Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/12/11

As we do pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album was #476:

Arnold Schoenberg – Pierrot Lunaire

With Halloween coming up, here’s the creepiest and possibly least listenable album on this list so far, a 1940 recording with the composer himself conducting an insane clown posse with Erika Steidry-Wagner on vocals. The group – piano, violin, cello, flute and clarinets – do a chilly, methodical job with this four-part suite’s creepy atonalities, many of which you may recognize since they’ve been used over and over again in many horror movies. Catchy, singalong material? Hardly. But it’ll wake you up – and maybe keep you up. You can stream the whole thing and also download it free from archive.org. Those preferring a more up-to-date, slightly more polished (but less crazy) version might want to investigate the 1998 recording by Ensemble Intercontemporain with Pierre Boulez on piano and Christine Schafer singing, all up on youtube here, here, here and here. If you want to download the album, it’s here.

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October 14, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Catching Up with the Album Countdown – Sort Of…

As we do pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album was #486:

Sibelius – Symphony #4 – The BBC Symphony Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham

This early 50s recording by one of the great late Romantic composer’s most forceful advocates captures all the brooding magnificence of this dark, stormy piece: the pensive first movement, with its vivid cello/bass figure; the more upbeat second movement, the big crescendoing third movement and its breakneck, anthemic conclusion. If you like this kind of stuff, the rest of his repertoire (especially if you can find Beecham recordings) is worth seeking out, including smaller-scale works like the Karelia suite. Here’s a random torrent via Vinyl Fatigue.

And Monday’s album was #485:

Eric Burdon & the Animals – Best of, 1966-68

This one is as good a mix of songs by the iconic white bluesman as there is. Some of this showcases him as a blues shouter, the rest as a surprisingly good hippie songwriter, without any of the Brill Building schlock other than Don’t Bring Me Down (a cursed title if there ever was one). There’s straight up blues with See See Rider, soul including Help Me Girl and a surprisingly strong River Deep, Mountain High; pensive, philosophical songwriting like Inside-Looking Out and Winds of Change; upbeat psychedelic pop period pieces including San Franciscan Nights and Monterey; and the real classic here, the swirling, phaser-driven Sky Pilot, one of the most potent antiwar anthems ever written. “You’ll never, never, never reach the sky!” If you like this stuff, the original albums, especially the 1968 Love Is album, are also worth a spin. Here’s a random torrent.

October 5, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 9/23/11

Pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album was #495:

Robert Sirota – Triptych – The Chiara String Quartet

Arguably the most powerful, intense musical response to the horror of 9/11, composer Sirota’s anguished, horror-stricken suite for string quartet draws on artist Deborah Patterson’s triptych depicting the detonation of one of the towers, the death of NYFD chaplain Mychal Judge and the sky over the smoking hole at Ground Zero. The Chiaras premiered this at New York’s Trinity Church, barely two blocks away, in October, 2002. The frenzied horror of the first movement attempts to replicate sirens, a devil’s choir of car alarms and the chaos following the crash of the planes; the second is a grief-stricken lament; the third reaches for some sort of peace or closure. The only audio for this that seems to be on the web seems to be at cdbaby, where the album is still available, but terrific performances of this piece by the American String Quartet have made it to youtube in three segments, here, here, and here.

September 24, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 7/24/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #555:

Bartok – String Quartets Nos. 1-6 – The Alban Berg Quartett

Angry, sardonic, brooding, bitter but also surprisingly peaceful in places, Bela Bartok’s six string quartets are among the most gripping pieces of chamber music ever written. Demanding? Yes. Offputting? Not really, unless your ears can’t handle anything more sophisticated than Lady Gag. They’re extremely difficult to play, utilizing the entire sonic spectrum and complicated technique (Bartok, a pianist, performed many small-group or duo concerts with string players and was obviously paying close attention to the challenges his work afforded his bandmates). He drew heavily on the most jarring tonalities of the Hungarian gypsy music he came to love so much, but as abrasive as some of these are (the first is one of the most wrathful compositions you’ll ever hear), they can also be very memorably tuneful. This 2004 box set is notable for being one of the last made by the group’s excellent violist Thomas Kakuska shortly before his death…and it’s also mysteriously hard to find on the web. In lieu of this one we suggest another excellent collection from a couple of years later by the Emerson String Quartet via Holy Fucking Shit 40000.

July 24, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 6/8/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album was #601:

Richard Strauss – Death and Transfiguration – The Berlin Philharmonic/Ivan Fischer

Strauss is best known these days as a composer of opera and lieder: his trademark is lavish arrangements, most of them possibly devised to conceal the fact that the music is not all that deep. This is his career highlight, a massive multi-part tone poem inspired by the Nietszche work. It has the potential to be stormy: it usually isn’t. What makes it work is the tension: it’s meant to portray a relatively incessant struggle for redemption. We picked this 2009 release because it works the dynamics more boisterously than other recordings: it’s not supposed to be all ambience and suspense, and when they reach a peak here, it packs a wallop. Here’s a random torrent.

June 9, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Albums of the Day for 6/2 and 6/3/11

Every day (well, almost), our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album was #607:

Shostakovich: String Quartets 1-13 – The Borodin String Quartet

This 1967 recording with Valentin Berlinsky on cello, Rostislav Dubinsky and Nina Barshai on first and second violins and Rudolf Barshai on viola is considered the gold standard for the iconic composer’s complete quartets. It’s literally a journey from somewhat brash, to wounded and bitter, elegaic (the literally terrifying 11th is one of the most haunting pieces of music ever made) and quiet, almost mystical. Awfully hard to find in digital form: here’s a random torrent for #3, #7 and #8. Otherwise, here’s a torrent for the Emerson Quartet’s terrific box set of these pieces from 1999.

