Fort Worth’s First Presbyterian Church, with its long and proud Scottish heritage and tradition was a most appropriate setting for the Baltimore Consort’s January 26th performance of Adew Dundee, Early and Traditional Music of Scotland. The six musicians of the consort provided one of this season’s most satisfying concerts. The group has made a career of exploring the more obscure nooks and crannies of the repertoire. In a program that spanned the emotional gamut from the heartbreak of lost love to the ecstasy of Catholic spirituality to some low-down, toe tapping pub tunes, the music moved and inspired the sizeable audience, making even the most staid of Presbyterians sway in their pews.
Monday, January 28, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
I have been upgrading our programs on Radio Helios, and am in the process of developing a whole new playlist. I am also adding voice tracks to introduce the pieces as well.
I am working on getting some interviews and other fun features up and running soon as well.
You can help support Radio Helios by becoming a premium member, by clicking on the links to artists' work on our homepage, and by buying cds from the links provided.
Thanks for your continued support of the station, and if you care to submit music to be played, please do so by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may send CDS to me at Radio Helios, 10661 Steppington Drive Suite 2113, Dallas, TX 75230.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Sonata in d minor, H. 128 [11:01]
Sonata in f sharp minor, H. 37 [11:45]
Sonata in A major, H. 186 [13:24]
Rondo in d minor, H.290 [4:07]
Sonata in C major, H. 248 [7:53]
Rondo in B flat major, H. 267 [4:52]
Sonata in E major, H. 83 [7:30]
Cantabile in b minor, from Sonata, H. 245 [3:04]
Christopher Hinterhuber, piano
Recorded at the Phoenix Studio, Budapest from 27 February to 1 March 2004.
NAXOS 8.557450 [63:46]
Second son of Johann Sebastian Bach, court harpsichordist to Fredrick the Great and godson of Georg Philipp Telemann; Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was destined for greatness. Although he began his career in law school, it was as a keyboard virtuoso and composer that the arguably most successful of the after-Sebastian generation of Bachs was to make his fame and fortune. The most broadly educated and intellectual of all of Sebastian’s children, Carl Philipp would gain great respect as a learned man, teacher and author. His Essay on the True Art of Clavier Playing was held in high esteem. His influence on the work of Franz Josef Haydn is unquestionable and blatantly obvious. Upon his death he was mourned by his colleagues as a more significant and important composer than his father.
It would be easy enough on first glance to dismiss the younger Bach as a composer of Rococo fluff, and frankly, having just now become acquainted with his music in anything other than name, I expected nothing less. My surprise and delight was enormous then when I popped this disc into the player to discover music of energetic and complex rhythmic vitality and startlingly original and adventuresome harmonic language. Bach’s preference for the newer clavichord over the more traditional plucked harpsichord is obvious from the start. This music employs a new kind of virtuosity, one that plays up its emotional and dramatic content, and is far more reliant on melody than counterpoint, which by the time of these works, was considered passé and academic.
The sonatas are as a rule cast in the fast-slow-fast three movement form that would dominate the genre until Beethoven. The outer movements are full of technical display, and yet never stray from their overall focus on melody. They are full of exciting and unexpected twists and turns, and Bach uses the entire range and scope of the instrument to express himself. Often we find long melodies beginning in the upper register, only to be completed by a two or three octave drop to the bass. The inner movements are lovely in their aria like treatment.
The Rondos, although dismissed at their publication by some critics as needless filler and unworthy of inclusion with the more sophisticated sonatas, are brimming as well with interesting and exciting music. Brief and without wasted notes, they are little virtuoso showpieces that delight the ear.
Christopher Hinterhuber, performing here on a modern grand, is a pianist of formidable technique, able to handle fast passage work with ease and aplomb. He plays just fast enough to give us the whirlwind spirit of the music with out obliterating lines. His cantabile playing is admirable as well. I did find that particularly in the upper registers, the playing gets a bit shrill and clanky. I would have wished for more subtlety, warmth and nuance of tone in the upper end of the piano. Nonetheless this is a small detraction, and I am thrilled that this splendidly crafted and colorful music has seen a bit more sunlight.
