Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cyber Classical Program #65

Sunday February 24, 2008

Nothing about the music we played. I'll fill that in later. We got all wrapped up in the Oscars and indulged our second love, film!

Oscar Night:

Bryant, what was important about this night?
What about the international aspect of the awards? Is that a change for the better?
Bryant: The number of international winners this year is unprecedented -- it seems. For critics like Jonathan Rosenbaum, who have written books deriding the Hollywood system and particularly the Academy Awards, this is a small step in legitimizing the awards to world cinema fans. And, if you can get past all the self-importance, the award ceremony presents a friendly face to the rest of the world, i.e., plenty of anti-Bush and anti-Republican statements are made. Doncha think?

Gerry: Actually, I don't. I haven't examined the list of winners in detail, but I'm willing to bet that all of them, with the possible exception of the low-budget "Juno," are beholden to Hollywood/American corporate money, just to get seen by Academy members. Token Liberalism is warm and fuzzy, but there are actually films out there that represent their cultures more honestly and with greater artistic integrity than the user-friendly stuff that passes for "international" cinema.

Bryant: I think that's an elitist and bogus phrase, if you'll excuse me. A movie made in France or Pakistan *is* international cinema, any way you look at it. As for greater artistic integrity, would you care to elaborate?

Gerry: Just because a film is made on Pakistan, or has Pakistani actors does that really make it Pakistani if the entire funding was European/American, or if the script was written by an Englishwoman, or if the actors are, say Indian or Sumatran? Take a look at the credits at the end of any International film that gets distribution widely, and you'll be enlightened..

As for artistic integrity, I don't mean that these beholden films can't have it but that for me, I am more moved by films that come from the heart of the culture that produces it rather than by ones that have as their primary function the utilization of cultural "style" for the purposes of making a lot of money for the international cartels that fund them.

Bryant: I see your point. But isn't a Pakistani film that has AmEuro backing better than no film at all? I still hope that many of the artistic choices are still left to the director and his/her vision. David Lynch continually goes to France's Studio Canal to get financing, but I still think of his films as uniquely his own. In my opinion, of which you will most certainly disagree, the best films transcend a culture or a politics or a nationality. Andrew Sarris and Truffaut talked a lot about an "autuer theory"; that movies are the complete products of its director. Do you seek out movies because they are about Iran or because Makmahlbaf, for instance, directed it? Or better yet, the storyline seems interesting?

Gerry: Well, I think the "auteur" theory is a bit "old", and not really accurate in a lot of ways. When a director employs a cinematographer who stamps the visual experience with his unique view (think Bergman and Nyquist), who is the auteur? Think of Fritz Lang making film noir under the American studio system (which he did try to stamp with his point of view, however subversively) and you'll see what I mean. Th artifact called "film" is such a tangled mess of creators and motives that pure "auteurism" is almost impossible now. By the way, I think it's almost impossible for any film to transcend its culture (which includes nationality), since what you are able to see is so much a part of where you're from, culturally, historically, personally, that you would almost inevitably miss all the cultural subtleties that make a film such a great way to communicate feeling to people.

Bryant: So even if a director gets "final cut,"--which is most certainly not always the case--then isn't he essentially authoring the film? Yes, many competing visions go into film production, so I would agree that "pure" auteurism is a myth. But if you have final say, then the baby's yours. This kind of relates to your idealistic view of world cinema which is completely unshackled by Western influences or finances. In other words, everything is corrupt and adulterated. OR, another way of looking at it, these ingredients make the films their own things. Truffaut has gone on record saying he thought Hitchcock's Hollywood period was more artistically interesting than his British period. But now I'm veering from the topic at hand. I need to be thinking about the QNG.

Gerry: Get to work, we'll do this later.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cyber Classical #64

February 17, 2008

Gerry: Apres une Reve -- the encore piece chosen today by Joshua Bell to follow his spectacular pyrotechnics in the Violin Sonata by Saint-Saens -- just about reflects my feeling this evening. I came home after the concert at Chicago's Symphony Center, pretty well nourished by Bell and his equally talanted accompanist Jeremy Denk, fell asleep and dreamed about baby grizzly bears dancing with ground squirrels (think PBS)...

I'm still trying to get my mind in gear as I start show# 64, accompanied by my partner in crime Bryant Manning, who has his head in his laptop trying to get done with a profile for Time Out Chicago, his new gig.

Vivaldi: L'estro armonico, Op. 3 #6 and Op3 #1

I start with a fluent performance of Vivaldi concertos byTafelmusik, the early-instrument group from Toronto - Bryant and I saw this group at Ravinia last year and I was underwhelmed and a bit disappointed by their choice of music and the drab performance of it. But their recordings sound much better, really alert and on the mark.

