Results for “fanfare”
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The Fanfare meta-Want List

Every year I read through the Fanfare Want Lists for new classical music releases, and collate the new recordings that are recommended by more than one person as one of the five most noteworthy releases of the year.  This time around I noticed the following as multiple nominees:

1. Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony, Beethoven Symphony number nine.

2. Daniil Trifonov, Silver Age, two CDs of Russian music.

3. Pavel Kolesnikov, Bach, Goldberg Variations.

I am happy to give another thumbs up to each.

If you google the word “self-recommending,” the first three items are all connected to me.  Yet I learned the term by reading Fanfare, where it is used repeatedly.  Of these three items, the Trifonov is the one that comes closest to being self-recommending.  The performers on items #1 and #3 are highly regarded, but to invoke the name Daniil Trifonov is a kind of magic, and as far as I know without fail.  It is hard to give any praise to #2 that goes much higher than simply stating that Trifonov has produced a recording of that music.

For those who need it, here is a (only slightly out of date) 2009 MR vocabulary guide.

Fanfare classical music meta-list, and my favorite classical music of the year

Fanfare is the best outlet for classic music reviews I know, and each year I avidly scour the critics’ Want Lists.  These are the items that showed up more than once:

Kyle Gann, Hyperchromatica, “…an extended set of movements…scores for three retuned mechanics pianos…The music draws together every facet of Gann’s style and life-long musical interests: rhythmic complexity, microtonality, extended “tonal” harmonies and voice leading, post-Minimalist surfaces, and more.  The result is a tremendous mix of sheer enjoyment coupled with extremely sophisticated compositional craft.” (Carson Cooman).

Hector Berlioz, Les Troyens, conducted by John Nelson.

Murray Perahia, Beethoven, Hammerklavier Sonata/Moonlight Sonata.

John Adams, Doctor Atomic, 2018 recording.

While I can recommend those strongly (I haven’t heard the Adams yet, but didn’t like the earlier recording), my own recommendations would be:

Bach, Violin Sonatas and Partitas, get both the latest Christian Tetzlaff recording and Ning Feng, and:

Paul Lewis, Joseph Haydn, Piano Sonatas 32, 40, 49, 50.

Fanfare meta-list for classical CDs

Loyal MR readers will know that late fall I survey the yearly “Want Lists” of Fanfare music reviewers.  If you don’t already know, Fanfare is the world’s premiere journal for classical music reviews.  My meta-list is simply those recordings which are mentioned as best of the year by more than one polled Fanfare critic.  This year the winning discs with multiple nominations are:

1. Busoni, late piano works, Marc-Andre Hamelin

2. Prokoviev piano concerti, by Jean-Effiam Bavouzet and  Gianandrea Noseda.

4. Sylvia Berry, Haydn piano sonatas.

5. Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Richard Strauss tone poems.

Another meta-list would be discs which I recommend and which a Fanfare critic also recommends, that would include:

Gillian Weir playing Messiaen organ works.

Bach, Brandenburg Concerti, Freiburger Barockorchester.

Gerald Finley and Julius Drake, Winterreise, Schubert.

Igor Levit, Beethoven late piano sonatas.

I would give all a very high recommendation, with this second meta-list being better than the first meta-list.

Other “best of the year” lists will be coming later this month.   Here are earlier posts on what I’ve been listening to.  Here are earlier Fanfare meta-lists.

The Fanfare classical music meta-list for best recordings of the year

Fanfare is the leading periodical for classical music reviews, and every year it asks numerous critics — this time 45 of them — for their top five classical music picks of the year.  In turn, each year I present a meta-list, which simply is a list of all the works selected by more than one critic.  This year we have:

1. Meanwhile, by Eighth Blackbird., assorted contemporary pieces.

2. Haydn,  The Creation, conducted by Martin Pearlman.

3. Arvo Pärt, Adam’s Lament.

4. Bellini’s Norma, with Cecilia Bartoli.

I just ordered 1-3 of those, for the Bellini I am still stuck on Maria Callas.  My personal picks of the year, in classical music, would be:

1.  Shostakovich string quartets, Pacifica Quartet, several volumes, including some other Soviet compositions as well.  I find these more powerful than Emerson, Manhattan, Brodsky, or the other classic sets of Shostakovich.

