Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Miscellanea

Sinfini Music has a feature article up introducing the Polish/Soviet/Russian composeMieczylaw Weinberg who was a close friend of Shostakovich. I have mentioned him here before. Here is the first part of his Symphony No. 12, dedicated to Shostakovich:

Notice how differently they spelled his name on that clip. Yes, "Vainberg" and "Weinberg" are the same guy.
* * *

The Wall Street Journal, out to show how hip they are, have an article about the creation of Led Zeppelin's hit "Whole Lotta Love". I had forgotten how derivative this song is of the old blues masters like Robert Johnson--no, not in any specific detail, just in terms of expanding the basics of the genre. I had also forgotten how crude and vulgar the lyrics are and how well they match up with the brutal mindlessness of the music. Oh, wait, were we supposed to be thinking this is a great song? Oops!

* * *

I admire Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili for her name as much as for her virtuosity. She just gave a solo recital at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and received a review in the Guardian. I have listened to a number of her performances on YouTube and while a fine pianist, she does seem to wander musically occasionally, as the reviewer notes. Here is a clip from the Verbier festival that begins with a fine performance of the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition:

* * *

NPR has a nice article up on Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. I don't think the writer quite understands Pärt's concept of "tintinnabuli", though. Here is the piece that first brought Pärt's music to the attention of listeners worldwide, Tabula Rasa for two solo violins, prepared piano and chamber orchestra. The phrase comes from philosophy where it refers to a theory that the mind receives all its knowledge from experience and perception.

* * *

Greg Sandow is a crusader for classical music, but I often get the feeling that he wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Here is a recent piece of his where he says, talking about the impression he gets from most performances of classical music:
What comes through strongly, quite apart from any expressive intention the composer or performers might have, or any sound or flow built into the music, is everybody’s very strong understanding that they’re playing classical music, and that this is special, important, even venerated.
It’s hard to help putting that into your playing, because it’s a mindset hardly any of us can help forming, since we’re told, throughout our classical music education, that classical music is special, important, and venerated.
And he says that like it's a bad thing! Because, in his view, much more important is that classical music "has to become a contemporary art". Which he leaves undefined, but you just know that it will involve various unpleasant vulgarities, because, as we all know, that is what it really means to be a "contemporary art". Still, to be fair to Greg, he is also capable of waxing wildly enthusiastic about the music of Arvo Pärt who, it is safe to say, does all he can to NOT follow the fashions of "contemporary art". I just think that Greg needs some aesthetic principles to guide his enthusiasms.

* * *

One of the most interesting critics out there is Terry Teachout and here is a piece he recently wrote about his project to read all the seventy-five Maigret novels by Georges Simenon. Frankly, that sounds like a very doable project. I realized, not too long ago, that I have embarked on the project of listening through all the significant symphonies (at least what I consider significant). So far I have listened to all the Haydn symphonies (106), nearly all the Mozart (have to go back and catch a couple of the early ones), all the Beethoven (9), all the Bruckner (9), all the Mahler (9 or 10), all the Sibelius (7), all the Shostakovich (15) and right now I am just about finished all the Schubert (8 as he never scored the one labeled no. 7). I will probably go on to listen to all the Brahms, Mendelssohn and Schumann as well. I just ordered the complete symphonies (16) of Allan Pettersson. I will probably also listen to all the Philip Glass symphonies (9 so far) as well. Don't know if I will bother with Peter Maxwell Davies or not...

The point of this is just that I am fascinated with the genre of the symphony and the remarkable creativity with which composers have approached the challenge. I still think that Joseph Haydn, the creator of the form, is the real master. Here is the first movement of his Symphony No. 103 which begins with a tympani roll--the only symphony to do so!

And that's it for today. Have a great weekend and listen to some more Haydn!

No comments: