Friday, July 20, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #NAFTAclassics Week 3

We have an international mix of contributors to the #ClassicsaDay feed. July has significant holidays for two of the three countries in North America. So, at the suggestion of a Canadian contributor, July became #NAFTAclassics, marking Canada Day (July 1) and Independence Day (July 4). Mexico doesn't have a July holiday, but we decided to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

For the month, I alternated between the three countries. Here are my posts for the third week of #NAFTAclassics.

Juan Trigos (Mexican, 1965 - ) - Sinfonia No. 1

Trigos enjoys an international reputation as both a conductor and a composer. He's written four symphonies, several operas, and many other works for chamber, choral, and large ensembles. As a conductor, he regularly programs and records new classical works by Mexican composers.

Joan Tower (American, 1938 - )Made in America

"Made in America" was a joint commission by 65 small orchestras. Tower describes the work as a set of variations on "America the Beautiful." Because of the joint commission, the work was performed 65 times, with Tower traveling from city to city to present it. "Made In America" remains one of her most popular works.

Owen Underhill (Canadian, 1954 - ) - By Backward Steps

Flutist and composer Own Underhill is based in Vancouver. He's considered one of the most significant living composers on the West Coast. Underhill is interested in electronic as well as acoustic music and studied both at Darmstadt and MIT.

Carlos Sánchez-Gutierrez (Mexican, 1964 - ) - Winik/Te'

Born in Mexico City, Sánchez-Gutierrez now lives in New York, teaching at the Eastman Scholl of Music. His influences are diverse, and his scores often complex. As he says, he " use the same set of ears to listen to Bach, Radiohead, or Ligeti."

Florence Price (American, 1887-1953) - Fantasie negre

Although she died in 1953, Price's music is just now coming into its own. She studied with Goerge Chadwick and Frederic Converse in the early 1900s. Price often had to work as an organist to survive. She known for her arrangements of spirituals during her lifetime. Only afterward has her symphonic scores been reassessed.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 096 - Drill

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

096. Drill

There's not a lot to say about this toy. Building it was quite simple. I did have one problem, and not for the first time.

The illustration calls for three 3-hole girders. Two hold the drill, and the third is part of the crank. Only two were provided with the set. I used one of the flat pieces instead. Otherwise, a quick and easy build.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Dussek Complete Piano Sonatas - Authentic and Engaging

When I received this disc for review I was excited, then worried, then excited again. I was initially excited because this is the first volume in a complete series of Jan Ladislav Dussek's 35 piano sonatas. I was worried because these were performances at a fortepiano of the period. But after I heard this release, I was excited again, and look forward to the next installment.

Dussek is a pivotal figure in the history of solo piano music. Though a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn, Dussek seemed to have skipped ahead to the early Romantic period. Dussek's rock star celebrity as a performer predates Liszt. And his work with the Broadwood piano company helped develop the instrument.

As the fortepiano developed, so did Dussek's music. Each sonata takes full advantage of the capabilities of an instrument of the day. So playing these works on a contemporary instrument makes sense. Dussek's last sonatas (like Beethoven's) are beyond the capabilities a 1790s instrument.

I normally don't like the sound of the early fortepiano. Often the action is so loud it threatens to drown out the music. Not so with the 1799 Longman Clementi fortepiano heard here. This beautifully restored instrument has a decidedly different timbre than a modern instrument, but the action is almost silent.

Bart van Oort performs these sonatas with authority and panache. His nuanced shaping of melodic lines imbues the music with life.

The recording includes the three Op. 10 sonatas, published in 1789. These three works resemblance contemporary sonatas by Mozart and Haydn, but somehow seem more robust.

The 1795 "Pastorale" sonatas were published the same year as Beethoven's first sonata. And it seems to be cut from a similar cloth. Compared to the Opus 10 sonatas, the harmonies are richer, and the dramatic gestures are bigger.

I am very much looking forward to the next installment in this series.

Jan Ladislav Dussek: Complete Piano Sonatas, Vol. 1
Sonatas Op. 10, Nos. 1-3; Sonata Op. 31, No. 2
Bart van Oort, fortepiano
Brilliant Classics, 95599

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Franz Xaver Mozart: Piano Works - Worth a Listen

It's tough being a good composer -- when your father's a great one. Franz Xaver Mozart was the youngest son of Wolfgang Amadeus. Franz's compositions aren't ground-breaking, but they are satisfying in their own right.

Franz Xaver was a conductor and pianist as well as a composer. As a performer, he spent several years touring and working in Eastern Europe. That experience is reflected in two of the three works on this release.

The Six Polonaises mélancoliques for piano, Op. 17 were finished in 1814. These piano works aren't as technically challenging as Chopin's polonaises. But they're both inspired by Polish music. Franz Xaver's polonaises have an elegant restraint about them, with only a hint of their ethnic origin.

The 1815 Fantasy on a Russian Song and a Krakowiak in A Major shows the composer at his most imaginative. Franz Xaver often played the work in concert, and with good reason. The technical demands increase as the work progresses, with plenty of crowd-pleasing runs and arpeggios.

Franz Xaver's 1807 piano sonata seems to look back rather than forward. It's an extensive four-movement work that seems inspired by Haydn with its tasteful elegance. It's only when we remember that Beethoven's "Appassionata" sonata was published the same year that it loses some of its charms.

Anna Liszewsaka performs in a committed fashion. Her talent is bringing out the beauty inherent in Franz Xaver's melodies. I especially enjoyed her performances of the polonaises.

The best way to enjoy this release? Just listen to the music on its own merits. In the end, it doesn't matter who Franz Xaver was related to. He's not writing his father's music -- he's writing his own. And Franz Xaver does have something to say.

