Friday, July 31, 2015

Spam Roundup July, 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.

Not-even-close sequiters

This site certainly has all the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask. Also visit my blog post power systems fitness equipment [Not seeing the connection between "that subject" and sports gear...]

Wonderful Items from you, man. I’ve consider your stuff previous to and you’re simply extremely excellent. I really like what you have obtained right here, certainly like what you’re saying and the way wherein you are saying it. You’re making it entertaining and you still take care of to stay it wise. [A wise guy -- that's me.]

Insert Your Name Here
Thanks for finally talking about >Route 11 Road Trip – Day 2< Liked it! [I'm so >glad< you liked >my post<.]

The Nomura 3" penny toy lumber truck. A small load of
wood that generates a ton of spam.
Lumbering Along

At this point, I'm not sure what's going on with this post. The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along always been in the top five for traffic. And -- judging from the comments -- mostly read by spambots. I wonder if it's maintained its popularity because it keeps getting featured in these monthly spam roundups. If this keeps up, I'll have to take new photos of everyone's favorite vintage tinplate Japanese toy truck!

This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Also visit my weblog: sports fitness equipment  [Your comment was.. how do I say it? Irrelevant!!]

Bear grylls messer Fell free to surf my webpage… [Do they mean bare girls? If so, I'm not making any connections with a post about a lumber truck!]

The 416 Marx floodlight
tower, "bringing problems
to light."
I like reading through a post that will make men and women think. [Okayyyyy]

Using roofing cement may work temporarily, but will not last. [That’s your opinion.]

Do you have a spam issue on this website: I also am a blogger, and I was wondering your situation; we have developed some nice procedures and we are looking to swap solutions with others  [Here’s a solution: stop sending out spam comments.]

Fastidiousness seems to have run its course. There were no comments received this month that misused the word. But I did receive this unintentional pun.

Can I simply just say what a comfort to discover someone who actually knows what they are discussing on the net. You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. [The post was left at High Marx - the 416 Twin Floodlight Tower. So, yeah, I guess it did bring something to light.]

aThat's all for this month. Until next time, keep, how do I say it? Relevant!! And really -- lay off the roofing cement.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Finely-Crafted Symphonies from JCF Bach

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach never enjoyed the fame of his siblings Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian. Yet he was indeed a son of Johann Sebastian Bach. While his music may not be as innovative as his brothers' it is well-crafted and creatively rich.

The three symphonies on this album come from different phases of his professional career, and reflect the transition of musical style from the baroque period to the early classical. The Symphony in C major, W1/6, is the earliest of the three. It's a simple three-movement Italianate work that reminded me somewhat of Telemann.

The Symphony in E-flat W1/10 of 1720 has more extensive motivic development. And that development is easy to follow. JCF's ensemble writing seems to have a clarity to it that I don't hear in his siblings. Perhaps its the way he voices the strings.

The Symphony in B-flat WI/20 was written in 1794. Mozart and Haydn had changed the form of the symphony, and JCF is right there with them. This is a large-scale four-movement symphony that's worthy of attention. JCF writes for the orchestra of the time; gone is the basso-continuo, replaced by an expanded wind section (including clarinets) and a stronger use of orchestral color.

JCF Bach may not have been the towering genius his father was, or even lesser geniuses like his brothers. But he was still a skillful craftsman, and his music has many rewards for the listener.

Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach
Three Symphonies
Nues Bachisches Collegium Musicum Leipzig; Burkhard Glaetzner, conductor
Brilliant Classics 94780

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mother Goose and Grimm's Shoe

It isn't often that Mike Peters has cameos from other comic strips appear in Mother Goose and Grimm (see Love is Grimm for the most recent example). But when it does happen, it's always a special treat -- as in the March, 31, 2015 sequence. (click image to enlarge)

The reason it worked so well, I think, is because Peters' style is very close to Gary Brookins (the current artist for Shoe). So Shoe looks like Shoe -- not another artist's interpretation of Shoe. Peters' cameos may be rare, but they're always appreciated -- at least by this comics reader.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Diabelli Project 100 - Piano Piece

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.

It was unintentional, but the 100th installment in this series ends where it began -- with a simple keyboard piece. What's interesting to me, though, is what that term now means. My most recent flash composition runs eight bars with some changing texture throughout. (click on images to enlarge)

By contrast, here's Diabelli Project 001's entry:

It's also in 2/4, but what a difference. When I first started, I could barely manage five measures of a single line melody. And really, that's what a canon at the octave is; a single line repeated over itself (at least in the exposition). 

My weekly flash compositions have strengthened my creative energies, which was the primary goal. What happens next? I'll still dash off some flash compositions when I have a spare moment or two -- but now it's time to take some of these ideas and develop them into full-blown compositions. I might share my progress on these from time to time.

The real challenge, though, won't be completing the compositions, but finding musicians to perform them. But it's past time for me to work on that problem, too. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

David Crumb - Red Desert

"Red Desert" presents four world-premiere recordings by David Crumb. Crumb is a self-professed intuitive composer, letting the music take him where it will. It gives his work a spontaneity that's quite attractive. To my ears, Crumb's style seems post-tonal. That is, he's not afraid of using triads and consonant harmonies, but he's also not bound to use them traditionally.

September Elegy is an evocative work for violin and piano. Commissioned in 2001 by violinist Fritz Gearhart (who performs it here), Crumb incorporated his reaction 9/11, giving the work a powerful emotional center, with wide-open intervals and poignant half-step turns in the melody.

In Soundings, for clarinet bassoon and piano, Crumb (according to the liner notes) wanted to write idiomatically for the clarinet and bassoon. He succeeded. Each instrument has its own character, with the music thoroughly integrated into the technical demands of the instrument. Occasionally I was reminded of Stravinsky though -- especially when the bassoon was playing in its highest register.

The most substantial work on the album is Red Desert Tryptych. Crumb calls it a symphony for solo piano, inspired by visits to southwestern parks. Its aptly titled. The music has a big, open sound to it. There are plenty of thick, shimmering chords and cascading runs -- but its all for a purpose. Crumb captures the essence of the grandeur of big sky country. Marcantonio Barone (who premiered the work) performs Red Desert with élan, and a technique that makes the big gestures sound big, but not overblown.The final work on the album,

Primoridal Fantasy is an interesting one for solo piano and chamber ensemble. And it's the least tonal composition of the four. One instrument after another rises out of the swirling primordial ooze of sound as its melody takes form. Then it sinks back, replaced by another.

Most reviews will lead with something I chose to omit -- David Crumb's father. That's because David's music has its own character and can stand on its own. I found these works quite compelling and well-crafted. This album persuaded me I need to further explore David Crumb's catalog.

David Crumb: Red Desert September Elegy; Soundings; Red Desert Tryptych; Primordial Fantasy Fritz Gearhart, violin; Corey Hamm, piano; Marcantonio Barone, piano; Robert Ponto, conductor Bridge Records 9450

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Haydn: Duo Concertantes for Flute

The Six Duo Concertantes on this release were all originally composed by Haydn -- just not in this form. These duos for violins were transcribed for two flutes and published in 1801 by a Parisian firm. And as flute duos, the music works very well.

Ginevra Petrucci and Gian-Luca Petrucci perform with modern instruments. Yet their sound is warm and mellow, more in keeping with the wooden transverse flutes these transcriptions were meant for.

Even in their original form, these were meant to be light diversions. And they certainly are here.

 If you're up for an hour of pleasant, delightfully charming music -- or just a Haydn compleatist -- this may be the disc for you.

