Home | Views And Reviews

March 02, 2013

Saint-Saëns - Piano Concerto No. 2

"Pretty music is indeed as effective at turning heads as pretty faces. Yet, although we may not know the “why” or “how”, most of us can sense whether a work’s beauty is skin-deep, through that ineffable “presence” distinguishing truly great from merely good music. Knowledge doesn’t amplify your love of music, but it can increase your admiration of the mind that created it. So, in what follows I can safely leave all the loving to you!'' writes exuberant music critic Paul Serotsky, introducing us to Camille Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No.2.

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February 23, 2013

Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus

Ralph Vaughan Williams scored his Variants of Dives and Lazarus for seven-part strings – partly, I’d hazard, attempting to preserve the purity of the modal scales – and harp(s), weaving the tunes into a characteristically exquisite contrapuntal tapestry, whose quintessential Englishness made it an apt – and poignant – contribution to the 1939 New York World Fair, writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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February 16, 2013

Bartók - Seven Romanian Folk Dances

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Bartók's Seven Romanian Folk Dances which were inspired by centuries-old peasant music.

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February 09, 2013

Auckland Youth Orchestra Send Audience Home Buzzing

"In his characteristically unfussy manner, Antun Poljanich drew from the ever-eager AYO a memorable Marriage of Figaro overture, busy and bristling with ear-catching accents...'' wrote critic Paul Serotsky, enthusing after a concert by the Auckland Youth Orchestra.

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February 02, 2013

ALTO Hit The High Notes

Critic Paul Serotsky had a "thoroughly enjoyable'' evening at the second public concert given by the music group ALTO.

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ALTO Hit The High Notes

Critic Paul Serotsky had a "thoroughly enjoyable'' evening at the second public concert given by the music group ALTO.

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January 26, 2013

Perspicacious Performances by Rummel and DePledge

"This perspicacious performance was as stunning as the music, by turns impassioned, gloom-laden, vicious and gleefully sarcastic,'' wrote Paul Serotsky, reviewing a concert organised by Whangarei Music Society.

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December 22, 2012

"En Saga''

"In a famous conversation with Mahler in 1907, Sibelius expressed his belief that 'the symphony must contain a profound logic creating a connection between all the motifs','' writes Paul Serotsky.

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December 15, 2012

Schoeberg And Mahler

"Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht is astonishingly beautiful yet curiously amorphous music,'' wrote Paul Serotsky, reviewing a concert by the Orchestra of Opera North.

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December 08, 2012

A Velvet Sheen

...I hardly need say that a conductor can produce revelatory interpretations until he’s blue in the face, but he’ll be wasting his time if his orchestra doesn’t play ball. Thus, it goes without saying that every man-jack of the Opera North band must have been on tip-top form....

Paul Serotsky found himself feeling grumpy because he could find nothing to grumble about in the orchestral performances at this concert.

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December 01, 2012

Schoenberg And Mahler

...I must admit that my viscera twisted in ecstasy at the good vibrations emanating from the six basses! You don’t often get a Verklärte Nacht as hypnotically lucid as this..

Paul Serotksy relished a concert by the Orchestra of Opera North..

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November 24, 2012

A Strawberry Soufflé Laced With Lemon Juice

"I get the impression that there are two ways of approaching Prokofiev – either as a thoroughly “modern” composer, or as a neo-Romantic. Well, to my mind, if he’d been food, he’d have been something on the lines of a strawberry soufflé laced with lemon juice, concentrated and unsweetened,'' wrote Paul Serotsky in a concert review.

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November 17, 2012

Beethhoven's Ninth

... From syrupy sweetness through harmonic “lemon drops” to seismic discord, from ecclesiastical purity through throbbing romance to jazzy skittering, dare I say that “no stop remained un-pulled”?...

Paul Serotsky reviewed a memorable concert at Huddersfieldf Town Hall.

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November 10, 2012

“A Triumph For Todd”

"One of the marvels of this concert was its lack of compromise: the works were clearly chosen not just to please the crowds – there wasn’t a dance, English, Cornish or Scottish, in sight – but to present a representative picture of Arnold in all his disturbing depth,'' wrote Paul Serotsky of a major musical event celebrating the music of Sir Malcolm Arnold at the Royal Festival Hall.

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November 03, 2012

Harry Partch

"The magnitude of Partch’s real achievement, though, is matched only by the magnitude of the general music-loving public’s ignorance of it,'' wrote Paul Serotsky in this review of a recording of some of the controversial American composer's works.

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October 27, 2012

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) – Symphony No. 1

“'It’s an astonishingly accomplished First Symphony, especially for one so young.' Something like that was said, not of Mahler but of Shostakovich. Not that it matters, because it’s equally true of them both. It’s also false! Don’t get me wrong – the works themselves are astonishing, but the accomplishment isn’t. When someone immensely gifted and capable assiduously learns his craft and works his socks off, the conclusion is usually foregone, writes Paul Serotsky.

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October 20, 2012

Stravinsky And Prokofiev

"Talk about chalk and cheese!'' exclaims Paul Serotsky, reviewing performances of works by two Russian composers, Stravinsky and Prokofiev.

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October 13, 2012

Carlos Chavez

"With the exception of the popular Sinfonia India, these symphonies, contrapuntally complex as well as colourful, reveal Chavez to be both a serious symphonist and arguably Mexico’s answer to J. S. Bach,'' writes Paul Serotsky.

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October 06, 2012

"My Mother, Mt Sister And I"

...The music – which is tonal, tuneful, tough and tender – and the words – which pack a lot, in terms of poetry, import and punch – together forge an image of powerful and impressive immediacy...

With some reservations, Paul Serotsky enjoyed a richly rewarding piece of musical drama based on the the struggle to win women the vote. The music was composed by David Bedford and the lyrics by Allison Powell.

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September 29, 2012

Platterback

...The result is a work that is pretty flexible, compact enough to be performed on a concert platform as a purely musical and poetic observation of its characters, or as a theatre piece – which is really what it is!...

Oaul Serotsky reviews a hard-to-define work by Mike Westbrook.

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September 22, 2012

Aram Khachaturian

Paul Serotsky finds in superbly recorded and remastered works by Aram Kahchaturian a revalation of the composer's humanity which hid behind a brash facade.

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September 15, 2012

Béla Bartók

"These are valuable and individual additions to the Bartók discography, offering fresh insights into two of the Hungarian master’s finest works,'' wrote Paul Serotsky, reviewing a recording of works by Béla Bartók, including the Msuic for Strings, Percussion and Celesta.

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September 08, 2012

Sibelius's Symphonies

"Sympathetic recordings and vital performances of revelatory interpretations, over 500 minutes of pure bliss for any lover or learner of Sibelius,'' wrote Paul Serotsky of seven CDs of the London Symphony Orchestra playing all of Sibelous's sympnonies.

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September 01, 2012

The Harry Partch Collection – Volume 2

"One of the virtues of this CD is its balance, roughly a 50-50 split between the rough and the smooth. In the rough – the stuff of the streets and railroads – Partch presents an entirely new view of the vernacular, one that elicits art from the abject. In the smooth – the aesthetic and experimental – Partch provides an insight into the intricacies of his invention,'' wrote Paul Serotsky in his review of a compilation CD of music by Harry Partch.

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August 25, 2012

Leonard Bernstein - On The Waterfront

"Love him or loathe him, 'Lenny' was a real one-off. In fact, part of his uniqueness was that you could both love him and loathe him,'' writes Paul Serotsky, reviewing a recording of music by Leonard Bernstein.

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August 18, 2012

Shostakovich's Hamlet

Reviewing a recording of Shostakovich's music for a Russian film version of Hamlet Paul Serotsky wrote "that very rare bird indeed – an original film score that can not only stand on its own, but grip its audience from start to finish''.

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August 11, 2012

The Gothic Symphony

"...his symphony was to be a sort of manifesto. It was to present the Gothic, when the Dark Ages were banished by a wholesale re-awakening of the creative urge, as a model for the Twentieth Century’s ‘brave new world’. Built like a great bridge, forged from the steel of the intervening musical developments, it would be a cathedral of sound, a paean to Man’s indomitable creativity. Brian wished to express his hope for the future through nothing less than a monument,'' writes critic Paul Serotsky of Havergal Brian's Symphony No.1, The Gothic.

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August 04, 2012

Joaquin Rodrigo

Reviewer Paul Serotsky was impressed by a Naxos CD of music by Joaquin Rodrigo - "an admirable and surprising issue that could well get you cheering 'Viva Rodrigo'!''

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July 28, 2012

Henry Vieuxtemps

"What image does the name “Vieuxtemps” conjure in your mind? With a bit of a question mark hovering over the “x”, my mental mischief-maker comes up with “vieux-temps dansant” – “old-time dancing”! No doubt someone will correct my pidgin French, but for the simple purposes of the “Loony Toons” imagery that’s near enough for me. Actually, as a mental association it does have its serious side for, in one particular sense, it happens to be quite apposite,'' wrote Paul Serotsky, reviewing a Naxos recording os some of the Belgian composer's works.

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July 21, 2012

Capriccio Italien

"Not recommendable for its recording quality, especially for headphone listeners, but worth hearing for some good playing, and sometimes very insightful conducting,'' writes Paul Serotsky, reviewing a recording of Tchaikovsky's music played by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine.

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July 14, 2012

“New Zealand String Quartet Stands And Delivers”

"At rock bottom, music and movement are intimately related, both facets of the same innate urge – hence, particularly for performers, corporeal expressiveness is severely constrained by being seated, and entirely emancipated by standing up. Even – or especially – technically accomplished musicians find that they play significantly better and communicate far more effectively, with both one another and their audience,'' writes Paul Serotsky, enraptured by the playing of the New Zealand String Quartet if two works by Beethoven.

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July 07, 2012

“AYSO’s Scheherazade Seduces Whangarei at Second Attempt”

Paul Serotsky was impressed by the golorious musicianship pf the Auckland Youth Symphony Orchestra - but not with the hall in which they played.

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June 30, 2012

Witold Lutoslawski

"This selection of mature orchestral and ensemble music by Lutoslawski, inventor of extraordinary sonorities, is played with bags of character and enthusiasm,'' writes Paul Serotsky.

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June 23, 2012

New Zealand String Quartet Stands And Delivers

"This year (2012, that is), one of our most venerable chamber ensembles, the world-class New Zealand String Quartet, is celebrating its silver jubilee. However, the NZSQ’s members have little or no time for basking in bucketsful of bouquets and banquets, as they are undertaking an intensive programme of recital tours, both at home and abroad. Neither are they resting on their musical laurels, as they are marking this anniversary by pulling focus on arguably one of the most challenging and influential series of musical works ever written,## writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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June 16, 2012

Anatol Liadov

...Liadov’s wonderful sounds could have been projected with greater richness and bloom, and they could be given a riper recording – but that would have spoilt them! This is that rare bird – a recording whose faults actually work in its favour. The more I listened, the more I liked what I heard...

\psul Serotsky enjoyed a recording of works by the Russian composer Anatol Liadov.

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June 09, 2012

Ferrier Sings Mahler

"It’s not simply the tone of her voice, spine-tingling as that is. It’s also a matter of the control. Ferrier’s voice had a vibrato but, unlike many a yowling cat that I could mention (but won’t, for fear of libel action!), kept the lid on it even when she ascended to the upper reaches of her range,'' writes Paul Serotsky,'' impressed by Kathleen Ferrier's interpretation of works by Mahler and the conducting of Bruno Walter.

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June 02, 2012

Restored Beethoven And Schubert

...At over a half-century’s remove, the partnership of Mengelberg and Obert-Thorn comes up trumps: articulate and exciting performances by a past master of one art prepared for a present-day audience by a master of another...

Critic Paul Serotsky enjoys works by Beethoven conducted by Willem Mengelberg and worked on by sound engineer Mark Obert-Thorne.

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May 26, 2012

Willem Mengelberg

"A fascinating disc, both for students of performance practice, explorers of our links to the past, and those who simply want to listen in awe to Mengelberg the Magnificent,'' writes Paul Serotsky.

Willem Mengelberg was conductor of the Concertgebouw Orchestra from 1895, working with and earning the friendship and respect of both Strauss and Mahler.

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May 19, 2012

Heifetz Centenary Memorial Edition

"Sounding, as you have every right to expect, exactly like much-loved, very well cared for, and rarely played 78s, this set is a treasure-house for both serious students of the art of violin-playing and those simply seeking something to rekindle their sense of wonder,'' wrote Paul Serotsky of a 7 CD set commemorating the centenary of the celebrated violinist Heifetz.

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May 12, 2012

Gurdjieff And De Hartmann

Introducing recordings of works by two little-known composers critic Paul Serotsky write "Forget the philosophising booklet notes (virtually identical in each volume): if you have a taste for disarmingly simple oriental exoticism, these are enchanting pieces, enchantingly played, and depending on your needs will serve you splendidly as either wallpaper or magic carpet.''

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May 04, 2012

Franz von Suppé and Daniel-François Auber

"In these eminently enjoyable overtures, Paray and the Detroit orchestra’s joyous performances are utterly without peer,'' writes Paul Serotsky.

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April 28, 2012

Rimsky-Korsakov And Borodin

"A 'Great Recording of the Century that is a good enough, but not a great recording – but tweak your treble control, and you will enjoy some great performances,'' wrote Paul Serotsky, reviewing this recording of works by Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin.

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April 21, 2012

The Return Of Odysseus

"It is wonderful that Odysseus has returned – to his proper place before the music-loving public!'' wrote Paul Serotsky, introducing this recording which contains a performance of The Return of Odysseus, a great work by one of his favourite composers, Malcolm Arnold.

Malcolm Arnold is no longer with us. Paul wrote this article some years ago, but his views are stil as fresh and vigorous as the music he describes.

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April 14, 2012

Sibelius’s Second Symphony

“This symphony’s sumptuous sounds, lush lyricism and powerful passions¬ are entirely sufficient to satisfy even the most sensual soul,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, introducing us to Sibelius’s Symphony No.2.

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April 07, 2012

As SLow aS Possible

...The only opinions I can voice with any certainty are that Cage was not really a crackpot – even if he did give that impression to his detractors – and in all probability he caused the expenditure of as much hot air as all the other Twentieth Century composers put together...

Paul Serotsky writes about a controversial work by the American composer John Cage.

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March 31, 2012

Shostakovich’s Symphony No.10

Paul Serotsky suggests that Shostakovich’s Symphony No.10 expresses what life was like in the Soviet Union during the fear-laden regime of Joseph Stalin.

