Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

This Fantasia by Ralph Vaughan Williams is probably the greatest English musical composition ever for all ages. This reading by Bryden Thomson and the London Philharmonic Orchestra is the definitive one with the double stringed orchestras playing with deep emotion. The other readings I like are the London Philharmonic with Sir Adrian Boult and Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The Best Choral after Furtwangler's

Sir Georg Solti has done some marvellous readings of Beethoven's symphonies. The Seventh stands out. He has given a definitive performance of the A Major Seventh with the Vienna Philharmonic. He would have got that distinction with this performance of the Choral too, if not for that stupendous performance by Furtwangler with the Berlin Philharmonic at Bayreuth in 1951. That is probably the best performance of a Beethoven symphony or any symphony conducted ever by any conductor. This reading by Solti remains the second best if just for the breadth of the spacious and heavenly playing of the Adagio. Its overripe presentation may have been a bit too much for many people but it just works so juicily well for me. The tempi are broad and solid with a stress on the double basses and the timpani. The timpani was also Furtwangler's forte. This is a mighty lofty effort by Solti.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pictures Exhibited by Mussorgsky through Ravel, Solti and Chicago

Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky wrote this suite for pianoforte in 1874, painting a musical picture from a recollection of a series of paintings done by his friend, Viktor Hartmann. The paintings or the selected movements by Mussorgsky are bound together by a `Promenade' motif. This was a master work for the piano itself until Maurice Ravel came along forty eight years later and made it immortal by orchestrating it with such dazzling finesse that it is considered as one of the brilliant showpieces that an orchestra can showcase to display its talents. Along with this version by Georg Solti and the Chicago, two other versions stand out. They are Zubin Mehta with Los Angeles Philharmonic and Eugene Ormandy with the Philadelphians.

Babi Yar

`Babi Yar' is Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 in B Flat Minor. It was completed in 1962 with a text setting by the rebel poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko. This work is about probably one of the worst mass executions in the history of the modern world. In just a matter of couple of days in September 1941, the invading Nazi army executed close to thirty five thousand Jews at Ukraine in a place called Babi Yar. By the end of the Second World War, the number of victims in the place had reached an appalling figure close to one hundred thousand. This musical expression of Dmitri Shostakovich broke the long and officially suppressed silence on these tragic events. Bernard Haitink has given a superb rendition of this symphony with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. I hail this performance as the definitive reading of this symphony.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Can the University Toppers think clearly?

A short probe on the education systems prevailing today in the universities. Finley Peter Dunne, an American humorist, once wrote, “You can lade a man up to the university, but ye can’t make him think.” Habits will not change in a university. You can’t blame the teachers. The learning responsibility probably lies with the student. Teachers do not have the power, nowadays, to convince or persuade or make sure that the students absorb. They only share information, knowledge and skills and think that their job is over. The teachers come in various moulds… perhaps as friends, colleagues, family members. Did you like your teachers at school or university? Usually, math teachers are breezy and authoritative and they scowl when asked to stop and explain a theorem or problem. Students finally stop asking questions, purely out of avoiding embarrassment. This has an impact on their understanding and eventual learning. So much so that students stop liking mathematics as a subject. The big question is, “Is it the teaching or your learning?” The purpose of a teacher is to help the students, encourage them to build themselves up to what they think they can become. The teachers can help them to add to their knowledge, attitude and skills. Yet, the teachers today are unable to teach anything, for that matter. Let us look at the students now. They will be able to think clearly about their subjects if they come out of the shackles of their electronic gadgets. They are always glancing at their phones, looking for texts or texting away blindly. They lose valuable time in the university practicing mediocrity with inane banal pursuits. Forty years ago, the standard of a tenth grade teacher surpassed even that of a freshman year college professor today. The teachers themselves do not understand the meaning of study habits or discipline. There is more to learning than academics. In any system of education or teaching, the students will be able to think clearly if both the teachers and themselves develop a passion for what they are about to study. Read more:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Adagio for Strings Samuel Barber

This is the definitve version of the Adagio for Strings by Samuel. So spacious and so unabridged. BBC Symphony Leonard Slatkin 2001

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Romeo and Juliet Ballet

Prokofiev wrote the ballet in 1935, working in collaboration with the dramatist, Sergei Radlov, who expressed the familiar tragedy “as a struggle for the right to love by young, strong, and progressive people battling against feudal traditions and feudal outlooks on marriage and family.” Prokofiev created a score that rose above the tragedy.Prokofiev has packed the ballet with saucy rhythms and extracts passion of the star crossed lovers. The ballet is in four acts.This is the only complete performance of the original 1938 version and not the revised 1940 one. It is performed by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine directed by Andrew Mogrelia.