Classical Music Thread -

Positron

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Ravel's Three Songs for Unaccompanied Choir is among his least known and least recorded works. These songs, with lyrics penned by the composer himself, nevertheless reflect the life-long preoccupation of Ravel: his fascination about the magical imagination of childhood, and his patriotism (he enlisted as a voluntary ambulance driver during WWI, after he was rejected for military service). In the third song, "Rondo", old men and old ladies warn children about all the woods and all the evil supernatural creatures there. The children, sure enough, never set foot there -- but that's because all the cool devils and goblins have been scared away by the elder folk. In the second song, the plumage of the "Beautiful Birds of Paradise" -- blue, white and red -- reminds the protagonist of her lover who has gone to war.

The first song, "Nicolette", is more sinister. Nicolette picks wild flowers in the meadow. She encounters the Big Bad Wolf, who offers to take her to Grandma. Nicolette runs away. She then meets a handsome page, who wants to be her lover. She turns away blushing. Finally, she meets a fat, ugly, smelly man with a big grey beard, who entices her with gold. Nicolette runs straight into his arms -- and she is never seen again.

 
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Positron

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Yes Horowitz plays extremely beautiful here, but my go-to person for Schubert is still Arrau.

When compared to Horowitz -- not to disparage him of course -- Arrau does less "micromanagement" and the sound opens up more naturally.

On a side note: I've never been very keen on Kempff on Schubert, even though his cycle of sonatas are lauded as one of the best. Give me Arrau or Brendel any day.
 

Strine

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Ravel's Three Songs for Unaccompanied Choir is among his least known and least recorded works. These songs, with lyrics penned by the composer himself, nevertheless reflect the life-long preoccupation of Ravel: his fascination about the magical imagination of childhood, and his patriotism (he enlisted as a voluntary ambulance driver during WWI, after he was rejected for military service). In the third song, "Rondo", old men and old ladies warn children about all the woods and all the evil supernatural creatures there. The children, sure enough, never set foot there -- but that's because all the cool devils and goblins have been scared away by the elder folk. In the second song, the plumage of the "Beautiful Birds of Paradise" -- blue, white and red -- reminds the protagonist of her lover who has gone to war.

The first song, "Nicolette", is more sinister. Nicolette picks wild flowers in the meadow. She encounters the Big Bad Wolf, who offers to take her to Grandma. Nicolette runs away. She then meets a handsome page, who wants to be her lover. She turns away blushing. Finally, she meets a fat, ugly, smelly man with a big grey beard, who entices her with gold. Nicolette runs straight into his arms -- and she is never seen again.

Maurice Ravel?
65007943_148357669644317_1347625949191026008_n.jpg


I've gushed about him numerous times in this thread, but Ravel had a perfect storm of arrested adolescence, autism, and mechanical interests that consistently translated into wonderfully imaginative and detailed music. He often compared himself unfavourably to Debussy, but I find Ravel to be the superior composer - and often mislabeled as "Impressionist"; to me he was rather a bridge between Late Romantic and Neoclassical, with a love for archaic and objective forms but with his warmth and earnestness still evident in the reserved emotion (or, as in Daphnis et Chloé, rapturous and passionate emotion) of his works.
 
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Strine

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We've discussed Carmina Burana in here before, but I have to share this particularly beautiful interpretation of one of the great moments from it. Here, Kathleen Battle sings the Dulcissime - when the female protagonist brought to orgasm. Of course it's very stylised, and the words are all in Latin to escape prudish outrage, but this is the most explicit female orgasm in "classical" music, and Battle delivers it sublimely. To quote a friend, "I could believe she was cumming".


She exclaims in delight "sweetest boy!", followed by a breathtaking ozone-blue chord in the violas, and a florid run of triplets before a gasping scale, then a soaring climax (as it were) up to an ultrafeminine high D in wordless ecstacy. With blissful post-coital sweetness, she sings "totam tibi subdo me" - I submit to you totally. There are a hundred recordings of it, many very good, but Battle's Dulcissime stands out to me as the best. The joyful, artistic treatment of sex in Carmina Burana is a real gem of Modernist music, and turns what some would call filth and burlesque into wonderful, moving art.
 

Positron

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Carl Orff's opera Der Mond is said to be similar to Carmina Burana in style and is just as risque. I'm eyeing a copy in the used record store and I'll pick it up if the price drops a little more.
 

nonvir_1984

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The music folks have been recommending - and I say this with no falsity at all - is superb. I can't begin to comprehend how a human mind can create such things of such unfathomable beauty.
 

nonvir_1984

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Sometimes when I drag myself away from Schubert, RVW and Chopin I then wallow in opera. This piece is at once amazing, disturbing and unfathomable. Monteverdi (and the performers, P. Jaroussky and D. de Niese) capture besotted psychopathic obsession so beautifully. But the libretto does capture what it is to be besotted.



