Hilary Hahn: Schönberg and Sibelius Violin Concertos

Is it concertos? I thought it was concerti… oh well. This CD came out recently and I heard/read all kinds of great things about it, and now I can confirm that all of those things were true – excellent record. I have some records by Hilary Hahn and I was surprised when I heard that she was recording Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto primarily because most of the other stuff she did was so… traditional. Actually, I have admit that I did not realize how much stuff she already recorded as I checked my own collection and I think now adding Schoenberg to her repertoire is a great thing – it is an amazing rendition, you should do yourself a favor and check it out. One thing I did not like about the recent Hahn-related material was the most boring documentary ever that just came out in 2007 – Hilary Hahn: A Portrait

Here’s a review from always insightful Ionarts: Continue reading

Worldwide Atonality Day!

Alex Ross announces Worldwide Atonality Day this coming Monday, December 17th. Why?

By my calcuations, this Monday, December 17, is the hundredth anniversary of atonality. Celebrate as you wish. On that date in 1907, Arnold Schoenberg sketched the song “Ich darf nicht dankend” (“I must not in gratitude [sink down before you]”), music in which conventional tonal harmonies grow exceedingly scarce. (You can listen on the Schoenberg Center Jukebox; scroll down to Op. 14.) The composer supplied no key signature in his draft, although he later added one — B minor — to the clean copy and published score. The claim is arguable, but for me this marks the beginning of Schoenberg’s adventures outside tonality. It may be no coincidence that Schoenberg wrote the song, a setting of Stefan George, just eight days after the departure for New York of Gustav Mahler, who had served as Schoenberg’s protector. “You are the spiritual plain from which we rose” is the second line of George’s poem. With Mahler gone, Schoenberg may have felt at once abandoned and liberated. He was free to become himself.

Read the rest of this post here.

Naji Hakim, or Dissonance Scares Me.

This afternoon, after it snowed in my anytown U.S.A and I decided to stay in, or rather exchange a usual stroll outside for the warmth of a concert hall, I had a chance to hear organist Jörg Abbing perform a piece by Naji Hakim of whom I knew next to nothing. The program included a piece by Olivier Messian and following it a piece by Hakim called Le Tombeau d’Olivier Messiaen. I suppose it is an interesting move, especially since Hakim followed Messiaen as an organist at Eglise de la Trinité, as I learned after the concert when I googled Hakim. Even though I find all things modern pretty engaging and either thoroughly enjoyable or, at the very least, tolerable. Hakim’s Le Tombeau, however, opens with a series of such loud and dissonant chords that I was literally scared (if a strange physical sensation is any indication and thus a justification of the use of ‘literally’) – I believe that it would be an ultimate frightening exprience if a haunted house installed an organ and just repeatedly played some dissonant music with creepy improvisations and tinkerings that would explode into more dissonance. There would be absolutely no need for skeletons, masks, spooky lights and even pumpkins – a sort of Halloween in its pure and natural state… well, maybe with some candy.

Strangely enough, Hakim’s website contains this quotation – “Min sjæl ophøjer Herren”! – which, it claims, comes from Luke 1:46 but I have no idea which language it is in. According to a small bio Naji Hakim comes from Beirut and is now residing in London – it looks very Scandinavian or Northern European at the least. Puzzling… My other musical adventure this weekend was my courageous attempt not to fall asleep while at the performance of Elgar’s First Symphony – my Lord, how utterly boring and forgettable it was! I am usually the first one to throw a condescending and judgmental look at anyone who dares to nap during the performance: “vy, vy must yu sleep at ze performans!” – I yell, but yesterday I was very much on the verge of dozing off. And to think that early critics of Elgar’s symphony accused it of having “too many themes” – yes, too many very boring and whiny themes that kept coming back to haunt my struggle with Morpheus. Anyway, I believe these casual observations create an adequate illusion of my sophistication and awesomeness – mission accomplished!

UPDATE I: Some 40 videos about Arnold Schönberg are posted on YouTube by Schönberg Archive here. A nice way to kill the rest of this long Sunday.