Sunday, December 21, 2008

Thaïs: Triomphe

Renée Fleming, who in two months enters her sixth decade of life, stole the show in the title role as the young Egyptian courtesan during the December 20 Metropolitan Opera HD broadcast of Jules Massenet’s Thaïs. Fleming’s angelic face and a svelte figure accentuated by the stunning costumes of Christian Lacroix were perfect for the role. In this regard, her appearance as a lithesome temptress was much more satisfactory than another we saw at the Met earlier this year. Karita Mattila, in her appearance as Salome, looked like a middle-aged woman unsuccessfully parading around as a youngster in sometimes ungainly fashion.

As in the Met’s production of Salome, I was disappointed by pointless, intentional, gratuitous anachronisms. The story is set in ancient Egypt, but at the beginning of the second scene of the opera Athanaël, a Cenobite monk, travels to Alexandria to convert Thaïs and is confronted with someone wielding a rifle. Hmmmm. Up until that point things looked chronologically coherent. And then Athanaël’s childhood friend Nicias, now the lover of Thaïs, wears a tuxedo shirt and bowtie. One almost gets the impression that this is done because it is easier to find tuxedo shirts than create costumes appropriate to the era. Or maybe it’s just a way of avoiding any criticism of the production for being anachronistic: if you’re obviously not trying to have things make sense—because major details are out of place—then nobody will notice or criticize the minor details that are inappropriate. Of course, wild anachronism is all the rage in the arts. But one wishes producers would not just toss it in for no apparent reason. Anachronism can be an interesting dish, but it makes a horrible spice.

Another odd element of this production borrowed from the Chicago Lyric Opera was the set for the final scene. It had the dying Thaïs sitting upright on an elevated platform placed atop the desert scenery from the preceding scene. This seemed awkward. The death scene also seemed troublesome in that Fleming looked fit, well, even radiant, and then suddenly drops dead. Nobody ever looked more well than Thaïs at the moment that she dies.

Thomas Hampson’s Athanaël was magnificent. His powerful baritone voice conveyed the unshakeable strength of his character’s convictions. The role seemed very demanding and his voice stood up well. Fleming’s singing was wonderful, particularly her ability to sing pianissimo during some high, sustained notes. One had the impression that the very highest notes of the performance brought her out of her comfort zone, but she hit them, and this is a trivial concern given the excellence of every other aspect of her performance.

This opera boasts the famous and beautiful Méditation for violin as a transition between scenes during Act II. The piece was performed with great feeling by Met concertmaster David Chan. The reprise of this melody in Act III adds much to the beauty of the opera.

The courtesans Crobyle and Myrtale were ably portrayed by Alyson Cambridge and Ginger Costa-Jackson. Michael Schade’s Nicias was well sung, as were the roles of Palémon, by Alain Vernhes and Albine, by Maria Zifchak.

Fleming and Hampson teamed up on the Decca recording of Thaïs from 2000. That performance is the standard for recordings of this opera on CD. This HD performance will no doubt soon be available on DVD and when it is this performance will also be the standard.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Defense of Mozart in the Form of a Monty Python Scene: Redux



I visited with a friend last summer and we were talking about Mozart when he stated that “all his music sounds the same.” He then expressed the opinion that he did not consider Mozart one of the truly great composers. The remark left me speechless. After some time has passed, I think a response is appropriate.

When walking down a shore covered with small rocks some may see them and maintain that “all the rocks look the same.” But even the amateur rock hound knows that the rocks are in fact very different. He inspects carefully and finds great variety. Some of the rocks turn out to be quartz, others granite, others perhaps agates. So too it is with Mozart. He wrote music that was loud and furious; he also wrote music that was soft and tender. He wrote music for solo instruments, such as the piano and violin. He wrote pieces for the human voice. He wrote pieces for string quartets, and for quintets, and octets. He wrote for the symphony orchestra. He wrote for piano and orchestra. His works reveal incredible variety.

Compare these two works. The first is the last movement of his Symphony No. 35, the “Haffner” Symphony, K. 385. The second is a trio from Così Fan Tutte, one of his last and greatest operas. Here's the last movement of the Haffner Symphony.



Now the trio “Soave sia il vento,” from the opera Così Fan Tutte.



Those pieces are obviously quite different and sound not at all alike. The variety of Mozart’s work is amazing. He wrote concerti—pieces for orchestra and soloist—not only for the piano, but also for clarinet, oboe, French horn, bassoon, flute, and flute and harp together. But that’s not even the full extent of his variety. Marches, songs, sets of theme and variations on songs, choral music, even two pieces for the glass harmonica (an odd invention of Benjamin Franklin that mechanically creates sounds in a manner similar to circling one’s finger on a wine glass).

But it’s not just the variety that makes Mozart’s music so special; it’s the quality. To continue the rocks on the shore analogy, you are walking down the beach and you find something of seeming unpromising provenance. It’s one-fourth of one of Mozart’s thirteen serenades. Let’s bend over, pick it up, and see if it has any merit or interest.



Then there is the sheer volume of work. Some 40 symphonies. 27 piano concerti. Five violin concerti. He wrote 18 masses, 20 operas and 17 piano sonatas. His musical catalog contains more than 600 works—and he lived only to 35. And the Marriage of Figaro, about 3 hours of music, like his nineteen other operas, counts as only one work.

Okay, so he’s versatile and incredibly productive, but what beyond that?

Well first of all he was a guy with a great sense of humor. One of the pieces in his catalog of works is called Ein Musikalisher Wurfelspiel—A Musical Dice Game. In this odd musical dice game/musical piece one can build their own minuet by rolling dice. Each of 16 bars has 11 possibilities based on the roll of two dice. The minuet is written so that no matter what combinations occur, the minuet fits together to make a passable piece of music. Mozart also engaged in musical parody in a piece called Ein Musikalischer Spass—“A musical joke”—by demonstrating basic compositional errors—and this was two centuries before P.D.Q. Bach.

One of the raps against classical composers is that they are not spontaneous. They write great music, but it’s stuffy and staid because their music is too calculated. But Mozart was an incredible improviser. Before he was ten someone could give him any tune and he would gladly improvise on it, sometimes at very great length. Of course there was no audio tape or film back then, so all that survives is what is written down. The closest we can come to recreating his improvisational efforts is to play some of his themes and variations. One example for solo piano was heard in the soundtrack of Out of Africa, when the Isak Dinesen character and her love interest camped on the African plain and played a record while resting by the fire.



But the most important thing about Mozart’s music is its beauty.

Consider these tunes and ask yourself if these could be improved on:

First another Hollywood favorite from what I felt was the key moment in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, a piece from The Marriage of Figaro: Sull’aria.



Now another movie favorite, the middle movement of a piano concerto, whose theme is now called the “Elvira Madigan theme” because it was used in a 1967 movie about Elvira Madigan, a 19th century Danish tightrope walker.



Next two tunes from his singspiel, The Magic Flute: “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” and “Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton.”





Okay, so Mozart wrote many different kinds of music for many instruments; he was prolific; he had a sense of humor; and the music he wrote was very beautiful—but still I hear that it all sounds the same because the harmonics of the music are all based on a common musical language.Well between 1782 and 1785 Mozart composed six string quartets for Joseph Haydn. Here’s the first movement of the last of these six string quartets. I think it is possible to agree that the first two minutes of this movement, the introduction, were written by someone who is pushing the boundaries of the Viennese classical tradition. When I first heard it I thought it might be Samuel Barber or one of his cronies.



But apart from writing music of differing styles, writing for a wide range of instruments, writing some of music’s most famous pieces, writing incredible volumes of music, having a good sense of humor, being spontaneous, writing beautiful gems, and pushing the tonal boundaries of music, what did Mozart ever do for us?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Cirque de Soleil at the Met: La Damnation de Faust

In the early 1800’s the closest you could come to an experience like going to see Raiders of the Lost Ark would have been to go the opera. The opera offered wonders for audiences of a time that had no television, no movies, no electric lights, no phonographs, and no digital dinosaurs: beautiful music played by an expert orchestra; singing of the highest caliber; and, importantly, amazing technology. It offered characters that would appear from clouds of smoke, actors that could fly across the stage, and perhaps cherubim floating across the top of the stage. There was a time when the opera was a place where people went to be awed.

But we now live in a different age. Digital imagery allows us to create any illusion we set our minds to. Today children are not impressed by someone appearing out of a trap door or flying across the stage. The same is true of adults. Our jaded natures raise the production stakes and ask producers to do more and more to impress us. But just because we can do something does not mean that we should do it. With respect to contemporary stage effects there comes a point at which enough is simply enough. And Robert LePage’s production of La Damnation de Faust is at times simply too much. LePage is known for a particularly stunning Las Vegas Cirque to Soleil show, . Now he has brought the Cirque de Soleil feel to the Met.

The only thing that makes the busyness of the LePage production tolerable is that it is imposed over a piece that is not a true opera. Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust was created as a concert work to be performed by four soloists and chorus. It is a masterpiece. The libretto, however, is not operatic in scope, so it would seem that an enhanced production might be just the thing to fill the voids in the text: this might be just the work that could tolerate an intrusive production.

The production is certainly a feast for the eyes: uniformed soldiers slowly marching up walls and then dropping to the laps of women; beautiful sets accomplished by projection; demons dancing on the ceilings of cells in the tiered stage and crawling on the walls; 40-foot ladders from which the leads enter and depart the stage; actors hanging à la crucifixion from five giant crosses; real actors riding projected horses. At times the performance was the gastronomic equivalent of a deep-fried candy bar dipped in honey—with whipped cream—and a cherry on top—covered with chocolate sauce.

There were several distractions created by all of this technology. At times the masses getting ready behind the set were making all kinds of obtrusive noises. At one point you could see some odd laser pointer type dots on the set. (I thought there was a sniper in the audience.) Towards the very end of the opera the reflective screens at the back of the set were picking up maestro Levine’s white tux as lit by the lights down in the pit. This created an inexplicable moving image at the back of the set that was quite distracting. Most problematic were the safety harnesses used whenever anyone dangled or climbed, which was often. Perhaps they would not be too distracting if one was attending the performance at the Met, but the zoom of the HD cameras made them more obvious. During the horse riding scene the riders looked like they were dangling from nooses. The magic of opera depends upon illusion and the clear visibility of these devices was a constant reminder of the artificiality of the production.

Musically, the performance was very good. Levine took the First Act’s Rákóczi March at a very fast pace. This worked until just before the end of the number when the orchestra seemed to struggle a bit. Also, in the stunning gibberish number at the end of the work, "Has! Irimiru Karabrao!” it at times seemed that there was some disconnect between the chorus and the orchestra. Marcello Giordani’s Faust seemed excellent in the first acts, but lagged significantly after intermission. In particular, he seemed to struggle during the duet “Ange adoré”—particularly at the high notes about forty-five seconds after his entrance. The confidence he brought to the early part of the piece evaporated by the end. On the other hand, Susan Graham’s Marguerite was outstanding. She sang the role with apparent ease, even after conducting interviews before the performance and having cameras follow her around backstage during it. Her voice was spot on. John Relyea’s Mephistopheles was impressively wicked. His rich voice seemed in good form. The presence of his character was definitely enhanced by the HD close-ups.

This was one performance that made me wonder whether attending live at the Met might not be an improvement over the HD viewing. At times the most impressive part of the tiered staging was its size and scope. Sometimes the cameras would focus on a small part of the stage when I wanted to see the broader view. And of course this was true when the harnesses and rigging were prominent.

Despite these criticisms, all in all the performance worked. The music is brilliant. The production was impressive. The singers were, overall, spectacular. Any deficiency in the production probably flows from the fact that this was not written as an opera. The next Met HD Broadcast is Massenet’s Thaïs. It is a new production. Let’s just hope that the Egyptians don’t dance on the ceiling.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Pathetic Gray Lady and Her Sorry Minions

While visiting wellsung.blogspot last night I noted a review of a recent Maurizio Pollini piano recital by Alex. The post was short and thoughtful. But it got my blood boiling because it directed me to a review of the recital by NYT critic Allan Kozinn.

