Friday, August 30, 2013

Spam Roundup August, 2013

Increased page views means increased comments from spambots! Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month.

In response to my review of Michael Torke's classical music composition "Tahiti:"

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[This posted to the spammer's favorite article -- The Straco Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along which has no video. Literally.]

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[...or maybe not]

Next month we'll have more informed information about our spammers -- a veritable fountain of fastidiously funny data, I'm sure. So keep those comments coming in.
Preferably to my AOL account.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Guitalian Quartet: Contemporary Italian Music Makes an Exceptional Program

Contemporary Italian Music for Guitar Quartet
Guitalian Quartet
Bridge Records

The Guitalian Quartet is comprised of four top-flight classical guitarists who perform together with seamless precision. This new release from Bridge presents a wonderful program of contemporary Italian guitar quartet music.

Giovanni Sollima's "Beastiario di Leonardo" depicts the exotic beasts of Da Vinci's imagination with equally imaginative writing for the ensemble. Sollins conjures up swirling wraiths of sound for the shining Lumerpa, undulating melodies for the Alep (fish), busy, bustling chords for the horned Ceresta, and so on.

Bruno Maderna wrote his Serenata per un satellite in 1969 with an unusual score that can be combined and interpreted many different ways. The work has a metallic quality to it with soft, slow sections suddenly exploding wtih bursts of energy. The Guitalian Quartet captures the essence of this aleatoric work in a performance that sounds both spontaneous and inspired.

The quartet rounds out the album with short but well-crafted works by Carmelo Nicotra, Mauro Shiavone, Nicola Jappelli, and Paolo Arca. An enjoyable and engaging album from start to finish.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gasoline Alley and the Old Comic Strip Challenge 13 - 15

In a sequence that began on April 9, 2013, Gasoline Alley centenarian Walt Wallet receives an invitation to the Old Comics Home dinner. Walt has reminisced before about his fellow characters from discontinued comic strips. And since Gasoline Alley began in 1918, there are quite a few of his contemporaries who have been retired. (Read the whole series here)

Days 13 through 15 of this sequence I've lumped together, for reasons that will soon be obvious. In the first panel, it's important to pay attention to the background, as some fairly famous onlookers take in the action. And speaking of which, Ignatz is back to hurl a brick at Krazy Kat. (click on images to enlarge)

The arc of that brick is why this post has two day's worth of comics. Ignatz's brick misses Krazy (something that rarely happened in Herriman's classic strip). Instead, it shatters a light fixture. Which means that, just as Krazy commented in his/her fractured English, the lights go arf.

On day 14, Scancarelli gives us an exterior of the house (in black and white!) and for at least one day, I don't have to rack my memory trying to identify vintage comic characters. The following day he shows the interior of the house, with everyone in silhouette. The key players of the past few days are easily identifiable, and the others I believe are just adding to the crowd.

1. Annie  - Little Orphan Annie (1924-2010) by Harold Grey
2. Ignatz - Krazy Kat, (1913-1944) by George Herriman
3. Maggy - Bringing Up Father (1913-2000) by George McManus
4. Happy Hooligan - Happy Hooligan (1900-1932) by Frederick Burt Opper
5. Jiggs - Bringing Up Father (1913-2000) by George McManus
6. Krazy Kat - Krazy Kat, (1913-1944) by George Herriman  

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Monday, August 26, 2013

The Diabelli Project 009 - Two-Part Invention at the Fifth

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

Here's another two-part invention that I think might be rife with possibilities. The rhythmic motif that opens the piece (two 16ths and an 8th note) begin and end the four-bar statement. A simple reversal of an 8th note followed by two 16ths in the last measure spices up the interplay between the two voices. And although I've changed the pitches on the beat, there's no reason why that couldn't be shifted to provide a little bit of hemiola.

Well, that's what I would do if I wrote more of this out, but that's not the only solution. What would you do? As with the rest of the series, I invite you to take this idea and make it your own.

Friday, August 23, 2013

CCC 084 - János Vajda

This week the Consonant Classical Challenge looks at Hungarian composer János Vajda. Vajda (b. 1949), is best known for his vocal music. His most popular works include four operas, a mass, and various song cycles. His music is quite lyrical in nature, with melodies that flow easily from note to note. Vadja's harmonies are indeed tonal, although not necessarily built on simple triads.

"Just for You," a work for solo cello contains the essence of Vajda's melodic style. The chromatic shadings are characteristic of Slavic folk music, and give the work a hint of exoticism.

