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What we learned at the SFPL

by Roberto Friedman

What we learned at the SFPL

With the world going digital all around us, sometimes Out There loves to return to antique technologies, to doing things "the old way" like borrowing CDs from the San Francisco Public Library and listening to them on our home stereo. Here's part of what constitutes our continuing education from the SFPL.

Eighth Blackbird, "Filament" (Cedille) (2016). There's a world of nuance and musical interplay in the seven parts of Bryce Dessner's "Murder Ballades," "Doublespeak" by Nico Muhly, and two Son Lux pieces bracketing Philip Glass' "Two Pages," a live performance recorded at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble, "Sing Me Home" (Sony) (2016). On this companion album to the Morgan Neville documentary "The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble," musical cultures meet, connect, and make something new.

"Silver Apples of the Moon" (1967), for electronic music synthesizer by Morton Subotnick (Nonesuch) (1978/1994), blew our mind because gay novelist Dennis Cooper had just blogged about hearing the piece live in a performance in Paris. With the Subotnick composition "The Wild Bull" (1968), this is psych-expanding early analog electronic music.

"Martha Argerich & Friends, Live from Lugano 2014" (Warner) (2014). Classic powerhouse shares the wealth.

"Stephen Hough's French Album" (Hyperion) (2012). Sacre bleu!

"Sviatoslav Richter plays Scriabin" (Praga) (2017). With URSS State Symphony, Moscow, led by Yevgeni Svetlanov. Richter is a master of the keyboard.

Maurizio Pollini, "Chopin, Late Works, opp. 59-64" (DG) (2017). Pollini brings subtlety and grace.

"Philip Glass, Piano Works" (DG) (2017). Pianist Vikingur Olafsson, Siggi String Quartet. Young Icelandic wunderkind Olafsson finds new ways into the pattern work.

The Magnetic Fields, "Love at the Bottom of the Sea" (Merge) (2012). Including "The Horrible Party," "My Husband's Pied-a-Tierre." We love the dry wit.

Jason Moran, "Same Mother" (Blue Note) (2005). "Gangsterism on the Set." Pianist-composer-impresario Moran is on his way to creating real masterworks in jazz.

Library research can even serve to preview upcoming arts events. For example, take "The Magic of Youth," a semi-staged concert coming up in Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony's 2018-19 season (6/27, 29, 30, 2019). Advance materials tell us "the fantastic world of a young imagination comes to life in a dazzling production of Ravel's 'The Child and the Magic Spells.' The program will be performed by an all-star cast and highlighted by mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard."

We found the Ravel piece as part of a 2-CD set from Eratos (2017). "In his role as Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Mikko Franck conducts Debussy's 'L'Enfant prodigue,' starring Roberto Alagna and Karina Gauvin, and Ravel's 'L'Enfant et les sortilèges,' with Nathalie Stutzmann and Sabine Devieilhe among the singers surrounding Chloé Briot in the role of the Child." That's a magic trick to us!

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