Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Troyanos in Das Lied von der Erde

I first got to know Troyanos' voice in her doom-laden recording of Bluebeard's Castle. It ruined the piece for me in the sense that I cannot listen to anyone else without missing her intensely. I mentioned this to a South American friend, who kindly sent me this recording. The sound is, well, FM radio, but the singing is another reason to lament her early death.

MP3 240-ish kbs, VBR, from FM broadcast.

Gustav Mahler
Das Lied von der Erde
Peter Hoffman, Tatiana Troyanos,
Carlo Maria Giulini
Los Angeles Philharmonic
November 9, 1980

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Fauré : Piano Quintet No 2 - Quatuor Belcea, Bertrand Chamayou

The french pianist Bertrand Chamayou has yet to make an enormous splash, but on the basis of his Mendelssohn CD and an almost-all Mendelssohn recital at La Roque d'Anthéron, it's only a matter of time. And France Musique came up trumps in this recording, made in 2007, of Chamayou and the Quatuor Belcea playing Fauré's autumnal masterpiece.

I have owned a score of this for decades, always hoping that I'll get to play it. (I also own the Schnittke – hope springs eternal!). There is something about the way the strings weave in and out that has the austere sensuality of renaissance counterpoint. Listen, do, to the closing pages of the first movement, as the motoric semiquavers from the piano accompany a seemingly unstoppable flow of counterpoint, wave upon wave, right up to the final exultant chords. Is it any wonder I am determined to play this before I die?

In memory of Debbie Metrustry, with whom I sang for many, many years, who died suddenly this morning.

mp3, 128 kbs in surprisingly good sound, from France Musique.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Bernstein : Mahler's second - Musicians Against Nuclear Arms

Here's a piece of history – Bernstein conducting Mahler's second symphony in the National Cathedral in Washington, with Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks and musicians drawn from the National Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony, playing under the banner of Musicians Against Nuclear Arms.  
Can you imagine this happening now? Can you imagine three of the US's most famous musicians leading a performance in the National Cathedral under the banner of, say, 'Musicians Against Military Intervention'? 

No. I miss the days in which the US had a genuine opposition, when opponents of militarism could speak up, could play Mahler in the National Cathedral. 

The performance has its ragged moments, but I find it moving precisely because it is a testament to a better age. Perhaps the ideals were foolish, but foolish ideals are better than paranoid ideation any day. 

Alex Ross has an interesting piece on this performance here

Since the original post, I've encountered a rather better transfer of the recording, which I'm now reposting. As the US presidential elections near, and we face the prospect of a republican candidate who is a kind of cross between Ronald McDonald and a toilet brush genuinely representing the deepest wishes of a substantial majority of the citizens of the US, I look around aghast. Where, where are the people who will stand up and say stop? Who will urge the use of the wealth, power and influence of the US to bring an end to poverty, disease and degradation of the environment? Who will urge the US to win friends and thereby win the peace it apparently desires by, well, being friendly? 

Such an awful silence.

Mahler : Symphony No 2
Barbara Hendricks, Jessye Norman, Musicians Against Nuclear Arms.
National Cathedral, Washington, 1984