Tag: Modernism

1969, 1972, 1976, 1982, 1984, 2003, Music

Mauricio Kagel (2003) by Alexandre Tharaud

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 …

1918, 1926, 1983, Music

Sinfonietta; Taras Bulba (1983) by Leos Janacek, performed by Philarmonia Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle

This disc collects two of Janacek’s most famous symphonic compositions, both of which were dedicated to the military. So there’s a theme here, often lacking from programs. The Sinfonietta instantly strikes a chord with me because Emerson, Lake and Palmer covered the opening Allegretto on their debut album. So, right away, all attempts to objectively …

1924, 1928, 1978, 1980, 1992

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

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

1923, 1926, 1928, 1996, Music

Intimate Letters (1996) by the Juilliard String Quartet

This disc compiles both of Janacek’s string quartets with Berg’s “Lyric Suite”, a six part quartet. It is named after the second of Janacek’s quartets. Not named after the Beethoven piece but rather the Tolstoy story inspired by that Beethoven piece, Janacek’s first quartet is perhaps my favourite of all of his music that I’ve …

1901, 1903, 1905, 1907, 1911, 1914, 2015, Music

Sonatas and Poems (2015) by Stephen Hough

This collection features two of Scriabin’s piano sonatas, and two of his “poems,” plus Janacek’s only piano sonata and the first book of On an Overgrown Path. Scriabin’s fifth sonata is something else – it’s a daring, difficult work. It’s note quite as radical tonally as Schoenberg’s stuff from the same period (to my ears), …

1901, 1902, 1910, 1911, 1935, 1958, 1960, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1987, Music

Ives: Symphonies Nos 2 and 3; The Unanswered Question (1966) by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Berstein

This is a compilation of the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Berstein’s performances of the middle symphonies and The Unanswered Question, originally a piece paired with another but one that has found a lot of attention as a standalone. Bernstein was one of the great champions of Ives once he was “discovered,” but these performances …

1901, 1902, 1910, 1911, 1916, 1919, 1929, 1973, 1976, 1994, 1995, 2000, Music

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

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 …

1915, 1919, 1922, 2004, Music

Ives: Concord Sonata; Songs (2004) by Pierre-Laurent Aimard with Susan Graham

This is one of those discs that pairs two different types of music and so, right off the bat, kind of annoys me. Ives has plenty of songs to release a whole disc (or many discs) of them, without instrumental music. (For example, one of his collections is called 114  Songs.) And he’s got plenty …

1917, 1922, 1927, 2012, Music

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

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 …

1888, 2005, 2015, Theatre

Julie by Philippe Boesmans and Luc Bondy, Live at the St. Lawrence Centre, November 19, 2015

This is a 2005 chamber opera based on the 1888 play Miss Julie by August Strindberg. I have never read Strindberg, and I don’t know if I’ve read much naturalist literature or drama, so this was a new experience for me. The staging and direction are fantastic – they’ve decided to stage the pay in …

1922, 1942, 2006, Music

Hindemith: Ludas Tonalis; Suite 1922 (2006) by Boris Berezovsky

This collects two of Hindemith’s solo piano works, the most famous ones and those that are usually considered “essential.” Ludas Tonalis is Hindemith’s attempt at a modern version of The Well Tempered Clavier. And though it is obviously not quite up to that standard, it’s still a noble attempt. This is far and away my …

2011, Music

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

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 …

1935, 1957, 2012, Music

Simplicius Simplicissimus (2012) by Karl Amadeus Hartmann, performed by Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Choir, Juliane Banse, Petermarsch, Will Hartmann conducted by Markus Stenz

From the very opening bars it’s clear that this is no ordinary opera. And though that’s true of the most path-breaking and challenging operas of the early 20th century (I am thinking chiefly of Berg’s work), this one is perhaps more shocking given the (seemingly) more traditional stance of the composer. The opera is based …

2007, Music

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

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 …

2013, Music

Symphony No. 14 (2013) by Dmitry Shostakovitch, performed by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Vasily Petrenko, with Gal James and Alexander Vinogradov

I have taken some time getting to know Shostakovitch and, on the whole, I have found him a little underwhelming, I guess because of his allegiance to the past. And I know I am coming at his symphonies backwards, by listening to the second last one first, but… This is awesome. I am impressed by …

