29 October 2016

I was looking at the other offers of an eBay seller and happened on a CD by composer Alla Pavlova, whom I had never heard of. Wondered who she was and what the music sounded like. Turns out to be born in Russia in 1952, established in the US in 1990, and apparently a late developer, limiting herself for a long time to Lieder and short piano pieces and writing her first big symphonic piece only in 1994. As for what the music sounds like, well, it’s on YouTube. The little presentation blurb says that “her language, in the beginning close to the avant-garde, shifted to neo-romanticism from year 2000 on.”. You bet! What it sounds like? Like Delius or the tritest early 20th century romantics, in too long and repeating again and again the same motives. It’s appalling. I’m listening as I write this (second movement) ad I don’t know if I’ll be able to reach the end. I wonder when she’ll shift to writing in the style of Mozart: like, when Trump gets elected?

Anything goes in our age of absolute philistinism. A composer can relinquish any compositional exigency, write anything that comes through his mind, any pastiche derivative of the tritest music from a century ago, and you’ll find Naxos to record it and an audience to clap and cheer. And when do painters go back to painting in the style of Frederic Remington? Now wouldn’t THAT put New York back at the center of the arts map? But, sure, there might be an undiscriminatng public for it…

I immediatly wrote a very scathing review which I posted on Amazon. Since I don’t even own that CD, I wonder if it is legitimate to publish it here…

The presentation blurb on YouTube calls her “one of the foremost female composers of her generation”.  Is the level really so low?

There’s one silver lining to it: here’s a bunch of CDs that I won’t feel an urge to buy.

P.S. Looking at the CD’s backcover, I see that it the recording was “made possible thanks to generous sponsorship from Mind for Health”. Oh, okay, I was surprised too that Naxos’ Klaus Heymann, usually a shrewd businessman, would have financed such muck with his own pocket money. But who the heck is “Mind for Heath”? Google seach… oh yeah… Hypnosis, huh?… “biofeedback therapy” and “self-regulation training”? Well, I guess there’s a pattern there…


Posted my reviews of Reinbert de Leeuw’s live 2005 remake of Louis Andriessen: De Tijd (Time). Schönberg Ensemble & ASKO Ensemble, Reinbert De Leeuw. Attacca 25100 (2005), Etcetera KTC 9000 – CD 20 (2006), and of Louis Andriessen: Melodie (Frans Brüggen, Louis Andriessen), Symfonie voor losse snaren (Caecilia Ensemble, Ed Spanjaard). Attacca Babel 9267-6 (1992)

28 October 2016

I’ve been doing more listening than reviewing these last few days, and more reviewing than posting, so now I need to catch up. Among other things I’ve been following the “Dutch music” thread.

Alexander Voormolen: Baron Hop Suites, Concerto for Two Oboes, Eline. Residentie Orchestra The Hague, Mathias Bamert. Chandos 9815 (2000)

Louis Andriessen: De Tijd (Time). Schönberg Ensemble, Percussion Group The Hague, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Reinbert De Leeuw. Ekektra Nonesuch 7559-79291-2 (1993)


22 October 2016

Yep, great disc, Working on Time by the Maarten Altena Ensemble (see my post of yesterday), just posted my review. It’s great because, while elaborating on works of the past, from Machaut to Brian Eno / David Byrne via Mahler, the compositions never fall into pastiche, they are each a very original take on their respective source. Now I need to create those damn composer entries! And it’s not like I was done already with those of New Trombone Collective!

As I created an entry for the English composer Richard Ayres, I transferred from Amazon my two reviews of his music, from 2015, on Composer’s Voice and NMC. I’d been wanting to do that for a while – to complete the As. I’ve still got a way to go: I haven’t reviewed much Absil, Adam, Addison, Addy, Alfonso el Sabio, Maria de Alvear, the Andriessens, Anhalt, Antill, Arensky, Arutiunian, Asmus, Astier, Attaingnant, Aulin or even John Adams, and nothing yet I think of Albinoni, Albeniz, Alkan (although I have a lot on my shelves, especially the latter), but quite a few CDs from Adès, Alwyn, Artyomov and Auric… and a lot of Antheil!

Am listening to the piano sonatas of Czerny as I’m writing this – a little escapade from my contemporary Dutch composers. I knew already that I liked Czerny’s piano Etudes – not the dry studies in digital velocity that posterity has made them, but little self-contained musical gems. Given Czerny’s ties to Beethoven I expected his piano sonatas to be very Beethovenian indeed, but what strikes me on first hearing of the first sonata is how close to Schubert it sounds…

21 October 2016

The problem with reviewing large collections with multiple composers, as the New Trombone Collective 3-CD set (see my post of yesterday) is that I then have to index every composer, and thus create presentation pages for each. All this will go much faster in ten years from now, when I’ve transferred all my reviews from Amazon and have created most of those composer entries already, but now, it’s tedious and exhausting: Derek Bourgeois, Martijn Padding, Sweelinck, Ruud Van Eeten, Eric Ewazen, Jacob ter Veldhuis, Enrique Crespo, Mark Nightingale, David Popper, Domenico Gabrielli, George Delerue, Joseph Jongen, Georgi Swiridow, Vincent Persichetti, Koen Kaptijn, Hans Hasebos, Louis Couperin, Saskia Apon, Debussy, Hans Koolmees, Haydn, Ilja Reijngoud, that’s 22 entries to create. My tongue is hanging like a spent horse…

As I created an entry for Ter Veldhuis, I transferred from Amazon my recent review of his String Quartets. Ter Veldhuis’ music is better than his philistine stance on “intellectualism” vs “emotions” in composition would let you expect.

As I was reconstructing the catalogs of some of those Dutch labels, NM Classics, Donemus Composer’s Voice, Etcetera, Q-Disc, I took the opportunity to buy some that both seemed appealing and sold cheap. Sometimes you’re lucky, sometimes you’re not. With this one I am: I’m listening to “Working on Time”, a disc by the Maarten Altena Ensemble on NM Classics, 92063. Doing my discographies I had seen the MAE around, but I thought it was a group of Dutch free jazz. Well, I think it is, but not only. Here it plays pieces of contemporary classical by various Dutch composers, including Altena (and one by Martijn Padding, whose work on the New Trombone Collective’s set was the one that really stood out). I read Altena’s bio, and he was conservatory-trained as a contrabassist, and plays and composes both jazz and contemporary classical. I’m half-way through the disc and, beyond the punning and clever title (some of the compositions are based on pieces of Machaut, Downland, Purcell…) it’s great, very original pieces.

20 October 2016

Woof. Was able today to listen to and review New Trombone Collective,  Etcetera KTC 1355, from 2007, gathering 3 CDs, KTC 1284, KTC 1353 and KTC 1354. That’s one I had bought recently on eBay, more or less at random, among huge bulks sellling cheap that I’m hoarding for some elusive “later” and in the hope that I’ll live 200 years. I’m not sure why I decided to listen to this one…. probably because it fell out of any clear category where I could shelve it… Alas this one didn’t entirely repay the effort. Nothing truly memorable, except for one piece, Martijn Padding’s And trees would sing for tenor and trombone quartet. If I may be permitted to quote myself, “it is highly original in its choice of text – the description by a friend of Dylan Thomas of what would have been the opera that had been discussed one afternoon in 1953 with Stravinsky, that never went beyond that discussion – and a fine and haunting piece, with a very inventive vocal line and trombone score, sounding a bit like a modernized Oberon aria from Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the stuff of nightmares rather than the stuff of dreams”.

18 October 2016

Woof. As announced, I listened to the 6-CD tribute to Dutch composer Ton Bruynèl. It’s great, the ultimate and definitive retrospective of his works and a must-have collector’s item. Bruynèl, inspired by the French “Music Concrète”, was a master both in the sonic imagination of his compositions for tape, and in – more than “mixing”: blending these with the sound of acoustic instruments.

The great thing with being a small country (like the Netherlands, or Denmark) is, a. that you have far less composers than in a big country and b. therefore, you can set up institutions with the mission of championing and promoting these composers. The Dutch Muziekgroep Nederland was such an institution. From what I’ve been able to gather online – mostly in Dutch and awkwardly translated by Google but intelligibly enough for me to be able to reconstruct the original meaning – from 2000 to 2004 it merged the activies of Donemus (Documentatie Nederlandse Muziek), the Dutch documentation center and publisher of classical and contemporary music (founded as far back as 1947), with its record label Composer’s Voice and its program NEAR (Nederlands Elektro-Akoestisch Repertoirecentrum) for the documentation of Dutch electro-acoustic music, and CNM the Centrum voor Nederlandse Muziek (Dutch Music Centre), itself estabished in 1989 (but pursuing the activities of Bfo / Bumafonds, the fund established in the 1970s by the Dutch composers’ collecting society), organizer of concerts and producer of the label NM Classics in cooperation with the Dutch Radio.

Apparently Muziekgroep Nederland ran into a critical financial situation in 2003 due to mismanagement, and in 2008 it merged again into the Muziek Centrum Nederland (MCN), together with the Gaudeamus Foundation for the promotion of Dutch contemporary composers, and various other organizations occupied with Duth popular music. In 2013 the Dutch Ministry of Culture cut its funding (sad times) and the group ceased its activities, but (relief!) with Donemus and Gaudeamus resuming their independent existence.