Some background. Pollini is one of the giants of the piano world and has been so for almost 50 years. He won first prize at the International Chopin Piano Competition in 1960 at age 18. By the 1970's he was a dominant figure in the piano world. He toured extensively and recorded some amazing discs for Deutsche Grammophon. (Here are three of the best: Beethoven: Die späten Klaviersonaten, op. 101, 106 ("Der Hammerklavier"), 109-111 (1977); Chopin: Etudes, op. 10 and 25 (1972); Chopin: Préludes, op. 28 (1975).) In the 1970's he was generally hailed as a pianistic marvel. His technique was reputed to be flawless. His concert performances were attended by critics who would just salivate at the thought of him missing a note--but he rarely did. I recall a recital in London where a large percentage of the audience had brought their scores so that they could better detect error. Speed, power, consistency and discipline were his trademarks.

But unlike timing the 100 meter dash, the critique of musical performances is not a purely objective activity. Some critics disliked Pollini--for many different reasons. Some already had a favorite pianist and had no room for another. Others protested that his playing "lacked spirit" because it was too precise. Eventually, this man, one of the most gifted pianists ever to have lived, was frequently dismissed--and sometimes by NYT critics--with a "well, if you like that kind of pianism" give away. Furthermore, while it's always nice to sell old records, many companies seem to be more interested in pushing what is new this year rather than what is truly the best recording of some of these pieces. Well the subjective nature of criticism makes for quite a muddle. Luckily other endeavors are more objective. Were it not so, I am confident that Usain Bolt never would have won the gold medal. His form was not too good! He stood up too early! Did his performance really have the grace or poise or that "certain something" found in the speedy performances of Richard Thompson or Walter Dix? If Pollini were a sprinter this is the type of questions that his critics would ask.

So now to the review at hand. My first problem is that the review, found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/28/arts/music/28poll.html is simply too short. I doubt that this is Kozinn's fault. It's 424 words long. I'm sure that either the editor cut the hell out of it, or Kozinn knew that he has some tiny limit. Such are the limitations of the old media.

The review starts with a huge waffle that could have been written before the concert and takes up almost 15% of his precious 424 words:

Both fans and detractors of the pianist Maurizio Pollini agree that his playing is powerful and precise, driven by a probing intellect and executed with steely, virtually infallible fingers. But where Mr. Pollini’s supporters argue that these qualities are at the service of warm-hued, impassioned performances, less impressed listeners hear his readings as icy and calculated, even when the surfaces are incendiary.

Okay, now this already looks like a bad Freshman English essay. Everybody apparently agrees Pollini is a thoughtful and technically stunning pianistic genius, but. . . . Well, then there are those naysayers that hear his readings as "icy and calculated." What exactly does that mean? Does that mean that his playing is "too correct"? Is it too slow--nope. Is it too fast--nope. It's at just the right tempo. Are the dynamics incorrect? Nope. They're perfect. Are the notes wrong? Apparently not. The writer seems to suggest that the playing is too correct. But is there such a thing? And next, though we have those nice "incendiary surfaces," it is implied that there's something deeper that is missing. I'd like to know exactly what that missing something is. That "je ne sais qua." Because just as I don't know what it is, I don't think Kozinn can tell us either. If the composer tells the pianist to play with a loose tempo and he does not, then fine, say so. If the pianist ignores accepted conventions with respect to the use of rubato that the reviewer thinks are compulsory, say so. But don't tell us that the performance is missing "depth" without telling us what you mean.

And then we find out that both sides in the Pollini debate may be correct. Way to take a stand!

At the end of the review Pollini is congratulated for his graceful touch and gentle rocking quality during his performance of Chopin Mazurkas, but Kozinn then clownishly implies that the performance of Chopin's “Revolutionary Etude” was impetuous and hard driven! This is simply laughable. The “Revolutionary Etude” is the exemplar of hard-driven pianistic impetuosity. And the Chopin Scherzo is not far behind in this category. Of course, god forbid that we should have an impetuous and hard-driven Beethoven “Tempest” or “Appassionata” Sonata. What else was he expecting to see? Presumably the program was available for review before the concert and Kozinn could have decided to skip this scary and treacherous aggregation of hard-driven impetuosity if it was just too much for him.

But there’s another way in which the review fails: lack of humanity. Pollini has been an incredible talent for a long time. He turns 67 in January. While we all age differently, let's face it, the rules of nature assure that this is not the Maurizio Pollini of the Deutsche Grammophon glory years of the 1970's and 1980's. But according to Kozinn, Pollini still has “virtually infallible fingers”—so I guess age maybe has nothing to do with it. While I last heard Pollini play in recital about ten years ago, I know that he is one of the most exceptional pianists that has walked the earth and his playing must still have much to offer—particularly if, as the reviewer suggests, his technique has not deteriorated. A critic who offers vague and insubstantial criticism of this kind in the face of a mature and intelligent pianistic genius of Pollini’s stature lacks heart and soul and deserves to be relegated to a job where they only dole out 424 words of space for his criticisms.

I can just see the title of the review that Kozinn will write when Liszt's ghost incarnate gives a recital at Carneige Hall: Startling Perfection--If You Like That Kind of Stuff.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Doctor Atomic: Not Much For The Ears

A Review of the November 8, 2008 HD Broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera’s Performance of Doctor Atomic

J. Robert Oppenheimer proved that dreadful things can be produced if the best and the brightest are provided enough resources. Saturday’s performance of John Adams’ Doctor Atomic proved that when the best and brightest of our artistic world are put to the task they can make even the dreadful music of Adams bearable. There is no doubt that the Met could provide a compelling performance of The Three Little Pigs if it wished—perhaps it already has—but here the Met’s elaborate and intelligent production was thrown against a backdrop of tuneless anti-musicality.

The performance offered much for the mind and much for the eye. The story is set in and near Los Alamos at the time of the first nuclear detonation. The subject is a compelling one for an opera: man wrestling with science and becoming master of his world. The libretto is ingenious. It juxtaposes some of Oppenheimer’s favorite works, the Bhagavad Gita and the metaphysical poetry of John Donne, with the actual written words of participants in the Manhattan project, including Oppenheimer and Edward Teller. The topic certainly lends itself to thoughtful examination. The intellectual and moral difficulties associated with the decision to create and use the first atomic weapons are among the deepest subjects we can examine.

The staging provided an ominous feeling that well served the opera’s weighty subject. Using a backstage wall that incorporated a huge fourteen by three cell structure, as was used in last year’s production of Peter Grimes, members of the chorus and occasionally principal singers were stacked on top of each other and alongside each other like curios in a giant shadow box. These cells were at times filled with contorted bodies. At other times they were filled with half-lit “ghosts” dressed in American Indian costumes, replete with furs and antler headdresses. The ominous, ugly, threatening bomb dangled above the stage for much of the performance.

The performance succeeded when it examined the psychological aspects of our nuclear quest. Gerald Finley's impeccable acting conveyed the weight Oppenheimer must have felt at the time. Kitty Oppenheimer’s part was sung by Sasha Cooke. Initially she sings of her personal pain at Oppenheimer’s disassociation from her. By the end of the work her voice serves to remind us of humanity’s fears—as does the singer in the role of Pasqualita, the Oppenheimers’ Native American maid who sings of olden tribal times. The juxtaposition of these many psychological elements is thought provoking, though not always satisfying. Occasionally it seemed that too many layers of association were being applied at the same time. But while sometimes overbearing, the work was for the most part a success on the psychological level.

But this is supposed to be the “Metropolitan Opera,” not a Broadway play. While it is easy to admire most aspects of the performance, it fails as opera. And this is not due to the vocal performances. They were impeccable. Finley's Oppenheimer was first rate. Cooke was also unimpeachable. All the vocal performances were excellent. But what were they performing? Much of the opera was slightly-elevated recitative drawn from a drab, unattractive and uninteresting musical palette. An aria sung by Finley at the end of Act One, “Batter My Heart Three Person’d God,” with words from the famous Donne sonnet, provides the opera’s one successful aria and perhaps its only compelling musical moment. Other moments, particularly those involving the chorus, threaten to become musically interesting, but it is hard to give Adams credit just because the Metropolitan Opera chorus is blazing full tilt.

The opera concludes with a scene that has the entire cast awaiting the detonation at the Trinity site while it stares at the audience. No doubt the performers create tension as they cover their eyes with sunglasses and pieces of tinted glass and we wait—in Hollywood fashion—four minutes of real time for an explosion that is supposed to be just two minutes off. Of course, while we wait for the explosion the orchestra ticks away the seconds. But here the piped in sound of a clock would have been just as effective as Adams’ banal offering.

In some ways this work represents a lengthy act of self-flagellation, since it focuses on our guilt in creating and using the first atomic weapons. The post-blast conclusion, with the voice of a Japanese woman asking for water for her children—as the final curtain falls—helps accent this theme in lead-fisted fashion.

As a whole, the work succeeds. The libretto, the production and the skill of the performers make this worth seeing. But if you are looking for a musical performance of merit that concerns a depressing and weighty subject, purchase or rent the DVD of last year’s Met performance of Peter Grimes instead.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Miracle of Metropolitan Opera HD Broadcasts

Any music lover that has not heard of the Metropolitan Opera HD broadcasts is living in a cave, a repressed police state, or is, as Ambrose Bierce put it, an ascetic: one who “gives in to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure.” The stunning and innovative Metropolitan HD broadcasts are among the most important developments in the history of the fine arts. Why? Because one can go to the cinema in any major urban area and see the Metropolitan Opera live.

While all elements may not all always come together at the same time, one who attends a Met production has the prospect of seeing the best singers in the world, playing with some of the best musicians in the world, under the baton of brilliant conductors, putting on some of the world’s most creative artistic productions. This is not to mention impeccable costuming, interesting staging, camerawork so close that you sometimes see spit and spray coming from singer’s mouths, the incredible sets, great writers (sometimes the Met modifies stodgy librettos, usually to good effect)—in short an artistic tour de force. When all these elements come together correctly they yield a performance that is unforgettable and exciting.

After I attended my first HD broadcast I never missed another—other than to attend the Met live during a performance of La Bohème that was itself broadcast in HD. Even then, I went back and saw the HD broadcast a few weeks later when it was offered as an encore performance. For those who are not aficionados, these broadcasts are a powerful introduction to opera. To those that already enjoy opera these broadcasts are musical heroin. In the 2007-08 season there were several performances that were artistic triumphs of the greatest order.

Of the performances I have seen, three have been particularly memorable. Though Puccini’s Manon Lescaut was the first HD broadcast I attended, Britten’s Peter Grimes was the first to forcibly grab me. I knew the general premise: an opera in English (strike one); with music by Benjamin Britten (strike two); exploring themes of child abuse and murder (strike three). But in fact, the performance was just fantastic. I did not know the music well, having listened to my recording of Jon Vickers in the lead only a couple of times. The staging was so visually interesting that my lack of familiarity simply did not matter. Everything clicked that day. Even the conductor, Donald Runnicles, someone I had not previously heard of, contributed to the feeling that one was experiencing one of those rare occasions on which all the artistic elements align. The work has six “Sea Interludes,” orchestral episodes that are sometimes performed as standalone pieces, and these were captivating. The second interlude, “The Storm,” was awe inspiring. I went to the performance believing that I would hate every minute of this opera, but left feeling elated, hopeful, captivated and enlightened.

And then there was Natalie Dessay’s performance at the end of the 2007-08 season. I prepared well for the HD performance of Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment by purchasing what appeared to be the definitive studio recording with Pavarotti and Sutherland in the leads. The opera contains an aria, “Pour mon âme,” that helped make Pavarotti famous: he could hit the nine “high C’s” to incredible effect. Juan Diego Flórez sang this role of Tonio and while he sang beautifully he was eclipsed by the radiant Dessay. My recording had Sutherland singing the lead role of Marie. Marie’s most memorable tune is “The Song of the Regiment,” and Sutherland belts out the beginning of this number as if her voice were a powerful but totally clear trumpet. I went prepared to be taken with singing of the order of Sutherland’s performance on disc. Again the Met threw a curve ball. On this day it was not the quality of the voice that took hold, but the frenetic and wonderful acting of Dessay: singing while ironing; singing while washing; singing while she is on her back being carried across the stage; singing while standing on the piano bench. She grabbed the stage by the scruff of its neck and made it serve her ever purpose. Again everything was clicking at the Met—and all around the world at the theaters that were receiving the HD broadcasts.