The orchestral work "Titanic," has Vadja painting with a much richer tonal palette. In this excerpt one can hear the chordal structures that make up his tonal-based style.

Vadja knows full well the rich, expressive qualities of the human voice, and he uses that to full advantage in his operas. The drama in this scene from "Mario es a Varazslo"is carried by the voices, supported by an Kurt Weil-like circus band that sets the stage.

Choral music is another area of János Vajda's strength. This Alleluja shows Vajda's facility for writing performance-friendly choral music of quality.

János Vajda is an important Eastern European composer who's not as well known in this country -- with the possible exception of advanced choral groups. And that's too bad, because his music is not only accessible and appealing, but it also has a unique quality to it. I'm hoping some ambitious opera company (or summer festival) will have the courage to mount a production of "Barabias," or "Leonce és Léna."

Recommended recordings

String Quartets Nos. 1 & 2;

Janos Vajda: Mario and the Magician

Janos Vajda: Missa In A

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Peter Maxwell Davies: Strathclyde Concertos Nos. 3 & 4

Maxwell Davies: Strathclyde Concertos Nos. 3 and 4 
Robert Cook, French horn
Peter Franks, trumpet
Lewis Morrison, clarinet
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Peter Maxwell Davies, conductor

The Strathclyde Concertos are a unique group of compositions. Commissioned by Strathclyde, Peter Maxwell Davies composed one concerto a year for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The ten concertos, spanning a decade, make an impressive -- and somewhat unified -- body of work.

This release features the third concerto for horn and trumpet, and the fourth concerto for clarinet in arguably the most authoritative performances recorded -- the Scottish Chamber Orchestra for whom the works were written, conducted by the composer himself.

One of the characteristics of the Strathclyde concertos is the elimination of competing voices from the orchestra, throwing the solo instruments in sharp relief to the ensemble. So the third concerto has no brass instruments, save for the solo French horn and trumpet. The fourth concerto has only one clarinet -- the soloist.

Each concerto fully explores the possibilities of the solo instruments, and those possibilities influence the direction of the work. The brass concerto is more aggressive than the clarinet concerto, with wider melodic leaps and an higher energy level overall. The clarinet concerto, while more lyrical and soft-spoken, is not without some spiky sections as well.

This is a re-release from the Collins Classic series (they recorded Concertos 3-10). I'm hoping Naxos will eventually reissue the rest, and perhaps the first two from Unicorn-Kanchana too, please?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stuyvesnat Quartet: Brahms & Mozart -- Audio Treasures

Stuyvesant Quartet with Alfred Gallodoro, clarinet

The Stuyvesant Quartet was a group of talented musicians who left a remarkable legacy. Founded by by the Shulman brothers, Sylvan (violin) and Alan (cello) in 1938, the quartet consisted of preeminent musicians from broadcast network symphony orchestras. In 1950 they formed their own label -- Philharmonia -- with audio legend Norman Pickering as their recording engineer.

Although Philharmonia was short-lived, the recordings and performances were top-notch, as this current reissue attests. The sound is warm, but detailed. The ensemble is nicely balanced, with a natural-sounding blend. And the performances are very much of their time.

The Brahms Clarinet Quintet with clarinetist Alfred Gallodoro is given a heavily romantic and  sometimes sweet, reading. It's a performance that's full of drama, yet there are passages where the ensemble seems to be simply savoring every note.

The Stuyvensant's performances of Mozart's String Quartet in D major, K. 499 and String Quartet in D major, K. 575 are more straight-forward. While there is more vibrato than you'd hear in a modern recording, the ensemble keeps things simple and uncluttered.

This reissue is a window into the past, and a valuable one. No modern quartet would perform these works in the manner of the Stuyvesant. Yet the high degree of musicianship and the emotional charge they give these works makes for compelling listening even today. And the Stuyvesant's interpretations yield insights that can still sound fresh to modern ears.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gasoline Alley and the Old Comic Strip Challenge 12

In a sequence that began on April 9, 2013, Gasoline Alley centenarian Walt Wallet receives an invitation to the Old Comics Home dinner. Walt has reminisced before about his fellow characters from discontinued comic strips. And since Gasoline Alley began in 1918, there are quite a few of his contemporaries who have been retired. (Read the whole series here)

It's a good thing I decided to make this a weekly series of posts instead of daily! The lengthening amount of time between original publication date and posting date has let me do more research on the characters Scancarelli's referencing.

This sequence features characters from just two comic strips, both iconic and extremely popular in their day. Harold Teen by Carl Ed spawned movies, books, and bound comics during the between-war years, but is almost forgotten today. By contrast, Walt Kelly's Pogo -- although not as long-running as Harold Teen -- is still fondly remembered, with anthologies readily available in print.

1. Lillums Lovewell - Harold Teen (1919 - 1959) by Carl Ed
2. Harold Teen  - Harold Teen (1919 - 1959) by Carl Ed
3. Pogo Possum  - Pogo (1948-1975) by Walt Kelly
4. Albert Alligator - Pogo (1948-1975) by Walt Kelly

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Monday, August 19, 2013

The Diabelli Project 008 - Two-part Invention at the Octave

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This time, I thought I'd start with the most basic musical element -- the scale -- and see where it led. Of course, I didn't go with the most obvious choice (major or minor). I used the Dorian mode instead. In the third bar, I could already see some possibilities with breaking up the downward sequence into smaller units, and distorting the regularity of the motion somewhat. This is another sketch I might return to at some point. (click on image to enlarge) 

Which isn't to discourage anyone else from using it. What possibilities do you see (or hear) in the Dorian mode? Or should it stay in that mode at all? It's up to you!

Friday, August 16, 2013

CCC 083 - Colin Mawby

British composer Colin Mawby is the focus of this week's Consonant Classical Challenge.. Mawby is an organist as well as a composer. His music is composed for liturgical use, most of it either for chorus with organ, or for a capella choirs.

There seems to be two types of composers who write sacred music. The first are composers who come to the genre as outsiders. And while their music tends to be more adventuresome and challenging, it seems to work better in the concert hall than the cathedral. Beethoven's "Missa Solemnus," Brahms' "German Requiem", and Pendericki's "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" are some examples of this.

The second group -- of which Colin Mawby is a part -- are composers who have a strong professional background with church music, often as singers or organists. John Rutter (CCC 022), Healey Willan, and John Tavener (CCC 031) would be among this group.

Colin Mawby's style is steeped in the English choral tradition. It's tonally based, with the emphasis being on clearly-defined melodic contours.

Ave Verum Corpus is a good representative Mawby work. The text is liturgical, and although the choral writing is of a very high quality, the technical demands aren't beyond the reach of most semi-professional choirs.

Mawby's catalog includes over fifty masses, five song cycles, and a large number of settings for choir and two children’s operas. His setting of "Tu es Petrus" was performed in the Vatican, as you can see in this video.

This short "Halleluja" is simple and straightforward -- but there's nothing trite or commonplace about it.

Although Colin Mawby writes in traditional forms, his music shows a creative imagination at work. The weight of tradition seems to sit very lightly on his shoulders. For choral directors who are looking for contemporary works that connect with audiences -- but don't want to program Rutter or Whitacre too often -- Colin Mawby seems to be a viable option. At least to my ears.

Recommended Recordings

The Music of Westminster Cathedral Choir

Panis Angelicus

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tayatha - Music for the quietly thoughtful

Yungchen Lhamo
Anton Batagov
Cantaloupe Music

New Age music wasn't always a pejorative term (at least with some people). Originally, it described music that was incorporated non-Western traditions in a form that was calming, restful, and conducive to meditation (but seems these days to simply denote pleasant background Muzak).

Although Tayatha is listed as a classical album, to my ears Russian artist Anton Batagov's piano coupled with Yungchen Lhamo's Tibetian singing style sounds New Age -- in the best sense of the term.

In each of these seven works, one can hear the blending of Russian and Tibetian musical elements, creating something that sounds brand new, yet timeless. Although the music flows, it does so without soft-rock riffs or world beat rhythms. Rather, it moves smoothly past in patterns that seem static, yet constantly change.

What Lhamo and Batagov have created with their collaboration is sound that invites you to slow down, to breathe deeply, and perhaps to sit silently for a moment or two. Tayatha is the type of album that defies genre labeling. Classical? New Age? Let's just say quietly thoughtful.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bortniansky: Hymns and Choral Concertos - Orthodox beauty

Bortniansky: I cried out to the Lord 
Hymns and Choral Concertos
Ensemble Cherubim
Marika Kuzma, director

Dmitry Bortniansky (1751-1825) was almost an exact contemporary of Beethoven, and just as ground-breaking. He was the conductor of the Imperial Russian court and as composer, specialized in sacred choral music. The Russian Orthodox Church does not allow instruments to used in worship services, giving rise to a rich body of a cappella liturgical music.

Bortniansky took that tradition and updated it, creating a new type of sacred work, the choral concerto. This release presents nine of these works. While the texts are Russian, the harmonies are mostly Western, sounding somewhat akin to choral works by Schubert or even Mendelssohn.

Also included are two additional sacred works: The Cherubic Hymn No. 7, and the Kol slaven. The former is one of Bortniansky's most popular sacred works, often performed and recorded. The Kol slaven is even more popular: the tune became a Russian Christmas carol, and is more widely known in that version today.

The Ensemble Cherubim under Marika Kuyzma have a clean, intimate sound. One can easily hear inner workings of Bortniansky's harmonies and the interplay between voices. If you're not familiar with Bortniansky, or Russian Orthodox sacred music, this release is an excellent place to start.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Gasoline Alley and the Old Comic Strip Challenge 11

In a sequence that began on April 9, 2013, Gasoline Alley centenarian Walt Wallet receives an invitation to the Old Comics Home dinner. Walt has reminisced before about his fellow characters from discontinued comic strips. And since Gasoline Alley began in 1918, there are quite a few of his contemporaries who have been retired. (Read the whole series here)

Day 11 has a remarkable line-up in the first panel -- if my identifications are correct. They all seem to be characters from strips created by George Herriman, best remembered for Krazy Kat. (click on image to enlarge)

Herriman's first comic strip was The Dingbat Family, later called The Family Upstairs. It was a domestic comic strip, and featured a supporting strip about the family's cat and its interactions with the mouse that also lived in the apartment. The mouse and cat were Ignatz and Krazy, and would soon graduate to their own strip.

When the Dingbat Family ended, Herriman replaced it with Baron Bean. The title character, with more than a passing resemblance to Mutt (of Mutt and Jeff), was an expatriate English noble living in America. Is the assemblage of characters from three of Herriman's strips deliberate? Given the care Scancarelli took with this sequence, I like to think it is.

1. Baron Bean  - Baron Bean (1916-1919) by George Herriman
2. E. Pluribus Dingbat - The Dingbat Family/The Family Upstairs (1910-1916) by George Herriman
3. Ostrich - Krazy Kat (1913-1944) by George Herriman
4. Wash Tubbs - Wash Tubbs (1924-1988) by Roy Crane
5. Smokey Stover - Smokey Stover (1935-1973) by Bill Holman
6. Maggie- Bringing Up Father (1913-2000) by George McManus
7. Jiggs - Bringing Up Father (1913-2000) by George McManus

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Monday, August 12, 2013

The Diabelli Project 007 - 2-Voice Fugue

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

Yes, this was meant to be a fugue rather than a simple cannon. I wrote the opening motif in such a way that it could be broken down for fugal development. The repeated notes, for example, could be used as a sub-motif. Or perhaps the outline of the opening melody, G-D-C. The scale upwards in the second measure with the repeated note also could be used in some fashion. (click on image to enlarge).

There are many possibilities -- and what I might do with this material would be vastly different than what you might make of it. I'll post my results when I finish them. Perhaps we can (literally) compare notes!

Friday, August 09, 2013

CCC 082 - Gerardo Guevara

Gerardo Guevara of Ecuador is this week's entry in the Consonant Classical Challenge. Guevara is considered one of the most important and influential composers in his native country. Like many composers from Central and South America, Guevara incorporates elements of folk music into his compositions. What makes his work unique is how he does so, and his source material.

The music of Ecuador has a very distinctive and different sound to it than that of Mexico (as found in the music of Frederico Ibarra) or that of Brazil (as used by Villa-Lobos).

Although Guevara's music is tonally-based, the chord progressions don't always follow Western musical traditions. And the rhythms are anything but the four-square beat divisions of European classical music.

The Divertimento para Cuerdas demonstrates how Guevara transforms simple melodies with sophisticated harmonies and driving rhythms (especially in the final movement).

"Apamuy Shungo" is a traditional Ecuadorian folksong. Although written for string quartet, Guevara's arrangement retains all the earthy vitality of the source material.

"Despedida" is a simple song for voice and piano. It's lilting melody is highly expressive while being immediately accessible to audiences (even those outside the culture).

"Albazo" is a much more advanced work, harmonically and melodically. Yet even in a contemporary classical work like this, with some extended performance techniques, Guevara still retains a link to Ecuador's musical heritage.

Guerara's choral work "Se Va con Albo Mio" presents a different side of the composer. Although the major elements of his style are still present, the rhythmic elements are somewhat muted, letting the the work flow seamlessly from start to finish.

Although Gerardo Guevara has a well-rounded catalog of compositions, very few (outside of his choral works) have been performed. Guevera has written some small- and large-scale orchestral works. And quite frankly, if someone was putting together a concert program of "Music from South of the Border," I'd much rather hear Guevara's De mestizo a mestizo, a three movement work for orchestra than yet another performance of  Copland's El Salón Mexico.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Anne-Marie McDermott: Transparent Mozart Concertos

Mozart: Piano Concertos K. 414, 415, 449 (chamber music versions)
Anne-Marie McDermott, piano
Calder Quaret
David J. Grossman, bass
Bridge Records

The three piano concertos (Nos. 12-14) on this new release had a somewhat checkered history. Mozart composed them as small-scale works in 1782 for a subscription concert he wished to put on.

The ensemble parts were composed in such a way that wind instruments were optional. The string parts could be reduced to a simple string quartet if necessary.

Thus, however much money was raised, the ensemble parts would be covered. Unfortunately, the subscription was unsuccessful. The works were eventually published, but only the full orchestral versions.

Hearing these three concertos in chamber form is something of a revelation. I didn't miss the orchestra at all. The pieces work very well with just a string quartet (or in the case of Piano Concerto No. 14, K.449 string quartet and bass) supporting the piano. It's a very clean, clear sound, and one that's perfectly, well, Mozartian.

Anne-Marie McDermott plays with taste and delicacy, capturing just the right emotion. Overly dramatic or aggressive playing could easily make the piano overpower the string quartet. And that's something that never happens on this recording. The Calder Quartet and McDermott are in full agreement, mutually working towards the same end.

These are delightful performances that I'll return to again and again. These chamber versions of the concertos are Mozart at his sunniest. Highly recommended, especially if you're only familiar with the full orchestral versions of these works.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Rautavaara: Sacred Choral Works - Beautiful music beautifully recorded

Rautavaara: Missa a Cappella
Sacred Choral Works
Latvian Radio Choir
Sigvards Klava, director

There's a consistency about Einojuhani Rautavaara's writing that gives his music a timeless quality. After auditioning this new release, I revisited the earliest recording I owned of his music, "Angels and Visitations" (1997). The style was virtually identical.

That's not to say Rautavaara hasn't grown creatively. Rather, to me it shows that once he hit upon the best way to express himself musically, he's simply continued in that vein, creating works that continue to be deeply spiritual and thought-provoking.

This new release is no exception. The major work on the album, Missa a cappela,  is a floating, ever-changing cloud of sound that benefits from the resonant echoes of the cathedral it was recorded in. This is not music for the concert hall, but truly music for the church. Rautavaara writes masterfully for choir, creating a work that is ethereal and spiritual, yet rooted in human emotion.

The release is filled out with several shorter a cappella selections that compliment the Missa perfectly. The Latvian Radio Choir under Sigvards Klava has a warm, blended sound ideally suited to Rautavaara's music. Beautiful music beautifully recorded.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Gasoline Alley and the Old Comic Strip Challenge 10

In a sequence that began on April 9, 2013, Gasoline Alley centenarian Walt Wallet receives an invitation to the Old Comics Home dinner. Walt has reminisced before about his fellow characters from discontinued comic strips. And since Gasoline Alley began in 1918, there are quite a few of his contemporaries who have been retired.(Read the whole series here)

Day 10 brings in a character that's only been referenced indirectly so far in the sequence. Smokey Stover was a manic surreal comic strip written and drawn by Bill Holman. Often there were odd little visual puns in the background, and some recurring gags as well. Two phrases cropped up often in the strip -- on street signs, wall calenders, book covers, and just about anyplace else -- "Notary Sojac," and "1506 Nix Nix." Both appeared in the first day's continuity. Smokey Stover's cat, Spooky, was featured in day 7. Now the main character makes an appearance in his two-wheeled firetruck. (click on image to enlarge)

Although Dick Tracy is known for having labels with arrows in the scene (such as the famous notation for "two-way wrist radio," Holman also used the device in Smokey Stover. Scancarelli's notation "flipping his wig" is another homage to Smokey Stover.

