WHAT'S ON YOUR IPOD? BWW Classical Talks to Park Avenue Chamber Symphony's David Bernard
Since its founding in 1999, the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony has built a loyal following, both in New York City and worldwide through its extensive catalog of recordings on iTunes, Naxos/ClassicsOnline, Amazon and Spotify. Its founder, conductor and musical director David Bernard recently sat down with BWW Classical to tell us what he's been listening to lately. The results were wonderfully eclectic!
WHAT'S ON DAVID BERNARD'S IPHONE?
What's on my iPhone? Well, with the 128GB versions of the iPhone available today, what ISN'T on my iPhone! I have several complete sets of Beethoven, Mozart, Mahler and Schumann Symphonies, several versions of the complete Ring Cycle, etc. But these are my favorite, most listened to recordings:
1. Switched on Bach (1 & 2) /Wendy Carlos
Wendy Carlos had to overcome seemingly insurmountable technical obstacles to produce an album of Bach on an early Moog Synthesizer in 1968. In these pre-Midi and Polyphonic keyboard days, Carlos was forced to not only record each track separately and create her own improvised 8 track recording device, she had to painstakingly create synthetic sounds for each note and every line in every work on the album, which is especially challenging given the polyphonic nature of Bach's music. The result is absolutely astounding, not for her technical acheivement (which is amazing), but for the outstanding musicianship of these performances. Carlos is not only a master of pacing and inflection, but through her deft application of synthetic sounds reveals a profound understanding of structure and line. I challenge anyone to find more uplifting, musically sound performances of the Sinfonia from Cantata #29 or Brandenburgs 3 & 5 than what Carlos achieved in these albums. This album was my introduction to Bach, and the musical rigor, attention to detail and pure joy that Carlos brings to this music inspires me every day.
2. George Szell Conducts and Plays Mozart
This album contains pretty much every recording produced by Sony Classical (and its predecessors Columbia Masterworks and Epic) featuring George Szell performing Mozart, including a few rare releases. Each performance on this album is spectacular, combining blinding energy, extremely careful application of style and musicianship, purposeful pacing and rigorous precision. An added bonus of this particular album is the inclusion of two of the finest Mozart concerto recordings-the Clarinet Concerto (with Robert Marcellus) and the Piano Concerto No. 25 (with Leon Fleisher). Also included are a few Piano and Violin sonatas and the Piano Quartets with Szell performing as the pianist (joined by Rafael Druian, concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1960-1969 for the sonatas and the Budapest Quartet for the Piano Quartets). Some criticize Szell's precise performances as cold, but nothing can be further from the truth. Szell's precision reflects respect for both the works and the listener, and these performances are all delightful. For me, these are true reference recordings that I listen to frequently.
3. Ted Rosenthal / Wonderland
I enjoy listening to interesting versions of holiday music. Included in my play list is "When my heart finds Christmas"/Harry Connick Jr., "Christmas with the Rat Pack", and "Wonderland" with the Ted Rosenthal Trio. Each of these albums brings a unique viewpoint on this familiar music. But Ted Rosenthal just gets it. He brings sophisticated musicianship, a strong sense of line and alluring pacing that puts this album above all others. I can listen to this album all day.
4. Manasse/Nakamitsu Brahms Clarinet Sonatas
I was a serious clarinetist as a teenager, and played these works frequently. As a result, they have personal meaning to me, and I listen to them frequently. They are also important works for Brahms, as they were the last chamber works he composed before his death, and similar to Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, their style seems unique and a bit more personal than his other works. What makes this album so special is that the performers, Jon Manasse and Jon Nakamatsu, so effectively bring out the personal, slightly indulgent, qualities of these works. Jon Manasse is so wonderful in this recording---he completely avoids any virtuosity, with musicianship and sound that are masterfully and totally in service to Brahms and to the listener's experience.
5. 20th Century Orchestral Works
I have several of my own recordings on my iPhone, including the complete Beethoven Symphonies and about 20 other albums, but I especially enjoy this one. Each of the 20th Century Works on this album, Bartok Dance Suite, Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Copland Appalachian Spring and Stravinsky Firebird Suite is powerfully expressive-leading the listener on a journey that is as vivid and heartfelt as any work of art from this or any period. I am especially drawn to the Copland. For me, Appalachian Spring evokes core American values--the Puritan work ethic with the earnestness and resolve of frontier life weathering challenges and ultimately yielding happiness and fulfillment. This is as applicable today as it had been at any time in our history.
BWW Classical wishes to thank David Bernard for dropping by and sharing what he's currently listening to. For more information on David and the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, please vist their website: