Monday, January 14, 2008


SUNDAY, JAN. 13, 2008

I call this session the “Kleist session.” read to the end to find out why….

Glazunov. Symphony 6.
Russian State Symphony Orchestra. Valeri Polyansky, con. (Chandos)
A composer who always delivers value…this symphony is full of orchestral variety and rewards the listener with a journey through the landscape of late Romanticism. Annotators call him imitative of Tchaikovsky and Wagner, and I guess he stood on their shoulders, but his work is much less fraught with emotion, more extroverted; it just flows naturally. I always look forward to hearing his music, and will be playing more in the future. The Chandos recording is a bit tinny sounding, but a good idiomatic performance.

Bright Sheng. "China Dreams"
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra
Samuel Wong (Naxos)
Bright Sheng seems to have made all the right moves in his varied musical career. Bryant noticed that each movement of this work was dedicated to a different conductor and his biography reads like a grant proposal. All of which would be irrelevant if the music was more engaging. It is fluent, a kind of Chinese flavored take on Gershwin, Copland, Respighi and other western composers, but I really was not feeling any compulsion to pay it much attention.

Brahms "German Requiem" 4th mvmt "Wie lieblich sind Deine Wohnungen."
Berlin Philharmonic, Claudio Abbado (DG)
Bryant’s dedication to a fellow critic. Obviously discriminating…

Charles Ives "Symphony No. 2"
Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, con. (RCA)
We don’t play Ives very often on Cyber Classical. This should be a staple item, and reminds me how good a conductor Ormandy was in repertoire not associated with him. I think he got better as he got older and the Philadelphia strings were just purrfect in those days.

Brahms. "Piano Quartet No. 3”
Rubinstein, p. Guarneri Quartet (RCA)
How amazing this recording is! Rubinstein at close to 80 and the youthful Guarneri breaking boundaries…

Harrison Birtwhistle. "Punch and Judy"
The London Sinfonietta, David Atherton. (Etcetera)
In another job I have noticed this recording being always in demand, and sadly it’s out of print. I don’t know what’s up with Etcetera; they’ve got the first SACD version of the Ring just out, so they’re in the game still, but a lot of their older classic titles have gone missing.

Which brings up the question of the SACD: are they staying or going? Are they good for all or good for nothing special? Do we really need them? Maybe they’re the last best improvement to the venerable CD before it becomes obsolete. Any other thoughts?

Othmar Schoeck "Elegie Op. 36" Various songs
Andreas Schmidt, baritone (cpo)
A composer I’ve liked before – in particular the Horn Concerto. This music is dark and melancholy, based on poems by Lenau about a lost love. Bryant pointed out Schoeck’s Opera Penthesilea based on the Kleist play. Next to read! Is there a recording of this in print?

Brings our time full circle as I had earlier copied a translation of the”Beggerwoman of Locarno“ for Bryant to try to hook him on Kleist. Here’s the ending, prefiguring Poe, who must have known about Kleist:

Overcome with horror and tired of life, the Marquis had taken a candle and set fire to the wooden paneling all around him. In vain, his wife sent people in to rescue the wretched man; he had already found his end in the most dreadful manner possible; and his white bones, gathered together by his people, still lie in that corner of the room from which he once ordered the beggarwoman of Locarno to stand up.

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