You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘classical’ tag.

Sally Beamish

Now everyone can be a composer … or at least sound like one. And write programme notes … for money! It’s never been so easy!

By using the Contemporary Classical Composer’s Bullshit Generator you will be able to hold your own in conversations at (say) the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival where everyone talks like this:

By engaging in critical incorporating, I seek to overcome the existing radical models, and establish a more diametric and rhythmic paradigm. My latest piece begins with a rather serialist ‘space-melody’, before post-serially transforming the existing passive material into a more post-Schoenbergly-structured state, a process I term ‘subtractively-multimedia-influencing’. When planning my predominant motifs, I often find that creating a somewhat psycho-theoretical array of musical octaves helps a great deal. Recently, I have started to embrace time-signatures as a strongly-diverse alternative to established forms of post-War sound-fundamentals, which has made my work iconically theoretical. In short, the recording must never compose the notation.
In short, the timbre must never perceive the player. To write is a natural desire, but my current compositional activity seeks to undermine all continuities. It also incorporates and opposes generatively-diverse material-parts. The pursuit of binary sculpture-noises to juxtapose the mostly-post-War paradigm is a key focus of my synthetic study. It must be remembered that challenging approaches, especially if they are complex (or even microtonal), should be avoided. As a primarily stylistic artist, I aim to integrate the unity within triadic-possibilities, and bring forth a single polyphony that really interprets the most tense issues.
To mix is a natural desire, but my current compositional activity seeks to inform all aesthetics. It also superimposes and examines neo-Romantically-literal riff-instrumentations. It is of paramount importance that contemporary, intellectual continuity-non-linearities must never be allowed to become discontinuous, or symbolically complex. My work has been seminal in the development of ‘iconically-gestural theoretical-music’, a highly intellectual, and rather non-linear genre. My style is the only one of its kind, due in part to the inclusion of highly-orchestral semitone-linearities, with a hint of so-called ‘module-melodies’. It must be remembered that dominating pitches, especially if they are melodic (or even melodic), should be avoided.

Aachen Cathedral

It was the year 1000 after Christ, and the people of Europe, according to old stories, were daily expecting the end of the world. Otto III, the young and flighty ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, had come to Aachen, the old German capital 44 miles west of the Rhine, and announced that he was going to open the sacred tomb of Charlemagne. This lay under a marble slab beneath the dome of the chapel built by that great emperor himself, with marble columns and other materials taken from the classical structures of Rome, Ravenna, and other Italian cities.

When the royal sepulchre was opened the torch’s flickering light disclosed a strange sight. The body of the great emperor, clothed in white, was seated on a huge marble chair. One of the hands held a sceptre and on the head was the imperial crown. The spirit of the man who 200 years before had founded an empire greater than the world had seen since the days of the Roman Caesars seemed to survive in death. Before the commanding dignity of that huge figure the young emperor quailed. The torch fell from his grasp and he rushed out of the tomb, ordering the stone to be replaced. Two years later Otto III was buried in that same chapel.

One hundred and sixty years later the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa again opened the tomb. The marble throne, crown, and sceptre of Charlemagne were taken to add dignity and strength to Frederick’s imperial projects, and the bones of Charlemagne were placed in a shrine north of the chapel. Every seven years they are exhibited to visitors. After Barbarossa, 31 emperors and kings were crowned in the marble chair that had once been the throne of the first great mediaeval monarch.

The chapel and tomb of Charlemagne, now the central part of the cathedral of Aachen, are the heart of the city even to this day. Aachen is believed to have been the great emperor’s birthplace, but it owes its historic fame to Charlemagne’s fondness for its hot sulphur springs, which led him to make it his favourite place of residence. These unfailing springs still make Aachen a famous resort, where visitors seek health from the warm waters in which the mighty rulers of the Franks splashed and swam nearly twelve centuries ago.

Near by Charlemagne built his palace and held his court. Here were gathered the great scholars of the day, teaching in the Palace School, and the gay life of the court went forward as merrily as it does now in the modern hotels which have replaced the ancient buildings.

