Friday, November 27, 2009

Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER, Part 16

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BEETHOVEN - PIANO CONCERTO No. 4 (RUBACKYTE/SHANGHAI STR Q./JAKAITIS)
You certainly are an intriguing case, Number Six. The previous Number Two underestimated you. I can assure you I won't repeat his mistake. He thought swapping your mind with that of a dog would break you. I think stronger medicine is required. The gentlemen behind me are going to play the first half of "Pop Goes The Weasel" over and over at an ever accelerating pace. You will be driven mad and you shall beg to tell me why you resigned.


BEETHOVEN - VIOLIN SONATAS (MACUTA/BLANCH)
Honey? How's the new teacher working out down there? I don't hear much playing!


GEORGE CRUMB - "BAD DOG!"
The one kids show my parents wouldn't let me watch. And looking at it now, it's no wonder. Crumb is foul-mouthed and cantakerous, and frequently wanders off screen. And that angry, blind, rabid dog of his is constantly barking and attacking his guests. When Crumb does remain onscreen, he usually just sits there muttering non-sequiturs. Trust me, it sounds better on paper.


HAYDN QUARTETS - AURYN QUARTET
The most generous interpretation of this cover is that the quartet is a group of ghosts who are haunting the fevered mind of Haydn. But the more likely one is that the cover designer wasn't experienced enough with the photo editing software. Or perhaps they were and decided dammit, there's no law that says two unrelated photos can't occupy the same space.


MAHLER - SYMPHONY NO. 4 (NÉZET-SÉGUIN)
The question "Why?" was never asked once during the design of this cover. The most iron-clad rule of great cover design. Great cover designers never ask why. And, really, I'm glad they didn't here. But when you decide to go the disembodied head route, you've got to be very careful. As we've seen, some prefer to just color it purple and call it day. Others prefer the more austere approach and think once you've got a detached head floating around in a void, adding anything would be gilding the lily. This cover goes all out and shows that HALF a severed head can be TWICE as good! And the crude caricature is pure gravy. Pure gravy on half a severed head.


MUSICA ORQUESTRAL I - MESTRES QUADRENY
J. Edgar Hoover splits solid stone with his head. "Why?" Uh uh uh! There's that question again!


MOZART - CLARINET QUINTET, STR. QUARTET 15 (BOUD, EDDING QUARTET)
An Elvis impersonator from the Year 3000 comes back to warn humanity about its errant ways. The cover's a lie - there's no music on this disc. Just a rambling monologue from a future man who, while still speaking English, is nearly impossible to understand. Idioms have changed A LOT in a thousand years. He keeps screaming about "giggle nerves" and "tustle bundles". I'd be tempted to write it off as gibberish, except that the last 15 minutes of the album is him reading the next 100 Super Bowl winners so the album's not a total write-off.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER, Part 15

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RÉPERCUSSION - FANTAISIES CLASSIQUES
Believe me: jumping into a lake with a bunch of naked women isn't all it's cracked up to be. It starts fine. You're walking down a country path and you come upon this scene and the girls are all "Come on! The water's awesome." So you strip down and the girls are making like they're all excited. You make your way to the center of them and they gather around. Then they frickin' dunk your head under the water and all scramble out of the lake. By the time you resurface and get your bearings, they're out, they've grabbed their clothes and thrown yours on the fire! You get out of the lake and see that they've spraypainted "Ha ha! LOSER!" on a nearby station wagon that isn't even yours. So then you have to hitch a ride on the highway completely naked which is a whole other story I don't really want to get into.


DANIEL PERANTONI - DANIEL IN THE LION'S DEN
This is probably the greatest cover of anything ever. Although it hardly looks like a lion's den. More like these two were hitchhiking and the lion got sick of the tuba guy cramping his style and finally told him to get lost.


STOKOWSKI - MUSIC FOR STRINGS
Wow, talk about bustin' a move! Yeah! Go Leo! Go Leo! No conductor did The Robot like Stokowski. Karajan was infamous for hating that move. He finally decided to take the Mad Moves crown for himself by busting out the moonwalk at the 1984 Salzburg Festival. The famous photo of Karajan falling off the stage headfirst into a tuba documents the result. It's one of those amazing photos you assume is a Photoshop but isn't.


MATS RONDIN - VOCALISE
This is why you periodically have to clear the photos off your digital camera. I'm sure the intention was to use one of the great shots a friend took of Mats in recital. Unfortunately, the camera also had about 150 backyard shots on it. Oh, well. Better this photo than the one of Mats sleeping in the hammock.


VERDI - RIGOLETTO (EHRLING)
Okay, where did the idea that Rigoletto is about a crazy puppet come from? This is like the 50th Rigoletto cover I've seen with puppets on it. They're all over the place! Fine, I give in. It's all about puppets. Ghost puppets. There. Happy now?


RACHMANINOFF FOR ROMANCE
So serial killers are designing album covers now. Horrific. I think this one's taken from the Green River Killer's sketchbook. The back cover is even worse. This thing belongs back in the evidence room and not anywhere near a CD shelf.


