Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Guide To Strange And Not-So-Strange Classical And American Classical Music -- Including Sonic Rebellion: Naxos's Alternative Classical Collection

Thanks to Daniel and Meiyu, N. and I enjoyed prime orchestra seats at an absolutely superb concert by the Cleveland Orchestra, under Franz Welser-Most, at the Kennedy Center last night. The program included Mozart's Symphony #28, Tchaikovsky's Symphony #6, and John Adams's Guide to Strange Places (from 2001). [Program notes here.] The Mozart symphony was one of the first three in which he mastered the four movement classical style and form inherited from (the living) Haydn. Both it and the Tchaikovsky were superbly executed. It was most likely my most enjoyed concert by the Cleveland Orchestra since hearing George Szell conduct Mahler's Symphony #9 in the Spring of 1969 (at DAR Constitution Hall). N. found the John Adams "interesting", which was a relief to me; while I found it authoritatively and superbly performed (better than the National Symphony performance from some years back that left me cold -- if not confused).

Congratulations to the Washington Performing Arts Society for continuing to uphold serious, classical and contemporary classical standards in the Greater Washington region; and for its decades of work in arts outreach and education. WPAS will next be hosting the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France, and much else both classical and more popular. The Philadelphia Orchestra, performing under guest James Conlon who is still sought after by the NSO to replace Leonard Slatkin, will be allowed to perform Edgard Varese's Ameriques, a work which is banned from the airwaves of musically reactionary WETA/WGMS-FM, in the Nation's Capital. [For those who can't afford the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra or the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, the equally fine, and more egalitarian Library of Congress is hosting the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra next Monday and the Concerto Copenhagen Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin next February (as well as the Post-Classical Ensemble and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, later in the Spring). Though all advance (virtually free) tickets for the Czech Chamber Orchestra are now gone, some free tickets will be made available to those who arrive early and wait in line.]


Moving back to the theme of Guide to Strange Places, readers are encouraged to invest in Naxos's new recording, Sonic Rebellion: Alternative Classical Collection; which includes works by many of the living and recent composers, who along with the early 20th c. "modernists", are currently banned on WETA/WGMS --works by Glass, Penderecki, Nancarrow, Cage, Henze, Scelsi, Riley, Wuorinen, Varese, Crumb, Ligeti, Gubaidulina, Plaetner, John Adams, Rautavaara, and Arvo Part.

My thanks to Danny L., of Kemp Mill Records, on Washington's historic F Street [below the now gone, once famous, Albert Moglie Violin Shop, where my father bought me my first violin in 1961], for his extra Naxos promo CD and press package (but with apologies to Danny for feeling just too old to wear the Sonic Rebellion: Alternative Classics tee shirt to the Cleveland Orchestra concert last night. I know that he would have worn it.)

Naxos also produces the excellent American Classics series, of which WETA/WGMS-FM appears also to be largely ignorant. Unknown to WETA/WGMS, proud and exciting American conductors (including American conductors of African descent) are at this very moment recording American classical orchestral repertoire with excellent orchestras in Kyiv, Ukraine, Future European Union.

Image credit: (c) Naxos of America, Inc. 2007


Blogger Drew80 said...

I am pleased you enjoyed the Cleveland concert. I wish I could have heard the concert, as I practically worship at the shrine of the Cleveland Orchestra. You inspired me to read the Washington Post's online review, which was glowing.

I am very impressed that you found the concert to be the finest Cleveland concert you have heard since the Szell era. That says a lot about Welser-Most, who seems to get sniping reviews from most American critics. I have always been impressed with Welser-Most, and I suspect that he is too emotionally cool for many American critics, who tend to prefer "hot" conductors.

Anyway, I am glad you enjoyed the concert immensely.


7:24 PM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thank you very much, Andrew, for posting your comment. I am glad that you continue to follow the Cleveland Orchestra so strongly, and to hold it in so high regard. I hope that you are able to see the ensemble fairly often in coming years!

I wanted to clarify one point, however; and that is that I have probably heard the Cleveland Orchestra five or six times here in Washington since the George Szell era, and during the period 1977 to 2005 (and prior to the present concert). I recall that in 1978 the Cleveland offered Washington two varied concerts -- the Berio Coro, and the Mahler #6 (I think). That was an interesting pair of concerts and made the Kennedy Center feel a little like Carnegie Hall! In subsequent years, I've heard the Cleveland play various Dvorak, Mahler, and other concerts which I just can't precisely recall now since my program collection fell into disorder after a flood. They were probably all of highest quality, as my fellow attendees in the KC balcony could more precisely attest.

Welser-Most simply struck me as exciting as prior Cleveland conductors, and highly promising. If he were a bit emotionally cool, he was no more so than Boulez, who I believe that I only heard lead the Cleveland on only one occasion.
(I also heard Boulez once or twice in NY Phil concerts of largely contemporary works.)

I look forward to hearing Welser-Most more often now, and hearing him in opera (perhaps in Vienna -- or perhaps S.F. or Washington, who knows).

Again, there were probably non-critical reasons that I found the Cleveland Mahler #9 under Szell so memorable (it being the only orchestral concert, excepting those that I played in, that I attended with both of my parents).

Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts.

PS. There was a slight error in the Wash Post review of the Adams piece. The Post may, or may not, be publishing my short letter to the editor in which I point it out.

6:20 AM  
Blogger Collin J. Rae said...

As the curater / producer of the Sonic Rebellion CD for Naxos I just want to say WOW and THANK YOU for taking the time to give some props to this project. it has been and will continue to be a labor of love. It's all about the sounds, the visions, and trying to turn-on new and adventurous listeners. Again I thank you.

-Collin J. Rae

8:18 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Collin, the pleasure has been all mine. Thank you for your work on the fascinating project!

Maybe there will be Volume 2 in a year or so? (I listened to Lutoslawski for two hours last night ... and he's perhaps the best -- or one of the best. [Even Alex Ross thinks so.]



8:23 AM  
Blogger Collin J. Rae said...


I have a number of volumes I'm starting to work on even as I type this for next year. I'll be covering Lutoslawski, Coates, Rihm, Radulescu, and others as our catalog grows. These should filter out next year.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

"I'll be covering Lutoslawski, Coates, Rihm, Radulescu ...

Collin, sounds absolutely FANTASTIC! Gloria Coates is also one of the living composers I admire most, and one whom I wish American orchestras, emsembles, and radio stations would feature more.

I listened a little to Wolgang Rihm earlier this week (some works for Ensemble Moderne), as I also sampled Manfred Trojahn (who I met in Berlin) and Georg Friedrich Haas (the last composer that Alex Ross mentioned in the text of his book).

Last, Radulescu is someone who I've been meaning to explore for a long long time -- I just haven't found the time (or budget). I recently read about his work in which a dozen or so double-basses are turned on their sides and somehow resonated. (I think I may be misremembering this!)

Good luck with all your projects!


9:40 AM  

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