Friday, August 27, 2010

The Art of 20th Century Fugue

A perfect playlist to shake off the Friday fever: 30 fugues written in the 20th century. Starts with the solemn E minor fugue from Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues, then the grand double fugue from Hovhaness' Mysterious Mountain Symphony, the sonic earthquake from Boulez's 2nd piano sonata, Salgán's lovely A fuego lento, fugue meets tango, played by Daniel Barenboim, Sergei Taneyev's beautiful prelude and fugue in G sharp minor, and many other charmingly profound fugue pieces.

Here's the Spotify playlist: 20th Century Fugue (30 tracks, 3 hours). I will add in more interesting pieces when I find them on Spotify, and looking forward to your suggestions.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spotify Hidden Feature: Album View

Press Ctrl (or Command on Macs)+G in playlist to enable album view. Works great especially for playlists consist of mainly full albums like this one below. Thanks Alexanders Blogg for leaking this great news:)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Classical Music Used In Stanley Kubrick Films

A film is - or should be - more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what's behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later. - Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick's obsessive and perfectionist nature is wholly reflected in his choice of music for his films. Without the eerie Bartok and violent Penderecki music, Jack Nicholson's Jack Torrance would only be a jumpy lunatic, but never a convincing and truly frightening psycho as we see in The Shining. The Handel theme perfectly indicate the implacable working of impersonal fate in Barry Lyndon. And, besides the famous use of Strauss and Ligeti in 2001, even the lesser known Gayane's Adagio from Khachaturian beautifully conveyed a lonely and mournful quality into the sections that introduce the spacemen aboard the Discovery One.

I compiled a playlist for the classical music used in five Kubrick films: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Eyes Wide Shut. And subgrouped the music by films in chronological order, by inserting Wilco's 23 Seconds Of Silence. Here's the Spotify playlist: Classical Music Used In Stanley Kubrick Films (38 tracks, total time: 3 hours) And here's an interesting Q&A, including "Why did Kubrick use classical music for his films?"

Update: Great bargain on Amazon, 9 Kubrick films, 10 blue-ray disks for $63.

See the full list of classical music used in Stanley Kubrick films below:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Khachaturyan: Gayaneh Ballet Suite
Ligeti: Atmosphères, Lux Aeterna, Requiem (The Kyrie section), Aventures
Richard Strauss: Thus Spoke Zarathustra (The Einleitung section)
Johann Strauss: An der schönen, blauen Donau, op. 314 (The Blue Danube)

A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Purcell: March from Funeral Music for Queen Mary
Rossini: The Thieving Magpie Overture, William Tell Overture
Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 & 4
Beethoven: Symphony No.9 (2nd and 4th movements)

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Schubert: Piano Trio in E-flat, Op.100 (second movement), 4 Impromptus, Op.90, D.899 - No.1 in C minor, German Dance No.1 in C major
Vivaldi: Cello Concerto in E minor (3rd. movement)
J.S.Bach: Concerto for 2 harpsichords and orchestra in C minor, BWV 1060 (adagio)
Giovanni Paisiello: The Barber of Seville (cavatina)
Mozart: Idomeneo (march)
Frederick The Great: Hohenfriedberger March
Händel: Sarabande from the Suite for Harpsichord No. 4 in D minor, HWV 437

The Shining (1980)

Ligeti: Lontano
Bartók: Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta (3rd movement)
Penderecki: Utrenja (the Ewangelia and Kanon Paschy movements),Als Jakob Erwacht (The Awakening of Jacob), De Natura Sonoris No. 1 and 2, Kanon For Orchestra and Tape, Polymorphia.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Shostakovich: "Waltz 2" from Suite for Variety Stage Orchestra (often misidentified as the composer's Jazz Suite 2)
Ligeti: Musica Ricercata (2nd movement)
Liszt: Nuages Gris (Grey Clouds)
Mozart: Requiem (Rex Tremendae)
In the ritual, the incantations in the background are part of a Romanian Orthodox Divine Liturgy recorded in a church in Baia Mare, played backwards.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Classical Music For The Weekends

To quote the introduction from Deutsche Grammophon's official site:

"Weekend Classics lets you discover the world and power of classical music while offering its services as a companion to your weekend and leisure activities.  Whether you are looking to go active, relaxing, romantic or adventurous during your time off, your weekend starts here! These beautifully packaged mood-boosters will be hard to resist."

