Beatles Go Baroque 2

November 29, 2019

beatles baroque

Track Listing

JS BACH- KEYBOARD CONCERTO IN D MINOR BWV 1052

1.    Come Together (2:55)

2.    Blackbird (4:44)

3.    Drive My Car (3:06)

JS BACH- VIOLIN CONCERTO IN A MINOR BWV 1041

4.    I Want to Hold Your Hand (2:58)

5.    Something (3:24)

6.    Day Tripper (2:45)

JS BACH- BRANDENBURG CONCERTO NO. 2 IN F MAJOR BWV 1047

7.    Nowhere Man (3:11)

8.    While My Guitar Gently Weeps (3:40)

9.    Ob- La- Di, Ob- La- Da (3:14)

VIVALDI- THE FOUR SEASONS OP. 8

10.  A Day in the Life (3:33) Spring 1

11.  Norwegian Wood (3:48) Spring 3

12.  Octopus’s Garden (4:04) Autumn 1

13.  Because (3:13) Autumn 2

14.  Back in the U.S.S.R. (3:03) Winter 1

15. Julia (3:39) Winter 2

16.  Get Back (3:02) Autumn 3

JS BACH- MASS IN B MINOR BWV 232

17.  I. Here, There and Everywhere (3:20)

18. Yesterday (3:28)

19.  Hello, Goodbye (2:48)

THE BEATLES- GOLDEN SLUMBER- ABBEY ROAD MELODY

20.  Golden Slumber (4:05)

JS BACH-BRANDENBURG CONCERTO NO. 3 BWV 1048

21. Her Majesty (0:49)

8.574078                 Total Time is 70:09

In 1983 Peter Breiner, arranger, pianist, and conductor was approached by the Slovak Chamber conductor Bohdan Warchal to do an encore piece. Breiner created a five-song concerto grosso of the Beatles and the piece was a hit. In 1992 Naxos owner Klaus Heymann asked Breiner to do an album of popular tunes set in the baroque style of Bach and Handel. The Beatles who were called the Schuberts of the modern-day era by Leonard Bernstein provided the perfect songs to be used for this project. The album went on to be a success and sold over 250,000 copies making it a best-seller for Naxos and the crossover market. Christmas Tunes (2 volumes) and Elvis Presley followed. Crossover is not a new thing with Glenn Miller in the ’40s taking the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto and arranger Bill Finegan making a big band arrangement out of it as an example. Eumir Deodato won a Grammy and sold 5 million copies of his rock/jazz version of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” in 1974.

For this new release, Breiner took a different approach and melded both compositions into one work producing an amazing track that is much more than the standard crossover of changing the rhythm of a classical work to make it sound disco, big band, or jazz. The opening track of Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in D Minor with the Beatles “Come Together” is an excellent example of what this release is all about. It begins with Bach’s keyboard work and slowly blends in “Come Together” chords until the entire melody is revealed with the Bach work in the background or is it? It returns again to first the melody and then the harmony playing as prominent a role as the Beatles theme making this a new idea. As you give this work multiple listens you’ll find that there are a lot more to the arrangements than your first listen. Also included with the Keyboard Concerto is “Blackbird.” It begins with a dark motif from the Keyboard Concerto with McCartney’s theme coming in over the theme as a single piano key melody followed by a violin solo and then the chamber orchestra including itself in the melody and harmony. The work ends with the return of the Keyboard Concerto theme. Beginning with a Bach fugerian chord the piano and violin introduce the “Drive My Car” into the song with the violin playing the melody and the fugerian chords while the harmony is played by the piano very briskly. The result is a nice blend of the two playings together.

The Bach Violin Concerto in A Minor is nicely mated with “I Want to Hold Your Hand” which becomes something that adapts so well to the concerto you would think the modulations came from Bach himself, Breiner commented. Does that say anything to you about the Beatles and the musical talent they possess? Are they enriched in classical music? “Something” blends the two works so nicely together with the violin being solo featured with the chamber orchestra providing the harmony from the Violin Concerto in the background. “Day Tripper” features the entire chamber orchestra playing both themes in unison with the basses playing “Day Tripper” in the background and a violin and string ensemble playing the other theme.