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March 24, 2012

Die Fledermouse Overture

“The overture is firmly in the tradition established by Rossini and continued in our century by the likes of George Gershwin, which is a "trailer" for the goodies in store.,’’writes Paul Serotsky, introducing Johann Strauss Sohn’s overture to Die Fledermaus

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March 17, 2012

Rodeo

“Copland's famed evocations of the wide-open expanses of the Great American Outdoors surface in the wide-open chords of the delectable Corral Nocturne which sighs nostalgically, one foot resting on the bottom bar of the corral fence, and a girl on its arm,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, introducing one of the composer’s most evocative works.

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March 10, 2012

Oberon

“The memorable tunes, warm colours, and vibrant rhythms might (just about) bring Rossini to mind, but there any resemblance ends. Weber, far from content with dashing off a “pot-pourri a la rondo”, weaves seven or eight themes into a thoroughly satisfying sonata-like structure,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, introducing the overture to the composer’s opera, Obron.

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March 03, 2012

Prelude and Liebestod, from "Tristan und Isolde"

“Wagner, let's face it, had only three preoccupations in life: opera, sex – and money,'' writes Paul Serotsky, introducing one of the composer’s best-known works.

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February 25, 2012

Capriccio Espagnol

“Rimsky-Korsakov's skill for shaking up orchestral instruments is arguably still unique,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, introducing the Russian composer’s exotic work Capriccio Espagnol.

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February 18, 2012

Polovtsian Dances

“Like Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin started in a non-musical profession. Unlike Rimsky, he remained a "holiday composer". An eminent chemist, musically he merely dabbled until, in 1862, Balakirev persuaded him to take his hobby seriously,’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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February 11, 2012

Tchaikovsky – Nutcracker Suite No. 1

“The Nutcracker is universally popular, and (probably) the best-known of all music. As such, it probably ‘needs no introduction’ – but it's going to get one anyway!’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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February 04, 2012

The Rite Of Spring

Paul Serotsky brings an introduction to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a work premiered in 1913 which still has the power to shock.

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January 28, 2012

Mozart’s Haffner Symphony

“Writers often mention the unseemly haste with which this symphony was born, inviting the conclusion that it is consequently "sub-standard" Mozart. Nothing, surely, could be farther from the truth,’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky, introducing us to Mozart’s Symphony No.35.

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January 21, 2012

Poulenc (1899-1963) – Piano Concerto

“Poulenc was two-faced. I should add "in the same manner as Schumann was", for he even described himself as "Janus-Poulenc", aware of his dual musical personality – on the one hand a devout and reverential catholic, and on the other a clowning, fun-loving tunespinner. The fabulous Gloria (1959) encompassed both faces with consummate artistry. The cordial confection of the Piano Concerto (1949), by contrast, has both feet firmly on the face of the fun-loving clown,’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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January 14, 2012

Shostakovich's Symphony No.12

“When the Twelfth Symphony was first heard at the 1962 Edinburgh Festival, the critics were appalled at this crude piece of blatant, poster-painted Soviet propaganda,’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky, going on to explain what was happening in Shostakovich’s life at the time of the composition of this work.

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January 07, 2012

Shostakovich’s Festival Overture

Music critic Paul Serotsky imagines the creative processes going on in Shostakovich’s head while the great Russian composer was writing his Festival Overture.

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December 24, 2011

Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1

“Bruch wrote three violin concerti. Why, I wonder, are the other two never performed, when everything of his that I do hear is wonderful,’’ muses Paul Serotsky.

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December 17, 2011

Michael Endres Concert

“The German pianist Michael Endres, who’s recently become a NZ resident, wouldn’t look out of place working in, say, a library. This somewhat stereotypical visual impression is borne out by his reputation as a recording artist: a player who is elegant, refined – and conservative of expression.

“I was surprised to learn that as a “live” performer he has, not just a different, but a DRASTICALLY different reputation. Apparently, off come the kid gloves and on go the gauntlets of a risk-taking high adventurer. You could say, therefore, that he’s a performing equivalent of Schumann’s “Florestan and Eusebius”. Well, so we are told,’’ writes renowned music critic Paul Serotsky.

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December 10, 2011

Auckland Youth Symphony Orchestra Defies Sod’s Law

“The temperature was cranked up by the original programme’s sole survivor. Weber’s Second Clarinet Concerto is an operatically ebullient entertainment for listeners, and an equally stern test of a soloist’s mettle. From the very first bar, the air was thick with flying flair.

The AYSO, oozing oodles of “oomph”, launched soloist Natalie Harris – leaping a vertiginous three octaves with ridiculous ease – on her merry, mettlesome way, brimming with confidence in both bravura and cantabile. They disdained the moderation implied by the finale’s “alla polacca” marking, but there was no denying the resultant dash and audacity. This fleet-footed yet jolly romp was capped by Natalie’s brilliant rippling runs, burbling like a babbling brook in full flood.’’

Ebulliant music critic Paul Serotsky hugely enjoyed a concert given by the Auckland Youth Symphony Orchestra.

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December 03, 2011

All Very Naughty, But Oh So Nice!

"If only two-thirds of the orchestra turned up for a concert, it’d probably be due to something like industrial action, transport problems or inclement weather. Well, only two-thirds of the orchestra turned up for this concert, but the reason wasn’t any of those, or even “something like”. Yet, none of the audience broke down and wept into their programme booklets, because this apparent shortfall was in fact expected, being a consequence of a couple of “backroom” problems whilst preparing to tour abroad.,'' writes music critic Paul Serotsky in this glowing review of a concert by Auckland Youth Symphony Orchestra.

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November 26, 2011

MELER Ensemble

“What’s the difference between a “critic” and a “reviewer”? Strictly speaking, there is none, although these days common usage tends increasingly to distinguish critics as those primarily – or even exclusively – concerned with finding fault, whilst reviewers are much nicer people, as fair and honest as the day is long.

By those definitions this recital, given under the auspices of Whangarei Music Society, would have had critics tearing out their hair in frustration. Regarding myself, with my customary modesty, as a REVIEWER, I can safely hang on to what little hair I have left – and cheerfully praise the recital’s all-but-flawless performances to the skies,’’ writes Paul Serotsky of a concert by the MELER Ensemble.

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November 19, 2011

Carl Michael Ziehrer

“Ziehrer’s is a voice drowned by the pre-eminence of Johann Strauss. For pity’s sake, why?’’ asked music critic Paul Serotsky, introducing a CD of dances and marches composed by Carl Michael Ziehrer.

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November 12, 2011

Rimsky-Korsakov And Borodin

“A ‘Great Recording of the Century’ that is a good enough, but not a great recording – but tweak your treble control, and you will enjoy some great performances,’’ said Paul Serotsky of this CD of interpretations of works by Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin.


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November 05, 2011

Liszt Piano Concertos

“Although a bit let down by the recording, Marshev’s alternative, musically more thoughtful view of these virtuosic war-horses is truly fascinating. Definitely worth a listen!’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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October 29, 2011

Shostakovich’s Piano Music

“A perceptive coupling of thoughtful and scintillating performances recorded with warmth and clarity, which all adds up to seventy-seven minutes of pure pleasure,’’ said Paul Serotsky of these interpretations of piano works by Shostakovich.

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October 22, 2011

Prokofiev’s Five Piano Concertos

“A thoroughly refreshing new “take” that is a strong contender for top billing. Marshev and Willén prove to be a formidable interpretative pairing, superbly supported by the supple and slender South Jutland orchestra,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, reviewing a 2CD set of Prokofiev’s piano concertos.

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October 15, 2011

Songs Of Solomons

“This curate’s egg is definitely one to “try before you buy”. Mixing my metaphors a bit, it’s a bran-tub of songs: amongst the so-so-rans and the nice-to-haves you’ll find a couple of truly treasurable plums. The affectionate performances are unfortunately marred by the use of a pub piano in a recording which redefines the standards for bathroom acoustics,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, commenting on a disc of songs by David W. Solomons.

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October 08, 2011

Paul Ruders – Piano Works

“I must confess, half a minute into this record, I honestly thought that the needle had stuck. I even got up to give the pickup a nudge before I remembered that this was a CD. Anyway, while I was up, I checked that the laser transport wasn’t stuck. It wasn’t. Damn, I thought, this bloke’s one of them there minimalists – you know, they get a neat idea, then take 25 pages of score before they finally figure out something that they might do with it,’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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October 01, 2011

Mozart Concertos

...My main yardstick for measuring performances of “classical” repertoire could be summed up in the word “cleanliness” – cleanliness of line, cleanliness of attack, purity of tone, moderation in all things. I frown as much on a performance of a classical work that is invested with robust baroque rigidities as I do one that wallows in romantic blubbing and bombast. In between is a golden mean, a balanced line that’s hard to define but, breaking the burgeoning poetic sequence, when I hear it I feel my ears sit up and beg!

Happily, the moment this CD went on, all the gripes about the presentation went right out of the window: the playing in all departments and from start to finish is nothing short of delightful...

Paul Serotsky enjoys the “cleanliness” of the performances of two Mozart concertos – though he is revolted by the disc’s packaging.

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September 24, 2011

Mahler – Symphony No.1 (piano trtanscription)

“It’s not very often – I’d even go so far as to say it’s very rare – that a CD comes along which steps outside these normal parameters and challenges our conceptions of the very fabric of this thing we call “music”. This issue looks like one of that rare breed,’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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September 17, 2011

The Romantic Violin

...It would have made my job easier if they had filled the CDs with lots of “romantic” lollipops and “best of” samples, then I could have dismissed the entire shooting-match as “Classical Music for people who don’t really like Classical Music”, or the sort of thing most readily purchased from a store that specialises in wallcoverings. But no! They have to go and stick in something not all that readily available elsewhere, namely the Dvorak Mazurek, though to what extent this will attract serious collectors I leave to your fertile imaginations...

Paul Serotsky reviews two CDs which offer “a musical bran-tub that shoots at many targets, and manages to miss them all.’’

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September 10, 2011

Bach And Paganini

...He encouraged the still voice of real human feelings to shine its softer light through all the glitz – and that softer light illuminated a whole series of styles and techniques that, like sticks of seaside rock, had the word “Bach” running right through them...

Paul Serotsky reviews a concert that was shaped by a fall.

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September 03, 2011

I Could Almost Smell The Sea Salt

....Mendelssohn’s Overture The Hebrides is indisputably a masterpiece, ingeniously encapsulating graphic impressions of his trip to Fingal’s Cave within a sonata form. It’s also a victim of its own popularity – I’d imagine that innumerable performances over many years would have wrung it dry of every last drop of detail. I’d be wrong!

Believe it or not, but, “simply” by cleaning off the Romantic “oils” that have accreted on Mendelssohn’s pearly “water-colour” textures, Antun clarified numerous neat nuances that had heretofore evaded my RADAR. Watered by the AYSO’s finely pointed phrasing, unhurried yet tingling with cumulative expectancy this venerable warhorse came up as fresh as a daisy. I could almost smell the sea-salt....

Paul Serotsky reviews a concert by the Auckland Youth Symphony Orchestra.

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August 27, 2011

“Carols Around The World’’ Presented By Whangarei Choral Society

...One fascinating facet of this feast of carols – provided, that is, you weren’t busy just lapping up the festive fare – was the varied strength of the local flavours, ranging from richly endowed to a sort of globalised “vanilla”. You could tell immediately that “Glad Tidings Bringing” was Polish. The choir’s translucent, idiomatically-accented part-singing bristled with brio, complemented by the piano accompaniment of the ever-dependable Margie Paul, who “leant” succulently on the bass drones...

Music critic Paul Serotsky reviews a concert by a New Zealand choir.

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August 20, 2011

Weyse Piano Sonatas

“Over two hundred years old and never before recorded – these piano sonatas can’t be up to much, can they? Don’t you believe it! They may not be “Great Music”, but they are beautifully crafted works, and some of the most sheerly pleasurable listening around – go on, spoil yourself,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, revieweing a pioneering record if four piano sonatas by Christoph Ernst Weyse.

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August 13, 2011

Malcolm Arnold’s Overtures

“Regardless of how I feel about the details of his interpretations, I have nothing but admiration for Gamba’s mettle. He believes wholeheartedly in the music, has his own bright ideas about how it should go, and puts those ideas into practice with infectious energy. Sometimes, as we shall see below, this evident enthusiasm leads him to drive the music a bit too hard,’’ hailing a recorded collection of Malcolom Arnold’s overtures by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Rumon Gamba.

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August 06, 2011

Malcolm Arnold - Symphonies 7, 8 and 9

Paul Serotsky is captivated by powerful and penetrating performances of works by Malcolm Arnold.

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July 30, 2011

Orchestral Works By Matthew Curtis

“Matthew Curtis’ orchestral music is at once died-in the-wool traditional “light music” and as fresh as a daisy in spring, performed with lithe athleticism and disarming charm and recorded with corresponding clarity. An absolutely delicious disc,’’ declares Paul Serotsky.

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July 23, 2011

Mavis In Las Vegas

...The BBC Philharmonic, presumably when they'd finished falling about laughing, commissioned a commemorative piece, described by the composer as a “theme and variations”, and rather more meaningfully by John Mauceri as “a totally mad transvestite dream-ballet” (he took the words right out of my mouth)...

Paul Serotsky introduces Peter Mawell-Davies’s extraordinary work Mavis In Las Vegas.

To read more of Paul articles on some of the greatest music ever written please click on
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July 16, 2011

Poulenc's Flute Concerto

...His innate lyrical facility led him up a similar path to the Strauss Family, creating larger structures by dovetailing smaller ones. The first movement of the Piano Concerto, for example, is string of independent episodes, while the Gloria uses alternation and repetition of its “tiles” to make a mesmerising “mosaic”...

Paul Serotsky tells how three flute sonatas by Poulenc were “welded’’ into a concerto by Sir Lennox Berkeley.

For more of Paul’s introductions to outstanding musical works please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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July 09, 2011

“Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage”

“The Mendelssohn who wrote Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage (1828) was a landlubber, as yet lacking the first-hand nautical experience that informed the Hebrides Overture (1830). Instead, he responded to Goethe’s pair of pithy, potent poems, previously used by Beethoven in his op. 112 cantata,’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky.

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July 01, 2011

Overture "Leonore'' No.3

“It’s comforting to know that even great geniuses sometimes struggle to succeed. Regarding the overtures to Beethoven’s only opera, historians also struggle – to get the facts of the great genius’s struggle straight,’’ writes music critic Paul Serotsky, introducing Beethoven’s Overture “Leonore” No. 3

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June 25, 2011

Overture “The Hebrides”

The composer Felix Mendelssohn was mightily seasick when he took the steamboat trip to the Hebridean island of Staffa.

“Should we fancy that Mendelssohn reflected this unhappy distraction in the quivering oscillations and looming surges of his overture’s opening pages?’’ asks music critic Paul Serotsky.

For more of Paul’s wonderfully entertaining words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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June 18, 2011

Walton’s Symphony No.1

“William Walton seemed destined for a conventional career. However, fortune decreed that on leaving school he would encounter the welcoming arms of the Sitwells, who were instrumental in making him a thoroughly modern composer,’’ says Paul Serotsky in this introduction to the composer’s Symphony No.1.

