Friday, February 27, 2009

Kurtag: Akhmatova Poems, Splinters, Troussova Messages live from Carnegie Hall Jan 31, 2009

If you're not familiar with Gyorgy Kurtag, 
Hurry Up Please Its Time .

Eotvos Conducts Kurtag at
 Carnegie Hall, 2009

Peter Eötvös,conductor
Natalia Zagorinskaya, soprano 
Katalin Károlyi, mezzo-soprano
Ildikó Vékony, cimbalom
Miklós Perényi, cello 
UMZE Ensemble
Amadinda Percussion Group

Zankel Hall, New York City

(alt. art thanks to Arno)

January 31st, 2009

MR3 Bartók Radio internet stream 320 kbit/s
recorded and uploaded by KaKa (thank for the good s.. uh, stuff)
The concert included Ligeti performances, which KaKa has linked in the comments.

Messages of the Late R.V. Troussova, Op. 17

Splinters, Op. 6c

Four Poems by Anna Akhmatova, Op. 41- World Premiere:

  • I. Pushkin (1997) pour soprano solo, dédié à Natalia Melnikova.
  • II. Alexandru Bloku (1997) pour soprano solo.
  • III. Plach - Prichitanie (1997), pour soprano et instruments, dédié à Márta Papp.
  • IV. Voronezh (in progress), pour soprano et ensemble.

Kurtag's music is mostly super short pieces, linked together by many levels of connective tissue. Perfect for the ADHD set hungry for depth. Any given piece feels like an emotional snapshot; it gives some mechanism of my inner life expression in a quick, immediate and faithful language. It feels right.

Bruce Hodges from MusicWeb International's site had some illuminating comments on this concert. Calling the first part "uncompromising", He writes about "Messages of the Late R. V. Troussova, a 21-song cycle using wrenching, hallucinatory texts by Rimma Dalos, a Russian poet living in Hungary.  When soprano Natalia Zagorinskaya began "Odinochestvo" ("Loneliness"), her voice seemed a bit small for the job.  But then it turned out that her wan tone, capped with a desolate glissando at the end, was merely her strategy for the opening, rather than revealing all of Kurtág's colors at once. 

The cycle grows progressively stranger, with a cumulative effect that is harrowing.  The introduction to "Chastushka" (which begins, "Bite me on the head, bite me on the breast!") sounds like a deranged marching band.  The composer sets "Great misery—that's love.  Is there any greater happiness?" with delicate cimbalom strokes, as if the words would somehow be comforting.  "Kameshki" ("Pebbles") uses kaleidoscopic instrumental colors to depict the stones, and in "Tonkaia igla" ("A slender needle"), the effect is piercing, like glass breaking.  Ms. Zagorinskaya was in complete control of Kurtág's unconventional meldings of music and text, and the UMZE Ensemble provided exquisitely calibrated touches of sound—truly, sometimes that's all they were—to assist her.

In what may have been the night's sleeper hit, Ildikó Vékony gave a virtuoso performance of Splinters, originally conceived for guitar and adapted for cimbalom.  In four compact movements totaling seven minutes, it covers a huge array of textures, before reaching a haunting ending with a low D, repeated softly as it fades into the distance.  Ms. Vékony's concentration on the instrument was almost supernatural.  Only after a respectful silence at the end did the audience break out into whoops of delight.  As she took her curtain calls she seemed slightly stunned, as if she didn't quite know what she had accomplished.

Ms. Zagorinskaya and the UMZE musicians returned for the world premiere of Four Poems by Anna Akhmatova, written over the span of a decade.  It is brief, gossamer and adds a huge array of percussion instruments to the chamber ensembl
e.  The final song, "Voronezh," incorporates a whip and a siren to evoke "…a whole town…encased in ice…Trees, walls, snow, as if under glass."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rafal Blechacz toca Chopin en el Festival Klara, Bruselas, 2007: Una Transmisión Maravillosa.

