13 May 2019

Long time no activity, alas. Found the time to review Alfred Hill’s String Quartets Nos. 5, 6, 11 by the Australian String Quartet, a CD published in 1997 by Marco Polo. I had never heard of Hill, didn’t even know where to situate him in chronology and geography. Turns out this Aussie was writing, in the 1920s, beautiful string quartets strikingly reminiscent of those of Dvorak (written 25 to 50 years before) and, in 1935, one that evokes Ravel’s own essay in the genre (1903). Well, if you forget the chronology and the derivativeness, they are quite enjoyable.

4 February 2019

Eureka! I’ve found my CD of Berio’s A-Ronne and Cries of London sung by Swingle II (see my blog post of 20 January 2019)! I owe it to Delius… Here’s the story: I was again buying tons of CDs on eBay and the 5-CD set of Beecham’s Delius recordings from the early 1950s with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on Sony came up. I couldn’t remember if I had this set already, or just a few individual CDs from it. But my Delius CDs are in a drawer nearby, so I moved my butt and opened it to check. Sure enough, I have the set, so the eBay offer is one I’ve refused and I’ve made a small saving. But in the same drawer – eureka! A box of CDs neatly stacked, with a lot of classical-inspired jazz (the Bach derivations of Jacques Loussier and John Lewis), my Lambert-Hendricks-Ross and Double Six of Paris CDs which I had been looking for in the wake of my transfers of reviews and discography of the Swingle Singers and puzzled not to find, and a few other related things. And, yes, it makes sense, there’s a coherence to all that and I remember having wanted to review or listen again to all these CDs. It’s a terrible mistake to neatly put up your mess, you can be sure you won’t find it.

Thanks again, Delius and Beecham! And so now I’ve reviewed Berio’s A-Ronne and Cries of London on Decca / London “Entreprise” 425 620-2 (1990), two major works in contemporary vocal techniques.

1 February 2019

brought over my reviews of three recordings of Gavin Bryars’ three string quartets. Those works put the lie to those (ignorants) who claim that nothing of beauty has been composed since Britten and Shostakovich.

Three Viennese Dancers: Prologue (1986). String Quartet No. 1 “Between the National and the Bristol” (1985). First Viennese Dance (“M.H.”) (1985-6). Epilogue (1986). Pascal Pongy (French horn), Charles Fullbrook & Gavin Bryars (percussion), Arditti String Quartet. ECM New Series ECM 1323 and Japanese editions (1986)

“The Last Days”. String Quartet No. 1 “Between the National and the Bristol” (1985), Die Letzten Tage (“The Last Days”) for Two Violins (1992), String Quartet No. 2 (1990). Balanescu Quartet. Argo 448 175-2 (1995)

Three String Quartets: String Quartet No. 1 “Between the National and the Bristol, 1985), String Quartet No. 2 (1990), String Quartet No. 3 (1998). The Lyric Quartet. Black Box BBM1079 (2002)

Before that, finished my Balanescu Quartet transfers, with Alexander Balanescu’s Maria T., on Mute CDSTUMM242 (Europe), Mute 9286-2 (US) (2005), Universal Music Romania 4811723 (2015), and Michael Nyman’s String Quartets 1-3 on Argo 433 093-2 (1991) (reissues in 2002 on Decca and in 2012 on MN, Nyman’s own label)


29 January 2019

Well, before I could transfer my reviews of Rigel and Reich, as I intended to in the wake of those of Riley and Riegger (see my blog posts of yesterday and January 23) and , I saw on my shelves two CDs that had been sitting there for decades, not only from before the time I started to review on Amazon, but in the case of the oldest one even before the internet and cell phones were invented: Franz Xaver Richter’s Leçons des Ténèbres (Lamentations) on Cyprès CYP1624 (2000) and Emil Nikolaus von Reznicek’s Symphonies Nos. 3 & 4 on Schwann Musica Mundi CD 11091 (1986) – the latter was among the very first batch of CDs to be issued by the label. Transfering old reviews is fine, I said to myself, but posting new reviews (even of old stuff) is necessary to. So I did Richter (and was reminded that I hadn’t been bowled over that CD when it enterered my collection). Now listen to Reznicek.

28 January 2019

The closest on my shelves to Riley (other than Wolfgang Rihm, but I’ve done Rihm already): Wallingford Riegger and Jean-Joseph Rigel. So I transfered my Amazon reviews of Riegger (1885-1961) – a pet composer of mine, an all-but forgotten American modernist and maybe the most unjustly neglected “important American composer” of the 20th century, one of the first introducters of Schoenberg’s Twelve-Tone technique in the US but also an eclectic, and a composer and orchestrator of great imagination and whimsicality.

And now, Rigel (1741-1799, an all-but forgotten French composer from the end of Ancient Regime and Revolutionary era).

26 January 2019

Many references in my reviews of Terry Riley to his friend and mentor LaMonte Young and to Young’s magnum opus The Well-Tuned Piano, published on a 5-CD set from Gramavision, 8-8701-2, in 1987, so I imported my review from Amazon.com. 30+ years ago (ouch!), my attention had been alerted to the set by a long interview of Young published in the Fanfare issue of September 1987, and I quickly purchased it. Good investment, if I look at the prices now demanded for it on the marketplace. That said, as they say, I ain’t rich until I’ve sold, and I have no intention to – although, despite its cult-status, I am personally very skeptical about the work itself, and the composer.

24 january 2019

An offshoot from the original Paris Swingle Singers  (1963-1973): the 1976 album “Quire is a choir” (reissued to CD in Japan in 2002), performed by Christiane Legrand and two other former members of the ensemble (and joined by a fourth singer to form a vocal quartet). I chanced upon a contemporary review as I was working on my “ultimate” Swingle Singers discography. The ensemble, underpinned by a small rhythmic section comprised of stalwarts from the Swingle Singers era, like Daniel Humair and Guy Pedersen, covers – “imitates”, or “reproduces”, would be even better words, when you look at the process of making the album – some great jazz standards, in the dee-dumming style invented by Ward Swingle. Exciting, fun, and sometimes – when the sopranos have to go in the stratosphere to imitate the upper reaches of the piano – even clownesque. It was the group’s only album.