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Rebel, Four Seasons, Janacek's Sinfonietta, Quartet for the End of Time

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I took a long, long walk through the park and the city today, and listened to four works while I did so. First was Rebel's Les Elemens.

By listening to Reinhard Goebel, I position myself in opposition to a league of internet snobs, and tomorrow I will listen to Jordi Savall to entrench myself here.

Anyway, the first part of Les Elemens is must-hear music, whether you indulge yourself in this particular philistine recording or seek out something more elite. I simply love it and cannot recommend it strongly enough.

Unless you haven't heard Vivaldi's Four Seasons yet. "Air" has posted a long blog on how he overcame his Bohemian ennui and learned to appreciate The Four Seasons again. He gives some recommendations and it's a post worth checking out: How I finally came into terms with Vivaldi.

In the comments, he explained that he'd become "overfamiliar" with it, ruining the pleasure for him. Fortunately, I think I haven't done that to myself yet, but I thought I'd put myself to the test, listening to the version that I've heard the most:

I found it unbearably hackneyed and ... just kidding. Aside from a few movements (the first of Spring and the second of Winter, for example), I think the only time I've heard this music is when I've put it on. It really is delightful, every little detail is perfect, and there's a satisfying range of emotion.

Don't listen to it until you're sick of it. Everything in moderation, friends!

Well, then I listened to Janacek's Sinfonietta.

It's like a tutorial in what to do with the brass and the horns. Wonderful stuff. Janacek enjoys a little more fame than Rebel, but they both deserve more than they've got.

Finally, it was on to Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time.

It has become my understanding that this recording is not the correct one; we're supposed to have this one:

But I don't, so... I listened to the one I've got. This really is a lovely chamber work, but if "lovely" implies emotional superficiality then I'll have to find a different word. You'll want to know the story behind it: Quatuor pour la fin du temps (wikipedia).

Of these, the winner for the evening was Rebel. The others and especially Janacek put up a good fight, but Les Elemens is just not going to get beaten by much!


  1. Sid James's Avatar
    Messiaen & Janacek are among my favourites.

    I was lucky enough to see Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time live last year here in Sydney, with Kathryn Selby's "Trioz" group and guest clarinetist Catherine Mccorkill. The rich harmonies and textures which Messiaen garners from these four instruments is just amazing. It's been one of my favourite works ever since I first heard it on radio just over 10 years ago.

    As for Janacek, I particularly enjoy his Glagolitic Mass, Taras Bulba, the song cycle Diary of the One who Disappeared, solo piano works, violin sonata and the two string quartets. There is so much passion and emotion in his music. It's amazing that all of his masterpieces were written after he hit 50. He was a relatively late bloomer, a bit like Eliott Carter.

    I also like Vivaldi, and will try to see his Four Seasons live in a couple of months, the Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra of Sydney will be playing it. Beethoven's 4th symphony will also be on the bill.

    & I'm basically clueless regarding Rebel or Gluck, although I have heard that famous aria of the latter's from Orfeo et Euridice (but who hasn't?)...
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  2. science's Avatar
    I like Janacek's string quartets very, very much; I don't get the Glagolitic Mass, but it has been growing on me. I don't know the other works.

    Rebel's Les Elemens deserves a bit of your time, whenever you get around to it. I absolutely promise a surprise.

    I absolutely love Gluck, but with so much music out there, I wouldn't blame anyone for neglecting him.