Thursday, May 31, 2012

Deep Listening: Pauline Oliveros and More

"The Deep Listening Band was founded in 1988 by Pauline Oliveros, (accordionist, electronics and composer), Stuart Dempster, (trombonist, didjeridu player and composer) and Panaiotis (vocalist, electronics and composer).

The band is named after Oliveros' term, concept, program and registered servicemark of the Deep Listening Institute, Ltd., Deep Listening, and specializes in performing and recording in resonant or reverberant spaces such as cathedrals and huge underground cisterns including the 2-million-US-gallon (7,600 m3) Fort Worden Cistern which has a 45 second reverberation time." - Wikipedia

"Deep Listening® is a philosophy and practice developed by Pauline Oliveros that distinguishes the difference between the involuntary nature of hearing and the voluntary selective nature of listening. The result of the practice cultivates appreciation of sounds on a heightened level, expanding the potential for connection and interaction with one's environment, technology and performance with others in music and related arts.

The practice of Deep Listening provides a framework for artistic collaboration and musical improvisation and gives composers, performers, artists of other disciplines, and audiences new tools to explore and interact with environmental and instrumental sounds." - Official site

I put together a playlist containing all recordings on the Deep Listening label, as well as the Deep Listening Band's other releases on New Albion, Music and Arts, with Deep Listening Band – Then & Now/ Now & Then: Celebrating 20 Years at the beginning.

Get this collection here: Deep Listening: Pauline Oliveros and More (308 tracks, total time 46 hours) Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. For a guide for Oliveros' music, read Tom Service's  introduction on The Guardian.

Happy 80th birthday to one of the great pioneers of electronic music.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tenor of the Century: Enrico Caruso Complete Recordings (1902-1920) on Naxos Historical

Ever wondered what Corrado "Junior" Soprano was singing in the finale of The Sopranos Season 3? It's a Napuletano classic "Core 'ngrato" ("Ungrateful heart") written in 1911 for Enrico Caruso, whose 1904 recording of Vesti la giubba  was the first million-selling record in history.

I wouldn't normally do playlists for a single performer. I mean, what's the point? You want complete recordings of Emerson String Quartet? Just click that link and put all albums into a playlist by yourself. Tip: you can use Ctrl (CMD) + A and select all tracks at once.

Things are different for elder artists like Miles Davis or Caruso. Their artist pages are polluted by hundreds of rip-off albums that made it impossible for a casual user to find the proper recordings. I say rip-off because though the marginal cost to listen to a recording on Spotify is zero, financially; you still have to spend your time. And every time you listen to an inferior recording, you wasted an opportunity to hear a better one. Copyright laws only protect the master recordings for a certain period of time, which means anyone can "reproduce" archive recordings and sync them to streaming services and make some easy money. Most of them sound worse than the originals, which are already on Spotify. See the Enrico Caruso page and get an idea.

Now the good news: Naxos Historical " devoted to keeping the great recordings of the past alive and accessible. Naxos uses the services of the finest transfer engineers, such as Mark Obert-Thorn and Ward Marston, to produce restorations of outstanding quality." (Naxos site) Their 12-volume catalogue of Caruso recordings is a crowning achievement of historical vocal recordings restoration. According to WSJ, "Naxos has Caruso on 12 CDs, artfully transferred in what is the best historically respectful version currently available".

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist here: Enrico Caruso: Complete Recordings (1902-1920) on Naxos Historical (250 tracks, total times: 14 hours) Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Look up Naxos's official site for detailed tracklists and liner notes. Also check out the previous playlist Naxos Educational: An Index for a fascinating 4-hour audiobook Enrico Caruso - A Life In Words And Music.

Not in this playlist: my favorite song about the tenor: The Night I Heard Caruso Sing sang by Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nico Muhly: Arranger & Composer

Nico Muhly (born August 26, 1981, in Vermont) is a contemporary classical music composer, who has worked and recorded with classical and pop/rock musicians, including Antony & The Johnsons, Björk, Grizzly Bear, Jónsi (singer/guitarist of Sigur Ros), and The National.

