Day 363: Female Choruses II

BrahmsCD57Instant Favorite!

This morning’s CD (Brahms CD 57) is not much different from yesterday’s.

Well, that’s not true. It’s similar in that it’s another CD of female choruses performed by Chamber Choir of Europe, conducted by Nicol Matt. But something about this music grabs me by the lapels, right from the get-go.

There are 19 tracks on today’s CD, all designated Wo038 posth.

Track 1 (“No.1 Die Entfuhrung”) is absolutely beautiful. The melody is stunning. The soaring soprano voice that rises above gives me chills.

Listen for yourself. This is the exact same music to which I’m listening this morning:

There’s something about that first song…

Even though it’s in German, its arrangement is so perfect that I’m not even hearing the language. I’m mesmerized by the angelic sound of the voices.

To give you an idea of how impressed I am with today’s music, I’ve heard it 2-3 times through. Just let Repeat take me away to another time and place.

I love finding music that does that for me.

I only have one more day of listening to Brahms’ music. Tomorrow is Brahms CD 58, the end of the Brahms Complete Edition box set by Brilliant Classics.

I had no idea Brahmns was this into vocal music. Seems like 1/5 to 1/4 of his output was vocal music – and all of it in German. No Scottish folk songs. No English folk songs. Just a bunch of German-language vocal music that seemed written to please himself more than others. Or maybe he didn’t see his audience as being broader than Germany/Austria or other nearby countries that spoke and/or understood German.

I’ll reflect in greater depth tomorrow on my last day of listening to Johannes Brahms.

Day 362: Female Choruses I

BrahmsCD56Despite the fact that this is yet another CD of vocal music, this one is hauntingly beautiful.

Brahms CD 56 is comprised of female choruses, all of which sound angelic. Or monastic. These are like Gregorian chants, only with female voices.

I like it.

So much so that I think I may have to label this one another Favorite.

The Performers:

Chamber Choir of Europe

Nicol Matt conductor

Day 348: Choral Music VIII

BrahmsCD42There was an American TV show in the 1960s called Get Smart.

It starred Don Adams as Agent 86 and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, both of CONTROL. Their arch nemesis was an evil organization called KAOS. It was a very funny, albeit goofy, series with writing provided by such luminaries as Buck Henry and Mel Brooks.

Anyway, the show was riddled with catch phrases that became part of American pop culture. One such phrase was “Would you believe…?”

That’s applicable in this case because, “Would you believe there’s an eighth CD of Brahms’ choral music?”

There is.

And I’m listening to it now.

And, for the most part, I’m not impressed.

I’ve heard it all before. Nearly seven times before.

These choral arrangements sound vaguely Gregorian (like a few of the earlier ones) in that they’re sonorous, echo-y, and in a foreign language. (Foreign to me, anyway.) Especially when the male chorus performs in 5 Lieder Op. 41. That sounds Gregorian to my ears. If they were singing in Latin it would be a dead ringer for Gregorian chant music.

I will say this about Brahms choral music: The Chamber Choir of Europe is magnificent. If not for their obvious talent, these choral compositions would bore me to tears. (Or, to use another Get Smart catchphrase, they would have “Missed it by that much.”) As it is, the Chamber Choir of Europe offers listeners spectacular performances, even if some of them sound like they’re from a World War II movie.

The Compositions:

Marienlieder Op. 22

Fest – und Gedenkspruche Op. 109

5 Lieder Op. 41

12 Lieder und Romanzen Op. 44

Three Sacred Choruses Op. 37

The Performers:

Chamber Choir of Europe
Nicol Matt conductor

I really want to like this stuff. (Really.)

But I’m not hearing anything new that I haven’t heard before, either from Brahms or from other Classical composers. The performances are nice, even inspired. But eight CDs in a row of the same kind of music has worn out its welcome.

“Would you believe…?”

Day 347: Choral Music VII

BrahmsCD41This is starting to feel like I’m caught in an episode of The Twilight Zone, the one where the same events keep repeating.

I had no idea Johannes was such an aficionado of choral music.

I avoided studying a composer like Verdi for that very reason – he was known for his opera.

If I suspected that Brahms would have been so heavy on the singing, I might have reconsidered my choice to study his works.

Maybe.

I’m still learning a great deal and, for the most part, enjoying my listening.

But I prefer the power and majesty of Beethoven’s symphonies, concertos, and sonatas over this type of singing.

Although this type of singing – as represented on today’s CD – sounds a lot like Gregorian chants. It’s sonorous, echo-y, with occasional very high notes from the sopranos piercing the heavens above the drone.

It’s actually quite mesmerizing.

When I listen to Brahms’ choral music, I have to tune out the German language bits and just listen to the sound of it all at once. If I focus on the words, I chuckle. The German language is really funny. So many harsh consonants and excessive syllables for what in English would be simple word. “Pencil,” for example. In German, it becomes something like, “Leipzichfrauscribundleadverkinten.” (Not, really. But I’m making a point, albeit stretching it a bit.)

