Friday, April 13, 2007

Mix Tape!

Now that I am back in the society of those who have legitimate computers, I feel an mp3 post is warranted. Back when I abandoned the work computer, I spent about 7 hours one night offloading the 20 GBs of music I had accumulated there onto CDs. Unfortunately, that master plan didn't work out so good, as about half are registering as blank. But such is life. Here are some tracks that made it out alive...

"Stille Tranen" (mp3) from Liederkreis, Op. 39, Schumann. For some stupid reason I think I wrote that I was underwhelmed by Matthias Goerne after seeing him live last year. F that. His Schumann is exquisite.

"Standchen" (mp3) from Schwanengesang, Schubert. For some compare n' contrast fun, here's some Schumann from the chairman of the (german lieder singing) board, DFD.

"Cants Magic: Energic" (mp3) and "Prelude No. 1" (mp3) Federico Mompou, Stephen Hough. Some years ago, staying late at work one night, some of Mompou's pieces came on the radio. I was entranced, as was the coworker sitting opposite me, someone with little interest otherwise in the piano repertoire, and we continued to talk about and listen to these from time to time for as long as we worked together. A line from Stephen Hough's notes to this album has always stuck with me: "In the light of Artur Schnabel's quaint yet charming generalization, 'Mozart is a garden; Schubert is a forest--in sunlight and shadow; Beethoven is a mountain range', perhaps Mompou is a window box...Indeed there is always an element of distance in Mompou between subject and objects--the children's games, the singing and dancing are seen and heard from the next street; and his music thrives indoors in the city, not in the sultry southern sun of Moorish Spain."

"Ich sah das Kind an seiner Mutter Brust..." (mp3) from Parsifal, Act II, Wagner. While killing time during a brief stopover in London this summer, I ducked into this CD shop next door to the ENO and came out with this 1954 Parsifal from the Met. Astrid Varnay sings Kundry, with Svet Svanholm in the title role, George London as Amfortas and Hans Hotter as the 'Manz. It's a pretty great recording overall, but what can I say. Varnay kills me. I feel like seeing her Kundry live would have done permanent brain damage.

"Etude No. 11 Op. 8" (mp3) and "Vers La Flamme" (mp3), op. 72, Scriabin, Vladimir Horowitz. This past Christmas I got my mother David Dubal's Conversations with Horowitz book, replete with a CD of Horowitz discussing his life and the piano. It's quite a thing to listen to Horowitz talk about the master composers and interpreters as living breathing artists. It reminds one of what living the tradition of this music really means--a far cry from the extremes of dead culture-bashing and sappy reverence we seem to always come back to these days.

"Come in quest'ora bruna" (mp3) from Simon Boccanegra, Verdi, Victoria De Los Angeles, Opera di Roma, 1958. Yeah, I know people were kind of blah about the Boccanegras this year, and for good reason it seems, but stuff like this makes me wish I'd gotten to see it in the flesh for the first time.

"Death Serenade" (mp3) from Dances of Death, Mussorgsky, Ewa Podles. Poodles Trovatore or Bust.

Act II duet between Mazeppa and Maria (mp3) from Mazeppa, Tchaikovsky, Sergei Lefkerus and Galina Gorchakova, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi conducts. It is a bummer that Mazeppa, which, despite a controversial production (which was in fact kick ass) was indisputably one of the most exciting new pieces in the house last year, is nowhere to be seen. Remember the awesomeness! Bring it back!

"Le Ciel Dans Une Chambre" (mp3) And we'll close with an awfully lovely song by the French (Italian actually) singer Carla Bruni...


Will said...

I agree completely about the MAZEPPA production. I lecture about opera as a side-line and am frequently involved in debate about "post-modern" productions--a term the practitioners like Francesca Zambello actually loathe.

I'm losing patience with people who are not open to what I call "the new theatricality." Yes, there are poor productions in the new style just as there were many poor productions in the old style--just because something is represented realistically does not automatically mean it's good, which is what the reactionaries now maintain.

Bless you for the de los Angeles BOCCANEGRA selection--she has always been my great favorite.

Maury D'annato said...

I have a certain window-box love for Mompou--when I worked at a record store right after college we had a CD I played. I seem to recall one of his pieces is a little fantasy on one of the Cantigas de Santa Maria, this very pretty set of medieval Spanish (well, Galician-Portugese) songs.

I get a weird satisfaction out of your enthusiasm for Varnay. I feel like she needs fans under 70.

JRD said...

Alex, is La Superba included on your mp3? just wondering, and oh, Carla Bruni is Italian, not French.

Alex said...

You know, OC, I was really hoping to include a track off this Caballe Pirata that I was obsessing over for a while but now I can't find it. It is driving me nuts. Next time for sure...

Thanks for the correction re: Ms. Bruni.

Patrick J. Smith said...

I'm fairly sure that "Ständchen" is from Schubert's Schwanengesang (D. 957). Schumann might have set the poems to music, but I would be unaware of that.

You might also want to give Peter Schreier's disc(s) a spin.

Alex said...

Indeed...lousy cut and paste.

Henry Holland said...

I'm going to London in June and I've set aside some money to buy CD's that will never be released here, like that Met Parsifal.

I'm losing patience with people who are not open to what I call "the new theatricality."

Well, there's the cliched EuroTrash productions --you know, black trench coats on everyone, chairs strewn everywhere, people rolling on the floor during stressful moments-- but those are easy to dismiss. What I am bored to tears with is

a) awful set design. My current example is the Lenhoff Parsifal that I saw in San Francisco (and was at ENO, Chicago and is on DVD). It was 3 gray walls with a boulder stuck in the back wall. Oh, and a huge pile of sand that was dumped on the stage at one point (don't ask). The back wall moved a little for the knights entrances and exits but Gott. in. Himmel. was it awful to look at for 4+ hours! Fine, actually *gasp* having trees and flowers and a Grail Hall is sooooo totally bringing Nazism back, but for fucks sake, give me something to look at that isn't going to cause damage to my corneas.

b) fucking with the plot. In that same Lenhoff production, Kundry lives and Amfortas dies. That is wrong on so many levels. I hate it when Konzept overwhelms what the composer --who obviously don't know as much about the theatre as some 20-something who's only ever directed movies-- wanted. The worst part is that the Kundry/Amfortas thing wasn't new! About a year later I went to the Berlin Staatsoper production from the early 80's (awesome conducting by Barenboim BTW) and it was in that too.

just because something is represented realistically does not automatically mean it's good, which is what the reactionaries now maintain

I consider myself a reactionary when it comes to staging, and I'd counter the opposite is just as true, even more so--that updating, throwing in 7 seven mimes who represent the "inner spirts of the character" or somesuch pretentious nonsense, that setting something in a period that totally negates the plot, that having people roll around on the floor, all that stuff, is counterproductive. It's bad enough with the standard rep, but I've seen productions of rarities that did all that stuff and all it did was confuse people.

With the art of stage craft as it is now, why not put that towards making the stage pictures conform to what the composer wanted? No updating to the composers time, no Nazis/Fascists/Pinochet clones, no setting things on spaceships.

Micaela said...

It's a tiny point, but "Stille Tränen" is Schumann's op. 35 cycle, not op. 39.