The most shocking performance I have attended was this season’s performance of the Richard Strauss opera Salome. The story is well known: in exchange for a dance—not just any dance, but the “Dance of the Seven Veils”—Herod offers Salome anything she wishes, up to “half his kingdom.” But she chooses the head of John the Baptist. After trying to dissuade her, Herod gives in and delivers the head on a silver platter, as Salome had demanded. Then Salome takes the head, sings to it, kisses it, and starts rolling on the ground with it. The opera ends as Herod orders her death, apparently because of her perversity, perhaps because he has been jilted for a dead prophet’s head. Karita Matilla played the lead role in what is almost a one-woman show. Matilla ended up drenched in fake blood. She took her bows with the blood all over her face and costume, looking like a floozy vampire. Memorable indeed.

Each of these performances cost only about $20. I simply showed up at my local movie theater and grabbed a seat after purchasing my tickets on the internet. No need to fly to New York. Plenty of seats were to be had. Plus I still had my Saturday evenings for play, since the performances started around the noon hour and generally were out by about three o’clock.

One particularly interesting aspect of the HD broadcasts is that the cameras follow the performers off of the stage directly and then they are interviewed by other opera notables, such as Deborah Voigt, Renee Fleming, or Dessay. The behind the scenes look at the Met is a view of a mysterious, hidden world. From animal wranglers to costumers, producers, stage hands—all the varieties of supporting workers are interviewed or seen doing their work. I remember that when I attended the Met I was disappointed that I could not see the interviews that were taking place backstage—another disadvantage of attending in person at the Met! Actually, many who both attend in person and take in the HD broadcasts say that they prefer the HD broadcasts. I am one. Even if you have really good seats at the Met you will not see the singers as clearly as you do with the aid of a battery of video cameras run by expert cameramen and coordinated by a skilled producer.

I intend to go to every HD broadcast for the rest of my life. If I miss one I’ll be sure to attend the replays that sometimes take place the next day or within a week or two of the original broadcast.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Defense of Mozart in the Form of a Scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian

REG:
. . . And what have [the Romans] ever given us in return?!
XERXES:
The aqueduct?
REG:
What?
XERXES:
The aqueduct.
REG:
Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.
COMMANDO #3:
And the sanitation.
LORETTA:
Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?
REG:
Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.
MATTHIAS:
And the roads.
REG:
Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads--
COMMANDO:
Irrigation.
XERXES:
Medicine.
COMMANDOS:
Huh? Heh? Huh...
COMMANDO #2:
Education.
COMMANDOS:
Ohh...
REG:
Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.
COMMANDO #1:
And the wine.
COMMANDOS:
Oh, yes. Yeah...
FRANCIS:
Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.
COMMANDO:
Public baths.
LORETTA:
And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.
FRANCIS:
Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this.
COMMANDOS:
Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.
REG:
All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
XERXES:
Brought peace.

Note: this blog entry includes musical examples that can easily be found at your local emusic store. They are in brackets.

I visited with a friend last summer and we were talking about Mozart when he stated that “all his music sounds the same.” He then expressed the opinion that he did not consider Mozart one of the truly great composers. The remark left me speechless. After some time has passed, I think a response is appropriate.

When walking down a shore covered with small rocks some may see them and maintain that “all the rocks look the same.” But even the amateur rock hound knows that the rocks are in fact very different. He inspects carefully and finds great variety. Some of the rocks turn out to be quartz, others granite, others perhaps agates. So too it is with Mozart. He wrote music that was loud and furious; he also wrote music that was soft and tender. He wrote music for solo instruments, such as the piano and violin. He wrote pieces for the human voice. He wrote pieces for string quartets, and for quintets, and octets. He wrote for the symphony orchestra. He wrote for piano and orchestra. His works reveal incredible variety.

Compare these two works. The first is the last movement of his Symphony No. 35, the “Haffner” Symphony, K. 385. The second is a trio from Così Fan Tutte, one of his last and greatest operas.

[Last movement of Haffner Symphony]

Now the trio “Soave sia il vento,” from the opera Così Fan Tutte.

[Soave sia il vento]

Those pieces are obviously quite different and sound not at all alike. The variety of Mozart’s work is amazing. He wrote concerti—pieces for orchestra and soloist—not only for the piano, but also for clarinet, oboe, French horn, bassoon, flute, and flute and harp together. But that’s not even the full extent of his variety. Marches, songs, sets of theme and variations on songs, choral music, even two pieces for the glass harmonica (an odd invention of Benjamin Franklin that mechanically creates sounds in a manner similar to circling one’s finger on a wine glass).

But it’s not just the variety that makes Mozart’s music so special; it’s the quality. To continue the rocks on the shore analogy, you are walking down the beach and you find something of seeming unpromising provenance. It’s one-fourth of one of Mozart’s thirteen serenades. Let’s bend over, pick it up, and see if it has any merit or interest.

[First Movement, Serenade No. 13, “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”]

Then there is the sheer volume of work. Some 40 symphonies. 27 piano concerti. Five violin concerti. He wrote 18 masses, 20 operas and 17 piano sonatas. His musical catalog contains more than 600 works—and he lived only to 35. And the Marriage of Figaro, about 3 hours of music, like his nineteen other operas, counts as only one work.

Okay, so he’s versatile and incredibly productive, but what beyond that?

Well first of all he was a guy with a great sense of humor. One of the pieces in his catalog of works is called Ein Musikalisher Wurfelspiel—A Musical Dice Game. In this odd musical dice game/musical piece one can build their own minuet by rolling dice. Each of 16 bars has 11 possibilities based on the roll of two dice. The minuet is written so that no matter what combinations occur, the minuet fits together to make a passable piece of music. Mozart also engaged in musical parody in a piece called Ein Musikalischer Spass—“A musical joke”—by demonstrating basic compositional errors—and this was two centuries before P.D.Q. Bach.

