Monthly Archives: November 2008

Ravel, Bartók, Strauss

I just got back from watching a fantastic performance. The SLSO played:

Ravel – ‘Mother Goose Suite’
Bartók – ‘Piano Concerto No. 3’
Strauss – ‘Don Juan’
Strauss – ‘Till Eulenspiegels Iustige Streiche’

It was a really well put-together show, all around. They started off with the Ravel, which I did enjoy, but it was the weakest of all the pieces. It was well played and composed, but I felt like something was missing. Maybe it just sounded too pretty. Nothing wrong with that, right? Either way, I wasn’t too attached to the piece. 

Then, it was time for the Bartók, which I had been looking forward to for quite a while. I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, I’d say I enjoyed it more than the performance I saw earlier in the year of his ‘Concerto for Orchestra’. The pianist was Orli Shaham, who happens to be David Robertson’s wife. She played beautifully on most of the slower passages, but I felt like she was a bit too overbearing on some of the louder, faster parts. I know that it’s Bartók, but maybe a little more restraint at key points could have helped. It could have been due, in part, to Marc Albrecht’s conducting- I’ve never seen someone so animated. I thought he was going to fly off the stage, and at one point he almost hit the Principal Violin because he was flailing his arms around. Besides for a little over-enthusiasm, the Concerto was spectacular. 

I really enjoyed both of the Strauss pieces. I can always tell when it’s Strauss- I love the huge, dissonant chords. Brass, brass, brass! Both of the songs tonight were tone poems, so I had an especially fun time trying to follow the music. All-in-all, this evening’s performance of the program titled “Tricksters” made for a terrific evening.


I think that’s all thats been going on musically. I’ve been listening to a lot of Brahms (Symphony 1 and solo piano Op. 117 and Op. 118, among other things).


Messiaen’s Quatour pour la Fin du Temps

I just picked up a CD of Oliver Messiaen’s ‘Quatour pour la Fin du Temps’, or ‘Quartet for the End of Time’. The recording is from 1978, with Daniel Barenboim on the piano. 

I had heard Messiaen’s ‘Oiseaux exotiques’ and ‘Les offrandes oubliées’ both recently at the SLSO, which were fantastic (Oiseaux exotiques especially). I dont know what if I’ve been in a Messiaen mood lately or what, but I picked up this album on a recommendation from Alex Ross’ (The New Yorker) blog and I think it’s great.

There’s an interesting story behind this piece. Messiaen wrote ‘Quatour pour la Fin du Temps’ while in a German prison camp in 1940, for himself and three other inmates- a clarinettist, a violinist and a violoncellist. The quartet first performed the piece for the 5000 inmates of the camp in the winter of 1941. 

As I was trying to understand the piece, I was reading some program notes from a USC recital and found the following paragraph particularly interesting:

“His development of a varied and flexible rhythmic system, based in part on ancient Hindu rhythms, came to fruition in the Quartet, where more or less literally Messiaen put an end to the equally measured “time” of western classical music. The architecture of the Quartet is both musical and mystical. There are eight movements because God rested on the seventh day after creation, a day which extended into the eighth day of timeless eternity.”

Anyways, this is a great album to pick up. I thought the 6th movement was my favorite upon first listen. Next time I listen to this, I’ll be enjoying a bottle of La Fin du Monde to accentuate the mood. 

The only other thing I want to say about this piece is that I wish I had listened to the final movement with the volume lower, because it segued directly into the next ‘M’ artist on my iTunes, which was Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. At least I won’t have to clean my ears out today…

First post: Mozart, Mahler 9.

I realized recently that I was wishing I had kept better track of all the shows I went to and music I listened to over the past years. Then, I realized that it’s the 21st century and that I could probably do so, and not only that, but do it on the internet! 

I suppose the mission of this blog is to write about music I listen to, whether it’s classical or pop, vinyl or iPod, live or studio. I guess anything goes, as of now. We’ll see what happens. 


Last night I went to see the SLSO play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19 in F Major and Mahler’s 9th Symphony.

I was pretty bored with the Mozart. I’m not a huge fan of Mozart to begin with, but I’m usually at least entertained with his stuff. It seemed like 30 minutes of I-V-I-V-I. A small exaggeration, I guess.

The pianist was Jeremy Denk, who was really great. I guess the most memorable part of the Mozart was that Jeremy Denk came and sat right behind us to listen to the Mahler.

The Mahler. Earlier this week in Master Class, Jim Martin was talking about Mahler and said something to the effect of “Once you see Mahler 9 live, you’ll never be the same.” Having seen it now, I really can’t say that he’s wrong. It totally blew my mind. 

I really loved every second of the 80 minute performance. I don’t think I’m going to be rating performances on this blog, but if I did, it would get 5 stars, 10/10, and “two thumbs up!”

Tomorrow night we have the Webster Wind Ensemble concert, in which I’ll be playing bari sax on two songs: a Bach prelude and a Singelée quartet piece. We’ll see how that goes…


I also feel like I should include things that have been in my CD player. Lately, I’ve been listen to Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, the new Coldplay album called “Viva la Vida”, and Radiohead’s “In Rainbows”.

The Berlioz is great, I have to do a bunch of research on it so that I can figure out what he’s trying to do. I’ve heard stories. The Coldplay album is pretty cool, but not as good as their second album, “A Rush of Blood to the Head”, which is one of my all-time favorite rock albums. I went to see them in Kansas City last week- it was the second time I’ve seen them. They consistently do one of the most professional and well-producted live concerts I’ve had the pleasure to attend.

And Radiohead is Radiohead. A great album from the best band on the planet today.


Next week: SLSO does Ravel, Bartok, Strauss.