Sunday, August 02, 2009

HurdAudio Rotation: I Shot the Sheriff

Charles Ives/Ivan Wyschnegradsky: Quarter-Tone Pieces. 2006. Hat Hut Records: hat[now]ART 143.

Josef Christof: piano
Stefen Schleiermacher: piano

24 Preludes In Quarter-Tone System (excerpts)(1934/70) by Ivan Wyschnegradsky
Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for Two Pianos (1903 - 23) by Charles Ives
Three Page Sonata (1905) by Charles Ives
Etude sur le "Carre Magique Sonore" op. 40 (1957) by Ivan Wyschnegradsky

Where is the obsession due for Ivan Wyschegradsky? Come on, people. He's Russian. Russian composers are supposed to be over-exposed to the point where I'm tired of hearing them (think Shostakovich or Scriabin). He's even a wild-eyed mystic (like Arvo Part). Is it the microtonal thing that's holding back his exposure? Because I scratch and dig for recordings of this cat and I cannot get enough. The excerpts from the 24 Preludes is fantastic. And it's typical in the current recorded oeuvre of Wyschnegradsky that there isn't a complete edition readily available out there. Let's have an all-Wyschnegradsky festival at Tanglewood so these ears can get their fill of this important microtonal composer.

Charles Ives is another composer these ears have enormous appetite for. These works for two pianos tuned a quarter-tone apart are pure joy. And again, I know there is much, much more material like this out there. Hungry ears left hungry well after this beautiful appetizer. Especially the "Chorale" movement from the Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for Two Pianos.

This disc is harmonically rich, rich modernist music beautifully performed. The extra layers of dissonance and consonance afforded from dividing the octave into 24-equal parts opens up surprising vistas that remain an open frontier nearly a full century after these works were composed.

Andrew Violette: Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin. 2008. Innova: 711.

Robert Uchida: violin

A substantial composition for solo violin. Andrew Violette focuses squarely upon the linear development of melodic materials and their formal presentation as base constructs that are systematically and creatively deconstructed, varied and later reassembled.

The first disc of this double-CD includes .pdf files of the score and the liner notes. A practice I heartily applaud as following along with the score reveals the compositional integrity and prolonged focus of this piece. I am struck by the total absence of dynamic markings - leaving interpretive freedom to the individual performer taking on this long form and making it their own (something Robert Uchida has done with enormous musicality). Also missing to a large extent are rests. Or any vibration of string other than bowing (no pizzicato). Other than the space between movements, these are straight melodic slabs that meticulously work through the intervals found within the Aria (and its numerous variations), Bells (later appearing with trills and scales) and a long Chaconne.

Robert Uchida's performance brings this score to life with impressive depth. The prolonged focus upon the linear harmony of this music shimmers with a balance of disciplined playing and humanity. A work worthy of revisiting.

Bob Marley and The Wailers: Burnin'. Premium Audiophile pressing on heavyweight 180 gram vinyl of the 1973 classic. Island Records: 07314 54889414.

"Get up, stand up. Stand up for your rights." Words of truth and words of consequence in regard to fighting on the side of justice for the oppressed. Musically fascinating and resonant as a near-concept album espousing right in the face of power. My younger ears escaped the hook of this music. Now the appeal is immediate and embraced. Add to it the warmth of vinyl with a lazy summer evening and this soul hears something eternal in this expression of honesty combined with the intrinsic musicality of this production.

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