2. Arvo Pärt, Creator Spiritus.

3. Klára Würtz and Kristóf Baráti, Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano.

4. The Art of David Tudor, seven disc box set, caveat emptor on this one.

The MR Fanfare aggregator

Fanfare is an excellent periodical of classical music reviews, and every year I aggregate the results from the “Critics’ Want Lists.”  This year, these were the works that made the Want Lists of more than one critic:

Havergal Brian, The Gothic Symphony, conducted by Martyn Brabbins.

Hector Berlioz, Requiem, conducted by Paul McCreesh.

John Adams, Harmonielehre, Short Ride in a Fast Machine.

Busoni’s Doktor Faust, conducted by Adrian Boult.

That’s three out of four in the “large and unmanageable” category.  Perhaps they have been made manageable, or perhaps we are deciding to live with unmanageability these days.

The Gramophone best classical CD of the year was Heinrich Schütz’s Musicalische Exequien, conducted by Lionel Meunier, which I enjoy very much.

Above and beyond the usual retreads, I was impressed by the vitality of:

Bach, St. John’s Passion, conducted by Monica Huggett, with a stripped-down orchestra, not just a stripped-down choir.  Here is one good review, here is another.

There is more taste aggregation on the way.

Fanfare Meta-List and other picks for classical music this year

Every  year I cull through the Fanfare Critics “best of” lists and provide a meta-list of the new recordings which are mentioned more than once.  This year we have a fairly short meta-list:

1. James Willey, String Quartets, 3, 7, and 8, Esterhazy Quartet.

2. Michael Colina, Violin Concerto, other works, not on Amazon; and by assorted artists, The Art of Gregor Piatigorsky, also not available on Amazon.

3. Claude Frank: 85th Birthday Celebration.

My classical CD picks for the year are:

Scarlatti, volume I, by Carlo Grante (the most significant achievement), Diabelli Variations by Paul Lewis, Bach’s Trio Sonatas for Organ by Robert Quinney (probably my favorite of the entire year), and Shostakovich Symphony #10, by Vasily Petrenko.

Meta-list of *Fanfare* classical music recommendations

I've read through the November/December issue of Fanfare, in particular the Christmas Want Lists, as I do every year.  These are the new releases which appear on more than one list:

1. Stephen Hough and Osmo Vanska, playing the Tchaikovsky piano concerti.  This was the only item selected by three critics.

2. John Butt, conducting J.S. Bach, Mass in B Minor, Joshua Rifkin style.  This is the recording which is supposed to convert the unpersuaded to the minimalist vocal approach.

3. Dennis Russell Davies, conducting Haydn's complete symphonies.  Elevated for the sake of completeness, no one is saying it is better than Dorati.

4. Volkmar Andreae, conducting the Bruckner symphonies and Te Deum.  Remastered mono from the 1950s, supposed to be perfection.

5. Robert Schumann, Carneval, Kreisleriana, Arabeske, by Vassily Primakov.

I have found Fanfare Christmas lists to be a very reliable source of excellent music.

*Fanfare* meta-list for recommended classical music recordings, 2009

Every November I scour the critics' "Want Lists" from Fanfare, my favorite classical music periodical.  Then I go and spend a lot of money.  Here is the list of all the new recordings, from 2009, which were mentioned by more than one critic:

1. Mahler's 4th, conducted by Ivan Fischer.

2. John Adams, Doctor Atomic Symphony.

3. Mahler: The Complete Symphonies, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, remastered edition.

4. Kurtag's Ghosts, by Kurtag and Formenti.

5. John Adams, Transmigration of Souls, and other works conducted by Robert Spano.

6. Oppens Plays Carter, by Ursula Oppens.

Of that list, #6 received the most selections.  Here are the meta-list picks from last year, all of which turned out to be excellent, if you like that sort of thing that is.  I hope to be passing along more meta-lists soon.

