Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chopin 2010

Deutsche Grammophon released over a dozen Chopin recordings this year, here's a Spotfiy playlist: Chopin 2010 (197 tracks, 13 hours) that features all of them. It seems that these recordings are available to Spotify users in all countries but the UK at this moment, but usually they would be playable in a couple of weeks, like the Carlos Kleiber box-set.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Carlos Kleiber: Complete DG Recordings on Spotify

I have updated my Beethoven playlist to add in the Symphony No.7 by Kleiber.

And an interesting read: Carlos Kleiber: Not a great conductor.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Spotify Schumann Bicentennial Playlist

"Today it is more important for me to present material from a number of different aspects, to derive new properties from it, than to compose closed forms. To choose a historical example: Schumann, rather than Brahms." - Wolfgang Rihm

Robert Schumann was born 200 years ago tomorrow, he is the composer I love the most. Lieder like Du bist wie eine Blume is so hauntingly beautiful that it hurts, the tormented cello concerto is heartfelt romantic and deeply tragic at the same time, and no other composer writes piano music like Schumann. Chopin is the greatest dreamer in music, he brought the world most wonderful nocturnes, and preludes that lead to the beginning of nothing: they end before the beginning of the end even starts. Schumann is the most poetic daydreamer, only people who dream in daydreams can ever compose pieces with such an dreamy aura like Träumerei.

This playlist is my tribute to this great composer, and I hope it helps other Spotify users to explore Schumann's music. It consists of four parts:

1, The works with opus numbers. Schumann wrote almost exclusively for solo piano at the beginning, composed over one hundred lieder in his "year of songs"(1840), and many of his chamber music in 1842. So this part is quite easy to be divided into separate genres if you want to. This part is sorted by opus numbers. I tried to choose the best recording for the works that I'm familiar with, for the piano music alone we have Arrau, Anda, Kempff, Richter, and many other maestros. What a feast!

2, The works without opus number, alternative editions and arrangements. This including the violin concerto, some early fragments for piano and orchestra, the unfinished ”Zwickau" symphony, the cello concerto arranged for violin and re-orchestrated by Shostakovich, Carnaval orchestrated by Ravel, and Paganini's 24 Caprices for Violin with Schumann's piano accompaniment. According to the Cambridge Companion To Schumann,  it is the last works that Schumann finished in the asylum. The Concerto Without Orchestra played by Horowitz is majestic.

3, Historical performances. I only chose one modern recording for each composition, but there are some elder recordings that must be heard by true Schumann lovers too. This includes the 1951 live recording of the piano concerto from Cortot and Fricsay, the Frauenliebe sung by Elly Ameling, and a very rare Dichterliebe with Horowitz as accompanist.

4, Modern works that associated with Schumann: Wolfgang Rihm's piano trio Fremde Szenen, Kurtag's Hommage À R. Sch, Peter Ruzicka's Vier Fragmente über Schumann, Heinz Holliger's Gesänge Der Frühe and Romancendres, a "reconstruction" of Schumann's Cello Romances destroyed by Clara, and a suite of Luigi Nono's Prometeo, in which the beginning of Schumann's Manfred is quoted nine times.

In the end of the playlist I put the recording of four songs that were in the original version of Dichterliebe but later excluded. I can hardly think of a better closing track other than Mein Wagen rollet langsam.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Robert Schumann: Bicentennial Edition (1057 tracks, 2 days) Happy 200th Birthday Robert, may your songs always be sung.

If you want a quick introduction to Schumann's works, check out this 2-CD set by Deutsche Grammophon on Spotify: Schumann Gold

And here's an very interesting documentary on Youtube, Schumann's Lost Romance presented by Steven Isserlis:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Contemplative Liszt

It's the Children's Day, let's celebrate it by introducing one of the most beloved-by-kids composers of all time.

Franz Liszt might be best known for his flamboyant and bombastic showpieces, like the Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 in Tom and Jerry, or the finale of Les Preludes that introduced many cartoons. Personally I find his quiet, introspective music much more interesting. The largely contemplative tone poem Orpheus was his son-in-law Richard Wagner's favourite for that reason, the two large scale sacred works, Via Crucis and Christus are some of Liszt's most daring and original compositions I've heard, and deeply moving. I also collected many reflective solo piano pieces in the playlist, like The Blessing of God in Solitude, The Fountain of the Villa d'Este and, of course, the majestic B Minor sonata, by some of the best Liszt interpreters like Claudio Arrau. Sadly Iren Marik was removed from Spotify after I made this playlist, I replaced her recordings with alternatives, and left her links there, let's hope Spotify brings them back soon.

Here's the Spotify playlist: The Contemplative Liszt (62 tracks, 7 hours)
Looking forward to your suggestions for more works of this kind to add into the playlist. And since one of the key words that brought most traffic is "best music to study to", I will add that this playlist is perfect for studying too:)