EIN LIEDERABEND MIT ANTON DERMOTA
Welcome! Welcome to our lovely home! We are so happy you could join us. We have a wonderful evening planned. Drinks and conversation and then we will enjoy the most wonderful supper you could imagine. After that, music! And much laughter too, I'm sure. I'm sure this will be an evening you'll never forget. Of course, now that you have entered our home, there is no possible way we could ever permit you to leave. FRITZ! THE SHACKLES!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cantata Cantata Cantata


Hänssler's Bach edition has been on my shelf for a few years now and I've listened to chunks of it, but not nearly enough of the cantatas. I hadn't heard about 90% of them. So in a flash of insanity inspired by the impending arrival of 4 BIS box sets of Masaaki Suzuki's Cantata cycle (more on that later) I decided I should listen to all of the cantatas before Christmas.

With a new mission chosen, the next thing to do was to figure out which order should be used to go through the works: order by their use in the church calendar or by BWV number. I went with BWV number since it's basically random anyway and some randomization makes this entire scheme seem a little less OCD. Plus, I already had a ton of work ahead of me since I had a lot of ripping to iTunes to do so figuring out which cantata goes where was work I didn't need.

So the process began of ripping the disc, fixing all the track listings, saving those track titles to a text file so I can re-use them when the Suzuki set arrives, getting good quality cover art, updating the ripped files' metadata and THEN listening to it. The listening has been going well and as of today, I'm exactly halfway through the set - disc 30 of 60.

I've been able to get through them at a decent pace since I'm not even following along with the texts. A younger version of me with more free time would have insisted on sitting quietly with headphones with the text and score in front of me. If I insisted on that now, I'd get nowhere. So instead, I just listen on the way to work, at lunch and on the way home. I can get through a couple of discs a day that way.

I've been keeping track of which ones are particularly striking to me on this first pass and I'll revisit those first. I'm struck by how different each of these works from each other are but I shouldn't be surprised. In many other instances, Bach is concerned with finding every possible way of solving a compositional problem (cf. The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Goldbergs, Art of Fugue, etc.) Even the most dimwitted of commentators couldn't get away with saying that Bach wrote the same cantata 200 times (or more like 3- or 400 times given the appalling number of works by Bach that haven't survived). Michael Tanner said that the Bach cantatas were the largest set of great music no one knows. While certain cantatas (4, 78, 140) are famous, certainly dozens more aren't and need to be.

So the marathon continues with Volumes 31 and 32 today. At this rate, I should be done in early December. Then when I'm done I'll wrap myself in one of those foil blankets and drink lots of Gatorade.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Very Special Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER - Friday

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A CANADIAN BRASS CHRISTMAS
Okay, guys. One of you tell me what the hell you're doing in my house. Don't just sit there like statues. Wipe those creepy grins off your mugs and start talkin'. Fine, I'm callin' the cops. And why are you dressed like that? It's the middle of July.


DER FREISCHÜTZ
I had no idea Freischütz was a western. Judging from the grins, I'd say that the ranch was saved and the evil cattlerustler was sent packin'. But never underestimate Gottlob Frick. He didn't get to be the most powerful man in Sunshine Valley by giving up THAT easily. Something tells me that by morning, one of the happy pair will have a date with the hangman and the other will be sent back to the brothel. Gottlob just hasn't decided who goes where yet.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Very Special Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER - Thursday

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GRIEG - HAUGTUSSA (KRINGELBORN/MARTINEAU)
When I first saw this, I shrieked "what the hell? That water must be 3 degrees! Is this from some Nordic version of Jackass? She'll freeze to death!" Then I noticed how small the waves were compared to her. Then the horrible realization dawns on me. She must be 90 feet tall! An indestructible giantess! To think I feared for her! Turns out, it's MY life that's in danger!


PROTEUS 7 - BERNSTEIN TRIBUTE
Apparently Leonard Bernstein was a werewolf. Or maybe Proteus 7 were big fans of '80s teen werewolf comedies such as "Teen Wolf", "Werewolf Summer Camp" and "Werenerd". This isn't their first crazy cover, though. Their Aaron Copland tribute has the composer made up like Frankenstein.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Very Special Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER - Wednesday

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VAN DYK/JÄRVI - MUSIC DISCOVERY PROJECT
This looks like the craziest mixed martial arts pay-per-view ad ever. TONIGHT, IT'S SETTLED. CLASSICAL VS. ELECTRONIC. WHO WILL RULE THE SOLAR SYSTEM? Electronic may have youth on its side, but Classical is wily. Plus, if the power goes out, Electronic is DONE. This would be over in 30 seconds if eye gouges and lowblows were still allowed but since they aren't my prediction is that Classical makes Electronic tap out in the third round.