Frydryk Chopin

Rafal Blechacz - piano

Palais des Beaux-Arts, Bruxelles (Klara Festival) 12 Sept 2007

This is simply a gorgeous recital. Chopin, played in such a way that dissolves the tightrope act of balancing a subjective interpretation with the replaying of oft-retreaded notes. Rafal Blechacz reminds me of early Ivan Moravec in this. The ungainly, dissonant, stranger side of the works is neither slighted nor paraded, and I feel nary a trace of schmaltzy moping. What is left is a great recital, clean and confident. 
The radio announcer (in french, appropriately enough) is there but you can program her out, if you wish. 
This concert includes my personal favorite Chopin composition: Barcarolle, opus 60, and a complete, unbroken stream of  what James Huneker considers "...Chopin's claim to immortality. Such range, such vision, such humanity! All shades of feeling are divined, all depth and altitudes of passion explored. If all Chopin, all music, were to be destroyed I should plead for the Preludes"...

Barcarolle en fa dièse majeur opus 60
Deux Nocturnes opus 62 (1846)
Trois Mazurkas opus 50 (1841-2)
Polonaise en la bémol majeur opus 53 (1842)
24 Préludes opus 28 (1836-9)
Mazurka en mi mineur opus 17/II (1832-3)
Valse en do mineur opus 64/II (1846-7)

Thanks to fadoze, music (and this artwork) from his torrent "FA2008-154"
fadoze! don't stab me for converting this to the dreaded lossy mp3! Had to spread the wealth...

Monday, February 16, 2009

1942 premiere of the Shostakovich Symphony 7: Toscanini, NBC SO, thunderstorm raging outside

Toscanini: "I conducted that? I must have been crazy!"
When the going gets wierd the wierd turn pro,
  how to keep people's hope alive while not forgetting
 how messed up things are and need change;
And that the last time we successfully exited a Depression, it included this.

Dmitry Shostakovich
Opus 60, Symphony No. 7, "Leningrad"

Arturo Toscanini, conductor
NBC Symphony Orchestra, augmented with
15 additional musicians

July 19, 1942
Studio 8-H
NBC Radio City Studios
New York City, NY

Western Premiere performance broadcast, includes extensive interviews and announcements which were given before and immediately after the event.

This recording places most of the elements together which make Shostakovich's Symphony 7 such a cultural touchstone of our human race. 
I hope it is enough to relive the event through these mp3s to avoid having to invoke starvation and industrialized murder for such a response.

It is the broadcast of the first time it was played in the West, after unyielding hope and unity made the initial performances in the destroyed halls of the Soviet Union such reaffirmations of life. Dmitry Shostakovich wrote it in between the days spent working as a fire warden, watching his city receive destruction.
The heightened emotional pitch of the times- mid World War -  is easily felt though this document. Although the work itself has since undergone critical downgrading (as if!), that sort of thinking missed the point; its relevance as " about terror, slavery, and oppression of the spirit..." will continue indefinitely.

The composer also mused about it in terms of questioning, which Leningrad does it refer to?Apparently it is not just about the city under Hitler's physical attack but also the city he remembers as it was before the destructive rule of his government, before Stalin's political empowerment.

As Robert Nylund remembers, this was broadcast live on NBC,"... only to have the radio signals on the New York station nearly obliterated by a severe thunderstorm. Fortunately, the storm did not interfere with the recording that was finally issued by RCA Victor in 1967..."

