From the whole album, this song fitted best my Amtrak way from Los Angeles to San Diego. Bright green grass with yellow flowers, small houses above cliffs, and indefinite calm ocean with irregular waves. I can smell the waves in the song, its rhytm is so floating, moving, and jumping–it's so curly.
Gefors is a Swedish composer living in Lund, the city I have a lot of memories of. Today, however, he and von Otter hit the mood of south California.
Composer: Hans Gefors Work: Lydias sånger, V. Sfinxen Recording: Anne Sofie von Otter, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Kent Nagano
This is really just the skelet, no muscles, no fat. The symphony moves in the way it should move but there's nothing bold, no attack, no full body. The sound colors are magical, very raw, like if the primitive colors are not fully blended yet.
Grossmann's account is historical one: playing Eroica on period instruments, in the same place and with the same number of musicians as on its premiere in 1804. It's great to hear the music skeleton but the fortes are not the best ones and actually the whole dynamic range of Ensemble 28 is flat. With only eight violins, I'd expect their pianissimos to be mysterious.
Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven Work: Symphony No 3, III. Scherzo Recording: Ensemble 28, Daniel Grossmann
It's amazing how true this concert is, how good it is in answering question, pleas and desires. The assuring piano line against the doubts in strings like at 4'15''... Positive, self-assured music. It knows exactly where it's going.
Bronfman and Salonen understand each other, and it's always a pleasure to hear them together. Salonen wrote his piano concerto at the end of his LAP tenure, and he would like to focus more on composing now. Good for him, good for us.
Composer: Esa-Pekka Salonen Work: Piano Concerto, Movement II Recording: Yefim Bronfman, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen
It's love that smells of oil. Cold, abruptive, steel love, pervert but still love. Fractions are combined with fractions, there's no rush, very spatial feeling comes from the music.
This is a composition for Los Angeles and about Los Angeles. I can hardly find something better to listen to during my first day in L.A. Through the windows of rented Ford Edge, the city looks distant, inert. I need to come back.
Composer: John Adams Work: City Noir, II. The Song Is For You Recording: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel
Attack the fortress! And the warriors are attacking it. From all directions, they're moving forward, so it's encircled and beset. And the standard–violin, flapping in the wind. It's actually not the smell of fortress, it's the smell of all around it.
RLPO under Petrenko has wonderful, sharp sound. Hahn delivers full, assured performance. Higdon was born in 1962 and wrote this concerto for Hahn. She received the 2010 Pulitzer Price in Music for it.
Composer: Jennifer Higdon Work: Violin concerto, III. Fly Forward Recording: Hilary Hahn, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko
Orchestra starts with pretending a serious piece of music is coming. But the piano flows in feebly and soon there's a ball in a big ballroom with all the candelabras and stairways and people floating up and down.
Blechacz plays nobly, with an aristocratic tone. RCGO fits well to both position of full blood orchestra and chamber playing.
Composer: Frédérick Chopin Work: Piano Concerto No 1, III. Rondo: Vivace Recording: Rafał Blechacz, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Jerzy Semkow
Bartók, that's not just sturdy peasant rhythms and folk songs. The first movement of his concerto for orchestra is a wonderful, complex, and mysterious erection. Here you can wander from room to room and they're all different. You don't want to go but you're dragged into the journey anyway. Here: too much sunshine. Here: too many recollections. More, more, keep going!
Dudamel accents the melancholy and irreversibility (but how ferocious he is later in the third movement!). LAP is on the hunt for beauty. Its rich sound is fetching and abstract at once. At the end of the movement, you should have tears in your eyes.
Composer: Béla Bartók Work: Concerto for Orchestra, I. Introduction: Allegro non troppo Recording: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel
The clarinet is like an unconcerned man sitting on a park bench. He's looking around but is not really interested in anything. And if something–anything–happens, he can successfully pretend he's not there.
Nothing jazzy in Goodman's tone; tempo is slower than I would expected. Some phrasing is maybe not typical but that can be only my imagination.
Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Work: Clarinet Concerto, III. Rondo: Allegro Recording: Benny Goodman, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Charles Munch
Listen carefully: The pianist has no time to breathe in this scherzo. There's always note after note, no respite, just gasping. Don't stop! They'll catch you, kill you, eat you.
The orchestra sounds at ease. The players know the pianist cannot run forever. They dance around him, slowing down a bit just because they know they can go faster if they want. And then, they're getting tired of the hide and seek. It is time: They kill him with one chord.
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev Work: Piano Concerto No 2, II. Scherzo: Vivace Recording: John Browning, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Erich Leinsdorf
This is the very first BSO recording ever, from October 1917. The sound is so cute, it's like looking through tilt-shift lens. Miniaturized players with their Lego instruments and animated movements.
Muck's drive is almost removed, there's little drama (some of it at 2'25'' or 2'53''). The real drama happened in the real life: Swiss citizen Muck was arrested as a German alien. Without any trial or charge, Muck was deported at the end of the war. The issued discs had his name removed from the label, and BSO went for French conductors (Henri Rabaud and Pierre Monteux).
Composer: Hector Berlioz Work: The Damnation of Faust, Rákóczy March Recording: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Karl Muck
This is like four orchestras playing in sync. The sound is so separated you can follow just strings, or woodwinds, or brasswinds, or timpani. I wonder how that really sounded in 1946. Did Boston Symphony Hall shatter?
Koussevitzky delivers stormed, roaring performance. BSO is sound and clear. This is not Mravinsky's predacity, the means are different. The ends, however, are very similar.
Composer: Petr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Work: Symphony No 6, III. Allegro molto vivace Recording: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Serge Koussevitzky
Lively and brilliant strings are pushing on, and even in slower or soften moments (3'11'') you can feel how nervous they are. The essential rush is never ending: dance me tonight, dance me to the end of life!
Abbado loosens the reins and let's the music flow. LSO plays boldly and zestfully, there are no limits. A very warming recording.
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn Work: Symphony No 4, IV. Saltarello. Presto Recording: London Symphony Orchestra, Claudio Abbado
This symphony is the standard of fun, the gem of pure laugh. It's a clown, pretending to be serious, falling to his own traps, it's Charlie Chaplin of symphonies.
Philharmonia is in full bloom, and Malko drives us unfailingly. Great attention to detail, stratified layout, perfect dynamics, superb playing, clean and wonderful stereo. Maybe it's only because I've found this recording recently but I'm amazed.
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev Work: Symphony No 1 Recording: Philharmonia Orchestra, Nikolai Malko
Behold a shortcut! All the well known melodies from Carmen packed into 14 minutes. But forget about Carmen, focus on the dialog between violin and orchestra. It's a delicate and complicated one, no doubt.
Josefowicz can hold both lines, passion and structure. She's gliding but never too much. The dialog is balanced.
Composer: Pablo de Sarasate Work: Carmen Fantasy Recording: Leila Josefowicz, Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Neville Marriner
This is a proud, absolute claim: I have nothing to lose, death is here for everyone. The music supports the words, it's fatal and fatalistic. Even when Herman also cries, the music is aloof and predetermined.
Herman sings "today it's you, tomorrow it's me" but it's he who will kill himself in the next minute. There's a breakdown in the second verse, we feel how lonely Herman is, we feel cold (1'13''), and yet he stands up again, face up, as strong as never before.
Composer: Petr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Work: The Queen of Spades, "Chto nasha zhizn?" Recording: Gegam Grigorian, Kirov Opera and Orchestra, Valery Gergiev
Years ago, I skipped slow movements in symphonies. There was not enough thrill in them for me. Today I'm maybe thrilled in different ways. I'm fascinated with the simplicity of expressive means, with orchestration, with inner intensity.
But perhaps the greatest beauty of this C Major symphony is contained in the third movement, in Adagio of such a lyrical intensity that it stands alone among the slow movements of its time, said young Bernstein about the movement. In this 1953 recording, there's no fear of misunderstanding. Pure music.
Composer: Robert Schumann Work: Symphony No 2, III. Adagio espressivo Recording: New York Stadium Symphony Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein
It's a jagged piece of music for two violins. Imagine these two violins as one voice, one person, fragmentary, absent-minded. Obsessively exploring what's happening around, not able to focus, not willing to pay attention.
There's no absolution. The music is here to be accepted. Will you be able to make sense of it, will you be able to follow both lines?
Composer: Sergei Prokofiev Work: Sonata for two violins, II. Allegro Recording: Veronika Jarůšková, Eva Karová