ellyssian: (Forever Autumn)
Nebs started it, but where he went in a more traditional direction, violins and sonnets and all, I went with something completely different... because we all know that this would be how the Big V would write it if he was around today (although he'd be playing it with his Italian power metal band, where these performances are by At Vance, a German power metal band... =)

Up first, because we're there, is Winter, from 2005's Chained:



Then we move on to Spring, from 2002's Only Human:



And for this three-season tour (they haven't, to my knowledge, released a performance of Autumn yet), we have Summer, from their 1999 debut album, No Escape:



If you insist on something more traditional, the best performance of these works that I've come across would easily be Le Quattro Stagioni Op 8 Nos 1-4, performed by Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert with Simon Standage ripping it up on the lead violin.
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And because I could use some tension-release, even if it means posting three times in quick succession, here's... well, this...

Some mildly NSFW language, although if your boss is a musician it would probably go over better...

=)



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While, for many, there is one person who is the face of Jethro Tull, that face is not Jethro Tull himself, who was, in fact, a man who modernized farming methods. Ian Anderson, however, the flute player with the one legged stance, is often misplaced as Mr. Tull. No, if you want to listen to Mr. Jethro Tull play music, stop by your local farm and listen to the sound of the plow he improved as it cuts into the soil. However, if you want to hear the band Jethro Tull play music, than you'll be listening to Mr. Ian Anderson, Mr. Martin Barre, and associates.

With all that, here we do not have Tull, we have Anderson with a larger assortment of musicians:



I am not positive the above performance is included on the following DVD, but even so Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull should satisfy a similar requirement.
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As I mentioned yesterday, Bobby McFerrin has been delving deeper into classical music since his partnership with Yo-Yo Ma on Hush.

In this video he not only performs the wordless vocal part, as he did with Yo-Yo - on the album track Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 (MP3) - he also conducts the chamber orchestra:



For those who enjoy hearing McFerrin perform with an orchestra, I highly recommend Paper Music, with McFerrin conducting the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. They perform works by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Boccherini, Tchaikovsky, Faure, Vivaldi, and Stravinsky, in addition to a Bach piece. The performance of Eine kleine Nachtmusik, K.525 - without vocals - ranks right up there with performances I've heard by Marriner and the ASMitF.
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We continue today with Yo-Yo Ma, joined by Bobby McFerrin, Mark O' Connor, and Edgar Meyer for a rather non-traditional mostly-string quartet.

Bobby & Yo-Yo recorded Hush Little Baby (MP3) on their nearly-eponymous album Hush. It was Bobby's first foray into classical music - light-hearted as it was. However, the vocalist most famous - or infamous, if you're the type who likes things to be half-empty - for the song Don't Worry Be Happy (MP3) didn't just dip his toe into the realm of Bach et al., he went on to perform as guest conductor for leading orchestras across the country and overseas, including the New York Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony.

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Switching from Badi Assad to her older brothers Sergio and Odair, here they are along with Yo-Yo Ma, Nilson Matta, Paquito D'Rivera, and Cyro Baptista, performing Um a Zero (MP3)
from Yo-Yo Ma's album Obrigado Brazil:

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This tune, performed here by Damien Aribert, was written by Badi Assad and Jeff Young (yes, the Jeff Young who has played guitar in Badi's band is the exact same Jeff Young who played on Megadeth's So Far, So Good...So What! =)

As far as unique approaches to the classical - or any, really - guitar go, Damien is uniquer. Maybe uniquest.

It's not just the orientation of the guitar itself. Lap steel guys do that, Jeff Healey does that. It's the whole drumstick thing.

He essentially has turned his guitar into a... I don't know... harp? two harps? hammered dulcimer that isn't hammered?

Yeah, it's like that.

Although they don't show much of the venue in the video, looks like a nice gothicky cathedral or castle...

