P.D.Q. Williamson vs Godzilla

I discovered Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003) the Australian composer thanks to the music in the horror/suspense movie Crescendo. One plot thread was an unfinished concerto the music for which was provided by Williamson. This is how I sometimes discover music. On this mp3 cd compilation I have his Overtures & Complete Piano Concertos. Mid-century romantic with, at times, over-the-top emotionalism. Great stuff.

Peter Schickele (1935) goes back to my life on the east coast. He is a satirist & parody genius. Some of his parodies do require a but of classical knowledge but the absurdity or his quintet that includes bagpipes & lute is easy to grasp. Another piece is the copying of a dozen symphonies strung together – the origins of sampling? here I have Peter Schickele Presents an Evening with P. D. Q. Bach (1807–1742)? (1965); An Hysteric Return: P.D.Q. Bach at Carnegie Hall (1966). As stand-alone I have On Report from Hoople: P. D. Q. Bach On the Air which features the hysterical play-by-play commentary on a performance of the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony as if it were a baseball game. 

Camerata Hungarica: Music to Entertain the Kings of Hungary 1490-1526 – this is divine renaissance songs & dance music for small ensembles. Mostly shorter works – sometimes energetic, sometimes soothing but all times delightful. If you want an accessible cd of this period this is the one for you.

Finally another movie discovery: Akira Ifukube (1914-2006) a Japanese composer best known for his works on the Godzilla franchise: Works for Guitar & Lute. His classical music is modern, melodic & not at all Godzilla like 🙂 it is, if anything, a contemporary equivalent of Music to Entertain Kings (without scaring them). 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Weill Not So Vile

By Kurt Weill (1900 –1950) I have: stand-alones of Symphonies 1 & 2; Mahogonny/Seven Deadly Sins; Three Penny Opera (Konig Ensemble); Three Penny Opera (Lotte Lenya). As mp3: Ute Lemper: Sings Weill; Lotte Lenya: Sings Weill. As lp to CD transfer: Berlin to Broadway/Martha Schlamme sings Weill; Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill.

My first exposure to Weill was, like many, Bobby Darin’s Mac The Knife & that first line about the shark’s teeth gave the smooth sing a real bite. It is a decent translation of Bertold Brecht’s original German lyrics by Marc Blitzstein. Of course it was years before I knew it was a Weill/Brecht composition.

Over the years I have seen various productions of nearly all of the theatre pieces they created together. Also some that were reconstructions using songs from various plays. All haver a strong political message  & there is at least one standout song in each. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered Weill wrote music not for the stage! Symphonies, lieder etc. But it will be his theatre music he’ll be remembered for.

My first real purchase was the double lp Berlin to Broadway (since transferred to CD) that found remaindered when I lived in Cape Breton. This is a small ensemble show complex from Weill’s various other shows, told as a musical biography & sense is a sort of a biggest hits & it well worth tracking down. (not to be confused with some brass quartet release of the same title.)

One of the versions of The Three Penny features Weill’s muse Lotte Lenya. A great archival recording, the other is a more recent & is fine. Lotte’s set of his songs is excellent as well – her voice can be an acquired taste. Lemper’s set is fun cabaret & all the hits are there. Schlamme’s are more classical rather than cabaret.

The Symphonies are pleasant 20th century classical. No sense of his showtune work in them & if it weren’t for his theatre work they would be even less of a footnote than they are now. Did you know that Sullivan of Gilbert & Sullivan also wrote 24 operas, 11 major orchestral works, ten choral works and oratorios, two ballets & more? 

If you are unfamiliar Weill start with any compilation of his theatre work. 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Richard and Maria

In my classical collection I have a few stand-alone cds of Richard Wagner (1813-83). I am by no means a fan of German opera. I have seen pieces of his operas on DVD but well my only real knowledge is from Bugs Bunny. One of the cds is a sort of orchestral hits: overtures & preludes from the operas. 

The other is an lp to cd transfer of Glenn Gould’s piano transcriptions of things like Love-Death, The Siegfried Idyll. This is luscious romantic & well worth adding to your classical collection, if you don’t have it already. My partner has all the operas on DVD & CD so I’m saving them to appreciate in my old age.

Next to Wagner is another German composer Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) who is also noted for his operas, none of which I have in my collection or have knowingly heard. Wiki tells me he was a major influence on Wagner. In my collection I have three stand alone cds. Two are lp to cd transfers one of the opera overtures; the other are of individual concertos for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn. Third is of Symphonies 1 & 2 with suites for him operas. Unlike Wagner, Weber actually wrote more than opera.