Franz Xaver Mozart: Piano Works
Anna Liszewska, fortepiano
DUX 1441

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Blue Heron complete outstanding Peterhouse Partbooks series

In the 1540s Thomas Bull compiled partbooks for the Canterbury Cathedral Choir. They were only in use for a few years, as Edward II dissolved professional choirs. The books were stored in Peterhouse College and all but forgotten.

Blue Heron has brought this music back to life, with scholarly research and committed performances. This is the fifth and final volume of their traversal through the Peterhouse Partbooks.

The centerpiece of the release is an anonymous Missa sine Nomine. It's a model of English Renaissance choral writing. The contrapuntal writing is a bit restrained. But each line is beautifully crafted, making for a pleasing whole.

Also included are works by composers who are all but ciphers today - Hugh Sturmy, Robert Hunt, and John Mason. Even so, it's thrilling to hear this music. Each piece is a finely crafted gem.

Blue Heron performs to their usual high standard. The ensemble has a warm, rich sound. The recording venue provides just the right amount of ambiance -- enough to give the music a luminous glow, without smearing the individual lines.

Highly recommended.

Music from the Peterhouse Partbooks, Vol. 5
Blue Heron; Scot Medcalf, director
Blue Heron

Friday, July 13, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #NAFTAclassics Week 2

We have an international mix of contributors to the #ClassicsaDay feed. July has significant holidays for two of the three countries in North America. So, at the suggestion of a Canadian contributor, July became #NAFTAclassics, marking Canada Day (July 1) and Independence Day (July 4). Mexico doesn't have a July holiday, but we decided to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

For the month, I alternated between the three countries. Here are my posts for the first week of #NAFTAclassics.

Roger Zare (American, 1985 - ) - Mare Tranquillitatis

Zare is best known for his wind ensemble and orchestral works. He studied with Michael Daughterty and Morten Lauridsen. Like his teachers, Zare writes music of substance that's also readily accessible to general audiences.

Healey Willan (Canadian, 1880–1968) - Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue for Organ

Willan emigrated to Canda from the UK in 1913. He wrote over 800 works, including operas and symphonies. Willan was an organist and a composer.  From 1921 until his death the organist and choirmaster of the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Toronto. He's best known for his sacred works, both for choir and for organ.

Carlos Chávez (Mexican, 1899–1978) - Xochipilli

Chávez was a preeminent musical figure in his country. He continually worked to develop classical music in Mexico -- as an educator, writer, conductor, and composer. His works often incorporate elements of native folk music. Xochipilli is the Aztec god of art and dance.

Carter Pann (American, 1972 - ) - Circumnavigator for Two Pianos

Pann studied with Samuel Adler, William Bolcom, and Joseph Schwantner (among others). Like his teachers, Pann strives to make his works readily accessible to new listeners -- without compromising the complexity of his musical thoughts. A significant part of Pann's catalog is for piano.

John Weinzweig (Canadian, 1913-2006) - Symphonic Ode

Weinzweig spent most of his professional life in Toronto. He wrote for film, stage, and radio. Popular music often finds its way into Weinzweig's classical works. He was also interested in the music of the Inuits, which also became part of his musical language.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 095 - Separator

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

095. Separator

The separator was another easy toy to build. The mechanism isn't positioned exactly as it is in the illustration. The space between the two posts isn't as roomy as the illustrator drew it. And (as always),  the actual length of the dowels isn't quite the length required. Still, I was able to get pretty close.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Nuevo Mundo: 17th Century music in Latin America - Encore! (again)

I guess you just can't keep a good recording down. "Nuevo Mundo" was first released on the Italian Symphonia label in 1991. Pan Classics reissued it in 2012, and here it is again on Glossia in 2017. Why does it keep being reissued? Probably because it deserves to be.

The Ensemble Elyma delivers spirited, energetic performances -- which is exactly what the music requires.

Roman Catholocism and its attendant music were imported to the New World in the 1600s, and they soon went native. Baroque music developed differently in the Americas than it did in Europe.

The program presents a wide variety of composers active in Central and South America in the 17th Century. Two good examples are Juan de Araujo and Gaspar Fernandes, both of whom have several selections on this release.

Fernandes was a Portuguese composer who spent most of his career in Guatemala and Mexico. De Araujo was a Spanish composer who worked in both Peru and Panama. Their works -- as are most on this album -- are an exotic blend of influences. Early Baroque writing combines with Andalusian and native folk traditions.

It's a vibrant mixture, and the Ensemble Elyma brings it to life.

The sound of the recording is a little soft, I think. The highs and lows seem to lack a little detail. But that's the difference between 1991 and current recording technology. I'm glad to see "Nuevo Mundo" back -- again.

Nuevo Mundo: 17th Century Music in Latin America 
Maria Cristina Kiehre, Adrian Fernandez, sopranos; Mariuccia Domenighini, alto; Pietro Valguarnera, Sandro Naglia, tenors; Roberto Balconi, contertenor; Josep Cabré; baritone 
Ensemble Elyma; Gabriel Garrido 
Glossa Cabinet GCD C80022

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Death in Comics - Godiva Danube

There's an advantage to writing a gag-a-day strip as opposed to those with continuing stories. Each strip is self-contained. Panel one sets up the gag, panel two puts it in motion, and panel three delivers the punchline. 

An adventure strip has a different outline. The first panel provides a thumbnail recap, panel two continues the story, and panel three is the cliffhanger (panels two and three are often combined). There's an art to pacing the story. Make the recap too detailed, and regular readers will get bored. Have a ho-hum cliffhanger, and new readers won't come back the next day. Don't move the story along far enough and everyone gets bored. And if there are no surprises, then over time there will be no readers.

Writer Francesco Marciuliano and artist Mike Manley continue their masterful run on Judge Parker with some truly innovative story-telling. Excerpts from this sequence that ran May-June 2018 are a good example. Marciuliano has several stories arcs running concurrently and uses them to great advantage.

