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Mostly Music
segunda-feira, dezembro 31
 
mamis, to invadindo o seu blog pra pedir procê dar sing out depois de usar se naum quando eu entro ele estah no mostly music!
mtos beijinhos
juuuu


 

Modern Music



This morning Laura and I are working on the pieces for our concert of Jan. 8. The task at hand: a fifteen minute long dirge in E-flat minor (with organ) called The Twins by composer Stefan Weisman of Princeton. Long and slow, but appropriate as a reponse to 9/11.

 

Recent Reading

One of the pleasures of working for the fabulously wealthy Princeton University was being able to take advantage of its large collection of books.

Princeton has a growing interest in Brazil and Brazilian literature, although until recently this was considerably overshadowed by its emphasis on the rest of Latin America. Nevertheless, it has a respectable stock of Brazilian literature, and since there has been no doctoral work in the area, many of the books have never circulated since they were purchased. Having met Laura in 1998, I was able to read her father Paulo Rónai's books, and even one of Cora's (Idéias, um livro de entrevistas ) as well. Now that I don't work for Princeton anymore, I have to buy my own Brazilian books. Over the last few days I have been enjoying the recent book of cronicas by Carlos Heitor Cony , and am still amazed that a writer of his standing in Brazil seems to be untranslated in the U.S. Another pleasure has been the collection of strips from Miguel Paiva's Gatao de Meia Idade which I picked up at the sebo day before yesterday, with a window into a forty-something's life in a culture so different from that of New Jersey....
and of course I am also reading the essays from Para Entender o Brasil, a Xmas gift from ">Cora. I mentioned this to my friend Chico, who said "Is it possible to understand Brazil?" What do you think?

domingo, dezembro 30
 

Summer in the city.

(Before I forget, let me remind you that this was posted by Tom, not by Laura. But it so happens that he is posting from my computer, so that explains the "posted by Laura" that is slightly baffling...)



Here in Rio it is sunday afternoon, temperature is a humid 25 degrees Celsius.It should be hot, brilliant sun, blue sky, nice sea breeze, everybody at the praia....but the last two weeks have been unseasonably wet, with flooding and many landslides in the state of Rio. Laura, Hermano, Dona Nora and I hopped into the car to go for a walk on the Paineiras road
, which is closed to traffic on weekends (weekdays in Brazil are dias uteis (useful days), which must mean that weekends are useless days). There was an unbelievable jam of cars waiting to go to the top of Corcovado.

Finally we got to the parking lot for the Paineiras road
, and at that elevation we were in the clouds. We walked a few hundred meters, and through an opening in the clouds we could see down to the Lagoa
, with the Christmas Tree sitting in the middle. Incredible to be in a wonderful rainforest so close to the city. There were a lot of people walking to the "natural shower"', which I expected to be a waterfall, but which turned out to be a pipe of mountain water about 75 feet above the road - everybody there in bathing suits, and with towels to dry off after. Afterwards we drove down to Catete and picked up a book that we had put aside for Ju, when we were there yesterday, at a very nice used bookstore (sebo in portuguese) off Rua de Catete near the Palace. The owner, Antonio, was there, with two beautiful cats, female and male, named Isis and Osiris. Yesterday there was some samba happening in the street outside, with bass drums, little hand drums, shakers, a guy playing cavaquinho, and lots of beer being quaffed, with barbecue being cooked on the sidewalk. A good time was had by all.....
sábado, dezembro 29
 
To CORA, a late Christmas gift...


 
A small gift for MEG, the nicest blogger we know..

Music
Amy Lowell (1874-1925)


The neighbour sits in his window and plays the flute.
From my bed I can hear him,
And the round notes flutter and tap about the room,
And hit against each other,
Blurring to unexpected chords.
It is very beautiful,
With the little flute-notes all about me,
In the darkness.

In the daytime,
The neighbour eats bread and onions with one hand
And copies music with the other.
He is fat and has a bald head,
So I do not look at him,
But run quickly past his window.
There is always the sky to look at,
Or the water in the well!

But when night comes and he plays his flute,
I think of him as a young man,
With gold seals hanging from his watch,
And a blue coat with silver buttons.
As I lie in my bed
The flute-notes push against my ears and lips,
And I go to sleep, dreaming.





 

Work in Progress

we are still writing this one. But since our comments are back (thanks, Cora!) I was anxious to post something and show our four readers that we are not dead!


CRITIQUE EN DIALOGUE:

Laura: Tom, there’s something about this disc that I just don’t get. Why would anyone want to listen to these arrangements rather than a recording of the original? The sound of the Wanamaker organ (at the Grand Court of Lord and Taylor in Center City Philadelphia) has quite an orchestral feel, the tone is varied, and the quality of the recording as captured by Dorian is wonderful. It’s just that I can’t imagine someone coming home and putting this on after a hard day at work.

Tom Moore: So it’s not charming music to listen to in the background. Is that it?

LR: Quite the contrary, I don’t think it’s something that I could sit down and pay attention to. For me it seems like music that has not made up its mind. Is it music for the foreground? Or is it music for a silent film without the film?

TM: Perhaps one of the problems for a listener in 2002 is that this is music that has left an original context behind. The notion of orchestral organ (as opposed to Gebrauchsmusik for the church) is rather like arrangements of Suppe overtures for concert band, for example. Both come from an age before recorded music, where you got your music where you could, whether it was Aunt Matilda at the family upright, the Sioux City Municipal Band at the bandstand in the park, or the organist at the department store. In that sense Conte is a musical archeologist, even more so than the folks who try to recreate the Urtext and the original performance setting of a work. You may think that these arrangements are in bad taste, but you have to admit they are exquisite….

