Today’s forecast in Kansas City calls for Siege of Leningrad temperatures with wind chills below zero, so what better way to spend one’s time than by reliving one of the most horrific events in human history through the sounds of Dmitri Shostakovich? Valery Gergiev and the Marinsky Theater Orchestra provide the performance. Crank that volume up.
I’ve recently finished getting acquainted with the Black Keys new album El Camino, their seventh studio album. My initial impressions are all pretty favorable, and I’m still humming whatever Track 9 is called. I know a couple Black Keys fans who do not like the direction taken by the band after Attack and Release, their fifth album which was slated to be a collaboration with Ike Turner before he went up to the great Buick Cutlass in the sky; Danger Mouse produced that album, and he produced El Camino, too. In between, the Keys explored their dark side, and by dark I mean black, with a rap album featuring the likes of Ludacris and Jim Jones and their sixth album Brothers, a shout out to 70′s soul as only two white guys from Akron can do it. Continue reading
Aram Khachaturian has achieved a pretty widespread popularity in the last 50 years. The suites from his two most famous ballets are performed pretty regularly, and a movement from each of them often end up as encores or showpieces. His Violin Concerto is probably in the third tier of solo works for the instrument, alongside other regularly programmed solos like Elgar, Prokofiev, and Dvorak. His concerti for the cello and the piano pop up from time to time. He wrote the coolest waltz of all-time (ignore the first 35 seconds of this link, but enjoy the great Kiril Kondrashin rocking the shit). Continue reading
1) Turn your speakers up loud enough to compromise the structural integrity of your home or apartment.
2) Play this:
3) Ask yourself if you would drop everything you’re doing to go punch a Fascist in the throat.
If you are standing in the remains of what once was your living quarters screaming “смерть Гитлера,” you are very much alive.
When I first thought about a countdown of the best symphonies numbered four, I sort of assumed it would flow roughly as naturally as the countdown of symphonies numbered five. I was wrong. What an unbelievably crowded field. Normally I would be inclined to use the “honorable mention” as an excuse to list something that may not immediately leap to mind (as in the Don Gillis Symphony no. 5 ½ on the previous list). But when I made my little chart, there was no room for half-assed attempts at getting Mozart 40 or Haydn 94 or 104, or The Poem of Ecstasy on the list, which kind of blows my mind. Obviously the pool of possibilities swells with the inclusion of Brahms and Schumann, but wait until this thing is done and you see who got left off altogether. Without further hyperbole… Continue reading
In light of recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, continuing events in Bahrain, and upcoming events likely to take place in the Middle East and North Africa, I submit that revolution is in the air. With apologies to the 18th century revolutions in France and America, the Abbasids, Haiti, the Boxer Rebellion, and Pancho Villa, no one does revolution quite like the Russians. The trail from the Decembrists to the massacre of 1905 to the Bolsheviks and the birth of the Soviet Union is an amazing story. The fact that it all peaked with a paranoid psychopath at the top of the pyramid purging 30 million of his own people shouldn’t mask the joy of 1917. BTW, if you ever need context for just how bad a guy Hitler was, always remember that the paranoid psychopath who purged 30 million of his own people was our ally in WWII. THANKS FOR THE LAUGH WHILE SHAKING MY HEAD SLOWLY, COMPLETELY TRUE STATEMENT!
Seriously, though, 1917 was awesome if you had grown tired of Tsarism (judging by the fact that Tsar Nicholas’ entire family was murdered in a basement while they thought they were getting a portrait taken, I would say some people were tired of Tsarism). I imagine it’s what the good people of Egypt are feeling right now: an unbridled optimism in their future, destiny in their own hands! How can this not end well?! The subject of the October Revolution occupied a giant space in Soviet art, literature, and music. No one filled that giant space more than Dmitri Shostakovich. Continue reading
This week, Anthony Tommasini, the classical music critic of the New York Times, unveiled the culmination of his project to select the Top 10 composers of all-time. First of all, as someone who loves to rank things, I applaud the entire endeavor. Making arbitrary lists in this space isn’t that big a deal, because very few people read it. But doing it in the pages of the New York Times requires a certain amount of intellectual courage. Not only must you contend with people picking apart your arguments, but you must also contend with people picking apart the very concept of having the argument in the first place (best demonstrated by one of the comments that read, “Sorry, but top 10 lists should be beneath those who care about the arts.” Why do people think many classical music fans are uptight snobs?). A couple common criticisms emerged from Tommasini’s criteria: the limited stylistic range of composers (no pre-Baroque and no contemporary composers) and, much more elementally, the subjectivity of greatness. Continue reading