Today’s is #606:

Eric Dolphy – Out to Lunch

This gorgeously melodic 1963 album – which transcends any attempt to categorize it as “postbop” or otherwise – features the great reed player along with with Bobby Hutcherson on vibes, Freddie Hubbard, Richard Davis and an 18-year-old Tony Williams absolutely astonishing on drums. Dolphy plays bass clarinet on the Monk homage Hat and Beard, later switching to flute on Gazzelloni; Something Sweet, Something Tender is lyrical and aptly titled. The title track is a cinematic mini-suite, surpassed here only by the surreal epic Straight Up and Down, ostensibly meant to illustrate a long walk home after closing down the bar. Here’s a random torrent via Holy Fucking Shit 40000.

June 2, 2011 Posted by | classical music, jazz, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Album of the Day 5/13/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #627:

Bernard Herrmann – The Film Scores: Los Angeles Philharmonic/Esa-Pekka Salonen

This 2005 reissue of an early 90s recording covers many if not all of the great film composer’s greatest moments, most of them from Hitchcock movies. It’s also maddeningly hard to find. At least it’s nice to see the guy who was arguably Hollywood’s foremost composer getting the full symphony orchestra treatment. The first track is the opening theme from The Man Who Knew Too Much, followed by most of the string quartet stuff from Psycho, notably the creepy intro, rainstorm scene, mommy getting offed and of course the shower scene. There’s also the stormy intro from Marnie, the even more ominously blustery North by Northwest theme, a ton of stuff from Fahrenheit 451, from the intro to the closing overture and the most noir moments from the Taxi Driver soundtrack. The one piece that really ought to be here but isn’t is the “concerto macabre” from Hangover Square, arguably Herrmann’s finest ten minutes – but the movie is obscure and the snobs probably felt it wasn’t well-known enough. A rigorous search didn’t turn up any torrents for this album, but you can download the Taxi Driver soundtrack, as well as the Marnie, Fahrehneit 451, NXNW, Torn Curtain and Vertigo soundtracks via The Cheerful Earfull.

May 12, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 5/12/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #628:

Astor Piazzolla – Hommage a Liege

In putting this list together, we’ve tried to limit the number of albums per artist to one or two. Which with Astor Piazzolla is just plain absurd: there must be at least a dozen, maybe several dozen of his recordings that belong among the 1000 best albums ever made. Did the iconic Argentinian composer, bandleader, bandoneon player and inventor of tango nuevo put out one that stands over the rest? Frankly, no – they’re pretty much all good. We picked this dark, richly lush 1985 live album because A) Piazzolla plays on it and B) even though it doesn’t have any of his signature songs, like Libertango, it represents him well. Backed by two guitarists plus the Liege Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leo Brouwer, this is Piazzolla the classical composer rather than Piazzolla the pop tunesmith (he was both, and preferred to think of himself as the former). It’s two suites: first the epic triptych Concerto para Bandoneon y Guitarra (Intro, Milonga and Tango), then the four-part Histoire du Tango (does anybody besides us think it’s funny that the concerto is Spanish but the history is French?). This one is a musical portrait of how the style developed (with major contributions by the composer himself), from the whorehouse in 1900, to the Cafe 1930, Nightclub 1960 and Aujourd’hui (Today). If Piazzolla is new to you, get to know him via Piazzolla Radio streaming 24/7. Here’s a random torrent via musicaparalacabeza.

May 12, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 2/26/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #703:

Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue/An American in Paris: Leonard Bernstein

Today we turn from the obscene and juvenile to one of the most urbane and sophisticated albums on this list. It might come as a surprise to some that for several generations of New Yorkers, these pieces were a rite of passage, as much a staple of frathouses as concert halls. This is George Gershwin at the peak of his powers as one of the first, and best, white bluesmen. And who more appropriate to deliver the jaunty ragtime suite Rhapsody in Blue along with its companion An American in Paris – one of the most unselfconsciously romantic pieces of music ever written – than Leonard Bernstein? The first he does with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra (assembled by the label) and the second with the NY Philharmonic. This late 80s reissue makes a diptych of both epically sweeping mid-50s mono recordings. Strangely, a little sleuthing didn’t turn up a single link for the album, although you can download them separately: Rhapsody in Blue here and An American in Paris here.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 2/20/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #709:

Respighi – The Fountains of Rome/The Pines of Rome: Ricardo Muti/Philadelphia Orchestra

File this under cinematic music. It’s not white-knuckle intense, nor is it particularly dark or haunting, but it’s not stupid either. Search for these pieces at amazon and you’ll discover that people who like this also apparently like The Planets by Holst (#788 on this list), which makes sense. Ottorino Respighi loved Rome like we love New York: the Fountains illustrates ten historic fountains at various times of day, while the Pines is more of an integral work. There are lots of good recordings out there to choose from: we picked this 1990 recording because it has both suites plus the Roman Festivals mini-suite (but not the Ancient Airs and Dances, which are also worth snagging).  Listen closely and you’ll hear orchestral approximations of flocks of pigeons, gladiators thrown to the lions, haggling at the greenmarket and a thousand other street scenes: it’s surprising that these haven’t been appropriated for film more than they have. Thank you to the wonderful people at boxset.ru for the download.

February 20, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment