10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 1

Ludwig van Beethoven

Symphony no. 3 ‘Eroica’, mvt. 2 by Ludwig van Beethoven

The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk might have the greatest claim to the double whammy of being ahead of their time and shining a light on a future that in hindsight seemed inevitable. Fast forward 110 years from their famous jaunt through the not-exactly-skies-but certainly-off-the-ground and we now live in a world where passenger planes filled with beds, alcohol, and unceasing danger fly around the world at all times of every day and unmanned aircraft called, with menacing casualness, “drones,” may or may not blow people up on the ground below (spoiler alert: REDACTED). The notion of giant mechanical beasts roaming the blue yonder probably seemed like a novelty in the 1860’s, pretty far-fetched considering the circumstances at the turn of the century, and the perfect tool for man to rain holy fucking hell on his fellow man by the 1940’s. The Wright Brothers greatest invention was not so much technological as it was ideological.  Continue reading

10 Best: Symphony movements, no. 6


Symphony no. 3 ‘Liturgique’, mvt. 3 by Arthur Honegger

Setting aside the fact that I’m borderline obsessed with anything even remotely “dona nobis pacem” related at this time, the concluding movement to Honegger’s greatest symphony makes this list with ease. Composed in the wake of World War II, it’s a work of absolute savagery and cold brutality, which of course makes the tender episode that concludes the piece that much starker in its beauty. This symphony is woefully underrated, and in spite of its unrelenting intensity and brazen dissonances, I would think audiences today would eat this shit up as the visceral sonic journey that it is. Continue reading

Something to listen to: Sibelius Symphony no. 3

Colin Davis, New York Philharmonic, 2006

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.


Something cool you might have missed: Symphony no. 3 by Alberic Magnard

Alberic Magnard

Went out guns blazing

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

How much is too much?

The greatest and worst Mahler 3 in the world?

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

I was at a concert: Grieg, Beethoven, Schumann

Juanjo Mena

Mena. Juanjo Mena.

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

10 Best: Symphonies no. 3

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