Kagel: String Quartet No. 4; Keuris: String Quartet No. 1 (2009) by Lagos Ensemble

Categories: 1963, 1993, and 2009.

This disc collects Kagel’s final quartet and the first quartet by Tristan Keuris, a Dutch composer I have never hear of before. The works were composed 30 years apart. Kagel’s fourth and final quartet is similar to his third in that it contains more radical elements, but these elements are incorporated into more traditional and recognizable forms (even if the quartet is two movements of 8 or so passages each, which is very much not traditional). It’s perhaps the most conservative of his string quartets, but don’t let that trick you into thinking this is a particularly conservative piece of Read More

Mauricio Kagel (2003) by Alexandre Tharaud

Categories: 1969, 1972, 1976, 1982, 1984, 2003, and Music.

This collection is a little confusing in part because of the confusing nature of Rrrrrrr…, which can apparently be performed independently. The disc appears to be a compilation of his piano-based music. Calling “piano music” would be a misnomer, as there are lots of other instruments on a number of the pieces. The pieces from Rrrrrrr… are all over the place in terms of style, starting with ragtime and running the gamut of styles, through pretty traditional to really avant garde stuff (a prepared piano, a “raga”). I like how Kagel turns music on its here but here I have Read More

Vox Humana? / Finale / Fürst Igor Strawinsky (1991) by Mauricio Kagel, performed by Ensemble 2e2m, Lyon National Opera Chorus conducted by Paul Méfano

Categories: 1979, 1981, 1982, and Music.

This record collects three of Kagel’s longish “choral” pieces. Kagel was a weirdo is the best ways. Listening to Kagel’s work, rather than watching it, is a bit of a problem, because Kagel’s work is often “theatrical” not just in the sense of being influenced by the theatre, but of having the musicians act out parts. Listening to the music online you miss that aspect. (Something big definitely happens 10 minutes in, when there is a giant scream.) That being said… This piece sure reminds me of Berio at his most theatrical (in a good way). It is about a Read More

From the House of the Dead (1980) by Leos Janacek, performed by the Wiener Philharmoniker, Wiener Staatsopernchor conducted by Charles Mackerras featuring Jiri Zahradnicek, Ivo Zidek, Vaclav Zitek

Categories: 1924, 1928, 1978, 1980, and 1992.

This disc pairs Janacek’s last (and shortest?) opera with two unrelated chamber pieces performed by an entirely different orchestra, grumble. Read More

Hindemith: Kammermusik (2012) by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado, et al.

Categories: 1917, 1922, 1927, 2012, and Music.

This set collects Hindemith’s Kammermusik compositions (two are actual chamber music pieces, seven are concertos) and for reasons I may not ever understand, pairs them with a violin sonata and an incomplete work. The first Kammermusik is a crazy, vibrant piece that manages to combine fairly strong melodies (relatively speaking) with the kind of aggressively discordant changes and percussion punctuations modernism is known for. One of my favourite Hindemith pieces. The third movement stands out because it is so peaceful, but it’s practically impressionist. The second Kammermusik begins with some of Hindemith’s brilliant writing for piano – which always threatens Read More

Hindemith: The Complete Viola Music 2 (2010) by Lawrence Power

Categories: 1919, 1922, 1923, 2010, and Music.

Part 2 of Power’s performances of Hindemith’s viola music focuses on the sonatas for solo viola, of which Hindemith also wrote three. Though these all lack the incredible, complex and difficult piano parts of their cousins, that doesn’t make them any less impressive and, not surprisingly, the viola parts are more complex. The first sonata is another one of Hindemith’s pieces where he straddles tradition and the avant garde, echoing the past, but playing with tempo (particularly) and tonality in ways that would be pretty foreign to even listeners of the late 19th century. It is a worthy partner to Read More

Hindemith: The Complete Viola Music 1 (2009) by Lawrence Power, Simon Crawford-Phillips

Categories: 1919, 1922, 1939, 2009, and Music.

This disc collects Hindemith’s three viola sonatas with piano accompaniment, and it also includes a transcription for viola and piano of one of the dances from Hindemith’s ballet, Nobilissima Visione. The sequencing is odd: it starts with the final one, then goes to the first, then to the second, then back to the late ‘30s for the ballet transcription. Anyway… The 1939 sonata is exactly the kind of thing I like, and reminds me that, when Hindemith wanted to, he could be both radical and traditional at the same time. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary about this music, but the work Read More

Concerto funebre; Sonatas and Suites for Solo Violin (2007) by Karl Amadeus Hartmann, peformed by Alina Ibragimova

Categories: 2007 and Music.

This is an excellent collection of Hartmann’s violin music. The Concerto funebre is like a string quartet writ large, where the lead violin’s role is exaggerated and the other three instruments assume lesser roles than normal, only their sound is trebled (or what have you). The first movement lulls you into thinking this is some pretty conventional music, but it soon stands that on its ear. A good mix of tradition and forward thinking. And, like so much of the music inspired by what the Nazis were up to, it is truly stirring. The first of the suites for solo Read More

Seven Words; Silenzio; In croce (1995) by Sofia Gubaidulina, performed by Maria Kliegel, Elsbeth Moser et al.

Categories: 1995 and Music.

