Friday, September 1, 2017

Friday Miscellanea

The headline sums it up: ‘Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes From the Horn of Africa’ Review: A Cultural Legacy Rescued
Largely ignored by audiences outside its borders, the popular music of Somalia in the 1970s and ’80s was informed in part by culture-quaking politics: the establishment in 1969 of the Somali Democratic Republic led by President Mohamed Siad Barre and a socialist system that supported the arts but also promoted nationalism, curtailed freedoms, often violently, and led to a civil war during which the country disintegrated into a failed state. Somali musicians of that tumultuous era experienced both the ecstasy of liberation and the terror of war, chaos and brutality.
Because Barre had nationalized the arts, Somali music was owned by the government and performed on government-owned national radio or in its national theater in Mogadishu. Perhaps he thought it was his to destroy. When Barre’s fighter jets attacked Somaliland, the former British protectorate in the northwest part of the country, in 1988 to thwart an independence movement, they bombed Radio Hargeisa, home to some 50 years of recorded music by Somalis, very little of which had been properly commercialized. In advance of the airstrikes, some tapes were hurried to Djibouti and Ethiopia. Others were buried underground.
This story is at the Wall Street Journal and if you get blocked by the paywall, you might be able to find the story by putting the headline or part of it in a search engine. You can also find some clips at YouTube:

For a home-made cassette from the 70s that doesn't sound too bad.

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Apparently the Globe and Mail, Canada's National Newspaper, is trimming down its arts coverage even more: no coverage weekdays. As they pretty much stopped mentioning classical music years ago, I'm not sure this is much of a loss.
Canada’s leading newspaper for arts coverage will be shutting down its weekday arts section by the end of the year.
First reported by Canadaland, The Globe and Mail will be consolidating its “Life and Arts” and “News” sections, beginning in December. The reshuffling means that arts reviews will be relegated to the generic “News” section, and that dedicated space for other arts coverage would be found exclusively in the paper’s weekend edition.
The news deals a significant blow to Canada’s already weakened print media landscape, and comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that The Globe will terminate its Atlantic Canada edition by the end of November.
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 One of the most controversial conductors of the 20th century was Sergiu Celibidache. Slipped Disc puts up an interview with him and all hell breaks loose in the comments:
I was at that concert too and so was, it seemed, every major musician in town. The 30-minute standing ovation they gave hem was like nothing I’ve never seen anything like that at Carnegie Hall. The first time I heard him conduct was a 1970s radio concert featuring the Mozart Symphony #41 and Ein Heldenleben with the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra.. I had intended it just as background but within moments of the Jupiter, I just had to sit down and listen. I had never heard members of an orchestra play with such awareness of and sensitivity to one another. It was like the best chamber music.
Of course, not every performance hits the mark. I heard a live concert that opened with what can only be described as the coldest and darkest interpretation of the Overture to the Barber of Seville in history – infused, as it was with the spirit of Sibelius’ Fourth Symphony. But the Brahms 4th that followed was wonderful. He was quite old and frail by this point.
As for his opinions about other conductors, one can only surmise that he just said what many other conductors think but don’t say. (A rather waspish public remark about Eugene Ormandy apparently didn’t go over terribly well when he was working with the Curtis Orchestra back in 1984.) But he was a great conductor and he was not willing to compromise unless he absolutely had to. Maybe he was a little nutty about some things – and way off the mark with certain repertoire, but I think we could all provide a list of great musicians who were more than a tad eccentric and misread certain composers. At least he never brought a gun to rehearsal like Rodzinski did.
And the negative comments are extremely negative!

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Pianist Taka Kagawa played the entirely of Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseaux in New York and the New York Times has the story:
Olivier Messiaen’s “Catalogue d’Oiseaux” (“Catalog of Birds”) is an absurd undertaking for a pianist. Its sprawling score demands that performers master three hours of complex music: the painstakingly transcribed sounds of European birds.
The piece is an ideal fit for Taka Kigawa, the adventurous pianist who will play Messiaen’s “Catalogue” on Monday at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village, his frequent performing home. Mr. Kigawa has a reputation for tackling heady and exhausting music with ease. He has performed the complete solo piano works of Pierre Boulez in a single evening, and all of Bach’s “The Art of Fugue,” from memory and without a break.
But both those programs were far shorter than the 13-part “Catalogue,” which Messiaen wrote in the 1950s for Yvonne Loriod, his wife and muse. And learning the work requires more than just skill; a successful performance is also a deep dive into ornithology.
Concerts like that are a pretty good reason to live in New York!

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Sudip Bose writes a substantial article on Sviatoslav Richter's Schubert in The American Scholar
Nobody played Schubert like Richter. I could bring up any number of felicities—his sense of narrative and structure, his exquisite touch, the attention he paid to the most innocuous detail, the way his interpretations of the standard repertoire seemed at once controlled and improvisatory—but when I think of Richter’s Schubert, one thing comes to mind first: tempo. Slow tempos, glacial tempos, tempos that make no sense on paper, but that, when heard, transport the interpretations into visionary terrain. The most famous example perhaps is Schubert’s Piano Sonata D. 960, the last he ever wrote. The first time I heard this piece, a little more than two decades ago, it was on a recording of Richter’s, made at the 1964 Aldeburgh Festival, on England’s Suffolk coast. The playing of the first movement was unlike anything I’d listened to before. It unfolded at a pace so slow as to strain credulity. Ordinarily, you’d snuff the life out of a musical line by reducing its speed by half, but strangely, with Richter, nothing at all seemed labored. Indeed, once I began to surrender to the music on the pianist’s terms, the effect was magical and mesmerizing.
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Some Friday's I am rather stumped as to what to put up as an envoi, but today we have an embarras des richesse! Something by Celibidache? Messaien, Richter's Schubert? Why not all three? First, one of Celibidache's famous Bruckner performances. This is the Symphony No. 6 by Bruckner with the Munich Philharmonic in 1991:

Next is Bk 1 of Messiaen's Catalogue d'oiseax played by Yvonne Loriod with the score:

And lastly, Sviatoslav Richter - Schubert - Piano Sonata No 18 in G major, D 894:

That'll keep you occupied over the weekend!


Will Wilkin said...

My submission for consideration for your next week's Friday Miscellanea:

Bryan Townsend said...

Wow, that's going in for sure!