LR: Exquisite is what they are not….they are very impressive, well done, prodigious, fabulous….but also kitsch to the max…even the original was already kitsch.

TM: Wagner, kitsch? How can you resist the crescendo towards the end of the Magic Fire Music!? What a sound! And those adorable chimes…

LR: I was expecting Santa Claus and his eight tiny reindeer.

TM Don’t you think that Conte’s arrangements are convincing and idiomatic?

LR: Well, yes…but…

TM: And his technique at the top level?

LR: Most definitely.

TM: So perhaps we can agree that this is a stunning disc, but whether our readers will like it depends on whether they can dive in to the kitsch and revel in it?

LR: I do like kitsch – I watch Friends…I don’t spend all of my spare time reading sonnets…but this is kitsch of the most grandiose sort…it makes me never want to listen to music again….

TM But I think that there will be readers who will just be carried away….

TM/LR There you have it, folks…listen if you dare, and let us know which side you are on.


MAGIC! Peter Richard Conte, org DORIAN xCD-90308 (78:06)

MUSSORGSKY (arr. Conte): Night on the Bare Mountain. WAGNER (arr. Lemare): Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music from The Valkyries. DUKAS (arr. Conte): Sorcerer’s Apprentice. NICOLAI (arr. Conte) : Overture to The Merry Wives of Windsor. ELGAR (arr. Conte): Cockaigne Overture “In London Town”, op. 40. ELGAR: Nimrod from Variations, op. 86 “Enigma”.


sábado, dezembro 22
 
Ah, Christmas! 'Tis the season to be jolly, to send cards to people you never think of during the rest of the year, to go fight for the last white blouse for Manoela in a crowded shopping mall store full of irritatingly thin women. And the season to eat wonderful stuff without guilt and hug friends you love, and see the Christmas tree in Lagoa and feel happy. Enjoy it, we hope you receive all the gifts you crave, eat all the chocolate you can, drink more than you can, kiss and be kissed.

 
His Books
Robert Southey (1774-1843)

My days among the Dead are past;
Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,
The mighty minds of old;
My never-failing friends are they,
With whom I converse day by day.

With them I take delight in weal,
And seek relief in woe;
And while I understand and feel
How much to them I owe,
My cheeks have often been bedew'd
With tears of thoughtful gratitude.

My thoughts are with the Dead, with them
I live in long-past years,
Their virtues love, their faults condemn,
Partake their hopes and fears,
And from their lessons seek and find
Instruction with an humble mind.

My hopes are with the Dead, anon
My place with them will be,
And I with them shall travel on
Through all Futurity;
Yet leaving here a name, I trust,
That will not perish in the dust.

 


Greetings after a quiet week with no postings...
Both of your faithful bloggers are in Rio for the holidays. How nice to be away from the incessant news machine of the United States! Peace is much more evident in Rio de Janeiro. As you drive around the Lagoa (and elsewhere) you can see illuminated signs by the road (the sort that frequently has advertising for restaurants or stores) with the single word, in large letters, PAZ (peace). Nothing else,
just PEACE. Yesterday I also bought a pair of New Year's glasses (the novelty sort you wear for fun), with the words 2002 (the zeros being the frames for your eyes), and PAZ. "Is peace the usual theme for Christmas?", I asked Laura."Yes", she answered. The U.S.A. no longer has a Christmas season -- it's now a "holiday" season, which means that any content whatsoever has been leached out.
"Peace on earth, good will to men" is too religious. "Merry Christmas" is definitely out. Not so in Brazil. "Happy Holidays" is completely unheard of'. It's simply "Feliz Natal" and "Feliz Ano Novo". In this year of atrocity, fuel-air bombs, weaponized anthrax, it's all the sadder that "peace" has vanished from America's Decembers.
(the two of us...)
sexta-feira, dezembro 14
 
Friends and foes, we are so upset: our comments are dead, gone forever. We have not even posted anything, we are so confused. We are trying to find a solution. For now, if you want to send a comment, try my e-mail: laronai@pobox.com
Thanks, and sorry. We will be back, soon.

quarta-feira, dezembro 12
 
A Revocation

Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-1542)

What should I say?
— Since Faith is dead,
And Truth away
From you is fled?
Should I be led
With doubleness?
Nay! nay! mistress.

I promised you,
And you promised me,
To be as true
As I would be.
But since I see
Your double heart,
Farewell my part!

Thought for to take
'Tis not my mind;
But to forsake
One so unkind;
And as I find
So will I trust.
Farewell, unjust!

Can ye say nay
But that you said
That I alway
Should be obeyed?
And — thus betrayed
Or that I wist!
Farewell, unkist!


 

terça-feira, dezembro 11
 

Amelie

A very nice film, four stars of five,

the star has eyes that you could fall into and never surface again, the exposition almost Bunuelian in its accumulation of peculiar details, a view of Paris that for the first time made me want to visit (especially the train station), a film about delayed gratification, and an amazing collection of eccentrics. Made me realize once again how many lovely French films there are (and how few German ones). Lovely has not been big for Germany since Telemann...


 

From the Rape of Europa



Two black lights, above which arch
Two brows, black and as fine as may be,
In her slow moving and in her glances are gathered
All the force and the pleasure of Venus,
Full are her cheeks, where the rose and the lily
Alternate their pleasing colors,
Divided by her noble nose.
Her lips strewn with native purple,
More precious than that of the shells of Tyre,
Reveal tiny and compact teeth,
Which seem to be made of polished ivory,
But so well-disposed and so well-ordered,
That there is not one too many nor too few.
The neck, round, subtle and of lucid alabaster
Which ends in the white chest, elevated and mobile,
Of the same color which the snows
Give to the high Appenines,
When, the sun falling into the Ocean,
Its uncertain rays tinge them with a color,
Which moderates and enlivens their exceeding brightness.
Narrow is her waist, and broad her shoulders,
Small her feet, her hands long and tender,
And in her gentle glance united
Sweetly together live majesty and grace.