A definite must own for lovers of fine keyboard music. Highly recommended.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
String quartet in E flat major, Op. 127 [33:43]
String quartet in a minor, Op. 132 [41:16]
The Hagen Quartet
Lukas Hagen and Rainer Schmidt, violins; Veronika Hagen, viola and Clemens Hagen, cello.
Recorded in the Schloss Mondsee in November 2003 and in Wiesloch, Palatin, Minnesängersall in March 2004.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 5705 [75:07]
When Beethoven was commissioned by Prince Galitzin in November of 1822 to compose a new set of string quartets, he was in the enviable position of having complete artistic freedom and the a clout to demand any price he wished for the completed works. He accepted the commission for the then whopping fee of fifty ducats per quartet and promised the first quartet to be delivered in March of the following year. The patron would have to wait far longer, as the completion of the ninth symphony and the Missa Solemnis took priority, and the quartets were not delivered until 1825. The result, however was spectacular, and the late quartets were to become the Beethoven’s crowning achievement; music for the ages with little or no regard to tradition, nor with any concern about audience reaction to these most remarkable, unusual and heretofore unheard of structures and sounds.
Central to both of these works are their slow movements. Longer in both cases by nearly double the lengths of their surrounding movements, Beethoven relies far more on the conveyance of a specific set of thoughts or ideas as opposed to any real dependence on form. This is especially true of the poignant Convalescent’s Holy Song of Tthanksgiving to the Deity, a sincere expression of gratitude from the composer upon his recovery from a long and painful stomach disorder. The serenity and sheer beauty of this single movement is overwhelming, and to hear this fine performance would be worth the cost of the entire disc.
The Hagens have been on the scene for some years now, making a fairly good sized collection of recordings. I have found it interesting however how heavily they rely on the standard repertoire in their programming, with sojourns outside the established canon being fairly rare occurrences. That aside, these are performances of supreme dedication and finesse. Given that the late Beethoven quartets are notorious for their difficulty, one would never know it to hear them played by the Hagens.
Intonation and ensemble are first rate, as one would come to expect from such a seasoned group. What I found to be most refreshing was the pacing of the works. They are never allowed to bog down in syrupy romanticism, even in the sublime Convalescent’s Thanksgiving, which could easily give way to self-indulgence. The Hagens do indulge, however in a bit of extraneous sniffing and snorting, a habit of which my extreme distaste is well known. It is however not enough to detract from this beautifully paced, flawlessly executed performance.
A highly commendable release, worth some pride of place in any collection.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
(The composer’s/artist’s dates are not listed in the program booklet)
Music for cellos, as performed by Claude Lamothe.
Día a Día 
La Cathédrale de Bourges 
L’île aux Monuments 
V Comme Dans Bach 
Eine Walzer 
L’île des Vents 
L’île au Printemps 
Dates of compositions are not listed.
Recorded at Studio
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Alfonso FERRABOSCO (1543-1588)
Dolci ire (madrigal a 5) 
Auprès de vous (chanson a 5) 
In Nomine I 
Pecantem me quotidie (motet a 5) 
Psalmus CIII [32:32]
Bruna sei tu, ma bella (madrigal a 5) 
Domine, non secundum peccata nostra (motet a 6) 
Quel sempre acerbo (madrigal a 6) 
The Huelgas Ensemble
Paul Van Nevel, conductor
Recorded September 2004 at the Chapel of the Franciscans,
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC 901874 [60:40]
Alfonso Ferrabosco, known as “Il Padre” to distinguish him from his son who also became a composer, lived a life of intrigue and turmoil, ferrying back and forth between his Italian homeland and England, where to the great consternation of the Pope, served in the Anglican court of Queen Elizabeth I. Born in 1543, he worked with Palestrina in the Papal Chapel until the ascendance of Paul IV in 1555, when all married men were summarily dismissed from the Vatican’s service. (Palestrina was to suffer the same fate.) After a series of run-ins with official
Monday, January 14, 2008
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat, K. 271 [30:26]
Piano Concerto No. 19 in F. K. 459 [26:13]
Nine Variations on a Menuet by Duport K. 573[10:38]
Clara Haskil, (piano)
Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra
Otto Ackermann (K. 271)
Ferenc Fricsay (K. 459)
Recorded at the Funkhaus Sall, WDR Cologne, 11 June 1954 (K. 271) and 30 May 1952(K. 459), and at the Besançon Festival, 7 September 1956 (K. 573).
