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Richter 858 – Frisell, Richter – Part 1

Richter 858 is an extraordinary collaboration between the painter Gerhard Richter and musician/jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, first released on CD as part of the limited edtion book RICHTER 858, published by The Shifting Foundation/SFMOMA (San Francisco 2002), ISBN 0-9718610-0-5 In 2002 Bill Frisell was commissioned by producer/poet David Breskin to create the music for an elaborate art book project on the great German painter Gerhard Richter. The book, RICHTER 858, was published in connection with a comprehensive US retrospective of Richter's work, although it focused entirely on a recent series of eight small abstract paintings numbered 858 1–8. There were poems, essays, superb reproductions of the works, and Frisell's music on an … [Read more...]

Chopin Nocturnes, Artur Rubinstein – Paul’s Pick

There is a romantic image connected with the piano music of Chopin, and especially with his nocturnes. A candlelit, elegant salon filled with ladies of all ages, fashionably dressed. Many are swooning or about to. Chopin, his delicate features lit by some inner vision as his lean, aesthetic fingers draw from the keys the most ephemeral tracery, while George Sand stands nearby puffing on a cigar. The scene may be somewhat fanciful and overdrawn, but it is part of the Chopin legend, and it has rubbed off on a number of pianists since the composer's time who have sought to rekindle his image in the concert hall. There is a great temptation to turn this wonderful music into a kind of romantic mush, to linger languidly over every turn of … [Read more...]

The Score

I first cut my teeth on opera with a performance of Richard Strauss's Elektra. At that time Los Angeles had no opera company of its own, although we would get a short season with the visiting New York City Opera. So along with my friends and guides Victor, Larry and Roy we packed up the car and headed to San Francisco for my initiation into the world high drama. Pardon my nostalgia, but in those days there were no supertitles by which to understand the action. You needed a score. Being the students that we were, standing room was the only ticket within our reach. Standing room required that you show up around 3:30 or 4:00, hang out with the rest of the impecunious enthusiasts and wait to score your tickets. Standing … [Read more...]

The Big Gundown – Gui Las Testa (Duck, You Sucker!)

The Big Gundown (album) is John Zorn's tribute to Italian master film composer Ennio Morricone. The featured track, Giù la testa (Duck You Sucker!), is from the 1971 Sergio Leone spaghetti western Fistful of Dynamite. This remix is imposing. The color and diversity of the instrumentation alone makes for worthwhile listening. The opening Shakuhachi riff is an inspired imaging of the gangster theme. Our once grisly gunfighter collides head first into Burt Bacharach and emerges a shoop, shoop, Samurai Warrior. Zorn's witty re-paired soundtrack now is more resonant of Kurosawa's Yojimbo, the "eminent ur-text behind all Leone's movies".  The Ensemble: Ned Rothenberg...shakuhachi, orcarina, Jew's harp Michihiro … [Read more...]

Two Hot Women

                  Hot Women is a compilation put together by Robert (Keep On Trucking) Crumb of  "Women Singers from Torrid Regions of the World Taken from Old 78 RPM Records, 1920 to 1950s". Here are two sizzling samples! From the Liner Notes: Clemona Falcon: "Blues Negres": Accompanying herself on guitar, with Joseph Falcon on accordion; Recorded Dec., 1934, New York City, Decca 17004.  She has been fairly well researched. Born Clemona Breaux in the Acadian, or "Cajun" county of Louisiana, she came from a musical family, played and sang in the family band, and with the band of her husband, Jospeh Falcon, in local dance halls and roadhouses, … [Read more...]

Alan Rich – So I’ve Heard

An old friend of mine recently commented, "you always have had the best taste in music!"  Well thank you, but Alan Rich is the man! He has been the voice for Los Angeles music criticism for 20 years and I have learned more than a thing or two by keeping abreast of Alan's work. Now, we are so lucky to have SO I'VE HEARD, the blog. To say that this is a Rich resource would not only be a bad pun, but also an understatement. So I've Heard has cataloged reviews going all the way back to January 1983 when Alan Rich and Steve Reich discuss together Reich's, then new recording, "Tehillim". It's heaven! When I was informed of So I've Heard, I immediately added it to my blogroll. I encourage everyone to spend some quality time browsing Rich's … [Read more...]

Pleasure’s Exhortation

If you have never experienced Cecilia Bartoli live then you may have missed the whole drama. There is such an infectious exuberance in her performances. She is manifestly compelling. I have been looking for a video that does her justice, but as much as I may enjoy the looking, the listening pales. So let me offer you this,  Pleasure's Aria from Handel's Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno (The Triumph of Time and Enlightenment). Opera Proibita, Cecilia Bartoli, les Musiciens de Louvre — Grenoble, Marc Minkowski. 2005 Decca Music Group This 18th century allegorical oratorio, libretto by Benedetto Pamphilj, in which Time and Enlightenment gradually persuade Beauty to relinquish her attraction to the transitory joys of … [Read more...]

Matthias Goerne Interview – Playlist

  We are very lucky here is Los Angeles to have as an evening radio host Jim Svejda. His impeccable taste, intelligent musings and incredible depth of knowledge of classical music and film make his weekly show the Record Shelf required listening. On January 13th, 2009 we were treated to a full four hour interview with German Baritone Matthias Goerne.   I have seen Goerne in recital on several occasions and own a fair share of his recordings. Matthias Goerne, along with Wolfgang Holzmair and Thomas Quasthoff  have emerged as today's foremost interpreters of the German baritone repertoire and art song. Many compare Goerne's lieder execution with that of his teacher, Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau, but I prefer … [Read more...]

Werner Herzog, February 20, 2009, Royce Hall, UCLA — Part 1

Werner Herzog truly has an infinite amount of things to speak of. I wanted to speak about this lecture sooner, but in attempting to do so I found myself, like Alice, sliding down the proverbial rabbit hole, tracking sown some strange and wondrous knowledge. Here is what I learned: PART 1 That George Murphy and Fred Astraire danced and sang their hearts out in the Cole Porter "Broadway Melody of 1940". If you get a chance to see it on the big screen, do it! That Werner Herzog is a human enthusiast, a champion of the raw psyche, condensed emotionality, "Fever Dreams", and the "Ecstatic Truth". Thus being said, he is the prime candidate to direct opera. Documenting the Wodabee tribes of the Sahara provides Herzog with … [Read more...]

Happy Birthday George Frideric Handel

George Frideric Handel (23 February 1685 – 14 April 1759) Here, for a taste comparison, are two versions of "Ombra mai fu" from Handel's opera Seres (Xerses). The first selection is from the late mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Handel Arias, Harry Bicket and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.   Selection two is from the counter-tenor Andreas Scholl. Here from the Heroes CD, Sir Roger Norington, also with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.    It is difficult not to become rhapsodic when describing Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. Her voice possess a pure emotionality tempered by intelligence. When she died at the age of 52 in 2006 it sparked in me a moment of mortality that I could … [Read more...]