Monday, November 7, 2011

September 2011 - Classical Music

Bach, J.S. - Cello Suites (complete, 2 recordings)
Bach, J.S. - Brandenburg Concertos (complete - 2 recordings for Nos. 4 and 5)
Haydn - Symphonies 102 and 103 ('Drumroll')
Scarlatti, D. - Keyboard sonatas - K.1, 3, 9, 17, 24, 27, 213, 214, 247, 283, 284, 380, 404, 443, 519
Schubert - Piano Sonatas in A minor and in D, D. 784 and D.850
Schumann
  • Papillons (Butterflies)
  • Davidsbundlertanze (Dances of the League of David)
  • Carnaval
  • Symphonic Etudes
  • Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood)
Simpson - Symphony No.10
Telemann - Tafelmusik Volume 1: Overture, Quartet, Concerto, Trio, Solo
Vivaldi
  • The Four Seasons (2 recordings)
  • Violin Concerto in C, RV 171
  • Kyrie in G minor
  • Gloria, RV 588 with introduction Jubilate, o amoeni chori RV 639
  • Credo in E minor
  • Dixit Dominus, RV 594
  • Lauda, Jerusalem
  • Magnificat in G minor (1720s version), RV 610a
  • In furore iustissimae irae (In wrath and most just anger)
  • Longe mala, umbrae, terrores (Away with woes, shadows, terrors), RV 629
One of the things I did this month was compare different recordings of the same music.  I don't generally aim to get multiple performances of classical music into my collection, but my fondness for box sets does sometimes mean there's a bit of overlap.  And it's interesting to hear the different approaches that various musicians will take.

Some of the comparison was deliberate (the Bach Cello Suites for example - I think Rostropovich beat Tortelier in most of them, but honours were the other way in the 3rd suite), and some of it was quite accidental as a result of my massive new purchase.  Having been alerted to a sale of box sets, I ended up with 5 of them, and a whopping 32 CDs of new classical performances to explore.

That's a pretty overwhelming delivery of new music!

By chance rather than design, most of it comes from just one generation of composers.  I've got a lot of new Bach (1685-1750) as well as second, often considerably better versions of the Brandenburg Concertos. I've got some Telemann (1681-1767) for the first time, which has proved itself highly enjoyable.  It's about time the world's most prolific composer, allegedly, got some space in the collection - 18 pieces down, only around 3,000 more to go.

And I'm suddenly drowning in Vivaldi (1678-1741), after increasing my collection by about 1500 per cent!  The new performances of The Four Seasons are exciting and dramatic.  The sacred music is a bit of a mixed bag so far, some of it I like a lot and other bits aren't really grabbing me yet.

It's actually quite educational to get such a heavy dose of the one era, which I guess I'm not as familiar with as later music.  It's definitely helping me understand a bit more about the forms and styles of the late Baroque period.  Some things that I only knew as 'Bach' I now recognise as more general.  I'm getting a better sense of what's common to the composers of the time and what's individual to each of them.

Just before buying all of that, not only was I listening to my existing versions of the Brandenburg Concertos and The Four Seasons, I happened to be spending time listening to the first half of a 2-CD collection of the amazingly inventive keyboard music of Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757). So it really was a month full of music from around the 1710s to 1740s or so.

As well as the avalanche of Baroque, the other purchase was Schumann piano music.  And that's been a real surprise.  I had no idea just how radical, even strange, some of his work was.  In several of the early pieces I listened to this month (written when he was in his 20s), fragments of a minute or less zip by before being replaced by something else entirely.  It's pretty startling stuff when you consider that the previous generation was often creating sonatas that developed musical ideas on a large scale - not always, but often.  So to get, say, 21 Carnival 'scenes' stuffed into 27 minutes is really quite something.

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