In a long sequence, two contract killers return to the US. April and her father are both ex-CIA black ops agents. April's escaped from federal prison and is reluctant to return to the states. She's also the ex-wife of Judge Randy Parker.  

The person at left is Neddy Spenser. She's the adopted daughter of Abby Spenser. Her husband and Randy Parker were part of the same law firm. Did April unknowingly accept a contract on a family member?

The first twist: the door the assassins are knocking on isn't the one Neddy's behind. Note that Neddy lives in apartment 3G. Apartment 3G was started by Nicholas P. Dallis in 1961. He also created Rex Morgan, M.D. (1953), and Judge Parker (1952). 

So whose door were the killers knocking on?

Godiva Danube was a singer/actress/celebrity. She had been in a failed business with Neddy Spenser (see Sophie's Crash, part 2). Earlier in 2018, she had returned to the strip to invite Neddy to come to Hollywood with her as her PA. Neddy did go to LA, not as Danube's assistant, but as an aspiring screenwriter. That's why she's waitressing. Marciuliano also frames her sequences with movie script settings in the upper left corner.

The second twist: the cause of death. The casual reader might not remember that the contract stipulated the death was to look like natural causes.

The third twist: change of location. Danube switched hotels suddenly. So April and her father were at the wrong location. And Danube was using an alias she couldn't possibly know (as just an actress/singer).

The fourth twist: enter the CIA.  Early on in this story April was concerned that they were being lured to back to the US. The mystery of Godiva Danube's death will only deepen, and I suspect Marciuliano will keep me guessing -- one panel at a time. 

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Salomon Jadassohn - a Late Romantic Rediscovered

Salomon Jadassohn is better known as a teacher than a composer. While at the Leipzig Conservatory he taught Edward Grieg, Ferruccio Busoni, and Frederick Delius, just to name a few. As a composer, he completed over 140 compositions.

This release features his four Serenades for Orchestra, along with his first symphony and first piano concerto.

According to the liner notes, Jadassohn "was acknowledged to be a master of counterpoint and harmony, but he was also a gifted melodist in the tradition of Mendelssohn. His works show too the influence of Wagner and Liszt, whose music deeply impressed him."

After listening to these works, I can agree with some -- but not all -- of those assertions. Jadasssohn studied with Franz Liszt, and that influence can be heard in his 1887 piano concerto. But the Symphony No. 1 in C major seems to owe more to Schumann and Weber than Wagner. It's a nicely constructed work, with plenty of engaging melodic motifs.

The Serenades are lighter works, and I think they're the most successful of the selections. These are light, breezy pieces that revel in their flowing melodies. It's easy to hear Mendelssohn in these, especially in the Second Serenade.

The First Serenade, a set of four canons, displays Jadassohn's mastery of counterpoint. Some music historians have characterized Jadassohn's music as dry and academic. I didn't find that the case, even in these contrapuntal gems.

My only complaint with the release is the release itself. This reissue was cobbled together from some earlier albums, and sometimes the seams show. The Piano Concerto is a live recording, with a sound quality that's inferior to the other tracks.

The Serenades were all recorded with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra in the same venue, though with different conductors -- Michael Laus and Marius Stravinsky. Stravinsky conducts a different ensemble -- the Belarussian State Symphony Orchestra -- in the performance of the Symphony No.1. I found these differences in the sound from piece to piece a little distracting.

Still, this mid-priced compilation is worth the investment. This is well-written music that can provide hours of enjoyment. Brahms, Wagner, and Liszt were the giants of their age, and Jadassohn stood behind them. But he still was tall enough to peek over their shoulders.

Salomon Jadassohn: Orchestral Works
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 24  - Belarussian State Symphony Orchestra; Marius Stravinsky, conductor
Serenade for flute and strings Op. 80 - Rebecca Hall, flute; Malta Philharmonic Orchestra; Michael Laus, conductor
Serenade No. 2 in D Op. 46 - Malta Philharmonic Orchestra; Marius Stravinsky, conductor
Serenade No. 3 in A major, Op. 47  - Malta Philharmonic Orchestra; Michael Laus, condcutor
Serenade No. 1 in 4 Canons, Op. 42  - Malta Philharmonic Orchestra; Marius Stravinsky, conductor
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor Op. 89  - Valentina Seferinova, piano; Karelia State Symphony Orchestra; Denis Vlasenko, conductor
Cameo Classics CC9101
2 CD Set

Friday, July 06, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #NAFTAclassics Week 1

We have an international mix of contributors to the #ClassicsaDay feed. July has significant holidays for two of the three countries in North America. So, at the suggestion of a Canadian contributor, July became #NAFTAclassics, marking Canada Day (July 1) and Independence Day (July 4). Mexico doesn't have a July holiday, but we decided to be inclusive rather than exclusive.

For the month, I alternated between the three countries. Here are my posts for the first week of #NAFTAclassics.

Michael Torke (American, 1961 - ) - July for saxophone quartet

Torke has been described as a post-minimalist. His music often draws on elements of American history and pop culture. Torke wrote "July" to capture the feel of the month.

John Wyre (Canadian, 1941–2006) - Marubatoo

Percussionist and composer Wyre was born in the United States and immigrated to Canada. founded the Nexus Ensemble. He was also on the faculty of the University of Toronto and was the artistic director for World Drums. "Marubatoo" was written for the Nexus Ensemble.

Silvestre Revueltas (Mexican, 1899–1940) - Ocho X Radio

Revueltas was a composer, violinist, and conductor. He worked to promote contemporary Mexican classical music. "Ocho X Radio" was written in 1933 specifically for radio broadcast.

Joseph Vézina (Canadian, 1849–1924) - Mosaique sur des airs populaires canadiens

Vézina was a noted Quebec conductor and composer. He wrote three opéra comiques, and helped found the Laval University music school. His students include Henri Gagnon and Robert Talbot.

