Archives for the Month of December 2007 on Jeffrey Quick's Blog

Academics for Ron Paul

There's a nice list of faculty supporting Ron Paul here. I'd join, but I don't see any librarians, and maybe they want "real" academics. There's a nice selection of Ohio profs, but from Case only Dr. Peirce. Anyone else want to sign up?

Early music Christmas albums

Yes, I know, we're inundated with holiday music. And "holiday music" is about right; very little of it references Jesus. We don't even escape it in classical radio, where we endure instrumental arrangements of the top 24 Christmas tunes, sometimes tricked out as parodies of the Air on the G String or some such. At least they drive the 19th century opera ballets off the air (an even more odious musical experience).

But there's an immense repertoire of music written for Christmas, going far beyond the Messiah-and-Corelli tradition. Some of the best of this is pre-Baroque. Renaissance ensembles tend to be thought of as "Christmassy" anyway, perhaps because of all those Whore's Bed Boar's Head Feastes we play. And some groups (Piffaro, Apollo's Fire) do regular Christmas concerts. So it's fairly easy for them to put together the near obligatory Christmas album. You'd think they'd be moneymakers, but I'm not sure they are. I'll be looking at several in this piece, and all are privately produced. They all also pass my test of a good Christmas album: "Would I consider listening to this in July?" Mandatory disclosure: they are all by people I have personal, collegial, or pedagogical connections to.

First up is Piffaro's Nowell's Delight, a compilation of recordings from concerts, done in Piffaro's well known extrovert style. There's a lot of shawm (especially in the early English carols), though many quieter moments as well. But no cute-lil-baby-Jesus stuff here; Piffaro has shown us through the years just how many things shawms can do well, but cute just isn't in the instrument. Soprano Laura Heimes does a lovely job adding the crucial vocal component. This one will work well at your Christmas party, in your car, anywhere.

A more intimate experience, more suited perhaps to hot chocolate and cookies with your kids as you attempt to calm them for bed, (or even for quiet cocktails with a special friend as you attempt to put him/her to bed!) is provided by Ellen Hargis (soprano) and Paul O'Dette (lute)on The Christmas Album. This doesn't avoid chestnuts as much as the Piffaro release, just because of the nature of the medium, but it doesn't matter, because Ellen and Paul make all things new again. There is a wide range of affects here, from the rowdy and joyous to (thankfully) the darkness of Merula's Canzonetta Spirituale sopra alla Nanna, in which Mary sings her Child to sleep with a fairly gruesome description of what's going to happen to Him when He grows up. And there's an encore: Frank Loesser's What are you doing New Year's Eve?, sung with the same attention to style as the rest of the album.

Perhaps my favorite early music Christmas album of all time (and one of the first early music recordings I ever owned) is Christmas carols & motets of medieval Europe (Bach Guild BGS 70680. p1965) by the Deller Consort with Rene Clemencic's Musica Antiqua of Vienna. It's not cutting edge performance practice, but very musical, and a wonderful selection of repertoire that doesn't get done often enough. A prime example is Fogliano's Ave Maria, a piece that hides its art in artlessness. Done with low recorders on the Bach Guild album, we'd do it nowadays with chamber organ or lute. Alas, it didn't make it onto Ellen's album, but it would be even more suited for Mignarda's individual style, and I was doing to drop Ron and Donna an email to suggest it.

But alas, last night I got an email saying that Mignarda had released a Christmas album -- and it's not on there! I haven't even had a chance to listen to the mp3 links. I'll probably pick it up when they next appear in town, on Sunday, December 30, 2007 at 4:00pm at The Lyceum School, 2062 Murray Hill Road in Cleveland, Ohio's Little Italy. I'm sure it's as wonderful as everything else they've done.

String Quartet #1 in A

OK folks, here it is, from the capable hands of Sae Shiragami, Beth Woodside, Lisa Boyko and Linda Atherton of the Cleveland Chamber Collective:

I. Sonata quasi una ciaccona
II. In silent streets of water
III. Rondo Afro-Gorale

Stockhausen performing Luzifers Tanz for the dedicatee

He's gone.
Stockhausen was at the University of Michigan in the mid-80s for the premiere of some chunk of Licht (Luzifers Tanz?) which had been commissioned by the U of M Band. One of my wife's friends (John Grabowski?) had programmed a Stockhausen piece on his percussion degree recital. Stockhausen showed up, and went backstage during the intermission to ream him a new one over his interpretation.

While he was there, he did a concert with his son Markus and other acolytes, mostly of other chunks of Licht. My perception was that the guy could actually produce interesting musical ideas. But he seemed to eschew any idea of what to do with them.

I've got to wonder if the death of the Wagner of the 20th Century will inspire the same heartfelt art as the death of the first Wagner.