Thursday, June 16, 2011

Brahms : Organ works - Virgil Fox

This is a tribute to the wonderful blog that Fred runs over at Random Classics. Among the many treasures I've discovered there is this recording of the Brahms chorale preludes Op 122. 

Not many people seem to realise that Brahms wrote organ music, and not many recordings of these chorale preludes can be called successful in my opinion. Which was way I was bowled over by Fox's interpretations. For a start, he precedes each prelude with the appropriate chorale, in such a way that Brahms' music flows naturally from the chorale melody. But more than that, Fox creates a sound world from the Hammond Castle organ in Gloucester Massachusetts that captures the mood of the music precisely. He uses endless variations on the reed chorus of the organ to maintain a unified atmosphere, but allow each chorale prelude to take on its own character. 

And the playing – meditative and powerful at once, reminding me forcefully of the recordings of Albert Schweitzer. 

There's a complicated reason why I ended up doing a small editing job on Fred's original upload, which isn't interesting enough to put here. Suffice it to say that this upload is my small tribute to Fred and his wonderfully eclectic tastes in LPs. 

These are Apple Lossless audio files. I'm a Mac person. That's life. 

And thank you, Fred!

Download from Mediafire

Takemitsu : Kwaidan sound track

The 1960s film of a selection of the Japanese Kwaidan (strange tales) has a wonderful score by Toru Takemitsu. The film's credits describe it as 'sound' rather than 'music' and you can see why. Takemitsu produces a score that combines Japanese traditional musical instruments and idioms with very avant garde techniques.

The selection here comes from the late-lamented Avant Garde Project. Ki is the story of a samurai who leaves his wife in poverty to seek his fortune. When he returns, the house is in ruins, but she is there, unchanged, still waiting for him. You can imagine the rest… In Yuki, a young woodcutter meets Yuki Onna, the woman of the snow, while trapped by a violent blizzard. In Japanese folk belief, she is a malevolent spirit who freezes hapless travellers to death, but in this story she falls in love with the woodcutter. Things do not, however, turn out well.

The central panel of Kwaidan is the tale of Hōichi the Earless. Yes, it's gruesome, but it revolves around the restless spirits of the Heike who died in the battle of Dan no Ura. Hoichi is a blind singer and biwa player, and he inadvertently ends up entertaining the Heike with the tale of their own downfall. 
Takemitsu's score builds on the traditional recitation of the tale of the Heike, and as a bonus track the upload includes Kinshi Tsurita declaiming the legend of the battle of Dan no Ura. I am amazed at the ability of the biwa and Tsurita's voice to conjure up the images of this legendary event. You will hear arrows whistling through the air, and the desolate voice of the Lady Nii, who, when she realises all is lost, takes the infant emperor in her arms and jumps into the sea. If you've seen the film, you will know what I mean. If you haven't, well, just listen and marvel.

mp3 at 320 kbs

Download from mediafire

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Happy 70th birthday, Martha Argerich - 1965 Chopin Competition

Everyone's posting performances by one of the most iconic of pianists. Here are excerpts from her performances at the 1965 Chopin competition, for which I have my old friend Dr John to thank.

Preludes Op 25 Nos 19-24
Etudes Op 10 No 1 and 10
Nocturne in E flat major op. 55 No 2
Barcarolle in F sharp major Op. 60
Scherzo No 3 in C sharp minor Op. 39
Polonaise in A flat major Op. 53

Decent MP3 320kbs

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