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Friday, April 30, 2010

Krzysztof Penderecki: A Portrait (1972)

Liner Notes:

Krzysztof Penderecki, Poland's foremost living composer, was born in Debica on November 23, 1933. Music was not particularly emphasized during his childhood and his parents had no intention of making him a musician: it is altogether possible that this very absence of early indoctrination was a factor in creating the exploratory inventiveness, utterly uninhibited by traditional concepts, that established Penderecki by the time he was thirty as unmistakably unique and unarguably one of the most significant creative forces in the music of his time.

When the seventeen-year-old Penderecki went to Cracow to complete his education, music was still more or less a hobby; his "serious" interests were art, literature and philosophy. His hobby was important enough to him, however, to lead him to teach himself to play the violin, and soon he was composing pieces for himself—some in the virtuoso style 1 Paganini, others in the style of Bach. He developed a particular interest in the pre-Bach masters of polyphony, tried his own hand at polyphonic writing, and finally acknowledged the seriousness of his involvement by taking private lessons in composition. Before he turned twenty-one he decided on a career as a composer and enrolled in the Superior School of Music in Cracow, from which he was graduated with distinction in 1958. The following year he rose to prominence virtually overnight when he entered three different works (anonymously) in the competition of the Youth Circle of the Association of Polish Composers and walked off with the three top prizes.

One of those prize-winning compositions was the Emanations for string orchestras recorded here. The other two were the Strophes for soprano, narrator and ten instruments and Psalms of David for mixed chorus and percussion. All three works displayed some of the characteristics the composer was to develop more extensively in his later music; like the later works, none of these could have been written by anyone else.

The Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, scored for fifty-two strings, probably Penderecki's most frequently performed work, was composed in 1960 as a memorial gesture on the fifteenth anniversary of the first use of the atomic bomb and was premiered in Warsaw on May 31 of the following year as part of the first-prize award in a competition sponsored by the Polish Radio. Later in 1961 it earned the composer another award, from UNESCO's International Rostrum of Composers. The St. Luke Passion, generally regarded as Penderecki's masterpiece, was begun two years later on commission from the West German Radio in Cologne to celebrate the seven-hundredth anniversary of the Münster Cathedral, in which it was first performed on March 30, 1966.

Among Penderecki's major works since the Passion are the Dies Irae, or Auschwitz Oratorio, composed and premiered early in 1967, the music drama The Devils of Loudun, after John Whiting's dramatization of the Aldous Huxley book, premiered in Hamburg in June 1969, Utrenja ("The Entombment of Christ") for soloists, choruses and percussion, first performed in the Altenberg Cathedral April 8, 1970, Kosmogonia for soloists, chorus and orchestra (using texts ranging from the ancient Greeks to Galileo to American and Soviet space flyers), commissioned by the United Nations and premiered at the UN October 24, 1970, and the Easter oratorio The Resurrection of Christ, given at the Altenberg Cathedral on May 28, 1971.

While he has written some music for electronic instruments, Penderecki has in the main relied on unconventional use of conventional instruments (including the human voice) to achieve his unusual and striking effects. He has shown a marked fascination with the extreme tonal ranges of voices and instruments, and there are aleatoric sections in several of his works. Shouting, hooting, hissing, bowing on the rim of a cymbal and other unorthodox devices are by now familiar parts of Penderecki's musical vocabulary, generally used to underscore the intensity of feeling in works "about" something—and all of his music, in one way or another, whether vocal or instrumental, sacred or secular, seems to deal passionately with the human condition.

Much of his music deals directly with some of the most poignant and horrendous actual events in the story of man —Hiroshima, Auschwitz, the outrage of Inquisition and autoda-fe—while such a work as Kosmogonia celebrates man's loftier aspirations. Penderecki maintains that neither religious nor political feelings have been important considerations in his work, citing broader moral and philosophical concepts. "I am a Catholic, but membership in a given church is not really the point," he said a few years ago. "It's rather that I am very much concerned with these topics . . . in an essentially moral and social way, not in either a political or a sectarian religious way." His success in communicating that concern is reflected in Bernard Jacobson's observation that "Penderecki uses his chosen methods to produce drama of an intensity and a human impact unmatched by any other composer alive."

During the last few years Penderecki has become a regular visitor to the United States, where his works have been performed by virtually every major orchestra. The Devils of Loudun was given brilliantly at Santa Fe in 1970 and several of his recent works have been premiered in this country. In the fall of 1972 he began teaching at the Yale University School of Music. Shortly before his arrival at Yale, he made his conducting debut in Europe, beginning a new and obviously important phase of his career.