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June 11, 2011

Tchaikovsky’s Variations On A Rococo Theme

Paul Serotsky presents two programme notes, written three years apart, on the same work by Tchaikovsky.

“An exercise in “slanting”, or maybe “spin”!’’ Paul suggests.

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June 04, 2011

Roman Carnival Overture

“Berlioz' astonishing, utterly unprecedented aural imagination can still mesmerise audiences even today,’’ declares Paul Serotsky, introducing the composer’s Overture "Le Carneval Romain".

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May 28, 2011

Weill's Symphony No.2

Paul Serotsky informs us that Kurt Weill, driven from Germany in 1933, went to Paris where he wrote his Second Symphony (1933/4). “The first performances under Bruno Walter enthused the public, but the Press (thinking he should stick to theatre) echoed the Nazis with a condemnation so wholesale that he never again dared venture beyond the theatre.’’

For more of Paul’s words on great music please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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May 21, 2011

Arnold’s Fifth Symphony

“Arnold has emerged as nothing less than a Mahler in our time and a Shostakovich in our country,’’ declares leading critic Paul Serotsky in this introduction to the composer’s Fifth Symphony.

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May 14, 2011

An American In Paris

“It is often said that Gershwin fused jazz and "serious" music, but what he really did was bring the style, vitality, and entertainment value of the Broadway musical, which itself borrowed from jazz, onto the concert platform,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, introducing the American composer’s popular work, An American In Paris.

For more of Paul’s words on great music please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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May 07, 2011

Pictures At An Exhibition

“Modest Mussorgsky was the wild man of the Mighty Handful, a man whose coarseness is something he perhaps picked up in the army. The correspondingly rough-hewn, uncivilised quality of his music was, in his day, considered a Bad Thing,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, introducing a performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhbition, orchestrated by Maurice Ravel.

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April 30, 2011

Tchaikovsky’s Hamlet Overture

...The premiere of Hamlet was not a resounding success. Balakirev was unimpressed, and one critic even bemoaned the lack of narrative...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the overture to one of Tchaikovsky’s Shakespeare-inspired choral works.

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April 23, 2011

Shostakovich – Piano Concerto No.2

...Shostakovich wrote intensely serious music, and music of satirical, sarcastic humour (often combining the two). He also enjoyed producing affable, inoffensive "light music". But here is yet another aspect, the "Haydnesque", music that is both wittily amusing and formally stimulating...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto.

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April 16, 2011

Scheherazade

...Rimsky remains the Master Magician of orchestration, surpassing even Wagner and Berlioz (whose Treatise on Orchestration taught him the art). His best work is utterly unrivalled in the quality of its scoring – entrancing sounds conjured by the very simplest of means. The music of Scheherazade is like a magic carpet: it can transport you to another world...

Paul Serotsky brings an enticing introduction to a magical piece of music,

For more of Paul’s irresistible words on great pieces of music please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/


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April 09, 2011

Honegger's Pacific 231

....Although the basic tempo is virtually constant, the impression of cumulative momentum – of vast mass gathering speed – is terrific. It's reminiscent of Sibelius's technique for "seamless" tempo changes, applied to a very different purpose. At around 7 minutes' running time, Honegger doesn't over-egg the pudding...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Arthur Honegger’s work, Pacific 231.

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April 02, 2011

Brahms’s Violin Concerto

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Brahms’s Violin Concerto which was not an instant success when the composer conducted the première on New Year’s Day 1879.

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March 26, 2011

The Planets Suite

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Holst's suite The Planets which was inspired by astrological rather than astronomical study.

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March 19, 2011

Overture: Prince Igor

...His biggest and most significant work, the opera Prince Igor, based on "The Story of the Expedition of Igor" suggested to him in 1969 by Vladimir Stassov, lay incomplete at his death all of nine years later...

Paul Serotsky introduces a popular work by the Russian composer Borodin.

For more of Paul’s words on great music please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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March 12, 2011

Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto

...But, do listen how Haydn, particularly in the Andante second movement, designs his melodies to highlight the features of the keyed instrument, concentrating on unusual chromatic intervals in the low and middle registers, right where the poor old “Heineken-free” natural trumpet couldn't reach....

Paul Serotsky introduces a work by the ever-inventive Haydn.

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March 05, 2011

Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony

...Tchaikovsky, in common with most Russians, had a problem regarding symphonic argument, namely that his musical culture was short-winded – based on the repetitive use of short cells...

Paul Serotsky tells of the composer’s major step forward in the composition of his Fifth Symphony.

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February 26, 2011

Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1

Introducing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1 the inimitable Paul Serotsky declares “Everything that I do hear of his is wonderful’’.

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February 19, 2011

Academic Festival Overture

Paul Serotsky says that the Academic Fesitval Overture is like everything Brahms wrote – “built like a tank’’.

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February 12, 2011

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1

Paul Serotsky enhances our appreciation of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 with his perceptive insight into the work and the composer.

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February 05, 2011

Dvorak’s Symphony No.9

...Dvorak found the “New World” a tremendously strange and exciting place. Not surprisingly, he got a real “buzz” in particular out of all the new sounds and styles of the popular music he found there. He was soon beavering away, adapting these new ideas for his own compositions, just as he had previously done with those Czech folk styles. Even so, everything in his garden was far from rosy. As anyone who has ever suffered from it will tell you, homesickness is a really horrible feeling, crawling up from the pit of your stomach and infesting your mind. Dvorak suffered terribly from it....

Paul Serotsky introduces Antonin Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony.

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January 29, 2011

Tragic Overture

...It is hard to imagine (yet imagine we must!) "stuffy old" Brahms chortling with glee as he penned his now-famous medley of student songs...

Music critic Paul Serotsky brackets Brhams’s Tragic Overture with the far more cheerful Academic Festival Overture.

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January 22, 2011

Till Eulenspiegel

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel, a musical version of a centuries-old rogue’s tale in rondo form set for full orchestra.

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January 15, 2011

Carmina Burana

...Both title and texts were taken from a Thirteenth Century manuscript discovered in the monastery of Benediktbeuern (southern Bavaria) by Schmeller, who published it in 1847. A mixture of ancient German and crude "dog" Latin, it in no way corresponds to what you would expect monks to be writing, except perhaps on their toilet walls...

Paul Serotsky brings a fascinating insight into Carl Orff's popular work Carmina Burana.

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January 08, 2011

Dvorak's Symphony No 7

...Unlike some, Dvorak was not diminished by his influences: rather he absorbed and was nourished by them. Having subsumed an early Wagnerian influence, the Smetana experience encouraged him to imbibe his native folk-culture. Admirably complementing his Schubertian talent for melody and pastoralism, the vital, attractive Czech folk idioms were brilliantly integrated with classical form and counterpoint. The Seventh's suddenly sharper focus on form and polyphony was surely a direct result of his recent encounter with Brahms' Third (premiered in December 1883)...

Writing with his customary zest, Paul Serotsky introduces us to Anton Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony.

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January 01, 2011

Berlioz's Overture “Le Corsaire”

in Rome in 1831, Berlioz received word that his latest paramour, Camille Marie Moke, was imminently to become Madame Pleyel. Understandably a mite miffed, Berlioz set off, hell-bent on murdering her. However, at Genoa his resolve dissipated, so instead he tried to kill himself…

Paul Serotsky outlines the dramatic circumstances in which Berlioz came to compose his overture “Le Corsaire’’.

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December 18, 2010

Mozart's C oncerto For Flute And Harp

...The flute and the harp are perennial favourites of the French (think of Ravel!), both supremely sensual in sound, both pure-toned and penetrating – the harp is as near as you'll get to a “plucked flute”. A combination made in heaven for which Mozart, being Mozart, would surely have written music equally “made in heaven”. Is it heretical to suggest that he was not entirely comfortable with this combination?...

Paul Serotsky refuses to be bowled over by Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp.

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December 11, 2010

Mahler’s Symphony No 5

Paul Serotsky considers the structure of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony – “arguably his most complex and formally integrated.’’

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December 04, 2010

Elgar's Cockaigne Overture

...By the time Cockaigne appeared (1901), Elgar's style had matured, although that similarity to Strauss was still detectable. Elgar noted, in the score of this explicit evocation of contemporary London, that "Cockaigne" is traditionally the fictitious "Land of All Delights" (a.k.a. "The Abode of Luxury and Idleness")...

The inimitable Paul Serotsky presents an introduction to one of Elgar’s popular works.

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November 27, 2010

Elgar's 'Cello Concerto

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Elgar’s ‘Cello Concerto which he started to write in London in 1918 in the aftermath of war.

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November 21, 2010

Rachmaninov’s Symphony No.2

...This symphony's sound-world is remarkable: sombre harmonies complement orchestration like deeply burnished mahogany, a sound so similar to that of Franck's Symphonie that I wonder it's not similarly slated. No matter, it's a gloriously rich sound, an ideal medium for those gorgeously contoured melodies. Imagine the embers of a huge log fire, beating back an icy black Russian winter's night. Rachmaninov's music similarly smoulders redly for ages, and occasionally, with or without warning, flares briefly and spectacularly...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony.

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November 14, 2010

Špacek And Houstoun

...To my delight, although a generation apart, Špacek and Houstoun blended like brothers, sounding as though they’d been an item for donkeys’ years. Both were of modest demeanour, and both spurned the extravagant gestures I’ve come to regard, rightly or wrongly, as the hallmark of shallow virtuosity.,,

Paul Serotsky enjoys a stream of sublime music-making.

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November 07, 2010

Cook Strait Trio

...By and large, the audiences who flock to see “Big Names” will turn up their noses at unknowns. If that’s true, then how does an unknown ever get to be a “Big Name”? Much as that might sound like a “Catch 22”, it isn’t, because there are two fairly obvious routes – either by a long, hard slog up the mountainside, or by hitching a helicopter ride through winning, or at least gaining a much-publicised place, in a competition, preferably a prestigious one...

Paul Serotsky enjoys the first recital in the very first tour of the Cook Strait Trio.

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October 31, 2010

Aroha String Quartet

...Silence descended. With utter unanimity, their bows touched the strings – and I was astonished. For one thing, rarely have I heard a string quartet produce such breathtakingly gorgeous, mellow, velvety sound...

Paul Serotsky hugely enjoyed a concert given by the Aroha String Quarter.

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October 24, 2010

“Back To The USSR''

Paul Serotsky reviews a very significant concert in his adopted city, Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand.

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October 17, 2010

Brahms’s Double Concerto

Paul Serotsky says that Brahms “ sidestepped that tiresome ‘equal billing’ nonsense – and solved the balance problems – by treating the violin and 'cello as a single ‘complex instrument’. His strategy created opportunities for each to shine individually...’’

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October 10, 2010

The Wasps

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Vaughan Williams’s incidental music written to accompany a performance of Aristohpanes’s caustic satire on the Athenian judiciary.

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October 03, 2010

Dvaorak's Scherzo Capriccioso

...As it was, Dvorak married folk to form, a union whose progeny were not only memorable but also durable, and a procession of works utilising Czech folk models streamed from his pen,..

Paul Serotsky introduces us to one of the finest of Dvorak’s “colourful pieces’’.

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September 26, 2010

Love’s Redeeming Work Is Done

Paul Serotsky introduces us to a work by Malcolm Williamson which reflects the composer’s profound yet practical religious beliefs.

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September 19, 2010

Vaughan Williams = Symphony No.2

Ralph Vaughan Williams worked on his Second Symphony for three years. The work was premiered on March27th, 1914, then the score was sent to Fritz Busch at Aachen, Germany. The score was lost at the outbreak of World War One and Williams had to reconstrudt it from the original orchestral parts.

Paul Serotsky brings us another informative and highly perceptive essay on a great musical work.

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September 12, 2010

Panufnik’s Sinfonia Sacra

Paul Serotsky informs us that Panufnik based part of his third symphony, Sinfonia Sacra, on an ancient hymn of enormous religio-patriotic significance to the Polish people, chosen because the symphony was written to celebrate the millennium of Poland's Statehood and Christianity in 1966.

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September 05, 2010

Arnold’s Clarinet Concerto No.2

...Somewhere in Ireland, 1974. The telephone rings. A voice says, “Malcolm? Benny Goodman here.” Malcolm Arnold shouts, “Sod off!” and hangs up...

Paul Serotsky tells how Malcolm Arnold’s Second Clarinet Concerto came to be written.

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August 29, 2010

The Rio Grande

...Although a student of Vaughan Williams, Lambert's main influence was not English folk music, but the then more fashionable Jazz. The Rio Grande (1927), setting a poem by Sacheverell Sitwell, joins such as Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and Ravel's Piano Concerto in G as a seminal work of “symphonic jazz”...

Paul Serotsky brings an introduction to Constant Lambert’s most popular work.

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August 22, 2010

The Pines of Rome

Paul Serotsky says Respighi was a musical tourist guide, a purveyor of musical postcards, and The Pines Of Rome was composed “expressly to titillate, to flood our heads with gorgeous colour and vivid images’’.

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August 15, 2010

Four Sea Interludes

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the four sea interludes from Benjamin Britten’s opera “Peter Grimes’’, music which has a pervasive aura of hackle-raising menace.

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August 08, 2010

Elgar’s Sea Pictures

...Even in 1899, the sea still largely represented the “Great Unknown”, navigable only in frail ships. Elgar's chosen texts often relate to the dichotomy of fear and fascination....

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the five songs which make up Elgar’s Sea Pictures.

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August 01, 2010

Tintagel

...Bax recorded his inspiration: “The castle- crowned cliff of Tintagel, and more particularly the wide distances of the Atlantic as seen from the cliffs of Cornwall on a sunny but [N.B!] not windless summer day”. On that very cliff, on a sunny, but (alas) relatively windless summer day, I once gazed seawards. The music reverberated in my mind, and it fitted a treat...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Arnold Bax’s rhapsodic treat, Tintagel.

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July 25, 2010

Elgar/Payne - Symphony No.3

...Of this Symphony, we really cannot enquire, “Is it Elgar?” The answer is obvious: “No”. But neither is it Payne, and before your, “Well, whose is it, then?” let me ask, “Does it actually matter?” Fundamentally, it never “matters” who writes music, only that it is eloquent. What rule makes “the composer” one person? Sometimes, composition is a team effort...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Anthony Payne’s reconstruction of Elgar’s unfinished Symphony No.3.

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July 11, 2010

“Land and Sea” - Northland Sinfonia Orchestra Concert

...Generally, I’m no great fan of these “themed” concerts, which for me is a pity, since it seems that nowadays virtually every concert comes with some fanciful – and frequently pointless – title. Sometimes I miss half the concert, because I’m trying to figure out what the music has to do with the theme, and other times (basically, ALL the other times) the whole idea just seems so trite that it makes my lip quiver involuntarily, which does little to enhance my enjoyment of the music. How did I take to the NSO’s “Land and Sea” theme?...