The Brandenburg Concerto #2 features the woodwinds playing the main melody “Nowhere Man” with Bach accompaniment provided by the strings very active in the background making this a very baroque sounding piece with the harmony it offers. “While My Guitar Weeps” has a background of the George Harrison tune with the Brandenburg Concerto assuming the main role. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’s” loud and rowdy tune is offered from the strings as the strings carry both melodies with the harpsichord playing the harmony both in the background and the forefront. It offers a new unique sound to the Breiner orchestra as the arrangement fits the song well.

The next seven songs of the Beatles are merged with Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons various movements beginning with the most popular Vivaldi movement Spring 1 with the Beatles “A Day in the Life.” Each work gets equal attention as the melody switches back and forth between the two popular melodies making an attention-getting song for the listener. The Violin Concerto of Spring 3 is coupled with “Norwegian Wood” switching violin solo between the harmony and melody creating a rather smooth flow between the two. Starr’s “Octopus’s Garden” fits very nicely with Autumn 1 which uses a harpsichord instead of piano. The violin plays his solo upbeat and with a lot of gusto making it almost gypsy-like. Back to the somber side, we have “Because” coupled with Autumn 2 in a slow romantic setting again with harpsichord. “Back in the USSR” takes a front-row seat with the chamber orchestra assuming both the melody and harmony with Winter 1 in the background. The very beautiful “Julia” is featured on a violin with a background of Vivaldi Winter 2. “Get Back” offers a return to a high energy quick-paced track with Autumn 3 in the background. I was reminded of a high-speed chase track from a soundtrack.

The Bach Mass in D Minor merges with 3 Beatles songs “I. Here, There and Everywhere,” a complex arrangement with the flute, fugue, and melody and harmony by the ensemble. “Yesterday,” reminds one of a melancholy moment with bassoon and solo violin,  and “Hello Goodbye” a very positive reading from both composers.

A Golden Slumber is an Abbey Road medley of Beatles song written in the baroque style and the last track albeit 49 seconds is a Brandenburg Concerto.

One of the things I suggest you do is to listen to all of the original Beatles compositions to get an exact idea of the medley and how it fits into the baroque works. Breiner has gone to great lengths with his arrangements to make these more than just a rhythm sound to these works. When you listen to these works think of them as something you are hearing for the very first time. If you do, it will enhance your listening pleasure greatly.

 

 

 

 

 

    

FR-735COVER

Alexander Nevsky op. 78
1 Russia under Mongolian Tyranny 3:29
2 Song of Alexander Nevsky 3:50
3 The Crusade in Pskov 7:28
4 Arise, People of Russia 2:06
5 The Battle on the Ice 13:46
6 The Field of the Dead 6:13
7 Alexander enters Pskov 4:31
Lieutenant Kijé Suite op. 60
8 Kijé’s Birth 3:58
9 Romance 3:51
10 Kijé’s Wedding 2:33
11 Troika 2:42
12 Kijé’s Funeral 5:22

Total Time= 60:06 FR735SACD

Sergei Prokofiev (1891- 1953) was Ukranian born to an agronomist father and a mother who was devoted to music and theater. Because of this, he started playing at the age of three, wrote his first composition at the age of five, and his first opera at the age of nine.

At eleven he was introduced to Reinhold Gliere who began teaching him composition for two years. At fourteen he was introduced to Alexander Glazunov and the Saint Petersburg Conservatory where he remained for ten years, composing ballets, operas, and concertos.

In 1917 he wrote his first symphony “Classical” a work written in the style of Haydn yet incorporating modern elements making it truly unique. In 1918 he left Russia for San Francisco and spent the next eighteen years in America and Paris finally returning to Moscow in 1936 where he remained until his death in 1953 also the same day Joseph Stalin died. He was convicted of formalism along with others in 1948 forcing him to withdraw from public appearances.

The two works presented on this CD were from his film days, “Alexander Nevsky” (1938) is a product of the famous Russian director Sergei Eisenstein and Lieutenant Kije (1934). Both works were turned into symphonic works and are two of his more popular works. He even had a hand in mike placements to determine trumpet sounds (distorting them in Nevsky).

Since both films are available on the internet for free you should watch them seeing where the music is placed even though they are suites that you’re listening to. It will also give you an idea of how far we’ve come in terms of audio quality. The results will shock you.

In 1242 Alexander Nevsky was summoned to save the federation of Rus by the knights of the Livorian order. Prokofiev wrote a twenty-seven part soundtrack for the film which he reduced to a seven-part cantana for mezzo-soprano, chorus, and orchestra. Frank Strobel introduced the original film score in 2003 and gave a stoic performance.  What is included has no musical interest or improvement to the cantata.

