Goodbye to Berlin

‘A master of Balinese dance once expressed the idea that a performer must consciously see himself as a channel between the world within and the world outside. If the ego gets in the way, the channelling is reduced.’
That will most definitely be my only comment about Simon Rattle’s departure from the Berlin Philharmonic and the speculation surrounding his successor. The quote comes from Living Presence by Kabir Edmund Helminski; the author is a Sufi teacher but his wisdom spans several esoteric traditions – as Jan Garbarek observed “I live in a spiritual neighbourhood around the world”. Benjamin Britten was one of a number of musicians whose spiritual neighbourhood included Bali, and I wrote about that connection in Britten’s passion for the East. Another was Colin Mcphee who took the header photo of a child dancer in Bali. McPhee was a friend of Britten and the two composers recorded McPhee's transcription of Balinese ceremonial music for two pianos in New York in 1940. Four years earlier McPhee had written the important and overlooked proto-minimalist Tabuh-Tabuhan for orchestra and two pianos. The introspective nature of composer anniversaries is confirmed by the notably unproductive results of a Google search for 'Britten centenary Colin McPhee', although the results do link to my previously mentioned article about Britten and the East. But no problems, there is much more in my 2007 post Colin McPhee - East meets West.

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Gavin Plumley said…
You posts have certainly confirmed many facets of the 'introspective nature of composer anniversaries' (not least the self-servingness of the Estate), but a post which ends with a link to one of your own stories is hardly extrospective [sic]!
Pliable said…
Gavin, that last link points to a resource about Britten and McPhee, and, as the post explains, these are hard to find.

Instead of trying to score a cheap point would it not have been more helpful for you to have shared other similar resources that you know of with OAOP readers?
Gavin Plumley said…
Apologies the penultimate link then... is a sense of humour no longer part and parcel of this blogging malarkey?
Pliable said…
Gavin, yes a sense of humour is important.

But if just one reader discovers the music of Colin McPhee by following those introspective links I will laugh even louder.
Tpt said…
I can't say I "discovered" Colin McPhee's music through this blog, as I previously played his Concerto for Wind Orchestra with the American Wind Symphony here in the States. But my experience performing his piece (which is beautiful and none too often heard) and reading your defense of him made me want to explore his music and life deeper. And I have turned on a few conductors to his works as well. Kudos to you, Pliable for keeping the flame of lesser-known or under-appreciated musicians burning long into the night.

By the way, his Concerto for Wind Orchestra is recorded with the Espirit Orchestra under Alex Pauk, but it is sadly unavailable.

Daniel Miller
Unknown said…
McPhee's Concerto for Wind Orchestra is readily available for listening on MOG.
Philip Amos said…
Far from the first time, mention of a composer unknown to me in one your posts has sent me to the Naxos Music Library. I shall be listening to quite a lot of McPhee today, Bob, for I found all the following in there.

CBC Records has issued a disc containing his Symphony No.2, Concerto for Wind Orchestra, Transitions, Tabuh-Tabuhan, and Nocturne. A second CBC disc includes three more of McPhee's works, plus works by composers influenced by him.

The Balinese Ceremonial Music in the performance by McPhee and Britten, with other historical performances of Britten's works by Britten from 1941-44, has been reissued in a digital remastering on Naxos' Classical Archives label. Also on that label is a disc containing Tabuh-Tabuhan and Carter's Minotaur Suite from a 1956 recording by Hanson and the Eastman Rochester SO. But N.B. The Classical Archives label is not to be confused with Naxos' Historical series. The CA discs can only be streamed or downloaded.

The BCM is also on an NCA disc performed by Sonja and Shanti Sungkono, and on a Divine Art disc performed by Anthony Goldstone and Caroline Clemmow. The McPhee/Britten performance is also included in a four-disc set of historical performances of Britten's music on the Japanese label Documents, which specializes in historical recordings.

The Chandos recording has already been mentioned. But I was delighted also to see that a McPhee work, though a brief excerpt, is on Naxos' Music for Kids CD 7. Those interested in concert programming, much discussed here, might take a look at that series for children, for the contents of many discs is adventurous indeed.

As Daniel points out, the CBC Pauk disc is no longer available, but all these recordings can be streamed from the NML.

May I just say to Gavin that I did myself think his comment serious. The problem is that the written word often only expresses mood in the grammatical sense. The answer to the problem is to add a 'smiley'. If you're like me, it takes a little getting used to these things, but sometimes they're necessary to avoid misunderstanding.
Tpt said…
Oh I am so pleased to see my earlier mentioned recording available for streaming! I remember mentioning this work to a wind conductor-colleague, who then wrote about it for one of his Doctoral comprehensive exams. I hope he programs it sometime, just to keep pieces like this alive.

The Balinese Ceremonial Music, when I first heard it, was a revelation, and hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Thank God for composers who do not suffer through the dreads of the regular classical music cookie-cutter mechanizations. Aren't they the ones that make us want to play and listen to this music in the first place?

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