Thursday, July 29, 2010

Classical Music For Absolute Beginners: DG's entrée Series

Below is extracted from the introduction on DG's official entrée site, I like the Chinese restaurant parable, and I hope Spotify starts to offer ad-supported free food service soon:)

"Think of eating at a Chinese restaurant. You can't read Chinese, but the menu is in Chinese only - and there are 150 different dishes from which to choose. You need help from someone so you can decide what to eat. The food arrives. Do you like it? Do you like it a lot? Maybe next time you'll have something similar? Or experiment further by trying a completely different dish? Perhaps you ordered the wrong thing - we've all done it! Chances are you'll find something that appeals next time.

entrée offers you more than 40 world-famous dishes on a plate, building a classical library that anyone would be proud to own. And the covers - striking black and white photographs - are really classy.

Like anyone starting to paint or fish, or learning a foreign language, the first steps are a daunting prospect. Once you've taken the plunge, though, you quickly realize the rewards. Bit by bit, you find out more and more. A little knowledge enhances your enjoyment and appreciation. It's just the same with classical music, and the booklets with the new entrée series provide the perfect introduction to each composer and the music on the CD. Nothing academic. No technical language. Just engaging, informative, and friendly."

Here's the Spotify playlist: DG: Entrée Series (453 tracks, total time: 1 day). If you are not familiar with most of the works here, congratulations, enjoy your first adventure into a lifelong journey. And if you do, it is still a wonderful collection of execllent performences of the core repertoire.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An Awakening From Unconsciousness And Darkness To Light And Clarity

"To a normal man, time is what comes after the beginning. To Bruckner, time is what comes after the end. All his apocalyptical finals, the hope for another world, the hope of being saved, of being again baptised in light. It exists nowhere else.“ Sergiu Celibidache on Anton Bruckner

"Not only his Masses, his Te Deum, his devotional choral works, but his symphonies also (and these before all) sprang from this fundamental religious feeling that swayed Bruckner's entire spirit. He did not have to struggle toward God; he believed. Mahler sought God. ... Bruckner sang of his God and for his God, Who ever and unalterably occupied his soul. Mahler struggled toward Him." Bruno Walter on Bruckner and Mahler

"The coda to the first movement is how it is when one is on his deathbed, and opposite hangs a clock, which, while his life comes to an end, beats on ever steadily: tick, tock, tick, tock, while in the slow movement I have gazed too deeply into a maiden's eyes." - Bruckner on his 8th symphony

Here's the Spotify playlist: Bruckner: Celibidache & MPO (58 tracks, total time: 15 hours) It includes all the officially released Bruckner recordings of Celibidache and his Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Michael Tilson Thomas' Mahler Cycle Is Now On Spotify

Here's the Spotify playlist: Mahler: MTT & SFS (69 tracks, 15 hours) It includes the nine symphonies and Das Lied von Der Erde. I also put their Das klagende Lied at the end, though unlike the other recordings, it was released by BMG, not San Francisco Symphony's own publishing company.

Also check out SFS' wonderful site Keeping Score for some cool stuff.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Deutsche Grammophon's Archiv Blue Series

Another great early music collection: Deutsche Grammophon's Archiv Blue series. Quote the intro from the official site:

"This is the dedicated reduced price catalogue series for Archiv Produktion.  It offers the same wide selection of Early Music and features all the top artists on the label, including Trevor Pinnock, Paul McCreesh, Reinhard Goebel and Marc Minkowski.