The Compositions:

2 Motets Op. 29

Geistliches Lied Op. 30

3 Motets Op. 110

Missa Canonica Wo018 posth.

Gesange Op. 17 for female voices, 2 horns & harp

The Performers:

Chamber Choir of Europe
Jens Wollenschlager organ
Martina Schrott harp
Sebastian Schindler horn
Sebastian Schorr horn
Nicol Matt conductor

Some of this CD is quite good. 3 Motets Op. 110, especially Movement I (“Ich aber bin elend”), for example.

And the surprising Gesange Op. 17 for female voices, 2 horns & harp. It’s a remarkable pairing of instruments (Gesange means choruses). The French horn, alone, always gets my attention. But horn and harp? And some truly fine female voices.

Here. Listen for yourself:

As you can hear, this is an unusual pairing of instruments. NOTE: The harpist is playing in typical Brahms fashion – lots of notes – but it comes out sounding like a Classical guitar (think Segovia).

It’s a very, very interesting composition.

I”m sorry. But I have to give this one a Favorite award.

Day 345: Choral Music V

BrahmsCD39Okay. Enough is enough.

Here it is CD five – count ‘em, FIVE! – of choral music. I don’t recall listening to this many CDs in a row of another genre of music from Brahms.

Brahms seems to have written more choral music that any other kind.

Is that possible? Did Brahms have an affinity (bordering on fetish) for choral music?

To my ears, he sounds quite accomplished in that realm.

I just don’t happen to appreciate that realm.

The compositions:

Deutsche Volklieder Wo034

Deutsche Volkslieder Wo035

Ave Maria Op. 12

Psalm 13 “Herr, wie lange”

The performers:

Amadeus-Chor
Chamber Choir of Europe
Jens Wollenschlager organ
Nicol Matt conductor

Day 344: Choral Music IV

BrahmsCD38I was tempted to write, “Please make it stop.”

But then I continued to listen.

And I noticed the beauty of the voices – especially the sopranos – and I my brain wouldn’t let my fingers type those words.

There’s something captivating about today’s CD of Choral Music, which features six compositions:

3 Gesange Op. 42

7 Lieder Op. 62

Lieder und Romanzen Op. 93a

5 Gesange Op. 104

Quartets Op. 92

from 6 Quartets Op. 112

Here are the performers:

Chamber Choir of Europe
Jurgen Meier piano
Nicol Matt conductor

Although I really can’t envision a time when I’d listen to this again, I don’t feel an aversion to it as I have Brahms’ previous Choral Music. I may have to (grudgingly) give this a Favorite award.

The voices are beautiful.

Day 343: Choral Music III

BrahmsCD37Okay, Johannes. Enough with the choral music.

Today’s CD is four compositions comprised of 39 tracks that take 76:25 minutes (!) to cycle through once. In short, it’s well over an hour of listening to people warble in German.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the German language is delightful. Maybe even hilarious. But I prefer to know what my singers are saying. Plus, these songs would be tedious in any language.

The compositions:

Liebeslieder-Walzer Op. 52

18 tracks

Neue Liebeslieder Op. 65

33 tracks

3 Quartets Op. 31

3 tracks

3 Quartets Op. 64

3 tracks

The performers:

Chamber Choir of Europe
Friederike Haug, Jurgen Meier piano
Nicol Matt conductor

Day 60: Seven Last Words of Christ

HaydnCD60I was tempted to come up with a goofy title for today’s blog entry. After all, today marks two continuous months for me, listening to Haydn every day.

But the title of today’s Haydn composition is Die Sieben Letzten Worte, or The Seven Last Words of Christ.

How could I write a goofy headline with a subject matter like that?

Obviously, I couldn’t.

According to its entry on Wikipedia, today’s composition,

is an orchestral work by Joseph Haydn, commissioned in 1785 or 1786 for the Good Friday service at Cádiz Cathedral in Spain. The composer adapted it in 1787 for string quartet and in 1796 as an oratorio (with both solo and choral vocal forces), and he approved a version for solo piano.

The seven main meditative sections — labelled “sonatas” and all slow — are framed by an Introduction and a speedy “Earthquake” conclusion, for a total of nine movements.

Given those dates, Haydn was 54 or 55 when he composed this piece.

I have nothing against Jesus, last words or first. However, Haydn’s Die Sieben Letzten Worte is wearisome. It’s too ponderous (strike that: let’s call it lugubrious) for my tastes. No breakout arias. No orchestration that just knocks me back.

I often wonder if sacred/religious music like this is meant to be heard many decades (or even centuries) after it was composed. To me, it seems akin to somebody setting my prayers to music and releasing it as an album. In other words, making public very private, personal moments. The meaning I intend for that private moment may not be understood by an audience.

But what do I know? I’m not a Continue reading