Friday, December 18, 2009

As I am now reviewing CDs of new music for New Music Connoisseur I have begun listening to all kinds of recordings. For many years I stayed away from recordings, largely out of dismay at the editorial travesties of the recording industry. Both sound and "performance" were so tidied that little life was evident in either. Listening was like swallowing pillows.

Yesterday it was a recorded live performance of a work that has been weighted down by a sanctimonious approach that makes it borderline bearable. I have heard the work several times and always found it deadly. I have read it with colleagues and found little to look forward to as I turned each page.

Is it the composer's reputation? Is it the work's obvious modernism?

I found myself properly insulated and isolated with my headset in the listening room of the library, bursting out laughing more than once.

So I ask myself, what happens to the humor: is it the print, the highfalutin mystique attached to the composer, the difficulty of the piece, or is it my inability to detect satire?

The recording: Contrasts performed by Joseph Szigeti, Benny Goodman, and the composer, Bela Bartok.