The music is romantic without being overwrought – no one would confuse Weber with Beethoven 🙂 I certainly enjoy them when they come in rotation to be played but I don’t feel the urge to play them otherwise, unlike Beethoven whose works I go back to frequently. 



Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

Henri et Heitor

Henri Vieuxtemps (Belgian 1820-81): Violin Concertos. I bought this way back in 2004 at HMV where they had a table or reduced-price classical cds. I like violin concertos so I picked it up knowing nothing about the composer. I’ve played it several times since then but to be honest I have no recollection of what I heard 🙂 The music is pleasant enough that I’ve kept it in my collection. It’s the sort of thing you might hear on CBC radio & think ‘that’s nice.’ At Vieuxtemps’ funeral his violin was carried upon a pillow behind the hearse carrying his body.

Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887 – 1959) Brazilian, wrote over 2000 works by his death in 1959. If you’ve never heard of him, chances are you have heard him but not realized it was his music you were listening to in the background of some movie or TV show.

I have as stand-alones his Complete Solo Guitar which includes Bachianas Brasileiras, Piano Music Vol 4, Piano Music Vol 5, String Quartets Vol 6. Although I tend to be a completest I was content with this selection of his works. I think I first heard his music as played by Andre Segovia; then some of it ‘smuggled’ by various progrock groups; as well as jazz takes by Chick Corea & others. 

Like many composers he makes extensive use of folk melodies but unlike, say, Smetana, doesn’t turn them into epic patriotic melodrama. Playful, thoughtful & romantic his melodies are ideal for musical exploration & easily adapt to tango, rumba or bossanova. 

For many years I was unaware that he wrote for anything other than guitar, & was surprised to find that the piece of his I liked was adapted from his piano music. So I added some of that to my collection & decided to try some of his string quartets – which are excellent, if you like string quartets. 

If you find his latino influence a little too controlled by classical structure you should try Piazzolla or even Sivuca for a ‘juicier’ classical experience. 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Tchaikovsky

I was introduced to Tchaikovsky through Fantasia without knowing who I was being introduced to. When I bought my first real stereo: turntable, speakers, receiver – from Radio Shack – the first album I played on it was a recording of his first piano concerto. It was a wow moment. 

Since then my collection of his work has grown from box sets to cassettes & to cd box sets & mp3. buy Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian 1840 –1893) I have as stand-alones: Queen of Spades 3 cd, Nutcracker ballet, 1812 Overtures & other orchestral work, Complete Piano & orchestra 2cd, Complete String Quartets 2cd, Choral Work, Violin Concerto w: Beethoven: Violin Concerto 61.

On 3cds of mp3 I have the Complete Symphonies, Complete Solo Piano Music, Piano Concertos, Orchestral works: Capriccio Italien, Francesca da Rimini, Ballet Suites, Romeo & Juliet, Swan Lake, Nutcracker; Violin Concertos. Rounding out the cds are Dvorak: Four-Hand Piano; Prokofiev: The Buffoon ballet; Berloiz: Romeo & Juliet ballet; Stravinsky: Firebird.

Some duplicates but each version is a different interpretation. Melodic, lyrical, some radical at the time, romantic, over-the-top, melodramatic & sometimes saccharin & sentimental – what’s not to like? Some of the music barely contains his personal inner turmoil around his queerness – at time when it was a capital offence – actually in Russia I think it still is.

The ballet suites are a good introduction to his music. The whole ballets can be a bit much without dancers 🙂 The Queen of Spades opera is pleasant enough. His string quartets are sublime. If you want melodrama, melody & heartbreaking romance this is the composer for you.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Stravinsky Goes Hollywood

Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971): Russian but US citizen from 1945. His ballet The Rite of Spring (1913) transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure. I have an mp3 collection of his complete Ballets, Symphonies & orchestral music. Of course we have Walt Disney’s Fantasia for making Stravinsky almost a household name 🙂 I’m surprised Disney didn’t insist on royalties every time any version of The Rite gets played.

The ballet suites for The Firebird & Petrouchka are frequently performed as orchestral as well as ballet works. The only one I have seen as a ballet is the Rites. I was disappointed there were no dinosaurs 🙂 These three pieces have become classical war horses & I have versions interpreted by jazz, progrock & electronic musicians. 

The Rite is, to my ears, the most ‘radical’ of the works of his I am familiar with thanks to this collection. I had at one time an MHS cassette set of some of these pieces, which lost its tension. For the most part his work is pleasant with elements of jazz, traditional classical, Russian folk melodies running through it. The ballet music doesn’t really need the ballet to enjoy it – then again, I also have soundtracks to movies I have never seen.

I’ve watched portions of the ballets on TV, YouTube & each dance company & choreographer brings their own vision to the music anyway so the visual elements – movement, lighting, costumes – are always changing while the music remains relatively the same. The non-ballet works are interesting & the symphonies are sweeping & satisfying.

Reading about his life I was surprised to find out that he moved to the USA in 1939 & settled down in Hollywood! 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy new music. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Still – Sor

Fernando Sor (1778 -1839) – thanks to Andre Segovia grew to enjoy Sor, though it was some time before I ‘knew’ him by name. I have pieces by him scattered through recordings by Boyd, Bream etc. Also 2 stand alones of his complete Guitar Music. Crisp, emotional & adventurous he is worth adding to any classical collection.

I read about William Grant Still (1895 – 1978) known as “Dean of AfroAmerican Composers” a few years ago during Black Heritage month. I am always eager to expand my musical appreciation beyond the accepted European tradition. When I think of modern American classical of composers not many names come to mind – Copeland, Gershwin. Is Scott Joplin classical? 

Wiki says that Still composed almost 200 works, including nine operas,five symphonies,four ballets,plus art songs, chamber music, and works for solo instruments.He composed more than thirty choral works.Many of his works are believed to be lost. Modern classical is such a rarefied niche I’m not surprised if you’ve never heard of him.

On an mp3 collection I have his Chamber Music performed by Videmus Ensemble: Suite for Violin & Piano, Songs of Separation; Piano Music: Visions, Traceries, A Deserted Plantation; Africa, Symphony No 1 Afro-America Symphony. More or less a sampling of his various forms. The music is modern conservative as opposed to modern experimental – melodic, lyrical & sometimes Romantic. Enjoyable – sort of an American Vaughn-Williams.

To round out the Sills cd I hadded: Jewish Tone Poems by Avshalomov; Silver; Meyerowitz – impassioned at points. Music for Two Guitars: Los Indios Tabajaras, Santos/Caceres – lovely cafe classical music. Stamitz/Reinnecke: Works for Flute: more lovely cafe classics. Finally The Wild West: The Essential Western Themes – this is wow collection where you can hear the influences of Copeland, Beethoven, Gershwin on film soundtracks that result is some of the iconically USA symphonic music.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Rossini Sarasate

Gioachino Rossini’s (1792 – 1868) William Tell Overture has been seared into my memory thanks to the Lone Ranger & Bugs Bunny. Of course little of music in that overture actually appears in the opera. Imagine some soprano galloping to the galloping bit 🙂 I have that tucked away somewhere. 

On an mp3 collection I have his String Sonatas, various Overtures, Piano Music, Barber of Seville Highlights, La Boutique Fantastique, Matinees & Soirees Musical & the Stabat Mater. At one time I wanted to hear behind the big hit so I added these to broaden my knowledge base. This is all pleasant orchestral, the paint music is romantic, I love the Stabat Mater. But the string sonatas are my particular favourite.

The version here is my lp to mp3 transfer from an MHS edition which I really loved loved loved. This is sweet, playful, happy music. Music I loved so much that I have two other versions of it as stand-alone double cds. All three are different but the same, different tempos, sound quality but great. I’d say by whom but that doesn’t matter. These sonatas would be fine by any string quartet. Get them.

Near Rossini on the shelf is Spain’s Pablo de Sarasate (1844 – 1908). I have two stand-alones of his Spanish Dances on violin one & the other on piano. The dances are fiery, romantic & energizing. Some of them are immediately recognizable even if you don’t know who the composer is. I have various versions of some of them on classical guitar, by string quartets, orchestras, harp, mariachi bands, worked into progrock noodling, jazz guitar, flute, sax. Music for the ages.

Daily Delay

“The delay at the Bloor-Yonge station is static stacic static.”

Jan pulled her ear buds out to hear the announcement. Another delay! Oh, well, there never was a good time for the daily delay. Just what she needed. Keeping the subway running, people happy and people safe were a constant battle. Keeping them safe sometimes meant they would be unhappy. Delays made them very unhappy. 

She wondered what was it this time. Hopefully not another jumper. No, the delay wasn’t long enough for that. She listened closely to the dispatch numbers. They weren’t calling for the track clean up crew. 

The train started up. As it passed through bloor she saw police gathered around the men’s room door. Not worth getting off for. Crime on the subway wasn’t her beat. It wasn’t anybody’s beat. 

There was this code of silence around so much public petty crime. If they reported it all, the paper would be twice a large and there weren’t enough advertisers to pay for the rainforest it would take to keep up on all the pick-pockets, purse snatching that went on.

They saved that valuable resource for real crime. Murder or assault. Stealing candy bars from the Gateway wasn’t real enough, anymore. Plus the more of that petty stuff that made the press the less people felt safe. Everyone wants to feel safe in a city this size. Especially when they were crammed together on public transit. 

Though she never understood how some people found these things were so startling. It wasn’t as if assault was just invented. That this was the first time someone had been robbed.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 



Ravel, Tartini and Bach

Next on the classical shelf is a nearly 8 hour mp3 collection of work by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), Giuseppe Tartini (1692 –1770) & soprano Amelita Galli-Curci (1882 –1963).

Ravel is best know for his Bolero & perhaps his Pavane for A Dead Princess But he did actually write more than that :-). His string quartet is often paired with Debussy’s string quartet which reflects the impressionist style that Ravel wrote in. I have the Bolero & Pavane in other collections. In this one I have the complete solo piano music & his piano Concertos, which includes the concerto for left hand written for a concert pianist who lost his right hand in the war.

The Bolero unwittingly set the template for much popular music. It starts with a single instrument & every 8 bars or so adds another layer or beat – which is how many jazz, pop arrangements are constructed. It’s almost mathematic in the progression & variations. Sadly Bolero itself is a piece of music I don’t care every to hear again though. The Pavane is elegant & so relaxing it frequently shows up in collections of the most relaxing music ever.

The solo piano is similar to Debussy but a bit more mathematical as opposed to impressionist. Dreamy, relaxing. I love the sonatas. The String Quartet is surprisingly sensuous as the strings wrap around each other & you.

I had one of Tartini’s violin concertos as lp to cd transfer but wanted a better quality, so picked up the Complete Violin concertos. Best known for the Devil’s Trill, these are great Baroque pieces full of trills &, I’ve been told, virtuoso challenges for violinists.

Also in this collection is Leopold Stokowski’s Bach Transcriptions which includes the Toccata & Fugue. The orchestral sound is lush, soothing & even spiritual at times. I love the toccata & this is one my favourite versions. Stokowski turns Baroque Bach into orchestral Beethoven. Stokowski is best known for his work on Walt Disney’s Fantasia – which is a movie that introduced many generations to the power of classical music & his orchestrations are the key to the success of the movie.

Finally in this collection is Amelita Galli-Curci. She was one of the most popular operatic singers of the 20th century. I’m not a big opera fan but this set of 1917-1928 recordings is one way of stretching my ears to music I’m not that familiar with. The sound quality is okay, as it is often is with these period recordings. I’m happy with these but don’t ask me to decide who is better her or Maria Callas 🙂

Ink

“Get your lazy ass over here! You hear me. Get that lazy ass of yours over here pronto!” Jen hung up the phone satisfied she had done all she had to do. 

It wouldn’t be her fault if Jim didn’t get there on time. No one could find fault with her. Unless it was because she had made the call. It wasn’t up to her to be anyone’s alarm clock but she didn’t want to see Jim get fired. 

Jim was told if he was late one more time that would be it. She didn’t really like Jim but was used to him. She didn’t want to have to learn how to put up with some other jerk off.

She went to the customer washroom. There was still time to check to make sure she looked okay. Her hair was not too wild but not too tame either. Her lip ring was healing. The redness gone. It didn’t distract too much from the eyebrow piercing or the shock of pink she’d had put in her hair for the week. Something  to change appearances around a little. The customers liked variation. Jim felt consistency was reassuring. He didn’t like change.

She could tell by the way his eyes sort of narrowed looking for a safe place on her face to look at. There were no safe places.

She glanced at her wrist watch. Hello Kitty’s face looked so snug strapped in the middle of her full sleeve, roses & koi tattoos. Expensive but not nearly as painful as the she had expected. Both arms. A girl never had to worry about what to wear with these. She held both arms out in front of her, turned them to enjoy the wrapping and overlapping vines, castles stars & comets that danced along and over her shoulders down her back. Sweet. Sweet Sweet. What would she get done next.

Jen went to the front of the shop. She didn’t want to open up till someone else was there. The design books were laid out, a sketched pad was by her station & she began working on the pirate ship she knew would look good on Jim. 