Franz Joseph Haydn: Six Duo Concertantes for two flutes
Ginevra Petrucci, Gian-Luca Petrucci, flutes
Brilliant Classics 94620

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dick Tracy - Mugg III

The nice thing about the current incarnation of Dick Tracy is that it can be enjoyed on several levels. Thanks to the masterful work of Mike Curtis and Joe Staton, whether you have extensive, average, or virtually no knowledge of the strip's rich history, the daily sequence will usually work for you and forward the story.

Take this example from April 20, 2015. (click to enlarge)

If you no little about the strip, you can take it at face value. A police dog has been called in to search for clues. He's good at his job. Tune in tomorrow.

If you know something of the strip's history, you may experience a shock of recognition. The name and appearance of the dog are identical to one who first appeared in 1949. Chester Gould (Dick Tracy's original creator) introduced Mugg in the story arc about the con man Pear-Shape. Mugg was adopted by Dick Tracy became a police dog. He appeared off and on in the early 1950's. So you could see this as an homage to the postwar Dick Tracy.

If you know a lot about the strip, however, then you know that in the 1990's Dick Tracy's son, Joe, was given one of Mugg's pups, who he named Muggsy. It was intimated that Muggs had died (presumably of old age). Another descendant, Muggs III was introduced in 2011 as a member of the K-9 corps. Mugg III, of course, is the one depicted in the sequence above. And if you do know the whole story, then you get the full meaning of officer Doherty's comment, "Muggs comes from a long line of K-9's."

He does indeed.

One sequence, three levels of meaning.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Diabelli Project 099 - Brass Quintet

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 week's flash composition turned out to be rather ambitious. Within the allotted time frame, I managed to dash off the opening to a brass quintet. Its simple texture and rhythms remind me of music by Walter Ross, who I studied composition with. But that wasn't the intention. As always, when the timer starts, I just let the ideas flow unfettered. So this wasn't a conscious homage to Ross. It just...  happened. (Click on images to enlarge).

As always, these sketches are made available to anyone who wishes to use them (even if you're name isn't Walter Ross). All I ask is that you share the results.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

George Crumb - Voices from the Morning of the Earth

"Voices from the Morning of the Earth" is subtitled "American Songbook VI" and for good reason. The songs are a collection of folk songs, most African-American, some cowboy, and two popular folk tunes -- Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" and Pete Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone."

 The songs' melodies are left intact -- although Crumb does break them down into individual phrases to work with. And while one phrase may be set in one key, the next may have a different tonal center. The disjointed nature of the phrases, and the clouds of sound that swirl around them cast these songs in new light.

I had heard the Dylan and Seeger songs so many times I no longer responded to them. Crumb strips away the good-time sing-along feel of those songs and gives them renewed emotional power. Sometimes its a dark power indeed. And made me pay attention and really consider the message in the words.

Also included is An Idyll for the Misbegotten (Images III) for amplified flute and percussion, and The Sleeper for mezzo-soprano and amplified piano. Both are atmospheric works that share some similarities with "Voices from the Morning." But without the anchor of the folk song, the works drift off to their own wonderfully strange (but perfectly logical) destinations.

Another important addition to the Bridge Records' George Crumb edition.

George Crumb: Complete Crumb Edition, Vol. 17 
Voices from the Morning of the Earth; An Idyll for the Misbegotten; The Sleeper Ann Crumb, soprano; Randall Scarlata, baritone; Orchestra 2001; James Freeman, conductor; Rachel Rudich, flute; David Colson, Paul Herrick, A.J. Matthew, percussion; Marcantonio Barone, piano 
Bridge Records 9445

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Raff String Quartet Collection Traces Composer's Development

Over the course of this 2-CD set, the Mannheimer String Quartet trace the unusual development of Joachim Raff as a chamber music composer. Raff's eight string quartets can be easily grouped into three phases of his career; Nos. 1 & 2 came early in his career, Nos. 3 & 4 are from his middle period, and the last three are works of a mature composer.

The first quartet on this release is the String Quartet No. 2, Op. 90 in A major, published in 1857. Raff was part of Franz Liszt's circle, and I could hear some decidedly Lisztian harmonic motion throughout this richly scored quartet.

It would be ten years before Raff published another string quartet, when he presented two in rapid succession. The String Quartet No. 3, Op. 136 in e minor is cast more along the lines of a classical era quartet, with less reliance on chromatic motion, and more on motivic development.

Raff opens the String Quartet No. 4, Op. 137 in A minor abruptly, jumping right into the main theme without an introduction. Like the third, this quartet seems to owe more to Beethoven than Liszt. There's a sense of urgency that runs through this quartet, though, that I found compelling.

String Quartet No. 8, op. 192, No. 3 in C major is part of a set of three quartets published n 1876, and is the last of Raff's quartets. The Op. 192 set is somewhat unusual; two of the quartets are characterized as suites.

Quartet No. 8 is subtitled "Suite in Canonform." While the form may be looking back to the baroque, the music certainly isn't. In a way, it reminded me of Reger, who cast new music in old forms. Raff creates a quartet that's full of imaginative counterpoint, taking full advantage of the suite form. Thus,
each movement is only as long as it needs to be, giving them a lightness that would be missing in a more traditional four-movement quartet.

Mannheimer String Quartet deliver strong performances of these works. Their ensemble blend is lush and evocative when it needs to be, and transparent for the contrapuntal sections. Their expressive playing brings out the genuine emotion underlying these works, and the way they carefully shape their ensemble sound helps direct the ear to the important details of the scores.

Joachim Raff: String Quartets 2, 3, 4, and 8
Mannheimer String Quartet
2 CD Set
CPO 777 004-2

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cavatina at the Opera -- Brilliante!

Cavatina at the Opera is one of those releases that works on multiple levels. Superficially, it's a program of pleasantly familiar music, arranged for flute and guitar -- something that might not be out of place at a wine and cheese reception. After all, a medley of operatic favorites lends itself to moments of comforting recognition (and perhaps some subconscious humming along).

But this isn't really a disc of pleasing background music. Touring virtuosos of the 19th century often included opera medleys in their program as showcases for their talent. The familiar tunes ensured the audience wouldn't get lost as they were dazzled by the extraordinary technique of the performers.

And that's really what's going on here. Flutist Eugenia Moliner and guitarist Denis Azabagic are both phenomenal performers. They make the difficult sound effortless. Sometimes it shows -- as in the Variations of the "Carnival of Venice." Although based on two older variation sets, Thomas introduces some decidedly 20th Century elements into the proceedings which really show this duo at their best.

Thomas also arranged four other selections for the duo from variations and fantasies originally written for solo guitar or or for flute and piano. And in each case presents the Cavatina Duo at their best

Eugenia Moliner performs with a pure, well-rounded tone, even at the extremes of the instrument's register. Her runs and trills are seamless, and she brings a singing quality and expressiveness to these melodies that (given their origin) is quite appropriate.

Denis Azabagic's playing is quite agile and clean; the essence of classical guitar technique. I especially enjoyed his performance in "The Carnival of Venice." As a duo, this husband and wife team is perfectly in sync.

Cavatina at the Opera
François Borne, arr. Joesph Zsapka: Fantasie Brilliante on Themes from Bizet's "Carmen;" Mauro Giuliani: Potpourri from "Tancredi," Op. 76; Fernando Sor, arr. Alan Thomas: Introduction and Variations on a theme by Mozart "O Cara Armonia," Op. 9; Alan Thomas (after Francisco Tarrega and Guilio Briccialdi): Variations on "The Carnival of Venice;" Alan Thomas (based on Emanuel Krakamp and Guilian Briccialdi): Fantasy on Themes from "La Traviata;" Claude Paul Taffanel, arr. Alan Thomas: Fantaisie on Themes from "Der Freischütz"
Cavatina Duo
Bridge Records 9448

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Barbara Westphal Converges Style Periods

Barbara Westphal's latest release is an interesting blend of old and new, original music with arrangements. Johannes Brahms didn't write any solo music for the viola, but that hasn't stopped violists from making arrangements of some of his music for their instrument.