One of the raps against classical composers is that they are not spontaneous. They write great music, but it’s stuffy and staid because their music is too calculated. But Mozart was an incredible improviser. Before he was ten someone could give him any tune and he would gladly improvise on it, sometimes at very great length. Of course there was no audio tape or film back then, so all that survives is what is written down. The closest we can come to recreating his improvisational efforts is to play some of his themes and variations. One example for solo piano was heard in the soundtrack of Out of Africa, when the Isak Dinesen character and her love interest camped on the African plain and played a record while resting by the fire.

[Piano Sonata No. 11 in A, K.331, movement 1]

But the most important thing about Mozart’s music is its beauty.

Consider these tunes and ask yourself if these could be improved on:

First another Hollywood favorite from what I felt was the key moment in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, a piece from The Marriage of Figaro: Sull’aria.

[Canzonetta sull’aria: che soave zeffiretto]

Now another movie favorite, the middle movement of a piano concerto, whose theme is now called the “Elvira Madigan theme” because it was used in a 1967 movie about Elvira Madigan, a 19th century Danish tightrope walker.

[Second movement, Adagio, from Piano Concerto No. 21, K. 467]

Next two tunes from his singspiel, The Magic Flute: “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” and “Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton.”

[“Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” and “Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton]

Okay, so Mozart wrote many different kinds of music for many instruments; he was prolific; he had a sense of humor; and the music he wrote was very beautiful—but still I hear that it all sounds the same because the harmonics of the music are all based on a common musical language.

Well between 1782 and 1785 Mozart composed six string quartets for Joseph Haydn. Here’s the first movement of the last of these six string quartets. I think it is possible to agree that the first two minutes of this movement, the introduction, were written by someone who is pushing the boundaries of the Viennese classical tradition. When I first heard it I thought it might be Samuel Barber or one of his cronies.

[First movement, String Quartet in C Major K. 465, “Dissonance Quartet”]

But apart from writing music of differing styles, writing for a wide range of instruments, writing some of music’s most famous pieces, writing incredible volumes of music, having a good sense of humor, being spontaneous, writing beautiful gems, and pushing the tonal boundaries of music, what did Mozart ever do for us?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tamarack Nature Center



Tamarack Nature Center is a small park located about 15 miles north of downtown St. Paul. In addition to being fairly small, 320 acres or so, it is bounded by an interstate highway on the west.

The constant hum of the interstate interfered with what is otherwise a very nice park. Several areas have been restored to native grasses. If you want to show your children what it was like to walk through tall native grasses, there is a great place to do this near the main interpretative center. There are varied landscapes. In addition to prairie, there are some areas dominated by mature oak forests, shallow lakes and ponds, boardwalks through dense thickets near wetlands, and conifer groves.

I enjoyed taking pictures of bees, wasps, and ants crawling on what I believe to be Solidago specisoa.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Decimated Walnut Forest: Miesville Ravine County Park






I have often canoed the Cannon River and have drifted right by the trailhead of this nifty county park. From the river I did not know that this park existed. The park is about five miles or so southwest of Miesville and you need to take some back roads to get there. The park has two hiking loops, one leading from the parking lot on the north side of 280th Street and the other from the south.
I decided to take the north loop first. The first thing that I noticed was devastation from a tornado that had passed through the area less than two months before. The damage to the forest was extreme. Mature trees were snapped off half way up, some were pushed over by other falling trees, and others were even totally uprooted. The county has done a nice job of clearing these trees in a very short period of time, but I'll bet it will be fifty to a hundred years before the damage will be undetectable. Opening the canopy like this always gives some non-dominant species opportunites. It will be interesting to see if there are any changes in the flora in the coming years.

The dense woods that line this ravine are dominated by black walnut, which seemed pervasive. I have never seen so much black walnut in my life. Many of them were dead and dying because of the tornado damage, but there is still an impressive aggregation of a species that I do not often see dominate a forest. Along the path to the north I spied Lobelia siphilitica, Great Blue Lobelia. Other than that, not much more than the usual suspects: White Snakeroot, Spotted Touch Me Not, Chickweed, and various species of Helianthus. I can tell that this would be fantastic spot to photograph woodland wildflowers in the spring.

The north loop is not particularly long, only about a mile and a half in length. It turns back on itself, though there are a couple of loops that assure the return is not wholly along the outgoing path. I saw and heard a wide variety of birds and a ran across a half dozen species of butterflies.

The southern loop is different in that whereas the northern loop proceeds up a ravine, the southern loop proceeds along the north bank of the Cannon River. After about a quarter mile the path turns to the north where one comes across an old abandoned stone building. It was quite large and I wondered about its use.
I liked this little county park. It will be interesting to see how the woods fill in after the devastating tornado damage.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Whence the Future of Classical Music

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils,
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus,
Let no such man be trusted. . . .
The Merchant of Venice, Act V, Scene i

One night I was spending time listening to music from my iTunes collection. I sorted for my five star selections and played them straight through without shuffling. When I came to the middle movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, K. 622, I stopped everything else I was doing and just listened. Sublime. The clarinet enters right at the beginning of the movement and sings a plaintive, smooth line that melts my cares and grabs my heart.

I think about the music’s pedigree, the fact that it’s been preserved for more than two hundred years, and how much this music has to recommend it. It was composed by a great musical genius when at the height of his powers. It is highly melodic. There is nothing offensive or weird about the tune—except for a few occasional interesting dissonances. The composer was particularly gifted in the concerto form: an artist working in a favorite medium. The music contains repetition, a key ingredient of many likeable pieces; but there’s also plenty of variety. There’s even a bit of playfulness and if not humor, at least good humor. The particular performance was by a great clarinetist and a highly respected orchestra—not that this really has much to do with my enjoyment of the music, since I’d probably enjoy it if it were played by a high school orchestra—so the performers did nothing to interfere with the music’s original essence. The piece is in some way ubiquitous music in movie and television soundtracks. It’s been featured in four or five movies, including Greencard, American Gigolo, and Out of Africa. Once you know it you realize that it’s played pretty often during peaceful interludes in television programs.