Gabriela Ortiz (Mexican, 1964 - ) - La Calaca

Born in Mexico City, Ortiz has become a major figure in Mexican classical music. And she has an international reputation as well. Among her many honors are a Fulbright Fellowship, a Banff Center for the Arts Residency, and first prize in the Silvestre Revueltas National Chamber Music Competition.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 094 - Forge

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

094. Forge

This was an easy toy to build. Of course, it's non-functional. But it looks like it could work. 

As I near the end of this project, I find it increasingly difficult to get these pieces to stay together. The fiberboard washers are a little worn, so they don't grip the girders tightly. Every time I adjusted one part of the frame, the other would start to come apart. Good thing there are only six more toys to build!

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

A July 4th Program That's Truly Liberating

There many ways to create a classical music program for July 4th. Most programmers just take the path of least resistance. While tradition is important (and comforting), our American musical heritage is rich, diverse, and exciting. And it can add deeper meaning to our Independence Day celebration.

July 4, 2018, I'm hosting a three-hour radio program on WTJU. Here's what I've programmed -- and why.

Patriotic Music of the Revolution

I'm airing four selections that were popular in the Revolutionary and Federalist Eras. Yankee Doodle (1770), The Boston March (1774), The Liberty Tree (1780), and Jefferson and Liberty (1810).

The performances by Joel Cohen and the Boston Camerata are historically authentic. These rough-hewn songs shine with optimism and idealistic energy. This is the America of the Founding Fathers.

Patriotic Music about the Revolution

I'm also featuring Michael Torke's latest work, Unconquered (2018).  It commemorates the 1777 Battle of Saragota, which marked a turning point in the War of Independence. The final movement, "Liberty" expresses optimism for the fledgling nation.

Patriotic Music from Mr. Jefferson's University

WTJU is a broadcast service of the University of Virginia. Several of my selections are related either to the University or its founder, Thomas Jefferson.

Made in America (2001) by American composer Joan Tower was jointly commissioned by 65 small and regional American orchestras. The piece was premiered in all 50 states over a two-year period.

It's a set of variations on America the Beautiful. One of the commissioning orchestras (and therefore one of Tower's tour stops), was the Charlottesville and University Symphony Orchestra (now the Charlottesville Symphony).  

Randall Thompson wrote The Testament of Freedom (1943) while on the faculty of the University's music department. It was written for the University of Virginia's Glee Club to commemorate the bicentennial of Jefferson's birth. Thompson used Jefferson's writings for the text, delivering a message of hope to a nation fighting for freedom in the Second World War.

Patriotic Music in an American voice

Aaron Copland is the American classical composer most often programmed for the 4th. Sure "Fanfare for the Common Man" has a populist appeal. But he wasn't the only one forging an American identity in the field. Contemporaries such as Randall Thompon (see above), Walter Piston, Virgil Thomson, William Schuman and Roy Harris also contributed to American music.

I'm airing Roy Harris' 1040 "American Creed." It's a short orchestral work with two parts: "Freedom to Dream" and "Freedom to Build." Quintessentially American concepts expressed in an American classical style.

Patriotic Music of Inclusion

We're all immigrants -- the only difference is how recently we arrived. Henry Cowell's "American Melting Pot" (1940) celebrates our immigrant nation by blending musical traditions of several cultures that contributed to the American experience. The movements are labeled: Chorale (Teutonic-American),  Air (Afro-American), Satire (Franco-American), Alapna (Oriental-American), Slavic Dance (Slavic-American), Rhumba (Latin-American), Square Dance (Celtic-American).

And let's not forget Native Americans. I'm airing Charles Tomlinson Griffes Two Sketches Based on Indian Themes (1910). Not all of his source material is identified, but one of his melodies is based on a farewell song of Chippewas.

For something a little more familiar, I'm including Leonard Bernstein conducting his Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story." What could be more American than Broadway tunes, jazz, and Latino/Ameican music?

Alophus Hailstork is one of the most preeminent African-American composers living today. And he lives right here in Virginia. His work An American Port of Call captures all the bustling action of an American seaport.

Patriotic Music Beyond the Same-Old Same-Old

You can't have a 4th of July concert without a Sousa march. Plenty of folks will program the Stars and Stripes Forever. I chose his Hail to the Spirit of Liberty March. John Philip Sousa and his band represented the United States at the 1900 Paris Exposition. The march was written for this event. The band played it to great acclaim throughout Europe.

Many people think American classical music ended with Aaron Copland and/or Leonard Bernstein who are dead. It didn't. Kenneth Fuchs (b. 1956) is one of several American composers writing in an accessible contemporary style. I chose his 2008  American Rhapsody, a beautiful romance for violin and orchestra work that deserves to be better known.

Patriotic fanfares can be stirring. Morton Gould's American Salute (1943) was written literally overnight for a wartime broadcast. It's a set of variations on the Civil War tune When Johnny Comes Marching Home. Two historic references in one!

America is a standard patriotic piece. Charles Ives' Variations on America (1891) is anything but.

And finally, everyone loves a good march. But which one to play? I went with Henry Mancini's march from the movie "The Great Race." It's a mash-up of just about every famous march with a sprinkle of Mancini magic.

And here's the thing -- I still only scratched the surface. America has an amazing treasury of music written by us for us. And it keeps growing every year. That's what my show tomorrow will be all about -- looking at where we've been,  and how far we've come.*

*musically, that is

Unconquered - Michael Torke's Positive Patriotism

In my opinion, Michael Torke is something of a national treasure. He has the rare ability to take elements of American culture and develop them with all the tools of a contemporary classical composer.

The end result is music that sounds distinctly American. It's always connected to the traditions of the past, but with a sound that could only be possible in the present. His music is always accessible and -- most important -- in his own voice.

