Friday, March 02, 2007

FriPod: Heavy lifters

After missing the FriPod for the last two weeks, I thought I'd make up for it by listing the longest tracks on my iTunes.

1. Bach's Mass in B minor, Gloria, performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with Robert Shaw conducting. 37:15. I got to experience the entire mass performed in Bach's own church, St. Thomas in Leipzig. The whole orchestra was in the balcony and my seat was directly underneath, so the only visual connection I had with the performers was seeing the conductor's shadow moving around and then at the end when I moved out to the aisle to applaud them. I took this opportunity to reflect on the space, though I wasn't yet far enough on my spiritual journey to truly appreciate that aspect. I also paid attention to the immediacy of the live performance, divorced from the visual distractions.

1a. Bach's Mass in B minor, Symbolum Nicenum. This Lutheran Credo has no violas. I'm not sure what Bach was trying to say about violists and their beliefs. The trumpets, however, get the last word on the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

2. Pahi Sri Sundhara Raja, performed by Chitravina N. Ravikiran. 33:11. I purchased this CD after hearing M. Ravikiran perform at the SMT conference in Boston. I know I still don't hear many of the subtle nuances of classical Indian music, but I find this track soothing on occasion.

3. Mahler's Symphony No. 3 in D minor, I. Kraftig; Entschieden, performed by Levine with the CSO. 32:46. I also purchased this CD in Boston, but back in 1990. My theory professor, Allen Gimbel, was leading us through a massive Schenkerian analysis of the entire symphony, which inspired me to purchase this recording while visiting my brother during spring break. There is a charming or frustrating moment in this movement where the trombone soloist (Jay Friedman) really blats a note. I'm sure he wishes a different take had been chosen, but the imperfection makes the performance more alive.

4. Frederic Rzewski's De Profundis, performed by Rzewski. 32:42. I took my kids to see Lisa Moore perform this work, which was quite the experience for all of us. Based upon Oscar Wilde's letter from prison to his homosexual lover, the pianist makes gasps at various points that my kids found very amusing. Fortunately they are young enough to not ask what the gasps were for.

5. Peter Maxwell Davies' Trumpet Concerto, performed by Hakan Hardenberger. 31:16. When I got this CD in college (Endless Parade) I didn't listen to it much because the two concerti were so long, with no break between movements. I've slowly lost some of my impatience for long continuous works, though I still don't listen to this concerto nearly as much as others.

6. Toru Takemitsu's "From me flows what you call Time" (1993), performed by the BBC Orchestra with Andrew Davis. 30:47. To be honest, I haven't listened to this one since I ripped this CD, so I can't offer any immediate reactions. I have it playing at this moment, but I don't have time (heh) to listen to the whole work right now. It is full of exotic timbres, very spacious and transparent.

7. Sir Maxwell Davies is in this spot as well, with his Eight Songs for a Mad King, performed by the Fires of London. 30:12. This is somewhat cheating, as all eight songs are on a single track. I wish I had a DVD of this work. I have not had a chance to see the theatrical aspects connected with the music, except for some still photos. Though now that I revisit the composer's website I see that two video clips have been put up.

8. Mahler's Symphony No. 9 in D major, I. Andante Comodo, performed by Pierre Boulez with the CSO. 29:27. Mahler is somewhat like Philip Glass. Both composers need large swathes of time to lay out their musical ideas. In Glass' case, it is (was, mostly) so he could make subtle changes at any given time and yet still travel far enough to be satisfying. Mahler needs all of this room because he has so many ideas that he needs to juxtapose. Interestingly, my Bruno Walter recording of this movement is five minutes shorter.

9. Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, "Der Abschied," performed by Christa Ludwg with the Philharmonia and New Philharmonic Orchestras (Fritz Wunderlich, cond.) 29:25. The final movement of this quasi song-cycle/quasi symphony is very long, but it needs this time to adequately paint the text. The last line, ending with "eternally... eternally..." requires us to travel a long musical road to truly feel this mix of sadness and hope.

10. Michael Blake Watkins' Trumpet Concerto, performed by Hakan Hardenberger. 28:16. This is the other really long concerto on Hardenberger's Endless Parade CD. The title track by Birtwhistle is shorter, a mere nineteen minutes long, one that I listened to far more than the others. I don't know much about Watkins, other than that he is Welsh. The concerto is lush, with a certain insistence in its mood. There is a lot of continuous variation of kernel motives, mostly diatonic.

So, what are your longest tracks, and how long is too long for an uninterrupted piece? Next week I'll talk about the shortest tracks. Be prepared for lots of recitatives!