Singing and Chattering: The Week’s 8 Best Classical Music Moments on YouTube

Singing and Chattering: The Week’s 8 Best Classical Music Moments on YouTube


THAT DECISIVE MOMENT

The cover of an archival recording of Julius Eastman’s “Femenine.”Credit

Our critics and reporters offer a glimpse of what’s delighted them on YouTube. Read the rest of our classical music coverage here.


AT 22 MINUTES 40 SECONDS

Break in Storm Clouds

I’m always on the lookout for new performances of works by Julius Eastman, the long-forgotten composer whose rediscovery I wrote about last year. This week I stumbled on this video of a Los Angeles performance, from January, of one of the raging chamber pieces Eastman wrote in the late 1970s. These works, with their provocative titles, are best known for their anger, but I love, too, the moments when a blue sky opens up between the storm clouds. In this passage, the four-piano pounding that dominates the piece begins to quiet, relax and widen into a few purely tender minutes, before tension and violence slowly reinfuse the music. Listen from the beginning to fully appreciate Eastman’s tidal shifts of mood. ZACHARY WOOLFE

Read our piece on the life and work of Julius Eastman.


AT 3 MINUTES 14 SECONDS

A Booming Prelude

That same Los Angeles concert brought a performance of Eastman’s “The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc,” for 10 seething cellos; it has a prelude for unaccompanied voice, with a text that’s like an outtake from Gertrude Stein’s libretto for “Four Saints in Three Acts.” (“Saint Michael said Margaret Catherine they said Saint Michael said Catherine Margaret she said.”) Here the vocalist is the authoritative young bass-baritone Davóne Tines; hear when he invokes Joan’s name, as if divinity itself is calling her. (And check out Mr. Tines on Tuesday, when he appears at Roulette in Brooklyn as part of the Resonant Bodies Festival.) ZACHARY WOOLFE


AT 3 MINUTES 26 SECONDS

Singing and Chattering

On a long, tedious return to New York by car this week, satellite radio served up its usual arbitrary yet predictable selection of classics, somehow dropping in an occasional unhackneyed gem. One was a Rameau favorite, the Gavotte and Six Doubles, well played by the harpsichordist Jory Vinikour. But as much as I generally prefer the harpsichord in such repertory, it sent me back to a performance that proved formative for me years ago, an Audiofon recording by the pianist and polymath David Bar-Ilan. The interpretation uncannily combines glorious songfulness with nervous energy. The electricity really takes hold in the chattering fourth variation and carries through to a rousing conclusion. JAMES R. OESTREICH


AT 1 MINUTE 43 SECONDS

No Strange Affinity

There’s nothing strange about the affinity between harp and mandolin — what’s surprising is how rarely composers pair them up. In this arrangement of a Bach sonata for flute and keyboard, the sweet and mellow tone of the harp and the more tangy, barbed one of the mandolin create delicate lacework in the counterpoint passages until, at this moment, the mandolin pulls away, sounding like a higher, more insistent, extension of the harp’s register. CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM


AT 15 MINUTES 6 SECONDS

Ray of Light

Each part of Olivier Messiaen’s kaleidoscopic “Catalogue d’Oiseaux” (“Catalog of Birds”), which the pianist Taka Kigawa performed with preternatural ease over more than three hours on Monday, comes with a prose introduction. The text, while helpful for curious listeners, also provides clues for musicians to interpret 77 bird calls and evocations of nature. The paragraph that precedes “Le loriot” (“The oriole”) contains references to light and rainbows, and ends with the sun “spreading golden rays of the oriole’s song,” rendered through rich chords that penetrate flittering transcriptions of bird song. In an interview before the performance, Mr. Kigawa said that his take on “Catalogue” is longer than others because he tries to take “a lot of space and silence.” These chords were one such instance: Already majestic, they became almost holy in his hands. JOSHUA BARONE

Read our interview with Mr. Kigawa about preparing for Messiaen’s bird song marathon.


AT 10 MINUTES 26 SECONDS

All Elbows

As Leonard Bernstein’s centenary approaches next Aug. 25, the year promises no end of reminders of his great career. Most will undoubtedly relate to Bernstein as composer or conductor, but when his 99th birthday passed this week, I flashed on a cherished memory of Bernstein as duo pianist with Michael Tilson Thomas in a four-hand performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” at Alice Tully Hall in 1981. It would be lovely to have a video of the two combatants rudely slugging it out in a shared frenzy to engulf the keyboard, but the audio conveys some of the excitement, despite its cramped dynamics. Listen, for example, to the barely controlled chaos of the final minutes of Part 1. JAMES R. OESTREICH


AT 3 MINUTES 40 SECONDS

A Classic’s Makeover

One of the most familiar pieces of music in the repertory gets a fresh makeover by returning to its roots in this arrangement of Ravel’s “Bolero” for two pianos and Basque percussion instruments — who can spell txalaparta? — that takes a more measured tempo than the one familiar from many orchestral performances. The unusual percussion adds folkloric color, and the players heat up the tension until the final, wild glissandos on the piano here, pounded out with a softheaded mallet. CORINNA da FONSECA-WOLLHEIM


AT 2 MINUTES 15 SECONDS

PVC Halo

I listened to a flood of music as I worked on a piece about the upcoming Resonant Bodies Festival, a wonderful annual immersion in experimental vocal performance, helped along by the festival’s extensive digital resources. One of the artists on the lineup next week at Roulette is Kayleigh Butcher, and I love this collaboration she did with Bethany Younge, a jittery and sly piece that extends and distorts their voices with PVC pipe, as in this moment, when wild rushes up the scale take on an echoey halo. ZACHARY WOOLFE

Read our preview of the 2017 Resonant Bodies Festival, coming next week.



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