Scardanelli’s Motley

[Summer heat has driven Signor Scardanelli, our Man in the Attic, down to the listening room.]

Signor Scardanelli

[July 2013.]

An important link

Morton Feldman’s 1979 Violin and Orchestra – this being the only major-label performance I know of – engages on a couple of counts. Feldman’s fans (oneself as an exemplar in dayglo) will recognize its composer near to instantly by way of the music’s structure and sound. And they will also remark, again near to instantly, how differently the concerto unfolds as compared with Feldman’s later – largely chamber – works.

The music opens with a thick-textured, short-lived squabble from which the violin emerges, muted to the very end, in a Feldmanesque chain of self-contained events. Differences with his later music have largely to do with dynamics and orchestral effects. The scoring includes (I take this from the annotator): quadruple and triple winds and brass, four percussionists, two harps, two pianos and a “corresponding body of strings,” which Feldman deploys sparingly. The music’s timbral variety and assaultive fortes set the concerto well apart from the lucidity and calm of the long-duration music Feldman wrote to the time of his death in 1987. Quieter passages impart a sense of foreboding – nicely assorted dramatics, all told, at the farthest remove from, for example, For Christian Wolff, for flute and piano / celesta (1986), where an illuminating meagerness prevails over the course of three-plus hours, duration depending on who’s performing. (A superb first recording with Eberhard Blum and Nils Vigeland, hatART CD 3-61201 / 2 / 3, was released in 1992. I checked. Copies are available. Another fine performance with Dorothy Stone and Vicki Ray of the unfortunately named California E.A.R. Unit – an offshoot perhaps of the California Eye, Nose and Throat Ensemble? – fills a three-disc Bridge set, 9279A / C, likewise available.)

The fortes of an earlier work, Piano and Orchestra of 1975, put Violin and Orchestra’s extroversions in diminished context. The more mature his music, the more given over to subtler strategies. And yet, for those of us under Morty’s spell, Violin and Orchestra, with the most excellent Carolin Widmann, violin, Emilio Pomàrico conducting the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, ECM New Series 2283, provides a precious connection to the masterworks to follow. (For Piano and Orchestra, see col legno collage 06 CD, WWE 1CD 20506.)

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Much of a welcome muchness

An attractively boxed 55-CD collection, Archiv Produktion 1947-2013, is subtitled “A Celebration of Artistic Excellence from the Home of Early Music.” I’d have added “Mind-Boggling.” The collection, which ranges from mono and stereo with appropriate cover designs, would take weeks of note-taking to produce a statement approaching thorough. I suspect that the most well-seasoned music lovers are bound to encounter composers, including brother Anonymous, let alone performances, new to them. (Contents are listed here.)

Complete works occupying two or three discs include Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Karl Richter conducting a modern-instrument group, as was his wont; the Mass in B minor, with John Eliot Gardiner taking the original-instrument route; Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Charles Mackerras conducting; La Resurrezione, Marc Minkowski conducting; Messiah, with conductor Paul McCreesh; the opera Alcina, Alan Curtis conducting; and Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, with Gardiner. For the rest, single CDs, many devoted to one composer – Scarlatti, Telemann, C.P.E. Bach, Corelli, Rameau, Palestrina, Vivaldi, Gabrieli, and so on – others samplers of the distant remote, likewise plentiful. All in all, an education and a delight. The richly detailed 195-page English-French-German booklet includes articles about the label’s history and each of the 55 discs’ production information. Commentary about the music would have been out of the question. As a small complaint, it should have been provided as an Internet link.