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Classical

Alex Ross Pandemic and protest

Under Pressure. The New Yorker, July 6 and 13, 2020.

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Beethoven Unleashed: Private Papers

Donald Macleod explores Beethoven’s sketches and letters to see what they reveal about his life and music.

This week Donald Macleod is joined by Beethoven scholar, Erica Buurman and biographer, Jan Swafford to investigate some the many documents and papers that Beethoven left behind after his death, which are now scattered in archives and collections across the world. Donald and his guests explore high-quality, digital facsimiles of Beethoven’s most personal records including his letters, notebooks and journals; scouring them for clues to his relationships, his work and his everyday life.

Composer of the Week is returning to the story of Beethoven’s life and music throughout 2020. Part of Radio 3’s Beethoven Unleashed season marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Music Featured:
String Quartet Op.18 No 2 (4th movement)
Piano Sonata No 8, Op 13 ‘Pathétique’
Violin Sonata Op 30 No 2 (4th movement)
Symphony No 3 ‘Eroica’(4th movement)
Violin Sonata No 5, Op 24 (2nd movement)
Piano Sonata No 24, Op 78 (2nd movement)
Andante Favori, WoO 57
Diabelli Variations, Op 120 (Vars. 18-24)
Missa Solemnis: Credo
Piano Sonata No 16, Op 31 No 1 (1st movement)
Violin Sonata No 8, Op 30 No 3 III (3rd movement)
Symphony No 2 (2nd movement)
Variations for Piano, ‘Eroica’, Op 35
Sonata for Cello and Piano Op 69 (2nd movement)
Fidelio: Act I No 1‘Jetzt, Schätzchen, jetzt sind wir allein‘
Piano Trio, Op 97 ‘Archduke’ (3rd movement)
Triple Concerto, Op 56 (1st movement)
String Quintet Op 29 (3rd movement)
Trio in Bb, WoO 39
Symphony No 7 (4th movement)
Piano Sonata No 16, Op 31 No 1 (2nd movement)
String Quartet, Op 59 No 3 (1st movement)

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Chris Taylor for BBC Wales

For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Beethoven Unleashed: Private Papers, where you can also find links to the documents mentioned https://ift.tt/31MNNq9

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: https://ift.tt/2vwHS8q

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Alex Ross A Roscoe Mitchell moment

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Alex Ross A Roscoe Mitchell moment

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Alex Ross Now playing: Timothy McCormack

This superbly ear-cleansing work appears on a new Kairos CD.

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Beethoven Unleashed: Hero

Donald Macleod explores the triumphs, friends and foes of Beethoven’s ‘heroic’ phase.

This week, Donald Macleod follows Ludwig van Beethoven through the years of 1804-1806; the beginning of what many commentators have called his ‘heroic’ phase. Having weathered a profound psychological crisis, triggered by his failing hearing, Beethoven now throws himself into his composing with renewed energy and strength of spirit. However, that same passionate nature also leads to frequent conflicts.
Composer of the Week is returning to the story of Beethoven’s life and music throughout 2020. Part of Radio 3’s Beethoven Unleashed season marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

Music Featured:
Variations on an original theme, Op 35 ‘Eroica Variations’
Symphony No 3 ‘Eroica’
String Quartet, Op 59 No 1, ‘Rasumovsky’,
Violin Sonata in A major, Op 47 ‘Kreutzer’
Romance in F, Op 50
Piano Sonata No 13, Op 27 No 1
An die Hoffnung, Op 32
Piano Sonata No 15, Op 28 ‘Pastorale’
Piano Concerto No 4
Leonore (1806 version) Act 1, “O wär ich schon mit dir vereint”
Piano Sonata No 22 in F, Op 54
Leonore (1806 version) Act II, Quartet “Er sterbe!”
Violin Sonata Op 12 No 1, II. Tema con variazioni: Andante con moto
Leonore (1806 version) Act II, Duet “O namenlose Freude!”
Leonore Overture No 3, Op 72b
Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op 102 No 1
Bagatelle in B minor, Op 126 No 4
String Quartet in F, Op 59 No 1
Piano Sonata No 23, Op 57 ‘Appassionata’
Violin Concerto, Op 61
6 Ecossaises, WoO 83
Piano Concerto No 3,
String Quartet Op 59 No 3

