29 October 2017

I’ve done the comparative listening that what I have in my collection allowed me to do and completed, at least temporarily, my Ibert review. Much to my surprise, I did not have any alternative recording of the quite popular Saxophone concerto – but did have two of the fairly unknown (and marvelous) Cello Concerto. Well, that’ll change soon: go to Amazon, look for what’s attractive and cheap, and clic!

I’ve much enjoyed doing the comparative recording. Ibert’s music isn’t profound but it’s very entertaining, witty, and sometimes even poetic. And great cadenzas in the Cello Concerto, reminiscent in places of Kodaly’s Solo Cello Sonata (also an observation made with the cadenza in Honegger’s Cello Concerto, a composition very similar in mood to Ibert’s, although the cadenza was written not by the composer but by his premiere performer Maurice Maréchal). So here it is, Jacques Ibert: Concerto pour violoncelle, Capriccio, Concertino da Camera, Trois Pièces brèves, Le Jardinier de Samos. Sonia Wieder-Atherton, Daniel Gremelle, Ensemble Erwartung, Bernard Desgraupes. Adda 581262

There was an eBay offer coming up this morning of EMI’s Martha Argerich Edition Chamber Music, 094014-2 (2011), barcode 5099909401426 (8 CDs), so I researched what that compilation might be: new stuff or simply reissues from EMI’s catalog? Turns out it’s all reissues, most selected from EMI’s Martha Argerich & Friends live from Lugano series (from which I already had a number of sets), and some from EMI’s Martha Argerich “Music from Saratoga” series. So better go to the sources, and I profited from Amazon’s cheap prices to add some more to my collection of Argerich Lugano sets.

I didn’t have in my collection the Music from Saratoga CD with Argerich joining Itzhak Perlman to play Franck’s Sonata and Beethoven’s Kreutzer – a live recording from 1998 which gets rave reviews online – but then I remembered that I had borrowed it from the library some years ago and reviewed it on Amazon – negatively. In Franck’s Sonata (I haven’t listened as thoroughly yet to Beethoven’s Kreutzer), Argerich is just over the top, she fusses, distorts the flow of the music, tries so hard to make a personal statement (“hey! listen! it’s me! you know: ME!” – very appropriate that she should get top billing on the CD cover) that she forgets the simplicity of the music. She reminds me here of what Anne-Sophie Mutter often does at the fiddle.

Anyway, I took the occasion to import the review from Amazon. It’s here.

28 October 2017

A wonderful anecdote about Lucien Durosoir (about my enthusiastic discovery of this entirely unknown French composer of the generation of Ravel, see my blog post of October 11, and my review of his string quartets). I had lunch today with dear old friends, he a composer, she not particularly a music person. So we spent a long French lunch (but it’s Saturday, okay?) chit-chatting about this and that. Now, in the wake of my discovery of Durosoir’s quartets, I had ordered and have received the CD of his works for violin and piano, and I’ve been listening to it, first in an unconcentrated, “dipping into it” manner, in the car. First impression: fabulous music, confirming my enthusiasm for Durosoir. It strongly evokes the violin-piano music of George Enesco – and that’s a huge compliment coming from me, because I think Enesco’s violin-piano music is fabulous. Can’t wait to lend Durosoir’s violin-piano works a true concentrated listen and write a review.

So, I had been listening to those works of Durosoir while driving to my friend’s house, and at one point in the conversation with them, not that I thought it would be particuliarly interesting to them, especially since I had left the CD in the car and couldn’t play it to them so it would remain very abstract, but just because we were chit-chatting about this and that and a moment came when we had exhausted the subject we had been chit-chatting about, I mentioned my recent discovery of this great, totally unknown composer. I described a bit the biography of Durosoir, not actually mentioning his name, both because I was keeping it as a punch-line of sorts, and also because, well, who cares the name? It wasn’t essential to my story, the guy could have been called John Doe or Jean Dupont, it didn’t make a huge difference for my interlocutors. So I bla-blaed my way through the composer being a concert violinist, trained by Joachim, premiering Brahms’ Violin Concerto in France, deciding in the trenches of the 14-18 conflict, at the age of 40, that he’d become a composer, and indeed becoming one, but remaining totally unknown because living in total seclusion his a house in the Landes region in France’s south-west, and…

And that’s when my she-friend stepped in and said: “oh, yes, Lucien Durosoir!”

My jaws dropped to the ground, I was speechless, how could she…. I mean…. unknown composer… she not being particularly involved in music… WTF?…..

Turns out her parents come from the same Landes region and are acquainted with the Durosoir family, that the Durosoir son regularly organizes concerts in the Durosoir mansion there, the parents regularly attent and she’s even met the Durosoirs!

I mean… what are the odds? I wasn’t even going to mention Durosoir because I thought it would be of little interest to my friends… I don’t believe in anything like fate, and that’s why I love it so much when improbable coincidences occur (except when it’s a piano falling from the 7th floor exactly when I happened to be walking under…).

Among many other activities, I’ve been listening lately to music of Jacques Ibert, and enjoyed it a lot, his Concertos for Cello, Saxophone and various other works for small, predominantly wind ensembles. I’ve published my review already, but I need to complete it with some comparative listening.

25 October 2017

Continuing my exploration of the early CD catalog of the French independent label Accord: Narciso Yepes “Jeux Interdits / Forbidden Games”, Accord 139225 (1986) or 222032. As good an introduction to the Art of Yepes as any, and a compilation of tracks going back, it seems, to old Decca recordings (and trying to locate those sources took more time than actually listening to the CD) – but sounding good.

And, again, a helluvalot of work for a modest review, checking on the sources, the original pieces, correcting errors, creating the composers’ entries….

