Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 2/8/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #721:

The Greenwich Village Orchestra – Greatest Hits 2006-2008

Fifty years ago, orchestras in smaller cities all over the world consistently put out first-class recordings. Some of them still do. For almost fifteen years the Greenwich Village Orchestra, as you would imagine for an ensemble from a New York neighborhood that until the last decade was a hotbed of good music, has played with a flair and virtuosty on par with any other orchestra passing through town. Here conductor Barbara Yahr leads the group through a spirited version of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, a vigorous Firebird Suite that arguably outdoes the composer’s own version (see #878, Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky), and a dynamically rich, anguished take of Shostakovich’s Stalin-era, brutally narrative Tenth Symphony that may be unsurpassed by any other. After that, there’s the Elgar Cello Concerto and a Rossini overture for the opera crowd. This one hasn’t made it to rapidshare or megaupload as far as we can tell, but it’s still available at the orchestra’s site. Also recommended – the 2002-03 “greatest hits” album including works by Brahms, Handel, Grieg, the allegro non troppo from Franck’s D Minor Symphony and selections from Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

February 8, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 12/3/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #788:

Holst – The Planets – Walter Susskind/St. Louis Symphony Symphony Orchestra

Full disclosure – as a child, one of us had a favorite recording of this which turned out to have been conducted by a member of the Nazi party. That was the end of that. British composer Gustav Holst’s richly cinematic suite (John Williams brazenly ripped this off – Luke Skywalker blowing up the Death Star, for example) has been recorded by a million orchestras. Leonard Bernstein & the NY Philharmonic did one (the links you see here are all his). But is there a version that stands out among all of them? You bet there is. Walter Susskind’s 1975 recording with the St. Louis Symphony is loaded with dynamics, vividly illustrating what are essentially astrological themes. Most of these will be instantly familiar to moviegoers, particularly the suspenseful Mars, the Bringer of War. Venus, the Bringer of Peace is cast as a mystical tone poem; Mercury is puckish with bubbling brass; likewise, Jupiter is boisterous and bustling. But the three segments here that are absolutely riveting are the hauntingly bell-like, funereal Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age; a big, evil, ominous Uranus, the Magician; and a chilling, viscerally otherworldly version of Neptune, the Mystic who is more like Hades here. Here’s a random torrent.

December 3, 2010 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/12/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #809:

Cesar Franck – Organ Works – Pierre Cochereau

Belgian composer Cesar Franck is not popular with music snobs, probably because he’s one of the alltime great tunesmiths. Considering how vivid and memorable his compositions are, it’s surprising that he’s not better known. He wrote string quartets, piano music and symphonies, but he supported himself as a Paris church organist and his works for organ are arguably his finest. He was reputedly a gentle soul: his students loved him. Recorded at Notre Dame with an unselfconscious intensity in 1958 by legendary organist and improviser Pierre Cochereau, this six-album set, long out of print, absolutely nails the plaintiveness and drama in Franck’s works. These days, the buzzword that describes Franck best is “transparent,” that is, he didn’t dissemble. He wore his heart on his sleeve and in the process created a body of work that resonates with an intensity that ranges from poignant to triumphant. This one has all the classics: the Grand Piece Symphonique, which may or may not have been the first organ symphony (it probably wasn’t: Franz Liszt arguably beat him to it); the uneasily victorious Piece Heroique, and the Chorales (versions of #1, #2 and #3 by various organists, including the extraordinary Charles Tournemire on #3, have made it to youtube). If there’s any composer from the Romantic era who deserves a revival, it’s Franck. Another estimable Notre Dame organist, Olivier Latry recorded a six-cd box set in 2002; Marcel Dupre’s rumbling, reverb-drenched 1948 mono recordings of the chorales are also worth getting if you can track them down. Here’s a random torrent.

