10 October 2009

Pärt 3

Returning to posting my listening notes, I send out an enormous batch of Part, from listenings sometime in early 2008.

Song to the Beloved
No information

Veealused (animated film)
No information

Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra
No information

Fur Alina - piano
Stunningly desolate miniature for piano. Diatonic minor melodies over chord tones from B minor - announced via two Bs two octaves distant. I don't know that it could go on like this long, but what there is is quite effective. Recommended.

Trivium - organ
No tempos provided - Moosman takes rather slow tempos on his recording. The second movement perhaps the most interesting - chordal tones alternate with clusters, the third, empty, doesn't seem to work so well on the organ, the bare intervals sound off, though registration could save this. Nonetheless this is powerful music - especially number 2 - to play. All three variations on the same theme in essence - three in one.

Pari Intervallo - organ or four recorder
Playing it on the organ is like entering into a beautiful and desolate and sad world. Chord tones enter in and the atmosphere is not broken until the end. We have an almost Feldman-like sense of place combined with minimalist processes. Melody in thirds accompanied by tones from Eb minor. Recommended.

To the Waters of Babel We Were Sitting and Crying
Very much process oriented - ah, ah-ah, ah-ah-ah, ah-ah-ah-ah. Aiming very much to sound like the organum examples of the Musica Enchiriadis mixed with a Romatic flavor of what they represent. Ending on big open fifths that are a little bit too overloaded for my taste. Otherwise, otherworldly. The tintinnabulum style is at play here, scalewise melodies, with triad tone accompaniment. Amazing how he can get so much sound from so little.

Wenn Bach Bienen Gezuchtet Hatte - piano, string orch, wind quintet Rev. 1984, 2001
Based on the B-A-C-H motive and, it appears, the B minor prelude from Book 1 of the WTC, this is a work that really "sounds" in the ensemble. Over a swirling mass the piano pounds out chords, the strings sometimes move into arpeggiations and the winds ratchet tension with solid triads. The whole sounds like the "Ride of the Valkyries" In the end it all breaks into a slower moment that acts as a processional before cadencing in a Bachian way. Title translates to "If Bach had been a beekeeper": how apt. One of the early "tintinnabuli" works.

Arbos - chamber ensemble
Gloriously powerful work for brass built on a simple concept. Chordal tones and modal melody combined moving down the scale following various patterned permutations. Split into rhythmic layers: 4x3/4; 2x3/2; and 3/1 give a constant rhythmic drive to the work. A bold Timaeus treatment. Recommended.

Cantate Domino Canticum Novum
Has the sound of a sequence with the quick conjunct melodic lines - are they entirely scalar - against which there is an almost change-ringing sense in the organ (at least in the version I heard). Bright, cheery. Some processual ideas bandied about.

Fratres - chamber ens. (string quatet - wind quartet)
A turn figure expands through neighbor-note inserts. Returning several times transposed down a third. Dynamics are in arch form. Contemplative. Makes use of prolongation techniques like Lerdahl does in his String Quartet - unknown the relation between the two.

Missa Syllabica
Ferial mass of sorts, completely syllabic. For choir with organ in the version I heard. Each word is set as scalar fragments leading or descending to the focal pitch - thus "sanctam" might be G-A and "catholicam" E-F-G-A. Organ plays triad tones. Sets a mood quite well. Lays out on a smaller scale exactly what would happen in Passio.

Variations to the Recovery of Arinushka
Six variations, quite simple, for piano, really two sets of three: one "minor," one "major." The melody is triadic arpeggiations ending each on different melodic notes. The second variation adds above and below and the third adds a second line, so they blossom. Charming - good for an early piano student, but not much else.

Tabula Rasa
Two movements: Ludus and Silentium for two violins, prepared piano (made quite evocatively and effectively to sound like bells) and strings. The first an additive play in a baroque style with a Bachian cadenza (could the model be Brandenburg 5?) The second devastatingly simple and devastatingly elegant another additve game on a dorian scale ascending and descending into nothingness: D is likely chosen because ending would be ending in silence on a four string bass with no extension. The effect is of something receding into the distance and at the same time circling - Timaeus through the eyes of the big-bang. Lovely. Recommended.

Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten

Devastatingly simple - a mensuration canon downward from A on the white keys with a bell that rings mechanically every few measures. Together it works so well, it sounds so good on the instruments, we have narrative harmonies even though they are not treated that way. Recommended.

Summa - ten, bar., 6 ins.
A near constant alternation of duos and the full quartet in the words of the Credo in Latin. We hear a relatively dense sounding- owing probably to the syllabic setting of the words - polyphony of e minor tones and scalar melody. Pärt is a creating a mass. It moves quickly and for this, frankly, I don't understand why there are myriad arrangements. Not as interesting as other works.

Spiegel im Spiegel - vc (or vn) and piano
Lullaby for violin and piano. Violin almost entirely stepwise each note a dotted-whole, the piano chord arpeggiations with an occasional bass bell and tiny high range twinkles. Quite beautiful and reflective, easy for children to play if not exactly for them to sell.

Calix (Dies Irae)
Would become a part of Miserere 1989

Fratres - vn, pno
The version for violin and piano changes radically the way we hear this piece: the foreground now becomes the background to at times frantic at times virtuosic at times unnecessary figuration from the violin. We open in a trance with the violinist playing the melody in bariolage and I imagine we are to have that feel throughout but it doesn't really come across as such. I'd say not as successful as the original.

De Profundis
For men's voices with organ, bell, bass drum and tam-tam. Setting of the psalm, words are treated in much the same was as in the Missa Syllabica - one note per syllable ascending or descending to the triad tone over the course of the word. The voice usage is treated rather systematically, broken down into a variety of duos and trios culminating in the full quartet along with the dynamic climax and then becoming quieter again. The organ part is similar to Pari Intervallo. Quite lovely.

Annum per Annum - organ
Organ in several movements each headed by the first letter of a section of the Mass. Indebted to the "Variations to the Recovery of Arinushka" in that each movement is a variation on a cantus firmus, here in D, that appears several times in the minor before abruptly switching to the major somewhere in the "Credo" Some nice moments in the Sanctus, but otherwise not all that remarkable.

Arbos - seven rec., 3 triangles
No recording of this version.

It is quite an experience sitting for this calming Passion narrative for choir, organ, soloists and small chamber ensemble. Repetitive patterns become normative, the division of the parts becomes more and more clear based on the material used - especially in relation to the use of dissonant tones - Pilate sings at a strange tritone distance from his final, the turba similarly using a cross-relation between the melody and modal pitches. The chorus at the end - finally D major after all this A minor - is swelling and gorgeous. I have issues with the construciton and the use of the construction but I can't have issue with the result which for the most part is sasifying once one gives oneself over to it and expects nothing more than it gives. Recommended.

Fratres - 4 vc.
A lovely rendition of this processional piece. The cellos begin in their highest register and move downward. Solemn.

Fratres - 8 vc.
Not really a separate piece. The four cello version with 2 per part.

Fratres - 12 vc.
The four cello version with 3 per part.

Fratres - str. Orch, perc
The chords have been spread over the string orchestra. The sound is less solemn and more menacing.

Sarah was Ninety Years Old
In seven sections dramatising perhaps programmatically the visitation of a child on Abraham's 90 year old wife, Sarah. Very dull ritualized percussion alternating with vocal entrances - four elements get shifted around, 1-2-3-4; 2-1-3-4; 3-2-1-4 and so forth. Opens up with the entrance of the organ and soprano. As an idea, bold, in practice not so interesting.

To the Waters of Babel We Were Sitting and Crying - small ensem.
No recording of this version.

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18 June 2007

Pärt: 2

Diagrams for piano opus 11 (1964): I was able to hear only one movement of this - the first a rant almost a figure- violine played throughout the range of the piano before a series of banging down on clusters which dissipates. Hiller speaks of the row material used and again a B-A-C-H motif as well as a sort of aleatoric quality.