Do read on to discover whether or not the irrepressibly enthusiastic Paul Serotsky enjoyed this concert by New Zealand's Northland Sinfonia.

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July 04, 2010

Ravel’s Bolero

“What a strange character was Ravel!’’ writes Paul Serotsky. "Although inhibited (some say “repressed”), his music includes some of the ostensibly most sexy ever written, the Rapsodie Espagnole for one.’’

Paul introduces us to Ravel’s famous work Bolero.

To read more of Paul’s words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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June 27, 2010

Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue

George Gershwin, aware that musicals were “disposable” entertainment, hankered after making a name for himself as a “serious” composer, seeing this as his path to immortality.

Paul Serotsky presents an introduction to Gershwin’s celebrated Rhapsody in Blue.

To read more of Paul’s entertaining and informative words on the greatest music ever written please click on
http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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June 20, 2010

Arnold'sSymphony No.4

Paul Serotsky brings new insights into Matthew Arnold’s Symphony No.4 which some critics panned as tasteless, trivial and vulgar. One called it the most banal symphony ever.

To read more of Paul’s illuminating words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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June 13, 2010

Music In Whangarei

Paul Serotsky, in his customary vigorous and thoroughly entertaining way, reviews a recent concert organised by the Whangarei Music Society, New Zealand.

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June 06, 2010

Elgar’s Froissart Overture

Paul Serotsky introduces us to an early work by Elgar which displays fabulous orchestration, serving as an indicator of great things to come.

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May 30, 2010

Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No.1

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No.1, a work commissioned by King Maximilian I of Bavaria.

For more of Paul’s sparkling introductions to the greatest music ever written please click on
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May 23, 2010

Adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the adagio – a magnificently full-blooded tune - of Khachaturian’s four-act ballet “Spartacus’’.

To read more of Paul’s thoughtful words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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May 16, 2010

Ballet Music From “Le Cid”

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the extremely beautifully crafted ballet music from Massenet’s opera “Le Cid’’.

To read more of Paul’s alluring words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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May 09, 2010

Walton’s Popular Song And Tango From “Façade’’

...In the “Tango-Pasodoble”, Walton wittily transforms a certain well-known tune, though tune and style are so incongruous I can't be sure which of the two is being parodied...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to a most unusual work by William Walton (1902-83).

For more of Paul’s informative words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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May 02, 2010

Malcolm Williamson – Lento for Strings

...With influences as diverse as Britten, jazz and popular music, and (rather less obviously) Messiaen, he has developed an idiosyncratic but eminently approachable style, and composed in a wide variety of forms....

However Malcolm Williamson remains one of those composers punished by neglect says Paul Serotsky as he introduces us to as he introduces us to the former Master of the Queen’s Music’s Lento for Strings.

To read more of Paul’s brilliant words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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April 25, 2010

Tchaikovsky – Fantasy Overture “Romeo and Juliet”

Paul Serotsky brings thoughtful comments on Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy Overture “Romeo and Juliet”, one of the most impressive musical interpretations of a literary work which emphasises and underlines the basic dichotomy of Shakespeare's play.

For more of Paul’s informative and highly entertaining words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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April 18, 2010

Schubert's "Unfinished'' Symphony

Why was Schubert’s eighth symphony never completed? Paul Serotosky proposes the most probable answer.

To read more of Paul’s superb introductions to the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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April 11, 2010

Henry V Suite

...Olivier's film of Henry V is remarkable: not just because it was made in Britain in 1944, but more because it broke new ground in several artistic aspects. Not least of these was Walton's score, which brilliantly achieved a convincing “period” feel using utterly anachronistic forces, which were essential for the more spectacular scenes...

Paul Serotsky comments on William Walton’s iconic music for the film version of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

To read more of Paul’s introductions to the most important music ever written please click on
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April 04, 2010

Sibelius - Sumphony No.7

...While still only 32, the Finnish government awarded him a pension for life, a year before he even began work on his First Symphony. That he went on to produce some of the Twentieth Century's finest and most original music says much for his strength of character in the face of enforced prosperity...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Sibelius’s astonishing Symphony No.7.

To read more of Paul’s equally astonishing and revelatory words about some of the greatest music ever written please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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March 28, 2010

A London Overture

Paul Serotsky introduces us to John Ireland’s A London Overture which owes its existence to the 1934 Crystal Palace Brass Band competition.

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March 21, 2010

Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini

If Rachmaninov had been a footballer his manager would undoubtedly have called him a natural declares Paul Serotsky while introducing the composer’s bewitchingly blended and matchless rhapsody.

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March 14, 2010

Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis

...It's a bit like the experience of visiting a cathedral. On entering, you sense only the immense space, but as you tread (respectfully) inwards, you gradually become aware of the columns and arches defining that space, and the pews that contain the community. Having advanced all the way down the nave to stand before the altar, you can now see the attendant array of artefacts concerned with personal communion...

Paul Serotsky presents a splendid introduction to a popular work by Vaughan Williams.

To read more of Paul’s inviting words about the greatest music ever written please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

Continue reading "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" »

March 07, 2010

Bartok's Concerto For Orchestra

...he poured his heart into the music, giving us an emotional range running from profound tragedy through wistfulness and playfulness to sheer, animal excitement. This Concerto equally rewards those seeking intellectual stimulation and those wanting a simple, sensual wallow – which is one way of defining “great music”...

Paul Serotsky draws attention to the "architectural'' design of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra.

To read more of Paul's informed words on great music please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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February 28, 2010

Ruy Blas Overture

“It's always nice to discover a morsel of mere mortal lurking within a great composer,’’ declares Paul Serotsky as he introduces us to Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas orchestra.

Paul has the gift of enticing you to listen to the greatest music ever written and entertaining you in the process of doing so. To read more of his reviews please click on
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February 21, 2010

Poulenc's Gloria

Paul Serotsky suggests that Poulenc, with scant knowledge of form and counterpoint, could not carry an argument. Instead he interlocked ‘tiles’ of contrasted, naturally-breathing phrases into musical ‘mosaics’, incorporating influences which gave his music a vaguely sleazy, but dangerously seductive, charm.

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February 14, 2010

Two Elegiac Melodies

...The Two Elegiac Melodies op. 34 are an arrangement for string orchestra of two songs from his op. 33. Shorn of their vocal element, both nevertheless reveal their provenance through the richly-inflected speech-rhythms of their melodic lines, simple and direct in their appeal to the listener's emotions...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to two popular pieces by the Norwegian composer Grieg.

To read more of Paul’s enlightening comments on some of the greatest music ever written please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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February 07, 2010

Fire And Ice

...A fair guess might be that the city’s music-loving citizens would, metaphorically speaking, be fighting in lumps over the tickets.

That fair guess turned out to be a bit wide of the mark. I’ll make no bones about this – I was embarrassed. There they were, crammed cheek-by-jowl onto the stage, no fewer than seventy-six accomplished musicians – confronted by an auditorium that was not just partially populated, but lightly dusted with a measly TWO DOZEN citizens. I ask you, how could practically ALL of Whangarei’s myriad classical fans have passed up such a rare opportunity?...

Paul Serotsky deplores the lack of local support for eloquent musicianship of the Auckland Youth Symphony Orchestra

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January 31, 2010

Bach's Concerto For Oboe, Violin And Strings

Paul Serotsky thinks that Johann Sebastian Bach’s music comes with its own built-in “personality module’’,

Here he introduces us to Bach’s Concerto for Oboe, Violin and Strings.

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January 24, 2010

Dvorak – Symphony No.8

Paul Serotsky says that Dvorak’s Schubertian talent for melody and pastoralism enabled him to integrate Czech folk idioms with classical form and counterpoint.

“This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the Eighth Symphony of 1889, a happy work that finds him free of the dark despair of the preceding Seventh (1884-5) which was composed in the shadow of the death of his beloved mother, in a period he described as ‘of doubt and obstinacy, silent sorrow and resignation’.’’

To read more of Paul’s superlative introductions to the greatest music ever written please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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January 17, 2010

The Bare Mountain

...A Night on the Bare Mountain or, to give its proper title, Saint John's Night on the Bare Mountain, was inspired by a scene of a witches' sabbath in Gogol's story of St. John's Eve, and is a lurid melodrama following in the footsteps of Berlioz (finale of Symphonie Fantastique) and Liszt (Totentanz)...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to one of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s most popular works.

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January 10, 2010

Glazunov's Violin Concerto In A Minor

...Glazunov was thus a contradictory character, both of himself and of his circumstances. Justly praised for his promotion of cultural interbreeding between Russia and the West, he nevertheless took a conservative view of “new music”, which he reflected in his own music. But, when the World moved on, his music was, willy-nilly, left in limbo. This is a crying shame...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Glazunov’s short and sweet Violin Concerto.

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January 03, 2010

Asrael Symphony

...How do we traverse this hyper-emotional and, for newcomers especially, bewildering landscape? Lack of familiar landmarks does not imply lack of any landmarks: we just need a few signposts and some sort of map. Below, I’ve provided both “philosophical” and “structural” guides, the former of course implicitly qualified by “it seems to me . . .”...

Paul Serotsky leads us to an understanding of Josef Suk’s emotionally charged Asrael Symphony, written following the death of his musical hero and father-in-law Dvorak.

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December 27, 2009

Coriolan Overture

Paul Serotsky brings pungent comments on Beethoven’s Coriolan overture, an introduction to an ill-fated re-working of the play Coriolanus by the Viennese playwright Heinrich von Collin.

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December 20, 2009

“A Bone of Contention” - Concerning the Curious Case of Bone-conduction Headphones

...A couple of months ago, I’d never even heard of bone-conduction headphones (BCHs). I rather suspect that I wouldn’t have been alone in my recently-relieved ignorance. Not that it matters. My awareness having been awakened, curiosity demanded I did a bit of nosing around the Net. I was fairly taken aback to discover that BCHs have actually been around for something like TEN years! That’s a long time. Why, I wondered, hadn’t I got wind of them ages ago?...

Paul Serotsky brings a well-researched and detailed appraisal of conduction headphones which can benefit some, though not perhaps the majority, of deaf people.

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December 13, 2009

Bruckner - Symphony No 9

...Bruckner's symphonies are long - and long-winded - but it doesn't follow that they throttle their prey (sorry, “audiences”). They operate in a vast time-frame that has nothing to do with Bruckner's idolisation of Wagner, the master of long-windedness, whose main impact was to crystallise Bruckner's technique for creating musical “monuments”. In spite of length, and accumulations of brass and Wagner Tubas, Bruckner remained very much his own man, stylistically speaking...

In words as powerful as the music they describe, Paul Serotsky introduces us to Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No.9,

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December 06, 2009

Johannesburg Festival Overture

...off came the kid gloves, out of mothballs came the razor-sharp, jaunty-jazz style of his youth, and spilling from his pen came seven sizzling minutes of utterly unbuttoned musical hedonism...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Walton’s Johannesburg Festival Overture.

For more of Paul’s inviting words to listen to the greaterst music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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November 29, 2009

Dohnanyi (1877-1960) – Variations on a Nursery Tune

...If you're destined to be a “One-Work Composer”, then this is the way to do it: take a simple nursery ditty – “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman”, used by Mozart in his Variations of 1778, will do very nicely – and completely go to town on it. Otherwise known hereabouts as “Twinkle, twinkle, little star”, the tune perhaps nods politely in the general direction of “Baa, baa, black sheep”, not just because of its very similar outline, but also because certain of Dohnanyi's elaborations allude to the subsequent “have you any wool?” phrase. As it happens, allusions flock like sheep, prompting suggestions that Dohnanyi's music is satirical, poking fun at the fashions and figures of his youth. If so then, in music of this quality, to be thus lampooned must be counted a signal honour....

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Dohnanyi’s Variations on a Nursery Theme.

To read more of Paul’s enlightening words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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November 22, 2009

Mavis In Las Vegas

...The BBC Philharmonic, presumably when they'd finished falling about laughing, commissioned a commemorative piece, described by the composer as a “theme and variations”, and rather more meaningfully by John Mauceri as “a totally mad transvestite dream-ballet” (he took the words right out of my mouth)...

Paul Serotsky introduces Peter Mawell-Davies’s extraordinary work Mavis In Las Vegas.

To read more of Paul's articles on some of the greatest music ever written please click on
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November 15, 2009

Magnificent Mozart

...Believe it or not, choral music and opera account for over a THIRD of Mozart’s entire output. I reckon that’s reason enough for Whangarei’s accomplished Choral Society and Opera North to combine for this “mini-Mozart-fest”. I said “combine”, but in fact “intimately intertwine” might be a bit nearer the mark, because some choral singers sang solos, whilst some opera singers were singing in the chorus...

Paul Serotsky reviews a performance of Mozart’s music in St John’s Church, Whangarei, New Zealand.

For more of Paul’s brilliant words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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November 08, 2009

Romeo And Juliet

The inimitable Paul Serotsky introduces a concert audience to the ballet suite from Prokofiev’s great work Romeo and Juliet.

For more of Paul’s articles on the finest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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November 01, 2009

Ravel 's Rapsodie Espagnole

...Ravel's incredible sense of “colour” approached that of the painter. Sometimes his piano originals became for him the equivalent of the charcoal line-work that an artist often uses to sketch the skeleton of his oil-painting...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole, “ one of the sultriest, sexiest pieces of music ever to curl up an audience's toes.’’

To read more of Paul’s scintillating articles on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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October 25, 2009

Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, written in 1944, the year after Shostakovich's Eighth. Prokofiev's symphony sounded thoroughly bright and heroic. While Shostakovich was severely criticised, Prokofiev was feted.

To read more of Paul’s supremely well-informed words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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October 18, 2009

Dvorak's Serenade In D Minor

...Fed by admiration for Schubert, and watered by Brahms' immediate influence, Dvorak's talents blossomed: his symphonies combined vital folksiness, daisy-fresh tunes, and structures as tight as drumskins. But, like his heroes, Dvorak could also turn out beautifully-crafted lighter works, brilliant gems like the Slavonic Dances, Rhapsodies, and the two Serenades...

Paul Serotsky, one of classical music’s most loyal advocates, introduces us to one of those serenades.

For more of Paul's enticing words please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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October 11, 2009

Gershwin's Piano Concerto

Paul Serotsky introduces George Gershwin’s controversial piano concerto with appropriate firecracker words.

To read more of Paul’s illuminating articles on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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October 04, 2009

Introduction and Allegro for Strings

...The Serenade for Strings (1892) has spine-tingling charm, but is nevertheless what we might impolitely term “hick music”: simple and undemanding (and therefore a proper serenade). The origin of the Introduction and Allegro was also simple: according to Elgar, his inspiration was a folk-tune, distantly-heard whilst holidaying in Wales...