The six works on this record constitute examples of Penderecki's writing in various forms, spanning the period 1958-1965. All six are markedly unorthodox in both structure and content, but just as markedly typical of their composer. The earliest is Emanations, for two string orchestras, already mentioned here as one of the three compositions with which Penderecki won the top prizes in the young composers' competition of 1959. The two string groups (the instruments in the second of which are tuned a minor second higher) are pitted against each other in a strenuous contest involving such techniques as high-speed non-rhythmic tremolo, hammer effect without use of the bow, and slides to produce tone fluctuation of a third of a tone. The work was composed in 1958 and dedicated to Tadeusz Ochlewski, perhaps the most productive musical activist in Poland in recent times and the founder of the Polskie Wydawnicto Muzyczne (Polish Musical Publication) in Cracow, the country's most significant institution for the publication of music and its literature.

The Three Miniatures for violin and piano, produced in 1959, are based on verses from the cycle Of the Genealogy of Instruments, by the Polish poet Jerzy Harasymowicz. The first section, Okaryna, celebrated the homely "sweet potato." The second, Basetla, depicts the small string bass popular in dance bands. The final section, Skrzypce, is about the violin itself. Although the entire sequence is performed in less than five minutes, it parades an astonishing assortment of effects: There is exaggerated vibrato—both excessively wide and tightly controlled—and a similar range of extremes in slow and fast trills; there is some playing behind the bridge, and the pianist is called upon, in the last five bars, to pluck the wires of his own instrument. The most unusual effect is called for in the second section, in which the pianist depresses the sustaining pedal (without striking a key) while the violinist leans into the open piano to play loud, percussive notes—exciting vibrations from the piano wires on a principle similar to that of the Aeolian harp or the "sympathetic" strings of the viola d'amore.

The String Quartet No. 1, composed in 1960 and first performed by the La Salle Quartet in Cincinnati on May 11, 1962, is a tightknit but serene work in a single brief movement. The score, unconventional in its notation, bears the note: "The tempo is determined by the duration of individual one-second sections. Deviations from this tempo within the limits from 0.8" to 1.4" for each section are admissible, depending on the first violinist's choice." Special symbols indicate instructions to play on the tailpiece of the instrument, to play between the bridge and tailpiece, to strike the sounding-board with the bow-handle or fingertips, to reach for the instrument's highest note (indefinite pitch), strike the strings with the open palm or fingers, and to produce various other effects.

The Stabat Mater for three sixteen-part choruses a cappella was originally composed in 1961, but has enjoyed a double life for the last several years, for Penderecki incorporated it into his St. Luke Passion (near the end of Part II) and, while it fits seamlessly into the larger work, it continues to be performed independently as well. Penderecki did not set the entire text of the familiar thirteenth-century poem, but selected from it the lines which might be said to depict the bereavement of the Mother in the most personal and poignant terms. Words are broken into syllables which are distributed in turn to each of the three choruses, and there is something like majesty in the way silences are used to project the starkness of the scene.

Reversing the procedure just described, the Miserere was composed originally as part of the St. Luke Passion (near the end of Part I in the sequence) and published on its own some time later (1967). It is scored for boys' choir and three adult choruses a cappella.

The Sonata for Cello and Orchestra, a serial work in two movements, was composed in 1964 and dedicated to Siegfried Palm, the young German cellist who has identified himself particularly with avant-garde music. It is a display-piece in a new context, to be approached only by the most secure and most avant of pyrotechnists—an exhaustive exposition of imaginative challenges for the soloist and, indeed, for the instrument itself.

Notes by Richard Freed

Credits & Track List:
  1. "Emanationen," for 2 String Orchestras — 7:50 Min.
Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg Alois Springer, Conductor

Miniatures for Violin and Piano (1959) — 4:52
  1. I
  2. II
  3. III
Min. Gabriel Banat, Violinist Ilana Vered, Pianist
  1. String Quartet (1960) — 6:59 Min.
The Kohon String Quartet
(Harold Kohon, 1st Violin; Isidora Kohon, 2nd Violin; Eugenie Dengel, Viola; W. Ted Hoyle, Cello)
  1. Stabat Mater — 7:49 Min.
Schola Cantorum Stuttgart Clytus Gottwald, Director

Sonata for Cello and Orchestra — 10:35 Min.
  1. I
  2. II
Thomas Blees, Cellist
Orchestra of Radio Luxembourg Alois Springer, Conductor
  1. Miserere — 3:33 Min.
Schola Cantorum Stuttgart Clytus Gottwald, Director

Download Links: Enjoy the Music!, or Here.

Other Recordings of Music by Penderecki:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Clarinet & Piano Works by Poulenc, Vaughan Williams, Berg & Schumann (1975)

Liner Notes:

Canadian Clarinetist James Campbell has performed successful recital tours of France, Germany, Yugoslavia, and Canada, and has appeared numerous times on C.B.C. Radio and Television, including twice with famed pianist Glenn Gould. Born in 1949, Campbell graduated with first class honors from the University of Toronto in 1971, having studied clarinet there with Abraham Galper. From 1971 through 1973, he studied in Paris with Yona Ettlinger, and in the summers of 1970 and 1971 he studied clarinet with Mitchell Lurie at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. He won first prize in the 1971 Canadian Broadcasting Co. Talent Festival and the 1971 Jeunesses Musicale International Clarinet Competition in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

John York was born in 1949 in Eastbourne, Sussex, England. In 1956 he gained two scholarships to Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. While there, he won the Silver Medal and Beethoven prize, and graduated in 1971 with three performance diplomas and Bachelor of Music degree. He then won the French Government Scholarship to study with Jacques Fevrier in Paris, and in 1972 won a scholarship to study in Vienna with Dieter Weber. He has given concerts throughout France and in 1973 won the first prize in the prestigious Debussy International Competition in Paris. About his professional London debut in 1974, the Daily Telegraph said "here total quality, phrasing, and significance were happily united into something that could only be described as exactly right".

Track List:

Francis Poulenc, Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1962): 13:03
  1. Allegro tristamente: 5:03
  2. Romanza: 4:50
  3. Allegro con fuoco: 3:02 
  1. Paul Jeanjean, Carnival of Venice (Theme and Variations): 4:50
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Studies in English Folk-Song: 3:48
  1. Lento: 1:27
  2. Adagio: 1:26
  3. Allegro vivace: :44
  1. Alban Berg, Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 5: 7:40
Robert Schumann, Fantasy Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 73: 9:40
  1. Zart und mit Ausdruck: 2:59
  2. Lebhaft, leicht: 2:47
  3. Rasch und mit fever: 3:48

Download Link: Enjoy the Music!, or Here.

Other recordings:

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Steve Lacy & Mal Waldron - Live At Dreher, Paris 1981: Round Midnight Vol 1

This first volume of the now legendary Lacy/Waldron duets in the '80s is a double CD, and so is the second. There are also at least two studio recordings from Paris issued by RCA/Bluebird from the same time period and two other live Lacy/Waldron duets on Hat. Are these cats just good pals who like to play together? This is, of course, only partially true and these recordings are the evidence. This pair thinks—at least musically—with a likemindedness that is uncanny. Whether Lacy and Waldron are approaching the work of Thelonious Monk—whose compositions they chose to start their sets with here—or their own works, the emphasis on stating melodic ideas in tandem with harmonic invention is prominent. In the swinging aspect of these duets there is braininess, and likewise in the deeper improvisations there is a tendency to root for melodic invention to provide balance. And that's what is achieved in these glorious sides: balance. Like the Tao, neither man approaches music to be anything other than what it is: the organization of sound, perfect conceptually, and with the proper chops and surrender to the muse, perfect musically. This is evidenced best in the two very different readings here of Monk's "'Round Midnight," one from each man's point of departure in terms of taking apart melody and mode until what is left are painterly, emotional clusters of timbres that still hold the composer's intentions in the forefront—though the tune has been extended and redesigned exponentially. When Lacy moves the entire structure up and octave and Waldron plays both harmony and rhythm, the inner beauty of Monk's character—and what he heard in Gershwin and Harold Arlen songs—becomes evident. In Waldron's "Snake Out," an exercise written particularly for this duet, the counterpoint gets knottier and gnarled and still comes out swinging. The listening is on the intense side, and neither man speaks with anything but a respectful economy—these guys play only what the music calls for, and no more. Waldron's soloing here reflects his kinship with Herbie Nichols: He is a technician in the best sense of the word and possesses a deep lyricism that informs his every key strike. His subtlety is breathtaking. Frank O'Hara wrote in the poem The Day Lady Died that "Mal Waldron whispered across the keyboard," and he does no matter what he's playing. This calls Lacy in from his outer reaches and brings his own sense of melodic genius to the fore. And both men have deep commitments to the jazz root-bed: blues. Entwined on two Monk tunes, two by Lacy, and six by Waldron (there are two versions of "Snake Out" here as well), Lacy and Waldron display what so few duets in jazz history have been able to conjure: true synchronicity. This is a wonderfully gratifying set; one only wishes she or he could have been there.—Thom Jurek, All Music Guide

  • Steve Lacy (Soprano Sax)
  • Mal Waldron (Piano)
  • Peter Pfister (Mastering)
  • Peter Pfister (Mixing)
  • Pia Uehlinger (Producer)
  • Werner X. Uehlinger (Producer)
  • Jean-Marc Foussat (Engineer)
Track List:
  1. Let's Call This (Waldron)
  2. Round Midnight (Monk)
  3. No Baby (Lacy)
  4. Herbe de l'Oubli (Lacy)
  5. Snake Out (Waldron)
  6. Round Midnight (Monk)
  7. Deep Endeavors (Waldron)
  8. A Case of Plus 's (Waldron)
  9. The Seagulls of Kristiansund (Waldron)
  10. Snake Out (Waldon)
Download Link: Enjoy the Music!, or Here.