On a whim, I Googled “K. 622” and “hate,” wanting to see if anyone really had expressed hatred of K. 622. The only relevant hit showed that the middle movement was a track on an old RCA Victor release: “Classical Music for People Who Hate Classical Music.” I guess the notion that K. 622 was not very worthy of hate had probably occurred to someone else then.
And this question occurred to me: Why is it that some do not care for this music? Why is it that some would greet the notion that this is good music with contempt? What is it that people say in opposition to Classical Music?

First let me disclose that I enjoy a wide variety of music. My music collection includes the entire works of the B-52’s. I enjoy listening to Counting Crows, The Eagles, The Beatles, R.E.M., Enya, Green Day, Dylan, The Cranberries, Fleetwood Mac, Talking Heads, Glen Campbell, James Taylor, The Beat, Joan Baez, Frank Sinatra, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Julie Andrews, Simon and Garfunkel, punk, new wave, and Joni Mitchell. And oddest of all perhaps, I really love trance music. So I’m not locked in to one style of music.

One frequent objection is that all classical music sounds alike. Well, I think this is a pretty dubious objection. If we consider “Classical Music” as a genre akin to “Country Music,” or “Bluegrass,” or “Rock,” one would think that Classical Music really has a totally unfair edge in diversity. It can sport, for instance, solo piano pieces, string ensembles, opera, orchestral music, songs for the male voice, songs for the female voice, songs for chorus, songs for duets, trios and quartets, solo cello, violin sonatas, pieces for piano, violin or cello and orchestra. And this list just goes on and on.

Beyond the diversity in the instrumentation is the diversity in the form of the piece: single movement overtures, multi-movement symphonies, sonata allegro movements, rondos, finicky fugues, nocturnes, ballads, preludes, variations, arias, lieder. And again the list just goes on and on.

Variety in length is also a hallmark of classical music. “Stairway to Heaven,” one of the prototypic ginormous rock songs, is about eight minutes long and some of the early short Beatles songs about two minutes or so—a ratio of about 4:1. But my iTunes shows a movement from a Shostakovich symphony coming in at almost a half hour, while a terse Eric Satie piece comes in at fifteen seconds—a 120:1 ratio. Even if we go with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, the rock song lags.

But all of these differences pale in the face of stylistic differences: Haydn vs. Chopin; Beethoven vs. Debussy; Shostakovich vs. Bach—unique idioms all. There's no confusion who’s who in any of these couples. And the number of composers with their own distinctive sound is fantastic. If we just take the “B’s” we have Bach, Barber, Bartok, Beethoven, Bellini, Berlioz, Bizet, Brahms, Britten, and Bruckner—and that’s not even bringing in Bax, Buxtehude or the other second stringers. Variety and distinctive musical signatures abound in classical music.

How about variety in volume or loudness? Again, most of these other types of music are left in the dust. A full orchestra playing the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony plays so loud that the European Union has considered regulatory action to protect the hearing of musicians playing it. Yet when the “Ode to Joy” theme is introduced it comes on quietly, barely audible over the road noise on your car stereo. And no other form of music can meet the disciplined crescendos of classical music, the gradual piling on of more and more sound: think Bolero; again, the “Ode to Joy” passage of Beethoven’s Ninth; Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”

So this stuff simply does not all sound the same. But how does it differ from the music that its objectors listen to? There are differences: 1) it often does not include the human voice; 2) the instrumentation is different—no electric guitars, no rock drumset; 3) voices often sing in foreign languages; 4) classical music often is quiet and reserved; and 5) contemporary pop music follows a known pattern that some find more pleasing.

In these times it is particularly dangerous to make sweeping generalizations and absolute statements about what music the majority of people prefer. If a teenager wished to focus on East African songs for solo voice, or sounds of the Australian Outback, no doubt such specializations could be entertained. But there is, nevertheless, a musical mainstream. Here’s what we can we say about the songs of the musical mainstream: 1) they include songs of approximately two minutes to five minutes in length; 2) the songs are sung in the listener’s native language; 3) the songs generally include electric guitars and a drum set or rhythm component; 4) the music is generally of a constant dynamic range; and 5) the structure of the pieces is highly predictable, usually AABA-or something like that.

Despite what on paper would seem to be some obvious advantages in favor of classical music, one must acknowledge that pop music reigns supreme (by definition?). To ignore this fact and to pretend otherwise would be to ignore basic realities, like gravity or the sun rising in the east. One possible explanation could be the whim of fad and fashion, which seem to have no rational explanation. In the late 1970’s fat ties were all the rage. Ties as wide as six inches passed muster. Was there any rational reason for this? No. Just as there was no rational reason for two-inch ties a couple of decades earlier or later. It was just a product of the popular culture. So, as the argument would go, the preference for pop music is an irrational preference for one thing over another and this preference should not much concern us, since it is simply dictated by fad or the whim of the moment.

Yet one wonders if there is not a substantial difference between the world of fashion and music. It seems to me that there is no objective answer to the question of whether a wide tie is better than a skinny tie or whether the fashion of wearing ties of any particular width is worthy of memorialization. But the same cannot be said about the great works of classical music. They have obvious merit and, like mankind’s best inventions, buildings, or societies, deserve to be remembered, recognized, and appreciated. How can we pass on these gifts?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fort Snelling State Park


Fort Snelling State Park is a park of contrasts. On the one hand, its location and the sounds one sometimes hears are the sounds of the city. The park is located on the stretch of the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul. It is right under two major freeway bridges, is traversed by a major powerline, and is right under the primary landing path for the main Twin Cities airport. Besides the roar of planes, one hears speed boats buzzing by. Maybe you're saying "Not my style."

But wait. On the other hand, this is a park with much to offer. First of all, it has geography: it lies at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Then it has history: Fort Snelling, which lies up on the bluff, was an early military settlement. It is well preserved and offers historical tours. This park was the site of the negotiation of an 1802 treaty between Mdewakanton Dakota and Zebulon Pike that ceded nearby lands to the United States government. Sixty years later, following an "uprising," it was the site of the internment of hundreds of members of the Dakota tribe.

