Alexander Toradze: Shostakovich Piano Concertos 1 & 2

Alexander Toradze- Shostakovich Piano Concertos

Alexander Toradze: Shostakovich Piano Concertos 1 & 2
Recorded June 2010 and August 2011, hr-Sendesaal, Frankfurt, Germany
CD Pan Classics PC 10261
(No high-resolution download available, apparently.)

Alexander Toradze, piano; Jürgen Ellensohn, trumpet in Piano Concerto No. 1; George Vatchnadze, piano in Concertino Op. 94; Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, conductor.

In writing about Yevgeny Sudbin’s recent Scarlatti recording, I mentioned the Jungian Synchronicity that a few weeks before I downloaded the review copy of Sudbin’s recording, I had been engaged as a substitute to review for the Providence Journal a Rhode Island Philharmonic concert featuring Alexander Toradze playing Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. Further, that for his encore, Maestro Toradze played the same Scarlatti “Aria” sonata that brings down the curtain on Sudbin’s program.

Continue Reading →

Eric Whitacre Singers: “Enjoy the Silence,” Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), arr. Whitacre

Eric Whitacre Singers: “Enjoy the Silence,” Martin Gore (Depeche Mode), arr. Whitacre

Well, here I go violating my self-imposed (and only general; not absolute) rule that the music videos I post here show real performances. But, this is not a mashup; it is a serendipitous iPhone recording made when an audience member thought she was sneaking a snapshot, but in reality was starting to make a video. The screen is black because she put her phone or tablet back in her handbag.

I heard the Boston stop of the Eric Whitacre Singers‘ 2013 USA tour (this video is from the days-earlier Washington, DC-area stop), in the luminous acoustic of Boston’s Symphony Hall. If five years previously someone had told me that a Depeche Mode song would have moved me to tears, I would have scoffed. But, it was not Depeche Mode (their official music video is–dopey). It was Depeche Mode being re-written by Palestrina, as channeled by Eric Whitacre.

Time stood still–the dissonances just hung in the air. That so much of the music comes through on an iPhone recording with the iPhone in a purse or bag is food for thought, is it not? There is a studio recording that I find a bit too close and hi-def. I prefer the tonal balance of this not bootleg, but handbag recording. But perhaps that’s just familiarity.

# # #

Royal Northern College of Music: “Moscow, Cheryomushki” (Shostakovich)

One of my favorite Eastern European witticisms comes from Soviet-Era Poland:

Under Capitalism, Man exploits Man. Whereas under Socialism, the reverse is true.

Shostakovich’s 1959 operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki (yes, I know—I’ve been stuck on Shostakovich; one more after this, and I will move on) is about bureaucratic corruption and housing shortages in Moscow. “Cheryomushki” means a certain kind of cherry tree, and it refers to both a district of Moscow and to a specific 1950s housing project.

One might think that writing an operetta (one of Shostakovich’s longest works, in fact) ridiculing state officials as lecherous buffoons while decrying substandard housing might have meant that Shostakovich was taking his life in his hands.

However, people forget that between Stalin’s death and the shooting down of Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 CIA spy plane, there was a significant thaw in the Soviet Union. In the new climate of loosened restrictions, Shostakovich’s lyricists went to town with parody and sarcasm, while Shostakovich fashioned his own love letter to the Broadway musical comedy.

More, after the jump. Continue Reading →

Bob Ludwig on Shostakovich and Beethoven

 

ModernBobLudwigCropped

(Photo © Vincent Dixon, courtesy of Gateway Mastering.)

A few postings back, I suggested that, consciously or otherwise, Dmitri Shostakovich modeled the brief but arresting four-note musical motto that begins the Passacaglia theme of the third movement of his violin concerto on Beethoven’s famous four-note beginning of the first movement of his Fifth Symphony.

In other words, instead of Beethoven’s

da-da-da DAAH

Shostakovich opens with

DAAH, da DA-DA.

That was in the context of a Vault-Treasure Tuesday feature, David Oistrakh’s première studio recording of 1956.

I sent the link to Bob Ludwig, and Bob sent back a fascinating response. A bit about Bob, and then his important contribution to the conversation, are after the jump. Continue Reading →

Please Kickstart SACDs of David Del Tredici’s complete “Child Alice”!

ChildAlice-600

This week’s “New-Music Mondays” feature is a recording that is not yet out. It is already in the can. However, it needs an additional infusion of cabbage, moolah, or The Ready Freddy to manufacture the hybrid compatible 2-SACD set. If you missed my coverage of Tredici’s Final Alice, a work in the same series, that is here. The Kickstarter page states, “A massive 130-minute work for large orchestra and an amplified soprano soloist, Child Alice has been performed only twice in its entirety, and has never been commercially recorded.”

The ensemble is The Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Your cabbage, etc. will be in good hands! Not only is BMOP Musical America‘s 2016 Ensemble of the Year; they have successfully produced about 50 recordings, as well has completing four Kickstarter projects. (Some BMOP Kickstarter projects were not funded; but, that’s the record biz.) The project already has pledges totaling more than $10,000; about $3,500 additional is all that is needed. The higher-echelon donor rewards include autographed items.

Complete Kickstarter info is here. The project video is not embed-able here, but it presents snippets from the live recording.

Thanks to Stereophile‘s Kalman Rubinson for bringing this to my attention.