A good sense of what this is about is from Michael Jones' book, "Leningrad: A State Of Siege", where he tells that it was not just armies that liberated the city finally, but " the people of Leningrad found the resources within themselves to endure and to survive...The greatest symbol of this defiance was an extraordinary orchestral concert. On 9 August 1942 the besieged city put on a performance of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony....The symbolic importance of this concert was enormous...The Germans had boasted that they would capture the city on 9 August and hold a victory celebration at Leningrad's Astoria Hotel. The date for the Seventh Symphony's premiere was thus deliberately chosen...Many years after the war [the conductor] was approached by a group of German tourists, who said that they had come to the city especially to see him. They had been in the besieging army outside the city, so close that they were able to intercept Leningrad's radio signals, and hear the broadcast of Shostakovich's Seventh. Now these veterans said: "It had a slow but powerful effect on us. The realisation began to dawn that we would never take Leningrad."...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thrilling Rilling rocks the Missa Solemnis. Beethoven Opus 123, Chicago Symphony forces from 2005

Ludwig van Beethoven

Opus 123, Missa Solemnis

Helmuth Rilling, conductor
Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
Angela Denoke- soprano, Michelle DeYoung- mezzo
Stephen Gould- tenor, Alexander Vinogradov- bass baritone

January 20th, 2005 
Symphony Center, Chicago, Il

Always having been drawn to this strangely unpopular Beethoven architectural myriad, I think this performance gives it due brawn, impetus, restraint and balance.

The start is such a hustle. You think "oh, another one of the missa solemnis perfs," and settle in for a snooze. Then, Helmuth nudges the accelerator by the barest hint, bringing it into 'wide awake and playing for keeps' territory. His command over the orchestra is Mengerbergian at moments. While backing the solists in the Kyrie he keeps injecting just enough storyline details to make it hard to lose attention, and that sets the standard throughout.

Listening in the wee hours of the dark, I heard an incredible treatment of my favorite episode in the Missa, the "war interruption", always about eight and a half minutes into the ending movement. Here, even upon a repeat listening to it in the light of day (and with the fancy HD590 cans on), the set piece was intact: a far off hint of the change to come in the Agnus Dei.
 Then the clear, rude drumblasts, held off by increasingly fervent spasms of focused yelling, the apparent understanding and cooperation of the martial elements, then, a giant rearing up -and brutal, inexorably paced ritardando- which is done by rending the surface sheen of spacetime... the uneasy compromise that follows leads to the fugal dissociation, more fury and the restatement of warlike intent, renegotiations,..

The balance of voices is always palpable, producing a clear texture that I can just tell will continue to withstand repeated listenings,  renewing the store of interpretative delights it keeps reeling out.

 I found this one while rifling through concertarchives, again! Thanks to those folks.

If you listen to this (loud enough), you'll understand why it is IMPERATIVE to go see the Chicago Sym when they're in town!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Garrick Ohlsson and Ivan Fischer, Budapest Festival O make Bartok's piano concerto 3 breathe.

Rapt, satisfying negotiations
 between a roomful of instruments,
 a guy grimacing and waving his arms,
 and another fellow at the piano.

Bela Bartok
Sz. 119, BB 12: Piano Concerto no.3

Budapest Festival Orchestra
Iván Fischer, conductor
Garrick Ohlsson, soloist

BBC Proms 2006 
No. 44: August 16th 2006 
Royal Albert Hall, London

Bartok's gift for his wife. 
That gorgeous middle piece, Adagio religioso, is a swath of time I got lost in with this performance. Looking though reviews of the concert, some 'lack of ensemble' was pointed out. Listeing to Garrick Ohlsson's way with my favorite piano pieces, the nocturnes, I think its part of his style. The Pires/Cortot hairtrigger emotional sensiblities on display there are what undergird the quiet power of this recording. Yes, Some accents here and there are impulsively mashed into their spots early, but when the field clears and the orchestra/soloist dialogue is laid bare- as it is for stark stretches in the Bartok 3- they surpass any other recording I have heard, out of a dozen. Hear that whole dealmaking process from 4:30 to 5:17 first movement! 
As usual around here, performance trumps sound quality; It's 192 kbps.
This outing kept me listening to the conversation until the end, illuminating new spots and making sense of more than I had ever heard before. I think maybe both this one and the Argerich/Dutoit EMI release I could be sated.
And the last movement sounds like they're having serious fun, tossing ideas back and forth, as if making some of it up as they go.

This came from the awesome folks at the concert archives group. They are something else altogether.