I guess this "Weekend Classics" series must have been bashed by purists, but these recordings are much more sincere than most other "chill out classical" stuff, which were mainly made up of fragments of earcandies. In fact this series could be a great introduction to classical music, especially for the faint-hearted ones. Just remember, classical music could do much more than just relax your mind, and you could go further after you regroup your forces with the help of these "relaxing" pieces.

Here's the Spotify playlist: DG: A Classical Weekend (458 tracks, total time: 1day)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Classical Music Inspired by Shakespeare

The man that hath no music in himself, 
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, 
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils; 
The motions of his spirit are dull as night 
And his affections dark as Erebus: 
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

- The Merchant of Venice, 5.1.91-7

The Bard of Avon's works is undoubtedly the is most inspiring literary source for musical ideas in western classical music, after the Bible. Generations of composers, from Haydn to Henze, set his sonnets and plays into music.  Some of the greatest examples are: Ralph Vaughan Williams' enchanting Serenade to Music, which drew the text from the discussion about music in The Merchant of Venice, Elgar's Symphonic Study Falstaff, which the composer himself regarded as his finest orchestral piece, and Berlioz's most comprehensive and detailed programmatic piece, Roméo et Juliette. To name but a few. The love scene of the Berlioz symphony contains some of the most tender music I've ever heard.

Here's to William, the Spotify playlist: The Bard: Shakespeare in Music (166 tracks, total time: 12 hours) To keep the playlist neat, for the large scale works like the operas I only put in one track per album, if you want to listen to Verdi the Othello in its entirety, just go the the full album page from this playlist. I will add in more works when I find them. "If music be the food of love, play on."

And below is one of the finest moments in Orson Welles' career, and in the history of cinema.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Music On the Voyager Golden Record

Looks like our Voyager probes are getting sentient, or even a bit sentimental as they leave the solar system, I hope an alien Buzz Lightyear find them soon, and play the awesome Voyager Golden Record at blasting volume. The music part of this business card of Earth is an eclectic 90-minute selection of music from many cultures, including Eastern and Western classics. A fascinating listen for humans, and the aliens, as NASA believe.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Voyager Golden Record (28 tracks, total time: 1 hour) Spotify is also ridiculously good for world music, thanks to the great field recordings collection from the Smithsonian label. I substituted a few tracks which I couldn't find exact matches, with the closest thing I could get. Check out this Nasa page for the full original tracklist.

And before the Voyages see the light of a new sun, all they can hear is some ultra-cool electronic music as in this video below. Gosh, what an attack of homesickness this sound can provoke!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Deutsche Grammophon's Spotlight Series

Spotlight is a new Deutsche Grammophon series that puts the focus on great vocal recitals of great artists from the Sixties and Seventies. These are one-to-one transfers of original LPs.

Here's the Spotify playlist: DG: Spotlight Series (182 tracks, total time: 12 hours) Check out DG's official site for more info. I put this video below because Wolfgang Windgassen looks like a lost twin of Mr.Love and Hate from this hauntingly beautiful film:)

Monday, August 2, 2010

ABC Classic FM's Classic 100 Symphony

During 2009, the Australian ABC Classic FM radio station conducted a survey of listeners' favourite symphonies. Participants were permitted to vote for their three preferred symphonies. The result is a very decent list of great symphonies. All of Sibelius's symphonies are in the list, so do all of Rachmaninov's, plus his choral symphony The Bells. Eight out of Mahler's nine numbered and finished symphonies, as well as Das Lied von der Erde made the list.

Check out the official site and wiki for the full list and other info.

I compiled a playlist according to this ABC list. Only three symphonies by Australian contemporary composers are missing on Spotify. For every symphony I tried to use my favourite recording. For Mahler, I chose Kubelik for No.1, Abbado and Lucerne Festival Orchestra for No.2, Bernstein and NYPO for No.3, Boulez for No.4 (because the Szell recording is not on Spotify for now), Barbirolli for No.5, Mitropoulos for No.6, Solti for No.8, Klemperer for The Song of the Earth, and Haitink for No.9. It would be great if you can share your oponions on the best performances of these symphonies.

Here's the Spotify playlist: ABC Classic FM's Classic 100 Symphony (451 tracks, total time: 2 days) Arranged from from No. 100 to No.1.