Yes today was the day he would get his lazy ass inked once and for all.
Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

Quantz Rachmaninov

 

Johann Joachim Quantz (1697 -1773) Flute Sonatas. Next are two cds of lp transfers of MHS albums. Quantz inspired both Bach & Mozart so I guess this count as back-to-the-roots music. The sonatas are for for various combinations – 1, 2 or 3 flutes. plus stand-alone Works for Baroque Traverse flute The solo flute pieces aren’t really solo but have a cello or harpsichord continuo to pillow the sound. All are dainty, charming, playful & relaxing. Rarely emotional.

Which is not the case with Sergei Rachmaninov. (1873 –1943). I have a pair of 2cd sets in with his Piano Concertos; the other with his Preludes. These are romantic masterpieces that are at times over-the-top melodrama. So dramatic that some pieces frequently turn up in in movies, cartoons almost as parodies of themselves. His music has inspired endless, uncountable movie soundtracks – when you hear a piano cadenza with stirring strings you can ‘blame’ Rachmaninov.

One of the things that often happens when I’m writing about these albums I get the urge for more. What can I say, plus the current covid19 crisis lock down, I needed a little diversion so I checked Rachmaninov on iTunes to see if there was something I could add, I was not disappointed & now I have Rachmaninov: The Complete Recordings – performed by Vladimir Ashkenazy, Bernard Haitink & Concertgebouworkest. over 13 hours of music in 205 tracks. I’d say this is enough 🙂 I have listened to all & am quite pleased with it. His range is a little wider than I expected with some rather expressionist pieces. The work for two pianos is a delight.

If you want mood music for writing a Harlequin love story this is perfect. The influence of Liszt & Chopin cannot be denied but Rachmaninoff takes things to a different level of unapologetic sentimentality but never gets as sugary as Tchaikovsky. Needless to say I love Rachmaninoff. Like the other composers I mentioned he is emotionally open. He wears his heart on his sleeve as he pounds the piano not even taking the time to wipe the tears from his eyes.

The Cocktail

The restaurant staff went back to their duties. The other diners went back to their meals. The waiter brought a cocktail and put in front of him

“From the owner. Sorry for the confusion. I’ll be right back to take your order, sir.”

Joe smiled. Once again sticking to his guns had brought him a reward. He was about to take a sip when he was interrupted by a man in the booth behind him.

“Would mind not taking so loudly on your cell phone.” The man snapped.

“I am not taking on my cell phone.” Joe put the drink down. “I haven’t even taken it out of my pocket.”He patted the pocket to demonstrate that fact and realized he had left his cellphone at home.

“You just out it back there. I heard every word of that conversation you had. None of us are interested in your difficulties at work.”

“Here! Here!” Chimed in the older woman. “There should be a law against using those infernal things in public.”

“Agreed, madam. Some people have no shame about what they say and no respect for those us they inflict their obscenity riddled conversations on. I came here for a quite meal.”

Joe shank back into his booth. “I … I don’t have my cell phone here.”

“You calling me a liar?” The gentleman got up from his booth. His whiskered face red and puffed.

“What seems to be the problem.” The waiter materialized. “Oh! You again.”

“This man thinks I’ve been talking on a cell phone, when in fact,” Joe gave a small laugh. “I don’t have one with me.” He turned his coat pocket inside out to show it was empty.

“Harumph.” The bearded man went back to his booth.

“Enjoy your red zipper cocktail. I’ll be right with you to take your order.’

Joe sighed. He sipped his drink. It was a tart, clear, reddish concoction that tasted of strawberries and celery. He found it quite refreshing. It reminded him of his mother. How she would made sandwiches for his lunch at school. She would put unexpected things in them. His revere was broken by a short man bumping his table to get his attention.

“You didn’t flush.” The short man glowered at him.

“Flush?”

“Yes. You went to the bathroom and didn’t flush. I saw you go in.”

“Didn’t flush!” the man in the booth behind him said triumphantly. “I’ll bet he didn’t even wash his hands.”

“You would be right,” the short man continued. “Didn’t flush and left the steaming heap for me to face when I had to go in there.”

“I haven’t left my booth since I got here.” Joe protested. He held his hands out to show how clean there were.

“Your type is what makes going out for a meal such a torment. You know that don’t you. A Goddamned ordeal.” The short man walked away.

“Shame.” the older woman at the near by table smirked at him. “A man your age. I’m not surprised though. Ignorance is bliss. Isn’t it.” She laughed.



Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet