Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Miscellanea

The Guardian is still chatting up the symphony, which is a good thing. Every Tuesday a new episode in Tom Service's series comes up. This past week it was the Symphony No. 1 by Tchaikovsky, nicknamed "Winter Dreams". I wonder if he is going to do something on one of the usually considered more significant ones, such as the 4th or 6th? But Tom was working overtime this week as he also has a new article up about a new symphony by Peter Maxwell Davies, his tenth, to be premiered on Sunday. One is a bit apprehensive as the composer is claiming that it is "the wildest music I've written." This from the composer of Eight Songs for a Mad King and Vesalii Icones. I was hoping that becoming a symphonist might have had a bit of a calming effect... Obviously we can't have a clip from the tenth, but here is Maxwell Davies' Symphony No. 5 from 1995 with the composer conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra:

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Now here is some genuine music criticism! The pianist Eduard Laurel has a blog, CrackCritic, in which he seems unafraid to offer unrestrained commentary. Here is his dissection/demolition of the new release of Prokofiev and Bartók concertos by Lang Lang and Rattle. Sometimes the syntax gets a little confused, but I think we know what he means when he says:
This pianist mostly distracts from the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the living Wonders of the Western World, except when his poor percussive playing in the opening movements of both works makes the castanets and snare drums sound fantastic - how often can one thank the auxiliary percussionist?
I think he is saying that Lang Lang is so clunky that he makes the percussion sound good.

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One composer that I see as being likely to be re-discovered in the near future iMieczyslaw Weinberg, whom I have previously written about here. Norman Lebrecht has a post up in which he talks briefly about the Symphony No. 12.

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Still more reaction to that Slate article on the death of classical music, this time from the thoughtful Anne Midgette at the Washington Post. A sample:
What I haven’t seen in refutations of the Slate article so far (though I admit I haven’t read any of it very carefully because, frankly, the whole thing makes me itch) is a question about the piece’s basic premise. What does it mean to say that classical music is dying (“circling the drain,” to be precise) — or to say that, on the contrary, it has a steady heartbeat? Both of these are emotional statements. Both, indeed, could be equally true. Of course classical music is not dying – it’s being performed and recorded everywhere. Of course classical music is dying – even the Met can’t sell tickets.
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And to end with something completely different, here is the Kronos Quartet. Back in 2002 they put out a disc titled Nuevo of Mexican music arranged for them by Osvaldo Golijov, the Russian-Jewish-Argentinian composer who studied in Israel and in the US with George Crumb! This tune is called "Mini Skirt":

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