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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Happy New Year!

Music for the Winter Nights

Hi folks, just a quick post: some wintry music to get you through the coldest months of the year. Promise, actual reviews to follow eventually!

Berwald: Four Symphonies. cond. Neeme Jarvi.
Although he composed quite a bit, the "unfashionable" music of Franz Berwald was ignored in his lifetime. However, the Swedish composer wrote four gorgeous symphonies along with some nice piano music. Along with fellow Swede Stenhammar, Berwald remains one of the most underrated Scandinavian composers. Melodic and moving, a bit like Brahms without the heavy blasts of post-classical thunder, Berwald deserves to be heard by more people.

Schoenberg: Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) cond. Giuseppe Sinopoli.

This single disc features the late great Sinopoli conducting Schoenberg's ever-rising tone poem, a piece that details the tension between two lovers as they walk upon a winter road. Simply gorgeous, and accompanied by an equally profound reading of the same composer's Pelleas und Melisande.

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 (Winter Daydreams), cond. Igor Markevitch, on Philips.

This used to be available as part of a dirt cheap double box set containing all of Markevitch's magnificent Tchaikovsky recordings. It is a stellar performance of this evocative, light-hearted (for this composer, anyway) symphony. The "Tchaik First" was also featured in the surreal Christmas scene from the very strange Robin Williams movie, Toys.

Sibelius: Night Ride and Sunrise, cond. Eugene Jochum. 

This piece brings out my inner Finn--you can feel the cold air whipping at your face and the sunrise (brought out in the brass) is blinding in its radiance. Check out this historic DGG recording with Eugene Jochum on the podium for a very different take on Sibelius.

Sigur Ros, ( )

Yes. You read that right. The album's title is a pair of parentheses. Strange wordless music from Iceland, this modern "rock" group sings in a made-up language. Simultaneously soothing and haunting on a cold night.

Other suggestions:
  • Schubert's Winterreise
  • Rimsky-Korsakov's The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevronya
  • Berg's Violin Concerto
  • Strauss' Ein Alpensinfonie (good for any season!)
  • Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (piano version)
Above: An unheard musician: No wonder Berwald looks upset.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats