Saturday, 28 March 2020

Swingle Saturday

I was listening to my vinyl recording of Walter/ Wendy Carlos's Moog transcriptions of JS Bach's Brandenberg concerto's (purchased in 1980 at the Harvard Coop, during my medical elective study); which I would regard as among the very best performances of these absolute favourite works - presumably because Carlos was a consummate musician.

But they aren't available on YouTube (only inferior pastiches) - and in searching I stumbled across the Swingle's version of the first movement from Brandenberg 3 - which is an absolute joy. Some of the effects of this delighful arrangement (e.g. from 1:00 is A-Mazing) make clear aspects of the texture and harmony that had previously passed me by in the 100s of times I've listened to this piece:

The Swingles were almost as much of a 60s/70s phenomenon as Carlos (indeed I join them by association with their contemporary Glenn Gould, who was a great fan of both); and they had a remarkable range of styles, such as this lyrical gem:

Note: The presiding genius founder-arranger Ward Swingle is standing on the extreme right - singing tenor.


dearieme said...

I was a Swingler too. Which means I bought Bach before I bought Mozart or Beethoven.

Papa Haydn came decades later for me.

Hrothgar said...

These seem to have been a bit before my time - at all events I don't remember hearing of them before!

I actually found the music quite enjoyable - and the Brandenburgs are among my favourite works by one of my favourite composers, so a performance in such a divergent style as this could have seemed like a desecration, or at least a mockery, if done badly or in the wrong spirit - but it didn't really strike me this way. More like a light-hearted but still musically committed re-working of a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we seem both to have been at Harvard in 1980! Getting the first two Carlos albums a couple years after becoming a choir boy really expanded my knowledge and love of 'classical' music, and made me aware of Gould via his liner note remarks, though I'm not sure I heard any of his work till my cousin gave me a portable cassette player when I was in grad school and I bought his Goldberg Variations - I also got my Carlos Brandenburgs on cassette. I'm not sure when I became aware of the Swingle Singers, but we sang a sheet music version of their Air on a G String when I was in high school - though my first Swingle recording was yet another cassette. I agree in happily thinking of Gould, Carlos, and the Swingles together! Looking at Wikipedia article and linked website, I see how much later Carlos I have not caught up with, but think the present tense appropriate: Carlos is a consummate musician (at 80 years and four months)!

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

@David - I lived in Boston for the first month, and it was only in the second - which was August - that I lived in Cambridge, house-sitting on Brattle Street and working at Maclean's psychiatric hospital, Belmont. IF I had met you, we would surely have talked - because I said hello to anybody I heard speaking in an English accent!

Anonymous said...

I lived in Child Hall up by the Law School, but July and August were out of term and, if I am not mistaken, I was away playing Captain Fluellen in Henry V at the Cincinnati Shakespeare in the Park.

David Llewellyn Dodds