Paul Serotsky brings his own splendid introduction to Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings.

To read more of Paul’s well-informed and entertaining words on great music please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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September 27, 2009

A Blood-Curdling Symphony

...we do find a certain cinematographic detachment, resulting from unremitting concentration on musical processes. Yet there is also something about the relentless drive, obvious in the outer movements and even lurking within the stately-sounding Andante, something that attracts, fascinates – and curdles the blood..

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements.

To read more of Paul’s profound words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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September 20, 2009

“Vontasia’’

...Didn’t Haydn ever have any off-days? Wending from weighty drama through perturbed serenity to animal exuberance, his E minor Piano Trio (Hob. XV:12), which opened the concert, is but one gem from an entire Aladdin’s Cave...

Paul Serotsky’s immense enthusiasm for music shines through this review of a concert given by the NZTrio (formerly the New Zealand Trio).

To read more of Paul’s enlightening words on the greatest music ever written pleaser click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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September 06, 2009

“Opera In The Garden’’

...However, for me the individual rosette went to Kawiti Waetford. Fully-costumed for the Toreador’s Song from Bizet’s Carmen, his rich, brown voice and braggart swaggering elicited much comically dizzy swooning from the “groupies” in the chorus. Unfortunately, his snarling vehemence in Falcon in the Dive from Wildhorn’s The Scarlet Pimpernel invoked something a little less welcome – the first of a couple of (thankfully brief) rain showers!...

Paul Serotsky is impressed by the boundless, infectious enthusiasm of the performers in “Opera In The Garden’’ in Whangarei, New Zealand.

To read more of Paul’s alluring words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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August 30, 2009

Summer Carols

Paul Serotsky so enjoyed a concert in Whangarei, New Zealand, that he left wanting more.

And for many more of Paul’s words on the greatest music ever composed please click on
http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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August 23, 2009

Tawahi Trio

....Indeed, perusing the programme I wondered, “Who the hell is Alfred Uhl?” I soon found out. He is someone who, when it comes to marrying his peaches to his cream, really knows his metaphorically-mixed onions! Enjoyable as were the concerto-esque pyrotechnics, it was when Uhl caused Bertelli and O’Neil to converge onto curvaceous melodic lines that my jaw dropped....

Paul Serotsky reviews a concert given by the Tawahi Trio.

To read more of Paul’s words on the greatest music everwritten please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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August 16, 2009

Northland Sinfonia Orchestra Concert

...Sure, they still have a long road to travel, but this concert represented a big, bold first step – and they had the ultimate encouragement, of sending a packed house away smiling from ear to ear...

Paul Serotsky reviews a concert given by New Zealand’s Northland Sinfonia Orchestra.

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August 09, 2009

Scrumptious Morsels

...The programme included several scrumptious morsels, by Schubert (Marche Militaire No. 1), Délibes (a tasty bit of Coppélia), Coates (London Bridge March), and Mascagni (Intermezzo and aria from Cavalleria Rusticana). Atsuko Fukuoka, commanding with a commendably clear beat, certainly brought the Coates to toe-tapping life, although her Schubert and Délibes perhaps lacked the slightly firmer foot on the gas-pedal that happily gave a real lift to Mascagni’s celebrated Intermezzo. Atsuko’s andante lent a serene flow to this famous melody which, let’s face it, is too often drawn out to ridiculous lengths...

Paul Serotsky reviews a concert in Whangarei, New Zealand.

To read more of Paul's equally scrumptious words on the greats music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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August 02, 2009

“An Amateur Orchestra Discovered, Prompting Some Reflections on Amateur Orchestral Music-Making, and Tested on a Concert Review”

Paul Serotsky considers the monumental task that amateur musicians take on when they combine their talents to play some of the greatest music ever written.

To read more of Paul’s articles on music please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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July 26, 2009

Vaughan Williams's Symphony No.8

…A private run-through (1955) provoked some consternation – and, from a friendly critic, a question. Wryly, VW replied, “I feel the thing is a symphony, and it is going to remain one.” Apparently the naughty VW had contravened standing orders, deciding against sonata form for his first movement [1]. Well, I feel that the thing is a concerto for orchestra, and in my ears it will remain one, no matter what you call it!..

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Vaughan Williams’s Eighth Symphony.

To read more of Paul’s perceptive words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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July 19, 2009

Kol Nidre

...As a presumed Protestant living in an anti-Semitic Germany, would you chance your arm on a piece based on a Jewish chant, and would you expect it to out-live your Grand Choral Conceptions? I know that I wouldn't, but that seems to be the case with Bruch – it's a funny old world, isn't it?...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Bruch’s Kol Nidre, a prayer sung on the eve of Yom Kippur expressing repentance to fulfil promises made to God.

To read more of Paul’s informative words on great music please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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July 12, 2009

The Bolt

Shostakovich wrote his three-act ballet The Bolt in 1930-31, “when he was still bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and revelling in the brave new world of Soviet artistic freedom, ready to try his hand at anything from symphony to circus.’’

Paul Serotsky writes about a work of exemplary Soviet Realism.

To read more of Paul’s articles on great music please click on
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July 05, 2009

Arnold’s Little Suite No. 1

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Malcolm Arnold’s Little Suite No.1, a set of three pieces composed for the inaugural concert of the National Youth Orchestra.

For more of Paul’s scintillating words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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June 28, 2009

The Mastersingers Overture

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the overture to Wagner’s opera The Mastersingers, and in doing so provides fascinating information about the composer.

To read more of Paul’s enlightening essays on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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June 21, 2009

The Lark Ascending

Paul Serotsky writes a programme note on Ralph Vaughan Williams’s supreme idyll The Lark Ascending, a piece which conjures up a vision of something wonderful.

To read more of Paul’s illuminating words on the greatest music please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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June 14, 2009

Symphony on a French Mountain Song

...Bold and innovative? Yes, indeed! For a start, in D'Indy's day to use a piano (even obbligato) as a “mere” orchestral instrument, as opposed to concerto soloist, was really quite daring. Then, rather than a single set of variations, he fashioned a three-movement work...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Vincent D'Indy’s Symphony on a Mountain Song.

Paul has written extensively on music. To sample more of his original and highly readable opinions please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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June 07, 2009

Malcolm Arnold's Philharmonic Concerto

Paul Serotsky introduces an audience to a performance of Malcolm Arnold’s Philharmonic Concerto, a powerful and dynamic piece of music.

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May 31, 2009

Les Biches

Paul Serotsky introduces us to a delightful concert suite, Poulenc’s Les Biches.


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May 24, 2009

Malcolm Arnold's Symphony No.3

...Malcolm Arnold produced many great works, but “greatness” eluded him. Why? In a nutshell: influential enemies. Some – let’s call them “snobs” – sneering at his “day job”, condemned him for getting above his station. The cognoscenti, perceptive as ever, considered a “light” composer incapable of serious thought. Feeling threatened, Darmstadt’s despotic devotees disdained his style – and pretty well everything else – as “old hat”. Finally, his often outrageously offensive behaviour alienated the all-important Establishment...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Malcolm Arnold’s Symphony No,3, a fine work by a great, and greatly undervalued, composer.

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May 17, 2009

In The South

...However, following the première of The Apostles, he holidayed on the Italian Riviera. Amid the sunshine and scenery was born the concert overture In the South (1904). Did the locale remind Elgar of Strauss's Aus Italien (1886)? If so, it would explain the sudden resurrection of that sonic kinship. In focusing on the opening's similarity to Don Juan, many commentators implicitly admit a blinkered view: throughout, Elgar breathes the very same air as Strauss...

Perceptive critic Paul Serotsky introduces us to Elgar’s overture In the South.

To read more of Paul’s entertaining and informative words on the greatest music ever written please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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May 10, 2009

Overture: Tam O'Shanter

...“By Malcolm Arnold” is a kite-mark for the highest quality, of both craftsmanship and invention....

The inimitable Paul Serotsky introduces us to the Overture: Tam O’Shanter by one of his favourite composers, Malcolm Arnold.

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May 03, 2009

Elgar - Symphony No.1

...Then along came Elgar, dishing up roast beef and veg. liberally laced with tongue-toasting English mustard...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Elgar’s Symphony No. 1. England “first’’ symphony?

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April 26, 2009

Four Minute Mile

Paul Serotsky introduces us to composer Judith Bingham, one of whose works should be listened to with stop watch in hand.

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April 19, 2009

Dvorak's 'Cello Concerto

Paul Serotsky introduces us to one of the finest ‘cello concertos ever to grace a concert platform.

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April 12, 2009

Symphonie Fantastique

“The predominant qualities of my music are passionate expression, inner fire, rhythmic drive – and the unexpected,’’ said composer Hector Berlioz.

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Berlioz’s mind-bogglingly original Symphonie Fatastique.

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April 05, 2009

Barber (1910-81) – Overture: The School for Scandal

...Well, Barber’s “plot” is a sonata form which positively bubbles over with “good things”! The opening flourish, a flurry of two-note cells coalescing into a trill, both acts as a formal anchor and feeds the twitchy first subject. The spasmodic fragments soon fuse into a more sustained melody...

The inimitable Paul Serotsky writes enthusiastically about Samuel Barber’s overture to The School For Scandal.

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March 29, 2009

Sibelius’s Violin Concerto

...Nature pervaded his music even before he emerged from the heady 1890s, when the vivid nationalism of his Kalevala-inspired compositions – direct responses to the increasingly immediate threat from the Imperialist Russia – had made him a national hero. In the early 1900s, as his style began to crystallise, the early influences of Tchaikovsky and Grieg receded, ousted by the organism of Nature...

Paul Serotsky comments on the music of Janne Sibelius, in particular the Finnish composer’s violin concerto.

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March 22, 2009

Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.4

…I reckon there’s one way that Tchaikovsky would have made a good Yorkshireman – he doesn’t mince his musical words. Like Rachmaninov and Arnold, he speaks directly and emotively to us…

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Tchaikovsky’s fourth symphony.

Paul’s enthusiastic, alluring words bring the best possible introductions to some of the greatest music ever written. Please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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March 15, 2009

Shostakovich's Symphony No.5

Distinguished music critic Paul Serotsky muses on the true meaning of Dmitry Shostakovich’s Symphony N.5.

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March 08, 2009

The Thieving Magpie

Paul Serotsky tells us that Rossini wrote his oft-played overture to The Thieving Magpie on the day of its opening in the theatre where it was to be performed “where I was imprisoned by the director and under the surveillance of four [presumably ‘burly’] stage hands who were instructed to throw my original text through the window, page by page, to the copyists waiting below . . . In default of pages, they were ordered to throw me out of the window”.

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March 01, 2009

Dragonetti's Double Bass Concerto In A

...In common with other “oddball” solo instruments, the double-bass’s problem is repertoire, which certainly in Dragonetti’s day leant heavily on arrangements, so it was lucky indeed for him that he could write as well as play...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to “Signor Dragonetti, sole professor of the double-bass and connoisseur of pictures”.

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February 22, 2009

Invitation To The Dance

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Weber’s Invitation to the Dance, a piano piece which was orchestrated by Berlioz.

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February 15, 2009

Orb And Sceptre

...By far the most striking feature of Orb and Sceptre is surely its sheer jazziness, both in its kinky syncopations and its “gratuitous” screeching dissonances. The dominant influence is surely the music of The Age of Swing that blossomed during the Second World War...

Paul Serotsky assesses Walton’s march Orb and Sceptre, written for the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953.

For more of Paul’s perceptive words on great music please visit http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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February 08, 2009

Fantasia on "Greensleeves"

Vaughan Williams developed along lines remarkably similar to the contemporaneous Bartok, says Paul Serotsky. “Yet, while the world has come to appreciate Bartok’s qualities and achievements, Vaughan Williams is still unaccountably dismissed by many as ‘parochial’.’’

Paul introduces the Englishman’s great Fantasia on “Greensleeves’’.

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February 01, 2009

Fantasia On British Sea Songs

Paul Serotsky tells of the music that is embedded in the heart of every true and loyal Briton.

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January 25, 2009

The Gael

...The noble tune isn’t quietly “born”, it erupts from the top of a volcanic crescendo in a searing flow of liquid golden cornets!..

Paul Serotsky introduces us to The Gael, by the Scottish composer and song-writer Dougie MacLean.

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January 18, 2009

The Harry Potter Suite

Paul Serotsky introduces us to John Williams’s sumphonic sweet written to accompany the first Harry Potter film.

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January 11, 2009

Peter And The Wolf

…Try to imagine what life was like for composers in the Soviet Union of the 1930s: roughly speaking, it was like this, “Follow the guidelines of our ‘Socialist Realism’, or you will be taken out and shot”. But don’t laugh – that’s exactly what happened to some of them…

Paul Serotsky tells how Prokofiev, under such harsh strictures, worked a miracle by setting the story of Peter and the Wolf to music in just four days.

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January 04, 2009

Carl Neilsen's Symphony N.4 - "The Inextinguishable''

...The young Carl had a child’s typically vivid imagination, but he was also exceptionally observant, perceptive and thirsty for knowledge. In the countryside of his native Fyn he spent hours on end soaking up the spectacle of Nature’s complex machinery at work.

Judging by the overall thrust of the Fourth Symphony, I suspect that Nielsen must have been aware of some correspondence between his observations and Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Whether or not that was the case, with increasing maturity, knowledge and understanding, everything that had seeped into his young soul gradually coalesced into a profound, and profoundly optimistic vision: considered as a whole, “Life” is not accidental but – given half a chance – inevitable, and once Life exists then, evolve as it may, it will flourish, overcoming any and all opposition.. Paradoxical as it might seem, this doesn’t mean that Life has an easy ride. To overcome, Life has to fight every inch of the way...

Paul Serotsky presents a perceptive and profound appreciation of Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 “The Inextinguishable’’.

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January 01, 2009

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Paul Serotsky tells how composer Paul Dukas was rescued from History’s dustbin by the Cartoon King.

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December 28, 2008

Guilmant's Symphony No.1 For Organ And Symphony

...Although these days hardly a household name, in his lifetime Guilmant was something of a pop star, capitalising on his novelty value as the first French concert organist by making frequent and successful tours abroad. In England, for example, his regular “dates” attracted audiences of over 10,000, which by anybody’s standards was packing them in....

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Guilmant’s Symphony No.1 for Organ and Orchestra.

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December 21, 2008

Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony

...He’d always been a top-notch pianist, tucking the 32 Beethoven sonatas under his belt by the age of ten, yet when he befriended Liszt (1852) the latter declared him to be “the world’s greatest organist” (I’m beginning to suspect there was a secret vetting committee, because it seems that every musician who gained admission to Liszt’s drawing-room came out with some accolade or other)....

Master critic Paul Serotsky presents an excellent introduction to Saint-Saëns’ oft-performed organ symphony.

