Monday, September 03, 2007

HurdAudio Rotation: Ludwig Van Braxton

Anthony Braxton 12+1tet: 9 Compositions (Iridium) 2006 - disc 3. Firehouse 12 Records: FH12-04-03-001.

Recorded live: March 17, 2006 at Iridium Jazz Club, New York City.

The Anthony Braxton 12+1tet
Anthony Braxton: composer, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone, clarinet and Eb contalto clarinet
Taylor Ho Bynum: cornet, flugelhorn, trumpbone, piccolo trumpet, bass trumpet, shell
Andrew Raffo Dewar: soprano saxophone, c-melody saxophone, clarinet
James Fei: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet
Mary Halvorson: electric guitar
Stephen H. Lehman: alto saxophone, sopranino saxophone
Nicole Mitchell: flute, alto flute, bass flute, piccolo, voice
Jessica Pavone: viola, violin
Reut Regev: trombone, flugelbone
Jay Rozen: tuba, euphonium
Sara Schoenbeck: bassoon, suona
Aaron Siegel: percussion, vibraphone
Carl Testa: acoustic bass, bass clarinet

Disc 3 = Composition 352 - dedicated to the composer Sofia Gabaidulina
Anthony Braxton's compositional brilliance takes on staggering proportions in these large-ensemble works as his uncompromising ideas manage to tap into the improvisational intensity of these outstanding players. The pulse-structure, and focus upon twisting and re-shaping that structure, is clearly displayed in this particular recording as the opening spiky, homophonic melodic line resists several pulls toward a mere focal point as it spirals outward toward an involved polyphony of multiple pulsating melodic threads that weave throughout this long-form piece. There's an unsteady steadiness to the linear parts as my ears continue to find increasing awe for the individual members of the 12+1tet.

Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (op. 55 - "Eroica"). Recorded in 1994 by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The International Music Company: 205297-305.

So many program notes and liner notes surrounding Beethoven's symphonies mention how his music was "not received wel
l" or "opinion was split" regarding the premiere of each of his symphonic works. One only needs to sit and drink in the outstanding achievement of the "Eroica" to appreciate how insignificant people's opinion of that work - both favorable and negative - have turned out to be. As artistic expression, it transcends the small-minded like/don't like dichotomy. The real issue is how few people are "in the moment" enough to realize when something of such substantial merit is unfolding before their dulled senses. Writings about music would improve a great deal if less time was devoted to the insignificant tangent of how audiences respond in favor of discussing actual sound.

Discussing how the "Eroica" sounds is relatively simple given the near-crushing familiarity of the work. It's the
grand unfolding of this music, the unmistakable Beethoven-esque quality of thematic development across vast durations, that hits a rare balance between intellect and sheer aural immediacy. The balance of roles between and orchestration for winds and strings give this material its sheen.

Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets/The Orford String Quartet - disc 1. Recorded in 1989. Delos: DE 3031.

Orford String Quartet:
Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello

String Quartet in F Major, op. 18 no. 1
String Quartet in E Flat Major, op. 127

This particular volume has had a few spins in the rotation now and the wealth of ideas in this music is starting to seep in and lead the ears to new associations. Op. 18 is a conversational, taut classical work with surprising charm. While the Op. 127 is a sprawling, exquisite piece that barely hangs on to the four movement form by stretching the duration of the second movement - the adagio - until it nearly becomes an epic work in its own right. Beethoven crams so much meat into these chamber works - far more so than in his symphonic writing. The fact that so many composers have been drawn toward writing for two violins, viola and cello - an overwhelming number of outstanding works for that instrumentation - stems directly from the influence of what Beethoven was able to accomplish within this medium.

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