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Thread: Classical Listening

  1. #1
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Classical Listening

    The classical music social group seems to have petered out... as have a good deal of the social groups... and I would prefer anyway to open this discussion to all group members and not merely to those members of this or that social group. Anyway... I'm hoping that this thread might provide a venue where we can discuss what we are are listening to in the realm of "classical" music... with the understanding that the term itself embraces music from the Middle Ages and earlier to the the present works of Osvaldo Golijov, Tan Dun, Arvo Part, Phillip Glass, etc...

    So anyway... what are you listening to... what do you think of it... and why?
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    I have been listening to Lamentate by Arvo Part. I like his move into a more dramatic sound from his 80's and 90's work. He seems to have been quite affected by the work of Anish Kapoor and this I feel has been a positive influence on his direction.

    I have recently been listening to Giya Kancheli, James Macmillan, Tarik O'Regan, Gabriel Jackson and Peteris Vasks. Mostly choral. The Confessions of Isobel Gowdie is a beautiful and passionate work of contemplation. Giya Kancheli's Little Imber and Amao Omi I find very moving too. Kancheli's eastern influence works well with the history of Little Imber.
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    Ive been listening to a little of everything. I have a long drive to work, so I get to listen to a lot of music every day.

    I'm a big fan of unreconstructed modernism, so I listen to massive quantities of Schoenberg and his ilk. I just listened to Schoenberg's neoclassical Serenade op.24 and Berg's Lyric Suite (by Kronos w/ Dawn Upshaw). Charles Wuorinen is another of my favorites: I recently listened to the mind-blowing Percussion Symphony and his busy Two Part Symphony. The TPS reminds me very much of like Roger Sessions, whose symphonies I love. So I listened to the brief, nocturnal Fifth of Sessions next.

    I have a soft spot for the minimalists too. John Adams's style has developed plenty since his Nixon in China days, and his Naive and Sentimental Music is only slightly eccentric. Steve Reich is still committed to his oddball craft, and I recently heard Different Trains again for the first time in a while. I prefer Philip Glass's film music, and I've recently enjoyed his soundtracks for The Hours and Mishima.

    I hadn't heard Louis Andriessen until recently, but I love the vast, weird, austere De Materie.

    Regards,

    Istvan

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    One of my current musical enthusiasms is Béla Bartók. Bartók was a Hungarian composer (1881-1945) and one of the greatest of the masters of Modernism. For whatever reason he has been one of those composers who I have long and unjustly ignored. For quite some time the only recording I have had of Bartók has been this magnificent endeavor produced by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony back in the 1950s:



    Just over the past two weeks I have fleshed out my Bartók collection a great deal with the purchase of three classic recordings with Pierre Boulez:



    as well as a collection of his complete string quartets:



    The orchestral works with Boulez are absolutely stupendous! Boulez elected to record these works with the Chicago Symphony, that recorded many of the same works with Reiner. Of course they are justifiably known for their thrilling brass (where Cleveland was known for strings and winds, etc...) Including works written for the ballet and various orchestral forms the music included here are indispensable works of Moderism. These masterworks take the listener through the entire range of sound and emotions... from ominous brooding passages, to explosions of ecstatic rhythms and brass, to elements of a magical delicacy, or the most sensuous lyricism. Following these recordings I cannot understand why Bartok is not rated higher than he is. This music matches Stravinsky at his finest... and in many ways shares key elements: dynamic use of rhythms, unexpected orchestral configurations, textures, and colorings... and of course the borrowings from folk music sources. This is classical music at its most dynamic and thrilling. To borrow from the liner notes from the Rolling Stones' Let it Bleed, these recordings should be played loud!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fTdmkhAsE4

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nG48l...eature=related

    **************

    The string quartets of Bartók offer another side of the composer... quite removed from the orchestral works. Along with the quartets of Shostakovitch they are perhaps the most important group of chamber music since Dvorak's quartets, the chamber music of Brahms, and Beethoven's ground-breaking quartets. The string quartets are naturally more introspective and less theatrical than the orchestral works. The very nature of the form demands as much. The string quartet has been famously described as a conversational musical form in which the instruments function as individuals within a dialog... as a group of of four sitting around the table talking... even arguing politics and religion. Like the orchestral works, the string quartets cover a broad array of musical expressions. There are elements that are reverent... suggestive of ecclesiastical music; there are passages that are stark and harrowing; there is humor and elements of folk music and dance, and there are explosions or emotional outbursts.