Gerry: What do you remember about the Ravinia performance by Tafelmusik?

Bryant: I reviewed it for the Sun-Times and thought it was OK. I liked their presentation (standing up like a cocktail party), but the music never seemed as crisp and alive as this disc. Go figure.

Nielsen: Symphony No. 4 "The Inextinguishable"; Paavo Berglund/Royal Danish Orchestra (BMG).

Bryant: I chose this because I love Nielsen's symphonies, but never got to know the 4th all that well. This performance was off-da-hook! Berglund got all he could out of his players, or to use a sports metaphor, they left everything on the field. Highly recommended!

Guess this piece:

Faure: Barcarolle #1: Jean-Philippe Collard, piano (EMI)

Bryant started out with a quick off the mark guess of Bach: and that wasn't as off as it seems, since there was some subtle counterpoint in the opening bars -- but then it got more decorative and flowery, and it wasn't long before the word "French" popped out. And it wasn't a very long stretch to "Faure." We should and will be playing more of this disc in future programs.

Prokofiev: Violin Sonata #1: Vadim Repin and Boris Berezovsky (Erato)

Gerry: For comparison with the performance that was the highlight of Bell & Denk's concert. Weightier violin playing, more power from Repin and Berezovsky, more sweetness and refinement from the other two artists. Both excellent performances; Bell trumps Vadim in projecting the feathery glissandi that mark the first and last movements. Berezovsky provides a heavy ominous opening that Denk didn't project as forcefully.

Augusta Read Thomas: Rumi Settings for violin and cello; Piano Etudes 1 & 2/Stefan Hersch, violin; Julian Hersch, cello, Amy Briggs Dissanayake, piano (Art CD)

Gerry: Mixed feelings on this music. Very clearly modernist in stance, and very well played by the artists. I will still be looking to Thomas' orchestral and larger chambeer works before I come to any conclusions about music.

Rodrigo: Coplas del Pastor enamorado (Domingo & Barrueco); Zarabanda lejana (Barrueco) (EMI)

Alexander Borodin: Symphony #2. Simon Rattle/ Berlin Philharmonic.
Gerry:Rattle plays this repertory piece like he means it! This is one of the best, and best recorderd performances I have heard of this, and it brings out the Borodin so known from the Polovitsian Dances.

Moritz Moszkowski: From All Over the World: 6 Pieces for Piano 4 Hands. (Tudor)

Bryant: These didn't quite capture my attention like the Mozkowski works you played last week. They seemed a little more dainty, but I still liked the thick textures throughout.

All for this week!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ainadamar in Chicago

When an artist of the magnitude and quality of Dawn Upshaw puts her heart and soul into a work by a little-known composer, you have to take notice. The very American soprano has been making a specialty of Osvaldo Golijov, and getting his work performed pretty extensively in major venues. To great applause – Ainadamar got a standing ovation on Feb 12th at Orchestra Hall in Chicago, where a pretty sizeable house witnessed a truly memorable performance.

From the very entrance of a distraught Ms Upshaw, the audience was pulled into the emotional heart of the story of a great artist’s murder by Falangists in 1939. The libretto by David Henry Hwang focused on the murder of Lorca as the central event of the piece – is it an opera? A passion? I think it is a new hybrid concert form where the drama is as important as the music.

The lighting, the sound effects, the mikes on the singers, the supertitles, everything was centered on the staged drama of an inexorable tragic loss. The reiterated gunfire (becoming percussion effects) was a jolting climax, but the piece sort of petered out in a too prolonged ending. Still, the performances were never less than compelling. I could wish all music or theater were as deeply felt as this one was.

Dawn Upshaw was always magnificent, with a new layer of chest tones that really extend her range of expression. Jessica Rivera was every bit as marvelous vocally (I was already converted when I saw her as Kitty Oppenheimer in Dr Atomic). And the magnetic Kelley O’Connor brought a flexible mezzo to the trouser role of Lorca. The three artists had wonderful dramatic and vocal rapport, and their trios were quite ravishing.

I think the music also represents an exciting new hybridity quite different from the artificial insertion of “exotic” elements into basically western contexts that is the older way. Here the foreign is domestic, and both are fully integrated into a coherent whole.

