Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: DANIIL TRIONOV-Tiny Desk Concert #691 (January 12, 2018).

It has been quite a while since there had been a classical pianist on Tiny Desk.  And man, what a return.  Trionov is just stunning and he makes some of the more complex piano pieces in musical history seem easy.

NPR’s Tom Huizenga has written a splendid blurb which I’m putting here because he covers far more than I could:

When we invited Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov to play a Tiny Desk concert, we rolled out the big guns. In place of the trusty upright, we wedged a 7-foot grand piano behind Bob Boilen’s desk in preparation for the artist who The Times of London called “without question the most astounding pianist of our age.”

That’s a pretty lofty claim, but watch and judge for yourself. His performance here is extraordinary. Still in his 20s, Trifonov seems to have it all: jaw-dropping technique and interpretive skills beyond his age. He’s also a composer — the night before his NPR visit, he played his own knuckle-twisting piano concerto at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C.

But for his Tiny Desk show, Trifonov focused on Chopin, beginning with the mercurial “Fantaisie-Impromptu” in C-sharp minor, a work that mixes sweeping melody, turbulent passion and wistful repose. Hunching close over the keyboard with feline agility, Trifonov’s slender fingers glide effortlessly. He coaxes the instrument to sing tenderly in the slow central section.

Trifonov follows with a pair of short tributes to Chopin by his peers. Robert Schumann’s “Chopin” accentuates the lyrical side of Chopin, filtered through the German composer’s forward-looking harmonies, while Edvard Grieg’s “Hommage à Chopin” offers volatility, lovingly rendered.

The smartly programmed set is capped with more Chopin, but with a nod to Mozart: the finale from a set of variations based on an aria from Don Giovanni. It gives Trifonov a chance to display his lightness of touch, plus a few pianistic fireworks. Smiling, he treats the tricky filigreed runs and hand crossings as if it were a child’s game. Look closely and you can see the piano shake.

So Trifonov plays four pieces.  The middle two are quite short.

Chopin: “Fantaisie-Impromptu, Op. 66”  This is one of my favorite pieces.  The fast part is jaw-dropping and the slow part is achingly beautiful.  His fingers flow over the keys like he was simply petting a cat.

Schumann: “Chopin. Agitato” (from Carnaval)  Trifonov says Schumann wrote a tribute to Chopin called “Chopin,” which was a portrait of the man.   This is a quiet, delicate piece and it is so much fun to watch his hands float seemingly weightless above the keys.

Grieg: “Hommage à Chopin, Op. 73, No. 5”  This tribute focuses on the more stormy and turbulent aspects of Chopin’s faster work.  It slowly builds in intensity with very fast finger work.

Chopin: “Variations on Là ci darem la mano‘ (from Mozart’s Don Giovanni) – Coda. Alla Polacca”  Chopin wrote a variation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.  This is the finale. There are some amazingly intense runs up and down the keys in this piece as well. And again a lot more bouncing around with his left hand to high notes.

This was a tremendous Tiny Desk Concert.

[READ: December 13, 2017] Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle

I really enjoyed this third Crafty Cat book.  Anya continues to be an unreasonable character (and I want someone to stand up to her!), but her awfulness allows for some good humor and good setups in this book.

The book opens with Crafty Cat saving an ant after dusting it with glitter (the ant now feels pretty special).  But then it’s soon time for Birdie to get to school.  She tells us that they are picking roles for the class play about butterflies.  Everyone is supposed to pick a bug they want to be:  “Be creative in your choices, we don’t need ten ladybugs.”  Birdie confesses that she is going to be the butterfly she has even crafted a small model of the wings that she can make.

Then Evan shows up.  He rescues a glittery ant from the sidewalk (that was amusing)  and then reveals that he is going to be an ant for the play.  When Birdie says she’s going to be the butterfly, Evan has reservations.  When they enter the school we see 10 students all wanting to be the butterfly–especially Anya.  And image HER surprise when other kids want to be the butterfly–which is her role, after all. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: VANILLA FUDGE-The Beat Goes On (1968).

I thought the first Vanilla Fudge album was odd–covers of contemporary songs done slowly and with little resemblance to the originals.

Well, this second album was downright bizarre.

It  doesn’t really have any “songs.”  Rather, it’s more of a collage–a history of recorded sound as interpreted by the Vanilla Fudge.  There’s a few snippets of classical pieces, some rocks songs, historical vocal recordings and final words from the guys in the band.  All sandwiched between snippets of them playing The Beat Goes On, the Sonny Bono song.

It’s a weird enough record on its own, but when you read just a little but about it, it gets even weirder.  According to the Wikipedia entry:

The group was at odds with producer George “Shadow” Morton during recording, as Morton made his own concept album without significant input from them. In the liner notes of Sundazed Records’ 1990 CD reissue, the band denounces it as a failed experiment on the producer’s part.     ….
In his autobiography Stick It!, Carmine Appice declares: “Even listening to it now – which, let me tell you, I rarely fucking do – The Beat Goes On sounds like an album that Spinal Tap would be wary of making.”

The album opens with an instrumental “sketch.”  It is primarily the Vanilla Fudge keyboard sound with some occasional piano and guitar sounds washing in and out.

After a recording of Thomas Edison reciting Mary Had a Little Lamb, a ponderous voice says PHASE ONE and they start with the first iteration of “The Beat Goes On.”

Then comes what is now probably the fourth surprise already.  The track is titles “Eighteenth Century: Variations on a Theme by Mozart: “Divertimento No. 13 In F Major”” and it’s 45 seconds of Mozart on harpsichord!  It’s followed by a 45 second version of “Old Black Joe” by Stephen Forster, this time sung quietly with acoustic guitar and bass.

That was meant to represent the nineteenth century.  The twentieth century has a bit more diversity with Cole Porter, Glenn Miller and Elvis.  There’s rags on piano with a trap drum.  “In the Mood” sounds like it’s in a roller rink and “Hound Dog” sounds really tinny and awful.  The music is played perfectly, but the quality of the recording is deliberately (I assume) poor.

The next section is called The Beatles, because they clearly didn’t record enough Beatles on their first album.  But this time they do it more like the originals, not like the Vanilla Fudge.  In less than two minutes, they run through excerpts from “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “I Feel Fine,” “Day Tripper,” “She Loves You,” and “Hello Goodbye.”   Except that for the final track they sing “You say hello and I say goodbye…”  And they laugh into…

PHASE TWO.  This has another version of “The Beat Goes On” followed by six minutes of Beethoven (if you;re keeping track, Beethoven was before the 20th century).  They play “Fur Elise” & “Moonlight Sonata” on keys with bass.  But it builds up with rocking drums and   build rocking with drums and keys and guitar.  It gets crazy fast and loud.

Then another version of “The Beat Goes On” followed by another version of it (the original would have switched sides at this point.

PHASE THREE is called “Voices in Time” and it is literally 8 minutes of historical recordings by: Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy.

Then on to PHASE FOUR which after one version of “The Beat Goes On” is talking sections with the band members.  They are labelled “Merchant/The Game is Over”

Vinnie on guitar says a few things concluding with “As life goes on, the beat goes on.”  Tim on bass does an “interview” in which he (or someone) asks him questions which he answers–about sex, politics and ice cream among other things.  He sounds pretty much  like an ass.

Carmine says “I play drums.  Listen to my drums if you wanna hear me talk.”  And finally after some Indian style music comes Mark the lead vocalist.  He uses his time to read a bit of the Bible, a passage about Moab.

The whole business ends with the longest yet version of “The Beat Goes On.”

The CD comes with a Bonus Phase.  There’s a cover of The Beatles’ “You Can;t Do That” and an original  These two songs are certainly the highlight, especially their original song “Come By Day, Come By Night.”  I love the bassline and choral voices.  This really points out what a waste it was not to record their own songs.

The sixties were a weird time.

[READ: July 22, 2017] Some Recollections of a Busy Life

The beginning of this book includes Dave Eggers’ essay that was in the New Yorker, July 20, 2015 issue.

Read about it here.