MEDICI ARTS MM004-2 [67:58]
Charles Chaplin declared that he had met only three geniuses in his life: Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Clara Haskil. Practically worshipped in her later years, Ms. Haskil suffered for most of her life from everything to a painful spinal condition to a crippling self-doubt. Her fellow Rumanian Dinu Lipatti was her ardent champion. His early death left Haskil grief stricken (she was secretly in love with him) and without a mentor. In spite of all these negative circumstances, Clara Haskil would go down in history as a goddess amongst pianists, a woman capable of a musical passion and elegance practically unequalled by her peers, and a classicist of the highest refinement.
Friday, January 11, 2008
Here are this weekend's recommendations:
A Sacred Romance. Music of Franck, Widor, Vierne, Tournemire, Messiaen and Couperin. Kevin M. Clarke at the Noack organ of the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, TX. Pro Organo CD 7217.
Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 8 (Symphony of a Thousand). Soloists, Choirs and the Staatskappelle Berlin, Pierre Boulez. Deutscher Grammophon 4776597.
Carlo Gesualdo: Quinto libro dei Madrigali. The Consort of Musicke, Anthony Rooley. Decca/L'Oiseau Lyre, 4759110.
Samuel Barber, William Walton and Erich Wolfgang Korngold: Violin Concertos. James Ehnes, violin, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey. CBC SMCD 5241.
Eyvind Alnaes, Christian Singding: Piano Concertos. Piers Lane, piano. Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra: Andrew Litton. Hyperion CDA 67555.
As usual, there are some off the beaten path works here, but that's why it's interesting to know me, right?
Happy Listening and have a great weekend.
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Prelude to Act IV from Khovanschina [4:19]
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 5 in e minor, Op. 64. [44:20]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde [16:02]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun [11:07]
Radio Symphony Orchestra of Frankfurt (4)
From our twenty-first century vantage point, it is easy to conclude that Leopold Stokowski was an old school conductor dedicated to the repertoire that we know today as the core. But it is pertinent to remember that at the time of Stokowski’s birth in 1882, all but one of the composers on this recording were still very much alive. Tchaikovsky had yet to compose his fifth symphony, Wagner was putting the finishing touches on Parsifal, and Debussy’s landmark Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun was still ten years in the future.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto in d minor for two horns, strings and continuo, TWV 52:D2 [8:01]
Concerto in e minor for transverse flute, recorder, strings and continuo, TWV 52:e1 [13:47}
Concerto in d minor for oboe, strings and continuo, TWV 51:d1 [8:03]
Concerto in g minor for recorder, two violins and continuo, TWV 43:g3 [12:53]
Concerto in E major for transverse flute, strings and continuo, TWV 51:E1 [12:17]
Ulrich Hübner and Jörg Schulteß (horns)
Michael Schneider, (recorder)
Karl Kaiser (transverse flute)
Luise Baumgartl (oboe)
La Stagione Frankfurt
Recorded in the Deutschlandrundfunk Kammermusiksaal, 2005-2006.
CPO 777032 [55:24]
In the day when trained musicians were expected to master a number of instruments, Georg Philipp Telemann exceeded expectations by not only mastering three (the harpsichord, recorder and violin) but by also becoming proficient on most of the other instruments in common use at the time. As a result of this vast skill set, he was able to compose concertos for a wide array of solo instruments and combinations thereof. The hallmark of his music is a respect for the idiom of each individual instrument that renders each work not only aurally pleasing, but also of immense satisfaction to the performer.
