Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bela Bartok - Concerto For Violin, Stern, NPO, Bernstein (Columbia - ML5283)

Bela Bartok is a Hungarian composer with quite an affect on the 20th century composers. He has injected folk music into classical and opened whole new worlds for the later coming composers. Now composers are getting help from whichever folk form they can get their hands on with probably Balinese music having the most interest.

There is no date on the record, but after seeing the "nonbreakable" sign on the label, I've got a question mark. In the many seller's info pages, it is said to be from the 70s, but these nonbreakable records were already gone by mid 60s, so I've started a small search and found that the date is 1958. The record is in an incredible shape concerning it's age. Not a single flaw whatsoever.

It is always a dilemma of arranging the microphones when recording a piece. It is not an easy task to find the right balance between the orchestra and the soloist. In this case, the dilemma lies between Isaac Stern as the violinist and New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Leonard Bernstein's leadership. I've listened to Rudolf Serkin's version of Beethoven's Five Piano Concertos and there the problem was the soloist was not easily distinguishable. Here, the issue is exactly the opposite. The soloist is unquestionably in front, even at times shadowing the NPO.

Bartok's second violin concerto is made up of three movements. It was originally commissioned by Hungarian violinist Zoltan Szekely in 1937. Bartok replied back with an idea to write it in variation form, but due to Szekely's insistance, the concerto came to fruition in 1938 with one single flaw for Szekely. The second movement is in itself a variation and the third movement is a variation of the first. This was not the first time Bartok did this, but in this concerto, he probably created the variational masterpiece since he never wrote another variation afterwards. The premiere of the concerto was in Amsterdam in 1939.

Stern's performance is extremely energetic and on the spot. With the folklorish attitude of the music, the end result is in need of effort and speed while Stern delivers them both. It is a little harder to comment on the NPO's and Bernstein's performance since they are left somehow in the background, but generally the accompanying melodies are well formed.

All in all, this is an extremely well developed concerto from the maturity days of Bartok. When you listen to it, it withholds all the aspects of Bartok's personal style. Please also note that on the web, this piece is mixed with Bartok's first violin concerto. Bartok wrote the first concerto in 1908 and it consists of only two movements with an aim to write the third later on. He never wrote it. That concerto surfaced in 1958 and that is why misunderstandings occur.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

5 Ws and 1 H

Who am I?

I'm a music critic (Former music critic if it is suitable) who has devoted most of his spare time to listening music. In around 1999, I evolved into having the bad habit of trying to share whatever I liked via fanzines. It then moved to once in a while magazine articles. Then came a long term relationship with Trendsetter, LivingIndigo, and other magazines. From then on I caught the Blog wave to start with Proodos from which I moved to my own web site until some crazy dude hacked it. So here I am, after a year of constant listening and minimum sharing, cannot stop the urge to write again. Good luck and patience.

What is record collecting and what is this blog about?

Record collecting is collecting records. From records, I mean vinyls as many prefer to use. Vinyl is not a natural substance, but is a synthetic man-made material. Music is also man-made even though some claim otherwise. So here is the perfect match.

Vinyls are cheap to produce, endurable and soundwise superb. They are based on analog technology and has a much wider range of frequency. Yes, we may be unable to hear or capture most of those frequencies assuming you are a human while reading this. But Frequencies between 10-20 (Otherwise known as infrasound) tend to create an enormous affect on human perception even though we can't hear it. These frequencies tend to get you to shiver, they affect your emotions under long term abuse (Says science articles). Even some bands have sent these types of frequencies during concerts to create a better effect on the audience.

Anyway, back to the question, I am a proud member of the recordmaniacs foundation. I've been buying cassettes and afterwards CDs since I was a little boy. After I woke up from teenagehood, I've realized that it's been a while since I upgraded myself from cassettes to CDs and there had to be another change, the ultimate one. I started buying records, but minimally since I didn't own a record player. I've collected about 150 or so until one day I've received a Stanton turntable and mixer as a birthday present. After that, even Gandalf couldn't have stopped me.

This blog will be about the critics of what I listen and what you listen (If you may wish to share). There are no boundaries on style, genre, whatsoever. Since I am a person whose motto is "I listen to anything that has notes", I'll write about anything that I listen to and believe me you will see some weird stuff. So, you can expect anything and if possible, share anything as long as you write a critic of it.

When will it end?

Well, I've talked to myself about this issue several times. I wanted to stop for budgetary concerns. I wanted to stop to breathe and listen to the ones that I've bought first and then would reconsider continuing. I've received professional help from my collector friends. In the end, I am still buying new and used ones every week, practically nonstop. Of course there are other bigger steps like getting a hi-fi system, audiophile turntables etc., but those are surely to wait regarding budget concerns.

Where am I buying from?

Everywhere can be the easy answer for this. I've bought from Discogs, Boomkat, ANOST, Sub Rosa, M_nus, Juno, Insound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Music Stack, and of course EBay. I've bought from local stores in Frankfurt, Paris, Nice, London, San Francisco, New York, Helsinki, Vienna and of course Istanbul.

How to manage them?

Well this is really a long point of discussion where I'll delve into later on. Just a couple of points, if taken care of somewhat carefully, vinyls are extremely durable. I've bought 2 jazz 10" records a couple of months ago and they are among the first of their kind (Naturally Columbia Records). They are tough as nails with "unbreakable" written on them. No wonder!!! They are literally older than my mother.

Therefore humidity, sunlight, heat are dangerous factors for vinyls, but hey, they are just the same dangerous for CDs, maybe even more dangerous. If you are valuing whatever music collection you have, you'll just need to take care of your vinyls the same.

Why did I think about writing them anyway?

First of all, selfishly, I have missed writing. It's not easy to stop writing after continuously writing critics every week after every week. Yes, professionally I've been busy like hell, but somehow, some time I had to get back. After listening so many records (And CDs of course, can't stop that teenage love), I had to write. Therefore here we are.