Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rosenberg: There's plenty of recordings to listen to

As part of a roundup of new recordings of the music of Brahms, Cleveland Plain Dealer classical music critic Don Rosenberg jumps into the debate pitting Alex Ross against Greg Sandow and Norman Lebrecht over whether the classical music recording industry is declining. Rosenberg writes, " The classical recording industry can't possibly be in trouble. Compact discs keep piling up, like sonic mountains. Most of them stay put in their plastic wrappers, nonetheless ready for listeners eager to hear everything from ancient music to Pulitzer Prize winners."

It would be nice for Rosenberg to go beyond anecdotal evidence and offer a few statistics. On the other hand, Rosenberg makes the often-overlooked point that listeners matter, and that there is plenty of new classical music to listen to, regardless of how musicians and record companies are faring.

Monday, May 14, 2007

An Emusic tip from Alex Ross

Alex Ross recommends a BBC reissue of a 1998 recital by the late singer Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, saying, "I ran out of adjectives to describe Lieberson's singing some time before she died last year, so I'll just say this: the disc is almost certainly better than anything else you might be thinking of buying right now." The album has just become available as another cheap download from Emusic. Lots of Mahler and Handel, but also four songs by modern composer Peter Lieberson.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A jazzy 'Rhapsody in Blue'

My wife and I just went to see a Saturday night performance in Dover, Ohio, of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic, which found a fresh way to present Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." The piano soloist was Cleveland jazz musician Jackie Warren. My friend Phil, principal bassoonist with the orchestra, introduced me before the show to the conductor, Eric Benjamin. After Phil explained that "Rhapsody in Blue" is one of my favorite pieces, Benjamin remarked that while a performance of "Rhapsody" usually features a classical pianist playing a jazz-influenced piece, his concert would feature a jazz pianist. Indeed, Warren played well with the orchestra and obviously knew the score but brought her own improvisations to the piano parts. She showed off her chops with an encore performance of "Our Love is Here to Stay."

The Tuscarawas Philharmonic, which performs at Dover High School, has been in continuous existence since 1935.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Duckworth's '20 Sounds'

I've been reading William Duckworth's "20/20: 20 New Sounds of the 20th Century." It amounts to a useful education on modern music, featuring Duckworth's usual erudition and clear writing.

When I checked this book out the library, I couldn't wait to see which works made the list; I sat down in the library and looked at the book for a few minutes before leaving the building.

Here's the list:

Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, Claude Debussy
Maple Leaf Rag, Scott Joplin
The Rite of Spring, Igor Stravinsky
Pierrot Lunaire, Arnold Schoernberg
The Concord Sonata, Charles Ives
Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin
Bolero, Maurice Ravel
Quartet for the End of Time, Olivier Messiaen
Appalachian Spring, Aaron Copland
Sonatas and Interludes, John Cage
Mysterious Mountain, Alan Hovhaness
In C, Terry Riley
Drumming, Steve Reich
I Am Sitting in a Room, Alvin Lucier
4th String Quartet, Ben Johnston
Einstein on the Beach, Philip Glass
Perfect Lives, Robert Ashley
O Superman, Laurie Anderson
Miserere, Arvo Part
Atlas, Meredith Monk

Duckworth explains in his introduction that while he polled other composers to help him compile the list, at the end of the day he had to choose works which meant a lot to him personally. Most of the works are excerpted in a companion CD. The list seems to be rather weighted toward Americans and toward experimental composers.

I like much of the music on the list, although I was disappointed Schoernberg was included. I suppose we are stuck with him. My biggest disappointment, however, was that nothing by Prokofiev made the list.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The best 'virtual iPod'

Thanks to an anonymous tipster who was kind enough to post a comment here a few days ago, I've found the best "virtual iPod" site yet. MediaMaster allows unlimited storage of music files (at least for now, while it's in beta test stage) and then plays the songs on a music player that's built into the site. The site requires Flash, but it doesn't seem to be specific to any particular operating system; I've used it with a Windows XP computer, a Macintosh laptop and an old laptop running SAM Linux from a live CD. More about the site here, in a column I wrote for my old newspaper back in Oklahoma. My only fear is how much money will be charged for the site when the free beta test period ends.