Metastasio



domingo, dezembro 9
 

A marvelous library



Visit the marvelous virtual library of Italian masterworks, the Library of Babel.
I found it because I was looking for the Pastor Fido of Guarini, but there
is much else to enjoy.
 

Conversations galantes

Friedrich Hartmann Graf (1727-1795) was a contemporary of Bach's younger sons, Johann Christoph Friedrich (b. 1732) and Johann Christian (b. 1735), and like Johann Christian, he represents a North German musical heritage which has given in to the blandishments of the classical style of Italy and Austria.

He was the son of Johann Graf, a violinist and composer who spent most of his career in Thuringia at the court of Schwarzurg-Rudolstadt; Friedrich's elder brother Christian Ernst had a highly successful musical career in the Netherlands. Friedrich began his career as a drummer in the military, but after seeing action (and being wounded) he thought better of it and was active as a flutist in Hamburg from 1769-1765 (where would certainly have met the venerable Telemann). He spent the bulk of his career in Augsburg, arriving there in 1772, though he spent two seasons in London.

Most of Graf's surviving work includes the flute. He produced five sets of six flute quartets each, published variously in Germany, France and England. The set recorded here was the second, published in Berlin and Amsterdam in 1775. These are quatuors concertants , i.e. , the flute part is more prominent and demanding than those of the accompanying strings.> This despotic sort of relationship was more often found in quartets mixing winds and strings than in the usual string quartet , where the more egalitarian ideal of four voices, each making a contribution, held sway. By and large the works are in three movements, opening with an allegro in sonata form, and closing with a rondo. Minuet and trio are conspicuously absent.

The sole previous contribution to Graf's discography heretofore seems to have been the two flute quartets recorded by Vester and company (issued in a survey of music in Augsburg by BASF in 1973). Hünteler's disc is a gem. The tone of Hünteler's flute is luscious, the passage-work sparkling and limpid, the shaping of the phrases intimate and expressive, and the sounds of the strings blend beautifully. These are not "deep" works in the romantic sense. There is no operatic drama, no bathos here; more like a pleasant afternoon in conversation with friends.

GRAF: Six Quartets for Flute, Violin, Viola and Violoncello. Konrad Hünteler, flute; Members of the Festetics Quartet (István Kertész, violin; Péter Ligeti, viola; Rezsö Pertorini, cello). MDG 311 0520-2 [DDD]; 74:39.


The recorded sound is superb, the notes detailed, intelligent and informative. Highly recommended.
sábado, dezembro 8
 

Faithful musicians

Der getreue Music-Meister , a musical periodical published by Telemann himself, was perhaps as characteristic of Telemann as the abstract masterpieces of the 1740s (the Goldberg Variations, the Musical Offering, the Art of Fugue) were of Bach.

Both masters had in common the composition of cantatas for weekly use in the divine service - Bach seems to have written about five hundred of these, Telemann over a thousand - but from that point their interests diverge. Bach's creation of chamber music was parsimonious, leaving us a few virtuoso pieces testing the limits of instrumental technique. Telemann was almost unbelievably fecund, and playing virtually all the instuments then in use (keyboard, violin, recorder, flute, oboe, viol and more) was able to exploit their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses. Further, Telemann was able to engrave and market his works himself for a wide European audience, including buyers in France and England.

Telemann issued Der getreue Music-Meister in twenty-five four-page installments every two weeks between November 1728 and November 1729, for a round total of one hundred pages of music. Most of the music was by Telemann, but a significant portion was by his German contemporaries, some still well-known (the violinist Pisendel, the lutenists E.G. Baron and S.L. Weiss), others forgotten (Johann Georg Kreising, Johann Valentin Görner, Christian Pezold).

For his part Telemann contributed solo sonatas or suites for all the instruments mentioned above, and for viola, bassoon, and discant viol as well. Many of these are written so that they can be played by other instruments than the one primarily intended (e.g. the bassoon sonata, which Telemann notes can be played on the recorder -tranposed up two octaves). Dances scored for treble instrument with continuo fill in the empty spaces. In addition Telemann included arias, usually with obligato violin, from his operas Emma und Eginhard, Calypso, Belsazar, Sancio and Aesopus, almost the only music from these works to survive. Finally there are a few puzzle canons for the erudite, including BWV 1074 by J.S. Bach. Since this was a serial, all of the extended works were spread between at least two issues, thus inducing the prospective buyer to purchase the whole set. In modern times, there have been publications of the work in facsimile (Basel, 197?, Leipzig, 1980 and Madrid, 1983), but as yet no scholarly edition, though Bärenreiter published much of the contents in various volumes of the Hortus Musicus series.)

Camerata Köln's set is indeed the first complete recording of this delightful chrestomathy. Josef Ulsamer headed a five-LP set recorded for Archiv in 1966 and 1967 (still listed in Bielefelder as 2723 073), (and surprisingly enough, using period instruments), which omitted many of the contributions by other composers (and rearranged the order of the contents). Telemann's works were a known quantity (the recorder sonatas here are especially familiar) - I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the works by Telemann's contributors.
The Camerata's performances are first-rate, and the recording is warm and flattering. This set belongs in the library of any collector of Baroque music.

