Discussion in 'Music and Recordings' started by Claritas, Sep 29, 2015.
Did not know this. Thanks!
Yo-Yo Ma performs on NPR Tiny Desk Concert (video): https://www.npr.org/2018/08/16/639206471/yo-yo-ma-tiny-desk-concert
His new (third) recording of Bach Cello Suites has just been released. Available on Tidal, Spotify, etc.
Also on Tiny Desk Concert, Hilary Hahn (video): https://www.npr.org/2011/10/21/141420520/hilary-hahn-tiny-desk-concert
Oh Yo Yo Ma... the first modern Bach cello suites I listened to years ago after sampling the ancient recording by Casals. Liked the first set at the time that was better than his second. No way I am going back to these two now though. Too bland for Bach lacking imagination and personailty. Maybe he managed to nail it this time but I doubt it and don't feel the urge to waste 2 precious hours.
A great Bach cello suites recording needed... I am going to shout it from the roof tops... Pierre Fournier!
Agree and no he did not nail it this time, I sampled some tracks comparing to his second set, same stuff maybe better recorded.
Just for fun listen to Thomas Demenga https://tidal.com/album/79073208
I have not fully made up my mind about this one, the cello sound is very unusual but Demenga is anything but bland.
I just listened to the Demenga recording. Very good! Not dull at all. (Side note relevant to this community: I found myself turning off all equalization to listen to this recording. Normally I like a touch of EQ, but here all DSP made the cello sound crazy unnatural. Strange mastering...)
I think I still prefer the Fournier recording above all others. It has a life to it that I haven’t found elsewhere. Agreed with the general criticism of the Ma recordings, I don’t go back to them. But I heard him play some of the Suites live back in the mid-2000s, and thought he did much better then than in the studio.
Casals is brilliant, but those old mono recordings give me crazy listening fatigue. Hard to get through. And I tried to like Rostropovich but IIRC be chose these insanely slow tempi that I couldn’t make it.
Recently I was surprised by an outstanding cello suites recording by Steven Isserlis on Hyperion, 2006 (link). I am fond of Fournier's dynamics, rhythm and emotional depth, Tortellier's warm romantic tone and Starker's serious precise virtuosity as reference recordings but Isserlis caught me off guard at how he managed to impart a fresh, authentic and astonishing take on these monumental works by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Isserlis based his interpretation by studying all 4 existing manuscripts (the last one by an unknown copyist being discovered recently). Unlike the solo violin sonatas and partitas we don't have the original Bach manuscript but copies of the cello suites.
Isserlis also based his work on a theory that the 6 suites are based on the life of Christ. Having listened to a lot of Bach, this is no surprise. The representations start from the nativity (No.1), the agony in the garden (No.2), the descent of the Holy Spirit (No.3), the Presentation in the Temple (No.4), the Crucifixion (No.5) and finishing with the Resurrection (No.6).
The famous prelude of the 'Nativity' 1st suite is terrific with a sublime dying final chord.
The final five bar-long chords of the 2nd suite’s Prelude represent the Five wounds of Christ. Isserlis plays these wounds in a highly original and harrowing fashion with penetrative long static chords that sound unlike any other recording.
The sublime 'Crucifixion' of the 5th suite sarabande is a spell-binding memorable listen.
The final gigue of the 'Resurrection' 6th is jubilant and ecstatic marking the end of a journey marked with suffering and joy, love and redemption, life and death and life again.
Thrilling experience that is highly recommended (link):
I find the whole interpretation thing very gimmicky. Had you heard his performance with the context that the cd pamplet gave you would you have really enjoyed it as much?
I get the references to naivity, but then should we say that the well temper clavier I, Book I, is also symbolic of nativity? I understand the nativity feeling that G major can give and also the nature of the prelude which is more of a chordal progression more than a melody like well tempered clavier. If you invoke too much emphasis on making it melodic(pierre Fourner/Casals), for me it sounds odd. Its like hearing the well tempered clavier opening distorted every single chord change or repetition. Same goes with the 4th Cello Suite Prelude.
The five "wound" bar you mentioned in the second suite prelude, are not meant to be played has straight chords. If you refer to the Bach Lute suites, and practices back in the day, You can see that those chords are met to serve as pillars in which instrumentalists improvises around. I rarely hear modern performances where its just belted out in that fashion saying its the five wounds of christ.
While the fifth suite sarabande is the darkest, I find it more interesting what makes it so, then hearing the description of a crucifixion. What is interesting is that in sarabandes, the second beat is emphasized. Bach also does this with a dissonance on the third eighth note(second beat). What is interesting however is the false bass in the following note. It is an unexpected bass note which actually belongs to the next measure. This gives two impulses to the bar which make highly interesting.
Every gigue of any Bach suite is exuberant has the gigue is a peasant dance that is very exuberat. The key of D major is particularly bright too, with other pieces such has Haydn Cello Concerto in D major also being bright. I can pretty much give you an entire analysis of the whole suite, but its besides the point.
I would suggest not to delve into the marketing that the cd. Theres no reason to think its so amazing just to listen to with a different bias and mind set. I think music should be free for interpretation without the influence of programmatic notes.
On another note, I think this Bach is interesting as the artist actually found all the choral fragments within the Bach Chaconne that were used in services. The conjecture is that a person attending church during that time could recognize these fragmentsand references as they were used to hearing them regularly.
I find it interesting but still slightly gimmicky. There are others who claim that the chaconne, when tracing its origins and when it was written....was meant to be a requiem for the death of his wife....but again I don't listen to the chaconne this way and have a revelation.
For me, I find recordings like this more interesting
The performance for me is so delightful because it is so free, flexible, and unpretentious. It doesn't sound overly rehearsed and both musicians do not compromise their individuality, yet are sensitive enough to respond with spontaneity. How Martha goes out of the box in her solo runs, and shapes the phrase while rostropovich is playing is nothing short of astounding. After hearing too many crafted, constructed performances in chamber music(particularly quartet), it is defintiely something that is rare. I've only witnessed these types of moments a handful of times and it definitely isn't something that can be controlled or planned. They just happen and are unrepeatable unfortunately.
I wonder what is gimmicky in trying to understand music in ways that wanders away from its abstract nature, even though I agree that music and it alone is fundamental without adding any poetry, program notes or historical context to it.
I love music so much cause there are so many ways to understand it, love it and live it. I first listen to a musical piece without any program or story behind it. Music needs to stand on its own foundation and impress me to my inner core without any fancy story or program attached to it. After such an understanding, there are various ways one can probe inwards or outwards if so one wishes. In your case @Cellist88 being musically trained, the structure, form and 'architecture' of music expands your understanding into the nuts and bolts of 'why' music feels this way. Now that I can finally play the piano at amateur level, I am achieving another level of understanding as I slowly play pieces by Bach and other notable composers. As I played through BWV 822 minuets these past 2 weeks, I feel connected to the harmony, melody and overall structure of the piece enhancing greatly the synthesis of the music within my own being. Another way I feel I can dig deeper into music is to understand the context, the environment, the composer and the era better.
As an example, Berlioz programmed most of the music he wrote. When I listened to his Romeo and Juliet, Harold in Italie or Symphonie Fantastique, I made it a point to not read about the program stories that are appended to the respective music. In the fantastique, the part when the head is cut and rolls down the stairs still felt as a significant point musically. The music still captivated me into that repeating undulating melody Berlioz was so fixated in. Reading the program notes added another dimension to his music, to his reality and nature. Berlioz was the epitome of the romantic idea whilst Bach symbolises the pinnacle of the Baroque, an era whose music was also highly emotionally laden as in Handel's operas or Bach's Passions. Indeed I frequently venture into classical era and modern music to escape that overly emotional music of the Baroque and Romatic eras as it can be too much of a good thing at times.
Whilst I appreciate and adore Bach's music solely in an abstract form, I am aware of the intense religious feeling that is part of his DNA. Over the past 4 years I have been listening to many of his 200 cantatas. I was struck by his inventiveness and deep connection of his music to the sung words. Furthermore, the music in each and every one of these cantatas has similar depth and affect on me as his purely instrumental music, as well as his passions. The same can be said about all his music including the Goldbergs, his organ music, the WTC and that monumental chaconne we both love.
As I read through resources on the net after I listen intently and repeatedly to a cantata, I can appreciate the inventiveness of Bach's music and how he manages to turn music into action that merges with the sung words. An example of Bach's brilliance into merging music into his own religious context is one of the first cantatas I listened to as I ventured through Suzuki's cantata cycle on BIS. Bach's cantata BWV 53, Widerstehe doch der Sünde (Just resist sin), is laden with music that has a programmatic theme in it.
'The theme of Widerstehe doch der Sünde is that of sin, its invasive nature, the necessity to resist it and its ultimate vulnerability. It starts on a dissonance followed by throbbing rhythms, rising pitches and building of texture. The ritornello rises and falls, in snake-like fashion, a symbol of encroaching sin, that if resisted will be eventually dispelled. This Snake-like movement suggests serpentine biblical sin whilst settled sustained notes create the impression of resistance and/or defiance. Melismas suggests the invidous incrusions of sin on the soul. The text states—-do not let Satan deceive you—-you will be struck down by a deadly curse if you profane God′s honour. The vocal line becomes immediately more assertive and the allusion to the ′deadly curse′ is almost spat out with the most unexpected of interrupted cadences (bar 45). The recapitulation of the beginning of the movement, itself harmonically ambiguous, is juddering and unexpected, a brief musical metaphor of the impact of sin and the struggle to resist it. .At the mention of sin retreating and ′taking flight′ there are four little bursts on the upper strings illustrating the action.'
So much is imbued into Bach's music that alludes to his spiritual and religious conviction, including his purely instrumental and secular music. Whilst I appreciate your point of the need to listen to music and just the music, the creator of the music lived and imparted his own consciousness into each and every note. I believe there is a connection one can make beyond the mere listening experience, a connection that imparts a deeper understanding of what cannot be expressed in words. Any means of achieving such an understanding is good and it will be different for each individual if he or she makes the effort.
I can appreciate the following music without considering the underlying words, context, religious allusion and the composer's life experience. That said, those extra-musical ideas could help to understand further this vocal piece
or this purely instrumental piece
I love the Mercury Living Presence classicial released on CD. But there's so much of them! Do anyone have really killer recommendations from the classic area that's worth getting on CD?
I agree. One of the reasons I almost never listen to programmatic music is that, in my view, it is limiting in terms of finding my own interpretation and meaning.
I have no training in music of any kinds except that I almost memorized "What to listen for in music " by Copland, but I have strong background in mathematics, and I may be more sensitive to the structure and architecture of a composition than to sensual aspect of it.
But music has meaning to me, it just changes depending on where I am in my life, my state of mind etc..it seams that "pure" music can tap my emotions in a more profound way.
I listened many times to Beethoven's "Grosse fugue", I know it a bit of a drastic example , and putting no limits on my own interpretation allowed me to discover it over and over again. .
@Muse Wanderer, I understand that your approach is not strictly programmatic, it seems to me you are trying to get close to the meaning of music in a cultural or spiritual landscape when and where it was created, which for a listener can be very rewarding as well.
I think it's my obsession solely with Bach that makes me wonder about the meaning behind his abstract music. Listening to a lot of his vocal music these past few years made me appreciate more his approach. These 'theories' regarding say the cello suites are indeed interesting but not crucial to appreciate the music.
With respect to other great composers, I actually avoid any induction of programmatic music or if these are important say with Berlioz, check them after I get used to music on its own.
Beethoven's music for example is hindered by any program e.g. the 6th symphony pastoral. Mozart's music also stands on its own and does not need any help from stories behind the notes. His operas for example would be nothing without his music.
Romantic era composers say Schuman or Chopin are much better appreciated without programs to their music as their music is already laden with poetic inward looking ego driven structure.
The mathematical nature of music is also very interesting to listen to in say Bach's Art of Fugue, Beethoven's 5th or Mozart fractal symmetrical musical structure exemplified by his 40th symphony. The architectural form of say Beethoven's 14th string quartet op131 is perfection incarnate.
Even Wagner music transcends the words put in his operas. As I listen to the Ring cycle over and over again, the story and words, whilst very important initially, start to disappear slowly in the background. All the leitmotifs take a life of their own and interact in a way that is independent to the words.