1. Jiggs - Bringing Up Father (1913-2000) by George McManus
2. Smokey Stover - Smokey Stover (1935-1973) by Bill Holman
3. Maggie- Bringing Up Father (1913-2000) by George McManus
4. Spooky- Smokey Stover (1935-1973) by Bill Holman

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Monday, August 05, 2013

The Diabelli Project 006 - Canon at the Octave

The Diabelli Project is about offering my flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli,'s music these sketches aren't great. But perhaps there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

I like odd meters. In this case, I'm using 5/8, and this is an instance where notation really matters. If you look carefully, you'll see that I always notate a group of 2 followed by a group of 3, which suggests the pulse. ONE two THREE four five ONE two THREE four five... (click on image to enlarge)

So what could one make of that? I'm looking forward to seeing your results!

Friday, August 02, 2013

CCC 081 - Frédéric Devreese

This week's Consonant Classical Challenge features Belgian composer and conductor Frédéric Devreese. Devreese is the son of composer/conductor Godfried Devreese. His extensive experience as a conductor gives Frédéric Devreese an intimate understanding of the capabilities of instruments and performers. And that knowledge, I think, influences Debreese's compositional style.

His music has a straight-forward quality to it, and seems to flow naturally from the instruments he's written for. His harmonies, while somewhat complex, still use triads as building blocks, giving his music a tonal -- but never trivial -- sound.

His Divertimenti for String Orchestra provides a good introduction to his style. A divertimento by nature is a light work, and Devreese gives the listener a memorable melody cast in a harmonic setting that has just a little bit of a bite to it.

Devreese has written four piano concertos, as wellas a concerto for cello, and one for violin. His Fourth Piano Concerto shows his command of large-scale forms. Notice how the piano, while playing challenging music, never seems to be showing off. Devreese keeps the focus on the motifs, and how they develop, rather than indulging in flashy pyrotechnics.

Prelude No. 2 for piano distills Devreese's style down to its essence. Devreese's gift for melody is obvious, and the cross-rhythms between the hands adds texture without detracting from the inherent simplicity of the work.

Frédéric Devreese has a substantial body of work that is of the same quality as the examples above. He's an experienced conductor with a solid catalog of recordings. And his music has appeal, I believe, to both traditional and more adventuresome audiences. I'd personally like to see Maestro Devreese in concert, conducting his symphony. Now that would be an event!

Recommended Recordings

Frank Bridge / Frederic Devreese / William Walton: Chamber music for piano and strings

Frederic Devreese: Gemini (Orchestral & Piano Works)

Thursday, August 01, 2013

How My Brain Works

Some people seem surprised that I continually find new composers and new classical music to listen to all the time. Since "Gamut," the program I host on WTJU is dependent on a continual supply of fresh material, it's important that I keep seeking out new music.

But the process really not that hard -- especially the way my mind works. Yesterday the station received a new release from CPO Records: Friedrich Gernsheim: Symphonies 1 & 3.

Here's what ran through my mind as I looked at the CD.

1) I've never heard of Friedrich Gernshiem. I wonder what his music sounds like? According to the CD, his dates are 1839-1916, so he was late-Romantic. Perhaps his music sounds like Max Bruch, or maybe like that of Max Reger?

The back of a CD can tell you a lot -- if you have a
mind like mine!
2) The disc has two symphonies on it, Nos. 1 & 3. I wonder how many he wrote? Three? Four? More? I wonder if Gernsheim's Symphony No. 2 has been recorded.

3) Symphony No. 3 is Opus No. 54. Which means Gernshiem has at least 53 other published compositions. I wonder how many published works as in his catalog?

4) Gernshiem wrote at least three symphonies, so he's comfortable writing for orchestra. I wonder if he wrote any symphonic poems or orchestral suites? Did he write any concertos?

And that's how it started. I did a little bit of research later in the day, and found out that:

1) Friedrich Gernsheim was a respected composer, conductor, and pianist. His music, like that of  Max Bruch, is partially inspired by his Jewish heritage (both composed a Kol Nidre).

Fredrich Gernsheim, composer, conductor,
and pianist
2) He wrote four symphonies, and all four have been recorded.

3) I couldn't find a single complete list of his works, but there are at least 87 published works.

4) Gernsheim wrote quite a lot for orchestra. In addition to the four symphonies, there is a divertimento, at least five works for chorus and orchestra, and yes, he did write some concertos. His catalog includes a piano concerto, a cello concerto, and two violin concertos.

And that's how my mind works. Numbers (such as opus numbers, or numbered works), suggest other numbers in a series. Types of works suggest other types of works. And since I truly believe just about any composition is worth a listen -- at least once -- I find it easy to discover music. Without trying very hard.

(below is a sample of Gernsheim's symphonic writing)