13 November 2013

Yesterday and today, published my reviews of volumes 2 and 3 of Cpo’s traversal of Hendrik Andriessen’s Symphonic Works:

Hendrik Andriessen: Symphonic Works volume 2 (Symphony No. 2, Ricercare, Mascherata, Wilhelmus van Nassouwe). Netherlands SO, David Porcelijn, Cpo 777 722-2 (2013)

Hendrik Andriessen: Symphonic Works volume 3 (Symphony No. 3, Symphony Concertante, “Chantecler” Overture). Netherlands SO, David Porcelijn, Cpo 777 723-2 (2015)

Pe’l piacer di porle in lista, and to see the huge backlog of unlistened CDs shrink by a few milimeters, and to have three more slotted in on the shelve, between Elfrida Andée and Louis Andriessen (not to neglect the pleasure of listening to the music, of course, not an entirely negligible factor).


10 November 2016

Of course, there’s no “China Wall” between my activities of listening and reviewing, and the “real world”. Yesterday waking up I learned of Trump’s election. The night before it seemed so improbable – but I should have known: everything with Trump has seemed improbable until now – that I didn’t even think of checking in the morning, a friend called me, and the sepulchral voice said it all before the news even hit me.

After that, it was a little hard to concentrate on listening and reviewing, it suddenly seemed pretty vain.

But what do you do then? Sure, you start looking on the Internet at prices for bunkers in the middle of nowhere, very far from the capital cities where the atom bombs are likely to strike first (improbable? Sure, everything has seemed improbable with Trump until now…). Do you despair and prepare for the end of the world? Or do you go on, blindly, with your vain activities, as if you weren’t tip-toeing at the edge of the abyss? When you are tiptoeing at the edge of the abyss, the only way not to be sucked in and fall is not to look down…

So this morning I’ve finished and posted my review of Hendrik Andriessen: Symphonic Works volume 1 (Symphony No. 1, Ballet Suite, Symphonic Etudes, Kuhnau Variations). Netherlands SO, David Porcelijn, Cpo 777 721-2 (2012). Louis Andriessen’s father, very popular in the Netherlands from the 1930s to 1970s, and if you had asked back then to a music connoisseur about “Andriessen”, he would have responded “oh, yeah, sure: Hendrik”. And now the memory of Hendrik has been almost completely obliterated by his son, a new case of Oedipus felling Laius! But Hendrik’s music is worth not being entirerly forgotten. I have much more that I’m hoping to listen and review in the next few days.

In fact I was sent off my Isang Yun track in other directions, as it always happens, and one of those was 20th century Dutch music. But the secret plan, I think, is to finish reviewing all the As in my collection, from Abel to Ayres. I can’t think of a more appopriate starting point.

7 November 2016

Mengelberg in the music of Dutch composers of his time:

Willem Mengelberg Concertgebouw Orchestra: Niederländische Komponisten. Works of Valerius/Wagenaar, Dopper, Röntgen, Hendrik Andriessen, Rudolf Mengelberg, Wagenaar, Marnix von St. Aldegonde/Mengelberg. Teldec 243 723-2 (1988), King Record K30Y 256 (1988)

The Mengelberg Edition vol. 13. Alexander Voormolen: Sinfonia, Cornelis Dopper: Symphony No. 7 “Zuidezee”, Gothic Chaconne. Archive Documents ADCD 119 (2001)

Dopper’s Ciaconna Gotica (Mengelberg’s 1940 studio recording for Telefunken is the shared piece on both discs) is the masterpiece there. I’m intrigued by this Cornelis Dopper. There was a famous episode in 1918 when he was derided by his more forward-looking colleague Matthijs Vermeulen for sounding like Sousa but, while certainly not avant-garde, the music is way more modern than that. It traverses many moods with a great freedom of form which makes it at times difficult to concentrate on, but I suspect that it’s the kind of music that grows on you with more familiarity. I may explore Dopper further.

While doing some fact-checking on these two CDs (a lot!), I chanced on the great online archive of the Concertgebouw Orchestra: as with the similar archive of the New York Philharmonic, you can find the info about every concert given by the orchestra since the end of the 19th century. For instance, what else was given at the famous 1939 concert in which Mengelberg premiered Bartók’s Violin Concerto with Zoltán Székely? Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. Or how many times did Mengelberg conduct works of Dopper? 88 concerts (although why Bach’s cantata BWV 51 for soprano and trumpet appears six times remains unexplained to me), including Symphonies Nos 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7, Ciaconna Gotica 40 times. And since Archive Documents did not provide the recording dates of its material but only mentioned that the live performance of Voormolen’s Sinfonia was its premiere, it enabled me to find datings. Invaluable.

4 November 2016

I’ve had Elfrida Andrée: Fritiof-Suite, Symphony No. 2 in A minor. Stockholm SO, Gustaf Sjökvist. Sterling CDS-1016-2 (1995) in my collection for almost two decades, and it didn’t leave a strong impression back then, but it’s when I saw that  it was the odd-CD out sandwiched between CDs that I’ve reviewed, of Barry Anderson on the left side, and of Louis Andriessen on the right side (I have a number of CDs by Louis’ father Hendrick, but they are not yet on the shelf either because they are part of collection CDs which are shelved elsewhere, or because I’ve bought them recently and haven’t yet listened). “Pe’l piacer di porle in lista”, for the pleasure of adding her to the list: there’s something of Don Giovanni in every collector (or there’s something of a collector in every Don Giovanni). So it was time to give a new try and a review to Elfrida Andrée.

And in fact I must have mellowed over the years and, after listening so much to both the towering giants and the “minor masters”, must be now more open and welcoming to even the minor beauties that minor composers have to offer, and I’ve enjoyed the music of Elfrida Andrée. It may be derivative of Mendelssohn in the Symphony from 1879 and generic late-romantic in the Fritiov-Suite (from an opera project with later Nobel-prize winner Selma Lagerlöf), but within those limits the music is enjoyable nonetheless and in the Suite, offers moments of beautiful lyricism and great epic sweep that do rise above the generic and point to Sibelius.

3 November 2016

Haven’t posted in the last few days but it doesn’t mean that I was idle. Pursuing my exploration of the music of Louis Andriessen, I pulled out Globe’s 6-CD tribute to the first 50 years of the Holland Festival, 1947-1997, Globe 6901-5, barcode  8711525690004, which I had recently bought from an eBay seller (and in the process I just realized that I had already bought the set a few years ago, and had forgotten about it, because I hadn’t listened yet). Among those 6 CDs there is one devoted to contemporary Dutch composers. The few Andriessen pieces featured there are absolutely appalling. Good that I didn’t discover Andriessen through that CD, I would have ruled him out forever. I started taking many notes, but I don’t know when I’ll publish a review of the set as a whole, because it contains many things, scenes from operas, bits of Lied recitals, that are way out of my interests and expertise. As a whole I find the set disappointing, because, precisely, it offers tidbits rather than complete programs, and ultimately it is very frustrating for everything that it leaves out. It is great, but also a great frustration, that the Concertgebouw Orchestra has, like the New York Philharmonic, a very comprehensive online archive which enables you to know, precisely, what else was played at the concerts from which Globe offers excerpts in their CD 5-6, “the Concertgebouw with famous guest conductors”. Like, yeah, fine to have Wagenaar’s Cyrano de Bergerac overture conducted by Szell in 1947, but at the same concert Szell gave Mahler’s Das Lied with Ferrier and Patzak! Now on what forgotten shelf is that diamond gathering dust? There is no other recording of Das Lied in Szell’s studio or live discography! Or the Adagio from the 10th Symphony conducted by Giulini in 1979 following the Webern Five Pieces op. 10 offered here. There was a video of Giulini conducting the same piece in LA that had been posted on YouTube, but it has been removed due to copyright infringement, and so far as I know there is no other version in Giulini’s live discography. Or even the Schubert 6th conducted by Boulez after the same Webern also offered by Globe in his 1961 concert – that too would have been a rarity in the Boulez discography, while the Webern is certainly not!

So the most valuable things in the set are the 1979 world premiere of Xenakis’ Anemoessa for chorus and orchestra, not otherwise recorded and a composition of extraordinary power, the fragment left by Claude Vivier unfinished on his worktable when he was brutally murdered in 1983 in Paris by the male prostitute he had just picked up in a bar, and with an ominous title too, “Glaubst do an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele” (“Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?”), and a Mahler Fourth with Schwarzkopf and Walter with the Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1952 – not that we are in dearth of live versions of Mahler’s Fourth conducted by Walter, including his Vienna Farewell Concert of 1960 with the same Schwarzkopf, but any testimony of that conductor in the works of that composer is welcome, especially one with the mighty Concertgebouw.

And with all that I discovered and reviewed what is to my ears an unknown masterpiece by an unknown composer, even in his native Netherlands: Daniël de Lange’s a cappella Requiem from 1868. See Daniël de Lange: Requiem. Alphons Diepenbrock: Cælestis Urbs Jerusalem. Julius Röntgen: Motetten. Netherlands Chamber Choir, Uwe Gronostay. NM Classics 92039 (1994)