Deep mines

Over the last two months I've listened to little else - three contrasting pieces which fill my mind but never leave me satisfied.  I can't get enough of them.  Why should this be so?

Wagner's final opera Parsifal is not familiar enough to me yet, but those moments of high musical voltage are thrilling like no others.  The final 30 minutes or so of Act 1 are thrilling: dramatic in a ritualistic sort of way.  But the writing for voice, voices and orchestra is mesmeric.

Act 3 is tremendous for is sympathetic portrait of redemption, grief and humanity.  It is these qualities that confound those of us who would love to be able to hate Wagner.  Its drama is in many ways anticlimactic or maybe just empty-climactic.

And deep waters run through Act 2 - I'm told this is the core and I could well it but I haven't had that moment of revelation yet. ebleive

Three men struggle in Parsifal - a wise man sees his world change, an idiot becomes a hero and a wounded man.....well, I don't know how his tale ends yet, it strikes me there's more to be heard yet in his tale as I go deeper into the piece.

This piece is immense - regular readers will know I would always go for this source - but this time I think I have hit of three components which lift this recording by Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic beyond argument: Moll and Van Dam are ideally cast, the sonic arrangement of the choirs is unbelievable and despite being an early DG digital recording the strings are meaty not steely.

You can hear it here: Berliner Philharmoniker & Herbert von Karajan – Wagner: Parsifal

The second piece is a short essay in the very fundamental cultural strophes of turn of the last century Vienna: not so much storm und drag as angst and decay

Berg's Op 1 is quite a big deal in so many ways and yet relatively under played and less appreciated.  Helene Grimaud reveals a tenacious grip on its dramatic elements works like a charm and her concentrated almost furious vehemence bring out a sense of loss to the work completely shorn of sentiment.

Here it Hélène Grimaud – Berg: Piano Sonata, Op.1 - Mässig bewegt - Langsames Tempo - Quasi Adagio

Every time i hear the end of this work my heart is heavy with resignation.  It is too subtle to render tears or fill the lungs with fury.  Berg captures a feeling of being caught at a time or in a place where the weight of certain radical change in the order of things is unbearable.  Things got better - though I suspect not much better for Berg himself.  His genius was no protection from heartbreaking sadness.

Increasingly, I regard the end as offering a comfort from a hurricane of human turmoil by means of letting go of life. Small comfort for those of us bidden to stay.  But a comfort at the end nonetheless.

And finally - and on video only (thanks to DG's parsimonious decision to sell Dudemel's live recording only in the USA) - John Adams: City Noir.

Its on Youtube here: John Adams: City Noir Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the composer

Start around 1h27m in!

Its a complex work bring ing together many familiar Adams techniques but pushing the boundaries.  It has a sheen of familiarity too as it tips its hat to Hollywood, jazz and other common 20th century cultural signatures.  But as with so much of Adams it speeds up time to bundle one experience tight up next.  It burns with a sparkling combination of brass and percussion, sometimes falling over itself, tripping up and then staggering to its feet like a prize fighter - perhaps like the inhabitants of that region.

I'm just getting to know its many exhilarations and excitements, its breathtaking repose and stasis.  And I'm looking froward to hearing Adams conduct it at the Proms next Monday :-)

All three very different works - all three worthy of concentrated listening - I commend them to you.



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