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Chris Taylor for BBC Wales

For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Beethoven Unleashed: Hero https://ift.tt/3fCtOOq

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: https://ift.tt/2vwHS8q

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Alex Ross First dispatch from the mystic abyss

Giuseppe Becce as Wagner, 1913.
In three months, Farrar, Straus and Giroux will publish my third book, Wagnerism: Art and Politics in the Shadow of Music. I thought I’d write a few blog posts describing the genesis of the project and its circuitous voyage toward the appearance of reality. Over the summer, I’ll add various auxiliary features to my trusty old website: a general guide to Wagner’s works, with recommendations of recordings; a bibliographical essay, touching on topics and sources that fell by the wayside; and an index to Wagner on film. If I get my act together, I will also present an online chapbook of Bad Wagner Poetry. Whether in-person appearances will be possible in the fall remains to be seen, but we have a string of virtual events scheduled. FSG has an advance excerpt on its Work in Progress blog.

Why Wagner? Why Wagnerism? The two are not the same. When I tell people about the project, they tend to assume that this will be another book about the composer, his life, his work, or some combination thereof. Rather, it is a book about his effect, his impact, his shadow — on literature, the arts, film, popular culture, intellectual life, politics. I make almost no mention of his influence on other composers; in this sense it is not actually a book about music at all. Wagner is present on every page, but often in modified, distorted, sometimes unrecognizable form. It is Wagner as seen and heard through the eyes and ears of an absurdly large and multivarious cast of characters, from Baudelaire to Buñuel, from Willa Cather to Rosa Luxemburg, from W. E. B. Du Bois to J. R. R. Tolkien, from Herzl to Hitler. It is a book around Wagner, after Wagner, under Wagner. It begins with an oblique jest: the man is briefly alive and then falls dead in the fifth paragraph.
As I write in the epilogue — which, in an admittedly contrarian narrative choice, swerves into a personal register otherwise absent from the book — I came late to a full engagement with Wagner. In childhood, I found his music baffling and vaguely revolting. In college, as I studied the intellectual history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he interested me as a problem, as a crisis. Only in my twenties did I begin to give serious attention to the music itself. And only in my thirties did I begin to understand it, as far as I understood it. The idea for a book emerged from The Rest Is Noise, which I wrote between 2000 and 2007. I found myself frequently backtracking toward Wagner in order to explain what was happening at the beginning of the twentieth century. When I addressed music in Nazi Germany, the vexed Wagner-Hitler question distracted me at every turn. This nagging intrusion of the old sorcerer of Bayreuth seemed a sign that I should turn toward him next. So I offered up Wagnerism as a topic to my publisher in 2008. First I put together my essay collection, Listen to This. I also went through a phase of listening to all of Wagner’s works with scores and reading his all-too-voluminous prose writings. I began writing in August 2010; I submitted the final draft last September; I sent in final changes last week.
The journey took so long because the territory is so huge. Wagner was all but unavoidable for artists working at the turn of the last century, and few evaded his inky shadow. The phenomenon of Wagnerism — defined here as the composer’s influence on the arts — has elicited an extensive and rich literature. There are books about Wagner and Mallarmé, Wagner and Joyce, Wagner and the British novel, Wagner and the visual arts, Wagner and modernism, and so on. Dozens of books have studied his relationship with antisemitism and Nazi Germany. What struck me, as I surveyed my shelves, was that no one had really attempted to pull all of these diverse Wagnerian phenomena into a single volume. There was, to be sure, Timothée Picard’s 2500-page Dictionnaire encyclopédique Wagner, which I acquired a year or so into my researches, and which added at least a year to the process, as I discovered a mesmerizing and sometimes alarming subculture of lesser-known French writers who had spelunked the Wagner caves. Marcel Batilliat’s incomparably