18 February 2013

From the vaults

Once upon a time, in 2007 . . . viz. the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony.

The finale of the Fifth I have found a curious question. Recalls the Bigendian/Smallendian debate in some ways . . . And the drivers are so ephemeral. Theres the characteristically colorful story in Testimony (and how do we know thats actually Shostakovich talking?) The typically unfathomable Shostakovich deadpan of the broken metronome remark. The postcard returned to Celibidache with the laconic “Да” (which, again, knowing both the state of operation of the Soviet postal system, and how some missives wound up on desks of the KGB and never actually reached recipients . . . I just cannot think it much of a document to go on).

Upon this insufficient foundation, in part, we have [ fast ending = triumph / slow ending = dissident sarcasm ] as something of a “line in the sand,” in some quarters.

I dont have the firm answer, obviously. But two of my asides are:

1.) Shostakovich was in probably the tightest of a number of tight spots he experienced throughout his career. Too much depended on the piece making the right impression in the right quarters; he was not in the position here, to take the musical risk of (say) the Ninth later on during the war. So, Im not sure this was the occasion for him to play such a daring card. Obviously, I cannot say one way or the other, absolutely.

2.) I consider how broad the ending of the Leningrad Symphony is, and how unambiguously triumphant. I dont think it at all a slam dunk that breadth of tempo in the finale of the Fifth, maps onto scornful dissidence.

12 February 2013

More thoughts on the Jail

In a way, this is the piece I thought I meant to write with the Studies in Impermanence . . . a piece where I try to apply the Feldman method. The Studies quickly went elsewhere, and became their own being (even if the initial Feldmanic impulse was still an important germ). For a couple of weeks, I've been living with Triadic Memories. Of course, one thinks, I have a better idea, now, of how to enter this chamber . . . and (knowing how I was a bit mistaken on that point in the past, or perhaps at some level I really wanted to write something otherwise with the Studies, at the outset) I've had something of an auditor's eye/ear out, to stress-test the result. But this does feel settled into The Zone.

Of course, Triadic Memories is an 80-minute piece, and I am only responsible for (say) 25 minutes. (Nor do I know quite how I, or anyone, should play an 80-minute unaccompanied clarinet work.)

Got more work done on the train. I am finding the piece (probably not surprisingly) a sort of compositorial meditation.

11 February 2013

Just trying to do the math

How does a pop group which released 12 studio albums manage to issue 20 compilations?

09 February 2013

Cookie-Cutter Internet Ad

[group of professionals] HATE him! [somebody] reveals 1 [never “one”] weird trick to [do something or other]

After-tortoise thought

Well, I've only this day learnt that Richard Clayderman was French.

And I certainly understand why the French would try to keep that a secret.

Not lounge lizards, exactly

Despite being serenaded for the entire day [by French pianist Richard Clayderman], 70-year-old tortoise Dirk failed to copulate with Delores, Dolly, Priscilla or Polly.

House of Nemo

Well, around lunchtime yesterday, the Governor of Massachusetts announced that no one would be allowed on the roads after 4PM.  The snowfall was slow, but steady; nor has it completely stopped even yet.

Part of my Nemo listening last night (in the post-Bruckner cool-down) were the great Haydn C Major and Eb Major sonatas, played by Beghin. Overall, I find his box a great service and a rich resource, certainly.  It is no black mark to him if I feel I've heard both these sonatas done better yet.

Genghis Khan could have benefited from Egyptian chamomile....

Young man in the neighbor's yard this morning, walking through snow which is up to his knees.

08 February 2013


Today is the first time I have ever listened to three Bruckner symphonies in one day.

Yet, I do not feel any different . . . .

Remembering days long past

A neighbor writes of Peter Mennin:

I'm definitely not through with him, though. His music may click at some point.

Intellectually, I know there is such a thing as listeners not ‘getting’ this or that composer’s music. I have no trouble with the theory.

My own introduction to Mennin:

I was in, I forget just which: eighth grade? might even have been seventh grade, and I had not been playing clarinet all that long. I made it into the regional band! Yes, on balance, I think it may have been that very first time I was in a region band, which is to say, easily my best experience to that time of participating in a musical ensemble. The recording which was made of that event will not bear it out, but I sure felt as if I had suddenly ascended into the New York Philharmonic.

So in the first place, I was lapping up this experience of what it was like to play with a bunch of peers who knew their way around the instruments.

In addition to what I was by then accustomed to in young-symphonic-band fare (arrangements of the odd movement/number from the classics, arrangements of Broadway show tunes, &c.) in our folders for the region band were two or three pieces by recent (maybe even still living) composers who were not tinpansmiths. This is no snobbery, cannot be any snobbery, I am simply reporting that excitement and elation which I felt as I was rehearsing these pieces, both (again) the thrill of being in a group, most of whom could play better than I could, and the (perfectly novel for me, at the time) thrill of reading a piece of music whose language, while clearly related to much that I had been playing already, was just as clearly striking out into fresh paths of sonic expression.

So, one of the pieces in our folder that year was Mennin’s Canzona for symphonic band. I understand it, now, for a minor work. (Minor, but still a great little piece.) At the time, I both simply reveled in its being a cool piece to be a part of playing, and was jazzed that such a piece was written by a fellow whose lifetime and geography overlapped with mine.

