Jesus, the New York Philharmonic really plays the living shit out of this. The 3rd gets lost in the shuffle a bit, but it’s as brilliant as anything Sibelius ever composed, and the finale has more energy than Richard Simmons on cocaine and Red Bull, or the passionate truck stop glory hole sex that I don’t really care to talk about right now. Also enjoy the kinda weird anime situation. This YouTube uploader, whoever he is (magischmeisjeorkest), is a Godsend. What a fucking hero.
Alberic Magnard has one of the all-time great deaths in music. After sending his wife and two daughters out of harm’s way, Magnard remained at his estate to guard it from the ever-advancing German army. When they broke into his home, Magnard blasted out of his study chair, rifle in hand, and went at it with the soldiers like Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, killing at least two. Unlike John Wayne, he didn’t survive the part where they fired back and burned his house down with him and his music in it. The only real competition for the most interesting death in music is either Purcell (locked out of his own house after a night out, froze to death on his own doorstep), Webern (shot on his porch during a curfew by an American soldier while trying to smoke a cigar on the sly so as not to wake his grandkids) or Chausson (rode his bike into a brick wall). Two involve the military, but only Magnard’s invokes possible images of Samuel L Jackson, so it probably has to be at the top. Continue reading →
Yesterday, I took an aural stroll through a recording I hadn’t listened to in awhile, the BBC Legends Mahler 3 conducted by Barbirolli (the one with Kerstin Meyer). Overall, it’s a noteworthy performance (prominently featured in Tony Duggan’s enlightening survey of Mahler recordings, which is a completely awesome must-read for anyone who likes Mahler or clear, focused writing), and Barbirolli really goes for broke with the rough edges of the piece. But, God forgive me, I had a hard time getting past some of the technical foibles by the orchestra, and it got me thinking: at what point does a recording (or a performance) shift from “amazing in spite of…” to “if only…” to “I can’t take this shit anymore.”? Continue reading →
Juanjo Mena will be succeeding one of my favorite conductors, Gianandrea Noseda, as the Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic beginning with the 2011-2012 season. His was a name I had seen on the internets, but his was not a conductor whose work I had seen or heard. Judging by the exciting performance he led with the Kansas City Symphony this past weekend (and by the fact that he will be conducting the orchestra affiliated with a broadcasting organization based out of a town called Media City UK), it is likely I will hear from him again. Continue reading →
Continuing what has magically turned into a series that I didn’t intend to start, we’re counting down the 10 Best Symphonies no. 3. The field is more crowded than ever, probably uncomfortably so. I had a hell of a time sifting through all these amazing works, and some pieces that I really love got left off altogether. The most interesting trend I noticed in compiling this list was the startling amount of quality Symphonies no. 3 by American composers; it is very clearly a lucky number. Ives, Copland, Schuman, Rorem, Harris, Bernstein, Cowell, Diamond, Ward, Glass, Hanson, Hovhaness, Mennin, and Sessions all contributed strong entrants to the field (clearly I should have just made a list of Symphonies no. 3 by American dudes). Which of these made the cut? Here we go… Continue reading →
According to the statistics that the folks at WordPress maintain in regards to site traffic, the most popular single post on this blog outside of a Detroit Symphony rant is the uploaded performance of Manfred Honeck conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony in Mahler’s Symphony no. 2. I don’t know if the popularity (bear in mind when I use the word “popularity,” I mean it with a heavy dose of the word “relative” in front of it) of that performance is because of Mahler, or because of the performers (or both), but I’m glad people have heard it, because it’s a really fine performance.
The Pittsburgh Symphony and Maestro Honeck appear to in the midst of recording a Mahler cycle based off of their live concert performances. Exton has already recorded and released the 1st and 4th, both receiving plenty of acclaim (I have yet to hear the 4th aside from the broadcast, but the 1st is arguably the best Mahler 1 out there). I can only assume (hope?) the rest are forthcoming. Continue reading →
By 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte, thanks to his military exploits and delicious layers of puff pastry and jam, had achieved enough popularity in France to declare himself Emperor. 700 miles away in Vienna, Ludwig van Beethoven had achieved enough bitterness from Napoleon’s power move that he grabbed the title page to a new symphony dedicated to Bonaparte, scratched out the Emperor’s name with a knife vigorously enough to tear a hole clean through the paper, ripped it in half and threw it on the floor in disgust. When a new title page was published in 1806, it was inscribed “Heroic Symphony, composed to celebrate the memory of a great man,” presumably pre-Emperor Napoleon.
Such is the legendary story behind the music, now ubiquitous enough to be called simply “Eroica” as if it were on the Brazilian soccer team. But what of the music itself? Far, far more than simple “program” music, it is virtually the foundation upon which orchestral music continues to build itself to this day. If any hero emerges from the pages of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony, it is the composer himself. In 50 or so minutes, Beethoven almost singlehandedly ushered in the Romantic period and stretched the symphony so far it needed to apply cocoa butter. Continue reading →