Monday, July 08, 2002


A complete Subject Index; Current Playlist; Women on the verge of musical nirvana; extemporary out-rock, Barry Mills, Ravel classics, Colin Matthews, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Schnittke, Shout, Piano Circus, The Guest Stars, and more...


Composer Earle Brown died on 2 July 2002. I came across him through a John Cage tribute album, Chance Operation. Very much worth listening to is his piano music, Twenty-Five Pages, performed by Steffen Schleiermacher, ‘Synergy’, ‘Four Systems’ and the chamber works. This is from the Morton Feldman newslist:

"I think in colours. I think in masses and colors and planes. I don't start to write a piece of music with a twelve tone row or something like that, or even coming up with a melody and then trying to figure out what to do next. I start with a total concept. And then I try to fulfil what my imagination has already given me inside. Mozart said that he visualized a piece of music
almost instantly. I do that and it takes me a long time to get it down on paper. I change it and change it and sometimes I can't even get it on paper. I've experienced that over and over. But once I start thinking about a new piece, I get a pretty clear picture of what I'm going to do. And then I go into the details."
(in conversation with Petr Kotik)


"The music business is a cruel and shallow trench. A long plastic hallway where pimps and thieves run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side." Master of understatement Hunter S. Thompson proves once more that it's only rock and roll, and they hate it really.


Until 16 July AM there's an opportunity to win a *free* copy of the new DG recording (and Boulez's reworking) of the classic Pli Selon Pli. All you have to do is visit the French culture website in the US and humble yourself to write a ten-line paeon to French culture. Worth a go maybe. Serial killers get such a bad press, but I still can't resist the odd mind game with Boulez. I first heard an earlier version of Pli in London's Roundhouse, years ago. The Labeque sisters were also playing - I remember not what. This on the recording itself:

Pierre Boulez Conducts Pli selon Pli
Deutsche Grammophon, CD 471 344-2

Pierre Boulez recently won a Grammy award for his recording of music by French composer Edgar Varèse (DG 471137). He has won an impressive total of 23 Grammy awards since 1967, and is certainly among the most influential contemporary musicians, both as a composer and as a conductor.

Pli selon Pli, originally written over the late '50s/early '60s, is an hommage to French poet Stéphane Mallarmé. This composition for soprano and large orchestra is structured over five different and tense movements that demonstrate Boulez's new freedom and simplicity of style, alternating a frequently ornate vocal line with dense instrumental textures.

For this recording, Boulez has revised the score. "I have completely rewritten "Don" since the last recording, back 30 years ago, and I have rewritten completely the third improvisation on Mallarmé. So there are two novelties in this recording."

As is typical for Boulez recordings, the Maestro performed the work thoroughly in concert before entering the studio for its documentation. According to the UK's Sunday Times (September 6, 1998), the new version of Pli selon Pli "has the intensity and strangeness of a Japanese ritual. [...] The three-ply scoring and prismatic structure fascinate continuously."


Gabriel Faure, Requiem, Paris Conservatoire Orchestra, Brasseur Choir / Andre Clutens, w. Victoria de los Angeles, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (soloists). Label: Great Recordings of the Century CDM5668942

The burgeoning popularity of Faure's Requiem has made it fashionable in some music circles to be slightly superior about it. Revisiting this classic recording (which was first re-issued by EMI in 1989, having been available as a budget LP for over 30 years) reminds me why that is a wholly misplaced reaction. Victoria de los Angeles and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau bring real depth to their solos. The Paris Conservatoire under Cluytens dwells on the luscious instrumental textures at the surface of the work, but there is loss and longing in there too. Faure's Requiem sits on the cusp of religiosity and agnosticism. This classic performance captures its sheer warmth and humanity. No doubt there are better technical recordings - in at least two places there are badly engineered fades that presumably go back to the original master tapes. But if you want the emotion and feeling of this twentieth century classic, here is a fine place to start.

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