November 12, 2010 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/11/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #810:

Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Volume 1 – The Tallis Scholars: Finest Recordings 1980-1989

Conventional wisdom is that the audience for Renaissance vocal music is pretty much limited to those who sing it, and who attend churches where it is performed. One look at the crowds who come out for this sort of thing disproves that theory: the appeal of early music transcends everything, including time. This collection is only the second to make its debut at this site on this list. It’s a staggeringly comprehensive five-disc set including some of the most stunning, epic choral works of the Middle Ages as well as an entire cd devoted to the work of seminal British composer Thomas Tallis, for whom the group is named. The Tallis Scholars are hardly the only ensemble to sing these works, but their influence as performers, popularizers and archivists rescuing treasures largely unheard for decades or even centuries cannot be underestimated. Highlights include a surprisingly brisk, vividly energetic performance of John Sheppard’s towering, death-fixated Media Vita and Tallis’ serpentine suite Spem in Alium along with shorter pieces, both iconic and lesser-known, by Palestrina, Allegri, Josquin des Prez, Crecquillon, Cornysh and Victoria. Many are ornate, with harmonies that span several octaves; others are spare and haunting, as one would expect from music made in an era where life was even shorter and more brutish than it is now. Director Peter Phillips made waves and essentially changed the way choral music was recorded by combining the best sections from multiple takes, just as rock albums are made: in twenty years, he’d see his radical innovation adopted by pretty much everyone else in his field. This collection is just out in Fall 2010 and available from Harmonia Mundi.

November 11, 2010 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day For Halloween 2010

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #821:

Almut Rossler Plays Messiaen

Happy Halloween! Today we give you a classic Halloween album, prized on the collector market. If Dusseldorf organist Almut Rossler recorded frequently, the internet record doesn’t reflect it. But when she did – wow! Classical church organ music is extraordinarily hard to record: the blast of the bass from the pedals contrasts with the delicacy of the high reed stops to the point where it’s almost absurd to attempt to capture the entire sonic spectrum. And French composer Olivier Messiaen’s haunting, otherworldly works take up every inch of what a good pipe organ will give you. This 1973 recording includes a rivetingly powerful recording of his otherworldly, ghostly suite La Navitite du Seigneur (The Birth of the Lord), which rather than triumphantly signaling the birth of a deity, is completely macabre, to the point where it seems that Messiaen (a devout Catholic) was working for the other team. The album also includes the more matter-of-factly ominous Dyptique, the chilly, atmospheric Le Banquet Celeste and last but not least, a casually chilling version of L’Apparition de l’Eglise Eternelle (The Dawn of the Eternal Church), a work which many people consider to be the most life-changing piece of music ever written. We wouldn’t go quite that far, but its icy, burning ambience makes it impossible to turn away from. It’s iconic in the organ world; it has been known to terrify people whose taste in music is more timid. This recording is also absolutely impossible to find online. In lieu of this extraordinary album, here’s a torrent to the complete organ works of Messiaen by another gifted organist, Olivier Latry of Notre Dame in Paris, whose recordings of Messiaen are both thrilling and chilling.

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

Album of the Day 9/28/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #854:

Vivaldi – The Four Seasons – Trevor Pinnock/The English Concert

For two years now we’ve been engaged in one daily countdown or another on this page: it started out simply as a way to keep a steady supply of fresh content flowing, whether or not we had anything else ready to go or not. When we reached the end of our alltime 666 Best Songs and began this one, we started out not with a single album but an “obvious suspects page” listing all the great, iconic albums we could think of that everybody knows, that didn’t really need any explanation. In our haste to get the page up, we forgot this one. The best recording of Antonio Vivaldi’s iconic suite that we’ve actually heard is an unfortunately unlabeled cassette copy recorded off a vinyl album. But this one, from 1976, is pretty close. Pinnock conducts from the harpsichord with goodnatured inspiration, and the group play period instruments, so it’s a little quieter than a lot of the other recordings out there. The good omens of Spring lead auspiciously into a very visceral, heartfelt Summer; the wariness of Fall is understated, as is the angst of Winter, to the point that fans of darker music may prefer other, more boisterous recordings. But this is awfully close to what Venetian audiences got to witness circa 1725. Even if classical music is not your style, you have to admit that this is catchy and evocative stuff. And it’s a century ahead of its time. What else can we say: many of you probably own this already. If not, there are a gazillion recordings kicking around the internet, follow your instincts and see what you find. Here’s a random torrent.

September 28, 2010 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

September 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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