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Sunday, August 01, 2004

O for an icepick, that I might drive it through my eardrums....

Whilst driving earlier this afternoon, I was listening to a regular feature on WNED, where they spend a bit of time on Sunday afternoons -- usually three hours, but sometimes less -- exploring new classical music releases on CD. There's usually something interesting, sometines something less than interesting...and every once in a while there is something completely off-the-rails Godawful.

Such was the case today with an arrangement of Ravel's Bolero, a piece which I hate, done exclusively for percussion. Lots and lots of snare drums, xylophones and marimbas. It was five minutes of sheer hell, and yet I couldn't turn the station -- it was like that guy said on that episode of Seinfeld about Kramer's portrait: "He is a loathsome, offensive brute -- and yet I cannot look away."

When the "piece" was done, the announcer came on and said, "I hope you're all holding your noses, the same way that I am". He proceeded to report that the piece is just one selection on an entire CD of arrangements of Bolero (I wish I was making this up). I can't imagine the sheer, agonizing hell that listening to this CD must bring. God in heaven.

(If you really must hear Bolero, or even worse, own a copy of it, get this set, with Jean Martinon conducting the Orchestre de Paris. I find Martinon's touch with Ravel to be superb, and even though I can't even make it through his Bolero without climbing the walls, I do have to admit that he brings out shading and detail in the orchestration that I haven't heard in other conductors' recordings of the work. Or you could splurge and get the same version on this set, which contains enough French impressionist music to satisfy just about anybody.)

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