Mystery score

Mystery score

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Making the Rounds

Tim Rutherford-Johnson tossed this week's meme to anyone who wanted to respond. That'll be me, for one.

Total volume of music on my computer

Hardly any, measurable in megabytes rather than gigabytes; I'm not even sure what's there.

I'm an iPod holdout. My listening patterns aren't suited to carrying around that volume of music, I don't want to spend time ripping my CD collection, the iTunes software isn't well-suited to the kind of music I listen to (says my friend who spent several years as an engineer at Apple - and who listens to the same kind of music I do), and I've got CD players every place I want to listen.

Last CD I bought

An order from Tower arrived on May 31. It consists of:

  • Four Savall Cabal CDs:

    • Ninna Nanna
    • Homenatge al Misteri D'Elx
    • Cantigas de Santa Maria
    • Music for the Spanish Kings

  • A CD of works by Paul Moravec, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tempest Fantasy (purchased on the advice of Terry Teachout)

  • Biber violin sonatas performed by Andrew Manze with Nigel North and John Toll
A final Hesperion CD, Villancicos y Danzas Criollas, isn't here yet.

Before that - Vol. 2 of the complete César Vezzani series that is in process by Marston Records. (NO, I haven't listened to it yet.)

Song currently playing

Nothing at the moment, but the last thing I listened to on May 31 was the Brahms second piano concerto, in performances by Stephen Kovacevich and Artur Schnabel. Today I expect to open some of the CDs listed above.

Five songs I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me

I'm going to have to bend the definition of "song" to mean "song or work or album." This will mostly be music that means a lot to me for one reason or another, but if you'd asked me this question in February or March the answers would have been different.

  • Ezio Pinza singing Leporello's catalog aria from Don Giovanni, the first classical piece I can remember hearing. I listened to it a lot at the tender age of 6 - it's a good thing I didn't understand what he was singing about. Pinza recorded this very late in the day, but late Pinza is better than almost any other bass in his prime. I bonded so firmly with the record that Pinza remains one of my favorite basses and this my favorite performance of the aria.

  • Eva Turner singing "Ritorna vincitor!" from Aida, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, a recording that changed my life profoundly. I heard it for the first time on a CD I bought for my then-housemate; the intense hunt for more Turner recordings that followed turned me into an opera fan; my quest for more information on Turner herself got me onto various opera newsgroups and mailing lists and eventually made me many important friendships. I'm now working on a biography of Turner and have a tiny second career as a music writer. If this hadn't happened, I might have a darkroom in my basement. This was very likely the better outcome (and it happened as a result of numerous doors opening and closing).

    Oh, and it is one hell of a performance. If you've never heard it, do look for it.

  • Le Nozze di Figaro, with its perfect structure and three-hour parade of great music, is almost the only opera I'm willing to see annually. It also appears to be virtually bulletproof, or maybe it just brings out the best in everybody: I've seen five or six different productions that cost from thousands to millions and they all worked, musically, dramatically, and vocally. (I could live with seeing Tristan und Isolde annually if the intensity didn't kill me.)

  • La Bohème persuaded me that I was an idiot not to take Puccini seriously.

  • I've been listening obsessively to the two CDs by Csókolom, a string group that performs what it descrbes as the music of Greater Transylvania. Sometimes Greater Transylvania extends as far as Hollywood and Henry Mancini's theme for the Pink Panther films, but mostly it's wild music from Hungary, Romania, and greater Romany. Anti von Klewitz sings and plays lead violin with bite and a truly remarkable rhythmic sense. The mixture of joy, fierceness, and melancholy is perfect and perfectly suits my state of mind. If only I had the language and vocal range to sing the songs, or knew the steps that go with the dances!

  • Stephen Kovacevich playing the last Beethoven piano sonata, op. 111. He's recorded it several times - this would be the version in the EMI box of the complete sonatas. Passionate, imaginative, and transcendent; one of the greatest recordings I've ever heard of anything.

Right; that's six bullet points, but I had to get something purely instrumental on the list.

Five people to whom I'm passing the baton

Like Tim, to anyone who'd like to take it.

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