Pierre Boulez conducting the final movement of Janáček’s Sinfonietta.
One of the greatest musicians of the 20th Century - “teacher” of Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Quincy Jones, Piazzolla, Michel Legrand, Leonard Bernstein, Igor Markevitch, Dinu Lipatti, Ginette Neveu and so many more… - teaching Emile Naoumoff at age 10.
Unbeknownst to many, there is piano literature by Stravinsky other than Petrouchka. And it’s fucking good.
Stravinsky and Diaghilev spewing absurdities in the BBC film Riot at the Rite. Almost as hilarious as When Nietzsche Wept.
“I’ve always had my suspicions about Stravinsky: he makes Proust look like a docker.”
You know Mahler is fucking boss when you see a chunk of wood flying from the impact of one of the hammer strokes during his sixth symphony.
Leonard Bernstein was a great conductor, but he was perhaps more importantly a public intellectual, a master teacher who brought into view for so many the conditions for really listening well in an age when the relevance of art is becoming less and less and in greater need of rescue and reinvention. His genius was in bringing music to others not as mere cultural currency but rather as gift, without condescension but with passion and empathy, all the while staying true to the seriousness of a musician. Three cheers to Leonard Bernstein on his birthday.
String chamber music is a genre entirely of its own and, in my opinion, one of the few genres which came to fruition only with the Romantic composers. I am thinking of Beethoven’s late quartets, Mendelssohn’s Octet, Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” quartet, Dvorak’s 2nd piano quintet, and here, Schumann’s piano quintet.
What is particular to the string chamber music is its intimacy - the sort of intimacy you get when, say, your piano teacher puts their hand on top of yours and guides you through a phrase. You can actually feel the musicians speaking to each other, gazing into each other - it’s something you can’t really find in other forms.
The way each player eyes the other, in which a single voice can burst forward and make itself known and then fade back just as quickly - that is the great sensuous beauty of chamber music - to reveal the beauty of each line in resonant counterpoint.
Maria João Pires plays Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 under Gardiner.
Gardiner has fronted some of the more tolerable period performance interpretations of baroque and classical music - and here he’s fronting one of the more tolerable [basically] period performance ensembles, the Vienna Philharmonic. Long strides since, say, Harnoncourt’s tedious (but admirable) reproductions of old. And while Pires isn’t exactly extroverted here - her playing is definitely pure and touching.
Bach was not a classical composer. He was a baroque composer.I understand the need to use the term “classical music” as a blanket term, but it irks me. It irks me.
Why is this bothersome? Categories are meant only to differentiate - and for some lay listeners, the difference between baroque and classical is not only unintelligible but irrelevant. They don’t know or really be interested in homophonic/polyphonic forms, figured bass, ornamentation, etc. Now I don’t think there’s anything contemptuous about this — it’s useful to differentiate, say, between a “classical” and, say, a jazz composer. For some “baroque” vs. “classical” is as pointless as someone insisting that Marilyn Manson is not in fact goth music because it irks them that someone would dare put Manson in the same category with Bauhaus.
Besides, there’s a world of difference between Lully and Rameau and Bach and Purcell - does it make sense to group them together? There’s also really nothing “baroque” about Karajan performing the Brandenberg Concertos or Horowitz performing the Scarlatti sonatas or Argerich performing the Bach Partitas. But why the fuss?
“Playing and studying Bach convinces us that we are all numskulls.” - Robert Schumann
Lazar Berman - known most widely as a “technician” characteristic of the Russian School - plays the hell out of this Chopin Polonaise.
This spirited performance of Shostakovich’s piano quintet belongs in the comedy category of youtube. Argerich is in her own little world; Joshua Bell looks like he’s constipated; Maisky like he just came from a Melvins concert. There’s this funny moment where Kraggerud comes up a little flat and Bashmet responds with a seemingly confused gaze.
The quintet itself is a masterpiece of Shostakovich’s early period. It is simple, clear, balanced and accessible, which perhaps accounts for its enormous popularity after its premiere in 1940. Written in the midst of the Second World War, the quintet may be said to be some expression of the traumatic upheaval of that era. I eschew making such violently contextualizing claims, e.g. that such-and-such “reflected the zeitgeist” of the time, etc.” Certainly Shostakovich was one of the most politically attuned composers of all time — but I’ll just let Rostislav Dubinsky of the Borodin Quartet speak for me:
“For a time the Quintet overshadowed even such events as the football matches between the main teams. The Quintet was discussed in trams, people tried to sing in the streets the second defiant theme of the finale. War that soon started completely changed the life of the country as well as the consciousness of the people. If previously there was the faint hope of a better life, and the hope that the ‘sacrifices’ of the revolution were not in vain, this hope was never to return. The Quintet remained in the consciousness of the people as the last ray of light before the future sank into a dark gloom.”
Leonard Bernstein conducting the final choral movement of Mahler’s 2nd, “Resurrection.” Legendary.
“Mr. Gershwin, music is music.”
Earl Wild’s transcription of Mr. Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.”