Nico Muhly, not Robert Smith without eye shadow
This playlist is a collection of music that Muhly composed, arranged, remixed or transcripted (Philips Glass's Hours for piano). The first half including songs that showcase his elegantly complex arrangement:

Tracks from Jónsi's debut Go and soundtrack We Bought A Zoo;
Tricks Of The Trade from Danish indie band Mew's album No More Stories...;  
So Far Around The Bend, and two tracks on High Violet by The National;
Four tracks from Grizzly Bear's album Veckatimest;
Three songs by Antony & The Johnsons, including Salt Silver Oxygen, which was composer by Muhly;
Brighton by Dawn Landes, featuring some impressive flute arrangement;
Three tracks from Ane Brun's Changing Of The Seasons;
One track from Doveman's The Conformist.

Second half including his sophomore solo effort Mothertongue; three album on Decca: Seeing Is Believing, A Good Understanding and I Drink The Air Before Me; two works on Analekta's  From Here On Out (which also features works by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood and Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry); Detailed Instructions, for Orchestra played by Alan Gilbert and New York Philharmonic; Ta and Clap and Flexible Music for small ensemble; brand new EP Drones & Piano and more.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist here: Nico Muhly: Arranger & Composer (87 tracks, total time: 7hours) Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guest Post: Introducing Bridge Records

Guest post by Rob Starobin, vice president of Bridge Records,  an independent record label based in New Rochelle, New York that specializes in 20th century classical music. To date, Bridge Records has been nominated for more than 20 Grammy Awards, and has received 3 - a 2001 Grammy for Best Contemporary Composition for George Crumb's Star-Child, a 2007 Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Recording for Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's performance of Peter Lieberson's Rilke Songs and Garrick Ohlsson's recording of Beethoven sonatas (volume 3) won a 2008 Grammy award for best instrumental solo performance.

Rob on the Iron Throne

Thanks for having me guest here, Ulysses - I’m a big fan of your work in popularizing Spotify for classical and new music.  We’re at a very exciting, and somewhat terrifying time for music producers, as distribution has shifted from being solely physical, to permanent downloads, and now to streaming on demand services, like Spotify. I can’t claim to know the future, or speak for everyone at Bridge, but my personal listening habits have changed immensely since I first acquired a Spotify account. While reading Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise, I could search any of the pieces being mentioned and listen to a dozen recordings of them without having to limit myself to 30 second samples, or break my wallet buying far too many discs on a whim. I’m very excited to see how Spotify contends with classical music going forward, and I feel like better discovery tools and metadata apps will be the next major leap forward in the software.

And now, to introduce what we produce at Bridge! Ulysses has already covered our Complete Crumb series and Music of Elliott Carter series very well here, so I’ll gloss over them, and talk about some of the other projects that Bridge is best known for, in a catalog that’s now nearly 400 titles.

Danish composer Poul Ruders is probably most known for his operas. Our Music of Poul Ruders series is up to seven discs, with a Kickstarter project in progress to help fund volume eight.

Rolf Schulte and the Riverside Symphony play his Violin Concerto, conducted by George Rothman:

Ruders writes for the exotic combination of accordion and string quartet with the Carl Sagan-influenced Serenade on the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean. Mikko Luoma, iO String Quartet:

Bridge is devoted to presenting exceptionally gifted young performers. Soprano Susanna Phillips is at the beginning of what is sure to be a stellar career, with performances at the Metropolitan Opera and the Chicago Lyric Opera. She and accompanist Myra Huang recorded a recital disc of French song, Paysages:

In the 90’s, Bridge signed an agreement with the Library of Congress, allowing us to work with their archival concert recordings to produce remastered versions of performances by great artists, including Nathan Milstein, Samuel Barber, Leontyne Price and the Budapest Quartet. Bridge's cycle of Beethoven String Quartets performed by the Budapest Quartet was completed earlier this year with the release of the six early quartets.

Bridge's founder, guitarist David Starobin (full disclosure, he's also my father) has made a mark in the world of both 19th century and modern guitar repertoire:

Reverie by Giulio Regondi:

Semi-Suite by Paul Lansky:

Bridge has released a number of recordings by America's first International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition winner Garrick Ohlsson, including a complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas:

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson sings her late husband Peter Lieberson's Rilke Songs:

Get above works in one Spotify playlist here: Bridge for Spotify Classical (33 tracks, total time: 2 hours) Ctrl (CMD)+G to browse in album view. And browse Rob's Spotify profile for more exciting Bridge stuff.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Australian & New Zealand Composers Sampler

Here's a playlist to celebrate Spotify's launch in Australia and New Zealand today.

Australian composers: Percy Grainger, Arthur Benjamin, Carl Vine, Michael Easton, Stephen Leek, Don Banks, Don Kay, Malcolm Williamson, Georges Lentz, Brett Dean, Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards, Liza Lim, and Robert Hughes.

New Zealand composers: Douglas Lilburn, David Farquhar, Alfred Hill, Edwin Carr, Anthony Ritchie, Nigel Keay, Dorothy Buchanan and John Psathas, whose fanfares were used at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympics. 

Get this sampler in one Spotify playlist here: Australian & New Zealand Composers Sampler (22 tracks, total time: 110 minutes) Ctrl (CMD)+G to browse in album view.

Monday, May 14, 2012

66 Performances of Mahler's Urlicht (Primal Light)

Urlicht, originally a song in Gustav Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn, was later incorporated (with expanded orchestration) into his Symphony No.2, known as the Resurrection Symphony, as the work's fourth movement. To quote Michael Steinberg:

"'Urlicht,' one of Mahler’s loveliest songs, is full of Mahlerian paradox in that its hymnlike simplicity and naturalness are achieved by a metrical flexibility so vigilant of prosody and so complex that the opening section of thirty‑five bars has twenty‑one changes of meter. The chamber‑musical scoring is characteristically detailed and inventive."

This playlists features Urlicht from over 60 performances of the Resurrection Symphony, including the premiere recording made by Oskar Fried with the Berlin State Opera Orchestra in 1924, and almost every critically acclaimed recording in or out of print: Mehta, Abbado, Tennstedt, Klemperer, Kaplan, Rattle and many more.

I only included recordings from complete performances of the 2nd symphony, except for one track from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, sang by Anne Sofie von Otter, attached at the end of the playlist. Besides being an index of Mahler 2 recordings (click the album title of any track if you want to hear the full symphony), it also works as an all-star list of alto and mezzo-sopranos on Spotify.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist here: Mahler: Urlicht (68 tracks, from 66 recordings). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view.  Lyrics below is from Wikipedia.

Original German
O Röschen rot!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Not!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!
Je lieber möcht' ich im Himmel sein.
Da kam ich auf einen breiten Weg:
Da kam ein Engelein und wollt’ mich abweisen.
Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
Der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,
Wird leuchten mir bis in das ewig selig Leben!
In English
Primeval Light
O red rose!
Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest pain!
How I would rather be in heaven.
There came I upon a broad path
when came a little angel and wanted to turn me away.
Ah no! I would not let myself be turned away!
I am from God and shall return to God!
The loving God will grant me a little light,
Which will light me into that eternal blissful life!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mahler X

This playlists is a collection of 37 interpretations of Bohemian-Austrian composer Gustav Mahler's final work, the unfinished Tenth Symphony, plus one piano transcription and a recomposition by electronic musician Matthew Herbert.

To keep the playlist neat, I only included the adagio from each album, though many of them are recordings of the various "completed" performing editions. Click the albums titles to hear full performances.

You can also use the playlist as a shortcut to Mahler cycles on Spotify, as the first ten adagios are taken from ten complete Mahler symphonies box-sets: Chailly, Kubelik, Bernstein, Abbado, Gielen, Sinopoli, Haitink, Ozawa, Maazel, and Abravanel. Inbal, Boulez, Zinman and Rattle's cycles are also on Spotify (see their tenth below), though not as one album. The only notable complete sets missing are Solti (who never recorded the tenth), Tennstedt (partially available), MTT (here and gone again), and Bertini's.