TELEMANN: Der getreue Music-Meister. Camerata Köln (Michael Schneider, recorder, flute; Karl Kaiser, flute; Hans-Peter Westermann, oboe; Mary Utiger, Hajo Bäss, violins; Graham Nicholson, trumpet; Hubert Stähle, Kathleen Putnam, horns; Michael McCraw, bassoon; Rainer Zipperling, cello, viola da gamba; Ghislaine Wauters, viola da gamba; Nicholas Selo, cello; Sabine Bauer, harpsichord, recorder; Yasunori Imamura, lute; Barbara Schlick, Martina Lins, sopranos;Kai Wessel, alto; Martin Post, tenor; Hans-Georg Wimmer, bass; Alix Brand, speaker). DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI RD 77239 [DDD]; (five discs): 69:23, 68:59, 64:54, 61:55, 59:09.
Fanfare, 1992



 

A discovery

This disc was a revelation. One of the joys of youth is the thrill of discovery - hearing music which says something new, something different, something important. Once the discovery is made, of Bach, Gesualdo, Miles Davis (your favorite name here), each new piece is a filling in of details on the map of a previously unknown land.

Geographically speaking, there are no more blanks labeled optimistically "Here be Dragons", but the same is not yet true of arts (still an expanding universe). Pasquini, heretofore but a name to me, is revealed by Pasquini's inspired partisanship as a major voice, an artist on the level of L. Couperin or Froberger from the generation before his.

Bernardo Pasquini (1637-1710) was raised in Ferrara, as was Frescobaldi, and like Frescobaldi made his career as an organist in Rome, where he received the patronage of the Borghesi. His surviving keyboard works come to seven volumes in the modern edition (many of them found in one autograph manuscript of some 420 pages, now available in facsimile). He composed operas, oratorios and cantatas as well, though many of them are now lost. The stricter contrapuntal forms (ricercar and fantasia) play a smaller part in his oeuvre than for Frescobaldi or Froberger, and a surprising amount of French influence is evident in his suites. Alessandrini's interpretations are superb; he is fully in command of Pasquini's idiom, bringing the music to life with vigorous rhythms and convincing ornaments. He plays a Roman instrument from 1678 (in the collection of Westdeutscher Rundfunk! what other treasures do they have?); beautiful sounds, beautifully reproduced by Astrée's exemplary recording.

A must!

PASQUINI: Sonatas for harpsichord. Rinaldo Alessandrini, harpsichord. ASTRÉE E 8726 [DDD] ; 77:00.
 

Baroque women

Barbara Strozzi (1619-1664) is finally gaining the recognition which is her due. A student of Cavalli, she was a prolific composer (with nine publications between 1644 and 1664), innovative and expressive, and a virtuoso singer.

Judith Nelson (Harmonia Mundi Hm 1114) and Glenda Simpson (Hyperion CDA 66303) have both contributed discs devoted to her works; Poulenard's selection duplicates only one work from each of these. Alessandro Stradella is still more well-lknown for the notorious circumstances of his life and death (embezzling funds and seducing women, he was finally murdered by hired thugs), than for his music. The three selections here seem to be recorded premieres.

Poulenard's performances are absolutely stunning. What a range of expression! She captures the brilliance, the wit, the intensity of Barbara Strozzi with kaleidoscopic shifts of mood. Each affect is beautifully characterized with changes of tone, of expression - Poulenard is a very convincing actress (she does go rather over the top in the Lamento which opens the disc.) She has a beautiful voice and superb technique ( e.g. the virtuoso passagework in Stradella's Arianna.) Praise also to her fine accompanists Muller and Buckley. What more can one ask? Superb!


STROZZI: Lamento. A pena il sol. L'amante bugiardo. Fin che tù spiri. Moralità amorosa. L'amante segreto. Tradimento. STRADELLA: Lontananza e gelosia. Si salvi chi puó. L'Arianna. Isabelle Poulenard, soprano; Marianne Muller, viola da gamba; Emer Buckley, harpsichord. ADDA 581173[DDD]; 65:27
sexta-feira, dezembro 7
 

To Chloe

Who for his sake wished herself younger
William Cartwright (1611-1643)

There are two births; the one when light
First strikes the new awaken’d sense;
The other when two souls unite,
And we must count our life from thence:
When you loved me and I loved you
Then both of us were born anew.

Love then to us two souls did give
And in those souls did plant new powers;
Since when another life we live,
The breath is his, not ours:
Love makes those young whom age doth chill,
And whom he finds young keeps young still.


 

BACK TO BACH

No wonder these concerti have been reconstructed from their harpsichord counterparts, and are often played and recorded by violinists - they are absolutely fabulous music, and sound at least as idiomatic on strings as they do on keyboard, if not more so.

Being a convert to period instruments, I approached this disc with a certain modicum of wariness. But the very first track, trumpets and all, disarmed me with its lush, opulent sound. When compared to period-instrument recordings, the colors pale a bit, but not for long. The higher tuning does take away some of the velvet qualities of the sound, and the continuo harpsichord seems a bit hidden in the background, as in the old I Musici recordings. At times one could wish for a more audacious, unconventional conception (in this respect one cannot help thinking of Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s landmark recording of 1977, for Teldec, with violinist Alice Harnoncourt).
However, the Stuttgart ensemble directed by Helmuth Rilling compensates for these minor shortcomings in many rewarding ways: if one perceives a hint of nervousness sometimes, that is a small price to pay for interpretations that are never anemic, and vibrate with life. The ensemble playing is warm and enthusiastic, intonation flawless, and the choice of tempi competently adequate in all the pieces. In fact, better than those of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightment under Elizabeth Wallfisch (Virgin, 1994) which, period instruments notwithstanding, surprisingly sounds less baroque than the Stuttgart group.
The young violinists featured here show more than just a very fine technique. They all seem to be familiar with the latest research in historical performance, and they use it to their advantage. They perform with enormous gusto, the brilliant finger-work obediently subordinated to convincing musical choices. Finally, the quality of the recorded sound itself is quite beautiful and full of depth. The overall tone is rich and mellow, the soloists standing out exactly as much as needed. A dense forest, but with the shape of the trees still perfectly distinguishable among the luscious green. Definitely recommended.