T.S. Hawkins was Dave Eggers’ great-great grandfather.  In 1913 Hawkins wrote Some Recollections of a Busy Life and printed 300 copies.  Now 102 years later, Eggers was able to use his press to get it reprinted,

What’s even more disconcerting is that we’re prepared for the book to be 102 years old, but it starts with Hawkins talking about what it was like seventy years ago.  So the beginning of this book is actually set in the 1840s and 50s.  He was born March 6, 1836 in Missouri about 12 miles from the Mississippi River. His grandfather had been from Virginia and then moved to Kentucky and then on to Missouri.

He is writing his recollection not believing that the general public would care about them but he hopes his children and grandchildren might be interested in the changes which have taken places over the years of their grandfather’s life.

He grew up West of the Mississippi with no railroads and no telegraphic or telephonic communication with the rest of the world.  News in the East took weeks to reach them.  Electrical lighting was a thing undreamed of.  They made their own soap with the ashes from their fires.  Their clothes were homemade. (more…)

Read Full Post »

fateart SOUNDTRACK: THEE SILVER MT. ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA-Kollaps Tradixionales [CST063] (2010).

kollaspThis album was released as a CD and as double 10″ vinyl.  Each “side” is about 15 minutes long.  And, interestingly, each side has a kind of theme, I guess.  It also includes the shortest song the band has recorded.

“There Is a Light” is one of my favorite songs they’ve done.  The guitar and strings play off each other perfectly and the song ebbs and flows very nicely.  Efrim sounds pretty drunk in his vocals, which gives the whole thing a shambolic quality that contrasts nicely with the elegance of the music.  Of all of their songs, I think this one really captures the intensity that these band can generate with the swelling strings and pounding drums.  At 6 minutes, the whole thing slows to a halt but is then resumed with a new, even more interesting section.  Over reverbed guitars, a series of horns and backing vocals singing “la las” flesh out the lead vocals.  I really enjoy the way the strings swirl around the vocals only pausing to let the words “One Step Two step” come out in staccato vocals.  But the main strings riff that follows these verses is so pretty, I could listen too just that.  This all ends around 9 minutes, when the final part begins with slow guitar and horns.  The vocals come in singing the title “there is a light.”  It starts quiet but soon enough the full choir of voices joins in as the music swells.  After a few round of verses, the song ends with the female choir singing, “Tell me there is a light.”

The second “side” is the “metal bird” side.  It stars with “I Built Myself a Metal Bird” which opens with rocking guitar chords and fast drums–the most overtly rock song they’ve done so far.  The vocals are screamed and staccato.  Things never really let up for the whole six minutes–there’s a concurrent violin solo while the lyrics are sung.  The second half of the song changes things a bit–with more dramatic strings playing.  In the last thirty seconds the tone changes a bit and things do mellow out for the conclusion.  That leads into the second bird song

“I Fed My Metal Bird the Wings of Other Metal Birds” is quite different from the first.  It opens with slow electric guitars and quiet strings.  There’s noisy guitars and other strange atmospheric sounds for the first three and a half minutes when it finally settles into an uptempo string song with more great violin riffs.  At fiver minutes (of 6) the bowed bass takes over the main line and the accompanying strings help to move things along.  There’s only about 30 seconds left when the vocals come in and they are nearly drowned out by the music.

The third side is the “Kollpas” side with three songs.

For “Kollapz Tradixional (Thee Olde Dirty Flag)” the piano comes back with quiet chords and gentle strings accompanying quiet vocals. .  The song stays quiet as different instruments come to the fore.  At around 5 minutes (of 6 in total) a guitar solo winds its way to the end of the song.

After this there is a 1 and half-minute song “Collapse Traditional (For Darling).”  It’s a gentle ballad played on strings with layered vocals.

“Kollaps Tradicional (Bury 3 Dynamos)” opens with pizzicato strings and a fuzzy meandering guitar.  About 2 minutes in, the loud chords strike and the drums kick in with a fairly complex rhythm.  About half way in, one guitars start playing in each speaker and the vocals begin.  Two voices begin singing against each other keeping an interesting rhythm with their staccato phrasing and the thumping drums,.  The last two minutes feature a guitar solo and vocals following a similar pattern as the guitar.

