work Archive

BEETHOVEN: Missa solemnis in D – Soloists/ Arnold Schoenberg Chor /Concentus Musicus Wien /Nicholas Harnoncourt ‒ Sony

BEETHOVEN: Missa solemnis in D – Soloists/ Arnold Schoenberg Chor /Concentus Musicus Wien /Nicholas Harnoncourt ‒ Sony

BEETHOVEN: Missa solemnis in D Major, Op. 123 ‒ Laura Aikin, sop./ Bernarda Fink, alto / Johannes Chum, tenor/ Ruben Drole, bass/ Arnold Schoenberg Chor /Concentus Musicus Wien /Nicholas Harnoncourt ‒ Sony 88985313592, 81:00 (7/15/16) ***1/2: Harnoncourt was a great Beethoven conductor, but his final recording is not entirely successful. Did you know that Beethoven notated over thirty different tempo markings in his Missa solemnis? Neither did I. That’s just one of the wonderful bits of information you can glean if you take time to read the program notes that come along with recordings. Another interesting fact is that Nicholas Harnoncourt’s first seven performances of the Missa solemnis were delivered not from the podium but from a chair in the cello section of the Vienna Symphony. Apparently, none of these performances seemed to capture the essence of the work for him. Indeed, only as he prepared for his own first performance of the work as conductor, in 1988, did he fully come to terms with Beethoven’s difficult masterpiece. Harnoncourt wrote about the experience, “All that had seemed to me to be empty bathos suddenly turned into the opposite.” Empty bathos? Wow! Those seven prior performances not only left him with […]

WEINBERG: Suite for Orchestra; Symphony No. 17, ‘Memory’ – Siberian State Sym. Orch./Vladimir Lande – Naxos

WEINBERG: Suite for Orchestra; Symphony No. 17, ‘Memory’ – Siberian State Sym. Orch./Vladimir Lande – Naxos

A great addition to an important series. MIECZYSLAW WEINBERG: Suite for Orchestra; Symphony No. 17, ‘Memory’ – Siberian State Sym. Orch./Vladimir Lande – Naxos 8.573565, 64:49 (10/14/16) ****: I think it is a very good thing that the music of Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg is now getting a fair amount of attention thanks to the dedication of some conductors, such as Vladimir Lande, and thanks to recording companies such as Naxos and Chandos who are making his musical available. During his lifetime, Weinberg was known mainly as a very gifted concert pianist and only somewhat as a composer. Being a Jew during the second World War his few opportunities for larger renown may have eluded him but for being ‘discovered’ and befriended by Shostakovich in the early 1950s. Weinberg even emigrated to Moscow where he was able to build a nice reputation as a composer, especially among singers. (In point of fact his opera, The Passenger, is considered a modern masterpiece for both its music as well as a plot line that is very much based on ‘post-Holocaust’ themes.) Weinberg was tremendously prolific and this present disc gives us much to enjoy. The opening Suite for Orchestra is a charming […]

PHILIP GLASS & ROBERT WILSON: Einstein on the Beach, Blu-ray (2016) 

PHILIP GLASS & ROBERT WILSON: Einstein on the Beach, Blu-ray (2016) 

Still Philip Glass’ most important work in a stunning production! PHILIP GLASS & ROBERT WILSON: Einstein on the Beach, Blu-ray (2016)  Production: Chatelet Theatre, Paris Performers: The Philip Glass Ensemble/The Lucinda Childs Dance Company/Antoine Silverman, Helga Davis, Kate Moran/Michael Reisman (cond.) Robert Wilson (stage director)/ Don Kent (screen director) Studio: Opus Arte (2 discs) [10/28/16] (Distr. by Naxos) Video: 1.33:1 (4:3) color Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, PCM Stereo Length: 263 min. Ratings: Audio: ***1/2  Video: ****  Like it or not, Einstein on the Beach remains Philip Glass’ most defining work. It is what gave him a large amount of name recognition and – at the time – ‘word on the street.’  I first became aware of Einstein in 1976, mainly by reading new music journals. I quickly bought the vinyl set of the original cast recording on the now defunct art label, Tomato Records, which I still have to this day. Einstein on the Beach is the work that paved the way for Glass’ work going beyond the small and somewhat sparsely attended concerts of his ensemble (of which I attended several) to his film scores such as the still powerful Koyaanisqatsi and the more “true” opera, Satygraha.  It […]

Mindru Katz plays BEETHOVEN, Vol. 2  – Sonata No. 11 in B-flat Major; Sonata No. 30 in E Major; Sonata No. 32 in c – Mindru Katz, p. – Cembal d’amour

Mindru Katz plays BEETHOVEN, Vol. 2 – Sonata No. 11 in B-flat Major; Sonata No. 30 in E Major; Sonata No. 32 in c – Mindru Katz, p. – Cembal d’amour

