Wowzers. Gloriosky. Woober joobers. And any other archaic expressions of juvenile wonderment that in former days I would sprinkle into my Stereophile magazine columns for my own and John Atkinson’s amusement. This brief YouTube clip begins with baritone Matthias Goerne, really pulling the taffy of the middle section of one of Des Knaben Wunderhorn‘s most yearning songs, “Urlicht.” There is then a jump cut to a spectacularly energetic excerpt from Mahler’s Fifth. The teaser makes me want to acquire the DVD (Accentus 20354), and makes me even more wish that I had been in the audience at Lucerne in summer 2015 to hear Andris Nelsons conduct an all-Mahler program, cleverly arranged to culminate in Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Because Mahler started writing that symphony using themes from a Wunderhorn song, “Der Tamboursg’sell.”
DVD boxshot and more musings, after the jump. Continue Reading →
The Parker String Quartet: Felix Mendelssohn, Opus 44 String Quartets 1 & 3
CD Nimbus NI6327
(No high-resolution download available at present, apparently.)
Except for his few “Greatest Hits” (those being the “Wedding March” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; the Violin Concerto; and the Italian Symphony), I think that Felix Mendelssohn is an often-overlooked or often-underrated composer. Further, given the rarely-equaled felicity (I should be re-programmed) of his solo-piano music, perhaps then it is not surprising that Mendelssohn’s string quartets remain, for many music lovers, undiscovered gems.
The Boston-based Parker Quartet has a name that is new to me, but, it should not have been. Their recording of Ligeti’s first and second quartets received the 2011 Grammy award for Best Chamber Music Performance, and they are the Blodgett Artists in Residence of Harvard University’s Department Of Music. UK’s legendary Nimbus imprint has just released the Parker Quartet’s CD of two of Mendelssohn’s Op. 44 quartets, the first and third. What lovely music making! (I also love that the cover image is of four of Charles and Ray Eames’ fiberglass “scoop” chairs, which are icons of Mid-Century Modern design.)
More, and sound samples, after the jump.
Photo REUTERS © Kacper Pempel, courtesy of Opus 3 Artists
Last Saturday night my musically-astute friend and I attend the opening concert of Maestro Larry Rachleff’s final season as music director of the Rhode Island Philharmonic. Alan Rosenberg of the Providence Journal had asked me to review the concert, so the seats were, as one might expect, excellent. It was a bit of a trip in the WABAC machine (of Peabody and Mr. Sherman fame) to hear soloist Garrick Ohlsson. My high-school girlfriend thought the world of him, while I still vividly recall his Dewar’s Scotch “Profiles” ad that graced the back covers of magazines such as The New Yorker and Playboy when I was in high school. An image of that ad, and more, after the jump.
Sappho: A New Translation by Mary Barnard
(University of California Press, Berkeley, 1958)
Kenneth Rexroth is one of my favorite poets. I think that the omission of his poetry from the standard teaching anthologies is unfortunate. Although not a “Beat,” Rexroth was hugely influential upon that generation. Rexroth’s masterpiece of 1944, “When We With Sappho,” keys off a four-line fragment that was all that was known at that time of that particular hymn to Aphrodite of Sappho (died circa 570 BCE). Rexroth’s poem is well worth reading; but parts of it are borderline NSFW. The story is told that in the question period following one of his readings, a lady asked Rexroth whether he had ever tried making love indoors… .
The recommended translation is magnificently translucent–you really get a sense of the person behind Sappho’s poems, middle-aged foibles and all. The 1986 reissue appears to be out of print, but goes for peanuts (offers start at 35 cents plus shipping) on Amazon (link above). Snippets of poetry after the jump. Just buy a few copies of this as impulse presents for friends, plus a copy for the bathroom and a copy for the guest bedroom. (Be sure to read the introduction and the translator’s afterword.)
Morten Lauridsen: Lux Æterna and other works
Los Angeles Master Chorale and Sinfonia, Paul Salamunovich, conductor
CD Rubedo Canis Musica RCM 19705
Recorded June 1997 to January 1998, Sacred Heart Chapel, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles; Peter Rutenberg, producer; Fred Vogler, engineer.
This recording of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Æterna was nominated for the Grammy award in its category in 1999. A quick listen to the beginning will tell you why. (A Robert Shaw CD won the award, understandably as it was the year of his death.) Lux Æterna starts with a stroke of genius, and then goes on from strength to strength. The first thing you hear is one of the tallest yet emptiest chords in concert music—the string basses lay down a granite foundation while the high strings harmonize from, it seems, light-years away. And there is nothing in between.
That inspired gesture announces the work as hugely ambitious, while being completely self-assured. Lauridsen is making his personal statement about the meaning of human existence, and nothing less than that. Lux Æterna is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century, and you are really missing out if you have not heard it.
Generous sound samples and more, after the jump. Continue Reading →