24 October 2017

Been busy with a number of things: compiling discographies, but also saving onto an external drive and transfering onto new computer music files from the old computer from over a year ago. Lots of work, because when you rip onto iTunes and leave it to iTunes to organize the files, it is total, total havoc. It’s a software designed for pop, where “Artists” rule, not for classical, where composer dominates.

I didn’t mind too much losing those files when they were my own CDs that I had ripped, because I still have the CDs and in case of need can rip them again. But there were therein a number of (legitimate and paid-for) downloads that are precious to me, and that includes, among much else, Bartòk’s three piano concertos with three different Hungarian pianists under Janos Ferencsik, recordings from the late 1950s / early 1960s, a download from Hungaroton not available in CD form and which was a hell to obtain, because Hungaroton’s website is (or was when I purchased) in Hungarian only… So good luck on figuring it out. But that’s a story in itself, which I may recount, some appropriate day. Other files that I wanted to retrieve were many recordings of the music of Simeon Ten Holt, a number of downloads of old recordings from Pristine Classical or CHARM, my own transfers of Schubert’s Quintet by the Taneyev Quartet and Rostropovich, etc. Well, deed finally done, they are all on external drive and well-organized, now I need to extra-save them on a safety drive and reimport on the current computer.

So that explains why so little activity on this website these last ten days. As I am compiling a discography of the label Accord, I’m also purchasing for cheap, and that resulted in a review of Ponchielli: Musique pour mon salon, chamber works, mostly light-fare although with moments of fine pathos and lyricism, and, unsurprisingly very much sounding like opera arias or scenes in miniature.

12 October 2017

Since I was on the label Alpha (see my blog post of yesterday), I imported from Amazon the review of another Alpha CD, of French late-Renaissance composer Charles Tessier, “Carnets de voyage”, by Le Poème Harmonique under Vincent Dumestre.

And when I put up René Clemencic‘s Drachenkampf in its rightful alphabetical place on my shelves, he happened to slot in right besides the CDs of Italian Aldo Clementi (that would be followed by Muzio Clementi, but my many Clementi CDs are stacked elsewhere, awaiting thorough comparative listening), so again I took the occasion to import my one review posted on Amazon, for his Madrigale on Hat[now]ART 123. I also pulled out of my shelves for re-listening and reviewing, his monographic CD on Dischi Ricordi CRMCD 1004, with various recordings from the Italian radio of pieces composed between 1977 and 1985. Stay tuned.

I also created the composers entries for Clemencic, Clementi, Durosoir and Tessier. I realize that I’m still missing composer entries for Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Jean-Marie Leclair and a number of others from those collection discs of music from the French Revolution that I’ve reviewed lately, and I also have to create those for Leo Hassler, Dowland and Maurice/Moritz de Hesse, all represented on Alpha’s CD of Tessier. Now here’s a real mission. I’ll go shave first.

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Later in the day. I’ve shaved, and created those entries for Hassler, Dowland and Moritz de Hesse. Now what new goal may I set to myself?I know. Leclair, Boulogne Chevalier de Saint-George, Méhul, Catel, Duvernoy, Gebauer, Jadin, etc. Ouh la la. At least letting the beard grow back requires no work.

11 October 2017

Haven’t been very active on the website these last days, but that’s because I was active working on label discographies of the French Adès, Adda and Accord – all related not just by alphabetical order, but also because at one point they were distributed by Musidisc and shared barcodes. Lots of work, compiling all and sorting out what came out under which label.

But I’ve also been listening to various stuff and taking notes for reviews, but there is a step (and time) between that and actually writing and posting the reviews. But I finally did.

Of course, compiling those discographies, I chance on offers that are so cheap that they are hard to resist. The bargains you make if you’re ready to wait 10 or 20 years to buy a CD (I know, it’s not something record labels would like to read, and I am sawing the branch on which I am sitting… guilt guilt guilt… but money money money…).

That’s how I chanced on the composition of René Clemencic, Drachenkampf, The Fight of the Dragon, on Accord. Clemencic is mostly, and possibly exclusively, known as a recorder player, keyboard player, musicologist and conductor (with his pioneer period-instrument ensemble “Clemencic Consort”) of Medieval-to-Baroque music. But he’s a composer too. Drachenkampf, scored for wind quintet and percussion, sounds very much like a more advanced version of Carl Orff (but the later Orff of the Greek tragedies rather than the earlier and more popular Orff of Carmina Burana), but (“and” ?) I’ve enjoyed it a lot, so much so that I immediately ordered more disc’s of Clemencic’s musc.

And then, there are the three string quartets of Lucien Durosoir. I’ve been under their spell for a couple of weeks now. I had never heard of Durosoir, this is a CD I bought “blindly” from an eBay seller with a lot of bargain offers, and at 5 dollars, one can afford to take risks. Based on the label, Alpha, I even thought Durosoir was some obscure French composer from the baroque era. Wide off the mark. Born in 1878, he was a contemporary of Ravel, Schmitt, Caplet. His career began as a famed concert violinist (he is said to have given the French premiere of Brahms’ Violin Concerto), and it is only after World War One, aged 43, that he began composing. He then lived in near-complete seclusion, and apparently his scores weren’t even published. His three quartets date from 1919, 1922 and 1934. They are absolutely magnificent works, combining an exacerbated lyricism and an intricate counterpoint. Various reminiscences came to mind while listening to Durosoir’s quartets, Ravel (but, without being avant-garde, his language is more advanced then Ravel’s, and his form much freer), Schmitt, but also, especially in the 3rd Quartet, the most advanced of the three, Janacek and Britten, and still others. Not to say that his quartets are derivative. They can be listened to and enjoyed without any references. Durosoir deserves a public rediscovery.