24 February 2017

One of those CDs bought from an eBay seller that you add to your main purchase because it sells very cheap and you get postage rebates on combined shipments, so at that price, you can afford the discovery.

Anthony Louis Scarmolin: Orchestral Works. Joel Eric Suben. Marco Polo 8.225031 (1998)

It turns out that Scarmolin (1890-1969) is an American composer born in Italy, and that he writes in such a conservative style that his works sound like they could have been written by Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Delius, Griffes or Florent Schmitt. Scarmolin and his compositions on that disc raise again an old question: how do you listen to music, in relation to its past and future? Do you just listen “as it is”, independent of any awareness of where and how it fits in the line of music history, and it doesn’t matter if you are listening to a piece of Bach or Beethoven or Mahler or Debussy, or to a good pastiche or derivation written today? Would a skillful Mozart 42nd Symphony deserve the same place in the repertoire as Mozart’s genuine works (and is a skillful Vermeer fake by Van Meegeren as valuable as one of the few originals)? Or do you consider that it’s not worth listening to a copy, however skillful it may be, when all the originals are so abundantly available on disc, and that a composer is heir to ALL the music that was written before him and can’t compose as in a vacuum, pretending that fifty or one hundred years of music simply never happened?

I am – in matters of music at least; I’d love to have even a Van Meegeren copy on my wall – a fervent adept of the first position, and am therefore inclined to give short shrift to the music of Scarmolin. But if you believe in the second option, then you should find pleasure in this disc – if you find pleasure in the music of those late 19th and early 20th century composers I referred to.

Other than that, following the request of  Jerry Gennaro (see here) , I’ve been working on my discography of Everest CDs, to turn from a tool tailored to my own needs into into something publishable. Stay tune.


21 February 2017

No, there is no “China Wall” between one’s musical activities and the “real world”. Sometimes, in the face of the threats looming from the real world, musical activities feel simply futile.

So I’ve spent these last three months on other activities – as in “activism” – than music and reviewing. Not because I wanted to or thought it was any fun. Simply out of an inner compulsion, a sense of necessity, born from disgust.

But then the daily frequentation of a madman’s rantings – frankly, this is my best hypothesis -, the daily observation of this dogged entreprise of destruction of every institution that a democracy is based on – free and critical press, independance of the judiciary, even the concept of truth and reality – is bad for one’s mental health.

So I’ve tried to return to music, and right now I feel like a convalescent slowly recovering from a grave illness.

But I’ve managed to listen to and review the superb and unknown quintets of Mario Pilatti and Alessandro Longo on Naxos. Hail to the light!