Thursday, July 02, 2015

Kaija Saariaho - Émilie Suite Delivers Emotionally

Opera is all about emotion. And Kaija Saariaho's Émilie Suite is an hour of raw emotion compressed into a 20-minute opera. Émilie du Châtelet was a French mathematician and physicist during the Age of Enlightenment.

The opera focuses on a single evening as she struggles to complete her translation of Newton's Principia Mathematica while in the final stages of pregnancy. She's afraid childbirth will kill her (it did), and the conflict of emotions (love and fear) with scientific logic and order provides the inspiration for Saariaho's work.

The opera has but a single role, and soprano Karen Vourc'h fills it admirably. Her delivery of Émilie's inner thoughts is both thrilling and disturbing. If you want pretty arias, look elsewhere. If you want an authentic representation of a soul in crises, "Émilie Suite" delivers.

Also included on the disc are Terra Memoria, an orchestral work that slowly appears out of the silence (this would be a great choice for an SACD recording), and the Quator Instants. The latter is a work originally written for soprano and piano, recast by Saariaho for soprano and orchestra. The lyricism of the work makes it a logical companion piece to the Émilie Suite.

Marko Letonja leads the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra in sensitive and sure-footed performances of these works. Saariaho's music is all about the details, and Letonja and the SPO conjure up her delicate soundscapes seemingly at ease. An important addition to Saariaho's discography.

Kaija Sarriaho: Émilie Suite; Quatre Instants; Terra Memoria 
Karen Vourc'h; soprano; Orchestra Philharmonique de Starsbourg; Marko Letonja, conductor 
Ondine 1255-2

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

New Music With Guitar, Vol. 9 Maintains High Standards

The ninth installment of Bridge Records' New Music With Guitar series presents an interesting program of new guitar music -- music that (I think) deserves a place in the repertoire. Guitarist David Starobin has a personal connection with each composer and work, which gives these performances an added depth.

Starobin premiered Richard Wernick's "The Name of the Game" for guitar and chamber ensemble. When the piece started playing, I thought I was in for a dry, academic atonal work. But that's not the case. Although Wernick's piece moves in fits and starts, it actually has a strong tonal center. And once I got used to the language, I began to hear a more lyrical quality in the music.

"Schrödinger's Cat" by Poul Ruders is a set of 12 canons for violin and guitar that reflect the ambivalence of the title. The work was written for David Starobin, who gets right to the heart of the music.  In quantum mechanics, Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment illustrating the paradoxical concept that particles can be in two states simultaneously until observed. So, too, these canons seem to shift back and forth until they suddenly collapse into a final cadence.

Paul Lansky's 2009 guitar concerto "With the Grain" musically portrays the characteristics of various types of wood grains and was composed for Starobin. The Alabama Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Brown give a credible performance, though the real star is Starobin and his masterful technique. The work is the most tonally conservative of the three, (although I'd think call it more post-tonal), expansive in parts, with a hint of jazz and nod to Copland. A great ending to the album.

New Music With Guitar, Vol. 9 David Starobin, guitar 
Richard Wernick: The Name of the Game; Poul Ruders: Schrödinger's Cat; Paul Lansky: With the Grain" 
International Contemporary Ensemble; Cliff Colnot, conductor; Amalia Hall, violin; Alabama Symphony Orchestra; Justin Brown, conductor
Bridge Records 9444

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Spam Roundup June, 2015

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

Here's the windup...

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- At this time I am going away to do my breakfast, after having my breakfast coming over again to read more news. [Oh, it's all about you, isn't it?]

The subject of the post -- Nomura tin friction
trucks, ca. 1960. Really, guys, not that exciting.

Lumbering Along and Along

What SEO magic keeps attracting spambots to my post, The Straco Layout Part 23 -- Lumbering along ? It really is just a short write-up about a small, vintage Japanese tin friction toy truck. Really. And yet...

- This will make people armless and they will back off. [Calm down. It's just a toy.]

- This is one time your parents won't thoughts you getting dirty! [Perish the thoughts!]

- Annotiviating discussion is worth comment. I believee that you need to publish mor about this subject. it may not be a tavco matter but generally people don't speak ab out these topics. [Tavco -- aren't they a natural gas company?]

Fastidiousness fades....

For the first time ever, I received not a single spam comment that used the word, "fastidious" (or even misused it for that matter). Is it the end of an era? It certainly isn't the end of the spam.

- it's perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this put up and if I may I desire to counsel you few attention-grabbing issues or tips. [Well, which are they -- issues or tips?]

- whoah this weblog is great. i like studying your articles. STay up the great work! [I promise to stay it up.]

- I'm not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your sites really nice [Not much of a writer, either.]

That's it for this month. Another annotiviating round of comments. Here's hoping all my fake readers stay up the great work!