Other Recordings by Steve Lacy & Mel Waldron:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gus Arnheim - From Films And Records 1928-29

Big Band music from the 20s from the guy who gave Bing Crosby his leg up. Contains a mix of instrumental and vocal numbers. This recording is now rather difficult to find even used and it is out of print.

Track List:
  1. Sing Me A Baby Song
  2. Who? You, That's Who!
  3. My Troubles Are Over
  4. Glad Rag Doll
  5. If I Can't Have You
  6. There's Something About A Rose
  7. Tiger Rag
  8. Back In Your Own Back Yard
  9. My Inspiration Is You
  10. Feelin' Good
  11. Every Time You Smile
  12. I Can't Live Without You
  13. La Rosita
  14. Stay Out Of The South
Download Link: Enjoy the Music!, or Here.

Other recordings featuring Gus Arnheim:

Monday, April 26, 2010

Floros Floridis, Nicky Skopelitis & Okay Temiz - Our Trip So Far (2001)

Just dredged this recording off an old collection of mp3 files and what a nice recording it is. I have long been fond of mixing a little East and West in my jazz and this hits the spot. Hard to classify (sometimes heads in an avant-garde direction) and very innovative.

"A Turk percussionist, a Greek on reeds and a Greek-American on guitars can only mean one thing: Ebullient originality. OUR TRIP SO FAR is brimming with the sounds of the East, the West, and the heart. Its uniqueness, however, doesn´t lie in its cultural diversity, it´s in the way these three instrumentalists experiment. Thus we have the traditional Greek 9/8 motif dressed in bold drums and daring reeds. Complex rhythmic patterns are thrown at the listener who´s thrown out of his seat once the guitars and sax take lead. . . Remember Coltrane´s Meditations or Davis´ Bitches Brew? Set yourself free and ´travel´—one instrument at a time. That´s the only way to get the complete jazz experience."—Maria Paravantes, Greek Beat, April 23, 2001.

  • Floros Floridis: flute, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinette Bb, bass clarinette
  • Nicky Skopelitis: electric guitar, electric 12 string guitar
  • Okay Temiz: drums, cembe, electric berimbao, guica, electronical pyramid
Track List:
  1. Nar Cicegi (Temiz) 4:18
  2. Pitch Black (Skopelitis) 5:23
  3. The Ever Sound (Floridis, Skopelitis, Temiz) 2:51
  4. Happy Elephant (Floridis) 8:29
  5. Stars (Floridis, Skopelitis, Temiz) 2:00
  6. Kulla Baba (Temiz) 3:48
  7. Night Falls (Floridis, Skopelitis) 6:11
  8. Greetings From Overseas (Floridis, Skopelitis, Temiz) 3:48
  9. The Light Blue Above (Skopelitis) 7:57
  10. Gringos (Floridis, Skopelitis, Temiz) 3:57
Download Link: Enjoy the Music!, or Here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beethoven - 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano (1972)

One of those forgotten minor gems by Beethoven. Long out of print and no complete recording by anyone currently available. The Musical Heritage Society had a penchant for releasing stuff like this. Sadly many of their older recordings have never been re-issued.

Liner Notes:

In a letter dated March, 1819, to his close friend Ferdinand Ries, Beethoven, in speaking of the recently completed monumental Hammerklavier Sonata, wrote, "The Sonata was composed under distressful circumstances, for it is hard to write almost for the sake of bread alone, and to this pass I have come." Indeed, in almost all the Beethoven letters of this period, one comes across the same complaint in various forms; namely, that the composer was compelled to do a lot of "scribbling" for the sake of money in order to procure leisure for great works. In addition to the hackwork, some of the "distressful circumstances" mentioned above included the tragically drawn-out legal suit Beethoven was bringing against his widowed sister-in-law in order to gain custody of his nephew Karl. Admirers of the composer's genius are rarely surprised, therefore, at the outbursts of demonic strength exhibited in some of the major works of the 1818-23 period: it is almost as if Beethoven were seeking some sort of heroic release from the pitiful circumstances of his private life.

And yet, a selfish posterity is grateful for the pitiful circumstances which compelled Beethoven to seek release in his art. It is even grateful that the composer had "to write almost for the sake of bread alone," for to the group of hackwork "scribblings" dating from this period we owe one of Beethoven's most charming and uncharacteristic works, the Ten Varied Themes for Pianoforte with optional accompaniment of flute or violin, Op. 107. The history of this delicious masterpiece in small is as follows:

On January 1, 1816, Beethoven's English publisher George Thomson wrote the composer and asked him to send him some specimen airs from Germany, Poland, Russia, the Tyrol, Venice, and Spain. Previously, Beethoven had done some work on selected British airs for Thomson and this had stimulated his interest in this particular branch of music. Thus had the idea come into being of some arrangements for trio of the folksongs of various nationalities. Beethoven was delighted with Thomson's request and on the following July 8th, sent him eighteen such airs, following this up shortly afterwards with one more.

