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Michael S

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  1. I love Moby-Dick, even though I've ready it only once, many years ago as an undergraduate. I took an upper-division literature course on the American Renaissance and was fortunate to have a professor who was very incisive and, also, a generous guide as I and my classmates made our way (and struggled some) through the book. Since then, whenever someone asks me what Moby-Dick is about, I always say, "well, I can tell you it's not really about a whale ..."
  2. All of the above, indeed! I forget off-hand which movement it is, but there's a section in which the harp gets its moments of glory ... or its 15 minutes of fame ... and it's really enjoyable to hear. And Sibelius really proved how skilled he was at orchestration in his very first symphony. I don't know if the Berglund/Bournemouth cycle is still in print (if you happen to buy CDs still, as opposed to downloading digital files), but it's definitely worth listening to or even obtaining if it's at a good price. For a long time, Sibelius' violin concerto was my favorite in the repertoire ... until I heard Shostakovich's 1st v.c., and that instantly became my #1.
  3. Michael S

    Organ Music

    Evan, thanks very much for this primer on organ music! I'm going to bookmark the links you posted and go through them in due time. I hadn't heard of Vierne before, and you're right about Mendelssohn: I went through an extended phase years ago listening to his music, and I had no idea he wrote organ sonatas. I look forward to listening to them, along with everything you posted.
  4. Really nice post on Sibelius, Andrew. I like a lot of his music, but I've never taken the time to learn much about his life -- so I find what you wrote to be really interesting. I do know that there is a nationalist/patriotic spirit in his music, but I wasn't aware of much else, including the fact that he didn't compose for the last 30 years of his life. It seems like he was very troubled. Very keen impressions of his first symphony. Yeah, I agree that the fourth movement is the best part of the symphony; it has so much character, it's dynamic, and the ending, as you point out, is nice. Not a bang, but a nice whimper from the strings. Portions of the movement sound heavily Romanticized to my ears -- a good indication that Sibelius was influenced by the high Romantic composers. I can hear a little Brahms in the opening and the early parts of the first movement (which, by the way, has some great melodies). I can't remember exactly when I first heard this symphony -- it was definitely decades ago, though, in a recording by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, coupled with Finlandia. A few years ago, I got the symphony cycle by Paavo Berglund and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at a good price when Amazon had it on sale. It's really solid (plus it includes four of Sibelius' tone poems). When it comes to classical music by Scandinavian composers (among others), you can't go wrong with Paavo Jarvi, or his father, Neeme Jarvi. Looking forward to your thoughts on the other symphonies. Also, if you've not heard it yet, I recommend Sibelius' violin concerto. It's part of the main violin repertoire for very good reasons.
  5. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Exactly! Even when I think, "haven't I head more than enough Beethoven?" I then realize, wait, he wrote string trios, piano trios, string quintets, an opera, and more -- none of which I've taken the time to listen to. And then there are contemporary composers who continually come out with new music, not to mention "overlooked" composers in other parts of the world whose music hasn't been picked up by Western orchestras or is only gradually beginning to take notice here. Classical music really is boundless. One of labels that's really great at issuing recordings of lesser known composers and works is Naxos. I'm often surprised by what I can find in their catalogue.
  6. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Evan, I'd like to hear more organ music. Aside from some of the organ music that Bach wrote, I've never heard much else written for that instrument. So it'd be a nice learning experience. I've probably heard more Penderecki than I'm aware of, given that his music has appeared in a variety of films, but I never recognized the music or sought out who composed it. But I do have a recording of the violin concerto he composed for Anne-Sophie Mutter in the 1990s (a piece called "Metamorphosen"), and I've enjoyed it for a long time, even though I don't listen to it often. He's a composer I feel I should know more about -- so I'll check out his Hiroshima piece and the St. Luke Passion.
  7. Michael S