  1.  “Russia under Mongolian Tyranny” sets the scene by Prokofiev with an atmospheric motif in c minor as the camera pans over burnt villages, human bones, swords, and rusty lances all depicting the war. The motif switches between the heavy brass and a folk tune from the winds.
  2.   “Song of Alexander Nevsky” is embedded into the film as part of the commentary by Eisenstein’s decision not to synchronize the music to the film. The chorus talks about the victory over the Swedes but Nevsky warns about a more dangerous foe Germany.
  3.   “The Crusade in Pskov” is filled with heavy brass dissonant chords mixed in with chants from the chorus. The lower register passages will rumble your woofer and the major strings will switch your mood almost instantly, mourning for the dead.
  4.   “Arise, People of Russia” is a march full of resolution and hope a bolstering of the troops predicting victory. Nevsky has made his plans to capture the enemy on the ice.
  5.   “The Battle on the Ice” is the longest of the movements at nearly fourteen minutes and is also the most popular part of the work. It begins with the dawn and sinister strings followed by a constant playing of a low register theme that signals the German army arriving. The German theme is distorted on purpose with the brass, grating to the ears. The movement, after much turmoil, segues into a quiet peaceful string elegy.
  6.   “The Field of the Dead” mourns the death of war. The Mezzo-Soprano promises to wed a warrior whose bravery will never end instead of one who is handsome. There are no chords of triumph.
  7.   “Alexander Enters Pskov” continues the dirge as the dead are brought through the city. The music continues with a compilation of the previous themes and ends on a victorious note.

Lt. Kije (1934), a farcical film was the first attempt at a soundtrack for Prokofiev. He was intrigued by the storyline and ended up writing a series of leitmotifs totaling fifteen minutes that were satirical by this caustic and witty composer. The story was perfect for him and led him to his return to Russia two years later.

Because of a mistake on a roster list the fictitious Lt. Kije is created and he somehow marries the daughter of the tsar Gagarina and has lots of fortune available to him. Eventually, he is found out which solves the problem. but the story shows the stupidity of the royal family and the displeasing of one’s superior.

While it is seldom played the suite is scored for a baritone which is sung in Romance and Troika tracks.

  1. “Kije’s Birth” begins with a distant cornet barely audible to introduce the track. The piccolo introduces a march type theme that extends itself to the strings and brass. We hear a solo from a tenor saxophone (new at the time). It ends as it started with the cornet in the background.
  2.  “Romance” is a song The Little Grey Dove is Cooing which Prokofiev adapted to fit this movement. It starts with double bass, viola, tenor saxophone, horn and bassoons, and celesta. The flute offers a counter-melody and the strings end the sentimental movement.
  3.  “Kije’s Wedding” begins with a brass phrase followed by the wedding theme. The middle section is a soulful tenor sax solo before the leitmotif returns in a witty fashion. The brass ends the movement as it began.
  4.  “Troika” is a Russian three-horse sleigh and with tempo changes, Prokofiev goes from very quickly to slow to reproduce motion. Its theme has been used many times in jazz arrangements, commercials, television, and films. As you listen to it you can hear the bells jingling and the clicking of the hooves.
  5.  “The Burial of Lt. Kije” begins like the first movement a distant cornet and then Prokofiev arranges the four tunes like a highlight reel including all the nuances and subtleties they have to offer. There is a part where the strings and the cornet are playing two of the melodies at the same time. It’s a very clever well thought out arrangement.

     There have been many recordings of this suite including 78 recordings, 331/3 LPs, cassettes, 8 tracks, and CDs.  There are many fine recordings available, one of which is this recording with the Utah Symphony. What sets this one apart is the new recording quality from Reference recordings. The instruments just sound better and this is very important with Prokofiev and the instruments he chose for these compositions especially the tenor saxophone.