BACH Reconstructed Violin Concertos: in d, BWV 1052R; in g, BWV1056R; in D, BWV 1064R; in D, BWV 1045. Helmuth Rilling, cond; Bach-Collegium Stuttgart; Isabelle Faust, Muriel Cantoreggi, Christoph Poppen (vn). HÄNSSLER CD 92138, (51:06)

Fanfare, January/February 2001



 

Perche bramar la vita?


From the Demofoonte of Metastasio

Why wish to live? What pleasure
Is found in it? Every fortune is suffering,
Every age is misery. Boys tremble
At a threatening glance; as adults we are the plaything
Of fortune and love; those with snowy locks
Groan under the weight of their years; first we are tormented
By our yearning to acquire; and then transfixed by
Fear of loss. The evil war eternally
One with another; the just battle
Envy and fraud. Delirious shades,
Dreams, follies are our cares; and when
We begin to see the shameful error,
Then we die.

 

Bizarre Bach

Jean Guillou has provoked a more-than-usual amount of heat in the press of late, with a particularly warm exchange in Musical America (July and November issues) between critic Josiah Fisk (son of the illustrious organ builder) and Brian Levine of Dorian recordings, with Fisk throwing such brickbats as "not merely mediocre...actively offensive" and "monuments to ignorance, arrogance, and the subversion of the composer's every intention and the music's every charm".

It seems likely that most listeners will agree that Guillou's performances reflect an esthetic that is far from the center: where they will disagree is whether this makes them brilliant or merely insane.

Guillou's Bach, on the evidence of this first volume in a projected complete recording, probably would have sounded peculiar to J.S. and his contemporaries; Guillou's rhythms and feeling for the music's gestures belong thoroughly to the twentieth century. I certainly don't hear them as " mediocre" - the degree of independent rhythmic inflection achieved by Guillou takes imagination and an obedient technique (e.g., his treatment of the three different levels of rhythm in BWV 600). Eccentricity with respect to rhythm is evident throughout this disc, whether manifested as irregularities on the level of the sixteenth, or an affection for unusually slow tempi and clipped articulation (e.g, the dissection of the flourish which opens BWV 542 into individual notes.) Some (though not all) of the registrations sound ugly (the first variation in BWV 767) or perverse (why choose a combination of stops which effectively transposes the line it is rendering?). Guillou seems intent on bringing out the unusual and bizarre in Bach's music.

The two-manual organ by German builder Detlef Kleuker (in a modern building designed by Jean Marol - the photo reminds me of St. Mary's, San Francisco) is well-captured by Dorian. Listeners might wish for more tracks - BWV 542, 543, and 767 each have but one.

BACH: Organ Works, vol. 1. Jean Guillou, organ. DORIAN DOR-90111 [DDD]; 73:20.
Fanfare, 1990

 

Life is unfair

Life is unfair dept.: if a piece is attributed to a famous name (regardless of the strength of the attribution), odds are good that it will be recorded sooner or later - while music of equal or greater merit without such attribution languishes on the library shelves.
Of the ten works on this release four (BWV 917, 919, 921 and 922) are classed by the New Grove as being in the "doubtful" category. This doesn't mean that they are not worthwhile music - but they're not typical Bach. It's hard to say who they sound like, since the keyboard msuic of Bach's predecessors is not well represented on recordings. Suffice it to say more listeners will probably be interested in the better-known works on this CD, particularly BWV 894, 906, and 903.

The Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, in spite of its warhorse status, remains an astounding and unique work, ready to inspire a variety of interpretations. Staier's rendition is quite convincing, especially in the recitative passages, so reminiscent of Bach's son, C.P.E. He plays them with an almost vocal breadth of phrase, and his liberties in arpeggiating the chords help to emphasize the most important cadences. This is probably among the best rendtions of this work on disc.

Elsewhere in the recital Staier occasionally seems a little square. He could linger more over the appoggiaturas in the C minor Fantasy, and its fugue needs more attention to local details in general. Likewise the fugue in BWV 894, which is too fast for the details to be heard.

All in all, a very promising beginning, but future efforts may be even more rewarding (though Staier is known for his work with Musica Antiqua Koln and Les Adieux, this seems to be one of his first solo releases.) Other renditions of this music I have enjoyed include those of Pinnock and Leonhardt (neither seems to be in print); another possibility is John Gibbon's recital on NONESUCH (79132-2), which includes both BWV 894 and 903.

BACH: Fantasia in A minor, BWV 922; Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 904; Fantasia in C minor, BWV 921; Fantasia in C minor, BWV 919; Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 894; Prelude and Fughetta in G, BWV 902; Prelude and Fugue in F, BWV 901; Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue in D minor, BWV 903; Fantasia "duobus subiectis" in G minor; Fantasia and unfinished Fugue in C minor, BWV 906. Andreas Staier, harpsichord. DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 77039-2-RC[ADD] ; 63:12
Fanfare (1989, before Staier was internationally famous)


quinta-feira, dezembro 6
 

Priorities



An Italian anecdote: One year on the 24th of December, that is, Christmas Eve, an inhabitant of a village was at the window of his house. It was numbingly cold, and he had not gotten dressed, and had neither a collar, nor a cap on his head. A friends of his is passing by, sees him, and calls out “Pietro, what are you doing there?”
“I am catching a cold.”
“What for?”
“So that I can sing bass tonight at the midnight mass.”

from G.G. Ferrari, Pleasing and Interesting Anecdotes

quarta-feira, dezembro 5
 
Another lightbulb joke

How many second violinists does it take to change a light bulb?