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Although you'll see this billed as any number of different performers - the all-Steve-Vai one is popular for guitarists who believe Steve could never be beaten in a one-on-one guitar duel by anyone other than Steve his own self - the truth would be something like: Ry Cooder and William Kannensinger in the form of Ralph Macchio on screen vs. Steve Vai.

That's right, the Crossroads Blues theme comes to a head with the head cutting duel at the climax of the movie Crossroads, where ol' Willie Brown has his soul on the line, and Eugene uses his six string to keep the both of them from following Robert Johnson into the fiery pits of hell. When faced with Jack Butler, the devil's guitar slinger, Eugene needs to reach deep into his bag of tricks, and recall his earlier life as a classical guitar student at Julliard:

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Here's another video of Nigel & Quintet, live at the 2008 BBC Proms:



This tune can be found on the increasingly nice two disc set, a Very Nice Album (Amazon.com).

The tune is, out of all the ones I've selected, perhaps the most classically flavored for the first couple of minutes, and then jumps into the jazziest of jazz trio type stuff.

Good music.
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I suppose that, with a part 1 in the title, you can kind of guess where tomorrow's video is going... however, the one thing you won't be able to guess - without cheating and checking for related YouTube videos today! - is who the guest star will be in part 2...

Anywho, Nigel Kennedy.

Nigel's a violinist who threw the classical world into a spin when he had the nerve to play the music of the masters while sporting a punk haircut and attire. I think what upset most of the people who get upset at the lack of neat grooming and tuxedos whilst playing technically complex romantic violin concertos was that he played them so well, better than most of the clean-cut folks who should have been able to play a violin better on account of dressing like a penguin.

It sounds silly when you put it like that, but I remember hearing some of the classical radio announcers and media reports when Nigel started to get some international recognition, and that's basically the kind of things they said.

You can learn a bit more about Nigel by watching an excerpt from This Is Your Life (YouTube), where they talk about his work with Kate Bush amongst other things.

This piece is classified as jazz, although it mixes other elements in with it, and, if you stick around to the end, you'll be let in on the guest star for the second part.Here's the first part of Hills of Saturn, filmed live at Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms 2008:



You can hear Nigel and his Quintet on his first recording of his original works, the nicely titled Very Nice Album (Amazon.com).
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Okay. I told [livejournal.com profile] nin_man I wasn't going to be playing this video, and then I said to meself, "Meself, yes, they did do a great job on that song" (actually I think I wrote that part out in a reply to lj user="nin_man">, in one form or another) and then I said to meself - and this time, yeah, really - "Meself, I didn't see that video while perusing the other Apocalyptica videos to gather them together for later posting. I wonder what it's like."

Turns out not only do they do a great job with the song - it is, out of all of the tunes on Inquisition Symphony(Amazon.com) perhaps the least Shostakovichish and the most, say, Mozartish. This one wouldn't sound out of place on a classical station - no one would blink an ear, so to speak.

If you didn't listen to the other Apocalptica-covering-Metallica tunes, at least give this one a shot.

The video itself is a beautiful work of art.

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Without question, Fade to Black is my favorite Metallica tune, off of my favorite album, Ride the Lightning (Amazon.com).

The melody over the opening acoustic guitar is - well, it's the sort of phrasing and expression I've always strived for in my playing. It translates exceedingly well to the bowed string instruments. I particularly like the theme that enters as a bridge of sorts (at 3:45 in the recording below), which, in the original is further developed into a part vaguely reminiscent of a specific portion of Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever.

Here is Apocalyptica's performance of Fade to Black, from the album Inquisition Symphony (Amazon.com):


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Continuing the Apocalyptica series, here is an original - non-Metallica! - tune from their third album, Cult, wherein the band shadow-cello-duels (hmm, bit unwieldy that, no wonder "shadowboxing" is a more commonly used term) with, well, their shadows:

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Panorama: Joaquín Rodrigo

So many Classical labels seem to be releasing so many different reissues of great, earlier albums as multi-disc sets. Many are exactly that: 1 disc per 1 album. The Panorama series is, near as I can tell with the vast experience of this particular recording and absolutely no additional research whatsoever, an assemblage of multiple albums - a "Greatest Hits", except, unlike some bargain basement recordings labeled as such, these are first rate performances. In this case, you have music by classical guitar virtuosos Narciso Yepes and multiple Romeros, amongst others.