Archiv Produktion has established itself as a landmark label for early music, documenting since 1947 the rediscovery and innovative interpretation of early music by the great performers of the day.  From the early recordings of Helmut Walcha, through Karl Richter, and more recently, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Trevor Pinnock to today's lineup of Reinhard Goebel, Paul McCreesh and Marc Minkowski, Archiv Produktion continues to offer a wide palette of recordings in which today's great artists focus on the areas of their greatest expertise. "

Here's the Spotify playlist: DG: Archiv Blue Series (467 track, total time 1 day) It's a great addition to the Naxos Early Music Collection I posted last week, the Pérotin and Notre Dame school recordings are magnificent. Do check DG's official site for the introduction text to every recording.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Naxos Early Music Collection

"This collection focuses on music from the early Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Enjoy our albums and listen to early music from Italy, France, Flanders, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Finland, England, among others, performed by outstanding ensembles and soloists playing on authentic or modern instruments." from Naxos' official page.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Naxos Early Music Collection (1659 tracks, total time: 4 days)
The recordings are arranged alphabetically by composer names, just like in the Naxos page, and I put the sampler disk An Introduction To Early Music at the beginning.

For those of you who think that mp3 downloads is still necessary, Amazon is now offering Very Best of Naxos Early Music for free.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Music To Rearrange Furniture To

"Believe it or not, I have no real interest in music from Haydn to Wagner." - Steve Reich

"All musicians in the past, starting with the middle ages were interested in popular music. (...) Béla Bartók's music is made entirely of sources from Hungarian folk music. And Igor Stravinsky, although he lied about it, used all kinds of Russian sources for his early ballets. Kurt Weill's great masterpiece Dreigroschenoper is using the cabaret-style of the Weimar Republic and that's why it is such a masterpiece. Only artificial division between popular an classical music happened unfortunately through the blindness of Arnold Schoenberg and his followers to create an artificial wall, which never existed before him. In my generation we tore the wall down and now we are back to the normal situation, for example if Brian Eno or David Bowie come to me, and if popular musicians remix my music like The Orb or DJ Spooky it is a good thing. This is a natural normal regular historical way." —From an Interview with Jakob Buhre

Although Reich has been cited as major influence by many electronic musicians, he actually seldom used typical electronic instruments in his compositions such as the synthesizer. When he uses a loop, he loops human voices and acoustic sounds. To me that's one of the reasons that makes his music constantly interesting. Here's the Spotify playlist: Steve Reich: A Chronological Playlist (238 tracks, total time: 1 day) And below is an excellent UK documentary charting Reich's career.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Anne Sofie von Otter Sings The Greatest Swedish Songwriting Duo

Renowned Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter released an album of ABBA songs in 2006. Surprisingly only six out of the 13 songs were recorded by ABBA, and three of them are from their last album, The Visitors, a relative commercial disappointment. Other songs are from the Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus songwriting duo's collaboration after ABBA, including selections from their musicals Chess and Kristina från Duvemåla, and some tracks from Andersson's solo albums. The instrumental track Stockholm By Night becomes a wonderful ballad with the newly written English lyrics. Andersson himslef played piano on this one.

Here's the Spotify playlist: I Let The Music Speak & The Originals.(28 tracks, 2 hours) It features the Otter covers and and all the original recordings.

You can check out more info on this album at DG's official page, and watch Otter's performance of Like An Angel Passing Through My Room, another elegant song from The Visitors, at here.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

W.A.Mozart: Complete Chronological Catalogue on Spotify

I made this playlist, which features every known musical work by Mozart, after the sixth edition of Köchel catalogue. The compositions in this playlist are sorted chronologically (not by numbers from KV 1 to KV 626, as many more pieces have been found, re-attributed, and re-dated after the KV numbers were designated). Most of the recordings are from Philips' Complete Mozart Edition that covers almost all compositions in Köchel's catalogue. I know playlists at this size might not be very convenient, but you can always break them down into as many sub-playlists as you want, and you may also use the filter bar to find the works you want to listen in the playlist at ease.

Here's the Spotify playlist: W.A.Mozart: Complete Chronological Catalogue (2654 tracks, total time: 1week)

Two more recordings worth checking out: a good sampler of the Philips edition: Mozart: Compactotheque, and the Naxos audiobook, Life And Works: Mozart. And the great biography W.A. Mozart by Hermann Abert. Thank you Herr Mozart, for the eternal blessing of your music, love and humanity. I hope this playlist could serve as a useful guide to Spotify users' Mozart journey.