In an attempt to get away from the pervasive Italian style, Telemann adopted a four movement form that often followed the pattern of slow-fast-slow-fast. These slow openings drew the listener’s attention to the melodic line and away from the sheer displays of virtuosity that were the stock and trade of the Italian concerto. Telemann also preferred a more moderate display of the soloist’s technical skill, never allowing the intricacies of the solo line to overshadow the elegance and purpose of the music.
Michael Schneider leads his two ensembles in a perfectly elegant set of concertos for diverse instrumental combinations in this disc that brims with grace and charm. Beginning with an uplifting but never overwhelming work for two horns, Mssrs. Hübner and Schulteß bring off some of the finest valve-less horn playing to meet these ears in some time. Granted, more perfection can be achieved with these cantankerous instruments in the studio setting than in a live concert. But, this is playing of rarely heard skill and refinement.
The other standout is Luise Baumgartl’s sweet tone and graceful articulation in the concerto for oboe. She produces a light and unforced sound and has a fine knack for spinning out a long arched phrase. Mssrs. Schneider and Kaiser also turn in fine performances of works for recorder, flute and the combination thereof. The two ensembles both play most collegially, and balance, intonation and ensemble are of the first order.
There’s a work for every taste here and no lover of baroque music will be disappointed. Marked “Volume I” one can only salivate a bit for more if this fine disc is a harbinger of the entire series.
- refined elegance…well balanced playing by musicians who are obviously enjoying themselves.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra in a minor, Op. 102 (1887) [34:25]
Clarinet Quintet in b minor, Op. 115 (1891) [37:10]
Renaud Capuçon (violin)
Gautier Capuçon (cello)
Paul Meyer (clarinet)
Aki Saulière, violin
Béatrice Muthelet, viola
Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester
Double concerto recorded from 8-10 April, 2007 at the Vienne Musikverein. Clarinet Quintet recorded from 9-10 July 2007 in the Eglise du bon Secours, Paris.
VIRGIN CLASSICS 946 395147 2 [72:21]
Brahms composed his “double” concerto as a token of reconciliation between his longtime friend and mentor Joseph Joachim. The two had not spoken for years after Brahms sided with Joachim’s wife in a divorce dispute. The gesture worked, as this, Brahms’ last orchestral work not only healed the rift, but left to the world a composition of profound beauty and structural perfection. As oft recorded as it is, it takes some special musicians to bring it to life in any remarkable way. Such musicians are the brothers Capuçon, whom I had already held in high regard before hearing this performance, but now that I have heard it, am able and willing to declare that these two siblings are two of the finest, most technically refined and most emotionally inspired performers on the planet.
Over the years, I have collected a couple of dozen recordings of this work. In particular, the second movement with its plaintive yet uplifting theme is music that has always haunted me. I was hooked by the end of the first movement, which the Capuçons play with white hot intensity. But when the second movement ended I nearly had to pick myself up off the floor. I have never in thirty years of serious music listening heard more expressive, passionate yet thoroughly controlled playing. These brothers play so fluidly, so eloquently that any listener that doesn’t ache when they’ve finished should have his blood pressure checked.
Adding to the luster of the soloist’s work is a young orchestra that plays with the kind of condensed abandon that can only come from the combined joy of great accomplishment and a first experience with greatness. This is a truly fine band, molded and beautifully fine tuned by Myung-Whun Chung.
The concerto alone would be worth the price of admission, but we are also given a sublime performance of one of Brahms’ most serenely melodic works, the Clarinet Quintet from 1891. Written during his final years in Meiningen, the quintet was dedicated to Richard Mühlfeld, a virtuoso whom the composer much admired, and for whom he composed a number of his last works. The music is almost exclusively inward looking, calm and collected and carried out with the confidence of a man at peace with himself and the world.