A lot of research behind the two previous paragraphs, just to say that I have two other such retrospective boxes devoted to Dutch composers:

NM Classics NM 92133 Peter Schat Complete Works (12 CDs), a joint production from Radio Netherlands and Donemus, published in 2006, barcode 5425008375267

Donemus CV 90-93 Leo Smit Complete Works (4 CDs), barcode 8713309100907 (2000). The same set was also isued by NM Classics, NM 93003 barcode 8713309930030 (listed and sold on various commercial websites including Amazon.com and Amazon.de, but I haven’t been able to find a cover photo), and republished in 2014 by Etcetera, KTC 1516, barcode 8711801015163.

While I was listening to the Bruynèl collection, I also busied myself with reconstructing the discographies of the labels NM Classics and Donemus CV.


14 October 2016

Transferred from Amazon my reviews of

Graham Fitkin: Hard Fairy (piano pieces). Argo 444 112-2 (1994)

Dutch Pianists’ Quartet / Nederlands Pianisten Kwartet: Works for two pianos eight hands (Robert Nasveld: Three Pieces for two pianos eight-hands, Theo Loevendie: For Jan, Piet and Klaas, Ton Bruynèl: Rain for 2 pianos 8 hands & sounds, Maurice Ravel: Frontispice for 2 pianos 5 hands, François-Bernard Mâche: Styx, Lethe, Graham Fitkin: Untitled 1, Sciosophy). Attacca Babel 9481 (1994)

…and, since my review of the former referred to this other recording of François-Bernard Mâche’s compositions:

François-Bernard Mâche: Music for Pianos, Maurice Ohana: Sorôn-Ngô. Martine Vialatte, Clotilde Ovigne, Hélène Bellanger, Christine Chareyron, Leonor Lopez Cossani. Naxos 8.557988 (2006)

I also created the missing composers’ entries. Re-reading my review of the Dutch Pianist’s Quartet, dating from May 2015, I saw that I had written, about Ton Bruynèl (a Dutch composer, 1934-1998, with whose work this was my first encounter, influenced by the French “Musique concrète” and whose thing is about mixing acoustic instruments and sounds): “here’s a composer worth exploring further”. Well, now, more than a year later, I can: in May 2016 (not remembering about that comment) I made the acquisition of the ultimate Ton Bruynèl retrospective set, a 6-CD compilation of his works published by CV Near 12, barcode 8713309102123. That’s going to be my next listen.

13 October 2016

A small step for mankind but a great step for my website: I’ve figured out how to use the image magnifier plugin. Indispensable. I’ve been and will be posting many scans of CD front and backcovers. And it’s really the backcovers that provide the important information: track listing, performers, sometimes recording information, and, most important of all: barcode, which is the surest why to find the CD on most commercial websites.

But so far, I’ve inserted the photos side by side, at a size that would fit the page when it was almost entirely wide open on a computer screen. This didn’t go to well when width was reduced, photos would then be repositioned on top of each other. And who knows how they look on portable devices with small screens, smartphones and all… And anyway, even at that size, I didn’t find the backcover informaton always very legible.

So I really needed to find a magnifying application like those on Amazon or eBay, by which you can insert the image in smaller size, but then hover over it or click on it and it opens some kind of pop-up window from which you can see the image in much closer detail.

Well, I have. It’s not perfect but it’s good enough. Now of course I have to go back to each of my reviews and change the image settings. Sigh… Oh well, it did serve a purpose. I found a few typos, some missing links and, horror, even some reviews entirely missing their photos! How could I let that pass?

12 October 2016

Yep, no reviews posted in he last few days. One or two are almost ready, I spent some time listening to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Double Concertos, I need to put the finishing touches to them. But checking some niceties about the discs’ barcodes sent me furiously compiling discographies of various labels, Erato’s early years (whence I discovered that they had a specific barcode for US distribution) and, one thing leading to  the other (sometimes, just a mislisted CD on Amazon that I had to figure out), the Dutch Etcetera, MCA Classics and its sublabel Arts & Electronics.

But, finally, I had time to listen to and review Robert Volkmann’s two Piano Trios on Cpo. Magnificent works, of Brahmsian sweep and intensity, and, really, of equal stature as those of Brahms. Why are Brahms’ so universally popular and recorded, and those of Volkmann so unknown? Oh, a number of reasons I’m sure (see my review) – but not because of their unequal musical merit. The two of Volkmann belong with those of Brahms, and posterity is a bitch…