"Unconquered" is but the latest example. This 25-minute tone poem was commissioned for the 50th anniversary of Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Torke uses it to commemorate another historical moment. The 1777 Battle of Saragota, which marked a turning point in America's War of Independence.

The work has four movements. The heraldic trumpets of the first movement summon the troops. The second "Dawn," evokes a misty morning before the attack. "Advance" captures the emotional essence of conflict, while "Liberty" celebrates an awakening American spirit.

As Torke writes, "For me, [this music] comes from a love of history and a regard for the aspirational.... Neither battlefield nor bloodshed is depicted... only the expression of moods conjured by these images."

And Torke succeeds admirably. This is a work that sounds timeless and timely. And it's truly a patriotic work in the best sense of the word.

The Philadelphia Orchestra directed by Cristian Macelaru do this music justice. The power the ensemble envokes makes the emotional impact that much stronger.

Michael Torke: Unconquered
The Philadelphia Orchestra; Cristian Macelaru, conductor
Ecstatic Records ER92271

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Spam Roundup June 2018

Even with spam filters, some comments manage to make it through the system. Some of it's so oddly written, that it's oddly amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.

The poetic imagery of spam

I don't think the translation programs these spammers use do their prose justice. The following comments are so tantalizingly close to actually making sense. But I do want to know more about that orbiting corset, though. 

 - So you'll look for to suffer. It is hands-down to pioneer a military science which works for you. Whatever join programs and different belief provoking functions of your period or in the trade.

 - Your internet commerce terminated any reviews you can reason contact that corset in the orbit and they may turn penetrable to crime.

 - Be designer here's a few substances on the mar that has content to you. Studying aritcles so much as pome seeds may actually control and colour and opposite opinion provoking functions of your cardio.

"Lumbering along" -- be wary

The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along remains one of the leading posts for spam comments. Just a reminder -- the comments to follow were all written in reaction to a description of an early 1960s small friction toy from Japan.

 - Great post. I'm facing some of these issues as well.[I hear you, man.]

 - Thanks a lot bro you might be extremely support. I like this hack exactly something that works. [Bro - I have no idea what you're talking about (and I'm not sure you do, either.]

Taking off from this, let your ex-girlfriend know that you are still interested in her. [According to Facebook, my ex-girlfriend is on her third husband. Let's just keep the conversation focused on vintage toys if you please.]

The best advice this month:

 - If you own a farm animal, disobey the influence to go with. Be wary of any job discourse. To get down intelligently consolidating your debt cannot be reliable that you employ them in a gravid way.

Words to live by -- if you have farm animals and are looking for a job, anyway. More sage advice and strange imagery coming your way next month.

Friday, June 29, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle Week 4

Robert Schumann was born on June 8, 1810. Some of us contributing to the #ClassicsaDay feed decided to celebrate that birthday. For the month of June, we encouraged folks to post works by Schumann and his circle. Schumann worked with several major composers of the day. He also reviewed up-and-coming composers in his magazine.

Here are my selections for the fourth and final week of #ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle

Robert Schumann - Sechs Fugen über den Namen: Bach, Op. 60

Schumann, along with Mendelssohn were champions of J.S. Bach's music. In 1845 Schumann emulated Bach by using the musical notes of his name (B-flat, A, C, B natural) as a fugal subject.

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) - Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H

Initially, Schumann didn't think much of Franz Liszt. Over time, that opinion changed, and they became friends. They both shared a love of Bach, and both wrote music based on his name. Liszt's Fantasy and Fugue was finished in 1855, ten years after Schumann's tribute.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) - Prelude and Fugue in B-Flat Major on the name B.A.C.H. BWV 898

In the 19th Century, Bach's music inspired many composers. Several emulated Bach and wrote music based on his name. As it turns out, one of the works that inspired them -- the Prelude and Fugue BWV 898, may not have been written by Bach, but by one of his students.

Robert Schumann - Missa Sacra in C minor, Op. 147

Schumann studied the music of Giovanni Palestrina. As a conductor, he programmed Palestrina choral works regularly. His 1852 mass shows both the influence of Palestrina's Renaissance polyphony.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) - Missa Papae Marcelli

One of Palestrina's most famous work - and certainly one Schumann was familiar with -- was the Pope Marcellus Mass. The work was written in 1562. According to legend, Palestrina wrote the mass to demonstrate to the Council of Trent that counterpoint still had a place in the Counter-Reformation.

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) - Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann in F-sharp minor, Op. 9

No look at Schumann's Circle would be complete without Brahms. Brahms became close friends with both Robert and Clara in 1853. Both supported the younger composer. In 1854 Schumann was institutionalized. Brahms' Variations, written the same year, was a fitting tribute. The theme was by Robert, the dedication was to Clara.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 093 - Power Hammer

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

093. Power Hammer

This toy proved very difficult to build. In the illustration, there's plenty of room between the top dowel and the one holding the cube in the cross-brace. In reality, there was no room at all, regardless of how far forward I tipped the 5-hole girders. 

You may also notice that the 3-hole girder is secured to the crank at one end, rather than the middle as depicted. There's a dowel that runs through the assembly that joins it to the base. The length of it blocked the opening I was supposed to use. To position the girder so it touched the axle,  I had to run the dowel through an end hole, rather than the middle one. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Heinrich Schütz: Symphoniae Sacrae I - Models of Clarity

Heinrich Schütz published three volumes of his Symphoniae Sacrae. Hans-Christoph Rademann and Carus continue their traversal of Schütz's catalog with Symphoniae Sacre I.

This 1629 collection of works reflects Schütz's time in Venice. While there, he studied with Giovanni Gabrielli and Claudio Monteverdi. The influences of both are apparent in these settings of the Songs of Songs.

The Latin texts come from the Psalms and the Song of Solomon. The rich imagery is ripe for word-painting, and Schütz doesn't miss an opportunity. Even without understanding the words, it's easy to get the emotional thrust of the text through the expressiveness of the music.