Two important treaties were concluded at meetings or congresses held in Aachen, or Aix-la-Chapelle as it is named in French. The first, signed in 1668, ended a war begun by Louis XIV of France to enforce certain rights claimed in behalf of his wife in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium). The other, in 1748, ended the struggle known as the War of the Austrian Succession.

Aachen became a part of the kingdom of Prussia in 1815. To-day it is an important manufacturing centre, because of the coal fields that lie near at hand. Its chief trade is in cloth and silk, leather, glass buttons, soap, timber, and wine. It is one of the chief railway centres on the German border, and it was from here that the German attack on Belgium was launched in 1914 at the beginning of World War I.

Viktoria Mullova

Julia Fischer’s performances send critics scrambling for superlatives. In 2007, Britain’s Gramophone magazine dubbed the violin sensation its youngest-ever artist of the year, choosing the then 24-year-old over entrenched superstars Claudio Abbado, 74; Daniel Barenboim, 65; and tenor Rolando Villazón, 35.

The youthful Bavarian joins a new wave of fresh-faced violinists poised for major careers. For generations, male virtuosos dominated the instrument, but now the spotlight falls mostly on women. The crowded field includes Lisa Batiashvili, Jennifer Frautschi, Hilary Hahn, Janine Jansen and Leila Josefowicz. For the moment, Fischer wears the crown of first among equals. Anne-Sophie Mutter, an elder statesman at 45, clearly played a pivotal, pioneering role for female soloists. Yet the focus on the gender swing irks some artists. Josefowicz told us in a recent interview that she sees it as probably little more than male critics’ chauvinist fixation.

(Read the full article by Tom Mullaney in Time Out Chicago)

It’s an interesting question whether you would actually buy a recording based on the physical attractiveness of the artist. I can’t imagine doing so. If I want to look at attractive women, I have a number of other more appropriate outlets for doing so than CD covers.

I think if somebody bought a classical recording based on the fact that there was a good looking woman on the cover then they need to give up trying to listen to classical music, because that defeats the whole purpose of listening and also has nothing to do with the actual music. Classical music “marketing” (dreadful word) has always been something that I have had little patience for. Honestly, I don’t even know why they put pictures of the conductors on the front covers either. I’ve always liked Hyperion’s and Chandos’ or Naxos’ covers probably the best. They at least have some class about them and aren’t trying to shamelessly promote their latest wet dream.

I find it fascinating that people always talk about beautiful violinist A and beautiful pianist B, whereas they probably wouldn’t notice these women if they passed them in the street. These pictures are usually the result of hours in the studio and the hard work of a couple of stylists.

Hilary Hahn

Playing the violin at the level of the international concert circuit is very hard work, physically and mentally and most of these women look totally worn out in their downtime. Viktoria Mullova, one of the very best female violinists, could look just as good as Janine Jansen (if not better) if she wanted to, but she doesn’t, and that’s why her pictures look the way they do.

Anne-Sophie Mutter, indeed, made the switch from girl-next-door who happened to be a top violinist, to glamorous siren (look at the decidedly unglamorous pics of her with Karajan on her early Deutsche Grammophon LPs). In my view it doesn’t quite work, because she’s not an easy smiler: you can tell there’s a ferocious (musical) intellect behind that face. I think you can see that same intellect in Julia Fischer (whom I find very attractive) and even in Hilary Hahn. These are women with an enormous will power making substantial sacrifices for their art, and it shows. But that makes them actually more interesting to look at.

I don’t think liking classical music has anything to do with class, intelligence or anything like that, but how about being eccentric?

I probably qualify as eccentric; my varied collecting interests alone (which include stuff that nobody in their right mind would want) should qualify me. Beyond that, I have been known to space out and walk into walls because I have been lost in thought.