None. They can't get up that high!
terça-feira, dezembro 4
 
  Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

      A Ring presented to Julia.

                  Julia, I bring
                  To thee this Ring.
    Made for thy finger fit;
                  To shew by this,
                  That our love is
    (Or sho'd be) like to it.

                  Close though it be,
                  The joynt is free:
    So when Love's yoke is on,
                  It must not gall,
                  Or fret at all
    With hard oppression.

                  But it must play
                  Still either way;
    And be, too, such a yoke,
                  As not too wide,
                  To over-slide;
    Or be so strait to choak.

                  So we, who beare,
                  The beame, must reare
    Our selves to such a height:
                  As that the stay
                  Of either may
    Create the burden light.

                  And as this round
                  Is no where found
    To flaw, or else to sever:
                  So let our love
                  As endless prove;
    And pure as Gold for ever.

for Ju.
 

Best Bach by Bart




Bart Kuijken has long been one of my favorite flutists, due not least to his series of recordings for Accent. He is the youngest (now forty years old) of three very talented brothers (the others being Wieland, a gambist and cellist, and Sigiswald, a violinist and gambist) who recorded and toured together extensively in the seventies. Since then they seem to have been involved with other projects, so this reunion is particularly welcome.

The works which are included in a "complete" set of Bach's chamber works for flute vary depending on the vagaries of musicological research or the whim of the performer. This set excludes BWV 1031 and 1033, generally considered to be spurious, but includes the trio sonata for flute and violin, BWV 1038, whose attribution is also questionable.

It is hard to conceive of a better recording of the pieces which Kuijken has selected. Kuijken is a consummate master of the Baroque flute. He produces a most voluptuous tone, particularly evident in the instrument's lowest octave, and commands a panoply of articulation (put to wonderfully musical use in the continuous sixteenths of the allemande and corrente in the solo partita, BWV 1013). Leonhardt is an inspiring partner in the works with concertante harpsichord. (If you prefer your baroque music uninflected, best to look elsewhere.) Particularly impressive is the Kuijken's ability to make something substantial from BWV 1038, which has seemed unworthy of J.S. at previous meetings.

There have been numerous other recordings of these works on original instruments, by Bruggen, Miller, Preston, Solum and Stastny (all but the Bruggen still available in the U.S.) LP collectors might consider Sandra Miller's set on Titanic. Let me make it clear, however, that Bart Kuijken's set is a must. They don't get much better than this.

BACH: Sonatas for Flauto Traverso: in E minor, BWV 1034 [2-3;] in A, BWV 1032[2] ; in G, BWV 1039[1-3] ; in G, BWV 1038[2-4;]in B minor, BWV 1030[2 ;]in A minor, BWV 1013; in E, BWV 1035[2-3]. Bart Kuijken, flute; Marc Hantai[1,] flute; Gustav Leonhardt, harpsichord[2;] Wieland Kuijken[3], gamba (?); Sigiswald Kuijken[4,] violin. DEUTSCHE HARMONIA MUNDI 77026-2-RC [ADD]; 50:48, 50:40 (Fanfare 1989)

 




Patricia Watwood : "Music and Poetry"
82 cm X 152 cm / 36" X 60" Huile sur toile / Oil on canvas, 2000

 


Man


Sir John Davies (1569-1626)

I know my soul hath power to know all things,
Yet she is blind and ignorant in all:
I know I'm one of Nature's little kings,
Yet to the least and vilest things am thrall.

I know my life's a pain and but a span;
I know my sense is mock'd in ev'rything;
And, to conclude, I know myself a Man,
Which is a proud and yet a wretched thing.

(Para você, Fausto)
 


A free encylopedia for the francophone

Have you seen the Yahoo Encyclopedia?
It's hosted by the French franchise, as one might expect.Here's the beginning of the entry for Brazil, which also includes a Real Audio of the national anthem, an image of the flag, maps, weather data, and much more.

Entre modernisme et traditions, opulence et misère, cette nation pionnière se démarque, par sa taille (8 511 965 km2), sa puissance et sa culture, des autres pays de l'Amérique latine. Une succession de migrations multiformes marque l'histoire de ce «géant», aujourd'hui l'une des dix premières puissances économiques du monde, modèle de syncrétisme et d'un type original de développement économique.
 

A national disgrace...



is what the Surgeon General called the labs of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday.
 


Sparkles

The prolific Telemann composed a wealth of chamber music for the flute, only surpassed in that regard by his Parisian contemporary Boismortier.

He produced four sets of duos (six sonatas each) for the flute. The collection heard here was the first, published in 1727, and dedicated, as was often the case for Telemann, to performing musicians, rather than noble patrons. It seems to have been his first effort in composing chamber music without continuo, a genre at which he was to excel in the 1730's (by the time of their publication Boismortier had already published five sets of flute duos in a similar vein). The flute is clearly preferred on the title-page, although in contrast to the later sets the edition provides an alternate set of clefs for the recorders (which were to play at a higher pitch). The sonatas are relatively conservative in style, with extensive slow movements, and little of the French or galant character that would shape the later duos.
These works are familiar to virtually all modern flutists, so it's surprising to note that Schultz and Rosenfeld have no competition in the catalog at present, either on baroque or modern flute. They turn in lovely performances, with limpid and liquid tones flattered by the
recorded sound, the lines sensitively shaped, the interplay of Telemann's counterpoint sparkling. Most warmly recommended - a welcome addition to the Telemann shelf, and another laurel for Naxos.

