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    Searching for Prokofiev

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 18/03/2014

    » Today, a few miscellaneous items and recommendations. A few weeks back while discussing Andrew Litton’s recent BIS recording of Prokofiev’s Sixth Symphony with the Bergen Philharmonic, I lamented the current unavailability in any format of Eugene Ormandy’s old Columbia recording of the piece with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Litton’s account is very good, as are others by conductors like Jarvi, Weller and, especially, Mravinsky, but it was Ormandy who best traced the link between Prokofiev’s gift for long-lined, heartbreaker themes — those in the first two movements of this symphony, for example — and the achievement of Russian Romantic composers like Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov.


    Scaling a musical Everest

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 04/03/2014

    » With the outpouring of new recordings of Schubert’s Winterreise we’ve had over the past few years, it would be sad if this one, released with little fanfare on a small, private label, got lost in the crush, because it is one of the best. American baritone Thomas Meglioranza’s earlier, 2007 disc of Schubert songs revealed him to be a natural interpreter of this repertoire, with a virile, agile voice and a knowledge of German that allowed him to respond expressively to each word of the text. Now, six years later, he follows up that programme with a performance of Winterreise in which his artistry as a Schubert interpreter has matured and deepened.


    Cruel comparisions to the classics

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 18/02/2014

    » New operas certainly haven’t been in short supply over the past hundred years or so, but it is surprising how few have actually entered the repertoire, compared with the long list of favourites from the previous century. Alban Berg’s two masterpieces, of course, and some of Benjamin Britten’s are staples now, and we get performances of works by Schoenberg, Bartok, Adams, Stravinsky, Weill and a few others. But these are mostly treated as special events. New operas appear with much fanfare and then are rarely heard from again unless recordings preserve them in mummified form.


    Mother knows best

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 01/11/2013

    » One of Bangkok's real culinary pleasures is the experience of stepping into an unremarkable-looking little food shop and finding a dish that is done really well. Food-alert types will know that this is something that happens much less frequently these days than it once did, but most will have a mental shortlist of little places that rarely disappoint, perfect for inviting special friends for impromptu informal meals.


    Solemn magnificence

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 15/10/2013

    » Beethoven himself considered the Missa Solemnis, his second setting of the Latin mass text, to be his greatest achievement. Others might lean towards one of the late string quartets or piano sonatas, or his Symphony No. 9, but when we reach this level of genius, who's counting or assigning rank?


    In a class of his own

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 29/10/2013

    » Lang Lang is one of those rare artists whose name will sell tickets to people who don't normally go to classical concerts.


    New awakening for Four Seasons

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 17/09/2013

    » Max Richter really means it when he says he has recomposed Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. By his estimate about 75% of the original score went out the window as he strove, as he has said, "to get inside the score at the level of the notes and in essence re-write it, re-composing it in a literal way".


    Bach for more

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 01/10/2013

    » You say that, as a classical collector, there are at least 74 recordings that you need to buy before investing in yet another version of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos? That you already have a version of choice (possibly Alessandrini's or Gardiner's most recent account), or maybe several, that aren't likely to be superseded in your affections any time soon? Listen to a few excerpts from this set on the Linn Records website and you may decide that there is still room on your culture shelf for one more set.


    Pure and simple

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 04/10/2013

    » Nowadays you have to be ready to do some serious detective work to find a restaurant where standard Thai dishes are cooked in a way that discerning Thais of earlier generations won't shrug off.


    Switching strings to gorgeous effect

    Life, Ung-Aang Talay, Published on 20/08/2013

    » What is it about Bach's music that makes it almost failure-proof in the hands of a skilful transcriber? Bach himself was always transcribing his own work, and others have been busy at the task ever since. The non-vocal works, especially, have been rescored again and again for every imaginable instrument or ensemble. We have the Goldberg Variations for harp, accordion, string trio; organ works for full orchestra; cello suites for solo lute; the Brandenburg Concertos for synthesiser, and those are only a few examples from an endless list. But somehow it almost always works, and often even points up beauties that are not as prominent in the original versions. For some reason this doesn't seem to be true of the music of any other composer.

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