Thursday, September 6, 2012

Musopen Kickstarter Collection - Public Domain Music Jackpot!

As discussed at the My Continuing Education blog, a huge number of great recordings were recently released into the public domain as part of the Musopen Kickstarter campaign.  There was some skepticism as to whether or not the musopen folks would come through, but they have delivered in a very big way--it's like Christmas in September.
So far, all the performances/recordings I have listened to are ones to be proud of and will aptly serve as the public domain flag-bearer for those works.

What is in the collection (with my rating on the performance/recording, which is subject to change):
  • Beethoven - Coriolan Overture
  • Beethoven - Egmont Overture Op. 84
  • Beethoven - Symphony No 3 Eroica *****
  • Borodin - In The Steppes Of Central Asia
  • Brahms - Symphony No 1 in C Major
  • Brahms - Symphony No2 in D major
  • Brahms - Symphony No 3
  • Brahms - Symphony No 4 in E minor ****
  • Brahms - Tragic Overture
  • Extras [cover art, recording jpg's]
  • Goldberg Variations
  • Grieg - Peer Gynt
  • Mendelssohn - Hebrides *****
  • Mendelssohn - Italian Symphony ****
  • Mendelssohn - Scottish Symphony
  • Mozart - Magic Flute Overture
  • Mozart - Marriage Of Figaro
  • Mozart - Symphony No 40 in G Minor 
  • Rimsky Korsakov - Russian Overture
  • Schubert - The Piano Sonatas
  • Smetana - Vltava
  • String Quartets
  • Tchaikovsky - Symphony Pathetique
Which are your favorite recordings of this group?  How do you think they compare to copyright performances?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Open Goldberg Variations: Kimiko Ishizaka makes a great public domain recording

Kimiko Ishizaka has released a free, public domain recording of the goldberg variations.  They are good.  Also, she is German and a powerlifter (honest!).

Download or listen now:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Dramatic Delay or Excessive Phrasing

I tend to like my Bach "dry".

One of my pet peeves is what I refer to as "Dramatic Delay". This is where the musician holds a note longer than is specified in the score to somehow build tension, drama, or something in the music. Based on my years of piano, I think it stems from music teachers encouraging their students to "interpret" or "feel" the music. In some musical settings (like when listening to music I don't care for anyway), I really don't mind. But when you start messing with Bach, you're messing with counterpoint (explicit or implied) and so you are making a mess of one voice while trying to emphasize the other. IMHO, Bach (and most pre-romantic era music) should be played with strict timing and no undo emphasis on one voice over another. Bach is great, in part, because every voice is interesting. So, I find it highly ironic that while a musician thinks they are doing Bach a favor by getting all dramatic with one phrase, they have inadvertently maligned the other voice or (typically) voices.

Here are some examples. Right now I only have midi recordings to give an example of a recording with strict timing, but I'll get more as I get time. [I'm sure the musicians who provide the dramatic delay examples are fine musicians, despite this perceived flaw]:

Prelude to the 1st Cello Suite
Goldberg Variations (Variation 4)
Not saying Joshua Bell isn't awesome; the photo just fit the message.
The "Dramatic Delay" is right up there with the "Musician's Swoon", where the musician (typically a first chair or soloist) feels compelled to sway, shake, contort as they play--no, feel--no, become--the music. My music teachers encouraged this and no, I never gave in, at least in a detectable way. I'm not saying that some bodily and even facial movements are not appropriate, but I really think Bach would have pulled his saber on his first chair student if they acted the way some musicians do.

For those I've offended, I sincerely apologize.  I realize I'm in the minority on these two points.  I acknowledge that you are likely way more proficient in music than I am.  Also, if you are making money with your instrument (or teaching your instrument), you should probably keep doing whatever you are doing!  Just know that some of us prefer a little more reserve in manner and interpretation.