Bringing Back the Dead

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I’m not a purist—graduate school cured me of that—but lately I’ve developed misgivings about completions of works left unfinished when the composer died. The Mozart Requiem, as commonly performed, becomes less interesting and more irritating, and though I need to know every note Mahler ever wrote, my latest concert experience with a completion (Deryck Cooke’s) of Symphony No. 10 left me cold.

There are exceptions, and what makes them so is that they are not completions in the standard sense, i.e. finishing a work. Rather, these are completions where the standard formed is filled out by some other music entirely. That’s the magic of this wonderful recording of the Requiem, with Pierre-Henri Dutron’s original modern music, in a sort of classical style, talks with Mozart, offering him the use of contemporary ideas.

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The same is true with this extraordinary concert that you should have already started playing! Teodor Currentzis has produced some of my favorite recordings of the past few years, entirely rethinking how some of the old classics should go (if you don’t want to start with the Da Ponte operas, get this amazing disc with Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto and Les Noces). In this SWR Symphony program (Currentzis will be their next music director), he leads Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 and leaves it in the accidental and sublime perfection of its unfinished state. But he still delivers a four movement symphonic performance, by segueing from the peaceful end directly into Ligeti’s atmospheric and mysterious Lontano.

Not a completion, but an extension. If Bruckner’s music passes into the afterlife, Ligeti’s picks up the thread from there, traveling through a post-life dimension. I find the effect incredible and aesthetically and intellectually fantastic. Music is a continuum, and music from the past lives on in a timeless dimension.

Available to view to July 18, I’ve seen internet rumors that there will be a recording, but ¯_(ツ)_/¯ .

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Kurt Elling

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