classical music

REVIEW: oreloB – Ravel’s Boléro – Carlo Rizzi, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra (2012)

MAURICE RAVEL – oreloB (Boléro) – Carlo Rizzi, Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra (2012 Tacet backwards-playing 180 gram vinyl)

Many classical recordings are difficult to play in certain environments, because the parts are written so quietly.  If you have ever listened to classical in the car, you’ll know there are times you think the music has stopped just because you can’t hear the subtle instrumentation over the road noise.  Put it on headphones and it’s a different story.

Ravel’s Boléro is one such composition.  Over its 16 minutes, the music slowly and gently builds from silence.  The entire piece is a gradual crescendo.  This can be illustrated visually by looking at the entire track in Audacity.

This is where we get technical.  According to Techmoan, the greatest Youtube channel dedicated to odd formats and players, LP records suffer from inner groove distortion due to the compression caused by the shorter grooves at the end.  Classical music often takes a dip in quality when you get to the end of the record.  Boléro always suffered on vinyl releases because it gets abnormally loud at the end, and the compression makes it sound worse.  This release of Boléro, on Tacet records, plays from the inside out.  This way, the compression caused by the inner groove happens when the music is quietest.  When Boléro builds to its full volume towards the end (the outer groove), there is no distortion present.  Hence, this release is named oreloB!  Both sides work the same way.  The side two composition La Valse also begins very quietly and finishes loudly.  Because the end distortion is no longer a concern, they were even able to master oreloB a little bit louder than a normal-playing version of the record.

Immediate impressions upon listening to the familiar Boléro again:  Wow, Deep Purple ripped off a lot of classical music!  It sounds like Boléro was in Jon Lord’s record collection.  Even old Star Trek themes — listen carefully and you will hear from where bits and pieces were poached.  Cultures clash on this simply beautiful piece with pomp and circumstance.  You have certainly heard it before and will recognise its themes gladly.

Sure, you could sidestep all the end groove distortion by simply listening to a CD, but that would take the fun out of it wouldn’t it?

4.5/5 stars

 

 

 

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REVIEW: 2001: A Space Odyssey – Original motion picture soundtrack (1996 remaster)

Hosted by Vinyl Connection, it’s the inaugural…
LP stack white soundtracks – Version 2

November 1 – November 14

scan_201611052001: A Space Odyssey – Original motion picture soundtrack (originally 1968, 1996 Rhino remaster)

Stanley Kubrick changed the sci-fi playing field with 2001: A Space Odyssey. When he and Arthur C. Clarke sat down to write the “proverbial good science fiction movie”, they strove for a depth and realism that had yet to be attempted.  No sounds in space.  No thruster sounds, no pinging space radar.  Music (or even lack thereof) would be required to tell the audio story.  Kubrick initially contacted Spartacus composer Alex North.  The plan changed, however.  Stanley had been editing the film to a temporary score of classical music.  Nothing North could come up with satisfied the fussy director as much as the classical pieces, so that is what was used on the final film.

The film was fiercely different, free of cliches and intensely determined not to dumb things down.  The same could be said of the soundtrack, reissued on CD by Rhino with four supplementary bonus tracks.  This fine release enables the listener to delve deeper and unlock even more of the secrets of the universe.  Ligeti’s dissonant “Atmospheres” delivers an uneasy feeling; after all we humans know nothing of what is really out there.  The conflicting (and conspiring) tones of “Atmospheres” is supplanted by the main title, “Also Sprach Zarathustra”.  The music implies great revelation, standing on the cusp of universal breakthrough.

Unease returns with the bee-like swarms of “Requiem” also by Ligeti.  Voices sing, each one in their own world, but joining together to join a coherent piece.  In the film, this unsettling music appears when we encounter the enigmatic Monolith.  The Monolith is a tool of our growth as a race and a stark warning that there are things beyond that our science is not equipped to explain. Arthur C. Clarke’s “third law” states “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and that describes one aspect of the Monolith in 2001.  (The other two laws:  1. “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”  2. “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”)

scan_20161105-4After the chaos of “Requiem” and “Atmospheres”, Strauss’ “Blue Danube” offers a warm respite.  The brilliance of the “Blue Danube” in the film is how Kubrick managed to capture the dance-like coordinated movements of objects in space.  A shuttle docks with a spinning space station; spinning of course to create artificial gravity that humans need to survive long-term in space.  This complex docking maneuver requires no dialogue, just Strauss.  But space is a cold deadly place, hostile to almost all known life.  Ligeti returns, as he must, with “Lux Aeterna”.  This music was used to back Dr. Floyd’s trip across the lunar surface to meet the Monolith.  It is mildly disconcerting, as is what Floyd’s team finds.

