I’ve been working on my click-bait headlines. How am I doing, UpWorthIt?
Okay, emotional manipulation aside, there are many ways you could spend $31. You could buy this crow bar…this Himalayan Salt Lamp which is also an air-purifier (huh?)…two of these Runny Nose Shower Gel Dispensers, one for your shower and another for the kids’ shower, I suppose.
You could choose to spend your $31 by hooking yourself up with two of the best recordings to come humanity’s way in a long, long time. (I know, I know…you crazy kids these days with your Napsterfy and your Rhapsodora accounts. You scoff when I suggest you “buy” a “recording.”)
Coincidence that they both involve the music of Igor Stravinsky? (To the millennials, that’s iGor.) Probably not.
The first is this unassuming-looking release from Steinway & Sons. Yes, the piano makers now have a record label.
Jenny Lin, who seems to specialize in performing music by “Composers I Like,” (Shostakovich, Silvestrov, Stravinsky, Seeger, and others whose names don’t start with S) has turned her attention to a lesser-known side of the man who brought us The Rite of Spring. Probably the most famous selection on this recording are the three movements from The Firebird, which give the Taiwanese-born American pianist a chance to display her awesome power at the keyboard. These movements don’t always work as solo piano pieces, but in Lin’s fingers (wrists, arms, shoulders), it’s spine-tingling.
Everything on this album is excellent, so I’ll draw your attention to three more of my favorite moments:
- the Sonata from 1924, which sounds like it could be from 1724 and written by a fellow whose middle name is Sebastian.
- the Etudes, which predate The Firebird. You know, from before he got famous.
- the all-too-brief Sketches of a Sonata, from just a couple years before Stravinsky died. About 30 seconds of what-if, from Stravinsky’s LA years.
Jenny Lin: Stravinsky Solo Piano Works is out 2.25.14. You should buy it. You’re welcome.
Here’s the other recording you should buy:
Yes, this is a piano-bass-drums don’t-call-it-jazz trio doing “the most important piece of music of the 20th century” (Lenny). There are many excellent versions of The Rite, but if you ask me (did you?), this is the greatest of them all. Second only to iGor’s original, of course. All three players employ dazzling special effects: pizzicato trills on the double bass, eerie high-pitched squeals and all manner of grunts/groans from percussion instruments being played in unorthodox ways, and general bad-assery from the piano.
In fact, everything about this Rite by The Bad Plus is badass. At first, you think to yourself, Oh, they can’t possibly pull that off, but then you keep listening and realize that you are totally hearing a recording of them pulling it off–like for real–and here they are, reconvincing you of everything you’ve always known about the explosive innovations of the original Rite and when it all comes crashing to a chaotic halt half an hour later, you think to yourself: Holy shit. So that’s what it felt like to hear The Rite for the first time back when it was new.
And here you are, hearing it like new, 101 years later. You lucky bastard.
The Rite of Spring, by The Bad Plus, is out 3.25.14. You should buy it. You’re welcome.