Fresh from being blown away by the Detroit Symphony and their romp through the four number symphonies by Charles Ives, I remembered slogging through an Ives choral work in college, the Psalm 90. The slogging speaks to our abilities, not Ives’.
Unisons give way to carefully assembled tone clusters, which heighten certain meaningful words – ‘to another,’ ‘destruction,’ ‘flood,’ ‘evil.’ The unison returns as a shock or a comfort. When performed correctly, as in this recording, the harmonies are so close that you can feel yourself reverberating in sympathy. I’ve pasted the text below to follow along. It is a passage that will be read at no wedding.
Who else but Ives could give us a Psalm transfigured, starting with unconventional plainchant to an ecstatic recitative to the closing transcendental hymn?
A baby… a work in progress… incomplete… unfinished. There’s the logic that lead’s to this morning’s selection, Schubert’s 8th Symphony.
Here it is with the agonized and adored Furtwängler and the Berlin Phil in 1952.
Best with headphones. I adore the second movement, beginning around 11:50.
Arthur Honegger is a composer you want to hear more of, the minute you hear him. (Note the French pronunciation: ohn-egg-AIR) Honegger is likely the greatest Swiss composer of modern times, though he is counted among the French modernists, such as Poulenc and Milhaud. I happened to encounter him twice in my brief French horn career, the first with Pacific 231, which emulates the sounds and presence of a locomotive. Then I had the delight of getting to know Pastorale d’été (Pastorale of Summer).
The genius is in the scoring: woodwind quintet and string orchestra. The effect is graceful, lightweight, but entrancing like good conversation over a summer meal. Around 3:19 the clarinet starts a tune you’ll be whistling until summertime, and juicy horn solos abound. It’s over before you know it, and leaves you wanting more. A little early in the year for more summer music? Yeah, but there’s no good music out there for spring, right?
Played by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, which could use a thaw about now.
When it comes to music, Easter’s got Christmas licked. (Readers will be reminded that The Messiah is two-thirds an Easter piece.) As heard on WQXR‘s somewhat exhausting Bach marathon, the most interesting pieces are based on dramatic texts about blood and sacrifice, more than cantatas about love and heavenly reward.
For while the Easter season does not have a ‘Joy to the World’ equivalent, it has the far more complex Stabat Mater and the theatrical passions of St. John and St. Matthew. Continue reading
Or rather, Sunday night. I’m thrilled to be reviewing Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles… Ensemble ACJW with Robert Spano, my first concert in many months. In this excerpt, Appel Interstellaire, Messiaen turns the horn into a galactic transmitter, exploiting the wiggly yelps you can make by pressing the valves down halfway.
I seem to be on a Barber kick, but is there ever a time of year when Summer Music isn’t in season? Here it is with the score and the estimable ensemble Wien-Berlin.
Borne of my countless hours spent filling out profiles for the Cultural Data Project for grant applications, I was curious if the investment had other benefits. The good folks at the arts research blog Createquity paired me with the fearless Talia Gibas, and we set to work exploring if and how the CDP has made lives better for the non-profits it intends to serve. Our results are published here.