[Dixielandjazz] The Individual Voice in Music
tubaman at batnet.com
Sun Nov 9 09:53:57 PST 2003
Interesting thread - I enjoy all kinds of music (pre and post OKOM) and
it is hard not to slip in a few recordings during my radio show that
would not fit the pure OKOM mode. There is a very nice CD Big Band
collection called "Beethoven Wrote it, But It Swings" that is still
On a slightly different spin - are there any current OKOM bands doing
much with the music of Weill and Brecth (other than "Mack the Knife?")
It seems to me that Turk Murphy did quite a few of the lesser known
songs but I have not heard too many other bands doing anything lately.
The review posted below was in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle
(BTW, did you know that this paper started out as a theatrical and
music review paper in the 1800s and gradually added "news" to the
content - although many people in the Bay Area still don't look to that
paper for hard news reporting...;-)
Erratic joy with early Weill
Joshua Kosman, Chronicle Music Critic
Saturday, November 8, 2003
©2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback
Hindsight is never more enjoyable than in listening to a composer's
early work and glimpsing the seeds of a distinctive mature style.
Thursday's San Francisco Symphony premiere of Kurt Weill's Violin
Concerto, featuring a dynamite debut by soloist James Ehnes, offered
that pleasure in spades.
With guest conductor David Robertson presiding in Davies Symphony Hall,
the Symphony served up a canny program that also included masterpieces
by Stravinsky and Steve Reich. But it was Weill's youthful
non-masterpiece, written at 24, that proved most fascinating.
You wouldn't have to glance at the program to know that this was a
composer's early work, or even who the composer was. Weill's stylistic
fingerprints are everywhere, from the tangy, astringent harmonic
language to the jaunty rhythms to the jazz-band sonorities (aside from
a handful of basses, the orchestra is all winds, brass and percussion).
But the score proclaims its composer's youth just as clearly in its
formal uncertainty and the untrammeled extravagance of its invention.
Over three movements lasting just 24 minutes, Weill races from idea to
idea like a puppy finally let out for a walk -- he can't contain his
exuberance, and throws out one wonderful musical thought after another
without really following up on any of them.
The middle movement is actually three movements jammed into one -- a
weird nocturne dominated by the ultra-dry chattering of the xylophone,
a violin cadenza and then a tender serenade. And even there Weill is
too hopped up to concentrate for long on any particular strain.
All of this would probably be simply vexing if Weill's voice were not
so distinctive and so utterly engaging. The delicately placed woodwind
figure that opens the piece -- just a lilting series of perfectly
judged harmonic intervals -- instantly conjures up a foretaste of
Weill's greatest works still to come.
And the finale, which has the soloist sawing away at passagework like a
19th century virtuoso while the orchestra discourses behind him, is a
deliriously improbable blend of old-fashioned concerto style and the
new vistas of interwar Berlin.
Ehnes, a young Canadian violinist now coming to prominence, made a
terrific case for the piece. His playing boasts a quiet elegance,
seemingly without effort or turmoil, that brought out the lyricism
underscoring even Weill's most tartly pointed writing. His string tone
is warm and full-voiced, his rhythmic control deceptively fluid. His
return visit is something to look forward to.
Robertson proved once again his ability to combine old and new works
into a heady orchestral program. As a complement to the
brass-and-winds sonorities of the Weill, there was the Symphony
premiere of "Different Trains," Reich's magnum opus for strings and
This extraordinary meditation on the Holocaust, written in 1988 for the
Kronos Quartet, remains one of Reich's most profound creations. Its
fusion of spoken word and minimalist phase-shifting forms a medium for
the subject matter, the trains that crisscrossed America and Europe
during the 1930s and '40s to bring American children like himself to
safe havens and European Jews to the death camps.
But this arrangement for string orchestra, commissioned by the
Philadelphia Orchestra and the Orchestre National de Lyon, runs up
against the limitations of mainstream orchestral technique. The
surging, steady rhythmic pulse that is a cornerstone of Reich's
writing is something that orchestral players have always had
Just as in the 1996 West Coast premiere of Reich's "City Life," given
as part of Michael Tilson Thomas' first American Music festival, the
Symphony players on Thursday leaned so heavily on Robertson's beat
that any sense of spontaneity and rhythmic clarity was obscured (there
was also a notable slip- up when one of the principal musicians lost
his place). The result was an honorable but plodding account.
The musicians came into their own at the end with an explosive,
powerfully etched account of Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements.
There was more rhythmic force in the first movement alone, crowned by
Robin Sutherland's clangorous piano commentary, than in the entire
expanse of the Reich.
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