Khachaturian’s “Gayane Ballet Suite” is a somber piece, depicting the boredom and routine of interplanetary space flight.  Astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole seem disconnected from their humanity; the music has more feelings than they do.  The coldness of space is easy to feel from inside their stark white starship, and Khachaturian painting the tone.

Mankind meets its future on “Jupiter and Beyond”, a combination of three Ligeti pieces.  Once again, we must face the Monolith and what it means.  Dr. David Bowman experienced great terror as he plunged inside it, and this is the music that accompanied his long trip into the beyond.  The film at this point became its most experimental: impressionist images and obscure dissonant music put many viewers off balance as they struggled to comprehend just what the hell was going on.  It is over only when Zarathustra speaks again, and humanity has taken its next giant leap.

These are challenging pieces of music, but not difficult to enjoy.  They have all become intertwined with the film forever.  Even The Simpsons used “The Blue Danube” for a space docking scene (Homer and a potato chip) in an homage to 2001.  Whatever the original composers intentions were, in the 20th and 21st centuries, the pieces used in this movie are now associated with it forever.  You simply cannot hear these Ligeti pieces without seeing Bowman’s journey in your mind.  You cannot hear “Thus Spake Zarathustra” without feeling the awe of 2001‘s revelations.

The Rhino edition adds some bonus material.  Ligeti’s “Adventures” was altered for the film to add an impression of laughter.  Ligeti himself was not amused.  The original complete “Adventures” is on this CD.  From the archives is a different recording of “Thus Spake Zarathustra”.  The version used in the film and on the CD was conducted by Von Karajan, but the original LP had a version by Ernest Bour.  The latter version has been added to the Rhino CD release.  “Lux Aeterna” was longer on the original LP than the film, and the long version is also restored to CD.  Perhaps most valuable of all is a track of Douglas Rain’s dialogue as HAL 9000.

The excellent liner notes state that this CD release is the definitive one.  It contains all the music from the original soundtrack LP, and all the music from the film.  It’s a one-stop shop to get your musical mind blown.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Deep Purple – The Gemini Suite – Live (1970/93)

The Deep Purple Project goes on with a flashback to 1970.

Scan_20160212DEEP PURPLE and the orchestra of the LIGHT MUSIC SOCIETY – The Gemini Suite – Live (recorded in 1970, released 1993 EMI)
Conducted by Malcolm Arnold

Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra put Deep Purple on the map.  An original concerto in three movements written specifically for an orchestra and a rock group together had never been accomplished before.  Headlines and offers to bring the Concerto over to America helped cement Deep Purple’s name in the public consciousness.  The only problem was, public perception was that this was a band who always played with orchestras.  They were not:  Deep Purple wanted to be a heavy rock band.  They did not want to be cornered into playing with orchestras for their career.  There may also have been some internal friction because Lord was being singled out as the band’s leader in the press.  Ritchie Blackmore and Ian Gillan were united in their insistence that the orchestral work cease.  Worse, some in the band suggested that Lord was using the Concerto as a potential launch pad to other projects.  These were accusations of petty youthful jealousy of course, but it led to Lord announcing his intention to leave Deep Purple.

Scan_20160212 (3)Management arranged a sit-down and peace was kept.  They collectively agreed that the way forward was with rock music, not classical hybrids.  There was just one catch, which was that Jon Lord had already been contracted to write a second classical/rock piece for Deep Purple to perform.  This project had to go forward, it was too late to do otherwise, but the band insisted that it was publicized as little as possible.  The new piece was played live by the band, but a Deep Purple album release of the final product, the Gemini Suite, would not happen until 1993!  Instead, Jon Lord recorded and released a studio version of it with other guests and musicians.