The final side has one 14 minute song “‘Piphany Rambler.”  The song begins with distant guitars and plucked strings.  The vocals are quiet, nearly whispered.  A refrain of “don’t sleep” surfaces from the quiet.  At around 5 minutes the guitars and strings grow louder and the song properly starts.  But even this section is fairly slow, as if preparing to build up to something else.   It’s the strings and their insistent three note melody that really unites the song.  About midway through things slow down even further (with some cool retro organs sounds amidst the strings).  And the song turns into a very catchy string filled section with the vocals working very nicely with the melody.  This section grows louder and more raucous as it heads to the conclusion.

SMtZ has made many diverse styles of albums over the years, and this combination of rocking songs and delicate strings is probably my favorite.  For this one, the lineup has shrunk to a five piece of

Thierry Amar: Upright bass, electric bass, plucked piano, vocals
Efrim Menuck: Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, mellotron, vocals
Jessica Moss: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
Sophie Trudeau: Violin, plucked piano, vocals
and David Payant has taken over for Eric Craven on drums, organ, piano and vocals

[READ: March 15, 2016] The Fate of the Artist

I didn’t love Eddie Campbell’s Black Diamond Detective Agency, and that was manly been because of the art.  That didn’t really bode well for this story.

But Campbell does an incredible thing with this book.  He mixes text and many different kinds of pictures–including comic strips and photographs, to create a fascinating story of his own disappearance.

The story begins “One day the artist wakes up with the disquieting feeling that it has all gone wrong….  It is difficult to obtain sympathy for this condition.”

And then the Artist disappears and all that is left is a picture.  “Most people would leave a note.” “Yes, well he left a picture.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

barbariabnsSOUNDTRACK: ULTRA LOUNGE: CHRISTMAS COCKTAILS Part Three: Yule Tide Cheer Through the Year (2005).

xmastails3The final part of the Ultra Lounge Christmas set certainly sees them running out of steam.  There’s far fewer songs and the total running time is nearly 20 minutes shorter.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great tracks here.

CARMEN McRAE-“Baby It’s Cold Outside” a fun opening with some talking before the song between Carmen and Sammy Davis Jr.  Davis is really silly through the song (and she seems to be laughing him).  BING CROSBY-“Frosty The Snowman” wonderful.  LENA HORNE-“Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town” a trippy opening in which Horne was “in the milky way.” Then the song kicks in—a fun version overall. Strangely she switches “bad or good” into “good or bad.”  JOHNNY MERCER-“Jingle Bells” a fun hopping version with plenty of swing.  There’s even extra lines (“there’s nothing new about jingle bells”).

WAYNE NEWTON-“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” Female vocalists again (I thought Newton was a singer?), but nevertheless, it’s a fun version.  NANCY WILSON-“That’s What I Want For Christmas” a pretty song, that I didn’t know before.  I really dig Nancy Wilson.  DEAN MARTIN-“Winter Wonderland” delightful, I do love the Deano.  BILLY MAY-“Do You Believe In Santa Claus?” – Billy May’s deep dark rather scary voice presents this weird song.  It’s funny and a little spooky what  with the crazy way it ends.

PEGGY LEE-“White Christmas” this version is too for me.  AL MARTINO-“Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer” this is a nice version, though.  RAY ANTHONY-“A Marshmallow World” a lovely version of this fun song.  LOU RAWLS-“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” Rawls has finally won me over.  I like this song by him.  JULIE LONDON-“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” slow and jazzy but too slow for me.  NAT KING COLE-“Buon Natale (Means Merry Christmas To You)” a fun song quaint and cute and one you don’t hear very often.  JUNE CHRISTY-“Sorry To See You Go” I don’t know this song, it’s more of a New Year’s song. Swet and bouncy. Although not my favorite ending to the discs.

So that’s the Ultra Lounge mixes, easily my favorite way to spend a holly day.

[READ: December 24, 2014] The Barbarians

This was the final Baricco book I planned to read this year and it’s a good way to end the year–reflecting on the past but planning to move forward.

It’s nonfiction so I didn’t really know what to expect.  But I certainly didn’t expect the story in the beginning of the book.  Baricco explains that he really wanted this book to be translated into English (especially for the American market where he felt it would be particularly on target) but he couldn’t find anyone to publish it.  And he didn’t want to go self publishing.  He ultimately found a friend in New York, owner of Eataly who agreed to foot the cost.  They did the work and then Random House distributed it.