According to C. B. Oldman ("Beethoven's Variations on National Themes: Their Composition and First Publication," Music Review, XII, 1951, pp. 45-51—summarized as one of Elliot Forbes' emendations to the masterly Thayer biography, Vol. II, p. 716), Thomson's subsequent request that Beethoven construct six potpourri overtures "for the pianoforte with these melodies as a basis" was humorously rejected by the composer. A later request from another publisher, Birchall, for "variations for favorite English, Scottish, and Irish airs," also came to nothing. Finally, on June 25, 1817, Thomson offered 72 ducats for variations (not more than eight) on any twelve of the airs "in an agreeable style and not too difficult."

When Beethoven finally answered (on February 21, 1818), it was with a counter-proposal that he compose twelve themes with variations either separately or simultaneously with twelve potpourri overtures, for the sum of 224 ducats.

Thomson's reply was to the effect that the composer could choose the majority of his themes from the Scottish airs which he already had harmonized and add a flute part ad libitum to the accompaniment. The publisher added, rather naively: And it would be quite desirable if you wrote the variations in a style that is familiar and easy and a bit brilliant, so that the majority of our ladies may play them and relish them." Whatever Beethoven may have thought of his publisher's advice, we know from the music that he complied with Thomson's requests to the letter, composing in all sixteen Themes and Variations on folk-song material. According to Thayer, six of them were published by Artaria in Vienna (Op. 105) and the other ten by Simrock in Bonn. (Op. 107).

In 1941, Breitkopf and Härtel brought out the numbers of Op. 107 in a rather expensive five-volume set (2 themes apiece). This is to be regretted, as the interested student, listener, and/or performer has no alternative, if he wishes to obtain the work, but to acquire Volume 19 of the Breitkopf Complete Works or the separate Breitkopf edition (which, incidentally, is difficult to get hold of). Possibly this accounts for the relative neglect which Beethoven's folk-song potpourris have been subjected to since their initial appearance. As was mentioned earlier, Op. 107 is a lovely and delightful work, made doubly interesting by the massive opus (the Hammerklavier) which it chronologically follows. In other words, it is fascinating to compare the piano writing, the emotional and technical resources of the folk-song potpourris to the deliberate aesthetic of the flawed masterpiece composed almost simultaneously with them. In the Hammerklavier, Beethoven, as had previously been the case with the Eroica Symphony, consciously tried to break with his artistic past and create something grander, more stirring, more resourceful than he had hitherto produced. Thus, to a friend who told the composer early in 1818 how moved he had been by a performance of the youthful Septet, Op. 20, Beethoven replied ". . . at that time [i.e. the year Op. 20 first appeared] I scarcely knew how to compose. Now [with the production of Op. 106] I am much more knowledgable." (!) One is reminded of Beethoven's remark after the composition of the great C sharp minor String Quartet: "Thank God there is less a lack of fancy than before!"

Thank God, too, that he saw fit to "relax" artistically, so to speak, after his most ambitious creations. To this "fancy" we owe the brilliant piano writing, the lovely flute/violin embellishments, the daring (extremely so) harmonic touches to be found in the Ten Varied Themes. Of the three versions in which the work may be found —piano solo, piano with violin or flute accompaniment—this writer prefers the one recorded here, as the piano/ flute combination generally called forth Beethoven's most exquisite coloristic experiments. For example, the careful listener should pay particular attention to the alternations of B Flat/C Flat in the opening variation of the ninth set and to the later alternations of FAG Flat in the same movement. The crowning variation of the entire work is unquestionably the penultimate one, which contains florid piano writing (Adagio espressivo) comparable to the great variation sets that followed: namely, the slow movements of Opp. 109, 111, and the Variations Nos. 29-31 of the Diabelli set. Altogether, an unjustly neglected representative of the composer's "unbuttoned" (the word is Beethoven's own) artistic moods.

  • Warren Thew, Piano
  • Raymond Meylan, Flute
Track List:
  1. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - I Air Tyrolian
  2. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - II Air Ecossais
  3. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - III Air de la Petite Russie
  4. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - IV Air Ecossais
  5. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - V Air Tyrolian
  6. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - VI Air Ecossais
  7. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - VII Air Russe
  8. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - VIII Air Ecossais
  9. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - IX Air Ecossais
  10. 10 Varied Themes for Flute and Piano - X Air Ecossais
Download Link: Enjoy the Music!

Other Recordings by these Performers:

Hanson and Barber - Symphonies (1954)

Liner Notes:

It was in 1930 that Howard Hanson (b. Wahoo, Nebraska, 1896) composed his Romantic Symphony (Symphony No. 2), a score which remains after 25 years the oldest symphony by an American composer still in the active concert repertoire. For all his immense activity as Director of the Eastman School of Music (since 1924), as founder-conductor of the American Composers' Concerts and American Music Festivals held at the Eastman School since 1925, and as guest conductor in heavy demand by symphony orchestras throughout the country, Dr. Hanson has not only continued his own creative work, but he has, achieved since the 1940's a singular distinctiveness, eloquence and refinement in his musical utterance.

With the Fourth Symphony (Requiem) (Mercury MG50077), the Serenade for Flute, Harp and Strings, the Pastorale for Oboe and Strings (both on Mercury MG50076) and the two major works offered on this disc, it can be said that the very cream of Howard Hanson's mature composition is to be had on Mercury Living Presence recordings.

The traditional materials of music as handed down from the classic and romantic symphonic masters, a keen awareness of Scandinavian heritage from his Swedish parents, childhood memories of the chorales heard at the Swedish Lutheran Church during his Nebraska boyhood, a passionate and vital nature of his own—these are the elements which have gone into the making of Howard Hanson's musical language. Experience, maturity and the passage of time have seen the untrammelled "nordicism" of the choral-orchestral Lament for Beowulf (1925) and the lyrical heroics of the Romantic Symphony (1930) become transmuted into a music more refined and at the same time more intense and truly personal, beginning with the Fourth Symphony (1943) and continuing through the intimate Serenade (1946) and Pastorale (1949), as well as the larger-scaled and more brilliant Cherubic Hymn (1949), Chorale and Alleluia for Band (1953) (recorded on Mercury MG50084, and Sinfonia Sacra. A particular musical "trademark" common to all these later scores from Howard Hanson's pen is his superbly effective use of passing dissonance as an element of contrast in prevailingly diatonic and modal harmonic texture. Characteristic also is the element of brevity in terms of actual performance time and concision in the use of thematic material.

Completed on August 8, 1594, Howard Hanson's Sinfonia Sacra is so titled because of its inspiration by the story of the Resurrection as recounted in the Gospel according to St. John. On the occasion of its world premiere by the Philadelphia Orchestra early in 1955, Eugene Ormandy conducting, Dr. Hanson wrote: "The Sinfonia Sacra does not attempt programmatically to tell the story of the first Easter, but does attempt to invoke some of the atmosphere of tragedy and triumph, mysticism and affirmation of this story which is the essential symbol of the Christian faith. . . . The Sinfonia Sacra follows three other works, all concerned with the same general theme: my Fourth or 'Requiem' Symphony, and two choral works, The Cherubic Hymn and How Excellent Thy Name." The music falls into three broad divisions played as a single uninterrupted movement. There is a foreboding and suspenseful Introduction, itself in three sections. There follows a division in which three sharply defined themes are set forth—an intense and declamatory Theme 1, a calm but sustained Gregorian-style melody for strings as Theme 2, and a Pastorale of distinctly Scandinavian flavor introduced by English horn as Theme 3. The development of this last leads to the third main division of the Sinfonia Sacra, wherein we hear a climactic return of the declamatory Theme 1, the introduction and development of a new and highly agitated Theme 4, then a catharsis which finds eloquent expression in a chorale treatment of Theme 2. The music ends with a brief and utterly serene codetta scored for woodwinds and muted strings.

Howard Hanson's setting of The Cherubic Hymn was composed in 1949 and dedicated to his mother. Its text forms part of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (d. 407), a basis of much of the ritual of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Greece, Russia and old Byzantium. The atmosphere of mystery and exaltation so characteristic of the Byzantine rite has inspired a number of other colorful and impressive musical works, among them Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture (Mercury MG50028 or MG50039) and Gustav Hoist's The Hymn of Jesus.

The text used by Dr. Hanson as translated by Stephen A. Hurlbut reads thus:

It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks unto Thee and to worship Thee in all places of Thy dominion- For Thy: God ineffable, inconceivable, incomprehensible, eternally existing and eternally the same, Thou and Thine only begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit. For Thou out of nothingness didst call us into being, and when we had fallen away Thou didst raise us up again, and didst not cease doing all things for us until Thou broughtest us up to heaven, and didst bestow upon us Thy kingdom which is to come. For all these things we give thanks to Thee and to Thine only begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit, for all Thy benefits known, for all unknown, for Thine open and secret favors bestowed upon us. And we tender thanks unto Thee for this ministry of worship which Thou hast vouchsafed to accept at our hand, although there stand before Thee thousands of archangels and ten thousands of angels, the Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim full of eyes, soaring aloft on their wings, singing the triumphal hymn, crying, calling aloud, and saying:

     Holy, Holy, Holy,
     Heav'n and earth are full of Thy glory.