The performance here is perfection, indeed flawless. Paul Meyer literally sings with his instrument, producing a full throated yet never piercing tone that weaves itself in and out of textures with just the right nuance, often a soloist, but never a diva. This is one of the finest recordings of the year, truly a must have regardless of how many times this repertoire is duplicated in your collection. You will finish these performances with no recollection of having breathed through the whole seventy-two minutes.
-there is but one word to describe this kind of music making: perfect.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
The Devils of Loudon (1969) [108:00]
An Opera in Three Acts based on John Whiting’s dramatization of Aldous Huxley’s “The Devils of Loudon” in the German translation by Erich Fried.
Jeanne TATIANA TROYANOS
Urbain Grandier ANDREZEJ HIOLSKI
Father Barré BERNARD LADYSZ
Father Rangier HANS SOTIN
Jean d’Armagnac KARL-HEINZ GERDESMANN
Guilleaume de Cerisay ROLF MAMERO
Adam KURT MARSCHNER
Mannoury HEINZ BLANKENBURG
Directed for Television by Joachim Hess
Artistic Director: Rolf Liebermann
General Artistic Director: Krzysztof Penderecki
The Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra
The Chorus of the Hamburg State Opera
Conducted by Marek Janowski
Produced by Polyphon Film und Fernsehgesellschaft for NDR Polyphon, 1969.
ARTHAUS MUSIC 101279 [108:00]
Urbain Grandier was a Roman Catholic priest who was burned at the stake on August 18, 1634 after having been convicted of conspiring with Satan to corrupt an order of Ursuline nuns. While Grandier had forsaken his vows of chastity and celibacy, and was known as a bit of a cad, the whole demonic affair was the fabrication of Jeanne des Anges, prioress of the Ursuline convent whose own sexual obsession with the wayward priest led her to invent the entire possession story. Grandier’s case was further complicated by his clash with the powerful and corrupt Cardinal Richelieu, who needed the meddlesome priest to be out of the way in order to further his political agenda.
The story is famous and has been recounted in a number of modern works including the so-called “historical study” by Aldous Huxley in 1952, a story by Polish author Jaroslaw Iwaskiewicz, a film based on that story by Jerzy Kawalerowicz in 1960, a successful British adaptation for the stage by Robert Whiting and a highly controversial film from 1970 by maverick film maker Ken Russell.
The story first came to Penderecki’s attention in 1964, while he was completing his monumental St. Luke Passion. The composer’s deep compassion for the victims of the Holocaust made this story of religious intolerance coupled with political intrigue and the persecution of innocents all but irresistible, and thus was born his first opera, which opened to considerable criticism at the International Society for New Music’s 43rd festival in Hamburg in 1969. Many of the problems were the result of Konrad Swinarski’s over-reliance on historical accuracy and authenticity which in effect obliterated Penderecki’s desire to present a piece of history as an allegory for modern times and events.
Almost immediately after the premiere, the work was taken into the studio and filmed for television, one of the earliest such projects filmed in color. With the camera’s ability to focus the viewer on specific scenes and characters, undistracted by peripheral action, Swinarski’s vision was far better able to be portrayed, and it is clear that this filmed version of the opera serves it better than a stage production could.
Why then, has this work, which even at a distance of some forty years is still chillingly captivating laid dormant? A number of issues could be at play. First, the music itself is characteristic of a certain time, and although perfectly suited for this story and for its visual telling, requires a great deal of work on the part of the listener to comprehend. Penderecki was at this period in his work using techniques such as the creation of “sound bands” or large swaths of aural color that were created by random repetition of rhythmic gestures and often approximated pitches. This effect works well with crowd scenes and it successfully depicts confusion, rage, and mass hysteria. Where it does not work as well is in the presentation of dialogue between individual characters. Penderecki’s disjunct and angular vocal writing leaves the listener tired after a time, and one’s thoughts start to wander away from the drama and more toward sympathy for the singers who had to learn and memorize this challenging score. The composer’s signature techniques are most effective in the orchestral writing, where they sound as “normal” as any modern suspense film score.