7318599924519

 

van BEETHOVEN, Ludwig (1770—1827)
Symphony No.9 in D minor, ‘Choral’, Op.125
I. Allegro ma non troppo e un poco maestoso 14’26
II. Molto vivace — Presto 14’08
III. Adagio molto e cantabile — Andante moderato 14’31
IV. Finale 22’38
Presto 2’37
Allegro assai 3’21
Presto 3’28
Allegro assai vivace. Alla marcia 3’53
Andante maestoso 3’02
Allegro energico e sempre ben marcato 2’13
Allegro ma non tanto 2’15
Poco allegro — Presto 1’49
Ann-Helen Moen soprano · Marianne Beate Kielland alto
Allan Clayton tenor · Neal Davies bass
Bach Collegium Japan chorus & orchestra
Masaaki Suzuki conductor

BIS-2451 TOTAL TIME- 65:03

Composed between 1822-24 Beethoven was thinking about the D Minor Symphony ten years earlier with sketches of the scherzo, fugue, and first movement in his sketchbooks. It was during this time in his life that the effects of his deafness were beginning to take effect. Since his early youth, he had been interested in Schiller’s An Die Freude (owned a book of his poems) “Ode to Joy” and his Ninth Symphony became the vehicle to incorporate this poem written in 1785. The poem/song has become a symbol of hope and unity,  most recently because of the Bernstein performance when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 as well as the initial reaction of the work between the populist and Hapsburgs among others. It turned the city of Vienna from a police state into one of universal brotherhood. Beethoven, by using this composition, created the first Choral Symphony, opera incorporated into a symphony, and a bridge between classical and romantic music. He also influenced a lot of composers including Brahms, Bruckner, Wagner, and Mahler with this last major work.

Beethoven conducted the premiere in Vienna in May of 1824 (his choice was Berlin because of the Italian influence in Vienna). He was totally deaf by this time in his life and the alto singer Caroline Unger turned him around after the performance to face the enthusiastic audience which was in shock when they realized he couldn’t hear. He conducted the following evening to a much smaller audience and this was his last public performance.

The Symphony is in four movements and very long for its day at 60+ minutes. It was the largest orchestra that Beethoven had ever assembled including two ensembles and amateurs.

The first movement begins with a pianissimo stirring in the fog waiting to emerge. We don’t know what it is but it shows itself with an abrupt immersion of a theme in D minor in fortissimo. Written in 1816 (sketchbooks) this heroic music shows the transition between the classical and the romantic style. As it shows itself we don’t know whether to embrace it or be afraid. The end features a funeral march that starts with the bass and eventually spreads itself to the entire orchestra, a coda of some length.

The second movement, a scherzo, in quadruple time, is played out of usual order and has a somewhat similar sound to the first movement. It is a fugue piece of rhythm in D minor, staccato, with accompaniment from the timpani. The second theme is in D major which is in duple time and the trio’s theme is introduced by the trombones, a folk-like melody which eventually is overpowered by the scherzo which abruptly ends the movement.

The third movement, an adagio in B flat major, is placed out of order by Beethoven and unlike the first two movements is one that is filled with warmth but also sadness. It is lead by the woodwinds, a double variation between the rhythm and the melody. In the end, the pizzicato sound increases in volume and the movement ends with a loud fanfare from the brass.

The final and longest of the movements is, in reality, a symphony within a symphony divided into four parts.

  1.  Themes and Variations which include a brief cell of each of the first three movements as well as dissonant passages in the beginning which definitely gets your attention.
  2.   A Scherzo in a military-style and it ends in a chorus of the main theme “Ode to Joy.”
  3.   A slow meditation with a new theme.
  4.   A fugato based on the first and third themes.

The Ninth today is almost universally accepted as one of the greatest musical works ever written. Having said that Verdi loved the first three movements but found bad writing for the voices in the final movement. There has been much discussion in the metronome markings, some conductors claiming it was too fast. There has been a discussion about a missing weight which would alter the numbers on the metronome of Beethoven’s that still exists today. Both Wagner and Mahler changed the woodwinds to give it a modern sound and several have performed the work on original instruments, the path taken by the Bach Collegium Japan, orchestra of this review.

There have been several books that have been written about just the Ninth Symphony and the times in Austria/Germany.

There have been movies such as “Copying Beethoven”(2006) which is a fictional story about the last year of his life about a copyist who never really existed. There was a Hollywood film “Immortal Beloved”(1994) starring Gary Oldman about his life. There was a documentary film “Following the Ninth: In the Steps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony.”