Musica Syllabica for 12 instruments (1964): I can find no information. Hiller mentions it and remarks on its use of a twelve-tone row laid out in a particularly formal and followed through way, no surprise to me given the work Part is doing in other pieces.

Quintettino, opus 13 (1964): Beginning with a massive G major chord and ending with an Ab Major the remainder of the three short movements for woodwind quintet are pervasively dissonant second-based harmonies spread over extreme range - the progressions are fine when he does them, more often he pounds out the dissonances to pound them out - he's trying to be heard in this work, though the shave and a haircut of the ending clothes it in an air of ironic detachment - new musicologists would have a blast with this piece. Makes use of the BACH figure which became so prominent in his work of this year.

Solfeggio (1964): A logical, if radical, followup to what was done in the Perpetuum Mobile. Instead of a twelve-tone row however he is simply using the major scale. Every two beats another pitch enters and some drop out, at around m. 20 there is an odd bit where the altos sing an octave and for twelve beats instead of six, this leads me to believe that there is a mirror point there, though of what is not readily apparent.

Collage on B-A-C-H (1964): Developing out of the quintettino there are many similarities, the ironic oopening and closing chords, the toccata duplicated many of the quintettino's sonorities and methods - chang, chang, chang, chang downbows take over for martellato wind chords. The second movement is a Bach alternately orchestrated for oboe, harpsichord and strings and then piano and strings - the version with piano replaces Bach's harmonization with clusters, perhaps a needed thumb-nose at the time, but sounding stupid today. The third movement a ricercare on B-A-C-H is not particularly appealing either. Overrated.

Maekula Piimamees (film) (1965): No information

Pro and Contra concerto for cello and orchestra (1966): Three movements (of which the second is a four bar Baroque half-cadence attacca) for cello and orchestra that exhibits a well made dramatic sense and some tendencies that are becoming part of Part's stylistic bent - especially the process moments - cello 3 notes, ensemble 3 notes, celo 4 notes, ensemble 4 notes and so forth - perhaps from minimalism though I highly doubt it made it over there at this point, more likely from Schnittke, Penderecki etc, though I don't know that music really at all. Begins with the mock ironic Major chord ends with a mock ironic cadence, could stand to edit out the parts where the cellist plays the "cello" - i.e. not the strings. Some impassioned melodic lines. Excellent.

Symphony No. 2 (1966): Three movments and full of the sorts of things that Lutoslawski and Penderecki were doing at the time almost to the point of cliché. The second movement a massive cluster melody builds over pizzicato rain, the final movement uses a process much like what would take over the later music, timpani palys eight notes - strings a figure - timpani plays seven notes - strings a figure - timpani plays six notes and so forth. This dissolves into a tonal carnival-like melody (tchaikovsky) treated mock ironically yet with nostalgia. Also of note the (again) use of the B-A-C-H figure in the first movement. Hillier sees the use of tonality as foreshadowing a break - "it is the confession of a composer for whom a certain kind of expressiveness is inobtainable within the style that history has apparently ordained for him" I find this sort of reverse history disturbing.

Kurepoeg (animated film) (1967): No information

Operator Kopsi Seiklused (animated film) (1968): No information

Credo (piano solo, mixed choir, orch) (1968): Based on Bach's C Major Prelude and the Guonod Ave Maria-ization of it the beautiful strains break down through a controlled process of degeneration (set to the Latin "an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth") into aleatoric noises - played poorly in the recording I have (more like repetitive squawks than real improvisation) this too breaks down through a clear process into the Ave Maria again which sounds quite beautiful in this refrain. Part has a clear narrative sense of where he wants to go in the piece and organizes his 12-tone row (used just for the sake of having one it seems) so that when it degenerates into 11, then 10, then 9 pitchs it will end with the diatonic collection. He also puts a similar process onto his orchestration in which 5 instruments play, then 6, then 7 and so forth. Very lucid.

Symphony 3 (1971): Said to be a transitional piece in three movments attacca. Makes use of three motives, the most salient of which is a Landini cadence. These "gregorian" features are treated in an almost post-romantic or better neo-tonal way though someone like Hovanhess does it much better in any of his so-called mystical pieces. I hear this though not as a break at all but rather as a continuation of the collage techniques that Part had been using, however now the materials are neo-modal instead of twelve-tone - he never really used the twelve-tone rows in a comprehensively serial way in the same way that now he uses these medieval elements. I also hear a relation between the Landini cadence and the B-A-C-H motive that is so much a part of his previous works. On the whole, the work is dull.

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07 June 2007

Part - early works

I've begun listening anew to the works of the Estonian composer Arvo Part. When I was younger - much younger, I was really enamored with some of his music, particularly the Stabat Mater and the Miserere, which I found accesible and arresting at the same time. On seeing some of the scores , I was a bit turned off by the simple mechanics of the pieces. Nonetheless I've decided to give him a second chance. I've begun as per usual chronologically and so far have been impressed with some of the early works. Here begins my notes. I've been using Paul Hiller's volume - Arvo Part - as a companion.

Music for a Children's Theater (1956): Four pieces for piano based on children's tales: Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, Butterflies and Walking Ducklings. The kind of music that would be perfectly appropriate as background in a puppet theater, nothing more. Sounds like Kabalevsky or one of these minor early twentieth-century Russian composers whose music shows up in beginner's piano methods. Negligible.

Sonatina Opus 1, no. 1 (1958): Two movements for piano. It has that quirky, sardonic tonality of quartal harmonies in which sharps easily become flats that I find so annoying in Shostakovich and also some Prokofiev - though this seems more Shostakovitch than Prokofiev. Could work well dramatically. Minor.

Sonatina Opus 1, no 2 (1958): Again minor, less Shostakovich than number one and in three movements of which the second is a largo that provides just the right wrong notes when the right right notes would suffice. An air of menace hangs over it, but that's just the mood. Has tension without counterpoint - the kind of piece that bangs a few big chords and then hits a low octave. Searching for skills. A curiosity nothing more.

Partita for Piano op. 2 (1959): An overwrought piano piece in four movements attacca. Less of Shostakovich than before though very similar to the Sonatinas. These are no doubt study pieces for developing something new - I can hear a voice in there, but its tied up in this accepted sound.

Meie aed for children's chorus and orchestra (1959): A piece like this - a fifteen minute poem about planting gardens - standard socialist realist stuff whether done by Part or Copland (he's got children's choir pieces like this too) - is only worthwhile to listen too whn we put it in the Adorno frame of ironic detachment in which all Russian artists are mocking the system, where wrong notes (to quote the liner notes) "get corrected" and have more import than simply as wayward harmonies. Painless.

Nekrolog (1960): Like 12-tone Shostakovich. I'm not certain if it is strict twelve-tone writing, but nonetheless there are rows. Military rhythms, and a dramatic sense to it - an accompaniment without a script: the solo melody first langorous in the oboe and then taken up again at the end after a high call in the trumpet. Ends with the clarinets - like Berg - in trio falling to the low reaches before taken up in a funereal timpani. Ok.

Vanda Polka (1960): No information

Perpetuum Mobile, opus 10 (1963): A simple gesture spread over seven climactic minutes for orchestra. A twelve tone row is sounded one pitch at a time throughout the orchestra and sustained in sections. Each pitch enters at a slightly faster speed than the previous. This gesture occurs in waves builiding to a powerful climax. Bold, strong.

Symphony 1 (1963): A number of interesting ideas, harmonies and drama, but some of the way in which it is couched should have been reconceived - for instance the second movement which builds up to a great sound is understood as a prelude and fugue. Give me a break, the fugue subject which coming as it does after a rambling, quasi-recitative for orchestra prelude is unecessary, redo the whole beginning. Similarly in the first movement eliminate the point from about 2/5 to 3/5 of the piece. Nonetheless, a lot of potential and a powerful sound. Hillier makes na interesting comment about how the twelve-tone rows were poured into the orchestral sounds that Part envisioned.

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