Samuel Barber (b. West Chester, Pa., 1910) has with his choral-orchestra Prayers of Kierkegaard composed in 1954 carried to new heights the fulfillment of that immense creative promise shown in his setting of Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach and in his Overture to The School for Scandal (recorded on Mercury MG50075) which marked his graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music back in 1931. The First Symphony (1936) recorded here, together with the Adagio for Strings (1936) and Essay for Orchestra (1937) (also recorded on Mercury MG50075) comprise the very peak of Barber's first youthful creative -surge; and as such these have been the foundation stone of his worldwide fame as a true master among American composers. The lyrical and polyphonic achieve a remarkable synthesis throughout the whole of Barber's output, whether in terms of writing for solo voice and orchestra as in Knoxville: Summer of 1915; in terms of a rigorously intellectual chamber piece like the Capricorn Concerto; or the impassioned dramatics of the Symphony No. 1.

It was during the winter of 1935-36 that Barber composed his First Symphony and it was given its premiere in Rome under the direction of Bernardino Molinari with the Augusteo Orchestra. In 1937 Artur Rodzinski conducted the American premiere with The Cleveland Orchestra, then conducted the work again at Salzburg that summer. In 1942, during which period he had composed his Second Essay for Orchestra, Barber re-wrote the "scherzo" section of his First Symphony, and the revised version was heard for the first time on February 18, 1944 with Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra. It is the revised version which is recorded here.

Barber's own analysis is clear, concise and complete: "The form," he observes, "is a synthetic treatment of the four-movement classical symphony. It is based on three themes of the initial Allegro non troppo, which retain throughout the work their fundamental character. The Allegro opens with the usual exposition of a main theme, a more lyrical second theme, and a closing theme. After a brief development of the three themes. instead of the customary recapitulation, the first theme, in diminution, forms the basis of the scherzo section (Vivace). The second theme (oboe over muted strings) then appears in augmentation, in an extended Andante tranquillo. An intense crescendo introduces the finale, which is a short passacaglia based on the first theme (introduced by violoncelli and contrabassi), over which, together with figures from other themes, the closing theme is -coven, thus serving as a recapitulation for the entire symphony."


The music on this disc was recorded with a single Telefunken microphone hung in the Eastman Theater adjacent to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N. Y. The Cherubic Hymn by Howard Hanson was recorded during May of 1953, while the symphonies by Dr. Hanson and Samuel Barber were taped one year later.

For this Mercury Living Presence recording of mixed chorus with orchestra, a single microphone was used, as in the case of the purely orchestral works here, with the position of the orchestra being only slightly altered to accommodate the nearly 200 voices of the Eastman School of Music Chorus. Those who listen to this disc will be able to judge for themselves how successfully Mercury's Living Presence recording technique has captured the massive sonorities of full chorus and orchestra in The Cherubic Hymn and the complex polyphonic textures of Samuel Barber's First Symphony.

 Credits: Eastman-Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Eastman School of Music Chorus conducted by Howard Hanson.
  1. Symphony No. 5 (Sinfonia Sacra)
  2. The Cherubic Hymn
  3. Symphony No. 1 in One Movement, Op. 9
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Other Recordings of these Works:

Children of the Day - Never Felt so Free (1977)

This is the 5th and next to last recordings by Children of the Day. Stylistically they go all over the place, sounding at times a little like 2nd Chapter of Acts or a little like Love Song and they even sound a bit like Chicago on a couple of tunes. All original material in a soft rock vein, most of the songs written by Peter Jacobs, with a couple by Wendy Fremin or Marsha Stevens. Several of the backup musicians will be familiar to long-time Jesus music fans (see the credits below.)
  • Vocals: Peter Jacobs, Wendy Fremin, Marsha Stevens, Russ Stevens
  • Drums: John Mehler
  • Guitars: Jim Stipech, Wendy Fremin and Bob Ayala
  • Keyboards and Vibes: Peter Jacobs
  • Bass: Russ Stevens
  • Soprano Sax: Craig Olson
  • Percussion: Marsha Stevens
  • Congas: Al MacDougal
  • Produced by Peter Jacobs and Marsha Stevens
  • Arranged and Orchestrated by Peter Jacobs
Track List:
  1. Let Me Take You
  2. Sing Me A Song
  3. Letting Go
  4. Givin' To Jesus
  5. I'm In Love
  6. Born Again
  7. God Has Become (Everything I Need)
  8. I'd Do Anything
  9. Reflection
  10. Victory Song
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

American Communal Music of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Volume 1

Classical music from 17th and 18th century America is not often heard, European music of the same era being more abundant and the composers better known. This recording uncovers some real jewels from this little known era, all of which were influenced by early Moravian, Shaker and Harmonist communities. A cross-section of instrumental and choral works are included. This is a delightful recording which was never issued on CD. The recording was originally funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was overseen by the National Historic Communal Societies Association.

