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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Programming for a...

...Musical side-note. I recently discovered that BIS Records has a "Listen!" feature on its website. I conceived a passion for "original" or period instruments in Baroque music during the heady early days of the CD, when Trevor Pinnock was the reigning young hipster of Baroque, and of all the period-instrument bands (there are many, some of them composed of differing combinations of some of the same players, others straining the definition of "period"), the one I have the biggest soft spot for is the BIS label's "house band," the Drottningholm Baroque Ensemble. They manage to be light, spare, spirited, and virtuosic all at once. Mozart's "Eine kleine Nachtmusik" is as hoary a chestnut as there is—it's cruddy with hoar—but the DRE makes it sound young again, as only they can. In fact, if you want an object lesson in how scored classical music can be transformed by the right performance, compare the DBE's Handel Concerto Grosso in G minor, Op.6:6, rapt and lyrical, deep, emotional, lithe, with the same piece from Telarc's famously "well-recorded" (whatever that means) but dull, foot-patting rendition (which for some reason some people actually like...a mystery). Why the DBE wasn't immediately driven to record all the Concerti Grossi by pure force of acclaim is beyond telling.

It's not like the Drottningholm hasn't handled chestnuts before. Duelling Tubas, Uncle Ocher's Klezmer Band, and the Fat Guys' Fart Orchestra have all recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, along with 1,800 classical bands ranging from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra to a guy on the sidewalk with a cymbal on his foot. But the DBE's version (recorded way back in '85) is still the best one ever done with tape rolling. It's everything that classic should be: fresh, almost violently spirited, bright, sere, lively, clean...fierce. Delightful.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

Featured Comment by David Adam Edelstein: Wow, it's almost like the score is the negative and the performance is the print. :-)

7 Comments:

Blogger J DM said...

nice and clean. I've bookmarked BIS, and went looking for some of my other favorites. You might even try (since recommendations are now in open season) the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by Astor Piazzolla; and, hey, i musici just released a new recording that souds good in 30-decond clips

and now, back to my regular, reading

7:02 AM  
Blogger Robert Roaldi said...

For other work on period instruments, have a listen to the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra of Toronto. (www.tafelmusik.org). I used to go to their concerts when I lived there.

9:48 AM  
Blogger jw52tx said...

It seems we may share a very varied taste in music, I even still have my 8 track version of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" but I dont have any Fat Guys Fart Orchestra.... where could I get a copy? preferably a "Best Of" collection? Have you been to one of their performances?

9:56 AM  
Blogger Paul Butzi said...

Duelling Tubas, Uncle Ocher's Klezmer Band, and the Fat Guys' Fart Orchestra have all recorded Vivaldi's Four Seasons, along with 1,800 classical bands ranging from the Vienna Symphony Orchestra to a guy on the sidewalk with a cymbal on his foot.

I met a guy once who could play both Beethoven's 9th and Vivaldi's Four Seasons on banjo, solo.

That's not the amazing bit. The amazing bit is that both came off pretty well. You'd be surprised.

You can file that away under the title "Who'd have thunk it".

10:04 AM  
Blogger Ken Tanaka said...

"...but I dont have any Fat Guys Fart Orchestra.... where could I get a copy? preferably a "Best Of" collection? Have you been to one of their performances?"

If I recall correctly they only performed in churches, as they preferred to sit in pews.

(Sorry, couldn't resist.)

11:35 AM  
Blogger Levi said...

A competent perrformance in an excellent recording, but always a bit too mechanical for my ears. Good dinner music as it is unlikely to startle any guests! And now, back to my regular noshing...

6:55 PM  
Blogger Dwight Jones said...

Mike, I ordered a couple of CDs after reading your review. The Four Seasons came today and it's as good as you say. The thunder in "Summer" was enough to make my dog sit up and listen. Thanks for the tip.

The Mozart CD is back ordered. Maybe all the T.O.P. readers bought it out?

9:04 PM  

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