Sunday, August 21, 2011

HurdAudio Rotation: Sacred and Secular Music

Johann Sebastian Bach: Bach Edition [IV-1]. 1999. Brilliant Classics: 93102/77

Funeral Ode BWV 198
For the 1st day of Christmas BWV 110

Holland Boys Choir
Netherlands Bach Collegium
Roth Holton: soprano
Marjon Strijk: soprano
Sytse Buwalda: alto
Knut Schoch: tenor
Bas Ramselaar: bass
Pieter Jan Leusink: conductor
Peter Frankenberg: oboe
Kristin Linde: oboe
Ofer Frenkel: oboe
Doretthe Janssens: traverso
Oeds van Middelkoop: traverso
Rien Voskuilen: cembalo
Vaughan Schlepp: cembalo
Freek Borstlap: viola da gamba
Ivanka Neeleman: viola da gamba
David van Ooijen: lute
Micheiel Niessen: lute
Jan Zwerver: alto
Martinus Leusink: tenor
Edward Wesley: oboe
Kate Clark: traverso
Brian Berryman: traverso
Susan Williams: tromba naturale
Frank Anepool: tromba naturale
Geerten Rooze: tromba naturale
David Kjar: tromba naturale
Frank Aarnink: timpani

Cantatas for two very different occasions. Could one differentiate between a Bach piece written for a funeral and one written for the first day of Christmas? The breadth of Bach's tonal language - a language he advanced in the same manner Shakespeare advanced the English language - lends itself to the solemnity of both human death and the birth of a messiah. Leaving the contemporary ear to ponder the variance between the profound and the secular. David Lang captures the conundrum of the contemporary ear confronted with the passionate belief of J.S. Bach when he states that Bach's music "goes to a place I simply cannot follow." Drawn in by the majestic reverence of the sound while acutely aware of the unfamiliarity of such profound devotion to Christ. I am struck by how little of this musical passion was ever present in the church music of my own youth. Somewhere along the centuries the sophistication of Baroque music was systemically supplanted by a decidedly bland, institutionally friendly approach toward hymn arrangements that favored homogenization over the sublime. A further reminder that these cantatas are a gift from a time, a mind and a belief that is lost to the ages.
Ludwig van Beethoven: The Complete Quartets volume VIII. 1994. Delos: DE 3038.

String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 18, No. 6
String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135
Grosse Fuge, Op. 133

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

I've cycled through these Complete Quartets a few times (which are brilliantly performed by the Orford String Quartet on this collection) and it's clear that this is where the gauntlet was thrown that caused so many composers to take the medium of two violins, viola and cello so seriously. This is the seed from which so many great quartets have bloomed. The breadth of aesthetic purpose that Beethoven spans (and straddles) is incredible. The eighth volume in this set is the only one to feature three works. Staying with the pattern of early work followed by mid-to-late work. This time the distance between opus 18 and opuses 135 and 133 doesn't feel as wide. As my ears begin to connect the formal development of the late Classical with the temporal expansiveness of the early Romantic. Next time through, I'm tracking these with a score.

Albert Ayler: Holy Ghost [disc 7]. 2004. Revenant Records: 213.

Don Ayler Sextet - January 11, 1969 @ Town Hall, New York City
Don Ayler: trumpet
Albert Ayler: alto saxophone
Sam Rivers: tenor saxophone
Richard Johnson: piano
Richard Davis: bass
Ibrahim Wahen: bass
Muhammad Ali: drums

Albert Ayler Quartet - July 28, 1970 @ La Colle sur Loup: Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France
Albert Ayler: tenor saxophone
Call Cobbs: piano
Steve Tintweiss: bass
Allen Blairman: drums
Mary Parks: tambourine, hand clapping

In many ways, Albert Ayler represents a more contemporary manifestation of the faith and devotion of J.S. Bach. Only Ayler's love and belief exist decidedly outside of the protective walls of the church as employer and institution. Ayler's spirituality is unflinchingly honest and deep that it descends into madness. A reminder that true devotion does not necessarily lead toward comfort despite what the marketing promises of more institutionalized religions would have one believe. The seventh disc from this set is a tough one to sit through. Two sessions poorly recorded with the drums often saturating the recording completely and obscuring the rest of the sound. Don Ayler does flash a few moments that lead me to believe he had more unrealized potential than we'll ever know. This material is buried deep within this box set as it is not for the uninitiated.

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