Friday, January 25, 2008

Oh, Life's such a strain

Its been really tough around here of late to spend very much time just sitting and listening. Work has been very demanding of my time and energy over the last couple of weeks, so thats not a good start. Add to that the time it takes to prepare for and then present a weekly radio show, work hard on the design and production of several long overdue Cathnor releases, write a weekly review for Bagatellen, plus maintain a relationship with a long-suffering girlfriend, and well finding the time to listen about music and write anything interesting here at this blog is difficult.

So while I take the time to sort my life out here's a few links to some of the assorted stuff I've been up to, beginning with two recent reviews at Bagatellen, the first of two albums by Jez riley French, and the second of Mattin's new release Broken Subject.

audition, the weekly radio show I co-present for Resonance FM began again in earnest on 13th january after an extended Christmas break. You can listen to the shows as Mp3 files from our website. audition is always great fun to do, and I guess it does provide me with an opportunity to listen to music, but in truth we don't get much chance to really stop and listen in the studio as there's usually too much going on, and the preparation for the show usually involves editing music down to fit into the playlist, which does involve a degree of close listening, but not how I'd really like to be doing it. I present audition along with Alastair Wilson, who has returned to write his darkly humorous photo-blog after a brief hiatus whilst his camera was broken. I recommend checking in there daily.

So there is a series of Cathnor releases close to completion, both full length discs and a new series of 3" CDRs I am working on. I hope to have these out very soon. All are hideously delayed for all kinds of reasons, but I'd rather take my time and do them properly than make a pig's ear of them. I also hope to get a paypal payment option up at the Cathnor site very soon, and will probably hold a short sale on the existing catalogue soon too.

Music continues to fall through my letterbox here, Apologies to everyone that I haven't responded to if you sent me something, the truth is most probably that I haven't had a chance to listen yet. Some discs I've really been enjoying lately have included Radiu Malfatti's recent releases, string quartets from benjamin Britten and Robert Simpson, the cello suites of Zoltan Kodaly, a disc by two young UK improvisers named Daniel Jones and Paul Khimasia Morgan and an assortment of releases featuring Martin Küchen. Hopefully at least some of these will get written about somewhere soon!

No gigs so far this year yet though... thats depressing!!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cor Fuhler sends me to sleep....

Well I have continued to run as much as I can... yesterday I went into London for a long overdue visit to Sound323 and as ever came away with more CDs than I have time to listen to, so I didn't have time for a run, but instead I made sure that instead of taking the escalator on the tube I ran up every set of stairs available. (and yes for those that know Sound323, this included the long set of steps leading up out of the Highgate tube station!) But yes, the midlife crisis continues...!

The interesting part of all this though has been the effect that running has had on the music I've listened to as I've been trudging along, and perhaps more importantly how the music has affected my running. The first night was a confused mess, as I explained before. Jez riley French's Field Recordings Vol.21 really needs close listening to get anything out of it, and so listening to it under my puffing and panting, with the headphones contunally falling from my ears wasn't a very rewarding experience.

The next day though I took along Cor Fuhler's Slee, a CDR of piano improvisations that I hadn't listened to at all before setting out, so I had no idea what to expect. I didn't notice that the first track was entitled Sleep...

The music is a kind of slow, drowsy melodic piano piece, dripping with a lazy jazz vibe, perhaps the perfect music for a gloomy Sunday afternoon when you just feel like dozing off. As much as I quite like the piece, this wasn't really the sort of music you need when you are trying to spur yourself along on a run. It actually had the effect of slowing me down considerably, what I heard in my ears seemed to somehow control my heart rate, and the amount of energy I had available. Alone with only the music and a very acute consciousness of how my body was performing I was stunned by just how much music seems to effect what I am capable of doing. When the second track started, a brief, jerky electronic cut-up of the piano piece, I sped right up again, the more frenetic nature of the music releasing the spell I seemed to be under before.

The next evening I took along Public Enemy's A Nation of Millions... and I absolutely flew along...

I might be imagining all of this of course, but it really felt like the music to some degree dictated my speed in a manner that felt out of my control. I'm off out again shortly, with Derek Bailey and John Stevens' Playing as company, a frenetic yet also very detailed album. Lets see what happens...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

How do you choose the soundtrack to a mid-life crisis?

As pathetically unoriginal as it may sound I made myself a New Years resolution to lose some weight and try and get fitter. I've never really had to worry much about this kind of thing throughout my life, having remained the same weight for my first thirty or so years. Over the last eighteen months or so though I have begun to pile on the pounds, and like so many others I ate too much at Christmas and now feel the urge to have my first bona fide mid life crisis and worry about my health.

So, after spending the first week or two of the year contemplating my navel (whilst I can still see it) I started eating healthier this week, and have also gone out for a short run each of the last three evenings... I used to go out walking every evening when I still had dogs about the house, but over the last few years this has dwindled to maybe one walk a week. I used to really enjoy that time in isolation with whatever music I chose to take along with me, so I looked forward to compensating for the pain of starting to run with the prospect of some more quality listening time...

Well I've learnt one thing... you can't really run and listen to this kind of music. Apart from the fact that Jez riley French's Field Recordings Vol.21 album was accompanied by the additional sounds of blood vessels trying to explode in my ears and wheezing splutters coursing through my windpipe, the damned headphone buds kept falling out of my ears....

So tomorrow I'm going to look a plonker with a massive pair of headphones clamped to my head, and I'm uploading Public Enemy and Roni Size to my iPod to give the adrenalin a boost... God knows where all of this will end!

---

On another New Years resolution type note I promised myself that I would try and write more formally on music more often in 2008, and spend less time getting into silly online arguments... This coincided with our friend Brian's announcement of a year long hiatus from reviewing CDs for Bagatellen so that he can definitely without any doubt get his book finished this year without any question (I think thats what you said isn't it Brian? ;) So I am aiming to write one review a week for Bagatellen this year to cover in some unsatisfyingly insufficient manner for Brian whilst he has his own little mid-life crisis ;) The odds are very much against me achieving this, or anything close to it, but you never know, I can but try. The first review of a really great album is here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

CDs Acquired 2008

As with last year's list this is merely a (very useful) record of the CDs that come my way throughout 2008. It will be continually updated and is for my own benefit more than anyone else!

January 2008

Jez riley French - Field Recordings Volume 21 (Engraved Glass)
Jez riley French - Generator Pieces 2727807 (Engraved Glass)
Benjamin Britten - cello Suites 1 & 2 (Britten, Rostropovich) (London)
Mattin - Broken Subject (Free Software Series) CDR
Julien Skrobek - Les Palais Transparent (Free Software Series) CDR
Cor Fuhler - Tcod (Conundrom) CDR
Cor Fuhler - Slee (Conundrom) CDR
Radu Malfatti - Claude Lorrain 1 (B-boim)
Radu Malfatti - Kid Aillack 5 (B-boim)
Martin Küchen - Homo Sacer (Sillion)
Various Artists - Rhythm (Cherry)
Martin Küchen, David Stackenås - Agape (Creative Sources)
Jason Kahn, Tomas Korber, Norbert Moslang, Günter Müller, Christian Weber, Katsura Yamauchi - Signal to noise Vol.4 (For 4 Ears)
Kenneth Kirschener - September 8th 2005 (Leerraum Audio DVD)
Asher - Instability (Leerraum Audio DVD)
Jason Kahn, Norbert Moslang, Günter Müller - Signal to noise Vol.5 (For 4 Ears)
Tony Buck, Cor Fuhler, Anna Zaradny - Lighton (Musica Genera)
Jean-Francois LaPorte - Soundmatters (23five)
Various Artists - Airport Symphony (Room40)
Hilda Paredes - Listen how they talk (Mode)
Daniel Jones, Paul Khimasia Morgan - S/t (The slightly off-kilter label)
Morton Feldman - Piano and orchestra etc... (Markus Hinterhaouser) (Col Legno)
Nicolas Collins - Pea Soup (Apestaarttje 3")
Earle Brown - Tracer (Mode DVD)
Luc Ferrari - Et tournent les sons (Ensemble Laborintus & eRikm) (Césaré)
rlw - The pleasure of burning down churches (Black Rose)
Various Artists - Signal (Finetuned)
Nos Phillipé - Shh... Camille (Confront Collector Series)
Mathias Spahlinger - Farben der frühe (Neos)
Zoltan Kodaly - Music for cello and piano (Sung-Won Yang, Ick-Choo Moon) (EMI)
Tandem Electrics - Intaglio (RAR)
Morton Feldman - For Bunita Marcus / Palais de Mari (Sabine Liebner) (Oehms)
Mathias Spahlinger - Extension (Hildegard Kleeb, Dimitris Polisoidis) (HatArt)

