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Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Thursday, May 13, 2004

SUPER GENIUS

The BBC Classical Music Magazine comes every month with an original, complete CD of music by one or another of the myriad BBC performing groups. This month one of the orchestras plays 2 Beethoven symphonies (I'm still debating whether to pick this one up); last month it was a BBC choir doing a selection of music by an Italian composer contemporary with Shakespeare named Carlo Gesualdo, whose music I didn't know at all and am now glad to be acquainted with in its haunting yearnful beauty. A bunch of music mags out there now include CDs, but as far as I know BBC is the only one that doesn't just put compilations out there, but thought-out programmed original recordings. One of the handful that I've bought is a collection of orchestral suites from Hollywood movie scores performed by one of the BBC orchestras. The CDs seems to alternate between standard repertory (Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner) and more off-the-beaten path stuff (Hollywood, Gesualdo).

Every month they review 150 new classical CDs. 150!! Every month!! Hard to imagine.

The most amusing feature, which they don't run every issue, is a debate over a composer's reputation. Last month it was a Pro or Con over Mozart. Another month it was Berlioz. Except of course they don't really find people to say Mozart and Berlioz stink -- it's more like the Pro side says, "Super delightful genius!" and the Con side is stuck with, "Well of course he's a genius, but not every damn thing the dude wrote is brilliant, I mean come on." Except it's the BBC, and they don't write like that.

The anti-Mozart position talked about how the Big Mo wasn't the youngest composer genius, that Mendelssohn and Schubert at 16 kicked Mo's ass at 16, which is interesting, since part of Mo's rep is based on super-young prodigy status. And the guy also talked about how Mo had to crank out commissions for dance parties, and that's fine, but, I mean come on, when the classical DJs play some Mozart dance track and announce it in hushed tones accorded to divine genius, that's just silly. But of course, the so-called anti-Mozart advocate said, a lot of Mo's stuff really is super-awesome. (I'd go along with that. I once listened to a cassette of "Don Giovanni" on a solo all-night road trip, and when the Stone Guest entered to drag Don Giovanni to Hell in the last act at 3 in the morning, my hair stood up and I thought the Statue was in the backseat. Scared me to thrilled.)

I once found a 2-CD set of "German Dance Music" by Mozart and Beethoven for five bucks and very excitedly bought it but I couldn't make it through it because the ensemble had no verve; they had no idea they were playing dance music. Rhythmically slack. And I got the strong feeling that Ludwig and Wolfgang saved their best tunes for other occasions.

Comments:
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