If you had to pick two Rodrigo tunes for one of those aforementioned "greatest hits" beasties, you'd be looking at, without question, Concierto de Aranjuez and Fantasa para un gentilhombre, both works for guitar and orchestra, and both, very likely, containing melodies even the anti-classical-music folks amongst you have heard before. As a guitarist, I sought out a recording of these works when my compact disc collection was still numbering in the single digits. In most of the stores back in those pre-online days, I searched long and hard to see if Rodrigo wrote anything else. Those pieces were all you could find, and I wanted more.

Eventually, of course, I discovered that there was more. Specifically, in the guitar & orchestra department, there was the Concierto andaluz (for four guitars, no less) and the Concierto madrigal (for two guitars). Rodrigo also had a flute and a harp concerto - two instruments that could really benefit from quite a few more concertos. Add in Entre olivares, for solo guitar, and you have the contents of this two disc set.

Although it will take many listenings for the melodies of these other works to reach as deep as Aranjuez and gentilhombre have, they are works of the same quality, and I have no doubt they will one day imbed themselves in my memory as their more famous fellow compositions have. This disc definitely satisfies, although at the same time, it leaves me wishing to collect more of Rodrigo's music, and, even then, to wish he had been more prolific. After all, there are only two other conciertos for guitar and orchestra beyond these four, and only two for piano, two for cello, one for violin... and then there's his choral works, solo guitar pieces...

This collection, however, forms an excellent core set of works, and is highly recommended.
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One more Apocalyptica-plays-Metallica, this one from the album quite accurately named Apocalyptica Plays Metallica by Four Cellos (Amazon.com), with the song Enter Sandman from Metallica's fifth album, allegedly self-titled, although everyone knows it as the Black Album (Amazon.com).

By this time in Metallica's career, they had simplified so far beyond where the started that, if a die hard fan from days of old listens to this album at all, they consider it the band's last album. Although the music may not be as complex and intricate and interesting as before, some of these tunes are fairly catchy - a large part of the reason fans deserted them.

Despite all that, I find they still translate excellently to four cellos, and, even in this state of weakness, provide some good music.

Here's a live performance that differs from the recorded offering indicated above by including a drummer and reducing the number of cellos by one. The crowd knows all the words:

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Although it almost seemed a joke when their first album came out, I wasn't all that surprised. Years before, I'd pointed out to people how a certain tune off of Ride the Lightning had a section that was similar to a certain march by John Philip Sousa, and that it would sound particularly good if played by a string orchestra.

They thought I was nuts.

But Apocalyptica apparently liked the idea, in a fashion, as they came up with performing Metallica tunes on four cellos all by their ownsome. Later, Metallica came out with Metallica: S & M With The San Francisco Symphony, proving either I wasn't nuts or that they were.

Anywho, long enough introduction: Here's a live performance of Apocalyptica playing Metallica's One - the studio recording is available on the album Inquisition Symphony):

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One last time - before we move on to something else - here's the Kronos Quartet... once again playing some Hendrix...




Purple Haze can be found on the Kronos Quartet's 1986 release Sculthorpe, Sallinen, Glass, Nuncarrow, Hendrix (what a snappy title for an album! =)
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Although I love when Kronos pushes the boundaries of string quartet music, sometimes I love it more when they just stretch them a wee bit.

