7 years ago

Volume 19 Issue 2 - October 2013

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Something in the AirGood

Something in the AirGood Music Comes in Many Forms and FormatsStandardization is a thingof the past when it comesto recorded music andlisteners who get too farahead of, or behind, the curve arelikely to miss interesting sounds.Just as the production of moviesdidn’t cease with the acceptanceof television, so the manufactureof LPs continued even as theCD became the format of themoment. As artisans continueto craft fine furniture despitethe availability of mass-produceditems, so too LPs are being createdin limited quantities. This situationappears tailor-made for experimentalsounds. Similarly sinceadvanced players are often asimpecunious as they are inventive,the ubiquity of the Internet meansthat some music is only sold digitallythrough the Web. The optionof not having to create a physicalproduct is a boon for non-mainstreamperformers.Probably the most spectacularrecent example of vinyl-only releases is JustNot Cricket: Three Days of Improvised Musicin Berlin (Ni-Vu-Ni-Connu nvnc lp001/004, A four-LP set pressedon 180-gram virgin vinyl, the box set alsoincludes a copy of the festival’s lavishly illustratedfull-colour program plus a 20-page,LP-sized booklet featuring black and whitephotographs from the event, an essay aboutFree Music, plus a transcribed conversationwith the 16 British artists who participated.As much an artifact as a musicalkeepsake, Just Not Cricket showcases manyof BritImprov’s most important players. Witha cast of characters ranging from Free Musicpioneers such as saxophonist Trevor Wattsand percussionist Eddie Prévost to youngerstylists including trumpeter Tom Arthursand saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, plusrepresentation of the so-called Second Wavesuch as pianist Steve Beresford and harpistRhodri Davies, the selection is all-embracingas well as varied. There’s high-quality musicrepresented by all three groups. Prévost’s duetwith saxophonist Lol Coxhill, for instance,demonstrates that by maintaining the properpulse, an atonal reed and percussion duet canKEN WAXMANsuggest Benny Goodman and GeneKrupa while still outputting kazoolikeblats and scattered drumpumps. Energetic and atonal, ablow-out featuring players suchas Arthurs, Hutchings, guitaristAlex Ward, bassist John Edwardsand drummer Mark Sanders, isinvested with Free Jazz energy. Yetamong the freak brassytriplets, saxophonehonks and near slackkeyguitar lines, Ward’scomping, Edwards’robust bowing andSanders perfectlytimed accents turnbluster into satisfying sonicalliances. There are alsoelements of humour,most apparent themoment Beresford’sslick keyboard glissanditurn to kinetic smacksand splashes replicatingboth bebop andlounge piano playing,as Edwards’ pumps and trombonist GailBrand’s wide snorts and flutters add a layerof laughing euphoria to this trio interaction.Other highlights include bass saxophonistTony Bevan using his widening cavernousresonations to create perfect counterpointto the rhythms from dual bassists Edwardsand Dominic Lash; while on another track,Watts’ splintering alto saxophone intensity isbrought to a higher level as horizontal sticksvibrations among Davies’ harp strings andOrphy Robinson’s ringing vibraphone licksproduce more polyrhythms than would befound in an orchestra’s percussion section.A quintet of Scandinavian musicians, ErikCarlsson & All Stars use an even more venerableconfiguration for their recreation ofso called Swedish [j]azz of the 1950s and1960s: the 10-inch LP. The appeal of theseone-track-per-side performances on this2-LP set is how the players stay true to thepieces, pop-bop origins while retrofitting(post)modern sequences. A tune such as thefolksy Du Glädjerika Skona is propelled bysubtle emphasis from Kjell Nordeson’s vibesplus snorting flutters from Mats Gustafsson’sbaritone saxophone and vibrating puffs ofSubscribe to HALFTONESThe WholeNote mid-month e-letterBreaking news, just-in listings, “mystery tracks” CD contest,ticket give-aways, discount window, member offers, and more.Scan this, or visit to register.Per-Åke Holmander’s tuba until near tactileclatters and scratches sourced from Dieb13’sturntables roguishly interrupts the proceedings.Similarly a treatment of Umepolskan& Nybyggarland links the variable speeds ofNordeson’s motor-driven instrument withDieb13’s sampled aviary squawks and trillsuntil basso saxophone burps introduce awaltz-like turnaround played straight withsupple mallet clicks and rat-tat-tat drummingfrom Carlsson. Finally the tune exitsas a contest between Gustafsson’s barkingreed lines and the initial theme propelled byvibes and tuba.Moving ahead a half century to the seconddecade of the 21st, and preserved on a fardifferent medium, are concertsrecorded at a music festival inRimouski, Quebec, only availablefor download. The slylytitled Invisible (Tour de Bras DL#1, capturesan intense interaction amongGerman analog synthesiser playerThomas Lehn, Montreal percussionistMichel F. Côté and localelectric bassist, Éric Normand.Lehn is also present on Sources(Tour de Bras DL #2), but here hisplaying partner is Montreal-based,American violinist MalcolmGoldstein. Most of Invisible’s 36minutes is concerned with understatedcrackles, cackles and clacks,with none of the players outputting expectedtimbres. Still, a climax of sorts is reached atmid-point, after a klaxon-like blat, likely fromCôté noisemakers, cuts through the waves oftripartite soundscapes, presaging emphasizedpercussion thumps, distorted bass flanges andsweeping oscillations from the synthesizer.Following a prolonged silence, the singletrack’s latter half is more distant and melancholywith intermittent milk bottle-like popsand door-stopper-like quivers, bass stringsluices and jittery synthesizer pulsationsfading to obtuse squeaks.With Goldstein’s so-called classical techniqueson show, Sources is a stimulatingsashay between two masterful improvisersas the fiddler’s staccato and strident scrubsand stops bring out the humanness of Lehn’smachinery. With bubbling hoedown-likeslides, flying spiccato plus multiple jetéessounding concurrently, Goldstein coaxeslightening quick responses from Lehn, whichtake the form of thick tremolo modulationsand grinding processed vamps. Flamboyantenough to intimate a passionate middlesequence studded with stops and strums, theviolinist’s exposition eventually blends withthe synthesizer player’s processed dronesand ring-modular-like flanges to create aconclusion enlivened by Lehn’s unexpectedpiano-like keyboard expression and staccatostring stops.Turning on its head McLuhan’s dictum thatthe medium is the message, these projectsprove that exceptional messages can appear inany medium.66 | October 1 – November 7, 2013

Old Wine, New BottlesFine Old Recordings Re-ReleasedBRUCE SURTEESIt may have occurred to regularreaders and those who listenedto “Records in Review” onCJRT that I am enamored bySchoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht,written in 1899 for string sextet.The composer made his finalarrangement in 1943 for stringorchestra. Schoenberg wrote it injust three weeks when smitten byhis teacher’s sister, Mathildevon Zemlinsky, and motivatedby Richard Dehmel’s melodramaticpoem. He marriedMathilde and Verklärte Nachtbecame his most popular opus.Naïve has produced “LaCollection Naïve ... sixteen rareand precious jewels waiting to bediscovered or revisited.” Verklärte Nachtplayed by the Arditti Quartet is one of them.The Arditti string quartet, founded in 1974,specializes in contemporary music. Over theyears there have been exits and entries inthe personnel, and for this 1993 recordingthere were violinists Irvine Arditti and DavidAlberman, violist Garth Knox and cellistRohan de Saram plus Thomas Kakusa, violin,and Valentin Erben, cello (Naïve NC 40022).Their version is completely new to me andthis re-issue is a first hearing. It is cast in themould set by the Hollywood String Quartetin 1950, which was, I believe, the very firstrecording of the sextet. Schoenberg statedthat the music “does not illustrate any actionor drama but was restricted to portray natureand to express human emotions.” His notesfor the Hollywood recording conclude ...“Itshould not be forgotten that this work, atits first performance in Vienna, was hissedand caused riots and fist fights. But it soonbecame very successful.” The very fineHollywood performance borders on thepassionate, and that differs from many of thesubsequent readings from other groups thatstrive for a harmonious approach. However,it wasn’t until I heard the Arditti disc thatit became clear that the Hollywood Quartetdid not go far enough in articulating the rawemotional conflicts and the final resolution.The Arditti’s is a thrilling, sinuous performance,fervent and intense, unlike any otherof which I am aware. The passionate conflictsbetween the woman and man overflow as allsix musicians vehemently climb the top oftheir “voice.” The recording is first rate andthe dynamics are thrilling. Lasting less than28 minutes, a CD of only one work may seempretentious but in this case it’s a very goodbuy. The work could easily pass for absolutemusic and many will hear it this way withoutregard to the inspiration.Supraphon has released an irresistible2-CD set entitled Rostropovichplays Shostakovich that is selfrecommending(SU 4101-2).In 1958 Shostakovich, reviewinga Rostropovich concert, wrote inPravda, “I am overpowered by theartist’s authoritativeness. He isalways convinced of the correctnessof his opinion, which heexpresses with such zealousnessthat it is impossible not to believehim.” With Rostropovich in mindhe wrote the First Cello Concerto.There are two performances here,both live; the world premiererecording, from Moscow onOctober 6, 1959, conducted byAleksandr Gauk and from the followingMay in Prague with the CzechPhilharmonic conducted byKirill Kondrashin. The premiereperformance is carefullyplayed and amply virtuosicfrom all concerned but someeight months later the audienceheard a stirring performance,refreshingly played withirresistible enthusiasm. In theSecond Cello Concerto (1966)the conductor is YevgenySvetlanov from a concert inPrague on December 11, 1967.Of the two cello concertos, I doprefer the second. It is a contemplativework that presages muchof what the composer wouldexpress in his later works rightup to the 15th Symphony. Noquibbles about this performance.Lastly Rostropovich, withthe composer at the piano,plays the lyrical Cello Sonata,Op.40 (1934) recorded in 1959.Rostropovich later recordedthis sonata accompanied byBenjamin Britten in 1964 but that must takesecond place to this one. Shostakovich playsShostakovich! The recordings are all monowhich is of little consequence as the sound iscrystal clear with a front to back perspective.Robert Lortat? Have you ever heard ofhim? Today, very few have. Lortat (1885–1938) was a French pianist, renowned for hisinterpretation of Chopin and who made oneof the very first recordings of any Chopin in1904. He was a very successful concert pianistin his youth. The reason for his obscurity waschronic ill-health, the memento of a poisongas attack while serving in the French armyin WWI. This severely curtailed his concertizingand he turned mostly to teaching and,as it happened, to recording. As one of themost respected interpreters of his generation,the Columbia Graphophone Company (laterColumbia Records) invited him to recordthe music of Chopin. Lortat recorded theWaltzes, Etudes, Preludes and the SecondSonata. These recordings were so successfulthat Columbia issued them in five continents.Unfortunately, Lortat did not completethe Chopin project, nor continue with anyother recordings. It is likely that with thewide availability of his recordings in theselate years of the 78rpm era that the leadingpianists of the day heard them. It wouldnot be at all fanciful to believe that pianistsof Dinu Lipatti’s time were influenced byLortat’s interpretations. A new release fromDOREMI (DHR-7994/5, 2CDs) contains allthese recordings. Lortat plays with ease andauthority, arguably more appealing thanCortot with the advantage of being virtuallynote-perfect. This set is a real find, bothwelcome and necessary, reintroducing thesecornerstones of the modern French schoolof piano playing. These recordings from the1920s and early 30s are a credit to engineersin Paris. Now faultlessly restored and mostcertainly belying their vintage, theyare easy on the ears and listeningto these performances was a greatpleasure. A well-merited release.Doremi has issued VolumeTwo of Julian von Karolyi, theHungarian-German pianist whoenjoyed tremendous success for hisLiszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin andother Romantic composers. Volume Ifeatured Tchaikovsky, Schumann andLiszt. On this new CD (DHR-8009)Karolyi plays the Emperor Concertowith Robert Heger conducting(1958); the Haydn Piano Concertoin D, Hob.XIII/11 with RichardSchumacher conducting (1967)and Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy (1958).As in the first volume, the unanimitybetween soloist and orchestra,particularly in the Haydn that sparklesand is laced with humour,makes this a very attractive offering.The sound, by the way, is exemplary.Nathan Milstein was one ofthe greatest violinists of the 20thcentury, along with Heifetz,Oistrakh, Menuhin and Francescatti, all ofwhom had long, illustrious careers. Milstein’sattributes were his pure, unaffected stylisticapproach and violin technique thatwas breathtaking, athletic and secure.He came to North America in 1929 as didHorowitz and Piatigorsky, with whom hehad played trios earlier. As with many artists,Milstein’s live performances had an extrasizzle. Listening to a new CD from Doremi(DHR-7752) makes this point. We hear theTchaikovsky Violin Concerto, from Paris in1969 with Jean Martinon conducting; MozartViolin Concerto No.5, K219 in 1961 with CarlSchuricht conducting, along with Bach’sChaconne and three Paganini Caprices from1957, all from Ascona, Switzerland. Anotherdisc for the fans presented in fine October 1 – November 7, 2013 | 67

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