How I listen to music

Ian Leslie writes to me:

I’m wondering, have you ever done a post about how you listen to music? Hours per week, times of day, technologies, degree of multi-tasking, etc…and how you choose what to listen to at any given moment. I’d be interested.

I go to plenty of concerts, but that is for another post.  And I’ve already written about satellite radio.  As for home, I like to listen to music most of the time, noting that if I am writing a) the music doesn’t bother me, and b) I don’t necessarily hear that much of the music.  A few more specific points:

1. I don’t like to listen to “rock music” (broadly construed) in the morning.

2. I won’t listen to Mahler, Bruckner, or Brahms in the morning.  They are evening music.

3. Renaissance music is best either in the morning or the evening.

4. I don’t listen to much jazz at home any more, though I am no less keen to see a good jazz concert live.  Having already spent a lot of time with the great classics, at current margins I am disillusioned with most “jazz as recorded music.”

4b. The same is true of most “world music,” if you will excuse the poorly chosen label.  I do subscribe to Songlines, a world music magazine.  I buy some of the recommendations on CD, but try out many more on YouTube or Spotify.  That is my primary use of those services, at least for music.  That is one case where I am sampling to see if I run across new sounds.

5. I don’t like earbuds and never use them.

6. Bach gets the most listening time.

7. For a classical piece I really like, I might own five or more recorded versions, occasionally running up to a dozen.  Listening to a poor or even so-so recording of a very good piece is to me painful and to be avoided.

8. Contemporary classical music — which many people hate — gets plenty of listening time.  Though not when Natasha is home.  Some of those recordings, such as Helmut Lachenmann string quartets, seem to create problems for Spinoza, noting that he is rarely not at home.  Perhaps they will be shelved for a few years.

9. I buy new classical music releases recommended by Fanfare, and occasionally from the NYT or Gramophone or elsewhere.  As for “popular music” (a bad term), mostly I wait until December and then buy CDs extensively from various “best of the year” lists.  I do some Spotify sampling then too, again from those lists.

10. The main stock of recorded music is kept in the basement. There is a separate shelf upstairs for what I am listening to actively at the moment.  That shelf might have 200 or so CDs, with some of them scattered on tables, and with some LPs nearby as well.

11. Periodically I go down into the basement and choose which discs will be “re-promoted” to the active shelf upstairs.  And if I am done listening to a disc, it goes down to the basement, with some chance of being re-promoted back to upstairs later.

12. If I don’t like a disc, I throw it out, as space constraints have become too binding.  (It is cruel to give it away, and no one wants it anyway.)  As time passes, I am throwing out more discs.  For instance, I love Cuban music but I don’t lilsten to it on disc any more.

Overall, I view this system as optimized for getting to know a core repertoire.  It is not optimized for browsing or random discovery.  I feel I have a lot of discovery in my musical life, but it comes from reading and information inflow — both extensive — not from listening per se.

And to be clear, I am not suggesting that these methods are optimal for anyone else.

How to discover Indian classical music

Versions of that request were repeated a few times, along with a request for a YouTube or Spotify list.  Given the visual element, I would say that YouTube >> Spotify.  But mostly you are looking to hear world class performers in live concert, there is no substitute for that, most of all for the percussion, but also for the overall sense of energy.

I first heard Indian classical music by stumbling upon the Ravi Shankar section of the Concert for Bangladesh album, at a young age (thirteen or so?).  It seemed obvious to me this was better than “Within You, Without You,” but it was a long time before I really would get back to it.  Shankar never ended up clicking with me, but definitely he was the introduction.

