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Michael S

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  1. Good choices. Among Stravinsky's ballets, I'm only familiar with The Rite of Spring and The Firebird (granted, those are his most popular ballets). I should do a Nielsen symphony cycle. I've only listened to his symphonies in a somewhat haphazard fashion, and not in chronological order. Plus, it's been quite some time since I've listened to any of them. Thanks for the reminder about that podcast. I've just downloaded it and will try to listen to it tonight or tomorrow.
  2. I love the 7th, and it's interesting to think, well, what is it really? A symphony? A symphonic fantasy? A suite? A tone poem? Depending on how loosely we think about form, perhaps we could give it any one of these titles, or maybe it's something else entirely (though in the end it's a symphony to my ears). And then whenever I listen to it I realize, ah, the important thing is that the music is really great, thankfully. The first third or so is very beautiful, and then the music becomes darker and more thrilling, and it concludes with a rousing end -- the pounding timpani signaling the end of the symphony and the end of Sibelius' symphonies. Now that you've been through all of Sibelius' symphonies, Andrew, what's next? Perhaps Nielsen's symphony cycle? Haydn (there are more than 100!)? Mahler, if you haven't gone through all 9 of his? Just curious. Doing surveys of any given composer's work can be a lot of fun.
  3. Andrew, it's nice to see you moving right along through Sibelius' symphonies. Only one more to go! Regarding the Fourth, it really is a unique piece. The second movement, marked allegro molto vivace, doesn't really seem molto vivace to me; similarly, the fourth movement, marked allegro, seems less propulsive than a real allegro, and even some of its sunnier moments feel relatively subdued. Of all the movements, I find the third, a largo, least successful (though I love how it ends so quietly!) -- if you compare it to, say, the slow movement of Shostakovich's Seventh, you can tell how much better Shostakovich was at symphonic writing. (Of course, these are two very different symphonies, and Sibelius was a fantastic composer, but there's great and then there's really great.) I agree that the string writing in the first movement is wonderful, and I love the mood shifts: from a somber beginning to a more enlightened tenor. There's also great horn writing in that first movement. To me, Sibelius' Fourth is unique in his oeuvre -- and, to draw another comparison to Shostakovich -- I feel somewhat similarly about Shostakovich's Fourth and its place in his own symphony cycle. I still need to get back to Sibelius' Third and give it another listen. I should revisit the Sixth and Seventh too.
  4. Just posted my write-up on Blade Runner. I went even longer on this one than usual -- writing or discussing Blade Runner is always a labor of love for me.
  5. Interesting impressions of the symphony, Andrew. I'll try to revisit it again soon and will reply later with my thoughts. In the meantime, here's something I just found online: a performance of Sibelius' Second by Paavo Jarvi and the NHK Orchestra from Japan. I've not watched the video yet, but I recall seeing the NHK play Brahms live at Walt Disney Hall years ago. They were impressive. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/ondemand/video/3004599/
  6. Just posted my appreciation of In a Lonely Place (I compared the film to some others and focused more on Ray's depiction of violence than I had expected, but I think the violence (and its consequences) is the real point of the film anyway). By the way, Ken and everyone else: while writing, I noticed that the "preview" option isn't working correctly -- clicking on the preview button opens up a new page, but the main text box where you write your blurb shows up blank. Hitting the X in the upper-right corner of the text box brought me back to the main writing/edit page without losing anything, thankfully. Just a heads up if you write directly in the text box, instead of pasting everything from a word processor.
  7. Andrew, I need to go back and listen to his cello concerti, as I've not heard them in a very long time. It'll be interesting to find out if I have a similar emotional response. I know that urban commuters are often in a hurry, but if I heard someone playing Bach like that in a train station, even if I didn't know who it was, I'd certainly stop and listen for a while.
  8. I'll have my piece on In a Lonely Place up sometime tomorrow, followed a few days after that by my piece on Blade Runner.
  9. Andrew, that beautiful impromptu is the first track on his Sibelius album. Yeah, Sibelius' violin concerto is a real marvel. I'm glad that composers got away from the long-standing tradition of having a long orchestral exposition before the solo violin appears. Mendelssohn might have been the first, or among the first, of the major Romantic composers to do this (not that I necessarily mind a long exposition -- but I appreciate the evolution of the form). I can't recall if I mentioned this before, but Shostakovich's first v.c. is my favorite over all, and there are just a few measures (mostly the basses playing) before the violin enters. Britten's v.c. has a slightly longer exposition before the solo part begins, but it's still very short. I agree with you about the third movement in Sibelius' concerto; it's quite something. I've seen a few videos of Bell performing and like the fact that he moves on stage -- nothing worse than a performer who stands as still as a Roman statue (though, there are some performers who gesticulate way too much). Here's Bell playing Bach at a D.C. subway station ... it takes a while, but someone finally recognizes him.
  10. Ken, I'll do a write-up on Blade Runner, after I finish my piece on In a Lonely Place.
  11. Andrew, your survey of Sibelius' symphonies is inspiring me to listen to them again, particularly those symphonies, like the 2nd, that I haven't heard in quite some time. I had the 2nd playing a few nights ago while I was reading -- not really fair to Sibelius and not the most engaged way to listen, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. In your analysis of the 1st symphony, you alluded to Beethoven, and I can hear strains of his influence in the opening of the 2nd symphony's first movement. Everything becomes a bit heavy-handed as the movement develops (especially around 6 minutes or so, depending on which recording you're listening to) -- but I mean that as a description, not a criticism. And I love how the fourth movement ends. When you finish up with all of his symphonies, you might check out a wonderful recording by Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes -- it's simply titled "Sibelius." Two dozen selections from Sibelius' compositions for solo piano, most of which are rarely recorded and performed. It's a great album.
  12. I did. Thanks. I'll get started on it soon.
  13. Yeah, that trailer is either working hard to sell the film (sensuality!) or the people behind it thought, "audiences might not understand this movie, so we'll just tell 'em what it's all about." I honestly wish that studios would just stop making trailers. Too many of them are misleading -- the worst example of this I've seen so far is the trailer for Wong's In the Mood for Love. It actually presents the film as a happy love story.
  14. Just posted my write-up on L'Avventura. Ken, which films still need a writer? I can't guarantee I'd have time for more, but I thought it'd be work asking.
  15. This really is a great top 25. Kudos to all of you.
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