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The Illustrious Jerry

What is the last piece of classical music you listened to?

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Three German Dances No. 1

 

One of Mozart's little earworms that I just can't get out of my head this morning.  I know it best from the opening credits to La règle du jeu, one of my favorite movies of all time.

 

 

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10 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

It's a great symphony, and a butch conductor. @Marian Schedenig, what do you think of this recording?

 

Haven't heard any Gergiev Bruckner yet. My favourite recordings of the 4th are Karajan (my first, and still my favourite for many of the more subtle moments, although he does a curiously underwhelming coda), Wand (the opening horn solo is the most heart melting horn I've ever heard) and Celibidache (whose famous coda is for me unrivalled as the best 4 minutes of music ever recorded).

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2 minutes ago, Marian Schedenig said:

 

Haven't heard any Gergiev Bruckner yet. My favourite recordings of the 4th are Karajan (my first, and still my favourite for many of the more subtle moments, although he does a curiously underwhelming coda), Wand (the opening horn solo is the most heart melting horn I've ever heard) and Celibidache (whose famous coda is for me unrivalled as the best 4 minutes of music ever recorded).

 

I see I have a lot to check out! It's one of my favourite symphonies, but I can't say I have a favourite recording of it... yet! I'm a bit allergic to Celibidache, though, because of his slow tempi. One would think he got paid by the minute...

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Only two more weeks until our next choir concert, Frank Martin's Mass for double choir. It did take me a while to fully get into the spirit of the work, but it's finally coming together, and it is a very cool work once you start to make sense of it. I was totally unaware of Martin before we started rehearsals, but apparently this work (written in the 1920s, but not meant for performed and only publicised and first performed 40 years later) is now a mainstay of the sacred a-cappella choir repertoire, with several of recordings on YouTube:

 

 

2 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

I'm a bit allergic to Celibidache, though, because of his slow tempi. One would think he got paid by the minute...

 

It very much depends on the work. His Mozart Requiem is rather grotesque, and not all of his Bruckners are spot on for me. But his 7th towers above all others I know, and the way he slows down the coda of the 4th by emphasising the ticking violas, drawing it out to over 4 minutes (Wand gets through it in 2:40), fits perfectly and creates the most spine tingling misterioso atmosphere possible.

 

In my view, Bruckner is generally well served by slow tempi, and many conductors ruin his symphonies by rushing through them in an all too "conventional" way that doesn't fit his unconventional M.O. 

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5 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

I see I have a lot to check out! It's one of my favourite symphonies, but I can't say I have a favourite recording of it... yet! I'm a bit allergic to Celibidache, though, because of his slow tempi. One would think he got paid by the minute...

Eugen Jochum & Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1955) is also worth a recommendation.

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Jochum's Te Deum is my favourite recording of that work, and his choral recordings in general are fine interpretations (if hampered by the quality of 1960s choirs), but what I've heard of his symphony recordings seems too conventional and unidiomatic for me. Same goes for the (to my continuing incomprehension) much lauded Böhm recording of the 4th.

 

Perhaps their comparatively early recordings were still too much influenced by the original reception and mis-interpretation of Bruckner's style in the 19th and earlier 20th centuries.

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Gershwin and Copland's Piano Concertos, from 1925 and 1926 respectively, are really fascinating to compare and contrast. Both are heavily influenced by jazz and blues.  But both are also so distinctly representative of their composers' personalities and approaches.  Gershwin's rich harmonies and warmly wry melodies contrasted with Copland's jagged, sharp rhythms and skeletal, open-air harmonies/orchestration.  Even Copland's opening movement, probably the closest he ever came to being Gershwinesque, sounds positively ascetic compared to Gershwin's middle movement.  If I'm honest, I find Copland's masterful second movement much more skillfully constructed and satisfying in its arc than Gershwin's finale, but both have an incredible vitality.

 

It was shortly after his Piano Concerto that Copland abandoned self-consciously incorporating jazz (really Tin Pan Alley) idioms in "serious" orchestral compositions, while that remains Gershwin's defining musical legacy.

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Tomorrow night, I finally see performed live the music which is most holy to me in all the world, Copland's Third Symphony. 

 

My wife and I are going to the Kennedy Center in DC to see Leonard Slatkin conduct the National Symphony Orchestra.  I'm giddy with anticipation!  Slatkin's recording with the Detroit Symphony is my favorite recording of the Third; I hope this performance comes close to that standard.

 

Actually, this is a really good month for Copland's Third.  This weekend sees it performed by Slatkin with the NSO on the east coast and next weekend sees it performed by Michael Tilson Thomas with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on the west coast.

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A piece I just discovered yesterday.  Sousa meets Gershwin!  Two American icons!

 

In 1920, Sousa composed a "humoresque" arrangement of Gershwin's new, massively popular song "Swanee" (the song that made him a superstar).

 

Sousa is having a lot of fun here, including humorous orchestral "sound effects," whistling, and freely quoting and referencing other popular songs like "Hail Hail the Gang's All Here", "Dixie" and of course "The Old Folks at Home" (the kind of songs that Gershwin was parodying).  Moreover, he really captured the joy and exuberance that made the song such a hit in the first place.

 

 

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22 hours ago, Romão said:

That's probably the best sounding cd I own. Terrific stuff

 

It's a shame Karajan only recorded the Alpensinfonie once, and it was an 80s digital recording. His 70s Strauss is better and sounds so much better.

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The record label Pentatone has announced a release for March 2020, "Aspects of America: The Pulitzer Edition" featuring Pulitzer winning music of Walter Piston, Morton Gould, and Howard Hanson, performed by Carlos Kalmar with the Oregon Symphony.

 

I am VERY excited for this release because it will be only the second ever commercial recording of Piston's Symphony No. 7, which may be my single favorite Piston work.  :drool:

 

The only current commercial recording by the Louisville Orchestra from the 70s features a great performance, but has pretty crummy sound.

 

 

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Lukas Foss:

 

Clarinet Concerto No. 2

Symphony No. 1

Symphony No. 3

 

Revisited three Foss pieces that have in 2019 taken their place among my favorite pieces of classical music.

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First time I've heard it. Overall it's surprisingly close to Jochum's, but with reservations. On Rilling's recording, you can hear the choir more directly, and he certainly has the better choir (no wonder given his version is a few decades newer). But, as so often happens with Bruckner, I think Rilling gets the tempo changes wrong. He frequently slows down extremely and stems the flow of the music, which not only is annoying on its own but pretty soon makes the whole thing drag quite a bit. He does some more natural tempo changes that would be more appropriate than the extremes, but those happen in places where the tempo isn't supposed to change at all - compare the bar just before letter B to Jochum (0:55 in the following video):

 

 

Overall, I've certainly heard worse Bruckner interpretations, but I'll stick to Jochum.

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So I knew that Aaron Copland was something of an incorrigible "self-stealer," notable for pulling bits from older unpublished works for new compositions.  But my mind was kind of blown this morning when I was listening for the first time to a short 1933 piece called Elegies for a duo of violin and viola, never published and recorded for the first time in 2004.  I already knew from Howard Pollack's book that the opening section of Elegies had been almost immediately repurposed as the "Subjective" movement for the 1934 suite Statements for orchestra, but when I got to 5.5 minutes into Elegies I became cognizant that I was hearing music I was very, very intimately familiar with already.

 

Lo and behold, about 30 seconds of Elegies is reproduced faithfully, but expanded upon, towards the end of the 3rd movement of the Third Symphony (aka my musical best friend).  Not only is the material expanded on, but he also managed to seamlessly integrate the second theme of the movement (introduced at 3:58 in the Slatkin recording below) to help make it feel like it was always meant for the symphony.

 

Just listen here from 5:27 to 6:00

 

Then here from the symphony at 8:00 to 9:40 (for anyone with the score, that's from 4 measures before Rehearsal 79 to Rehearsal 83)

 

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As regular JWFan Classical threadgoers know, generally when it comes to art music I'm solidly a 20th century (schizoid) man.  But sometimes on a frigid Sunday morning in the Winter sun, I gotta go for this all-time favorite.

 

Bach's Fugue in D-Sharp Minor, BWV 853.  Ascetic and coldly beautiful.

 

 

Stadtfeld's WTC 1 recording has become my go-to actually.

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I’m still listening to Irving Fine’s Music for Piano a lot.  It’s quite an addictive piece!

 

Stravinsky wrote Fine a letter in 1948 praising the piece as “graceful.... [and] so elegant in its writing” so I’m in good company ;) 

 

 

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Two works for piano that I think make an excellent pairing.

 

Rorem's Piano Sonata No. 2 (1949)

Poulenc's Trois mouvements perpétuels (1918)

 

 

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