Tuesday, May 31, 2011

#151 The Smell of Bitter Waves

Big shapes, big areas. Grand harmonies. It's really chorus-like orchestral sound. The waves are coming from and disappearing to nowhere. It is calm and it is bitter.

Sharp string echoes, and the smell is returning again and again, pulsing bitterness. Forget about Beethoven: At 10'37'', this is the fate knocking on the door, this is the tempest. After that, sky is clear. All conflicts are gone.

Composer: Arvo Pärt
Work: Symphony No 4, II. Affannoso
Recording: Los Angeles Philharmonic, Esa-Pekka Salonen

Monday, May 30, 2011

#150 The Smell of Fraction

How dancing and playful it is. But the movement is also every fractional, the numbers are splattering from it. Orchestra is suppressed, almost like muted, the sound is very unified.

Zimmermann's playing is full of joy and energy. Sometimes it seems like the music is calling for help, exhaused, violin unnerved. But it's all numbers, small fractions in a landscape of beauty.

Composer: Igor Stravinsky
Work: Violin Concerto, IV. Capriccio
Recording: Frank Peter Zimmermann, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Gianluigi Gelmetti

Sunday, May 29, 2011

#149 The Smell of Quiver

Very humble touch with a great upheaval–this is big and very moving. Humility and submission mixed with high expectations.

A famous, well-known aria but always fresh with young Price. Listen to her and you just want a better destiny for Madama Butterfly.

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Work: Madama Butterfly, "Un bel di vedremo"
Recording: Leontyne Price, Rome Opera Orchestra, Oliviero de Fabritiis

Saturday, May 28, 2011

#148 The Smell of Nobleness

A classy composition and a classy recording. Very noble and aristocratic. It somehow shifts from romanticism to decadence.

I don't understand Tortelier's Bach but his approach to Schumann totally suits me.

Composer: Robert Schumann
Work: Cello Concerto, III. Sehr lebhaft
Recording: Paul Tortelier, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Antal Dorati

Friday, May 27, 2011

#147 The Smell of Caprice

First, there's innocence. Then, duality and attack. Exhaustion of love. Humpiness of anger. Attempts of reaching out. Mockery, humiliation. So many caprices in one movement!

This recording has a firm and solid leading from both the conductor and the soloist. Across all the moods, there's constant inner shining in it.

Composer: Béla Bartók
Work: Violin Concerto No 2, II. Andante tranquillo
Recording: André Gertler, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Karel Ančerl

Thursday, May 26, 2011

#146 The Smell of Prison

Every music bar is like a steel bar. One after another, a killing number of bars; depressing, lethal air. A tunnel without the light. Omnivorous greyness.

Alsop is civil, she does not exaggerate. A lively account with a fine sound.

Composer: Roy Harris
Work: Symphony No 6, II. Conflict
Recording: Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

#145 The Smell of Honey

This piece is somehow sweet and dangerous. Its viscosity, its smoothness with little crystals, is so charming. The final disappearance is like the last drop of honey that almost drops and then backs off to the spoon.

Kremer and Maisenberg deliver a focused, sharp performance with wonderful dynamic levels.

Composer: Franz Schubert
Work: Rondo Brillant D895, I. Andante
Recording: Gidon Kremer, Oleg Maisenberg

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

#144 The Smell of Comedy

Now that's a cunning vixen! That's a way how to get married! And all the animals are concurring: Wanna get married? No problem, here you are, let's celebrate!

The music is so funny and so joyful. It's capturing a happy part of vixen's life, ending the second act.

Composer: Leoš Janáček
Work: The Cunning Little Vixen, "Kdybyste věděli, co já viděla"
Recording: Helena Tattermuschová, Eva Zikmundová, Jaroslava Procházková, Jaroslava Dobrá, Prague National Chorus and Orchestra, Bohumil Gregor

Monday, May 23, 2011

#143 The Smell of Damping

Not the moon on the cloudy sky but a damping haze is here. Low-key melancholy of tones, still the same, a mood caught in a split of second and expanded to four minutes. No tears, just catatonia.

This is not a typical Moonlight sonata, and maybe it's a recording you would not like. Gould goes for faster tempo and left hand emphasis. He deliberately keeps the magic down–no place for romantism.

Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
Work: Piano Sonata No 14, I. Adagio sostenuto
Recording: Glenn Gloud

Sunday, May 22, 2011

#142 The Smell of Forest

This picture is so vivid: green forest, and an animal running so quickly we have difficulties to trace it. It's not a hunt, this is a run for pleasure, and everything is so lively and in harmony. We try to second, to run–we're clumsy but the music is urging us, and we achieve unimaginable.

Young Maazel is a devil, constantly pushing and inspiring. This is a famous recording.

