Tuesday, June 8, 2010

recommended listening

Othmar Schoeck, Notturno with the Rosamunde Quartet and Christian Gerhaher.
Finally got around to listening to this after Alex mentioned it a few months back. It's a haunting, powerful work--one of those oddities I love where you have an unusual combination (string quartet and baritone) and then the composer goes ahead and only exploits it some of the time. Schoeck writes extended passages of lush string writing without voice, making each of Gerhaher's entrances all the more musically potent. And who doesn't love an entrancing major-key chaconne coda, marked by the same light, careful touch as the end chorus of Britten's A Midsummer's Night Dream.

Corey Dargel, Someone to Take Care of Me.
Everyone already knows about this (and hopefully bought it!) so I don't have to say much. Dargel's writing in Thirteen Near-Death Experiences for ICE is clever and sensitive, and the players give it the same level of technical proficiency and delicacy as Xenakis. The concept is solid, the execution flawless. I need to spend more time with the second disc/piece, Removable Parts--so far it seems remarkably different from Dargel's other music, and in a good way.

Alfred Schnittke, Symphony No. 2 with the Royal Scottish Philharmonic conducted by Leif Segerstam.
What a crazy, crazy piece. I just got a bunch of Schnittke CDs, in this BIS set, and listened to the Second Symphony today with the score. It's a mass setting within an instrumental symphony, with choral outbursts amid orchestral wildness. Schnittke's zany neo-Expressionism is at its best here, an eclecticism combining Medieval chant, greasy brass chorales, and hyper-intense string glissandi. When a wobbly, vibrato-laden electric guitar makes a two-bar appearance in the middle of a mass, you know you're in the right place.

Orkest de Volharding, The Minimalists.
Louis Andriessen's house band kicks ass on classic works by Reich, Riley, Adams, Gann (not sure if Sunken City is a classic; I'm also not sure if I like it, but need to give it another listening), Lang, and Andriessen himself. Still need to spend more time with this one as well, but their In C is fascinating. I don't know how deliberately they timed or rehearsed certain entrances of the cells, but somehow within the chugging texture emerge bizarre little brass fanfares, sudden hushed wind moments, and other effects I've never heard in the piece before. Sometimes it sounds a bit too polished, even pre-screened, but In C is such an open-ended piece (Robert Carl, in his book, compares it to a computer program) that it can work in this way too. And they've almost sold me on Reich's City Life, a piece I've always thought was a bit stupid.

Also, I was featured on this list of 50 blogs for music scholars. It's worth checking out--there are a few I didn't know about.

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