This is a far more traditional - within the realms of contemporary classical - piece for the film Requiem for a Dream (DVD) (soundtrack):


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Osvaldo Golijov: The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind

One of the neatest things about this was finding that the string quartet - Kronos Quartet, in this case - was joined by a clarinet. Well, at times, a clarinet. At other times, a bass clarinet or a basset horn - all played by David Krakauer. What's neat about that is it gives some credence to the use of squeaks and squeals that a clarinet is capable of in a purposeful fashion, especially considering my daughter's band nickname is "Squeaky."

This point aside, in other works Golijov has made use of Spanish - particularly flamenco - and Turkish forms of music, here he makes use of Jewish themes. Not overly surprising, considering the title of the music, and an intended depiction of the Kabbalist rabbi, and, in the composers own words, "a history of Judaism."

Golijov has Kronos and Mr. Krakauer imitating klezmer bands, accordions and more. The result is a fascinating - although unfortunately short - bit of chamber music. Kronos Quartet - as you may have noticed - appear frequently in my collection, and, although they've proven challenging at times - or, rather, they pick music or subject matter that might be challenging - it rarely disappoints.
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Serenada Schizophrana, composed by Danny Elfman; conducted by John Mauceri

Film music - funny, that. You take something like Jim Steinman's work for Streets Of Fire or John Cafferty and Beaver Brown's Eddie & The Cruisers and you get lauded for the brilliance, when, what you've done is write and play some damn good tunes that you might have done anyway and gotten them into a movie. Now, you go and write some great symphonic music that supports a story line and - unless you did it years ago and called it a symphonic poem - you get blasted as a hack.

It's a pet peeve of mine, I suppose.

Danny Elfman is one of my favorite film composers - whether its his tunes for Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas or themes for Batman or Planet of the Apes. While the first has entertaining lyrics and melodies, the latter two examples are symphonic works - and they hold their own when spun alongside symphonic works that weren't written for film.

This piece was the first symphonic work Elfman wrote that was intended to stand on its own, and, rather ironically, it was later used as part (or whole? -- "Featured" is the word they use) of the soundtrack of the film Deep Sea (IMAX). Go figure.

The track A Brass Thing clearly shows lineage in some of the Batman bits, as well as some portions of the Edward Scissorhands score. While some hack critics speak of tracing paper when they speak of film composers, what they fail to recognize is something that amounts to style - and how musics can seem similar not only to other works in a composers own oeuvre but to works of other composers as well.

Although he's used wordless choral pieces and vocal parts in his soundtracks, his use of choral vocals - and solo soprano - definitely stretches beyond his prior works. As the dedicated reader of my reviews might know me as one who tends to favor choral and operatic warblings of any sort be in any language other than English, it shall come as no surprise that I am exceedingly happy that Elfman chose Spanish for the language the lyrics are performed in.

There's some interesting instrumentation here - perhaps one thing that, unfortunately, might separate him from being considered "classical" (in the sense of the overall genre, certainly there'd be no chance of expecting a living breathing person of today to have been alive and composing during the true classical period! =) You see, many of the movements of the serenade feature certain instruments and are named thusly: Pianos, Blue Strings, the aforementioned A Brass Thing. While "I Forget" is the choral and soprano solo piece, The Quadraped Patrol, Bells and Whistles, and End Tag seem to break from this tradition - even the second to last piece does, as it doesn't truly feature bells and whistles, although it does pull out the stops and gives solos all around. The bonus track jumps right back on message, though, with Improv for Alto Sax, which is what it says, although it's not strictly a solo piece.

While the concerto form - often a strict three movement structure - is the chosen vehicle for showing off virtuoso solo performances (or, in some cases dual, or even a handful more of instruments), this serenade gives out the spotlight liberally, and to varied instruments of completely differing musical families. As such, it's a treat for those who appreciate a multitude of instruments, and a boon to those who find long extended solos of a single performer annoying.

I highly recommend this work for fans of film music, of Danny Elfman's other works in particular (although if you're one of his fans, you're likely on top of this already), or of contemporary symphonic composers.

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July 2014

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