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  • LIFESTYLE

    In praise of crazy

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 01/03/2016

    » There is a story by the American writer Donald Barthelme in which a condemned man is offered the chance to hear one last song before he is executed. He requests Charles Ives' Fourth Symphony, a good choice because with its demand for a huge orchestra, chorus, organ, three pianos (one tuned in quarter-tones), and ultra-complex scoring, the wait involved in preparing a performance would be sure to keep him alive for a long time.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Hunt for harmony

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 02/02/2016

    » Brahms was so intimidated by the achievement of Beethoven as a symphonist that he held off on the composition of his own First Symphony until quite late in his career. But by then he had already written large-scale orchestral works that would have no reason to fear comparison with the Beethoven scores -- the youthful First Piano Concerto, for example, has an opening as arrestingly dramatic as any of the older composer's. Most have been repertory standards for well over a century.

  • LIFESTYLE

    A Night to Remember

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 29/01/2015

    » Mozart, Brahms and Beethoven: three safe choices for a concert here in Bangkok. And the sellout audience that filled the Main Hall of the Thailand Cultural Centre on Tuesday to hear pianist Krystian Zimerman and the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra under the baton of guest conductor Charles Olivieri-Munroe in a programme of works by the three titans knew they would be spending the evening in safe musical territory. But they may not have expected that the evening would include one of the most memorable Bangkok musical experiences in recent memory.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Mystical bliss

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 02/09/2014

    » There must have been a mob of classical listeners who sensed a door opening when Chandos began releasing recordings of Danish composer Per Norgard's music in the late 1990s. Enthusiastic reviews award nominations and prizes stacked up. When the Leif Segerstan-directed account of the Third Symphony appeared, that clinched it — the work was clearly a masterpiece of the first rank by a composer, revered in his native Denmark, who had previously somewhat unknown to many (I knew him as the composer of the musical soundtrack for the film Babette's Feast).

  • LIFESTYLE

    Bach, hot and bothered

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 01/07/2014

    » Listening to this album can be frustrating — the good items are so good that the frequent duds land with an especially loud thud.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Serenading Italy

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 17/06/2014

    » The relative obscurity of Wilhelm Stenhammar’s gorgeous Serenade is baffling. The Swedish composer wrote it in between 1914-19, under the spell of a trip to Italy. And even though there is no overt musical picture painted in the piece, you can sense the summery mood that the southern landscape evoked in its Scandinavian visitor.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Mood swings and energy forces

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 03/06/2014

    » No one can blame other young composers for any envy they may feel for Anna Clyne and Mason Bates. Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti appointed them as the orchestra’s composers in residence in 2010/11 and extended the appointment for the 2014/15 season. Listening to the two pieces that Muti and his Chicago musicians play on this programme, it’s easy to understand why he wanted to keep them on.

  • LIFESTYLE

    The Rite interpretation

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 22/04/2014

    » What is it about Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring that makes its astonishing power immune to the taming effects of time? More than a century has passed since its riotous Paris premiere, but in a strong performance it retains all of its original ability to electrify audiences. Where did this music come from? Stravinsky himself admitted that he didn’t know, and described himself as “the vessel through which it passed”, as if it had a life of its own and chose him as a medium to bring it into the world. He also wrote that, as he played the newly and hastily composed piece in a piano reduction for conductor Pierre Monteux, he was surprised at Monteux’s shock, as by then he himself had come to like the music, with the implication that it was something external to him that he had learned to appreciate with increasing familiarity. Like Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge, Debussy’s otherworldly late music, the retribution scene in Don Giovanni, and Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, it is a piece that will never lose its strangeness and its ability to take receptive listeners into expressive territory that can’t be accessed in any other way.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Shostakovich’s rich, poetic symphony

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 06/05/2014

    » Nine is a lucky number here in Thailand, but was less so for some of the great European composers. The story goes that Gustav Mahler, a superstitious man, was especially spooked by the number nine. Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak, and Bruckner all died after competing their 9th symphonies. To sidestep the same fate, when Mahler began to write his 9th Symphony, (Das Lied Von Der Erde) he labelled it his 10th.

  • LIFESTYLE

    Boulez and nothing else

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 01/04/2014

    » A real windfall for contemporary music listeners.

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