# # #

Harry Connick, Jr: “We Are In Love”

Connick Scan

Harry Connick, Jr: We Are In Love
Recorded at Evergreen Radford Studio, North Hollywood, California in March, 1990 and RCA Studio B, New York, in April and May, 1990; released on CD and analog cassette 1990, on MiniDisc circa 1992, and on non-compatible single-layer stereo SACD (apparently from 44.1kHz PCM sources) 2000.
CD Columbia CK 46146

Harry Connick Jr., piano, vocals; Branford Marsalis, tenor and soprano saxophones; Russell Malone, guitar; Benjamin Jonah Wolfe, bass; Shannon Powell, drums; Harry Connick Jr., Marc Shaiman, George Butler, Bobby Colomby, producers; recorded and mixed by Joel Moss.

Talk about an unlikely success. In 1990, American actor, singer, pianist, and composer Harry Connick, Jr. released as anachronistic an album as anyone could imagine—male vocals, most tracks with big-band-style orchestral accompaniment. Connick wrote most of the songs, but there were also standards including “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and Cole Porter’s “It’s Alright With Me.” We Are In Love sold two million copies in its first year, and Connick picked up the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance—Male.

Connick’s voice is of the “Boy Next Door” variety, but he makes the most of it; and the recording job is stunningly good. Thanks to the advocacy of MSB Digital’s Vince Galbo, Connick’s “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” (with excellent contributions from Branford Marsalis on tenor saxophone and Benjamin Jonah Wolfe on bass, who are the only musicians on the track) has become a favorite hi-fi-show demo track. Continue Reading →

Yevgeny Sudbin: 18 Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)

Sudbin small

Yevgeny Sudbin: 18 Sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Sonatas K 417 in D minor; K 208 in A major; K 159 in C major; K 56 in C minor; K 213 in D minor; K 125 in G major; K 373 in G minor; K 119 in D major; K 69 in F minor; K 425 in G major; K 29 in D major; K 99 in C minor; K 12 in G minor; K 479 in D major; K 9 in D minor; K 318 in F sharp major; K 141 in D minor; and K 32 in D minor.
AUTOGRAPHED Compatible stereo + MCH SACD/CD BIS 2138; CDQ or 24/96 download, Classics Online.

Domenico Scarlatti wrote these sonatas for his patroness Maria Magdalena Barbara, the Infanta of Portugal.

Mitzi “married up,” later becoming the Queen of Spain. (No, her nickname was not “Mitzi;” so, don’t bother writing in. But please, do find a different reason to write in!) Maria Magdalena Barbara had a nearly-insatiable appetite for… keyboard sonatas. Scarlatti wrote more than 500 of them. Furthermore, Scarlatti wrote almost all of those sonatas for the harpsichord.

Therefore, it is an historical irony, one reflected upon by Yevgeny Sudbin in his truly excellent liner notes, that today, these works are most often associated with Russian pianists; Vladimir Horowitz being the prime example. Sudbin claims that Russian musical education uses Scarlatti’s keyboard music more than does any other country’s pedagogy; and, that well may be true. Ten years ago, Sudbin made his début (all-Scarlatti), recording for Sweden’s label BIS; it received rapturous reviews. Volume Two, so to speak, is his tenth-anniversary celebration.

The bottom line is, this recording is an absolute “must-buy” for piano lovers. (Historically-Informed Performance people, perhaps not so much.) Sound samples and more, after the jump. Continue Reading →

Árstíðir: “Heyr himna smiður”

Árstíðir singing “Heyr himna smiður” in the train station of Wuppertal, Germany; September 15, 2013.

I find most “flashmob” music videos annoyingly contrived and manipulative, often bordering on the transparently insincere. The above impromptu handheld YouTube is a major exception to that rule—no fake perma-smiles, and no forced artificial interactions with passers-by.

Even better, the music is not “opera bits” being forced through a meat grinder; it’s a haunting 20th-century a-cappella tune and harmonization for a 13th-century Icelandic hymn text, “Hear, Smith of Heavens.”

While the audio quality is not the best (and the camera work would have benefited from a monopod); here, there is an organic authenticity that most flashmob music videos lack. The train station is a rather good stand-in for a cathedral. Proof again that state-of-the-art sound is sometimes the slave of jejune music, and that the slenderest knowledge of greater things means more.

The band Árstíðir’s name, in English, means “Seasons.” They deserve their five million YouTube views for this unforgettable moment. Well done, chaps!

Text, in translation, after the jump. Continue Reading →

Michael Franks: “Sleeping Gypsy”

Sleeping Gypsy JDM 1

Michael Franks: Sleeping Gypsy
Recorded at Capitol Records, Hollywood, and in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, August-November 1976; released on LP 1977, CD 1990; various digital remasterings, including an SHM-CD for the Japanese Domestic Market (2012).

Michael Franks, vocals, banjo, guitar, mandolin; Joe Sample, João Donato, piano; Wilton Felder, bass; Larry Carlton, Hélio Delmiro, guitar; John Guerin, João Palma, Larry Bunker, drums; Michael Brecker, tenor saxophone; David Sanborn, alto saxophone; Ray Armando, percussion; Claus Ogerman, arranger and conductor; Tommy LiPuma, producer, Al Schmitt, engineer.

Yacht Rock? Or perhaps more like, “Jetliner to Brazil” Rock… .

If the soundworld of Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark or that of Steely Dan’s Aja appeals to you, I think you will enjoy Michael Franks’ third studio album, Sleeping Gypsy. Sleeping Gypsy has a substantial overlap in session personnel with Court and Spark, and a partial overlap with Aja.

But over and above the sonic contributions of the finest of Los Angeles’ 1970s on-call musicians, what Sleeping Gypsy shares with its far better known contemporaries is literate and literary songwriting, and an adult perspective.

Sound samples and more after the jump. Continue Reading →