Interestingly, I was prepared to dislike this piece. Just hearing the CD as I did, without knowing anything about the narrative, was disorienting to me, and I dismissed the score as pointlessly eclectic. I missed the point. Another lesson in drawing conclusions too easily!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cyber Classical #63

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Burhan Ocal: Orient Secret/ Classical Ensemble of Istanbul
(L'empreinte Digitale)

Classical music from 18th century Turkey. Since I get to do the show on my own this week, Bryant being stuck in Michigan somewhere, I am taking the opportunity to play whatever the heck I want to. And today I want to hear recordings I haven't heard before -- it's the thrill of the new which keeps me going, and it's all new to me -- and you the listener!

10:05 ---
Bryant is back home (he just IM'd me) safe and sound if frozen. I'll get his take on the music I'm playing and post it here so we can still have our dialogue.

Anton Webern: Six Orchestral Pieces op. 6/ Sinopoli, Staatskapelle Dresden (Teldec)

Really rich recorded sound on this disc; and the music has its large moments as well as Webern's patented minimal quietnesses.

Pierre Boulez: Pli Selon Pli. Last Movement, "Tombeau"/ Boulez, BBC Symphony, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano (Erato).

Successor to Webern in many ways, this is a largely orchestral section of a larger work setting poems of Mallarmé. Like the Webern it has its big orchestral moments, but ends on a prolonged quietness....The Tombeau is in memory of Verlaine, who inspired the poem. I love all the cultural cross connections -- and all the artists involved are heroes of newness - my theme for the night!

Mieczyslaw Weinberg: Symphony #5 (1962). Gabriel Chmura, Nat. Polish Radio Sym. (Chandos).

Angular and almost traditional, the music has a lot of Central European gestures; it's bold yet relaxed and lyrical in places. Multi-tonal. I like the last movement which insinuates itself into the ear and goes out like so many of tonight's pieces into quietness...

Update: Bryant had a bad trip; his window broke and he drove most the way exposed to the coldest day of the year. But he's home and dry now and listening to Cyber Classical. Tomorrow's his first day at his new position with Time Out Chicago. We're both at the beginnings of interesting and multi-faceted jobs, my third week at WFMT selling ads starts tomorrow, and I'm loving it so far. More as the events multiply....

Moritz Moskowski: New Spanish Dances for piano 4 hands (op 23). Ulrich Koella & Gerard Wyss.(Tudor)

Gerry: More "new" music. Fills the space nicely. Salon music with a slight edge.

Bryant from home: i loved the duo piano work: concise, ever-changing, and very melodic. That was a lot of fun. Who wrote it? Moszkowski?
RadioDePaul (11:07:35 PM): yes
PaceBM (11:07:44 PM): A gem I do say
RadioDePaul (11:07:58 PM): I'll post that thought.

Anton Arensky: Piano Trio No. 1 Op 32/Borodin Trio (Chandos)

Bryant:When I interviewed the Manhattan Piano Trio's manager last week, he said this was his favorite trio ever. I've yet to hear, so glad you're playing it!

Gerry: This performance by the Borodin Trio has to be the best available. They do put a lot of soul into it. 2nd movement is so suave.

Shostakovich: Piano Trio #2/ Vadim Repin, violin, Dmitry Yablonsky, piano, Boris Berezovsky, piano (Erato).

A couple of my favorite Russian musicians, good pals in real life (Vadim & Boris). It's a real gem of a performance. So to bed...

Tonight's Cyber Classical

Sunday February 10, 2008

Bryant is trapped in Michigan by the elements, but the show will go on, so tune in to at9PM for a program of CDs I've never heard. We'll listen for the first time together to music by Weinberg, Schwertsik, Raff and Arensky and some others.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Cyber Classical #62

The blizzard program
Sunday 02/03/08
9:00 P.M. Chicago.

As the snow falls lightly down into pillowy drifts, and cars spin out and people scurry back to warm homes or shelters, Cyber Classical is on the air with music to listen to in darkness.

Charles Ives' Symphony #4, with its bizarre sonics and insistent originality is just the thing to get the blood circulating in housebound heads.

Ives: Sym 4/ Serebrier, LPO (BMG)

Then our contemporary original: John Adams and his Shaker Loops, shivery music for a winter night, with some of the same drama as in the Ives. And ice coldness. The orchestration is a lot heavier than I remember the original version.

John Adams "Shaker Loops" (1978, rev. 1983) Bournemouth
Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop.

So on to Bryant's first choice for the day:

Stanislaw Skrowaczewski. Concerto for Orchestra
Minnesota Orchestra. Composer conducting. (Reference Recordings)

Gerry: What made you pick a CD by Stanislaw Skrowaczewski for the show?

Bryant: As I was browsing my collection, I wanted to snag up a disc that wasn't something I'd heard a hundred times. In fact, I don't remember anything about this CD! Plus, the really weird looking name was enticing.

