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essential music

leonard-bernstein

Essential Music: Leonard Bernstein

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Leonard Bernstein in the classical music landscape of the United States, and the rest of the world. If there ever was a megastar conductor in the US, Bernstein was that. Flamboyant, outspoken, and an immense musician, Bernstein contributed to the growth and development of classical music for several […]

dylan

Essential Music: Bob Dylan’s Witmark Demos

Between February, 1962 and June, 1964, Bob Dylan, at the dawn of his career, made a number of recordings for two publishing companies, Leeds Music and M. Witmark & Sons. These recordings were released in 2010 as The Bootleg Series: Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) Dylan had recorded his first album […]

Essential Music: Franz Schubert’s Complete Songs

Music Review: Franz Schubert Complete Songs
Hyperion Records
40 CDs plus book containing song texts, 2005. List price GBP 180.

Buy from Amazon.com | Amazon UK | Amazon FR

In 1987, Hyperion Records began what turned out to be a colossal project: the recording of all of Franz Schubert’s songs (or lieder), a total of 729 songs performed by over 60 soloists. Some of these songs are for male voice, others for female voice, and others for several singers together. (In comparison, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s landmark recording of all the lieder for solo male voice includes 463 songs on 21 CDs.) Originally released on 37 CDs, over a period of 18 years (the amount of time it took Schubert to compose all these songs, before his early death), this new set presents the songs in chronological order.

Essential Music: Transmission, by Joy Division

In the late ’70s, amidst the rubble of punk rock, a group of angry young men came onto the scene in Manchester, UK. Joy Division, whose name I’ll let the reader research on the Web, was fronted by deep-voiced singer Ian Curtis, and their music was, at best, gloomy, dark, and depressing. Yet it was a different kind of depression than the “no future” of the punk rockers; this was the depression of absolute despair and ultimate nothingness, rather than unemployment and the dole.

Originally called Warsaw, the group changed its name in 1978, and during that year recorded what would be their first LP: Unknown Pleasures . This album was released in June 1979 and quickly helped develop the cult following that the group would have throughout its short life. A second album, Closer, soon followed, which would be their last.

Essential Music: Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 2

Charles Ives was one of America’s most singular composers, and arguably the first truly American voice in classical music. However, his music was hardly known beyond a small circle of outsiders until the early 1950s. By then, Ives had long since stopped composing, having created a body of work that includes four symphonies, two piano […]

Essential Music: Canto Ostinato by Simeon ten Holt

I’ve long been a fan of minimalist music, and I’ve written a fair amount about that sub-genre here. There are some key works in minimalism: Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians, Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach, Terry Riley’s In C (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) and many others. But there’s one that remains a cult work, […]

miles

Essential Music: Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way

Miles Davis’ career spanned nearly five decades, and he was the engine for much change in jazz. From the early be-bop days through his later fusion, Miles covered just about every type of jazz (with the exception of that abomination called “smooth jazz”). From the early records on Prestige, through the seminal Kind of Blue […]

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