Mindru Katz delivers epic and intimate Beethoven from Tel Aviv, 1971. Mindru Katz plays BEETHOVEN, Vol. 2  – Sonata No. 11 in B-flat Major, Op. 22; Sonata No. 30 in E Major, Op. 109; Sonata No. 32 in c minor, Op. 111 – Mindru Katz, p. – Cembal d’amour 185, 76:21 (11/19/16) [www.cembaldamour.com] ****:  Taken from the live recital by Mindru Katz (1925-1978) in Tel Aviv, 7 July 1971, these Beethoven sonatas assembled by producer Mordecai Shehori reveal Mindru Katz as among the more cerebral of virtuoso performers of the Bonn master. The opening work, the 1800 Sonata in B-flat Major, Op. 22, received admiration from the composer himself as indicative of his farewell to the grand Viennese style.  Beethoven seems content to explore musical kernels and motives for their own sake, without recourse to personal drama. Katz imposes a severe and sober sensibility on the work as a whole, whose heart lies in the second movement, Adagio con molta espessione.  Here, a florid melody finds accompaniment in a bass lie that throbs and broods, while the sixteenth notes find their way into both hands and another melodic line attempts to offer consolation. The Menuetto begins in the pure spirit […]

CRAIG HELLA JOHNSON: Considering Matthew Shepard – Conspirare – Harmonia mundi

CRAIG HELLA JOHNSON: Considering Matthew Shepard – Conspirare – Harmonia mundi

Some beautiful choral writing in an emotional tribute. CRAIG HELLA JOHNSON: Considering Matthew Shepard – Conspirare – Harmonia mundi multichannel SACD HMU 807638.39, 105:26, two discs (9/09/16) [Dist. by HM/PIAS] ****: By now, I am sure – or hope – that all readers have at least heard of the horrific 1998 murder of the then twenty-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard. The fact that he was a young gay man who was hardly what most would consider an “activist” and who essentially executed made his name and his case move to the forefront of the fairly recent gay rights movement. This piece takes, as its emotional base, the relative simplicity of Matthew’s life and the seemingly idyllic setting of Laramie, Wyoming and creates a mood of simple reflection and a certain amount of celebration of Shepard’s existence. This is not a work that goes “over the line” with anger or sadness. The narration – necessarily tough to listen to – comes close but this is one of those stories that, similarly to other landmark human rights cases and crimes over the years, we need to be reminded a bit, actually happened. Craig Hella Johnson is a renowned choral conductor, composer […]

GOYA – Visions of Flesh and Blood (2016)

GOYA – Visions of Flesh and Blood (2016)

Nothing to do with music, but a fascinating view of the father of modern art. GOYA – Visions of Flesh and Blood (2016) From the National Gallery, London Director: David Bickerstaff Producer: Phil Grabsky Studio: Seventh Art Prod. SEV190 [7/8/16] (Dist. by Naxos) Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 screens, color Audio: English PCM stereo Subtitles: English, French, German, Dutch, Swedish, Spanish, Italian All Regions Length: 96 min. Rating: ***** This is perhaps a better introduction to the great painter than a visit to to the exhibition of his work at the National Gallery in London. It uses a fresh biography, excerpts from his letters, and stunning local scenery as well as behind the scenes at the Gallery. Francisco Goya was a really brilliant observer of everyday life and of the troubled times in Spain. His gifts as a portrait painter extended to his getting a true feeling for person he was painting and especially with their eyes showing your way into their very soul – which other portrait painters failed to capture. He had a highly modern approach to the capture of subtle expressions and gestures, and occasionally painted himself as a minor figure in the back of many of his […]

Maya Beiser, cello – “Transclassical” = Works of BACH, REED, WOLFE, HILDEGARD VON BINGEN & Others – Innova

Maya Beiser, cello – “Transclassical” = Works of BACH, REED, WOLFE, HILDEGARD VON BINGEN & Others – Innova

Maya Beiser, “Transclassical” = J.S. BACH: Air; MICHAEL GORDON: All Vows; IMOGEN HEAP: Hide and Seek; GLENN KOTCHE: Three Parts Wisdom; LOU REED: Heroin; JULIA WOLFE: Emunah; MOHAMMED FAIROUZ: Kol Nidrei; DAVID T. LITTLE: Hellhound; HILDEGARD von BINGEN: O Virtus Sapientae – Maya Beiser, cello, vocal, electronics – Innova 952 [Distr. by Naxos], 65:41, (6/29/16) ****: Marvelous cello playing in some amazing new solo rep. Press releases have referred to Maya Beiser as the “reigning queen of avant-garde cello.”  That is probably so but this album proves definitively that not everything she plays is what most people would consider “avant-garde” and that she is, more properly, one of the world’s great young cellists in any genre right now. All the music here is for solo cello, sometimes with vocalizations and electronics added; all done by Maya Beiser herself. The two ‘bookend’ works in this collection; the Bach and the Hildegard von Bingen, are familiar melodies played beautifully and feel fresh in this solo cello format. The real star here are the new works for solo cello written for Beiser or arranged by her. However, the clever catch to the Bach is that Beiser plays this iconic work through some electronics […]