Credits: Collegium Musicum of the School of Music of Ohio University, Richard D. Wezel, Director

Choral Ensemble:
  • Coleen Bachman
  • Matt Griffin
  • Dana Hendricks
  • Anne Hook
  • Kevin King
  • Paul Leedy
  • Daniel Melvin
  • Edward Payne
  • Heidi Saari
  • Jeffrey Schneider
  • Kira Seaton
  • Donna Seelhörst
  • Metra Smith
  • Steve Stewart
  • Sherry Woodroof
  • Ira Zook
  • Marcia Henry, violin 1
  • Sam McClure, violin 2
  • Eun Soon Lee, viola
  • Michele Senger, violoncello
  • Rick Leinecker, horn 1
  • Salvatore Lovano, horn 2
  • Eileen Latimer, flute
  • Audrey Tice, clarinet
  • Steve Reisteter, clarinet and flute
  • Harold Robison, bassoon 1
  • Julie Bastian, bassoon 2
  • Geoffrey Fischer, harpsichord

Track List:
  1. Michael - Parthia No. VI in F - III Menuet
  2. Michael - Parthia No. VI in F - IV Rondo Allegretto
  3. Grimm - Terzetto in G Major - I Allegro
  4. Grimm - Terzetto in G Major - III Vivace
  5. Grimm - Trio for Violin, Cello and Continuo - I Adagio
  6. Gaudeamus Priter Omnes - Nun last unser dieser Frist
  7. Geisler - Die Frucht des Geistes is Liebe
  8. Happy Home
  9. Solemn Song
  10. Am I Worthy
  11. Great I little i
  12. Come Up Hither
  13. Müller - Die Menschenlieb
  14. Müller - Herr, Führe Mich
  15. Eckensperger - Aria - O Nacht! Und O du Feyerliche Stille
  16. Eckensperger - Chorale - Wie wird des Grabes Nacht entweichen
  17. Bonnhorst - Quadrille No. 1
  18. Peters - Economy Waltz
  19. Peters - Economy Quickstep
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Other Recordings:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Kaija Saariaho - Chamber Works (2004)

A skilled colorist and an innovative explorer of acoustics and live electronics, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho employs a wide variety of natural and synthesized sonorities in her uncompromisingly avant-garde chamber works. Incorporating computer technology with traditional instruments, Saariaho creates elaborate structures in which eerie twitters, haunting whispers, and occasionally frightening screeches unexpectedly emerge from more familiar timbres. Cendres; Noa Noa; the two versions of Mirrors, Spins and Spells; and Laconisme de l'aile cross back and forth between ordinary sound production and novel, otherworldly effects. Only Monkey Fingers, Velvet Hand for solo piano sounds conventional, though its riffs on "Come Together" and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" by the Beatles make it rather curious. But among this album's daring and predominantly dark pieces, Petals for cello and electronics and the Six Japanese Gardens for percussion and electronics are the most alien and chilling, and stand out as Saariaho's most original efforts. The Wolpe Trio—flutist Lesley Olson, cellist Scott Roller, and pianist Susanne Achilles—specializes in extended techniques and is clearly at home in Saariaho's strange but interesting music. Joined by virtuoso percussionist Andreas Boettger and electronics technician Thomas Neuhaus, these musicians present a fine package of new music, sympathetically played and recorded with clear and balanced sound.—Blair Sanderson, All Music Guide

  • Susanne Achilles - Piano
  • Andreas Boettger - Percussion, Electronics
  • Thomas Neuhaus - Electronics
  • Lesley Olson - Flute
  • Scott Roller - Cello
  • Wolpe Trio - Ensemble
  • Jakob Gasteiger - Cover Art
Track List:
  1. Cendres
  2. NoaNoa
  3. Mirrors
  4. Spins And Spells
  5. Monkey Fingers, Velvet Hand
  6. Petals
  7. Mirrors
  8. Laconisme de l'aile
  9. Six Japanese Gardens - I Tenju-an Garden of Nanzen-ji Temple
  10. Six Japanese Gardens - II Many Pleasures (Garden of the Kinkaku-ji)
  11. Six Japanese Gardens - III Dry Mountain Stream
  12. Six Japanese Gardens - IV Rock Garden of Ryoan-ji
  13. Six Japanese Gardens - V Moss Garden of the Saiho-ji
  14. Six Japanese Gardens - VI Stone Bridges
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Other Music by Kaija Saariaho: