Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 15 - Rostropovich


I can't think of a better symphony to share for the Halloween season than Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15, a symphony full of pranks and spooks. Written in 1971 and premiered in 1972, it is very different from most his other symphonies. There are a number of musical motifs from various composers that pop up in surprising ways throughout the symphony. The first movement is often likened to a toy shop, humming along in a playful and strange way. If you're patient with the second movement, you'll hear more than a wall of somberness after a few minutes, and also some motifs that reappear in the finale.

Rostropovich whips through the third movement a little fast; it's still an enjoyable listen, though. He also takes the finale at a brisk pace, but the result is excellent. The last few minutes are unlike anything I've ever heard in orchestral music - it's like the toy shop again, but this time you hear the rattling of ghosts and skeletons.

Download here (no password):
http://www.mediafire.com/?a0g1a75fpvewba1

Though the Rostropovich recording has not been currently reissued, Kurt Sanderling's recording with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra is available on Amazon. He slows things down, but with amazing effect.

Cheers,
Angus

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

John Butler - Ocean

Here is an intense and beautiful piece, performed live at the Fuji Rock Festival 2010:



This is another version of "Ocean," which has over nine million views:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VAkOhXIsI

Both amazing, but check out the Fuji performance first. I watched it in awe. I love it when an audience's enthusiasm and the music have such amazing synergy. Just awesome.

Cheers,
Angus

Friday, October 1, 2010

Brahms/Mozart - Karl Böhm, Bavarian RSO


I can't recall where online I found this recording, but I think it offers excellent deliveries of both the Brahms Symphony No. 1 and the Ninth Piano Concerto of Mozart. Very good sound quality on this analog recording. I haven't found any instance of this on Amazon and have found only a very few mentions of it on the web.

I'll focus first on Brahms. Böhm gives a thrilling performance with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (i.e. Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks). There's no sluggishness here, so even the grumpy moments in the first movement have plenty of energy. The second movement is lyrical, and the third has all the woodwind charm you'd hope for. The finale: outstanding. This is among my favorite movements of his symphonies. I can't help but think of Brahms's famous quote, "A symphony is no joke," when I listen to this. He put his all into this first finale - keep in mind it took him until his forties when he finally wrote the First Symphony. The wait was well worth it.  The last movement has mysterious pizzicato, Alpine French horn, autumnal brilliance, great moments of triumph, Sturm und Drang... all tied together in an exciting way. Listen for the chorale theme that appears around the first horn solo. The theme reappears at the end, all in blazes.

Böhm's Mozart here sounds on par with his famous Beethoven Pastoral recording - graceful, playful, all the things you'd want in a Mozart recording. I'm no expert on this particular concerto, but Friedrich Gulda is a great pianist. He loved Mozart, and it shows.

Download here (no password):
http://www.mediafire.com/?e0fmjvimz217546

Cheers,
Angus