Sunday, September 30, 2007

Finding music at

I'm a big fan of the music and book swapping sites on the Internet, and I've been pleasantly surprised at how often I've been able to find modern classical music CDs at SwapaCD. My latest find is a CD of Robert Kurka's "Symphony No. 2," with three other pieces, recorded by Grant Park Orchestra, Carlos Kalmar, conductor, on the Cedille Records label.

Kurka, who was probably not avante-garde enough to generate much ink but who wrote very likeable music, was only 35 when he died. I discovered his music years ago, when I attended a percussion recital at Cameron University in Oklahoma and heard a performance of his marimba concerto. I really enjoyed the piece, but I was told then that no recording is available, and I still haven't been able to find one. Oops, I just ran a search, and I found one on the Internet, by Vida Chenoweth, available for $25. That's a lot for a CD that lists only 20 minutes of music; I'll have to decide whether to get it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Rosenberg calls out Cleveland Orchestra's stale programming

Donald Rosenberg, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, has drawn attention to the Cleveland Orchestra's lack of new music from living composers.

In a Sunday piece highlighting the orchestra's new season, Rosenberg finds much to recommend but notes that no world premieres are scheduled. He adds,

"Another woeful shortage is in American music. The composers chosen for this season are esteemed, obvious and mostly dead: John Adams (alive and well), Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Charles Ives. Many other Americans deserve a place on a program at Severance Hall, such as these composers, to name a handful, who still breathe and write music you'll want to hear: William Bolcom, Margaret Brouwer, John Corigliano, Aaron Jay Kernis, Leon Kirchner, Paul Moravec, Steve Reich, Christopher Rouse, Joan Tower and Yehudi Wyner."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cleveland Chamber Symphony sets full concert season

While the Cleveland Chamber Symphony has not yet announced a full season on its Web site, musicians in the Grammy-award winning group, which concentrates on modern classical music, have been given a tentative concert schedule. Aside the from a previously announced date on Oct. 7, musicians have been asked to mark their calendars for March 30, April 23, April 25 (in cooperation with Tri-C JazzFest, certainly an intriguing gig) and a Young and Emerging Composers date on May 7. Meanwhile, the orchestra has announced an Oct. 10 benefit event featuring hot-looking Grammy-toting pianist Angelin Chang.
Progressive rock a bridge to classical?

After my last post, I got a comment from Dr. Andrew Colyer, who is involved with the project, which aims to offer "progressive classical music for progressive rock fans." It looks interesting, so I've added it to the blogroll.

Dr. Colyer's project raises an interesting point: What kinds of popular music would lead a listener to become interested in classical music? When I was growing up, my Dad played Beethoven and Mozart on the stereo, but he wasn't interested in modern sounds. My interest in modern classical music began with Stravinsky, and as far as I can remember, my interest in Stravinsky stemmed from listening to Yes. "Yessongs," the band's landmark live album, includes a recording of the last few minutes of the "Firebird Suite." There's also a moment on the album where Jon Anderson sings a few notes without words. I later realized he was singing the opening notes for "The Rite of Spring." I only wish I had run across a rock band in the 1970s who would have led me to Philip Glass and Steve Reich.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Progressive rock, years later

Back when I was in high school, in the 1970s -- before rap, before alternative rock, even before New Wave and punk -- the music the intelligent kids listened to was called "progressive rock." My friends and I liked bands such as Yes, Genesis, Kansas, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and so on.

It's hard to know what to think of it now. Rock critics unanimously hate progressive rock, so it's easy to overrate the stuff, on the ground that rock critics are a bunch of useless, pretentious idiots. I've just started driving a car with a CD player, and I listened to Kansas on the hour-long commute to work this morning. A lot of it sounded kind of screechy and bombastic. I tried putting Emerson, Lake and Palmer on my Slacker radio station, and eventually deleted the band when I noticed that I disliked every ELP track they played.

But when I listen to the "Live At Montreaux" Yes album I downloaded recently from Emusic, I think it sounds pretty darn good. Genesis and solo Peter Gabriel still sounds good to me, too. I read an interview with Phil Collins back in the heyday of progressive rock, and when they asked him about those groups, he said the only band he liked was Yes. Maybe he was on to something.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

New album features Margaret Brouwer concerto

CityMusic Cleveland, an orchestra which presents free performances of classical music in the Cleveland area, has announced it plans to issue a live album featuring the new violin concerto written by Cleveland composer Margaret Brouwer. (They don't say exactly when the CD will be issued, but apparently it's coming out in the next few weeks.) The disc also will include music by Stravinsky and Mozart. I thought the piece was one of Brouwer's best and I plan to pick up the CD when it becomes available.