What are you listening today and WHY – Only one rule, see first post

simorag

Well-Known Member
Sep 14, 2017
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Florence, Italy
I often take inspiration from the many what-are-you-spinning-today threads available here on WBF and on many other places. Indeed, I discovered so many musical treasures and I am grateful to anybody who ever contributed to these threads.

What I would find even more interesting would be a thread where listening suggestions are backed-up with some context. Given that I haven’t been able to find one (feel free to correct me), I decided to create one myself :)

As the OP, I’d like to offer a simple rule for this thread, i.e. that music recommendations are always presented with some description of why they are worth listening.

It does not need to be an essay, just a statement of two and of course any reason is perfectly fine (including ‘because it displays so well my hifi system strengths’ :)). All genres are welcome.

It would be so much fun and informative to know what you guys love and why it makes you feel good (or sad when you want to be sad for that matter).

I’ll start with a couple of posts below, a shorter and a longer one, hoping to kick-off the discussion!
 
Twilight Fascinations

There is something moving and deeply human about (some) late recordings of great artists. Aside from self-indulgent, arbitrary drifts (which sometimes can have their interesting side, too) and obvious deterioration of sheer technical control, strength and stamina, in the best cases some performances are like a stripped-off distillation of the musical inner soul of the performer. Having overcome the virtuoso status, they feel free come down to the very essence of their own intellectual and emotional view of the composition.

Take this Serkin recording for example. It is full of hiccups, especially on the late Beethoven sonatas, but ... what a tenderness, delicacy and melancholic depth they convey. The rendition of op.111 2nd movement in particular always bring me close to tears, wrong notes and all.

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Gould 1981 Goldbergs are another example of a dramatic paradigm swift over the career of an artist. In this case Gould (who passed away the next year) was still very much in command of his technical powers, but decided to revisit his own legendary 1955 fast and acrobatic performance with its polar opposite. A highly introspective, painstakingly inward looking into the detail of the deep meaning of every single note. To me, it was more effective as a testament of the interpreter personality evolution, rather than as a way to shed new lights on this marvel of western culture Bach left.

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On his last recording Horowitz was - at age 86 - his utterly complex self as always in his personal and artistic life, of course leaving the bombastic moments behind, and delving on more introspective and coloristic renditions. As flamboyant as he was as a young and mature artist, here he uses is wizardry to discover eeriely sensous, or mystical nuances on his beloved Liszt, Chopin or Wagner.

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The Besançon 1950 recital of Dinu Lipatti is the epitome of a testament. The artist was severely ill by then and he was aware that he had little to live (he actually died only a few weeks later, at age 33). He was barely able to walk to the piano, but after a little uncertain initial arpeggio exercise, entered a flawless transcendental state of grace lasting the whole recital. His Bach and Mozart were peaceful, almost ethereally clear, then energy density and emotional charge went up with Shubert and several Chopin Waltzes.

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Goosebump listen of the day.

Shostakovich had a really troubled life, and his controversial, stoic, movingly heroic relationship with tyranny reached a sublime, terrible culmination with his tenth symphony, premiered just a few months after the Stalin's death in 1953.

This recording is dark, oppressive, cavernous. It grabs you into a whirlwind of raging emotions, portrayed within a immense, enveloping mass of sound. Hefty cellos and double bass obsessive poundings, blaring horns, violent percussions alternate with ominous, mysterious, syncopated string paint brushed motifs.

All colors and powers of the orchestra are masterfully called to tell a story of human rebellion against the force of organized evil, yelled at, derided and ultimately overpowered triumphantly.

What an exhausting and exhilarating musical journey of the soul!

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A spectacular recording for hardcore piano lovers. Lifits take on the monumental D845 Schubert sonata is ponderous, profound, full of passion and intelligence.

It explores and exploits the broadest range of expressive capabilities of the score and of the machinery as well.

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The recording itself presents a very satisfying big, full bodied piano sound, with a juicy, complex harmonics structure supported by a very powerful dynamics and a sustain of the deepest bass notes that keeps the visceral connection alive, while not obfuscating the resolving capabilities of the upper register part at the same time.

This is piano experience at its best, where the sound should be felt as well as heard, which makes so magical being in the music hall, and high-end audio systems capable of recreating that synesthesia almost worth their ludicrous cost :p
 
Special Affinities ... Three Blind Mice Productions

Three Blind Mice (TBM) was a small Japanese cult label which started operating in 1970, aiming to support the emerging Japanese jazz movement. These recordings are technical masterworks, in their very special way. They are extremely palpable, have a flesh-and-blood warmth to them, have a groovy personality, not attempting to dissect the music by (over) emphasizing details or frequency extremes.
Everything is so well connected, and their naturalness and straight-to-the gut immediacy is irresistible.

Add to the mix the creativity of these outsider, innovative, contaminative japanese jazz musicians, and you're set for a truly addictive experience indeed :)

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A cello and double bass virtuoso, Isao Suzuki sadly passed away due to Covid in 2022. This album is a joy of contamination between genres, the first 30 seconds are more than enough to win me out, making it impossible to stop listening until the full album end.

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Highly energetic and captivating guitar and bass bluesy jazz intro, for an exhilarating toe tapping tour-de-force lasting the whole album.
The presence and dynamics of this recording from the 1972 are just phenomenal.

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Isao Suzuki on the double bass, Mari Nakamoto vocals with her warm, tender, very slight accent, and Watanabe guitar. Georgia On My Mind alone is worth having this album. Another highlight is I Only Have Eyes For You, with its engaging guitar and bass dialogue.

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This one has another different mix of instruments, with Yokouchi acoustic guitar taking the lead, and a mesmerizing organ section from Tashiro.
Again, a warm, inviting yet alive sound, here with exceptional bass depth and spatial display (still keeping the typical forwardness of TBM though).

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This performance of the Bruckner 9th can be a life altering experience. It engulfs you in a strange, mysterious, mythical world where ominous sounds, terrifying uber-human events or creatures wait.

There is a sense of physical danger which permeates this composition, especially the first two movements, only temporarily alleviated by islands of (apparent) tranquillity, just to come back with another devastating musical monsoon.

The adagio begins with a more serene part, followed by a foreboding crescendo, tension and release (even indulging into idyllic spots) are mastefully dosed until the frightening tutti eventually dissolves in a sweet, elevating, long E major chord.

If you have an hour to save for yourself, perhaps a late night listening, this disc can give you a most exhilarating time.

The sonics are phenomenal, with a very satisftying emphasis on the bass notes giving it a dark-ish hue, illuminated by a very palpable brass rendition (a must with Bruckner), and where a theatrically expansive stage is filled by the music as the breathing of a dragon within its cavern.

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One of the finest live jazz albums recorded.

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And why? See criterion for thread.

Some description, please.
Because I said so. I also never follow the rules.
The sound quality is exquisite.
 
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Because I Lover Porter.
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I love string quartets, and am always up for adventure. From the classical period I have more recently discovered the wonderful quartets by Eybler, whom Albrechtsberger, a friend of Haydn and Mozart, declared the greatest genius in Vienna after Mozart (at a time when Beethoven was not yet known; Albrechtsberger would later become one of Beethoven's teachers).

From the 20th century I love not only the quartets by Bartok and Shostakovich, but also the lesser known ones by Hindemith, Britten and Schnittke, and even ultra-modernist quartets by, for example, Wolfgang Rihm and Brian Ferneyhough. Yet now I also discovered the Danish composer Holmboe.

From this 7-CD set of 20 string quartets, played splendidly by the Kontra Quartet, I have so far only listened to quartets #10 (from 1969) and #11 (1972), yet I did so several times thus far. The exalted craftsmanship of Holmboe's quartet writing is undeniable. Superficially, you hear influences of Bartok and Shostakovich, yet the more you listen, the more a strong individual voice emerges. The clarity of the complex polyphony in the faster movements, the expressive melodic lines in the slower ones, and the harmonic shifts and harmonic tension in his music (through not overly dissonant) are compelling, and he forms gripping musical narratives. I am excited to explore more of his string quartets.

Holmboe has been called by some critics one of the greatest composers of string quartets in the 20th century. Once you attentively listen to the music, you may even agree with the assessment. If you google for the music, you will find glowing reviews of Holmboe's string quartets in diverse classical magazines.
 
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I love string quartets, and am always up for adventure. From the classical period I have more recently discovered the wonderful quartets by Eybler, whom Albrechtsberger, a friend of Haydn and Mozart, declared the greatest genius in Vienna after Mozart (at a time when Beethoven was not yet known; Albrechtsberger would later become one of Beethoven's teachers).

From the 20th century I love not only the quartets by Bartok and Shostakovich, but also the lesser known ones by Hindemith, Britten and Schnittke, and even ultra-modernist quartets by, for example, Wolfgang Rihm and Brian Ferneyhough. Yet now I also discovered the Danish composer Holmboe.

From this 7-CD set of 20 string quartets, played splendidly by the Kontra Quartet, I have so far only listened to quartets #10 (from 1969) and #11 (1972), yet I did so several times thus far. The exalted craftsmanship of Holmboe's quartet writing is undeniable. Superficially, you hear influences of Bartok and Shostakovich, yet the more you listen, the more a strong individual voice emerges. The clarity of the complex polyphony in the faster movements, the expressive melodic lines in the slower ones, and the harmonic shifts and harmonic tension in his music (through not overly dissonant) are compelling, and he forms gripping musical narratives. I am excited to explore more of his string quartets.

Holmboe has been called by some critics one of the greatest composers of string quartets in the 20th century. Once you attentively listen to the music, you may even agree with the assessment. If you google for the music, you will find glowing reviews of Holmboe's string quartets in diverse classical magazines.
Love this thanks Al… throw one back at you… Storgards and Holmboe’s Chamber Symphonies.
Holmboe Chamber Symphony No1 excerpt

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Seriously important music from the mid twentieth century. Great structure, beautifully orchestrated and really exemplary playing throughout by John Storgards and his Laplanders. I find Storgards to be a bit variable but he really tunes in to Holmboe.