Wonderful music indeed. Extra musical information are another element that could enhance one's understanding but these would be nothing without the music itself.
Speaking of Bach, has anyone heard the recent(ish, late 2016) Rachel Podger version of the Art of Fugue?
I've been collecting various versions over the years, and this one sounds just terrific. It's a string ensemble version (obviously), and has a warmer sound compared to, say, the Emerson String Quartet (maybe gut strings instead of steel). It has nice and brisk tempi, which keeps it energetic throughout. Some other recordings are just soporific; I get why one might choose to play this slowly, but I like speed and virtuosity — if I want to hear plodding, I'll play it myself!
Interesting. I'll try to listen to this when I can. The Emerson string quartet version jarred to my ears possibly a result of modern instruments but probably cause the different voices sounded incoherent. I prefer piano versions.
I love Evgeni Koroliov's recording of the Art of Fugue. He has got the same touch, articulation and clarity of Tureck and Gould' Bach. Listening till the final note is an exhilarating experience...
I just started listening to Rachel Podger the Art of Fugue and so far I like it very much. On the other had the Emerson recording is the worst I have heard so far. I am not referring to the they are playing it but the mastering and recording quality is just awful, the sound of cello in Cont 4 is muffled, boomy, it sounds like the most crappy MP3. I own the CD and ripped it in 5 different ways, tried on my systems, and elsewhere, the same crap.
I have recently been comparing different takes on the Dvorak Cello Concerto. My favorite version so far is the Fournier collaboration with Szell and the Berlin Phil.
A very lyrical and emotional interpretation. Had not heard anything from Fournier before, but this is lovely playing.
I recently picked up about 10 CDs at a book fair (at $1 each) and am working my way through some music that is relatively new to me - the Schubert Quintet and the Brahms 4th Symphony. Both these discs are pretty great.
The Schubert is a very light and joyous piece. The Brahms has very lush orchestration and is pretty powerful. Loving both very much at present. The Brahms comes with 2 very nice fillers also.
Not so sure on the Gorecki disc. I liked his 3rd Symphony, but the Misere is unaccompanied choral and it is taking me some time to get into.
Spotify's Discover Weekly playlist introduced me to many works and composers that I was unfamiliar with. One of my most significant discoveries has been of the Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks. His Presence (Cello Concerto #2) is impressive and emotional, in a great performance by Sol Gabetta. Vasks composed this work for Gabetta.
Groot Omroepkoor Hague Residentie Orchestra Brad Lubman
My classical music journey really began with two performances I heard on NPR in the summer of 1990. One was Vaugham William's In the Fen Country, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, and the other was John Adam's Harmonium. I recorded each on two sides of a cassette tape. Unfortunately the beginning and end of that performance was cut off, so I had neither the name of the composer or the name of the work. I lost the tape a couple of years later, and for a long time that work haunted me. I only remembered a couple of bars of music, and three words- "For his civility."
Thankfully, Al Gore invented the internet in the mid-nineties and at some point I was able to utilize the magic of boolean searches and Google and found that the words came from an Emily Dickenson poem, which had been incorporated into a piece called Harmonium by John Adams. I remember hearing that performance again, coughs and all, on Youtube, and when I heard that line uttered I welled up. It had been a long time since hearing that music, which I thought I might never hear again.
Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a recording (cd/dvd/or digital file) of this performance (apparently for the radio in the Netherlands?) anywhere. I'm reaching out to anyone familiar with this that can lead me to something I can purchase or legally download.
Thanks for listening.
I don't think this can be it because of the dates, but it's the right choir, although the orchestra may not be (I think it's Concertgebow in this one). First 10 minutes are interviews about Adams and Harmonium, partly in Dutch, partly in English -- including very interesting comments from Adams, and then several further discussions and rehearsal material between movements. There are two commercial recordings, one on Nonesuch, one on ECM, but with different performers. The actual recording you refer to I think was online at some point but was withdrawn, there are pages with links to it, maybe (C) issues.
Thanks for bringing it up, I have several John Adams recordings but I had never heard this.
Update: Actually, here's another one, same orchestra, conductor, choir as the one you mentioned, but much more recent (I think, my Dutch is about non-existent):
Separate names with a comma.