    **************
    I'm greatly looking forward to exploring more of Bartók's music, including his piano concertos, his works for solo piano, and his lone opera, Bluebeard's Castle.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    One of my current musical enthusiasms is Béla Bartók. Bartók was a Hungarian composer (1881-1945) and one of the greatest of the masters of Modernism.
    Hear, hear. My Magyar missus disdains almost all of my most beloved music, but she tolerates that of her compatriot Bartók Béla without complaint.

    I agree about the string quartets, easily the most fascinating cycle in the literature. I've always been enthralled by the Fourth, that series of multi-dimensional labyrinths that's as daring and cinematic as chamber music can conceivably be.

    Whose recording of the SQs do you prefer? I like the sound of the Takacs Quartet's recording (it has a dramatic lushness), but after a lot of comparing, I have to say the Emersons play these works with amazing virtuosity and abandon.

    Regards,

    Istvan

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    I have recently been listening to Giya Kancheli, James Macmillan, Tarik O'Regan, Gabriel Jackson and Peteris Vasks. Mostly choral. The Confessions of Isobel Gowdie is a beautiful and passionate work of contemplation. Giya Kancheli's Little Imber and Amao Omi I find very moving too. Kancheli's eastern influence works well with the history of Little Imber.

    Choral music may just be my single favorite classical genre, and I am familiar with the efforts of MacMillan, O'Regan, and Jackson... as well as Arvo Part. Vasks and Kancheli are both on my wish list... and it is somewhat surprising that I have yet to pick up anything by them considering my admiration of choral... especially contemporary choral music, as well as music from the "Baltic composers".

    I'm a big fan of unreconstructed modernism, so I listen to massive quantities of Schoenberg and his ilk. I just listened to Schoenberg's neoclassical Serenade op.24 and Berg's Lyric Suite (by Kronos w/ Dawn Upshaw).

    I've never been able to get into Schoenberg... although I have made attempts. I tend to lean toward the decadents (Richard Strauss, Korngold, Schmidt, Schreker, Zemlinsky, Szymanowski, etc...) as well as Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovitch, Messiaen, etc... Of later music I'm a bit all over the place... although I tend to follow the more tonal composers as opposed to the more hard-core late modernists such as Boulez, Cage, Stockhausen, etc... I'm quite fond of the Minimalists... but also the late post-Romantics (Copland, Hovhaness, Barber) and various post-Modernists... composers who embrace elements from a variety of sources and avoid what can become more and more esoteric among Modernist purists.

    But then my tastes for "classical" music runs all over the genre from Gregorian chant, Spanish Sephardic music, and Renaissance opera through Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart... to Phillip Glass, Arvo Part, Osvaldo Golijov, and Daniel Catan.

    Whose recording of the SQs do you prefer? I like the sound of the Takacs Quartet's recording (it has a dramatic lushness), but after a lot of comparing, I have to say the Emersons play these works with amazing virtuosity and abandon.

    I'm only familiar with the Hungarian String Quartet version on Deutsche Grammohon. I have mixed feelings about the Emerson quartet in general... whom I found to be almost too polished on occasion and lacking feeling. Takacs sounds as if they would be a viable alternative considering what I have heard of them in the past. Still admittedly the string quartet and other string chamber music is far from being an area where I have much experience outside of the major works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert. I'm just beginning to rectify this... although I doubt I'll ever be a connoisseur of the genre to the extent I am of opera, choral, and song.
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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Currently I'm quite enjoying the new recordings of Beethoven's complete piano concertos performed by Murray Perahia and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra with Bernard Haitink:



    Perahia has gained a deserved reputation for his masterful recordings of the keyboard works of J.S. Bach. Only recently he has turned once more to Beethoven. These recordings strike me as clearly informed by Perahia's experience with earlier composers. His touch is exquisite... limpid... crystal clear and shimmering. One cannot help but recognize the influence of Mozart upon Beethoven's first piano concerto (which our resident "musicologist" will undoubtedly inform us is due to the fact that Beethoven was not actually the composer but rather it was Gluck who was in reality Gesualdo). I'm actually just finishing with the first concerto and moving to the second... but it will be no.s 4 and 5 that will be the real test, considering that I have recordings of these seminal works by Serkin, Gilels, Kempff, Fleischer, and a number of others from among the greatest pianists in recording history.