Important why? Well for chamber music I feel it’s still accessible as well as soulful and alive in a stirring kind of way. It has great tension throughout. We can get very caught up in 18th century chamber music and for good reason but the form is still very alive right through to today. Also especially in chamber music there are a whole range of composers worth exploring that we may dismiss because they weren’t necessarily celebrity composers or among the very leading symphonists of their times.

This has great movement and a tautness and a purposeful quality to its composition and orchestration. This is for me definitely worth repeated listening. Love that he was an early Vagn as well… so no reindeers harmed in the making of this good music! It’s Danish Milan but you have an open pass on classical mid century… defo not one for you but think you’ll have safely guessed that already.
 
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And why? See criterion for thread.

Some description, please.
I like some description, but it usually tends to be too long and takes the interest and focus out from the album in my opinion. So I somewhat like the approach of Republicof texas69 too, even if a small amout of more info would be nice. Just saying…

/ Jk
 
Mahler 1st symphony underwent several iterations to reach the form we listen to now (1899 version, 7th and final one after 10 years of painful reworking).

Mahler had a very difficult life as a composer, and it was mainly thanks to Bernstein charisma - more than half a century after his death - that he reached its present status as a major figure of XX century music.

This rendition of the 1st is a such a wholehearted tribute to M. multifaceted psychological and musical personality!

The beautiful, the tragic, the grotesque elements are shamefully exposed in what then became the golden standard of uber-Mahlerian interpretation.

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The result is an overflow of emotions covering the full range of human feelings about nature, life, social interactions, cultural heritage exposure (which for Mahler meant e.g. jewish rooted dances, militaresque fanfares, remote alpine landscapes evocations, often regurgitated as twisted through a distorted lens).

The 3rd movement alone, with its theatrical representation of death, carnal joy, bitter sarcasm, despaired search for love, meaning, affection, is worth immortality.

The sound of this recording is as live as it gets, very immersive, enveloping, adding to this immensely moving experience.
 
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Olivier Messiaen’s “Chronochromie“ (‘colored time”) for large orchestra with a duration of about 23 min is living up its title as a colorful work. The orchestral colors have a wide-ranging palette and are often unique.

The music features brass textures that despite their massive onslaught are remarkably translucent in color, sometimes aided by embedding of unison strings. In softer passages diverse woodwinds often sound in unison as well, creating unheard of composite colors.

There is prominent use of xylophone and glockenspiel. The music is mostly one of pure texture or gesture, without real melody, but it is gripping nonetheless. Yet the xylophone patterns are actually melodic, forming a distinct contrast to the surrounding music. In some passages the xylophone patterns are heard against a halo of soft excitement of the surface of gongs. In other passages, xylophone patterns are embedded in a halo of unison woodwind textures.

There are many islands of dense polyphonic textures, which can be enjoyed in many ways. You can let the textures wash over you as a whole, or you can follow a few separate strands of choice thickly embedded in the dense textures, and you can change your focus on which strands to concentrate. There is also a "birdsong" passage where a dense polyphony of just solo strings imitates bird sounds.

The quality of recording is excellent, featuring great transparency and a very wide dynamic range. Interpretation and playing are inspired; the conductor, Pierre Boulez, was a student of Messiaen.
 
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I am an unabashed fan of Maestro Karl Böhm, the conductor, and when the opportunity arose to acquire this collection of recordings I jumped at the chance. The SWR>> CLASSIC label has done a fine job of remastering. With over 6 hours of music for you to enjoy, I present you the entire tracklist courtesy of Presto Music: Karl Böhm SWR Historic Recordings Tracklist

Böhm generally renowned for his recording of Mozart and operas turns in some rather nifty performances of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Dvorak and Hindemith to name but a few.

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I am an unabashed fan of Maestro Karl Böhm, the conductor, and when the opportunity arose to acquire this collection of recordings I jumped at the chance. The SWR>> CLASSIC label has done a fine job of remastering. With over 6 hours of music for you to enjoy, I present you the entire tracklist courtesy of Presto Music: Karl Böhm SWR Historic Recordings Tracklist

Böhm generally renowned for his recording of Mozart and operas turns in some rather nifty performances of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Dvorak and Hindemith to name but a few.

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His Bruckner and Richard Strauss are also excellent.

Edit: I can also recommend videos of him rehearsing Richard Strauss with the Vienna Philharmonic. I suppose some of them can be found on YouTube as well (in this case, understanding German may help, but perhaps there are subtitles, too).
 
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Who doesn't love Mahler? (Rhetorical) and then by chance, this recording made its way to my system and I cannot stop going back to it repeatedly. Warning: Jazzrausch Bigband's recording: Mahler's Breakdown is neither for purists nor the faint of heart. Güstav might have something to say about this if he was among us in the physical sense.

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