creepy novel Chair mystique, which ends with a scene of what can only be described as amatory decomposition, made a not entirely welcome entrance into my life. Could the sort of omnivorous overview undertaken by Picard and his team of authors be accomplished in a narrative of under a thousand pages? I thought it was worth a try. I now understand why it had not been done: it is impossible. Wagnerism, as long as it is, is far from being comprehensive. Big swaths of material go untouched, not least because of limitations of language; I can read only French and German. I caught passing glimpses of Italian Wagnerism, Polish Wagnerism, Portuguese Wagnerism, Latin American Wagnerism, but could not stop and explore.
The project also took a long time because I enjoyed the research phase so deeply. It has been, as I say in the introduction, the great education of my life. I read and re-read hundreds of books, some directly related to the work, some more tangential. I took the opportunity to read everything by Willa Cather, everything by Virginia Woolf. I watched at least a hundred films; I stopped at museums as I traveled; I delved into the archives of lesser-known figures like Sidney Lanier and Owen Wister; I followed Wagner’s footsteps in Italy. Alongside myriad discoveries, I brought to bear longtime obsessions, going back to university or even high-school days. Not even a single sentence of my senior thesis on James Joyce proved to be reusable, but I consulted some yellowed notes on Joyce’s relationship with the work of Otto Weininger, unhappiest of Wagnerites. (Sign of aging: when papers from one’s past become parchment.) What excited my attention were unexpected links between artists in far-flung places: how Philip K. Dick recapitulates themes from Joséphin Péladan, how both Marcel Proust and Francis Coppola associate aerial combat with “The Ride of the Valkyries.”
The book is structured so that the grimmer side of Wagner’s influence comes to the fore in the middle sections. In the first third, the reader may have the sensation of entering a kind of delirious theme park of fin-de-siècle decadence; but in the chapters on Wilhelmine Germany and on Wagnerian antisemitism, the shadow grows cold. Hitler enters in the tenth chapter, as a young man who flounders as an artist and then finds purpose in war. Nazi Germany occupies the thirteenth chapter, in counterpoint to the later work of Thomas Mann. I hope to replicate for the reader a sense of harrowing descent. The disaster is not absolute; new varieties of Wagnerism surface in the final chapters, in Dick, Ingeborg Bachmann, Terrence Malick. I resist any blunt equation of Wagner and Hitler; the former was a kind of monarchical anarchist, the fascist state foreign to his hazy political vision. Nonetheless, the Nazification of Wagner was not some sort of unfortunate accident that befell a “great artist.” I end the book by proposing that the monstrous complexity of that connection is what makes Wagner a perennially relevant case. Working through the problems he has created is a labor we must always undertake when art collides with reality, as it inevitably does. The fundamental error is in assuming that art and reality are separate to begin with.
There, then, is the general lay of the land. In future posts I’ll say more about the researching and the writing. I’ll close this first post-mortem dispatch by expressing desperate gratitude to my editor, Eric Chinski. He presided over the cutting of around a hundred thousand words from the initial draft — not as catastrophic as the Rest Is Noise situation, but bad enough — and provided crucial guidance in getting the remainder under a semblance of control. I have always been lucky in my editors; I would be nowhere without them.

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Alex Ross A Trevor Bača moment

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Freya Parr The Gabrieli Consort rise to the occasion in Purcell’s The Fairy Queen

Rating: 
0

Purcell 
The Fairy Queen 
Carolyn Sampson, Anna Dennis, Mhairi Lawson, Ashley Riches, Roderick Williams; Gabrieli Consort/Paul McCreesh
Signum Classics SIGCD615 139:03mins (2 discs) 

 

'McCreesh’s production rises to the occasion: original voicing, unorthodox continuo, project- specific trumpet design and rediscovered string techniques bring out qualities missing from earlier recordings. Purcell’s hornpipes were never livelier, nor his chaconnes statelier, than in this performance.'

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