As a young teen I also loved the Byrds song “Eight Miles High,” with its opening riff taken from John Coltrane’s “India.”  Not exactly Indian classical music, but a clue there was much more to discover, and again I took this very seriously.  The raga bits on the Byrds 5D album intrigued me more than the lugubrious Harrison tunes.

I recall my high friend friend (and composer) Eric Lyon insisting to me that Carnatic classic music was better than American jazz improvisation.  I didn’t follow him at the time, but I always took Eric’s opinions very seriously, and so I filed this away mentally for later reexamination.

I also recall Thomas Schelling telling me that his son decided to become a professional Indian classical musician (in fact he ended up as more of a poet and translator).  I had the vague sense this was something quite admirable to do.  So the data points were piling up.

Years passed, and I spent most of my time listening to traditional Western classical music, and with fantastic aesthetic returns.

Still, I grew restless to learn more, and kept on returning to musics I did not understand very well.  My best and most common entry point was simply to listen to a lot of other musics that are (were?) somewhat atypical to Western ears, whether it be atonal music, guitar drone music, or Arabic microtonal tunes.  Nonetheless progress was slow.

In the 1990s, I started going to lots of world music concerts in the DC area, often at University of Maryland or GWU.  These years were a kind of golden age for world music (a terrible term, btw) in the U.S., as post 9/11 visa restrictions were not yet around.

Twice I heard L. Subramaniam play Indian classical violin.  Wow!  My head was spinning, and from there on out I was determined to hear as many Indian classical concerts as possible.  Maybe his melodic lines are not the very deepest, but he was a remarkably exciting performer.  A whole new world was opened up to me.  I also heard Shakti, with Zakir Hussein and John McLaughlin, play at GWU.  That was fusion yes, but it owed more to Indian classical traditions than anything else.  To this day it remains one of the three or four best concerts I’ve ever seen.

The Ali Akbar Khan Signature Series CDs made increasing sense to me, and I grew to love them and many others.  I did go back to Shankar, but decided he was, all along, far from the top of the heap.  Maybe a great marketer, though.

S. Balachandar on the veena was another early discovery, via Fanfare.

Later in the 1990s I read Frederick Turner write that Indian classical music was one of humanity’s greatest spiritual and aesthetic achievements, and around the same time I chatted a bit with Turner too.  I had never quite heard anyone claim that before, but instinctively I realized I very much agreed with him.  I decided that I believed that too.

Shikha Dalmia helped me out with some recommendations as well, and she was the first one to mention to me the Indian classical music festival in what is now called Chennai.  For many years I wanted to go.

Then followed more years of listening.  On my first India trips, I carried back a large number of $2 CDs, high variance but many of them excellent, such as Kishori Amonkar.  I bought as much as I could plausibly carry back home.

About eight years ago, I took daughter Yana to the Chennai Indian classical music festival held every December.  We saw a number of incredible performers, most notably the great U. Srinivas (mandolin!), before his demise.  I can recommend this experience to you all, and I plan on going again.

So what is the lesson of all this?  My path was so inefficient and roundabout!  You can avoid all of that, just read this blog post and be there…voila!

But that doesn’t quite work either.

The Adverse Selection of Crypto Regulation

Matt Levine: Facebook Inc. (now Meta Platforms Inc.) announced in 2019 with enormous fanfare that it was going to launch a stablecoin and work closely with all of the relevant regulators blah blah blah, and it went to the Federal Reserve and said “what do we need to do to launch a stablecoin,” and the Fed said “you must bring me the egg of a dragon and the tears of a unicorn,” and now the Facebook stablecoin is shutting down. One of the largest companies in the world devoted millions of dollars to figuring out how to launch a stablecoin and concluded that it was impossible. It is demonstrably not impossible! Tether did it! Tether has a hugely successful stablecoin! Tether does not care at all about working closely with all of the relevant regulators! That’s why!