February 2008

Jeph Jerman, Jon Mueller - Node and anti-nodes (Crouton DVD)
Eric Cordier, Emmanuel Mielville - Dispositif: Canal Saint-Martin (Xing-Wu)
Eric Cordier - Osorezan (Herbal)
Eric Cordier - Breizhiselad (Erewhon)
Tarab - Wind keeps even dust away (23five)
Various - Annual Activating the Medium Festival Disc 1 (23five 2CD)
Various - Annual Activating the Medium Festival Disc 2 (23five 2CD)
Tim Caitlin - Radio Ghosts (23five)
Toshimaru Nakamura, Jean-Luc Guionnet - MAP (Potlatch)
Julien Skrobek - Membra Disjecta (Self-released CDR)
Dan Warburton, Frederick Farryl Goodwin - Compendium Maleficarum III (Incunabulae)
Ricardo Donoso - Solo percussion improvisations (Self released)
Calliope Quartet - Musiké Téchne (Self released)

March 2008

Graham Lambkin - Salmon Run (Kye)
Bryan Eubanks - Desired Climate Works 2006-2007 (Gmby 3CDR)
The Magic I.D - Till my breath gives out (ErstPop)
Cor Fuhler - Whistlelight (Conundrom)
Kevin Parks, Joe Foster - Ipsi sibi somnia fingunt (Self released)
Various - Pedair awr yng nghymru fydd / Brave New Wales (Fourier Transform 3CD)
Pascal Battus / Alfredo Costa Monteiro - Ductile (A question of re-entry / Organized Music from Thessaloniki)
Kostis Kilimis - .accumulated (Organized Music from Thessaloniki)
Matthieu Saladin - 4'33" / 0'00" (Editions Provisoires)
Various - That mysterious forest below London Bridge (Matchless)
John Tilbury, Evan Parker - Two chapters and an epliogue (Matchless)
Clive Bell, Bechir Saade - An account of my hut (Another Timbre)
Max Eastley, Graham Halliwell, Evan Parker, Mark Wastell - A life saved by a spider and two doves (Another Timbre)
André O. Moller - Musik für und eine(n) tonsetzer(in) ...2003... (Wandelweiser)
Eva-Maria Houben - Works for flute (Wandelweiser)
Eva-Maria Houben - Von da nach da (Wandelweiser)
Eva-Maria Houben - Works for tromba marina (Wandelweiser)
Michael Pisaro - Transparent City (Volumes 1 and 2) (Wandelweiser)
Michael Pisaro - Transparent City (Volumes 3 and 4) (Wandelweiser)
Michael Pisaro - Harmony series 11-16 (Wandelweiser)
John Cage - Early music (Buckholz, Becker) (Wandelweiser)
Agape - Guardaropa Open/Closed (Kning Disk)
Christian Munthe, Roger Turner - Ochre (Kning Disk)
Martin Küchen, Eric Carlsson - Beirut (Kning Disk)
Matthew Samson, Rhodri Davies - Live Uncut Vol.1 (A question of re-entry)
Werner Durand - Remnants from paradise (Absurd)
IMCA - IMCA (Absurd)
Grundik Kasayansky - Floating Point (Topheth Prophet)
Grundik Kasayansky - Light and roundchair (Creative Sources)
Rhodri Davies, David Lacey, Dennis McNulty - Poor Trade (Cathnor)
Graham Lambkin, Jason Lescalleet - The Breadwinner (Erstwhile)
Fergus Kelly - Leaching the pith (Room Temperaure)
Fergus Kelly, David Lacey, Dennis McNulty, Paul Vogel - Trinity College Chapel 8 October 2005 (Room Temperaure)

