccata, because I didn’t realize it was the early horror movie organ music. Though critics regularly gripe about modern conductors orchestrating classic pieces, I found the orchestral version to be quite enjoyable (as I find the orchestrations of Mussorgsky to be quite enjoyable; ooh segue…). Up next was Rimsky-Kosakov’s version of Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain. Willis’ version seemed a little idiosyncratic to Read More

More music

Categories: Music.

Once again I can’t find albums on rateyourmusic and I’m too lazy to add them so: Lang Lang: The Magic of Lang Lang: 7, Would be much better without the David Foster crap at the end. Martinu: Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 conducted by Jir Belhohlavek and performed by the Czech Philharmonic: 9, as far as I know Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Symphony No. 4 “Italian” conducted by Otto Klemperer and performed by Philharmonia Orchestra: 8 Mozart: 3 Concertos for Flute, Bassoon, and Flute and Harp by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Various Soloists: 8 Mozart: Horn Read More