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December 14, 2008

Bliss's A Colour Symphony

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Bliss’s A Colour Symphony which was based on emotions aroused by the heraldic meaning of colours.

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December 07, 2008

Tableaux de Provence

Motivated by her friend Marcel Mule, a pioneer of the “classical” saxophone, French composer Paule Maurice set about producing music to demonstrate its capability of so-called serious musical expression. The result was a musical portrait of Provence.

Paul Serotsky introduces us to a little-known composer.

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November 30, 2008

“An Opera Gala”

...What really gets up the noses of opera purists is that we have opera galas not by accident or through cynical, exploitative commercialism, but by the express intent and design of the creators of the vast majority of operas, right down through the ages. That must take some swallowing. So, if you feel even the slightest, most momentary twinge of guilt at being here, forget it. Sit back, relax and then, secure in the knowledge that your neighbour won’t be an opera purist, immerse yourself in a whole evening of the lovely, luxuriant noise that opera makes....

The effervescent Paul Serotsky wrote these notes to introduce an evening of opera “snippets’’.

There’s no better guide to the greatest music ever written than Paul. To read more of his articles please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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November 23, 2008

Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto

Had Rachmaninov been a footballer, his manager would undoubtedly have announced, “This lad’s a natural”, writes Paul Serotsky.

“ Why? Because the fire and melancholy that are part and parcel of “Russian-ness” flowed so freely through his veins. Making no bones about it, Rachmaninov himself openly regarded his sleeve as a perfectly proper repository for his heart (“And good for him,” I say!).’’

Here Paul introduces the Russian composer’s Second Piano Concerto.

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November 16, 2008

“Ballet in the Blood”

…We’re told often enough that the Ballet influenced Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. Yet, surveying his music as a whole, isn’t the entire shooting match bubbling with “ballet”?...

Paul Serotsky, irrepressibly enthusiastic about great music, wrote these notes to introduce the second half of a concert by the Vancouver Symphony.

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November 09, 2008

“A Simple Matter of Style”

Paul Serotsky introduces works by Haydn and Prokofiev.

These notes were written in a bit of a rush for a Vancouver Symphony concert after a soloist changed his mind at virtually the last minute.

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November 02, 2008

Job, A Masque for Dancing

“Job may be stony ground for ballet,’’ writes Paul Serotsky, “but it’s a rich soil for growing music. Seeming almost an accidental by-product of his endeavours to fulfil his commission, the result is a musical masterpiece, a resonance of ancient and modern every bit as impressive as the Tallis Fantasia.’’

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October 26, 2008

“Imitations of Iberia”

Paul Serotsky’s words on music with a Spanish theme written by “outsiders’’ introduced a concert by the Vancouver Symphony.

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October 19, 2008

Michael Torke's "Javelin''

“Javelin is beautifully crafted and highly enjoyable music. Although the comparison with Ravel might be pushing it a bit, Torke demonstrates an uncommonly good ear for colour, with lots of perceptively-placed percussion. One thing more: clichéd or not, that tune does not easily give up its place in your memory....’’

Paul Serotsky introduces us to a work by American composer Michael Torke.

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October 12, 2008

Film Music – Servant of the Silver Screen

…Think of paint – it sticks to almost anything, and makes it prettier. Roughly speaking, music does a similar job. You want to make your party go with a swing? Get some bright “red” music. You want to make the mourners weep buckets? Get some dark “blue” music. Oh, and apply liberally, preferably in two coats!...

Paul Serotsky wrote these words to introduce a concert given by Slaithwaite Philharmonic.

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October 05, 2008

“The French Connection”

Paul Serotsky’s exuberant programme note, written to introduce a programme of music by French and Russian composers, provided most entertaining reading for the audience gathered to enjoy a concert by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

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September 28, 2008

Symphonic Metamorphoses on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber

...The story of the Metamorphoses began in 1934, when Hindemith had fallen foul of the National Socialist régime for his “cultural Bolshevism”. For speaking out against Totalitarianism through his opera Mathis der Maler, he had been denounced by Goebbels as an “atonal noise-maker”...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to one of Hindemith’s greatest works.

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September 21, 2008

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony

Paul Serotsky says that Beethoven’s understandable terror at the thought of going deaf was compounded by much less obvious emotions – embarrassment and shame. “At the time, he was best known as a performer, which meant that if word got around he’d be ridiculed personally and ruined professionally…’’

Paul suggests that the composer’s Fifth symphony is an expression of the nightmare he lived through.

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September 14, 2008

Brahms's Piano Concerto No. 1

With words to match a marvellously well-crafted musical piece, Paul Serotsky tells of the creation and the sentiment that went into Brahams’s first piano concerto.

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September 07, 2008

Music Of The Spheres

Prepare to sway in your seats as you listen to Josef Strauss’s waltz Music of the Spheres, Paul Serotsky advises.

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August 31, 2008

Prokofiev's “Lieutenant Kijé” Suite

...On visits to his homeland he found himself fêted: all his heart’s desires combined into a carrot made all the juicier by the offer of a Moscow apartment and a car. However, once he had finalised his return to Russia (1936), the iron door of the USSR slammed shut behind him. The carrot vanished, the stick appeared...

Paul Serotsky tells of Prokofiev’s first work on returning to his Russian homeland after living in the West – the score for the film “Lieutenant Kijé”.

To read more of Paul’s memorable words on great music please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/views_and_reviews/

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August 24, 2008

Albrechtsberger's Concerto For Alto Trombone

...Albrechtsberger surely deserves rather better than obscurity for being the first – or so it would appear! – to introduce the trombone into the rather more eminent rôle of concerto soloist...

Paul Serotsky introduces us to a little known musician and composer.

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August 17, 2008

Berlioz - The Damnation Of Faust

Paul Serotsky introduces three pieces from Berlioz’s dramatic interpretation of the Faust legend.

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August 10, 2008

Porgy And Bess

...From his imaginative crucible emerged “Porgy and Bess”, an undoubted and wholly original masterpiece. Gershwin had declared, “If I am successful, it will resemble a combination of the drama and romance of ‘Carmen’ and the beauty of ‘Meistersinger’, if you can imagine that.”...

Paul Serotsky tells of the creation of George Gershwin’s much loved opera, Porgy and Bess.

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August 03, 2008

Whangarei Music Society - Piano Recital

...Having become acquainted with Marshev exclusively through his Danacord discography, I was truly drooling over the prospect of, at long last, actually seeing him perform. You see, for years I’d been waiting in vain for him to appear somewhere in my native Yorkshire. If you’re thinking that travelling 12,000 miles to catch up with him seems a somewhat drastic measure, let me assure you that it was serendipity, pure and simple!...

Paul Serotsky reviews a recent concert given by the pianist Oleg Marshev.

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July 27, 2008

Sibelius's Fifth Symphony

Paul Serotsky introduces Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony – “a work less of sunshine and optimism than of stupendous struggle.’’

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July 20, 2008

Richard Strauss's Symphonic Poem Ein Heldenleben

Paul Serotsky provides an insight into Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, the concluding work in a cycle of seven symphonic poems.

Some railed at Strauss’s arrogance and vanity for casting himself in the piece as a hero, “vanquishing adversaries who are all too obviously – even without textual confirmation – his critics. Worse, those critics come across as a spineless, mealy-mouthed bunch. Worse still, he goes on, grandiloquently, to survey his “works of peace” and finally to rest smugly on plushly-upholstered, self-awarded laurels.’’

For more of Paul’s words which invite you to enjoy the greatest of musical delights please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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July 13, 2008

Beethoven's Piano Concerto No.3

The gentlefolk of Vienna were not only wary of Beethoven’s lack of refined manners., The lived in real fear of the damage he could do to their pianos.

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the great man’s Third Piano Concerto – “the start of a journey into the unknown.’’

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July 06, 2008

“Turkish Delights!”

Paul Serotsky wrote these notes to introduce a work by Mozart in the first half of a Vancouver Symphony concert. However, the soloist changed his mind at virtually the last moment, and another note had to be written.

For more of Paul’s insights into the works of the great composers please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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June 29, 2008

The Magic Flute Overture

Paul Serotsky introduces Mozart’s Magic Flute overture, a perfectly-poised piece of scene-setting that is anything but “bog-standard''.

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June 22, 2008

Poulenc's Concerto For Two Pianos

Paul Serotsky presents a work by Francis Poulenc, a composer who, guided by an innate lyrical facility, created large structures using lots of “tiles” to make mesmerising “mosaics.

For more of Paul’s enticing introductions to and comments on the greatest music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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June 15, 2008

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) – Symphony No. 1

...At the time this work was conceived, the symphonic cutting edge belonged to the likes of Bruckner’s Seventh and Brahms’s Third. This bears thinking about. Notwithstanding all that had gone on in the world of Music in the intervening 50-odd years, Mahler’s was the first truly revolutionary symphony since Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Everything about it – other than its accomplishment, that is – is indeed astonishing...

Even if you are familiar with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.1, Paul Serotsky will “open’’ your ears and increase your delight in this wonderful composition.

For those new to Mahler, and other great composers, Paul has the special gift of being able to make you itch to listen to the works featured in his brilliant essays.

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June 08, 2008

Picture Postcards From Italy

Writing with his usual enthusiasm and verve, Paul Serotsky introduces works by Berlioz and Resighi.

This combined note was written for a Vancouver Symphony concert comprising.

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June 01, 2008

“The First and the Third”

Writing with his usual wit and authority Paul Serotsky introducesd works by Richard Strauss and Wagner.

These words were written to introduce a Vancouver Symphony concert.

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May 25, 2008

American Music – A Revolutionary Evolution

… America wanted to show the world that it was as civilised as any “Europe”. Mrs. Thurber brought in a formidable “trouble-shooter”, and home-grown musical pioneers like Charles Ives started to appear. Their common goal: to foster a distinctively “American” classical tradition Their common means: to capitalise on the rough but rich folk-culture. It took off like a rocket!...

The inimitable Paul Serotsky introduces works by three American composers.

For more of Paul’s splendid introductions to the finest music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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May 18, 2008

Sweet Sorrow – Sweet Music”

Paul Serotsky introduces works by Prokofiev, Berlioz and Tchaikovsky in programme notes for a Vancouver Symphony concert.

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May 11, 2008

“Das Land Ohne Musik?”

Paul Serotsky wrote this note to introduce a programme of English music given by the Vancouver Symphony.

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May 04, 2008

Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No.2

Paul Serotsky, an outstanding encourager of the appreciation of good music, introduces us to Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.

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April 27, 2008

Liszt's Symphonic Poem “Les Préludes”

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the symphonic poem Les Préludes” by Liszt, “the originator, for better or worse, of modern pianism’’.

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April 20, 2008

Two Works By Franck

Paul Serotksy introduces two works by Franck, a man who was humble to a fault.

This note was written to introduce part of a concert given by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

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April 13, 2008

Ravel's Piano Concerto (Left Hand)

... In 1930, along came Paul Wittgenstein, a pianist damaged by the self-same conflict (World War One), but whose indomitable spirit demanded music for his remaining hand to master. Imagine the effect on Ravel, imagine the challenge!..

Paul Serotksy tells how Ravel rose triumphantly to the challenge of writing a piano concerto for the left hand.

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April 06, 2008

Walton's Violin Concerto

…Sacheverell Sitwell. When Walton, having failed his exams, bemoaned his fate, the Sitwell siblings’ solution was to “adopt” him, organising an income so that their “pet genius” could compose in comfort. Living in London, mingling with the cream of artistic society, Walton had everything on a plate….

But the cosseted composer produced some fine works. The inimitable Paul Serotsky introduces us to one of them, Walton’s violin concerto.

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March 30, 2008

Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjues

Paul Serotsky introduces Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjues – not his finest work by a long chalk, but probably the most tuneful, engaging, evocative and colourful.

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March 23, 2008

The Italian Girl in Algiers

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Rossini’s overture to “The Italian Girl in Algiers”.

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March 16, 2008

Domenico Cimarosa - Overtures

…Admirably recorded in an ambience to die for, these are spirited performances of music that’s a cut above the needs of its original purpose, and will fail to entertain and edify only those who over-indulge their appetites…


Paul Serotsky enjoys performances of Domenico Cimarosa overtures, recorded in St Anne’s Church, Toronto, Canada.

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March 09, 2008

Tubin’s Prélude Solennel

Paul Serotksy introduces us to Tubin’s Prélude Solennel, a work which can be thought of as the Estonian equivalent of “Finlandia’’.

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March 02, 2008

Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto, a work of which one respected critic said “The violin is no longer played, [but] beaten black and blue . . . [this is] music that stinks in the ear.”

For more of Paul’s well-informed words on some of the greatest music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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February 24, 2008

Charles Ives - Variations On "America''

“The primary purpose of music is neither instruction nor culture but pleasure; and this is an all-sufficient purpose,’’ commented the composer Charles Ives.

The inimitable Paul Serotsky tells us something of Ives’ variations on the tune America.

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February 17, 2008

James MacMillan's "Britannia''

Scottish composer James MacMillan drew inspiration fo his work “Britannia’’ from Elgar’s “Cockaigne Overture”.

Paul Serotsky introduces us to a work which shows us an uncomfortable vision of what the future might hold if we don’t mend our ways.

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February 10, 2008

Mozart's Exsultate Jubilate

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Mozart’s motet “Exsultate, Jubilate”, a bit of a rush job.

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February 03, 2008

Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No 3

…Much as we’d like to believe that Great Music is above Grubby Money, the fact remains that even composers have to eat. There are many ways to juggle the balance between “doing your own thing” and raking in the brass. Being a “composer-performer” is just one, and Prokofiev was just one such…

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto.

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January 27, 2008

Rimsky-Korsakov's Suite “The Snow Maiden”

…Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral genius seemed tailor-made for ballet, then becoming the height of fashion. Yet, curiously, he opted for the world of opera…

Paul Serotsky introduces us to “The Snow Maiden’’ - the third of the composer's 15 operas.

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January 20, 2008

Alexander Mackenzie's Britannia Overture

Paul Serotsky introduces a work by Alexander Campbell Mackenzie – “An accomplished and prolific composer, in his day he was – within Britain’s parochial shores – highly influential. Nowadays, though, he is almost entirely neglected. Yet, the impression he made on Elgar was such that, on hearing his music, folk tend to think it sounds rather like Elgar. That’s reason enough, I reckon, for dusting it off and putting it back where it belongs – before the public.’’

To read more of Paul’s exhilarating introductions to some of the greatest music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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January 13, 2008

Smetana's Ma Vlast

It took Smetana five years to complete “Má Vlast”, an integral cycle of six symphonic poems. Paul Serotsky thinks that the work speaks volumes for the composer’s sheer guts – and the intensity of his nationalistic feelings – in completing the first two within a few weeks of the onset of his deafness.

“As a 'hymn' in praise of a homeland, it is peerless,'' says Paul.