Stanley Kubrick, a director, featured the Ninth in his film “A Clockwork Orange,” and it has been used in several other films such as “Die Hard,” “Dead Poets Society” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

Founded in 1990 by Masaaki Suzuki, Bach leading authority, the Bach Collegium Japan has recently gotten away from recording only Bach to Beethoven including this 9th Symphony using period instruments. The result is nothing short of spectacular comparing it to similar recordings. The SACD Surround Sound Hybrid pressing results in a superior sound, a huge difference from my Toscanini NBC Symphony release from the early fifties which is a monaural recording. Over the years I have listened to many conductors and orchestras and this has remained my favorite. Suzuki has given us a fine reading with period instruments in a modern up to date recording. I can only hope this will be a success for BIS. It is now a part of my collection along with the Toscanini.

 

 

4035719001044

 

            01 Andante – Allegro con anima 14:48
02 Andante cantabile, con alcuna licenza –
Moderato con anima 12:25
03 Valse. Allegro moderato 5:43
04 Finale. Andante maestoso –
Allegro vivace (Alla breve) 12:03

Total time 45:38
Bavarian Radio Symphony
Mariss Jansons / conductor

BRK900104 W/ CATALOG

In celebration of ten years, BR Klassik’s (radio station founded in 1980) label is offering this CD for $4.99 with a catalog of their releases. This Mariss Jansons recording was released in 2009, a live recording in Munich. It was re-released for this anniversary without the “Francesca Da Rimini” selection.

The initial idea for a new symphony came to Tchaikovsky in April 1888 about the time he was also working on the overture to Hamlet while staying in Frolovskoye, a town outside of Moscow, to get away to compose. There was a doubt as he wrote to his younger brother Modest, “Now I am gradually and with some difficulty, squeezing a symphony out of my addled brain.” He expressed doubt to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck saying “Am I really written out?” The rough draft was completed by the end of June and the orchestration was done by the middle of August with the composer being relatively pleased with the work.

The orchestral premiere took place in St. Petersburg in November of 1888 with the composer conducting. While friends of Tchaikovsky were enthusiastic about the performance critics were very harsh towards it. Alfred Einstein accused the neurotic  Tchaikovsky of exhibitionism of emotion claiming the composer had succumbed to spasms of melancholia. This lead Tchaikovsky to further bouts of depression and failure as a composition.

Today it stands out as a work of great orchestration, harmony, and filled with many melodies and takes its place as one of the great symphonies which are listened to and performed often.

The main theme is introduced and darkly played by a clarinet which is a cyclical one in all four movements, where Tchaikovsky made some program notes about it but discarded it. In it, he said of the first movement “… a complete resignation before fate which is the same as the inscrutable predestination of fate…” It is a sonata, taking the form of many classical symphonies as the first movement. It offers five themes switching from major to minor keys and returning at the end to the recurring main theme.

The second movement or andante cantabile is one of the more recognizable tunes having been performed in films and as a single called “Moon Love” by Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra among others with lyrics by Mack David, Mack Davis, and Andre Kostelanetz. The five-note melody on the horn going gently upwards is introduced by the strings. There is a theme by the oboe and the horn a return to the main theme and finally, the clarinet which remains in a dream-like state.

The third and shortest of the movements is a waltz which has three melodies from the violin, oboe, and bassoon, and bassoon including a scherzo and finally back to the main theme.

The fourth movement returns to the recurring main theme before the violins take-over with an allegro. There are two additional themes from the woodwinds, strings, and flute. The brass and the trumpets finish off the movement with a return to the main theme.

There are over 100 recordings of the Fifth Symphony in a single form, the last three symphonies, or a set of six symphonies with or without the Manfred. All of the major conductors have recorded some or all of the Tchaikovsky symphonies. Included in this mix is Mariss Jansons who also recorded the set in 1984 with the Oslo Philharmonic for Chandos as well as this release for BR Klassik’s in 2009. Both recordings are very similar in tempo and style which is straight from the score, perhaps a little bit on the quick side but certainly not pushed in any way. It is far from the almost frantic pace of the Mravinsky 1960 DG stereo recording, the most recommended performance. To get this recording you have to purchase 4, 5, and 6 as opposed to getting a good quality Symphony No. 5 at a reduced price by a conductor who has Russian Soul and an orchestra, Bavarian Radio Symphony who understands Russian music.

One thing that I didn’t like was the humming in the background of the conductor. The first time I heard it I had to go back and re-listen to it to make sure I had not made a mistake. I heard it on my higher end Grado headphones and not my Bose speakers so the sound is very soft. I wouldn’t let this prevent me from purchasing this recording.

I found the wave download file from Naxos to be perfectly acceptable for my listening needs. It was free of any glitches that sometimes occur.