FÜR ELISE: LULLABIES FOR LIZ (YURI SEROV)
Okay, this cover was done in a booth at the mall. For 20 bucks, you get the CD cover plus baby's picture on a mug and on a small jigsaw puzzle. I'm a little worried about that disembodied hand. I hope it's still attached to one of baby's parents. If not, this cover has taken a macabre turn indeed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Very Special Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER - Tuesday

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KLEIN/ROBBINS - SCHUMANN/DVORAK
The tragic sequel to yesterday's kidnapping cover. Klein is now in full Stockholm Syndrome mode and onboard with Robbins. Will Klein pull a Patty Hearst? Only time will tell. Hopefully, striking bizarre poses on album covers is the worst these two get up to. Seriously, I don't think there's anyone - man, woman or beast - that I'd feel comfortable enough with to pose for a picture like this.


HANSEL & GRETEL (OPERA FOR KIDS)
If your kids are sleeping a little too well these days, show them this cover. Apparently Hansel & Gretel is some kind of demented Woody Allen comedy where middle-aged couples dress up as kids. Makes sense. When I want needling of liberal Manhattanites' neuroses, I turn to Humperdinck. "There's so much ignorance and injustice in the world. It's all chaos out there and any fleeting happiness we find is either an illusion or a total accident. In the end we're all worm food anyway. And this candy cane is supposed to make me forget all that?" If my kids talked that way, I'd abandon them in the forest, too. This recording features Marshall McLuhan as the Witch.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Very Special Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER - Monday

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With the holiday season fast approaching, here is a week of twofers to sharpen the mind and gladden the heart. When I think of the holidays, I think of peace on earth, goodwill to men, and making fun of something someone else worked very hard on.


KLEIN & ROBBINS - REUNION IN MOSCOW
Clearly one guy is happier to be reunited than the other. The guy on the left is blinking out an SOS, I think. This photo was not taken in Moscow, but is rather a composite featuring an JPG background found with Google and a photo taken in the kidnapper's basement. Authorities will scuttle off to Moscow based on the photo, but the guy is being held in this very town! Diabolical.


BACH FOR BABIES
So if you play Bach for your baby, they will (a) collapse into unconsciousness, (b) improvise a tap dancing routine that puts to shame every damn thing in "That's Entertainment!" or (C) be mutated into an emotionless spazz who runs around in a makeshift diaper. Take your pick, folks - my kids are sticking with Beethoven.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Greatest Classical CD Covers EVER, Part 14

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STRAVINSKY IN AMERICA (TILSON THOMAS)
The worst buddy comedy of the '80s. TT was game, but Stravinsky seemed determined to sink the venture from the start. He insisted in speaking Russian throughout the film ("No goddamned subtitles!" was the only thing he said in English on set). He also demanded frequent and nonsensical script changes (his character, a crotchety janitor helping TT's CIA agent break up a narcotics ring, turned into an emperor midway through the film with no explanation). And the use of some of Stravinsky's later, serial works as theme music hardly had the impact of say, the Ghostbusters theme. Avoid if you see it at Blockbuster.


RICHARD STRAUSS - ARABELLA
Hey! There's a party in the giant blow-up sex doll's hair and everyone's invited!


RIGOLETTO (SERAFIN)
"Yup. I've been a widower for 50 years... Yeah, two. Daughter. Married. Moved down to Phoenix. And a son that teaches in Peru or Paraguay or some damn place... Once in a while. Phone call at Christmas, usually... Oh, most days I'm here, drinking my bellywarmers I call 'em, heh heh heh... Bored? Oh, no no no. Between the game on TV here and going to the races, I'd say my plate is plenty full."


VILLA LOBOS: ALMA BRASILEIRA (TILSON THOMAS)
After the Tilson Thomas movie went nowhere, TT got a detective show. A kind of Baretta Meets Miami Vice. The gimmick was that the parrot would talk and give TT clues, but bafflingly, only TT could hear him speak which lead to many scenes of him conversing with the bird while others in the scene demanded "who are you talking to?" even though he was looking right at the bird. The parrot left after the third season due to a contract dispute. TT himself left early in the fourth and the show bizarrely carried on for 3 more episodes with neither of its stars. Critically acclaimed as a dadaist treatment of 80s decadence, it's worth checking out on DVD.


SEJONG PLAYS EWAZEN
Confusing. The words of the title could be in any random order and it would make equal sense to me. Not sure how well these guys play but their hotel room trashing exploits are legendary. They're banned worldwide from staying in a Holiday Inn after the guy on the left drove a Caddy into a swimming pool at one of their hotels in Kalamazoo. At one show, these guys were so worked up they just jumped up and down and cheered for 90 minutes and left the stage without playing a note.


TRIO CÉRÈS - FAURÉ/RAVEL/HERSANT PIANO TRIOS
Another rule of great cover design is if you're going to put a picture of yourself on the cover, make sure you project total contempt for all potential buyers. Two of 'em can hardly stand to look at ya and are all "if we just stay still and be quiet, maybe he'll go away" and the middle guy is totally "what do YOU want"? Look man, I'll just put the CD down. I've got enough static in my life and don't need any hassle from my CDs.


THE ONLY OPERA CD YOU'LL EVER NEED!
Is it too much to say that anyone who has this in their collection should be forcibly institutionalized indefinitely?