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January 06, 2008

Mendelsshon's Violin Concerto

Paul Serotsky presents a most appealing introduction to Mendelsshon’s violin concerto.

Mendelsshon, a prolific composer who was dubbed “the Mozart of the Nineteenth Century’’, was immensely gifted, multi-talented and unusually fortunate, enjoying the luxury of a very comfortable and relatively trouble-free life in which to ply his prodigious trade.

To read more of Paul’s enticing words about some of the greatesat music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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December 30, 2007

Shostakovich's Symphonies

...If you’ve a Ph.D. in Shostakovich, or are still wearing your “L” plates, this is utterly essential listening...

Paul Serotsky sums up his marvelously comprehsive and engrossing reviews of the CDs in a boxed set of the 15 symphonies of Dimitri Shostakovich.

To read those reviews, and more of Paul's words about the greatest music ever written, please click on Views and Revues in the menu on this page.

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December 23, 2007

Messiah

…Not for the first time, the subliminal sense of “community” that comes from hearing ordinary folk performing before their peers, straining against the limits of their capabilities, affected me in a way that confounds conventional criticism….

Paul Serotsky is moved by a performance last month of Handel’s Messiah in St Francis Xavier Church, Whangarei, New Zealand.

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December 16, 2007

Shostakovich's Fifteenth Symphony

...I remember one chap who beat his brains against the brick bastions of the Fifteenth for ages, then concluded (not unreasonably, if a little harshly, given his frustration) that the whole shebang was the rag-bag product of a composer on the threshold of senile dementia. Me? I don’t believe that for one second...

Paul Serotsky, an ebullient and informative music critic, considers Shostakovich's Fifteenth and final symphony to be a not unreasonable combination of reminiscence and valediction.

To read more of Paul's words on music please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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December 09, 2007

Shostakovich's Symphony No 14

...Lots of Shostakovich rubbed off onto Britten, but rather less Britten rubbed off onto Shostakovich. My immediate impression of the Fourteenth Symphony is that it is not so much influenced by Britten as a deliberate adoption of elements of Britten’s style, and thus part and parcel of the tribute to a friend implicit (or even explicit, for that matter) in the work’s dedication. “Immediate” is the word! I don’t think anybody’s going to miss, in the very opening violin line, the allusion to Peter Grimes – it breathes the very same bleak, chill air that drifts in from the grey North Sea in the first Interlude...

Paul Serotsky is impressed by a superb recording of Shostakovich's Fourteenth Symphony - perhaps the grimmest of all his works.

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December 02, 2007

Shostakovich - Symphony No. 13 "Babi Yar''

...The work gets its title, and to a large degree its overall tenor, from the poem Shostakovich sets in the first movement. Yevtushenko’s Babi-Yar is a “protest song” of blood-curdling intensity, condemning the Nazi mass-murder of a sizeable proportion of Kiev’s Jewish population, railing mightily against anti-semitism and, pointedly, against the nasty anti-semitic underbelly of the Soviet, which mirrors the tyrannical regime itself – all, I’m sure, very embarrassing to the Soviet leadership. Small wonder, then, that as soon as the work had seen the light of day, that noble leadership tried to suppress it, even though it should have perhaps been obvious even to them that such things were getting less easy to do...

Paul Serotsky, whose enthusiastic flow of words invariably matches and does full justice to some of the greatest music ever written, welcomes a performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13 "Babi Yar''.

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November 25, 2007

Shostakovich's Symphony No.12

Critics thought that Shostakovich, who had finally become a member of the Communist Party, had thrown in the towel and had produced a crude piece of Soviet propaganda with his Twelfth Symphony.

Paul Serotsky begs to differ. "Shostakovich’s Twelfth is, under its propagandist clown’s mask a damned fine symphony that doesn’t deserve to be as damned as it has been...''

To read more of Paul's sparkling essays on some of the greatest music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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November 18, 2007

Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony No.11

...The thing is that, as an uncultured yob (relatively speaking), I’m very well placed to be moved – or even shaken to the core of my being – by this music, which is one reason why I do so love this symphony (the cultured will, if they read on, be similarly appalled at my attitude to the even more maligned Twelfth). Mind you, one of my assessment criteria for music is that if, as I strive to “understand” a piece of music better, the music gets even more impressive, then it is “good” music. Shostakovich’s Eleventh passes this test with flying colours, so for me it’s “great music”, end of argument! A measure of my affection is that I nearly wore out my LPs of the recording made by Berglund with the Bournemouth SO, which orchestra Barshai has also conducted. Fearing that my stylus might start to slice right through the vinyl, I replaced the LPs with the CD remastering of the same recording...

Paul Serotsky expresses his enthusiasm for Shostakovich's much-maligned Eleventh Symphony.

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November 11, 2007

Shostakovich's Tenth Symphony

After the ending of the Second World War Joseph Stalin screwed his totalitarian vice even tighter. During a period of renewed oppression composer Dmitri Shostakovich kept his head down while churning out "sweet-meats'' to please the State.

Whether Shostakovich actually waited for Stalin to die before starting on any further major works, or simply kept what work he did quietly tucked away for that “rainy day”, is now probably neither here nor there, says Paul Serotsky. "Nevertheless, it seems to me that the latter would be more in character, and certainly the first movement of his Tenth Symphony sounds like the sort of music he might well have written to while away the sleepless nights during that grim period.''

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November 04, 2007

Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony

Paul Serotsky says that Dimitri Shostakovich was in a right old quandry when he came to write his Ninth Symphony. "Should he do the expected, and be seen to kow-tow? Should he seem to kow-tow, and subvert the surface celebration with some secret code? Did he even want to challenge Beethoven’s Ninth? Suppose he tried (either way) and flopped? Then again, there were the ordinary folk of Russia, the brave, long-suffering people, the life-blood of the homeland he so loved: these people above all he did not want to let down. What was he to do? The answer he found was completely gob-smacking in its brilliance: to the people he gave the joy and celebration – and commemoration – they deserved, and to the masters he gave his challenge to the perceived supremacy of Beethoven. Only it was not Russia’s answer to the mighty Ninth, but Russia’s answer to the flighty Eighth!'''...

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October 28, 2007

Shostakovich - Symphony No.8

Shostakovich's Eighth Symphony turned out to be unremittingly gloomy and laden with the grimmest foreboding.

"The reaction to its first performance (under Mravinsky) was hardly surprising: puzzlement, confusion – and ominous rumblings of accusation: noises on the lines of 'Why, when the tide of the war is turning, does he not write something to encourage our valiant workers and warriors?' Why indeed, especially when he had, so to speak, already experienced the rough edge of Uncle Joe’s tongue?,'' Paul Serotsky writes.

For more of Paul's effervescent words about the greatest music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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October 21, 2007

Shostakovich's Symphony No.7

...The legend of the birth of this symphony is the stuff of spy-stories. It was composed amid the horrors of the siege of Leningrad, where (it is said) its composer defied the air raids to continue his task. Its value as both propaganda-piece and contribution to the Allied war effort was immediately recognised by the Soviet authorities (who, it must be said, had thus far failed abysmally to comprehend anything of his), and so the score was microfilmed and smuggled, presumably at appalling risk, to the West. Almost overnight, no doubt aided by the titles given to the movements, it became an icon of the war against fascism...

Paul Serotsky is once again bowled over by a peformance of Shostakovich's Seventh Symphony - the Lenigrand.

For more of Paul's ebullient words on music please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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October 14, 2007

Shostakovich - Symphony No.6

Paul Serotsky confesses that he is puzzled by Shostakovich's sixth symphony. The composer announced his intention to “set in sound the immortal images of Lenin” in a symphony on the same lines as Beethoven’s Ninth.

"Instead of the expected Beethovenian monument to the founding father of the Soviet State there was just this lop-sided, three movement curiosity which sets out making all the right preparatory noises but then 'comes off the rails' in a big way. People were puzzled. Quite frankly, so am I. In all the writings about what’s come to light in recent years I haven’t yet come across anything remotely like a convincing explanation of just what Shostakovich thought he was playing at.''

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October 07, 2007

Shostakovich's Symphony No.5

...Having been publicly shamed by the State via the state-controlled press, having been labelled a public enemy (which carried the “sentence” of being unemployable), having become aware of the unnerving tendency of outspoken people to “disappear”, and having hurriedly hoicked his latest and biggest symphony out of rehearsals, Shostakovich must have felt somewhat insecure, exposed, and in fear for his life. Clearly, he had to do something post haste to get the b******s off his back...

Paul Serotsky tells of Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, his best known and most frequently performed work.

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September 30, 2007

Shostakovich - Symphony N. 4

...Try to imagine what it would be like to sit down to breakfast one sun-soaked morning, basking in both sun and successful career, open the paper, and read that in your absence you have been tried and condemned for a crime that wasn’t even considered naughty when you did it. Worse, the “crime” is the very reason that you are successful and much admired by your peers. Bemused, you set off for work, only to see posters publicly displayed declaring you to be an “enemy of the people”....

Paul Serotsky, writing with a power to match the music, tells why the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich decided to withdraw his Fourth symphony.

To read more of Paul's enlightening words on some of the greatest music ever written please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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September 23, 2007

Shostakovich - Symphony No.3

...My feeling is that Shostakovich deliberately sacrificed the relatively conventional form and much of the melodic invention of his First Symphony at the altar of colourful and rhythmic effect, so that he could concentrate on honing his argumentative techniques – and that’s why the Second and Third symphonies are generally regarded as the crucibles in which he forged his mature style. Once he’d cracked that, he would turn his attention – in no uncertain terms – to the question of symphonic architecture...

Paul Serotsky brings us a perceptive assessment of a performance of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 3.

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September 16, 2007

Shostakovich - Symphony No.2

...To be perfectly honest (which I usually am), I think that the Second Symphony is actually a very good piece of music, lacking only a decent belter of a singable tune for its choral finale....

Paul Serotsky continues his review of a set of recordings of Dimitri Shostakovich's symphonies.

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September 09, 2007

Shostakovich - Symphony No 1

...What really brings you up short about this music is not so much the oft-voiced “astonishing accomplishment for one so young” – as a symphony, it’s as short on structural integrity as it is long on youthful bombast (and that’s not a grumble!) – but that, like Mahler’s equally youthful Das Klagende Lied, it already contains all the key elements of his maturity bar only one, and that is the ability to “carry the line”. Not that we should worry – here’s a burgeoning genius, revelling in a Brave New World of Cultural Revolution, singing his socks off at the top of his voice (it would be quite a few years yet, before he had to sing his socks off to save his life)...

Paul Serotsky, writing his socks off, introduces us to Shostakovich's First Symphony.

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September 02, 2007

Shostakovich's Symphonies

Paul Serotsky reviews recordings of the symphonies of the man that many consider the Twentieth Century's greatest composer - Dimitri Shostakovich.

Paul was inspired by these great interpretations to write almost at book-length. His vivid impressions of each symphony, which serve as a splendid introduction to the work of this great Russian composer, will be appearing in Open Writing for the next 15 Saturdays. Today he presents an overture to his reactions to this great music.

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August 26, 2007

The Paradise Garden

Paul Serotsky introduces Delius’s The Walk to the Paradise Garden, from “A Village Romeo and Juliet” – a score drenched in perfumed harmonies and sultry textures.

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August 19, 2007

The Romantic Harp

…Spending eternity sitting on a fluffy, pink cloud, dressed in only a pure white nightie, and playing on a harp is not my idea of “heaven”, either with or without a capital “H”! Don’t get me wrong: as far as I am concerned the harp is the most sumptuous-sounding instrument ever to grace a concert platform, and so often the lynch-pin of all the glow and glitter of our most colourful music. Yet, the prospect of listening to nigh on two whole hours of wall-to-wall harping fills me with foreboding: what if some misguided Superior Being should slightly misinterpret my purpose – as some sort of wishful thinking?…

Despite this vigorous caveat Paul Serotsky finds much to like in a collection of romantic harp music.

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August 12, 2007

Clairvoyant Mahler?

Paul Serotsky says he would lay odds that when Gustav Mahler was beavering away on the symbiotic First Symphony and Lieder Eines Fahrenden Gesellen, not even for one millisecond did he think, “These might not fill a concert programme, but they’ll make a really neat coupling when CD is invented, 70 years after my death.”

“Of course,’’ Paul adds in this review of a recording of these two fine works “if he had (which, of course, he didn’t), he’d have been spot-on, because that’s exactly what they do make!’’

For more of Paul’s ebullient words on music please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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August 05, 2007

The Brilliant And The Dark

Paul Serotsky, who conveys in words his effervescent enthusiasm for the greateast music ever written, reviews a biography of one of his favourite composers, Malcolm Arnold.

(Please note that this review was written before the composer’s death).

For more of Paul’s sparkling words please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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July 29, 2007

Bare-Boned Britten

…If you’re familiar only with “big band” Britten, this programme will be a revelation. If you already know and love the spartan upholstery of “bare-boned” Britten, this programme will be a disappointment. Beautifully packaged and presented, with full if somewhat florid documentation, and poised performances that are too nice to deliver the devastation demanded by the music….

Paul Serotsky reviews a recording of works by Benjamin Britten.

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July 22, 2007

Emperor Waltz

…You could say Strauss made an art form out of the pot-pourri. He exercised immense skill in coordinating the tunes pulled from his capacious headgear, combining them with imaginative introductions and bridging phrases to transmute mere dance sequences into exquisite tone-poems. I believe that Strauss remains so universally well-loved because his music is not just stylish and attractive, but also edifyingly well bolted together…

Paul Serotsky, whose words about music are always edifyingly well bolted together, introduces Johann Straus the Younger’s Emperor Waltz.

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July 15, 2007

Ravel's La Valse

…Attracted to dance rhythms both ancient and modern, in 1907 he had planned a work in celebration of the Viennese Waltz. However, it was only after the War that, prompted by Diaghilev, he wrote La Valse, a work with one foot solidly planted in the old world, and the other shifting uncertainly in the quicksand of the new,..

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Maurice Ravel’s disturbing work, La Valse.

For more of Paul’s effervescent words about the greatest music ever written please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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July 08, 2007

Mahler's Sixth Symphony

…"A Symphony must be like the World!" proclaimed Mahler, and justified it with eleven stupendous works, in each setting himself a new challenge…

Paul Serotsky introduces Mahler’s great Sixth symphony.

For more of Paul’s ebullient words on the greatest music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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July 01, 2007

Malcolm Arnold's Fantasy On A Theme Of John Field, For Piano And Orchestra

This note was written by Paul Serotsky to introduce a performance given in 1996 to mark Malcolm Arnold's 75th. birthday.

Paul described it as a sincere tribute to a composer who has been sidelined in the most deplorably shabby manner by the musical establishment. Were it not for the faithful support of such as Sir Charles Groves, it was possible that Arnold's wonderful music might have sunk without trace. The emergent, gradual recognition of the exceptional quality and originality of his music is small compensate.’’