And the natural parts of the park are surprisingly satisfying. As one enters the lower part of the park one comes across Snelling Lake, a beautiful jewel that appears not to be as well known to Twin Citians as it deserves to be. There is a nice little swimming beach and a launch for canoes and boats with electric motors.

Past Picnic Island is Pike's Island, where I did most of my hiking during this visit. From the parking lot I went to the visitor center where there were some tame wild turkeys scrounging for seed near the center's bird feeders. From there it is a few hundred yards to a bridge that takes one to the west end of Pike's Island. The north shore of the island is the south shore of the Mississippi River and the south shore of the island is the north shore of the Minnesota River. From the island's west end I followed the Hiking Club signs down a trail that split the middle of the island. When you are on this trail it is really quite difficulty to believe that you are in the heart of the sixteenth largest metro area in the United States. While the ear knows otherwise, the eye tells you that you are in remote northern Minnesota woods. About 20 minutes up the trail I saw a whitetail fawn, which seemed a bit uncautious. She gave me time to set up my tripod and snap several pictures.


The woods were filled with common bottomland species of trees: Cottonwood, Silver Maple, and Ash. During my visit there was a profusion of Helianthus, though I was not sure which species. I frequently ran into Tall Bellflower, Campanula americana, but it seemed a bit past its prime in late August. Spotted Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium maculatum, was also fairly common in the areas closest to the rivers.

Despite its proximity to the urban center of the Twin City metro area--or maybe because of it--this park has much to offer. The park is only about a two mile hike from Minnehaha Falls by paved path, so it offers much to anyone out for a stroll in natural setting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Naked Beauty


I stopped by Banning State Park on a Monday afternoon at about 5 p.m. I arrived at the landing at the head of the rapids to find a camper with Missouri plates parked in the turnaround near the boat launch. I then noticed that the camper's owners were demonstrating why Missouri is the "Show Me" State, because they were standing in about six inches of water totally naked.

After they left I returned to the landing and found this Turk's Cap Lily, Lilium superbum. I wish I could say that the bathers had superbums.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Saturday Visit to Jay Cooke State Park




I visited Jay Cooke State Park today to see if I could get some good photos of Pink Showy Ladyslippers, which were in bloom, but definitely on the way out. I suspect this will be the last weekend that they are in bloom. It was so windy that it was difficult to take any photos, but I did manage this one.


I hiked the Silver Creek Trail and saw a few plants of interest, including some beautiful bindweed and what appeared to be a mint of some kind. The wind kept the flies and mosquitos down a bit, but still managed to get bit pretty good.

I hiked back to Lost Lake and a remote backpack campsite. On the way saw some very large White Cedars. Next time I'll visit the Spruce and High Trails, but it was late too late in the day this time.

The highlight of the park is the St. Louis River, which bisects the park. You can only cross the river by using the Swinging Bridge, a pedestrian suspension bridge that must be 60 feet or so above the river. The crossing is at some steep, rocky rapids and is really a beautiful sight. It's amazing to think that this park is only about twelve miles from Duluth.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Explosions on the Prairie


Minnesota's first scorcher of the year in the Twin Cities area came on July 6. I visited one of my favorite nature parks in the metro area, Crow Hassan Park Reserve. The park is part of the Three Rivers Park District and is bordered on the west by the Crow River. It is about 2600 acres and has many areas where prairie restoration has been underway for years.

Even though temperatures were in the low 90's, I decided to give the park a chance. When I got there I experienced one of the oddest things. I heard these loud popping noises. At first I could not figure out what they were. I eventually figured out that I was hearing Lupine seeds exploding from their pods. The sound was quite loud and pronounced. It sounded a bit like being in a popcorn popper!

The racket reached its peak about the time I noticed this cluster of Asclepias tuberosa, also known as Butterfly Weed.

Ten Recommended Classical Recordings: A Sampler for Those New to the Classical Scene

The following is a list of classical recordings that offer a variety of classical genres: opera, symphonies, keyboard, violin concerto, solo cello, piano concerto, and oratorio. Though it is mostly mainstream with respect to the represented composers, it reflects a variety of interesting sounds.

Because the list is intended for someone who is starting to explore classical music many of the recordings are now budget issues. If you have thoughts on the list or would like to pipe in with your own, please do!

1. Mozart: The Magic Flute; Sir Colin Davis, conductor, Staatskapelle Dresden, orchestra; Rundfunkchor Leipzig, choir; Moll, Schreier, Price, Serra, Melbye, Venuti; Philips Duo, recorded in 1985, released on CD in 1994.

2. Beethoven: Symphonies No. 5 and 7, Carlos Kleiber, Wiener Philharmoniker; Deutsche Grammophon, recorded in 1975 and 1976, released on CD in 1996.

3. Bach: Keyboard Pieces, Toccata, BWV 911; Partita BWV 826; English Suite No. 2, BWV 807; Argerich; Deutsche Grammophon, recorded in 1980, released on CD in 2000.

4. Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D; Brahms: Violin Concerto in D; Jascha Heifetz; Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra; RCA, recorded in 1957, released on SACD in 2005.

5. Panorama—Edvard Grieg, two discs of various piano and orchestral works; Deutsche Grammophon Panorama, recorded on various dates, released on CD in 2000.

6. Bach: Six Unaccompanied Suites for Cello; Yo-Yo Ma; Sony, recorded in 1983, released on CD in 1990.

7. Mozart: The Great Piano Concertos, Vol. I—Brendel; Sir Neville Mariner, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; Philips Duo, recorded in 1972-82, released on CD in 1994.

8. Handel: The Messiah; Sir Colin Davis, London Philharmonic Orchestra; Philips Duo, recorded in 1966, released on CD in 1994.

9. Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3 and Tchaikovsky: Piano Concerto No. 1; Martha Argerich, Philips, recorded 1982 and 1980, released on CD in 1995.

10. Bach: The Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-4 (separate disc one); and Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 5-6 and Orchestral Suite No. 1 (separate disc two), Neville Marriner, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; EMI, recorded in 1985, released on CD in 2004.