    Classical Music

    I sometimes feel the same way about Lutoslawski's music ( that grating feeling, as you mentioned), but I like his symphonies. For what it's worth, Salonen and the L.A. Phil recorded all four for Sony Classical, available in a single set, if you're ever interested in hearing good performances of them. I'll have to keep an eye out for Wilson's oral history of Rostropovich -- he's definitely a musicians who's life I'd love to know more about. Definitely report back whenever you can, re: Sibelius. I'm interested in hearing your take on his symphonies!
  8. Just a few thoughts in response to Beth's post (I've not seen the film, by the way). I've really tried, several times each, to get through Tartt's novels, and I've not succeeded. She's gifted, has imagination, and is skilled at setting the milieu in each of her books, but her prose is too stilted/self-conscious for my tastes. Beth, I'm with you on Catton's The Luminaries. Never cared for it much. By the way, it's been adapted into a TV miniseries in New Zealand. Not sure if it's available in the U.S. or other countries yet. I might eventually watch it if one of the streaming services in the U.S. picks it up.
  9. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Andrew, I listened to Dutilleux's Cello Concerto (the one you linked to) and enjoyed it so much that I bought a recording of it -- and not simply any recording, but Rostropovich's original studio recording of the work, which, by the way, Dutilleux had written for him specifically. Rostropovich was also the recipient of Witold Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto, featured on the same recording. I did a little searching before plunking down my cash and learned that Warner Classics reissued the album in 2017 with an additional cello concerto, one by French composer Andre Jolivet. So that's the one I bought. It's great. Thanks for the recommendation.
  10. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Evan, thanks for the clarification, re: Debussy. I hadn't realized the two were the same. Also, as Andrew mentioned, by all means shamelessly plug away! I admire anyone who can play an instrument (especially one like the organ), and I really enjoyed your performance. I grew up playing electric guitar, but, aside from copying a bunch of Van Halen's riffs and solos, I didn't get too far with the instrument. Andrew, something about me that relates in a way to your thoughts about contemporary music: for many years, I never listened to any composers who lived after the Romantic era (I just stuck with the big guys from Bach through Brahms). A Mahler symphony, for example, seemed overly dynamic and too cacophonous and just too anxiety inducing. Then, for reasons I can't explain, my tastes changed as I got older. Now, I deeply appreciate Mahler's work, Shostakovich's, Bartok's, etc., and the only Baroque music I can tolerate now is solo music, such as Bach's French Suites (and only on modern piano). With a few exceptions (such as Mozart's late piano concertos), I just don't have the taste anymore for Classical era music, whether it's Mozart, Haydn, or the like. In other words, I can see what you're saying about an "aural apparatus" or tastes. (Thanks for the Dutilleux link, by the way.) With recordings, I'm sort of like (if this analogy works) the baseball fan who loves sabermetrics and enjoys comparing different teams and how they work, and so with certain pieces of classical music, I'll seek out other recordings to hear how others might interpret something. Having said that, I always say the most important thing is to just listen to what I enjoy and not necessarily think or even worry about other renditions all the time. I do like your tastes. As good as Yo-Yo Ma is, I'd take Rostropovich over him any day, and I love Ashkenazy's piano playing -- his recordings of the two Brahms piano concertos (with Bernard Haitink) introduced me to those works, while his early recordings in the 60s of pieces by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev are wonderful.
  11. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Hi Evan -- very cool to learn there's another fan of classical music here! You're right about Brahms' symphonies: they really are masterpieces, and I could never do without the whole cycle. A few years ago, I started exploring Debussy's piano music as well: the etudes, the preludes, Images, etc., although I've not heard his suites. I'll check those out. Andrew, I second Evan's suggestion to give Nielsen a listen; I particularly like his 4th and 5th symphonies. I think I've got some Joan Tower recordings on one of my Amazon wish lists, but I've not heard her work before. I have it in mind to listen to more of Jennifer Higdon, another living woman composer, whose Violin Concerto, written for Hilary Hahn, is a real marvel. There are some mind-bending passages in it that Higdon wrote specifically because she knew that Hahn is technically capable of performing them. One of my favorite compositions of this early 21st century. Just for kicks, here are some of my recent album purchases: Adams' Violin Concerto, mentioned in an earlier post Shostakovich's 2nd, 7th, and 8th string quartets by the Pavel Haas Quartet (who sort of have a Midas Touch in just about everything they've recorded). "Final Piano Pieces" of Brahms, Stephen Hough on the piano Soprano Veronique Gens' "Nuits", a collection of songs by Faure, Berlioz, Massenet, Saint Saens, Liszt, and others Prokofiev's 6th, 7th, and 8th piano sonatas, Steven Osborne on piano (really good Scottish pianist who has a confident command of a wide range of repertoire).
  12. Michael S

    Classical Music

    Andrew, thanks for posting this and reviving the thread. I always enjoy an opportunity to chat about music. Interestingly enough, my estimation of John Adams has gone the other way, especially as his music (to my ears) has become more dynamic. I'm really fond of his "Dharma at Big Sur," specifically a live recording with Lisa Josefowicz on electric violin (and I think the recording is available only as a digital download on iTunes and maybe on Deutsche Grammophon's web site). I also like his "Harmonhielehre," which the San Francisco Orchestra and Michael Tilson Thomas premiered and recorded. DG recently released his latest piano concerto, performed by Yuja Wang; it's great. By the way, Shostakovich's 11th symphony -- magnificent, and probably the one I like most after the 7th and the 10th. I recently read Swafford's biography about Beethoven. He's a great writer. I need to read his book on Brahms next. With Brahms, I prefer his first piano concerto over his second, although I might be in the minority among listeners of his music. I think his second is more popular. If you've by chance not heard his string quartets and sextets, they're worth a listen. Among his four symphonies, I probably lean towards the second the most, although the opening of the fourth is famous for a good reason. You'll likely enjoy Sibelius' symphonies. Among all seven, I like his first the most (which, by the way, is true for me of Mahler's nine -- I prefer his first - and of Tchaikovsky's first, among his six). Sibelus' fourth is very interesting; compared to his others, it's quiet. To go back to Adams for a second (sort of) -- when it comes to living composers, Esa-Pekka Salonen (who's of Adams' generation, I think) is one of my favorites. For one, as a L.A. native, I appreciated how much cache he brought to the L.A. Phil by turning it into a top orchestra and also by good programming that often combined modern or contemporary music with more traditional warhorses. I'm fond of much of his composing, though I turn to his piano concerto and violin concerto the most. Out of curiosity, do you listen to different recordings of specific works? I do (when I can) at least of music that really resonates with me -- it's interesting to hear different interpretations, even when the differences are subtle. I've never heard the Sticky Notes podcast, so I'll check that out.
  13. Ken, thanks very much for this. I had overlooked both the follow box in the top right and the Activity tab on the left. This is very helpful. I'll use those functions to follow threads but will let you know if any technical issues arise.
  14. Andrew, it's great to know you love classical music too. It took me a long time to get to Shostakovich, but, when I finally did, he became my favorite symphonic composer along with Mahler and Beethoven. I love his seventh symphony the most (with the tenth just behind it). And I place his string quartets, along with those by Bartok and Beethoven, as favorites in chamber music.
  15. Thanks, Ken. Funny enough, the notifications are working again, and I should probably clarify that these are the ones that show up in the top right of the screen, with the bell icon. I was getting email notifications, but only as a summary of all replies (as opposed to one email for each reply). I'll check to see if there's a way to "subscribe" to specific threads -- a feature that some forums have. That would work too for making sure I see any new replies to discussions I'm involved in.
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