Sunday, January 29, 2012

Kurtag .concertante. Maestro Saraste, BBC SO live 2011 with dedicatees Kikuchi & Hakii

a Kurtag double concerto for large orchestra, violin, viola, and more than a few surprises

Béla Bartok

Dance Suite

Gyorgi Kurtág

Op. 42 .concertante. (dedicated to Hiromi Kikuchi & Ken Hakii)

Jean Sibelius

Symphony No.6
Symphony No.7

Hiromi Kikuchi, violin
Ken Hakii, viola
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Jukka-Pekka Saraste, conductor

16 December 2011

Live BBC broadcast from The Barbican Centre, London UK

Radio announcements by Martin Handley

If you like the Kurtag work (if?? Did I write IF?) buy it.

earbox brought this to ca, and I couldn't help it. I had to share.

Here is a whole broadcast of a BBC concert including .concertante.. It comes complete with the 26-some minute radio interval and all, nicely tracked by a concertarchive uploader so as not to overly tax your repeated-listening possibilities.

In the announcer's comments, they tell of an affectionate bond between Gyorgy Kurtag and the violinist Hiromi Kikuchi. Kurtag is said to hold her and her spouse as the artists he "trusts most in the world". Indeed, Senor Kurtag has written other things for her such as "Hipartita", and in this piece the dedication is to both her and her husband, Ken Haikii. The two played .concertante. on this evening's recording, performing on their customary violin and viola as well as on 'silent violin and silent viola' which look like "skeletal, half" instruments. These come to bear in the fading last pages of the vast, intimate work.

I really love the two Sibelius symphonies given here, almost regardless of performance, and Bartok is just a constant love but really this is for the greatest love of them all, for Kurtag. I just keep coming back to György and his work keeps revealing more. So, although the whole concert is here, it is for a sense of completion. Besides (as Mesopotamian-era religion points out), hell, why not?

Christopher Gunning has given it a different framing altogether:

"...The [BBC's] programme note waffled about Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, and references to Wagner and Magyar music, but if I was supposed to recognise any of these, I’m afraid I failed miserably. In fact I found this work altogether perplexing; the soloists are not soloists in the conventional sense, and their contributions often seemed inconsequential or inaudible. The music is also extremely discontinuous; at worst it felt like a random series of sounds and gestures, which although frequently interesting in themselves, were largely disconnected. There are welcome periods of greater energy, and some violent outbursts too, but overall this doesn’t make for coherent, let alone pleasant, listening. You may say there’s absolutely nothing wrong in that in itself, of course, but there’s a point at which incomprehension gets the better of me and I must admit to being pretty relieved when it was all over..."

I have to admit, this is exactly one of the central reasons as to why I love Kurtag. Not everybody will like it. And that is OK. I personally find the composer's work to be unflinching and with that, more beautiful. Also (hey, it's a blog, so if it turns into a quotefest just strap in), here I present Tia DeNora's quoting of John Cage most fittingly:

New music:new listening. Not an attempt to understand something that is being said, for, if something were being said, the sounds would be given the shapes of words. Just an attention to the activity of sounds."

Musicweb's Philip Borg-Steely has written something about this work which gets Kurtag in general:

"...Spare, elliptical, austere, Kurtág’s aphoristic pieces or movements, in which no note is wasted or insignificant, create an impact and resonance out of all proportion to their brevity. After listening to one of his typically concentrated works, one may well find much other contemporary music long-winded and self-indulgent..."

Allright then.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Shostakovich 10th, von Karajan & Staatskapelle Dresden, 1976

Sounds to weather the storm with.

Dmitry Shostakovich

Symphony No. 10 Op. 93

I. Moderato

II. Allegro

III. Allegretto

IV. Andante-Allegro

Staatskapelle Dresden

Herbert von Karajan

broadcast recording of ??-??-1976

Thanks to Progress Hornsby. Check out his blog- it's on the list.

I've been sitting on this one for a loooong time, but I think it's still a 'new' addition to the stuff out there. P.Hornsby and the MetroGnomes sent me this before their own blog was made, and I hope it wasn't put up there in the lee. If so, so much the better; these performances need wider attention.

This performance may or may not be the same as one referenced around the web, from August 15th, 1976 in Salzburg. Maybe someone will comment on that. What is certain is that it suffers from the same thing almost all Shostakovich symphonies have, the way I hear them. The affliction is known in clinical circles as "It's Shostakovich as conducted by not-Mravinsky-or-Kondrashin".

It's just that every time I listen to a Shosta 10th, I have to abolish the 1973 Kondrashin recording where he heads the State Symphony Orchestra, or the furious 1976 Mravinsky take with the Leningraders. Once past these, then I can allow the present recording to take its own personna, but its tough to abolish the impression those two leave.

Call me dogmatic. I do listen to each and allow them thier due, however, and Karajan's conduct here is worth several deep listens. The first movement is especially blessed with some passages of slow burn surprise. Herbie almost makes you forget there are spikes in the emotional arc, so when they are triggered it is unsettling, as seems appropriate. It's a display of mastery of podium skill, no doubt.

Anyway, there are really good sounds here, just the thing to accompany the Internet Inquisition currently underway, with file hosting companies on the rack and such.