Tuesday 28 July 2009

Berio Liner Notes; Poetic Injustice.

Dealing out criticism isn't really in this blog's remit (I prefer to feature things I like), however this is something worth covering, perhaps.

A while ago I started collecting Berio material, recordings, scores, documentaries, books and so on (previously I just had Sinfonia on cd, sad, I know.)

A primary resource is my local music library, thankfully they have quite a bit of stuff, however there was a gap in their catalogue. In stock were the scores for Chemins I and Chemins IIb/c but they didn't have any recordings of them, the only ones currently available were on a fairly recent Col Legno release (Chemins I and IIb, IIc is the same but includes an extra bass clarinet part, not sure a commercial recording of this exists.)

So I filled in a form on the library's site suggesting they buy this cd and that I would like to reserve it if they did. I heard nothing back about it for a few months and in the meantime I bought the album as an Mp3 from ClassicsOnline (link here), and very good it is too (you can watch the Chemins I performance on YouTube here, not a great quality recording but on the plus side, it's free. The cd also includes Formazioni and Concerto For Two Pianos and Orchestra.)

Then the other day I got an email saying the library had bought the cd and it was reserved for me (I had forgotten all about it), I thought I ought to go and borrow it even though I didn't really need it now (at least I could burn a copy of it and have an uncompressed audio version, I had paid for an mp3 of it remember.)

On the way home from the library I ran into a musician friend (Mark the tubist) who on hearing the story said 'at least you'll have the liner notes'. Yes I thought, good point, I walked the rest of the way home thinking about all the fine words the booklet would surely contain.

However, this was not to be. For some strange, unfathomable reason, poetry has replaced the usual and arguably more useful musicological/biographical material. I shall subject treat you to an example.
Formazioni -:

there's a draft (quake, quote)
that is building up
collectively and thereover
and above it the little birds
buzzing hissing
the sun rises
mounting darkness
a cloud of white birds in the white whey
i acknowledge
i know nothing
pricking pins (pastiche)
then the part
partitioned parts lend it
a sudden whole
trumpets fanfare briefly
strike without
You, she says, or i, say she
Ferdinand Schmatz, September 2008

I'm no literary critic so I'm not going to comment on the relative merits of the work, but do think Col Legno should have included some normal liner notes, with or without the poetry.

To end on a positive note, if you like Berio's music this cd is a must-have and I commend Col Legno for releasing it, just don't expect to learn anything about the music from the booklet.

I've 'stocked' the cd in my shop/store, UK here, US here.

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Friday 24 July 2009

Contemporary Music At The Proms 2009

[Note: This is a duplicate/archive of an article I published on Sequenza 21
on 14/07/2009]


Yes, it's Proms season again here in the UK/GB (see link for the differences.) The "worlds greatest music festival" kicks off on Friday and I thought I would put together a vaguely 'contemporary' programme for those so inclined.

Included are composers who are still alive regardless of 'style', and a few 20th century composers I thought relevant (excuse my subjective and rather fuzzy criteria; Stravinsky and Bartók are included for instance, Debussy, Ravel and Shostakovich are not; feel free to berate me in the comments section.)

All the concerts listed will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and will be archived a week or so later on their website (for seven days only). Also, the BBC normally broadcasts quite a few live on TV (usually on BBC 2); these will be archived on their 'iPlayer' but unfortunately this is not accessible by those outside the UK (if you are not a native get your British friends to set their VCRs or whatever newfangled device people are using these days).

If you fancy making a personal appearance, most of the concerts will be on at the Royal Albert Hall in London with those from the 'Proms Chamber Music' series occurring at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea (listed below with the prefix 'PCM', Chelsea is also in London if you didn't already know.) The festival runs from Friday the 17th of July to Saturday the 12th of September.

If you are visiting from outside the UK this might be a good year given how weak the pound is currently (against the US Dollar and the Euro at least.) To buy tickets and to check availability please visit the Royal Albert Hall's tickets page.

Rather than list each Prom I thought composers in alphabetical order might be more helpful (taken from this page on the BBC site where you can access the full list, including Debussy, Ravel and Shostakovich et al), please click on the links to each piece to get more information about the specific concert.

A couple I am looking forward to are Prom 63 featuring two Xenakis pieces (Aïs and Nomos Gamma) and Prom 65 featuring Ligeti's Atmospheres and Schoenberg's Five Orchestral Pieces (in it's 100th year) conducted by Jonathan Nott. Also it will interesting to see/hear some of the pieces by younger composers I have never heard anything from before such as Anna Meredith, whose piece Left Light is premiered at Prom 32 and Ben Foskett whose From Trumpet has its first outing at Prom 24.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the list... [EDIT: I've now added a link to a Google calendar with the dates and details of all the Proms in the list plus a few more I think, thanks very much to Jamie Bullock for putting it together.]

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Contemporary Music at the Proms, on S21

Just uploaded a list of more or less 'contemporary' music on at this year's Proms at Sequenza 21, I'll archive it here in a week or so.

EDIT: The list now includes a Google calendar version of the list (and an ical file too.) Thanks to Jamie Bullock for putting it together.

Saturday 11 July 2009

A Quotation For Nearly The Middle of July

Berio: Cigar, mackintosh, strange heart shaped pendant (???)
'I get the impression that behind the far-from-desperate musical folly of a Morton Feldman who writes everything pianissimo, lies the fear of taking even a step out of the "avant-garde", lest he should end up in those regions which in old maps used to carry the inscription "hic sunt leones", where music opens out with all its volcanoes, its seas and its hills. Maybe he is afraid of being eaten alive.'
Luciano Berio, an interview with Rossana Dalmonte (1981), from Luciano Berio, Two Interviews, available in the UK here, US here.

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Thursday 9 July 2009

Quotation For Early July

Ferneyhough, Cage, and Reynolds (image courtesy of The Library of Congress.)
'What I have against the term "serial" is certainly partially dictated by the cliche which the word has become. In a sense, it means all and nothing. Music is in every case a more or less ordered object; whether the methods employed call for some form of pre-ordering or emerge only in the course of actual composition by so-called intuitive processes is scarcely very interesting.'
Brian Ferneyhough, Interview with Andrew Clements, taken from Brian Ferneyhough: Collected Writings, edited by James Boros and Richard Toop. Available in the UK here, US here.

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