February 20, 2016

Strings, Strings, Strings

I recently visited Gramophone magazine's "Editor's Choice Recordings" (latest here). I have used these reviews to expand my Spotify repertoire (as well as find new recordings of pieces I know and appreciate, already).

One of the recordings I recently encountered through my explorations on Gramophone is a compilation of works by Johann Joseph Vilsmayr, Johann Georg Pisendel, and Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, featuring violinist Vaughan Jones on violin. I have always enjoyed the Bach Suites for Solo Cello (example), and I find the Vilsmayr to be in the same beautiful vein on violin.

Listening to the Vilsmayr and the Bach Suites put me in the mind of solo cello again. So, running some searches, I found this page by cellist Elinor Frey on various solo cello pieces that promise to "make you forget the Bach cello suites." While I did not find that they quite did that, there are some beautiful works there. Of those listed, I think I enjoyed the Passa Galli the most. I've embedded a YouTube link to it below.

Considering strings at greater length, I've reminisced a bit on one of the first string pieces (other than the Bach Suites) which really struck me, namely Boccherini's "Musica notturna delle strade di Madrid."I first heard it watching "Master and Commander" and immediately bought the soundtrack so I could hear it again. Interestingly, on the CD, the music is performed by professionals. And, there are excellent recordings with different treatments of it. For instance, here is one with a larger ensemble (I think):

Particularly beautiful (and interesting re: my next video) is the part starting around 7:50. Take a listen now before the next video.

Now, for the movie "Master and Commander," Russell Crow learned the violin well enough to play various pieces in the role of Captain Jack Aubrey. One of those pieces is the section of the Boccherini quintet called "Passa Calle" (heard here in excerpt). Crowe and his co-star (or at least Crowe) play the piece in duet here:

I hope you've enjoyed my reminisces among the strings. There are, of course, massive amounts of repertoire, of which I have touched upon less than .01% (probably less). Use Gramophone, use YouTube, use movie soundtracks and Spotify and Pandora, but do listen!


I was listening to Eric Whitacre today, a modern composer, and ran across (again) his "The River Cam." I believe Julian Lloyd Webber is the cellist, and it repays a listen.

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