April 2008

Various - Signal to Noise Vol.6 (For 4 Ears)
LEMUR - 7 (+3db)
Hild Sofie Tafjord - Kama (PicaDisk)
Chris Burn's Ensemble - Live at Musica Genera 2002 (Musica Genera)
eRik M - Steme (Room40)
Various - Relay Eight (2:13)
Aubry / Emke / Krebs / Schick - Berlin Electronics (Absinth)
Harvard, Leduc, Morin, Ottavi - Digital live radio session (Fibrr)
David Papapostolou - One and two (Self released)
Michael J Schumacher, Stephen Vitiello - Untitled/Exchange (A question of re-entry)
Edgar Varese - Complete Works Vol.1 (El)
Ensemble Ca Tru Thai Ha de Hanoi - Le Ca Tru (Inedit)
Seth Nehil, Jgrizinich - Stria (Erewhon)
Benjamin Britten / Frank Bridge - Cello Symphony / Oration (EMI)
Benjamin Britten - The Young Person's guide to the Orchestra (Apex)

May 2008

Antoine Beuger - A Young Person's Guide to... (Slub)
Greg Headley 24-carat abnormalities (28angles)
Taku Sugimoto - Fragments of Paradise (Test)
English, Toshimaru Nakamura - One Day (Erstwhile)
Barry Chabala, Phil Hargreaves - Musick for two machines (whi)
Masahiko Okura, Taku Sugimoto, Taku Unami - Chamber music concerts Vol.1 (Slub / Hibari / Load Factor)
Radu Malfatti - L'effaçage (B-boim)
Johannes Brahms - Klavierquintett op.34 (Maurizio Pollini, Quartetto Italiano) (Deutsche Grammophon)
Toshimaru Nakamura, English - One Day (Erstwhile)
Vanessa Rossetto - Imperial Brick (Music Appreciation)
Vanessa Rossetto - Misafridal (Music Appreciation)
Vanessa Rossetto - Whoreson in the wilderness (Music Appreciation)
Andy Graydon - At bay (Windsmeasure)
Asher-Ubeboet - Cell Memory (Windsmeasure)
Civyiu Kkliu, Ilya Mosonov - Cartolina Postale (Windsmeasure)
Richard Garet - L'avenir (Windsmeasure)
Peter Cusack - Favourite Beijing Sounds (KwanYin)
Benjamin Britten - String Quartets Vol.3 (Naxos)
Helmut Lachenmann - String quartets (Arditti Quartet) (Kairos)
Mathias Spahlinger - Furioso (Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Recherche, Arditti Quartet) (Kairos)
Jakob Ullmann - Komposition für streichquartett, Disappearing Musics (Wergo)
David Lacey, Paul Vogel - The British Isles (Homefront)
Johann Sebastian Bach - Great Religious Vocal Works (VOX 10CD Set)
John Clair, Jed Shahar - Tennis (Fenimore Records)
Kanichiro Oda, Takefumi Naoshima, Mitsuteru Takeuchi, Takahiro Hirama - 1 (Encadre)

June 2008

Christian Weber - Walcheturm Solo (Cut)
Jakob Ullmann - voice, books, FIRE 3 (Editions RZ)
Toshimaru Nakamura - Dance Music (Bottrop Boy)
Rafael Mallo - Vribracion (Taumaturgia)
Josetxia Grieta - Sonrisas Vendo-¿Dónde Nos Llevan? (Taumaturgia)
Rafael Mallo, Roberto Mallo, Miguel Prado, Raul Garcia - Volonté (Taumaturgia)
Pateras, Baxter, Brown - Interference (Emd)
Taku Sugimoto - Shiisanputou (Slubmusic Tengu)
Taku Sugimoto - Three Speakers (Slubmusic Tengu)

July 2008

Michael Pisaro - An unrhymed chord (Wandelweiser)
Frédéric Blondy, Thomas Lehn - Obdo (Another Timbre)
Hugh Davies - Performances 1969-1977 (Another Timbre)
Hugh Davies + Adam Bohman, Lee Patterson, Mark Wastell - for Hugh Davies (Another Timbre)
Matt Davis, Matt Milton, Bechir Saade - Dun (Another Timbre)
Esther Venrooy, Heleen Van Haegenborgh - Mock Interiors (Entr'acte)
Esteban Algora, Alessandra Rombola, Ingar Zach - ....de las piedras (Another Timbre)
David Rothbaum - Monsturo F-44 (Rasbliuttto)
Andrew Lafkas, Bryan Eubanks, Rachel Thompson, Johnathon Zorn - ALBERTJZ (Rasbliutto)
Agustî Fernandez, Ingar Zach - Germinal (Plastic Strip)
Seymour Wright - Seymour Wright of Derby (Self released)
Lawrence English / Jeph Jerman - Gradually you feel the tide at your neck / '9' for Patrick Farmer and Sarah Hughes (Compost and Height)
Patrick Farmer - and leaves (Self released)
Patrick Farmer -Panshangar Aerodrome (Self released)
Patrick Farmer - Apiary (Self released)
Patrick Farmer -Fir Wood (Self released)
Goh Lee Kwang - Good Vibrations (Herbal)
Goh Lee Kwang - Goh Lee Kwang's Double Trio 2004 (Herbal)
Tim Blechmann - M (Why Not)
Juto Ativen - Water Music 1 (Why Not)
Eric La Casa, Cedric Peyronnet - La Creuse (Herbal)
Luis Recorder, Sandra Gibson, Olivia Block - Untitled DVD (Sos Editions)
Annette Krebs, Toshimaru Nakamura - Untitled (Sos Editions)
Janek Schaefer - Extended Play (L-ne)
Stephane Rives - Much remains to be heard (Al Maslakh)
Jez riley French - Pockilington canal head (Engraved Glass)
Takahiro Hirama - thr eat rhy thm (Encadre)
Claire Cooper, Axel Dorner, Cor Fuhler - CRAX (Conundrom)
Various - Breakdance the Dawn Compilation (Rhizome)
Arek Gulbenkoglu, Adam Sussmann - Untitled (Rhizome)

August 2008

Rebbecca Saunders - Stirrings Still (Wergo)
Morton Feldman (Breuer, Engler, Schrammel) - For Philip Guston (Wergo)
Otomo Yoshihide - Core Anode (Meena)
Christopher DeLaurenti - Favourite Intermissions (Binaural)
Jeph Jerman - Metal Drift (Fissür)
Greg Davis, Jeph Jerman - Sound Wheel (Self released)
Jeph Jerman - Grey (w/detail) (Self released)
Gerald Fiebig - Public Transport (Fieldmuzick)
Joel Stern - Objects. Masks. Props (Naturestrip)
Loren Chasse - The Footpath (Naturestrip)
Lucio Capece, Sergio Merce - Casa (Organized music from Thessaloniki)
Choi Joonyong, Ryu Hankil, Hong Chulki - 5 Modules V (Manual)
Lee Hanguin, Hong Chulki - Expanded Celluloid, Extended Phonograph (Balloon and Needle DVD)
Jason Kahn, Asher - Vista (and/OAR)
Kenneth Kirschener - 8th September 2005 (Leerraum AudioDVD)
Asher - Instability (Leerraum Audio DVD)
Tham Kar Mun / Yandsen / Yeoh Yin Pin - Shang (Xing-Wu)
Jean-Luc Guionnet, Seiiro Muruyama - Le bruit du toit (Xing-Wu)

Concerts Attended 2008

Saturday 9th February 2008, Beaconsfield, London

Self-Cancellation

Sarah Washington (Solo)
Lee Patterson (Solo)
John Butcher (Solo)
Benedict Drew (Solo)
Mark Bain, John Butcher, Michael Colligan, Rhodri Davies, Ben Drew, Robin Hayward, Lee Patterson, Sarah Washington, Daniel Weaver (Nontet)
Mark Bain, John Bain (Duo)
Rhodri Davies, Lee Patterson (Duo)
Robin Hayward (Solo)
Michael Colligan (Solo)

Friday 15th February - Sunday 17th February 2008, Instal08, the Arches, Glasgow.

The Wandelweiser Room

Antoine Beuger
Radu Malfatti
Manfred Werder

Robin Hayward
Rhodri Davies

Sunday 2nd March, Resonance FM studio, London

Phil Durrant, Lee Patetrson, Paul Vogel

Monday 24th March, Chisenhale Dance Space, London

Matthias Forge
Daniel Jones, Paul Khimasia Morgan, David Papapostolou
John Wall
John Butcher, Mark Wastell

Friday 28th March, i-and-e Festival, Unitarian Church, Dublin.

Kai Fagaschinski
The Quiet Club
Chip Shop Music
No Furniture

Saturday 29th March, i-and-e Festival, Unitarian Church, Dublin.

Boris Baltschun
Roy Carroll, Paul Vogel
Jason Lescalleet
Erik Carlsson, Axel Dorner, Martin Küchen

Sunday 30th March, i-and-e Festival, Peppercanister Church, Dublin.

Saturday 10th May, Sound323 shop, London

Alessandro Bosetti

Saturday 10th May, Royal festival Hall, London

Luigi Nono - Prometeo

Performed by London Sinfonietta and others under the direction of André Richard

Sunday 11th May, ResonanceFM studio, London

Aleassandro Bosetti

Sunday 25th May, Tate Modern Starr Auditorium

Luke Fowler, Lee Patterson - B8016 2008 Film and sound response to La Monte Young's "Draw a straight line and follow it"

Tuesday 10th June, St Johns, Smith Square. London

Morton Feldman - triadic Memories
Howard Skempton - Notti stellate a Vagli

Performed by John Tilbury

Wednesday 16th July, St Anne and Agnes Church, London

Music we'd like to hear
Parsons, Purcell, di Lasso, Cardew, Webern performed by Michael Parsons and The Post Quartet

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Widened Horizons

2007 was a great year for me as a listener. Whilst my personal life underwent considerable upheaval there was always plenty of music to keep me going. The year began with me stressed to the hilt by a job I hated, and music proved to be the crutch on which I leant for support. The summer saw me take a big step in leaving that job (its turned out to be the best thing I've done in many years) and I spent a few months relaxing, travelling, and yes listening to masses of music. The extra time on my hands meant that I caught up on the backlog of unlistened to CDs before starting a new job in October saw the "to be listened to" build right back up again. Then as the year came to an end and I enjoyed my dayjob more than I have for over a decade, I found myself fighting to find the time to listen. Oh well you can't have everything!

Anyway before I'm accused of narcissism again, there's a reason for mentioning all of this. As my personal life went through a lot of change I found myself opening my mind and ears to a wider area of music, mainly classical, but other bits and pieces slipped in too. A tendency towards the romantic, the overly emotional aspects in music appeared in my listening habits, as if from nowhere. Bearing in mind I spent most of February listening to only Radu Malfatti compositions this came as a surprise to me as much as anyone. I mainly blame the influence of others for this. Spending time in the company of knowledgeable friends directly lead me to listen to Shostakovich, Mahler, Bach and others, but I think the sense of loosened restraints I felt in my personal life played a big part in all of this also.

So here are a few of the discs that I played the most in 2007 that for one reason or another weren't suitable for my Best of 2007 list...

Gustav Mahler - Symphony No.9
Versions by Claudio Abbado and Bruno Maderna

For some reason I had been meaning to investigate Mahler for a few years. I had a good idea what to expect so I think I probably had heard one or two of the symphonies on the radio at some point and enjoyed them enough to make a subconscious mental note. My "discovery" of classical music in 2007 meant I asked around for recommendations and the first symphony I bought was No.9, and the Claudio Abbado / Berlin Philharmonic recording on Deutsche Grammophon in particular.

I have listened to more than one recording of all of Mahler's symphonies over the last twelve months and I really enjoy them all to one degree or another. The construction of his music is incredible, although so many richly detailed elements are taking place at any one time they all fit together like a fantastically beautiful jigsaw puzzle. Reading about the symphonies and Mahler's personal motivations behind them provides a further dimension, sometimes its possible to almost follow the symphonies like stories, the emotional impact of some of them at least almost overwhelming on occasion.

The Ninth is one such symphony, written as Mahler entered his last months and fighting ill health. Impending death and its fears is one central theme to this incredible work. The infidelity of his wife had also been recently revealed to him as he wrote the piece, and this no doubt infused the composition with a further, deep sense of loss. Its not a happy work, ending with what is clearly a solemn farewell as the symphony comes to a final close after a few false endings. Its also probably the most musically adventurous of Mahler's nine (ten if you count the posthumously completed one) symphonies, written as it was when the young blood of Vienna's second school were finding their feet, and looking up to Mahler as their musical forefather.

