Pictures at a (Garage Band) Exhibition

Sorry for such a harsh title but the recording I found really struck a nerve. The opening of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, at least in this recording, reminded me of a cheap Garage Band loop. I can’t say I liked it. Then again, the longer I listen to the piece the more I think it is only the music, not so much the performer. I’ve never been a huge fan of the piano and Id say this music is no different.

My opinions aside, this piece is harsh, angular, and ugly. No, perhaps not ugly, but rather insulting. In no way does it impart that warm-and-fuzzy feeling you get while listening to, say, Beethoven’s 6th symphony. In this regard the music is successful. But still, I think I’ll pass. For me, piano ranks right up there with modern day voice. No thanks.

Ok, enough harping. For those of you who don’t know it, go listen to it. Im having trouble with my connection so I wont try and get back to the pages containing the videos just now. Youtube it, you’ll see it.

Monday, May 2nd, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Strauss on Strauss Straussiness

Der Rosenkavelier, an opera, is usually much more than 15 minutes long. The recording I found, however, is of only the intro to Act 1, the Presentation march, Presentation of the silver rose, and Octavian and Sophie duet.

Strauss himself conducting. A 1926 remastered recording of him conducting an orchestra for a silent film adaptation of the opera. The Orchestra was the Augmented TIvoli Orchestra. Im not certain on the part assignments for all but I believe cellos and Basses were covered by Tuba, flute/piccolo ( I think) was covered by chinese wood block?! Very likely because the orchestra could not all fit where the film was being shown…. Not sure. The truth is though that its a very interesting recording. Reminds me of old Cary Grant or Katharine Hepburn movies, slightly scratchy/dusty due to the analog recordings where as today more and more media is being recorded digital. Really worth a look. If anyone can find more information out about this Id love to hear it.

Since I waited too long to do this entry, again…., I wont get to the actual act 1 right now. but I will at least provide you all with the recordings of Strauss conducting Strauss. Enjoy.

Monday, April 25th, 2011 Uncategorized 2 Comments

“I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.”

Perhaps not the most appropriate piece to use the Woody Allen quote for but I couldn’t resist. Parsifal Is beautiful. Every hint of emotion can be felt flowing from the music in ways we cant explain and in ways we would miss were it not the acting reminding us of them. With just a subtle pluck of pizzicato from the the lower strings we are overwhelmed with pain, the pain of love and lust and passion so strong we must surely die. But, as quickly as it happens upon us it vanishes, lost to new waves of torment and contentment and truths.

I do not envy Wagner. No one person should have to cope with so much raw emotion for so long. We are a fragile species, believe it or not, and there is only so much a man can endure before it tears him apart.


Monday, April 18th, 2011 Uncategorized 10 Comments

Don Carlo

Verdi wields a pen the way a Samurai might wield a Katana. Don Carlo Act IV has a deathly beautiful and dark quality to it that grips your heart. Though on this occasion I was more captivated by the instrumentalists than the vocalists. I have a general dislike for operatic voice but am usually able to over come it when the need arises. This time however I found the music so beautiful that the voice did nothing but distract and annoy me.

War time stories, Love, beauty, sacrifice, tragedy. All things, while when combined can be terrible, always make for a great and engaging, heart wrenching story.

Over all enjoyable.

Monday, April 11th, 2011 Uncategorized 2 Comments

Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and Clara Schuman

To start with Mendelssohn…
Fun music! None of it sounds groundbreaking to me but it did feel well constructed, solid. Not at all unpleasant to listen to. Were she alive today there would be no question for any father to let her have her works published or wether or not she should pursue a life of music.

As for Schumann…
Beautiful. I would enjoy hearing this with fortepiano. I like that the violin is not a virtuosically flashy part. The overall feel of the piece for me is one of sophistication. It does not try to impress and for that reason it succeeds.

Monday, March 21st, 2011 Uncategorized 2 Comments

Bratty siblings have never been so funny

While watching this opera I was reminded that I had the privilege to see this performed in London a few years ago, Huge moving stage and elaborate set. What I found remarkable then, and still do now, is the way the text was set to music that exaggerates and really pronounces syllables. This provides a rapid fire, machine-gun like quality to the music that comes off to me as very comical.

That being said let it be known I am not a huge fan of operas. Never have been. But. This is not so bad to sit through. Almost any opera I usually find humorous if for nothing else than operatic voice sounds strange to my ears. La Cenerentalo seems to take those inherent qualities and uses them to paint a very Disney like picture. In fact, picturing the people on stage as cartoons takes almost no effort at all.

Overall enjoyable.

Monday, March 7th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Fried Schubert with a side of Trout

Though I don’t have much to say about the pieces I will say this: Fun. As fun as any string quartet/quintet is to listen to. Personally the two are my favorite ensembles to play in. very intimate. Regarding the Trout though, one can actually imagine a trout in water, a stream or river, swimming. The separate movements serving as different atmospheres or conditions in Madame Truite’s day.

The performance was quite fun. I lost the page I got the recording from and will try to find it again later. Closed my eyes and pretended I was the fish for a while.

Sorry if this is not the sort of response meant for these assignments but its what struck out to me.

Side not, I was unable to find a performance on period instruments.

Sunday, February 27th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Walk into the Light…….

No, I am not writing about Poltergeist but rather Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. His personal favorite work? I can honestly say that compared to other works of his this one seems a tad different; Where is the dark, serious mood, what about the epic monstrous sounding orchestra? Well… The orchestra is still there. Oh, and the giant choir. Ok, so it all still sounds epic.


Perhaps I have not heard enough Beethoven. It’s true I do not know all of his works. Not even close. I am familiar with the popular cliches (if Beethoven could ever be called cliche) so forgive me if I speak out of ignorance. This symphony, though, brings to mind only one word time and again: Hope. Not how I would typically describe his music. Dark and serious, but not Hopeful.

Perhaps this was his way of coming to terms with his deafness. Him seeing light at the end of the tunnel and letting go of his frustrations and anger. Who knows?

But the main issue I hoped to touch on with this entry, and undoubtedly all here after, is the differences in quality of modern and baroque performances of this music in modern times, for there is most definitely a difference.

I am some what biased about Historical Performance as I am baroque flutist but I feel that anyone could tell the difference between the types of orchestras.

I first began listening to the recordings on NAXOS but could only sit through about half the performance. Intense vibrato in many of the winds, the brass sounded far too clean and bright. Spending some time in OBIS I found a recording of The English Baroque Soloists and The Monteverdi Choir performing the same work. Right away I heard a difference, the lower pitch of the whole ensemble aside. The strings were warmer, the brass more raw, the winds more subtle, the overall performance more pleasing. Phrases made more sense though they were by no means completely different.

ANyone interested in hearing the difference for them selves the CD call number is 4258.

And I end with my opening point, the piece sounded hopeful. Triumphant even but very hopeful.

Friday, February 18th, 2011 Uncategorized No Comments

Let there be…. Blog!

In the beginning there was Blog, and it was good.

And Blog spoke the unspeakable and there was music, and it was good.

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Wednesday, February 16th, 2011 Uncategorized 2 Comments