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on September 27, 2001
Can't add much to the Babbitt brethren here,except merely to comment on 'ex cathedra' the 'Three Compositions',has still a compelling fascination, it's loose,high convulsive energy wonderful for a post war piece, 1947-1948.
Can't say enough about the threadbare 'Duet', a mere 36 seconds duration a gestural bon-bon,arpeggiated mildly atonaly chords, to his daughter.
'Semi-Simple Variations' from 1956 continued from the earlier excursions into violently controlled energy. I suppose we will listen to violent import in music differently with the new age terror permeating our consciousness now.
Like wise 'Tableaux' and 'Canonical Form' are seminal works encompassing relatively longer durational frames, where Babbitt learned to layer the registers of piano timbre frequently writing on four separate lines.The beauty I think is the focus on particular tones, with dynamic indication as far as a fffff, as loud as possibly to barely perceptible. Elegance is the result as opposed to coldy wrought spatial distributions of tones as Stockhausen so successfully accomplished in his early "klavierstuck" 1 to 5 in particualr.
Robert Taub simply comprehends this music wonderfully, a high level of precision mixed with profound muscianship renders great synergistic processes.
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on March 12, 2001
Babbitt's music has often enough not been well served by its interpreters, who sometimes take his wide intervallic leaps and occasionally difficult rhythmic structures as an excuse for reading discontinuity into the music. True, Babbitt's music is not for everyone, at least at the moment--the finest art music often excludes much of the listening public, as it requires some real knowledge of or at least sympathy with the musical idiom and goals of the composer: there are many honest artists, like Babbitt, who choose not to work on the easiest level of accessibility. This recording will probably not convert those who customarily listen to less complex music, but the most wonderful quality of this particular issue is the linear continuity and formal tautness that Taub brings out in Babbitt's work. And no, Taub doesn't invent these things, they are there for any musician to hear who has some grasp of later 20th-century classical idioms, or (perhaps) who is simply willing to listen carefully.
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on May 10, 2000
Babbitt's music is not an easy listen. It is complex, powerful, and sometimes strange. But never ugly, or complex for it's own sake. By extending Schoenbergs 12-tone "mode" to it's logical structural conclusion Babbitt has unlocked the mysteries of writing non-tonal music that is as beautiful in it's own way as tonal music (based on the overtone series) is. Somehow the "dissonance" of the non-tonal idiom is neutralized by Babbitts profound mathmatic-logical investigations. Just as the ancient Greeks used the Golden Section, or Bach the logical mathmatical internal relations of the fugue, or even Mandelbrot the exquisite calculations of fractal geometry, so has Babbitt utilized the (actually quite simple at the base of it) mathmatical structures of 12-tone tonality and it's implications to create art of sublime beauty. But not for everyone, and not easy to appreciate fully, even for the initiated. Music that repays attentive listening and open-mindedness.
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on May 20, 1999
These solo piano pieces are dense, complex works, written in a 12-tone style, and are devilishly fast, intricate, and difficult to play. They have none of the structure that the classically-trained ear will recognize. Be warned, if you aren't familiar with 20th century atonal compositions, particularly those of Boulez, Schoenberg, or Webern, you will probably not like this music. But if you love them, then you will love the complexity and richness of Babbitt's music. It is not emotional music; it is neutral. Yes, it is cerebral, but also beautiful. Take, for example, Reflections for tape and piano. Reflections is a dialog between the piano and delicate synthesized sounds recorded in the mid-70's, and the sounds are still fresh, not dated (though some may recognize the characteristic sound of the computer used to generate the synthesized score).
Robert Taub is one of the worlds most accomplished and versatile pianists. His broad repertoire ranges from man's earliest keyboard music to the 20th century. Mr Taub's performance of Babbitt's works is considered by some to be the definitive interpretation, and his virtuosity is perfectly suited to the works in this recording. Paul Griffiths of the New Yorker wrote of Taub: "His fingers think. The movement, the search, and the feel of thought are present at the keys, and if he plays fast-as he often does in allegros-that's because he thinks fast." His attention to details like dynamics, in the face of incredibly fast tempos, and his ability to jump between distant locations along the keyboard without losing continuity is astonishing.
I have one gripe, and it is about an error of omission. This collection neglected to include Babbitt's Minute Waltz, a balancing act of phrase versus meter: almost 3/4, but not quite. Alan Feinberg does an admirable job of playing the Minute Waltz on the CRI recording #521 entitled Milton Babbitt. Of the 65 odd minutes of music on that disc, those 61 seconds alone almost make the purchase worthwhile.
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on October 22, 1999
We need not be so quick to classify this music as "not for everyone." It's true that it is very demanding of its listener, quite complex, and highly structured in an intellectual manner, but it is first and foremost musical. Babbitt is one of the most humorous composers of our time, and his music invites us to stay in the moment (fleeting though those moments may be). This music has a playful, bubbly surface: it might be described as "friendly" in its atonality. This recording is a landmark, though not the last word on Babbitt's piano music.
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on October 17, 2000
This CD is really cool. The melodies and notes just jump out and grab you, taking you along for quite a ride. I've heard Taub in concert too, playing Babbitt and other things (Beethoven, I think) and his playing is awesome. I'm definitely drawn in to whatever he does. The sound on this CD is great. Whoever has a free mind will love this!
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on April 3, 1999
...artist. this cd contains atonal, amusical combinations of sounds by a mathematician who lacks the slightest fragment of a musical bone in his body. this is "music" for the eye and head by all-star theorist milton babbitt. recommended listening for the intellectual and mathematically talented deaf person with score in hand.
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on July 3, 2000
And his music is even more revolting than Babbitt's boogers and yes, his music stinks - worse than his feet. You have been warned: the music on this CD stinks out loud, and is revolting to anyone with a sense of hearing. I have listened to every bit of music on this CD, and you can believe that what I tell you is true.
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