This is a good buy and I would recommend it if you don’t have it or as a gift to someone.

 

RR-146COVER

Track Listing

  1.   Mars, the Bringer of War  7:41
  2.   Venus, the Bringer of Peace  8:19
  3.   Mercury, the Winged Messenger  3:54
  4.   Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity  8:23
  5.   Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age  9:26
  6.   Uranus, the Magician  5:52
  7.   Neptune, the Mystic  7:08
  8.   The Perfect Fool Ballet Music  10:39

TOTAL TIME,  61:22        RR-146

How many recordings can one have of “The Planets” and why would you buy this one over 100 other ones and available for free on Google, Spotify, and YouTube at a lower quality. Reference Recordings set the standard for the very best in recording and engineering offering Dolby Surround 5.1, SACD, and stereo with HDCD. The superior recording, along with the fine reading of the Kansas City Symphony directed by Michael Stern, makes this the must-have recording. Did I say that the download was available in high resolution?

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was born to three generations of musicians and Gustav continued the tradition although neuritis in his right hand prevented him from playing the piano. He did supplement his income by playing trombone in concert bands and churches as well as an organ in church.

Joining the Hammersmith Socialists Holst met and fell in love with Isobelle Harrison, a young blue-eyed soprano who he married in 1901. They had one child Imogen Holst (1907-1984) who went on to champion her father and was a composer and author among other accomplishments

The working title for “The Planets” was “Seven Large Pieces For Orchestra” and each movement was a tone poem, fashioned after Franz Liszt and Schoenberg’s “Five Pieces For Orchestra.” It was written between 1914-16 and first performed by Sir Adrian Boult in September of 1918. As an aside, he was to record the work sixty years later.

It should be noted that Holst wasn’t an astronomer but an astrologer thus the mixing up of the order of the planets (Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) according to the astrological characters. The music has to do with the descriptions of war, peace, messenger, jollity, old age, magician, and mystic. Originally it was written with the descriptions only with the planets being added later. Extremely popular, parts of the works have appeared in nearly 100 films including Hans Zimmer’s “The Gladiator” which resulted in copyright infringement. “The Planets,” was studied by composer John Williams for his soundtrack “Star Wars.”

Mars, the bringer of war is a militant piece that features a ferocious five-note pounding rhythm that like a war machine is relentless. There are two themes the first of which has no harmonic development. The second theme comes from the tenor tuba which is replied to by the trumpets. What makes this music so unique is that it’s entirely inhuman even to death. This movement has been the subject of many uses in television, films, and advertising.

Venus, the bringer of peace is quite a complex movement in terms of harmony and texture for a very serene work. It features solo violin and oboe passages along with passages of a heavenly nature from the harp, celeste, and glockenspiel. This is the complete opposite of Mars.

Mercury, the winged messenger features two simultaneous rhythms in two different keys, from the shortest of the seven movements, something which Holst used in some of his other works. It is definitely a bouncy upbeat composition that is again completely different from the two previous movements.

Jupiter, the bringer of jollity. The middle movement which the others rotate around is a high spirited movement in tempo and rhythm. There are six themes that Holst managed to include in eight-plus minutes. This movement has also been used to stand alone in many different genres. The overall texture is one of English folk themes, something that Holst was greatly influenced by. The final theme was adapted by Holst in the early twenties “I Vow to Thee My Country” an English Patriotic hymn with words by Spring Rice.

Saturn, the bringer of old age begins with great despair from the double basses behind the steady rhythm of the clock sounding the end. The second theme by the trombones is a voice of wisdom and the movement ends on a note of acceptance and tranquility. This movement is unique as it takes you through events as opposed to one single moment in time.

Uranus, the magician. Picture the cone hat and garbs of material and a pompous person loud and full of energy and he shows his tricks right away. For an encore, he surrounds himself in flames and disappears,

Neptune, the mystic is without melody and harmony, only parts. It is barren and empty in effect. A chorus of women offers a wordless passage that slowly ends in nothing along with the end of the movement. The choir sang in an adjoining room and the door very quietly closed to end their soprano/alto singing.