 
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Positron

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Sometimes when I drag myself away from Schubert, RVW and Chopin I then wallow in opera. This piece is at once amazing, disturbing and unfathomable. Monteverdi (and the performers, P. Jaroussky and D. de Niese) capture besotted psychopathic obsession so beautifully. But the libretto does capture what it is to be besotted.
Poppea and Nero are a bunch of nutters. The whole court are a bunch of nutters.

There are lots of textual problems with the instrumentation of L'Incoronazione di Poppea. I think the best solution is to minimaize the instrumental force and let the singers sing their hearts out (although I don't imagine William Christie would approve!) This production looks fairly traditional. William Christie loves to team with more fanciful stage producers, just as he did in the 2018 production (video contains female nudity):


A bit of Eurotrash can be illuminating with L'Incoronazione.


+ + +
This setting of Salve Regina by the Italian Baroque composer Leonardo Leo, for soprano soloist and ensemble, is a surprise for me. The very high tessitura and especially the florid coloratura runs are more redolent of opera, instead of a piece of sacred music.


J.S. Bach would never have aspired to such style, and even composers with experiences in writing operas, such as Vivaldi and Handel, would think twice before putting in something so demanding -- after all, you can't count on the church to have consummate singers every day. We can imagine Leo must be writing for such institution that can always call upon top vocalists. Leo indeed held the post of Choral Master in several institutions, notably the Royal Chapel of Italy, and his connection with opera houses meant he had no difficulty sourcing the best voice. But -- here's the rub -- would such august, sacred places like the Royal Chapel admit such base entertainers? Questions, questions...
 
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nonvir_1984

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As you say, there are textual problems with L'Incoronazione. There are several versions of the libretto. But each, when translated into English are still most evocative. However, Monteverdi composed it not long after the invention of opera in a form we would recognise. This one opera - compressing several years of historical events into one afternoon of madness, lust and murder must have been quite confronting to the contemporary audience (I think it was first performed in about 1640 or so) though such murderous antics would have been familiar to some watching and so it might have been seen as allegorical.
I agree the performance by P. Jaroussky and D. de Niese is fairly traditional and the DVD is superb. P. Jaroussky also performs Pur ti miro with Nuria Rial, who has quite a different and intriguing voice. Starts at about 1.25

There is another that is also beautiful: C.Monteverdi - Zefiro Torna


Thank you for your
 
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Strine

And moth-like stars were flickereen out,
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Barber is known mainly for his beautiful Romanticist string writing, but like so many in his century he was awed and influenced by Stravinsky, whose woodwind writing is almost unsurpassed in history for its command of evocation and character. Here, Barber fuses Stravinsky's neoclassicism with his own Late Romantic impulses for one of the jewels of the wind quintet oeuvre:


The only narrative for this music is that it describes an extremely hot day in the US, possibly on the Midwestern plains. Barber exploits many different characters of woodwinds in this piece: breathy dryness, rapturous agility, tender evocation of the human voice, and the resonant, shadowy warmth of their harmonies. The size of the sound he creates with just five monophonic instruments is awesome, and the emotional pathos created with what Stravinsky called "objective" music - as opposed to the sentimental stylings of string ensembles - describing, in an Impressionist fashion, a scene without any people in it to feel feelings, is just remarkable.
 

nonvir_1984

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Barber is so amazing. Everyone knows his Adagio, but his choral arrangement of it is breathtaking.

The little performed, more austere and original arrangement demonstrates that the work is one of pure genius:

This is the music that signals the approach of death, foot falls on the loose gravel and the murmuring summons.
Agh. And then recall,
And a voice said in mastery, while I strove,--
"Guess now who holds thee!"--"Death," I said, But, there,
The silver answer rang, "Not Death, but Love."
 
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Positron

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Clara Schumann is on ascendance these days: at least two major label releases in the past few months features her music, and there are spates of new albums from indie labels. There is nothing stereotypically "feminine" about her or her music. She was a tough person in life, as she had to be in order take care of her mentally-ill husband (and his unpredictable mood swings) and their many children, while at the same time maintained a career as a touring piano virtuoso. Rumors has it that she had to breastfeed during intermissions in her concerts.

Listening to her piano concerto one cannot but feel the indomitable spirit, more akin to Brahms and Chopin than to Robert Schuman.
 

Positron

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Robert Schumann is not known for his variations. The exception being The Abbeg Variations, his Op. 1, a work of such keyboard pyrotechnics that it seems rather pedantic to analyse its structure. But the fact is that, like Tchaikovsky's, his variations are better termed "decorations"; there is no serious reorganization of thematic material or rhythm. Schumann's Etude on a Theme by Beethoven is a case in point. Based on the famous "Allegretto" of Symphony No. 7 and left in a disorganized state at the time of Schumann's death, the variations never venture far from the theme. Still, the final variation is very delicately beautiful. I found a Youtube clip where you can just skip to this final variation.

 
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