For more of Paul’s vigorous words on classical music please click on View And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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June 24, 2007

William Alwyn - Symphony No.5

“William Alwyn, composer, pianist, flautist, poet, painter, and translator, is not a name to set the masses flooding to the box-office.’’ says Paul Serotsky.

However, after reading what Paul has to say about Alwyn’s Symphony No.5 you will want to hear it played.

For more of Paul’s engaging words about the greatest music ever written please click on Views and Reviews in he menu on this page.

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June 17, 2007

Seen And Heard - Concert Review

…What makes a performance “successful”? More specifically, considering that even critics need criteria, how do we measure “success”? In the absence of, say, any overriding “revelatory” aspect – as, for example, when I heard Paul Watkin conduct Vaughan Williams’s Fifth Symphony earlier in the season – we generally adopt the show-jumping method: the fewer “faults” the better…

Paul Serotsky reviews a concert given by the Orchestra of Opera North.

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June 10, 2007

Liszt The Superstar

“Forget the famed and fêted of the Nineteenth Century opera stage – they were small beer when compared with Liszt, the man who kick-started the entire modern concept of ‘stardom’, with all its attendant adulation and excessive income. Then, quite suddenly, in a plot twist worthy of the grandest of soap-operas, he 'dropped out', abandoning the bright lights in favour of a quiet life as Weimar’s Kapellmeister,’’ says Paul Serotsky.

However Paul is puzzled by the fact that Liszt wrote piano works obviously intended as showpieces after his retreat from stardom.

For more of Paul’s virtuoso articles on music please click on View and Reviews in the menu on this page.

Visit also MusicWeb http://www.musicweb-international.com/index.htm

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June 03, 2007

Wrong Sex, Wrong Instrument

…This book is unusual in content, candid to a fault, thoroughly absorbing, moving and mirthful, and requires virtually no prior knowledge of – or even particular interest in – “symphonic” music…

Paul Serotsky reviews the book Wrong Sex, Wrong Instrument by Maggie Cotton.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_ss_w_h_/203-5444384-1742360?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=wrong+sex%2C+wrong+instrument&Go.x=15&Go.y=11

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May 27, 2007

Sibelius - Symphony No.1

…Sibelius is every bit as Finnish as Dvorak is Czech, and for precisely the same reasons. There's nothing wrong with that – even when his North Wind blows at its chilliest, we know that within beats the warm heart of a composer who can (and very often did) write music to touch the simplest of souls…

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1. For more of Paul’s informative words on the greatest music ever written please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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May 20, 2007

Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony

Tchaikovsky started work on his Sixth Symphony in the idyllic surroundings of his country house near Klin. “It's therefore more than likely that, in the music, he was merely recalling memories of past anguish,’’ Paul Serotsky suggests. “Had he felt anything like it sounds, would he have been in a fit state to write it at all, never mind so brilliantly?’’

For more of Paul’s enlightening words on the creative endevours of composers and musicians please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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May 13, 2007

Stravinsky - The Firebird

…Even with many years of familiarity, I have only to hear the pitch-black brooding of the opening bars to be transported from this World into that other of the bold Ivan, the evil Kaschei , and the exotic Firebird…

Paul Serotsky introduces Stravinsky’s magical, exciting ballet suite, The Firebird. For more of Paul’s articles, which are brim-full of enthusiastic new thooughts on some of the greatest music ever composed, please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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May 06, 2007

Shostakovich – Symphony No. 8

…It is emerging how truly courageous were artists like Shostakovich, and how appalling the danger. As an eminent composer, he was terribly exposed. One wrong word, a nod to the wrong person, music a shade too abstract, and he was in mortal danger. Imagine how it must feel to see official posters advertising a recital "given by D. Shostakovich, Enemy of the People". Once, he evaded arrest only because the arresting official was himself arrested…

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Symphony No. 8 by Dmitri Shostakovich, who produced great musical works while living through the horrors of the Stalinist years in Russia.

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April 29, 2007

Malcolm Arnold - Symphony No. 2

Paul Serotsky introduces Malcolm Arnold’s Symphony No. 2, a work “worthy in every respect to be ranked alongside the best. It is full of technical subtlety for the cerebral listener, and yet (no mean feat, this) is not afraid to entertain the public at large.’’

This introduction was part of the programme notes for a concert by Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra.

For more Paul’s perceptive articles on classical music please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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April 22, 2007

Cesar Frank's Symphony in D minor

….Franck made a deliberate and wilful choice of sonority that beautifully complements the sinuous slitherings of the chromatically lubricated themes, just coincidentally sounding a bit like an organ…

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the only symphony composed by the Belgian composer, Cesar Frank.

For more of Paul’s illuminating words on the greatest musical works please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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April 15, 2007

Mahler's Symphony No. 3

Paul Serotsky introduces us to the mighty Symphony No 3 - one of the most wonderful, uplifting, mind-blowing experiences in all music – by Gustav Mahler, a composer who “stretched conventional tonality to the limit, just as he pushed symphonic architecture about as far as it would go.’’

For more of Paul’s erudite thoughts on the greatest music ever written please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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April 08, 2007

Siyahamba

Paul Serotsky says that it comes as a pleasant surprise to learn that the Zulu, of all musical traditions, favours male-voice “a capella” singing. Paul introduces Alan Jenkins’s arrangement of Siyahamba, a traditional Zulu song.

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April 01, 2007

Elgar's Pomp And Circumstance

…we hear every scintillating note of the thrusting dynamism of Elgar the imperial rabble-rouser in full flood…

Paul Serotsky writes a programme note on an unofficial English National Anthem.

For more of Paul’s ebullient words on some of the greatest musical works please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on his page.

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March 25, 2007

Jerusalem

…Like countless others, my childish blood was moved in a mysterious way, my juvenile imagination set ablaze by those words, even though I hadn’t the slightest idea what they meant…

Paul Serotsky tells of the effect that William Blakes’s words, set to music by Charles Parry, had upon him during his primary school days.

For more of Paul’s exuberant words on music please click on Views And Reviews in the menu on his page.

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March 18, 2007

Enclosure 3: Harry Partch

…I’ve often wondered why, when so many highly influential people had recognised the immense value of Partch’s work, he remained so obstinately obscure. It’s common enough knowledge that Partch was quite contrary and cantankerous. However, perusing some of the stuff herein brought it home to me, with far more clout than any biography could, that there was much more to it. Numerous exchanges dotted around Enclosure 3 show us that Partch must have had an itchy finger hovering over the self-destruct button, because he sometimes went out of his way to bite the hands that fed him…

Paul Serotsky enthuses about an extraordianry book featuring the work of Harry Partch, the controversial American composer and instrument designer.

To read more of Paul’s enthusiastic articles about Partch – and his words on other composers – please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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March 11, 2007

Harry Partch - "Enclosure 7''

…Both musicians and vocalists were clearly as hot as the proverbial iron that they were striking. Flushed with success but, presumably, champing at the bit, they took full advantage of the studio conditions and got it as near spot-on as they could possibly manage…

Paul Serotsky – Britain’s number one Harry Partch enthusiast? – is impressed by a performance of the controversial American composer’s music.

For more of Paul’s powerful articles on Harry Partch – and other composers – please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

This review first appeared in http://www.musicweb-international.com/index.htm

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March 04, 2007

Harry Partch - Enclosure 5 – “. . . On an Ancient Greek Theme”

…You know how it is: you meet someone, eventually you get talking about matters musical, and inevitably you start to “trade names” of composers you particularly like. On such occasions, I am wont to toss in the name of Harry Partch. Almost invariably, I get one of two responses – either, “Who the hell is Harry Partch?” or, “Wasn’t he the bloke who wrote music in a 43-note scale, or something?” As it happens, in respect of the latter question the answer is, “Well, he is – and he isn’t!”…

Paul Serotsky shares more of his ebullient thoughts on the music of Harry Partch, the highly original American composer and instrument designer.

For more of Paul’s essays on Mr Partch – and other composers – please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

This article first appeared in http://www.musicweb-international.com/index.htm

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February 25, 2007

Harry Partch - “Enclosure 2 – Historic Speech-Music Recordings from the Harry Partch Archives”

…“I am Harry Partch, a composer. My compositions, a few of which are here recorded, employ a scale, instruments and manner of performance different from that of current musical practice.” Thus, with what must be the Understatement of the Century, does Partch’s own dark-brown voice, sounding mildly uncomfortable in front of a microphone, introduce the original recording of Intrusions. Although he couldn’t have known it at the time, he also neatly introduces this Enclosure 2. The recording of the subsequent short snippet of the music is horribly distorted, forcibly reminding us that we are lucky to be able to hear much of this music at all…

Paul Serotsky, a man with an irrepressible and infectious enthusiasm for great music, continues his series on works by Harry Partch, the challenging American composer.

For more of Paul’s articles please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

This article first appeared in http://www.musicweb-international.com/index.htm

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February 18, 2007

Harry Partch - Enclosure 6

….The plain fact is that this recording is an historical document of immense, immeasurable value, and, as such, we would be fortunate even if it was a tatty and dog-eared affair. Doubly fortunate we are, then, that by anyone’s standards it is altogether superb. It encapsulates a vindication of Partch’s entire life’s work, a testament to his radical imagination, and proof beyond all reasonable doubt that even if his chosen path was a blind alley, then it was also a tunnel terminating in a great and enchanting light….

After reading Paul Serotsky’s enthusiastic well-informed words you will experience an irresistible urge to listen to the music of Harry Partch. This is the third in a series of articles by Paul about the maverick American composer and instrument designer.

This article first appeared in http://www.musicweb.uk.net/

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February 11, 2007

Harry Partch - Two Films

Paul Serotsky is firmly of the opinion that the American composer Harry Partch is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in the entire history of music. “Each new encounter with Partch makes me more gob-smacked than ever at the sheer breadth and depth of his astounding achievement…’’

Here Paul writes about films featuring the composer’s music.

This review first appeared http://www.musicweb-international.com/index.htm

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February 04, 2007

Harry Partch - Four Historic Films

...So, I said to him, "Harry Partch was an amazing bloke, and what he did is amazing. I reckon that he is one of the most extraordinary phenomena in the entire history of music", and he came straight back at me with, "OK, Mr. Clever-Clogs, so how come hardly anybody’s even heard of Harry Partch, then, eh?" I opened my mouth, then shut it again. Well, he does have a point...

There's nobody better able to answer that point than Harry Partch enthusiast Paul Serotsky. After reading Paul's review you will be eager to sample Mr Partch's music.

This article first appeared in http://www.musicweb-international.com/index.htm

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January 28, 2007

Harry Partch - "US Highball"

…Partch relates to the “American musical tradition” - or any other Western European-based musical tradition - in much the same way as a human hand to a hot brick. Indeed, the whole point about Partch is that he made a somewhat drastic move of washing his hands of the entire shooting-match, a move he consolidated by consigning all the music he had already written to the tender mercies of a pot-bellied stove.

What was the source of his dissatisfaction? Everything! Performing practices and traditions, the cult of the virtuoso, musical theory and education, the role of music, the subservience of words to music - you name it and Partch was “aginn” it. It seems that, most of all, he despised the mystique that had been built, like an ivory tower, around the hallowed feet of Music-with-a-capital-M…

In this review Paul Serotsky gives full expression to his enthusiasm for the music of Harry Partch, the American composer and instrument maker/inventor for whom the word “original’’ might have been invented.

This is the first of a series of seven articles about Mr Partch’s music which will be appearing on forthcoming Sundays in Open Writing.

This review first appeared on http://www.musicweb.uk.net/

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January 21, 2007

Delibes (1836-91) – Ballet Suite: “Sylvia”

“…bring “Sylvia” out into the light, and it shines: the music is, in its own right, both vibrant and colourful, evocative and atmospheric... ‘’

Paul Serotsky introduces us to Léo Delibes’s ballet suite “Sylvia’’.

Paul’s infectious enthusiasm for classical music shines through every paragraph, sentence and phrase of his writing. Read more of his columns by clicking on Views And Reviews in the menu on this page.

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January 14, 2007

A Word Of Encouragement

When the Slaithwaite Philharmonic announced their first “Family Concert”, Paul Serotsky imagined the hall filling up with crowds of parents and children. It struck him that many of the kids would be turning up to a classical concert for the very first time.

"Then, it struck me that the same might well be true of many of the parents! Recalling my own unguided initiation, I set to and wrote this little general introduction (which has been updated a little since then). There were two hopes uppermost in my mind. The first was, “I hope this will allay some fears and whet some appetites”. The second was, “I hope to God that it doesn’t sound too bloody patronising!”

For more of Paul's informed and enlightening words on classical music please click on Views and Reviews in the menu on this page.

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December 31, 2006

Malcolm Arnold - Rogue Genius

Paul Serotsky reviews a book by Anthony Meredith and Paul Harris about a composer dear to his heart, that troubled genius Malcolm Arnold, whose death on 23 September 2006 has invalidated the claim made by Paul's final paragraph."

"The story that they have to tell is uncomfortable, often extremely so, but it is also absorbing and utterly compelling,'' says Paul.

The final clause of that sentence can be assuredly applied to Paul's thoughtful and potent review.

This article first appeared in http://www.musicweb.uk.net/

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December 24, 2006

Prokofiev (1891-1953) - Peter and the Wolf

Paul Serotsky, sharing his knowledge of and infectious enthusiasm for classical music, writes about Prokofiev's magical "symphony'' for children, Peter and the Wolf. Miraculously this popular musical work was written in just four days.

Paul's article, written to appear in a concert programme, has appeared in MusicWeb http://www.musicweb.uk.net/

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December 03, 2006

Introducing Paul Serotsky

Paul Serotsky is a "professional listener''. What he listens to, by the hour, the day, the week, are the wondrous sounds which originated in the creative brains of the great classical composers.

"I am no musician,'' says Paul "although - I hasten to add - not by choice. My performance career is limited to a bit of choral singing, a spell swinging on a bell as a campanologist, and realising the nightingale in a performance of The Pines of Rome. The only musical instrument I can play is the 'gramophone'.''

Over the years Paul has built up a huge fund of knoweldge concerning those composers and their masterworks. He distils that knowledge into words: enthusiastic words, provocative words, hugely enjoyable words.

He reviews CDs and books for MusicWeb http://www.musicweb.uk.net/ The site attracts 14,000 readers a day. He writes programme notes for classical concerts in Britain and North America.

And once a week, starting today, Paul's reviews and notes will also be appearing in Open Writing.

Now, please allow Paul to introduce himself.

Following the introduction there's an article (programme note) on Frederick Delius's The Walk to the Paradise Garden, from “A Village Romeo and Juliet”. This was commissioned and written for a concert given by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in May last year and has appeared in MusicWeb.

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