When one listens to this keep in mind that it was written over 100 years ago and it still has that fresh sound of a modern-day composition. Not a fan of lists this is one composition that belongs in the top ten must-have classical works. Why not get the latest in a noise-free background and Dolby surround for your sound system. The pace of the work while slightly faster than most is a very pleasant listening experience

THE PERFECT FOOL OP. 39 (1923)

Ballet Music (10:39)

Andante (invocation)

Dance of Spirits of Earth

Dance of Spirits of Water

Dance of Spirits of Fire

“Perfect Fool” is a one-act opera written as a parody of Richard Wagner opera’s between 1918-1922 that is seldom performed if ever but the opening ten-minute overture has turned out to be one of Holst’s more popular works as it performs like his Uranus which plays out like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The work begins with the spirits of earth performed by a trombone that rises in energy and descends in deliberate purpose. The double basses depict the nature of the earth.  When the awkward dance ends the earth spirit runs underground leaving a solo viola to conjure up the spirits of the water love theme. The third theme of fire needs no visual lighting as the music crackles the noise of the flames. Written closely in time to “The Planets” there are some similar sounds in the orchestrations and harmony especially at the beginning of the overture.

 

 

mark snow 001

Many of you know Mark Snow only for his work on X-Files and little else. Did you know that he has 237 credits to his list of television and movie credits and is still going strong with 3 series and no indications of slowing down! He is likely the most prolific composer of the last 3 decades. When Mark Banning and Ford Thaxton get done recording his orchestral material who knows how many volumes will evolve. He started in 1975-76 with a television show The Rookies doing 5 episodes and hasn’t stopped. Take away the baseball cap and the glasses and you have someone who resembles a young John Williams. What a talent he is! Having said that he has been nominated 15 times for an Emmy without winning, a crying shame.

One of 11 films he did in 1990 The Little Kidnappers is a feel good film starring Charlton Heston as a bitter Scotsman who hasn’t been able to forgive the Dutch in the Boer War. He is sent his two grandchildren to raise in Novia Scotia, something he does with an iron fist. When  the two boys find a baby they decide to raise it on their own. The story begins and as it progresses grandpa softens making it a fun movie to watch with your kids. The music matches the small screen with no hint of supernatural writing. “Prologue and Main Title” offer a sweeping main theme provided by strings, piano, flute and harp.

The score doesn’t offer only this theme but it is used throughout the the score in recognizable variations with a Scottish flavor to the music which the flute plays a prominent role. “Falling Down the Cliff/Trouble on the Hill” offers a bit of tnsion with the introduction of the brass in a brief motif. “The Kiss” begins with a piano solo and followed by romantic strings and a wonderful soft melody again, perfect for a kiss. Tremolo strings and piano. And as it should “Happy Ending” will bring a tear to your eye. This is a marvelous feel good movie. The solo flute and then the strings play the main title melody again.

Smoke Jumpers was a 1996 television film that dealt with the story of the 1994  Colorado mountain fire. It starred Adam Baldwin and Lindsay Frost. In real life Mrs. Mackey participated in the production of the film as an adviser. The film has a strong bold main theme with brass and snare drum accenting the theme performed by an orchestra of 60 players, large for  television film. It was a real hero theme and is used throughout the score to depict the firefighters male and female.

While I prefer The Little Kidnappers to the Smokejumpers both provide an interesting listen and contrast to each other. And both are on a very limited CD of 500 which will sell quickly given the popularity of Mark Snow. Act quickly or you’ll miss out. Recommended.

 

 

 

Schmitt Orchestral Works

March 23, 2018

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Florent Schmitt (1870-1958) is best known for his suites to the ballet Antoine et Cleopatre and Chandos doesn’t disappoint with a SACD (sounds great on dolby surround) 24 bit/ 96Khz lively recording replacing in my mind the Leif Segerstam recording. Applause also must go to Oramo and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Written under one opus #69 the work is divided into six parts and is very much a program work filled with the sounds of Egypt as well as sweeping melodic lines that capture your attention. In fact the whole work does and the 50 minutes fly by rather quickly with only one or two spots where the eyelids close. One is reminded of something that Rimsky-Korsakov might do with similar flare, brashness, and mystery. Track no. 5 will remind you of Debussy more than anyone. My description contains compoers to gie you an idea of the sound, not copying.

His second symphony is an example of an atonal piece that occasionally becomes melodic. Written in three movements the first movement is birght and upbeat, the second dark and tranquil again with no melodic line. The last movement is dissonant and scattered. I listened to it three times and didn’t like it but maybe you will.

Written nearly 40 years apart you get two sides of the prolific composer.