TELEMANN Six Sonatas for Two Flutes, op. 2. American Baroque ( Stephen Schultz, Mindy Rosenfeld, flutes) (period instruments). NAXOS 8.554132 (67:50).
 
Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.
–Stravinsky.
 


Blowback....

is what they call it when your own dirty tricks come back to haunt you.

An interesting news item, which doesn't seem to have gotten much comment, is that in fact the quality of the weaponized anthrax of October is such that it points to having been developed by the U.S.A's own weapons program. Smells like the anthrax may have had nothing to do with "it" (as a friend refers to 9/11). It's also interesting that the government's actions in continuing to distribute mail mean that thousands and possibly millions of people may have been exposed to spores.This is the latest theory for the two otherwise unexplicable death's (see today's NYT).
segunda-feira, dezembro 3
 



The spice of life

I have been complaining a lot, lately, of a bad habit that a few recording companies are cultivating: that of releasing old recordings practically disguised under a new trendy cover, sometimes barely re-masterized, with the thinnest booklet texts and the recording date cleverly hidden in the liner credits.

So this is a very good occasion to praise this Archiv Series, intent on re-issuing legendary recordings from their LP catalogue. This series shows respect for the performer as well as for the listener. It does not conceal that these recordings are decades old, quite the contrary, the fact is proudly announced, the graphic presentation tastefully evoking the original cover of the LPs and with the bonus luxury of a little joke: the CDs themselves have a visual finish that perfectly imitates the appearance of a vinyl recording in miniature. The re-masterization is lovingly done, and extensive and informative liner notes are provided. None of that would be any consolation if the performances themselves were not appealing.
The present CD is a 1959 recording of Bach’s Well-tempered Clavier, performed masterfully by Ralph Kirkpatrick, a name which was fundamental in the revival experienced by the harpsichord in the 20th Century. He was not only a famous interpreter but also a scholar respected worldwide, and this release gives us the opportunity to know why. The music heard here is played with passion and vitality, and it is quite apparent that Kirkpatrick’s deep understanding of line and harmony did not make his interpretations in any way intellectual or sterile. There is an instinctive lyricism which pervades and enriches the smallest of details in phrasing, and the polished technique is always subservient to the idea.
An added attraction, which, conversely, is the recording’s only drawback, is the instrument chosen for this heroic task: the sweet, and “fiendishly difficult” clavichord. This rarely recorded instrument was the first keyboard in which dynamics could be produced, and it also has the unique capacity of producing a sort of vibrato (the Bebung), unlike its more frequently heard relative, the harpsichord. On the other hand, the sound is tiny, under-nourished, reminding us of a toy instrument. Not really thrilling, not at all vigorous, sometimes even a bit annoying. In Kirkpatrick’s own words “part of its magnetism resides in the necessity for the listener to allow himself with doubly sharpened ears to be drawn towards that tiny point of focus beyond which illusion becomes reality”.
Anyone who has ever tried to get someone’s attention in a noisy place, or in the middle of a fight, and who found that the best way to achieve that was by lowering the tone of voice until it became almost a whisper, will immediately relate to this choice. Some of us might miss the tone of the harpsichord, objectively more lovely. Still, in a loud, rude, violent world, it is a balm to open ears and souls to this breath of poetry.

BACH The Well-tempered Clavier, vol.1. R. Kirkpatrick (clvd). DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 289 463 601-2 (2 CDs:105:59) (Fanfare, September/October 2001 – p.121)


 

My favorite magazine....



...is the Atlantic Monthly (followed, of course, by the New Yorker). The Atlantic (published in the Athens of America, the capital of the great state of Massachusetts, Boston, home of the bean and the cod....) has the most substantial and thoughtful articles by far in the American press. This month's centerpiece, examining the difference between the strivers of the Democratic northeast, and the calmer,
less-educated, more egalitarian Republicans (surprising, isn't it?) is not on their web edition, but almost everything else is.
Take a look.
 

Inquietudes



A word I first saw in Portuguese, but it's exactly the same in English: anxieties, or disquieting thoughts. Also the name of a blog with daily doses of jokes in Portuguese - a remedy for inquietude.

 

Tropical music in a wintry clime



Your musical co-bloggers, Laura and Tom will be performing in Princeton, New Jersey under the auspices of the Composers' Ensemble series of the Department of Music, on Tuesday Jan. 8 at the University Chapel. Our program will include the premieres of two works by Brazilian composers, the Mot pour Laura of Sergio Roberto de Oliveira, and the Duo of Paulo Costa Lima of the UFBahia. This will be the third piece we have premiered by Serginho. The first was Circus Brasilis, which was first heard at IBEU in Copacabana, and the second Faces, which was first heard in Crosswicks, New Jersey. Valeu, Sergio!!!!


 
QUE SEJA INFINITO ENQUANTO DURE...

To a lady asking him how long he would love her


Sir George Etherege (ca. 1635-1691)



It is not, Celia, in our power
To say how long our love will last;
It may be we within this hour
May lose those joys we now do taste:
The blessed, that immortal be,
From change in love are only free.

Then, since we mortal lovers are,
Ask not how long our love will last;
But while it does, let us take care
Each minute be with pleasure past.
Were it not madness to deny
To live, because we're sure to die?


