Tag Archives: Hungary

[88] Alban Berg / Igor Stravinsky – Violin Concertos

12 Dec

It takes me only a moment to place why these awkward, off-putting sounds feel so familiar – this is the music that H. P. Lovecraft must surely have been hearing in his head while writing “The Music of Erich Zann”.

Mark Kaplan and the Budapest Festival Orchestra

Mark Kaplan and the Budapest Festival Orchestra

That the short story was written more than a decade before the Violin Concerto is no barrier where the great old ones are concerned . . .

The hauntingly beautiful string sounds are full of unnatural corners and half remembered fears, a stunning juxtaposition of appealing and appalling.  My 5-year-old daughter on hearing this piece could not decide whether it made her sleepy or afraid.

It sketches an image somewhere between terror and the rightness of everything.  Words clearly do not do justice to the complexities, the emotional affect of either the composition or the performance.

The Stravinsky Violin Concerto that follows the Berg – both performed flawlessly by Mark Kaplan – is almost an afterthought under these circumstances, the controversial composer sounding almost traditional after the genius of Berg’s horror.

I am so taken by the Berg piece that I am sure I am not giving Stravinsky a fair shake, but I can’t bring myself to care.  The price of admission was more than covered in the half hour of the opening two movements.

What the Stravinsky does achieve is to allow the listener a return to the mundane world, rejoining reality rather than floating away untethered before the disc ends.

It is almost enough to make you believe the Great Old Ones are real, and still out there dreaming of waking.

Next Week:  Luciano Berio – Simfonia for Eight Voices and Orchestra

Owned before blogging? No. (9 of 88 = 10%)
Heard before blogging? No. (12 of 88 = 14%)
Recommend? Yes. (71 of 88 = 81%)

[51] Bela Bartok – The String Quartets

28 Mar

Sometimes you simply connect with a piece of music and sometimes, for whatever reason, you do not. I am not sure I can articulate the reasons that this two hours of strings leaves me cold, but it certainly does.

Six String Quartets

Six String Quartets











Perhaps it is the proximity to my discovering the stunning cinematic strings of Samuel Barber – Bartok’s compositions are less immediate, more deliberate and so suffer in comparison.

Perhaps it is a lack of cohesion across the six pieces contained on this recording.

Or perhaps more simply it is the lack of concrete melody – the constant tease of unresolving chord sequences – but whatever the reason, while I do not actively dislike what I am hearing, I am also not at all engaged.

This leaves me a little concerned for the next two recordings, also of Bartok compositions.  To date I have been somewhat all or nothing in my enjoyment of the Classical music on display – two Adams pieces left me flat, while all four J. S. Bach recordings blew my mind.

On the one hand I hope that Bartok’s upcoming orchestral works will reach me in a way that his smaller attempts here have not. But on the other it might be interesting to discover that there are names and styles that I love and those that I do not.

Let’s find out . . .

Next Week: Bela Bartok – Concerto for Orchestra / Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta

Owned before blogging? No. (2 of 51. 4%)
Heard before blogging? No. (4 of 51. 8%)
Recommend? No. (41 of 51. 80%)


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