Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Mahler

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gustav Mahler. The Resurrection Symphony was the first Mahler I ever heard. I remember seeing it listed in FM Guide magazine for broadcast on New York’s WNCN at the ungodly hour of 1AM back in 1974. That was when the Music Through the Night With Fleetwood program was on, a bit of a problem since it was a school night, but I actually set my alarm clock and put my headphones on to hear Bruno Walter lead the New York Philharmonic. I was hooked. I saved my lunch money to buy the recording – back in those days I would eat a 75 cent pretzel and save the rest of my lunch money to buy records—and two weeks later I had a double LP Odyssey recording of the Walter performance. God bless all the budget labels that I was able to buy back then, they were my musical education. Odyssey, Seraphim, Nonesuch, Turnabout, Vox, London Stereo Treasury, RCA Victor were my lifeblood. There was no Naxos back then and these labels, unlike Naxos, were the golden age recordings of an earlier generation.

I bought the Mahler and 36 years later have never looked back. Mahler has been one of those composers who always nails me right between the eyes. Sentimental, acerbic, neurotic and schmaltzy, Mahler connects with me.

I have two and half large binders filled with Mahler CDs. The collection is ever-growing but here’s some of my favorites. I believe all of them are currently available, I only wish the older recordings still had their original cover art.

Symphonies

Symphony No. 1
The London Symphony Orchestra
Georg Solti

The original cover had a glowing red sun burning the surrounding sky

Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”
Emilia Cundari, soprano; Maureen Forrester, alto; The Westminster Choir; The New York Philharmonic
Bruno Walter

I remember the Odyssey reissue has having a blue cover?

Symphony No. 3
Petra Lang, mezzo-soprano; Prague Philharmonic Choir; Netherlands Children’s Choir; The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly

Symphony No. 4
Reri Grist, soprano; The New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein

It's a little faded, but the original artwork is charming



Symphony No. 5

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein


Symphony No. 6

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Claudio Abbado

Symphony No. 7
The Cleveland Orchestra
Pierre Boulez

Symphony No. 8 “Symphony of a Thousand”
Soloists; The Chicago Symphony Chorus; The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Sir Georg Solti


Symphony No. 9

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Carlo Maria Giulini

Symphony No. 10
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
Sir Simon Rattle

Song Cycles

Das Klagende Lied
Marina Shaguch, soprano, Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Moser, tenor; Sergei Leiferkus, baritone; San Francisco Symphony Chorus; San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Michael Tilson-Thomas

Das Lied von der Erde
Christa Ludwig, mezzo-soprano; Fritz Wunderlich, tenor; The New Philharmonia Orchestra
Otto Klemperer

Das Lied von der Erde (version with baritone)
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; James King, tenor
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein

The original cover had Lenny in profile against a black background

Des Knaben Wunderhorn
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; The London Symphony Orchestra
George Szell

Kindertotenlieder
Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; Hallé Orchestra
Sir John Barbirolli

Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen
Anne Sofie von Otter, mezzo-soprano; North German Radio Symphony Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner

Rückert Lieder
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Daniel Barenboim, piano

Resurrection Symphony finale — nothing more can be said

July 4th

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 3, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Some of the most magnificent prose ever written:

IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

— John Hancock
New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts:
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut:
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware:
Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland:
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia:
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia:
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton

The 100th Anniversary of the Premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 12, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Young RVW

September 6th was the 100th anniversary of the premiere of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. Rob Young of The Guardian wrote a terrific article about the event.

Old RVW and a friend

Yvonne Loriod

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

The widow of Olivier Messiaen, Yvonne Loriod, passed away on Monday. She was a brilliant pianist and her recordings of her husband’s music and other 20th century repertoire are treasures. She also was Messiaen’s partner in recording birdcalls:

I love this photo of Loriod holding the microphone

I’ll have more on her in the next few days, but you can read some interesting essays at the Olivier Messiaen

Ascension

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2010 by Craig Zeichner

Andrea Mantegna's Ascension (c. 1462)

So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
–Mark 16:19

The Christian calendar marks this day as the Feast of the Ascension. The feast takes place on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday and commemorates the Ascension of Christ into heaven.

Giotto's Ascension of Christ (c. 1300)

I love the way the Ascension has been depicted through the ages. Some artists have gone full out with glowing clouds and Christ rising like a missle. Others have a touch of whimsy, with only Christ’s feet poking out of the bottom of a cloud as the Apostles look skyward.

Hans Suess Von Kulmbach's Ascension (c. 1513)

For lovers of choral music and Anglican liturgy there’s two superb recordings of music for the Feast of the Ascension. On the Hyperion label there’s The Feast of the Ascension at Westminster Abbey. The recording takes the listener through a day of worship at the Abbey with music for Matins, the Eucharist and Evensong. Some highlights include Sir Charles Villiers Stanford’s old favorite Caelos ascendit hodie, Gerald Finzi’s “God is gone up,” and Patrick Gowers’ brilliant Viri Galilaei. The Westminster series has now reached several volumes of glorious sacred works for chief feast days – O Praise the Lord, Restoration Music from Westminster Abbey is the newest – and they are some of my favorite recordings.