The long and the short of this being: intellectually, I can understand that there are listeners who don’t twig Mennin. But it is entirely outside of my own experience. From the first that I knew of a composer of the name of Mennin, he was a damned fine sight of a composer in my book.

06 February 2013

Continued Jaillery

More work, while riding this morning’s train, on Thoreau in Concord Jail. (I was originally thinking of the spelling gaol, but I gave it over.) Part of the discipline in this piece, is to resist the tendency to be too lavish with ideas . . . instead, to find ways to “reduce, re-use, recycle” a contained repertory of ideas.
During the ‘process’ (such as it was) of determining the title, I had completely forgotten (what I do not believe I have ever either read, nor seen staged) a play called The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail.

05 February 2013

Avengers Past

“Well, that kind of music,” remarks Steed (referring to Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture — somehow, when the villain pushed the button, it cued straight to the Love Theme in the middle of the piece), “wasn’t composed by computer.”

“It will be,” smugly answers Michael Gough, “in time.”

04 February 2013

From last week's concert

Shuffle for February

1. Henning, Heedless Watermelon, Op.97 1 (Nicole Chamberlain, Karl Henning)
2. Django Reinhardt, "Russian Songs Medley" (from The Essential Django)
3. F. Couperin, 17ième ordre, 5, Les petites chrémières de Bagnolet (Noëlle Spieth)
4. Shostakovich, Fugue in G – Allegro molto, Op.87 3 (Olli Mustonen)
5. Haydn, Symphony in G, "Surprise" (Hob. I/94) – ii. Adagio (Adam Fischer, Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra)
6. Hartmann, Symphonische Hymnen 3 – Toccata (Rafael Kubelik, Bavarian Radio Symphony)
7. F. Couperin, 24ième ordre, № 8, L'Amphibie, mouvement de Passacaille (Olivier Baumont)
8. Vaughan Williams, Sinfonia antartica (Symphony 7) – v. Epilogue. Alla marcia moderato, non troppo allegro (Vernon Handley, Royal Liverpool Orchestra)
9. Frescobaldi, Fiori musicaliMessa della Apostoli. Canzon dopo la Pistola (Sergio Vartolo)
10. L. Couperin, Suite in C – Menuet (Richard Egarr)
11. D. Scarlatti, Sonata in g minor (Presto e fugato), K.373 (Pieter-Jan Belder, fortepiano)
12. Wuorinen, Mass for the Restoration of St Luke's – Gloria (New York Virtuoso Singers & al., Ch.W conducting)
13. Shostakovich, Violin Concerto 2 in c# minor – i. Moderato (Dmitri Sitkovetsky, BBC Symphony, Andrew Davis)
14. Thelonious Monk, "Blues Five Spot" (from Riffin')
15. Elgar, Violin Concerto in b minor, Op.61 – Cadenza (accompagnata. Lento) – Allegro molto (Yehudi Menuhin, The Royal Philharmonic, the composer conducting)
16. Haydn, Horn Concerto 1 in D (Hob. VIId/3) – iii. Allegro (Wilhelm Bruns, Heidelberger Sinfoniker, Thos Fey)
17. Brahms, Sonata in Eb, Op.120 2 – iii. Tema con variazioni (Nobuko Imai, va; Harris Goldmsith, pf)
18. Prokofiev, Cinderella, Op.87 – Act II, 21: Court Dance (Passepied) (Vladimir Ashkenazy, Cleveland Orchestra)
19. Skryabin, Prelude Op.16 2 in g# minor (Maria Lettberg)
20. Frescobaldi, Fiori musicaliMessa della Domenica. Kyrie alio modo (Sergio Vartolo)
21. The Bobs, "Dictator in a Polo Shirt" (from Songs for Tomorrow Morning)
22. The Bonzo Dog Doo/Dah Band, "Ali Baba's Camel" (from Gorilla reissued)
23. Paul Simon, "Still Crazy After All These Years" (from Negotiations & Love Songs)
24. The Bonzo Dog Doo/Dah Band, "Button Up Your Overcoat" (from Gorilla reissued)
25. Astor Piazzolla, As ilhas

03 February 2013

Young composer

UK composer Elliott Corner performs his own Elegy for viola solo:

01 February 2013

This and that

Music does not have to be understood. Music has to be listened to. – Hermann Scherchen
The Kyrie will go on!  Sunday the 10th of March.  It is nearly time to return to, and finish, the Credo . . . .
Thoughts turned to the Finzi Eclogue for piano and strings this week. The very first time I heard the Eclogue on WCRB, I thought it signally lovely.  Then, with each passing week, I would happen to be tuned to WCRB in order to learn that it was one of a number of pieces that they played two dozen times every week, whether we need it or not; and quite naturally, I got fed up with it.
That all said, I have at times thought (though have not been in any hurry to act on the notion) whether enough time has passed that I can hear the piece without WCRB prejudice, again.
I'm honor bound to ask this question: Is there anyone here who does not wish to be a member of Her Majesty's Navy? – James Mason as Captain of the Lady Edith in Yellowbeard, looking after the career interests of the pressees
The Mozart K.550 came up in conversation recently, and I marveled anew that the Development of the first movement slides, with all apparent ease, into f# minor, works by a sequence down to e minor . . . and all in a movement whose home key in g minor. What tonal impertinence!