Ludwig van Beethoven: The Symphonies [disc 5]. Recorded in 1994. The International Music Company: 205299-305.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Symphony No. 7 in A major (op. 92)
Barry Wordsworth: conductor
Symphony No. 8 in D minor (op. 93)
James Lockhart: conductor
When the ears develop a sense of historical context it becomes difficult not to hear these two symphonic works as the calm before the ninth symphony. The challenge - as it is with any fetishized and profoundly familiar body of musics - is to hear the sounds of these works in the present tense. Stripping away the precarious point between Classical-with-a-capital-c and Romantic-with-a-capital-R and hearing the formal development and sensibilities is a continually rewarding exercise with each of the symphonies. A sense of brooding optimism runs through these pieces as each takes their customary developmental turns upon core themes and reminds the composerly mind just how exhilarating it is to bridge surprising turns from a set body of materials.
Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets, Vol. IV. Recorded in 1986. Delos: DE 3034.
The Orford String Quartet
Andrew Dawes: violin
Kenneth Perkins: violin
Terence Helmer: viola
Denis Brott: cello
String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 59 No. 2 ("Razumovsky")
String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 ("Serioso")
The "Razumovsky" quartets continue to intrigue these ears with that transitional quality between the early and late Beethoven sound. While the late "Serioso" contains all the formal and compositional qualities of the symphonies without the instrumental scale and difficulty of separating it from memory (these quartets are less familiar compared to the often played symphonies). This is a big dose of the big "B." There's plenty of reason to come back to these pieces time and again.
Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost (box set) [disc 3]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.
Albert Ayler Quintet @ La Cave, Cleveland, OH. April 16-17, 1966
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Don Ayler: trumpet
Michel Samson: violin
Mutawef Shaheed (aka Clyde Shy): bass
Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums
It's hard to overstate the fascination with the layer of sound found in Michel Samson's violin work on these live sets. It's also hard to overstate the strain to hear it at times with the cave-like acoustics of La Cave on these rough recordings. On one hand, a much treasured document of one of Ayler's great quintets. This is coupled with the disappointment that the attention to engineering this sound didn't get its due in this all to brief moment of time.
The treatment of melodic themes as grounding material is of particular interest in these sets. Especially how the cyclical quality wears away to expose different members - often as they iterate and dissolve that same theme. Even more so when that dissolving leaves the way clear to hear Samson dragging his bow along the violin. I would be interested to learn more about Samson's influence on sometimes violinist Ornette Coleman and the similar sound he reaches for with that instrument.