Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hidden Michael Gielen Recordings on Spotify

Michael Gielen is one of the leading Mahler interpreters today, but if you search for "Gielen Mahler" in Spotify, the reslut is empty. The Haenssler label, or Spotify themselves, seem to have tagged most Gielen recordings without the conductor's name, so I compiled a playlist for the Gielen recordings that you cannot find on his Spotify artist page.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Michael Gielen: Hidden Recordings (156 tracks, total time: 22 hours) Press Ctrl (Command on Macs) + G to browse in album view. It includes all recordings from the Mahler cycle that are available on Spotify, a Bruckner 8th coupled with Morton Feldman's Coptic Light, a bunch of modern classics, and the most avant-garde of them all: Beethoven's Grosse Fuge.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter Music, When You Dream of Springtime

Mozart: Schlittenfahrt (Sleigh Ride)
Michael Finnissy: Snowdrift
Howard Blake: Walking In The Air
Prokofiev: Cinderella -The Winter Fairy
Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker - Waltz of the Snowflakes
Debussy: Preludes for Piano, Book I: Footprints in the Snow
Holst: In the Bleak Mid-winter
Chopin: Étude Op. 25, No. 11,"Winter Wind"
Leroy Anderson: Sleigh Ride
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Snow Maiden
Charles Griffes: Winter Landscape
Ned Rorem: Winter Pages: II. The sun that brief December day
Raff–Symphony No. 11 "Der Winter": III. By the fireside
Josef Strauss: Winterlust Polka
Tveitt: Piano Concerto No. 4, II. Sparkle In The Winter Sky And
Astor Piazzolla: Estaciones Porteñas - Buenos Aires Winter
John Cage: The Seasons - : Prelude 1, Winter
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, Winter: II. Largo
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No.1  "Winter Daydreams"
Franz Schubert: Winterreise - Frühlingstraum (Dream of Springtime)

Here's the Spotify playlist: Winter Music (20 tracks, total time: 1 hour) I especially like the way Mozart's sleigh crushes into Finnissy's snowdrift in this playlist. Have a nice winter weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Beatles, Not on Spotify (yet)

Amazon is now selling the Beatles box sets at 50% discount, and beats the iTunes store by more than $20. If you are still searching for advice for what Christmas presents to buy, I'm telling you the right thing to do is getting them these box sets now! Even if they were asking for Twilight books;) And you can support me by using the links below to buy. The price includes postage charges from is still lower than Amazon UK, which hasn't offer such discount yet. Need more persuasion? Read this Beatles meme, which listed all the wrong reasons why people love the Fab Four.

(Amazon links seem don't show in RSS Readers so please click back to the original post)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Nonesuch Explorer Series on Spotify

Before world music was "World Music", there was Nonesuch's Explorer Series. To quote wikipedia:

"In the late 1960s, the Explorer Series made the label a pioneer in the field of world music before the term had even been coined. The series, which Nonesuch released from 1967 to 1984, consisted of field recordings made primarily in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. For American non-travelers, it was the first exposure to musical idioms such as music produced by a gamelan. In 1977, a few of the recordings were chosen for the Voyager Golden Record, and sent into outer space aboard the Voyager spacecraft."

Here's the Spotfiy playlist: Nonesuch: Explorer Series (488 tracks, total time: 1 day) Press Ctrl (Command on Macs) + G to browse in album view. The albums are arranged geographically. Check out the official site for detailed information, and an interview with the man behind these recordings.

P.S. I think it's always necessary to learn about the culture where the music originated, as we listen. Otherwise it won't be too much different from a pop record producer sampling some African drumbeat into a "hit" without knowing where did it come from or in what context that sound was used. It might work as a cool beat, but it's still a careless simplification of a wonderful sound and a whole world that's unknown to most of us.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The 94-CD Arthur Rubinstein Collection on Spotify

"The Arthur Rubinstein Collection is a 94-CD set containing 106 hours of music documenting this seminal pianist's entire recording history. Rubinstein was one of the pivotal pianists of the 20th century, with his life spanning from 1887 through 1982. This collection will be central to the teaching and scholarly examination of the development of piano performance, the piano repertoire and Rubinstein's own musical idiom. This Collection features includes all studio recordings made by Rubinstein, four previously unreleased recordings and over 200 recordings on compact disc, and also includes two live recitals and two special discs, which contain unreleased recordings and interviews." - introduction from musicweb

OK, now you can go to Amazon and buy this mammoth boxset, "1 new from $4,147.00"(only 200 sets were manufactured since it was released in 1999). Or you can grab it on Spotify in no time, and starts to listen right away.

Here's the Spotify playlist: The Rubinstein Collection (1073 tracks, total time: 3 days) All 82 volumes and one highlights sampler disk are here, except for Vol. 8, 10, 13, 24, 34, 57, 61, 62, 82. Press Ctrl (Command on Macs) + G to browse in album view. P.S. This playlist is also a perfect showcase of the outrageous stupidity of the current digital copyright law, which is still busy creating territory restriction in the age of cloud computing. I hope Spotify make all albums available to all users soon (or at least to premium users?), and please, don't tag Maestro Rubinstein, and Horowitz as "various artist", even though they might sound like they have at least 17 hands at some point.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Worst Composer Ever?

"I was a composer well before becoming a conductor, and that all my life I have considered myself as a composer who conducts, but never as a conductor".- Wilhelm Furtwängler.

No it's not my idea, the title was inspired by Alex Ross, again. And maybe it's also because of his vigorous attact, "the label has choose to make the Piano Quintet unavailable", on Spotify. (Un?)Fortunately, all the rest of Furtwängler's major compositions are still there.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Furtwängler The Composer (68 tracks, 17 hours) Go to the end of the playlist and listen to Edwin Fischer play the slow movement of the Piano Concerto with the "composer who conducts", you won't regret it.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sony Masterworks Classic Library on Spotify

Another wonderful collection for classical newbies: 71 of 80 titles from Sony BMG Masterworks' Classic Library, formerly RCA's Classic Library Series, are available on Spotify. For seasoned listeners this is also a must have treasure chest, numerous classic recordings are collected here, Horowitz's Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3 with Ormandy, Heifitz's Brahms Violin Concerto with Reiner, to name just a few. It also offers a broader range of repertoire than DG's entrée Series. Check out this Amazon page for detailed information for every album.

Here's the Spotify playlist: Sony: Classic Library Series (959 tracks, total time: 3 days). Albums are arranged by composers' names. Press Ctrl (Command on Macs) + G to browse in album view.

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Complete Sets of Bach Cantatas + An Open Playlist

No it's not an unhealthy obsession, the Bach Cantatas deserve all these different recordings: HIP or modern instruments, sopranos or boy sopranos, one voice per part or choirs, you should listen to them all and judge for yourself. They all reveal the numerous possibilities in Bach's works in their own unique way. Thankfully Spotify will also protect you from bankruptcy while offering you all the music.

Here are the Spotify playlists:

Bach Cantatas - Harnoncourt & Leonhardt (1239 tracks, all 60 CDs are in here) "A major project, shared with Gustav Leonhardt, to record all Bach’s sacred cantatas was launched in 1971 and completed in 1990. Each director revealed his own distinctive approach in the series, with Harnoncourt the more demonstrative, exuberant, and mannerist in his musical expression. The enterprise established a landmark in Bach recording, both for its challenging of previously accepted interpretative conventions and for the use of a boy’s voice to sing almost all the soprano solos." -

Bach Cantatas - Leusink (1219 tracks, all 60 CDs are in here) Recorded by Conductor Pieter Jan Leusink, Holland Boys Choir and Netherlands Bach Collegium. "In 1999 and 2000 all Bach's sacred cantatas were recorded within 15 months, a tremendous achievement, considering the fact that it was accomplished with the same amateur (read literately: music-loving) choir, soloists and orchestra throughout the project, in itself deserving an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. The project aroused storms of criticism in The Netherlands on alleged grounds of inferior haste-work (Recording at this speed must be superficial and lacking depth) and commercialism (imagine! Culture with a capital C on the shelves of a drugstore: how low can you go!), even before anyone had heard a single note! Since the release of the first boxes, reviews have become more and more favorable, especially from foreign critics from all over the world" -

Bach Cantatas - Koopman (956 tracks, 14 out of 22 volumes that are available on Spotify, are in here) 13 volumes actually, and I put in all the non-duplicate cantatas from other Koopman recordings, approximately one volume's worth. "Koopman's directing vitality keeps the music spontaneously alive, with no sense of over-refinement or scholarly rectitude; the recording is first class, and the documentation could hardly be more informative. In short, this is a more enjoyable and rewarding series that will give much satisfaction" - Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music, 2008.

And here's an open playlist for Bach Cantata fans:

Listen to Bach Cantatas (14 tracks at this moment, continuously growing.)

Please add you favourite tracks, or the movement that really moves you as you listen through those Cantata playlists, into this open playlist. Bach Cantata recordings from albums other than those six complete sets are welcome too, and I've already put in many of them. Newcomers to the cantatas can also use this open playlist as an introduction to this magnificent new world. Yes, 300 years after they were written down, they are still much more fresh than most, if not all, of the "new music" that are fresh out of the oven everyday. One more useful link: notes and translations for all the cantatas.