This is just an awesome set of really challenging modern chamber music, sort of smaller versions of what Penderecki was up to, I guess. The set contains three works by Gubaidulina centered around the cello and the bayan, a Russian version of the accordion. “In croce” is a duet for cello and bayan, and ranges from almost horror-movie film score intensity to a sort of meandering exploration of space. And then that builds back – there is a really strong use of dynamics. And the cello really gets into its upper register. I have always had a thing against pieces Read More

String Quartet; So You Want to Right a Fugue; Shostakovitch; Poulenc (1997 Compilation)

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I really like Gould’s quartet. I know it’s not the most forward-thinking piece for the time, but I think it’s among the second tier of its era and I really don’t mind listening to it. The fugue-song thing is a different story: I like it but it’s almost too clever. I like that it seems deliberately aimed at the establishment, but it’s still a minor goof of a piece. The rest of the disk is unfortunately fleshed out by excerpts of two nice pieces – a quintet by Shostakovitch and a kind of concerto thing by Poulenc. They feel reasonably Read More

Kleines Requiem fur eine Polka; Concerto for Harpsichord; Good Night (1995) by Henryk Gorecki, performed by the London Sinfonietta et. al

Categories: 1995 and Music.

This is a rather arbitrary collection of Gorecki’s later “avant garde” works, featuring a concerto from 1980 and two chamber pieces from the 1990s. But putting the arbitrariness to the side, what we are left with is some very stirring music. The “Requiem” begins as you would expect a requiem to begin – well a modern one anyway: softly and mournfully, slowly building in tension. The influence of American minimalism – as opposed to Gorecki’s own “holy” minimalism – seems very prevalent to me here. Late in the first movement the music just explodes in volume, though the music itself Read More

Franck: String Quartet; Violin Sonata (1978, 1995, 2006) by Fitzwilliam Quartet; Pierre Amoyal, Pascal Roge

Categories: 1886, 1890, 1978, 1980, 1995, 2006, and Music.

I am a sucker for a good string quartet and I like to think that this is a very good string quartet. It’s certainly interesting for its era and, though not as ballsy as so many of the great quartets of the early 20th century, I think it would probably bear comparison with other notable quartets of the late 19th century, especially those by composers more established in chamber music. (It seems Franck did not compose a lot of it.) I am, as always, perplexed by the selection – the piano quintet would make more sense next to the quartet, Read More

The Gnostic Preludes (2012) by John Zorn, performed by Carol Emmanuel, Brill Frisell and Kenny Wollesen

Categories: 2012 and Music.

This is gorgeous music that feels both modern and eternal. And though it is hardly Zorn at his most radical, I don’t think that’s bad in this case. Zorn has created a series of compositions that fit together as if they were eight parts of one thought and there is no need for obvious extremism or atonality when you’ve got such compelling melodies and compositional intricacy. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, I must admit. Beautiful. 8/10 Read More

Richter 858 (2005) by Bill Frisell

Categories: 2005 and Music.

This is an excellent set of compositions – inspired by painting – that show off Frisell’s abilities as a composer who can handle all sorts of instrumental ensembles. His writing for string quartet here and elsewhere merits serious consideration, I think, not in the least because of the room the musicians are given to go off-script. This was so successful that he wrote another set of pieces for this same group, which I actually like even more than this. But in addition to this music being great, it is also nice to hear and experience the inspiration for one of Read More

La Lechuza (2011) by Esmerine

Categories: 2011 and Music.

At this point in my life I have a real soft-spot for minimalism and another real soft-spot for whatever the sub-genre of post-rock is that many of the Constellation acts specialize in. So I am having a really hard time being critical about this record. It is certainly much tamer than most of their label-mates I have heard, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing; difference is good. And it’s definitely more indebted to Glass et al. This makes for something that I guess sticks out enough to warrant attention and interest and, perhaps more importantly, I don’t want to Read More

Piano Quintent; String Quartet by Edward Elgar (2011) performed by Goldern Quartet, Piers Lane

Categories: 2011 and Music.

This is an odd combination: we get a string quartet, piano pieces seemingly picked at random from two separate eras of his career, and the piano quintet. I guess they wanted to give us our money’s worth or something. The string quartet is good, but it’s hardly on the level of Bartok. In fact, I’d say it’s pretty good, but it’s not quite one of the great quartets of its era. The problem is the piano pieces, which feel totally out of place with all of this. In and of themselves they are fine but if they had to pick Read More

Dvorak Piano Trios Nos. 1 and 2 (1989) by the Raphael Trio

Categories: 1989 and Music.

This collects Dvorak’s too least regarded piano trios . I didn’t know that while I listened to it, and, now that I know, I’m not quite surprised. The music is certainly pleasant, but one can understand why people haven’t gone crazy over this music, which seems to me as if it could easily have been written in the earlier half of that particular century. 6/10 Read More

Academy Concert Series November 13, 2010

Categories: 2010 and Music.

On Saturday I went to see a performance of some of Bach’s chamber music at Eastminster Church on the Danforth. Sadly this is the first time in my life I can recall seeing a chamber size group outside of a wedding. The program was unfamiliar to me, but that is not surprising given that I am getting into Baroque music rather late in life and given that Bach’s oeuvre is rather gigantic. Unfortunately, I have waited way too long and most of my thoughts from the evening have disappeared. I don’t remember much about the Trio for Oboe, Violin and Basso Continuo 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