Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Franz Schubert’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: JULIA BULLOCK-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #119 (December 1, 2020).

I had not heard of Julia Bullock, so when I started this video I was surprised that she was an operatic singer.  Their setting seems so casual–just her sitting next to her husband, Christian Reif, at the piano.  And then pow–what a voice!

Soprano Julia Bullock prefers to be called a “classical singer.” It’s a rather humble, even vague, appellation for one of today’s smartest, most arresting vocalists in any genre.

Bullock is in Munich Germany and has decided to sing songs in both langauges.

Carefully choosing songs in German and English, Bullock begins with something bittersweet and introspective by Franz Schubert that cautions patience when looking for inner peace.

Franz Schubert: “Wanderers Nachtlied II” [Wanderers Night Song] features poetry by Goethe and is barely two minutes long.  It’s a wonderful start.

She follows with “Wie lange noch” (How Much Longer), a World War II-era song by Kurt Weill. Written after Weill emigrated to the United States, the song contained coded messages for Germans back home. But Bullock has no time for secrets in these days fraught with uncertainty. The meaning behind her insistent cries of “How much longer?” as she stares straight through the camera, couldn’t be more transparent.

That direct look at the camera is certainly uncomfortable–I hope the right people are made uncomfortable by it.

The next two songs are a gut-punch of clear-eyed observation, struggle and hope. The spiritual “City of Heaven” finds a determined protagonist facing down sorrow.

The song is sung as a spiritual, but Bullock’s operatic voice cannot be denied.

while Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free,” written at the height of the civil rights movement, speaks truth to power. At the very end, Bullock spins out a long flowing line on the word “free.”

After a soft piano intro, she sings the beginning of the song a capella.  So that when the piano comes back in it’s even more powerful.  As are the deep notes she hits.

[READ: December 29, 2020] “The Heart of the Circle”

This was an excerpt in the back of the novel Simantov.  It’s another book from Angry Robot and “more Israeli fantasy.”  The story was translated by Daniela Zamir.

I enjoyed the way this book starts right in the middle of the action–giving very little in the way of context.

A few people (college students) are seated at a bar.  There’s Reed and Daphne.  He is close with Daphne (her curls tickle his nose), but she is a free spirit.  There’s also Reed’s brother Matthew.  Daphne and Matthew were supposed to be an item (according to the boys’ mother) but it never happened.  Their mother now sees her as part of the family–as a sort of sister.

They are all somber.  It is the day after the latest murder.

The first murder was unbearable.  This is now the fifth or sixth and they are almost numb. This time they didn’t know her, but they were marching with her when she was killed.

When pyros tried to get revenge after the first murders, they were arrested and executed by the Prevention of Future Crimes Unit. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: KIAN SOLTANI-Tiny Desk Concert #880 (August 16, 2019).

I feel like listeners are more familiar with a violin than a cello.  Violins are everywhere (they’re so portable), but cellos only seem to come out when you need a bigger string section.  I have come to realize that I much prefer the sound of a cello to a violin  The cello can reach some impressive high notes (check out about three minutes into the Hungarian Rhapsody) but its the richness of the low notes that really impresses me,  Or maybe it’s just the historical value of Kian Soltani’s cello

It’s not every day someone walks into our NPR Music offices and unpacks an instrument made in 1680. And yet Kian Soltani, the 27-year-old cellist who plays with the authority and poetry of someone twice his age, isn’t exactly fazed by his rare Giovanni Grancino cello, which produces large, luminous tones. (He also plays a Stradivarius.)

I love Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody, and I love this one as well. What is it about Hungary that inspires such wild songs?

The Hungarian Rhapsody, by the late 19th century cellist and composer David Popper, traces its inspiration to similarly titled pieces by Franz Liszt and Johannes Brahms, but showcases a number of hot-dogging tricks for the cello, including stratospheric high notes, flamboyant slides and a specific high-velocity bouncing of the bow called sautillé. Soltani nails all of them with nonchalant elegance, backed with companionable accompaniment by pianist Christopher Schmitt.

He says that that piece was a very extrovert, out-there piece and so from this mode we take it more inward.

To prove he can make his instrument truly sing, Soltani worked up his own arrangement of “Nacht und Träume” (Night and Dreams) by Franz Schubert, replacing the human voice with his cello’s warm, intimate vocalizing.

It’s fascinating to think that this song was musically written for the piano and voice.  But he has taken the vocal track and turned it into a moving (possibly better?) version on the cello.

His parents emigrated to Austria from Iran in the mid-1970s.  He grew up in Austria and loved it as a locus of great classical music.  But he also hold on to his Persian roots.

And in the Persian Fire Dance, Soltani’s own composition, flavors from his Iranian roots – drones and spiky dance rhythms – commingle with percussive ornaments.

This is a wonderful Concert and Soltani’s playing is really breathtaking.

[READ: September 1, 2019] Middlewest

I had heard of Skottie Young as the author of I Hate Fairyland (which sounds like a children’s book but is definitely not).

This book is also definitely not for children (although I see some people think it could be for YA readers).

Abel is a young boy who lives with his abusive father.  His father, Dale, is a real piece of work. Abel’s mother left, so Dale blames Abel and is on him all the time.

As the first chapter opens, Abel has overslept his paper route (the second time in five years).  His father is very angry even if Abel has been getting up at 4:30 every day for five years. As Abel is running late delivering the papers, his friends tell him to blow it off–it’s too late anyway, just go with them to play video games. (more…)

Read Full Post »