So Stephen Sartarelli translated it.  The book is a fun and interesting look at the barbarians who are ruining our culture and destroying our soul.  But Baricco is very careful to point out that just because they are ruining things, it doesn’t mean that they are making things worse or doing it maliciously.  He uses several specific instances in which the barbarians have changed something held sacred and made it, if not better, then different and often more enjoyable.

This book was originally written as a series of newspaper articles in 2006 (not sure exactly when).  He says it was fun to see feedback as he was writing each installment (each “chapter” is about four pages). (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: May 2, 2014] The Figaro Plays: The Marriage of Figaro

marriageAfter last night’s unexpectedly hilarious Barber of Seville, my expectations were much higher for The Marriage of Figaro.

For a brief explanation of these plays, see yesterday’s post.

The Marriage of Figaro is set three years after The Barber of Seville.  [It must be said that the promotional material said they could be seen in any order, but a lot from Barber is referenced in Marriage and since it is set three years later, it really does behoove you to see Barber first].  The situation is interesting: Count Almaviva and Rosine are still married, although the Count is sleeping around and the Countess is despondent (so much for that rush of first love).  But the main plot concerns Figaro.

Figaro is living with them (as Almaviva’s right hand man) and is set to marry the Countess’ Lady in Waiting, Suzanne.  Figaro is gloriously happy, as is Suzanne.  And they cannot wait to get married.  So, unlike the previous play, there are no shenanigans trying to get them together behind the back of someone else.  The shenanigans are of a slightly different sort.

For Suzanne reveals to Figaro that the reason the Count has given them this glorious space in the chateau–which is but mere feet away from the Count’s private room–is that he plans to deflower Suzanne on the night of her wedding to Figaro.  This was, apparently, the Count’s privilege at the time.  Although Count Almaviva ended that policy when he married Rosine.  But he seems ready to reinstate it now.

Figaro doesn’t believe it at first, but is soon convinced.  The Count wants to meet Rosine in the garden on her wedding night.  And so she and Figaro (with the help of Rosine) decide to hatch a plot.  And that’s just one of many plots in this sequel which is much more complicated, has a much bigger cast and pushes three hours in length. (more…)

Read Full Post »

[ATTENDED: May 1, 2014] The Figaro Plays: The Barber of Seville

barber2I won tickets to see The Figaro Plays at McCarter Theater.  And yes, there are two different plays going on at the same time. I have to say, I’m super impressed that they put on two Figaro plays on alternating days starring many of the same actors—how complicated must that be?

The Figaro Plays are, well, I’ll let the McCarter site, explain:

Stephen Wadsworth makes his triumphant return to McCarter Theatre with The Figaro Plays, two thrilling new translations of the great farces that inspired Mozart and Rossini’s operas: The Marriage of Figaro and The Barber of Seville…. Wadsworth brings his genius to these two delightfully scathing social satires. Figaro, the famous barber, has his hands full with schemes, plots, and a master who chases all the wrong women. Lush, lively, and a little bit naughty, these plays are chock-full of hilarious misunderstandings, passion, disguises, and sumptuous period costumes.

The plays were written by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, um …who? He wrote three plays about Figaro and Count Almaviva: Le Barbier de Séville, Le Mariage de Figaro, and La Mère coupable.  And so Wadsworth translated, arranged and directed two (I don’t know if the third one was too much to do or not very good or what–according to Wikipedia, it is rarely performed, and the synopsis doesn’t sound great)

So you have certainly heard of these two The Barber of Seville or the Useless Precaution (written in 1773) was turned into Gioachino Rossini’s opera, The Barber of Seville (1816).  The Marriage of Figaro (written in 1778) was turned into the opera Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata (The Marriage of Figaro, or The Day of Madness), K. 492, composed in 1786 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,

So that’s a lot of background information, and I knew none of it before seeing this first play.  I wasn’t even sure if there would be music or not.  So no, they were not the operas, indeed, Barber has no music (well, one love song strummed on a guitar).

And it was hilarious. (more…)

Read Full Post »