Perhaps to assuage some bruised egos, Lord decided to compose his next work around the five members of Deep Purple.  Each movement had time for a member of Deep Purple to shine on his own.  The first goes to Ritchie Blackmore.  The year was 1970, and Deep Purple were working on the Fireball LP.  The quiet moment in Blackmore’s movement is tonally similar to Ritchie’s solo in Purple’s “Fools”.   According to the liner notes, this is one of the last occasions that Ritchie played a Gibson on stage.  Jon Lord goes next with an organ piece (though on the back cover it’s incorrectly listed as the vocal movement).  There are some very cool atonal parts here.  You have to admire the man for his ambition and vision, but as technically brilliant as this is, it doesn’t have the level of impact of the Concerto nor is it as well recorded.  The are fewer memorable themes and instrumental moments, and the end result is that these two movements take some patience to absorb.

It was noted that Ian Gillan had not written the lyrics to his movement until the night of the show.  The lyrics are not really important; what counts is that you’ve never heard Ian Gillan sing like this before.  With an exaggerated falsetto, and an unusual psychedelic melody, Ian really knocked it out of the park.  Halfway through, this gives way to standard Gillan howling.   It’s hard to make out all the words, but this is Ian Gillan in peak voice, totally in control and at the top of his game, backed by a friggin’ orchestra.  What more do you want?  This vocal movement is the highlight of the entire Gemini Suite.  Roger Glover goes next with his bass spotlight.  It’s about as interesting as you imagine a bass spotlight to be, but the orchestra plays it busy in the background.  There’s some great oboe on this movement, which ends on a sudden, awkward note.

Ian Paice goes last.  With military precision, Paice marches forward, leading the orchestra and percussion section.  They answer his drums in interesting ways, making this movement another solid highlight.  The crowd clearly loved it.  Then, there is a long finale (10 minutes) with everybody playing together.  It attempts to tie together the previous movements, but without memorable themes, this is difficult.  The Suite lacks cohesion overall.  There are some absolutely mindblowing moments of musical precision and dexterity, as well as rock thrills (most of them concentrated in the finale).  It is probably well enough that they did not release an LP of this at the time, for it would most definitely have lived in the shadow of its superior predecessor.

3/5 stars

Look at that backstage photo.  Looks like nobody wanted to be there that night, particularly Ian Gillan.

REVIEW: Deep Purple – In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra (1999)

Thanks for joining me this week for Purple Week at mikeladano.com.  Today is Part 5 and the last album for now.    But don’t worry, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Deep Purple around these parts…  

Part 1:  Shades of Deep Purple
Part 2:  The Book of Taliesyn
Part 3:  Perfect Strangers
Part 4: Whitesnake Live in ’84 – Back to the Bone
Part 5:  In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra 

DEEP PURPLE – In Concert with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Paul Mann (1999 Eagle Records)

The original Concerto for Group and Orchestra (1969) was Jon Lord’s baby.  The rest of the band didn’t care too much for it, and it had only ever been performed twice.  The Albert Hall recording became a successful live album, and it was performed once more in Los Angeles.  Soon after, the original score was lost, permanently.  Even if Deep Purple wanted to (and let’s face it, if Blackmore were in the band he’d probably say no), it could never be performed again without the sheet music.

I’ll let Jon Lord take it from here.  From the liner notes to the CD:

“Marco de Goeij, a young Dutch composer…had decided to re-create it by listening to the recording and watching the video.  Over and over and over again.  A task of mind-bending complexity, dexterity and musicality, which then only left me the far simpler job of filling in what he had been unable to decipher, re-creating what I could remember of my original orchestration, and in part, as those who know the work will hear, re-composing where I felt it needed it.”

Conductor Paul Mann had independently been searching for the original lost manuscript.  When Jon informed him of the re-created one, Mann was on board with the London Symphony to do it once more.  Deep Purple now had a new guitar player, Steve Morse, who undoubtedly would have to bring his own slant to the guitar solos.  For Jon and the fans, it’s the stuff of wishes come true.

Since the Concerto was really Lord’s project, it seems like a fair compromise for each of the members of Deep Purple to also get a moment or two to showcase their solo work.  In fact many musicians from those solo works are welcomed to the stage, including the Steve Morse Band, Ronnie James Dio, Mickey Lee Soule (ex-Rainbow and ex-Gillan), Sam Brown, and more.  Deep Purple fans are generally open to different styles of music, and this album showcases those styles in a professional, classy format.

Once again at the Albert Hall, the set commences with a disc highlighting the solo careers. Lord’s “Pictured Within” (with Miller Anderson)  and “Wait a While” (with Sam Brown) begin the proceedings with a quiet, powerful pair of songs backed by Jon’s piano and dramatic strings. These versions are, dare-I-say-it, superior to the original studio versions.

From there, Roger Glover’s solo career gets a looksee, with “Sitting in a Dream” and the irresistibly bouncy “Love is All”, my favourite. Ronnie James Dio reprises his vocals from the original Butterfly Ball versions, sounding as great as he did nearly 30 years prior!  It really is impossible not to like “Love is All”, which of the two is especially fun.

DP LONDON SYMPHONY_0003

In 1988, Ian Gillan and Roger Glover did a project together called Accidentally on Purpose, a quirky tropical pop rock album.  “Via Miami” is one of the more upbeat tracks from that album.  Ian’s “That’s Why God is Singing the Blues” features his solo band’s guitarist Steve Morris (not Morse!)  Both it and “Via Miami” spark and roll along joyfully.

Steve Morse (not Morris!) is up next with the Dixie Dregs’ “Take it Off The Top”.  It’s the Steve Morse Band and the Kick Horns.  It’s always a pleasure to listen to Dave LaRue, Van Romaine, and Steve Morse playing together, but to hear them at the Albert Hall?  That’s a venue suitable to the genius they wrench from strings and wood.  Graham Preskett joins on violin to dual Morse with string acrobatics.

Ian Paice’s spotlight song is a horn-laden jazz version of Purple’s “Wring That Neck”. This is my kinda jazz, the kind with a rock beat you can swing to!  The violin solo lends it a bluegrass feel, too. The first CD ends with a powerfully heavy “Pictures From Home”, originally from the immortal Machine Head record, performed by Deep Purple with the London Symphony.  It’s a powerful, dramatic song on which for the full Deep Purple to enter.

Disc two features the entire Concerto from start to finish, all three movements, roughly 50 minutes in length. This truly was Lord’s baby, the piece that kept him up nights in 1968 and 1969 writing little black notes on white paper. It made Deep Purple a unique property when it was released on LP 1969, but had not been heard live in 30 years. Purple fans will be in seventh heaven with this de-extinction. Indeed, Morse’s guitar is different, but he hits the right notes at the right time while still playing within his style.  Otherwise, I’ll be damned but I can’t tell the difference.

What can I say of the Concerto itself?  I think it’s pretty cool, and I’ve always geeked out to stuff like this.  Jon envisioned it as “rock band meets orchestra” — at first they say hello, and play around, then they start shouting at each other, and before long it’s all-out war!  Speaking of shouting, my favourite is probably Movement II, which has Gillan’s all-too-brief but oh-so-perfect vocal.

DP LONDON SYMPHONY_0002

The disc concludes with three more (three Morse?) of recent vintage. “Ted The Mechanic” and “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” are two of the best songs from Purpendicular, and “Watching The Sky” is probably the heaviest song from Abandon. I personally feel that all the Abandon material was better live than on album, and “Watching The Sky” maintains that.  Unfortunately none of the Abandon songs were really that great.

Of course, “Smoke On The Water” ends the album with guests returning, including Ronnie James Dio who takes a verse. “What do you think Ronnie!”  Then the Elf himself is up at the microphone singing “Smoke on the Water” with Blackmore’s old band Deep Purple.  I shouldn’t need to tell you that this is one of my all-time favourite live versions of “Smoke”.

This album, which ended up being one of Lord’s last with Purple, was really a special gift to the fans. It is a beautifully crafted live performance containing some of the rarest of the rare gems in the extended Purple canon. An event like this will never happen again. There is a DVD of this show, but beware, it is only about 2/3 of the set.  What a disappointment that DVD version was.  You want every moment, but you won’t get it.

If you do hunger for more after this, then you can binge on The Soundboard Series 12 CD boxed set. It consists of 6 shows, two of which featured full live performances of the Concerto, with guests such as (yup!) Ronnie James Dio. There is also Live at the Rotterdam Ahoy which lacks the Concerto portion, but makes up for it with a more extensive set of classic rockers, including Dio’s own “Rainbow In The Dark” and “Fever Dreams”!…But that’s another review.

5/5 stars. For the true fan, and anybody who’s not afraid to expand their listening territory.

DP LONDON SYMPHONY_0005

MOVIE REVIEW: 2001: A Space Odyssey (2008 blu ray)

Happy LeBrain Day! It’s my birthday. Sometimes on my birthday, I like to just spend an afternoon watching a favourite movie. This is one.

 

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, from the 2011 Stanley Kubrick Visionary Filmmaker Blu Ray Collection, Warner Bros.)

Once upon a time, when the year 2001 seemed aeons away, director Stanley Kubruck (Dr. Strangelove) contacted author Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood’s End) to discuss making “the proverbial good science fiction movie”. Both were sick of films that passed for science fiction, but were actually monster movies set in space, or just replaced  science with fantasy.

The result was 2001: A Space Odyssey, the film, and a companion book of the same name which is actually a completely different animal. The film — striking, innovative, visually engrossing, ambiguous, and scientifically solid — is as good today as it was in 1968, even if many of the “predictions” of the film have failed to come to pass.

Separated into four chapters (The Dawn Of Man, TMA-1, & Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite) complete with intermission, 2001 has no dialogue for the first quarter of the film. Beginning with a blank screen (and “Atmospheres”, by Ligeti), this is a film paradoxically anchored by both music and silence. The screen changes to the Earth rising over the moon, and the sun rising over the Earth (an important clue and recurring symbol) accompanied by “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. We are then introduced to a tribe of pre-human apes (Australopithecus, perhaps), starving and on the verge of extinction. Other tribes are stronger and out-competing them for territory and resources. There is no dialogue, but the barking of the apes, yet that and the scenery speak volumes. Suddenly one morning, the game has changed: a mysterious black monolith has appeared. The apes are drawn to it, and soon find that they are now able to compete with predators thanks to a new discovery: weapons.

MONOLITH ACTION FIGURE!The second chapter, TMA-1, begins with what Clarke has called “the longest jump-cut in history”.  We see that humanity has evolved into a space-going race. Orbital weapons platforms orbit Earth as a shuttle is making way to an under-construction space station. “The Blue Danube” plays as the spacecraft dance in calculated perfection. Our first main speaking character, Dr. Heywood Floyd, arrives on the station and we are given some tantalizing clues as to why he’s made this trip: Rumours of a plague outbreak on the moon. Yet this is just a cover story. As Floyd makes his way to the moon in another beautifully choreographed sequence, we learn that a magnetic anomoly was discovered in the crater Tycho (named after astronomer Tycho Brahe) — Tycho Magnetic Anomaly 1, or TMA-1. This discovery is potentially so important, that the cover story was created to keep everyone far away from Tycho.

We see that TMA-1 is another black monolith.  We see echoes and ripples of past events lead to another jump forward in time.  Midway though a mission of discovery to Jupiter, helmed by David Bowman (the perpetually young Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Star Trek’s Gary Lockwood).  Their ship, the Discovery contains three sleeping astronauts and the most famous computer of all time, H.A.L. 9000.  H.A.L. was flawelessly voiced by Stratford Ontario resident Douglas Rain.  His eerie voice and Kubrick’s perfect framing shots help create the creepiest computer character ever seen.

HAL 9000The seemingly dull, sleepy daily routine is soon shattered.  H.A.L. has detected a flaw in the ship’s main antenna.  It will fail, unless one of the astronauts goes outside and repairs it.  The antenna is their only link to distant Earth.   H.A.L., who controls the life support and every function of Discovery, then begins to show signs of what humans call stress — he makes an error, and acts strangely. Yet no 9000-series computer has ever failed, or found to be in error.  The chapter closes with H.A.L. singing the old song, “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”, surely one of the most haunting scenes in cinema.

After an intermission, Discovery finally arrives at Jupiter and its true mission is revealed. This section too has no dialogue, bringing us full circle to the way it began. David Bowman once again must venture outside the ship, and find out how the mysterious discovery on the moon relates to Jupiter.  Perhaps even how it related to our millenia-dead ancestors.

What follows is one of the most baffling and strange sequences in movie history, one which will require a few patient viewings to appreciate. The beauty of this final sequence is that there is no right or wrong interpretation. While on the surface it may appear to be a psychedelic kaleidoscope of colour followed by a bizarre dialogue-free encounter with a being that seems to have no bearing on reality, it is Kubrick’s inventive way of showing the audience something that is beyond anyone’s imagination. Like the audience, David Bowman and humanity have come full circle.

