Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hans Werner Henze (1926 - 2012): Reverse Chronological Collection on Spotify

"Hans Werner Henze (1 July 1926 – 27 October 2012) was a German composer of prodigious output best known for 'his consistent cultivation of music for the theatre throughout his life'. His music is extremely varied in style, having been influenced by serialism, atonality, Stravinsky, Italian music, Arabic music and jazz, as well as traditional schools of German composition." - Wikipedia

Start with Nachtstücke und Arien if you like Strauss's Four Last Songs or Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings. Also recommended: Royal Winter Music, Symphony No. 8 (both based on Shakespeare), Undine, and the Auden Songs sung by Ian Bostridge. Henze's stripped-down chamber arrangement of Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder is included at the end of the playlist.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Hans Werner Henze - Reverse Chronological Collection (481 tracks, total time: 36 hours).  Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. More links: song texts, work list on Wikipedia, AllMusic and Chester Novello; obituaries from Boulezian, Guardian, and Henze's publisher Schott Music.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Conlon Nancarrow at 100: Chronological Collection

"Conlon Nancarrow was an iconoclastic American composer who wrote in an utterly new way using new instrumental resources. While isolated from the main currents of music, he was virtually ignored by the public and his colleagues until the 1970s. In the 1980s composer György Ligeti said Nancarrow was writing 'the best music by any living composer.'

Nancarrow is primarily known for his 50 studies for player piano, which combine a quasi-improvisatory likening to jazz pianists Art Tatum and Earl Hines, with dazzling rhythmic complexity rendered at tempos that exceed the capabilities of human performers. Nancarrow adopted the player piano as his instrument of choice because of its ability to exactingly reproduce his complex rhythmic layers -- sometimes up to 12 layers simultaneously -- and because of his relative isolation from performers while in Mexico. Nancarrow obtained a player piano in the 1940s and began laboriously hand-punching each note onto a piano roll, ultimately producing completed compositions." - AllMusic

This playlist is a collection of all available works of Nancarrow, sorted in chronological order. It also features various arrangements of the Studies for Player Piano, from Alarm Will Sound, Icebreaker, Bang On A Can, Ensemble Modern, Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo, Martin Schlumpf, Jason Moran, Absolute Ensemble, and Thomas Adès.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Conlon Nancarrow - Chronological Collection (141 tracks, total time: 8 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. More links: work list, official site, Other Minds, and mini site by Kyle Gann.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Magnus Lindberg - Reverse Chronological Catalogue

"By the age of forty, Magnus Lindberg was one of the busiest concert composers in the world. His music avails itself of all manner of modern innovations, but there is a Neo-Classical orientation in his harmonies and formal design that makes his works appealing to a wide audience.

Lindberg was appointed composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic, starting in their 2009-2010 season. The orchestra opened its 2009 season with his EXPO, the first world premiere at an opening concert since 1964." - AllMusic

Works in this playlist, with links to introductory articles & program notes:
Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Magnus Lindberg - Reverse Chronological Catalogue (98 tracks, total time: 15 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Photo source. Also check out my previous playlist for Lindberg's longtime friend, Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Johannes Brahms - Complete Works (Op. 1-122 + WoOs + Appendix) in One Spotify Playlist

Brahms was secretive and a perfectionist. He seldom allowed more than one version of his works to exist, kept no drafts and burned most works that seemed unsatisfactory to him (and all letters from Clara Schumann). To honor his own wishes, I put works without opus number (WoW 1 - 38 and some works labeled as Anh.) after Opus 1 - 122, instead of sorting everything chronologically, like I normally do.

Besides the 46-disk Brahms Edition (DG), there's numerous excellent Brahms recordings available on Spotify. An overview of the playlist:

Piano works: Sviatoslav Richter, Murray Perahia, Emil Gilels, Martha Argerich, Nicholas Angelich, Radu Lupu, Julius Katchen, Yuja Wang, Stephen Kovacevich, Clifford Curzon (Concerto No. 1), Claudio Arrau (Concerto No. 2), Olga Kern (her Variations is beautiful), and more. For the Haydn Variations, you can hear Solti and Perahia on two pianos.

Orchestral and choral works: Otto Klemperer (Walter's recording of Ein deutsches Requiem is also great but it's in mono; Klemperer's recording was made around the same time he recorded the legendary St. Matthew Passion, with the same artists), John Eliot Gardiner (new recordings on SDG), Leonard Bernstein, Simon Rattle, Carlos Kleiber, Bernard Haitink (new recordings with LSO), Claudio Abbado, Adrian Boult, Sir John Barbirolli, and more. It is worth noting that, the conductor of Serenade No.1, Robin Ticciati, was 27-year-old when he made the recording, the same age as when Brahms completed the piece.

Chamber music: too many to mention. The two clarinet sonata recordings from Harmonia Mundi and Delos are celestial. On Spotify's desktop app, you can use Ctrl + F to bring out the filter bar, and type in clarinet to find the recordings quickly.

Vocalists: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jessye Norman, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Anne Sofie von Otter, Thomas Quasthoff, Ann Murray, Andreas Schmidt and more.

This playlist is compiled after this list of compositions. Besides all WoOs, I added a few works from the appendix (mostly arrangements of other composers' works; complete arrangements for piano-four hand will be available as another playlist), and
Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Johannes Brahms - Complete Works (Op. 1-122 + WoOs + Appendix) (1039 tracks, total time: 58 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album viewAllMusic provides useful introductory articles to most works. In the Composers as Pianists playlist, you can hear the 1889 cylinder recording of Brahms performance of a segment of his First Hungarian Dance.

Also check out Naxos Educationa for a 4-disk audiobook on Brahms's Life & Works and 2-disk analysis of his 2nd Piano Concerto.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Arnold Schoenberg: Complete Chronological Catalogue

"The most ear-splitting combination of tones that ever desecrated the walls of a Berlin concert hall," complained one critic after attending the premiere of Pierrot Lunaire, which took place 100 years ago today.

Schoenberg is the first composer I chronicled on Spotify. For the past few days I gave this 3-year-old playlist a total overhaul, kept 97 tracks from the previous version and added more than 300 tracks. Besides all works with opus number, now the playlist also includes:

Works without opus number:

Gurre-Lieder (including version for voice and piano).
Moses und Aron (Boulez's recording on DG, plus the unfinished act 3 from Scherchen's recording).
Suite for string orchestra in G major.
Cello Concerto (after Matthias Georg Monn).
Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra (after Handel).
String Quartet in D major.
String Quartet No. 5 (fragment).
Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs).
And over a dozen fragments and early works.

Notable different versions: 1909 version of 5 Pieces for Orchestra; large orchestra version of Chamber Symphony No. 1, etc.

Arrangements of his own works: by the composer (string orchestra version of Verklärte Nacht and String Quartet No.2) and his close associates (Webern's transcription of 5 Pieces for Orchestra for 2 pianos, and his arrangement of the Chamber Symphony No. 1 for violin, flute, clarinet, cello and piano, for it was intended to be played in concerts together with Pierrot Lunaire, which is scored for similar instruments).

Arrangements of other composers' works for orchestra: Brahms's Piano Quartet No.1, Bach's chorale prelude and Prelude and fugue in E-flat major "St Anne", BWV 552. Other than Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, I did not include any arrangements for small ensembles.

At the end of the playlist there's three tracks of interviews and radio broadcasts featuring the composer.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Arnold Schoenberg - Complete Chronological Catalogue (404 tracks, total time: 32 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Op. 1-50 are sorted by number; other works are placed in their approximate chronological positions, according to year of composition.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guest Post: New Music 20x12

20 outstanding new works, each lasting 12 minutes, commissioned to feature centre stage of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

New Music 20x12 is a UK-wide commissioning programme consisting of twenty new pieces of music, each 12 minutes in length, celebrating the talent and imagination of the UK's musical community as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The commissions encompass an exciting range of composers and music genres and offer a snapshot of the UK's rich musical life, from jazz, folk and music for brass band to contemporary classical, chamber opera and music written for dance. Each piece takes its inspiration from the spirit of the Olympic and Paralympic Games – endeavour, celebration, achievement and collaboration – and invites you to take part in a once in a lifetime celebration of new music.

