KFJC 89.7FM

Music Reviews

Dvorak, Antonin / Dvorak Quartet – “String Quintet In E-flat / The Cypresses” – [Crossroads/CBS]

Hemroid The Leader   11/15/2016   12-inch, Classical

Antonin Dvorak (DVOR-jack) wrote the Quintet op. 97 in the summer of 1894 in Spillville, Iowa, a settlement of his fellow Bohemians. Dvorak loved folk music and here he takes rhythmic inspiration from the drumming of Iroquois indians. He would later say the summer in Spillville was his favorite time in America.
B side is the Cypresses For String Quartet – originally songs. Elaboraations on the classical string quartet.

Philharmonia Orchestra & Thomas, Michael Tilson – “Debussy: La Mer / Nocturnes” – [CBS Records]

Hemroid The Leader   11/15/2016   12-inch, Classical

San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas in 1976, conducting London’s Philharmonia Orchestra & Ambrosian Singers through Claude Debussy’s (DEB-u-see) La Mer and Nocturnes.
La Mer is an ode to the sea but also an attempt at a symphony. The usual narrative of a symphony is dispensed with. A vast seascape.
Nocturnes are 3 separate parts, often programmed with just the first two. Clouds, Parties, Sirenes.

Bernstein, Leonard & New York Philharmonic – “Debussy / Honegger” – [Columbia]

Hemroid The Leader   11/15/2016   12-inch, Classical

Claude Debussy (DEB-u-see)

A1 Saxophone Rhapsody. In 1895 Mrs. Elise Hall, a wealthy Bostonian, commissioned this work for saxophone. Debussy was unfamiliar with the sax, cashed the check, and nothing more until 1903 when Mrs. Hall showed up at his Paris apartment. He was hounded until in 1911 he dropped off the soloist’s part, with unfinished orchestration. Debussy called her the femme-saxophone (saxophone woman). When he died in 1918, the French composer Roger Ducasse finished the orchestration and the work premiered at the Societe Nationale in 1919.

A2 Clarinet Rhapsody – Written as a clarinet entrance exam for the Paris Conservatoey.

Side B are 3 pieces by Honeggger that are very energetic, lots of brass and percussion. Very enjoyable.

Albinoni, Tommaso – “Sinfonie For Orchestra” – [Musical Heritage Society]

Hemroid The Leader   10/11/2016   12-inch, Classical

Tommaso Albinoni, self described dilettante, scion of paper-mill wealth, Venetian contemporary of Vivaldi. Known mostly in his time as a composer of operas. None were published so what is known of him are instrumental Sonatas and Sinfonias. Sounds like a car or diamond ring commercial, sounds like Vivaldi, sounds like Classical. B2 is notable for its lack of counterpoint, prefiguring the symphony

Renaissance Clavichord II, The [coll] – [Titanic]

Cousin Mary   8/29/2014   12-inch, Classical

This album features Bernard Brauchli playing clavichord compositions written in the 1500’s and early 1600’s. He performs on a period instrument – the Tosi Clavichord – which was built in 1568. Doing this review, I learned that clavichords of this era use fretting – more than one note shares a string. This saves space, but means that some note combinations are impossible.

These tunes are readily identifiable as coming from the Renaissance, but the sound of the clavichord is interesting – sounding guitar-like at times, with a bit of twang. Fun to compare to modern electronics in a way.

Early Music Consort of London, The – “Art of Courtly Love, The” – [Seraphim]

Cousin Mary   7/2/2014   12-inch, Classical

3-LP set from the 1970’s covers a fine selection of late Medieval secular music. Brilliantly played on period instruments, most tracks have vocals but some are only instrumental. Dissonant, odd harmonies to our 21st-century ears – this music links love to war, features “courtly” idealized love. Liner notes have lots of good background and academic information.

PGM: A sackbutt was an early trombone.

New Music From Japan [coll] – [Odyssey]

Cousin Mary   11/14/2012   12-inch, Classical

This old LP has very nicely recorded orchestral works from three 20th Century composers from Japan. Akira Miyoshi was born in 1933 and studied in the 1950’s in Paris, before returning to Japan. Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) had many influences such as John Cage and musique concrete; he composed many film scores including Akira Kurosawa’s Ran. Toshiro Mayuzumi (1929- 1997) also studied in Paris and also wrote many film scores. Very original, often delicate, very listenable, western music with Japanese inflections.Might sound cinematic, but which came first?

PGM: LP is monaural.

Carlos, Wendy (Walter) – “Well-Tempered Synthesizer, The” – [Columbia Records]

Cousin Mary   10/23/2012   12-inch, Classical

This 1969 album came one year after the artistic and commercial success of Carlos’ record “Switched-On Bach”. All tracks are performed from the music as written using a variety of electronic voices to good effect for the polyphonic sound. Back then, Carlos had to stretch the capabilities of the Moog synthesizer by using an Ampex tape recorder and doing many takes and overdubs.The fluidity in the resulting tracks is even more impressive because this was not a case of just sitting down at a keyboard and playing. It required many hours of exacting labor to achieve the effect.