Monthly Archives: February 2009

Beethoven, Springsteen.

I just recently picked up the John Eliot Gardiner recordings of Beethoven’s 3rd and 5th symphonies. From what I understand, he uses period instruments in all of his recordings, which I think is great. In reading the insert for the cd, I learned some interesting things about why this is. What Gardiner says is that in Beethoven’s time, music could only be performed when the right instruments were available to the symphony musicians. Apparently, all the best instruments went to people that were fighting in the service, so no instruments were left for the orchestra to use. When the instruments were returned, they were always low-quality and in terrible condition. The players did the best with what they had, though, and usually managed to sound alright. Fast-forward 200 years, and every professional musician has multiple high-quality instruments at their disposal. The sound of an orchestra playing with only professional-quality instruments is surely different than that of one playing with war-torn, second hand bugles and violins. 

Anyways, the Gardiner recordings of the two symphonies are fantastic. They’re the most crisp, exciting renditions of Beethoven’s work that I’ve had the opportunity to hear in quite a while. 

And speaking of not hearing things for quite a while…

I’ve also just gotten ahold of a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s album “Nebraska”. Upon hearing the first few songs, I started to hate myself for living 22 years without having this album- this is one of the best American folk albums that I’ve ever heard. I’ve had the song ‘Atlantic City’ on repeat all night. Springsteen is so incredibly profound in his verse; I don’t know how I’ve missed this album for so long. I’ve also been listening to his new song ‘The Wrestler’ a lot, too (from the film of the same name). I’m really upset that it wasn’t up for an Academy Award, as it’s one of the best and most eligible songs that I’ve heard in a movie in years. Here’s a link to the song:



Susan Graham, Brahms, Jeff Tweedy.

I’ve been really busy and I haven’t posted on here in a while, so I’ll go ahead and do that right now.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see Susan Graham sing with the SLSO. To be honest, I hadn’t heard much of her work before I went to see her, but I had heard fantastic reviews from almost everyone I know. That, combined with the fact that she is my girlfriend’s favorite opera singer (and the fact that they were doing Brahms’ 4th Symphony), made going to the show a must for me.

Susan Graham was really fantastic. I don’t know what I was expecting, but she really put on a great show. She did Berg’s ‘Seven Early Songs’, a work with which I was totally unfamiliar, but nevertheless enjoyed. I don’t pretend to know much about vocal technique, but Kelly was really impressed with Graham’s singing, and I was too.

They also did Brahms 4, which I loved. There’s seriously nothing better in life than listening to anyone play anything by Brahms. Right now, I’m working on the Romanze from his Op. 118 for piano. I can sit and play it for hours just to listen to it, even though I’m not done working on it yet.

Speaking of Brahms, today I went to a recital by Webster University piano professor Daniel Schene. He played with Bjorn Ranheim (cello) and Lisa Chong (violin), both of whom were from the SLSO.

They started off the program with Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in G Major for Cello and Piano. I thought it was good, but a bit long. Clocking in at just under 50 minutes, it was a beast of a piece. That may just have been my impression because I was really tired. Either way, Ranheim did an outstanding job. I can honestly say that it was some of the finest cello playing that I’ve seen in my life.

The highlight of the program, though, was Brahms’ Trio in B Major for Piano, Violin and Cello. There’s really not much that can be said about the piece itself- it’s one of the most beautiful pieces of music out there. Both Schene and Ranheim did fantastic jobs with it, displaying incredible emotion and technique. I was a bit disappointed with Chong’s playing. I don’t know if she was having an off day or if she wasn’t taking the recital seriously, but she was forceless. Many of her exposed notes were thin and uninspired. I would say that overall, her playing was minimally expressive, and not exciting to watch or listen to. I have every confidence that she is a fine musician and a wonderful violinist, but I didn’t see much evidence of it today.

Last night, my friend Lucy and I went a road trip to Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, to see Jeff Tweedy play a solo show. I have seen his band, Wilco,  eight times, but never him alone. Suffice it to say, we were both extremely excited, and the occasion did not let us down. He came out and gave a solid performance in every way. His jokes were on, his guitar playing was impressive, his singing was as great as ever. It was highly entertaining concert that was totally worth the three hour drive.

I’d like to write more about it, but I have to be at work in the music library in 7 hours. Bedtime!