Lazy Sunday Afternoon – Exquisite Miniatures

Today’s Lazy Sunday Afternoon post is curated by music buff and sagacious commenter Mahlerman…

In 1937 when this now famous recording was made, Monteverdi’s music was almost unknown outside Italy. The great french teacher Nadia Boulanger assembled the slight group, playing the lilting piano part herself, and installing Hugues Cuenod as one of the two tenors. The result was a spellbinding sound, as if from another world, and certainly well removed from the harsh intensity of our current digital age. Most present day performances of Zefiro Torna are taken at quite a lick; the leisurely pace here is, to my ears, the ideal. Marry this to the bittersweet tenderness of the whole, and the experience is quite magical.

Well known for the rather empty bombast of Espana, many believe the true worth of Emmanuel Chabrier’s music lies in his small scale pieces, and this affecting moment from his opera L’Etoile gives a flavour of his genius. The gamine Patricia Petibon, usually a brilliant coloratura, here keeps it all under wraps, projecting instead her utter femininity and Parisian kookiness…

Following a breakdown in his mid-30’s Henri Duparc stopped composing, and later destroyed most of his compositions, leaving a handful of songs and some chamber pieces. Many believe the songs to be the very greatest of their kind and Phidyle, sung here, perhaps the finest of all. The silky baritone of the Egyptian Kamel Boutros has a wonderful patina, making it all the more peculiar that he is virtually unknown. Martha Argerich, looking like a Hyde Park bag lady and seeming at the start, a bit grumpy, is miraculously released by the music making in which she has just taken part. The power of music to liberate.

Percy Grainger could well have been included in Brit’s list of Mad Pianists, such was his skill and eccentricity – sado masochism included. But he will be remembered as a consummate tunesmith and arranger of folk song, usually on a small scale, but not always. In this bewitching arrangement of Shallow Brown the orchestra is conducted by an even greater talent, Benjamin Britten, who also confessed both a weakness for the music of the indigenous lower orders, and for the tang of the sea, wonderfully expressed here. The beautiful bass-baritone voice belongs to John Shirley-Quirk.

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About Author Profile: Mahlerman

Mahlerman's life was shaped by his single mother, who never let complete ignorance of a subject get in the way of having strong opinions about it. Facing retirement after a life in what used to be called 'trade', and having a character that consists mainly of defects, he spends his moments of idleness trying to correct them, one by one.

8 thoughts on “Lazy Sunday Afternoon – Exquisite Miniatures

    September 12, 2010 at 14:25

    Very curious to know the identity of the guest dabbler. Have to admit I find Chabrier’s espana rather uplifting – more so than this ‘moment’ from L’etoile (though it plainly made Patricia Petibon’s hair stand on end). Love the Percy Grainger though – certainly no ’empty bombast.’

  2. Gaw
    September 12, 2010 at 17:19

    I’ve been listening to these after a late Sunday lunch (as intended) and they’ve made my day. Inspired selection, thank you.

    September 13, 2010 at 07:50

    Have now found your name, Mahlerman – thank you for expanding the realms of my musical appreciation..

    September 13, 2010 at 08:58

    Glad, of course Susan (and Gaw), that I could steer some pleasure your way.
    After recovering from my boyish (I collect the state pension later this year) excitement at being invited to make a contribution to the Dabbler, and running a rheumy eye over the statement of intent (knowledge with humility?) expressed in Kipling’s words via Kim, I wanted to keep away from the M4, and perhaps find a B road or two that, if not inhabiting an esoteric stratosphere, might at least surprise a few Dabblers. As you said yourself Susan, in a recent comment, taste in music is a very personal thing, and Espana was, at least for the purposes of this short piece, a slip road onto the motorway.

    September 13, 2010 at 14:46

    An interesting selection from Mahlerman, even for my Monday afternoon. Particularly like the kooky Parisian.

    September 13, 2010 at 17:33

    A delectable slice of ear food for any time of day…interesting to learn stories behind the music too, especially from the eccentric/disturbed characters that live amongst these notes. Keep it coming…

    September 18, 2010 at 04:08

    Mahlerman, a great post… I would say it cheered up my moday morning, but it’s made my friday evening instead. I’m going to dream of Patrica… kooky indeed! OUI MeRci !

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