Without getting up to count I think I have six or seven versions of Mahler's Ninth now. In my opinion its a piece that can withstand being performed "badly" and still maintain a large degree of its power, but three versions of it remain my favourite. The Bruno Maderna conducted recording by the BBC Symphony Orchestra is a sharp, precise version, the construction of the piece articulated immaculately and with real power. The version by Claudio Abbado that I originally purchased remains my favourite however, a really organic, passionate realisation that feels alive and thriving as it comes from the speakers. The last version I enjoy a lot is also conducted by Abbado, but comes on a DVD. The recording is of the Mahler Youth Orchestra, and watching Abbado in full flow directing this young group of incredibly passionate players is an amazing thing to watch.

I actually have bought and watched five DVDs of Abbado conducting Mahler symphonies over the last year. Having never actually attended the live performance of a full symphony (shame on me, I know) I find watching this master conduct music he is clearly in love with a spellbinding experience, one I intend to witness for real as soon as possible.

Dmitri Shostakovich - String Quartet No.15
Performed by Borodin Quartet.

I'm not at all ashamed to admit that my interest in this stunning piece of music originates entirely with Keith Rowe. Sitting in on a workshop on improvisation Keith gave up in Scotland back in June, he played this recording very loud to the room in an attempt to portray the level of immediacy he wanted to hear from the musicians. The moment I heard that first solo violin I was taken with the music completely, the shimmering essence of the powerfully sorrowful music made me shiver in the room, and I knew I had to buy the CD. I've since listened right the way through 75% of Shostakovich's composition (and read my way through 75% of Elizabeth Wilson's massive biography) and I think I started with the very pinnacle of his music, as nothing else has come close to his late quartets (the 8th, 11th and 14th are all also very wonderful.) The 15th string Quartet was probably the one piece of music I played more than any other in 2007... and thats saying something.

Mention should also be made here to the Emerson quartet 2CD set of Bartok's string quartets, which are also a very nice listen indeed. Still some way behind the Shostakovich however.

Johann Sebastian Bach - Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin / The Cello suites
Performed by Gidon Kremer / Janos Starker

Both of these recordings were given to me initially as CDR burns by a good friend. Bach is probably not a name I would have investigated without helpful suggestions from others, and even now I'm quite content having only scratched the surface of his work. The cello suites are just so so beautiful. The uncomplicated melodies, deeply mournful and moving in places, sprightly and uplifting in others are just perfectly complete, if that makes any sense. Starker's playing is beautifully rich and filled with passionate colour, each note ringing out vibrantly before the next, the playing of a musician clearly deeply involved with the music before him. I also purchased Pablo Casals' 1930's recording of the suites, as they were cheap on the Naxos label and are widely considered to be the best ever recordings. I liked the Casals a great deal for many of the same reasons, but I think I still prefer the vibrancy of the Starker, which of course may just be because of the advances in recording quality during the thirty years between the two versions.

Gidon Kremer has recorded Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo at least twice as I have two separate recordings, the first, from 1980 was the first I heard and remains my favourite, despite the CD quality of the later 2000 / 2001 set, though if you asked me to identify which was which in a blind test perhaps its only that recording quality that would enable me to do so. Kremer has a very distinctive style that I like a lot, a very rough, gritty sound that brings a raw, energetic edge to the music. Bach's pieces are again just fantastic little illustrations of simple, beautiful music. I find little else to say about them beyond this. I quite often play them late at night, very quietly, when the challenges of keeping up with the modern avant garde get a little too much and I just need to wind down before bed. Damning with faint praise perhaps, but for music written over three hundred years ago to still affect me in 2007 as this music does, well thats some achievement if you ask me.


Tommy Potts - The Liffey Banks

I wrote about this music here, and I have little more to say about it that I didn't write back in July, but six months later this disc probably still gets played once a week here, often when I'm in the bath for some strange reason that I can't quite fathom. I hope to visit Ireland a couple more times this year, once for my annual pilgrimage to the great i and e festival at the end of March, and maybe again in the summer, this time to investigate the beautiful country a little further. Tracking down more about Mr Potts will be high on my agenda this year.

There were two amazing recordings released in 2007 that I did not include in my Top 10 of the year. The first, the Editions RZ two disc compilation of David Tudor's piano music, including the quite incredible 1961 recording of Cage's Variations II requires a full review in itself. As does the other release, the new recording of Luigi Nono's masterwork Prometeo directed by André Richard. It may take me a while, but I hope to do my feelings on these two releases justice somewhere all in good time.