The blizzard program
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.