Monday, March 2, 2009

Blast from the past

Here is one thing I love: someone who gets all excited about a musician most of the world has never heard of.

In other words, someone who reminds me of me! Not exactly like me, of course. I am a breed unto myself, I will admit that right now. But someone similar.

On my Leonard Pennario blog today I ramble on enthusiastically about my new friend Larry, whom I have met through You Tube. He posted a bunch of Pennario's recordings, and we have begun a correspondence which, trust me, will one day prove as valuable as that between Wagner and Liszt.

Larry has a fixation on the conductor, composer and teacher Rene Leibowitz (1913-1972). That is how he discovered Pennario. Pennario and Leibowitz teamed up in 1963 for a recording of Liszt's Piano Concertos 1 and 2.

That is Leibowitz pictured above. Larry got on to him because of a couple of records Leibowitz conducted that he heard as a teenager.

"Two of those records would become my lifetime favorite classical pieces, Leibowitz / Royal Philharmonic A Night On Bare Mountain-Pictures At An Exhibition (same record) and Bach-Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor which he arranged," he wrote to me.
"After listening to all of the versions of these works I could find, Leibowitz's genius just impressed me all the more. Nothing else compares. His arrangement of Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for double orchestra is another astounding example of the 'special' sound he produced."

Larry passes on the link to Leibowitz's Bach which you can find here.

"So, this set the stage," he continued. "Leibowitz fascinated me in a very special way. Many countless hours have been spent listening to just these three works. My favorites. Admiration is an understatement. He has no equal in so many ways. Just like Pennario. And yet he is widely unknown. And look what he did for Schoenberg's 12-tone method of composition. Pierre Boulez and Jacques-Louis Monod were his pupils! His ear and attention to detail results in a unique sound that just 'stands out'. To me, anyway."

Here is Leibowitz's "Night on Bald Mountain." "Rare and amazing!" Larry writes. And it is! It is extremely dramatic, I have to say that. Right from the word go.

Here is his "Pictures at an Exhibition." Aye me! Putting up these links I mistakenly got them both playing at the same time. That is not good.

Just on my own I stumbled onto Leibowitz doing Ravel's Bolero. Who can resist that? Not me!

How wonderful that Leibowitz delved into this music as passionately as he did. Other conductors might consider these pieces simply warhorses. He attacks them!

How wonderful too that Leibowitz has Larry championing him.

All deserving musicians should be so lucky.

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