Gerry: I like this music; although it was dedicated to his memory, it doesn't sound much like Bruckner -- at least the first movement; there's a lot of hard edges and big orchestration, but no psychology that I can hear. More Bartok than anything. The Adagio goes into more tonal areas with drama and some liquidity. Then all hell breaks loose until the end, which goes out quietly. Pretty solid stuff. Do you think it will be entering, as they say, the repertoire?

Bryant: Theoretically, yes. Logically, no. Unless Pierre Boulez or some other visionary conductors with a world-class orchestra at their disposal was listening tonight, I doubt Strowaczewski will get his due exposure. But I'm going to be optimistic and predict there will be a revival at some point, because that was a pretty gripping and substantial work.

Guess this artist: Beethoven Symphony No. 7 (First movement)
Gustavo Dudamel; Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela (DG)

Gerry: I thought it was propulsive and energy-filled. The studio sound here is so bad I originally thought it was a historic CD, or at least an older one. Not big on subtlety or refinement, but I bet Ludwig would've liked it... B, you saw young Gustavo live; how did he seem as compared to the impression given by this disk?

Bryant: Well, no recording is a suitable replacement for a live performance, and this is no exception. I didn't hear him do LvB in person, but heard his take on Mahler's 1st. I would agree with you that were wasn't a ton of nuance in the Beethoven, but I will say he is more interesting in the Mahler. Andrew Patner interviewed him for WFMT and asked him what other kinds of music he liked. He responded in the thickest Venezuelan accent: "I like-a da bo-leros!"

Saint-Saens: Parysatis -- Airs de ballet.
Geoffrey Simon/LPO (Cala)

Gerry: Here's an oddity, by one of the most fertile musical minds of the later 19th Century, who lived into anachronism, dying in 1921. It's a ballet suite from incidental music used in a play about some bloodthirsty Persian queen we've never heard of, and sounds like a briefer version of the bacchanal from Samson&Delilah, written decades earlier. Old SS never really changed that much, but always had a musical idea or two up his sleeve. Very rich stuff, I thought.

Anton Webern. "Langsamer Satz" for String Quartet. Carmina Quartet (Denon)

Bryant: This was nothing like the Webern we've come to know in his Op. 6 suite. This was a page out of early Schoenberg, his mentor, and other late romantic repertory. I loved it, because you could tell there was a serialist underneath the flowers and tenderness. It was a nice prelude to his thornier and more desolate sound. Any quick thoughts on it, Gerry?

Gerry: Very smooth and clean, without sentimentality, almost like some proto Norwegian semi modernist. Am I off base? I'll bring some major Webern next week for a quick comparison. I like listening to composers like Webern & Schoenberg in their early works because you can use them as keys to unlock the emotional kernel in their latter more unyielding pieces.

Brahms: String Quartet # 1/ Emerson Qt. (DG)

A fav of both of us. New and fresh. I picked up this CD on my first day at WFMT. Nice little extra!

Bryant: This was also my first appearance in Time Out Chicago. I wrote a 280-word review of this disc.

Liszt: Transcendental Etudes (Selections)
Boris Berezovsky, piano. (teldec)

Gerry: Boris Berezovsky and I go back: I had to cart him around to his various appointments in Chicago about ten years ago, and we ended up at his hotel bar competing in shots of vodka. I lost. My boss at WEA next day almost fired me for being such a demonstrative bore at a large fancy dinner party for Boris. A memorable night, though.

Cyber Classical #61

Cyber Classical Show #61
January 27, 2008

Esa-Pekka Salonen. "Insomnia for Orchestra"
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. Salonen, conductor.

Matthias Pintscher: Sur "Depart"
NDR-Sinfonieorchester, Hamburg/Eschenbach

Christoph Willibald Gluck. "Allesandro."
Musica Antiqua Koln. Reinhard Goebel.

Guess this piece: Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto: Andante
Kyung Wha Chung, LSO/Previn

George Enescu:Suite No. 2 for orchestra
Orchestre Phil. de Monte-Carlo/ Lawrence Foster

George Crumb. "Voice of the Whale."
For electric flute (Daniel Pailthorpe), electric
cello (Bridget MacRae), electic piano (Julian Milford)

Eugene Ysaye: Sonata No. 4 for violin solo (Dedicated to Kreisler)
Philippe Graffin, violin

Mark-Anthony Turnage. "Two Memorials," "An Invention on Solitude,"
"Sleep On." The Nash Ensemble. (BlackBox)

Jean Sibelius. "En Saga."
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Kirill Kondrashin. RCO