Other recordings are sorted by recording date; versions in bold:
  • Scherchen, Wiener Philharmoniker, Adagio,1952
  • Mitropoulos, New York Philharmonic,  Adagio,1960
  • Rozhdestvensky, Moscow RTV Symphony Orchestra, Adagio, 1963
  • Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra, Cooke I,1965
  • Bernstein, New York Philharmonic, Adagio,1975
  • Sanderling, Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester, Cooke II,1979
  • Rattle, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Cooke II,1980
  • Bertini, Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, Adagio, 1983
  • Inbal, Radio Sinfonie Orchester Frankfurt, Adagio, 1986
  • Rickenbacher, Bamberger Symphoniker Orchester, Adagio, 1988
  • A. Legeti, Budapest Symphony Orchestra, Adagio, 1991
  • Inbal, Radio Sinfonie Orchester Frankfurt, Cooke II, 1992
  • Mehta, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Adagio, 1992
  • Wit, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Adagio, 1994
  • Slatkin, Saint-Louis Symphony Orchestra, Mazzetti I, 1994
  • Rattle, Berliner Philharmoniker, Cooke III, 1999
  • Olson, Polish NRSO, Wheeler IV, 2000
  • Litton, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Carpenter, 2001
  • Kremer,Kremerata Baltica, Adagio (Transcr. for 15 strings, H. Stadlmair), 2001
  • Gielen, SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden, Cooke III, 2005
  • Harding, Wiener Philharmoniker, Cooke III, 2007
  • P. Jarvi, Radio Sinfonie Orchester Frankfurt, Adagio, 2008 
  • Gergiev, London Symphony Orchestra, Adagio, 2008
  • Maazel, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Adagio, 2008
  • Zinman, Tonhalle Orchester Zürich, Carpenter, 2010
  • Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra, Adagio, 2010
  • Schwarz, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Adagio, 2011
Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Mahler X (48 tracks, total time: 17 hours) Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See a noted discography of the Tenth here. Photo by A. Samur.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bach on Classical Guitar

Just 30 hours of mind-blowing - or mind-soothing, depending on your level of focus on the music - J.S. Bach played by some of the best classical guitarists: Andres Segovia, Göran Söllscher, Julian Bream, John Williams, Pepe Romero, Manuel Barrueco, Sharon Isbin, Xuefei Yang, Paul Galbraith, Narciso Yepes, Prague Guitar Quartet and more.

(Picture take from cover of this book)

Works in this playlist include guitar transcriptions of the lute suites; sonatas and partitas for solo violin; cello suites; Goldberg Variations; orchestral suites and Brandenburg Concertos etc, played on 6, 8, 11 or 12-string classical guitars or by guitar ensembles.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist: Bach on Classical Guitar (456 tracks, total time: 30 hours). Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. As with Bach's many other works, this music is suitable for almost every occasion: it never ceases to amaze after repeated listening, and it is also perfect background music for reading or relaxing.

Bach transcriptions on jazz guitar, electric guitar, banjo, ukelele, marimba and everything else will be another playlist someday.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vincenzo Bellini: Complete Operas & Other Works

"Vincenzo Bellini (1801 - 1835) was a Italian opera composer. A native of Catania in Sicily, his greatest works are I Capuleti ed i Montecchi (1830), La sonnambula (1831), Norma (1831), Beatrice di Tenda (1833), and I puritani (1835). Known for his long-flowing melodic lines, for which he was named "the Swan of Catania", Bellini was the quintessential composer of bel canto opera. He died in Puteaux, France at the age of 33, nine months after the premiere of his last opera, I puritani." - Wikipedia

This playlist contains Bellini's ten operas sorted in chronological order, including such universally acclaimed recordings as Callas' 1960 Norma, as well as other notable works: over a dozen songs performed by Cecilia Bartoli, Dame Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti; eight symphonies; an organ sonata; two concertos for oboe and trumpet respectively, and several large scale sacred choral pieces.

Get this collection in one Spotify playlist here: Vincenzo Bellini: Complete Operas & Other Works (453 tracks, total time: 28 hours) Ctrl (CMD) + G to browse in album view. See list of works with introduction here on AllMusic.