…“The revolution needs rules,” some crypto guys say, and they get so many rules. “We don’t need to follow any rules,” some other crypto guys say, and they’re also right.

Matt’s point is that the SEC regulates serious, long-term players like Coinbase and Facebook out of business while the shady, fly-by-night operators run around unscathed until they rug pull.

Cold Storage No Longer a Constraint

Yahoo: With little fanfare, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Pfizer permission this week to store its COVID-19 vaccine in a typical refrigerator for one month — freeing the vaccine from the need to be shipped in cumbersome boxes stuffed with dry ice.

Among authorized COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer’s vaccine was notorious for its ultra-cold storage requirements. Now, as the only vaccine authorized for children ages 12 to 17, this new flexibility could dramatically accelerate the effort to vaccinate America’s teens and adolescents.

Pfizer spent millions on its cold storage technology and now discovers that it isn’t strictly necessary–that wasn’t a mistake, Pfizer did the right thing–but it’s a good reminder of how new this technology is and also how the clinical trial decisions are not written in stone.

Straussian take: Investigate fractional dosing.

Classical musical recordings of the year

We are approaching the year-end “best of” lists, so why not start with the one you care about least?  I had a very good year for classical music listening, with the following as new discoveries:

John Cage, Two2, by Mark Knoop and Philip Thomas, now perhaps my favorite Cage work?

Alvin Curran, Endangered Species, two CDs of jazz and popular song classics but done with piano distortion, plenty of spills and turns, a genuinely successful hybrid product.

James Tenney, Changes: 64 Studies for Two Harps, more listenable than you might think.

As for old classics, the Marek Janowski recording of Bruckner’s 4th is my favorite in a crowded (and impressive) field, recommended as a Bruckner introduction too.

This year I also started to enjoy Szymanowski for the first time, though that remains a work in progress.

I usually do a Fanfare meta-list, namely the recordings recommended the most by the critics of this outlet for classical music reviews.  This year there were three clear winners represented on the lists of multiple reviewers:

Poul Ruders, The Thirteenth Child (Danish opera, sung in English).

Feodor Chaliapin, The Complete Recordings, 13 CDs (not my thing).

Wilhelm Furtwängler, The Radio Recordings, 1939-1945 [sic].  James Altena writes: “…layers of aural varnish have been stripped away to uncover the true glories of one incandescent performance after another, from the conductor’s most inspired period of music-making during the horrors of the Nazi regime and World War II.”  Other critics concur, so political correctness has not yet come to classical music reviewing.  If you are reluctant to spend so much money, you can always try the Furtwängler 1942 “Hitler’s birthday” recording of Beethoven’s 9th and see how offended you feel.  So far I can’t bring myself to buy this one.  (By the way, even the Nazis still played Fritz Kreisler’s cadenza to the Beethoven violin concerto…Kreisler was Jewish).

I’ll turn to other musical genres soon.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things–Elon Musk and the Subways

In New York it costs billions of dollar per mile to build new subways, a price far higher than anywhere else in the world. That’s one reason why Elon Musk’s The Boring Company has been anything but. Even if hyperloop technology doesn’t pan out, Musk’s goal of reducing tunneling costs by a factor of ten is laudable. The Boring Company purchased a tunnel boring machine in April of 2017 and incredibly has already completed a two-mile test-tunnel underneath Hawthorne, LA! Awesome, right? Well, some people just can’t be happy.

“[I]nvaders are coming from underground” proclaims Alana Semuels in a big story in The Atlantic. The title and splash page indicate the theme:

When Elon Musk Tunnels Under Your Home

The billionaire is drilling for futuristic transit under Los Angeles. He didn’t have to ask the neighbors first.

Billionaires are undermining your home. And democracy! Grab your pitchforks! Yet dig a little deeper underneath the lurid headline and the actual complaints are–dare I say it–boring.