That said, although I do not consider myself an eccentric, apparently a former co-worker when I was employed by a major UK retailer (Co-operative Group) did when she called me “different.” Our conversation ran roughly like this:

She: There’s something about you – you’re just different.
Me: No, I’m the same.
She: That’s what I mean. You’re different.

I had a similar conversation when a girl asked what I was reading and I responded “It’s a biography of Alban Berg.”

I try to be polite, but to the point. I try not to be fake. If I feel like shit, I won’t have a giant smile on my face. Is that so fucking eccentric?

You should try Boris Tishchenko. He was the closest and I think favourite pupil of Shostakovich, and published a book of correspondence with him. His works are long, ingeniously devised pieces for solo, chamber and orchestral forces. They often start out with a very simple theme, or perhaps more accurately a fragment of a theme, and build up to very powerful emotional climaxes before subsiding. Perhaps his best known work and my favourite by far is his Violin Concerto No. 2, once available on Olympia but long deleted. It is a 50-minute work which ranges from impish fun to harrowing outbursts (and if I am going to be honest, the second movement violin cadenza is rather tiresome) and overall it has a very strong impact. It has gained something of a cult following in the classical music world.

The Russian label Northern Flowers has released several recordings including a few symphonies and a ballet (I heard the ballet but it did not leave much of an impression at the time). There is also a disc of Rostropovich conducting his Cello Concerto No. 2 and this I found just plain shit; too repetitive (he often repeats figures to build them up, and it went way too far here) and not as intense as I would have expected.

Olympia also released his Symphony No. 5 conducted by Rozhdestvensky but I have yet to hear that. I have a couple of CDs of his piano sonatas too, one of them with bells, a huge 50-minute piece which I found more testing than The Anatomy of Melancholy. I listened to it twice, never again. Well, I did try.

If you like Shostakovich, you might like Tishchenko, as he shares a similar feel in terms of humour and intensity.

Amy Winehouse has never heard of Claude Vivier

Bored by Barber, Bernstein, Britten, Tippett and Tchaikovsky? Try Claude Vivier! Never heard of him? Neither had I, but when I saw the announcement of a DVD from De Nederlandse Opera, Amsterdam my curiosity was aroused and I ordered it. Those Dutch are producing the most astonishing array of new opera productions. And I always saw them as a dull and unimaginative tribe. Pierre Audi, the artistic director of De Nederlandse Opera, has become one of my favourite directors since I saw his Ring, now my favourite Ring video, shoving the Harry Kupfer/Daniel Barenboim off its pedestal, at least in the video category.

I can’t possible give you a blow-by-blow report of the opera Kopernikus I watched yesterday. It is not called an opera, but a “ritual opera of death”. I never heard any of the singers, nor the conductor, who, surprisingly, took his applause in a protestant minister’s outfit, his real occupational garb. The performance took place in a cavernous old building, former warehouse or factory or something with a stage-like rectangle covered by a deep layer of sand, matching the general lighting throughout! Same with the costumes; very thick sheets of heavy felt. It might be moulded foam, I couldn’t tell, which the singers use skilfully to wrap themselves in, or their fellow actors. The “furniture” sets are wooden crates.

All this is mostly the background, my eyes were busy following the action. No orchestra, but musicians, in costume and make-up, are on stage, acting while playing their instruments. One brilliant slide trombonist doing a duo with the bass actor-singer, even while flat on his back. The female violinist moved all over the sand, wearing a billowy grey outfit with a very long train, and of course no stand for her notes. It is almost an hour of music she has to memorise. A few woodwind players, percussionists and a solo piano complete the “orchestra”. The music is not as strange as I had expected from a student of Ligeti and Stockhausen; of course I won’t walk around humming it.

Watching the singers gave my eyes more to do. Singing with the open hand occasionally tapping the lips to vibrate the sound created something new, not unpleasant to hear. A soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass, plus the narrator completed the cast. I have to include the musicians in the cast, because they were just as skilful actors as the singers. The language is “invented” but a running translation in English helps tremendously to let me know what is going on.

I think I shall watch Götterdämmerung tomorrow, give myself a day of respite from Claude Vivier, and then maybe his Marco Polo during the weekend.

Anybody seriously interested in new music, new composers, new ways to be a spectator and listener of an exciting experience, do try this DVD. Also it would be great to see a gay composer getting more recognition for a change.

All I need to add is that even Stockhausen thought this guy was weird.

There aren’t many ways you can be sure to make yourself feel happy, but there’s one that always seem to work for me. I listen to a piece of music, only a minute and a half long, that was originally written for a music box and then orchestrated. Its unwinding tune is immediately memorable. It is so shimmeringly coloured, so precisely made, so assured in the delivery of its climax that it always leaves my mood effervescent. It is called Two Organa: 1 (a misleadingly academic title), and Oliver Knussen, who wrote it, is one of Britain’s greatest living artists. If you have not heard of him, that is probably due to the fact that he works in the occluded, occasionally airlocked world of contemporary classical music. This is a great shame. His music is instantly likeable, elegant, melancholy and exhilarating.

Knussen conducted his own first symphony at the Proms at the age of 15. As the son of the principal bassist of the LSO, he grew up listening to the inordinate variety of noises an orchestra can make. This education gave him an expertise in combining instruments to produce exactly the right colour and temperature of sound. He writes his jewel-like scores carefully, with great technical rigour, but there remains at the heart of his music an unanxious playfulness. His works are often set in the childhood worlds of toys and storybooks and in that familiar, phantasmal place between waking and sleeping. He is a conductor famed for his perfectionism and generosity, a rare combination, and he is a significant teacher of other composers. His opera Where the Wild Things Are, written in collaboration with Maurice Sendak, is an adaptation of the book and far superior to the recent film.

He is a very recognisable figure, tall and fat with a Victorian thicket of beard. I’ve never tried to tell him how much I love his music when I see him at concerts. I admire him too much. He has added beauty to the world.

(Source: Guardian)

Spain 1, Holland 0

Sting is performing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with the one and only Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and preparing for the release of a new album, “Symphonicities,” containing orchestral arrangements of his songs.

Sting, 58, said the appreciation for classical music he cultivated from the piano playing of his hairdresser mother and BBC radio of the 1950s was not something he could readily confess to back in his Police days.

“It was frowned upon,” he said, “and that’s the whole ridiculous premise of rock ’n’ roll becoming this Taliban-esque, closed thing. ‘You can’t do that, you can’t do that.’ What’s the spirit of rock ’n’ roll except freedom – freedom to do whatever you want?”

“I have a feeling that all New Yorkers, no matter what they’re doing, are in their own TV series with their own theme music, and you are merely a guest on their show,” he said. “We’re all celebrities in this town. I find it very comfortable.”

Pretentious arsehole.

This is very worrying. I still adore it with all my heart, respect, love, worship it; but I’ve noticed that I’m listening to it less and less. I haven’t bought a CD for months, and recently I haven’t really been listening to music at all; when I do it’s usually some pop song.

I want to recapture that old love. When I do summon up the energy to put on a Mahler symphony my soul burns bright, I just hardly ever do for some reason

I wonder if this affects us when we get to a certain age. There comes a time when we think we have heard everything, e.g. yet another new release of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1. How many more to come, we’ve heard it all before, then boredom sets in.

An old professor of mine was of the opinion that people listen to too much music. While I would never get rid of the recordings I have, I think there’s something to that. In particular, we don’t give the attention to music that it deserves.

The answer could be listening less. I try to set aside time when I can give music my full attention in a relaxed environment without distractions.

Turn the lights out.
Pour a glass of wine or good single malt.
Don’t spill the drink in the dark.

Guitar legend Jeff Beck bringing opera to a wider audience. Unbelievable. None shall sleep, indeed. Watch the bass player.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

Follow radstainforth on Twitter
i published work on theblogpaper

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 195 other followers

%d bloggers like this: