Saturday, 25 August 2007

Musica Dei Donum

The excellent South African online shop recently had a sale on Naxos CDs, the overwhelming majority of which sell at ±R14 (±$2). That includes double CDs. Of course, I forsook all fiscal reason and ordered, ordered, ordered ...
I have so many musical delights to absorb I shall be commenting about them for some time to come. A few preliminary notes:
  • Oliver Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time does not appeal to me. At all. I do, in fact, enjoy some serialist works: Pärt's Collage über B-A-C-H is curiously pleasant once you adjust yourself to the dissonances. There seems to be an art to listening to dissonances much like there is an art to listening to severely threaded polyphony. Yet my perseverance peters out quite quickly with Messiaen, and I fear not even the unique place of its composition (a Nazi concentration camp) can redeem it for me.

  • The great tragedy of my musical life is that I have not been introduced to the organ works of Healley Willan. I listened to his Prelude & Fugue in C minor on the way to work this week. At one stage I feared for my speakers, but dared not adjust the volume. The usual cadre of pamphlet distributors fled before the blaze of full organ, and I swooned in sheer delight when the fugue plunged into the bass registers in the conclusion.

  • If the Introduction to Bach: Brandenburg Concerto's (sic) 4 & 5 is indicative of the series, then these audio guides of Naxos are truly exquisite, and my recommendation is warm, immediate and exuberant. The same goes for the Discover series, of which I obtained the Early Music version, whose accompanying booklet is superb, though the CD would be worth it solely on the basis of Léonin's Viderunt Omnes. The ethereal sound of that atavistic plainchant-based polyphony ... ah!

  • "Early music" continues to intrigue and fascinate me, and the CD "From Byzantium to Andalusia" is no exception. Two particular jewels are the startlingly Arabic Kyrie from Lebanon and the evocative hymn to Mary: Stella Splendens in Monte. The prior has as its everpresent base the Greek invocations one might expect, but its stanza's include Arabic which I cannot translate. I can only make out the words peace, Messiah, Mary, God. Mmm. Most of the tracks on this CD are fourteenth century and earlier, and a sizable proportion have a feel or style generally (though often erroneously) thought to be "Arabic" or "Middle-Eastern".

  • O Franz Josef! O Haydn! Forgive my doubt of your prowess! Your Die Schöpfung is glorious in so many ways I know not how to praise it enough. You surpassed even Händel, who inspired you to the oratorio.

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