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by Daniel Hautzinger

Harawi-CDOlivier Messiaen is unique in music history. He is perhaps the most intensely religious composer since J.S. Bach, despite living in the 20th century, when most artists and intellectuals abandoned faith. Yet his belief was anything but orthodox: sensual love and sacred mystery mix on a cosmic scale.

He was synesthetic, so that he heard chords as colors. And he originated total serialism, where pitches and rhythms are standardized, so that a specific note will always have the same articulation and duration in a piece. Serialism became the predominant compositional method during the 1950s. It is some of the most difficult and maligned music existent, but Messiaen’s use of it is comprehensible and attractive.

The solo piano piece Cantéyodjayâ (1949), with which pianist Jacob Greenberg opens his and soprano Tony Arnold’s excellent new CD of the song cycle Harawi (New Focus Recordings), is a case in point. Read the rest of this entry »


by Mike Telin

PORCO-RobertBeethoven’s Mass in C is a wonderful piece and under-performed in my opinion — at least in this country,” Cleveland Orchestra Director of Choruses Robert Porco told us by telephone. “And I don’t know exactly why that is. People like to do the Missa Solemnis, which is an entirely different kind of piece and was written some fifteen years later.”

On Thursday, October 31 and Saturday, November 2 in Severance Hall, Franz Welser-Möst leads The Cleveland Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra Chorus in performances of Beethoven’s Mass in C and Messiaen’s Trois petites liturgies de la Présence Divine. Also included on the program is Beethoven’s Grosse Fugue.

The Mass in C was commissioned by Prince Nikolaus Esterházy II. “He was the same person for whom Haydn wrote his wonderful masses. I only mention this because the late Haydn masses are not performed that often either.”

According to history, Esterházy did not like the work — which caused Beethoven to leave abruptly. “Esterházy wrote letters about how much the piece embarrassed him. People have asked me why he thought that and I can’t really answer that either except that he was very accustomed to hearing what Haydn had written.” In his The Life of Beethoven, (1998) musicologist David Wyn Jones recounts, “Nikolaus later wrote to Countess Henriette Zielinska, ‘Beethoven’s music is unbearably ridiculous and detestable; I am not convinced it can ever be performed properly. I am angry and ashamed.'” Read the rest of this entry »

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