 

Aren't you just dying to hear this CD?



The music is so intense that it is exhausting. It becomes wearisome. There are moments of great excitement and, occasionally, calm but it is so devoid of effective contrast. It is often formless and lacking in direction and purpose and I feel sure the composer had this in mind since each of the sonatas ends with a fugue which musical form, or device, is very predictable, restrictive and can be academically stuffy. The composer, seeing his loose episodic meanderings, then embarks on the 'respectability' of a fugue as if he wants to be accepted as a composer in direct line from Bach. The piano at Nottingham University is 'tubby' at times and 'suspect' in other ways.

This review is by David Wright, and you can find the rest of it in here.

 
CRITIC, n: One who boasts of being "hard to please" because nobody tries to please him.
Ambrose Bierce
 

Bread and Music


Conrad Aiken (1889--1973) (

MUSIC I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.
Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.
For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,--
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.


 

domingo, dezembro 2
 
Richard Wagner's music is better than it sounds.
Mark Twain
 

Don't you love a music critic with guts?

I suffer immensely when I have to say that I hate a CD, and I always try to make my nasty reviews as palatable as possible. But I have to confess: I love when other critics are mean! Check this out, and tell me if it isn't great:

Whether for ensemble or solo piano, and regardless of the described intent and theory behind the various pieces, this all sounds essentially the same. Lugubrious, drained of all life and passion, melody and human warmth, random patterns of a-rhythmic notes scattered across the soundscape, so pathetic the joke wore off decades ago leaving detritus tedious beyond belief. It should carry a health warning: not to be listened to by anyone not of entirely sound mind. So bleak, stark, draining is this, it might be sold as "Music to Commit Suicide To".

This is by Gary S. Dalkin. ou can read the whole review here. It is worth your time!

 
It is extraordinary how potent cheap music is.

Noel Coward
 

And an American translation of Petrarch


Translated by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911)

Qual Donna Attende A Gloriosa Fama

Doth any maiden seek the glorious fame
Of chastity, of strength, of courtesy?
Gaze in the eyes of that sweet enemy
Whom all the world doth as my lady name!
How honour grows, and pure devotion's flame,
How truth is joined with graceful dignity,
There thou may'st learn, and what the path may be
To that high heaven which doth her spirit claim;
There learn soft speech, beyond all poet's skill,
And softer silence, and those holy ways
Unutterable, untold by human heart.
But the infinite beauty that all eyes doth fill,
This none can copy! since its lovely rays
Are given by God's pure grace, and not by art.


 

Il divino Petrarca


(For Laura)

L’aura soave al sole spiega e vibra

L’aura soave al sole spiega e vibra
l’auro ch’Amor di sua man fila e tesse
là da’ begli occhi, e de le chiome stesse
lega ’l cor lasso, e i lievi spirti cribra.
Non ho medolla in osso, o sangue in fibra,
ch’i’ non senta tremar, pur ch’i’ m’apresse
dove è chi morte e vita inseme, spesse
volte, in frale bilancia, appende e libra.
vedendo ardere i lumi, ond’io m’accendo,
e folgorare i nodi, ond’io son preso,
or su l’omero destro et or sul manco,
i’ no ’l posso ridir, ché no ’l comprendo;
da ta’ due luci è l’intelletto offeso,
e di tanta dolcezza oppresso e stanco.
 


From the "Living and Learning" department:

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.

Hector Berlioz
 
(Para o Tom)

Viens ! - une flûte invisible

Victor Hugo

Viens! - une flûte invisible
Soupire dans les vergers.
La chanson la plus paisible
Est la chanson des bergers.

Le vent ride, sous l'yeuse,
Le sombre miroir des eaux.
La chanson la plus joyeuse
Est la chanson des oiseaux.

Que nul soin ne te tourmente.
Aimons-nous! aimons toujours !
La chanson la plus charmante
Est la chanson des amours.


sábado, dezembro 1
 
SENSUAL PLEASURE AND VIOLENCE

A neuropsychologist contends that the greatest threat to world peace comes from those nations which have the most depriving environments for their children and which are most repressive of sexual affection and female sexuality.

Read the whole story here.

 
Ha!

Music is the only sensual pleasure without vice.
-- Samuel Johnson
 

The edge of doom.....


William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.  Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no!  it is an ever-fixèd mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his heighth be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
 
 

Potential....

Israel-born Sharon Bezaly, not yet 30, now lives in Salzburg, and has been recording for BIS since 1996, her first appearance a disc of chamber music by Nine Rota performed by the Kremerata Musica. Since then she has made four discs under her own name: a disc of Israeli works for flute, of Romantic virtuoso outings by Taffanel, Briccialdi, Borne, and others, the present disc, and a collection of orchestral works with flute by Bright Sheng.

Bezaly has an attractive tone, more than enough technique, but, at least on this disc, she doesn't dig deep for expression. The allegros lack contrast, with the music always at a high level of intensity, and her cantabile in the brief but poignant Adagio of KV 285 stays on the surface, glassy, not mournful, no time for sighs, for the pathos that deserves to be heard here. All the appoggiaturas sound simply like notes, not like moans. The joy in this music should sparkle with wit, the sadness weep. The playing is too safe; there's no swinging for the fences here.

Tons of potential awaiting a more mature approach, one that touches as well as amazes.

MOZART Flute Quartets: in D, KV 285; in G, KV 285a; in A, KV 298; in C, KV Anh. 171 · Sharon Bezaly (fl); Salzburger Solisten · BIS CD-1044 (56:55)


 

Pain with us

(While my flute gently weeps...)

Goodbye George Harrison. :(

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