Monday, May 29, 2006

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

Paul Hindemith was among the greatest 20th-century composers, as well as a music theorist and renowned violist. While Bach provides the contrapunctal inspiration, Hindemith's harmonic language, especially in this piece, is more like early Schoenberg.

Mathis der Maler, an opera made into a symphony, is one of Hindemith's most popular works. The opera was about a master painter in the sixteenth century named Matthias Grunewald: "The painter abandons his studio to make cause with the Peasants' Revolt, thus turning against his patron and employer, the Cardinal Archbishop of Mainz. The difference between the ideals for which the peasants are fighting, and the reality of their behaviour in war, sickens the painter. He is beset with doubts, resolved only when the Cardinal makes it clear to him that by wholehearted devotion to his art can the artist best serve the cause of his people." (Andrew Porter)

Hindemith wrote this while living in Nazi Germany. The premiere of the symphony was in 1934, but due to the subject matter, the opera had to wait another four years for its premiere, in Zurich.

Hindemith: Mathis der Maler
von Karajan and the Berlin Phil.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Bela Bartok (1881-1945)

The Hungarian composer Bela Bartok the first to successfully combine Western classical music- his influences range from Brahms to Debussy to Schoenberg- with folk music from around the world, creating a very unique, rhythmic style. He wrote this in 1937, with himself and his second wife in mind to play the piano parts. The very dark mood of the first movement is juxtaposed with the bright and bouncy third movement, where the xylophone has a major role and where folk influences are most clear. The piece is very accessible for a Bartok, especially when compared to some of his seemingly impenetrable 12-tone works.

Bela Bartok: Sonata for 2 pianos and Percussion
John Simms, James Avery, Pianos
Thomas L. Davis, Percussion

Sunday, May 14, 2006

War of the Romantics XII- Gabriel Faure (1845-1924)

A pupil of Saint Saens and a mentor of Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Faure was a transitional figure in musical history; as Beethoven did with Classical and Romantic music, Faure similarly straddled the Romantic and Impressionistic labels. Claude Debussy and Ravel, the first full-fledged Impressionists, certainly pick up where Faure left off.
In these solo piano pieces, generally from the latter half of Faure's career, both the Romantic inspirations and the Impressionistic harmonies are evident. I am reminded of Brahms in Faure's use of "large scale syncopation" (Wikipedia), and of Mendelssohn in Faure's beautiful melodies- especially in his earlier Romances sans Paroles, a tribute to Mendelssohn's Songs without Words. But in Faure's nocturnes, influenced by Chopin, there are harmonies unlike any other in the Romantic era; ambiguous, hazy, and very Debussian. His Nocturnes No. 7 and 8 of 1898 are unbelievably radical for 19th century music, by any standard. Overall, Faure uses a romantic framework to advance his very forward-looking impressionistic ideas.

Included are:
Nocturnes 7-13
Preludes 3 and 9
Romances sans Paroles 1-3

Jean Martin- Faure Nocturnes Vol. 2

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Via Crucis Re-upped

I got a request for Via Crucis by Franz Liszt to be re-uploaded, since the link expired, so here is the album on rapidshare. If you missed this the first time around, I strongly recommend you check it out, as it is one of my all time favorite pieces.

Part One

Part Two