This production finds its greatest success in its visuals. Period costumes, dark in hue set against a bleak stone background immediately foreshadow the ominous and terrifying events to come. The setting is joyless, treacherous, lecherous and foreboding. Swinarski is also quite adept at portraying the subtleties of hidden drama. One is struck by such devices as the manipulation of the ignorant and uneducated masses to achieve the political ends of the more powerful main characters. He also uses the power of religious dogma to stunning effect in the way that the Ursuline sisters are whipped up into a manic frenzy, fully believing that they are possessed with evil spirits, and who willingly submit to repeated exorcisms, staged for show by the priests in power.
The work is also well served by its remarkable and well chosen cast. The late lamented Tatiana Troyanos as Jeanne and baritone Andrezej Hiolski as Grandier turn in brilliant and believable performances. In spite of the overtly emotional nature of the roles, both characters inspire a strange combination of reactions including disdain, repulsion and sympathy. Bernard Ladysz and Hans Sotin aptly play the priest exorcists, duped into service by men they believe to be righteous and used as pawns in an evil scheme. Also noteworthy are the performances of Kurt Marschner and Heinz Blankenburg, a surgeon and a chemist whose personal vendetta against Grandier is played out with sinister abandon. One could hardly ask for a stronger cast, with each member performing admirably as both singer and actor.
This is not for the faint of heart. Konrad Swinarski spares little and the scenes of nudity and torture are undisguised, which is a bit surprising for 1969. But then again, it was made for German television, and the Germans have never been prudes. Whether one could call this opera a masterpiece is open for discussion. That it is an impressive period piece, and a fine example of its genre and style goes without saying, and for that historical perspective alone, it is worthy of one’s time.
- a stark and bleak drama. Dark and yet surprisingly beautiful in its overt portrayal of intrigue, religious zeal and man’s cruelty to his fellow man.
Monday, January 07, 2008
The sky was more than azure. Indeed it glowed like sapphires, gently brushed with the brightest white clouds I have ever seen. Mile upon mile lay before me under the brilliant yet almost heatless sun and a gentle wind breathed life into a landscape that was perfection in its solitude. The desert sand was a clutter of Joshua Trees, cacti and enormous formations of granite rocks; stones as big as buildings stacked neatly into structures that could have been mistaken for the work of children were they not so huge.
Such is the landscape of the Mojave desert, preserved in nearly immaculate condition in the Joshua Tree National Park in California. This is a place of folklore and myth. It is the birthplace of rock and roll's greatest legend and one of its greatest musical masterpieces. But it is neither the image of Gram Parsons' ashes mingled with the sand nor the subliminal U2 soundtrack that relentlessly runs through your brain that makes this place memorable.
Rather, it is the overwhelming feeling that you are a guest in a world that has never nor will never belong to you. It is the silent voice of the desert that says "Welcome friend, be kind to me and dwell with me in peace." It is the exclusion of all things made by humans, the inability of the outside world to disturb the serenity of the rocks, the sands and the plants. It is the mystery of the glyphs in the caves, left behind by a people rendered sadly nameless by the passage of time.
Standing beside Cap Rock, one of the larger and more famous formations in the park, I was drawn for some time from the enormity of the granite by a solitary spirit. Soaring high above the rocks was a lone, majestic bird, floating effortlessly on the wind, hovering, hardly moving except to occasionally tilt a wing one way or the other to stay on course. For what seemed like hours he glided above me, wings spread wide, silently surveying the land and the people below. It was as if time had been destroyed.
How powerful it was to be at one with that creature even if only for a fleeting moment. How remarkable it was to forget about the human tainted world and to experience the perfection of creation. What a gift to stand in so vast a space, to be so blissfully alone and to inhale the very breath of God.
Friday, January 04, 2008