Thursday, May 21, 2015

Patric Standford - The Essence of England

Listening to the music of Patric Standford, other composers come to mind. The works flow smoothly and organically, like those of his teacher Edmund Rubbra. The skittering passages of the Prelude to a Fantasy sound like more tonal versions of those by Lutoslawski (who Standford also studied with). And over all of this, there's a practical cast to the music -- and its eminent playability -- that reminded me quite a bit of Malcolm Arnold.

The centerpiece of this album is Standford's first symphony. Titled "The Seasons -- An English Year" this 1972 work quite effectively conjures up the English countryside, with each movement corresponding to a season. Though not a ground-breaking work, it is a well-constructed one, and if you're fond of Arnold or Rubbra, there's much here to enjoy.

Raphael Wallfisch plays Standford's 1974 cello concerto with straight-forward conviction, which (I think) presents the music in it's best possible light. Rather than creating a showpiece for technique, Standford seemed more interested in creating a work that let the cello sing. And Wallfisch makes his instrument do just that.

David Lloyd-Jones and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra deliver highly expressive performances that bring out the beauty for Standford's compositions. A well-recorded album of interesting music. While some may not consider Standford to be a world-class composer, I think his music holds it own at least in the realm of British 20th Century music.

Patric Standford: Symnphony No. 1 "The Seasons -- An English Year";
Cello Concerto; Prelude to a Fantasy (The Naides)

Royal Scottish National Orchestra; David Lloyd-Jones; Raphael Wallfisch, cello
Naxos 5.571356

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Praga Magna - Music in Prague During the Reign of Rudolph II

When Rudolph II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia, moved his court from Vienna to Prague in 1583, he made it an unparalleled showcase for arts and intellectual activity. Rudolph patronized artists such as Dürer and Brueghel, amassed a collection of exotic animals, historical curiosities, and employed some of the best musicians in Eastern Europe.

The early music ensemble Cappella Mariana add veracity to that last part of that statement with their latest release. It includes works by court musicians Alessandro Orolgio, Phillippe de Monte, and Jacob Regnart. All three wrote in a similar high renaissance style, with flowing counterpoint effortlessly weaving melodic lines in and out of one another.

Almost all the works on this release are sacred, giving the program an expansive, yet serene overall sound. The Cappella Mariana performs these pieces with precision, maintaining a transparent ensemble sound that is almost sensual in nature.

The program includes works by Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso, composers who were also performed in the imperial court. The music of Rudolph's own composers compares favorably to these acknowledged masterworks.

Rudolph II was a contemporary of Elizabeth I, and like the Virgin Queen, was indirectly responsible for a flourishing of musical creativity. In my opinion, Praga Magna is a beautiful recording of some unjustly neglected music. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

Praga Magna: The Music in Prague During he Reign of Rudolf II
Alessandro Orologio; Orlando di Lasso; Philippe de Monte; Liberale Zanchi; Giovanni de Palestrina; Jacob Regnart
Cappella Mariana
Artevisio AV 0001-2

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mother Goose and Grimm - Enjoy the Trip

I confess I sometimes go a little too far with my analysis of newspaper comics. Not so with today's example. Mike Peters had a simple but elegant meta gag in the March 23, 2015 sequence of Mother Goose and Grimm. (click to enlarge)

Peters takes a boilerplate element of the strip -- one that the reader never really sees -- and makes it the subject of the gag. And notice that because it is part of the gag, the copyright notice is treated a little differently. Normally, the entire notice would be in a single panel (and usually running vertically to keep it out of the way). In this case, the copyright notice starts in the first panel (to initiate the action), and finishes in the last panel so Grimmy can point to it (and we can get the joke) without having to go all the way back to the first panel.

Simple, clever, and so meta!