In this case, Westphal plays arrangements of Brahms' Sonata in E minor, Op. 38 (originally for violin), and his Sonata in G major, Op. 78 (originally for cello).

And the arrangements work.

Westphal plays with a clean, unadorned tone. In the E minor sonata, the music lays very well on the instrument, and while the lower tones have an added warmth (when compared to the violin original), it sounds quite natural -- as if that's the way Brahms intended it.

That low register warmth also makes Westphal's performance of the G major sonata effective. Her ability to spin out long, singing melodies makes some passages sound quite beautiful.

Nestled between these two works is Convergence, a work commissioned by Westphal from Andrea Clearfield. This 11-minute work is decidedly modern, if a little on the conservative side. There are plenty of chromatic passages and tone clusters, but overall the music retains a tonal base.

I personally liked it, as the work shows what the viola is capable of. Though it contrasts with the Brahms works that bookend it. I'm not entirely convinced there's any stylistic convergence between Clearfield and Brahms as Westphal suggests in the liner notes.

 Nevertheless, the three works on the album are performed well. And if you -- like me -- are comfortable with different style periods rubbing shoulders, you'll probably enjoy this release.

Johannes Brahms: Sonata in G major, Op. 78; Sonata in E minor, Op. 38; Andrea Clearfield: Convergence 
Barbara Westphal, viola; Christian Ruvolo, piano 
Bridge Records 9442

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Hovhaness: Symphony No. 48 Given Visionary Performance

Gerard Schwarz has long been a champion of Alan Hovhaness, and this release is just the latest in several Schwarz has done of his music. The album opens with the Prelude and Quadruple Fugue, Op. 128, a work that's been recorded many times. This particular reading is adequate, but a little slow and sedate for my taste.

 But then things take a turn for the better. The Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Strings is a much more successful performance. Here the Easter Music Festival Orchestra plays with fluidity and warmth that works especially well in the choral passages. Saxophonist Greg Banaszak plays with a rich, mellow sound, making the soprano sax sound almost other-worldly at times.

I keep hoping that someday we'll have a complete traversal of Hovhaness' 67 symphonies. Symphony No. 48 "Vision of Andromeda" receives its world premiere performance with this release, so I guess we're a little closer.

The work gets its name (and inspiration) from the Andromeda galaxy. Like it, the symphony seems to swirl around in a gauzy blur. All the hallmarks of Hovhaness are present; the gorgeous original hymn-tunes, contrapuntal passages, the tinkling percussion, the exotic but tonal harmonic motion. It all adds up to a symphony that mystical rather than formal -- simply being instead of playing out dramas. In other words, a typical Hovhaness symphony.

As always, Schwarz delivers sympathetic and insightful readings. And despite my quibbles about the Prelude and Quadruple Fugue, on the whole I think this album presents Hovhaness' music in all its unique beauty.

I might not recommend this disc for someone who's just starting with Hovhaness ("Mysterious Mountain" is best for that). But for those who have fallen in love with Hovhaness' music, this disc is a must have.

Alan Hovhaness: Prelude and Quadruple Fugue, Op. 128; Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Strings Op. 344; Symphony No. 48 "Vision of Andromeda" Op. 355 
Greg Banaszak, soprano saxophone; Eastern Music Festival Orchestra; Gerard Schwarz, conductor 
Naxos 8.559755

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Lio's Far Side

Many cartoonists cite Gary Larson and his comic "The Far Side" as their inspiration. Some do it in interviews, some do it by homage. The latter was true in the March 29.2015 strip Lio by Mark Tatulli. (click on image to enlarge)

All of Larson's recurring characters are there -- the cow, the dog, the bee hived woman. All beloved stars ,indeed, for the true comics fan!

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