Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Olga Neuwirth's "Torsion"  Olga Neuwirth's Torsion (2002) for bassoon, ensemble and tape is a mindblowingly virtuosic piece and a catalogue of every extended technique possible on the instrument: circular breathing, multiphonics, microtonality, etc. The tape part generally amplifies the breath-like characteristics of the bassoon part, but the climax of the work occurs as the tape suddenly presents an authentic recording of 1920s klezmer music on clarinet, a touch very representative of the Austrian Neuwirth, who has generally followed in Helmut Lachenmann's style of musique concrete instrumentale, but never lost her love for cabaret [note thanks to Christopher Culver,]. Watch a performance of Olga Neuwirth's Torsion with bassoonist Adrian Morejon and the Talea Ensemble, James Baker, conducting  . . . one of this week's FEATURED NEW MUSIC VIDEOS.

Nir Shalev (at the blog Commentary Track) writes about Martin Scorsese's 1999 film Bringing Out the Dead: "This is my personal favorite Martin Scorsese film and it boasts a terrific performance from Nicolas Cage, who performs with realism instead of being over-expressionist, terrific performances from the rest of the cast, and a terrific soundtrack that contains popular songs from the 1970s to the 1990s - as well as an original score by the great Elmer Bernstein. There are a lot of different feelings that we go through from having even a single viewing of the film. This isn't a plot-driven film, but a character-centered piece that contains a beginning, middle, and an end, and a raw infinite emotion that grows with every viewing." Watch an excerpt from Bringing Out the Dead - the film's end, and end credits, underlain with Elmer Bernstein's moving score . . . it's our PYTHEAS SIGHTING.

Although a late bloomer, Italian composer Goffredo Petrassi developed into one of Italy's most significant composers of the mid to late twentieth century. Launching his career in the 1930s with music on par with contemporary works by Hindemith and Stravinsky, Petrassi eventually became interested in certain twelve-tone techniques without casting his lot with the serialists. His music is dynamic and colorful, although emotionally reserved by the standards of his countrymen. He first gained notice as a composer in 1932 with his prize winning Partita for orchestra. He focused on orchestral music through most of the 1930s, in 1934 completing the first of his signature works, the eight Concertos for Orchestra. Around this time, Petrassi also turned his attention to choral music, melding polyphony with modern harmony in such works as Salmo IX (1936) and his Magnificat (1940). Unlike most Italian composers up to that time, Petrassi had little interest in theater music, aside from four minor incidental scores and nine film scores. From the late 1950s on Petrassi's music became increasingly athematic, concentrating on timbral effects using short patterns of intervals, particularly in a series of solo and chamber works from 1969 through 1981 [note thanks to James Reel, AllMusic]. Listen to a performance of Goffredo Petrassis Fanfare per tre trombe in do (1944; rev. 1976) . . . it's one of our PYTHEAS EARFULS for the week.

Leslie Gerber asks: "What the heck is a Heckelphone? As you might guess from hearing that it's played by an oboist, it's a double-reed instrument pitched lower than an oboe and higher than a bassoon, invented at the turn of the century. It never became popular, and aside from Paul Hindemith's Trio you'll probably never hear another one. It's well known that Hindemith spent a great deal of compositional effort to write works for instruments that do not have much contemporary repertoire. Listen to his efforts for the rarely heard Heckelphone in his Heckelphone Trio, op. 47 (1928) . . . this week's FROM THE PYTHEAS ARCHIVES.

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