Composer: Franz Schubert
Work: Symphony No 4, IV. Allegro
Recording: Berliner Philharmoniker, Lorin Maazel

Saturday, May 21, 2011

#141 The Smell of Bigger Than Life

It's a mix of pride and emotion with several moments that get you very high (2'33'' or 4'22''). The beginning is so sweet, a preparation for a shot of pathos. And the finale, oh my, what an orchestration!

Szell and The Cleveland Orchestra were already introduced here, mostly in Schumann. Their Brahms is big, too. Lovely tempo, very consistent, solid sound. Faithful.

Composer: Johannes Brahms
Work: Academic Festival Overture
Recording: Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell

Friday, May 20, 2011

#140 The Smell of Failure

This is a fight and the fight is lost. It's not a fair fight, and you are fighting not only the others but yourself as well. It's violent, bloody, and you will die.

Orchestral sound is rich, with excellent solos. Petrenko focuses on details and exposes all the micro rhythms and drama.

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Work: Manfred Symphony, IV. Allegro con fuoco
Recording: Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vasily Petrenko

Thursday, May 19, 2011

#139 The Smell of Bread and Butter

I can smell a slice of bread in front of me. The music is spreading soft butter on it, the knife goes forth and back in flowing moves.

Karajan goes for fast tempo and shine. The recording is energizing and joyful.

Composer: Johannes Brahms
Work: Hungarian Dance No 5
Recording: Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

#138 The Smell of Obligation

Emotions do not count. You have to go on. Death, victory–you are obliged to listen to the drum. The wheel is turning no matter what. Feind, Feind, Feind!

I've heard Hampson singing Des Knaben Wunderhorn several years ago. He was great and he's still great. Believable, flexible, with intrinsic authority. Here with a chamber orchestra, he's even more convincing. And when the orchestra is rattling bones (4'55''), it forces you to stand up and follow the drum. Trallali, Mr Mahler!

Composer: Gustav Mahler
Work: Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Revelge
Recording: Thomas Hampson, Wiener Virtuosen

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#137 The Smell of Snowflake

Coming from monotone heavy sky, just one and only, a snowflake. Dancing in wind, going up and down, waiting for a sun beam to shine on it–to be sparkling, to be beautiful. And then, second, third... the air is full of them and they're all the same and they're all uninteresting.

Matsuev makes the lovely music sing. Soft, romantic touch... one can get intoxicated very easily.

Composer: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Work: The Seasons, V. May - White Nights
Recording: Denis Matsuev

Monday, May 16, 2011

#136 The Smell of Command

This is an order. The violin is in charge, dictating its conditions. It's strong, stiff, insisting.

Ehnes keeps the written rigidity and does not add one into the sound. He forms a round, sad, and very clear tone. Listen to it and you're down and lonely.

Composer: Niccolò Paganini
Work: Caprice No 3
Recording: James Ehnes

Sunday, May 15, 2011

#135 The Smell of Chandelier

It's an old one. Big, crystal, dusty. Vanished elegance–still there, waiting. Maybe gaspy, willing to join the party that's over for centuries.

Kovacevich's tone is elegant and sad. No parody here–respect and piety.

Composer: Frédérick Chopin
Work: Waltz No 1
Recording: Stephen Kovacevich

Saturday, May 14, 2011

#134 The Smell of Starting Again

The music starts in a relaxed, serene way. A little structure is build, a little love is given (the movement is called Two in Love), and there's a foreign element: something's happening (1'25''). Maybe something wrong, outrageous. Could we start again please? We can (2'12''): and nothing wrong will happen this time.

Mácal and CPO deliver very warm, rustic performance with a good drive. The sound is rich and solid.

Composer: Vítězslav Novák
Work: Slovak Suite, III. Two in Love
Recording: Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Zdeněk Mácal

Friday, May 13, 2011

#133 The Smell of Pretended Innocence

It's like if it's acted: Foot pace, big moon, hot night. Sounds are coming from a lake nearby. Children playing soldiers. Go to bed, now! Do not interrupt this magical moment, do not ruin this innocent night...

Boulez has a great sense of feeling for this kind of music. In his reading, all makes sense. He respects the music.

Composer: Karol Szymanowski
Work: Symphony No 3, II. Allegretto tranquillo
Recording: Volkhard Steude, Wiener Philharmoniker, Pierre Boulez

Thursday, May 12, 2011

#132 The Smell of Expectation

Das Wandern! What a goal without a goal, what a call! It's a plain text but together with the melody we have a masterpiece here. Very joyful, dancing and yet with a subtle sad tone.

Wunderlich is setting the picture so vividly I want to go walking right now. To get walking, fall in love and be romantic.

Composer: Franz Schubert
Work: Die Schöne Müllerin, I. Das Wandern
Recording: Fritz Wunderlich, Hubert Giesen

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

#131 The Smell of Not Dark Yet

This symphony shines and fights against darkness. So open and strong, it's singing: Fear not! Not dark yet and it's not getting there.

Neumann finely balances the sound of this atypically orchestrated piece. Both the singing and the organ playing point to heaven.

Composer: Miloslav Kabeláč
Work: Symphony No 8, V. 3
Recording: Jana Jonášová, Václav Rabas, Prague Percussion Instruments Ensemble, Prague Philharmonic Chorus, Václav Neumann

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

#130 The Smell of Melancholy

What a magical beginning! Soft piano and microscopic violin sounds, trying to grow, to be bigger. But there's no joy in being bigger. In full blossom, the mood is pushing again and again the same melancholy button.

Argerich and Kremer are masters. You can hardly believe it's just music. There has to be more: true magic.

Composer: Robert Schumann
Work: Violin Sonata No 2, III. Leise, einfach
Recording: Martha Argerich, Gidon Kremer

Monday, May 9, 2011

#129 The Smell of Family

Network of people. Graduated loves and hates, invisible bonds. Strong feelings everywhere. And Bruckner is floating around and putting these emotions to his music.

Jochum brings old-school ordinality and concept to massive Bruckner. Suddenly, there's not only architecture but connections, common sense. Very vital.

Composer: Anton Bruckner
Work: Symphony No 5, I. Introduction: Adagio–Allegro
Recording: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Eugen Jochum

Sunday, May 8, 2011

#128 The Smell of Diamond

A very gentle melody, fragile and innocent. But the piano keys are hurting, the strokes are sharp. Many angles, different lights.

What Gieseking is achieving here is marvelous. He is the music he's playing, he himself is a gentle diamond.

Composer: Claude Debussy
Work: Préludes, VIII. ...La fille aux cheveux de lin
Recording: Walter Gieseking

Saturday, May 7, 2011

#127 The Smell of Bent Steel

The first sounds are detached yet not cold. It's steel that wants to be in the game. We follow the arches, and then there's a swing. Dancing with steel...

I feel no need to introduce Pavel Haas Quartet. Just go and get their CD. They are the top.

Composer: Pavel Haas
Work: String Quartet No 2, II. Coach, Coachman and Horse (Andante)
Recording: Pavel Haas Quartet

Friday, May 6, 2011

#126 The Smell of Endless Return

No matter what: there's always a return. She can be exalted, she can be mad–she's always back. It's a painful, hurting way back. There's anger and wrath and fury, and they all subject to enigmatic love.

For von Otter, this is a one-off performance. Orchestra sound is suppressed, not important; everything is in the voice.

Composer: Kurt Weill
Work: Happy End, Surabaya-Johnny
Recording: Anne Sofie von Otter, NDR-Sinfonieorchester, John Eliot Gardiner

Thursday, May 5, 2011

#125 The Smell of Dripping Water

Drip, drip, drip... and the level goes up. Drip, drip, drip... nowhere to go, the music explodes. Drip, drip–and the next one is not coming, tension and expectation. And then: drip! Another explosion!

Chung and Solti are ideal pair for Bartók. Expressive, emotional recording.

Composer: Béla Bartók
Work: Violin Concerto No 2, I. Allegro non troppo
Recording: Kyung Wha Chung, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Georg Solti

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

#124 The Smell of Flirting

This waltz is promising and tentative. There's a classy elegance and abstractness. It's really touching only at the end (at 6'20'') and then it runs away.

Hickox is a great reader of Bridge. No caricatures, yet a bit of extemporaneousness belonging to the beginning of the twentieth century.

Composer: Frank Bridge
Work: Valse intermezzo à cordes
Recording: BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Richard Hickox

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

#123 The Smell of Passion

If there's a smell of passion, it is found in this cello concerto. Love, death, home sickness, everything's here. Eruptive, bold melodies; soft and fragile moments (horns at 7'23''). All combined to a perpetual stream of passion.

Talich's recording of the concerto is the best one ever. Young Rostropovich has no limits. Absolutely legendary.

Composer: Antonín Dvořák
Work: Cello Concerto, I. Allegro
Recording: Mstislav Rostropovich, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Václav Talich

Monday, May 2, 2011

#122 The Smell of Ocean

This is monumental. Ocean is opening in front of you. Infinite waters, infinite skies. Majestic, with no story, no action: It just exists. Entireness and beauty and sun.

Philadelphia Orchestra has a well balanced sound. Ormandy can control the climax, keeping the orchestra wonderfully in a bolero-like trajectory.

Composer: Ottorino Respighi
Work: The Pines of Rome, IV. The Pines of The Appian Way
Recording: Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy

Sunday, May 1, 2011

#121 The Smell of Gold

It's not only about the spinning wheel itself. Gold jets from the music all the time: golden fields, a nobleman in gold. Dvořák is building his musical narrative around it.

BPO has a solid sound and Rattle's reading is soft but not passionate. It's a horror without absorption.

Composer: Antonín Dvořák
Work: The Golden Spinning-Wheel
Recording: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Simon Rattle