2012, Music

Ives: Four Sonatas (2012) by Hilary Hahn, Valentina Lisitsa

This is an excellent set of Ives’ violin sonatas. The pieces are a little more accessible than some of Ives’ more orchestrated pieces, in part I guess because of the nature of the violin. But the music is still characteristic Ives: challenging yet appealing. And the performances sound great to my ears, though like always …

2011, Music

Violin Sonatas: Bartok / Strauss / Grieg (2011) by Vilde Frang

This is a strong collection of mid-to-late Romantic (and early modern) violin sonatas. The Grieg is light and happy but does contain some interesting twists (like the apparent false ending of the first movement) to keep it from merely being a pleasant listen. It’s still pretty nice and light and, as that’s not my thing, …

2009, Music

Dvorak; Poulenc; Grieg (2009) by Marie-Josee Simard, Marie Fabi

This is an interesting recording that takes three well known sonatas (two violin sonatas, one of which at least is among the greatest of the twentieth century, and one flute) adapted for vibraphone. I am really open to this kind of stuff and I must say that I think this really works and I am …

2008, Music

Witches Brew (1959, 1964, 2008) by the New Symphony Orchestra of London conducted by Alexander Gibson

This is one of those “Spooky classical” things that is generally entertaining but hardly anything more. It’s a good (but obvious) selection of famous “spooky” pieces, primarily from the Romantic era. The wife and I attended one of these types of things with the TSO one Halloween a few years ago and the selection wasn’t …

1997, Music

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

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 …

1921, 1930, 1956, 2008, Music

Gould; MacMillan (2008) by Quatuor Alcan

This is a decent compilation of Canadian string quartets from the 20th century. As I have said elsewhere, I like the Gould quartet though I feel like I should be a little less enthusiastic about it. The MacMillan pieces are fine, but they are typical of most if not all Canadian “classical” music I have …

2007, Music

The Young Maverick (2007 Compilation) by Glenn Gould et al.

This is a collection of radio broadcasts Gould made for the CBC. It’s got a lot of his major performances, but these versions aren’t as good as the studio recordings if only because the sound quality isn’t very good. And that’s kind of annoying because I stumbled on this because I was looking for Gould’s …

1971, Music

Mennim: The Cycle, Ginastera: Milena (Release date unknown) by Various Artists

It’s really hard to like compilations like this, even though I like the music. This compilation contains no information about its release date or the dates of the performances. The composers and artists are listed, but the reason for such an arbitrary combination of two pieces is never given. (The one commonality: both are orchestral …

1960, Music

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris, Concerto in F (1960?, 200?) by Various Artists

I’ve heard the Bernstein “Rhapsody” before, and I still like it perhaps more than any other version. His version of “An American in Paris” is also good. Don’t really know why the Concerto features Andre Previn instead, but it’s also a good version. If I didn’t like the music so much, I’d probably be annoyed …

2013, Music

In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores (2013) by Hilary Hahn

It’s a wonderful thing that there are “classical” musicians in the world who don’t want to be stuck in a tradition that elevates the past over the present. I have always been intrigued by “classical” musicians who want music to live, who don’t just want to stick with how things have been done by their …

1995, Music

Debussy: the Complete works for Piano (1995 compilation) by Walter Gieseking

Debussy’s piano music is as significant as Satie’s, even if it isn’t always as obviously revolutionary. Debussy eventually became very mainstream and so his music had much more currency. And it’s been absorbed so much it’s sometimes hard to tell how exactly he was breaking away (but other times it is very obvious). As someone …

1936, Books, Fiction

The Big Money by John Dos Passos

Whereas I found Nineteen Nineteen to be a significant improvement on the first book, this one feels like he has lapsed back into his bad habits, and he gets confused between the form and the storytelling. He is still writing reasonably compelling stories but he can’t decide whether he wants to tell one person’s story …


Copland: Old American Songs, Canticle of Freedom, Four Motets by Michael Tilson Thomas, Mormon Tabernacle Choir et al. (No idea on the label. 198?)

I know what I like and I don’t like this. Campfire songs? Really? And then a fucking thing about freedom? Don’t get me wrong. It’s all very professional, but this isn’t great music. Anyone who thinks this is great music… well, I hopefully don’t know them. 6/10

1994, Music

The Young Pioneers: the Complete Music for Solo Piano by Aaron Copland, performed by Leo Smit (1994 Columbia)

I am normally not a big Copland fan but this gives me a whole new appreciation of him as a composer. The only thing I find annoying is the sequencing, which doesn’t give us a good idea of his development. 9/10