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February 20, 1980 - Image 7

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-02-20

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Disunity

By JOSHUA M. PECK
Like so many Pavlov puppies,
classical music lovers the world over
have learned to salivate at the very
sound of Jean-Pierre Rampal's name.
The Frenchman has recorded virtually
the entire flute repertory, some of it,
with more style and loveliness than any
other members of the tooting breed. His
treatment of Bach's Brandenburg Con-

certi, released some years ago, was a
glorious interpretation of the works,
and shed a new and vibrant light on
music that was fabulous to begin with.
His original best-selling works blend
baroque and jazz influences in a
refreshing, even stirring fashion, and
have brought a whole new attention to
all classically-trained musicians, as
well as to himself.
Such a reputation clearly has its

murder
disadvantages. Though the most loyal
of the artist's followers will surely like
his performances, however mediocre
they may be, the more discerning
listeners are bound to be disappointed if.
a given performance is anything less
than perfectly pristine and divir.ely in-
spired. Sad to say, neither Mr. Ram-
pal's performance, that of his accom-
panist Alexandre Lagoya, his selection
of pieces, nor (resultantly) his Monday
night concert overall, qualified for any
such exultant adjectives. The Hill
Auditorium performance was too often
ordinary and mundane, with un-
professional touches evident at every'
swoop of Rampal's gleaming flute..
Only on rare occasions was the expec-
ted spectacular musicianship to be
heard.
THE FLAUTIST, portly and decked
out in a tux with violet trim, dragged
his shy guitarist friend for an opening
offering that, disappointing as the
evening was as a whole, unfairly gave
rise to fear of terribly lackadaisical ef-
fort throughout. The Sonata in D major
by Scheidler happily turned out to have
more performance problems than juste
about any other selection the duo
played all night. It was instantly clear
that disunity and lack of confidence in
each other was stifling the creativity
and expression of which each musician
is putatively capable.
The trepidation with which both per-
formers approached the score might be
explained by their having just started
out on their national tour, and perhaps
not having settled into each other's par-
ticular musical quiddities and quirks.
Rampal was reluctant to swing free, to
extend a fermata an extra beat or two,
or to speed a passage up when it suited
him. He seemed to be worried that he

would lose Lagoya (or vice versa). Fur-
thermore, neither gentleman seemed
as conversant with the music as he
ought to have been. Rampal's tone and
style especially seemed more relaxed
and sweeter in the later pieces with
which he was better acquainted.
Rampal also shocked his audience by
botching a few bits in the Sonata, the
first a relatively simple run early on,
and the second a series of thirty-second
notes that, admittedly, a lesser artist.
might not even have attempted.
THE HIGHLIGHTS of the evening,
such as they were, all were to be found
in the work of each artist on his own.
Rampal's glorious work on Te emann's
Fantasies for solo flute was at times
quite astonishing. The particular selec-
tions from the work he played made for
a pleasantly diverse triptych, with an
easily accessible assortment of moods
blending for remarkable emotional ef-
fect. No. 12, the first played, drew a
haunting and marvelously memorable
ambience out of melodies that jumped
madly about. No. 6, characterized by
rapid and utterly seamless trills, and
No. 2, modeled around incredibly fast
runs, with Rampal, at last, bringing his
heart and soul very much into the pic-
ture, added to the piece's marvelously
rich patterns. The tension he built with
his deft manipulation of the "devil's in-
terval" made the piece all the more
emotionally swaying.
Lagoya, too, became far more im-
pressive when his colleague graciously
slipped backstage. In Sanz' Pavana and
Canarios for solo guitar, Lagoya
showed off a clipped and precise sound
when he wanted one, and a sound as
lazy and sunny as a Madrid afternoon
when that was called for. The maagic
sonority he can wield is the guitarist's

The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, February 20, 1980-Page 7
Rampal

special province, and Lagoya is very
much at home there.
WHEN RAMPAL rejoined his par-
tner to conclude the program's first
half with Paganini's Sonata a Concer-
tante, the wobbly attitude that had been
momentarily dormant returned. The
piece was dry and virtually
emotionless, and suffered all the more
for the restraint with which the
musicians handled it.
One selection that stood out from the
generally inadequate level of the
evening was Ravi Shankar's The En-
chanted Morning. It was even worse.
The piece evoked no such thing as its
lofty title would suggest. Repetitious
and endlessly anti-harmonic, it is the
most unpleasant composition this critic
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BY MARK VAITKUS
Several years ago I was having din-
ener with a friend of mine from the
Music School when the subject of
favorite composers arose. I told her
that while I enjoyed Bartok (her
preference), I have always had a
special predilection for Strauss.
"That's nice," she said.
Almost as an afterthought .she
chuckled, "You do mean Richard, don't
ou?" I hesitated. Her eyes widened.
"Come on, you've got to be kidding,"
,she pleaded, her voice becoming in-
creasingly agitated, "You miur mean
Richard." But my silence had already
betrayed me, "I'm sorry," she said,
then hastily gathered her things to
leave. I never heard from her again.
For those of us who know and love the
work of Johann Strauss, Jr., such tragic
prejudice from the "serious" music
world is recognized almost as a matter-
of-course. I long ago realized the futiity
of convincing highbrows that a Strauss
waltz or polka could be anything more
than irrelevant schmaltz. It runs far too
great a risk of embarrassment for any