    A lazy, quiet, and chilly Sunday morning... perfect for listening to that most poetic of composers, Franz Schubert. His piano sonatas were long underrated in comparison to Beethoven for the very reason that they lacked the complexity and virtuosic demands of Beethoven. But this completely misses the point. Schubert was never a piano virtuoso, and his sonatas surely owe much to the fact that it is song and poetry where he excelled. One can catch intimations of Schumann and even Schumann in these works... but ultimately they are exquisitely unique poetry for the keyboard. I can't imagine a more sensitive interpretation than that of Wilhelm Kempff:

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    This fall morning in New England seemed appropriate for the second symphony of Walter Piston, that erudite, approachable Modernist.


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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Beyond Copland and Gershwin... and contemporaries like Adams, Reich, and Glass I have only recently begun to explore modern and contemporary American composers: Hovhaness, Bolcom, Corigliano, Ned Rorem (songs), Barber, Hermann, Menotti, Bernstein, Schuman, Ives, etc... No Piston as of yet. Of course I lean far more toward the Europeans... and away from hard-core late Modernists/Conceptualists ala Boulez, Cage, or Stockhausen.
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    Regarding Schoenberg, I really only know Pelleas and Verklarte Nacht. The latter I consider magnificent, a thrilling piece to hear live, although I guess many Schoenberg fans of his later music would find that statement rather profane.
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    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    The classical music social group seems to have petered out... as have a good deal of the social groups... and I would prefer anyway to open this discussion to all group members and not merely to those members of this or that social group.
    I have to apologize St Lukes about the social group. I've really have given up on all my social groups. I just don't have the time.

    Anyway... I'm hoping that this thread might provide a venue where we can discuss what we are are listening to in the realm of "classical" music... with the understanding that the term itself embraces music from the Middle Ages and earlier to the the present works of Osvaldo Golijov, Tan Dun, Arvo Part, Phillip Glass, etc...

    So anyway... what are you listening to... what do you think of it... and why?
    Oh, just before in the car on the radio they had a Brahms trio (Horn, violin, and piano) that was just awesome. He wrote it on his mother's passing and those three instruments happen to be the instruments he played as a child.

    Actually I found it in a search: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horn_Trio_(Brahms)

    And here is the first movement on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdoVtmGtXgA

    You may be able to find all four movement in a youtube search.
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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Regarding Schoenberg, I really only know Pelleas and Verklarte Nacht. The latter I consider magnificent, a thrilling piece to hear live, although I guess many Schoenberg fans of his later music would find that statement rather profane.

    I don't know why that should be so. I, for example, am a huge fan of the paintings of Picasso. As much as I love Guernica and other masterworks of "high Modernism" there is no way I would suggest that the masterful paintings of the earlier Blue and Rose Period are not also of the greatest merit. I love Verklarte Nacht myself... and also the Gurrelieder in which Schoenberg embraces all of the elements of Mahler, Wagner, and Richard Strauss and late Romanticism in an absolutely grandiose and decadent work.
    Last edited by stlukesguild; 10-25-2009 at 07:56 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by atiguhya padma View Post
    Regarding Schoenberg, I really only know Pelleas and Verklarte Nacht. The latter I consider magnificent, a thrilling piece to hear live, although I guess many Schoenberg fans of his later music would find that statement rather profane.
    Not at all. Both those early works are Schoenberg at his most Straussian, tone poems with an extra helping of fin-de-siecle anxiety. You might also like the ravishing Gurrelieder, a vast cantata for orchestra and vocalists from the same era.

    Personally, I don't think many of Schoenberg's works are that forbidding. In his free-atonal stage, he composed the admittedly-harrowing Erwartung for soprano and orchestra. But works like Pierrot Lunaire were surreal and charismatic. His early twelve-tone works like the Wind Quintet and the Suite op. 29 were very neoclassical and restrained, if maybe a bit eccentric.

    Schoenberg's string quartets are a good place to trace his development. His SQ#2 is one of the greatest works in that medium, and the SQ#3 is a dodecaphonic masterwork of great beauty and drama.

    Regards,

    Istvan

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Right now I'm off on a tangent... driving everyone nuts with one of my collections of medieval Byzantine and Sephardic music:



    Lots of strange rhythms, bizarre instruments, hypnotic modal music and chants. I love it!
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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    I never get tired of Debussy's Nocturnes, especially Nuages.

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