2001_0004Lacking in what modern audiences call “action”, lacking typical space sound effects (there is no sound in space!), lacking dialogue for most of the movie, and lacking any sort of warm human characters (except maybe H.A.L. who is not human), this movie was a challenge to watch in 1968 and is still a challenge today. It is, however, a piece of art that transcends its genre and is a landmark in film making. Kubrick, always a visionary and always breaking through boundaries of what could not be done in film, outdid himself and made a science fiction film that still has not been topped over 40 years later. Nobody has made anything this epic, this beautiful, this deep or this scientifically sound since. The special effects — all practical effects and mostly in-camera, as CG did not yet exist — still stand up today. No movie buff will ever forget the rotating Discovery set that allowed one character to be seated while another seemingly walked on the “ceiling”.

Sure,we don’t have a moon base. We haven’t sent anyone to Jupiter. We do have a space station. We have created computers that can beat the best humans at chess and Jeopardy. This is not that far off. If they had named this film 2031: A Space Odyssey, we might be in the right ballpark. In the end, the year does not matter. You never see modern Earth in the movie anyway.

The blu-ray release is loaded with special features and has a beautiful transfer in 2.20:1, as Kubrick shot it and intended it to be. Both Dullea and Lockwood provide an audio commentary. There are documentaries about Kubrick, about the predictions of the film, and about the effects. The only thing missing is the vintage 1966 Arthur C. Clarke lecture from the first issue of the DVD.  I still have that DVD copy because I like that old 1966 footage of Clarke.  He’s my favourite author.

2001: A Space Odyssey is, without any doubt or any argument in my mind, the greatest science fiction film of all time. With Kubrick and Clarke now both gone, I doubt we will ever see anything like it again. 5/5 stars is meaningless, since this movie was (for its scale and stature) first, and the best, against everything in its genre.

I’ll rate it 200 billion stars, one for each star in our galaxy.

Part 191 / REVIEW: Respighi – Pines of Rome

RECORD STORE TALES Part 191:  Respighi

In the early 2000’s I was very interested in growing a little bit of a classical music collection.  Classical music can be had in reasonably priced but expansive box sets, but I wanted to be a little more discerning.  There were some things I knew I wanted to get just based on reputation, such as Niccolò Paganini and Glenn Gould.  I knew the CBC had a lot of classical programming so I used to tune into them driving home from work after the night shift.

The first time I did so was a turning point.  I heard some music, but I didn’t have a clue what it was.  It sounded dramatic and soundtrack-esque to me.  I could picture a sprawling epic such as Spartacus unfolding in front of me.  It wasn’t until I stopped at the red lights that the announcer came back on the air and told me that the piece I heard was “The Pines of Rome” composed by Ottorino Respighi.  Respighi…Italian!  My countryman!

I went into work the next morning, and checked the computer for anything by Respighi.  Turns out, we had one in stock, a London Records recording of Pines of Rome.  It was my first true classical purchase, not counting movie soundtracks.  Working at a record store enabled me to cheaply expand into any genre of music I wished.  I’m strongly in favour of trying new music, no matter what section of the store you find it in.

RESPIGHI FRONTOTTORINO RESPIGHI – Pines of Rome / Fountains of Rome / The Birds (1969 Decca / London)

Reviewing classical music is tough for me because it’s way out of my zone of expertise.  All I know is what I like and what sounds good to my ears.  This old recording, conducted by István Kertész, fit the bill for me.  “The Pines of Rome” is such an incredible piece.  Apparently this is considered a “symphonic poem”.  In other words, the classical music equivalent of a concept album!  It has majestic moments that phase into romantic interludes; scenes, basically.  By the end, it is a triumphant anthem worthy of the most awe-inspiring movie soundtrack.  You can easily visualize the sun rising over the tall pines; apparently that was the composer’s intention.  It works!

“The Birds” starts as jaunty piece, perfect for a fancy dinner or event!  What I enjoy about music like this is that it enables me to travel back in time, in my mind.  It is easy to place yourself at the hearth of a warm fire, almost 100 years ago.  This piece’s different sections attempt to transcribe birdsong into a musical arrangement:  doves, hens, nightingale, and the cuckoo.  I can’t help it, I like the cuckoo best.  It’s whimsical.

“Fountains of Rome” is another symphonic poem, this one beginning at daybreak.  The second movement sounds like a summoning, as creatures begin to frolick.  The piece paints a picture, allowing the listener to really just sink in.

Great gateway album.

4.5/5 stars

Next time on Record Store Tales…

Do you still have the first mix CD you ever made?