There's also a spaciousness in these settings, with counterpoint that's seems both dense and transparent. This collection has a variety of instrumental and vocal combinations. I hear Gabrieli in the instrumental passages and Monteverdi in the word-painting of the text.

The Dresdner Kammerchor maintains the same high quality of performance they've established over the course of this series. Hans-Christoph Rademann's direction makes these readings models of clarity.

Heinrich Schütz: Symphoniae Sacrae I
Complete Recordings, Vol. 14
Dorothee Mields; Isabel Jantschek; David Erler
Georg Poplutzl; Tobias Mäthger; Felix Schwandtke
Dresdner Kammerchor; Hans-Christoph Rademann, director
Carus 83.273 

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Wenzel Heinrich Veit String Quartets, Vol. 2 - As Good as Vol. 1

When I reviewed Volume 1, I said I was very much looking forward to this release. I'm not disappointed. The Kertész String Quartet perform to the same high standard they established with the first volume.

On the whole, this period-instrument quartet has the same warm, rich sound I enjoyed before. This time, though, I detected a slight edge to the ensemble, especially when the violins were in the higher register. A difference in mastering, perhaps? It's not a major difference, just one I noticed.

As far as the music goes, if you liked Veit's first two quartets, you'll certainly enjoy his remaining two. The third quartet (1838) and fourth quartet (1840) follow the models of Beethoven and Spohr.

The fourth quartet is the most adventurous. There's more chromatic motion and the harmonies sound deliciously complex.

It's a shame Veit abandoned the genre in 1840. He lived for another 26 years. One can only imagine how much further his quartet writing would have developed had he continued composing in the genre.

At least we have these four quartets. Thanks, Toccata Classics!

Wenzel Heinrich Veit
Complete String Quartets, Vol. 2
Kertész Quartet
Toccata Classics TOCC 0409

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ullmann PIano Concerto - Music That Won't Be Silenced

Cappricio's first Viktor Ullman release featured two symphonies, with the Gürzenich-Orchester and James Conlon. This time the focus is on Ullman's piano music, ably played by Moritz Ernst.

Ullman himself was an outstanding pianist. His writing for the instrument is in many ways, his most personal form of expression.

Ullman's Piano Concerto, Op. 25 was completed in 1939. He had studied with both Arnold Schoenberg and Alexander Zemlinsky. Some influences of both can be heard. Although the work is mostly tonal, there are plenty of mordant dissonances. While that may reflect Schoenberg, the rich orchestration reminds me of Zemlinksy.

The piano solo, though, is pure Ullman. The concerto is an exciting work, that takes some surprising -- though not disorienting -- twists and turns. Ernst plays energetically, with a hint of impertinence. 

The title of the 1929 Variations and Double Fugue on a Theme by Arnold Schoenberg says it all. Ullman does a credible job using a strict 12-tone technique. And yet there's a certain melodiousness to the work that makes it far more than an academic exercise.

Ullman was of Jewish descent. In 1942 he was interred at Theresienstadt. He continued to compose while interred. Ullman wrote, “In Theresienstadt, wherein daily life one has to overcome matter through form, where everything musical stands in direct contrast to the surroundings: here is a true school for masters."

His Piano Sonata No. 7 is indeed a masterwork. The piece has moments of humor, drama, and quiet contemplation. It was completed in August 1944 -- three months before his death at Auschwitz.

 This is music that deserves to be heard -- and heard by a wider audience. Not because of the composer's tragic life, but because of the quality of Ullman's writing and Ernst's performances.

 Viktor Ullman: Piano Concerto, Op. 25
Piano Sonata No. 7; Variations and Double Fugue on a Theme by Arnold Schoenberg
Moritz Ernst, piano
Dortmunder Philharmoniker; Gabriel Feltz, conductor
Capriccio C5294

Friday, June 22, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle Week 3

Robert Schumann was born on June 8, 1810. Some of us contributing to the #ClassicsaDay feed decided to celebrate that birthday. For the month of June, we encouraged folks to post works by Schumann and his circle. Schumann worked with several major composers of the day. He also reviewed up-and-coming composers in his magazine. 

Here are my selections for the third week of #ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle

Robert Schumann - Etudes after Paganini Caprices, Op. 3

When he was 20 years old, Schumann saw Nicolo Paganini in concert. It inspired him to pursue a career in music. That same year he began piano lessons with Friedrich Wieck. The Etudes were published in 1832. A second work based on Paganini's music followed in 1833.

Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840) - Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor

Paganini wrote his fourth concerto for his 1829-30 tour of Germany, although it was officially premiered in Paris the following year. A twenty-year-old Robert Schumann saw Paganini in concert during that tour.

Robert Schumann - Papillons, Op. 2

Schuman's "Butterflies" is based on a masquerade in Jean Paul's novel, Die Flegeljahre. Schumann also conducted a masquerade in his 1831 essay on Chopin's own Op.2. He adopted three different personalities who engaged in a heated discussion of the work.

Frédéric Chopin ( Variations on "Là ci darem la mano" for piano and orchestra, Op. 2

Chopin wrote this set of variations when he was 17. Schumann heard the work in 1831. His famous review of it in Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung proclaimed "Hats off, gentlemen! A genius!" Clara Wieck, age 12, wrote "[Chopin's Op. 2] which I learned in eight days, is the hardest piece I have ever seen or played till now."

Heinrich Dorn (1804-1892) Das Mädchen an den Mond

Schumann studied counterpoint with Heinrich Dorn in 1834. Dorn was the conductor of the Leipzig Opera and a friend of Franz Liszt. He wrote numerous art songs, as well as ten operas. His opera "Die Nibelungen" premiered in 1853, decades before Wagner's version.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 092 - Trip Hammer

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

092. Trip Hammer

What you see below is only an approximation of the illustrated trip hammer. As with many of the more complex constructions, there aren't enough pieces.

