Saturday, February 20, 2010

The missing tracks: Beethoven, Orff, Schnittke--they're all here!

So sorry it took this long everyone. But the missing tracks for my first Schnittke film post, the Furtwangler Beethoven, and the Orff are all here. As a show of apology, please enjoy this slightly disturbing video. Thank you all for your patience!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Self serving promo right here!

Don't get too excited. These are not the long awaited links to the missing tracks I've promised for so long (and will have for you tonight). No. Instead this is just to announce the opening of my new blog, The Aging Gamer.

Gaming? Video games? What does that have to do with the great music I offer here? Plenty, buddy. If it weren't for games, and one in particular, I probably would never have discovered classical music. And if that had never happened, the path to an appreciation of higher culture would never have opened for me.

I won't be posting any late breaking news or "exclusive" coverage or whatever. Just reflections on gaming and the old games that helped make me the lovable chap I am today. I hope some of you will visit. Thanks. And those missing track are coming!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Beethoven: Symphony No.5, etc. (BPO/Furtwängler)

Beethoven: Overture to Egmont, Overture to Coriolan*, Symphony No.5
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra*/Wilhelm Furtwängler
Opus Kura OPK 2037 | Mono ADD

Wilhelm Furtwängler's skepticism of the virtues of recording is infamous. One thinks of his Decca recording of the Brahms Second Symphony. What should have been a stunning showcase recording (just think of it--Furtwängler in a Full Frequency Range Recording!) turned out to be arguably his worst studio recording. Second guessing his Decca studio engineers, he refused to conduct a single note until the recording team had removed the offending "Decca tree" from his sight and replaced it with a single microphone a la Friedrich Schnapp. The result was a recording that sounded like sonic sludge; an embarrassment to Decca's hi-fi reputation. He was no easier for HMV to handle. His tempestuous relationship with Walter Legge has become the stuff of legend. Unlike Stokowski, Mengelberg, and von Karajan, among others, Furtwängler failed to grasp how recording was usurping the concert experience in importance. Erratic in the studio, he could churn out some surprisingly indifferent recordings. This is not one of them.

If this should be the only recording of the Beethoven Fifth you'll ever hear, you would be set for life. Words can barely describe this recording. Blazing out with primal strength, this is a recording that feels so utterly right. From beginning to end, not a single note feels out of place; not a false step is taken. This isn't Beethoven as a mere sum of notes. This is Beethoven encompassing an entire universe in its staves. Laughter and joy; anger and pain. If you aren't gasping for air when the final chord dies out, you might want to check your pulse.

The two accompanying overtures are nearly as good though better versions exist. The Polydor Egmont is quite fine, but there is an even better one recorded at his first post-war BPO concert that is. Vienna's fabled Philharmonic is the star in this Coriolan. Very good, but his war time BPO broadcast is one of the best ever recordings of this overture.

Opus Kura's sound is magnificent. Honest transfers that retain the fullness and breadth of the original 78's. Best of all is the Electrola recording of the Fifth: dark, rich, and vibrant.

Playing time on this CD is a bit short, but why complain? Here's a chance to listen to one of the 20th century's greatest recordings.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Hey! So as you may have noticed, it has been awhile since I updated here. A brief explanation. I was able to upload and post voluminously because I had a surplus of free time as I was "between jobs" for nearly a year and a half. Happily this has changed as I have recently ceased being a drag on the American taxpayer. In other words, I'm no longer "unemployed, all non void." Apparently there was this "recession" that the newspapers seemed to make a pretty big deal of as of late. Yeah, I know. Never heard of this either. Long story short, McDonald's made the job of "McNugget fryer" redundant as they outsourced my job to Hyderabad. You would think I would deserve a little more respect being a magna cum laude graduate of Hamburger U and all. So in the meantime I was forced to become a cockney shoe shine boy or some such to earn some quid. Also I had to subsist mainly on ketchup packets and the free samples of fine cheeses courtesy of those good people at Whole Foods. Ah, capitalism! Of course, all those days are over now and I can finally earn enough money to live in a real house with walls and a roof. No more living under the freeway off-ramp for me!

Now while I may be more occupied with work now, don't you think for a minute that your's truly will close this blog or something. Not at all! I have some choice goodies coming up for later this week. I'll probably be able to post only once or twice a week now. I'm off Fridays and, of course, weekends are free as well. So expect posts on those days. I have some gems coming up, just you wait. Hopefully you can be patient. But if not... well, you're going to have to wait anyway. See you Friday!