Schoenberg and one each by his studen-
ts Alban Berg and Anton Webern. With
the exception of the Emperor Waltz,
they were produced in 1921 to benefit -
Schoenberg's own "Association for.
Private Musical Performances."
YOU ARE forewarned that these are
transcriptions, not variations, so that
while the instrumentation belongs to
Schoenberg and his disciples, the music
is unabashedly Strauss. Of course,
there are a good number of solo
flourishes which would certainly sur-
prise Strauss, but the basic structure of
the original waltzes is adhered to rather
strictly. In fact, without prior
knowledge I doubt whether the bulk of
Schoenberg aficionados would correc-
tly attribute these pieces.
Schoenberg and company have faith-
fully captured the essence and at-
mosphere of the turn-of-the-century
salon orchestra, with all of the charm
and none of the insipidness. Lyrical and
spirited, these arrangements will tran-
sport your imagination to a wonderfully
chic garden party on some baron's
estate or, just as easily, to a picnic near
the Vienna Woods. At any moment you
expect Lilli Palmer to come knocking
on your door hugging a fifth of cham-
pagne. In short, the senses are strongly
affected as they typically are by the
music of Strauss, but in a genuinely
refreshing way. _
NOT QNLY do the transcriptions give
chamber lovers the opportunity to en-
joy Strauss without guilt, they provide
an innocuous avenue to the world of
chamber music for those who otherwise
regard it as soporific. Theinstrumental
coloring of the themes, driving accents,
and generaous use of staccato will hold
,the interest of even the most restless of
listeners.
The scoring is well-balanced for two
violins, viola, cello, harmonium, piano,
flute, and clarinet, the blend working
best perhaps for the Roses from the
South. The complementation is con-
sistently good though, and the cat-and-
mouse play of violin and piano during
the Treasure Waltz will surely win your
fancy. Some may find the unconven-
tional sound of the harmonium distrac-
ting at times, but its presence overall is
highly subdued.
The performance by the Boston group
is not particularly distinguished,
mainly as a result of overflowing en-
thusiasm. The delicate grace of the

waltzes is precarious despite just the
eight instruments and one longs for a
lighter touch and softer pianissimos
than are achieved here. The wind in-
struments have a tendency to heave too
much air even while playing forte,
though the decided blare of the flute is
limited to the Emperor Waltz. Ever
since Stravinsky it seems, chamber
players have worn their reeds on their
sleeves.
NEVERTHELESS, the crisp beauty
and singing tone of the instruments is
conveyed well enough to warrant the
inclusion of these unusual pieces in
youf collection, especially since it is the
composition and not the players that
provides the major interest here. As
usual, the DG pressing itself is a quality
investment.
If the traditional orchestration of
Strauss is more your style, I recom-
mend the latest from Willi Boskovsky
and the Vienna Philharmonic on Lon-
don records (LDR 10001). The two-
record set features the annual New
Year's Eve concert in Vienna, with
music by several members of the
Strauss family as well as Suppe and
Ziehrer. Old favorites like the "Piz-
zicato Polka," "Tik-Tak Polka," and
"Wine, Women, and Song" are included
between less familiar, but no less
delightful, musical confections such as
the "Music of the Spheres Waltz" and
selections from Cagliostro in Wien. The
ubiquitous "Blue Danube" and "Radet-
zky March" fittingly conclude the
evening's festivities.
For those of you unacquainted with
Boskovsky, the listening experience
will be all the more pleasantly sur-
prising if you are generally accustomed
to Strauss under the bulldozing batons

of Bernstein, Ormandy, or Kostelanetz.
The latter are notorious for blasting
light romantic music of the late
nineteenth century way out of propor-
tion to its simple requirements, thus
rendering it shallow and even pompous.
By contrast, Boskovsky does not place
pretentious demands on the music it
cannot meet. He succeeds in
eliminating all trace -of strain on the
melody line, a commodity admittedly
as fragile as fine porcelain in the case
of Strauss. Given the almost total ab-
sence of counterpoint in Straussian
composition, Boskovsky has accom-
plished no small conducting feat, even
if the orchestra happens to be the talen-
ted and' well-motivated Vienna
PhilhTarronic: You should try
restraining a bevy of German-speaking
violinists.
With this album London introduces
its "digital recording" series, adver-
tised as the firm's answer to direct-to-
disc. Happily, the engineers have com-
impressively close to DTD and
produced a sparkling recording well
worth the normal import price. Fur-
thermore, though I am not in favor of
live classical recordings in principle,
the usual background disturbances are
negligible here and the applause ac-
tually adds to the gaiety of the event. It
all adds up to an irresistible package.
HOW EASY it is sometimes to forget
how Mantovani, Liberace, the ' 101
Strings (in conjunction with hundreds
of "beautiful music" stations across the
nation) deform rathei than perform
Strauss. Once we concede, however,
that popular dance music can be art, it
seems to me we must also admit (as
Schoenberg did) that the music of the
Johann Strauss is truly a superior
example of that art. If your tastes
should dictate that you can only ap-
preciate that art by way of Schoenberg,
so be it. But at any rate, don't deny
yourself its pleasure.

I

P.

self-inflating musical connoisseur to
dare appreciate opuses so simply con-
structed and purely melodic.
Now consider Arnold Schoenberg, a
composer of critically unquestionable
stature. With the same mass appeal as
Heideggerian philosophy, Schoenberg's
music is enigmatic enough to merit
deference from the most supercilious of
musical authorities. You would think
that Schoenberg would share the
generally low estimation accorded a
* crowd-pleaser like the Viennese
Strauss..
ACTUALLY nothing could be further
from the truth. Although it is known
that Schoenberg could not tolerate
composers whose primary motivation
was writing music simple enough for
the universal public to consume, he
believed Johann Strauss was a
"genuine" artist whose work naturally
happened to coincide with popular sen-
timents in an easily accessible way.
If all this sounds slightly far-fetched,
one should definitely investigate the
new recording of Strauss Waltz tran-
scriptions by the Boston Symphony
Chamber Players, available on Deut-
sche Grammophon. The album con-
tains four transcriptions for chamber
group, two of which were written by

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