Plus, the illustration wasn't all that clear -- certainly not enough for me to build this with any confidence.

Here's what I think was the intent. When the crank is turned, it rotates the 3-hole girder (1). The shaft attached to it would rotate in a circle, pulling the 5-hole girder up and down.

That girder is attached to a 3-hole girder (2). The motion causes the 3-hole girder to move out and down. This girder is attached to the box that represents the hammerhead.

The other 3-hole girder (3) pivots on the other girder (4), attached to the inside of the frame. Thus, the hammer extends out and down to the surface.

The critical part of the machine, (2) isn't shown. I'm not quite sure how that 3-hole girder attaches to the frame, the 5-hole girder, and the hammer.

In a way, it doesn't matter. This toy requires three 3-hole girders. Only two come with the set. Plus, the dowel and collar construction is too flimsy to actually turn anything.

Since this was a non-working model, I just fudged the connections to the 5-hole girder at (2). So below is about as close as I could get with the material at hand.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Martinu Early Orchestral Works, Vol. 3 Provides Context

The major work of this release is "Vanishing Night." Martinu revised it with the help of his teacher Josef Suk. The music is a compendium of Martinu's early impressionist style.

Originally, it was thought that only a portion of "Vanishing Midnight" survived. Recently orchestral parts for the missing movements were rediscovered. For the first time, the work can be heard in its entirety. It's well worth hearing.

This three-movement composition shows a composer in transition. It doesn't quite have the Czech character that Martinu's mature works would exhibit. And it doesn't quite have the syncopations, either. But it's very close.

"Ballade after Böcklin’s picture: Villa by the Sea" is the only surviving movement from a 1915 set of symphonic dances. The music is as impressionistic and indefinite as the image itself. Böcklin created five different versions of "Villa by the Sea," each one slightly different.

Martinu's score is also somewhat ambivalent. Shifting key centers, shimmering harmonies, and irregular melodies remind me of Debussy's soft-focus impressionism. And yet there's something about this work that hints at the symphonist Martinu would become.

"Dream of the Past," written five years later, presages more strongly Martinu's mature style. It's a somewhat somber work, with a heavy dose of chromaticism.

Conductor Ian Hobson and the Sinfonia Varsvia turn in some fine performances. These may not be the best works by Martinu, but this recording makes that case that they deserve more than just an occasional listen.

Bohuslav Martinu: Early Orchestral Works, Volume 3
Sinfonia Varsivia; Ian Hobson, conductor
Toccata Classics

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I Musici Excel with Sammartini Concerti

This release is the first complete recording of Giuseppe Sammartini's Op. 2 Concertos. These concerti had disappointing sales when first published. But by the late 1740s, the collection was selling quite well --especially in England.

Sammartini's concertos artfully balance between extremes. They have robust polyphonic sections, yet remain transparent. They can be played by amateurs, yet there is plenty of substance for professionals to dig into. They're intellectual in construction, yet they're full of emotion.

The venerable authentic performance ensemble I Musici neatly capture the essence of these works. Their performances are both measured and exciting. The energy of this ensemble gives the allegro movements a snap.

In the early days of Dynamic, I wasn't a big fan of the label. The recordings always seemed to sound a little murky. Not so with this release. The recording quality is quite good, letting me hear some of the finer details of the ensemble's playing. I have no reservations recommending this release.

Giuseppe Sammartini
6 Concertos in 7 Parts, Op. 2
I Musici
Dynamic CDS 7777

Friday, June 15, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle Week 2

Robert Schumann was born on June 8, 1810. Some of us contributing to the #ClassicsaDay feed decided to celebrate that birthday.

For the month of June, we encouraged folks to post works by Schumann and his circle. Schumann worked with several major composers of the day. He also reviewed up-and-coming composers in his magazine.

Here are my selections for the second week of #ClassicsaDay

Robert Schumann - Piano Concerto in F major, mvt. III

Schumann saw pianist/composer Ignaz Moscheles in concert. It inspired him to go into music as a career. Moscheles wrote eight piano concertos, Schumann struggled to produce one. The concerto in F major was the second of three abandoned attempts. He worked on it from 1829-31.

Ignaz Moscheles (1794-1870) - Piano Concerto No. 3 in G minor, Op. 58

Moscheles was a highly successful piano virtuoso and composer. Schumann was inspired to take up music after seeing him in concert. Moscheles also conducted concerto performances with Clara Schumann as soloist.

Robert Schumann - Piano Sonata No. 1, Op. 11

Schumann wrote his first piano sonata in 1835, the year he met Felix Mendelssohn. The Mendelssohns -- Felix and Fanny -- became close friends with the Schumanns -- Robert and Clara.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) - Scherzo a capriccio WoO 3

Mendelssohn and Schumann met in 1835, the year this work was written. They were close friends. In 1839 he received the recently rediscovered score of Schubert's 8th Symphony from Schumann. Mendelssohn premiered it in March of that year.

Norbert Burgmüller (1810-1836) - Symphony No. 2. Op.11

Robert Schumann was an ardent supporter of Burgmüller. The young composer had completed but a few works when he died at age 26. They included a piano concerto and two symphonies. The second symphony was left unfinished. Schumann completed the second and third movements based on Burgmüller's sketches. There wasn't enough of the final movement for Schumann to build on, so the symphony remains unfinished. Schumann premiered it in 1837.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 091 - Wind Mill

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

091. Wind Mill

It took me a while to figure out exactly how this toy went together. Everything's kind of blurry in the illustration (especially around the crank assembly). 

The tower holding the windmill has to be open on the side, rather than the back. If the back was open, you couldn't secure the axle through two holes. 

Once I realized that the illustration was showing that open side, building the windmill was pretty easy. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fine performances of Quantz Concertos for Recorder

Johann Joachim Quantz is rightly considered the father of the flute. He was one of the first virtuosi of the transverse flute. He was also one of the foremost flute makers of his day.

Quantz's writings are still used as standard references for Baroque flute technique and ornamentation. And he wrote almost 600 works, most featuring the transverse flute or the recorder.

This recording features two concertos and two trio sonatas. Stefano Baliano is the recorder soloist. He plays with a warm, mellow tone that remains consistent, even in the upper registers. Like Quantz, he's the master of his instrument. Bagliano's technique has a fluidity that makes even the most difficult passage sound elegantly simple.

Bagliano's the founder of the Collegium Pro Musica. The deep relationship between soloist and ensemble make these performances pleasing to listen to.

I especially enjoyed the Concerto in G minor (QV6:8a) and the Trio Sonata in C (QV2:Anh.3). These feature both recorder and transverse flute as soloists. The rich, darker tone of Lorenzo Cavasanti's transverse flute blends well with Bagliano's recorder. It's a smooth, yet complex blend of sound that I liked very much.

A superb addition to the Collegium Pro Musica's growing catalog of fine early music performances.

Johann Joachim Quantz: Concertos & Sonatas with Recorder
Concerto in F for recorder and strings, QV5:130; Concerto in G minor for recorder, flute, and strings, QV6:8a; Trio Sonata in C for recorder, flute, and b.c., QV2:Anh.3; Trio Sonata in G minor for recorder, violin, and b.c., QV2:20
Stefano Bagliano, recorder
Collegium Pro Musica
Brilliant Classics 95386

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tender Trap 10 - The Black Scorpion

What is the Tender Trap? It's what happens when someone places the tender of a toy or model locomotive backward because it "looks right that way." Usually, to do so, they have to ignore the connectors that are specifically designed to work only when the tender's facing the right way. 

So to insist on placing the tender backward, ignorance isn't enough -- you have to deliberately ignore the evidence in front of you.

One doesn't expect a lot from a 1950s monster movie. But The Black Scorpion did something that I believe is unique among B-movies. It fell into the Tender Trap.

The 1957 movie was a joint American-Mexican production, and clearly with an eye always to the bottom line. The trailer can't quite disguise all the shortcuts. Even in this two-minute promo, there's a lot of stock footage (even more in the film). While the stop-motion is well done, it's sometimes undercut.

Did you notice the train wreck? Here it is in detail:

The special effects department used a Lionel train set. That wasn't uncommon at the time. But they didn't have the budget (apparently) to repaint it!

And... the tender's backward. In order to connect the tender, the special effects crew had to wire the tender's knuckle coupler to the locomotive frame, and wire the tender's coupling bar to the passenger car's knuckle coupler. Wouldn't it have been easier to just turn the darned thing around -- especially if time was money?

Just asking.

Friday, June 08, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle Week 1

Robert Schumann was born on June 8, 1810. Some of us contributing to the #ClassicsaDay feed decided to celebrate that birthday. For the month of June, we encouraged folks to post works by Schumann and his circle. Schumann worked with several major composers of the day. He also reviewed up-and-coming composers in his magazine. 

Here are my selections for the first week of #ClassicsaDay #SchumannsCircle

Robert Schumann (1810-1856) - Ten Impromptus on a Theme by Clara Wieck, Op. 5

Robert Schumann was studying piano with Friedrich Wieck. Schumann became enchanted with his daughter, Clara. Young Clara was an extremely talented pianist and composer. Schumann wrote these ten impromptus based on one of her themes. Clara was thirteen when Schumann presented his finished work to her. They were married eight years later.

Clara Wieck Schumann (1819-1896) - Romance Varié for piano, Op. 3

Wieck was a prodigious musical prodigy, both at the keyboard and with the pen. Most of her works were written while she was young. The Romance Varié, for example, was composed when she was 12 or 13. Robert Schumann made one of the themes the basis for his 10 Impromptus, Op. 5.

Robert Schumann - Toccata in C major, Op. 7

Schumann dedicated this work to his close friend Ludwig Schunke. Schunke was Schumann's next-door neighbor and at one point dissuaded Schumann from suicide. Schunke was a pianist/composer with great promise. He died at age 23.

Ludwig Schumke (1810-1834) - Grand Sonate in G minor, Op. 3

Schumke was a piano virtuoso and composer, whose career was cut short by tuberculosis. He performed with Lizst and Chopin. He was a close friend of Robert Schumann. He co-founded Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. Schumke dedicated his grande sonata to his friend.

Robert Schumann - Symphonic Studies, Op. 13

Schuman wrote this set of etudes in 1834. It features a theme by amateur musician Baron von Fricken, and eleven variations. The twelve etude was based on "Proud England, rejoice!" from a Heinrich Marschner opera. It was dedicated to Schumann's friend, William Sterndale Bennett.

William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875) The Naiads ~ Concert Overture Op. 15

Bennett was a close personal friend of Schumann. When Schumann dedicated his Symphonic Studies to Bennett, Bennett returned the favor. His Fantasie Op. 16 was dedicated to Schumann. I couldn't find an example of that work, but Bennett's "The Naiads" was composed the same year, 1836.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 090 Hoisting Machine

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

090. Hoisting Machine

This was a fairly easy build -even if it was impossible. I've run across this problem before. The instruction sheet illustrator didn't always keep track of the set components. 

The kit only comes with two three-hole beams. The picture calls for three. Some of the other toys in the series use one of the flat boxes for the crank handle. That's exactly what I did here. 

The illustration also doesn't show any pulley detail. So I just built it the way I thought it should go. 

And, as you probably noticed, the length of dowels depicted fall between the two lengths actually available.  Since a long dowel is holding the winch's tower in place, I couldn't push the cross-brace dowel any further into the crank housing.