The full version of this introduction to the project is at the NMC Recordings site. Further links from that page give a full description of each of the 20 pieces including composer biographies.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: New Music 20x12 (20 tracks, total time: 4 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.

Playlist compiled and shared by Mark Whitehead.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Edition Staatskapelle Dresden on Spotify

The Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden (Saxon State Orchestra, Dresden, commonly known as the Staatskapelle Dresden), founded in 1548, is an orchestra based in Dresden, Germany. It is one of the world's oldest orchestras, and its long list of Kapellemeisters includes Weber and Wagner. Since November 2005, the orchestra has cooperated with Figaro, the culture radio of Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, to release the precious old and new records selected from the archives of MDR-Rundfunk by Profil Edition Günter Hänssler.

So far this ongoing series consists of 33 volumes; including recordings by chief conductors from Fritz Busch to Bernard Haitink, as well as guest conductors like Colin Davis and Christian Thielemann.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Edition Staatskapelle Dresden (339 tracks, 33 volumes, total time: 46 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Albums are sorted by volume number. See official site for album list and Presto for album overviews.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Nostalgia for a Far Away Future Utopia - Luigi Nono: Complete Chronological Catalogue

"Luigi Nono achieved prominence after WW II as an uncompromising modernist seeking to revolutionize music in Europe. Along with fellow Italians Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna, Nono attended the influential Darmstadt Summer Courses and became associated with other young modernists such as Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen. In many ways, Nono was the most radical of them all, choosing to combine a keen political engagement with a musical orientation that mixes austere beauty with fierce intensity." - AllMusic

This playlist is compiled after the list of works on the Archivio Luigi Nono. Articles on important works can be found on AllMusic. Recommended reading: Is Luigi Nono the angriest composer who ever lived? on Telegraph; The Ghost of the Avant Garde on The Guardian, by Tim Rutherford-Johnson; and Nono's Shrug at Immortality.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Luigi Nono - Complete Chronological Catalogue (78 tracks from 22 albums, total time: 9 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Johann Strauss II - The Complete Orchestral Edition

"Johann Strauss II, the most famous and enduringly successful of 19th-century light music composers, was born in Vienna on 25 October 1825. Building upon the firm musical foundations laid by his father, Johann Strauss I (1804-1849) and Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the younger Johann (along with his brothers, Josef and Eduard) achieved so high a development of the classical Viennese waltz that it became as much a feature of the concert hall as of the ballroom. For more than half a century Johann II captivated not only Vienna but also the whole of Europe and America with his abundantly tuneful waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and marches. The thrice-married 'Waltz King' later turned his attention to the composition of operetta, and completed 16 stage works besides more than 500 orchestral compositions – including the most famous of all waltzes, The Blue Danube (1867). Johann Strauss II died in Vienna on 3 June 1899.

The Marco Polo Strauss Edition is a milestone in recording history, presenting, for the first time ever, the entire orchestral output of the 'Waltz King'. Despite their supremely high standard of musical invention, the majority of the compositions have never before been commercially recorded and have been painstakingly assembled from archives around the world. All performances featured in this series are complete and, wherever possible, the works are played in their original instrumentation as conceived by the 'master orchestrator' himself, Johann Strauss II."

Get this 52-album edition in one Spotify playlist: Marco Polo - Johann Strauss II Edition (589 tracks, total time: 58 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Check out this Naxos page to view comprehensive notes in English or German on each volume in this set, like the story behind Erster Gedanke (First Thought), the first waltz composed by Johann Strauss as a six-year-old boy.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Marco Polo: Josef Strauss Edition on Spotify

"[Josef] is the more gifted of us two; I am merely the more popular…"  - Johann Strauss II on his brother. r.: Eduard, Johann II, and Josef Strauss
"Josef Strauss (1827 - 1870)was trained as an engineer, and worked for the city of Vienna. He received several patents for various devices, and, it was only when his elder brother, Johann II, became ill from over-work, that he reluctantly took over - temporarily, he thought - the leadership of the Strauss orchestra. However, his creative mind soon caused Johann to envy him, and to acknowledge him the most talented of the three brothers." Josef's best-known composition are the waltzes Village Swallows from Austria (1864), The Mysterious Powers of Magnetism (1865) and Music of the Spheres (1868) as well as co-writing the Pizzicato-Polka (1869) with his brother Johann.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Marco Polo - Josef Strauss Edition (290 tracks, 26 albums, total time: 26 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See Naxos for album list and liner notes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Marco Polo: Johann Strauss I (The Father) Edition

"Johann Strauss I is one of the most important composers of nineteenth century Viennese light music. While his son, Johann Jr., has rightly surpassed him in fame and stature, he must still be assessed as an important figure in the genre, not simply because of his influence on his sons and other composers, but because of the occasional high quality of his music. His melodies tend not to flow smoothly in their brevity or in their motif-like collage structure, and his harmonies are not particularly inventive. Still, he was able to fashion attractive music in the Viennese waltz genre owing to his understanding of its nature -- indeed, he was central to its evolution in the nineteenth century. Moreover, he possessed the ability to convey the best case for his works through his superior conducting skills. He had moments of genuine inspiration and created several memorable works, including the Loreley-Rhein-Klänge (1844) and Radetsky-Marsch (1848). In addition, he had a keen sense for employing popular themes from the works of other composers, as with his Walzer à la Paganini, Op. 11. " - AllMusic

This playlist includes all 22 albums released so far from Marco Polo's Johann Strauss I Edition, and a separate disk of his orchestral works. The series is in chronological order, and hasn't reached Op. 228 Radetzky March yet. I added two tracks of that piece and Op. 235 Piefke und Pufke Polka, from a Decca recording. They will be replaced with the Marco Polo recording once it's released.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Marco Polo - Johann Strauss I Edition (249 tracks, total time: 26 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See Naxos for album list and liner notes to every recording, and Presto for album overviews.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Naxos 19th Century Violinist Composers Series

"With flushed face, raised shoulders, and groans of delight Brahms belabored the keyboard while accompanying me and was happy that 'such a thing existed in this world." - Joseph Joachim: Ein lebensbild

"Brahms was talking about one of the seminal violin works of the 19th century, and it wasn't Beethoven's magisterial violin Concerto, nor was it Mendelssohn's marvelous light and airy essay in the same genre. Nor was it the great Kreutzer Sonata or the concertos of Saint-Saens. Brahms groaned with delight over the great 22nd violin concerto of Giovanni Battista Viotti, one of the true masters of the violin and the master who opened the door to a flood of great music little remembered today. Rode, Baillot, Kreutzer, Dancla, Alard, Spohr, Beriot, David, Mazas, Godard, Vieuxtemps and many more composers solidified the technique of modern violin-playing at the same time creating a body of music that is truly a buried treasure - now brought to the light of day and made part of our recorded legacy by Naxos. While the concerto form led the way, these composers wrote in a variety of forms: paraphrases of opera tunes, tone-poem descriptions of exotic travel , airs varie based on popular tunes, chamber music, and especially (many were pedagogues) etudes, caprices, and numerous 'violin schools.' This series on 19th century violin music provides a window onto this vast repertoire, mostly written by practitioners of the instrument, and all of it delightful listening." -

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Naxos - 19th Century Violinist Composers (337 tracks, 30 albums, total time: 34 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. I included a Naxos disk of Viotti's violin works, though it's not part of the series. See Naxos for list of albums in this series and liner notes, and Presto for album overviews.