February 13, 2010

Playlist: Week of 2-13-10

* Vivaldi: Late Concertos, RV 177, etc. (VBO/Marcon/Camignola) (Sony CD)
* Vivaldi: Cello Sonatas (ter Linden/Mortensen) (Brilliant Classics 2CD)
* Venice Baroque Orchestra (Marcon/Carmignola): Concerto Italiano (Archiv Prod. CD)
* Handel: Trio Sonatas, Op.2&5 (AAM/Egarr) (Harmonia Mundi 2CD)
* Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony No.1, Op.9 (Ens.Intercontemp./Boulez) (Sony CD)
* Schoenberg: 5 Pieces for Orchestra, Op.16 (BBC Symphony/Boulez) (Sony CD)
* Schoenberg: Chamber Symphony No.2, Op.38 (Ens. Intercontemp./Boulez) (Sony CD)
* Sun Ra: ESP Radio Tribute Highlights (d.1&5) (FM 5CDR)
* Sun Ra: Rehearsal, Oakland, CA circa. October, 1971 (CDR)
* Miles Davis: The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 (d.1-4) (Columbia 6CD)
* Keith Jarrett: Concerts (d.1) (ECM 3LP)
* Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble: Drawn Inward (ECM CD)
* Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold as Love (Experience Hendrix/MCA CD)
* Jimi Hendrix Experience: Electric Ladyland (Experience Hendrix/MCA CD)
* Bob Dylan: Nashville Skyline (Columbia SACD)
* Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash: The Dylan/Cash Sessions 1969 (fan/boot CDR)
* Bob Dylan & George Harrison: The Dylan/Harrison Sessions 1969-1970 (fan/boot CDR)
* Bob Dylan: New Morning (Columbia CD)
* Grateful Dead: Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ 3-30-80 (SBD 2CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Auditorium Arena, Oakland, CA 12-30-82 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Auditorium Arena, Oakland, CA 12-31-82 (SBD 3CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, Hampton, VA 4-14-84 (SBD 2CDR)
* Grateful Dead: Coliseum, New Haven, CT 4-23-84 (SBD 3CDR)
* Talking Heads: Speaking in Tongues (Sire/Warner Bros. DVD-A)
* Talking Heads: Little Creatures (Sire/Warner Bros. DVD-A)
* Yo La Tengo: The Sounds of the Sounds of Science (Egon CD)
* Uncle Tupelo: No Depression (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* Guided By Voices: Vampire On Titus (Scat LP)
* Guided By Voices: Bee Thousand (Scat LP)
* Beck: Sea Change (Geffen/MFSL 2LP)


Who’s afraid of Arnold Schoenberg? I really don’t understand why Schoenberg’s (1874-1951) orchestral music is so rarely performed. I’ll admit that the Five Pieces, Op.16 (1909) are pretty daunting with their convulsively expressionistic free-atonality but the whole thing only lasts fifteen minutes. Surely audiences should be able to appreciate a little bit of “spice” amidst the blandly familiar Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms? To my ears, he fits right in! Schoenberg’s command of orchestral coloring is breathtaking and his concept of klangfarbenmelodie (tone-color-melody) is readily audible as the melodic lines are passed from instrument to instrument, changing colors along the way. The Chamber Symphonies are actually quite accessible. Op.9 (1906) is still deeply concerned with tonality and exploring the outer limits of functional harmony, but unlike Verklärte Nacht, Op.4 (1899) or Pelleas und Melisande, Op.5 (1902/03), the mood is lighter, with Schoenberg relishing in the transparent textures of the small orchestra. It is really quite lovely. Schoenberg began working on the Second Chamber Symphony immediately afterwards, but dropped it in favor of more ambitious projects (such as the Second String Quartet, Op.10 (1907/08)). At the insistence of conductor Fritz Stiedry (1883-1968), Schoenberg finished in the piece in 1939 and, as usual, his meticulous workmanship hides any seams. Furthermore, he saw the still quasi-tonal work as a landscape of “psychological problems” that had to be worked out musically, making for a more ponderous -- if not despairing -- harmonic language than Op.9. Still, Schoenberg’s scoring is perfect and the music reaches for an intimate yet ultra-transcendent moment that perhaps never comes but is still worth striving towards. And such music is worth performing, in my opinion. Such music is not so much about liking it as just experiencing it. Listening to Schoenberg’s music is like being inside his brain, his most profound thoughts articulated through carefully calculated notes on a stave. That is not necessarily a very comfortable place to be, but it is hyper-stimulating!


The Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) estate is moving from Universal to Sony Legacy with the release of Valleys of Neptune, a collection of unreleased studio recordings, on March 9. The rest of the catalog will be remastered and reissued thereafter. Now, Valleys of Neptune looks interesting and I will definitely pick that up. But do I need to re-purchase all those other records yet again? I’ve been listening to the MCA CDs from 1997 and they sound pretty good to me: a little bright maybe, but dynamic -- they are not particularly fatiguing when played loud. Could they sound better? Perhaps. Will Sony do a better job? I’m taking a wait and see approach. It would the fourth or fifth time I will have bought these albums and I’m not exactly feeling the need to replace what I have. The fact that Sony is releasing a limited edition CD-single with an unreleased B-Side (“Peace in Mississippi”) exclusively through Wal-Mart is not very encouraging. I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart so I guess I will be missing out. I’d rather give my money to Grimey’s New & Pre-Loved Music right here in Nashville.

1 comment:

Sam said...

I'll have to see if the library here has any of these Schoenberg pieces. I'm not familiar with nay of the pieces you mention.

I'm psyched about the new Hendrix, but I'm with you on the refurbished-yet-again issue. At least the Universal CDs sound better than the original vinyl.

Here's my listening and reading for the last week:

Playlist 2010-02-15

*AMM: 1970-03-02 London (CDR)
*Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Art Ensemble (1967/68), disc 4
*Anthony Braxton Small Ensemble: 2009-04-30 Echo Echo Mirror House Music world premiere, Wesleyan, sets 1 & 2
*Anthony Braxton Small Ensemble: 2009-05-04 Echo Echo Mirror House Music, Wesleyan, sets 1 & 2
*Miles Davis: The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions, disc 5
*Andrew Hill: Mosaic Select 16, disc 1
*Christian Marclay: Records 1981-1989
*Charles Mingus: The Complete Atlantic Recordings 1956-1961, disc 2
*Charles Mingus: Music Written For Monterey 1965. Not Heard... Played In Its Entirety At UCLA, disc 2
*Alan Silva/Marshall Allen/William Parker: 2000-05-23 Vision Festival, NYC (CDR)
*Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley: 2009-10-02 Strasbourg, France (CDR) 2nd set
*Beatles: Rubber Soul (2009 stereo remaster)
*Bill Bruford: Rock Goes to College
*Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks 33 (Oakland 1976) discs 3, 4
*Grateful Dead: Dick's Picks 34 (Rochester, NY 1977-11-05) discs 1, 2, 3
*Grateful Dead/John Oswald: Grayfolded, disc 2 ("Mirror Ashes")
*High Llamas: Retrospective, Rarities and Instrumentals, discs 1, 2
*Buddy Holly: Down the Line: Rarities, disc 2
*Konono No. 1: Live at Couleur Cafe
*Monade: Monstre Cosmic
*Panda Bear: Person Pitch
*Rolling Stones: Undercover
*Stereolab: Refried Ectoplasm (Switched On Volume 2)
*Stereolab: Jenny Ondioline (EP)
*Sun Ra: Nidhamu + Dark Myth Equation Visitation (Art Yard)
*Yes: Close to the Edge (2003 remaster)

Reading log 2010-02-15

*Nabokov, Vladmir. The Original of Laura (Dying is Fun) (started/finished)
*Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet (Oxford ed., ed. Jill Levenson) (finished)
*Wallace, David Foster. Consider the Lobster (started)
*The Complete Weird Science (EC) (in progress)
*Larson, Gary. The Complete Far Side (in progress)
*Musil, Robert. Man Without Qualities (in progress)
*A New Literary History of America (ed. Greil Marcus & Werner Sollors) (in progress)