Thursday, October 05, 2006

Music Notes (One of them entertaining)

1. The greatest classical-music parody of all time has been discovered online through great good luck (which is to say, I uploaded it): Dudley Moore parodying the music of Benjamin Britten and the singing of Peter Pears in his Beyond the Fringe routine, "Little Miss Britten." Moore not only does a devastating parody of Pears' strangled tenor voice, he catches every single one of Britten's compositional quirks, like his use of melismas ("awa-a-a-a-y") and abrupt endings:

2. To my surprise, I've found myself really enjoying a recording that might sound like an insane concept: Gustav Mahler on period instruments. It's this recording of Mahler's orchestral songs to poems from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (which was a collection of bastardized and prettified re-written versions of German folk songs and poems). Philippe Herreweghe conducts, and the old instruments really work well with this music: Mahler wanted a rough, unsophisticated, fake-folksy sound for these fake-folksy songs, and that's the sound these instruments provide. Instead of the smooth, urbane sound of modern-instrument orchestras, Herreweghe's orchestra is full of snarling brass, piercing woodwinds, and rough gut strings; it doesn't sound bad, because the musicians play these instruments extremely well, but it sounds less glossy and glitzy than your average orchestra, and that works in this music.

The recording isn't perfect; the baritone soloist, Dietrich Henschel, does too much snarling and barking in the Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau manner. The singing, just as much as the orchestral playing, requires a feeling of unsophisticated simplicity, not the sound of a prissy lieder singer guiding you the Meaning of each song. But Henschel has his good moments too, and the female soloist, Sarah Connolly, is very good. Definitely worth getting, both for the music and the performance. There are a couple of brief audio clips at the site I linked to.

Herreweghe includes all fourteen of Mahler's orchestral Wunderhorn songs, including the two that Mahler later incorporated into symphonies: "Urlicht" became part of the second symphony and "Das Himmlische Leben" is the finale of the fourth symphony. (Mahler also has the orchestra quote from "St. Anthony's Sermon to the Fishes" in the second symphony, and from "Lob Des Hohen Verstands" in the fifth symphony.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As you say, the greatest musical parody of all time. Thank you for uploading it. I had known the sound version for years and did not realise it had been filmed. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be available online any more. Would you know where I might be able to find/buy a copy? Thanks.