The Feast of the Ascension at Westminster Abbey (Hyperion)

You can sample some of this terrific album at the Hyperion website.

The Ascension from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (c. 1412-1416)

The always marvelous Delphian, a super-cool independent label from Scotland, has Ascension. This recording features the Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh in an Evensong service for The Feast of the Ascension. The recording has hymns, psalms, anthems and a terrific pair of canticles (Magnificat and Nunc dimittis) by Richard Allain. The program closes with organist Simon Nieminski playing Olivier Messiaen’s magnificent L’Ascension.

Ascension (Delphian)

Speaking of Messiaen, here’s Oliver Latry playing Transports de joie d’une âme devant la gloire du Christ qui est la sienne, the 3rd movement (not part one as the video post claims) of Messiaen’s L’Ascension.

Unsilent Night

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 21, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

The maestro in Washington Square Park - photo by Tom Jarmusch

Looking out at the piles of gray- and black-streaked snow outside my window reminds me of how glad I am that we had Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night on December 12th when the New York weather was cold but clear! Judging from the reaction of people who participated, though, we could have held Unsilent Night on the evening Earth freezes over for eternity and people would still have been happy. Unsilent Night does that to you.

This was my first year participating in Phil Kline’s “free outdoor participatory sound sculpture of many individual parts, recorded on cassettes, CDs and mp3s, and played through a roving swarm of boomboxes carried through city streets every December.” That’s the official description of the event, but it’s much more than that. In New York it’s an 18 year-old-tradition that draws music-loving people, kids and their parents, aging hipsters, young hipster wannabes and, in some ways best of all, the curious to Washington Square Park for the opportunity to lug a boombox picked from Kline’s cache of vintage Sony and Panasonic players.

Kline's period instruments

People also dusted off their own boomboxes and queued up under the arch for one of Kline’s cassettes or CDs containing a section of his sublime score. Kline prefers Unsilent Night to be played on cassettes (the medium for which he wrote it) for the unique sound they make, so I guess playing Unsilent Night on an old Sony boombox with a cassette is a kind of historically informed performance practice; if more early music aficionados had a sense of humor, they would appreciate this.

Long-time participants know about Unsilent Night and they were out in force in New York (and Baltimore, Boulder, Los Angeles, and lots of other places—Unsilent Night is performed in 25 cities on three continents), but it’s the curious stragglers who happened upon the crowd gathered under the arch that grabbed my attention. A young couple asked me what was going on and when I told them, they raised eyebrows and gave me a somewhat skeptical, “Interesting.” They joined us for the entire walk to Tompkins Square Park and a number of times they gave me a thumbs-up sign or just smiled. They didn’t have boomboxes, but were just along for the joyous musical ride.

As we headed east on 8th Avenue, we passed so many people who had that “What the hell is going on here?” look on their faces and you could count the number of beats it took for that look to turn to a smile once they were enveloped in the music—about three beats. Same thing happened when I took the walk with Phil in Philadelphia a few days later. Big smiles.

The enduring image that I will carry with me is that of a young woman who was off by herself in Tompkins Square Park toward the end of the piece. She was short and small and had one of Phil’s boomboxes resting on her head. Her eyes were closed and she had a beatific smile as she gently swayed with the music. That’s Unsilent Night—sound beatified.

Here’s a taste of Unsilent Night New York 2009

For more information about Unsilent Night, visit

Advent

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2009 by Craig Zeichner


“… give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of Light…”

–The Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

Advent welcomes in the new Church Year and begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day and ends on Christmas Eve. The season focuses on the birth of Christ (his first Advent) and anticipates the return of Christ the King (his Second Advent). It is a time of contemplation and repentance, not merely a countdown to Christmas.

There is some brilliant music for the Advent season in the Anglican tradition. Such anthems as Thomas Weelkes’ Hosana to the Son of David, Orlando Gibbons’ This is the Record of John, William Byrd’s Vigilate and hymns like O come, O come, Emmanuel are mainstays. The responses (music featuring a celebrant or small group singing or chanting verses while the larger choir or congregation respond with a refrain) are somber and beautiful and usually are settings by Thomas Tallis or Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.

One of the best recordings of this kind of music is Advent at St. Paul’s which features the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir under the direction of their former music director John Scott. The recording is on the Hyperion label and well worth finding. Another fine recording, Advent in Winchester, features the Winchester Cathedral Choir conducted by Andrew Lumsden, it’s available on the Griffin label. There’s also a marvelous recording on the Koch label that recreates at Advent Evensong service at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. Evensong for Advent features The Saint Thomas Choir of Men and Boys under the direction of their former music director, the legendary Gerre Hancock. This is the real deal with the Reverend Canon John Andrew, Rector Emeritus of Saint Thomas reciting the collects and lessons.

I usually don’t like videos without the actual performers on camera, but here’s the superb Choir of King’s College, Cambridge singing Weelkes’ Hosana to the Son of David:

This version of Gibbons’ This is the Record of John is sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge:

 

I am the day soon to be born.
I am the sprig from the root of David and the bright star of the morning.
I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Rejoice Emmanuel.

The Legend of St. Christopher; Revelation 22:16, 13