I talked to a dozen people who live along the tunnel’s route, and most said they hadn’t witnessed any extra noise or traffic. But none had been informed ahead of time that a private company would be digging a tunnel beneath the street.

But what about all the displaced people?

As the tunnel neared completion, disruptions to the community increased. The company bought another building, this one on the corner of 120th Street and Prairie Avenue, for $2 million, according to public records, to allow for the extraction of tunneling equipment. Adrian Vega had run a cabinet business in that building for 18 years. When his landlord sold the building, the Boring Company came in and offered Vega’s company, Los Vegas Kitchen Cabinets and Doors, extra cash to get out in three months. Vega took the money, and asked for even more time from the Boring Company, which he was granted. But he couldn’t find another space; since moving in August, his business has been closed and his customers don’t know that he’s moved, he told me.

…Shunyaa Turner lives in a small house on 119th Place with his wife and two kids. He said that in the past year, they’ve had to battle more pests, such as raccoons, mice, skunks, and opossums, which they’ve never seen before. He isn’t sure if this is related to the digging; the Hawthorne airport has also been doing more construction as it gets busier, so the animals could have fled from there. He and his wife said they’ve also noticed more cracks in their impeccably maintained walkway.

…The initial document also claimed that the test tunnel would not involve digging under private property, but that, too, has changed—though the company has now bought all the private property it is tunneling underneath. The company has also closed a lane of Jack Northrop Avenue, a street on the other side of SpaceX headquarters

In the author’s own words:

Meanwhile, in Hawthorne, the company that promised its transit test projects would be completely unnoticeable by the community has since uprooted a small business, purchased a house, and closed a lane of traffic indefinitely.

The horror.

The whole framing of the piece is ass-backwards. Semuels is correct that:

[this] would have been unimaginable in a higher-income neighborhood. Indeed, when Musk tried to build another underground tunnel in a wealthier neighborhood in West L.A., residents quickly sued. The project got tied up in court, and [died].

In comparision:

The CEQA allows residents 35 days to push back against granted exemptions…in Hawthorne, the 35-day window passed with little fanfare.

But unfortunately Semuels takes the posh, lawsuit-loving, NIMBY crowd as the appropriate normative standard and any deviations from that as suspect and indicative of the power of billionaires to run roughshod over other people’s rights. Instead, the Boring Company, the Hawthorne city government, and the people of Hawthorne should be applauded for their sensible, forward-thinking, and optimistic approach to new ideas. Bravo to Hawthorne! Hawthorne: Where the future is being made!

I do give Semuels credit, however. She writes honestly so that one can see the real story behind the false frame and she even tips the audience to the correct (Straussian?) reading in her final clever paragraph.

Vega [the owner of the cabinet business who was paid to vacate] has nothing negative to say about the Boring Company—he just blames himself for agreeing to be out so quickly. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before, so he didn’t know what was fair. Nor did he know how hard it would be to set up a new store—the process of getting new city permits, he said, is a lengthy one, and he can’t find a way to cut through the red tape.

Who’s complacent, Charlie?

In 1910, just 5% of American babies named “Charlie” were girls. Over 100 years later, girl Charlies took over their male counterparts for the first time in 2016—making up 51% of the share.

With little fuss or fanfare, Charlie has gone gender-neutral…

Quartz analyzed the Social Security Administration’s public data on baby names to find out whether what happened with “Charlie” is an exception, or part of a wider trend. Our results show that, on average, the country is slowly moving toward using more gender-neutral names.

Here is the full story by Nikhil Sonnad, with good graphs too.  It lists all sorts of names and tells you how gender-neutral they are.  Some of the less gender-specific names these days are “Jerry,” “Aden,” and “Orion.”  Not to mention “Finley,” “Justice,” and “Armani.”  Don’t ask about “Lennon” or “Emerson.”  Marion slowly has been switching from a girl’s name to a boy’s name.  Blake is now one-quarter female.  I did not know that Ashton is now mainly a boy’s name.

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