Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

An important recording of a modernist landmark

From October 23, 2014:

The new Milhaud set from Naxos brings together for the first time on CD the three parts of the Oresteia of Aeschylus - L’Agamemnon, Les Choephores and Les Eumenides - that the composer wrote in France and Brazil between 1913 and 1923. The music, especially the larger final section, is a landmark of modernism in terms of tonality, harmony and rhythm, with innovative orchestration and connections to the syncretistic popular and folk music of the New World. Music Director and Conductor Kenneth Kiesler brings together a huge force - the University of Michigan Symphony, the UofM Percussion Ensemble, and no less than four choirs - with a total of 444 musicians, by my count from the liner notes listing.

In 1917 Milhaud began a diplomatic mission to Brazil, where he was assistant to the French consul Paul Claudel (who wrote the text for these works). Les Eumenides was the first work Milhaud began to write upon his arrival in Rio de Janeiro, and you can tell by the polytonality and complex rhythms that Milhaud was paying attention to the music he heard in the streets and his jaunts into the countryside. The work also shows, perhaps, the influence of Milhaud’s new friend Villa-Lobos, who by 1917 had written music like the complex, sprawling Amazonas (though Milhaud wouldn’t have heard that work until its premiere later in the 1920s in Paris).

This project is very highly recommended for all lovers of innovative music, and especially for aficionados of percussion and odd instrumentation. Here is your chance to hear orchestral music with parts written for 15 percussionists plus quartets of saxophones and saxhorns! Naxos wins again by bringing to light a major work that has never before been recorded.

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