Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 9/25/10

Happy birthday Rama!

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #857:

Chopin – 24 Preludes – Walter Klien, Piano

We began this countdown last month not with single album but with a page full of obvious choices: Dark Side of the Moon, London Calling, Sketches of Spain and a whole slew of iconic, well-known ones that we figured needed no explanation. This one doesn’t need much of that either. There are a million Chopin preludes collections out there; we chose this one out of familiarity (admittedly, not a very good reason), the quality of the pieces (one classic after another) and the fact that Klien’s 1960 recording is truly excellent. For anyone who might be new to his music, pianist and composer Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) was the godfather of gypsy rock, a paradigm shifter and the guy most responsible for jumpstarting the Romantic era (following the Classical era, of Haydn and Mozart) in western instrumental music. Much of his work is wrenchingly intense, dark, brooding and unselfconsciously anguished, as are many of these, notably the dirgelike C Minor Prelude and the otherwordly E Minor one, both of which have been in a million movies and which you will instantly recognize if you don’t already know them. More effectively than any other composer, he blended the austere, bitter minor key chromatics of eastern Europe with the simpler majors and minors of the west. Without Chopin, it’s hard to imagine Tschaikovsky, Rachmaninoff or for that matter Gogol Bordello. As popular as this particular album was, a search for torrents didn’t turn up anything promising, probably because search engines mistake Klien’s name for “klein.” So here’s one for a well-known, solidly good Maurizio Pollini collection.

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September 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/4/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #878:

Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky

This moment was bound to arrive: an album on vinyl that doesn’t appear to have made it to digital, at least in its entirety. The 1961 double lp we have in the archive here appears to be out of print in all formats. Recorded with an orchestra assembled by the Columbia Classical label, it includes all the essentials: the Rites of Spring, Petrouchka and the Firebird. It’s amazing how dynamically diverse, in fact old-fashioned this sounds: fans may actually prefer more boisterous versions, especially of the Rites of Spring. But it’s a real eye-opener, a look at how much more subtly Stravinsky delivers his material compared to most of the other recordings out there. For a taste of this you might want to check out this torrent of the Columbia eight-cd reissue of the recordings he made with the CBC Symphony Orchestra in the late 60s, including all three of his symphonies along with a lot of ballet and choral music – but a lot of this is pretty sleepy, an obvious lack of connection between orchestra and conductor. This one you may have to track down in your favorite vinyl emporium (good news: used classical vinyl is often ridiculously cheap – we scored this for four bucks). For newcomers to his repertoire, Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was one of the most original and interesting composers of the 20th century (some say the greatest). Not only is his music entertaining and gripping, but its influence continues to be felt to this day. Much of 20th century classical music would not exist without him: the same can be said for a lot of rock music, particularly noise-rock bands like Sonic Youth. His signature style blends eerie, astringent atonalities with somber, minor-key Russian melodies and a frequently carnivalesque, phantasmagorical sound: it’s great fun. If you find a torrent for our vinyl album let us know!

September 4, 2010 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 8/31/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #882:

Henryk Gorecki – Symphony #3: London Sinfonietta/David Zinman, Dawn Upshaw, Soprano

Today we go to a whisper from a scream. Also known as the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, this tryptich is one of the most effective and brilliantly understated examples of minimalism. Its still, spacious lento movements explore grief and bereavement: as an antiwar statement, they make a quietly explosive impact. Its first movement strips down a medieval Polish canon to the bare essentials; its second movement, the most famous, illustrates an inscription scrawled on a Gestapo cell by a young Polish girl snared in the Holocaust (literal translation: “Mother, don’t worry; God help me”). The third develops a Polish folksong theme as a memorial for those killed in the Silesian uprising against the Nazis. While many people have claimed to have been brought to tears by this music, it’s not the least bit maudlin: its slowly shifting ambience is more pensive and weary than anything else. Dawn Upshaw sings its fragmentary lyrics with what sounds, to Anglophone ears at least, like a creditable Polish accent, chamber orchestra and piano maintaining a striking amount of suspense. It premiered in 1977 in Poland but only came to popularity about twenty years later after pieces of it from this album were used in the soundtrack to the film Basquiat. It would eventually go platinum, a rare and now almost unthinkable achievement for a classical recording.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment