File Under ?’s Best of 2012: Rangell and Schiff’s Bach CDs

Bach: The Art of Fugue
Andrew Rangell, piano
Steinway & Sons CD

 

Bach: Das Wohltemperiete Clavier
András Schiff, piano
ECM Records CD

Those who read this site likely already know that I have a soft spot for well performed renditions of J.S. Bach’s music. That said, I’ve seldom felt as strongly about a recording of The Art of Fugue that employs piano instead of harpsichord or ensemble as I do about Andrew Rangell’s recent disc for Steinway & Sons’ label. Let’s face it, even with all of the contrapuntal intricacies and rhythmic variety that Bach employs in constructing this late masterwork, it is still a whole lot of unabated d-minor to which to listen. In their interpretations, too many pianists go too far one way or the other: pretending that they are playing a harpsichord and supplying their recording with attendant quirks or instead ignoring period practices altogether and allowing their pacing to become inert, their tone stodgy, and the work as a consequence to seem bloated. Rangell’s got the “Goldilocks solution” for Art of Fugue; with lively pacing and  rhythmic vitality but without ignoring the capabilities of the glorious Steinway grand at his disposal, the pianist’s recording seems “just right” yet still capable of affording surprises.

Another excellent recording released this year that seems “just right” in its approach to Bach is pianist András Schiff’s latest rendition of both books of the Well-Tempered Clavier for ECM Records. Schiff is a pianist I’ve long regarded as a musical touchstone: one of the finest interpreters of Bach at the piano and a necessarily solid  counterweight to some of Glenn Gould’s extravagances and extroversion. His WTC for ECM demonstrates detailed preparation as well as intimate familiarity with all of the preludes and fugues; no doubt this is abetted by a rigorous performance scheduled incorporating these pieces. Schiff is also willing to take risks and try some different interpretations this time out. He never treats the Bach oeuvre as an ossified canon, but as an evolving document in which composer and interpreter can engage in a kind of dialogue, separated by centuries but united in this stirring music.

 

RIP Dave Brubeck (1920-2012)

Fond memories of seeing Dave Brubeck at Berklee, Scullers, Newport, receiving his honorary degree at Manhattan School of Music, and, best of all, going with my brother Tyler Carey to the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts to hear him. Tyler encouraged me to go backstage and get an autograph. When Dave heard that I was a composer, he had me sit down and talk to with him about classical music for a good while. A very kind soul and talented pianist, composer, and group leader.






Monday: Jenny Q Chai gives Stroppa lecture recital

Dissecting Stroppa

On Monday December 3rd, pianist Jenny Q Chai is giving her DMA lecture recital at my old stomping grounds: Manhattan School of Music. Chai has become a persuasive advocate for a wide range of repertoire, but, after meeting him in Darmstadt some five years ago, the piano music of Marco Stroppa has become one of her keenest passions. Her lecture recital, which she plans to give in a lab coat (!), will focus on Stroppa’s Innige Cavatina. Below, check out a recording of the work from Jenny’s SoundCloud.

Righteous Girls Rescheduled to 1/14

Thrilled that Gina Izzo and Erika Dohi haven’t had their Righteous Girls performance at Cornelia Street Cafe thwarted by Storm Sandy. Then venue was kind enough to reschedule the show to January 14 at 8:30 PM. They will be giving the first live performance of my duo “For Milton:” written in memory of Milton Babbitt.

Event Details
Classical at the Cornelia
Righteous Girls- Gina Izzo, flute, and Erika Dohi, piano,
plus artist Zlata Kolomoyskaya and pianist Tristan McKay
Music by John Cage, Paul Brantley, Judd Greenstein & Randy Woolf
as well as new pieces by Christian Carey, Tristan McKay & Michael Patterson

Monday January 14 at 8:30 PM
Cornelia Street Café
29 Cornelia Street
New York, NY 10014
Phone: 212.989.9319
$10.00 cover plus $10.00 minimum

Friday: Annie Gosfield at Moving Sounds Festival

From tonight until Saturday, the Austrian Cultural Forum sponsored Moving Sounds Festival takes place. Thursday saw the Mivos Quartet perform new works by Carl Bettendorf and Reiko Füting while Christian Meyer and Franz Hackl gave a lecture recital entitled “Schoenberg and the notion of Avant-garde.”

On Friday, composer Annie Gosfield appears in a portrait concert at the Czech Center as part of Moving sounds. It includes the premiere of “Phantom Shakedown”. The piece for piano accompanied by a broken shortwave radio, a cement mixer, and tube noise. It’s one of the pieces on Gosfield’s latest CD, the just released Almost Truths and Open Deceptions (Tzadik). Dynamic and captivating, both the concert and  CD embrace amplified industrial music and distressed chamber works, in a concoction that balances sonic seduction with formidable avant gauntlets.

Annie Gosfield in concert
September 14 and 9 PM
Bohemian National Hall at the Czech Center
321 E. 73rd St.
New York, NY 10021

For more Moving Sounds events on Friday and Saturday, check out the festival’s website here.

Willits/Sakamoto: “Reticent Reminiscence” (SoundCloud)




One of the keenly anticipated adventurous music releases of Summer 2012, Ancient Future, the latest collaboration of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christopher Willits, sees its physical release via the Ghostly imprint on August 6th in the EU/UK and August 7th everywhere else.


To tide you over, our friends at RCRDLBL are sharing a premiere of the album stream here. You can also stream album track “Reticent Reminiscence” via an embed from the label’s SoundCloud page below.


2 new CDs by JL Adams (Reviews)

John Luther Adams

Four Thousand Holes

Scott Deal, Percussionist;

Callithumpian Consort; Stephen Drury, director and pianist

Cold Blue CD CB0035

Songbirdsongs

Callithumpian Consort; Stephen Drury, director and pianist

Mode CD Mode 240

Alaskan (by way of New York) composer John Luther Adams was long known as the “other Adams” of contemporary concert music, overshadowed by Californian (by way of Massachusetts)  John Coolidge Adams, composer of the operas Nixon in China and Dr. Atomic and the Pulitzer prizewinning On the Transmigration of Souls. The balance of recognition seems to be shifting, as the Alaskan Adams has created several large scale works that have raised his public profile, such as the spatial percussion piece Inuksuit and museum installation (with an accompanying book) The Place Where You Go to Listen. Adams frequently speaks of “creating ecologies of music.” Both of the aforementioned pieces are based on aspects of Alaska: the former the traditional music of its native inhabitants and the latter shifts in the region’s weather patterns and tectonics (with an implicit demonstration of the impact of climate change on its environs).

Boston’s Stephen Drury and the Callithumpian Consort, whom he directs, are staunch advocates of JL Adams. Two recent recordings present different aspects of his music-making, as well as still more contrasting facets of his adopted state. The tintinnabulation of percussionist Scott Deal’s vibraphone and chimes, Drury’s piano (which plays major and minor chords throughout), and a haloing electronic aura courtesy of the composer mimic the shifts in light and many crags found in a wilderness’ varied terrain. Within the half hour duration, Adams never allows this limited palette to grow stale; he continually refreshes the sound world with shifts of tonality and varied interactions between percussion and piano. Its companion piece …And Bells Remembered… takes the tintinnabulation still further. Alongside Drury, five percussionists use both mallets and bows to craft a slowly evolving tolling of bell sounds both high and low. Is it meant as a memento mori or as a secularized ritual or meditation? We aren’t told in the booklet’s aphoristic notes, but we are left with an incandescent sonic shimmering that again indicates a sweeping vista to the mind’s eye.

Many composers have incorporated birdsong into their music. Perhaps the most famous of these is the French composer Olivier Messiaen (1908-92), who was an amateur ornithologist and travelled the world to collect birdsongs; they appear in most of his compositions. Even Messiaen’s transcriptions of these arias of the animal world are somewhat limited by Western ideas of notation: they occur at a precise moment in the piece that is studiously indicated as a conventional (if complicated) rhythm. Adams has taken the incorporation of birdsong materials further in conception. Rather than prescribing when they are to occur, he gives the musicians phrases (transcribed in the field) as well as detailed indications of the habits and movement patterns of the various species which sing them. Thus, the musicians are tasked with accommodating their playing to approximate the birds’ preferences and the space in which they reside; not the other way around. Thus, creating an ecology of music involves much more than what’s printed on the page: it requires empathy, study, and imagination. While Messiaen is to be commended for paving the way towards this aim, songbirdsongs dispenses, insofar as is possible, with human expectations of formal trajectory and “pretty Polly” mimicry, instead replacing it with something wild, unfettered, and, in the performance captured hear, often enthralling.

-Christian Carey

Willits & Sakamoto: “Completion” (SoundCloud)

Our friends at Ghostly are releasing Ancient Future, a collaboration by Christopher Willits and Ryuichi Sakamoto on July 30. Available only through the imprint is a limited pressing (300 units) of the release on clear vinyl.

Below is an embed of “Completion,” a track from the release shared via SoundCloud.

I wrote a feature on Sakamoto for Signal to Noise Magazine’s Issue #60, Winter 2010 (order here).